[Susan notes: This is a powerful statement: These innocent children do not need better teachers or better schools. They need better childhoods. If the problem were hiding inside schools, we'd have found it by now.]
Submitted to but not published
Senator Kate Sullivan
Education Committee Chair
Lincoln, NE 68509
I send this message to you in your capacity as chair of the Education Committee of the Nebraska Legislature.
Yesterday the World-Herald printed a story about "school reform" legislation. That story included a list of proposals that a legislator intends to introduce in the 2014 legislative session. Below this message, I have produced the substance of that list.
Perhaps in the near future I and others will be able to offer specific analyses and evaluations of each item in the list. For now, I offer two thoughts for your consideration.
(1) By the fourth grade, we can identify with shocking precision those children who will leave school as academic failures. What is more, so can their classmates. For the last five decades, politicians have attempted to convert those academic failures into academic into academic successes by changing the schools they attend. The various attempts have had different labels. "Elementary and Secondary Education Act." "A Nation at Risk." "By the Year 2000." "No Child Left Behind." Different labels, but the same result: utter failure. These innocent children do not need better teachers or better schools. They need better childhoods. If the problem were hiding inside schools, we'd have found it by now.
(2) Nebraska is home to 16 government-licensed collegiate teacher training programs spread across the state. Six of those programs are run by institutions that are owned and operated by the state, itself. As your committee examines each "school reform" proposal, please ask the academic faculty at our numerous teacher training programs to present and explain any scientific evidence that supports each "reform" proposal. Reject opinions and beliefs unsupported by science. I think that you will find that our efforts -- especially during the last dozen "No Child left Behind" years -- have produced a mountain of reforms without generating any significant success at all.
Thanks and best wishes.