What’s happening in the dropout nation:
– The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board sniffs at the Ford Foundation’s school initiative. Given the foundation’s history of getting itself — and the entire philanthropic sector — in trouble in the school philanthropy arena, it may be best for Ford to stick to something more traditional.
– Gotham Schools reports that New York State’s Education Commissioner and Board of Regents Chancellor wants to allow for the use of student test data in measuring teacher performance during the first two years of their careers before they attain tenure. This is essentially a revival of a law passed two years ago during the first year of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s tenure that was kibboshed a year later by the legislature and Gov. David Paterson last year at the behest of the state’s AFT affiliate. Nice idea. At least one study suggests that the teacher performance remains constant before and after tenure. But until tenure is eliminated and school districts actually take time to assess teachers, the proposal is rather meaningless. After all, some of the research so far also shows that teacher performance declines after they reach tenure.
– So far, this week, neither Kevin Carey nor Checker Finn have taken potshots at each other over whether stimulus funds should be used for saving teacher jobs. Unfortunately, neither side is focusing on the real problem: How to improve the quality of teaching in America’s schools. The stimulus debate, like the money, will eventually go away. The impediments to improving teacher quality — including woeful training at the ed school level, state policymaking that blocks effective performance management, poor selection of aspiring teachers who are both competent in their subjects and care about the children they teach, human capital policies that encourage teacher absenteeism, and lack of diversity in the teacher ranks — will still remain. It’s time for both of them to go back to their laudable work.
– Maureen Downey takes a look at the Florida ACLU suit and former Sunshine State governor Jeb Bush’s response. Hint: Another example of what happens when education statistics(accurate, maybe) and education statistics (unreliable, definitely) collide in public policy debates.
– The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Brooke Dollens Terry takes a look at teacher quality in the Lone Star State. She isn’t impressed.
– EdSector’s Erin Dillon peruses Teachers College’s report touting desegregation. She not only finds that it lacks rigor, but it uses a “strawman” of free-market school reforms that doesn’t define which form (in the form of charter schools and other school choice measures) at the heart of their discussion. Ultimately, argues Dillon, the need is to ultimately improve the quality of education in every neighborhood in order to achieve true equity between majority-black , majority-Latino and majority white schools.
– The Boston Globe wants Massachusetts legislators to raise the dropout age to 18. Fine. Hopefully, the Globe editorial board will hold state officials accountable for improving curricula, teacher quality and opportunities for engaging students and parents as equal partners with teachers and principals. Increasing the dropout age alone won’t solve much of anything.
– Sara Carr’s fascinating series about school choice in New Orleans offers a point I have been making for some time: School reformers must now focus on developing systems for giving parents the information and guidance they need to make decisions. This means improving the quality and delivery of school data — or simply put, let a thousand SchoolMatches bloom — and fostering grassroots organizations that can help parents make decisions.