I was happy to see this piece, “A Case for Educational Markets From the Left”, by Jal Mehta, an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, featured on Education Week‘s daily e-newsletter. I am pleased that the kind of arguments for educational transformation that I passionately write about, including many paths and focus on more democratic governance are getting a broader airing than I am able to give them. There are maybe 100 to 200 people who read my blog, while this piece is being put forward to a much larger audience of educational “thought leaders” who read Education Week.
In Mehta’s arguments I see another person like myself trying to think outside the box of conventional liberal/progressive wisdom on education “reform”…
I’ve been struck by the vitriolic reaction that always emerges around proposals to increase market forces in education. I wanted to use this post to say something about why even some of us on the left see some value to markets in education.
In my most recent piece“Schools: Trying to Balance Coercion, Inspiration and Facilitation”, I put forward that many American public schools are on increasingly shaky ground because they are tasked with at least six very challenging and at times conflicting goals, and are being asked to achieve all of those goals with shrinking budgets. In this increasingly difficult juggling act of doing more with less, the focus is generally on curriculum, teachers, and even at times educational methodology. But I believe the mostly unexamined element in transforming our schools (as well as other institutions in our society) is the governance model – who makes the decisions and how.
Like the cautionary reminder made famous from Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns, whenever I think about our society’s developmental path forward and I forget to focus on who the decision-makers are and how the decisions are made, I need to be shaken out of my stupor and reminded that, “It’s the governance, stupid!”
Here is a provocative quote on democracy and schools, which I believe to be on the mark, from a person named Leonard Turton who I exchanged emails with on the AERO (Alternative Education Revolution Organization) listserv back several years ago. If you consider yourself a progressive person and you believe that our country should embody democratic principles, I think you need think long and hard about what he is saying, and if you can rationalize our current education system with those democratic principles… Continue reading →
I saw the following Boston Globe article highlighted in the Public Education Network’s “Weekly NewsBlast”. The item, titled “English-only instruction rule doubles the dropout rate” with the synopsis given as follows…
A new report profiled in The Boston Globe has found that in the wake of a voter-approved law change six years ago that requires all students be taught in English, the high school dropout rate has nearly doubled for English language learners in Boston. The study, from the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts and analyzed data between 2003 and 2006, and portrays a school system ill-prepared to serve nonnative English speakers, about 38 percent of the Boston’s 56,000 students. In many cases, the district fails to evaluate properly and subsequently identify hundreds of students for special language instruction, and doesn’t give parents information on program options. Overall, the data show that the law, intended to accelerate English fluency, hasn’t helped English language learners to catch up with their English-speaking peers, in many cases leaving them further behind. Carol R. Johnson, superintendent of Boston schools, said the district will revamp the way it tests students for services, expand programs, and provide more comprehensive information to parents. “I think everybody recognizes we need to move with a sense of urgency,” she said. “Children need help and we need to help them now.”