What Accountability? Education As A Palliative Treatment. Check Out These Guns! And Is The NEA Out Of Step With The Public, Or Just With Charlie Barone? Sara Mead’s Office Smells Like Rich Mahogany!

It’s been busy the past few weeks, more fish pics than content. But a lot happening!

In D.C.’s elite education community there is this idea that there is a firewall between guns and schools. In practice there is all kinds of overlap. Students bring firearms in cars to school parking lots during hunting season, schools offer shooting or firearm safety, and as Bloomberg reports trap is a popular sport in some parts of the country.

I don’t agree with everything in this column but this is an astute observation – what she’s getting at is the capacity problem that was minimized at the time:

This was the original sin of ed reform: Ordering all of those tests without anticipating that some schools — due to a lack of creativity or a surplus of fear — would take test prep to extremes.

During the Senate debate on the ESEA – NCLB overhaul bill this week Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) said this:

“I run into people periodically who say to me that you can’t fix it unless you fix poverty. You can’t fix the education system unless you fix poverty. Don’t tell kids in my city who are living in poverty that that is true. Outside of every one of our schools it says “school.” It doesn’t say “orphanage.” It says “school.” We need to make sure every one of those schools is delivering for every kid in our community, no matter where they come from. Otherwise, what is left of us? What is left of this land of opportunity?”

“Before No Child Left Behind existed, we had an impression, a vague sense of the inequities in our educational system. Now we understand how deep they are, how rooted they are, and we have to continue to build on the successes we have seen in high-quality schools working in poor neighborhoods that have actually delivered for kids all over the country.”

More please. Among the other unspoken divides in our debate about school is the one between those who see education as a powerful lever for social mobility and those who frankly see it as a palliative experience for kids.

Charlie Barone says the NEA is out of step with the public. I’m not so sure, they may just be out of step with Charlie and his ilk (I’m one of that ilk). The politics of education are fluid right now and the teachers unions are better at politics than the reformers – at least in the short run. Longer term they’re probably check mated. Great tactics, lousy strategy and all that.

But, something I am more sure of is that two big fallacies around the NCLB /ESEA bill are the idea that NCLB still exists and the idea that we’ve had too much accountability. On the former, NCLB was done the moment Secretary Duncan started issuing waivers. Reasonable people can disagree about whether that’s good or bad but it means Congress is reauthorizing a law that is really no longer operational in practice.

And while there was a lot of talk about accountability in practice NCLB ending up being a compliance law. So I get the compliance fatigue, it’s been messy. But the idea that there has been a lot of “accountability” in the common usage of that term isn’t borne out by the facts of how the law was both written and implemented. Start with the dreaded school turnarounds – most places took the easy non-consequential way out. Senator Bennet is right that NCLB has shined a harsh light. But it’s entirely possible what that light showed scared people as much as spurred them to action…hence the retreat that is on now. The people who really bear the accountability are the kids – there are real stakes for them.

A lot of great NCLB/ESEA content on Ahead of the Heard about the substance and the politics of all this.  And writing in USN Sara Mead says the new Head Start regulations are like this.

Productivity in the D.C. office of Bellwether is about to tank.

13 thoughts on “What Accountability? Education As A Palliative Treatment. Check Out These Guns! And Is The NEA Out Of Step With The Public, Or Just With Charlie Barone? Sara Mead’s Office Smells Like Rich Mahogany!

  1. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    When people of your “ilk” start teaching in our public schools, perhaps we’ll start to see significant progress. Until then, let’s honor and support the people who serve the nation’s children.

    The biggest obstacle to quality education in our country might be the pervasive attitude among the elites that teaching children is not a worthwhile or noble profession. For many years this attitude was safely hidden from view, but now it’s so out in the open that even the children of the non-elites don’t want to be k-12 teachers. The consequences of these pernicious attitudes will soon be felt across the nation, and especially in schools for the poor. Shame on the “reformers” who helped bring this about.

  2. David Triche

    “You can’t fix the education system unless you fix poverty.” Certainly there is a middle ground. Making progress on poverty would certainly help making progress in education. I have had many good students who just could not afford to go to college and were force to take jobs way below their ability because of poverty. We can fix that.

  3. Kathleen Smith

    I couldn’t agree more with Senator Bennett. I hope that the reauthorization doesn’t compromise accountability for some fluffy do nothing words that make it appear we are serving students in poverty, but in essence, we are not. Senator Bennett is correct, schools are schools, not orphanages. Education is a morale imperative for wiping out poverty. One can’t do anything about poverty until the system education is finally fixed. It needs significant overhauling and has needed this since the end of the industrial revolution. We haven’t had enough accountability. Every time a spotlight is shined on a negative, we change the accountability system to ensure the view is positive. If schools were doing what they should be doing in high-poverty areas (rural or urban), we wouldn’t need an overhaul.

  4. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    In the United States, education is by zip code and has been so for many years. If you doubt this, just visit the schools in Palos Verdes, CA and contrast them with the schools in nearby Los Angeles. It will make you cry. One of the worst abuses has been to place the least experienced teachers in these schools populated by mainly poor children.

    Yes, there needs to be ACCOUNTABILITY for these shameful abuses and I predict that the courts will provide it in the near future.

  5. PhillipMarlowe

    “I run into people periodically who say to me that you can’t fix it unless you fix poverty. You can’t fix the education system unless you fix poverty.
    I dare sen Bennett or mr Rotherham to name names.

  6. PhillipMarlowe

    “I run into people periodically who say to me that you can’t fix it unless you fix poverty. You can’t fix the education system unless you fix poverty.
    I dare Sen Bennett or Mr Rotherham to name names.

    http://tinyurl.com/ohm8ztb

  7. Kathleen Smith

    Educational parity between the haves and have nots will fix poverty. Segregated education will not. Fix the system by providing a paradigm shift in how we do education, not by reauthorizing a bill that promotes the same system that has not worked for the poor for over a century.

  8. Linda/RetiredTeacher

    Yes, educational parity (formal: school; informal: home, out of school) will go a long way in decreasing poverty. Educators have been fighting for this for many years.

  9. bill jones

    To Rotherham;

    1. Take charter school teacher fishing. Or is their job such a nasty one that they cannot be broken free for even half a day at a local lake? THAT could perhaps sell others on your baseless assertion that folks just want to help other people.

    2. You have miserably and embarrassingly failed to address the REAL issue in education: The folks you desperately need to teach will NOT. You do not need folks to teach for whom the job is a step up. You do not need the Walmart door greeters, or the Perdue chicken slaughter house workers, or the long haul truck driver. You need those for whom the job is a profound step down. For those who have really nice jobs with good remuneration and respect. In fact, you DESPERATELY need those folks who are more talented than anyone at Bellwether.

    3. You cannot find them. The idea that talented folks will just drop everything and pretty much give up their lives for a historically rotten job is nonsense. It has to be the water that the Progressives are drinking: They expect everyone else to just give it up, end their lives, and step into a classroom, out of some weird moral sense of duty.

    4. You guys expect others to submit to your policies, your edicts, and your life changing recommendations. Why should they? Heck, they OUTRANK you in the pecking order of this nation. They do, indirectly, tell YOU what to do.

    NOTHING will cure the real challenge in education: The best and brightest in front of the worst and most challenged. To prove my point: Every time a president talks about the Teacher of the Year, it is always about how much they care. Never a mention of what they have done, or how they have improved a child’s test scores, or how they have made those children, all of them, into successes. It appears the best we can hope for is this: DO NOT HARM.

    I do not think paying these extremely talented folks MORE than what they make in the present jobs would work.

    Teaching is a LIFE DENYING profession. It is an empty vessel.

    Talk and write all you like. At the very core of your arguments and career are two fundamental intellectual flaws:

    1. All children can learn rigorous scientific material to the same high standards and achievement levels.

    2. Smart people will engage in acts of self sacrifice for folks they do not even know.

    With the Iran debacle, and the pressing need for the USA to think about alliances and the return of MAD, I think the education policy debate IS DEAD.

    What is your new line of work. Working as fly fishing guide?

  10. David Triche

    Tell us a little about yourself…..You sound kind of bitter, although you do make some good points.

  11. Kathleen Smith

    Bitter??? I have to agree. The point made that I agree with is that we are not going to find teachers standing in line for a job in a low performing and high poverty school. On the other hand, Teach for America is consistently slammed by teacher organizations for trying to find teachers who will do just that. We do need to put the best in front of kids. Maybe less should go to turnaround partners and more to teachers as an incentive to do the work. Reallocate the resources to what matters most.

  12. PhillipMarlowe

    This was the original sin of ed reform: Ordering all of those tests without anticipating that some schools — due to a lack of creativity or a surplus of fear — would take test prep to extremes.

    A sin that could have been easily avoided by speaking to teachers.
    But no.
    Wendy Kopp and Mr Rotherham and the likes have pushed the narrative, as accurately described by a teacher’s quote in the UMBC report on Edison in Baltimore (under which Michelle Rhee performed her miracle). The teacher said the TFAers acted and spoke as though the teachers were part of a conspiracy to keep kids dumb and uneducated.
    That from 20 years ago.
    Go find that teacher.
    She/he could tell us more that Kopp, Rhee, Rotherham et. al.

  13. Kathleen Smith

    Again, reallocate the resources to what matters most. We wouldn’t need TFA if we had a great bench to choose from and we don’t. Teachers are not there and they are not there in great numbers. We have to change the expectations of the profession and seek to find the best. This is parity. Unrealistic without a paradigm shift in what we ask teachers in highly challenged to do for the compensation, not just pay but support, that they receive.

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