"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obama-Duncan Go with the Failed Chicago Solution

From PURE (ht to Monty Neill):

President Obama needs to hear some noise from us here in Chicago because he has just about lost his natural mind with this idea. He's getting behind the destructive strategies of Renaissance 2010 in a way that may just destroy the heart and soul of hundreds of communities across the US.

Obama wants to see 5,000 schools closed and "turned around." Yeah, you know, he wants to take what Fed Ed Head Arne Duncan has done here in Chicago

...which hasn't worked...

and multiply it about 100 times across the U.S..

And he's going to use the precious stimulus money - you know, the money that's supposed to help create new jobs - to fire thousands of experienced teachers.

Duncan says that "The point is to take bold action in persistently low-achieving schools."

Boldly go where?

I disagree. I think the point should be to try to do something that works, not to BOLDLY go expand a program that doesn't work and actually creates worse problems.

For example, William J. Mathis, adjunct associate professor of school finance at the University of Vermont and a superintendent of schools, reviewed the existing body of research on each of the five NCLB restructuring options (the final sanction for failure to meet adequate yearly progress) and found that

  • “there is little or no evidence to suggest that any of these options delivers the promised improvements in academic achievement”" and
  • “negative side effects are frequently recorded including increased segregation, substantial, short-term drops in achievement scores and organizational instability.”

Need to hear more?

"In a later panel, University of Chicago professor Charles Payne presented data from his latest book, So Much Reform, So Little Change, which emphasizes the importances of maximizing schools' social capital, and how many reform efforts neglect this keystone to supporting any lasting improvements.

"Payne said in schools with low academic achievement, building high levels of trust makes academic improvement three times as likely than in schools with low levels of trust among educators and students. He cited a ten percent improvement in graduation rate in schools where students say they know and trust their teachers.

"The way schools are being closed in Chicago has eroded an enormous amount of social capital by not including parents in the process. These parents care about their kids and schools, and have been marginalized by people doing things for their children, without including them in the process."

It can't help the level of trust, either, when the entire school staff is fired and replaced. Illogical.

What to do instead?

We agree with Dr. Mathis and will forward his recommendations on to Obama and Duncan:

  • stop expanding the number of charter schools and relying on takeovers, privatization and other restructuring efforts for school improvement, and
  • focus on making sure that all schools have adequate resources and support so that they can improve, and support such proven strategies such as early education, smaller class size, small school communities, intense personal intervention, and strong counseling and social support systems.

Reach out to Arne

Let's all start communicating our concerns to the President and to Arne- he must miss us, after all.

You can e-mail the President at http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/

Here's Arne's contact info:

Primary Phone:

(202) 401-3000

Principal Office: (OS) Office of the Secretary

E-Mail Address: arne.duncan@ed.gov




Building Address: 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202

Room Number: 7W311

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