Friday, September 20, 2013

“Can We Get a Real Dialogue Going” about closing schools, teacher evaluations, common core assessments, charter schools…? by Anthony Cody


“…Here are some of the issues and independent experts that ought to be featured in a real dialogue:

“Is closing schools in African American and Latino neighborhoods the path to success? This should include representatives from these communities who can speak about what is happening there. From Chicago, student Asean Johnson, community leaders like Jitu Brown, union leaders like Karen Lewis. Parents, students and educators from Philadelphia, where the governor has cut $1 billion from the schools.

“What is happening to teacher evaluations when they are tied to test scores? How are the systems put in place as a result of Race to the Top working out in places like Hillsborough, Florida, Memphis, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? How about having Linda Darling-Hammond report on
her research. Have teachers speak about their experiences
?

“What can we expect from Common Core assessments? Teachers, students and principals from New York should be heard from. The researchers at FairTest have been
studying the new Common Core tests, and could share their views. Carol Burris, New York's principal of the year, would be a great choice or Peter DeWitt
, another great principal from New York.

“Should special education students be required to take the same standardized tests as others, as Secretary Duncan insists? Should their schools and teachers be evaluated based on their scores?

“What is happening to Early Childhood education? What do the Common Core standards and associated curriculum and tests expect of young children?
Nancy Carlsson-Paige could offer some insights, along with kindergarten and first grade teachers who have been implementing the new programs.

“Online Schooling: Innovation or Money Pit? Take a closer look at the virtual charters that are receiving thousands of dollars per student in public funds. Are they delivering results? Interview Gary Miron, who has done the research to find out.

“Challenges for Charters: Are they delivering on their promise? What is the story with attrition and selective admissions? Researchers
Julian Vasquez-Heilig, and Bruce Baker could offer some insights on the results they are seeing.

“The School to Prison pipeline: Are schools with "zero-tolerance" discipline policies putting students in jeopardy with the criminal justice system? What is the effect of exit exams and other high stakes tests? What are the alternatives to suspension being explored in some systems?

“A critical look at Teach for America as it enters its 23rd year: This summer a
debate opened up within the organization - let's hear from Gary Rubinstein
and some of the alumni of the program, as well as researchers who can tease apart the effects of teacher turnover and attrition and the impact of alternative entry programs like TFA.

“Veteran teachers: Treasures or Liabilities?
This recent
post by Steven Singiser reveals that in many schools, teacher turnover is actually seen as a positive thing, and veteran teachers are viewed with suspicion. Is the veteran teacher a treasured source of expertise or an expensive albatross?

“I would not expect the individuals I mentioned to be the only voices heard. NBC News has promised a dialogue, and that is what we should have. The Department of Education should be represented, as should the Gates Foundation and the many organizations they sponsor. A panel about the challenges facing Teach for America should include that organization's leaders and corps members. Discussions of school closures in Chicago should include representatives of Rahm Emanuel. The debate over the Common Core should include supporters as well as critics.

“Education Nation is a magnificent concept, and always has been. But so long as the very FACTS that guide the discussions are drawn from the Gates Foundation, and Gates grant recipients are the chief experts featured, we do not have a true dialogue, a real debate about the future of education in America. We have instead a showcase for test-driven school reform, with some cameo appearances by real educators who sometimes are allowed to strike a note of skepticism…”


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