There is tension inherent in being a conservative education reformer.
On the one hand, I’m a strident advocate for grand change. For example, my book is about ridding ourselves of traditional urban school districts. I strongly support charters and vouchers. I believe in overhauling teacher evaluation systems and much of the policy architecture they undergird (preparation, credentialing, compensation, tenure, etc.). I’ve written recently about my growing belief that SEAs are outdated.
There is often invisible but incalculable value in institutions and practices that have survived the test of time.
I firmly believe that these reforms are in the best interest of kids, especially disadvantaged boys and girls. But I suspect these views get encouragement from my right-of-center worldview: that government programs are generally clumsy and expensive and often have regrettable and far-reaching unintended consequences; that it’s wise to hold entities accountable for achieving results by using measurable performance indicators that inform consequences; and that markets are generally efficient, nimble, and responsive to consumer needs and create space for the kinds of entrepreneurial activity that generate continuous improvement.
But the other half of my conservatism means I generally believe in preserving things that have been around for a while. As I wrote in this piece about prudent school-closure policies, there is often invisible but incalculable value in institutions and practices that have survived the test of time.
Even if they seem weathered on the outside, below their surfaces can dwell vast, unseen
Bill Gates just released his foundation’s annual letter, and he summarizes the edu-important parts here. He focuses on the findings of the gigantic MET study. While I’m happy that he is personally publicizing what they learned about teacher effectiveness, this short piece only underscores the concerns I raised here. Implementing the study’s findings is the tough part, but his only reference to that is a glancing blow about budgeting. I really hope they have a detailed, coordinated plan in place.
Check out a smart piece by Checker on the very important issue of cut scores for common assessments. This is one of the issues that, if mishandled, may contribute to the centrifugal force pulling the testing consortia—and Common Core—apart. (Cost may prove to be another.) If you think I’m mother hen-ing this thing, consider Alabama’s recent decision to drop out…
According to Politics K–12, a number of House GOP leaders are charging that the Administration is standing in the way of students hoping to participate in the D.C. scholarship program. This program, which allows a small number of D.C. kids to choose nonpublic schools, seems to always be on its last legs. Kudos to Speaker Boehner et GOP al. for continuously patching it up and fighting for the kids it might serve. As my book, The Urban School System of the Future,
Should we trust the judgment of pre-adolescents to decide for themselves what makes educational sense?
Photo by slightly everything
While visiting a local high school as a liaison between my department at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and the high school’s Advanced Credit program, I had occasion to speak with its young principal—a newly minted doctor of education. I told him about a challenge facing those of us who teach in K–16 education: the difficulty of getting students to summon the patience, stamina, and will to read dense text, particularly book-length writings, in an age of instant gratification, sound-bites, jazzy graphics, and condensed versions of knowledge. In short, I asked him, do students still have the capacity for deep reading, followed by deliberation and reflection? Can they conduct serious discourse? The principal’s response struck me: “Today’s students are actually smarter and better than students of yesteryear, since students today get to choose their own readings.” Really? I immediately wondered whether we should trust the judgment of adolescents, much less pre-adolescents, to decide for themselves what makes educational sense. And for that matter, since when has the mere act of “choice” been a measure of intellect?
Bizarre as this principal’s comment seemed at the time, it was grounded in mainstream progressive thinking—the student-centered, active, discovery-learning
After the ouster of Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett (who, subsequently, was snapped up by Florida), Indiana’s Republicans have pushed a bill withdraw the state from the Common Core standards.
Today, Indiana’s Senate Education Committee heard arguments on whether to keep, eliminate, or change the state’s commitment to the Common Core. Michael J. Petrilli, Fordham’s executive vice president, testified at the hearing to urge Indiana’s lawmakers to “stay the course” with the common standards.
Testimony to the Education and Career Development Committee of the Indiana State Senate
Michael J. Petrilli
Chairman Kruse, Ranking Member Rogers, members of the committee: It’s an honor to be with you today. I mean that sincerely. No state in the country has accomplished more on the education reform front than Indiana has over the past two years. On issue after issue—from school vouchers, to teacher evaluations, to collective bargaining reform, to school finance reform—Indiana is leading the way. As you may know, in 2011 my think tank named Indiana the “Education Reform Idol” for its accomplishments. You won in a landslide. You should be very proud of what this legislative body has gotten done.
My name is Mike Petrilli; I’m the executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-of-center education policy think tank in Washington, DC that also does on the ground work in the great state of Ohio. We promote education reforms of all
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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