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Why are we not asking the most important question?

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In the past year North Carolina's General Assembly made a number of important decisions concerning our state's educational system. Some of these changes impacted the existing curriculum while others impacted teachers' lives. Each of these decisions came under attack, albeit for different reasons, and some of them may be reversed now that our legislators realize that many of their constituents are not pleased - during an election year, no less. Unfortunately, at no time have we heard the one question that is more important than any other: Is the State Assembly making their decisions with the best interest of our students in mind? For instance, are vouchers in the best interest of all students? Is the elimination of teacher tenure in the best interest of our students? Is it in the best interest of our students to remove monetary incentives for teachers to earn their graduate degrees?

It seems that these, and many other hot button topics are focused on what is in the best interest of the adults, many of whom are staking their political and professional futures on changing the way we do business in public school education. Why is it that none of these controversial topics are ever discussed in terms of student outcomes and best practices? We ask our teachers to collaborate and work as teams in order to improve the quality of their instruction and their schools' overall performances. However, we allow our political leaders to make drastic, politically motivated changes to a system that is already beleaguered by funding shortages and social injustice.

If the decision to remove tenure stands, how will this impact on student learning? Much of the answer comes from speculation, but there is enough research on human motivation to show that when people's self worth is questioned or challenged, they normally do not operate at peak performance levels. Obviously, it is not difficult to identify a potential relationship between teachers' perceptions of their self-worth and their performance in the classroom. In other words, removing tenure is not in the best interest of our students. The same can be said for most of the other controversial decisions that came out of the General Assembly last year.

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