HOPE STREET:  Teachers should have larger voice in state education policy



Teachers should have larger voice in state education policy

By Loretta Labrador

Hope Street Loretta Labrador

EES, SLO, CCSS, SBAC. These are just a few of the acronyms Hawaii public school teachers were introduced to in the past year.

They are short for very intense initiatives that have been put in place in schools statewide.

CCSS, or Common Core State Standards, however, is the one getting the most publicity these days. The Common Core State Standards are a set of rigorous academic standards that have been adopted by 46 states, including Hawaii. They are getting a bad rap among teachers, parents and community members. But are we really talking about Common Core?

The Common Core Standards came into the state with a few other widely impactful initiatives. However, with so many new systems for teachers and principals to navigate, the essence of the new standards is being clouded. It is hard to have a discussion with any educator these days about the Common Core without someone mentioning the other institutional mandates.

Opinions about the institutionalization of these new programs are running rampant throughout the profession and even community discussions. However, for the sake of our students and our instructional integrity, we need to keep the Common Core Standards discussion about the standards themselves.

Even our recent gubernatorial candidates had a hard time narrowing down the issue to address the actual content of the standards. This would be solved by greater dialogue with actual educators. Who better to speak about the implementation of Common Core than our teachers, implementing them each day in their classrooms?

My question to the new governor now is: How will you get more teachers involved in the process of informing and leading school improvement?

During the campaign, the candidates voiced rhetoric about a less top-down approach and more teacher voice. This is music to any educator’s ears. But how will this be rendered into practical solutions for individual schools and our state? With so many new top-down mandates, if teacher voice is not part of the discussion at the statewide level, then any school-level needs will be lost in the shuffle of statewide obligations.

For example, one of the greatest responsibilities of Hawaii’s governor is to appoint the Board of Education (BOE) members. Presently, only one of the 10 members is a former educator. The BOE, the group tasked with developing policy for the Department of Education, seems like a likely place to begin with increasing the amount of teacher voice on a large scale. Don’t just talk about teacher voice; put this into direct action by bringing more educators to the table, starting with the BOE.

Without teacher voice prominent in the dialogue surrounding state initiatives, an unaddressed status quo continues in the dialogue about what is best for our keiki in schools.

As educational practitioners, teachers are living and breathing the Common Core Standards each day with their students. Let us bring teachers to the table to hear about the strengths of our school system, as well as the challenges we face. Let us determine what works and what does not by soliciting the voices of those who are in the classroom day in and day out.