"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, February 24, 2012

Duncan's Problems

The US Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan, has a new public relations program to "improve the teaching profession". Anthony Cody at his blog, Living in Dialogue, has brought us a report on the program.
For the past two years, the Department of Education policies have been roundly criticized by teachers. The latest response from Arne Duncan is a big public relations push bearing the title RESPECT -- Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching.

In his speech launching the project last week, Secretary Duncan laid out what he feels are the problems afflicting the teaching profession.

The Department has solutions to each of these problems - but they often have pursued policies that actually make things worse. Here are the problems, and the solutions the Department of Ed has offered -- many of which are mandatory if states wish to qualify for Race to the Top or escape the ravages of NCLB...
Problems 1 and 2, according to Duncan are focused on teacher training. Too many teachers are unprepared when they get to the classroom. The Ed Secretary's solution is to...
Evaluate schools of education based on the test scores of the teachers they graduate...All schools of education will feel significant pressure to prepare their teachers to focus on test scores.
Continue to support programs such as Teach For America, which places novice teachers in the most challenging classrooms with only five weeks of training.
It's clear that in Duncan's mind "Recognizing Educational Success" means focusing on test scores. "Professional Excellence" means teaching to the test.

The list continues with problems and solutions offered by the US DOE which only make the problems worse.

Problem: Teachers don't have enough time to be successful...and they're under pressure to raise test scores.

The US DOE promotes evaluations based on test scores and closing of "failing" schools or conversion to charters.

Problem: Principals don't know how to attract and keep high quality teachers.

The US DOE requires states to dictate to principals how teachers must be evaluated.

Problem: High performing nations have high requirements for those wanting to become educators. In the US we "allow anyone to teach" and they are often poorly trained.

The US DOE promotes Teach for America, where poorly trained college graduates are often given preferential treatment in hiring over degreed teacher candidates.

Problem: "Here in the U.S., evaluation is too often tied only to test scores, which makes no sense whatsoever."

has required that states mandate the use of test scores in teacher evaluations as a condition of NCLB waivers.
In case after case, the solutions are exacerbated by the hypocrisy and/or incompetence of the US Department of Education.

In anticipation of the response by "reformers" that he is just complaining with no real suggestions for solutions, Cody presents a report he helped write a year and a half ago called, A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom: New Report Takes on Evaluation
So much of our school reform dialogue has been poisoned by the assumption that unions (and teachers, by extension) are implacable foes of accountability in any form. What we learned through this process is that most of us already hold ourselves to high levels of accountability, and would encourage evaluation systems that provide us with good feedback and opportunities for growth. This report gives vivid details showing how this might look.
Here's one more problem and solution...

Problem: The US DOE is acting against the interests of public schools and public education.

Solution: Appoint a Secretary of Education who actually knows something about public education and convince the President that all children deserve a school where students are offered...
...a rich and rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum designed to stimulate creative inquiry, intellectual achievement and independent thinking in a world increasingly without borders.
...a school which seeks to be a place...
that nurtures a genuine love of learning and teaches students "to let their lives speak."
Instead of squandering our resources on more and more tests which destroy the love of learning, we should strive to make schools as good as the school that the President chooses for his own children.

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