Saturday, June 15, 2013

An Open Letter 

To Governor Sean Parnell

Dear Governor Parnell:

I am writing to inform you of my grave concerns regarding the implementation of SBAC as agreed to in the MOU signed by you, and Commissioner Hanley earlier this year. 

I am a parent of a child attending school in Alaska's failing (and expensive) education system. When I first learned of SBAC, and began reading about the program, I was appalled. There are numerous documents on the web, showing the content of the curriculum in various grades and subjects. In addition, I have read a number of testimonies regarding the program from educators and parents in other states.  I am quite sure that a little research on the part of your office, sans the input from the SOA education department, will provide volumes of information to support my concerns.

Foremost, I am concerned that my child enter the workforce with the skills and drive necessary to succeed here in Alaska's volatile job market. Whatever industry he eventually settles on, it is my duty to prepare him for the challenges he will face in the real world, apart from the schoolroom. 

As a parent, how can I help my son with class work, when the student is not allowed to take materials home, and the teacher is not allowed to discuss course content?  How am I going to review the standards, when none are known because the test does not exist, and the materials are secret? How can I help correct misconceptions, aid in solving problems, and guide my son to a good future, when all is hidden? 

Please tell me how collective problem solving (in mathematics, no less!) will help him?  If he passes a grade because all the other students agree that a 2+2=5, how is that method and answer going to work, if he's on the Slope in a technical position? What if he chooses engineering or science? How will this method of problem solving advance his skills in the modern workplace? The short answer is, it will not. It has no relevance to "critical thinking" or nimble problem solving. It is passing a subject by peer pressure to arrive at one, acceptable answer-and any answer is the correct one. A cursory look at the content of the SBAC (as leaked by concerned teachers and administrators) will prove that the "education" being offered, does not reflect the history, or the lessons, that you and I know. 

I am very upset that the State has entered into this agreement, with no input from anyone outside your administration-and the vendors of this "program". For all the many thousands spent on each student here every year, I have often lamented that I could easily hire tutors and provide a focused, solid education for the same money. With no additional burden to the state in the form of maintaining those huge monuments (schools), transportation, and all the rest, either. 

If the goal is to prepare students only for college, the State is a dismal failure. You only have to look at the statistics that prove the large percentage of freshmen who must take remedial "language arts" and mathematics. Why? Because they are not getting the lessons in high school. 

And that is the point of this letter, Governor Parnell. 

I'm sure that the educational Phds and professionals, who signed on to this program, would disagree with this one mothers' assessment. However, as a product of the American educational system myself, this quashing of logic and reasoning is outrageous. As a kid who attended a one room school in Bush Alaska back in the 60s and 70s, who then attended the larger institutions, I have a rather wider view than most parents here. I have experienced education from students at a teachers' college, the one room environment where you were free to work at your own pace, to the modern cattle herding from one subject and room to another. But through it all, my parents were involved, knew what course content was being taught, and this knowledge was freely shared and used.  Facts were not filtered through an Agenda21 prism, and America's excellence, history, and potential were not "dumbed down" for expediency and funding. 

This will not be the case with SBAC.  It is fact that most classes are taught to the lowest common denominator today, that teaching to the exit exam guides teachers and administrators anxious to surpass the low bar set by the state and feds, that no one is accountable for Alaska's failing graduation rates, and that we are churning out students who are woefully unprepared for the work force. I do not want my son to become another data point in the failure that is Alaska education today. 

I strongly urge you, Governor Parnell, to rescind the agreements reached thus far, as regards to Common Core and SBAC. The State of Alaska, can do better....must do better, for it's future rides on the shoulders of these students.