Monday, August 29, 2011

A "Wow" News Story and a "Hmm" What's This One All About story

Over at the Huffington Post, there were two interesting stories.

The first is about Larry Powell, the superintendent of Fresno county, CA schools.  Larry was worried about what would happen to some of the programs he cared most about in his district, he took an $800k pay cut over the next three years.  Holy cow!

He runs 325 schools in 35 districts with 195,000 students.  He'll run those districts on less than a starting California teacher salary.  He technically retired, then agreed to be rehired for $31k a year ($10k less than a starting teacher).   From the story:

Powell's generosity is more than just a gesture in a region with some of the nation's highest rates of unemployment. As he prepares for retirement, he wants to ensure that his pet projects survive California budget cuts. And the man who started his career as a high school civics teacher, who has made anti-bullying his mission, hopes his act of generosity will help restore faith in the government he once taught students to respect.

His move was so low-key, his manner so unassuming, that it took four days after the school board meeting for word of his act to get out to the community. There were no press releases or self-congratulatory pats on the back.

But because his salary comes out of the district's discretionary budget, for the next three years he'll be able to steer the money he is giving up where he wants: to programs for kindergarten and preschool, the arts and a pet project that steers B and C students into college by teaching them how to take notes and develop strategy skills.

How un-Broad of him.

What does he credit with creating this feeling of giving?


He even sees as an asset his childhood contraction of polio, which left him with a limp and a brace, and now a lingering post-polio syndrome.

"It's the most spectacular thing that has happened to me in all my life," he said. "People stepped up to help me be successful."

What a guy.

The other story is a op-ed piece  about the push and pull from differing sides on ed reform from Michel J. Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Hoover Institution at Stanford.  Not exactly the guy I'd normally read but I did.  He had me going for a certain time.  But then he came to a middle ground "One Size Fits All." 

Thankfully, the two visions can be combined; the resulting approach might be labeled One Size Fits Most. For the majority of American schools, we follow the Coherence Camp's cues. We build national standards (à la Common Core), we develop a handful of national curricula, we connect pre-service and in-service training to the standards, and we tie accountability for schools, teachers and students to them, too. We continue to minimize the role of the 14,000 school boards (if not eliminate them outright) by empowering states to take an ever-larger role in all aspects of educational improvement. And through these mechanisms, we make the "default" option in American public education -- the "typical" public school -- much better than it is today.

Let's see.  I got confused at "continue to minimize the role of school boards."  (Is that really happening?)  So we minimize the only direct accountability parents and community might have over their schools?  Hmmm. 

I also got confused at more states' involvement with national standards.  I'm not sure the feds and the states could come to agreement here. 

He goes on:

At the same time, we make it easy for educators and parents to opt out of this One Best System. We grow the charter and digital sectors aggressively and remove the barriers that are keeping them from achieving their full, dynamic potential. And we even consider going back to the original charter concept -- allowing schools to negotiate their own unique performance expectations with their authorizers, rather than being held accountable to the One Best System's standards. More specifically, we allow charters and digital providers (or at least some subset) to opt out of the Common Core framework entirely, and to proffer their own evidence of educational achievement.

On whose dollars?

"Remove barriers?"  He's pretty vague on this point and that's troubling.  I'm thinking there are laws involved that he wants to weaken. 

And charters - "negotiate their own unique performance expectations" - that's a little too private school talk for school receiving public dollars.

I agree with one commenter that it sounds less like compromise and more like the worst of each system. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

and one more "news" story:

http://www.rawstory.com/rawreplay/2011/08/michelle-rhee-charter-schools-are-public-schools/

I love fantasy fiction!

-JC.