Reality check on school accountability movement
My guest is Dave Russell, a teacher in Montgomery County public schools.
By Dave Russell
It is time to end the childhood obesity epidemic once and for all.
Obesity decreases a child’s quality of life and longevity. It contributes to a host of medical conditions and costs our country millions each year. Childhood obesity is preventable and our country should take responsibility for helping all children achieve a healthy weight.
My proposal will guarantee that no child will be obese by the time they graduate from high school. This will be accomplished by simply holding schools as well as health and physical education teachers accountable for insuring that all students reach or maintain a healthy weight before graduating high school.
Before I begin, let’s address all the naysayers whose excuses will be endless.
“What about the children who have obese parents, there may be a genetic predisposition?” That does not matter; these children can be successful at reaching a healthy weight.
“What about parents that do not buy nutritious foods or require their children to eat healthy meals?” That does not matter.
“What about children who are not active and never exercise?” That does not matter.
“What about children who play video games or watch TV all day long?” That does not matter.
“What about children who do not attend school regularly or show effort when they are in school?” That does not matter.
“What about children who live in areas where affordable nutritious foods are not accessible to them. That does not matter.
“What about children who enter kindergarten already obese?” That does not matter.
“What about parents or children who do not agree with these standards or goals?” That does not matter.
“What about children who come from other cultures that may not value these goals?” That does not matter.
“How do we determine that it was the school or teacher that caused a child to be successful? Maybe the child had a personal trainer who helped him/her reach a healthy weight.”
None of the excuses matter. We owe it to our children to ensure their success at achieving a healthy weight and we must hold our schools and teachers accountable.
Body mass index (BMI) is the most widely recognized and universally used measurement tool to indicate whether an individual has a weight problem. It is not as precise as measuring body fat. However, it is accepted as an easy, inexpensive, and adequate way to determine whether an individual is obese, overweight, or at a healthy weight.
To calculate BMI, all you have to do is multiply a child’s weight (lb) times 703 and divide by the square of his or her height (in). A BMI of 18-25 is considered a normal or healthy weight, a BMI of 25-30 is considered overweight, and a BMI of over 30 is considered obese.
Every child will be tested at the beginning and end of each school year to determine the competency of his/her school and teacher. Each child’s BMI will be tracked and trended to see what schools or teachers are being effective and which ones are not.
Schools will be held accountable for improving their students BMI scores and ensuring that all students maintain a healthy weight. Improving our students’ health is just as important as improving their intellect. It is hard to grow up and be a productive citizen if you are disabled or die prematurely because of obesity related health problems. Schools will be required to show improvement on BMI scores. Schools that improve student BMI scores will be rewarded and labeled effective. High schools will also be evaluated by their percentage of healthy weight graduates.
To accomplish this goal, schools will need to utilize strategies that have been proven to be effective at improving BMI scores. Schools may decide to focus more time in their schedule on activities that will improve BMI scores. Health and physical education classes may be extended or offered everyday. Recess may also be extended to provide more time for exercise.
Before school, after school, and summer school programs may be dedicated to nutrition and fitness instruction. Teachers in other subject areas may be required to incorporate fitness and nutrition into their lessons. Specialists in weight management may be brought in to help train the staff and work with students. Schools may hold regular evening events to encourage family involvement and participation. Schools that do not improve their student’s BMI scores will be labeled failing and will face closure or takeover by the state.
They could also be converted into charter schools.
Physical education and health teachers will be evaluated and paid based on the BMI scores of their students. If a teacher’s students improve their BMI scores or maintain a healthy weight, that teacher will be rewarded and labeled effective. If a teacher’s students fail to improve their BMI scores or maintain a healthy weight, that teacher will be labeled ineffective. Ineffective teachers will be given support to improve. Supports can include extra training, more frequent testing of their students, or more observations. They can also be assigned to a master teacher who will help guide their planning and teaching. However, if his/her students’ BMI scores do not improve, that teacher can be terminated from their job.
Interventions will be utilized to help students who are not improving their BMI scores or maintaining a healthy weight. Struggling students may be placed in double periods of health or physical education to give them more support in weight management. They can also be pulled out of other subjects to receive extra support from nutritional specialist or personal trainers. Struggling students and their parents will be highly encouraged to enroll in before school, after school, and summer school programs that will focus exclusively on weight management and fitness. Students may also be grouped in classes according to their BMI scores so teachers can focus weight management instruction for the students who need it most.
Student success is the number one goal and BMI scores are the primary way to hold schools and teachers accountable.
Finally, parents will have a way to determine what school they want to send their children to. All they will have to do is look at the scores to see which schools are the best and which are the worst. We will improve education, conquer the obesity epidemic, and save our nation hundreds of millions in obesity related health care expenses.
If you think my plan is ridiculous and a little crazy, you are absolutely correct. I would never think of holding schools and teachers accountable in this fashion.
We can never accurately show that a student’s success was caused by teacher effectiveness. Student success can be a product of effective parents, tutors, siblings, and other factors like a student’s values, determination, and perseverance. Schools and teachers do not and should not have sole control over their students’ values, actions, or BMI scores. Schools and teachers were never given the authority to dictate what BMI score a student needs to reach.
What is equally ridiculous, crazy, and a little scary, is the current state of the education reform movement.
Former President Bush, the Senate, and the House of Representatives implemented policies that have caused education reform to mirror just about every aspect of my ridiculous BMI proposal. The only difference is their policies focus on student test scores in math and reading, not BMI.
President Obama’s actions thus far appear to indicate that he will continue the status quo.
Policymakers, schools, and teachers do not and should not have sole control over our students’ values, actions, or achievement. No one has been given the authority to dictate what math and reading scores a student needs to reach, whether a student has to graduate from high school, or whether a student should attend college.
Our society and our government have a responsibility to provide every child with a free high quality education. Students and families determine to what degree they will take advantage of this opportunity.
It is rather arrogant and self- righteous for a policymaker or anyone else to assume that schools and teachers are a greater determinant of student performance than the actual students and families that they serve. Schools and teachers need to be held accountable for providing a high quality education to all children.
Students and families will ultimately determine performance and achievement outcomes.
The author, Dave Russell, wrote the following:
I am a product of The Howard County Public School System in Maryland. After spending 5 years at Oakland Mills High School, I finally graduated in 1989 with a cumulative GPA of 0.6. I never took the SAT’s and required remedial reading and writing courses when I attended Howard Community College in Maryland. I graduated from Towson State University in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in Education. For the last 14 years, I have taught for the Montgomery County Public School System in Maryland. I am the father of two daughters, who I believe are receiving an excellent education from the Howard County Public School System in Maryland. I can be reached at 443-472-7061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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| July 2, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Guest Bloggers | Tags: obama and school reform, school reform
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