When Randi Weingarten was elected president of the American Federation of Teachers, the country's largest teachers union, back in July, she proposed creating "school-based community centers" to serve needy students and their families. Now, she's behind a coalition to promote her vision. The Community Agenda for America's Public Schools calls for strong partnerships between schools and communities as a strategy to "close the opportunity gap" by increasing the quality and diversity of services that schools offer. Backers say their goal is to outline an agenda that is politically and practically feasible, rather than purely ideologically driven, in contrast with two other coalitions currently dominating debate in education circles: the "no excuses," accountability-based Education Equality Project and the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, which holds that schools alone cannot close the achievement gap. The group seeks a broad range of outcomes for children, from academic success to physical and emotional health, arguing: Every institution that influences positive outcomes for children and youth must be part of the agenda — schools, families, government, youth development organizations, health, mental health and family support agencies, higher education and faith-based institutions, community organizing and community development groups, unions, and business. Weingarten joined a handful of other education leaders in Washington, D.C., this morning for the campaign's inaugural press conference. The Community Agenda has already been endorsed by dozens of national education and community organizations, as well as by a number of local school districts, including those in Baltimore, Chicago, and Portland, Ore. The New York City Schools are not on the list of endorsers. The Community Agenda for America's Public Schools is administered by the Coalition for Community Schools. A full list of the agenda's policy recommendations is after the jump.
Teacher and blogger Doug Noon imagines what would happen if the government's attitudes towards schools and investment banks were switched: If education reform worked anything like the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan now on the table, we’d have seen government officials immediately call for implementing a plan that, as George Bush would argue, “matches the scope of the problem.” We’d see the debt ceiling raised, with hundreds of billions of dollars committed to resolving the crisis, and no demand for accountability. ... On the other hand, if a Wall Street bailout worked like education reform, we’d have a long drawn-out debate about the financial sector, accountability, and what we’ll count as real indicators of economic well-being. Noon's heard more than enough from the business world about school reform, he concludes. Many educators will sympathize; initiatives like the city's Leadership Academy for principals have turned to business for leadership models, and books like the management bible Good to Great have been promoted as guides for creating better schools (every teacher at the school where I taught was assigned Good To Great a few years ago). Graphic courtesy of the NY Times. In July, Freakonomics looked at the eleven Good To Great companies touted as consistently outperforming the market
"Has he ever spent time with any five-year-olds?" said one parent at yesterday's demonstration against testing, refering to Chancellor Klein's plan to test children in kindergarten through second grade. Schools piloting the plan can choose among several testing options, including assessments based on teacher observations and written tests of up to 90 minutes. Parents and community leaders questioned the developmental appropriateness of such tests, and expressed concern that schools are too focused on testing and test preparation, Edwize reports. Weprin and his son with Mayor Bloomberg at a parade last year. State Assemblyman Mark Weprin spoke at the rally, saying that his 8-year-old son has learned some startling lessons about tests: Recently his son told him confidently that if he ran out of time on a test he’d just check off the C answers on all the rest of the questions. Why? Weprin asked. “Statistically C is most often the right answer,” the child told his dad. “I know what millions of other parents know,” Weprin said. “We are spending too much time on testing and test prep. And it’s not just teaching to the test. I mean cheating.” And it's not just children who learn to game the tests.
Proposed new zones for the Upper West Side, with (left) and without school relocations District 3 parent leaders so worried that the DOE’s Upper West Side rezoning plan would anger parents that they prefaced the plan’s first public airing last week with a stern call for civility. The atmosphere remained civil, but the packed auditorium at the Joan of Arc complex on 93rd Street was filled with strong reactions from applause to boos as department officials visiting the Community Education Council for District 3 laid out a proposal that could rezone as many as 30 percent of families living between 59th and Morningside Park — or augur an end to the district’s broad array of “choice” programs, including gifted and talented and dual language programs. Inspired by parents and elected officials in neighboring District 2, CEC 3 this spring launched a committee to lobby for new schools to relieve the district’s pervasive overcrowding and accommodate families moving into the area's many residential buildings under construction. But DOE officials said last week that a “more comprehensive, more immediate set of solutions” — in the form of rezoning to take effect in the fall of 2009 — could bring the district’s schools well below capacity without a new school.