Last week, Idaho Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna unveiled his plan to bring Idaho schools into the new millennium through increased use of technology, reduction of personnel, and a “customer-driven” budgetary process. Under the heading Students Come First, Superintendent Luna proposes an economic plan that attempts to address recent cuts in funding while also increasing student preparedness for future demands of the workplace. As Luna says,
“the current system is not sustainable. We are trying to prepare Idaho students for the 21st century using a 19th century model. It doesn’t make sense. What I propose today is a comprehensive plan that will change the system to match our current economic demands, and more importantly, to meet our students’ needs.”
The plan focuses on three pillars:
The 21st Century Classroom: a laptop for every HS student; six required online credits during the High School years; advanced technology in schools; dual-credit courses funded by the state; national core curriculum standards in all schools.
Great Teachers & Leaders: raising the minimum teacher salary; implementing pay-for-performance plans; abolishing tenure; focusing professional development to allow ease of transition into the 21st Century classroom; tying teacher performance evaluations and retention to student growth.
Transparent Accountability: parental input on teacher evaluations and access to fiscal information for each district; local school board flexibility in managing budgets through streamlined collective bargaining; money that follows students, and increased use of statewide purchasing contracts.
While these are laudable goals, the changes needed by students in our public schools will not be answered merely by changing the system to meet “our current economic demands.” Implying that such change will be educationally beneficial is simply wrong. From an educational standpoint, the pillars of Students Come First reveal a complete misunderstanding of what education is, and of what is needed to address the educational deficiencies of our current system. This plan is an economic solution, not an educational one. Here's why: