Friday, January 15, 2010

Race To The Top?

Race to the Top is the Obama administration's attempt to address the problems ailing American public education. But like all of the attempts previous, I believe this is going to create a lot of lingo and a flurry of activity, but will ultimately be an adventure in missing the point. Like its predecessors, this program fails to address what really ails us.

The four main points of the program are:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
  • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
Here we see the same old failed argument - Set better standards! We need standards! This approach has been tried repeatedly and never changes anything. Simply throwing a goal into the air, but not addressing the circumstances which drives our condition does nothing but frustrate the students, parents, and teachers.

Building data systems? Allow me to translate: Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Throughout my 19 year teaching career, I have seen a steady buildup of paperwork to be done for each child. Paperwork that ultimately ends up in a file that no one looks at, but sounds impressive when we tell school boards we are tracking it.

Rewarding teachers? Heh.... heh... heh... please! Bonuses for teachers in good areas, threats for teachers in tough areas. This is utterly pointless and will not improve a thing.

I work in an impoverished inner city area. My students come from homes with little to no education in the family, who are on their own most of the time, who often have family members with substance abuse issues or are in the penal system. I have sixth grade students who will be parents by the time they are 15 and will drop out by the 10th grade. Setting higher standards, threatening my pay, or having me fill out more paperwork on my students is not going to change the fundamental factors that are driving their educational performance.

President Obama, I expected something other than more of the same from you.


Chad said...

I couldn't agree more with you.

Don said...

My 34 years as an instructor in public education couldn't agree with you more. Kudos to you for your dedication to your kids.

Jan Hollingshead said...

Yours is perhaps the most difficult vocation, Andrew. You are expected to take these (for the most part) maimed children and turn them into healthy, happy, productive members of society. Without the help of their parents.

How hard could that be? Especially with all those off-campus administrators who are working so diligently (for greater pay, of course) to make your job easier?

You do have my sympathy and my admiration. Those kids need you. I just hope you're able to work well with your hands tied behind your back.

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