Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Many Educators Try to Escape Burdens of State Paperwork

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Many Educators Try to Escape Burdens of State Paperwork

Article excerpt

To Mary Kay Sanders, who teaches eighth-grade reading and language arts at the Wood River-Hartford School District No. 15, the state's education oversight process seems to have little to do with education.

Instead, it has to do with gathering data, "cross-grading" tests, assessing "goals", and "entering scores in multiple places" - all while her classes are being watched by substitute teachers.

"It's very frustrating," said Sanders. "Accountability (to the state) is necessary, but a system that pulls me out of the classroom isn't the way to do it."

Wood River-Hartford is one of dozens of districts around Illinois requesting relief from state mandates, and one of five - including the Belleville No. 118 School District - asking to change the rules involving the state's paper-heavy accreditation process.

The districts are asking lawmakers for permission to ignore or alter certain state regulations, from physical education requirements to budgetary practices to the state prohibition on corporal punishment. Some requests already have been granted by the State Board of Education. The General Assembly will consider 61 more this month.

The most controversial of the waiver requests have involved corporal punishment. School districts in Benton and DuQuoin want the authority to "paddle" students unless their parents object in writing. State law makes that illegal, so the districts will need a legislative waiver to institute such a policy.

Less dramatic, but far more relevant to some districts, are the requests to get out from under the mounds of paper that are accumulated every year, as districts try to keep up with the complex process of measuring student achievement and reporting it to the state.

The process is generically called "accreditation," though even the State Board of Education admits that's a misnomer. The issue isn't whether schools are to be state-approved to teach students. …

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