Serenity Now…

My blog has a little widget that allows me to see how many people are reading my posts.  It’s no surprise that during the summer, I don’t have very many people reading my blog.  This time of year is very busy for me so I don’t get as much time to write as I would like.  Secondly, people aren’t that focused on school issues.  With that in mind (meaning fewer people will see me using this post to self-medicate the onset of my skyrocketing blood pressure…SERENITY NOW), I’m going to take this opportunity to “dump my bucket”.

Our district has a subscription to the Casper Star Tribune.  As I was walking to my office I glanced at the front page and happened to see the following headline, “Lawmakers question Wyoming education standards”.   I really should have know better than to read an article that contained both lawmakers and education in the headline, but my curiosity got the better of me.

Last year Wyoming legislators passed a new educational accountability act that’s pretty much a lite beer version of NCLB.  Did I mention they did this at the very same time educators had finally gotten the rest of the world to realize that NCLB doesn’t work.   Even initial NCLB advocates like Diane Ravitch admitted they were wrong and  jumped on the NCLB-hater bandwagon.  I’ve already dumped that bucket and made peace with the fact that Wyoming educational accountability will resemble federal education accountability legislation that’s imploding faster than the Cubs starting rotation.

Fast forward to this summer where a select committee of Wyoming legislators has been tasked with keeping an eye on how their new law gets implemented.  The article primarily covers this topic.  I don’t have a problem with them eyeballing us, we’ve all gotten used to the fact that they don’t trust the WDE or local school boards.  But what really caught my eye was this statement in the article:

Lawmakers on the panel took issue with the state Board of Education’s June 2010 decision to adopt national Common Core State Standards as part of new Wyoming standards because they were not vetted by legislative committees.”

Not vetted by legislative committees?  Really?  To provide some context to this statement, it might help to understand a little about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  The CCSS are a joint effort between the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.  In addition they have been widely touted as a quantum leap forward in standards based education by everyone from business leaders to educational think tanks as well as being universally recognized as necessary to creating schools that can produce globally competitive students.

Nice work people!  Seriously.  You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get the vast majority of our citizenry who have a vested interest in education on the same page.  And on a national scale no less (44 states have already adopted the CCSS).  That’s how good this product really is.   But wait!  Apparently there’s a fatal flaw.  A few guys and gals on the Wyoming Select Committee on Educational Accountability didn’t have a chance to “vet” the standards already approved by the very board designed to apply their expertise to these types of issues (deep sigh, head banging on desk).  So now the WDE is telling local districts to slow down implementing standards not yet adopted.  Talk about a dollar waiting on a dime.   This is a disaster for local districts that have already spent significant amounts of time and energy on alignment (like we have) based on the earlier decision by the Wyoming BOE.  I feel like Charlie Brown lining up to kick the game winning field goal and I just noticed out of the corner of my eye that Lucy’s my holder.

OK, time for a brief backpedal.  I should have prefaced this post with an important disclaimer.  I cannot say enough good things about the Wyoming legislature for their commitment to education.  In my opinion, the Wyoming funding model is better than any other, hands down.  It has its flaws, but most policies of that magnitude do and they pale in comparison to the benefits.   What’s sad is that the legislators can’t get out of their own way.  Their actions say unequivocally that they’re either too egotistical ,too untrusting, or too political to let the State Board of Education do the work for which they were appointed.  Wyoming certainly has an independent nature.  But I hope we can separate independence from pride and move forward quickly with both the CCSS and one of the  national assessments that are being developed.

In the immortal words of Lloyd Braun…Serenity now.  Insanity later.

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About Jay Harnack

Superintendent of Sublette County School District #1
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4 Responses to Serenity Now…

  1. Ana Cuprill says:

    As one of the few who consistently reads your blogs:
    I hope Serenity is working, but what are we going to do about it? Do we push on with Common Core or are we really going to have to pull back? With NCLB becoming less and less relevant- other than the needless testing- will our District be able to move forward with all the curriculum changes our teachers and administration have been working so hard on in order to implement the Core curriculum in what was supposed to be a really quick timeline? Can we surge ahead for the benefit of our children despite or in spite of the legislative committee?

    • Jay Harnack says:

      Ana,

      That’s the basis of my frustration. Our instruction must be aligned to the standards. That’s hard to do when you don’t know which standards. We will continue to move forward towards the common core. It is my belief that this is a political temper tantrum than rather than an honest belief that the CCSS need to be reviewed by the committee because they are concerned they aren’t up to snuff.

  2. Mark Pape says:

    Jay;
    Excellent blog. We will continue down the CCSS road. We all know that this is the correct course of action and will have the long term result of providing real standards based education for our kids.

  3. Public education will always be at the mercy of those who are uneducated.

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