Thursday, August 30, 2007

CT Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan - Working To Obliterate "Home Rule"

Home rule refers to a demand that constituent parts of a state be given greater self-government within the greater administrative purview of the central government. (Look at the CT State Constitution)

CT Commissioner of the Department of Education, Mark McQuillan, was interviewed on WNPR radio (08/23/07) and his vision included Centralizing Education in CT. (sorry - the audio link on WNPR doesn't work at this time, hopefully WNPR will get that fixed).

Anyway in his interview, he said that 169 towns are not talking with each other and that there should be one centralized framework which includes accountability, standards and assessments. In this scenario, the idea of "Home Rule", in which municipalities have the freedom to decide on their own how they wish to conduct business (including education), would be non-existent. One wonders why we would even bother having our own boards of education in this case, if the state is to centrally decide how to educate our kids. Everything would be by state mandate.

Where McQuiillan wishes to start is in CT high schools.

McQuillan expressed the desire to standardize graduation requirements, including required courses and require end of course exams as well as exit exams to gain a diploma. It appears he is very big on assessments and high stakes testing. That is unfortunate. Instead of having the confidence that they have succeeded all along after being passed from grade to grade - this high stakes testing may in fact punish the students who in the end don't pass these exit exams because of the failure of teachers and a curriculum that doesn't prepare them properly. It has been reported too that minority students fail these exit exams at a higher rate. This is how he believes we should approach the problem of kids graduating and needing remedial courses in college! Maybe they ought to take a second look at social promotion instead of instituting exit exams. Maybe they ought to look at the school environments that are preventing real learning from going on, especially in urban schools.

He had no concrete answers to approach the problems of drugs, sex, bullying or violence in our high schools - which are huge contributors to the reason why kids cannot achieve in school and move many of them to eventually drop out. His answer to that problem was to have the community deal with that problem.

He admitted that high schools are unresponsive to children's needs and claimed that they are currently using the wrong model for 21st century learning.
Well I agree on that point. But not for the same reasons I am sure.
It's my opinion that:
-The school environments for the most part are oppressive and depressive.
-Schools are too big and do not pay attention to individual needs.
-Kids are individuals and they aren't being treated as such for the most part.
-"One size fits all" education just doesn't work.
-Most of all there is a lot of state mandated curriculum and procedures which already crowd out the basics that kids should be getting, and valuable programs like music and art suffer as well.

We have lots of problems in our urban schools and centralizing power with the Department of Education away from the municipalities is not the solution. That will just merely remove the ability for problems to be quickly addressed at a local level and tie the hands of local boards of education to decide what is best for their own schools in their own towns. Taxpayers will have even less control on how their money is spent.

Of course there was no mention of more freedom and/or choice in education, only more control. That just about says it all. In my opinion we need less government interference in education: not more.

Here is another audio outlining the top three priorities that McQuillan has for CT
1 - Making Univer$al Pre$chool available to all children by 2015
2 - Improving reading in$truction in early grade$
3 - Revamping high school curriculum - including high school exit exams

Here he says he won't pursue the NCLB lawsuit brought on by his predecessor.

Clearly Commissioner McQuillan is looking to change education here by bringing Massachusetts style school reform and regulation here and making us into "Connecticuchusetts".