If teachers and principals are tested, school board members should be too, commissioner says

06/25/2012 06:43 AM

Teachers are regularly tested to make sure they’re qualified to instruct students. Principals and superintendents are too. And students themselves are tested an re-tested. But not the people who have the power to make the biggest decisions in local schools: school board members.

That should change, said Terry Holliday, Kentucky’s education commissioner.

“Why wouldn’t we have some type of minimum competency for these folks who make tremendous decisions?” Holliday said (9:30 of the interview).

Holliday said he would support legislation to require competency exams for school board members who are elected. Other elected officials have to pass exams to qualify to run for office, such as Public Valuation Administrators. Currently, school board members don’t even have to submit to background checks even though anyone who volunteer in schools do.

Holliday also answered questions about money in education. (0:01 – 5:00)

The most per pupil spending didn’t always translate into the best test results. For instance, Anchorage Independent School District in Jefferson County spends more on its students than any other district, largely because of a huge local tax base thanks to property tax income in the wealthy area. More than 90 percent of 4th graders tested at better than proficient in reading and math.

But in Pike County where per-pupil spending is below the state average and less than half of what is spent on Anchorage Independent students, 100 percent of 4th graders in two elementary schools were proficient in at least one subject.

“The answer is spending the money in the most efficient ways and finding where you need more money like early childhood investment (and) investing in low-performing schools to make sure we help them reach a level for all kids,” Holliday said (4:30).

He talked about what low performing schools most need (5:00). “The best investment we can make is helping the teachers we have … We have undercut the training and support of existing teachers. We used to spend about $25-per-student supporting existing teachers, now we spend less than $4 per-student,” Holliday said, pointing to the effects of recent budget cuts to the Department of Education.

And Holliday answered questions about rooting out the lowest-performing teachers (6:15).

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