Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Progressive views of school reform

Progressive Ideas for Fixing Our Schools

August 23, 2005

American public schools are failing to adequately prepare our students for a rapidly changing world economic and political order. High school dropout rates are increasing; students lack requisite reading skills for college; and American students continue to fall behind their counterparts in other nations in terms math and science knowledge. The Center for American Progress and the Institute for America’s Future will release today a comprehensive, progressive agenda for addressing these challenges and improving our schools to better serve our children and our nation.

Ensure qualified teachers for every student in America. As part of his No Child Left Behind program, President Bush promised—by the end of this coming school year—that “every teacher of every major subject in every school will be highly qualified.” Unfortunately, many teachers today fail to make the grade, lacking the proper training and knowledge to adequately teach their subject areas. The Center for American Progress task force recommends implementing high-quality, employment based on-the-job training programs. At the same time, a “more rigorous accountability system must be developed,” including new, quantitative measures to make sure teachers make the grade.
Extend school days and the school year to help keep American students competitive in the global economy. Students in the United States are falling behind students in other countries. The Program for International Student Assessment ranks the United States 24th out of 29 industrial nations in math literacy; students also ranked 24th out of 29 in problem solving. One reason for this: the abbreviated school year and school day in the United States. At 180 days, the U.S. has a shorter school year than all but two industrialized nations. Students in other countries spend an average of 193 days in school. Over a 12-year academic career, that gap means American students finish nearly a full school year behind their international counterparts. The task force recommends a longer school day to give students extra time to learn math, science and English skills. In poorly performing districts, the task force recommends adding up to 30-days of schooling to the U.S. school year.
Provide universal preschool and full-day kindergarten to children across the country. The benefits of early learning are well documented and incontrovertible. As the report states, “Research consistently indicates that for every $1 investment in high-quality pre-school, there is a $7 return in long-term education outcomes and earnings, as well as decreases in crime, teen pregnancy, welfare rates, and the need for special and remedial education.” The task force therefore recommends offering access to universal, high-quality pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten for all 3- and 4-year olds, beginning with low income and minority children who need it most.
Click here to read the full recommendations in “Renewing Our Schools, Securing Our Future.”


© American Progress Action Fund

The above list provides a good starting point for discussion. Think tanks, even progressive ones, tend to join into the misconception that every one understands schools. We all know about schools because our kids attend one, and so did we.
One addition. In generating recommendations, groups should talk with teachers.
This is like discussing the reform of medicine without talking with doctors.
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