Be Careful What You Wish For…And, Something To Wish For…

Over at The Chalkboard, Joe Williams notes a burgeoning idea at Columbia’s Teachers College to develop more comprehensive measures of school accountability. Whoa…as they say up on Blogback Mountain: That one’s got no reins. That’s because the more aspects of schooling that policymakers seek to measure the more things become standardized and geared toward a lowest-common denominator. That in education we’re pretty bad at distilling things and instead tend toward an expansionist approach to decision-making only exacerbates this problem. And, many of the things most people want schools to do like teaching civic-mindedness, tolerance of others, etc…are pretty hard to measure. Isn’t the more productive marriage there to…drum roll please…marry essential things like math and reading with a high degree of parental preference among various public educational options?

Nonetheless, with or without a more public market for schools, more reporting on indicators of school quality would be great. NCLB flirts in this direction but doesn’t do enough even if it were being vigorously enforced. Accurate measures of intra-school district finance, teacher quality (not BS indicators like certification but measures/characteristics actually linked to student learning) (pdf), and student course taking and curricular patterns would be wonderfully useful to parents, policymakers, and the media. More real time performance information would be great, too, and can be had with technologies that exist today. But hard to see those sorts of things catching on anytime soon among a lot of the usual suspects.

Meet The New Boss: Also, speaking of Teachers College, they’re in the market for a new president. Doesn’t this seem like a great opportunity to really bring in someone dynamic who can work to put an academic institution like TC on the front burner of educational debates as well as tend to the traditional academic responsibilities? There are some really great people there now and some exciting projects (Hechinger Institute, current TC President Levine’s ideas on reform, etc…) but Eduwonk’s not giving away any trade secrets when he points out that TC (and other big name ed schools) aren’t exactly in the mix on a lot of stuff that’s happening in education today. TC’s not even engaged on some of the most exciting stuff even in New York City. Let’s hope they cast a wide net beyond folks in traditional academic jobs today. Here are three names that Eduwonk thinks should be in the mix because they could take things to the next level: Jane Hannaway, Kim Smith, Eva Moskowitz.

Afterthought: Schools of Ed are teetering on the edge of becoming completely irrelevant except to the extent they survive by regulatory capture at the state level. Regardless of what one thinks of Ed Schools today, this isn’t good for the profession. Doesn’t TC have a chance to help change that by breaking the mold with a bold pick for their next president? The signaling effect would be important and it would be good for the institution. Conversely, going with one of the usual suspects and turning the place into a bunker for the dead-enders seems guaranteed not only to be bad for TC but bad for Ed Schools overall.

Update: Jenny D. weighs-in.

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