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The education reform report

September 16, 2005

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele this week released the report of the Governor's Commission on Quality Education, which included a list of 30 recommendations for improving the state's schools.

In our view, it would be unfortunate if the controversial nature of some of the recommendations undermined the entire report. There are some worthwhile ideas here that should not be brushed aside.

The report's first suggestion - one that has already inflamed the state teachers' association - would change the pay system currently place.

Instead of a uniform scale, teachers would be paid based on their effectiveness, how knowledgeable they are in their subject and on their willingness to work in schools that face academic challenges.

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Teachers' groups oppose such changes because evaluating effectiveness, for example, can be subjective or affected by issues beyond an educator's control, such as home life and poverty.

But teachers should be in agreement with proposals to improve the pension system and make it portable, so that if educators change professions, they can "take their retirement with them."

The report also calls on the state to revive tuition waivers for those who agree to teach "challenging schools or subject areas" after graduation.

Teacher training in four-year colleges would be evaluated and community colleges would be enlisted to begin the process of schooling educators.

The report also suggests giving principals more freedom - and less direction from school boards. Its also recommends that one staff member in each school be given the job of enhancing parental participation.

Some of what is in the report falls into the "blue sky" category - things that would happen if there were an endless supply of time and money.

But there are some things here that should not be automatically dismissed, just because they accompany a recommendation on pay scales that will be difficult, if not impossible, to enact.

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