Patrick Makes Education a Winning Issue for Republicans

(“All children left behind,” the new democratic mantra?? – promoted by EaBo Clipper)

An opinion piece in today’s Boston Globe highlights the Democratic Party’s current hostility to education reform, and indicates reasons why education should be a winning issue for Republican legislative candidates this year.

Kathleen A. Madigan, founder and former president of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence and a member of Pioneer Institute’s Center for School Reform Advisory Board, states the case clearly:

Senate minority leader Richard Tisei recently observed, “We always seem to be chipping away at the Education Reform Act.”

Sadly, he’s right.

First, the Commonwealth ditched the accountability piece of reform when it abolished the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. Then it reversed more than 170 years of tradition by eliminating the independence of the state Board of Education.

Teacher testing is the latest reform to come under fire. A bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate and seems to have the Patrick administration’s backing would allow some aspiring teachers in Massachusetts to be licensed even if they fail a licensure test three times. The administration says it’s trying to develop alternate criteria for those whose scores are just shy of passing.

What possible reason could there be for such a reckless action? She first disposes of the phony claim that there is a “teacher shortage” in Massachusetts, and then points to the culprit:

Prospective teachers who fail the licensure tests consistently come from the same few Massachusetts teacher-training programs. Just an 80 percent pass rate is required to maintain state approval. The only way consumers can see which programs aren’t up to par is to look at the Title II reports the Commonwealth submits annually to the US Department of Education. Policy makers would be better served to focus on how to improve the weak teacher preparation programs than to develop alternative criteria for prospective teachers who fail.

The facts lead you to wonder just who the proposed waiver is designed to protect.

So the problem isn’t the test, it’s the teacher training programs! What few training programs are these laggards? Try to look them up in the “Title II Report” filed with U.S.D.O.E. by the Massachusetts Department of Education. I dare you. Go ahead.

It isn’t as easy as you might want. In fact, it’s downright infuriating. But oddly, the state reports that there are NO teaching training programs that are “low performing” by DOE standards (I refuse to look up the definition without paxil).

Madigan points out the fundamental issue here that the Republican Party should grab and run with:

In trying to be responsive to the needs of prospective teachers, political leaders have forgotten the purpose of teacher licensure exams – to protect students…

Students can’t be expected to live up to high academic standards if the same is not expected of their teachers.

This issue resonates with every single parent in Massachustts who has a child in public school. The Republican members of the legislature should be shouting from the rooftops about this, and candidates should be moving it to the top of their push pieces. When asked by anyone “why are you running,” the answer should begin with “First of all, I am running to insure that Massachusetts public school students are taught by competent teachers who are trained in competent programs and certified properly.”

In the meantime, why doesn’t someone standing behind this atrocious bill look into which training programs are failing and who’s protecting them?

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