Our Opinion: Variables in education elude uniform standards

Government initiatives to improve education often seek to gather numerous, unique scenarios under a uniform standard.

Education frequently occurs when a teacher’s instruction connects with a student’s ability to learn.

Because this connection is individual and unique, bureaucratic attempts to standardize education often lead to frustration.

In a news story published Wednesday, lawmakers and educators discussed some of the education issues that will be on the agenda when the session begins Wednesday. Those issues include: education funding, tenure and teacher evaluations.

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said: “The public education system is another vestige of an antiquated bureaucracy and an antiquated establishment mentality, and it’s not keeping up with the times.”

Missouri Department of Education, however, has no lack of standards or evaluations. Among them:

• Missouri Standards for Teacher Education Programs (MoSTEP) and Benchmarks for Preliminary Teacher Education Programs is a 29-page document.

• Missouri Teacher Standards is a five-page document listing nine standards.

• Missouri’s Educator Evaluation System is a 62-page document specifying how teachers are evaluated.

These represent only a fraction of the applicable rules and regulations, but despite the volume of standards, a Wednesday news story was headlined: “U.S. students far from first in math, science.”

The national story reported: “Even where U.S. student scores have improved, many other nations have improved much faster, leaving American students far behind many of their peers — especially in Asia and Europe.”

The Missouri speaker’s characterization of the education system as “antiquated” is accurate, although perhaps not in the way he meant it.

We can’t say with certainly that in the proverbial “good old days,” a vast majority of students came into the classroom ready to learn, but that is not the case today.

Distractions abound — for both students and teachers.

Are schools safe? Are alcohol and/or drugs an issue? Is discipline necessary? Is bullying an issue? Is social media a distraction? Are anxiety or depression present? Is counseling needed? Is hunger a problem?

These are only a few of the impediments to learning.

Factor in the magnitude of students and teachers, as well as the range of individual and shared distractions, and the difficulty of enacting a standard legislative solution becomes clear.

We believe a two-pronged approach is needed.

Lawmakers must continue to equip educators to teach. But parents also must prepare their children to focus on learning when they enter the classroom.

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