Friday, March 07, 2008

Pushing Back

Rep. G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) makes this week's issue of Education Week. The article titled "Home-schoolers Pushing Back Against New State Scrutiny". The article highlights what a busy month it's been for homeschool advocates and how strong their opposition to interference has been. In Nebraska 1,000 of some 6,000 homeschoolers descended upon the state capitol when a legislator, who is married to the teacher's association lobbyist, btw, tried to require testing for them. In Mississippi the statehouse was 'flooded' with calls and the bill there died in committee. In Tennessee hundreds attended a public hearing. Just last week a juvenile case that was hidden from public view yielded a public opinion that a private school provision used by some 160,000 students' parents to school their children at home was illegal. That's going to redefine 'flood of calls to the statehouse' to be sure.

Here's the portion of the Ed Week article about Hardaway's wrong headed effort to require all students take the state tests.

In Tennessee, Rep. G.A. Hardaway has been pushing for a new law to require all school children to pass the same state exams as public school students to receive a high school diploma. In response, the home school community in Tennessee waged a telephone and e-mail campaign to lobby against the measure before its first public hearing on Feb. 27.

Mr. Hardaway, a Democrat from Memphis, said he didn't intend to target home school students, but wanted to draw the attention of state education officials to what he called "an uneven playing field" for public school students.

Under Tennessee's current graduation requirements, students must pass a series of three standardized exams, known as Gateway tests, to earn a diploma. Mr. Hardaway said that requirement is not fair when it's only applied to public school students, especially when graduates of nonpublic schools are eligible for state-lottery-funded college scholarships.

"In order for it to be a fair race, everyone needs to start from the same starting line," he said.

The state board of education, however, has already approved a new policy that will soon eliminate the Gateway tests in favor of a series of end-of-course exams, which will account for 25 percent of a student's overall course grade.

In the meantime, Mr. Hardaway, who is reworking his original legislation, said he would seek to require that Tennessee education officials more closely study the best practices used by home-schoolers and other nonpublic educators that may work to help raise student achievement in public schools.

"We all need to work together and learn from each other," Mr. Hardaway said.

Hardaway is unwilling to acknowledge that there is plenty of research out there about private and homeschoolers that he could glean from to rework the public education system. It's already available. It is not necessary to force families to submit to state scrutiny in order to obtain that information. It won't require legislation and it'll be a lot cheaper than $4 million a year just to test the students and then untold millions to examine, more to create new programs based on the suggested changes and even more to implement. Likely, the end will be what works in small intimate family settings just doesn't work as well in factory school setting.

Hardaway just needs to withdraw his bill, HB2795, and save taxpayers and legislators a lot of grief and dollars. We've got way more than 6,000 homeschoolers in this state. Add private schoolers and the legislative halls won't hold them all.

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