Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity


Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 10/11/2010

Willingham: 'Manifesto' more like a job wish list

By Valerie Strauss

My guest today is cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia and author of “Why Don’t Students Like School?”

By Daniel Willingham
Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and 14 other big-city school system heads have published a “manifesto” in The Washington Post. The reforms suggested ought to surprise no one who follows these issues.

1. Eliminate rules of retention and promotion based on seniority and advanced degrees.
2. Evaluate teachers based on their effectiveness in the classroom.
3. District leaders should be able to use financial incentives to recruit and retain teachers.
4. Technology should be used to make instruction more effective.
5. Parents ought to have school choice, and charter schools ought to play a role in that choice.

With the exception of #5, this is tepid stuff.

Does anyone really want to stand up and defend the way retention decisions are currently made? Teacher support for differentiated pay is mixed, but most do not see the possibility as the end of the world.

The strong reactions to the manifesto on the Post’s website have little to do with what it says and much more to do with the details of how these leaders (mostly Klein and Rhee) have tried to effect these reforms (and pursued other goals) in their districts.

To me, what’s left out of the manifesto says much more than what’s in it.

In a document titled “How to Fix Our Schools” there is no mention of curriculum. Or the role of principals. Or local boards of education. Or state government. Or schools of education.

The manifesto boils down to this: “If district leaders had more freedom to do what we want, things would improve.”

Even the idea of ensuring parents greater school choice is followed by this sentence: “That starts with having the courage to replace or substantially restructure persistently low-performing schools that continuously fail our students.”

School choice begins with the district leader closing schools?

This juxtaposition is, I think, symptomatic of the problem with the manifesto, and perhaps signifies a larger problem.

The problem with the manifesto is its narrowness. On the one hand, I appreciate that district leaders are focused on the levers that they can move, rather than heaving sighs and shaking sorrowful heads at problems (e.g., unsupportive parents) they can do little about.

On the other hand, the call for these reforms would be a lot more persuasive if it were shown to be a piece of something larger. Do these leaders really believe that curriculum can be left to chance? That once the fabled “great teacher” is in the classroom that will just work itself out?

The evidence for effectiveness of teacher preparation at schools of education is no better than the evidence that years of experience is a good guide to teacher quality. Are we going to do anything about that problem?

I am confident that Klein, Rhee, and the other signatories have opinions worth hearing on such questions. Perhaps they feel that issuing declarations on matters so far removed from their spheres of influence would be pointless. I would say, on the contrary, influential voices from all quarters are needed to address all urgent matters.

And comments on matters beyond the immediate job description of district leader would help us to understand their vision of the larger whole of education. Absent that, how can we be sure that these leaders have anticipated how the changes they advocate would reverberate through the system?

Indeed, that’s what one expects a manifesto to be: a broad statement of intentions, or aims.

This document feels less like a manifesto and more like a job wish list.

-0-

Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!<

By Valerie Strauss  | October 11, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Daniel Willingham, Guest Bloggers, School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  dan willingham, daniel willingham, fixing schools, how to fix our schools, joel klein, klein and rhee, manifesto, manifesto and post, michelle rhee, reform manifesto, rhee klein, school manifesto, school reform  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Stuff you should know about Columbus
Next: Obama, the 'Superman' movie flack?

Comments

Where is the "accountability" for...
> the CIA and other corrupt
govt. & Wall Street-affiliated players
involved with international drug smuggling
for decades (!)
-- deliberately inundating
communities & specific neighborhoods with heroin,
cocaine, meth, pills (MDMA/ecstacy), etc.
It is a documented fact that the CIA
& corrupt elements of the U.S. govt.
& freemasons have been involved in large-scale
heroin distribution operations and also
involved in the deliberately induced
crack cocaine epidemic targeting black neighborhoods (for the purposes of social undermining & political-economic control).

Where is the "accountability" for...
> The 'entertainment' industry
flooding our youth with heinously toxic,
cognitively poisonous VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
and GANGSTER-THUG GLORIFYING music/videos
that promote
crime, substance abuse, disgusting conduct,
mistreatment & violence against women,
anti-educational achievement,
anti-positive values, anti-professional careers,
anti-healthy, responsible behaviors !

Where is the "accountability" for
self-proclaimed edu-profiteer BILL GATES & MICROSOFT
in producing & promoting VIOLENT, PATHOLOGICAL
VIDEO GAMES, including first-person shooter games,
such as HALO !!!??? --
which, unfortunately, too many of our country's
children, our country's students heinously waste
too much time messing around with,
messing themselves up with --
instead of healthfully, smartly & beneficially using that time for... productive experiences, studying, exploring/learning, participating in sports, teamwork, creative arts music, outdoor activities & nature, significant time with friends & family, engaging in community service !!

Where is the accountability for VIACOM
& other media corporations
(eg. instead of the "BET" channel being utilized
for positive, inspirational, educational
or meaningful programming --
it has mostly
broadcast the worst sociopathic, demeaning,
undermining junk -- promoting
gangsterism & exploiting our vulnerable youth
with pernicious mind-killing crap.

FACT! --
Where is the "accountability" for Wall Street
& elite financiers,
such as MERRILL LYNCH and OPPENHEIMER,
previously the MAIN INVESTORS & SHAREHOLDERS
owning majority stock in the company
that produced the 'GRAND THEFT AUTO' video game
as its main product !!!

Also, what about the corporate soda-pop
& junk food pushers targeting children ?!

The reality is that ethical, caring, dedicated
public school teachers have been the
'good samaritans' courageously
teaching with tremendous effort daily
to educate & constructively help chidren --
to transcend, overcome hardship,
to cultivate wellbeing & achievement --
despite the grotesque obstacles
& destruction foisted on us by
irresponsible, unscrupulous, rapacious and
duplicitous corporate execs. & financial elites,
(societally-sabotaging/damaging,
corrupt oligarchs, such as Goldman Sachs,
J.P.Morgan/Rothschild scamsters et. al.
who've caused millions of chidren & families to be homeless.

Posted by: newmanagement2 | October 11, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if anybody at the WaPo reads these comments, but Valerie should be all over the article in the NY Times today about testing in the NYC schools, Joel Klein and Mayor Bloomberg. It seems they have egg all over their collective faces. See:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/11/education/11scores.html?_r=1&hp

Posted by: rtinindiana | October 11, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Willingham aske one penetrating question of these hand-picked district leaders of the "public-private" education cartel:
"School choice begins with the district leader closing schools? "

The manifesto actually puts the for-profit agenda right on the table: all their mealy-mouthed declamations about the importance of teaching are window dressing. The purpose of teachers in the classroom is to administer for-profit frauds like "online learning", both in district classrooms and in the virtual charters secretly embedded in public districts.

http://www.kaplanonlineschools.com/district/solutions

No, don't pass over the link thinking you already know about "Kaplan Higher Education" or "Kaplan Test Preparation".

Open the link. Read that the Washington Post Corporation is secretly selling our children, for its own profit, at public expense, to its wholly-owned subsidiary, "Kaplan K12".

Superintendents are openly appointed by mealy-mouthed billionaire practitioners of "leveraged philanthropy", but the Washington Post has not disclosed to its readers its investment in the destruction of the public education "status quo".

That explains why we see no "broad statement of intentions, or aims" from the corrupt administrators the Post has supported so vehemently and blindly.

Rhee and Klein are closing schools out from under whole communities, so displaced children can be scavenged by hidden partners like Kaplan K12 Virtual Charters:

"Imagine capturing the per-diem pupil payments for every child, even if she never even walks through the door".

Posted by: mport84 | October 11, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Willingham -- one reason Boards of Ed may have been omitted is that in some cities, and Washington, DC is certainly one, they inflicted decades of incompetence and special-interest dereliction on the rest of us. That's why everyone, including our new mayor, overwhelmingly supported mayoral control.
Also, re evaluating teacher effectiveness, that has hardly been a "tepid" issue here. Teachers en mass objected to and obstructed it in just about every way possible. There is no doubt the eval program was not perfect when rolled out, but you do not have to listen or read very closely to recognize that the many teacher opponents objected to being evaluated (or managed) at all. That is what we get after decades of Leaving No Teacher Behind in the DCPS.

Rhee has labored to overcome the ingrained opposition to any change at all. Waiting decades for professors and others to come out with studies, plans, and tools means waiting forever for meaningful school reform and rejuvenation.

Posted by: axolotl | October 11, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Great piece. I have a lot of problems with this manifesto that I won't get into here, but the mention of school choice struck a nerve with me. I think it's interesting that so many "reformers" ostensibly support school choice...but only when parents choose the choice said "reformers" support. I think of the hordes of parents who have loudly and forcefully protested the expansion of charter schools in their neighborhood schools-- why isn't the choice of those parents ever respected?

Posted by: TeacherSabrina | October 11, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/07/AR2010100705078.html

There isn't a business in America that would survive if it couldn't make personnel decisions based on performance. That is why everything we use in assessing teachers must be linked to their effectiveness in the classroom and focused on increasing student achievement.

Let's stop ignoring basic economic principles of supply and demand and focus on how we can establish a performance-driven culture in every American school
..........................
There is not a business in America that is inefficient with resources.

Why not run public eduction like a business and recognize economic principles.

No business manufactures goods that are not worthwhile to sell.

A simple test when American children enter public schools would identify those that are difficult to educate and thus would consume more resources. On a cost benefit evaluation these children would not be worth the additional expense of education and should be cheaply warehoused.

Our competitors China and India do not spend large amounts of resources on children that are difficult to educate.

Time to really turn the public education system into a business and stop wasting tax payer money and resources.

Is not this what America is about where the goal is to follow the ideas, examples, and leadership of American business?

Posted by: bsallamack | October 11, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Replacing teachers with more highly paid teachers will simply result in bigger school budgets without changing long-term results in the places most in need of dedicated great teachers. You can't buy a deep sense of mission and vocation for teaching. Suggesting, as the manifesto does at the end, that failing schools in the poorest of neighborhoods can close and those children can find charter schools is a cop out by those whose job it is to find good solutions for public schools. Charter schools also have mixed results. Curiously, the chancellors and mayors do not control the teaching corps in the charters. For more see my blog at http://www.trinitydc.edu/offices/president/blog/

Posted by: TrinityPresident | October 11, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Replacing teachers with more highly paid teachers will simply result in bigger school budgets without changing long-term results in the places most in need of dedicated great teachers. You can't buy a deep sense of mission and vocation for teaching. Suggesting, as the manifesto does at the end, that failing schools in the poorest of neighborhoods can close and those children can find charter schools is a cop out by those whose job it is to find good solutions for public schools. Charter schools also have mixed results. Curiously, the chancellors and mayors do not control the teaching corps in the charters. For more see my blog at http://www.trinitydc.edu/offices/president/blog/

Posted by: TrinityPresident | October 11, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

“How to Fix Our Schools”

Every child who appears at the school house gate is different. Each one has different strengths, weaknesses, levels of readiness and motivation. Each one.

So how can there be a dialogue on how to fix our schools without addressing the delivery system (of instruction) employed by most of our teachers.

Whole group instruction and/or lecture in no way even comes close to addressing all the differences in our clientele. This is true from pre-school through college, even beyond.

Since A Nation At Risk (1983) we've been skirting around the margins of compelling change with notions such as standards and fiscal reforms while enigmatically avoiding the "student differences" reality.

As long as pedagogical reform remains clandestinely on the back burner our students will never be able to realize their full (individual) potential and our public schools will continue to founder.

Posted by: phoss1 | October 11, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

One of the signers of the ‘manifesto’ has bounced around in six states and eight school districts for the past twenty-five years. With contract buy-outs in hand, he’s dubbed as education salesman of the year.

How about investigating search firms also known as ‘headhunters’ and the good ole’ boy network that shuffles these guys around? Where’s the accountability for the waste of taxpayers’ funds at students’ expense so local boards can save face?

Why didn’t the Post vet the signers of the ‘manifesto’ and disclose their for-profit exploits? Why didn’t the Post examine their motives and how students and taxpayers are held hostage for political, personal, and financial gain by the reformers before the ‘manifesto’ was published?

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | October 11, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Why didn’t the Post vet the signers of the ‘manifesto’ and disclose their for-profit exploits? Why didn’t the Post examine their motives and how students and taxpayers are held hostage for political, personal, and financial gain by the reformers before the ‘manifesto’ was published?

Back in 2007 Donald Graham repositioned the Washington Post as an "education and media company". For the past three or four years the WaPo's profits have come primarily from Kaplan.

Now do you understand why the WaPo doesn't vet the authors of the manifesto? It's because they are part and parcel of the business community's desire to remake public education in urban areas into for-profit ventures.

Posted by: sanderling5 | October 12, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Willingham: The evidence for effectiveness of teacher preparation at schools of education is no better than the evidence that years of experience is a good guide to teacher quality. Are we going to do anything about that problem?

At last! Someone noticing that if there is a problem with the adequacy of teachers, we need to look at the schools certifying them as adequate.

Posted by: amar0514412000 | October 13, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company