Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The hype, the reality

Two columns from The Education Gadfly and Andy Rotherham on the new union contract in Detroit, at the worst school system in America.  Here's the Gadfly:

Bobb can fairly argue that this contract lays a sort of foundation for more radical personnel changes, with a new teacher review process and new forms of school management being instituted. Yet there, too, he was unable to achieve his foremost goal: tackling tenure. The National Council on Teacher Quality called the changes "largely incremental" (though still "substantial," given "Detroit's historically unreasonable teachers"). So it's far from clear that he and his principals will have the tools necessary to have any significant impact on the makeup of Detroit's teachers. It's a double shame he couldn't use the threat of bankruptcy to come closer to this goal, either.

This new contract is hardly the radical restructuring needed by a system so close to crashing and only in public education would it be considered the least bit bold. It may seem that both sides can proclaim some measure of success from these negotiations, but the main "success" was that they compromised at all; Motown's students are certainly no better off.


The hype, the reality


Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert C. Bobb has garnered much national publicity as he struggles to save what is arguably the most troubled big-city school system in America from both financial bankruptcy and academic ruin. As his first year of this struggle ends--he was just granted a second term, through February 2011--Bobb has made some promising strides. As John Merrow reported in October, he has been doggedly rooting out waste, inefficiency, and even fraud while chipping away at the $306 million deficit he inherited. Bobb says they've saved tens of millions by making changes in health care and transportation, for example, and the Detroit News recently pegged the deficit at a slightly less-daunting $219 million.

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