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Our Opinion: Variables in education elude uniform standards

Our Opinion: Variables in education elude uniform standards

January 4th, 2013 in News

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.