Take some time to listen to this recording of Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pension and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: http://snipurl.com/uwstg.
He brought out the major tenets of the Blueprint (see the full document at http://snipurl.com/uwsxi):
College- and Career-Ready Students
- Raising standards for all students
- Better assessments
- A complete education
Great Teachers and Leaders in Every School
- Effective teachers and principals.
- Strengthening teacher and leader preparation and recruitment.
Equity and Opportunity for All Students
- Rigorous and fair accountability for all levels
- Meeting the needs of diverse learners Greater equity
Raise the Bar and Reward Excellence
- Fostering a Race to the Top
- Supporting effective public school choice Promoting a culture of college readiness and success
Promote Innovation and Continuous Improvement
- Fostering innovation and accelerating success
- Supporting, recognizing, and rewarding local innovations
- Supporting student success
He spent quite a bit of time defending these choices to qualify for the School Turnaround Grants:
- Transformation model: Replace the principal, strengthen staffing, implement a research-based instructional program, provide extended learning time, and implement new governance and flexibility.
- Turnaround model: Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50 percent of the school staff, implement a research-based instructional program, provide extended learning time, and implement new governance structure.
- Restart model: Convert or close and reopen the school under the management of an effective charter operator, charter management organization, or education management organization.
- School closure model: Close the school and enroll students who attended it in other, higher-performing schools in the district.
While I’m in agreement with the tenets of the Blueprint, these four categories are problematic. There are way to many schools and districts that will fall between the cracks. Listen as Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Senator Michael B. Enzi (WY) talk about the issues of rural schools and districts in their states.
It is so important for each district in our nation to be able to secure funding to enable them to change what needs to be changed to provide the highest quality education for their students. There has to be enough flexibility in this law to enable schools to mold it to all the unique needs and issues with which they are faced.
Overall, I’m hopeful. I’m encouraged that the Senate Committee and Secretary Duncan are not among those who are scapegoating teachers. Rather, they see this as a systemic problem. However, it’s important to remember that systemic change is best accomplished not solely with a top-down approach, but also with bottom-up, sides-in, angles-around approaches.
As the session was winding down, the conversation moved again to the assumption that anyone can teach … all you need to know is the content. It’s not true! If you want to teach, then you should be willing to learn the art and craft of teaching. Content knowledge will be enhanced by those skills and dispositions. In fact, since teaching is an art, learning to teach is imperative – it is not automatic if you are an expert in some discipline.
Listen to the recording and tell me what you think.