Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bob Herbert's Take on School 2.0

The New York Times is back after a disastrous experiment in subscription only viewing and I welcome the opportunity to once again read Bob Herbert and Frank Rich. Today, Herbert talks about intelligent school reform (something alien to this administration but...).

It's all good so read the entire piece, Our Schools Must Do Better. Here's a good reason to.
What’s needed is a wholesale transformation of the public school system from the broken-down postwar model of the past 50 or 60 years. The U.S. has not yet faced up to the fact that it needs a school system capable of fulfilling the educational needs of children growing up in an era that will be at least as different from the 20th century as the 20th was from the 19th.

“We’re not good at thinking about magnitudes,” said Thomas Kane, a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “We’ve got a bunch of little things that we think are moving in the right direction, but we haven’t stepped back and thought, ‘O.K., how big an improvement are we really talking about?’ ” Professor Kane and I were discussing what he believes are the two areas that have the greatest potential for radically improving the way children are taught in the U.S. Both are being neglected by the education establishment.

The first is teacher quality, a topic that gets talked about incessantly. It has been known for decades that some teachers have huge positive effects on student achievement, and that others do poorly. The positive effect of the highest performing teachers on underachieving students is startling.

What is counterintuitive, but well documented, is that paper qualifications, such as teacher certification, have very little to do with whatever it is that makes good teachers effective.

“Regrettably,” said Professor Kane, who has studied this issue extensively, “we’ve never taken that research fact seriously in our teacher policy. We’ve done just the opposite.”
and
The second area to be mined for potentially transformative effects is the wide and varied field of alternative school models. We should be rigorously studying those schools that appear to be having the biggest positive effects on student achievement. Are the effects real? If so, what accounts for them?

The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), to cite one example, is a charter school network that has consistently gotten extraordinary academic results from low-income students. It has worked in cities big and small, and in rural areas. Like other successful models, it has adopted a longer school day and places great demands on its teachers and students.

Said Professor Kane: “These alternative models that involve the longer school day and a much more dramatic intervention for kids are promising. If that’s what it takes, then we need to know that, and sooner rather than later.”

If American kids — all American kids, not just the children of the elite — are to have a fair chance at a rewarding life over the next several decades, we’ve got to give them a school system adequate to the times. They need something better than a post-World War II system in a post-9/11 world.

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