The Public School Insights Blog
It took Checker Finn at the Fordham Foundation about a nanosecond to respond to the Community Agenda with an entirely over-the-top attack on community schools. Finn, whom friends and foes alike often respect for the integrity of his ideas, has apparently become a complete fantasist. In defiance of all evidence, he calls the community school idea "gooey and emotional" (it actually rests on sound evidence). He also describes it as an attempt "to turn the spotlight away from cognitive learning" (it actually marshals community resources in support of cognitive learning.) This is conspiracy theory, not argument.
And it gets worse. Finn believes that school-based services for parents--such as career counseling, parenting classes and medical services--merely "coddle" parents or "indulge [them] in their shortcomings." Where's the indulgence in helping parents find jobs, find health care or support their children in school? These services actually bring families into school buildings and empower parents to support their children's success. Simply telling parents to shape up ship out is hardly a promising alternative. ...
A coalition of over 100 education, youth, social services and health organizations have released "The Community Agenda for America's Public Schools," a call for more partnerships among public schools and other community or social service organizations that work to improve the lives of children.
Marty Blank of the Coalition for Community Schools made it clear that the agenda connects strong community supports with high academic achievement. "We are not in the 'either-or' category in this debate [between academic and social supports].... What we do is take the next step and we say how this can be done. We need to get past this conversation that says it's either one way or the other." (As Quoted in Education Week)
You can read more about the Community Agenda here. ...
The New York Times reports this morning that the Broad Foundation will fund a $44 million "Education Innovation Laboratory" to foster rigorous research and development in education. The initiative will first focus on--surprise!--incentive programs, such as paying students for high test scores. (Apparently, the cash-for-scores scheme hasn't worked out all that well so far.)
Here's hoping that the Innovation Laboratory also gets around to research on building schools' capacity to improve instruction.
Americans often hear about the United States' lackluster showing in international comparisons of student performance. They hear less about education policies and practices in countries that top the international lists. As it turns out, U.S. education policies--particularly our accountability policies--are often out of step with policies in the most successful nations.
This is one conclusion we draw from our recent discussion with Andreas Schleicher, who heads the OECD's Education Indicators and Analysis Division in Paris. Schleicher oversees the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test often cited in reports about American students' decline in international rankings.
During our interview, Schleicher delivers some familiar bad news: U.S. performance on PISA is below average for the OECD. Socio-economic status has a larger impact on student achievement in the U.S. than in countries that top the PISA rankings. ...
Even the best-intentioned policies can go off the rails if they don't build the capacity for success. Witness the recent finding from Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless that over 100,000 eighth graders currently enrolled in algebra class lack basic arithmetic skills. This is bad news for California, which plans to mandate algebra for all eighth graders. Loveless attributes the rise in innumeracy among algebra students to recent efforts to enroll many more students in advanced math.
Don't get me wrong. I believe many more American students should master algebra by the end of eighth grade. But I also believe that universal algebra policies depend on a host of other supporting reforms. Nancy Flanagan reminds us that teachers must have a strong voice in those reforms: ...
According to a new article in U.S. News, teacher blogs are having a growing impact on national discussions about education policy. These blogs can provide a good dose of classroom reality--often the missing ingredient in national policy discussions. Reporters are listening in on the teacher blogosphere, and so are some parents and administrators.
As a result, teacher blogs can have an impact on policy, but they can also get teachers in trouble. Some good rules of thumb: Keep it clean, and don't dish too much dirt on your colleagues or administration.
The article cites one of my favorite classroom bloggers, Bill Ferriter, who teamed up with another favorite, Nancy Flanagan, to write some guest blogs for us last summer. Nancy and Bill both blog for the Teacher Leaders Network, which should be a resource for reporters and policymakers everywhere. ...
For months now, Washington think tank dwellers have been casting supporters of the Broader Bolder Approach to Education as characters in a morality play about the future of school reform. The storyline goes like this: BBA supporters, who link student achievement to influences both inside and outside of schools, are slothful defenders of the status quo. Struggling against them are righteous warriors for school reform.
As we've noted before, this is a bogus story. No one benefits from this phony battle between school improvement and out-of-school supports for student success. Students need excellent schools, but they also need excellent pre-K and after-school programs, health care programs, and other out-of-school supports for learning. ...
New York City public schools have received a new round of letter grades for their performance, and the results are either encouraging or bewildering, depending on whom you ask. NYC Education Department officials point to the overall improvements over last year, due in large part to the city's rising test scores in mathematics and reading. Critics of the Department point to large fluctuations in grades from one year to the next as evidence that the grading system is fundamentally flawed. ...
Last night, public television stations nationwide aired a one-hour documentary, Where We Stand, which evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. public education system. While the noise of our current financial crash is drowning out news of the documentary, I do hope it will fuel robust conversations about public education.
The documentary's story line is already familiar to the education policy crowd: The world is changing; our children will have to compete for jobs with their peers in Helsinki or Hong Kong; we're being creamed in international assessments of student performance; and our nation's prosperity depends in part on the fate of our schools. Yet we have ample evidence that this message has not necessarily penetrated the public consciousness. While just about everyone supports high academic standards in the abstract, students and their families alike often balk at ambitious coursework in, say, advanced mathematics or science. ...
Innovations can emerge from public schools and districts as well as from think tanks and other homes of the education reform cognoscenti.
That's the premise behind the American Federation of Teachers' new "Innovation Fund," "a groundbreaking plan to seek and share successful local educator- and union-led reform efforts in public schools across the United States." According to the AFT, the fund will support reforems such as: ...
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- Actress/Mathematician Danica McKellar on girls and math
- Best Selling Author Kenneth C. Davis on engaging with history
- Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Danielson on providing health care at school
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Excellence is the Standard
At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
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