October 26, 2014
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Lead astray by the business community
Robert Houghtaling

While politicians, pundits, union officials, civic leaders, parents and business captains volley the issue of High School graduation requirements around, young people are negatively impacted.

Somehow, along the way a few interesting dynamics have presented themselves on the path to achieving a diploma. First, those in the business community have asserted themselves into the forefront of education policy development. Secondly, gigantically obvious civil rights violations are being masqueraded around as accountability and reform. And lastly, a number of folks who should have been sticking up for kids have been painfully silent throughout most of the battle.

It has been said that a ruler never helped anyone grow an inch. With this in mind, why do many people confuse what standardized tests were meant to do? They measure progress. They are a tool. They were never intended as a requirement. For some, this was a strategy. For others, it was a dropped ball. Either way, using tests in this manner is counterproductive.

Now it appears as though a possible solution for all of this is to place the issue into the laps of district superintendents (by making them pick and choose through the waiver process). I am sure they cannot wait to get involved in such a fashion.

Why do many folk believe that the business community should be driving the education bus? Are these not the same guys who gave us BP Oil, the recent banking crisis, 38 Studios, Bernie Madoff and a few years back Enron? Maybe we should have principals and teachers running Wall Street. Sure, new ideas need to be infused into how we teach kids. Where these ideas come from is another matter. Politicians and business leaders still have not figured out what to do with Quonset Point. Their ideas for innovation consist of legalizing pot and building casinos. What is next, legalized prostitution and perhaps gladiatorial games?

Last Sunday, in the Providence Journal, an editorial castigated Senators for recommending that NECAPs be put on hold. Later on, the full Senate agreed with a 29-5 vote to delay. Let us see what the House decides to do. I am anticipating that it is going to be an interesting debate. Hopefully, the issue will not suffer the ultimate political fate of being sent to die in committee.

In the meantime kids with special needs, English language learners and those from socio economic disadvantaged situations wait in the wings. In the meantime, teachers teach to the test and students learn how to utilize number 2 pencils (at least the new PARCC exam will save on lead).

How we educate young people is indeed a major concern for many. Arguments can be made from both sides of the aisle as to what is the best way to prepare kids for success. An oversimplified emphasis on standardization truncates much of the panache good teachers might offer. Politics that are based on the needs of adults wind up placing kids at risk. Even those students who pass the present approach are missing out on learning viable critical thinking and applicability skills.

I am hoping that it will soon become apparent as to who gets hurt the most. If denying diplomas is reform, then amputation is a cure for mosquito bites. George Carlin would have loved this. In fact, maybe the producers of the stage hit The Book of Mormon might want to consider a new play. We could call it Lead Astray, a story of how standardized education hurt a generation of young learners. See you at the theatre.

 

Robert Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich drug program and a frequent contributor to these pages.


Comments
2 comments on this item

Why don't we mimic the top public education system in the country? It's Massachusetts. If only there was a way to get there from here?

Mr. Houghtaling, the "director of the East Greenwich drug program" (?) makes a compelling case to leave the education of our young people in the hands of government with no accountability nor objective standards for graduation. How's that working out? Not well. Those families not living in a high income community who can not afford a private or parochial education are sentenced to a bleak experience whereby high achievers are suffocated in the almighty name of narrowing the "achievement gap". Meanwhile, thousands of illiterate and unemployable students graduate from RI's public high schools every year with little hope but to be put on the roles of government dependency. Then again, perhaps that's the goal of Mr, Houghtaling and his nonprofit cohorts.

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