Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Keep teachers out of education colleges 

Particularly if they're run by nitwits like this dean of an education college.
Follow me on a little imaginative journey: You and I have invented the wondermeter, a device that captures bold ideas and original insights. Using the wondermeter we are able to measure the daily wonder production of Oregon.

Um, OK.
As it turns out, every Oregonian has at least three bold ideas and original insights a day. The population of Oregon is almost 3.6 million. According to the wondermeter, at least 11 million bold ideas and original insights erupt in Oregon every day. That's approximately 4 billion bold ideas and original insights a year. Four billion.

Wow, really? Three a day? Every single one of us? I mean, sure, somebody might have hit the trifecta today, but all of us?
This discovery leads us to wonder what happens to all this genius.
It died listening to you, I suspect, but let's continue.
Does it evaporate into thin air? Do great ideas and original insights end up on the cultural compost heap of lost dreams and faded hopes? Are we squandering our most precious natural resource?
No! No! We mustn't!
All Oregonians should have a right to fulfill their untapped potential.
They do, sir. It's called "the pursuit of happiness". It doesn't mean they will fulfill it, they just have the right to try.
The news that Oregon's middle- and high-schoolers are not doing well on standardized tests is disappointing, but it may also be pointing us in the wrong direction. More scientific discoveries have taken place in the last 10 years than in the previous 600. To reduce learning to the measuring and mismeasuring of antiquated knowledge is a huge strategic error that will result in considerable suffering and a weakened economy.
Let's suppose your Future Shock story is true. How is it that we could discover all this new stuff in the last ten years and not discover new ways to measure what our kids are learning? Not all antiquated knowledge is useless, by the way. Just because some dead guy figured out gravity long ago doesn't make learning physics a "huge strategic error". And not everything discovered in the last ten years will withstand the test of time. Think "digital audio tape."

Some truths endure.
It is said that Oregon loves dreamers.
We hate 'em here in Minnesota. We'd shoot 'em if we weren't busy blowing mourning doves out of the sky.
What would an inclusive, high-performance education system look like for Oregon's dreamers?
Can you feel it coming? Here's his big insight.
Here are some suggestions: Coordinate all the state's educational assets.
Ah yes -- we need more centralized control, unless you have Republicans in the Dept. of Education, in which case you want local control.
There is a disconnect between higher education and K-12 education, there is a disconnect between the public sector and the private sector, and there is a disconnect between universal education and education for economic productivity. Instead of a competitive model, let's imagine a cooperative model where all the state's assets are used.
And in a competitive model, a useful asset would lie idle? No, as shown time and again, education works best when one is impelled to innovate by the force of competition, the threat of loss of students, funding, jobs. This guy goes on for another 200 words to describe "partnering" and "retention" and so on, without recognizing that the market for and of education has considerable "churn" and will cause some schools to fail, some teachers to not make the grade. The churn is what provides accountability, which is anathema to this education dean.
Accountability is one of the current buzzwords in education, but accountability is too often translated into test scores. I am suggesting an accountability that goes far deeper. We are accountable for the welfare of our citizens. Oregon's dreamers deserve opportunities to make their dreams real. Wonder is our most precious natural resource; we dare not squander it.
Accountability does go deeper. It goes to the bottom line, if you allow bottom lines to define success and failure of schools. It goes to parents who can vote with their feet when their child's school's report card doesn't measure up.

Accountability isn't test scores. It's choice.

(Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs. )