Thursday, October 28, 2010

School Reform Debate

The current debate over school reform seems to have divided itself into two irreconcilable camps: the Rhee and Klein types chirping about the evil unions blocking reform at the expense of students across the country, and the Diane Ravitch and union sympathizers crying afoul as teacher names are published in newspapers without so much as a wink of recognition that the standardized tests that produce these lists are not only unreliable, but are single handedly ruining any chance of improving our education system.   What do these two sides have in common?   They're both wrong.   Or I suppose if you're an optimist- they are both right.

As someone who doesn't care about power- because I have none- I think I can speak on this subject with atleast some degree of authority.   The sides described above are concerned about what's best for education just like our United States Congress is concerned about creating a nice well-rounded bill that reflects sound judgement rather than partisan politics.   So I'll do my best to dissect both sides of the argument.   A few items I'll try to discuss of over the next month- maybe after the elections.

1) Teacher unions have not been effective in policing their own profession.
2)  There are outside the classroom factors that have a large impact on what goes on inside the classroom.   But they are not an excuse for what goes on inside the classroom.
3) Due process is not an all or nothing proposition- it can coexist with fair and robust evaluation systems.
4) Value Added Modeling has the potential to be a useful feedback tool, but has severe limitations.
5) Standardized testing is not the root of all evil- nor a cure all- but when done 50 different ways in 50 different states- creates an extraordinary amount of wasted resources in the form of duplication.
6) Pay for performance will not likely impact student acheivement- however seniority rules protected by unions likely do more harm than good.

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