March 2009 Archives

Former New York Times columnist Richard Rothstein has published a powerful book at a critical moment. We find ourselves poised on the brink of change, but just at this moment, we seem to be wavering. In my view, No Child Left Behind was a dismal failure. Nonetheless as we go forward some leaders seem bound and determined to preserve many of its most destructive elements. In Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right, Rothstein has come along just in time to remind us what we should be focused on. First, let’s remember why we educate. For this, Rothstein recalls that Franklin, ...


In my blog last week, focusing on the chance that the Dept. of Education may promote some form of merit pay based on standardized test scores, I got a bit more hyperbolic than usual, and wrote the following: But if those rewards are based on the same standardized tests that candidate Obama decried, what behavior will they promote? More emphasis on test preparation, and less time for art, science, music and history. Test preparation is educational malpractice -- it is bad for our students. We must not reward malpractice. I see a lot of test preparation occurring in low-scoring schools. ...


One of the reasons I was excited about the election of Barack Obama was the chance it offered us to turn our energies in education in a positive direction. His campaign website stated: Obama and Biden believe teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests and he will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college. There are disturbing signs, however, that under the leadership of Education Secretary Arne Duncan we may not have escaped the tyranny of the tests. In his recent speech ...


I have been writing about teacher turnover in my urban district because I think it is critical that education policy be informed by real on-the-ground data. Numbers alone do not tell the story. Last week we heard from two urban teachers, one in the San Francisco area, and one (in the comments) in Philadelphia, who shared their similar realities and the reasons they will be leaving soon. The portrait they drew is backed up by statistics that show that after three years, 55% of the teachers who start out teaching in Oakland will be gone. This University of Pennsylvania study ...


As I have written, I work to support science teachers in Oakland, seeking to retain them so as to strengthen instruction, and so our students can benefit from their experience. As the year has progressed, it has become clear that this is a difficult challenge, and so I have been trying to delve into the reasons our teachers are leaving. Last week I wrote about the many pressures these teachers face. This week, I want to share a message I received from a young science teacher in an urban Bay Area school district who is preparing to leave. If we ...


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