Education Week - August 28, 2013 - (Page 28)

28 EDUCATION WEEK AUGUST 28, 2013 n n LETTERS to the EDITOR AASA Chief Endorses Student Success Act To the Editor: In his Commentary “Rokita: Rethinking ESEA With the Student Success Act” (edweek. org, June 28, 2013), U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., rightly points out that the proposed Student Success Act would reduce the level of federal intrusion and restore educational decisionmaking to states and local officials. This approach provides the foundation for innovation in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and accountability. All across the country, districts have different needs. The innovations needed to help low-income students, Englishlanguage learners, and other high-need students graduate from high school and become college-ready depend on changes that fit the students, staff, and families in their respective communities. Under the Student Success Act, states would be free to choose approaches that fit their circumstances. Similarly, 40 states and the District of Columbia have been granted waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act allowing them to keep their current systems, modify them, or build better systems because the waivers mean they are free to innovate. School improvement occurs when teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents are encouraged to continuously search for better approaches to increase learning. As a former superintendent of schools, I know firsthand the positive impact generated by bringing these people together for a common goal. The Student Success Act is not perfect. That’s why we welcome the opportunity to work with our education policymakers in the U.S. Senate to make improvements. We will look to the Senate bill and any related conference reports to strengthen language to ensure that all public schools—including charters—are treated equitably, to restore maintenance-of-effort language, and to eliminate and avoid proposals aimed at Title I funding portability. We thank our elected officials for taking a courageous stand. For the first time in more than a decade, we have a bill that would address the problems associated with relying on a single test score, using achievement tests for accountability, and using zerotolerance accountability instead of recognizing levels of success. Daniel A. Domenech Executive Director AASA, The School Superintendents Association Alexandria, Va. Citizen Participation Crucial to School Policy To the Editor: Everyone is accountable for educational success. The No Child Left Behind Act created sweeping testing mandates that have benefited a handful of educators acting in self-interest, politicians, and publishing concerns. There seemed to be little resistance to NCLB when disadvantaged students appeared to be the only ones failing. Then, advantaged students and districts couldn’t meet the standards. Alternative evaluations and their ilk grew N.C. Policies Will Cause Long-Term Problems To the Editor: The news about North Carolina’s new educational approaches illustrates an extraordinary backsliding of logical organizing for educating students as the state eliminates tenure, refuses to pay for advanced degrees, and establishes a letter-grade rating system for its schools (“N.C. Teachers to Lose Tenure, Salary Bumps,” News from trickle to torrent as all concerned tried to ensure their students’ high school graduation. Money continues to be the name of the educational game, though I would argue that no educational system controlled by finances delivers highquality education. District leaders have turned themselves inside out, forced their staffs into compliance, and espoused unethical practices such as teaching to the test for funding and to avoid so-called “failure.” When there is honest, open, well-attended dialogue from local communities to statehouses about student placement, support, equitable funding, and entities that are profiting monetarily and professionally from educational policies, we as citizens are better able to make needed change and embark upon meaningful progress in educating our students—ensuring our future. No quick fixes will succeed. We are all vested in worthwhile educational reform. No one is to blame but us if we are dissatisfied with the outcomes. Jane E. Lotz-Drlik Yakima, Wash. The writer has worked in education for 30 years, including as a teacher and administrator. in Brief,Aug. 7, 2013 and “GOP Moves on Activist K-12 Agenda in N.C.,” Aug. 21, 2013). These punitive measures for licensed public school employees are being implemented with a straight face as the state refuses to rate private schools in the same way and sets up voucher funding for students to transfer out of lowrated schools into privately owned schools outside the public school rating system. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which addresses equal protection under the law) and civil rights cases that arise out of these new laws could bring the state to its knees financially as they play out to change this system in favor of private schools. This blatantly shameful legislative action will have enormous effects on teachers, their families, and children who remain in low-rated public schools filled with transient teachers who choose to use a North Carolina teaching job as a jumpingoff point to pursue long-term teaching careers in states with fairer employment conditions. Tom Johnson Consultant and Adviser Harwich Port, Mass. The writer has worked in public education for 50 years, including as a teacher, administrator, and associate superintendent. COMMENTARY POLICY Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes opinion essays and letters from outside contributors in its Commentary section. For information about submitting an essay or letter for review, visit guidelines. Think Education Is Like Medicine? Think Again CONTINUED FROM PAGE 32 teacher, student, and content. This idea is appealing because it is simple; it suggests a limited number of variables that affect learning. But actually there are thousands—millions—of variables influencing the classroom, like the fight the student had with her mother last night, or the verdict just delivered on a widely televised and racially charged murder trial, or the first warm day of spring, or the classmate in the third row who just made a loud noise, or a dragonfly poised on the window sill. The problem with the instructional core is that it suggests simple causality between what a teacher does and what a student learns. This leads to policies that forge an iron link between test scores and everything from student promotion to teacher evaluation. A better model would consist of the student, the student’s environment, and the interaction between the two. And the teacher? The teacher is one part of the environment, a part that possesses some fierce intentionality and potentially great agency. A good teacher carefully reads and takes into account all the things going on in a student’s environment. A good teacher identifies and organizes materials that are responsive as much to mandated content as the more immediate context of a student’s life. A good teacher recognizes that when it comes to teaching and learning, causality is inconveniently complicated. All three of these bad ideas are reductive. They appeal to us because they take complex phenomena and make them sound simple; they give us the illusion of control. But the fact is that context, complex- Nip Rogers ity, and history are fundamental to our understanding of education. The sooner we recognize that in our conversations about policy and practice, the sooner we will find ourselves on a path to really excellent schools. n It’s Officials, Not Students, At Fault in Missouri Woes To the Editor: I was dismayed by the headline and tone of the post “Student Transfers Will Likely Bankrupt Missouri District” that recently appeared in the District Dossier blog (,Aug. 5, 2013). I have worked as a teacher and a community developer and have been the state policy director of the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri for nearly a decade in the St. Louis region. I can assure you that the students choosing to transfer out of the failed Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts are not at fault for their districts’ financial troubles. A horrific combination of low expectations, horrendously poor academic outcomes, financial mismanagement, an astounding lack of innovation, poor customer service, and a culture that is not student-centered in the least has led to the precarious and uncertain futures that await both these districts. When an organization opens its doors and approximately 25 percent of those it serves go running out looking for another option, the problems are both organizational and systemic. As a result, the future bankruptcy or insolvency or reorganization should not be blamed on the people who exercised their right to go elsewhere, but on the administrators and school board members who let it get so bad to begin with. Kate Casas State Policy Director Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri St. Louis, Mo. Regional R&D Structure Best for Teachers, Districts To the Editor: In his recent Commentary, Arthur D. Sheekey argues the need for state-based education research and development (“We Need a State-Based R&D System for Education,” July 10, 2013). We believe that a regional structure is preferable and ultimately offers more support to policymakers, districts, and teachers. With a regional approach, collaboration takes center stage. Stakeholders across jurisdictions sit side by side with researchers, discussing areas where research is lagging behind practice. As individuals come together, new ideas and solutions emerge, often benefiting multiple jurisdictions. This is happening in the Regional Educational LaboratoryNortheast and Islands, which is funded by the federal Institute of Education Sciences and operated under contract with our organization, Education Development Center Inc. Our research alliances are examining a number of the region’s top education questions, from improving low-performing schools to exploring the relationship between kindergarten-readiness assessments and teacher practice. We are finding that a regional approach is of particular importance to midsize urban districts, which may have few in-state peers with common challenges. This is especially true in New England. Nothing promotes the adoption of evidence-based practices faster than buy-in from a diverse group of stakeholders. It is worth remembering that education is, indeed, a system. We encourage teachers to share their best practices and evidence of success with their peers, regardless of classroom boundaries. Shouldn’t this advice apply to research as well? Jill Weber Director Research, Evaluation, and Policy Julie Kochanek Director of Research Learning and Teaching Division Education Development Center Inc. Waltham, Mass.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 28, 2013

Education Week - August 28, 2013
Waiver States Under Scrutiny
Common Core: A Puzzle to Public
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Fla. Virtual School Faces Hard Times
Stacked Deck Seen in Growth of PBIS
This Week
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Most Students Aren’t Ready for College, ACT Data Show
For Rural Teachers, Mentoring Support Is Just a Click Away
Philadelphia Gears to Open Schools After Aid Reprieve
Blogs of the Week
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: New Sites Designed to Help Choose Best Ed-Tech Tools
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Museums, Researchers Shifting To Online Science Ed. Outreach
Common Core Grinds Along Amid Michigan Debate
‘Course Choice’ Venture Gets Started in Louisiana
Policy Brief
PAULA STACEY: The Best Education Diet? Real Food, Prepared Well
LINDA DIAMOND: The Cure for Common-Core Syndrome
CAROL LACH: What Really Matters In Education: Compassion
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JAMES H. NEHRING: Think Education Is Like Medicine? Think Again

Education Week - August 28, 2013