The End of the Education Debate
In an article for National Affairs, Fordham Flypaper's Checker Finn writes:
American education today is faced with the challenge of — and the opportunity for — a serious rethinking from the ground up. Its traditional structures and governance arrangements have more than proven their inadequacy, and the causes of these unacceptable deficiencies may simply lie too deep to be resolved by measures commonly thought of as "reform." Indeed, it is the underlying weakness of those structural arrangements that has made education reform so difficult — like trying to place a new hybrid engine atop a buggy meant to be pulled by a horse.
Finn argues that while no new way of thinking has emerged to displace what's preoccupied reformers for a quarter-century, the defining ideas of our current wave of education reform — standards, testing, choice and the frameworks built around them — are outliving their usefulness.
How Chaos Affects Kids
Cognitive psychologist Dan Willingham revealed the results of a study of 302 families, concluding that "chaos in the home contributes to lower IQ and to child conduct problems (i.e., kids who are aggressive, or who get into trouble with the law)." Researchers factored for the parents' education level, IQ, and warmth, as well as measures of the literacy environment at home, housing situation, and stressful events. Then they statistically removed "the effects of these other variables before they tested for an effect of chaos on the child's IQ and on the child's conduct. They found that chaos in the home was negatively associated with each." Education blogger Robert Pondiscio reasons that if chaos is unhealthy at home, the same must be said for classrooms.
Putting Power in the Hands of Parents
Last month Senate leaders proposed a "parent trigger" for California's "Race to the Top" education reform legislation, through which parents at a systemically failing school could circulate a petition demanding change. "If 51% of the parents signed it, the school would be converted to a charter school or reconstituted by the school district, with a new staff and new ways of operating," reports Parent Revolution executive director Ben Austin in a LA Times op-ed this week. But last week the chair of the Assembly Education Committee introduced a bill "weakened beyond recognition" from this Senate policy, which Austin says makes the case for why we need a parent trigger and why we need a parent revolution.