Karen Francisco wrote a great piece in the Sunday Journal Gazette entitled "mandate mania". I have included a copy of her article below.
Karen hit this one right on the nose. The State of Indiana currently imposes over 1300 pages of rules on all public school systems. The cost of complying with this pile of needless rules grows every year.
The Federal government also imposes a multitide of needless rules on all school districts as well.
If we were to eliminate just HALF of these rules I am sure the cost of education would decrease by a large amount.
Unfortunately, neither The Republican or Democratic Party's feel this way; instead, both parties keep passing new and needless rules... They just never seem to end.
Mandate mania Schools endure crushing demands on time, resources By Karen Francisco The Journal Gazette
When Indiana legislators convene next month, among the bills they will consider is one requiring school districts to weigh and measure each student for an annual report to the Indiana Department of Health.
Not a bad idea given the epidemic of childhood obesity, right?
But what won’t get weighed is the crushing burden of requirements already dumped on schools, including:
•Alcohol and drug prevention instruction.
•Visual screening tests.
•Mandatory moment of silence.
Each session of the Indiana General Assembly adds more to a volume of “Indiana School Laws and Rules,” which already exceeds 1,300 pages. More important, the volume of mandates encroaches on the ability of schools to meet their primary obligation to teach.
Superintendent Mark Stock of Wawasee Community Schools compares it to a plate at the church potluck.
“We’ve piled on all we can and the Styrofoam is about to break,” he said.
On his daily blogsite, “the Wawascene,” the superintendent noted the inevitable adoption of the body-mass index reporting requirement:
“Here we go again … another social need that is now being handed off to the public schools,” he wrote. “This bill will pass because it sounds harmless and helpful. It shouldn’t take too long to weigh, measure, record on spreadsheets and upload to the state every student in the school, should it? No place in this bill does it tell the teachers what previous state-mandated curriculum they are supposed to ignore while they implement the latest big fat mandate.”
Stock notes that the mandates continue to flow, regardless of who’s in power, because of the layers of political influence on public schools. When conservatives rule, the mandates are for mandatory recitation of the Pledge, display of the American flag, a moment of silence, intelligent design instruction; when liberals rule, the requirements cover different social issues.
Schools as labs
The mandates certainly aren’t unique to Indiana. Education consultant Jamie Vollmer traces the onerous requirements in a timeline: He includes – among many others – immunization and health requirements at the turn of the last century; vocational education, school lunches and physical education between 1920 and 1940; driver’s education and sex education in the ’50s; consumer education and Advanced Placement courses in the ’60s; character education and drug and alcohol abuse programs in the ’70s; child abuse monitoring, global education, keyboarding in the ’80s. … The list goes on and on.
In a Washington Post article published last month, author Noel Epstein argues that public schools have evolved into child-rearing institutions, or “something closer in that respect to the Israeli kibbutz, or commune.” They are expected to provide before- and after-school programs, breakfast and lunch. They are expected to keep kids off drugs, to discourage them from smoking and from joining gangs. They are expected to ensure kids are vaccinated and weapon-free.
“The hard part is, they are all good ideas,” said John Ellis, executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. “Mostly, they are good-minded people who come up with these. If you want a captive audience for your program, you look to the schools.”
Superintendent Stock recalled a community group that approached him with an instructional video for fourth-graders. It looks great, he told the group members. Then he offered to set up a meeting with the district’s fourth-grade teachers so the community group could help decide what should no longer be taught to make time for it. That wasn’t what the community members expected, of course.
“You would have to be a teacher to know the impact these requirements have on the classroom,” Stock said. “Everyone thinks, ‘it’s just going to take an hour,’ but they never want to take anything off the other end.”
The last legislative session saw a considerable number of education-related bills. One successful measure was a bullying- prevention bill authored by Sen. Thomas Wyss, R-Fort Wayne. It doesn’t mandate the use of instructional time, but Ellis said the measure still has that effect in requiring school principals to tend to its administrative provisions – time that could be spent on instructional leadership.
Wyss defended the law as a much-needed recognition of the effect of bullying on student achievement, and said educators always resist such proposals.
“That’s the typical answer out of schools,” he said. “They always say they’ve got too much to do. What mandate is (the bullying law) to them? To cause them extra work?
“I completely understand what they are saying about taking time away from the students, but there are 160,000 kids in America who miss school every day because of bullying,” Wyss said. “All of those things that are so important to teach can’t happen if the kids aren’t there.”
For Stock, the fundamental question is what people want their public schools to do. He said surveys at Wawasee showed parents and community members want an emphasis on basic instruction.
“I think that is a big enough mission for schools,” he said. “You can’t be all things to all people.”
There are indications that the crush of mandates and requirements might have reached a tipping point. Ellis, of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, said that over the last year, four different groups were looking at ways to reduce the red tape and requirements imposed on Indiana schools. The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University is surveying superintendents on school regulations, and the information will be used in drafting a bill to address the proliferation of mandates.
In the 2006 legislative program by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, Item No. 2 calls for “balancing mandates with time and funding.”
“Legislation to impose additional responsibilities on the public schools should focus on desired results without adding additional regulations and should include relief from already imposed statutes and regulations,” according to the group’s statement.
Stock would like to see the addition of a “curriculum impact statement.” It would require any legislative proposal dealing with schools to note how it would affect the existing curriculum. Ellis takes it even further, suggesting the impact should be determined in terms of Indiana’s academic standards.
Educators might find a sympathetic supporter in Gov. Mitch Daniels, who responded to a House Republican proposal to require the teaching of intelligent design by saying that his policy would be to “remove mandates from education to leave local school boards, principals and teachers more freedom.”
Author Epstein points to the efforts some states are making to separate academic instruction from the delivery of health and social services. The new model is School of the 21st Century, which originated with Yale University Professor Edward F. Zigler, the “father of Head Start.” It brings child care and family support services into the schools, but leaves the non-academic services to social workers, health professionals and others. Teachers are allowed to teach.
Kentucky and Connecticut have established Family Resource Centers based on the 21st Century model. More than 1,300 schools nationwide have implemented the concept, including a network of schools in Arkansas.
It’s an initiative Indiana policymakers should examine. Schools need the freedom to focus on education. Yet they also need the rest of the community to provide services that will keep students safe, healthy and prepared to learn. The struggle over mandates will end only when that balance is achieved.
Examples of regulations pertaining to Indiana schools:
•“A test to determine postural defects shall be administered to each public school student in the fifth, seventh, and ninth grades.”
•“Not earlier than January 15 or later than January 31 of each year, the governing body of a school corporation shall publish an annual performance report of the school corporation, in compliance with the procedures identified in section 8 of this chapter.”
•“Each school corporation shall include in its curriculum instruction concerning the disease known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and shall integrate this effort to the extent possible with instruction on other dangerous communicable diseases.”
•“The governing body of every school corporation shall annually conduct an audiometer test or a similar test to determine the hearing efficiency of all school children in the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth grades, of all transferred school children and of all school children suspected of having hearing defects.”
•“The state board of education shall require the singing of the entire national anthem, ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ in each school on all patriotic occasions and shall arrange to supply the words and music in sufficient quantity for these purposes.”
Source: Indiana Code