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July 2010, Week 5

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Obama Education Policy Must Put Children and Public
Education First (2 articles)

* Civil Rights Groups Slam Obama's Education Reforms
  (ColorLines)
* The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers (New York
  Times)

==========

Civil Rights Groups Slam Obama's Education Reforms

by Julianne Hing

ColorLines

Monday, July 26 2010, 3:22 PM EST

http://colorlines.com/archives/2010/07/civil_rights_groups_issue_takedown_of_obamas_ed_reform.html

Today, a group of seven education and civil rights groups
released a six-point plan for equitable and sustainable
national education reform  in this country. And, big
surprise, the report is basically a 17-page repudiation of
the Obama administration's education reform platform.

Groups including the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund,
the National Urban League, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and
the Schott Foundation for Public Education called for an end
to many of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's signature
initiatives, and a commitment instead to policies that
incentivize positive results and lay the groundwork for
long-term change in the neediest school districts. On every
major Duncan policy initiative--aggressive promotion of
charter schools, turnaround models for failing schools,
national education standards, punitive teacher
accountability measures--the coalition had harsh criticisms.
And this morning, the Education Department issued a pat
response:

    We're listening. The administration is dedicated to
    equity in education and we've been working very closely
    with the civil rights community to develop the most
    effective policies to close the achievement gap, turn
    around low performing schools, and put a good teacher in
    every classroom.

On charter schools, the civil rights groups write that not
only is charter school performance uneven at best, but many
charter schools only serve a small selection of the neediest
students. The civil rights groups criticized the blind
acceptance of charter school-as-panacea, because charter
schools often don't accept as many students with
disabilities, students who rely on free school lunches, and
English language learners--many of the groups of students
who could jeopardize their test scores.

"While some charter schools can and do work for some
students," the report says, "they are not a universal
solution for systemic change for all students, especially
those with the highest needs." Regarding "turnaround"
models, the reform approach that demands mass firings of
teaching staff when schools are deemed "failing," the report
said that where they've been tried, they've rarely produced
positive results.

The civil rights groups perhaps reserved their harshest
criticisms for Race to the Top, the $4.35 billion
competitive grants program that hands out money to states
that commit to the Obama education reform agenda. They
write:

    The Race to the Top Fund and similar strategies for
    awarding federal education funding will ultimately leave
    states competing with states, parents competing with
    parents, and students competing with other students.
    Moreover, even states that do not choose to compete for
    federal incentive funds should have an obligation to
    provide a standard of education consistent with
    protecting their children's civil rights. The civil
    right to a high-quality education is connected to
    individuals, not the states, and federal policy should
    be framed accordingly. Good federal policy should
    mitigate political inequities that serve as barriers to
    delivering the ultimate change that is so plainly
    desired and needed. By emphasizing competitive
    incentives in this economic climate, the majority of
    low-income and minority students will be left behind
    and, as a result, the United States will be left behind
    as a global leader.

The Duncan-led Obama education reform crusade is built on
several programs: the competitive grants program called Race
to the Top, which rewards states with cash if they can prove
they're committed to the Obama reform platform. Many states
have successfully rammed through overhauls of their states'
education laws to lift state caps on charter schools; tie
teacher salaries (and job security) to their students' test
scores; and adopt national education standards.

Duncan's reform often looks like a slash-and-burn assault on
educators. Case in point: one of the education reform
movement's darlings, Washington, D.C.'s chancellor of
schools Michelle Rhee, announced on Friday the termination
of 241 teachers, and threats for another 700 teachers who
could be fired within the year if their students' test
scores don't improve. The stated aim is teacher
accountability, by any means necessary. But in actuality, it
just blames teachers for the plainly under-resourced and
overly bureaucratic systems they work in.

The new report coincides with the National Urban League's
100th anniversary and annual conference, where both Duncan
and President Obama are scheduled to speak this week.

[Julianne Hing is a RaceWire Co-Editor and the editorial
assistant at ColorLines. Before joining ColorLines she
served for two years as an editor of Jaded Magazine, an
award-winning progressive publication at the University of
California, Irvine named Publication of the Year by Campus
Progress in 2007. Julianne came to journalism by way of
campus organizing. She has written about labor and
migration, the politics of globalization, pop culture and
consumerism, and food.]

==========

The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers

By David Leonhardt

New York Times

July 28, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/business/economy/28leonhardt.html

How much do your kindergarten teacher and classmates affect
the rest of your life?

Economists have generally thought that the answer was not
much. Great teachers and early childhood programs can have a
big short-term effect. But the impact tends to fade. By
junior high and high school, children who had excellent
early schooling do little better on tests than similar
children who did not - which raises the demoralizing
question of how much of a difference schools and teachers
can make.

There has always been one major caveat, however, to the
research on the fade-out effect. It was based mainly on test
scores, not on a broader set of measures, like a child's
health or eventual earnings. As Raj Chetty, a Harvard
economist, says: "We don't really care about test scores. We
care about adult outcomes."

Early this year, Mr. Chetty and five other researchers set
out to fill this void. They examined the life paths of
almost 12,000 children who had been part of a well-known
education experiment in Tennessee in the 1980s. The children
are now about 30, well started on their adult lives.

On Tuesday, Mr. Chetty presented the findings - not yet
peer- reviewed - at an academic conference in Cambridge,
Mass. They're fairly explosive.

...

Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more
likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar
backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely
to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely
to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they
were earning more.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 28,
2010, on page A1 of the New York edition.

full story at:http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/business/economy/28leonhardt.html

==========

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