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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 7, 2014 at 9:19 AM

Wash. state legislative priorities: Education — teacher evaluations and STEM

On Sunday, The Seattle Times editorial board published its education priorities for the 2014 Washington state Legislature. “The Legislature, which convenes Jan. 13, should continue its work on the kinds of reforms, investments and outcomes that support a first-class education system, from ages 3 to 23.” The editorials focused on three key areas for the Legislature to tackle: early learning, K-12 and STEM education.

Readers weigh in on what’s arguably priority No. 1 this year in Olympia:

Teacher evaluations don’t capture nuances in teaching

Teachers are not afraid of evaluations; they are actually eager to learn how to be better teachers [“Targeting education, Opinion, Jan. 5”]. The problem is that the people designing teacher evaluations don’t appreciate how nuanced teaching and learning is. Their solutions punish rather than inform teachers.

Reformers and politicians are being driven to the wrong solutions as they try to solve a problem that exists largely in their own minds. Tools and resources are being misused.

Another misconception: Learning is easily distinguishable when it occurs, and is quantifiable. It’s a cliché, but teachers plant seeds; the plant may germinate quickly or it may lay dormant for years before blooming. Some seeds never bloom.

Yet the federal government insists that Washington use student test scores as part of any evaluation system. This is because it chooses to listen to those who don’t understand actual teaching or learning.

Our legislators need to listen to education experts who are concerned with student achievement, not education reformers who generally have divided loyalties, not the least of which are money and power.

Richard Reuther, Richland

The importance for science to an educated society

The Times editorial on STEM education and its importance emphasizes several recent reports that the U.S. does not even rank in the top 15 countries in the world for educating children in mathematics, science and even reading.

As an example, only two-thirds of Americans believe in evolution and some states such as Texas want to teach science incorporating both evolution and “intelligent design.”

As a retired scientist (Ph.D. chemistry), over the years I saw a rise in science and the appreciation of what benefits it has brought to all of civilization after Sputnik provided a wake-up call. But now, in more recent times, it seems the anti-science fanatics are determined to either ignore science (such as global warming, or stem-cell research) altogether, or seek to diminish it — or even kill it altogether.

We as a nation have a choice to either become educated enough to understand what we are talking about and what we believe, or continue on a path to mediocrity or worse. Personally, I am not optimistic as long as we have a collection of misfit political leaders we like to elect and/or re-elect.

Thomas Westman, Seattle

Comments | More in Education | Topics: early learning, K-12, Legislature


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