Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Foolish op-ed on school reform in DC

You'd think that Katherine Bradley of the City Bridge Foundation, who had an op-ed, "The 'non-sexy work' of reform," under her name in yesterday's Post would have better research assistants and writers at her disposal.

From the article:

Last month, D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson referred to the next stage of school reform as “hard, non-sexy work.” Stage one — improving teacher quality — may have been a fight, but it was conceptually simple, tied elegantly to unequivocal research on teacher effect. Now comes patient systems-building — curriculum writing, common core standards, professional development — and the challenge of school transformation, or “turnaround.”

It's a pretty poorly argued essay. What she advocates as the "non-sexy" part of school reform, the long term work of building systems of support and development is what should have been done "first".

And "sexy," I mean "improving teacher quality" must be code for firing people and arbitrary and capricious decision making and personnel decisions. I guess firing is the new sexy. The "unequivocal" research on teacher effect is a lot more nuanced than was made out to be by Chancellor Rhee, and was not utilized to improve educational outcomes, except incidentially.

Bradley uses the same Rhee trope that it's about "the children" and not making excuses about poverty as far as teaching outcomes are concerned, except that Bradley at least acknowledges that poverty is an issue, while Rhee always claimed it was an excuse for low expectations.

No one that is progressive, at least I hope so, argues that impoverished children can't learn/can't be helped. We argue that to expect teachers to be able to correct whatever issues impoverished children have without any additional support or resources (in multiple forms) is unreasonable, and to base teacher evaluations primarily on student test scores that do not take this into consideration is a flawed approach--it is telling that most of the teachers in DC that were fired were from schools in the poorest areas of the city, were their results wholly a function of their ability, or the situation(s) they were dealing with, usually with limited additional support from the school system?

In DC, the process of "school reform" is completely backwards, and the reform agenda of the school administration has not been executed in a fashion thus far that would engender any confidence that focus on building the necessary systems for educational outcome improvement in a second stage would be any better.

When people I know, including my next door neighbor, tell me they are going to work for DCPS, I recommend against it, saying that everything I've seen indicates that personnel decisions are arbitrary and capricious--having lost jobs for being direct, I am particularly attuned to this issue--and it's never a good thing to put yourself in that position.

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