Sandy Welch’s Profoundly Ignorant Campaign for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Montana’s most pathetically obvious Astroturf conservative site is proudly calling attention to the fact that Sandy Welch has launched a new web site in her campaign for Superintendent of Public Instruction called “Lessons for Denise.” Unfortunately, the site only serves to demonstrate why Ms. Welch should stick to writing federal grants.

On the site, Welch claims that half of Montana students did not achieve proficiency benchmarks:

While it’s nice that three-quarters of our schools made proficiency benchmarks less than half of our students did!

Welch’s claim is so far from reality that it should immediately disqualify her from consideration for the job she’s seeking. I am assuming that she is badly misinterpreting the data from this report, which indicates that 35,541 students attended schools which passed AYP and 35,255 attended schools which did not.

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of how No Child Left Behind works understands that if a school fails in even one subset of its population, the entire school is reported as a failing school, but Ms. Welch is either demonstrating troubling ignorance which proves she’s not competent for the office she seeks or strategic ignorance which suggests she lacks the ethical foundation for the job.

In either case, she owes Denise Juneau—and Montana students—a correction and an apology. It’s troubling when Republican candidate for governor Rick Hill makes unfairly bashing Montana’s schools and students a central focus of his campaign, but it’s even more upsetting when it’s coming from someone who wants to lead our schools.

The fact is that Montana students have made steady progress during Ms. Juneau’s tenure as Superintendent. 86% of Montana students are proficient in reading, while 68% are proficient in Math.

Montana is doing exceptionally well:

Montana continues to outperform the nation on measurements of student achievement.  According to the 2011 ‘Nation’s Report Card’, only one state scored higher than Montana eighth graders in math and no states scored higher in reading.  In grade four math, only seven states scored higher than Montana and in grade four Reading only five states scored higher.  In the latest science report card, Montana’s eighth graders shared the highest score in the nation with just three other states and our fourth graders ranked second-highest.

We simply cannot afford to elect a Superintendent of Public Instruction who doesn’t understand the data that’s essential for doing her job well.

I’m almost certain that Ms. Welch is a well-intentioned person, but she simply lacks the ability to lead Montana’s schools. Let’s stick with Denise Juneau’s proven record of real results for Montana schools.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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  • Perhaps passing a proctored, refer-only-to-what’s-in-your-head, written test on No Child Left Behind should be a legal requirement for filing for this office.

    It’s disappointing that Bob Brown endorsed Welch.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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