There was a Part Two to the article by Chris Vance that appeared in Crosscuts. This one is how to fix the graduation standards. He first charts what was meant to happen and then, what did happen. One paragraph caught my eye:
"This is the real crisis of accountability. Education reform was not intended to help the high achievers achieve more, it was designed to prevent at-risk kids from falling through the cracks. By setting minimum mandatory standards, we intended to prevent schools from passing on from one grade to the next kids who weren’t learning the basics and weren’t ready for post-secondary education or the workforce. Without the accountability measures called for in H.B. 1209, especially the mandatory graduation requirement, common sense and all available data indicate that practice continues today. Without clear standards and real accountability, we are failing the kids who need help the most."
I had to shake my head over the phrase "not intended to help the high achievers achieve more". No, of course, not because "those" kids will always do well. Their academic needs? Well, they're smart, they'll be okay.
I mean, he's right. Education reform was about reaching and helping at-risk students. But education itself is supposed to be for all.
Here's what he says primarily went wrong:
"Our great mistake in 1993 was allowing the Commission on Student Learning to set the bar and define the minimum graduation requirement. We felt that this task was best left to “experts” rather than 147 politicians sitting on the floor of the House and Senate. We were wrong. Reform this fundamental needs to be compelled from without, rather than evolve from within."
He also says what needs to be done:
"At the same time, the Legislature and governor need to resurrect the issue of educational deregulation and local control. If we are truly going to make the system accountable to results, rather than process, we don’t need the bureaucratic time measurements of the Basic Education Act of 1977, and we certainly don’t need to force school districts to all teach the same way."
You should read the Comments below the article. One struck me:
"I found the Vance items very interesting and well written, and the comments are as well, but I don't see any focus on the two big subjects around the water cooler of schools when WASL comes up. One is the simple fact that schools have turned largely into classes wherein the only goal is to teach to the upcoming WASL tests. There is no flex, no response to issues or needs as they arise, just a deadening emphasis on the test. Nothing else is of importance.
The other is the utter destruction of any capacity in classrooms for the inspiring teacher. SPS and Bellevue Schools are now taking total and intrusive control of the curriculum. Teachers are expected to be on the same page in all classes at all times. Teachers as professionals are not able to speed up or slow down or change direction as student needs arise. In Seattle elementary schools all math teachers are being forced to teach the same (deficient) curriculum, even when they know and can teach other approaches more effectively. Rumor has it that Bellevue teachers are running away from the district as fast as possible, the intrusion into the classroom is so offensive and depressing."
Interesting. Teachers, what do you think? I get that teachers need (and should be able) to make adjustments but I also want to know that my school is teaching in a unified manner and that the principal is able to make assessment school-wide and not just classroom by classroom.