It’s been used by education reformers and praised by the folks like Newt Gingrich. Business leaders point to it as a sign of the looming “crisis” our education system may be facing. It’s been screened at policy events and cited in opinion pieces. The “it,” of course, is the movie 2 Million Minutes: The 21st Century Solution. Produced by Robert A. Compton, the film is demonstrates how the United States is failing to keep up with the world (notable India and China) when it comes to education.
At the heart of EdSec Arne Duncan’s remarks at Teachers College last week has his new never-ending pursuit of the illusive “teacher quality.” Clearly, the search means more than the “highly qualified teacher” definition currently found in NCLB. More than the qualities that currently win one additional monies through the federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF). And even more than the plans floated more than two years ago by Sen. Joe Lieberman et al to redefine HQT as “highly qualified and effective teacher.”
For more than a year now, we have been hearing about the dire financial state of public education in California. We’re ridden a roller coaster of threats of massive teacher layoffs and a two-year ban on the purchase of any textbooks or instructional materials. We’ve viewed district after district struggle to meet the school equity requirements placed on them by the courts. And we’ve witnessed state officials dance a West Coast two-step to quickly eliminate the barriers to additional federal education funding. And even though California has spent more of its education stimulus dollars, percentage wise, than any other state in the union, schools in the Golden State are still hurting and are still facing tough decisions and even tougher cuts.
Big to-dos this afternoon up at Columbia University, Teachers College. Speaking before a packed house of students, teacher educators, and reps from the education policy community, EdSec Arne Duncan continued his push for improving teacher preparation in the United States. Duncan challenged education schools to “make better outcomes for students the overarching mission” of today’s teacher preparation programs.
When Eduflack was a very green Capitol Hill staffer, a wise veteran imparted some basic advice that I have not forgotten now going on almost two decades. Never talk in an elevator. Capitol Hill is one of those places where people (the unelected, of course) like to make themselves seem far more important than they really are. They brag to friends and strangers alike about the legislation they’ve “written” their “access” to leadership, and other attributes that make working on the Hill so appealing.
What role should philanthropy and fundraising play in the operations of our public schools? We like to believe that, through local taxes and state taxes and a little help from our friends in Washington, we have more than enough to fund a high-quality public education. Yet in an era of school improvement and school turnarounds, we hear more and more about the need for corporate and philanthropic support for our public schools. We listen to calls for alternative funding for teacher salaries and instructional interventions and new school models. We know of virtually every major public school districts clamoring for moneys from the Gates Foundation, and Broad, and Wallace, and just about anyone else who is willing to invest in K-12 school improvement.