From where I sit, a member of the local school board and head of our board’s curriculum committee, I appreciate what No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have meant for our district: forcing accountability on a school district that pushes inexorably against it. And I see the Common Core as promising us a curriculum where none has ever existed.
The Common Core promises us a curriculum where none has ever existed.
Sure, we have plenty to worry about when it comes to the role of the federal government in our lives. The current cover story in the Economist is about an “Over-regulated America,” smothered by a wave of “red tape” that may crush the life out of America’s economy. It sure seems to have already crushed much of the life out of America’s public education system.
Coming at the question from a different direction, David Brooks recently suggested that the United States is just as freighted by central government as the Europe is; we just do it differently—and not so well. Our economic briar patch, says Brooks, is in the tax code.
There should be a lesson here for our education policy-wonks and -makers: instead of getting hung up on which government agency is making the rules, let’s dig a little deeper into the question of red tape, at all levels, and find out exactly which ties are binding so firmly to mediocrity and entropy. Chris Cerf in New Jersey has a team going through every Garden State education rule and regulation with an eye of
The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, received some well-deserved praise last week for bringing the state education department and the teachers unions together on a new teacher evaluation rubric. (See here. And here. And here and here and here and here.) As Joe Williams wrote in the Daily News:
Weeks after declaring he would be a “lobbyist for students,” Gov. Cuomo delivered his 2.75 million young clients a major victory Thursday, using the weight of his office to break through the logjam blocking a common-sense mechanism for evaluating teachers based on whether children are learning.
Though there will be much grousing about how common-sensical it is to judge teachers based on how their students do on standardized tests (40 percent of the evaluation)—“it’s a dark day when politicians impose an untested scheme on educators,” wrote Diane Ravitch—the more fascinating part of this story is the New York City subplot.
New York's new 'impartial' observors promise to add yet another layer of bureaucracy to an already bloated system.
The United Federation of Teachers, which represents Gotham’s 75,000 teachers, negotiated an additional deal (also with Cuomo’s help), to include, according to the UFT, “third-party, independent validation of teacher ratings.” Though this applies, ostensibly, only to the appeal of decisions about a teacher’s effectiveness, it introduces an interesting, if largely untried evaluation method (see Nick Kristof on New Haven)—one that promises to add yet another layer of bureaucracy to an already bloated system. As Winnie Hu of the New York Times reports,
[C]ity education officials, with the consent of union
Past presidents might not be too happy with the current state of education.
Photo by William Andrus.
This is not the time for federal intervention is what they would say. But I would imagine most of our great presidents would be somewhat appalled by the barnacled bureaucracy that now counts as our public education system. I would love to hear what they had to say about these four recent stories:
- Not to be missed. Scot Simon’s report for National Public Radio on Kansas City’s failed school system is a needed reminder about the delusional thinking of those who defend the current American public education system. K.C. is part of a long-line—think Detroit, Newark, Chicago, New Orleans—of failed city school systems. One simply cannot take the attacks on school reformers seriously when seen through the prism of reports like Simons’.
- Embracing Common Core. This is a wonderful symposium by Fordham's Ohio team about the meaning of the Common Core and how to implement it. See also Education Next’s debate on the math part of the CCCS. And, of course, always interesting, if somewhat predictable, is Jay Greene’s take: here come the commies.
want to know where we
Every time I see a “poverty and education” story I think of the famous line from the New Testament in which Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.”
So, with education. Want a convenient scapegoat for our problems? Poverty. It’s there, it’s handy.
Want a convenient scapegoat for our problems? Poverty. It’s there, it’s handy.
I sat through an hour meeting of our small school district’s budget committee last week, most of it devoted to bemoaning our fate as a “poor district” (over 60 percent of our kids qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, the standard definition of “poor” for schools) in these recessionary times. State aid has been nearly flat and the Governor punched through a two percent local property tax cap. Woe is us. There goes sports. Not mentioned was the fact that we spend over $22,000 per student!
Diane Ravitch has been hitting the poverty gong for some time, most recently in Cleveland, where, she says, “the level of urban decay is alarming.” I was just in Cleveland and, while I can appreciate the sentiment, I fail to understand how she gets to the next sentence: “Yet its municipal leaders have decided that their chief problem is bad teachers.”
I visited a couple of successful Cleveland public schools during my visit—successful in educating poor children—and while principals in each of those schools said they could use more money, neither said that money—or their students’ lack of it—was their major challenge. Getting good
- 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.
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