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Opinion | More choice for education

Glenn Henry

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Fellow Alabamians, we must begin expanding private schools and charter schools. We should begin providing more school choice and option vouchers to kids in poorly performing schools. Additionally, the same failing and poorly performing schools should be closed.

Further, we must have an open and frank discussion concerning the negative impact of the current education cultures, some county-level school boards and their administrators are having on our state. Let’s begin by setting some baselines parameters, such as core values, honesty, integrity, trust, accountability, responsibility and prudent decision making. Basically, let’s do the right thing.

I have taught middle school and high school classes as recently as the 2017-2018 school year.

Over the past decade we have had numerous superintendents at the state and county levels. New school board members have been elected, and they are on board. However, the trust and respect of some of our public education county systems seem to be still spiraling downward.

Numerous county schools have been on the failure list for years. Recently, news reports are indicating that the U.S. Department of Education is questioning the increases and improvements, of nearly twenty percent, by special education students. Recently, some county education systems with failing schools are distributing letter grades, obtained from other entities, in the news media claiming that these are for academics and safety.

The tactic of providing letter grades further causes a lack of trust in our education system. The public want real numbers so that they can verify the information is accurate and reliable. The public can’t compute letters. Additionally, the probability to fudge the numbers will be reduced with numbers.

Further, prior to Alabama State Department of Education staff visits, some superintendents and principals at failing schools get crafty and innovative by having meetings with faculty and staff, and by using Canvas or Google sheets, they enter more favorable information for their district — for instance, lowering student absenteeism and reducing the numbers of student infractions and suspensions.

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Additionally, this practice doesn’t allow the state department of education to collect accurate and reliable data. Primarily, because the data hasn’t been entered in the INOW data base, and the information that has been submitted to the Alabama State Department of Education during their visit are not correct. I believe that no-notice visits from ALSDE will solve this issue.

Many school employees who are not doing their jobs will say to others, stay in your lane. Wouldn’t it be nice, if we had that luxury? When everyone does their jobs that would work. When persons don’t do their jobs, and it negatively impacts someone else, we often have to go in their lane. We could ignore it, but that wouldn’t be the right thing to do.

Here is an example of a vote-getting situation that occurred, when a parent advised teachers that the elected school superintendent had advised her that the teachers would be changing grades for her son after he arrived back at school from suspension.

The school board policy clearly stated, for suspended students zeros would be left in the grade book and INOW. Out of seven teachers, five changed the grades and two did the right thing. You know one of the teachers.

The aforementioned, are just some examples regarding the education cultures of county level superintendents and school administrators, who don’t have core values at failing schools, trying to make themselves look good and, or to gain votes, or earn contract renewals.

New school superintendents, school board members and principals appear, to place prime value on becoming friends with their subordinates and becoming campus favorites; vice leading, managing, making tough-decisions; being proactive and making the right call regardless, if it is popular.

The Alabama Education Association’s primary mission is to attract new members and retain, membership rolls. I can’t find anywhere in which it states the AEA member teachers and administrators must provide a high level of quality performance.

I did go back and check my text books from when I finished my master’s degree, and I was in a doctoral program for a while. Concerning unions, my notes showed that when these organizations negotiate contracts, there are some mandatory items that must be discussed such as wages, benefits, safety, entitlements, tenure, retirement and working conditions.

Here in lies the major problem whereby some believe that the AEA and the membership have a monopoly on public education. Additionally, their self-interests, self-preservation, contract renewals and continuation of employment are their ultimate goals — it’s not about the children.

Even when numerous public schools are failing, or when the citizenry ask for new charter schools, or they ask for school choice or more options, there may be a lawsuit from the AEA to stop progress.

Since there are no weighted factors for quality of performance of AEA school employees or administrators, they can remain in jobs almost permanently, unless a teacher or administrator does something short of killing someone.

The public education culture, self –interests, self-preservation, potential votes and their renewed contracts, within many county school systems are seriously impeding our state’s progress. Let’s try to really put the kids first.

We should challenge our legislators during this legislative session to step forward and do the right thing — submitting stronger legislation to begin closing poorly performing schools. Additionally, it would allow students to begin attending private schools with choice option vouchers during the 2019-2020 school year.

Glenn Henry is retired from the U.S. Air Force. He has been a high school teacher and university adjunct professor. He has earned numerous Cisco rIT certifications. He is a Certified Professional Ethical Hacker. He lives in Montgomery with his wife Teresa.

 

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