Governance

When he's good, New York Times education columnist Michael Winerip is very good (see his report on Atlanta cheating).? When he's bad (see here and here or just go to Flypaper's very own Michael Winerip Archive), he's very bad.? The difference between the good and the bad can be easily ? and predictably -- traced to Winerip's inability to match his reportorial skills to his ideological beliefs; the latter seem to completely disarm the former.

In this morning's report, on a New Hampshire school, tellingly headlined ?In a Standardized Era, a Creative School Is Forced to Be More So,? Winerip is at his reportorial worst as he strains to make the point that No Child Left Behind is forcing another great (?creative?) school to ?teach to the test.?? Given that NCLB has become everyone's favorite punching bag of late, Winerip's whines have become something of a yawn.? However, it is instructive to read this piece because it perfectly illustrates the reasons the public is so misinformed about the best education reform efforts: bad reporting.

To start, we need to be aware of what Winerip leaves out, beginning with the facts. How many students go to Oyster River Middle School, the subject of his story? How many are minority, Free and Reduced lunch?? We don't know. Has the school's proficiency rate ? which Winerip says is ?about 85 percent? ? gone up or down?? Which grades does it apply to? Which subjects? We also...

The New York Times editorial page has been a remarkably consistent and clear voice on behalf of smart education reform ? and today it stays the course with a sensible critique of the Harkin-Enzi proposal.? (See also Mike's Just Say No take (?a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas that should alarm folks on the right and the left?) on Harkin-Enzi here; and don't miss the all-day event on 21st century governance on December 1, sponsored by Fordham and the Center for American Progress.)

Advises the Times:? ?go? back to the drawing board.?

The editorial does the requisite bowing and scraping before the flaws in No Child Left Behind, but it does not forget the law's remarkably radical attempt to fix a ?broken American education system: ?forcing schools to be accountable for educating all children.? Yes, folks, teeth can be discomfiting.

The Times supports the Obama Administration waiver plan because it ?would allow states to be rated on student growth? and rightly also requires that waiver applicants ?set goals for all schools and plan for closing achievement gaps.?

The Harkin-Enzi bill ?lowers the bar,? says the Times, and ?backs away from requiring states to have clear student achievement targets for all schools.?

It is past time to fix NCLB; but it is not the time for retreat on the need to raise standards and hold educators accountable for student performance.

--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow...

This Fordham Institute publication—co-authored by President Chester E. Finn Jr. and VP Michael J. Petrilli—pushes folks to think about what comes next in the journey to common education standards and tests. Most states have adopted the “Common Core” English language arts and math standards, and most are also working on common assessments. But…now what? The standards won’t implement themselves, but unless they are adopted in the classroom, nothing much will change. What implementation tasks are most urgent? What should be done across state lines? What should be left to individual states, districts, and private markets? Perhaps most perplexing, who will govern and “own” these standards and tests ten or twenty years from now?

Finn and Petrilli probe these issues in “Now What?” After collecting feedback on some tough questions from two-dozen education leaders (e.g. Jeb Bush, David Driscoll, Rod Paige, Andy Rotherham, Eric Smith), they frame three possible models for governing this implementation process. In the end, as you’ll see, they recommend a step-by-step approach to coordinate implementation of the Common Core. Read on to find out more.

 

 

Responses from several of our contributors:

This Fordham Institute study finds that the typical charter school in America today lacks the autonomy it needs to succeed, once state, authorizer, and other impositions are considered. Though the average state earns an encouraging B+ for the freedom its charter law confers upon schools, individual state grades in this sphere range from A to F. Authorizer contracts add another layer of restrictions that, on average, drop schools' autonomy grade to B-. (Federal policy and other state and local statutes likely push it down further.) School districts are particularly restrictive authorizers. The study was conducted by Public Impact.

*Updated May 2010. This updated edition of Charter School Autonomy: A Half-Broken Promise reflects changes that were made after a few minor sampling errors were found and corrected. The changes did not impact our findings or conclusions, and a complete explanation is included at the end of the report.

I was prepared for a rant against all things reform when I started reading the New York Times Q & A interview with Maria Velez-Clarke, the principal of the Children's Workshop School in Manhattan's East Village, about the school's C-grade from the City.? The school is ?one of several small schools,? said the Times intro, ?started in the 1990s by people who had worked at the widely praised Central Park East School.?

Central Park East?? The school started by Deborah Meier, current scourge of standardized tests, charters, accountability, and just about everything associated with Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein, who initiatiated the school report cards program? ?(See the Bridging Differences blog Meier shares with Diane Ravitch and this wonderful 1994 profile of Meier and her hugely successful Central Park East experiment written by veteran NYC educator Sy Fliegal.)? Children's Workshop offers ballet and yoga, for heaven's sake!

Instead of a progressive principal complaining about Gotham's new accountability system squishing her student's creative impulses, however, we hear an 18-year veteran school leader who was shocked by the C grade the school received in 2010 and determined to do something about it:

I shared it with absolutely no one because it was so devastating to me. I took it home. I sat with my husband and I said, ?My God, do you know what this is going to do to morale?? And he looked at me and he said, ?O.K., you have the weekend: have a pity

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The wonderful hubris of the new National Education Policy Center study on Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice, is not the assertion that discipline data should be an essential metric in gauging a school's success ? which it should ? but that current disciplinary policies and practices are racist. [pullquote]Losen bluntly states, student suspensions ?are significantly influenced by factors other than student misbehavior.?[/pullquote]

The author of the report, Daniel Losen of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, is more diplomatic than that, but he does suggest that many current discipline policies may be ?unlawful? because of their ?disparate impact? on African Americans and the disabled.? And I would have to agree.

In our post-Columbine, zero-tolerance, character-first education world, Losen proposes a radical thesis (that the race of the student counts more than his or her behavior) and mounts a remarkably persuasive argument for doubting that current mainstream beliefs ? and the policy and practices that they have spawned ? about disciplining our students are sustainable. ?In fact, Losen bluntly states, student suspensions ?are significantly influenced by factors other than student misbehavior.?

If that sounds radical, even counterintuitive, read the study.? Among the findings reported here are these:

  • ?School suspensions nationwide have risen steadily since the early 1970s, and racial disparities have grown considerably as well.?
  • ?In 2006, at least one district in each of 46 states imposed long-term suspensions or expulsions on students with disabilities significantly more often than on nondisabled students." [pullquote]Children who
  • ...

I happened on a small story in the Times on Sunday, called ?Deadlines Get Results,? which immediately drew me in, not because deadlines are the bane of a writer's life, which they are, but because the most frustrating part of education governance is the system's resistance to getting things done, including changing.

In fact, the headline over the online version of this story is, appropriately, ?Making Change Happen, on a Deadline.? It is not some kind of generic affection for the status quo that causes entropy.? Not getting things done seems to be an affliction in the very bones of the thing. The drinking fountain that has been broken for two years.? The doors that stay locked despite pleas to open them.? The pothole at the school driveway entry that has been unfilled for more than a year?. The curriculum that remains unwritten?. The test scores that defy change?.? It is true: if you can't fix the little things, your chances of resolving the big problems are slim.

This is not a new subject in education.? See Charles Payne's So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools or Rick Hess's The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday's Ideas.

But Tina Rosenberg's Times story is instructive because it is not about schools or education; it is about construction projects in underdeveloped Africa.? Could have fooled me. This line from the story sure sounded...

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