I'm impressed with Anthony Catale's determination, and he seems to have a good grasp of what's happening in the local district. But while he can identify a great set of goals, I'm not hearing from him or from anyone a clear sense of how to achieve them. Catale touts the benefits of "data-driven decision making," which might be the most popular buzz phrase of contemporary education. The right goals and a ton of data don't necessarily add up to effective strategies.
I hope the folks on the school board, on the state commission addressing the district's "academic emergency" rating, and in the city schools administration are paying attention to a couple of things:
- What's going right at Youngstown Early College? Like some charter schools, YEC may benefit from self-selecting admissions and smaller size, but I can't help but wonder if the rest of the district couldn't borrow some strategies from the only building in the district to earn an excellent rating.
- What's happening in DC? Michelle Rhee is creating plenty of tension and attracting lots of attention, and I'm not sure whether her efforts are yielding much. But they do give us a very visible model of what top-down, data-driven educational management looks like. Is it a good idea? Education journalist John Merrow has been following the story for over a year.
- Diane Ravitch's rethinking of the current line of performance-based educational practice. After years of promoting testing as the basis for educational planning, Ravitch now offers a different view: "Today there is empirical evidence, and it shows clearly that choice, competition and accountability as education reform levers are not working." Of course, the local district can't change national education policy. But they can rethink the idea that tests tell us everything.