Posts Tagged ‘assessment’

Don’t Re-Work the Bad Old Days

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Reform is exhausting.  No wonder states try to game the system.

Still, it’s like the kid in the classroom that spends an enormous amount of time finding excuses to not complete the assignment.  If the student just sat down and asked for help, studied, and reviewed the difficult issues, the problem would be solved.  He would learn something, she would get into a college of her choice, he would find a job he liked, all would be possible.

Same with school reform.  First let’s look at the assessment issue.  The single yearly summative test ordained by the No Child Left Behind Act may have seemed like a good starting point, but it has left adults running around in a maze, teaching, advocating, wringing their hands over minute bits of knowledge that may or may not be “on the test” that the student must pass.

Dumbing down this test is not the answer.  Instead, changing the assessment process has proven successful in helping students achieve.  The best school-wide learning models use periodic formative assessments to see how students are doing.  Then teachers take time to analyze the data and reorganize their lessons.  It takes personnel other than the classroom teacher to support this kind of help so all students achieve, not just a few.  Are school districts going to put their money where the need is?

Next, a strong complaint about the billions of dollars being authorized by Congress is that the money would be passed out under Title I, the huge education budget to support programs for low-performing students.  Many in the education world warn that this money will be allocated to old, already inadequate, programs.  Look up the San Francisco Chronicle article (March 6, 2009) “Facts, Not Faith” by Bruce Fuller, education professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

There are, however, a number of school-wide learning models that insist on best practices from research in the field of education.  I can vouch for a few of these models.  They require local personnel to relentlessly advocate for the models, fund them, and make changes when the data show further reforms are needed.  They require the input and support from the entire school community, every adult connected to the school, to support each child’s success.

Last, the old manner of chipping away at schools and teachers must halt.  There may be a place for a few charter schools or schools like KIPP based on a for-profit model.  There are, however, thousands of schools in this country.

Instead of getting rid of them and starting over with a vast array of “new”schools, privately organized for a huge assortment of reasons and paid for willy-nilly with tax-payer’s money, put that money to work to make “public school” a good word.  The stimulus funds are a start.  Thoughtful changes in each state is another step forward.