Traverse City Record-Eagle

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June 9, 2013

Forum: Stop political tinkering in education

The education community is battered and bruised following years of economic decline, inequitable funding and public and political scrutiny of our public education system. While it is difficult to find a downside to greater accountability and transparency in our education system, continued tinkering needs to stop.

In the course of 24 hours I learned of two politically-driven initiatives in two bordering midwestern states that threaten to derail an enormous amount of effort over the past two to three years.

In Michigan, legislative action is on the rise that would block the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards, a state-led effort to establish a single set of educational standards for grades K-12. Forty-five states have voluntarily adopted the standards and committed millions of dollars of taxpayer money to do so.

Decisions to adopt the standards in each of the 45 states did not occur quickly. Educators, lawmakers and parents have been actively engaged in the process and countless hours have been spent in schools across Michigan, and indeed the nation, preparing to utilize the standards to ensure all students are successful. Despite the fact that educators everywhere are experiencing “initiative fatigue,” establishing a consistent set of academic standards across our nation makes sense.

In Wisconsin, a multi-year effort to align data systems so educators, students and parents can have ready access to information that will increase public schools’ effectiveness resulted in a legislative decision to select a single vendor for a statewide student information system. That decision presented many challenges and continues to do so as hundreds of school districts prepare to manage the transition from existing systems to the statewide system - and many contend that decisions regarding the tools schools adopt in order to operate should be locally-driven and not mandated through the political system.

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