January 11, 2019 10:44:01 AM
As has been noted, this year's session of the Legislature isn't likely to take up many controversial topics. For legislators, it's a matter of self-preservation during an election year.
That, however, doesn't mean there won't be some important issues on the agenda during the session, which began Tuesday.
While there almost certainly won't be any real effort to rewrite the current K-12 school funding formula and certainly no reason to believe the Legislature will fund the existing formula (something it's done just twice in its 22 years), that is not to say that some real improvements won't be considered.
One of the most important issues will be a matter of addition by subtraction.
It's time to take a hard look at the state testing requirements, something teachers have been advocating - and legislators have been ignoring - for years.
In a state where teacher pay and school funding have been chronically low, the state's insistence that our kids spend most of their time and energy on test taking is something virtually every teacher in the state laments. "Teaching for the test," they say, is a disruption of the educational process.
Proponents of the current state testing system say its a matter of accountability. Testing ensures that students are prepared for college, workforce programs or entry into the job market.
Funny, though. For years there have been tests that to help achieve that goal: the ACT and the SAT.
While these too are standardized tests and shouldn't be relied on exclusively to determine college-readiness, they check the box in terms of assessing basic academic skills.
Teachers are sick of teaching for the test, as no doubt, are students and parents, for whom the constant pressure of these "do or die" tests have created enormous and unnecessary stresses.
This year, there are currently four House bills that will end the state's punitive and redundant testing that can prevent capable students from receiving their diplomas. It's time Mississippi, like many other states, leave it to tests like the ACT and SAT stand as the college-readiness academic test, allowing teachers to focus on more holistic education.
It's time to trust our children's education to our teaching professionals, which means allowing teachers to guide their students through the material in a logical, effective way. No one - and certainly not a politician - is better equipped to understand how the daily task of educating should proceed.
Thankfully, there are signs that there is support for less testing on both sides of the aisle.
This is not a matter of removing accountability. It's an agreement that long established standardized tests remain the measure of that accountability.
There should be nothing controversial about that.
It's a chance for the vote-conscious legislators to something important for education.