Yecke Wrong on Schools
It has become increasingly apparent that Cheri Pierson Yecke is still smarting over her rejection as commissioner of education by the Minnesota Senate.
Unfortunately, she has resorted to name-calling and spreading misinformation. She recently referred to me as a "Chicken Little" for predicting that most schools in the Hopkins School District 270 would eventually wind up on the state's list of schools not making adequate yearly progress (Op Ex, Aug. 29).
In fact, in a November 2002 newspaper column, I wrote that nine out of 10 of our schools would eventually wind up on the list. I was looking into the future as to what awaits many of us in the public school arena -- eventually being unsuccessful in reaching the fantasyland achievement targets now prescribed by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. If NCLB is not changed, I stand by my prediction. One hundred percent proficiency by all students by the year 2014 -- just how realistic is that?
While we are at it, we may as well mandate that by 2014 all Americans will be at their ideal body weight and have low blood pressure and cholesterol and be able to run a five-minute mile.
Yecke also implies that I have remained silent on this issue simply because my prognostication did not come about in 2002-03.
There have been many "peeps" from this Chicken Little, and I will continue to speak out loudly and vocally on this issue.
I have often said that NCLB has worthy goals: to raise student achievement across the board, and to eliminate the achievement gap among groups of students of different backgrounds. Those are goals that the Hopkins School District is aggressively working on. I also believe in standards, testing and accountability. Our school district began developing standards and assessment long before the state instituted standards and testing. We also began identifying achievement gaps among Hopkins students long before the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.
I will continue to share my concerns with others. I will continue to work with Sen. Mark Dayton, Rep. Jim Ramstad, and other lawmakers to rectify the flaws inherent in the No Child Left Behind Act. I will continue to work on lessening the punitive nature of this law and its impact on student subgroups and teachers.
As someone who truly understands the day-to-day complexities of working in a public school district, I have no choice but to aggressively work to change the law. Here are just some of the areas that we are working to change:
• Funding the No Child Left Behind Act fully.
• Ensuring that state and federal standards focus on the basic, essential core of curriculum so that individual school districts retain local control and autonomy in determining standards for subjects and grade levels.
• Writing standards that emphasize the depth and breadth of curriculum.
• Supporting teachers with the time and instructional support they need to acquire new skills, knowledge and habits to support the objective of ensuring that all students achieve to their highest potential.
• Assessing academic progress in multiple, not just one point-in-time test.
• Reducing the amount of testing and ensuring that assessment informs instruction.
In the future, I hope that if Yecke has any problems with me, or wants to share her concerns about education in Minnesota and, more specifically, Hopkins School District 270 with me, she picks up the phone or sends me an e-mail, before using me as a point of ridicule in an opinion column.
Michael Kremer is superintendent of schools in Hopkins
Minneapolis Star Tribune
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES