January 2010 Archives

Dear Diane, It was good to read your summary of our plight with my old hometown Chicago, not NYC, as the centerpiece. It's a replay of the scenario under the former Secretary of Education Rod Paige who shipped his "Texas miracle" to the nation under President George W. Bush. The result—NCLB. Only later did we discover that his "success" was based on lies, lies, and more damn lies. The term "best practices" in education always gives me trouble. Normally I wince, but let it pass. So I was delighted when Dr. Jerome Groopman shared the same reaction regarding "best...


Dear Deborah, It is time to appraise the first year of the Obama administration and its impact on American education. I met with Arne Duncan in October, and I liked him very much. He is a very likeable guy. But I strongly disagree with his priorities. In a recent Education Week article about Duncan, I was quoted as giving him an A for effectiveness, and a D- for bad ideas. Let me explain. Duncan's "Race to the Top" competition has had an enormous effect on American education. He has $4.3 billion to hand out, without any congressional authorization or ...


Building Bridges was recently named one of the best education blogs for 2010 by Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews. Mathews, who is also a member of the Editorial Projects in Education board, and fellow Post blogger Valerie Strauss selected a wide range of blogs for the honor. Read all about Bridging Differences and the other best blogs here....


Dear Diane, Deciding how to measure achievement depends on first defining it. The equating of "performance" and "achievement" with whatever the ELA and math tests tell us puts us in rather an awkward position—and I include in that my colleagues and friends in the AFT and NEA. Randi Weingarten's remarks got badly reported by the press, but the actual speech makes it easier to do so than was necessary. Nowhere does it clearly state that the AFT does not accept test scores as evidence of good teaching—thus the misleading headlines. But your argument, Diane, makes a similar ...


Dear Deborah, I am sure you were as surprised as I was to read the headlines in the newspapers saying that Randi Weingarten proposed that teachers should be evaluated by their students' test scores. This is a contentious issue. In New York, at Randi's urging, the state legislature passed a law preventing districts from doing exactly this. Now, to qualify for the so-called Race to the Top, the state must roll back this legislation. We know the downside of evaluating teachers by student scores. It is neither a fair nor an accurate way to judge teachers, and it produces unintended ...


Dear Diane, Thanks you for that deft summary on charters! Once we forget the public purposes of education, it's easier and easier to forget about the defects of the marketplace as a way to address the common good. One of the concerns raised about the schools I founded was that such schools bred selectivity—even unintended cherry-picking on some subtle basis. At the time I argued that tracking within large neighborhood schools did much the same, and usually far less fairly. We need, I contended, to tackle issues of tracking under both approaches. The major concern I had was with...


Dear Deborah, In my new book, coming out in early March,* I devote a chapter to examining the research about choice from a historical perspective. Leave aside vouchers for now, and let's look at charters, which are all the rage among the movers and shakers, including President Obama, Secretary Duncan, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and business leaders. The charter idea was born in 1988, when two men—unknown to one another—converged on the idea. One was an education professor in Massachusetts named Ray Budde. The other was Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers....


Dear Diane, Do we hope our children leave school placing truth above money? Good ideas over "the Race to the Top"? Or, that they just "follow the money"? Recently, Laura Pappano wrote in The New York Times about a new world of jobs in education: "...new education leadership jobs: running charter schools, directing turnarounds of troubled schools and founding nonprofits with creative answers to education challenges. Such work demands educators who are more M.B.A./policy-wonk than Mr. Chips, which is why universities are unveiling degree programs that pull professors from schools of education, business and public policy... While ...


Editor's note: Bridging Differences returns today after a two-week holiday break. Dear Deborah, I want to wish you and our readers—and most especially our editors at Education Week!—a happy, healthy New Year. The times are challenging indeed, and all of us should try to be as kind as possible to others and do whatever we can to bring about a world where kindness and civility are the norm. As I see it, our mission this year will be to keep a close watch on the "reforms" that are now in vogue. In light of the nearly $5 billion...


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