A New Vision of School Reform
Before his election President Obama carved out what many regarded as a more progressive and enlightened position on education reform. Recognizing that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) had become widely unpopular because of its overemphasis on standardized tests, he declared, "Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of the year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test." He pledged to lead the nation in a different direction.
We are still waiting for a change of course. Since the election, the president and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, have adopted policies that, to the chagrin of many of their supporters, have had far more in common with the previous administration than expected. Market-based reforms like performance pay for teachers, the excessive emphasis on charter schools as alternatives to traditional public schools and the distribution of federal funds—once treated as entitlements to compensate for poverty—through competitive grants all represent a disturbing continuity with the policies of the past. The Obama administration gets some credit for not ignoring education despite being preoccupied with several formidable challenges. But the new initiatives do not reflect the change many hoped Obama would deliver.
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"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Noguera, The Nation Nail It
There are also a number of other interesting critiques of the Obama/Duncan education agenda. Ravitch, Darling-Hammond, Philissa Cramer, David L. Kirp, and Susan Eaton all lend their voices. Their essays are available here, but a few require a subscription to The Nation.
For a very different take on education reform, you can listen to the data-driven dweebs babble over at EdWeek. Klein offers his non-educator voice, and the Broad Foundation's Dan Katzir spews some corporate nonsense.