I have a confession to make: until this morning, I did not know that there was a ban on appointing professional educators to the State Board of Education.
Now that I know that there is such a crazy ban, I really, really hope that Governor Kulongoski will end it by signing SB 1014.
In today's paper, the Governor's spokeswoman said that he might veto the bill because he is concerned about "the need for impartiality among members of the board." I'm not quite sure what that means (with all respect to my good friend Anna Richter Taylor), but I do know that it is a bad idea to limit the amount of knowledge and understanding of actual, current classrooms on the board that makes major education policy decisions.
One of the biggest problems with education policy today is that too many people think they can become overnight experts. No Child Left Behind passed Congress with virtually no input from actual educators. The Texas Board of Education thinks it's just fine to rewrite history according to its ideological views. People think the key to success is "charter schools" staffed by people without teaching credentials.
In fact, all the recent research shows that education isn't easy; it is hard. Teaching a classroom of 30 kids with different backgrounds, languages and learning styles is one of the hardest things we ask anyone in our society to do. Studies show that throwing someone with a lot of subject matter knowledge, but no teaching knowledge, into a classroom is a recipe for failure. Finland, which leads the world in many measures of education excellence, does so by taking teaching seriously. As Diane Ravitch - an education scholar who has recently, dramatically abandoned her allegiance to the high-stakes testing / charter schools camp - said recently: “Nations like Finland and Japan seek out the best college graduates for teaching positions, prepare them well, pay them well and treat them with respect.”
If we recognize that educating children is a difficult, specialized discipline - and I am sure that Governor Kulongoski does - it makes no sense to prohibit current practitioners with that specialized knowledge from serving on the Board of Education and making policy decisions for every school in the State. It's like prohibiting anyone who works for an apparel company from serving on Nike's board. I mean no offense to the current State Board, a fine group of folks that includes a couple of retired educators - but I think the Board would benefit from having someone who has worked in schools in the post-NCLB environment.
Please, Governor, sign SB 1014.