I’ll be offline this week but proven guestblogger and MATCH school founder Michael Goldstein will hold things down here. Enjoy.
And, here’s a little blast from the past with a contemporary angle to read this week: National standards, the early ’90s version (pdf).
Meanwhile, don’t miss David Harris in Indy Star columnist Mathew Tully’s Sunday column. This Sherman Dorn post raises an issue in the same vein: Is the disruptive strategy for school reform really viable or is the fundamental issue here so political that sooner or later there will have to be a political resolution with all the contention that entails? In other words, on a weekly basis you hear ideas from technology to educator recruitment schemes that will allegedly have such a subtle disruptive effect that the system will radically change without ever knowing what hit it. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe, but remain pretty skeptical given the history and some relatively unique characteristics of the education sector. That doesn’t mean the new Terry Moe and John Chubb book is not interesting reading on this score as far as technology is concerned, it’s a more political take on the standard argument. Rather, that despite all that we may well be waiting in vain for these various dynamics to genuinely solve today’s political problem for us.
Since nudging is becoming popular in policy circles it seems plausible there will be a debate about whether we can nudge our way to better public schools. And some “nudge theory” can certainly help, especially in concert with the choice culture that the new generation of public school parents takes for granted. Still, overall we’re talking about one hell of a nudge given today’s state of affairs. There is little doubt where Joel Klein comes down in all this. He lays out his view in a USN op-ed (and don’t miss the inside baseball of the last graf). Klein’s EEP project is also organizing a rally in Washington on May 16th.
This LA Times story about firing teachers and this St. Pete Times one that preceded it are going to cause a lot of chatter and are at one level shocking. And perhaps the days of “tenure” are numbered. But American education’s problem is far less observably bad teachers, who thankfully are a small minority, than un-observably ineffective ones, something that we really can’t quantify because so little systemic attention has been paid to human capital for so long. In other words, these stories get headlines and hardly bolster confidence but the larger issue is classrooms where students just aren’t learning much. Addressing that is more complicated as a substantive matter and as a political one but likely a lot more powerful in terms of impact on student outcomes.
Finally, here’s a debate on “merit pay” from PBS. It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t a broader discussion of differentiating pay and not only pay for performance, still interesting. Also, is it rude to point out that if the AMA abused evidence the way the NEA does it would be a front page scandal? They’d be touting the healing properties of leeches with a straight face…