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A Changed Political Climate

November 29, 2002

What a difference an election can make!

After years of major media outlets, two Governor's administrations, numerous legislative leaders, school administrators and school boards, and various foundation- and government-funded boards and agencies trying to convey the impression that the public is behind the Profile of Learning and its twin sister, School-to-Work, the public has spoken. A Governor was elected who stated outright that he will repeal it. House and Senate members from across Minnesota were elected who said the same.

A school board member from Eden Prairie who opposed the Profile was elected to the state Senate from his district. Last week's Sun newspapers reported that teachers in that district were now finally polled to find out what they thought.

"This year, Leebens [Eden Prairie Schools Teaching and Learning Director] said, the 'political climate' had changed and the school administrators decided, for the first time, to give teachers a chance to express their opinion."

"The survey surprised board members. Eden Prairie High School Principal Bill Sommers said he thought the high number of responses meant it should be taken seriously."

MREdCo suggests that state government leaders and school boards might have saved tens of millions of dollars of destruction of our education system if they had taken seriously the thousands of Minnesota teachers and parents who oppose, in fact, detest, the Profile of Learning.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Now that the wraps are off, and teachers are being allowed to speak their piece, what are they saying?

"A majority of Eden Prairie High School teachers have recommended that graduation standards be done away with." Graduation standards in this case means Profile of Learning, but the Profile advocates can't bring themselves to say that.

"Of 102 teachers responding to a questionnaire turned in Nov. 11, 73 said the standards should be eliminated, 18 said they should be revised for clarity, and 15 said they should be retained as they are."

One respondent went so far as to say, "Grad standards has done more harm to education than anything I can think of."

Yet for all these years MREdCo has been reporting that teachers were being threatened with their jobs if they resisted or spoke out against it.

Most teachers in the survey stated that the Profile hadn't helped them and that it provided no greater grading consistency. MREdCo has stated repeatedly that the performance packages (state-approved lesson plans that the Profile requires) are far more subjective than standard grading procedures, and that they are primarily a method to indoctrinate students with politically correct attitudes and behaviors.

Are the Profile packages incentives for high achievement?

"Asked whether students were motivated to get high graduation standards scores, teachers registered one of their strongest negatives: 90 teachers disagreed, while only seven agreed."

This is no surprise. Students hate the Profile of Learning, no matter the handpicked students that Profile advocates trot out during legislative hearings to expound on their wonders. Parents hate the Profile. Teachers hate the Profile. This is not new. Why has every parent who speaks up been treated disrespectfully and informed by administrators, school boards and Department of Children, Families and Learning staff that they are the "only ones" to complain?

And why have thousands of citizens on the Capitol steps protesting the Profile and School-to-Work for three years in a row been studiously ignored by state government, the media and the DFL Party alike?

Said Boardmember Phil Rose, "I don't think we've gotten this much honesty before." Is it honesty, Mr. Rose, or is it an election that has provided teachers a new political climate to speak freely.

"Something has to change in there, to give kids a little more breathing room," another Boardmember stated. Students "should be able to take choir and languages and pre-calc."

At an evening workshop meeting of the Eden Prairie School Board when the results of the survey were released, a student attending told those present that the crush of graduation standard-required courses had prevented her from taking a pre- calculus course she wanted.

Finally, Boardmember Rose commented that he was surprised by the teachers' negative reaction, but the board should pay attention to it.

We would hope so. Nevertheless, whoever is appointed to the position of Commissioner for the Department Children, Families and Learning will have no credibility in dismatling this expensive experimental fiasco if he or she comes from the pool of school administrators who have put this system into place with not a word of protest, and usually with enthusiasm.

Today's Star Tribune lists some names most often mentioned as possible Commissioner candidates as Harry Mares, a former teacher who soon will retire as a Republican representative from White Bear Lake and St. Paul Superintendent Patricia Harvey. Both of these individuals have helped put the Profile of Learning and School-to-Work into place in Minnesota and have treated its opponents poorly. Harvey, in fact, is known nationally as an understudy of the key national architects of the new radical education system.

"Pawlenty views the education commissioner position a crucial one," states Charlie Weaver, leader of the Pawlenty transition team.

States the Star Tribune: "There are tough assignments ahead for whoever moves to the head of the class as Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty's education commissioner.

"Among them: Patch up the rift between the governor's office and the state's schools and teachers. Make the state Department of Children, Families and Learning run smoothly despite department budget cuts and a sinking reputation. Figure out what to do about the embattled Profile of Learning, and how to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which looms like a dreaded final exam."

The new Commissioner will implement any laws passed by the state legislature. Unless the new Governor appoints a strong opponent of the Profile and its many appendages, good legislation will be easily undermined by an entrenched bureaucracy used to having its way.

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