I can’t get Sandy Hook out of my mind—nor, in one sense, do I really want to.
Photo from the International Business Times.
That it’s taken me five days to write about the horrific acts of violence perpetrated on Newtown, Connecticut, is one indication of how torn up I’ve been about it. As the father of two small boys, this one really hit home. May God bless the children, their educators, and their families.
When we—the Fordham team and many of Flypaper’s readers—pick ourselves up and turn back to our day jobs, the work of school reform, there is an unavoidable question: What does Sandy Hook mean for that work? For our mission of bringing excellence to America’s schools and ramping up opportunity for all children? For the public discourse in which we engage?
One possible answer: nothing. As tragic an event as it was, it’s only loosely related to education policy. A deranged man with access to high-powered weapons chose an elementary school as his target. He might have chosen a hospital, a summer camp, or a circus performance. As Americans, it’s absolutely appropriate to debate whether stricter gun controls or reforms to our mental-health system or greater security barriers might help to reduce the
Hard on the heels of the AFT's proposed for a "bar exam" for teachers, the Council of Chief State School Officers has come forth with a sober, comprehensive, and exceptionally well-thought-out set of recommendations for fundamentally revamping the preparation and licensure of both teachers and principals. This 38-page blueprint contains ten big recommendations that, if put into practice by states, would indeed be transformative.
Cast in straightforward, non-rabble-rousing language, in some respects doesn't go as far as it could. It does not, for example, do away with state-level certification of educators on grounds that research has found no link between such credentials and actual effectiveness. But it does seek to make certification meaningful by building exacting standards into the process, standards that rely on evidence of knowledge and performance rather than a checklist of courses taken. Also tucked in the recommendations are such bold ideas as serious acceptance of alternative pathways and "residency"-style preparation; insistence on real standards for entering prep programs and getting certified; the demand that prep programs respond to K–12 education's actual supply-demand numbers rather than enrolling as many people as possible (thus probably killing the proverbial ed-school "cash cow" within universities); and tracking the performance of those emerging from various prep programs and institutions—and actually closing those that don't produce successful professionals.
Underlying all this is the fact that states have plenty of leverage that could be used to boost the quality and effectiveness of the education workforce and most of them haven't been using much of it. Of
What does right-to-work mean for teacher unions?
Photo from the Washington Post.
It’s been merely a month since Michigan voters defeated Proposal 1; if passed, it would have amended the state constitution to permanently protect the unions’ right to collect agency fees. And the state legislature wasted no time at all, approving legislation yesterday that officially makes Michigan the 24th right-to-work state in the nation—an astounding turn of events in a former bastion of collective bargaining. So what does this mean for teacher unions?
First off, Michigan teachers will still have the right to unionize and bargain collectively. Contrary to popular misconception, collective-bargaining rights and right-to-work laws are not the same thing. In a nutshell, there are three important parts of public-sector labor law: First, collective bargaining rights dictate whether employers must, may, or cannot recognize an employee organization as a union. Teachers are always free to organize no matter in which state they teach, but in Michigan—as in thirty other states—if employees want to negotiate a binding contract (also called a collective-bargaining agreement, or CBA) with their employer, the employer must recognize them as a union and enter into a CBA. (Fourteen states leave the decision up to the district, and five states prohibit collective bargaining in
- Very important Ed Week article about the decision by the Louisiana DOE to reject every math and reading textbook submitted for district use. The reason? They were deemed insufficiently aligned with the expectations of Common Core. This is the biggest state-level statement I’ve seen so far, indicating Louisiana’s substantial commitment to implementing CCSS. I’m in the camp that believes that while CCSS could be meaningful, much stands in the way.: The two testing consortia could set low or no cut scores, states could lose interest in the standards and/or tests, states could implement the new standards halfheartedly, etc. Rick Hess recently explained other reasons CCSS could be in jeopardy—these being more related to deficiencies in the reform community’s priorities and approaches to reform.
- Excellent piece in today’s New York Times on higher-education accountability from the always-excellent Kevin Carey. This is a terribly important and difficult issue: Higher-ed institutions often have gigantic endowments and receive enormous support from the feds, state governments, and families, yet we have virtually no reliable information on which institutions are improving student learning or how. Carey suggests a modest path forward while continuing to surface an underappreciated issue.
- Worthwhile white paper from AEI on education reform after the 2012 election. Authors McShane, Lautzenheiser, Kimmel, and Deane argue that funding reductions, implementation challenges, turnover at the USED, Common Core, and a number of other matters are likely to dominate in the years to come. Most
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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