Summit County: House candidates clash on education
October 29, 2008
One is a former teacher who tried to inspire students in inner-city Los Angeles; the other is the sitting school-board president in a resort community. Both Christine Scanlan and Ali Hasan, rivals for the state House District 56 seat, assert they have the background and understanding to rework the state education system and increase graduation rates.Scanlan, the president of the Summit County School Board and incumbent state representative, sponsored bipartisan legislation last spring to reform the system and improve assessments.We have to find a way to bring a depth of learning to our system, which has focused on a breadth of knowledge as a laundry check list, the Summit Cove Democrat said in an e-mail response to questions from the Summit Daily News. The legislation aims to prepare children from as early as preschool for the road to college, building on each year and including technology and critical thinking for a globalized future. Her opponent, Ali Hasan, a Beaver Creek Republican, said the legislature passed the buck on Senate Bill 212, leaving creation of specific standards to the Colorado Board of Education.Both parties screwed up on this bill, he said. Theyre really dancing around this bill like its something good. Theres nothing in it. Its hollow. Ive read it.Hasans experience includes three semesters as a tyro-teacher in an economically-disadvantaged Los Angeles public school. He taught and observed high-school English and social studies in pursuit of his masters degree in teaching. Hasan left the program one semester short of graduation to pursue a masters in film directing.One thing I have that Christine Scanlan doesnt have is that I have actually taught in public-school classrooms, he said. I know what methods work and what dont.He said the recent legislation is nothing more than an extension of President Bushs No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. But Scanlan said this is false.It is exactly the opposite of what No Child Left Behind is, because it brings depth to education, she said. It talks about 21st-century learning skills not just to standardize tests.Colorados public-education woes are reflected through whats known as the Colorado paradox: Though the state attracts some of the nations most intelligent transplants, its state-born students are ranked 45th nationwide in attainment of a bachelors degree or higher for residents ages 25 to 64. At 23 percent, the states average is far below the United States average of 42 percent, according to 2005 statistics from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. The Colorado Student Assessment Program is used to measure whether schools are meeting the No Child Left Behind expectations by testing students in grades three through 10. Scanlan said this assessment has been inefficient at helping students improve. By 10th grade, students arent motivated to perform well, because the CSAP doesnt help them get into college, she said. The recent legislation aims to align the CSAP with whats expected on the ACT a college-entrance exam taken in 11th grade so the students can use the assessment to track their progress, she said. Kids see (ACT) as enormously valuable to their future.Senate Bill 212 also calls for release of CSAP scores earlier, as the present system doesnt provide results until the kids have moved to the next grade.Hasan said he would like the CSAP to integrate teamwork. He also said students are over-tested.His approach to improving the education system borrows from those used in Finland and at the Capitol School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. It calls for requirements that teachers obtain credentials for identifying multiple intelligences and facilitating cooperative learning.These techniques, he said, make teachers facilitators rather than disciplinarians. He said they identify the students types of intelligence such as tactile, visual, extroverted and introverted. They determine what the child is gifted in, and then they set up curriculums that engage every kind of child, he said. So a child will go into school maybe tactile but leave being engaged in all six things.Asked whether his approach of requiring teachers to obtain credentials in these areas should be mandated, Hasan responds:If we have a thoughtful state representative like me, whos served as a public-school teacher, then yes.But Scanlan said that as a legislator, she isnt interested in mandating methodologies, a task best left to local districts.Regarding Hasans strategies, she said: I dont have any idea what their standing is in the education community. Our goal is to provide whatever support teachers need to be the best they can be.The recent legislation will align goals from preschool through college in a student-centered environment, she said. Hasan also says standards and curriculum must be controlled locally, rather than by Denver bureaucrats.Scanlan said his opinion on curriculum is moot, for local districts already choose their own curriculum.Were not writing curriculum at the state level. Curriculum is chosen and developed by local districts, she said, adding that good teachers consistently work to improve and update their curriculum.She also said the state doesnt have much choice on requiring standards, as theyre mandated by federal law. Hasan said the bill puts unnecessary pressure on the board of education and isnt solving the problem.There are schools that are failing. There is no way that this bill is going to make them succeed, he said.Scanlan said the bill will increase focus on subjects most important and critical for things to learn, and that the state board should have more specific standards available by early 2009. Both candidates support the presence of charter schools in Colorado. Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.