Education: A Golden Age

“The education sector’s structure and policies will change more in the next 3 years than they changed in the last 2,500 years”

New Republic covering Obama and charter schools and vouchers and the new generation of teachers – but not the biggest picture


Our comment: but “even” this article fails to mention that teacher salaries – and teacher employment – from now on will be rapidly increasingly based on demand from students and their parents – again based on web-based rankings of thousand and thousands of teachers all over the world. What we are witnessing now are the final spasms of a 200-year education system era.


Reform School

The education (on education) of Barack Obama.

Josh Patashnik, The New Republic Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2008

There’s at least one issue, though, on which Obama’s record puts him sharply at odds with the party’s liberal establishment: education. Obama has long advocated a reformist agenda that looks favorably upon things like competition between schools, test-based accountability, and performance pay for teachers. But the Obama campaign has hesitated to trumpet its candidate’s maverick credentials. As an increasingly influential chorus of donors and policy wonks pushes an agenda within the Democratic Party that frightens teachers’ unions and their traditional liberal allies, Obama seems unsure how far he can go in reassuring the former group that he’s one of them without alienating the latter. And this is a shame, because Obama may represent the best hope for real reform in decades.

Despite his occasional pandering to the left, many reformers assume that, deep down, Obama is with them. They don’t have much of a choice: Clinton has never released a detailed K-12 education plan, and her orthodox public statements and union support have made it fairly clear that she toes the party line. But there’s good reason to believe that the reformers aren’t just deluding themselves. The Journal Sentinel interview wasn’t an isolated incident: Obama has a habit of peppering his speeches with hints as to where his sympathies lie–a sort of dogwhistle politics for education wonks.

He cites as a model Denver’s pioneering teacher-compensation system, which provides bonus pay to teachers who agree to teach in poor neighborhoods and who do well on a variety of quality assessments, including having students who score highly on standardized tests. “Denver has become a buzzword for a willingness to do things differently,” says Brad Jupp, a former teacher and senior academic policy adviser with the Denver Public Schools. By contrast, in November, Clinton told Iowa teachers the idea “would open a whole lot of problems.”

Another reason to expect a new approach from Obama is that the terrain in the Democratic Party is as favorable as it’s been in recent memory for an education reformer. The influence of teachers’ unions within the party, though still strong, has waned. In September, Representative George Miller, the influential chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, publicly rebuked NEA president Reg Weaver for objecting to performance pay. And the AFT’s backing hasn’t exactly been a boon to Clinton.

At the same time, an increasing number of Democrats–some of them with deep pockets–have begun a concerted effort to counter the unions. Last year, Tilson and three other financiers founded Democrats for Education Reform. Last year, the group persuaded the New York state legislature to lift its cap on the number of charter schools permitted, funneling an additional $400 million to create new charter schools. “It’s still a nascent movement, but we’re starting to see a shift in the debate,” Tilson says. Just as important, more established center-left think tanks, most notably the Center for American Progress, are taking up the reform banner, too. And younger rank-and-file teachers tend to be more open to ideas like performance pay, charter schools, extended class hours, and incentives to teach in disadvantaged schools. “There’s a real generational divide. I wouldn’t assume that all teachers will fight these proposals tooth- and-nail,” says Wilkins.


2008/03/14 - Posted by | Performance pay, Policy, Unions, US, Vouchers

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