June 2010 Archives

Parting Thoughts

Editor's Note: Bridging Differences begins its annual summer break after Deborah Meier's upcoming post on Thursday. The blog will return in September. Dear Deborah, This is my last blog until the fall. Time to take a break and recharge our batteries or whatever it is that keeps us going. I have two parting thoughts before I head for the beach and the garden. First, I want to recommend a fascinating book. It is Michael Edwards' Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the World. Edwards led the Ford Foundation's program on governance and civil society. His book analyzes efforts by philanthro-capitalists ...

'Be Less Afraid'

Dear Diane, Every day, some new, unexpected voice pipes up confirming views on the quality of the tests in use to judge our children, their teachers, and their schools. The much-vaunted New York Regents math exams turn out to be shockingly shabby, etc. Ditto for new reports on the financial scandals taking place under mayoral control—hardly surprising. Ditto for the number of financial and other scandals in charter schools. When we proposed a highly decentralized experimental zone in 1992 (with money from the Annenberg Foundation) there were two things we said should not be dropped: our obligations to the ...

What I Did in June

Yet I don't see how it is possible to improve education while neglecting everything but basic skills. Even privately managed charter schools are affected negatively by high-stakes testing; to claim ever-rising test scores, they are prompted to avoid low-performing students, thus bypassing the very students that charters were originally intended to serve.

We Are Deciding on Our Shared Future

Dear Diane. I've been mulling over the well-organized attack on the concept of seniority and tenure. The roots of both have long been forgotten. Seniority as a concept has been fundamental implicitly, if not explicitly, to most societies. Tenure was added for public service and academia, because politics was perceived as a threat to public service workers, especially "mind-workers." This preceded teachers' unions and exists in states without unions! Even with tenure, teachers are vulnerable, especially troublemakers. But some might argue that this is a good reason to support merit pay since principals will have to base their decisions on ...

The Great Accountability Hoax

Dear Deborah, The evidence continues to accumulate that our "accountability" policies are a great fraud and hoax, but our elected officials and policymakers remain completely oblivious to the harm caused by the policies they mandate. Over the past several years, efforts to "hold teachers accountable" and "hold schools accountable" have produced perverse consequences. Instead of better education, we are getting cheating scandals, teaching to bad tests, a narrowed curriculum, lowered standards, and gaming of the system. Even if it produces higher test scores (of dubious validity), high-stakes accountability does not produce better education. In their eagerness to show "results," states ...

From Castles to Factories

Dear Diane, I couldn't resist this piece from the Rev. John Thomas of the Chicago Theological Seminary, entitled "It's Not OK to Hate Teachers." When you travel across the country through numerous county seat towns and cities, it's easy to see what was important to those who established those communities. They built—at great personal sacrifice—churches, schools, libraries, and courthouses—public institutions that provided for the general welfare of their communities rather than simply the private mercantile interests of its citizens. Usually these buildings were architecturally grand, dominating the landscape, announcing to all that the spiritual, intellectual,...

The Strange Paradox of 'School Reform' Today

Dear Deborah, Over the past few months, I have traveled the country and spoken to thousands of educators—teachers, administrators, and school board members. At the same time, I have kept close tabs on the national discussion about the Obama administration's Race to the Top. I have discovered a strange paradox. With few exceptions, the national media are excited by the Race to the Top, especially the expansion of charter schools, the tough accountability measures directed at teachers, and closing down of "failing" schools. But educators are overwhelmingly disheartened by these same measures. The people who have the closest involvement...

The Language of Reform

Dear Diane, Alice in Wonderland, I'm told, has now been released as a horror movie. Life imitates art: Nonsense that once amused me is also turning into a horror documentary. The prologue to Michael Lewis' amazing new bookThe Big Short is out of Lewis Carroll too; except it's based on fact. The folks Michael Lewis describes are identical to the ones you now run into at the New York City department of education headquarters--amusingly called Tweed--maybe one rung down in "smarts?" The language nonsense on Wall Street may be more intimidating but it's just as much of a cover up ...

Deconstructing NAEP Reading Scores for Cities

Dear Deborah, This year the federal testing program (the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP) expanded to include 18 urban districts. The testing of urban districts is known as TUDA (or, Trial Urban District Assessment). TUDA was launched in 2002, in response to a request by the Council of the Great City Schools. In 2002, the following districts voluntarily participated in testing a sample of their students in reading in 4th and 8th grades: Atlanta, Chicago, the District of Columbia, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York City. In 2003, both reading and math assessments were administered in 10 cities, ...

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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