Mopati Morake will graduate shortly from Williams College. He was born in Botswana but finished high school in Hong Kong. He has attended schools on three continents, and Justin Snider, writing for the Hechinger Report, thought that sort of wide experience might have given Morake a distinctive perspective on educational matters.
?What,? Snider asks Morake, ?do you see in U.S. education that is praiseworthy, and where does the U.S. system fall short?? The young man answers that the capability to explore different areas of knowledge, to enroll not only in required classes but in those classes that interest him, is an admirable facet of American higher education. He also likes that tests are not the sole focus; at his college, the process of learning also has weight. In his native country, Botswana, and in much of Asia, pupils are judged wholly by the scores they receive on several, major tests. Thus, ?It's pretty liberating,? he says, ?to come here and find that my future isn't going to be determined by a grade on a few exams.? Morake finds the inequality in American k-12 education, however, to be singularly distressing??a travesty,? he calls it?and thinks lessening that inequality should be ?a national priority.?
Perhaps most interesting are Morake's ideas about teaching (the young man plans to teach at a boarding school come fall). ?I think teaching is the second most important job, after parenting,? he says. He believes that such importance obliges
Mike and Janie look into the crystal ball of edu-policy, making predictions on the sustainability of the local school board, potential backlash to reform, and the market's role in education. Amber blows holes in the teacher-quality-gap line of reasoning and Chris gets salty about pepper spray.
Along with paralysis over the budget (and so much else), there's enduring paralysis on Capitol Hill?over federal education policy. While 2011 has brought a flurry of promising reform activity at the state level, we detect barely a heartbeat in Washington when it comes to updating the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, currently NCLB), even though an overhaul is at least four years overdue and just about everyone agrees that it's not working very well.
A year ago, the Obama Administration offered a decent ?blueprint? for reauthorization; but in Congress there are major fissures within each party?and little evidence of desire to cooperate across the aisle. Most commentators agree?and staffers privately admit?that chances are slim for an update before the 2012 elections. Sadly, they are probably right. It's a major abdication of responsibility by our nation's lawmakers.
And what makes it especially painful is that there's a pretty obvious path forward, not too different from the Administration's proposal. We sketch it out in a new ESEA reform proposal released this week. It capitalizes on some key realities:
First, NCLB has done a pretty good job of sensitizing the country to the
This morning, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released our ESEA Briefing Book. The report serves two purposes: First, to provide helpful background for reporters, analysts, and even hill staffers following the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka, No Child Left Behind). Hence, we identify 10 of the key issues that Congress must resolve to get a bill across the finish line, and offer the major options on the table (and their pros and cons) for each one.
The second purpose is to offer our own recommendations, in line with what we've been calling "Reform Realism" for two years now. Reform Realism--a pro-school-reform orientation that is also realistic about what the federal government can (and cannot) do well in K-12 education--entails three main principles:
?Tight-loose? ? Greater national clarity about our goals and expectations for students (i.e., standards linked to real-world demands of college and career), but much greater flexibility around how states, communities, and schools actually get their students there.
Transparency instead of Accountability ? Results-based accountability in education is vital, but it can't successfully be imposed from Washington. Instead, Uncle Sam should ensure that our education system's results?and finances?are transparent to the public, to parents, to local and state officials (and voters), and, of course, to educators.
Incentives over Mandates ?When Uncle Sam seeks to promote specific reforms in education, he should do so through carrots rather
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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