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Time’s up? Where’s the GOP plan? July 27, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Education, Politics.
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Not too much has been said lately — at least in a prominent place — about public education reform, an area where the Obama administration agrees in large part with many of the voices within the GOP and otherwise on a conservative side of the equation. On things like linking teacher pay to student performance, coming down hard on chronically failing schools — even to the point of replacing the entire staff as Obama supported in Rhode Island — bolstering charter schools (as long as they also measure up), establishing national standards for basics like reading and math and using incentives to motivate adoption of methods that are proven to work.

Many of these notions long have been opposed by teacher unions, particularly by elements rooted in inner cities where failure today is all too common — some of it for very good societal reasons and some of it because of entrenched incompetence. The President has tried to lead on this matter, expending political capital on a course not all that popular with some core elements in his own party.

I’m not sure I buy into all his folks are proposing.  But if there ever were an area where a majority in Congress should have materialized by now, it’s here. Yet, we get this from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn: “I’d say time is up. I don’t see it happening.”

Even though vast momentum is building in more than half the states for reforms that might actually move to change things in one of the most vitally important realms.

Time’s up, the “loyal” opposition says  — on July 27 — because — why?

Because it’s time for the party to do nothing constructive. It’s time to go tell the voters they would be better off turning control of the Congress over to the GOP. Time’s up because the GOP wants no progress toward solving any of the important problems of today — like failing schools — that might be interpreted in any way as a “Democratic” accomplishment.

Instead, we need to wait another year for their plan, which is — what?

If we don’t ask Sen. Alexander and any and all others waving the Red banner in the next few months, we’re gonna get a surprise. Could be good. Could be bad, just as is the case with any blank check


I’m left wondering … May 16, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Education, Obama, Politics.
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… exactly what the point  of all the high drama was in this school in Rhode Island where the boss opted for the plan firing all the teachers to institute reform. Now, the teachers’ union has caved, accepts the plan for a longer school day, more tutoring and other stuff that, quite frankly, sounds awfully thin. Seems the teachers wanted 3 times what the district was willing to pay for extra hours devoted to duty.

So was it, after all, just about money?

The story notes that 700 people had applied for the suddenly vacant jobs, which the bounced staff also had the ability to take a shot at. While I’m generally a labor guy, this strikes me somehow as a lost opportunity, as there just might have been a bunch of people in that line of 700 who could have made a difference — not just in this school, but, by a powerful example, in a lot of other places.

And I also am a big teacher fan generally, knowing from my childhood as the son of a teacher just how tough and time-consuming the job is if the teacher is doing more than punching the clock. And if you’ll recall, this was a school where just 7% of the 11th grade students could pass the math test. And that’s 11th grade — a point at which you can be sure a slew of the more general failures had already cashed and fled to the streets. A wholesale experiment would not have been a big risk of tossing the baby with the bath.

I dunno. What happens in the classroom is but 30% of the learning process, they say — and  think they’re right. We’ve got to ratchet up what happens there, and figure out better what works better there. But my appetite is very limited for education reform as it is pitched today, because it rarely ventures very far from the schoolhouse.

It all has to reach the parents somehow. And we can’t fire them.

Once again I plunge … March 1, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Education, Obama, Politics.
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… into a realm I know a little about, making me dangerous.

I normally am conservative when it comes to actions that seem to have little more going for them on the surface other than disruption for its own sake. On first blush, the actions of school officials in Rhode Island discussed here would seem to fall into that category.

 Among all the teachers let go, I’m sure there were some good ones, I’m sure there were a bunch who really wanted those kids to learn and who really wanted to change things so that many more than 7% of 11th graders passed the annual math test. And I hope there was more to the administration’s plan than just keeping kids — and teachers — in school longer and requiring more tutoring.

But I also agree with the President when he says that 7% is attrocious goal-attainment that other school models with similar populations have far exceeded. And time waits for no student.

So maybe the good teachers, the ones committed to the success of the school and its students should reapply, as they can, and be part of a brand new approach — a case of the old needing to be dispensed with to make way for a new green shoot.

That shoot also has no guarantee of success and faces tremendous difficulties and odds stacked against it.  But maybe a very clear, very strident message needed to be broadcast. You are either part of the solution on this one, or you must be viewed as part of the problem.

That’s hard, but rebuilding this nation is going to be hard. And it’s all hands on deck with tools necessary for the task.