Another Times trio: mimicking charters, home ec revival, and Walt Gardner

The New York Times continues to provide a generous medley of education reporting, including, of course, from their controversial "On Education" columnist Michael Winerip.? Alas, Winerip is not among the three recent stories I want to highlight here:

Troubled Schools Mimicking Charters This is an intriguing piece by Sam Dillon, about school reform in Houston, but I stopped short when I got to this line:

In the first experiment of its kind in the country, the Houston public schools are testing whether techniques proven successful in high-performing urban charters can also help raise achievement in regular public schools.

First of its kind?? I ran this by my friend Hal Kwalwasser, who has just finished a book (for which I provided some editing advice), describing improvement strategies in many traditional school districts.?? Writes Hal in an email:

There are lots of districts around the country that are doing the things that Houston is now about to do. Nothing new here?.? The big question is not that Houston is trying them out now, but why hundreds if not thousands of districts have not done the same thing - and not done it many years ago.

Time to Revive Home Ec This is a gem of an essay, written by Michigan State historian Helen Zoe Veit.

Reviving [Home Economics] and its original premises ? that producing good, nutritious food is profoundly important, that it takes study and practice, and that it can and should be taught through the public school system ? could help us in the fight against obesity and chronic disease today.

?Nuf said.? Let's do it.

What School Reforms Work Best When I first read Walt Gardner's letter to the editor last week, I was going to use this line for a jumping off point for a post about why teachers are so defensive:

Teachers don't choose a career in the classroom for money, power or fame. What they want more than anything else is to make a difference in the lives of their students. They don't always succeed, but they deserve more than the unrelenting criticism they've endured since the accountability movement began.

I still might get to that "unrelenting criticism" business, but it's interesting to read the "Sunday Dialogue" replies to Gardner's three ?controversial education reforms? -- Common Core Standards, value-added evaluations, no more seniority -- from a group of educated respondents.?? ?The hubris of the elite class of education policy makers boggles the mind,? writes an education professor at Arizona State about teachers and principals "being forced to cope with a tangle of contradictory, expensive, politically motivated school reform policies." A former teacher from Colorado Springs says that ?much of the criticism of teachers is very much deserved? and wishes that teachers wanting ?more than anything else to make a difference in the lives of their students? were true.? ?We get what we pay for,? he says, ?teachers included.?? And this from Deborah Meier:

The most interesting and successful teachers and schools I know build their curriculum carefully to create a coherent intellectual experience for their students ? rather than follow someone else's bland prescription.

I must confess, I'm baffled by that statement.? We've been letting teachers and schools do their own thing for several generations, with some pretty bland results in a wide swath of America, including populating prisons with adults who stopped learning in third grade.? What a country.? Let the dialogue continue.

--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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