Rick Hess Not Feeling “Emotionally Safe” about Admin Proposal

I don’t know exactly what it is about the Obama administration that seems to send the normally clear-eyed Rick Hess into tinfoil hat territory. This week, Rick reads an interview with Safe and Drug-Free Schools head Kevin Jennings and concludes the Common Core standards effort is a “Trojan Horse” for “social agendas.”

To be fair to Rick, some of the comments from Jennings–who has a history of saying things that might be better left unsaid–are a bit inartful and confusing. But, if you read the entire interview, Jennings appears to be talking about replacing ESEA’s current definition of “persistently dangerous schools,” (which basically allows states to set their own standards so lax they claim no persistently unsafe schools) with a common definition across states that would look beyond whether or not students in the school had been victims of violent incidents at school to include other indicators from student, faculty, and parent surveys. That sounds pretty tame.

While I don’t share Rick’s paranoia here, I’m still skeptical of this endeavor. The “persistently dangerous school” thing was always a bit of a gimmick, and the federal role in “Safe and Drug Free Schools” has never been very effective. I’d rather just see the feds get out of that particular business altogether, and instead beef up funding for programs at HHS and NIH that deal with youth mental health and substance abuse. I also think there are reasons to be concerned that inclusion of “school climate” surveys in ESEA’s accountability mechanism could water down accountability for academic outcomes. We can already see the emerging push to replace AYP with more “comprehensive” accountability systems based on”opportunity to learn” and  “multiple measures” that throw in everything including the kitchen sink and would allow student academic outcomes to get lost in the shuffle.

–Sara Mead

2 Replies to “Rick Hess Not Feeling “Emotionally Safe” about Admin Proposal”

  1. Inputs have gotten lost in the shuffle. Im working on a report for our legislature right now that shows that schools serving poor students either don’t get their share in terms of either dollars or well-prepared, well-qualified teachers and administrators who remain at a school for any extended period of time. I guess its just better to use the hammer of accountability and cherry-picking the 10 schools across the country that beat the odds rather than looking systemically at how the focus on outputs has blinded us to the savage inequalities that still exist.

  2. I’d say safety is a critical standard and usually is number ONE on parent’s list of what matters. Would any of you send your kids to a school that’s not considered “safe”. Of course, it’s as hard to define as anything else of importance and can’t be measured by a test. If we must judge–and probably we must–then we have no choice but to concern ourselves with plain ordinary safety at school. Ate the adults aware o whether the kids are safe and do they do something about it that makes it safe??? Come on, Sara, it’s probably one of the biggest reasons many flee public schools.

    Deborah Meier

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