Tag Archives: The Seventy Four

What can we learn from the last day of enrollment in New Orleans?

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My piece on this subject is over at the 74. Read it here.

You’ll notice that the tone and style is a little different than the writing on this blog.

I prefer writing as I do on this blog, but this seems not to appeal to many readers.

Here is something I said in the piece that I don’t think we talk about enough:

By drawing on our country’s deepest values and skills – entrepreneurship, problem solving, and perseverance – New Orleans educators delivered the greatest achievement gains of any city in our country’s recent history.

We should think more deeply about aligning our educational reform efforts to our nation’s history, culture, and assets.

Here’s something I did not say in the piece (but hinted at) that I don’t think we talk enough about: by the time a school needs to be transformed or closed, thousands of people have already turned their back on the institution. The business community and political elites have focused their attention elsewhere. The district has often given up on making any real changes at that school. Families have chosen not to enroll there. Educators have avoided working there.

So it feels a little off to blame the state for the ultimate takeover or closure.

One last note: creating successful high schools in cities with high poverty rates is incredibly difficult work. Students come in very, very far behind and they are dealing with extremely difficult social lives.

A few mistakes by anyone involved can begin a cycle of events that can lead to tragedy. Violence is too common.

The work of the students and educators in these schools is worthy of our greatest admiration.

What Will Matter 50 Years From Now?

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Matt Barnum, who has been doing a good job over at The Seventy Four, just wrote a thoughtful piece on Arne Duncan’s legacy.

Matt argues that Duncan should have stuck to pushing for test based teacher evals for only those teachers covered by preexisitng annual tests. I’m sympathetic to Matt’s argument, but I also haven’t spent much time thinking about this specific issue.

What I do sometimes think about this: what policies will matter 50 years from now?

This is not to say that we should only focus on policies that will have 50 year staying power, but, in expending political capital, reform longevity should be a part of the calculation.

I am skeptical that government mandated teacher evaluations will still be a major issue in 50 years. My guess is that a combination of deregulation (charters not being a part of state evaluation systems) and technological advancement (less reliance on annual tests for measuring teacher performance) will render the issue mostly moot.

If I had created Race to the Top, I probably would have focused on the following:

1. Governance: incentivizing alternative forms of governance (RSDs, alternative authorizers, etc.).

2. School Operators: increasing supply of high-quality charters, contract, and vouchers schools.

3. Teacher pipelines: creating new pipelines and reforming existing institutions.

4. Standards and Assessments: incentivizing the raising of standards and the adoption of rigorous assessments.

I think the aforementioned initiatives would all have increased the probability of increasing student achievement. I also think these initiatives would have had some staying power.

I have no idea if they would have been politically feasible to push from the federal level in 2009.

Lastly, for whatever it’s worth, I have a lot of respect for Arne Duncan. Being a cabinet secretary for eight years takes a lot of grit and passion.