Letter to the Editor: An Invitation to Join my Education Advisory Council Meeting

To the editor:

The end of the year is a customary time to reflect upon what went right during the year and to make plans for improving what didn’t go so well.  Since I serve on a number of House Education Committees, I have been thinking about our educational system--from early childhood to college.  I will be holding one of my Educational Advisory Council meetings later in January to review of the year and invite you to participate in the discussion. 

One of the first issues that come to mind is state funding.  While elementary and secondary schools received more state funding this year; colleges, universities and students with MAP grants have received no state funds since June.  There is increasing discussions in Springfield about a new K-12 funding formula based on student needs and an awakening to the value of investing in higher education for our state economy. 

Schools across the state have transitioned to new learning standards and our teachers have responded with significant effort and coordination.  The standards set goals but it is up to the classroom teacher to prepare the lesson plans to achieve them.  Instruction includes more consistent guidance in problem solving, reading, and analysis. 

The state also discontinued two traditional standardized tests and introduced the new computer-based Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test.  The move went smoothly in some districts while others struggled with not enough computers and technical issues.  Based on feedback, the test certainly needs improvements if it is to really become a reliable tool for student assessment and guidance for modifying instruction.

The PARCC test also revealed the need to increase the availability of computers in our schools and student skills in using this essential tool.  While some districts have been able to provide computers for each student, others struggle with limited resources and incorporating computers in the lesson plans.

Another of the educational topics worth reviewing is preparation of our students for high school, college and career.  A number of community colleges have been working with high school faculty to better prepare students for college and have shifted to corequisite and parallel remediation.  Incorporation of a number of best practices helps more students progress toward a degree and finish in less time and cost.

I look forward to the Education Council discussion and hearing student, parent, faculty and community observations about what went well in 2015 and plans for improvement next year.  Call my office for meeting details.

Bob Pritchard

State Representative