Change in Education?

Or more of the same?

I am loosing faith in “Change”. EdSec Duncan seems to be more hype than “Hope”. I had a lot of confidence that Arne Duncan would clean house and sow the seeds for some real gains in education. There is a bit of egg on my face at this point.

While Duncan and Co certainly push changes in the education system these changes are more novelties than substantial improvements. Some take issue with the business like manner Team Duncan takes on education reform. Personally this is not a problem for me. If the business world presents a solution to an education woe we should use it. That being said, business and education are not entirely the same. Teaching a student is vastly different from running an add agency or producing a product. Ideas should be kept in perspective. Business solutions can translate to more effective ways of running a school (It does concern me that, excusing the rising costs of stuff and inflation, education continually gets more and more money for the same mixed results. Money is not the solution obviously). Business solutions do not translate well to business of learning.

Why this lack of education in education reform? Team Duncan is no team of rivals.


Something that stands out about Ed Sec Arne Duncan and his inner circle – Klein, Sharpton, and, lord help us, Newt Gingrich at the *cough* “progressive” Education Equality Project; Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Mayor Bloomberg, and the whole Billionaire Boys’ Club gang; Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp, and the “give us a rookie idealist and a five week crash course, and we’ll give you a competent, expert teacher” gang at Teach for America – and their whole “reform” discourse is how much talk and proposed action we hear about teachers, and how little about teaching.

An obvious cause is that Duncan and most of his gang have more background in management (or, lord help us, politics) than in education. And the frightening thing is, when we listen to them, there’s little evidence they’re aware of the difference between an MBA and a Ph.D. in education. It’s like the hospital comptroller thinking he should have the right to dictate surgical techniques in the O.R.

Clay Burell goes on to say that Team Duncan may actually have a deeper understanding of education, but they continually fail to show this. Burell leads in to a recent post by Diane Ravitch at Bridging Differences. Ravitch uses accountability and high stakes testing as an example of how Team Duncan are just pushing more of what doesn’t work.

from Bridging Differences:

I think our society is in dangerous territory on this subject of accountability. The so-called “reformers,” the guys (yes, guys) who call themselves the Education Equality Project, would have the world believe that accountability is the key to improving American education. They think it can be done fast, not incrementally. They think the key to improvement is punishing the bad students, the bad teachers, and the bad schools. Their latest formula, as enunciated by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is to close down 5,000 schools and re-open them. I wonder where he plans to find 5,000 new principals and thousands of new teachers, or does he just intend to reshuffle the deck?

This approach rests squarely on the high-stakes use of testing. One only wishes that the proponents of this mean-spirited approach might themselves be subjected to a high-stakes test about their understanding of children and education! I predict that every one of them would fail and be severely punished.

We agree that a better approach is needed to assess how well students are learning what they are taught. We agree that current standardized tests are not adequate to the task of determining the fate—whether they should be rewarded or punished—of children, teachers, and their schools.

Some thoughts Ravitch’s post

Things in education should be done incrementally. Playing fast and loose with children’s education is unacceptable. When you rush a reform without thinking it through it can have severe detrimental consequences. I’m not saying that everything Team Duncan proposes is a ticking time bomb, but it seems they are putting little thought behind their plans. There is far too many buzz words being tossed about and far too little contemplation of what they mean.

Bad students, teachers, and schools should face some consequences. I hate using the word “bad” however. That word has such an implication to it. Bad is something I say about the outdated milk. There’s no saving it. Straight to the garbage. Let’s say failing to meet standards for lack of a better word. Consequences should be assistance to meet standards. Talk about throwing the education system under the bus. Would you punish a child who has reading difficulty rather than provide assistance to meet that goal? Recalling an earlier post by Clay they might.

I am not against testing. It is a good way to find trouble areas in curriculum and in spotting students in need of help. Students should be meeting certain standards before moving ahead. Otherwise we are just pushing students into new territory before they even have a grasp on where they were. That is an excellent way to loose a student. And of course ultimately a HS diploma must be more than a piece of paper.

But the current tests that are being pushed are ineffective. Standardized tests prove nothing except how well a student is at regurgitation. Multiple choice cannot show a true understanding of a topic. Problem solving and analysis type tests are the only way to show this.

The thrust of their “strategic plan”, which negates strategic thinking, ignores a large looming issue. They are trying to duct tape a crumbling 19th century factory. The foundation itself is shaking. They are rebuilding what doesn’t work already with band-aids. There needs to be consideration for how we teach students, what skills they need for this new century, and how to inspire life-long learning. Duncan and company has contracted assembly line sickness. I’m not sure if they will survive the disease.