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While the media was focused on Health Care(and Prof.Gates)yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan went on TV and outlined his plan to improve public education, the next Big Item on President Obama's agenda. Basically he wants to use the old Wall Street technique of excessive compensation to the good producers. He wants to reward school districts that succeed by giving them massive amounts of money. And how is success to be judged? You guessed it, test scores.    

With No Child Left Behind being shown to result in teaching for testing and not being that effective and being down played down on the one hand, here we have Sec.Duncan using the same inadequate technique to try to get better results. The problem is not that teachers and students are not trying, it is that we are using a century old system to try and teach our children. We are training workers for the industrial age, not educating citizens for the information age. The main thing students are taught in our present system is to sit quietly and all do the same thing at the same time. Most jobs that sort of education prepares for have now been shipped overseas. For an excellent article on how we got in this fix please see I.D.Socol's (Mich. State U.)blog on Change.Org under Education. In today's world, which is growing flatter everyday, children need to have not only the basic three R's but a good understanding of the world around them, both at home and abroad.

Sec. Duncan also suggested wider use of Charter Schools. Where is this leading, to a privatization of public schools? Charter Schools are as good and bad as public schools and not usually available to any but urban school districts This is a band-aid on a very large wound although they are sometimes a good source of ideas they are not the solution. The solution is in redesigning the curriculum to suit the needs of today's children and then pay school districts to implement them  Nether is it appropriate to model America's schools after European or Asian Schools,  America has always been the leader in innovation, invention and thinking out side the box. It is, after all, where the shot that was heard round the world came from. We have made a mistake by following a Germanic, training for industry model. It is time we got back to educating for the American Dream. There are plenty of good ideas out there including Educating for Human Greatness; Bruce L. Smith and and so on. Reinforcing the old methods is not going to improve things, we need tomorrows citizens to be well equipped for an increasingly complicated world. My own preference for curriculum building is to use history as a sort of Velcro ladder to attach everything else to, bringing in science and the arts etc, as they occurred in the process. Start with volcanos and cave men and work through history until you reach technology in the upper grades. If you are interested in more go to my blog at
I do not hear Sec.Duncan talking about any of these things and until I do I very much doubt that we will get much of a Change in the way our children, our most precious resource, are educated.

Originally posted to All That Jazz on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 09:41 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You need some links and quotations. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, Penny Century, TexMex, Leap Year

    I sympathize greatly with your hostility toward No Child Left Behind, and with your skepticism toward Duncan, but I can't evaluate your claims because you're not backing them up with the text.

    And I wouldn't write Duncan off entirely; he's the one who let the writers of Freakonomics do a comprehensive study of teacher cheating in the Chicago school system, one which exposed a number of teachers and had to be somewhat embarrassing. He's not known to be a single-minded proponent of any particular education ideology. So yes, we may need to give him some pushback, but he's nothing the lost cause that, say, Larry Summers is.

    “If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution.” — Emma Goldman

    by Jyrinx on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 09:48:45 PM PDT

  •  Bah humbug (7+ / 0-)

    In my county there are five school districts.  Three have test scores in the middle to high average range, one has quite low scores and one has very high scores.  The scores are nicely correlated to the income and socionomic levels of the communities they serve.  High scores--lawyers, college professors, rich business types.  Low scores--lots of unemployment, disabled parents, kids from chaotic homes.  Any chance that the use of charter schools and teacher pay incentives is going to make the scores in the low scoring district magically match those in the rich district  Think the kids with the parents in jail or on drugs are going to stay in school any longer?  Highly doubtful, not unless the underlying problems are addressed.  
    I understand that  Duncan was most impressed with a charter school in Chicago that was doing well.  So we will go with charter schools, even though the data shows that they have no better outcomes than standard schools. Their main function is to break teacher's unions. And pay for test scores will result in the wealthy districts getting more money for teacher pay than the poor districts.  I can't see this helping much.  It also ignores that they are lots of services in a school that are provided by other folks--speech and occupational therapists, librarians, school psychologists and counselors.  I suspect those folks will be left out of the equation--only the classroom teacher counts.
     I don't like Sec. Duncan much. And I don't like this plan much at all.

    The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Galadriel

    by Leftleaner on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 10:03:33 PM PDT

    •  As long as people insist (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TexMex, bess

      on using a business model to deal with the problems of education, this is the kind of crap we'll end up with.  I'm not making widgets; I'm preparing human beings for a good, successful and satisfying life.

      -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

      by luckylizard on Sun Jul 26, 2009 at 05:29:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Jyrinx (0+ / 0-)

      Thanks for your comment!  I hope you are right about Duncan but his back ground is business, not education and most of his advisors are people who have vested interests in the old way of doing things. I just want to stimulate a conversation on new ways of doing things.  Change is hard and such a major change is really hard but I have not given up. By the way, I gave you enough info to find several references if you Google them. I do not like filling up space with quotes but I may do that in future since you ask.

    •  Leftleaner (0+ / 0-)

      Thanks for your comment. You are so very right about the home determining the ability to profit from an education. It is up to us to find an educational system that helps to level that out. In my blog I have tried to show a system that would work for all economic levels and be interesting enough to keep kids in school and, by the way, to provide them with a community in the classroom that can substitute for gangs.

  •  Curriculum is only (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, phrogge prince, teachme2night

    a small part of what needs to be done.  Most states have standards of what students should know each year, and if not, the professional societies do (like the English Teachers or MENC to name two).  They're pretty good about teaching necessary things including critical thinking.  The problem is in the resources.  I just saw a commercial where some smiling white kid with a laptop got in front of his class of smiling white kids all with laptops and plugged into a smart board to do a class presentation.  Where are these classrooms in the schools that need them the most?  THAT's where the money should go.  I'm willing to forego super large pay if I can have a real Music room to teach in.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King

    by zenbassoon on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 10:10:45 PM PDT

  •  Not a fan of the charter idea (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, phrogge prince

    In our smallish Northern California town that is run by a totally incompetent school district and worthless board, there has been a mass exodus from the public schools. So now we have charter schools full of our over-achieving kids and the test scores at the public schools just plummet. Do the charter schools provide better educations? No. But they kids who will test better anyway based on their socioeconomic background are fleeing to them in droves.

    "Sean Hannity...he's the guy who put the 'a' in moron" - Jed Lewison

    by voracious on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 10:42:46 PM PDT

  •  Is this the same business model that (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, TexMex, phrogge prince, Jyrinx

    gave all those bonuses for failure on Wall Street?
    Can I package all my test scores into complex investment vehicles and sell them as futures on the stock market?
    Does that mean that my school district also gets to become too big to fail?

    How can using the same model that ruined our economy not be a bad thing for education?

    If cats could blog.... they wouldn't.

    by crystal eyes on Sat Jul 25, 2009 at 10:44:23 PM PDT

  •  Failing schools need full time social workers and (5+ / 0-)

    economic revitalization of their communities. That's what will get test scores up. You can pay me a million dollars a year and I've still got a room full of kids who don't have homes or have homes without functioning adults therein.

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