Slow Down With all the Reforming of Education
[Submitted title: Education Reform Overload]
by John Richard Schrock
November 6, 2003
Public school administrators are facing an avalanche of education reforms.
It took a decade to adjust to the state-legislated Quality Performance Accreditation system. Then teacher training was redesigned, and teacher licensing areas changed. The Kansas Board of Regents established qualified admissions that limited the course work accepted for college admission by 2001. Standards were written for K-12 student performance. Then standards were written for teacher preparation to meet those K-12 standards. Professional development of teachers will now be constrained to what is approved by school committees. And the Kansas State Board of Education altered the Kansas high school graduation requirements-effective in just a few more years.
Before the dust has had time to settle on any of these, the federal No Child Left Behind requirements have mandated high stakes testing for reading and mathematics immediately, with other disciplines to be tested soon. All teachers must be judged on whether they are "highly qualified." Paraprofessionals have to meet new federal criteria too. And the list goes on and on.
School teachers and administrators have seen school reform before, but not at this pace.
Previously each reform took three to five years to run its course, supplanting the earlier "fad" and soon proving to be ineffective as a one-size-fits all classroom cure. However, recent reforms have lasted longer because they have been embedded in state legislation and state board regulations.
When new reforms are added but old reforms are not dropped, this causes a traffic jam. When federal regulations are also added, the pile-up is massive.
Now the state board starts the committee process for revising history/government standards, with science standards around-the-corner. New K-12 standards mean new teacher standards and new tests, and there hasn't been time to get used to the old "new standards." Yet the state board is bound
by legislation that mandates a review of the major-discipline standards every three years.
Perhaps it is time for the Legislature to extend the review period to six or more years. Meanwhile the state board is looking for ways to keep the state and federal assessments from overloading Kansas schools with testing.
In Kansas, any farmer can tell you: no matter what you raise, the more time you take weighing them, the less time you have to feed them.