Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Governor's failures to improve schools: 2005

California has at least 1360 schools that are performing poorly. (Ed Source)
By next year there will be more. In the next two to three years over 1000 additional schools will be classified as “failing” under the accountability provisions of No child Left Behind. Classification as failing will produce a series of increasingly harsh sanctions.
The No child Left Behind system is based upon theories of incentives and accountability. The theory is that these schools fail because they lack the incentive to succeed. (the same theory as the Governor used in his proposal for ‘merit’ pay). Theories of incentives and accountability play well with the Business Roundtable and editorial writers- but they have failed in the schools. Things are getting worse, not better.
One reason is that incentive theories assume that the problem of poor achievement is a lack of incentives for teachers. It is not. Teachers have the incentive to improve schools- they lack the resources and knowledge of how to improve the schools.
Schools in California have failed to improve basically because the state has not provided sufficient resources and has not focused these resources on turning schools around. California currently ranks 44th in per pupil funding and 49th in class size. This is a failure of resources, not a failure of incentives.
The nation has a number of policy experts who offer advice on improving schools. They are paid well and have good offices, secretarial support, and adequate resources- the schools do not. The policy positions come from people who seldom work in classrooms. Few of the proposals- none of the proposals of the governor- cme from people who are informed about classroom reality.
How do you improve teacher performance and student performance? First step, schools need to begin with capacity building. Teachers need to time to plan, time to learn new systems, and time to work with their students. None of these are addressed by the Governor’s proposals.
The current accountability system is not capable of driving school improvement. It is based on the theory of incentives- and it provides few additional resources and little capacity building. The accountability system (API) and the tests will not improve student achievement.
Improving student achievement would require substantially more resources and skilled leadership. The governor’s budget does not provide the resources for change.
And, as for leadership, the governor has appointed Alan Bersin as Secretary of Education. Now, Alan Bersin is just now leaving the position as Superintendent of San Diego- where he failed to improve achievement. The chief policy advisor to the governor does not know how to imrpove school achievement- it is obvious. He failed to do so.

See: http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/spring05/elmore.htm
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