Last updated on 2012.11.07
Secretary of Education Melody Schopp spoke to the Watertown Rotary Club last week about House Bill 1234, the Governor's deservedly unpopular education reform bill. Schopp has struggled since January to mount a logical defense of her boss's plan. From what's quoted in last Saturday's Watertown Public Opinion, she hasn't gotten any better.
"The problem lies in our (education) system," Schopp told those in attendance. "We don't need to do school better. We just need to do it different" [Tyler Pickner, "Is There a Problem in Education?" Watertown Public Opinion, 2012.05.26].
Secretary Schopp here offers a weird reformulation of the weird "change for change's sake" justification that has rolled out of the mouths of many HB 1234 backers. Usually when an institution ain't broke, conservatives don't fix it. Schopp admits our K-12 schools are doing great (as have legislators, the Governor's advisors, and at least one former proponent who now admits she was wrong). She and the boss just want (not need) to do things differently.
"It's time to move to the 21st century in teaching, learning and compensation," Schopp said, also noting the "negative connotation" surrounding the reforms have lead to public misunderstanding of its goals [Pickner, 2012.05.26].
An English lesson: Secretary Schopp, we're not just talking negative connotations, the impressions created by certain words. We're talking about denotations, the actual meaning of the words you use and the policies HB 1234 implements. HB 1234 implements merit pay, which evidence says doesn't work. HB 1234 implements a centralized teacher evaluation formula based on standardized tests, which degrade education (see also here). HB 1234 takes away continuing contract rights, which will make schools worse. We're talking reality here, Secretary Schopp, not perception (though even the perceptions of HB 1234 will harm our schools).
"There is a disincentive to improve as a teacher," Schopp said. "It is an incentive pay bill. It allows (school districts) to give more money to teachers who do more or are recognized more for their ability in the school system. It doesn't take anything away from anybody else" [Pickner, 2012.05.26].
A disincentive to improve? That's funny: I never hear any parent or administrator come to my classroom and discourage me from improving. When I stand in front of my students, I never think to myself, "I could try harder for these kids, but they're not worth the trouble. I think I'll start slacking off."
Also funny: hearing Secretary Schopp tout the merits of bonuses... when she herself said on South Dakota Public Radio last January that bonuses don't motivate great teachers.
And now for the crowning lump of rhetorical coal:
"When I talk to teachers... I say this is the gift that the state has given you as a teacher. We're giving you the gift to know that when you're evaluated it's the same evaluation that you're getting in Watertown as you're getting in Wakpala," Schopp said [Pickner, 2012.05.26].
A gift. Kids, don't go to the Schopp house for Halloween: I have a bad feeling Melody can't tell the difference between tricks and treats, either.
A gift. Then why did Santa Dennis only invite Melody and the other bureaucratic elves to the signing and not a single one of us lucky recipients?
A gift. Then why haven't I heard a single teacher say, "Thank you! HB 1234 is just what I wanted!"? The only gift for teachers here is the object lesson in propaganda that English teachers can use to supplement their George Orwell units.
Brace yourself, kids: when the petition drive to refer HB 1234 succeeds, expect more of this Newspeak from Secretary Schopp and the Governor's other water-carriers.