Traverse City Record-Eagle

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January 2, 2014

Schools need tools to carry out mandates

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

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.

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