August 7, 2009

Back to School & Points of View - August 7

It is the last "pre-school" weekend for my wife. Basically, she is in organization mode to get ready for the planned invasion on Monday morning. I always wonder if she is going to make it through the onslaught of battle on Day 1. As I heard one of colleagues say to a new teacher, there are only 30 "first days" in your career, but they set the tone for the entire year.

Yes, Monday morning the kids go back to school in most systems here in Georgia, so the tension, excitement, new clothes, and all will explode on Monday in what has become a global phenomenon... the back-to-school traffic jam.

If you don't work in education or have kids, either leave to get to work early or go in at least an hour late... either way, unless you like reading bumper stickers over and over and over again, you'll thank me. I admit it. I have made the mistake numerous times myself, but I have finally had it drilled into my brain. Atlanta traffic is bad DAILY, but add in the first day of school, and it looks like the rush to get the latest, greatest kid's toy for Christmas at the one store in town that has it.

The main point I want to make though - Good luck this year to students, parents, and educators!

Points of View

I heard from a number of people about how much they enjoyed reading the various editorials on education "all in one place" versus trying to sift through everything themselves. Since this seemed to be something that many of you liked, I will try to do this every month or so as the number of articles warrants.

Since everyone is probably busy with back to school issues, I have put numerous articles here for you to print, read, and enjoy when you have some time. Whether you agree or disagree (tried to get some varying opinions), hopefully the articles give you something to think about and discuss with your colleagues as everyone heads back to school.

Washington Steps Up on Schools - The New York Times - "The federal government talks tough about requiring the states to improve schools in exchange for education aid. Then it caves in to political pressure and rewards mediocrity when it’s time to enforce the bargain. As a result, the country has yet to achieve many of the desperately needed reforms laid out in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 and other laws dating back to the 1990’s."

Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’ - The Wall Street Journal - "The Obama Administration unveiled its new “Race to the Top” initiative late last week, in which it will use the lure of $4.35 billion in federal cash to induce states to improve their K-12 schools. This is going to be interesting to watch, because if nothing else the public school establishment is no longer going to be able to say that lack of money is its big problem."

Letters to the Editor: Tennessee Is a School Reform Leader - By Bill Frist - The Wall Street Journal - "Your July 31 editorial, “Obama’s ‘Race to the Top,’  ” highlights the ongoing struggle to reform our nation’s schools and some of the hurdles President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan may encounter from established education advocates, particularly teacher unions. Systemic and meaningful reform cannot occur without all stakeholders working together."

Administration Takes Aim at State Laws on Teachers - By Sam Dillon - The New York Times - "The Obama administration took aim on Thursday at state laws — adopted after heavy teachers’ union lobbying — barring the use of student achievement data to evaluate teacher performance."

Pay Your Teachers Well - The Wall Street Journal - "The conflicting interests of teachers unions and students is an underreported education story, so we thought we’d highlight two recent stories in Baltimore and New York City that illustrate the problem."

Racial Gap in Testing Sees Shift by Region - By Sam Dillon - The New York Times - "... black students have made important gains in several Southern states over two decades, while in some Northern states, black achievement has improved more slowly than white achievement, or has even declined, according to a study of the black-white achievement gap released Tuesday by the Department of Education."

As Charter Schools Unionize, Many Debate Effect - By Sam Dillon - The New York Times - "Labor organizing that began two years ago at seven charter schools in Florida has proliferated over the last year to at least a dozen more charters from Massachusetts and New York to California and Oregon."

Opportunity for Politicians’ Children - By John Fund - The Wall Street Journal - "My vote for the worst scandal in America right now is the education monopoly that keeps poor, inner-city kids trapped in failing public schools. Special mention here goes to the politicians who oppose giving these children the choice to escape even as they send their own kids to private or elite public schools."

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