Readers: These 10 education policies need to go


"Remove the idea that all children learn at the same rate and dismantle K-12 grade concepts," suggested one reader.

As education stakeholders continue to debate various school reform ideas, many have targeted specific policies they see as outdated, cumbersome, or standing in the way of real progress.

We recently asked readers: “If there was one policy/rule that you’d like to have waived for your school/district/state, what would it be and why?” Here are our readers’ top responses.

What do you think of these education policies—and do you have any suggestions of your own for policies you’d like to waive or change? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

10. Creating a single, statewide student information system

“If there is one rule … I would stop or have waived, it is what the state of Wisconsin is doing by trying to create a single, statewide student information system. This, on the surface, looks great. But once you start to pull it apart and analyze it, both from a technical and functional perspective, there is not much good about it. It is being billed as a way to save money, but it hardly does that because schools will still have to run other systems. Wisconsin thinks that by forcing all schools to use this system, [state leaders] will finally have access to all student data, anytime. However, they would have this information available to them if they would use the existing infrastructure of SIF (the Schools Interoperability Framework).”  —Tom Hafemann, director of information systems and technology, Campbellsport School District, Wis.

9. Teacher licensing requirements

“If the applicant can pass the teacher license test and has a proven record in [his or her] field as an educator/trainer or mentor, then we should be bringing those people into the education field.” —Kathleen Isberg, Park Hill Elementary

8. Not requiring technology application classes

“I would like the state of Texas to require high school technology application classes be taken. It was changed two years ago from a required class to just an elective class. Students may be good at texting and other non-essential educational tasks, but [that doesn’t mean they know how to use applications for learning or productivity].” —Peggy Cook

7. Prohibiting the use of personal technologies or web pages

“I wish we could BYOD [Bring Your Own Device], because our equipment is so outdated. Teachers and students are not allowed to use their own equipment on our network. Schools should be allowed to make their own policies. The Kentucky Department of Education blocks things like Gmail. But the University of Kentucky, the most prominent school in our state, is using Gmail for their students. It’s just crazy some of the blocks they impose.” —Debbie Biddle

“One policy that I would like to see changed in my district is to allow teachers to have their own web pages on our school website. The school policy is not to allow any individual web pages on the school website. As a school librarian, I am not allowed to have a library web page. My job is to get information to students and staff, and I feel that a library web presence would expose those who don’t come into the library often to information they can use. Also, many of our younger staff members and I are very tech-savvy, and we can share our knowledge of technology with students to a much greater degree.” —Rita Foran, librarian, RTS Middle School, Conklin, N.Y.

6. Grade levels based on age

“Remove the idea that all children learn at the same rate and dismantle K-12 grade concepts. Instead, students should have to master (80 percent or higher) core concepts before they are moved to the next level. Having access to various software, students can be ‘grouped’ by their skill level. For example, a person could be doing level 1 math, but level 2 reading.  Grouping students on age is passé.” —B.J. Pacio, MA Ed. Admin.

5. Seat-time requirements

“We have to eliminate seat time and Carnegie units and replace them with competency-based learning.” —Gisele Huff

4. Rules for auctioning off old equipment

“Most districts require that ‘old’ or replaced technology be … auctioned off. I wish that [policy makers] could allow the school the discretion to give single units away to at-risk students who don’t have computers at home. There is no compelling reason that the hobbyist who comes to the auction should be able to walk out with 35 computers for $40 when 35 students could equally benefit. We have the technology to scrub the drives, and high school clubs or classes could reinstall Linux or some free OS and free learning tools on the machines. It seems a waste of resources, based on a time when computers were far more expensive and model procurement was more of an issue than it is today.” —Scott Horan

3. Unfunded mandates

“The policy that I’d like changed is the underfunded special-education mandate from the government. It seems that we spend so much money to educate special-needs students when classrooms full of kids are suffering from budget cuts. Our special-needs kids should certainly have an equal and appropriate education, but putting the majority of the cost of that on the backs of individual districts is unfair. My district does an amazing job of programming for these [children], and as a result, it has an unfair burden because parents come here for those services. That relieves some burden on neighboring districts and adds to ours. The government needs to fund the mandates they make, end of story. If you can’t afford it, neither can we!” —Terri Greer

 

2. Teacher seniority preferences

“I would ax the ‘no-fire’ policy from every teacher’s union contract in America, and when layoffs are necessary, lay people off based on some type of performance gradient, rather than by years experience. The school I currently teach in had half of the staff laid off last year, and they were replaced by other teachers from within the school district who have more experience. Out of the new teachers, at least two have threatened students’ homework grades if they don’t provide a ream of paper for copies, and … a few of them complain about things ‘not being in their contract.’ These types of teachers infuriate me, especially in a low-income area where the students come from so little.” —Andy, Philadelphia, Pa.

1. NCLB

“No Child Left Behind.” —Don Meltabarger, director of business and facilities, East Lyme Public Schools

“I think a big problem in teaching today is over-testing, teaching to the test to improve data scores.” —Jackie Johnson

Meris Stansbury

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