Monday, May 23, 2011

If I were Secretary of Education...

Education Week blogger and school teacher Nancy Flanagan tells us about her plan for national education reform -- especially if she had the resources of the Department of Education at her fingertips.

If I were Secretary of Education, I'd revise Race To The Top so that --
  • "civil democracy" was promoted as a central aim of education;
  • college and career readiness were framed as natural outgrowths of a civil democracy;
  • teachers had the time and resources to develop meaningful assessments that tell us about students' critical and creative thinking strategies;
  • teachers were invited to participate in policy discussions, teacher education, research and program administration (perhaps with modified, i.e. reduced, classroom assignments);
  • resources were leveraged for systemic reform that supported safe communities, stable families, national healthcare, and meaningful employment.
What would YOU do, if you were the Secretary of Education?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mind the gap -- on education for democracy.

Is there is a gap between the power of the Gates Foundation, what teachers do everyday in the classroom, and what Teaching 2030 (T2030) proposes?  How closely are these three aligned?
The Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) has emphasized the importance of cultivating and sustaining teacher involvement in local and national education policy.  What infrastructure has to be in place so that this happens more effectively and more frequently?  And how can we financially sustain such initiatives?  Supporting smart professional learning communities, and then publishing books like T2030, are no easy tasks.
Where, when and how do we look at the bigger picture?  Are we just fish, swimming is a school, hoping to influence the sway and swirl of our fellow educators, policy-makers, legislators and advocates?  Diplomacy is an anchor with CTQ, and sustained collaboration with the Gates Foundation would be nice.
Yet where, when and how do we draw the line?  Do the authors of Waiting for Superman merely have an accurate, however incomplete, picture of public education?  Or is there a coordinated effort to redirect the public education funding stream towards privatisation?  If so, what do we lose in the process?
In an article in today's New York Times (Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates), we are reminded of the Foundation's leveraged interest ($373 million since 2009; $3.5 billion projected 2011-2016) on education reform:
  • Gates Foundation funding:
  • Teach Plus - Indianapolis: "...outspoken teachers helped persuade state eliminate seniority-based layoff policies."  (partial).
  • American Enterprise Institute - DC: " influence the national education debates." $500,000 (2009).
  • [P]hilanthropic advisory firm, - NYC: " mount and support public education and advocacy campaigns." $3.5 million.
  • Harvard University: " place 'strategic data fellows' who could act as 'entrepreneurial change agents' in school districts...." $3.5 million [emphasis added].
  • campaign lobbying of presidential candidates: $16 million (2008).
  • Alliance for Excellence in Education (Jeb Bush), DC: " grow support for the common core standards initiatives...."  $550,000 (2009).
  • Fordham Institute (Chester Finn), DC/OH: " common core materials and develop supporting materials...."  $959,000.
  • Center for Education Policy, DC: " track which states adopted the standards." $1 million (2009-2011 est.).
  • AFT & NEA, DC: $6.3 million (2008-2011).
  • social action campaign focused on the film Waiting for Superman.  $2 million (2010).
To what end?  What is the Gates Foundation (and others) trying to accomplish?  The educational mission statement from the Gates Foundation websites prioritizes college readiness: The foundation has set an ambitious goal in K-12 education: to graduate all students college-ready. Currently, only a third of students graduate on-time with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed beyond high school. Together with our partners, we are working to provide all students—especially low-income and minority students—with the opportunity to realize their full potential.
Is college readiness an adequate platform for meaningful educational reform?  How does eliminating teacher seniority for layoffs increase college readiness?  How can the change levers within T2030 be leveraged to find common ground?
What if public education was about the cultivation of a civic democracy?