Saturday, March 13, 2010

Obama's Marginal Plans for Education Reform

Obama's plan for education overhaul was announced today, the NY Times calling it "sweeping overhaul".

While it does seem to address some of the negative aspects of NCLB, it doesn't get us anywhere the real reform required to actually achieve the stated goal "that all students should graduate from high school prepared for college and a career."
Some highlights:
  • replace NCLB's pass/fail school grading system, instead measuring individual students, attendance, graduation rates and something called "school climate"
  • more vigorous interventions in failing schools
  • more incentives for performance
Obviously, these are basically window dressing on the same failed approach we have always taken.  While NCLB is tightened up around the edges, there is no real accounting for the vast differences between demographic populations in terms of the role socio-economic status plays in educational achievement.

Instead, it's the same old model: take 30 students from every walk of life, give them one teacher, and with a heaping dose of accountability and incentives expect to attain the goal of a quality education as civil right for every child.  There is no emphasis on the vast differences in both human and social capital that are a fundamental part of creating a successful student.

No surprise then, that the teachers' unions aren't supportive.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said of the proposal, “This doesn’t make sense.....From everything that we’ve seen, this blueprint places 100 percent of the responsibility on teachers and gives them zero percent of the authority."
Teachers in failing schools are being asked to a job that simply is not possible to do, but are then blamed when the result is failure.  No wonder then that their advocates are upset with a continuation of a plan that promotes them as scapegoats for society's failure to come to grips with its own socioeconomic structural dysfunction.

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