Letter: Playing politics not improving kids’ education

From: Doug Logan


For being the party that gave us the No Child Left Behind Act in the first place, the Republicans sure don’t seem to care whether their tests mean anything. Just look at the circus going on in Indianapolis now.

Wasn’t it just last year that the education experts in the Legislature decided that Indiana children needed another test? Wasn’t it civics? Coming from that bunch, we can be sure it wasn’t ethics.

So the superintendent of public instruction arranged for yet another test. Then the governor weighed in. Of course, he knows a lot more about education because he’s a Republican and she’s a Democrat. What was the governor’s contribution? Why, he declared that the test is too long and has to be shortened. Isn’t that helpful?

All of this fiddling with the system means that there is no way on Earth that this year’s test will stand a legitimate statistical comparison with last year’s. Let’s look at a couple more of the political shenanigans in the school testing arena:

The wise ones in the Statehouse decided that we weren’t going to let those bureaucrats from Washington force their Common Core standards on us, no sirree! Those Beltway insiders aren’t going to make our children learn reading, writing and arithmetic. Our Interstate 465 insiders are going to decide what our children need to learn, and it’s going to be writing, arithmetic and reading, so there! Whatever, it’s another reason that we can’t compare recent to past test results with any confidence.

Speaking of confidence in the results, remember what the last superintendent did. When his school grading system didn’t give a campaign contributor’s charter school the grade the superintendent wanted, he just changed the numbers. Boy, he was a great guy, a real Republican leader.

The political posturing about testing evades the bald truth about our collective educational failure. Our children simply don’t spend enough time in school. In Japan, children are in school 240 days of the year. In China it’s 235. Here in Indiana, a state law says that the school “year” can’t be more than 180 days. And no, it’s nothing to do with farms; some 19th century child-rearing expert (a man, like all of the 19th century experts) declared that children shouldn’t spend too much time in school.

So here’s my suggestion. Start working toward more days in school. As a first step take all of the testing days — including, especially, the days spent giving tests to see if the kids are ready for the test — off the school calendar.