Skugg skeptical about fed educational intervention

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Superintendent of Schools Leonard Skuggevik presented the Board of Education with a progress report on meeting goals for the 2015-16 school year.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Superintendent of Schools Leonard Skuggevik .

The closer you are to students will determine your ability to make the best decisions about their education.

That’s the way Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik sees it and why he’s inclined to agree with his predecessor, Michael Hynes, who has called for dissolution of the United State Department of Education.

Mr. Hynes made his thoughts clear in December, writing that federal initiatives through the years — from “No Child Left Behind,” “Race to the Top” and the soon to be implemented “Every Student Succeeds Act” — fail to improve education.

“This bloated department of non-educators has wasted tax dollars and ruined millions of children’s lives over the past four decades,” Dr. Hynes said. “It is an experiment gone awry and it’s time for the U.S. Department of Education to go.”

In past years, calls for the department’s dissolution have come primarily from politically conservative interests. But Dr. Hynes is coming at the issue not from a political vantage point but as an educator, he said.

He’s been among the most outspoken opponents of the rollout of the Common Core curriculum and its associated teacher evaluation system. He’s now arguing that Dr. John King, who was head of the New York State Board of Regents during the rollout, and is now acting secretary of education, is the wrong man to be leading the department.

Parents and teachers are in the best position to determine solid educational programs, Mr. Skuggevik said, reiterating his stance on local control. As superintendent and principal, he makes it a point to frequently sit in on classes, but he doesn’t tell teachers how to do their jobs. He will guide them when necessary, he said, but focuses attention on those teachers who are creative in their classrooms, enlisting other teachers to employ similar methods.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act, an update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, is meant to focus on higher academic standards to prepare students for college and careers. But Mr. Hynes sees it as another layer of federal intervention that won’t improve education.

Mr. Skuggevik thinks it’s an attempt at being less restrictive in terms of what local school districts do, but is still skeptical of federal intervention on the effect it could have on local school districts.

On its face, the new program’s goals are:
• Support local innovations developed by local leaders and educators
• Sustain and expand investments to increase access to high-quality preschool
• Maintain accountability and action to bring about positive change in low performing schools where students aren’t making progress and graduation rates are low over extended periods of time.

Since 2012, the Obama administration began granting flexibility to states regarding specific requirements of the No Child Left Behind program in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive state-developed plans designed to close achievement gaps, increase equity and improve the educational quality.

While it sounds positive on the surface, Mr. Skuggevik said, in view of the faulty rollout of the Common Core curriculum he’s taking a wait and see attitude toward Every Student Succeeds.

“It’s still not what I want,” he said, adding that the problem with federal educational initiatives is they still grow out of political agendas.