Editorial: Momentum behind ed reform - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Editorial: Momentum behind ed reform

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Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 5:00 am

What do Oklahoma, South Dakota, North Carolina and Georgia all have in common?

They’re all following Idaho’s lead in education reform, as are a number of other states. But this specific sampling came forward during the recent meeting in Coeur d’Alene of state school superintendents to unite in their determination to ditch the status quo in public education and ring in a new era of learning.

We confess to being fascinated by the energy and eagerness of the state education officials we interviewed last week. While their approaches vary somewhat, they’re all focused on several vital goals:

n Make school more relevant to students. That action alone will radically reduce dropout rates and lift those who underperform.

n Aim high and expect a lot from students. “If you raise the bar, they’ll meet the bar, no matter where you put it,” Oklahoma’s top education official, Janet Barresi, told The Press editorial board.

n Be innovative in approaches to teaching; just like those in business, don’t let fear of failure or temporary setbacks keep you stuck in the status quo.

n Ensure there’s a good teacher in every single classroom, and a good principal in every single school.

The group of state superintendents that met with The Press is bipartisan yet also agreed on several other things. One of those is that unions are an impediment rather than an expedient in improving public education. June Atkinson, a Democrat and the top public education official in North Carolina, said one of the reasons her state has been so progressive educationally is because the state does not allow teachers’ unions. John Barge of Georgia, a Republican and career educator, said the same holds true for his state. They agreed that being able to deal directly with educators, not layers of union representatives, has been instrumental in moving forward with reform and better results.

Together, the education officials are heralding a new approach to educating our children. They agreed that “kids don’t need us for information anymore.” Let that sink in for a moment. Kids don’t need educators for information because they’re already tapping into an endless source of information through the Internet.

Instead, educators’ focus should be on mentoring children, teaching them to think critically so they can decipher the most relevant and accurate information out there and then express what they’ve learned in multiple ways. Several states are at the forefront of preparing students from grade school on to select appropriate career paths that certainly can change but which afford an invaluable boost in making education relevant and goal-driven.

Finally, all agreed that under the leadership of Tom Luna, the Idaho Legislature and Gov. Butch Otter, our sparsely populated state stands tall in blazing education reform’s trail.

“I would call Tom a pioneer in reform,” said Georgia’s Barge.

“It’s an example of bold but realistic leadership,” said North Carolina’s Atkinson.

“We’re all facing those battles,” Oklahoma’s Barresi said of resistance to change. “It requires fearless, focused leadership like Idaho’s.”

We couldn’t agree more.

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • 5inPfs posted at 1:03 pm on Tue, Jul 24, 2012.

    5inPfs Posts: 771

    Not to mention...the kindle/nooks would be a lot easier on a students back. ;)

  • 5inPfs posted at 12:51 pm on Tue, Jul 24, 2012.

    5inPfs Posts: 771

    I'm not talking about the unions or charters as you well know--they are moot to this conversation. Nice try at diversion, though.

    I'm talking about what Luna is "advancing" to "put students first", but is obviously about saving money more than what is good for the students. The only time laptops have proven successful is when they are used as a tool, not as the instructor. Since Luna is paying for these laptops by eliminating over 700 teaching positions and increasing class size (which has been proven so many times as a detriment to learning)--it's rather obvious that this "change" isn't going to end well. Since my children are in school NOW, I would prefer that we not wait.

    Now if you want to talk about buying Kindles or Nooks (considerably cheaper than a laptop) and downloading the textbooks (again cheaper than buying the books)...we'll probably agree. Especially since the state could probably work a deal with the publishers for periodic updates (keeping the textbooks current) and sell the physical textbooks to states that are not using Kindles/Nooks at a "used book" price (good for them) and use the money to help pay the cost of the "technology". Kids get the "technology" Luna keeps bleating about and it doesn't cost teachers or increase class size. Win-Win.

    Other than the laptops--I don't see anything in Luna great "change" that directly affects a student's education. The rest of his reformation is not aimed at improving education.

  • Why Not posted at 1:05 pm on Mon, Jul 23, 2012.

    Why Not Posts: 5326

    Okay 5inpfs, two can play the game my friend. Good or bad change is always resisted and I guess we will have an answer in five to ten years.

    Bob Chanin, attorney for the NEA addressing the NEA’s 2009 National Convention – “It’s not because we care about children and it’s not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child, it’s because we have POWER.” Now there’s the kind of education expert we all just want to adore, don’t you agree?



  • 5inPfs posted at 11:31 am on Mon, Jul 23, 2012.

    5inPfs Posts: 771

    Similar programs on a smaller scale have delivered positive student results, accountability in the workplace and worse change.

    I guess it depends on how you define "positive"...


  • Why Not posted at 5:58 am on Mon, Jul 23, 2012.

    Why Not Posts: 5326

    The nation is in an education crisis, what we have done for fifty plus years does not work. Tinkering with the national system which is under the umbrella of the NEA has just meant more money and more bad results. What Tom Luna has done is to shake things up state wide and unlike anything this nation has seen since the SAT.

    Similar programs on a smaller scale have delivered positive student results, accountability in the workplace and worse change. Yup change, that scary word associated with the unknown and a different set of skills. This can be very scary for people who were trained and worked one way for many years, then are confronted with a new way to use their skills and new management objectives.

    I feel for those who are resisting this change, it’s hard and it can be very uncomfortable. But you know those who give it some time and effort will succeed and maybe even come to realize that the change was necessary and good, others will yearn for the good old days when we did the same old same old and got the same poor results.

  • Flash Gordon posted at 9:09 pm on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Flash Gordon Posts: 1685

    Teachers need protection against those that chip away at their academic freedom. Particularly those that teach science, social science , and the arts and humanities. I can only hope that Idaho does not follow the example of the state of Texas where at one point the state board of education basically banned the teaching of logic and critical thinking skills. I can fully understand why the teavangelicals support that:)

    The Luna "plan" emphasizes self education thru on line classes. A bad idea whose time has come for secondary education. The Luna plan also emphasizes merit pay....much like the merit pay system of the Wall Street crowd which encourages cheating for "success". Luna would love to see teachers pitted against each other for "merit pay".. Divide and conquer is one way to weaken the state teachers union.

  • Jill Heine posted at 7:37 pm on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Jill Heine Posts: 408

    I'd trade common sense over todays educational content.
    oh for a teacher with common sense rather than an undeserved affirmation.
    no wonder graduates can't fill out a job application.
    best careers for them to pursue: teaching and social services.

  • mister d posted at 7:14 pm on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    mister d Posts: 1531

    I think anyone who has studied the historyvof education in Idaho can easily agree that education funding has never been a priority. It is also easily seen that Luna's foolish laws were union busting and nothing else, nothing to do with students coming first. Also anyone who has been raised in idaho and observed how education is handled by the legislature has seen over the years how teachers and the idaho Education Association have been the only ones looking out for the kids and the ones working to continue to keep our test scores above average, even with Luna getting in the way.. It's obvious by their low pay the teachers haven't focused on their own wages, but the outsome of student education. 50th in the nation for student funding - disgusting. The teachers are doing their jobs, how about the legislature doing theirs and supporting them.

  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 7:09 pm on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    Well, then Debate it. I know I don't have all the answers, but it is obvious that the way we are now well not work and can not continue. The Luna plan has major problems in my opinion, but it is a start in the right direction. Until Parents and Teachers regain control of the Schools together, the Unions and coorperations will continue to fight for the politic pawn they have become.

  • Bigmoose posted at 5:08 pm on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Bigmoose Posts: 117

    The funny thing is I agree with a lot of what you say...just not how you say it at times.

  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 3:15 pm on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    Anything else you would like "to utter in a bombastic declamatory fashion"?


  • Bigmoose posted at 2:49 pm on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Bigmoose Posts: 117

    Jeffrey Wherley,
    Thank you for posting. I cannot imagine what this place would be like without your rants. I would also like to thank you for knowing everything about everything.

  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 11:43 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    Why? Because the comics section is the highest level of comprehension you are capable of absorbing?

  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 11:36 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    Using your numbers, If Idaho has held funding to the lower 25% of the Nation (No higher than 38th) and have been able to keep scores at better than 75%, Idaho is a great frontier for a better system than the other states that flood education with money and fail even greater.

    Idaho (and your numbers) prove MORE MONEY does not work for BETTER EDUCATION.

  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 11:26 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    Good teachers in every classroom is addressed by way of the incentive pay and annual contracts. If a teacher doesn't want to or can't achieve the level of performance we demand, they can by all means move on to another state. But then that seems to be a smaller amount of states at are going to be willing to put up with minimal Union performance anymore. This will leave only the best and dedicated teachers in the classrooms, by way of attrition, and any new ones coming in will know the high level of service that will be demanded of them. The fear tactic of "We will lose teachers to others states" is wrong, it's the design of the new system that will force teachers to either leave or move toward excellence.

    Laptops give Students the opportunity to access this knowledge, that the Unions and some teachers are fighting to kill this, is a measure of their efforts to keep Education Stagnate in the 20th century, and spoon feeding information they believe is accurate, instead of allowing the students the ability to unlock their minds and find truths for themselves. Teachers MUST change to meet this new and limitless way of learning, the days of teaching to a test must end, and evaluating the comprehension of a subject for a grade must begin. Only the best Teachers with the least concern for their own self-interests will be capable of impartially giving the objective grades this type of education will provide. The days of a few students surpassing a teachers level of knowledge will return again. That once was considered the greatest achievement for a teacher, we need those teachers back.

    The Luna laws are not even fully enacted yet and schools are already struggling AGAINST them, not with them.

  • Bigmoose posted at 9:53 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Bigmoose Posts: 117

    I believe this article should have been placed in the comic section.

  • Rationale posted at 9:48 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Rationale Posts: 1976


    Can't fail them anymore...otherwise, the schools lose even more money. Can't fail them because you hurt students self-esteem. Can't fail them because it's the teacher's fault.

    I saw a great cartoon on Facebook the other day. It was two parents(dated 1969), in a parent-teacher conference in the classroom, demanding the student explain the bad report card.(Obviously supporting the teacher)

    The second picture was the parents and child (dated 2012) demanding the teacher explain the student's bad grades!

    Regardless, Luna's plan is idiotic. Elementary and secondary education is not a business, and students are not a "product." You cannot run education like a business model!

  • Fralphgob posted at 9:35 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Fralphgob Posts: 54

    Deniles, your statement concerning the amount of $$$$$ asked for and $$$$$ gotten for education by the Unions is, in Idaho, not only false but completely ludicrous. Idaho has never funded education to level of the rest of the nation in the entire history of the state. We have never risen above 38th in the nation for salaries and per pupil expenditure despite the best efforts of the Idaho Education Association. In fact, right now we are near the bottom of the barrel for educational spending. A little research before making false statements would be helpful. Idaho has never, as Superintendent Luna has stated, "thrown money at it", in the history of this state. It is a credit to the amazing teachers of this state that we test better than 75% of the rest of the nation while working on a pittance of a budget. The Luna laws, laughingly called "Students Come First", are driving teachers from the state at an alarming rate and heading all of us, students at the forefront, for a train wreck.

  • JustMyOpinion67 posted at 8:27 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    JustMyOpinion67 Posts: 43

    Gee Superman (DeNiles), I guess you are in favor of wonderful social services for all. Because if we follow your lead, then our community will have to support those uneducated, ill behaved individuals. We will have fewer people working and paying taxes and more living on government subsidies. Public schools exist to teach all children, even if their family doesn't. That is what the lawmakers seem to miss.

    As for the "reforms" when is someone going to address the real problem and hold administrators from the superintendents down to the building level accountable. Nowhere in the Luna laws does it call for higher accountability for them. Show me an ineffective teacher, and I will show you one or more administrators who are not doing their job. You cannot make significant changes to any system if you do not start at the top.

  • DeNiles posted at 7:58 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    Unions have had many decades to prove their worth in education. They have existed through good times and not-so-good times. They have had to deal with generations of students and their families. They have asked for lots and lots of $$$$$$ and have gotten lots and lots of $$$$$$$.

    The area they have failed in is job performance. And it looks to be getting worse. So the worth they have proven is that they are not worth what they think their worth.

    Now cue the rants about parenting. Hey...... got bad students, fail them and let the bad parents figure out how to make it better. Got ill behaved students, suspend them and let Mom and Dad have to juggle their care. Teach the students (and families) who want to learn and are willing to behave. You're not a social services network.

  • straight up posted at 7:22 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    straight up Posts: 967

    They for got one.

    "Ensure that school boards, curriculum and classroom teachers do not take advantage of young, impressionable minds to brainwash others to their philosophical views."

  • Fralphgob posted at 6:29 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    Fralphgob Posts: 54

    This article is simply a propaganda piece for Tom Luna and his vision of education. Look behind the statements and critically examine them and there is a different story.

    "Ensure there’s a good teacher in every single classroom, and a good principal in every single school." If this were the aim of the Luna reform laws then why did he want to replace 700 teachers with computers? In fact, that goal remains intact even though he was forced to relax the requirement for taking courses online.

    "Instead, educators’ focus should be on mentoring children, teaching them to think critically so they can decipher the most relevant and accurate information out there and then express what they’ve learned in multiple ways." There is nothing in the Luna ed reform laws that addresses this. The truth is, it was more about union busting, reducing local control, and creating more opportunity for education for profit than critical thinking skills. Can anyone out there cite one example from the Luna laws that addresses the focus of educators towards students and critical thinking skills?

    "Finally, all agreed that under the leadership of Tom Luna, the Idaho Legislature and Gov. Butch Otter, our sparsely populated state stands tall in blazing education reform’s trail." This type of statement should be reserved for proven reforms that worked. The Luna laws are not even fully enacted yet and schools are already struggling with them. What is sure is that if fully enacted millions of Idaho tax dollars will be sent out of state to online education providers and Idaho will continue to have a teacher drain as teachers move to other states.

  • voxpop posted at 5:57 am on Sun, Jul 22, 2012.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    It may be that teacher unions are an impediment to education reform but that's not part of the equation in Idaho - NOT when funding is 50th out of 50 states. Luna and Idaho's focus is only in reducing the cost of education to a level just above where the courts won't intervene - solely to put more money into minimum wage business coffers. If it were up to the Idaho legislature teacher salaries would be little different than what the average is here in Kootenai county - $8/hr. While today student results are well above the abysmal state funding level, Idaho will soon be getting what its paying for.

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