Friday, March 19, 2010

Does Obama's Education Plan Make the Grade?

Bloomberg and Klein with an opinion piece in Time on the Obama admin's first cut at fixing NCLB:

On the basis of what we know has worked in New York City with our 1.1 million schoolkids, we'd give Obama's plan a solid B — a great start, but it could use a little improvement.

…the President must go even further. Our schools still offer teachers lifetime job protection, predominantly lockstep pay systems and seniority rules that reward longevity, not excellence. Our budget hole in New York is so big that we'll probably have to lay off teachers later this year. You know who will be the first to go? Thousands of energetic new teachers — simply because they were the last people hired. Sure, experience matters. But so do skill and energy. We must be able to make staffing decisions based on performance, not just time served. This President has shown an unprecedented willingness to challenge the powerful teachers' unions, but unless we finally eradicate these anachronistic employment rules, we'll continue to define reform as good intentions, extra dollars and insufficient results.

The plan also needs to be more explicit about what should happen to persistently failing schools. While the $4 billion federal Race to the Top competition, which began in 2009, gives states incentives to close schools after all other strategies to improve achievement have failed, Obama's new proposal is more ambiguous. It will permit states to shy away from making these tough choices — even though replacing failing schools can transform entire districts. In New York City, we've phased out more than 90 schools during the past seven years; these decisions haven't been politically popular, but the schools that replaced them have dramatically higher graduation rates than their predecessors.

We must not waste this historic opportunity to make lasting change. Several states have already rushed to implement some of the President's ideas, and we're confident that promoting some even bolder ones in this new plan would push even more states to act. If that happens, we have a real shot at moving public education into this century, improving opportunities for our highest-need kids and putting our nation back on top.


Does Obama's Education Plan Make the Grade?

By Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein Thursday, Mar. 18, 2010,8599,1972996,00.html#ixzz0iXABQNcY

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