My husband knows me quite well. Well enough to know that sometimes it is best to hide news articles about education “reform” in Indiana. He wasn’t able to hide the Goshen News article titled, Opinions Differ on Charter Schools in the Sunday paper today. I support public education but I’m not against private or charter schools. I also am aware that public schools need to improve but in my 30+ years of experience we have always been in improvement mode. We have never been satisfied with status quo. Charter and private schools also need to improve. The education system like everything else will never arrive because we are always on the improvement journey. However, I feel the public education system is not being supported by our leaders in state government. Government leaders have used the public educational system as a scapegoat for the woes of our complex society. I also feel that education is being used for personal political gains by some of our leaders. I know the above statements are a harsh judgement and I hope I am wrong. However, information coming from the legislature sessions taking place in Indianapolis seem to support my beliefs. The article in today’s paper stated: Sen. Yoder emphasized that in the proposed bill, test scores are part of the teacher evaluation process and suggested that principals should evaluate teachers on a yearly basis, regardless of tenure. “ How else do you know if the students are learning?” Yoder said. Am I reading this wrong? Is Mr. Yoder saying that teachers don’t know if students are learning unless teachers are evaluated yearly on their ISTEP scores? Does he not know that teachers evaluate student learning minute by minute? Does he not know that teachers are continually assessing students? I don’t just mean pencil and paper work and assessment although it is one of the tools we use. Does he not know we pay attention to students’ interactions with ourselves, other students, text, other educators, curriculum, district assessments, and the list goes on. Does he not know that we intentionally plan instructional plans for whole group, small group, and individual instruction based on data gained from daily work and interactions? Yes, Mr. Yoder’s quote bothers me a great deal. My challenge is for each legislator to volunteer in a classroom for several weeks. Select a school not in Fishers, Carmel, or Zionsville. I have to admit that I tend to be cynical about government. That’s why before today, I have never written or emailed a representative about educational issues. Today I wrote a letter. Do they even read or listen to the people who are in the trenches? I got the sense from the article that these representatives have their minds made up. Mr. Culver’s comment, “As we sit in this community it may not make a lot of sense, but statewide it does.” Mr. Culver was referring to the charter school question. This statement tells me Mr. Culver and Mr. Yoder did not go to this meeting with an open mind, but rather to defend the positions of Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett.
Luckily before today I had not read a book that I bought at the NCTE conference in November; Noah Webster, Weaver of Words. The perfect salve to the Goshen News article. This weaver of words did soothe my soul. I’m going to highlight the text that was meaningful to me.
The man had the energy of a thousand bees, and knowledge was his nectar.
Noah sought knowledge the way a sail seeks wind.
Noah’s writings often attacked the shoddy shape of schooling. Noah loved teaching children and wanted to improve their education. However, it was hard without books and supplies for the students. He wanted to “engage children to be diligent and make them fond of books.”
American education needed reform, Noah wrote. Children should learn in small class sizes, “never more than twenty or twenty-five pupils under the charge of one instructor.” Concerned about the students’ health, Noah proposed better heating and comfortable chairs and desks. Teachers should reward good students instead of beating the troubling ones.
He wrote, “In our American republics, where government is in the hands of the people, knowledge should be universally diffused by means of public schools.”
Noah always handled words as if they were precious silk threads. Now he would weave them into a luxurious blanket, tucking in everything American.
Pegi Deitz Shea has weaved words that give biographical information about Noah Webster. The book is an Orbis Picture Honor Book. I would suggest the book for a read aloud for younger elementary students. It is a good independent read for older students.