Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Joe in Cleveland

People often joke that they think there's more than one of me, but I think Joe Williams has surpassed me – he's EVERYWHERE!

City Club speaker says time is right for school reform in Cleveland

By Thomas Ott, The Plain Dealer

May 29, 2010, 10:00AM


CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Conditions are right to radically change the way schools do business, but proponents better act quickly or public attention will fade, says Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform.

Williams covered a variety of hot topics in a speech Friday at a City Club forum. He pushed for merit pay, tougher evaluation of teachers and for challenging his party's historically close relationship with teachers unions.

Change is possible because a rising generation of reformers are fed up with public schools' failures and have declared "enough is enough," said Williams, an author and former education writer for the New York Daily News and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He said President Barack Obama and other Democrats have to continue confronting teachers unions, traditionally their supporters.

Backing also comes from foundations, charter schools and new alliances like Hispanic women who want safer schools for their children, Williams said. But he estimates that what he calls a "revolution" has only about three years to take hold before public attention moves on to other issues.

"We may not have a very long window," he said. "The burden is on us to make the most of this transformation."

Williams called for tougher evaluation of teachers and higher salaries for those who perform best.

Antonio James, one of several students from Cleveland's Glenville High School who were in the audience, asked Williams why bad teachers had been allowed to get by until recently without serious criticism. James, a junior, said afterward that most of his teachers work hard, but "some are just there."

Williams said no one wanted to take on the thorny problem until now.

"I think we've just got people who have more guts and are saying, 'Enough is enough,' " Williams replied.

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