Posting the Post

Ruth Mitchell has a must-read op-ed in today’s Washington Post on teaching, learning, and standards. It’s overly anecdotal in places (despite plenty of data to support her point) but overall a compelling argument for standards and the tough love of No Child Left Behind for struggling schools.

Jay Mathews writes on teaching about the Brown v. Board anniversary and the 1954 Bolling v. Sharpe case which desegregated public schools in Washington, D.C. His piece is historical, but as Mitchell shows, in many ways we’re still a nation with dual school systems.

Key Mitchell grafs:

The public is largely unaware of the problem. Those who follow education, write editorials and commentaries and make policy were themselves successful students who were in the highest tracks at their high schools, and their children are also successful students enjoying the best and most experienced teachers, because they’re in the AP and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. Legislators and policymakers tend to come from a social class in which people not only have benefited from good teachers but also have fond memories of a particular teacher or teachers who turned them on to the pleasures of poetry or the intricacies of DNA.

Students in the schools we visit are not turned on. Black, brown, speaking broken or accented English, with cultural values clashing with those of the white middle class, they are seen as needing elementary instruction in secondary school; as capable only of drawing and coloring; as in need of discipline rather than encouragement. They are asked to make acrostics in middle school social studies; to write eight sentences in high school English class; and to fill out endless worksheets in math class.

Teachers say they have to teach the students where they are, which means at sixth-grade level in high school if they can’t read well. Their attitude may be compassionate, but it is misguided.

Well said. Except it’s not obvious the public is unaware of the problem. The continuing support for No Child Left Behind despite the mobilization and P.R. campaign against it is one indicator. Majority support for vouchers among African-Americans is an ominous sign too.

Ticking Away the Moments that Make Up the Dull Day

Denis Doyle tells the Los Angeles Times that social promotion is yesterday’s fight. Today it’s about rethinking how we use time and group children he says. He’s right. But local efforts to do this tend to make a lot of parents berserk.

Afterthought: It seems that almost every issue is yesterday’s fight, it’s a convenient lede and good rhetorical opener. But if it’s true, then why all the disagreement today?

Bonus afterthought: How do those formidable Fins organize time in their schools? Aha! The New York Times sheds some light in yet another pro-Fin story.

Finland Rising!

Is it just us or have a spate of news stories lauded how wonderful the schools in Finland are? It’s almost like the Finnish government sponsored a junket there for education reporters or is waging some sort of P.R. campaign….

NRO: Kerry College Plan to Undermine the Republic!

We knew the stakes were high in the coming election but had no idea just what was at stake. Writing on National Review Online William Dennis says that Senator Kerry’s college aid plan is not only bad policy but “harmful to a free society”!!!

The Kerry camp can probably rest easy on this one. If the freshest criticism of Kerry’s plan to link some college aid to national service is a tired rehash of the old arguments against national service, then they’re in pretty good shape on this issue.

PS–Dennis isn’t completely wrong. We still don’t know enough about the interaction between college aid and institutional behavior, and it may well exert a negative influence. But, while researchers and analysts sort that out it’s OK to advance policies expanding access to higher education.