A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

May 17, 2007

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder Part V

Again, I give credit to Morewhat.com and Maggie’s Notebook for bringing this vital area of national policy to the front row.  Although we may disagree upon the implementation of the policy, this topic is certainly worthy of discussion.

This segment will analyze and review the radical reform that the inner city schools of Milwaukee, which was launched under an initiative by then Governor Tommy Thompson, which made me “very” interested in his candidacy, undertook in the late 1990’s and early 2000 years.   This section focuses on what schools are doing to help improve efficiency, effectiveness, and equity.   The latter part of this post deals with “hypothetical” recommendations to be made to the Department of Education, or maybe to a GOP candidate!

The Milwaukee Miracle

While the evidence shows that all is not well with the state of schools meeting NCLB’s challenges regarding teacher quality, there is a basis for hope.  This hope rests upon the basis that quality teachers and sound district policies can make an impact upon children. One of the most startling examples was found in the City of Milwaukee’s public schools.

Analysis of data collected from 1995 to 1998 (Reaves, 2000), from over 228 diverse schools serving over 130,000 students of diverse traits, found that there are associations between school quality, some teaching qualities and student achievement.  This was found to be true in schools where: more than 90% of their student body eligible for free and reduced lunches, more than 90% of the students belong to ethnic minority groups, and more than 90% of the students met or achieved high academic standards, as measured by independently conducted tests.  The characteristics that these schools shared were: a focus on student achievement, clear curricular choices reached by collaborative efforts, frequent assessment, an emphasis on writing, and external, collaborative scoring of work.  Interestingly, consensus on the success of this approach is agreed upon by politically conservative voices (Heritage Foundation) and liberal voices (The Education Trust).  These findings also seemingly echo Hanushek’s findings, concerning factors other than salary, leading to teacher retention and student achievement. 

Recommendations

            From the literature a few findings demand attention regarding current school policy.  The following recommendations should be applied: 

(1) Strict control and regulation concerning allocation of Title I funds to ensure funding lands into the schools that need it the most (Roza, 2005).

(2) Each state setting up grants that encourage teachers to work in schools needing highly qualified teachers the most (Pierce, 2001). 

(3) A longitudinal study, financed by a public agency, regarding the teacher-mentoring program embarked upon by New York City Schools to measure if factors within a particular building can be attributed to teacher retention (Moir, 2006, Hanushek et al., 2004)

(4) Follow up studies of the Milwaukee schools to determine if such factors, concerning school building climate, being embarked upon by New York City Schools, were present in Milwaukee’s schools (Reaves, 2000, Moir, 2006, Hanushek et al, 2004). 

(5)  Longitudinal studies concerning the traits associated by statute with being a highly qualified teacher and teacher efficacy (Walsh, O’Tracey, 2004)

 (6) A commission, similar to those in the 1980’s and 1990’s, bringing together federal, business, state government, and educational leaders to discuss, analyze, and make recommendations to the United States Congress concerning the efficacy of the 2001 NCLB mandates regarding teacher quality in districts that are typically hard to staff.

More to follow!

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