Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What is reform? CA leader has answer

The president of the California Federation of Teachers has a precise and workable definition of education reform in this op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle: "From the perspective of a classroom teacher, reform must be rooted in classroom practice and supported by research."

If only all reform efforts would flow from that simple formula, our schools would be in much better shape. Unfortunately, CFT President Marty Hittleman says, that's not the model being followed by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

In the laundry list of mandates required to win federal Race to the Top funds, Hittleman writes, "many are controversial because they have never been shown to improve student learning. One would force states to adopt teacher performance evaluation procedures that would include reliance on individual students' standardized test scores. Another would compensate teachers based on those scores. Both have been shown by research to be ineffective."

Hittleman accurately characterizes those as simplistic quick fixes that will not work. Judging a teacher based solely on standardized test results ignores too many factors, he says. Citing Education Testing Service studies, Hittleman says that much of what students learn "is correlated to what happens in homes and communities."

Hittleman rejects the argument that opposition to Duncan's plan is just reflexive union posturing:

We are for reforms that work, which include standards-based and common curricula that have multiple source assessments; student data available for classroom teacher use based on a comprehensive approach; smaller class sizes; new teacher mentoring; and peer assistance and review. What we oppose are reforms based on the latest bright idea that has caught the eye of a politician or pundit with no experience teaching.

Hittleman's comments are intended for a California audience, but they resonate in Louisiana as well.

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