Saturday, January 29, 2011

The State of the Union? Disappointing . . .

If we were waiting to hear a bold new direction for school reform, President Obama's State of the Union address on January 25th was a deep disappointment.  Nothing new, and even worse, a complete capitulation to the kind of bipartisanship that makes Americans say there IS no choice between the major political parties.  The House and the Senate are cordially agreeing among themselves to tinker with No Child Left Behind, completing ignoring the head of steam building up all across the country among those of us who expected "Change" to mean . . . well, "CHANGE"!   Now the press is talking all about the cool way the Democrats and Republicans can probably make something happen with NCLB this year.

My reaction to "reauthorization of NCLB" is quite simply WHO CARES? Congress is clueless about what would really work for education, and, quite frankly, they can help more by simply REPEALING NCLB and constructing a federal program to REWARD states that do something useful:

DOWNSIZE and restructure their state hierarchies to put more funding into actual public schools, cutting incredible waste and quite a bit of porkbarreling and corruption too. The public school system in a new incarnation is the only entity in this country that may have a chance of creating the equity we have talked about for half a century (Equal funding and equal technology for ALL kids!).

Get rid of meaningless "standardized tests" as indicators of mediocrity and engage teachers/parents/communities in, you'll pardon the jargon, "authentic assessment" of student progress (Creativity AND critical thinking--what a concept!).

Restructure funding streams for education to adequately support personalized learning and collaborative, creative training for teachers, integrating and SUPPLYING technology for teachers and students.

Surround schools with supportive services that will draw communities toward schools as centers of community life (as rural schools have always done). Schools are the only public entity that people will trust to serve this integrative purpose, thus helping trim down even more duplication of services and waste of resources.

All of this is only common sense, a term that I realize is not in the Washington lexicon. Even worse, this administration is sorely lacking in follow-through on its promises, which were for POSITIVE CHANGE, not bashing of our most beloved institution and selling it to venture capitalists.   The few simple ideas listed above were what I expected from this administration, a bold new approach to REIMAGINING our public education system.   Nothing of the sort is coming out of Washington, however; only more feeble talk about our "Sputnik moment," as though that dated reference were relevant to today's world.  Not.

Here's the best article I have read all month, by a Columbia University professor who came out first to say "The Emperor has no clothes," a sociological and well-reasoned review of the direction Washington is taking in regard to schools:  "Why Bipartisanism Isn't Working for School Reform."   Read it; you'll be nodding your head all the way.  Then come over to Facebook to join our campaign: ; it's time to suit up and get into the game!

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