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NCLB Outrages

Ed commissioner brings new ideas

New ideas? They look thoroughly refried, freeze-dried, and mummified.


By Boston Herald editorial staff

The new commissioner of education, we are pleased to say, endorses three ideas that could vastly improve education in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. We hope he tries them and finds the support to push them through.

Mitchell Chester, until this year associate superintendent in Ohio, touched on these ideas in a conversation with Herald editors and reporters last week.

Naturally he wants to attack what everyone agrees is the premier problem in Massachusetts education, the stubborn test-score gaps between minority students and white students. However, much else remains on the agenda.

First is the use of âvalue addedâ evaluation methods - the comparison of test scores of a group of students from one year to the next. How much did they gain under particular teachers, in particular schools, in particular districts, compared with other students? A high-scoring school may have started with good students and not challenged them much; a lower-scoring school may have pulled up scores of ill-prepared students by a far greater amount.

Teacher unions hate this. They persuaded the New York legislature to forbid its application to teachers. Chester, who in Ohio installed the method to judge districts and schools and helped start a pilot project applying the method to teachers, said, âI think itâs important to bring in a measure of growth like that.â

Then thereâs extra pay for science and math teachers, always the hardest jobs to fill. âDifferentiating the compensation according to the assignment makes sense to me,â he said. Itâs also what the rest of the entire world does, even unionized auto plants. Again, teacher unions loathe the idea.

For the early teaching of reading, he said, thereâs a ârobust body of research about effective or ineffectiveâ methods. (Effective ways include phonics and more.) âIt is indefensible to me that the teacher preparation institutions could ignore that body of evidence.â Many do. As for Massachusetts, Chester said, âI donât have a good senseâ of how many colleges fit that bill. Heâll soon find out there are several.

Rather than push boxes around on organization charts while trying to re-invent the wheel, those who care about learning have to get behind ideas like these before the commonwealth will make more progress.

— Editorial staff
Boston Herald
2008-05-27


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