Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why the education reform movement is in trouble

Richard Whitmire, author of The Bee Eater, thinks education reform is in trouble.  I don't think so (in part for reasons RiShawn Biddle outlines below), but he makes some points:

Based on recent headlines, this would appear to be a glorious year for education reform. After years of wheel-spinning debates, governors in states such as Florida, Connecticut, Indiana and Ohio are blazing fast tracks trying to turn around troubled school districts.

To ensure the best new teachers are those who stay in teaching, governors are redefining tenure. To rid schools of truly awful teachers, they are imposing realistic teacher evaluation systems. And when those evaluation systems uncover truly effective teachers, they propose to reward them with higher salaries. Heady stuff, right?

That's not how I see it. My sense is that the school reform movement — roughly defined as those who believe that schools alone can make a dent in the seemingly intractable problems arising from the confluence of race and poverty — is headed toward a major beat-down.

Why the pessimism? I'm watching Ohio Gov. John Kasich make one of the most boneheaded moves I can imagine, trying to solve his budget problem by trimming back union collective bargaining privileges while simultaneously imposing school reforms.

…This new education/political chemistry has bubbled up to the White House. Although President Obama started off in a promising reform direction — Secretary Arne Duncan's Race to the Top carrot incentives are the best federal reforms we've ever seen out of Washington — Obama himself recently retrenched.

Testing is "boring" and needs to be cut back, Obama declared at a town hall meeting in Washington late last month. Interesting timing the president chose to shoot his own school reforms in the foot — just as a newly energized, anti-testing labor movement, enraged by the Wisconsin challenges to collective bargaining, promises to play a major role in the next presidential election.


Why the education reform movement is in trouble


By Richard Whitmire, The Daily Caller, 4/19/11

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