Category Archives: Opinion

Commentary expressing a point of view; an editorial.


Why Not Ask Teachers How They Would Improve Our Schools?

This article is from Kenneth J. Bernstein who is a schoolteacher and a blogger whose work appears on Daily Kos and other sites.

We were sitting in a Starbucks in Arlington, Va. It was our first meeting. Previously, Iowa governor Tom Vilsack and I had talked by phone and exchanged blog posts on education. His campaign staff had reached out to a number of educational bloggers, as he was seriously considering running for president and thought education was a good issue for him. Since he was going to be in my neighborhood, we agreed to get together.

At one point I mentioned that the governors had just had a meeting on education, and he nodded. I remarked that each had brought a business leader to the meeting. The governor nodded again. And then I asked, “Why didn’t you bring a teacher?”

The governor was surprised, and acknowledged he had never thought of it.

That was in 2005. The nation’s governors had a meeting to talk about education and the voices of teachers had not been included.

Follow this link to the full article:



Kennewick Board Members’ Campaign Violations Have Consequences

The Public Disclosure Commission has fined Kennewick School Board members Brian Brooks, Ron Mabry and Ben Messinger for violating campaign finance laws during their school board election campaigns in 2011.

This raises several issues.

While the civil penalties of $200 (with $100 suspended) are a slap on the wrist for the board members, the consequences for Kennewick students and families are very significant.

As candidates, these men assured voters they were most qualified to serve on the school board because their experience with budgets and finances was superior to that of their opponents.  Ironically, Mr. Brooks taunted candidate Uby Creek for her self-deprecating comment that she was occasionally troubled managing her checkbook.  His failure to properly manage his campaign finances of $5000 discredits his claim to expertise yet he now oversees a school district budget of many millions.

When signing up to run for political office these candidates were informed of the rules limiting total campaign contributions and individual limits yet they broke those rules.  One consequence of this cheating is that they created for themselves an unfair advantage over their opponents who did follow the rules.  With local businessman Ty Haberling paying for postage to mail their political advertisements they were able to reach out more effectively to voters than their opponents who lacked that resource. Continue reading


Message To My Teacher Friends At The Start of a New School Year

By Mark Naison, professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University

The start of a new school year is normally an exciting time.  Teachers are busy decorating their classrooms, preparing their lessons, reconnecting with colleagues, imagining what they are going to say that first day when they meet their students.  But this year, teachers will have many other things on their minds.  We live in a society where every important group- politicians, business leaders, media pundits, even Hollywood film personalities – are quick to blame teachers, not only for the alleged failures of our schools, but the failure of our society to reduce poverty and Inequality. Continue reading


KSD grading policy should have community support

This editorial opinion was published in the Tri-City Herald on August 7, 2012.

Public education seems to be attached to a philosophical pendulum, swinging from one trend to another.

While many ideas may sound great in theory, it isn’t until they are implemented that they can truly be tested. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they cause a few unforeseen consequences and sometimes new programs just don’t work.



Nancy Smith’s Open Letter to the Kennewick School Board – SBG Fixes

Nancy Smith spoke to the Kennewick school board during their retreat this past Wednesday.  Some of her comments were reported in the Tri-City Herald.  This letter more completely explains her position on SBG as it is being implemented in Kennewick.

Kennewick School Board,

As you can see, I am passionate about teaching and student learning.  I agonize over the grades and spend hundreds of hours evaluating student work each year, before recording a final summative academic score.  It is critical that I am invested in and have faith in the grading system I use.

Wednesday night, I was saddened that this was the level of staff development on Standards-Based Grading being spoon-fed to a School Board at the apex of decision making on a grading philosophy.  As I listened, I became offended by the superficial dialogue and generalizations made about how teachers grade.  An observer, listening to that summary presentation, might believe that teachers have been intentionally damaging students by utilizing traditional grading practices.  Or they might actually believe that a teacher might deny a student an A if they did not bring a Kleenex box for extra credit.

Ken O’Connor’s book is an opinion book.  He is an educational consultant known as “The Grade Doctor.”  He is making money by convincing people that he has a “new innovation” on grading to increase his booking price for inservices.  Standards-Based Grading is a recycle of a recycled educational philosophy called Mastery Learning.  It is not new and it has not been very successful.  O’Connor’s book made several assumptions and generalizations that were offensive to teachers. Continue reading


Standards Based Grading – the Tri-City Herald Speaks Out

New isn’t always better, different isn’t always bad

We are glad to see young people getting involved in the decision-making process. When eight Kennewick middle school students delivered to the school board 150 letters addressing their grading system, we were impressed.They sure weren’t looking at the rest of the community for role models. As a whole, adults are a demonstrably apathetic when it comes to attending school board or city council meetings.

Regardless of whether the grading system is revised, at least the students have a better feel for how to petition their elected officials.


National Research Council concludes the experiment on our children didn’t work!


The National Research Council is the nation’s leading research organization and an arm of the National Academies. This 2011 report, Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education, has been ignored by the U.S. Department of Education, the states, and the mainstream media as we send our children plunging like lemmings over the cliff of high-stakes testing and the other failed policies of No Child Left Behind (Bush II) and Race to the Top (Obama). Our children and their teachers/schools are the primary victims of this debacle which extends to state legislatures, governors, mayors, and even local school boards who rushed to the trough of incentive money without bothering to ask if the measures being implemented were likely to succeed or to check along the way to see if they were working. Now, more than 10 years into the unwise experiment, we are told by the nation’s most prestigious research organization that it didn’t work and moreover, it shouldn’t even have been tried without more careful analysis in the beginning.


Well, the joke is on the children who have suffered through the experiment only to learn that their education has been a fake and on the taxpayers who have funded the cruel hoax on the children. Oh, and on the teachers who have been bashed by about everyone for not producing the unattainable outcomes called for in the Federal legislation that started the snowball rolling.


Did anyone come out a winner in this national disgrace? Perhaps the big testing companies who produced and scored the tests and produced test prep materials? Or the private charter school operators? Or the large virtual (online) school operators and the companies producing the computers and software to support the industry?


Isn’t it time to think about the children and their future? Ignore the hype and pay attention to what the National Research Council has found.  Tell President Obama to stop the train because we want to get our children off and return control of our schools to parents and teachers at the local level. We are tired of national experiments that ignore research and destroy our public schools.

To read the summary of the Report, look here:


Reasons to Oppose School Reform – for Teachers and Parents

What Passes for School Reform: “Value-Added” Teacher Evaluation and Other Absurdities    


The less people know about teaching and learning, the more sympathetic they’re likely to be to the kind of “school reform” that’s all the rage these days.  Look, they say, some teachers (and schools) are lousy, aren’t they?  And we want kids to receive a better education — including poor kids, who typically get the short end of the stick, right?  So let’s rock the boat a little!  Clean out the dead wood, close down the places that don’t work, slap public ratings on these suckers just like restaurants that have to display the results of their health inspections. Continue reading