Thursday, April 17, 2014

Your Choice

I drove down to Chickasha Tuesday night to listen to the Republican State Supt candidates. The distinction between Dr. Barresi and Mrs. Hofmeister could not be any more obvious. Here are a just a couple of causal observations from Tuesday night:

  • “I” vs. “We” – next time you hear either candidate speak about their vision, philosophy, or goals pay attention to the point of view. It was “I will continue to fight” or “I will stand up for rigorous standards” or “I created…” versus “We need to listen to the experts in the field” or “We need to create an accurate accountability system” or “we should have high standards”. 

  • Value vs Covet - I found it interesting to hear each candidate’s vision. To me, vision is what success looks like when the mission has been accomplished. Janet seems to prioritize policies over people. She seems to take more pride in the enactment of policies than concern with the impact those policies have on children.  A-F, 3rd grade retention, increasing cut scores on graduation tests, and changing subject standards are all badges of honor for her. Joy talks about students and individuals.  She calls for higher standards and high expectations, but focuses on providing the support to empower professionals to accomplish these expectations. When the Biology cut score was intentionally set so that almost 50% of the students would fail or the impact on a SPED student being told they must repeat 3rd grade after working to improve in reading, Janet talked about the need for the policy whereas Joy talked about the need's of  the individual student. One candidate values people and the other covets political policies.

  • Fight vs. Lead – Janet wants to fight the status quo and the union bosses. Anyone else think this is funny other than me? Does she really think Steven Crawford for CCOSA and Linda Hampton at OEA are virtual Mafioso bosses? Does Janet think they use member dues to line the pockets of judges and politicians? (Sorry Godfather has been on TV all week) Please show me one politician who is in total fear of being visited by an OEA member or CCOSA member? Teacher tenure has been removed, trial de novo is gone, 50% of teacher evaluations are from test data, class sizes are skyrocketing, teacher pay raises haven’t happened since 2005. You think all that would have happened if OEA & COSSA had the power worthy of Janet’s wrath? Joy had the line of the night, “we need new leadership because of failed leadership: you can’t call yourself a leader when no one is following you”. You have to ask yourself, can you truly improve the educational experiences of students and can you really improve the depth of student learning without the help of experts in the field?

  • Positive vs Negative: This is the biggest difference between the two candidates, in my opinion. I think each candidate’s perspective comes from their past experiences with educators and is magnified by their personality. Janet has a general distrust and dislike for all things public education. She has repeatedly said negative comments regarding teachers. Almost every story Janet tells at public events is a tale of teacher failure. From her point of view, 75% of special education students have an IEP because a teacher failed to teach them to read properly. Janet doesn’t think teachers do a good job, she doesn’t like administrators who offer differing strategies for improvement, and she doesn’t trust local communities to do what is in the best interests of its children. On the other hand, Joy knows policies can't be implemented through a closed fist approach. She is adamant that local boards of education have the ability to make the best decision for its children. She wants to hear from school stakeholders who might have an idea on how to improve student learning in their community and school. Where Janet is constantly minimizing the contributions of professional educators through denigration and acrimony, Joy wants to listen to teachers who have solutions forged by years of experience working with children on a day to day basis.  

For me, it comes down to this: Do you want a State Supt who advocates for public education or advocates for its demise? Do you want a State Supt who wants to increase student achievement by working with practitioners or one who blames those same practitioners for every problem? Do you want a State Supt who wants locally elected officials to make decisions for their children, or do you want one who does today whatever Florida did last year?  Do you want a State Supt who trusts teachers to do what is best for students, or do you want one who says we have to have a high stakes test to make sure teachers do their job?  To me, the choice is clear.