Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bill Bradley on education

Joel Klein highly recommended what Bill Bradley had to say about education reform in his latest book, The New American Story, so I bought it and liked what I read.
I have some quibbles, but he clearly understands the crisis ("...in our major cities...public education is a disaster.  Fifteen million American children are trapped in mostly segregated, abysmally performing urban schools.") and the reasons for it: big, bloated, unaccountable bureaucracies; shackled, unaccountable principals; increasing low-quality teachers with all the wrong incentives (no reward for excellent performance and no penalty for lousy performance and absenteeism); and ever-shorter school years, among other reasons.
Among his solutions:
-- national standards
-- better, differential teacher pay ("Teacher salaries should be as much as doubled and allocated based on student performance...Math and science teachers should be paid even more...The federal government should subsidize teacher salaries for the biggest urban and poorest rural and suburban systems...Instead of attracting the least competent and most inexperienced teachers to these inner-city districts, it should be national policy to attract the best teachers there by paying them bonuses that could double their salaries and maybe even offer housing allowances.")
-- empowering principals and then holding them accountable
-- extended school day and year
-- mayoral control of schools
-- public school choice ("we will need to give parents a choice of public schools")
-- fair student funding ("We will need to give every child a per capita amount of education funding, which travels with him or her to the public school of choice and which, when it arrives, becomes money for the principal to spend in whatever way he or she chooses that will improve the school, including security."); and
-- charter schools ("We also need the elimination of federal barriers to the establishment of charter schools..." (though I'm not sure what he means -- the barriers to charter schools are not federal, but state and local)).

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