Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Advice for Duncan in the WaPost: parents need not apply

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Check out Diane Ravitch’s succinct advice to Arne Duncan, the soon-to-be Secretary of Education, in yesterday’s Washington Post, recommending that he scrap NCLB. Here is an excerpt:

“The law's remedies don't work. The law's sanctions don't work. The goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 is ludicrous; no nation or state has ever reached it. Achievement gains have been meager. Test scores improved more on federal tests in the five years preceding NCLB than in the years since it was implemented. What Washington does best is write checks, collect honest information, and call attention to problems. “

On the other hand, Margaret Spellings, current Secretary of Education and a big supporter of NCLB, writes Duncan:

“Congratulations. I don't want to hurt you, but I think you're a great choice. You're the right guy at the right time. I look forward to working with you and know you to be compatible, tough-minded and someone who does what's right on behalf of kids. You'll need those characteristics as secretary.”

Check out either of the above pages for links to advice from The Critic, The Early Education Advocate, The University Chancellor, The Student, The Teacher, The Astronomer, The Bioethicist, The School Superintendent, The Author, and The Thinker (as the Post describes them.)

Unfortunately, no one mentions the importance of class size. But then they also didn’t bother to ask any parent.

Even though on the very same day, Jay Mathews of the Post had a column, saying that sometimes, parents actually have good ideas when it comes to our children’s schools.

Clearly we are swimming against the tide.

If you'd like to know what some real-life parents from NYC and Chicago would recommend, check out the Common-sense reforms for our schools, from Class Size Matters and Parents United for Responsible Education.


NYC Educator said...

I guess even Jay Matthews has good ideas from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Halmson,

No, neither of them mentioned class size, but they didn't rule out that as an issue, either.

Ravitch pointed to one collection of issues (i.e. NCLB_, one that has impacted the entire field, and said that it needs to be scrapped in order to make progress elsewhere.

Spellings disagrees.

But neither of them slighted parents or class size and more than they slighted the arts, nutrition, homework, unions, professional development or leadership. They each put forth one succinct argument about one thing.

In fact, their is quite little that the Secretary of Education can do about parental involvement, especially little that might have a quick impact. Class size, even if does have the impact that you believe it has, is not a quick fix or something that Duncan could easily address in the early days of his tenure.

Most of the people included in this series in the Washington Post directed their advice towards things that actually fall within the purview of Secretary of Educations. Your two main concerns are not federal issues. There is no role of the federal government in parental involvement, and the role of federal government is school size reduction would be quite complicated -- to saying of the fact that it would consume virtually all of the federal budget for education!

For all that I disagree with some of the series of advice contains, your criticism is just not a valid one. Rather, it simply demonstrates your ignorance of how education works in this country (e.g. the roles of each level of government) and your obsession with just two issue amid the broad panoply of factors.

I agree with you that parental involvement in education is key, even if I might disagree with you as to what theirs roles should be. But this is a local issue, perhaps a state issue on rare occasion. But it is not a federal issue.