Director of the state Department of Education Planning and Evaluation office Robert McClelland recently asserted his department “is committed to teaching
the fundamentals — reading, mathematics, science and writing — but it also
has a much broader mission: Ensure that students learn to be fully engaged in
the life of their communities. This mission reflects what we believe is

This broad mission is consistent with the expectations of the state’s
Reinventing Education Act passed by the 2004 Legislature.

As luck would have it, I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop
session conducted by Mr. McClelland in which he addressed the use of assessment
test data “to improve student learning.” During that session I asked him
point blank why DOE steadfastly refuses to provide teachers such as myself
practical feedback as to which questions their students most often missed on the
test. Unlike a previous workshop session in which the DOE presenter claimed it is
because the test material contractor “refuses” to divulge this information —
a falsehood obvious to anyone who has ever worked as a contractor for a
paying client — Mr. McClelland claimed the contractor uses the same test questions
year after year after year such that providing specific feedback might
compromise the test.

Let us momentarily set aside the fact that anyone who has ever constructed
and used a question bank to generate test materials instantly sees the flashing
snake oil alert warning light when such nonsense is trotted out.

I then asked Mr. McClelland why the DOE also refuses to establish a common
core curriculum so that genuine (measurable) performance standards might be
devised aligned to curriculum. His reply was that DOE prefers “flexibility” from
school to school. When asked to please distinguish between this sort of
“flexibility” and chaos, he sadly announced we had run out of time for any more
question and hurried to finish his presentation.

All in all, it is fair to evaluate Mr. Mr. McClelland’s claim that DOE is
“committed” to teaching fundamentals as not merely a lie, but a rank obscenity.
One may thus be forgiven for concluding the so called “much broader mission”
of community engagement is a barrage of window dressing tossed up to confuse
the issue.

What is the issue?

Here is the issue: With no academic curriculum, there is a total disconnect
between what students are in fact taught and what DOE tests them on. Neither
DOE nor the test materials contractor on whom DOE lavishes taxpayer money have
the FIRST clue what students are taught.

Until the chasm is bridged between high flown rhetoric and the gritty reality
of day to day chaos inflicted by the DOE, very little substantive improvement
is likely. In its steadfast REFUSAL to make change in the comfortable —
unaccountable — way of business as usual, DOE is thus clearly identified as the
source of the problem.

No amount of fancy talk by those high up in the DOE food chain can gainsay ”’results”’. Those who are (and perpetuate) the problem cannot be counted upon to
solve it.

”’Thomas E. Stuart is a public school teacher in Kapaau, Hawaii, and can be reached via email at:”’

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