While I’m not always a huge fan of Alter’s work, this is a sterling piece in Newsweek. Alter lays out a plan for Obama (a grand bargain, the kind of thing I like) very much in line with the 2% Solution by Matthew Miller.
The basic deal is much higher pay (for the left) along with much tougher standards of enforcement/accountability (for the right).
Alter references KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), their website here, who are sending four times the national average of low income students to college. The basic plan is already out there and is remarkably successful across states, cities, environments. Having worked in a similar Jesuit school–children go to school from 7-5 every day, during weeks of the summer, often have all their meals at the school, individual tutors. It’s intense but it works.
Education policy is locked into interminable useless debates between the left–controlled by teachers unions and the right–married to school choice/vouchers. The third way strategy on this one, is clearly, the standards set by a KIPP-like program, for public education.
The more basic problem is that we have no way of determining which teachers can actually teach. That’s right: teaching is arguably the only profession in the country with ironclad job security and a well-honed hostility to measuring results. Because of union resistance, NCLB measures only schools, not individual teachers. The result is that school districts fire on average only one teacher a year for poor performance. Before recent reforms (which have boosted test scores), New York City dismissed only 10 of 55,000 teachers annually. What business could survive that way?
Obama claims that he’s bold on this topic. But he hasn’t been direct enough about reforming NCLB so that it revolves around clear measurements of classroom-teacher effectiveness. Research shows that this is the only variable (not class size or school size) that can close the achievement gap. Give poor kids from broken homes the best teachers, and most learn. Period.
Of course we are only talking about Obama here because McCain essentially has no education policy–other than again sloughing the whole thing off to the magic of voucherism and the idea that the corporation will be a good citizen.