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13 February 2013 @ 11:20 am
If it ain't broke...  
After last night's State of the Union address, I was thinking that retirement cannot come too soon for me. Unfunded mandates (well, ideas like universal preschool, praise for RttT, etc.) plus a focus on "score cards" for universities made me actually a little defeated. And then I read Peter Smagorinsky's post about "fixing" schools. You can read the entire post here: http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2013/02/13/why-is-the-image-of-public-education-distorted-by-media/.

It is the final two paragraphs, though, that summarized all I had been feeling of late in a nutshell:

“Reform” has become the educational word of our time, and reformers like Arne Duncan are making profound changes in how schools operate, away from those that are built on relationships and genuinely challenging intellectual thinking and toward reductive multiple-choice tests as the primary measure of school effectiveness. Too much evidence is mounting, however, that reforming schools in this manner is leading to schools that truly fail. They fail kids by taking all that’s worth learning in school and reducing it to trivial assessments.

They fail teachers by taking all decisions out of their hands, eliminating their judgment from the policy process and making their jobs dreary and repetitive. They fail administrators by forcing all into the same box regardless of school demographics and evaluating their effectiveness based on factors that are likely out of their control. They fail communities by undermining the historic role that schools have played as the epicenter of values and continuity. And they fail the nation by working from false images in order to produce schools that, unlike their recent predecessors, were doing quite well until forced by administrative fiat to adopt failed policies.


I think this has extended beyond the K-12 community and into the college and university community as well. It is not new, I know. There have been efforts to dismantle colleges of education (alternative certification, TFA, etc.) for a long time now. But it is getting harder for me to believe some reformers want a better education that what is available. What they want is a $10K degree (we are being pushed to come up with ways of doing this and I know we are not alone). Because if we reduce all of education to multiple choice assessments and cheap degrees and credit hours for life experience then we will continue to have an electorate who will drink the poisoned Kool-Aid willingly.

Already today I have read an article entitled BAD COLLEGES about how tuition has increased while the salary of newly minted grads has decreased over the past 5 years. I can speak about the tuition increase from both sides. I am a college professor; my salary comes from the $$$ the university brings in through tuition. I am also the person helping College Girl realize her dreams of a college degree (Basically, my check turns around and becomes tuition, etc.). Why has tuition climbed? The state legislature here cut higher ed funding about 30% or more over the last few years. We were told to make up the shortfall by increasing tuition. We did. Now we are being criticized as the bad guys (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain). And so the "fix" for us is to do more online. Well, I do teach in a fully online graduate program. Before we went online, we offered classes on Saturdays and in locations where the students lived (I drove 800 miles per weekend to go to where the students were). We have been changing, and we will continue to evolve (look at the courses offered years ago in library science versus today's curriculum).

The only thing that keeps me from resigning TODAY are things like this:

1. Mr. Schu's Blog about sharing books with kids and their responses: http://mrschureads.blogspot.com/

2. Twitter chat last night with @donalynbooks (the Book Whisperer) about finding a way to get new voices out in the professional literature.

3. Notes from folks who received some of the audiobooks I mailed last week (20 boxes) and how excited their kids will be.

4. My own classes where students are raving about the books they are reading and the new ideas they have about sharing them with their students.

5. Tomorrow I get to do booktalks with my friend and colleague Rosemary Chance to faculty and students in the College of Education. We have about 100 coming for our second annual presentation.

Okay, I feel better now. I think I will go read something post-apocalyptic!
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