Monday, January 7, 2013


The CNN Schools of Thought blog has an editorial by the founder and a board member of a group called StudentsFirst here.  They have decided that there are three policies that states must implement to improve schools:  elevating the teaching professions, empowering parents, and economic transparency.  They grade states on their progress in meeting these goals.

The devil is in the details.  Elevating the teaching profession doesn't mean giving more respect and higher salaries to teachers;  it means getting rid of tenure and using student scores to evaluate their performance.  Empowering parents means creating more charter schools.  I'm not sure about the third:  I don't know of any state that has their educational budget classified.  At any rate, here is my comment:

The problem is that the Students First people are working backwards.  They have already decided on the three issues that they think are most important to education, and "grading" states on their compliance.  Instead, why don't they look at high performing schools, and states, and see what they are doing.  The charter school statistics are mixed and it is very hard to prove with current statistics that kids do any better in charters.  They need to do some real research instead of cherry-picking studies that fit into their pre-conceived notions.

For example, I taught in a high school in Massachusetts whose students regularly tested in the top five percent of schools in the state on the NAEP.  And Massachusetts, as a state, is usually number one or two in the country as far as scores go.  So why don't you look at what is happening there?

My own take on education, after thirty-five years in high school classrooms and watching high achievers, is that we have to get the kids reading.  Period.  End of story.  Avid readers read better, write better, concentrate better, have wider frames of reference, and do better in all of their classes, across the board.

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