Via the Washington Post, civil rights activist James Meredith, asks 21 tough questions about school reform
1.) Children’s Rights: Do you believe that every child in the United States has the right to an excellent public education delivered by the most qualified professional teachers; an education aggressively supported by the family and the community, and an education based on the best research and evidence?
2.) Parent Responsibilities: Would you support the idea of public schools strongly encouraging and helping parents to: be directly involved in their children’s education; support their children with healthy eating and daily physical activity; disconnect their children from TV and video games; and read books to and with them on a daily basis from birth through childhood?
3.) Educational Equity: Do you believe that America should strive to deliver educational equity of resources to all students of all backgrounds and income groups?
4.) Testing Reforms: Much of current education reform policy is built on the idea that the U.S. must catch up to nations that achieve high scores in the international PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) tests, like Finland, South Korea and Singapore. But since these nations rely on few if any of the reform strategies being promoted in the United States, like cyber-charters, frequent high-stakes standardized tests linked to teacher evaluation, teacher bonus pay, vouchers, and hiring teachers with no experience and no advanced degrees in education – - why would the U.S. implement these strategies without first field-testing them thoroughly?
5.) Teacher Qualifications: If a critical factor in the success of the highest-performing education nations like Finland, South Korea and Singapore, and of high-performing American private and parochial schools, is a highly professionalized, highly experienced and highly respected teacher force, why is the United States pursuing policies to de-professionalize the public school teacher force, including sending recent college graduates into our highest-needs, highest-poverty schools with five weeks of training, no education degree and no experience? What is the hard evidence that such policies improve student outcomes, versus teachers with at least 2 to 5 years of experience and advanced degrees in education?
6.) Evidence for Classroom Products: What rigorous, independent evidence supports the use of computer products to deliver academic benefit to K-8 students as support to, or replacements for, flesh-and-blood teachers? Specifically, what computer products have such evidence of improving student outcomes, when fully tested versus classrooms without such products, and versus classrooms without such products but with more experienced teachers?
7.) Taxpayer Spending on Products: Would you support requiring computer software and hardware companies to fund rigorous independent research to validate the delivery of academic benefit to K-8 students by their products, before billions of dollars of taxpayer money is spent on buying such products?
8.) Taxpayer Spending on Testing: According to one estimate, American taxpayers spend about $20,000,000,000 annually on standardized tests like multiple-choice “bubble tests” but many teachers and students are saying they are hijacking huge amounts of school time that should be used for authentic learning, and thereby seriously damaging our children’s education. What evidence is there that the money and time being spent on high-stakes standardized tests is improving student outcomes and delivering academic benefit to students?
9.) Dangers of Linking Standardized Testing to Teacher Evaluation: A number of experts assert that students standardized test data should not be linked to teacher pay or evaluation because the data can be highly unstable, volatile, misleading or invalid for such purposes and will incorrectly penalize teachers of both high-achieving and high-needs students; arguments presented, for example, on this fact sheet from the Center for Fair & Open Testing, or FairTest.
What is your point of view on this – are these experts correct or incorrect?
10.) Advantages for Students: If the children and grandchildren of people like President Obama and American politicians and business leaders enjoy the benefits of private schools with highly experienced teachers, small class sizes, frequent diagnostic testing and assessments designed by their teachers, rich and full curricula including the arts and physical activity, regular recess, and a minimum of standardized “bubble” tests, should we strive to give the same advantages to all public school students? If not, why not?
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