Shaver heads to D.C. meeting

TUPELO – Tupelo Schools Superintendent Randy Shaver leaves today for Washington, where he is one of nine superintendents from across the country invited to meet with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The superintendents, all from rural school districts, were invited to give Duncan input on the No Child Left Behind Act, as it comes up for reauthorization. Shaver, who will represent the Gulf States region, was chosen to attend by the American Association of School Administrators.
“Coming from Chicago, President Obama and Secretary Duncan understand how to turn around low-performing big-city systems,” Shaver said. “I’m encouraged that they understand that they don’t know enough about rural and small-city systems.”
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is up for reauthorization next year. First passed in 1965, the law provides federal money for schools. The law is currently authorized under No Child Left Behind, which requires schools to meet state-mandated benchmarks on standardized tests.
Shaver and his fellow superintendents will discuss whether NCLB should be reauthorized and how it should be fixed. They will also discuss ways to turn around low-performing schools.
“I think we’re better off with the law than we were without it,” Shaver said. “High-stakes testing has been a very bright light on the lowest-performing students.”
By breaking students into subgroups, the law has made educators more aware of achievement gaps that must be closed, Shaver said. That said, he believes schools should be judged by more than a single test given on a single day. Schools also should be judged by attendance and graduation rates and by how successful students are after they graduate.
Shaver said the way to turn around low-performing schools is to hold administrators, principals and teachers accountable. He said the biggest factor to student success is teachers in the classroom.
“I think probably what we need are federal incentives to get the best teachers in under-performing rural schools,” Shaver said.
During the meetings, Shaver will bring Duncan a copy of Danny McKenzie’s book “A Time to Speak,” which is a collection of speeches by Tupelo businessman and education advocate Jack Reed. Reed signed the book for Duncan.
Shaver said he recently met with Sen. Thad Cochran to discuss thoughts on NCLB and that while he is in Washington, he will likely meet with either Sen. Roger Wicker or with Wicker’s education staffer.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or at chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal