Sam Dillon wrote for the NYTimes today, Troubled Schools Try Mimicking the Charters
Classrooms are festooned with college pennants. Hallway placards proclaim: “No Excuses!” Students win prizes for attendance. They start classes earlier and end later than their neighbors; some return to school on Saturdays. And they get to pore over math problems one-on-one with newly hired tutors, many of them former accountants and engineers.Charter schools were supposed to be pilot projects, so why not adopt what works there in public schools?
If these new mores at Lee High School, long one of Houston’s most troubled campuses, make it seem like one of those intense charter schools, that is no accident.
In the first experiment of its kind in the country, the Houston public schools are testing whether techniques proven successful in high-performing urban charters can also help raise achievement in regular public schools. Working with Roland G. Fryer, a researcher at Harvard who studies the racial achievement gap, Houston officials last year embraced five key tenets of such charters at nine district secondary schools; this fall, they are expanding the program to 11 elementary schools. A similar effort is beginning in Denver.
However, this still seems to be all about test scores. Maybe some public schools could look farther afield, to places that successfully encourage students to think and be creative (you know, the skills needed for the knowledge-based jobs we say we need around here). As far afield as Shanghai and Finland. One key in both places seems to be putting educators in charge and giving them pay and social status like doctors and lawyers.
After all, the Lowndes County Board of Education just recommended having at least one kind of educational change be:
initiated with the efforts of the educators and parentsAnd the Valdosta Board of Education just said in its statement that:
Our board will continue to support our students, leadership, teachers, and staff in improving the education for the children in our community.What if all that money CUEE is wasting trying to do something neither Board of Education wants, and that even the VDT has repudiated; what if all that money and effort were spent instead helping the Valdosta schools emulate Shanghai and the Lowndes County schools emulate Finland?
Maybe those aren’t perfect models for our local school systems; I don’t know; I’m not an educator. But I do think at least investigating models that are actually working, instead of copying failed experiments, would be a good idea. And instead of businessmen with no experience in education, instead putting educators in charge, that makes sense to me.