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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, November 7, 2002

DOE: an acronym heaven

By Thomas E. Stuart
Public school teacher, Kapa'au, Big Island

The Advertiser really doesn't get it, does it?

In an Oct. 5 editorial, you describe Education Writer Jennifer Hiller's statement of the obvious as a "bombshell" in her story headlined "No Child Left Behind law a tough test for schools."

You seem to have bought the cotton candy DOE is peddling when you opine "it is reasonable to have one set of performance standards for all schools" and refer to "the challenges facing schools as they struggle to keep up with state educational standards."

Once you finally accept the sorry truth that the DOE has set forth no measurable standards of any kind — or academic curricula and not even a common grading scale — this kind of stuff won't seem like such a bombshell. You are, however, right on target in predicting DOE's "natural tendency to hope this all just goes away," just like it did with the Felix Consent Decree.

Unfortunately, you are using verbs in the wrong tense when you assert, "If we're not ready, we will have 'in effect' abandoned our children." DOE long ago abandoned the task of educating children in favor of running an adult jobs program aimed primarily at (1) increasing the size of the budget (empire) while (2) doing nothing that would result in real change (inconvenience) adversely affecting career-oriented team players high up in the bureaucratic food chain.

Now, don't get me wrong. It's not as if nothing is happening. Indeed, the churn rate is furious. Spooling up a wardrobe of invisible clothing for the emperor is hard work. Pretending we have real standards in the absence of an academic curriculum requires sustained concentration.

To help sustain our concentration, the DOE has thoughtfully entertained us with a host of charming diversions in acronym format. What a layman might be tempted to call Hawai'i Content and Performance Standards is to be written HCPS and reduced to teacher-speak: "hiccups."

Let's ignore for the moment that the "content" is mush and the "performance standards" neither measure performance nor set any kind of coherent standard. So far we've had a case of "hiccups one" and are working to recover from "hiccups two."

We used to be evaluated as teachers according to something called PATH, a hoary acronym of such antiquity the actual words these initials once represented have been lost in the mists of time.

Not to worry. We are about to be evaluated according to something called PEP-T. They haven't yet told us what this stands for, but it sure sounds perky and snappy, doesn't it? No doubt, if PEP-T becomes unwieldy over time, the DOE can always transition to a less troublesome evaluation procedure, say, Diet PEP-T.

Please know it is de rigeur that "Adequate Yearly Progress" be written acronymically, AYP (pronounced as you might expect). We are now all racing headlong to be the first in our respective districts to go AYP.

If genuine accountability for actual results should ever rear its ugly head up out of all this turgid Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass humbug, team players can always hide in a thicket of GLOs and ESLRs, FOLs and SIDs.

Don't ask what that stuff means. It really doesn't mean anything, but like peanut butter, this oleaginous mix of buzzwords and acronyms can be spread all around until it covers up the bitter taste of make believe masquerading as public education.

Bottom line? A person with a weak stomach should avoid watching two things being made. One is sausage. The other is DOE policy.