GOOD

We Might Be Nearing the End of the Education Reform Wars

There's a growing consensus that learning is about more than test scores.

\n
Like any sentient political junkie, I was struck in the third Presidential Debate by how much of a point Romney made to agree with President Obama's approach to foreign policy—on intervening in Libya, on leaving Afghanistan, on keeping troops out of Syria. It was Romney who stated, "we can't kill our way out of this mess," delivering a line one would have expected to hear from Obama in 2008. And like any sentient liberal, I was irked, wondering which Romney we'd get were he to be elected.
But then I thought about other debates that aren't really debates, and wondered if we've made a mistake to assume that every issue of importance has two sides.
In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Thomas Friedman declared the Administration's education policy one of "Obama's best kept secrets." Citing the growing need for high-skilled workers and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's oft-stated line that we must "educate our way to a better economy," Friedman praised the effect that Race to the Top, and its predecessor No Child Left Behind, has had on teacher and principal accountability.
In today's education reform climate, saying as much is an invitation to battle, and this occasion proved no different.
As friend and frequent collaborator Sam Chaltain wrote, "What Friedman seems to have forgotten, and what the Obama administration has repeatedly failed to heed is that systems as dysfunctional as those in American public education require more than a new set of end goals: they require deep and sustained investments in our collective capacity to imagine and sustain something new—and that sort of change requires two main ingredients: technical expertise and emotional commitment.
"Unfortunately, Race to the Top (RTTT) lacks both ingredients: its formulas for technical expertise, such as new teacher evaluation systems (good idea) based significantly on student test scores (bad idea), move the goalposts but ignore the skill levels of the players."
Here's the catch: call me Pollyanna, but I fail to see where the debate is.
The need to prepare high-skilled workers for the high-skill jobs of the future, as Friedman suggests, isn't in dispute: where we differ is simply with regard to our definitions of "highly skilled."

I am one of what I expect to be about a dozen people in the world who gets the daily Google Alert for "Empathy" delivered straight to my inbox. And so I am regularly reminded of the critical role that empathy plays in high-skilled fields, ranging from business to journalism, medicine, and robotics engineering.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

Can a New Campaign Force Candidates to Prioritize Education?

Two-thirds of swing-state voters say improving education should be a top priority, but politicians don’t always give the issue the focus it deserves.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsfxfmuQhyY

Two-thirds of swing-state voters say improving education should be a top priority, but politicians don’t always give the issue the attention it deserves. Now a new nonpartisan College Board campaign called "Don’t Forget Ed" is aiming to use public support to pressure presidential candidates to pay more attention to public education.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

Obama Made the Right Choice to Speak at the First Black High School in Memphis

Booker T. Washington High School beat out over 450 other schools to get President Obama as a commencement speaker.

\n\n\n\n\n Congratulations are in order for Memphis, Tennessee's Booker T. Washington High School. The school is the winner of the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. President Obama will head there later this spring to deliver the graduation speech.

Booker T. Washington opened its doors in 1873 and was the first public high school in segregated Memphis that black students were allowed to attend. As the school's finalist video details, in recent years the 500-student campus has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles—98 percent of students live in poverty and 20 percent of student's homes were lost when a housing project was demolished—and increased the graduation rate from 55 to 82 percent.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

Can Education Reform Survive Election Day?

What is at stake for education reform in this election? Read on.


Headed to the polls to vote? That means you'll be deciding who will implement—or possibly not implement—much-needed education reforms. As we've seen in Washington, D.C., with Mayor Adrian Fenty's lost bid for mayoral re-election, and the subsequent resignation of D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who's in office makes a difference for schools.

The next Congress faces the charge of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). However, whether that reauthorization will happen seamlessly given that candidates, like Kentucky's Rand Paul, want to completely shutter the federal Department of Education, remains to be seen.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles


In a speech at the National Press Club this afternoon, Arne Duncan revealed the 19 finalists for the second round of funding in the Obama administration's Race to the Top contest.

The states competing for a slice of the remaining $3.4 billion are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. The District of Columbia also got the nod.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles