Colorado School Board Recall Vote – Risky Business!

The debate is ongoing over public schools, private schools, charter and home schools and it seems to mimic the presidential debates. How? Because the attempt is to demonize one over the other when all have values respective of their unique ways.

In Colorado the race is on to determine whether to recall a number of School Board members. Why? Because the board has adopted measures that parents and teachers don’t like – they have championed charter schools, they want the voucher system, they want performance based teacher pay, they want AP History to promote a more positive view of the US instead of the demonizing and polarizing attitude currently taught.

The view? That these measures will take schools back to the ‘dark ages’… Which dark ages, the one that has cost Colorado it’s national reputation as having good schools?

Six Colorado schools made the USA Today Gold list in ranking – Liberty Common Charter School in Fort Collins ranked 49 out of over 29,000 schools! Next on the list in Colorado was The Vanguard School, a Charter School in Colorado Springs which ranked 125th, and then Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafeyette came in as 131. In fact, of the top ten schools ranked in Colorado, 6 were Charter Schools!   The best public school ranking was D’Evelyn in Denver at a national rank of 164th.

There are approximately 180 Charter Schools in Colorado compared to about 1840 public schools, representing 10% of the total, yet representing 60% of the top ten performers.

Why fight the Truth? Why wouldn’t you want to replicate what works? If statistics reveal that something works then go for it! The education is for the children, not the teachers, not the unions, and not even for the parents.

If you are truly interested in the child’s education look at the schools that are succeeding. According to the USA Today ranking, of the top ten schools in the nation, 5 are in Texas and 3 are in Arizona! Maybe they know something. Maybe they have a model that could boost rankings across Colorado. What a waste of time to pander about money, when the problem isn’t money so much as ‘education’.

There is a shortage of teachers. Why? Because they can retire early and get a pension that the rest of us will never get. Because they are bored. Because the in-house politics are stifling. If their pay is performance based instead of time based, and their incentive is to retire as soon as possible, as in any competitive market they could stand to lose unless they pump up their desire to excel.

I remember going before a panel of teachers after I made a complaint – public school. The ‘panel’ had already decided that I was wrong because I was the parent. My son had asked the teacher if he could get his homework which he left in his locker. The teacher said no and gave him and F. Really? The panel of teachers all determined that if my son had been in the corporate world this is how they would have responded, so they were teaching him a ‘life lesson’. Really? He was 13. NONE of these teachers had ever worked in the corporate world – I had, and I can tell you that if an employee said he left his briefcase in the car and we were in the middle of a major meeting and needed those papers, I would not hesitate to say, ‘get the dang papers now’!

The point? I don’t think the value is understood in this debate. The value is not political, it is education, raising the bar, giving our children a chance to compete against Texas! Instead, the issue has become one of money. Pay. Methods of determining pay, incentive pay, who is paid more, and how do you measure performance. And maybe that is the true debate – how do adequately measure performance.

In the everyday work world, it involves time spent, attitude, motivation, creativity, as well as performance. To simplify merit pay as only being a by-product of exam performance is short sided, truly. But, the world standard, the corporate world, the lifestyle world that teachers want to prepare their students for, is based on ‘merit’. From an exam standpoint, testing each student at the beginning and end of the year could evaluate whether he/she progressed upward, downward or horizontally. A relatively simple computer model. This would eliminate the argument that merit would only be relative to higher level students – it would provide an actual accounting of their performance.

If you want to change the way in which merit is evaluated, that is a positive that I imagine School Board members would be receptive to. But if you simply want to argue and find yes men/women that will pat you on the back despite your performance, we will continue to see Colorado schools lag significantly in the national arena.

If you want to educate children, then look to the successes. And right now, there are six Charter School successes that bear scrutiny in Colorado.

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