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February 03, 2011 8:24 am

EDITORIAL: Local school boards should decide what works best

Written by Don Amend

Education continues to be a major issue in the Wyoming Legislature this year.

This is understandable, since education traditionally is one of the major consumers of state money. In recent years, the Legislature has provided much better funding for schools than was available in the past. Wyoming spends more money per student than most, if not all, other states.

But legislators are concerned that the increased funding has not resulted in higher achievement among Wyoming students. During this session, it appears that the Legislature has concluded that is all because of bad teachers. To that end, legislation under consideration aims at strengthening teacher evaluation procedures and making it easier to eliminate bad ones.

Among the measures being considered are the elimination of what is commonly mislabeled as teacher tenure, the tying of student test scores to a teacher’s evaluation and the possible use of cameras in the classroom as part of the teacher evaluations.

There are two underlying assumptions to these proposals. The first is that Wyoming’s schools are failing; the second is that the reason is a plethora of terrible teachers in the state.

Both assumptions are questionable, if not completely wrong. By and large, Wyoming’s schools, with a few exceptions, are doing an effective job for the vast majority of their students, and teachers are working hard to teach the children and young adults put under their charge.

Moreover, schools around the state are continually trying to find ways to support effective teachers and evaluating their performance. Our local school board even now is working on its methods of teacher evaluation, and teachers are searching for new ways to engage students and improve their achievement.

The best thing the Legislature can do is to let school boards and administrators around the state, who are familiar with their schools and communities, find what works best for them.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link February 09, 2011 2:46 pm posted by August Lauritzen

    Common sense evaluation of where teachers, schools, and administrations are succeeding and failing is a great idea. But before we go throwing the baby out with the bath water, we need to consider the fact that parent involvement and home life have some affect on student performance. With so many two income households, parents that travel for work, parents that work long and odd hours, is the bargain being kept up on that end? How many hours are spent each day, each week by parents in support of our children's education? Is it more or less than our children spend in front of computers, video games, and television? Perhaps we need to consider that we are at a threshold for our current education system, due to factors outside of our educators control.

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