"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Is StudentsFirst Prompting Candidates?

One of the hardest things to do is write a questionnaire that does not reveal the questioner's bias.  If you want to see thee worst example of such bias, look at any survey in a teen magazine.  The "right" answer is obvious. A really good researcher could produce a questionnaire where an argument could be made for any answer. But sometimes, the mere act of offering the questionnaire biases the taker. Is this the case with the latest nationwide candidate survey from StudentsFirst?

Their introductory e-mail makes this statement:
Every year education is one of the most critical issues that the legislature addresses. StudentsFirst is a bipartisan, grassroots movement of more than one million members nationwide working to transform America's schools so they work well for all kids. Our members are pushing for reforms that will elevate the teaching profession, improve teacher and principal quality, empower parents and improve the governance and financial strength of school districts.
First they tell the candidate why education is important and that it is going to be one of the biggest issues they will address while in the legislature. To date, only funding for education has been a big issue in the legislature. It may BECOME a big issue as grass roots efforts begin to push back against Common Core Standards and intrusive federal control, but interestingly, neither of these issues appear in their survey.

They are only interested in candidate's (both local and national) views on education reform issues. But by offering this survey, are they not beginning the process of forming the candidate's view on education? Are there obvious "right" answers?  You be the judge and then see if your favorite candidate starts using any of these talking points.

1.     Do you have a background in education or education reform?  Y/N

2.     Do you think that significant K-12 education reform in Missouri is critical to ensure the state’s students get the best education possible and to ensure their best chance at a successful future?  Y/N

3.     Do you think significant K-12 education reform is critical to the future of Missouri?  Y/N

4.     Do you think that dramatic K-12 education reform is critical for Missouri students to compete with students from around the world?  Y/N

5.     Please rank Education Reform in your overall list of priorities in relation to other issues including: Public Safety, Job Creation, Health Care, Public Health, Fiscal Integrity, Tax Reform, Housing, Government Reform, etc.

6.     Please identify whether you support or oppose the reforms included in the following list of education priorities. If you do not support, please explain why in the space that follows.    Support       Oppose
a)     Allowing districts to make staffing and layoff decisions based on teacher effectiveness and impact on students, rather than on seniority alone (ending “last in, first out” policies).                                 
b)     Implementing meaningful teacher evaluations that are based at least half on student achievement and using a value-added growth model.                                     
c)     Implementing meaningful principal evaluations that are based student achievement and in large part on the principal’s ability to attract, retain and effectively manage and develop effective teachers.             
d)    Establishing performance standards for all school employees with true teacher input, but independently from the collective bargaining process.                           
e)     Empowering parents with information about their children’s schools and school districts so they can make informed decisions about their children’s education.                            
f)      Enacting fiscal responsibility and accountability measures to determine whether education funding is being used wisely to advance student achievement.              
g)     Allowing districts to undertake mutual consent staffing determinations such that teachers and principals agree on placement and forced placement is forbidden.                            
7.     Do you agree or disagree with the following statement:

a)     "Parents in Missouri are not given access to enough of the information they need to help them make important decisions about their child's education."

8.     Do you support the creation of genuine district open enrollment systems that give families more options to attend high-quality public schools?  Y/N

9.     Do you support the development of improved school scorecards based on student data that will really help parents understand what to look for in a school?  Y/N

10.  Would you support new laws that compel districts to get the written consent of parents before their children are placed in a class with an ineffective teacher?  Y/N

11.  Do you support a statewide data system to track teacher performance?  Y/N

12.  Do you support the collection and publication of school district budget data tracking central office, programmatic and curriculum spending against student achievement?       Y/N

13.  Do you support removing caps from individual budget categories so districts have the ability to dedicate resources where they determine they are most needed? Y/N

Pretty much lays out what StudentsFirst is working on, doesn't it.

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