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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November's Education Hero: Superintendent Bill Mathews

Here is something to go with your pumpkin pie.  If you know of education heroes whose actions defy the corporatization of American schools, send me a link: ontogenyx@gmail.com:

This is from WaPo:
By Valerie Strauss
A number of school districts in states that won money in the Education Department's $4 billion Race to the Top competition have decided they don’t actually want the money because, in most cases, officials think it is more trouble to accept it.

In Ohio, which won $400 million in the Race sweepstakes, more than two dozen districts and public charter schools say they think it will cost them more than they will get from the federal government to implement the required reforms, according to Sean Cavanagh at www.edweek.com.

And then there is the Jones County School District near Macon, Ga., headed by Superintendent Bill Mathews.
Mathews has decided not to accept $1.3 million in Race to the Top money -- the district’s share of Georgia’s $400 million pot -- for reasons including his refusal to implement a value-added assessment system for teachers, based on student standardized test scores. (The county had signed up for the money before Mathews became superintendent last year.)

Assessment experts say these systems should not be used to evaluate teachers, pointing to new research that indicates they are not reliable and error rates are unacceptably high, but they are supported anyway by the Obama administration. Many of these systems are seen by teachers as ignoring other factors beside a teacher’s influence that can affect a student's performance on a standardized test.

And that’s why Mathews decided not to accept the money and why the county school board went along with his recommendation.

Mathews was quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the research doesn't bear out the effectiveness of these systems, and that implementing one would be too expensive. He said that educating children in the county’s public schools is a team effort by all of the adults in the building, and that singling out the teachers in this way would be wrong.

“My philosophy has always been that from the front door to the back door, from the secretary to the lunchroom worker, [everyone] is responsible for the student achievement of every child,” Mathews was quoted as saying. “We set our goals and if we meet our goals, we all celebrate.”

We’d all be a lot better off if there were more Bill Mathewses out there running our public school districts.

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