Lawmakers discuss education reform with local officials
EAGLE-VAIL – High Country educators got a lot of face time with local lawmakers Saturday and tackled the sweeping, mind-numbing questions that don’t seem to go away.How do we prepare kids for the 21st century work force? How do we fund schools? How do we recruit top teachers? How effective is No Child Left Behind? Basically- how do we fix education?State Rep. Dan Gibbs, State Senator Joan Fitz-Gerald, Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff and U.S. Representative Mark Udall met with administrators, teachers and school board members from Summit, Eagle and Lake Counties at the Eagle-Vail Pavilion.The three-hour discussion was crammed with ideas and tried to isolate the biggest problems facing our mountain schools.Here are some of the talking points:With so much focus on testing the basics, are we ignoring the creative and analytical skills needed to stack up in a competitive job market?Romanoff said that if a child wants to know something these days, they just need to “google it” to find out. What’s more important is teaching them how to process that information, he said. Romanoff asked if there should be fewer tests in schools, but the kinds of tests machines can’t read, critical thinking tests that only humans can grade.Fitz-Gerald said the difficult thing about preparing children for the future is that we don’t exactly know what kind of jobs they’ll be competing for. Critical thinking though will no doubt be necessary for them to survive.”We need to teach them to think,” Fitz-Gerald said.Are we grabbing the brightest, most qualified people to teach?”It’s hard to see teaching as a profession that’s valued if they aren’t compensated,” Fitz-Gerald said.Stu Adams, a school board member in Summit County, said we could be losing bright teachers because the profession may not be seen as lively and exciting.What changes need to be made to No Child Left Behind? Should it even be renewed?Udall said he wasn’t ready to approve it yet and wanted to find out more about how it’s affecting teachers and school districts. One of the biggest problems teachers have with No Child Left Behind is the “unfunded mandate,” or requirements schools must meet without the money to do so.”Have we given the funding we said we’d give you?” Udall said.The group also talked about immigration, teacher qualifications and early childhood education, among other things.
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