as published in the Blytheville Courier News on Wednesday, June 17, 2015
By TOM HENRY
Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin announced, in essence, that Arkansas schools will follow the recommendation of his Council on Common Core Review by dropping PARCC assessments and switching to ACT Aspire. Both tests assess students regarding mastery of Common Core State Standards. However, in a somewhat shocking move, the State Board of Education voted 7-1 to reject this and maintain PARCC testing. Adding to the political intrigue, multiple state legislators have announced that discussion regarding a possible special session to force the change has begun.
The problem is not which assessment is being used. The real problem is whether or not our students are being educated in the manner necessary to become contributing members of society, informed citizens and employable skilled workers. Often, the difference between a city only having stores that sell potato chips or receiving a new factory that makes computer chips is the skill level of the workforce.
Over twenty years of restaurant/retail management experience, as well as that of being a father, has shown me that people rise to the standard expected of them. If a parent casts a vision and sets an expectation that members of their household will appreciate education, then more often than not, members of that household will meet that expectation. Conversely, if parents show that pop culture and trending fashion is more important than time tested academics, members of that house will more than likely meet that expectation as well. If a manager/teacher/parent talks to a teenager as if they were an adult, then they are more likely to get an adult response, but if one treats them like a small child, they are almost guaranteed to receive a childlike response.
The same holds true in a classroom. Self esteem is not the only standard to be taught in the classroom. Other standards are required as well: lessons such as hard work, personal accountability, the consequences for failing to meet the standard and that “real life” doesn’t lower the bar or give extra credit work to those that fail to meet the standard in the workplace. No matter how nice or beautiful an employee is, they will not retain a job, much less build a successful career if they can not count, communicate, and follow instructions (otherwise known as reading, writing and arithmetic).
A well-rounded education opens doors of opportunity and hope to all, while a lack of education limits dramatically. This is not to say that the more educated a person is, the more valuable they are. There have been many great men and women, particularly in past generations, with no more than a third grade education. It isn’t the degree or diploma that decides a person’s worth, however, the more well rounded and educated a person becomes, the more enjoyable and complete ones life can become.
Decisions regarding the future of PARCC testing in Arkansas schools are being made in Little Rock, but the real life-changing impact of educational standards and student assessment is felt strongest in the homes of Arkansas hometowns such as Blytheville. In fact, all aspects of our lives, from crime levels, job opportunities and the ability of our children to one day provide food on their own tables depend upon the standard we demand of our students today.
I agree wholeheartedly with local superintendents that say that the assessment is of less consequence than the standards. If the standards are taught, the assessment will take care of itself. Teach the standards, don’t teach the test.
I thank God for every dedicated father, mother, grandparent, neighbor, friend, teacher and administrator dedicated to educating our students and improving our city. Thank you.