Blog: The Educated Reporter
There is so much rhetorical sloppiness swirling around NCLB right now, it is impossible to know what anyone is talking about. Duncan complains that the current law is too prescriptive, but comments indicate new approaches that are even moreso. He calls 100 percent proficiency a utopian goal but wants to replace it with what he says is a higher bar: career and college readiness. How to judge that students are college-ready if not by giving them a test and seeing if 100 percent pass it? You’re awarded money if you make progress, and money if you’re failing.
My first job in journalism, junior year in college, was an internship with the Wall Street Journal editorial page in Brussels. I was so clueless going into my interview that for my writing sample I brought an essay criticizing Ronald Reagan. David Brooks, sitting under a portrait of Margaret Thatcher, said, “We like Reagan here.” I got the job anyway.
In the State of the Union last night, President Obama said about Race to the Top, “We only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform—reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans…”
We only reward success.
A few states, including New York, have refused to make their Race to the Top applications public because, they say, revealing what they are proposing would hurt their competitiveness in the second round of grants. “Absolutely not,” Secretary Duncan just said in a conference call with reporters, in response to my question. “This is about maximum transparency.” Duncan said that department staff is scrubbing the applications not yet posted to make sure they don’t contain personal identification (huh?
President Obama wants millions more Americans to go to, and finish, college—a terrific goal. It is also fundamentally at odds with budget cuts in higher ed. Of course that fact is obvious; what makes it compelling are human stories like this one, by Katharine Mieszkowski of the New York Times. If you see (or have written) other pieces on real-life examples of budget cuts’ possible effects on students’ ability to finish college, please link to them in the comments here.
Though it is a staple of newspaper writing, I always go out of my way to avoid those bracketed words and clauses inside quotes. The assumption is that readers could not possibly use context clues to know what you are talking about. Unlike the editor who once wanted me to insert in a feature on middle schoolers a definition of “pom poms,” I don’t think readers are stupid. (At least not the ones who treat the comments section like a virtual Klan rally.) They can figure out which person a pronoun refers to.
I am glad the national debate on higher education has finally found its way to college completion. College readiness is, of course, a cousin of completion, so let’s talk—again—about the massive disconnect between state standards for high schoolers and what college professors expect. Speaking of cousins, I have a very smart and hard-working one who graduated from one of the top high schools in one of the top school systems in the country (by any quantifiable measure), with Advanced Placement courses to boot. She never was asked to write a research paper of more than six to eight pages.
It’s funny that I have read just about everything there is to read about early childhood education these past few years, yet I couldn’t have been more unprepared when the time came for me to look for a preschool. Straight off, my choices were narrowed when I missed deadlines I didn’t know existed. I had no idea that in D.C., January is nearly too late to start thinking about where a 1-year-old might go in the fall.
Really nice piece today by Sharon Otterman of the New York Times on the seemingly inevitable downfall of some of the city’s large high schools. Shocker that a school’s narrative ended poorly when it started with special-needs students the new small schools didn’t want, unimaginable mobility rates and a freshman class in which 6 percent of students read at grade level.
School turnarounds and closings are a big story and only getting bigger.
Lisa Walker, EWA’s executive director, is leaving in a few months and our board is looking for a replacement. The posting is here. Lisa has been really great to me and I prefer to keep things that way, so only spread the word to really nice people.
…why let him manage your school system’s? Kudos to Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for her digging on the city’s superintendent finalists. My hometown has never been known for spectacular educational leadership, and reading this you can’t help but think that picking one of these guys will ensure the record continues. But school boards seem pretty intent on ignoring past, shall we say, sloppiness when they have their heart set on someone.
I’ve sat through consultants’ presentations, I’ve read the books, I have visited schools trying to achieve this, but no matter how hard I try I still don’t understand what “professional learning community” actually means, besides a commitment for a school’s staff to collaborate in figuring out how to help students. Shouldn’t that happen as a matter of course? Yes, I know it often doesn’t, but do we need a nebulous phrase, expensive materials, a movement?