Adell Cothorne, the former DC principal who appears in our Frontline film, “The Education of Michelle Rhee,” was one of the few educators willing to speak on the record about the widespread erasures during Michelle Rhee’s tenure – and what she has to say is important.
At Amazon (and other companies), robots are replacing human workers. But down the road, who can make these robots?
Several seemingly unrelated subjects have been floating around in my head lately. The first involves New Orleans, a city that’s gone crazy about its football team’s first appearance in the Super Bowl on Sunday, February 7th. All but two of the school districts in and around New Orleans have cancelled school for the Monday after the game, reasoning that most students would be partying hard all weekend and wouldn’t show up anyway.
(Some readers may know that we’ve been tracking the efforts of Paul Vallas to rebuild the schools in the Recovery School District there. Well, I’m happy to say that Paul is one of the two superintendents who is opening schools on Monday.)
Football and mathCall me an old fogey, but I find closing schools to be irresponsible behavior on the part of the adults. Are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders going to be worn out from partying? What are working parents supposed to do, or are they also exempt from going to work?
Worse, however, the educators are bypassing a remarkable teachable moment, a chance to connect learning with the city’s obsession with the Saints.
To understand the Race to the Top, think of Education Secretary Arne Duncan as a diet doctor and public education systems as obese, out of shape individuals in need of a better nutrition program. But here’s the catch: state-controlled school systems are not Secretary Duncan’s children. They are independent adults, and ‘Dr. Duncan’ can’t just order them to eat better and work out regularly. He has to cajole and entice them into behavior that he is certain is in their best interest. And so he’s offering rewards ($4.35 billion) to those who come up with the best ‘diet’ of education reforms.Arne Duncan
Make no mistake about the educational shape our schools are in—it’s bad! More than one million students drop out of school every year, costing the economy billions of dollars. International comparisons are downright embarrassing. Only 1.3 percent of our 15-year-olds scored at the highest level of mathematical proficiency, putting us 24th out of 30 nations participating in PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment. By contrast, 9.1 percent of Korean and 6 percent of Czech 15-year-olds scored at the highest level.
Duncan believes he knows how states can shape up. For openers, they have to step on a reliable scale. In education, that means a transparent data system that tracks students’ progress throughout their school years, and it means common standards, so that everyone is using the same weight measures. (Today each state chooses its tests and decides what constitutes passing.)
His plan for better nutrition, educationally speaking, includes a diet of charter schools, publicly funded but independently run institutions.
To what extent is classroom teaching a skill? How long does it take to learn those skills, and is there a best way to learn them? These are important questions at any time, but I submit they are of particular importance today, with Teach for America (and other alternative routes into the classroom) growing in [...]
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’ve been interviewing a lot of folks who are well known in education, Debbie Meier, Margaret Spellings, Diane Ravitch, Pat Callan and others. Many readers have posted comments, which I read with interest. Sometimes I wonder about the writers, and sometimes I reach out.
This post came from my interest in one reader’s comments to my recent post on innovation in schools. His name is Philip Kovacs, and he’s a former high school English teacher who now teaches would-be teachers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I also know that he has a PhD in Educational Policy Studies, a 6 month-old son, and some strong convictions about public education. (The latter is the focus of the interview, although the proud new Dad manages to work his son into the conversation a couple of times).
So tell me what you believe, and why.
In my dissertation I argue for keeping public schools public, but after four years working with local public schools, I’m open to alternatives. I am now working on starting a project-based lab school.
How did you find Learning Matters?
The More things ChangeIt was research into the Gates Foundation that brought me to your website in the first place. The Foundation funds an unbelievable number of projects, some of which argue against one another, though the larger of the funded organizations agree on key points, none of which, in my humble opinion, are very innovative. I do not, for the record, think Bill Gates is controlling your content!
I am now editing a book about the Gates Foundation’s involvement in educational reform. I am 100% sure that the edited volume is going to anger the educational “right” and “left.”
You sound as if you want to anger both ends of the spectrum.
I guess I do, now that you mention it. Three years ago I helped about 30 scholars, teachers, and other concerned individuals create and post a petition calling for an end to No Child Left Behind.
On the back page of Education Week this week is my essay about charter schools, including a trip down memory lane back to the meeting in Minnesota in 1988 where the dream took shape. I hope all of you will go over to Ed Week’s website to read it (subscription required), but, before you do, bear with me because the ground keeps shifting under this movement, even as many things remain the same.
I’d like to raise two issues: 1) quality control and 2) persistent opposition.
Charter Schools & The Roads Diverging
For one thing, the Obama Administration is embracing charter schools (or ‘chartered schools’) with great enthusiasm. Now, it’s true that Education Secretary Arne Duncan adds a qualification, saying that they support ‘good charter schools,’ but that strikes me as, for the moment anyway, an empty distinction, largely because of an absence of ways of measuring quality.
It’s true that egregiously bad charters get shut down, but mediocre ones keep plugging along, doing just as much damage to kids as mediocre public schools. But what the charter school proponents don’t seem to realize is that these mediocre institutions are also damaging ‘the movement.’ I’ve heard them (and you know who you are!) say that mediocre public schools aren’t punished, as if that justifies not closing mediocre charter schools! It doesn’t, precisely because the charter school advocates are claiming to be different.
I think that charter schools risk becoming like schools of education if they aren’t careful. How many of the 1400 or so schools and colleges of education are excellent?
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