Monday, March 14, 2011

Don’t Show Me the Money, Show Me Respect

President Obama recently spoke about the need to fix NCLB.  His solution is to keep the goals of the legislation in place but to provide the support schools need to meet these goals.  The thing is, the government’s contribution to education is a pittance, so what his declaration amounted to was a token request or plea for governors to not cut education spending.

That is great, but after a month of Obama standing by idle while Scott Walker ripped apart the support system for teachers in Wisconsin, this seems more like passing the buck than leading the effort for education reform.

Obama did say some good things, or maybe not, because it all seemed pretty ambiguous or just downright confusing.  Take this for example:

“So what we’re doing is we’re saying to states, prove you’re serious about reform, and we’ll show you the money. And because it’s a competition for less than one percent of what our country spends on education each year, Race to the Top has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching, learning, and student achievement…”

Show me the money, baby, all “less than one percent” of it!  This money thing is starting to confuse me, not to mention that it seems to me states are rushing through changes to meet the requirements of the competition without actually enacting meaningful education reform.  It has become about the money, not the reform.

I am glad to hear that Obama is calling the 80% failure rate of public schools a relic of the measurement system set forth in NCLB, but then he turns around and says this:

“That way of measuring success and failure, that’s the first problem with No Child Left Behind that we need to fix.  Instead of labeling schools a failure one day and then throwing up our hands and walking away from them, we need to refocus on the schools that need the most help. “

Wait a second, I thought the schools that got the most help were the ones that could meet the criteria of Race to the Top?  Here we go again…

Now, I really like how he said we need to change the way we measure and assess student progress, not more testing but better testing.

“Now, that doesn’t mean testing is going to go away; there will be testing.  But the point is, is that we need to refine how we’re assessing progress so that we can have accountability without rigidity -- accountability that still encourages creativity inside the classroom, and empowers teachers and students and administrators.”

Hmmm… assessing progress to have accountability without rigidity?  So, like making a teacher’s pay connected to a student’s performance on a test?  I am again confused.  The President is a champion of assessment based merit pay and yet he wants me to be creative in the classroom?  I think I already explained in an earlier post why those things just don’t jive.

There is an interesting change in tone here from Obama’s State of the Union address.  There is some nuance.  Unfortunately, whenever Obama starts to use nuance it tends to confuse people, like me.  It shows he really does understand the issues (hopefull), he just can’t quite do anything about it. 

I am getting a mixed message here, but perhaps a mixed message is better than an outright bad one:

I am hearing Obama say states need to support teachers and education and yet he stands by idle as Republican governors gut education and teacher rights.  I am hearing Obama preach creativity and yet he promotes a high stakes environment that forces teachers to walk a fine line.  I am hearing Obama promise that there will not be more testing, and yet testing still reigns supreme.  I am hearing Obama wanting to reward teachers with support and funding and yet all he can produce is a toothless request of unsupportive governors.

I don’t want you to show me the money, Mr. President, I want you to show me respect.  Show me respect by trusting me to develop my own systems of accountability, show me respect by allowing me to work in a truly flexible and creative environment, show me respect by believing that I know what is right for my students.  I don’t need more money to do my job better, I need more respect and space to reach my full potential as a teacher.

So don’t show me the money you don’t have, show me you really want to reclaim public education!

1 comment:

  1. Amen! TC Hahn for Pres! Will definitely be following this blog...