Strangling the schools?

Just in time for back-to-school season, the Star Tribune published enough alarming headlines to rally the troops, worry parents, and get the phones ringing at the Capitol (if the Legislature was in session, that is):

Strangling the Schools

  • Strangling the schools
  • A death spiral for Minneapolis schools?
  • Some worry that schools are being set up for failure
  • Minneapolis' pain will be felt all around state
  • For state to succeed, so must the Cities
  • Push to narrow achievement gap suffers under cuts
  • Schools shouldn't have to compete for state's help
  • Minneapolis schools: public funding isn't out of line (editorial)

Of course, our friend Michael Boucher was close by, providing dramatic photo ops of his Minneapolis South High School students sharing chairs (or standing) in his overcrowded social studies class. (Did they get course credit for "activism?")

But is it all about the money? Haves vs. have nots? Cities vs. suburbs?

While Education Minnesota and MoveOn.org were busy blaming this state of affairs on the Republicans at "house parties" yesterday, Cheri Pierson Yecke presented the results of her statewide study of No Child Left Behind in Minnesota. "While critics have complained that NCLB needs fine-tuning, we are not aware of anyone who has stepped up to the plate and conducted a comprehensive study that actually presents tangible ideas and viable options for addressing the issues that concern educators. Now we have such a study," said Annette Meeks, Director of Government Affairs and Public Programs at the Center of the American Experiment, where Yecke is Distinguished Senior Fellow for Education and Social Policy.

The report, Education Accountability in Minnesota: No Child Left Behind and Beyond, is available at the Center of the American Experiment web site. The politically-incorrect former Commissioner of Education spent her summer "vacation" touring the state, listening to educators talk not only about NCLB, but also about the "homegrown challenges" to accountability that they face. According Yecke's report, "Minnesota educators understand that they have a dual obligation to (1) help all children to succeed, and (2) present taxpayers with the evidence that their investment in public education is paying positive dividends in the form of increased academic achievement..."

The 58-page report identifies and discusses a "top ten list" of issues:

  1. Measuring student growth: Transitioning to a value-added accountability model.

  2. Fairness: Addressing student subgroup populations.

  3. Ineffective teachers: What can be done?

  4. Teacher assignments: Targeting the needs of students.

  5. Mobility: Accountability for children educated elsewhere.

  6. Special education: A multiplicity of issues.

  7. Teacher Licensure: The need for flexibility.

  8. "Too Much Testing:" Confusion between diagnostic testing and testing for accountability.

  9. Funding: New strategies.

  10. Conflicts of Interest: Community Fairness and Protecting Classroom Dollars.
I am no big fan of NCLB, but I am a fan of accountability and closing the achievement gap. This report deserves the attention of parents, teachers, administrators, legislators, and all public education stakeholders in Minnesota. Let's put aside the partisan rhetoric (tough in an election year I know) and concentrate on solving the challenges that face our schools.