Education Week - May 22, 2013 - (Page 25)

EDUCATION WEEK n MAY 22, 2013 n 25 The Com our children need and deserve. The time has come to strongly consider the need for larger systematic reform of funding systems. In a chapter in the recently released book Education Governance for the Twenty-First Century: Overcoming the Structural Barriers to School Reform, I propose a “new” approach to school funding: States should adopt a state-based system of school financing—one in which states provide all nonfederal resources for education, and districts no longer have the power to raise funds from local property taxes. Under such a system, all districts would receive the resources they need to educate all of their children. Funding levels would be based on the specific needs of the students and of the districts, not just the resources districts are fiscally able to raise based on local property values. Local schools and districts would be able to provide additional funding of up to 10 percent of their state allocation for local priorities and programs. I say “new” in quotation marks because this is almost the same proposal President Richard M. Nixon’s Commission on School Finance called for in 1972. Yet, more than 40 years later, almost no states have taken this approach, and the idea has practically fallen off the radar in school funding discussions. Hawaii and Vermont come the closest, with less than 10 percent of total funding coming from local sources. They are rarities in this country, however, and by far two of the smallest states. I also say “new” because this method of funding schools has been adopted in other countries; it’s just “new” to the United States. As a paper that cap released last week shows, three Canadian provinces, for example, have each moved from joint local-provincial school funding systems—systems like those in most U.S. states—to provinciallevel funding systems. Under such a system, the province has full responsibility for providing all funding for public schools, according to the report titled “Canada’s Approach to School Funding.” The province determines the resource needs for each district and ensures the district actually receives that funding. These provinces—Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario—have each taken a unique approach to designing their provincial-level funding systems. Alberta, for example, has set up a centralized fund into which all property-tax dollars raised for education purposes flow. These dollars are then allocated on a per-pupil basis to every district in the province. Additional funding is provided by the provincial government on top of this allotment. In contrast, in Ontario, local school districts continue to raise funding from local property taxes, but the tax rates are set by the provincial government. This allows the province to ensure that districts raise amounts consistent with the districts’ overall provincially determined funding needs, and not inconsistent with principles of equality and equity. To be sure, states can certainly have equitable funding systems that continue to allow local districts to set their own tax rates and raise money from local property taxes. New Jersey and Ohio are good examples; in these states, differences in property wealth do not dictate differences in per-pupil spending, and districts with greater educational needs receive additional funding. But most states have failed in this regard, despite decades of lawsuits and so-called reform efforts. It’s time to try something else. The National Commission on Excellence in Education’s seminal 1983 report, A Nation at Risk, warned of a “rising tide of mediocrity” in this country. I worry today that mediocrity is found as much in our legislatures as in our schools. We need bold leaders with the political strength to tackle the problems in our system and fight for the solutions we need. Adopting a state-level system of funding education is an essential element of finally providing all children with a high-quality education. n CYNTHIA G. BROWN is the vice president for education policy at the Center for American Progress, in Washington. display their work further connect scholars with one another and their respective fields of study. At a Massachusetts high school, the science classrooms open up to engage the outdoors, where test gardens, bio-swales, and native plants beckon. In just a few steps, students can connect what they learn inside with practical applications outside, or vice versa. If the great outdoors and biomass plants make for such good classrooms, perhaps the message is that we are trying too hard with design. Give space and technology to the community, and just let the teachers and students make of it what they will. Clearly, one size and one approach no longer fits all (if they ever did). Students want to feel that they are an active part of the learning process, and that learning engages not simply their minds but their hands and bodies, even their emotions. Budding scientists don’t want to be shunted off at the edge of the campus, as in the days of yore, invisible to their peers. Science and math and the arts and humanities should feed off one another. The creativity and even whimsy of the liberal arts is relevant to the process of scientific discovery. And the sciences need not be deadly serious—quite the contrary. A curriculum that pigeonholes science is shortchanging other offerings. The two go together, like the hemispheres of the brain. We can’t pretend to understand the world without both. Jim Watson once said, “Science moves with the spirit of an adventure, characterized by youthful arrogance and by the belief that the truth, once found, will be simple as well as beautiful.” Steve Jobs understood that working spaces, designed correctly, could foster creativity. As he was believed to have said, “Why join the Navy when you could be a pirate?” Let the wild rumpus begin! n JIM CHILDRESS is a partner in Centerbrook Architects and Planners, an architecture firm in Essex, Conn. Teaching the Metric System A Cautionary Tale for The Common Core By Jeanne Zaino M ay is a month full of celebrations—everything from May Day and Cinco de Mayo to Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. Largely forgotten in the cornucopia of May celebrations, however, is National Metric Week. From 1976 until 1984, the week of May 10 was National Metric Week. I was in elementary school when Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975. Signed into law by President Gerald R. Ford, the act designated the metric system as the preferred system of weights and measures in the United States. As a result, when children across the country returned to school the following year, they were confronted by teachers who—with varying levels of enthusiasm—set to work to make this conversion a reality. Shortly after that, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics dubbed one week in May the aforementioned National Metric Week. I have no recollection of what my teacher actually said when she introduced us to the metric system or what she intended to say, but I have a vivid recollection of what I took from it: (a) the United States is behind the rest of the world when it comes to measuring, and this doesn’t bode well for your futures; (b) if we “  I have no problem with mandates, but they work only if they are fully embraced by those on the ground.” have any hope of reasserting ourselves on the world stage, we have to buck up, forget our outmoded system of measurement, and adopt this new system; and (c) the president said you have to learn this, so, whether we like it or not, here are your new rulers. I had a good teacher, and I am sure she tried as hard as possible to be enthusiastic about this new system. I can still see her trying to muster a smile as she announced it was time to “break out your rulers.” But as hard as she tried, it was clear to all of us that she wasn’t much more excited to teach the new system than we were to learn it. And who can blame her for being anxious? She probably hadn’t learned the metric system, and now, after a summer of cramming and directives by the administration, she was being held accountable for teaching it to a bunch of wide-eyed 2nd graders who had just started learning about inches, feet, and yards. Looking back, I am fairly certain that our collective inertia and trepidation pretty much guaranteed that the mandate was going to fail. Lately, as I watch my own son’s elementary school teachers struggle to introduce the common-core standards, the latest mandate in our state, I have been thinking a lot about the failed attempt to introduce the metric system. I have no problem with mandates, but they work only if they are fully embraced by those on the ground, those who stand at the front of the classroom every day. Congress, state education boards, cities, towns, and administrators can mandate whatever they want, but without the support, understanding, and enthusiasm of teachers, these directives tend to either fail or fizzle away. Just ask anyone who was sitting in one of America’s primary or secondary schools in the 1970s when, as well-intentioned as the metric-conversion mandate may have been, the experiment fell flat on its face. n JEANNE ZAINO is a professor of political science and international studies at Iona College, in New Rochelle, N.Y. The the m prese teach advo 32Za EW S DESIG DO NO

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 22, 2013

Education Week - May 22, 2013
District Bets Big on Standards
FOCUS ON: EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: States Stepping Up Mandates for School Safety Drills
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Schools Facing the Expiration of Windows XP
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Debates Roil Over Control of Schools in Baton Rouge
Study: Teenagers’ Brains Are Wired for Peer Approval
Analysis Calls for Dual-Language Pre-K for Young ELLs
PROFILE: Brian Pick
PROFILE: Dowan Mcnair-Lee
PROFILE: Mikel Robinson
States Tighten Disclosure of Teacher Evaluations
Blogs of the Week
NRC Framework Seen as Valued Resource for Educators
A Spec. Ed. Twist on Common-Core Testing
K-12 Colors Campaigns in Virginia, New Jersey
Policy Brief
CYNTHIA G. BROWN: The ‘How’ of Equitable School Funding
JIM CHILDRESS: Designing Learning Spaces for A New Age of Discovery
JEANNE ZAINO: Teaching the Metric System: A Cautionary Tale for the Common Core
Topschooljobs Recruitment Marketplace
LISA HANSEL: The Common Core Needs a Common Curriculum

Education Week - May 22, 2013