I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Education Reform Pressure +Economic Pressure = Upheaval of Status Quo in Public Education Nationwide

I could not agree more with this assessment of Barack Obama's Education Reform Agenda. The piece from CNN really captures my feeling on this subject. What an amazing time in America, a time for the people to finally wake up and take back our education system from the special interests and return to doing the right things for our kids! The financial crisis is the unintended ally in this revolution, so things are going to be tough; but as the saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention"

The unprecedented financial upheaval that every state in our union is experiencing is testing the status quo in the public education industry.
States like Wisconsin are changing their laws to qualify for huge federal "race to the top" grants. States like Louisiana are creating new and exciting data models to trace teacher effectiveness back to schools that trained them and student achievement back to individual teachers. States like California are pushing ahead reform plans despite tremendous resistance from entrenched special interests and organized teacher's unions.

Some States, like Maryland, appear to be quite content to allow the special interests to keep them from putting in place the necessary reforms to compete for federal race to the top money. From the Baltimore Sun:

"The idea of using student data as a tool in evaluating teachers and principals is a sensitive subject for the union, said Dan Kaufman, the spokesman for the state's largest teachers union, the Maryland State Education Association. "There are still deep concerns from the union standpoint," he said."
I can't help but wonder what the parents of students in Baltimore's struggling schools must think about the inaction of their state's education department. What a tradgedy for them.

In Massachusetts, the reform movement is running head-on into the very powerful state teacher's union. The outcome of this collision is being watched very closely in that state. From Friday's Boston Globe:

"WE’RE ABOUT to see a crucial test on education reform. We’ll learn what’s truly important to the Massachusetts Legislature: offering families more choices, catalyzing educational innovation, and tackling underperforming schools - or placating the teachers unions..But the unions, whose principal mission is to protect their members rather than to improve education, are already taking aim at the legislation, mobilizing their troops with urgent e-mail alerts, replete with talking points for lobbying legislators. They are particularly concerned with protecting the jobs and bumping rights of teachers at poorly performing schools"

I do not know exactly what Florida is doing, but I'm certain Tallahassee will be competing for some of this Federal Money.

Many of the provisions of the race to the top guidelines are being met locally in Escambia County--we have charter schools that compete for students, we have merit pay being utilized to reward high performers, (MAP Plan-- currently being used in our charter schools, potentially to be re-implemented in all Escambia Schools for 2010-2011 if we have the will, wisdom, and spine to make it happen again), we utilize student achievement as one measure of our teacher evaluations (item #8 in ETAS), and we are in the midst of an historic turnaround of one of our lowest performing schools, Warrington Middle School.

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