Schools need tools to carry out mandates

Our state legislators are not educators. The problem is, many of them think they are.
Dec 26, 2013

In fact, many of them think they know everything there is to know about everything. The truth is, they need to rely more on the experts in the various fields.

Since Republicans gained control of both chambers and the governor’s mansion, they have pushed through a lot of “stuff.” We don’t disagree with all of it, but we believe they have been constantly putting their nose where it doesn’t belong.

Education is one of these places. Many of their bills addressing education haven’t come from people with expertise in the field. In fact, much of it has been opposed by the experts.

An example is a pair of House Bills — 5111 and 5144 — which would force third-graders who aren't proficient in reading to repeat the grade. Opponents say the plan includes no accommodations for students with special needs; it's based on only one test, and has no flexibility for parent input.

If the bill by state Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, was already law, as many as 36,000 children would have had to repeat the third grade last year because they did not score proficient on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) exam.

If HB 5111 passes the Legislature, the measure would take effect for the 2014-15 school year.

"If undue rigidity exits, not allowing the parents, teachers and school community to take each case on a student-by-student basis, potential harm to the student is inevitable sooner or later," said Godwin Heights Superintendent Bill Fetterhoff.

Fetterhoff insists his concern is not with the philosophical bar, but with the implementation.

"Education is not running an assembly line where occasionally one product that passes by is deemed inferior by a quick visual overview and is placed in the discard or 'seconds' box," he said.

The Michigan Association of School Administrators says the legislation is focused on retaining students rather than supporting schools to implement sound intervention policies that target literacy development.

By focusing on intervention strategies and investing in those strategies, Michigan can set its students on a more certain path to success.

What are some of these strategies?

• Additional instructional support outside of the regular school day.

• Developing summer reading programs.

• Individualized instruction plans for struggling readers.

• Attaining effective language and reading teachers/coaches.

• Parental accountability for student attendance.

• Implementing home reading programs.

These are just to name a few, but they cost money, and the Legislature has been taking away dollars from education while at the same time demanding more success.

According to the Education Commission of the States, a total of 32 states have policies in statute aimed at improving third-grade reading proficiency, and less than half of those states have mandatory retention policies.

Of the states that have mandatory retention policies, all provide intervention support. In fact, the state which Michigan’s legislation attempts to emulate, Florida, invests more than $100 million annually to help their school districts implement intervention strategies. Last year, Florida allocated more than $130 million toward reading intervention.

The legislation as written also contains implementation challenges. The current state assessment used to determine proficiency in third grade is not given until the fall of the student’s fourth-grade year. The proposed legislation is impossible to enforce given Michigan’s testing window.

We agree that having students be proficient in reading by the third grade is a great goal, but our legislators must give our schools the tools to carry this out.

Holding thousands of third-graders back isn’t the answer.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

Comments

zwesterhouse

Remember the election of 2010. 7 candidates ran for state rep along with Price. One was a certified teacher. Does anyone know his name? Price got all the PAC monies from education lobbyists and school administrators lobby. She got around 180K the other candidates got nothing. If fact the certified teacher state rep candidate mentioned "unfunded mandates during his campaign. I'll give you a hint. He came in with a few more votes than Brandon Hall.

Lakota05

John Nash

retired DOC

If more parents do not start being parents students may need to be held back at grades 3, 6 and 9.

Former Grandhavenite

The schools need to encourage parents to read to their kids. That isn't possible for all parents who may lack time or language skills themselves, but whenever they can it's a huge help. I learned more language skills and thinking skills when my parents read to me and discussed the books than I ever did in elementary school. When parents aren't present, willing, or able to do that for some kids, the schools should try to connect them with others who are willing to do the same.

Wolverine49457

I'll second that! All too often parents tend to treat schools like a maid service...here they are… make them smart and prepare them for the world or else, is it any wonder why we pound more and more money into the education system and get little bang for the buck?

Teachers in general are overwhelmed with so much irrelevant garbage to pass along that has nothing to do with educating and preparing kids for the world they face after school.
I recall leafing through my Mothers middle school papers from the 1940’s and was amazed at the level of work for an 8th grade student, I would stack it against a college grad.
Her penmanship was fluid and legible, she wrote with fluent grammar and exacting spelling.
There were several pages of calculus presented neatly like soldiers in formation on the yellowing paper. History lessons completed with backstories and commentaries that tells you she understood the why and who not just dates and places memorized in order to pass a test.
There was nothing social or political, no psychology or social studies just reading, writing and arithmetic.
These days the end game is so clouded with useless knowledge passed on as essential is it any wonder our kids bury themselves in electronics.

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