Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Today's Random Thoughts

-19 states were named finalists in the "Scramble furiously for cash that amounts about a 1% boost in your state's education budget" competition . . . in related news, I remain skeptical about the impact of the monies (but not about the impact of the chase for the monies)

-Speaking of reforms that won't do as much on the ground as policy wonks would like to believe, the adoption of common core standards has been getting a lot of attention.  If we insist on having test-based accountability, I think national standards are an absolute must -- but that hardly means they'll fix everything.  Alexander Hoffman writes that they're "still crap".  I don't know that I'd go that far, but I did notice during the transition from teaching to research that researchers tended to pay a lot more attention to standards than did teachers with whom I worked.

-I can't help but notice a theme running through virtually every complaint I hear from teachers I know: principals treat them like idiots (which very much jibes with my experience).  Ms. Mimi wonders which came first: unprofessional teachers, or teachers being treated unprofessionally?  Education policy has veered pretty far into "blame the teachers for everything" territory recently, and I wonder if that's making principals any more likely to run their schools with the same attitude.

-Newsweek has an article about a "creativity crisis" in America's schools.  Fordham's response is to call for a "basic liberal arts education for all children."  I'm all for the latter, but I'm not sure I understand why that's the solution to a focus on test prep and decline in creative thinking.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Today's Random Thoughts

-I hadn't heard Michelle Rhee's name in the news in a while . . . and then she went and fired 241 teachers.  More significant is that 3x as many are in line to be fired next year given their current ratings . . . meaning fully one-quarter of DC teachers could be dismissed in a two year period.  I'm all for ensuring that our students have the best possible teachers, so I hope she has replacements lined up if she sees this through to the end.

-One of the defining issues in education in the 21st century has been the unintended consequences of NCLB -- most notably, the gaming of the testing system by state education departments.  I've argued before that the only way to have NCLB-style accountability is to have national standards and a national test (many have said either is unlikely, but I think it's less likely that accountability testing will end in the next 10 years).  And the tides may be shifting: during my hiatus I completely missed that a majority of states have now signed on to national standards.  And at least New York and Tennessee have announced that their tests will be harder, and scores lower, this year.

-While high-poverty, urban schools double down on extended school days, extended school years, "no excuses" environments, after-school/Saturday test prep, etc. parents in wealthy suburban districts like Tennessee's Williamson County are trying to reduce the burden on their children by limiting the amount of homework they can receive and how much that work can be worth.