Education candidate: Leadership needed
By Sarah Lison, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
July 17, 2010
The lone Democratic candidate for state superintendent of public instruction said Thursday that Wyoming is ahead of the curve on eduction but more effective leadership is needed to ensure a bright future.
Wyoming funds education generously when compared to other states, but citizens aren’t getting the “bang for the bucks” they’re spending, said State Sen. Mike Massie, of Laramie.
Massie, who has served as state senator for 16 years and is the director of a nonprofit organization of preschools, said that as head of the Wyoming Department of Education he would put his trust in the educators, parents and community members who know what’s best for their students and children.
To adhere to federal mandate, the state education department developed the Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students test with a testing-writing corporation several years ago without much input from educators and the public, he said.
The mechanics of the standardized test were so flawed last school year that they became apparent to the public, he said. Moreover, the test has not been meeting the state’s needs for several years, he said.
PAWS testing takes up too much classroom time, encourages teachers to teach to the test and doesn’t provide adequate information on individual student learning, he said.
If elected, Massie would engage educators, parents and community members in creating a new statewide assessment test.
“Whatever they come up with, I’ll take to the federal government and sell it,” he said.
If the federal government doesn’t accept what Wyoming offers, Massie will bring the issue back to the people to determine the next step.
“We’re not going to throw out what works here in Wyoming,” he said.
The education department can also do a better job explaining how the state recently adopted national curriculum standards, Massie said.
“It’s very important to have rigorous standards,” he said.
“However, we have some of the best quality educators in the U.S,” he added. “It’s perplexing to me why the Wyoming Department of Education and State Board of Education did not turn to them and ask them to develop the curricu-lum standards in math and language arts.”
The State Board of Education adopted the national Math and Language Arts Common Core Standards in June.
The process of incorporating the rules into state standards is expected to be completed in December 2011.
On the issue of teacher accountability, Massie said instructors should be evaluated at least once a year.
A teacher’s worth, however, should not be based solely on students’ test scores, as some are considering.
If an overall evaluation shows teachers are not performing adequately, they should be given resources and mentoring for a year to improve. If they don’t improve, they should go, he said.
“It’s that important. We can’t afford to have ineffective teachers in place for extended periods of time,” Massie said. “Having said that, I believe a large number of teachers are doing excellent work.”