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10 Steps to World-Class Schools


Ohanian Comment: I admit it: When I first saw the Washington Post piece, I couldn't handle it. Note the way it starts right out by blaming teachers and schoolchildren for the economy. And then it jumps right the Obama/Duncan bandwagon for bigger and better NCLB.


No Child Left Behind is about getting our lowest-performing students to minimum standards. That is nowhere near enough.

My first thought was that Marc Tucker is just recycling his Dear Hillary letter (Nov. 11, 1992) as an application for employment in Duncan's education fiefdom. I just clicked delete. Well, I was in a Chicago hotel getting ready to make a speech. Nonetheless, I was glad to find this partial answer. I don't like leaving outrages unattended to.

NOTE: Don't be put off that the Dear Hillary letter hot link takes you the Eagle Forum. The right wing quickly picked up on the outrage of Tucker's school-to-work plan; so-called progressives, determined to maintain their loyalty to Clinton, kept their silence. To this day, they keep their silence, few acknowledging that NCLB began with Governor Clinton's partnership with Pres. George Bush the Elder and IBM's Lou Gerstner. Read all about it (and Tucker) in Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?

One can only wonder what Obama/Duncan outrage it will take to get Progressives to break this silence. Or unions. Or teachers. Or parents. Or students.



from The Daily Howler, June 1, 2009
Every man a king: Everyone's an expert when it comes to the public schools! We thought of that foundational precept when we read this op-ed piece from Saturday's Washington Post.

"10 Steps to World-Class Schools," said the confident headline. This was the authors' fourth step:

STEP 4: Hold faculty accountable for student achievement. Take over every school that, after three years, is unable to get at least 90 percent of all major groups of students on track to leave high school ready to enter college without the need to take any remedial courses; do the same for every district in which more than a quarter of the schools are under review for underperformance for three years or more. Declare such schools and districts bankrupt and void all contracts with their staffs.

Yeah! That'll show them! If faculties don't simply erase our historical problems, we'll simply void their contracts! We'll simply take over their schools! Unfortunately, in Steps 7 and 10, the authors go on to say this:

STEP 7: Provide high-quality training and technical assistance to every school whose students are not on track to succeed. Most struggling schools are in chaos; their morale is in the basement and their faculties don't know how to improve things. States have little capacity to fix this; the federal government needs to help.

STEP 10: Offer high-quality early-childhood education to, at a minimum, all 4-year-olds and all low-income 3-year-olds. Students from low-income families entering kindergarten have less than half the vocabulary of the other students. In kindergarten and the early grades, those with the smallest vocabularies cannot follow what is going on and fall further behind. By the end of fourth grade, they are so far behind they can never catch up. By the time they are 16 and can legally drop out of school, they do so because they can no longer stand the humiliation of not being able to follow what is going on in their classes. That is why we lead the industrialized world in the proportion of students who drop out.

By the end of fourth grade, some low-income kids "are so far behind they can never catch up." (How many low-income kids are in this fix? The authors never quite say.) And not only that! In the struggling schools these children attend, "faculties don't know how to improve things." But so what? If you teach these kids in eighth grade and they don't succeed, we are going to void your contract! (Even though they're so far behind that we know they'll never 'catch up.' REMINDER: Not 'catching up' isn't the same thing as not learning important things.) We will then take over your school and we'll . . . (Do what, exactly?)

Technically, these steps don't quite self-contradict. By real world standards, they do. By the way: What kind of "technical training" would the authors provide to faculties where the kids are failing? Funny, aint it? In all the space they gobble up, the giants never quite say.

This is perfect garbage work, of a type found all over the upper-end press. The authors pretend that we have a known cure. What is it? They never quite say.


10 Steps to World-Class Schools

By William Brock, Ray Marshall and Marc Tucker


The key to U.S. global stature after World War II was the world's best-educated workforce. But now the United States ranks No. 12, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and today's younger generation is the first to be less educated than the preceding one.

No Child Left Behind is about getting our lowest-performing students to minimum standards. That is nowhere near enough. To get us where we need to go, we propose the National World Class Schools Act to replace NCLB. To get its fair share of federal education funds, a state would need to:

*Set standards for licensing teachers that are high enough to recruit from the top third of college graduates -- that's what the top-performing countries do,and never waive them during a shortage. If we insisted on high standards for our teachers and didn't waive them, teachers' pay would have to rise, a lot, and the pay for those in the shortest supply -- math and science teachers, and teachers willing to work in tough inner-city schools and isolated rural areas -- would rise the most.

Reader Comment at Washington Post:: "What are appropriate careers for college grads who finish in the lower 2/3s of their class? Sounds like they can't be teachers. Fine. What can they be?"

Answer: George "W" Bush became president, and royally messed up this nation. Others became bankers (wizards on Wall St.), who failed miserably.


*Get outstanding students to go into teaching and treat them like professionals, not blue-collar workers in dead-end jobs. That means putting teachers in charge of their schools.

*Reward schools that do a great job. NCLB penalizes schools when they fail but offers no rewards for outstanding work. Provide cash payments of 10 percent of the school budget every year to every school whose students significantly exceed the statistical predictions of performance for students with the same characteristics. Tell principals and faculties that they will get their normal budgets if their students are making adequate progress toward the standard of ready-for-college-without-remediation by graduation, and that they will be handsomely rewarded if their students are making substantially more progress toward that goal than other schools with similar student bodies. The financial reward should come as a big bonus for the school, and the faculty should decide how to spend it. This is better than rewarding individual teachers on the basis of their students' performance, which is hard to measure and will destroy the team spirit essential to a good school.

*Hold faculty accountable for student achievement. Take over every school that, after three years, is unable to get at least 90 percent of all major groups of students on track to leave high school ready to enter college without the need to take any remedial courses; do the same for every district in which more than a quarter of the schools are under review for underperformance for three years or more. Declare such schools and districts bankrupt and void all contracts with their staffs.

*Replace the current accountability tests with high-quality, course-based exams. The way we measure student performance is crucial. Rigor, creativity and innovation in student performance require a high-quality curriculum and exams, and will be impossible to achieve if we continue to use the kind of multiple-choice, computer-scored tests that are common today.

*Collect a variety of information on school and student performance and make it easily accessible to parents, students and teachers. Allow parents to choose freely among the available public schools.

*Provide high-quality training and technical assistance to every school whose students are not on track to succeed. Most struggling schools are in chaos; their morale is in the basement and their faculties don't know how to improve things. States have little capacity to fix this; the federal government needs to help.

*Limit variations in any states' per-pupil expenditures to no more than 5 percent by school, except for the differential cost of educating disadvantaged students and those with disabilities to the same standards as students who have no disabilities. In this country, students who need the most help have the lowest school budgets -- a formula for national failure.

*Make a range of social services available to children from low-income families and coordinate those services with those students' school programs. We have the most unequal distribution of income of any industrialized nation. If the problems posed by students' poverty are not dealt with, it may be nearly impossible for schools to educate the students to world-class standards. The state cannot eliminate students' poverty, but it can take steps to alleviate its effects on students' capacity to learn.

*Offer high-quality early-childhood education to, at a minimum, all 4-year-olds and all low-income 3-year-olds. Students from low-income families entering kindergarten have less than half the vocabulary of the other students. In kindergarten and the early grades, those with the smallest vocabularies cannot follow what is going on and fall further behind. By the end of fourth grade, they are so far behind they can never catch up. By the time they are 16 and can legally drop out of school, they do so because they can no longer stand the humiliation of not being able to follow what is going on in their classes. That is why we lead the industrialized world in the proportion of students who drop out.

Yes, these are radical proposals. But decades of incremental proposals have brought steadily increasing costs and flat performance. Time is running out. It is hard to make a case that the federal government should continue to fund the states to maintain the status quo.

William Brock was secretary of labor in the Reagan administration. Ray Marshall was secretary of labor in the Carter administration. Marc Tucker is president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). They are leaders of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, an initiative of the NCEE.

— William Brock, Ray Marshall & Marc Tucker, with comments
Washington Post & Daily Howler

2009-05-30

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/29/AR2009052903012_pf.html

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