28 March 2008

Educational Musings

A few months ago, my sister called me because my nieces' school was potentially going to close. They attend WIVA (Wisconsin Virtual Academy), an online program. For both of the girls, this school has been a lifesaver. The reason for closing? The teachers' union had sued the school. Their underlying claim was that the parents were too involved.

Let me explain how WIVA works. Your work is assigned online. You have a mandatory number of sessions that you need to attend over the year. You can also have online conferences with your teachers when you need extra help. For a great deal of the day, however, a student needs to have self-disciple to finish the assigned work, and the parents need to help out. What I love about this program is how it has helped my nieces. One, who is ADD, is able to focus on her work without the distractions of a typical classroom. For the other, it has allowed her to have the modifications necessary to have a positive academic experience. As a former teacher, I am impressed with the curriculum and the program in general.

What is so amazing to me about this situation is that the teachers' union (WEAC) sued WIVA over parental involvement saying that parents are not certified and therefore not qualified to help their children. WIVA is a charter school. It is a public school with state certified teachers who, by the way, pay dues. They are the ones in control of the program, not the parents.

This reasoning has set such a double standard in our state. In our biggest district, MPS, many schools are failing. The students are not learning. The teachers' cry, "It's not us! The kids can't learn because of lack of parental involvement!" I am sorry, but you cannot have it both ways. WIVA is a successful school, and they spend literally thousands less per student than MPS. Luckily, the state has allowed WIVA to remain open. They have set caps, but that is a fight for another day.

This parental involvement issue brings me to another educational story. I read that in California they are trying to make it against the law to home school unless the parent is a certified teacher. Give me a break! While I would not personally home school, I see it as a viable option for many families. I do not think it is fair nor just to tell parents how they can or cannot educate their children. To me, these are just further examples of the "nanny laws" that the government tries to impose. They are trying to save us from ourselves-sorry, I don't need saving.

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