Newspaper Editorial Concerning The Third Dimension of Power as exercised with regards to legislation proposed and passed reducing state education accountability.
Any Virginia public school native (up to middle age) or parents of children learning in Virginia’s public school system, enjoy a common dislike of the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) and the strict “teaching to the test” requirements it puts on our already stretched teachers and educators. I have had kids in Virginia public schools for 13 years running and I have never heard a positive word said about the SOLs within school walls. The students come home with similar attitudes about them but I try to paint a positive picture to reduce the dread which could climax on test day in the form of a low score. I tell the children that the SOLs are designed to make sure that all students are receiving educational instruction because in this country, we are born with the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for which we should be thankful as that is not a global right. My message is be thankful that there is accountability for taxes used to educate our children. My message is not that the current accountability system is the most effective use of teachers’ time, expertise and energy.
The federal laws of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) have made educational instruction accessible for thousands of individuals across the nation that were not previously exposed to or receiving it. States can enact accountability assessments to satisfy these federal laws in ways that are more educationally appropriate. Some state legislation like HB930 passed in early 2014 in Virginia’s General Assembly reduce the amount of tests and offer creative learning opportunities. One must be very careful to not fall into the trap that SOLs are bad and thus federally mandated state accountability laws are bad. These are the messages that voting parents hear from our children’s educators and state legislators.
On July 16, 2015, S 1177 passed the Senate after being proposed by a Republican from Tennessee. He answered the call of complaints from state educators regarding federal mandates as this legislation swings the pendulum of power back to the states which is where it had been decades ago when populations of students were left out of the general education curriculum. This legislation even has a nice fuzzy name: Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.
I cannot predict the future outcomes of any proposed or passed state or federal legislation but I do know that I have almost fallen into the popular outcry against SOLs and the corresponding state accountability many times when in fact, IDEA and NCLB have been the saving grace in allowing so many Virginians to access the general education curriculum, graduate with a real diploma and go to college or get a job thus ultimately saving taxpayers millions. That is certainly a message a Republican can understand.
“Power is a basic component of human agency. Absolute lack of power means ceasing to be a human agent. Power is the human ability to intervene in events and to make a difference.” (Sadan, p. 68).
Education gives us power. Lets be sure not to deny that from anyone.