Saturday, November 8, 2008

A whiff of educorp over at Obama's Change.gov


Since writing this post, I got the chance to put up a revised version of it on Change.gov. Here's the link.


LearnersInherit just sent me a link to Obama's new website, Change.gov, to which I bounded immediately to check out what he plans for Education.

It's detailed and extensive, and has some things in there a lot of educators I know don't much like. Take, for example, this:
Support High-Quality Schools and Close Low-Performing Charter Schools: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will double funding for the Federal Charter School Program to support the creation of more successful charter schools. An Obama-Biden administration will provide this expanded charter school funding only to states that improve accountability for charter schools, allow for interventions in struggling charter schools and have a clear process for closing down chronically underperforming charter schools. An Obama-Biden administration will also prioritize supporting states that help the most successful charter schools to expand to serve more students.
Anything relating to increasing the funding for and the expansion of charter schools is more or less a swipe at public education. Why is he going in that direction?

Prepare Teachers: Obama and Biden will require all schools of education to be accredited. Obama and Biden will also create a voluntary national performance assessment so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively. Obama and Biden will also create Teacher Residency Programs that will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to high-need schools.
There isn't any performance assessment, voluntary or not, that can ensure that every new educator is ready to start teaching effectively. That's because assessments leave out the most volatile factor in the classroom: real children. Assessments will always be arbitrary. Experience and hard work make teachers effective. Why is Obama thinking an assessment at the start of a new career is going to get you a good teacher?

Reward Teachers: Obama and Biden will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. Districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as a mentor to new teachers with a salary increase. Districts can reward teachers who work in underserved places like rural areas and inner cities. And if teachers consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.
Increase my pay when I teach more hours. I will not teach better, harder, more intelligently, or with greater adaptability if you pay me more money. Where is he getting this idea from, that more money produces better quality teaching? Bonuses for taking positions in inner cities won't cut it either. I have an idea: try lowering class size. Is that too difficult to understand?

Obama's site seems to be under construction, since there's a lot of repetition and funny stuff going on, like paragraphs on College Outreach under the Early Childhood Education section. In fact, when I tested the link above before publishing this post, they had taken the education page down altogether (temporarily, I guess, though it's still a day later).

Still, it's not just a matter of text editing. It's crucial that Obama puts together a program for America's children that comes from true blue educators — not corporations, think tanks, financial institutions or testing companies. He has to learn how to walk away from anyone wanting a piece of our education dollars. These people are in the business of education all right, but none of them have ever been much good at educating.

After I wrote this post yesterday, a comment showed up in another NYC ed blog about the failure of the chancellor's reforms. Joel Klein — a veritable darling of educorp — has certainly been around long enough for us to see some good stuff happening in city schools if it were there to be seen. Instead:
Klein has drained our schools of life, energy, experience and money.
That's worth repeating:
Klein has drained our schools of life, energy, experience and money.

I cannot imagine being a new teacher now in a NYC public school. Even if you come in with exquisite preparation, nothing works the way it did in your classes or your student teaching experiences. Yet, whole schools are now comprised of brand new faculty and administrators. And in every new small school which I have visited I find student artwork done with primitive materials -- construction paper, oaktag and markers. This is true for all of their assignments in every field of study. Students are creating charts by hand in a world where their counterparts in private schools can devise charts with computer programs and with the internet at their fingertips. They are producing hand drawn, stick figurines with magic markers and often, sadly, the writing on the posters they create is filled with errors of which a first grader should be ashamed. The flagships of the Klein administration are schools in which 30 or more children surround a 22 year old teacher who is working with little more than chalk and talk. And they are housed in old school buildings and forced to compete with other schools for classroom space. In the 21st Century. In The United States of America.
Floraine Kay
People making decisions right now at the highest level should take her words very seriously.


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