Advice On Reform, Bathtub Donkeys

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The folks who brought you the fiscal cliff, the incredible growing deficit and Arizona’s ban on both camel hunting and letting donkeys sleep in bathtubs now want to reform public schools.

We don’t know whether to laugh or cry — probably a little bit of each. But we do know that the prospect of yet another mudslide of mandates fills us with sick dismay.

In this case, we’re nervously contemplating the Payson Unified School District’s effort to comply with federal and state requirements that it overhaul its system for evaluating teachers and administrators.

Now, on the face of it — the purported reforms have merit. Certainly, recruiting and rewarding good teachers — and weeding out bad teachers — remains the most important thing we can do to improve the educational system on which all of our futures depend. It makes sense to consider student progress in evaluating teachers.

Still, we have a queasy feeling about the red tape and bureaucracy that entangles any “reform” imposed on local schools by bear-baiting politicians.

For instance, the state wants principals to spend a class period observing every single teacher every single month. Certainly, principals should observe teachers in action. But every teacher every month? And maybe write a report — every month? Ask yourself: Would that work in your workplace and make your boss more efficient? Remember: Every employee — not just the problem cases. Now add the cost of tracking scores for every student in every course every semester. Remember, we’re talking every single student — not the ones having trouble. Then you have to compare student gain in each teacher’s classes to those in others’ classes. How much time and resources will that consume? Do you suppose the teacher will teach to the test? And what do you do about the music teachers and the football coaches and the art teachers?

The Gates Foundation sought to answer many of those questions by studying the evaluation systems involving 3,000 teachers in Dallas, Denver, Tampa, Pittsburgh and New York. The Harvard researchers who did the study concluded that a balanced system involving student scores, observations by administrators and student surveys yielded the best results.

Of course, such fine points might not fit into a politician’s press releases when he’s trying to take credit for “fixing” education before scuttling out onto the floor to cut state funding once again. So we don’t envy the task facing the school board, which must comply with the mandates, stretch the budget and educate our children. And all that without getting in trouble with lawmakers who can boast a 9 percent approval rating.

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Thrilling game, tiny crowd

Thrilling. Inspiring. All but ignored.

That’s a succinct description of Wednesday’s gutsy, disciplined, exciting — and highly entertaining — performance of the Longhorn boys and girls basketball teams on Wednesday against archrivals Show Low.

The girls dominated, with tough, disciplined play. They made long shots, battled up under the boards, dove after the ball and played as a team.

The boys won a moral victory, although they lost by a single point in overtime. They faced a much taller, more experienced Show Low team — but refused to be intimidated. They lagged behind, but never quit. They played with incredible heart and spirit, retaining their composure and never yielding. It doesn’t matter that a final free-throw spun off the rim — they’re champions in our book.

The only disappointment during an evening of great basketball came in the stands — not on the court. The audience, although enthusiastic, was paltry.

So if you’re thinking that Payson lacks great teams, skilled players and courage — think again. You can spend $200 to go watch a bunch of millionaires play basketball in Phoenix if you want. But we’d rather watch brave and talented kids playing for the love of the game, right here on the home court.

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