Dear Diane, The bad news does seem to overwhelm the good news of late. For starters, when talking about education, we need a new vocabulary. The term "achievement" has become synonymous not with the intellectual tasks of schooling, the "using one's mind well" as Ted Sizer put it, but with whatever is measured by multiple- choice tests. The more answers right the better—of course—but otherwise there's little of intellectual quality being measured. If it's "using one's mind well" that should be at stake, then one might imagine we need tests that rest on demonstrations of how students...

Dear Deborah, I have been trying to ascertain what President Obama plans to do to reshape the federal role in education, and the outlines of his policy are becoming clear. So far, we have not heard much about what he will do to fix the No Child Left Behind approach, but the signs are not encouraging. One point is clear: He prefers charter schools to regular public schools. After his election, he first visited a charter school, not a regular public school. The day after the 2009 election, he and Secretary Arne Duncan visited the Wright Middle School in Madison, ...

Dear Diane, The absurdities you describe are on the mark and ought to kill the idea of paying teachers based on their students' test scores. But we both know the idea won't die that easily. Even the most renowned of testing experts argue that we're nowhere near being able to produce tests that can do the job of pay-by-score that folks want. I do wonder at times what "they" think they are doing? The trouble is that when I start down that path I see conspiracies everywhere—for example, that these schemes justify hiring inexperienced and low-paid teachers—who can ...

Dear Deborah, What a lovely tribute to Ted Sizer! I did not know Ted nearly as well as you did, but I admired him very much. He was very much the gentleman, and truly a gentle man. I had many disagreements with Jerry Bracey over the years; he was not gentle at all. Nonetheless, it is sad that these two men will no longer be among us, as they were both completely independent, a quality that is in short supply these days. Which brings us back to the Obama agenda for education. Most educators are dubious about this agenda, but ...

Dear Diane, I have been feeling sad during the past month. First came awareness that the health of an old colleague of mine has moved into its final stages. When she joined us at CPE 32 years ago, she was the first person my age to be my colleague. It was nice not to be a mother or mentor to someone. I learned so much from her. It's like losing a part of my own history. Then came word of Gerald Bracey's sudden death. I was startled because his sharp-witted, clever, and yet erudite contribution to our work has been ...

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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