Today’s post is a bit of a Board’s Eye View swan song, as I am embarking on two new projects that take me off “the board” as they widen my “view” considerably. I will be helping David Steiner, dean of education at Hunter College and former New York State commissioner of education, establish a new Institute for Education Policy at City University of New York. We hope to make the Institute an important forum for issues facing K-20 urban education. I will also be helping Ann Tisch, founder and chair of The Young Women’s Leadership Network, create a new and innovative curriculum for urban high school students. This too will be an exciting project, designed to bring essential twenty-first-century skills to our urban students.
What I hope to bring to both endeavors are some of the insights gleaned while serving on my small public district’s board of education and writing for the last twenty-five months (this is my 400th blog post for Fordham, but who’s counting?) about school governance...
The lessons of school board service do not quickly dissipate. My feelings about BOE service are similar to those of the new Bridging Differences interlocutory Pedro Noguera (taking Diane Ravitch’s place). Known for his education scholarship at the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard, and now New York University, Noguera spent four years on the Berkeley school board. He didn’t have a good time. California was “in the midst of yet another fiscal
There has been a spate of “scathing” reports and comments lately about for-profit schools, which bring out the kissing-cousin questions of whether schools are “businesses,” whether it’s good to “privatize” them, and whether we need more “regulation.”
And all the words in quotation marks in that sentence are meant to draw attention to the fact that the field is littered with misunderstandings, misstatements, and just plain gobbledygook.
Our public-education system is failing too many children; why wouldn’t one consider doing something different?
But first, a word from Whitney Tilson, who summarized things rather succinctly in an August 8 email blast:
All of the fraud, sleaze, etc. that’s recently been uncovered in the for-profit ed sector warrants its own email. This is probably one of the few areas Ravitch and I would generally agree on, though I suspect I’m much more open to for-profit providers – but there needs to be VERY strong regulation, oversight, audits, etc. Otherwise it’s an invitation for disaster.”
You know that something is amiss if Tilson says he agrees with Diane Ravitch. But he has a shotgun list of bad news about private- and quasi-private-sector education. He calls attention to a recent New York Times story which noted that:
- “a federal judge upheld the Department of Education’s right to regulate unscrupulous for-profit schools that leave students with big debts and valueless credentials,”
- “a Senate committee released a blistering report showing that many of these
This is the fourth post in a series by guest bloggers who know first-hand the strengths and flaws of America's dominant form of education governance: the local school board. Each author will draw on their personal experiences to answer the question posed for the Board's Eye View Challenge: Can school boards improve schools?
Andrew Blumenfeld is a senior at Princeton University. He began serving a four-year term on the school board in La Cañada, California in December, 2011. Andrew is also a founding member of Students for Education Reform.
When I decided to run for a seat on the La Cañada Board of Education in Los Angeles, I needed to be aggressive. That I had graduated from this district was certainly a mark in my favor. I suspected that benefit would be overshadowed by two concerns: (1) that graduation happened only two years prior (I was twenty years old), and (2) I was a junior at Princeton University—as in, New Jersey.
Luckily, my passion could be characterized as “aggressive.” As a student, I had been frustrated by the uneven quality of the education in my district; I was tired of some standardized test scores blinding leadership to problems; and I had recently become a founding member of Students for Education Reform—an organization allying college students with the plight of student-focused education advocacy.
Considering the entrenched adult interests
It started as a fairly typical funding-equity lawsuit and ended with a startling Wall Street Journal headline, “Michigan City Outsources All of Its Schools.” The story, about the poor performing and all-but-bankrupt Highland Park school district, raises all kinds of questions about our nation’s public-education system. (More from my colleague Bianca Speranza about implications for Ohio of Highland Park's plan here.) Why is it failing our poor children (which I wrote about last week)? Can it be fixed? Can it be fixed by turning schools over to charter-management organizations (CMOs)? And if we do turn them over to CMOs, do they have to be nonprofits?
As many defenders of the status quo are beginning to realize, the road to improvement cannot be paved with the same defective asphalt.
According to a report by Jenny Ingles in the web-based Take Part, in early July the ACLU and eight students from the Highland Park school district, located just outside of Detroit, filed a class-action suit against the state because students in the district weren’t learning: On a college-ready state exam, 90 percent of the district's eleventh graders failed the reading portion, 97 percent failed the math section, and 100 percent failed the social studies and science portions.
The suit, part of a long tradition of “adequacy and equity” litigation, argues that such failure is a violation of the state’s constitution, which mandates a public-education system. “This is not
- Stretching the School Dollar
- Common Core Watch
- Ohio Gadfly Daily
- Board's Eye View
- Choice Words
About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
May 23, 2013
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