The Dec. 1 Bloomberg Opinion piece on education policy reminded me of the bad old days of former presidents George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, with its anti-union undertones and that trigger word — “accountability.”
It paints unions as protecting members, devoid of accountability. No one goes into teaching because it’s easy, or because they can do whatever and be protected by a union. If you ask educators why they went into the profession, their answers will most likely be altruistic. Teachers want to be successful in their jobs, but most know that success measured by test scores is shallow and demoralizing. Encouraging positive relationships, assigning meaningful long-term projects, promoting collaboration with others, fostering creativity, reading to pursue their own interests, applying critical thinking are goals that don’t get measured but contribute to measures of success for most teachers.
The Bloomberg piece encourages Biden to expand charter schools. We do have successful ones in West Hawaii, but expansion means the opposite for traditional schools — reduction. Again, the Bloomberg piece demonizes unions, saying they have “waged war” against charter schools. In Hawaii, charter schools are represented by the same union as traditional public schools, so there isn’t the same antagonism that other places may have. However, there is some resentment between the two types of schools, having to do with funding.
In the Biden-Harris administration, I am hoping for a new era of respect for public education. Opportunities that we provide can be monitored and elevated. Besides securing the basics, we can note if students are getting the counseling they need and the arts that would enhance their learning; if their physical environments are conducive to learning; if they are safe; if they have nutritious meals; if they are learning how to get along with each other; if they are connecting to their communities and the world; if critical thinking is valued and implemented.
Test scores are only one piece of information about student development, but if it’s the major thing you consider, everything else will take a back seat.
Diane Aoki is a resident of Kealakekua.