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A legislator’s Next Steps in Student Success: Lew Frederick

10 October 2014 12,589 One Comment

Representative Lew Frederick has served in the Oregon House for the past five years. Before that, he was a teacher, a reporter, and a district administrator Oregon. “He has witnessed how manufactured crises, extreme deprivation of resources, and radical overhaul proposals work together to repurpose public education in a way the public has not voted on.”

Next Steps in Student Success

By Lew Frederick

Before we talk about “rigor” and “discipline” and “accountability” for kids, we have to insist that adults are held to that standard. When we design school programs, especially when we propose to impose some new system on the whole enterprise, we should demand a degree of certainty that the turmoil of change will be worth it. We should demand evidence that it will make things better. We should demand that when a crisis is described, it is real and correctly described, and when a solution to the crisis is prescribed, we should demand that the solution actually addresses the problem.

And somebody should be accountable, but I don’t think we currently understand that word. We say that teachers should be accountable for results, but who defines the results? Who will be accountable if the entire approach of making schools, especially those in poor neighborhoods, pressure cookers that stress kids out of their minds, turns out to be destructive of the qualities we need in the adults of the future?

And what about those high-stakes tests? Where is the “rigor” when we repeatedly hear about test questions, multiple choice questions, in which educated adults would argue over the best answer. What does it mean when we expect the kids to choose, and attach consequences to their choices? Is this expectation a “higher” one? No, I believe it is dumbed down, narrowed, and crazy-making, and we ought to be alarmed about that.

To what extent are these “reforms” rooted in business practices that are now being abandoned by businesses, with efforts under way to “repersonalize” the business environment? Do we have time to wait this out? Now that would be an interesting PhD project for someone: Track how business school theories find their way into education “reform,” and how long it takes for them to run their course.

I believe that young people have to have a reason to go to school and engage with it every day. Every kid needs to learn something every day that makes him or her want to come back for more.

I also believe that teachers aren’t motivated the same way some assume they ought to be; they don’t wake up every day thinking about how much money they can make that day. If they did, we’d be in trouble. They need to make a decent living so that they can focus on what brings them to the profession every day, the small and large successes of the students in front of them.

Finally, I believe that the students of today have to be ready to solve problems we may never anticipate.

So, I hope I’ve provoked some thought and discussion. The bottom line for me is that the kids of today will live in a world that I will not see. How do we open and grow their minds to prepare them for that?

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