Sunday, December 13, 2009

Harvard Steps Up for Educational Leadership

Interesting news from Harvard via a column by Bob Herbert of the NY Times: they are, for the first time in 74 years, offering a new degree...and it's free.

"It’s in that atmosphere that the Harvard Graduate School of Education is creating a new doctoral degree to be focused on leadership in education. It’s the first new degree offered by the school in 74 years. The three-year course will be tuition-free and conducted in collaboration with faculty members from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The idea is to develop dynamic new leaders who will offer the creativity, intellectual rigor and professionalism that is needed to help transform public education in the U.S.

This transformation is a job the U.S. absolutely has to get done, and it won’t get done right without the proper leadership. Kathleen McCartney, the graduate school’s dean, explained one of the dilemmas that has hampered reform. “If you look at people who are running districts,” she said, “some come from traditional schools of education, and they understand the core business of education but perhaps are a little weak on the management side. And then you’ve got the M.B.A.-types who understand operations, let’s say, but not so much teaching and learning.”

The degree to be offered (initially to just 25 candidates) is a doctorate in education leadership (Ed.L.D.). The fact that the program is tuition-free, thanks in large part to an extraordinary grant by the Wallace Foundation, is important. Harvard is trying to reach out to the broadest possible field of potential candidates. “We can’t do that unless we remove all the barriers to studying here,” said Dean McCartney."

And in the third year:

Students will spend the third year of the doctoral leadership program in a “field placement” at some organization or agency — say, a large urban school district or educational advocacy group — to gain practical experience. School officials likened this aspect of the program to a medical residency. Instead of doing a dissertation, the students will lead an education reform project in that third year.

(This was interesting to me because Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, who has a PhD in Educational Administration, Supervision, Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado at Denver was part of the Broad Residency program to develop superintendents for urban school districts which is somewhat like the proposed last year of the Harvard program.)

The comments after this story were not especially encouraging. It ranged from criticizing Harvard for NOT allowing more people in to Harvard Business School ruining the American economy to saying it's too little. Maybe people have little faith in the education of the educators or maybe it's too little.

There was also this:

Hog Wash!! When will the left stop hiding from the truth! There are two factors in Education that no Harvard Degree will solve:

1. Single parent households(fatherless)
2. Teachers Unions

This is not about ethnicity or race! When Black and Hispanic children go to private schools - and even suburban public schools - they do much better!

So is the above true? Would public education do better if we addressed single parent family issues and got rid of or lessened the power of teachers unions? (Although one commenter pointed out, "Unions are not perfect but it is interesting to note that South Carolina that prohibits unions has 38 of the worst 100 schools in the nation.")

And this (somewhat edited for length):

When I was teaching on the college level, I saw two problems with the graduates of America's high schools. The first was the tremendous variation among the backgrounds of college freshmen. Some came from wealthy suburbs or college towns, where the parents rode herd on the school board and demanded a strong academic curriculum. Others came from inner cities or poor rural areas. Their parents were either unable or unwilling to make demands of the school board. They were the people who were too overworked and stressed to oversee their children's education, had a poor educational background themselves, or were downright anti-intellectual. Unless these students were tremendously self-motivated, they had basic literacy skills and not much else. Sometimes their schools didn't even offer a foreign language or math beyond Algebra II. One small town in Oregon even dropped all its art and music classes in order to save its football team.

The much-vaunted principle of local control may therefore produce excellence, or it may produce criminally poor schools. Mostly it produces mediocrity, thanks to the second problem, the basic anti-intellectualism of American culture.

It has never been cool to be intellectually gifted in America's high schools, unless you can redeem yourself by being a good athlete. Unfortunately, our mass media reinforce this attitude more than ever, first of all by dumbing down their content and second by treating all opinions as equally valid. How can teachers create and maintain interest in science when media pundits are telling their audiences that global climate change and evolution are just matters of opinion? How can our young people be motivated to learn when radio personalities rail against "intellectual elites"?

People who have mastered educational gobbledygook or MBA numerical obsession are the LAST things we need in American education. We have too much testing, too many faddish theories, and too many numerical performance standards.

Instead, we need to create basic, broadly stated national guidelines (e.g. fourth graders should learn the history and geography of their home state, sixth graders should know how to do all kinds of basic arithmetic, seventh graders should begin the study of a foreign language), hire creative, dedicated teachers, and turn them loose to educate the children in their own unique way. Schools should work with parents to help them help their children learn. The mass media should stop dumbing themselves down and increase the sophistication of their content."

On that last point, I was watching the Daily Show and there was a piece about how one the Fox commentators, Gretchen Carlson, seems to play dumb ("I didn't know what a czar was so I Googled it.") and yet, she graduated from Stanford, studied at Oxford and was Miss America (where you actually do have to have some smarts as it is a scholarship program). Maybe it makes those viewers feel better when the commentators act like what Obama is talking about is a mystery but it's really no help at all.

So would back to basics, vaulting of education upwards in this country and less local control turn the tide? I have to say that seeing Sarah Palin in action and knowing that a segment of this country would even consider her qualified to be vice-president (or now, president) stuns and mystifies me (especially since there are indeed bright conservative women).

9 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Some thoughts on the following four items from the posting:

1…. Their parents were either unable or unwilling to make demands of the school board.

2 …. One small town in Oregon even dropped all its art and music classes in order to save its football team.

3 …. The much-vaunted principle of local control may therefore produce excellence, or it may produce criminally poor schools.

4 …. So would back to basics, vaulting of education upwards in this country and less local control turn the tide?

1. In Seattle the Board ignores regular public input and relevant statistics to continue or begin actions that are counter-productive to academic achievement. Parent demands of the school board are largely pointless as the board rubber-stamps Central Administrative direction almost 100% of the time.

2. Does continuing to introduce expensive items like STEM, when facing a $49 million short-fall coupled with crumbling buildings make anymore sense than #2 in Oregon above. Get ready for more teacher RIFs this spring. The board seemed blind-sided by the budget problems. How could that be?

3. Local control is not the difficulty as OSPI dumb-down plans have been even worse. I'll take local control over "Broad" foundation control. How can 7 directors favor bonuses for the Superintendent when it is impossible to present as causal connection from bonus to academic improvement? Look no further than "Broad" influence. Can DeBell present a data based argument for merit pay in the future? That is the only reason for the "Supe's Bonus". $49 million deficit .. teacher RIFs .. Bonus for "Super" who produced 3 of 4 required "Strategic Plan" quarterly reports.
This district cannot even afford proper maintenance and DeBell is thinking about merit pay.

4. The basics I would like to see are these two:

A... Financial accountability and responsible decision making aimed at Academic improvement and maintenance of existing facilities. No big spending when it cuts into core-program.

B...The intelligent application of relevant statistics in decision making.

The Directors rarely do either A or B, while the Central Administration regularly disregards both as well. This is local out of control.

===========
Example of typical SPS negligence
in regard to academics....

In 2005-2006 the SPS started requiring students to have 10th grade standing to take the WASL. Previously the district tested all those who were in their second year of high school. Thus HS math scores went from 40% passing to 55% in one-year district-wide.

This district has never made an attempt to have an internationally competitive math curriculum.
I certainly say that when the UW uses IMP and pours large NSF resources in the PD^3 math project into Cleveland and produces (keep in mind that these kids needed sophomore standing to test) the following results in bold:

Percent of Black Cleveland students at level 1 or no score (measure of well-below standard lowest score possible+ no score)
Year
2004-05 67.00%
2005-06 59.50%
2006-07 74.60%
2007-08 83.40%
2008-09 74.70%


This was a complete disaster and totally unacceptable. Keep in mind that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was all for having IMP be the High School math adoption in spring 2008.
=============
The school board then voted 4-3 to continue k-8 math direction and use a similar approach to the UW encouraged IMP approach for all high schools.
=============
Hey ... It does not take a PhD to solve this puzzle ....Harvard thinking is not needed to solve this.

Common sense is very uncommon among Seattle School Directors.

Leslie said...

I vote we nominate Melissa for the Harvard PhD....

wseadawg said...

Harvard may have graduated Obama, but it also graduated Jeffrey Skilling and, lest we forget, GW Bush.

A turd from Harvard is still a turd. Nuff said.

Michael said...

Harvard Business School is ruining the American economy?

gavroche said...

Gee, what a coincidence. Guess who else has teamed up with Harvard to hone in on education?

Eli Broad & co.

Broad Foundation and Harvard Launch New Education Research Center Sept. 25, 2008, Wall St. Journal
NEW YORK -- The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced the creation of a new education research center at Harvard University in an effort to close achievement gaps in U.S. public schools.

The center, which will be called the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University, or EdLabs, launches with a budget of $44 million with the goal of finding ways to improve education practices across the U.S.(...)

(See full article at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122237756206976343.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
or pasted below.)

In fact, this new Harvard "degree" program sounds a lot like the Board Foundation's school "Superintendent Academy" which brought us Maria Goodloe-Johnson, doesn't it? (http://broadacademy.org/)

The only surprise here is that Wallace, not Broad, is funding it. Maybe it's a tag-team effort.

The MO is the same, though. Again the wealthy "education reformers" dangle a so-called "free" lure to bring in prospective takers ("Free" Harvard degrees!, "half-price Broad Residents"!). For starters, no skin off their noses; they can afford it. And secondly, why not? In return, they get to indoctrinate students/candidates in their business model approach to education, which is to privatize our public schools.

Why Harvard? Here's one theory: The education reformites, who have no education background or credibility (Eli Broad, Bill Gates, etc.) are trying to launder their capitalist/privatizing agenda through a respected ivy-league establishment to legitimate their agenda.

Another revealing clue about the true nature and integrity of these "philanthropic" edu reformers can be found in the type of characters they select to head their ventures: The chair of the "outside advisory board" of Broad's enterprise at Harvard is Lawrence Summers.

Remember him?

He's the former president of Harvard who was ousted for his sexist comments about women's intellectual aptitudes and his run-in with Cornel West.

(see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Summers)

He used to be on the Broad Foundation's Board of Directors (until he disappeared from the list, along with Arne Duncan earlier this year).

He is one of the architects of our current national economic implosion.

And yet, curiously enough, he is a chief economic advisor to Pres. Obama.

In other words, the guy is a bum, and associated primarily with failed economics, not education.

Here's an excerpt from wiki:
Summers also served as the 27th President of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006. Summers resigned as Harvard's president in the wake of a no-confidence vote by Harvard faculty that resulted in part from Summers' conflict with Cornel West, conflict of interest questions regarding his relationship with Andrei Shleifer, and a 2005 speech in which he suggested that the under-representation of women in the top levels of academia is due to a "different availability of aptitude at the high end." Summers has also been criticized by some liberals for the economic policies he advocated as Treasury Secretary and in later writings.[3] Since returning to government in the Obama administration, he has come under fire for his numerous financial ties to Wall Street.

gavroche said...

Here's the article about the Broad-Harvard connection:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122237756206976343.html?mod=google
news_wsj

* U.S. NEWS
* SEPTEMBER 25, 2008
Broad Foundation and Harvard Launch New Education Research Center

By MIKE SPECTOR

NEW YORK -- The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced the creation of a new education research center at Harvard University in an effort to close achievement gaps in U.S. public schools.

The center, which will be called the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University, or EdLabs, launches with a budget of $44 million with the goal of finding ways to improve education practices across the U.S.
Details

* A small Harvard-based central organization that includes full- and part-time researchers and EdLabs leadership ($9 million).
* Staff for the three district-based R&D teams that will work on the data analysis and innovations in each district ($3 million).
* Development and execution of an estimated one to two R&D innovations and academic interventions annually at each district. The cost is split by the district and philanthropy ($32 million).

While the scientific community has the National Institutes of Health and U.S. defense has the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, "public education has no such laboratory," said Eli Broad, one of the Broad foundation's founders, during a news conference at the Clinton Global Initiative in midtown Manhattan.

The new research center will test ideas in U.S.'s three largest school districts: New York, Washington and Chicago. Initially, the center's leaders say it plans to: build a core database that can track impacts on student performance; test various student incentives to see if they change student behaviors and attitudes; rigorously examine existing practices; and share findings with policy makers, including quantifying the expected "return" from an investment in a school or district.

The center plans to spend $9 million on researchers at Harvard, $3 million on three research and development teams in each school pilot district and $32 million on developing and executing one or two innovations and academic interventions annually in each of those districts.

Leaders launching the center didn't specify what these innovations would be, but said their goal was to come up with new solutions to close the achievement gap among students of different backgrounds.

Lawrence Summers, the former Harvard president who will serve as chair of the center's outside advisory board, noted that former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor set a 25-year timeframe for when affirmative action in education should no longer be necessary. "We're 20% through" that timeframe, he said, and "we have not closed the gap 20%."

Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City schools, said Americans should be "shocked we have racial and ethnic achievement gaps 50 years after Brown v. Board."

Asked if the establishment of the center was an implicit rebuke to the federal Education Department, which does its own research, Mr. Summers said, "It's not a rebuke to any individual."

He said the center was established in part on the theory, that "war is too important to be left just to generals … finance is too important to be left just to financiers. Education is too important to be left just to those who've been a part of the system."

Roland Fryer, a Harvard economics professor and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, will serve as the center's chief executive.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"He said the center was established in part on the theory, that "war is too important to be left just to generals … finance is too important to be left just to financiers. Education is too important to be left just to those who've been a part of the system."

First of all, war isn't left to the generals in this country. That's why we have a President, a Congress, etc. Finance was largely run by the financiers (and hence the debacle that is our current economy) and education has a lot of people with their fingers in the pie. Maybe if education was run by educators for 10 years, we might be better off.

The Broad Foundation is like an octopus with its tentacles everywhere.

wseadawg said...

Gavroche said:

Why Harvard? Here's one theory: The education reformites, who have no education background or credibility (Eli Broad, Bill Gates, etc.) are trying to launder their capitalist/privatizing agenda through a respected ivy-league establishment to legitimate their agenda.

Precisely and well put, Gavroche.

Heed these warnings people! This is a full-out cronyist assault on public education from the aristocratic class, which does not believe in academic freedom, but instead sees it as an impediment to higher profits and greater personal wealth.

How many times must we watch this movie? Who's best interests do Wall Street bankers have in mind when they profit when they win or lose by making their profits on the turns, buying or selling?

How can MGJ and others not see the eventual blood on their hands if they keep adopting and caving into the desires of no-one but the BRT and the super-wealthy? What Blade-Runner like future do they envision for our children?

This is not about Good vs Evil. Its about true diversity, which allows fair representation of all viewpoints versus gearing everything toward the modern, narrow, dehumanizing corporate model, where all that matters is how to create more and more consumers to line the pockets of the already comfortable ones.

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