Monday, January 27, 2014

It Wouldn't Be Hard to "Fix" Contemporary School Reform (If You Wanted To)

Gary Stern:

Having talked to many, many parents, educators and others about these issues, I’m going to attempt to categorize some of the main changes that people want. Here we go:

1. A review of the Common Core standards themselves. The Common Core isn’t going anywhere. But many educators want to see a grade-by-grade, standard-by-standard review, involving teachers and administrators and resulting in revisions for New York. Would this require a freeze of the roll-out? I can’t see it happening.

2. A freeze on standardized tests. Lots of legislators are calling for a “moratorium” on high-stakes testing. But states have to do testing to comply with federal law. A moratorium would be a complex undertaking. Would the new, Common Core-based tests be replaced by others? A review of the controversial “cut scores,” which produced a high failure rate, seems more realistic.

3. A halt to plans to ship identifiable student data to the inBloom cloud. Many parents, educators and legislators have questions about security and privacy. I could see the whole thing being postponed — or at least the passage of an opt-out option for parents. Recently, though, people on all sides have urged a broader discussion about the use and security of student data. The inBloom debate and a recent Fordham Law School study have revealed how little educators know about other forms of data collection and deeper privacy concerns.

4. A look at the costs of reform. School districts are steaming over the dollars they’ve had to spend on developing new teacher evaluations, providing Common Core training and materials, and more. Districts have been cutting back for years, now operate under the property-tax levy cap and have to use 15-20 percent of their budgets for state requirements. But anyone who has been waiting for the Legislature to reduce unfunded mandates knows that it just doesn’t happen.

5. Better communication and leadership from the Regents and King. In recent weeks, a bunch of people have told me that the problems caused by the implementation of the Common Core and other reforms can be fixed without tremendous hardship. But they say that King and the Regents need to sincerely acknowledge the most common criticisms they face and then be willing to sit down with educators to hash out what must be done. I’ve talked to a few moderate, measured types who say they are mystified by the state’s lack of public-relations savvy.

On the other hand, if the goal of school reform is simply a transfer of power away from teachers, then you can't do these things.

Also, fixing CC in NYS would require throwing a bunch of underperforming vendors under the bus, including Pearson and Student Achievement Partners at the top of the list.

No comments: