Thursday, November 12, 2009

Urban Education: What Now?

Because I supported Barack Obama in last year’s election, I was hopeful that his administration would take a more progressive approach to public education than we saw under “No Child Left Behind.”  I haven’t found Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s approach especially inspiring.  Indeed, I’m concerned about his emphasis on using standardized test scores to measure the effectiveness of teachers and his enthusiasm for charter schools.  No doubt, some charter schools work well, but in our area they haven’t done much better – and some have done worse – than public schools.

So I invited Professor Randy Hoover in to talk about these issues. In our interview, he argues that the primary thing measured by standardized exams is the students’ socioeconomic status, noting his own research on the topic over the past decade.   He describes the charter school movement as an effort to privatize public education, since most of the nation’s charter schools are organized by for-profit companies.  His ideas are provocative, and his passion for the subject is clear.

I’m left still wondering about how best to address the challenge of improving the education we offer to all students, especially those coming from low-income neighborhoods.  Examples from around the country show that these students can succeed, but most of the models involve a significant investment of resources and a firm commitment from parents.  I’m not sure that can help us solve the problems facing the Youngstown City Schools and similar districts around the U.S.

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