Dan Brown: The “Achilles Heel” of Education Reform

Dan Brown, (Blog, Twitter) teacher and author of “The Great Expectations School,” effectively took on the wrong-headed notion that the best way to improve education in the United States is to reduce it to a single numerical value, then apply that value to compartmentalize students and reward or punish teachers:

Last week’s education speech by emboldened New York City Mayor-for-Life Bloomberg (who just dropped nine-figures of his own cash on his re-election bid) is depressing news to people on the ground in schools. Conducting the Testing Express, Bloomberg announced:

“As [Secretary of Education] Arne [Duncan] had said a number of times, ‘A state can’t enter Race to the Top if it prohibits schools from using student achievement data to evaluate teachers and that’s why California just repealed its prohibition on doing so.’

“In New York, the State Legislature passed a law last year that actually tells principals: You can evaluate teachers on any criteria you want – just not on student achievement data. That’s like saying to hospitals: You can evaluate heart surgeons on any criteria you want – just not patient survival rates! You really can’t make this up! Thankfully, the law in New York is set to expire this June – but that is not enough.

“We will urge the State not just to prohibit but to require all districts to create data-driven systems to comprehensively evaluate teachers and principals. And we want New York City to lead the way…”

Teachers, and their nuanced dissections of these simplistic outrages, have no shot here. His disingenuous melding of testing and achievement is too smooth; his microphone and influence are too big.

Breaking down his words, the hospital analogy is problematic; as blogger Accountable Talk explains: “Any doctor will tell you that some of the best heart surgeons around have some of the worst survival rates because they take on patients in the most desperate situations. What teacher will want to take on the most challenging students, knowing that by doing so, they are risking their careers?” C’est la vie, achievement gap. via huffingtonpost.com

This type of thinking (Bloomberg, Ducan, et al.) will insure a permanent achievement gap that will continue to widen. Policy developed from this mindset will insure that, under NCLB dictum, schools in low-income, urban areas will continue to be tagged as “failing” and eventually closed because of the arcane idea that rather than pour resources and support into these schools, you transfer students out and financially penalize the school for doing so.

The public education system in this country is being positioned for a hostile take over by those who would privatize the system with an eye to making it a profitable endeavor. In the process the Federal Department of Education will continue to try and commoditize the teaching profession and will use students as pawns to do so.

I’ll say it again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, “Educational reform is like an awards show host, it does not matter how many wardrobe changes are made – it is still the same host.” We do not need the tired piecemeal reform processes of the past. We need to begin anew, to “rethink school” from the ground up – literally from the ground up. Until then, we will continue to send the host out in a new outfit and the students will grow more cynical and less interested, especially when the know they can go home after school and learn what they are really interested in online.

Posted via web from Cumulative Knowledge


2 thoughts on “Dan Brown: The “Achilles Heel” of Education Reform

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  1. Indeed. There has been no change with Obama, as much as I respect him as a thinker. The mindset continues,one of a former time. Push harder and offer monetary and rewards and things will get better…hmmm, sounds like good old capitalism. But folks, we’re talking about students, people, not auto parts. This plan is no plan. It is old time thinking and has nothing to do with learning – when will someone in power ask the question: How does real learning occur? Is it by force or temptation? No, it is by choice and attraction, just like in everyday life. Think of a life long concept or a memory you have of being with your grandfather for example – why do you remember that moment? Shouldn’t we be thinking about how to approximate school situations where things have real meaning? Learning experiences are about building something, or examining something for real in the presence of someone who knows what he or she is talking about. Not just being with a warm body in the classroom doing mindless drills and “racing to the top.”

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