Failing All The Way

This is a coda to my last post, as new events have happened here in Washington state with our legislature and most specifically with respect to how we treat our educational system.

In short:

  1. The requirement for high school students to pass a biology exam to graduate (approximately 2,000 high school students were in danger of not graduating because they did not pass the exam) was taken off the table for two years.
  2. The voter-approved classroom reduction initiative has been “delayed” for four years.
  3. Our legislators, who had to go into three special sessions (for which they could claim $120 in per diem *each*) to actually agree on a budget, finally get to go home.

Fan-fricking-tastic.

Everyone loses here, except our dearly elected officials.

  1. The reason those 2,000 students couldn’t pass the biology exam is the same reason everyone hates Common Core: it’s not the Common Core itself (the idea that education should be standardized so if I’m a 10th grader in Phoenix and I move to Seattle midyear my experience won’t be one of educational catch-up), it’s the implementation of Common Core.  Instead of a phased approach — say, this year we do K-1 and then next year it’s 2-3, etc., so kids have a consistent educational background to support the curriculum they are getting each year — it was lumped on all grades all at once.  Seniors in high school got dumped into a Common Core Curriculum without the K-11 curriculum to support it.  The fact that 2,000 kids couldn’t pass a biology exam speaks to our educational system BEFORE the Core, and our implementation of the Core. The solution however shouldn’t be to let them graduate without the knowledge set: it should have been to use this year to teach them what they need to know. Teach to the test? Maybe.  So either bench the test until the kids have been taught what is in it (and don’t have them take the test and fail it — twice — as if to reinforce that their inability to magically instill the knowledge required, on their own time, is somehow their fault).  (For those pointing out that 2,000 students NOT passing means some 30k students DID pass, and so that’s 93%, so this is no big deal: it is to the kid who couldn’t afford tutoring or has to work outside of school to help her family out or for whom English is a second language and needs extra time to study. Let’s not punish people for having already difficult life circumstances).
  2. Voters approved this class size reduction and in the wake of the McCleary contempt finding, you think that our legislature would be all over the implementation of something like this. Instead they’ve delayed it for 4 years. With House members turning over (or potentially turning over) every 2 years, and Senate every 6, they’ve just kicked the can down the road to a different legislature in the future. Whether or not that legislature decides to fund it or not then is yet to be determined. The parents of middle and high school students in Washington state will not get to see the benefits of this initiative, because by the time 4 years rolls around, and another for implementation, your 7th grader will be in college. Just remember that our voted officials decided that our votes don’t count when they don’t agree with how we’ve voted. Don’t worry, I’ll be strenuously reminding everyone of that come November.
  3. Our legislators make roughly $42k (it’s a little more if you’re speaker, or minority/majority leader, but let’s get conservative).  In short, 1 House of Rep for WA State = 1 teacher with an MBA.  However, legislators are expected to work 70% of a full time schedule, and they get that per diem for every day they are in session (to cover meals/gas).  This doesn’t include their healthcare and retirement. There are 94 days in a session (unless special sessions are called). Let’s do some math: 94×120=$11,280. We’ve gone from $42k to $53k, not including healthcare, retirement, and special session. Each special session is 30 days. We had 3 this year, and we’ve had special sessions each year since the recession started. 90×120=$10,800. Now we are at $64k. This doesn’t include donor money, lobbyist perks, etc. In short, they have every incentive to keep that legislative session, in session.

Things are not going to change until our legislature does, and the best way to effect that change is to vote.

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