This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Before anyone gets too excited with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's education reform plans, it would be wise to do some research.

You will hear the argument that education needs to be run like a business. Bush, himself, will state this very thing. I am continually amazed that conversations surrounding our children turn into nothing more than a numbers game.

There is a false analogy between education and business. You cannot fix education by applying the principles of business, organization, management, law and marketing or by developing a data-collection system to incentivize the workforce — principals, teachers and students — with rewards and sanctions.

Diane Ravitch, former assistant secretary of education under former President George H.W. Bush, once espoused the very tenets of Bush's education reform ideas. She writes, "I began seeing like a state, looking at schools and teachers and students from an altitude of 20,000 feet and seeing them as objects to be moved around by big ideas and great plans."

Through her extensive research on the ideas of choice and accountability, she has concluded that curriculum and instruction are far more important. She states that decisions about schools should be left up to the educators, not politicians or businessmen.

As far as grading schools is concerned, Ravitch points out, "It is harmful to stigmatize a complex institution with a letter grade, just as it would be ridiculous to send a child home with a report card that contained only a single letter grade to summarize her performance in all her various courses and programs."

Class size doesn't matter? Tell that to Bonnie, a teacher in Alpine who has 42 fourth-graders, or Cathy, a sixth-grade teacher in Salt Lake with 38 students. Teaching 28 second-graders with a literacy range of non-English speaking to sixth-grade reading ability is not only difficult but extremely complex. Class size does matter! Parents know it. Teachers know it.

Parents also know that a quality education consists of more than standardized tests. The citizens of Utah want their children to have a broad, rich curriculum which prepares them for the 21st century workforce. After all, the children of today will be taking care of those of us who are making critical education decisions for future generations.

Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh is president of the Utah Education Association. She is a national board-certified educator and former Utah Teacher of the Year.

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