Friday, December 19, 2008

The Audacity of Rod Paige

Rod Paige:

As the Obama administration takes office promising sweeping change, I have a suggestion for the new secretary of education: Get our best teachers involved in policy making. Years of working for improvements have taught me that without their involvement, changes in the local school too often won't take root. (...)

Improving student performance cannot be achieved alone by politicians, education think tanks, researchers, pundits, business groups or others, no matter their worthy goals, expertise, good intentions or resources. To get the enthusiastic involvement of those charged with making schools work, we need their help in crafting workable solutions. Our teachers, principals and school counselors understand the socioeconomic realities, the cultural differences and the motivation challenges they find every day in the classroom and they understand how to match policy goals with classroom realities so that our children come alive to the excitement of learning. Bring teachers together with those experts who focus on the long view and the equation for real and immediate improvement will begin to work.

I of course agree with this 100%, but I have not forgotten that Rod Paige was a key player in the Bush-era reforms that have widely dis-empowered teachers working in public school districts. Now, strictly speaking, one can argue that NCLB does not require districts to take tighter control over schools and teachers, but in practice, I don't think it is controversial to say it largely has, and in particular driven a more stark distinction between even more highly regulated district schools and much less regulated charters.

What this op-ed signals to me is the willingness of the Republican Party to flush the past eight years down the memory hole, walk away from NCLB and, as Al Swearingen would put it, leave the Democratic Party holding a bag of shit.

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