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Unleash the Power of Freedom to Strengthen our Public Schools

Oct 7, 2019 by AFP

More freedom — not more bureaucracy — is the answer to our state’s challenges. In education, every child should have opportunities that address their unique needs.  To achieve that, every child should have the opportunity to attend any public, private, home, charter or virtual school, regardless of their means or where they live.  That’s why we believe every student should have access to an Educational Scholarship Account (ESA).

We also want to unleash freedom in our public-school system, so public schools can be a viable option for parents and students.

Our public-school teachers are a reservoir of creative genius and love for kids. To transform our public schools for the better, we need to unleash that potential.  We need to transform our current top-down, one-size-fits-all model to give teachers and local schools the freedom and flexibility they need.

Here are several steps Mississippi should take to unleash the power of freedom in our public schools:

Dial back the high-stakes testing.

  • If testing can be reduced under federal law, that decision should belong to local schools, rather than the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE).
  • State law should require MDE to request waivers from federal testing requirements wherever available.
  • State law should make clear that beginning and midyear assessment tests in advance of year-end required testing are not mandatory.
  • The current accountability system, which focuses too much on testing, should be replaced by a next generation accountability model that incorporates additional measures such as parental satisfaction, graduation rates and college and career readiness.

Remove ineffective barriers to teaching. Testing requirements and other barriers to entering the teaching profession that do not have a demonstrated connection to improved educational outcomes should be removed.

MDE should be a resource for teachers, not a barrier to innovation  Our state’s supervision of local schools should focus on empowering educators with the freedom to tailor education around the unique needs of every child. Instead of micromanaging every minute of a teacher’s day with process standards, we should be giving local schools the flexibility to innovate.

  • Where possible, eliminate rigid process standards that tie teachers’ hands.
  • Eliminate burdensome reporting requirement that take away precious time from focusing on students, such as requiring that public schools have their official discipline plan and code of student conduct legally audited annually.

Remove barriers to online education. Schools should be allowed maximum flexibility to leverage modern technology to deliver instruction to students.  Local public schools should have the flexibility to offer instruction from a highly qualified teacher via the internet with the assistance of an in-classroom facilitator. This would greatly benefit schools in impoverished and sparsely populated rural areas that struggle to field highly qualified teachers in each subject area.

Remove barriers so students receive the education that best fits their needs. Where seats are available, eliminate the requirement that sending and receiving districts must consent for a student to attend a public school in another district.