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September 27, 2007


Thanks for the lesson, Terry. "school reform" is one of those loaded terms (like "immigration reform") that means completely different things to different people.

I remember schools built in the '70s as "pods", with retractable walls between rooms. I also recall schools built with very few windows. Trends come and go, but the ideas you present seem like they could stand the test of time if we were serious about adopting and supporting them in our schools.

The school where I taught in Hillsboro had very few windows, none of which opened. All the air was recirculated through a central system that was difficult to regulate. Some rooms were hot, others cold. And the fluorescent lighting was enough to drive anyone into a deep depression.

Aside from that, it was a good place to work AFTER all our reforms were in place.

Thanks for a look at the other side of school reform. As of late, "reform" has become a dirty word, thanks to Eli Broad etal. Here's a quote I like about Broad's definition of reform. It's the one PPS and our school board have bought into.
"About 18 months ago, I was invited to meet Eli Broad in his gorgeous penthouse in NYC, overlooking Central Park. I hear that he made his billions in the insurance and real estate businesses. I am not sure when he became an education expert. We talked about school reform for an hour or more, and he told me that what was needed to fix the schools was not all that complicated: A tough manager surrounded by smart graduates of business schools and law schools. Accountability. Tight controls. Results. In fact, NYC is the perfect model of school reform from his point of view. Indeed, this version of school reform deserves the Broad Prize, a prize conferred by one billionaire on another."

—Diane Ravitch, Education Week blog, 9/9/07

As I understand it, what educators teach students is the simple definition of "curriculum" and how they go about teaching it is the simple definition of "pedagogy". Tests and other measures of achievement are measures of "accountability" or how well students in classrooms and school buildings are learning.

Changes in any of those areas as well as school infrastructure, finance, operating practices, employee qualifications or performance measurements etc. constitute piecemeal reforms.

NCLB testing "reform" has changed student achievement reporting to identify results of different student groupings such as ESL, special ed, African American, etc. rether than for the classroom or building in its entirety. An improvement over reporting as a homogeneous classroom or building.

Reform can be good if all stakeholders participate in good faith or a nightmare if power struggles come into play.

So, Howard, what is the definition of WHO is being taught? While I agree with you about how NCLB has changed REPORTING, which students get the most resources has also changed as a direct result of NCLB. I suggest you check out Terry's post dated 9/26 and the accompanying comments (esp. mine).

Howard, I suggest you read my post more carefully. The "how" of teaching is drastically altered by collaborative teaching teams and flexible learning communities, both of which are fundamental to school reform. Integrated instruction is also a relatively new concept, but one which research has shown to have a positive impact on student learning.* "Pedagogy", at least in the definitions I've read, does not address those structural reforms.

You make a mistake in equating student achievement with test scores. I know of no reputable educator who thinks that achievement tests come anywhere close to measuring the entirety of the learning that takes place in schools.

* "The division into subjects and periods encourages a segmented rather than an integrated view of knowledge. Consequently, what students are asked to relate to in schooling becomes increasingly artificial, cut off from the human experiences subject matter is supposed to reflect." -- John I. Goodlad

Howard, I liked the old days where a kid's test scores reflected some sense of how he or she was doing in reading and math. This info was related to the parent. If the kid wasn't doing as well as he or she should be doing then the kid needed to work harder and the parents backed that up. End of story.

Or, Steve, the teacher needed to alter his instruction. That's what test data is best used for --feedback to the teacher, not as a cudgel to bludgeon "low performing" schools.

Terry, most of the feedback from standardized testing is telling you how to do better on the standardized testing. I know you know this. Teacher feedback is better done in a hundred different ways. (I may be overstating the case a little, but you get the idea.)

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