News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 28, 2012

LIZ CIANCONE: Maybe we should give ‘overseers’ a test, too

Liz Ciancone
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — I never cease to be amazed and amused by the efforts put forth in an effort to see our kids get a good basic education.

What interests me most is that so many of the ideas come from folks who have had an unpleasant experience sometime during their school careers. They seem to automatically transfer a personal experience to form a generalization to be applied to every school, every classroom and every teacher.

So, to correct this, the nay-sayers have developed companies to devise and publish tests which they sell to states and school districts all over the country. It’s a sort of one-size-fits-all approach — rural or urban, north or south, east or west. It’s part of the assumption that private is better than public and that it is the teacher who controls the entire learning process while parents, the home environment and society in general have nothing to do with it.

If we accept that premise, maybe it’s logical to expect the teacher to jump through a few more hoops on the route to becoming a professional educator. The teacher should be graded, just like the kids who take ISTEP.

So, who will devise the test? How about one of those profit-making companies who have given us ISTEP? Who will administer the test? Hey, how about all those kids in the classroom. Then what about grading? Do we just average the grades of those “judges” who have had a great experience with those who hate school?

I’ve known a lot of teachers, both as a student and as a reporter of education news. Most have been vitally interested in helping their students learn, sometimes in spite of resistance from the student and the parents. As in any profession, there are a few teachers who are not inspiring but most would exhaust every avenue they could devise looking for something to strike a spark.

I’ve had a few teachers who were less than inspiring, but somehow I’ve managed to make a life for myself outside of the classroom, and I’m not a complete ignoramus.

I have a suggestion. I’d like to see to see the professional test-makers devise a test to measure the rank and rating of politicians at every level based on what they are doing — personally — to assure that schools have the buildings, the classrooms, the textbooks, the supplies, the social-support system and, yes, the teachers, to do the kind of job they expect the teachers to do with minimal help. Then I’d like to see the grades these legislators, governors, state superintendents and federal overseers get when judged by the teachers, parents, principals, superintendents and students. Let’s base their salaries on those evaluations.

And, while I am dreaming, I’d like to see every kid have free textbooks and supplies, a good breakfast, a caring family and an education comparable to no other in the world.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.