Testing, Testing

In the Dec. 14 issue of The New Yorker, physician Atul Gawande takes on one of the persistent critiques of the current health care debate:

“We crave sweeping transformation, however all the current bill offers is … pilot programs, a battery of small-scale experiments.  The strategy seems hopelessly inadequate to solve a problem of this magnitude.  And yet—here’s the interesting thing—history suggests otherwise.”

Approach on Education Needs an Overhaul

(Previously published in the Columbus Dispatch) 

The recent release of the Department of Education's Race to the Top application has me anxious and hopeful. On the one hand, we've been through a trying eight years of the failed No Child Left Behind Act. Schools have dumbed-down and narrowed curricula, cutting the arts, physical education and more in the name of prepping for tests. Some kindergartners have forsaken rest time and recess for test prep; field trips have been replaced by worksheets; and some students likely to fail the tests have been pushed out of schools.

Election Day

I always try to be first to vote in my town, and usually lose out to a local electrician whose job starts even earlier than mine. Part of the reason for my early arrival is that it gives me time to check in and chat with our former students who are working the polls as well as those that are showing up to vote.

Giving Teachers the Reins

On October 22, the Forum hosted a panel discussion in Washington, DC about how to invest in the creation of a long-term teaching profession in the United States. The following article about the event, written by Anthony Rebora, appeared in Teacher Magazine. A copy of the Forum's policy brief can be found at http://rethinklearningnow.com/resources/Teaching_Brief_1009_ForumForEd.pdf.

The Forum Mourns the Loss of Convener and Mentor Ted Sizer

It is with great sadness that we at The Forum share with you the news of the death of our friend and mentor, Ted Sizer.  Ted lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday while at home with his family.

Help Us Rethink Learning. NOW.

In case you missed it, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently announced his intentions to jumpstart the reauthorization process for federal education policy in 2010.

Duncan’s call to action suggests a breakneck pace of policy debates this fall. But as you well know, we can’t craft the best possible guidance for our public school system until we rethink learning NOW.

We Need a Win-Win Strategy for Education

President Obama has made it clear from the earliest days of his presidency that he intended to make education a high priority for his administration.  He will reaffirm that commitment this week when he addresses the nation on the topic.  In one of his first presidential addresses, he made a special appeal to students at risk of dropping out: “… [D]ropping out of high school is no longer an option.  It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country, and this country needs and values the talents of every American.”

Secretary Duncan’s Urgency to Reauthorize ESEA is Wise, but Serious Concerns Remain

Forum for Education and Democracy National Director Sam Chaltain issued the following statement on Secretary Duncan’s priorities for ESEA reauthorization:

“At The Forum, we share Secretary Duncan’s sense of urgency regarding the reauthorization of ESEA, and we appreciate his call for substantive policy ideas from the field of advocates, educators and others.  We also agree that standardized tests, when used as the sole measure of student achievement, distort our public education system and discourage educators from creating healthy and high-functioning learning environments.

Letter to Secretary Duncan

August 27, 2009

Office of Secondary and Elementary Education
c/o Race to the Top Fund
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Room 3W329
Washington, DC 20202

To Whom It May Concern:

We are writing to submit our comments regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s (“Department”) notice of proposed priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria pertaining to the Race to the Top Fund (“Fund”). These comments reflect the Forum for Education and Democracy’s (“Forum”) concerns as well as our recommendations for how to improve the proposed regulations.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

This year it happened on the second day of school.

I was told there was a young man waiting in the office to see me.  My secretary gave me the heads up—he was 18, had moved in with someone in the district, and wanted to come to our school.
His glasses were broken and he needed a shave, and it didn’t help that he had a hard time looking me in the eye because of his nervousness.  The story was one I have heard every school year in one form or another.  Jeff (not his real name) had left home and landed in our backyard because of a girl he had met on a visit to the area.  Living with her family, he wanted to come back to school and try to graduate.