March 4, 2008

Ritter's Education "Reform" A Bit Too "Un"Formed

Gov. Bill Ritter's proposal to overhaul the public school system is meeting with cautious support among education groups.

But education leaders said the hard part will be filling in details of the sketchy plan, which Ritter and Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, have termed "revolutionary."

"Sketchy" plan? Doesn't that sound a little bit like a "Dangerous Scheme?"

Here's my problem with this: NOBODY knows what is in this plan. Even the educators who are being asked to "give input" aren't sure what this plan actually is.

"There's not a lot of clarity about what teachers need, what principals need in terms of training and professional development and resources to complete the revolution," said Bruce Caughey, deputy director of the Colorado Association of School Executives,

But, thank God, there's a solution: ANOTHER panel (though nobody's attached "Blue Ribbon" to it yet).

Under the bill, an 11-member "preschool to postsecondary alignment council" will devise a definition of readiness for either college or the work force.

Whew. So at least we got that going for us.

So let me get this straight: the Governor has started circulating, in effect, a blank piece of paper to education advocacy groups (I'm an educator, and I haven't seen this, so I'm thinking it's only going out to unions) which will create a panel which will define one word from which new education policy will flow.

Does anybody else see a problem with this?

In principle, I like the idea: schools should start to recognize that not all kids are college bound, and should start preparing them accordingly. Also, the bill's co-sponsor is Josh Penry (R), who has never yet given me reason to doubt his fealty to conservative ideas.

But when your first, mostly empty draft is distributed to the unions first, I think you're bound to end up with something that STOPS resembling reform and starts resembling job protection. And besides, since when did it make sense to ask people who have never been without a ten-week summer vacation what sort of skills people need in the "real world?"

When you ask people who work in schools what kids need to know, you get school kinds of answers," Wilensky said.

"That's not what we want to make as the universal standard for everybody, because most people aren't going to work in schools. So what is it you need to know in real life?" Wilensky said.


[cross-posted at BestDestiny]

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