It’s Not About Specifics … Yet

We are starting to get comments – and I have to tell you, it makes me excited to write something and have people add their thoughts to it. That’s a big, big part of what we are trying to do with ED in 08 … create a conversation.

But we’ve had a few folks suggest that we not being specific enough on our three issues.  Or that we aren’t saying enough about vouchers or charters or this or that.

To a degree, they are right. I’m not going to try to tell you what to think. Through a lot of research and talking to people, we have identified three good things that we think people can get behind and that we as a nation – with presidential leadership – can get done.

Those three things are American standards (agreed upon by the states not forced down their throats by the federal government). That means a fourth-grader is learning what she needs to be successful no matter where she lives, whether Iowa or South Carolina or California.  All youngsters need to prepare for college and compete for good jobs, so they should have the educational foundation. That’s number one.

Number two is effective teachers in every classroom. A lot of people would like to interpret this to mean that we are knocking teachers. That’s just wrong. We are trying to identify the best ways – notice I say ways, not one single federal way – to attract and support and reward the most effective teachers for every subject and every classroom.  And that means compensating teachers based on performance and willingness to take tougher jobs.  But again, there are many ways to do that, and we will be highlighting lots of different ways over the next few months.

Third, we want more time and support for learning. Again, there are a lot of ways to get this done. We want to explore the many possible ways to do that with people.

ED in 08 will present some alternative ways to achieve those goals. We’re going to that debate and give it some hard information and statistics and direction.

We are not going to control it.

I’m a businessman as well as a politician. I know that good ideas are tested in the marketplace of give and take. And the best ideas come to the surface after a good healthy debate.

We have great talent and energy in this country. We want to engage a million people or more in this debate.

If we come out and say only we have the best, specific way to do this, this or this … what’s the point of asking people to participate in a dialogue?

And we want candidates from all political parties to be able to talk about how they would accomplish these things and to debate their differences.  We don’t want an ‘our way or the highway’ approach, because that cuts off the conversation and new ideas for how to get something done.

So, my message is, don’t ask us to tell people what think.  Tell us what YOU think. How can we get strong educational standards in every state?  How can we get effective teachers in every classroom?  How can we offer more time for learning and support students better?  Let’s kick it around a bit.


Posted by Roy Romer at 04/27/2007 02:23:34 PM | 

Some of us are not waiting for Washington to save our schools. Innovation is happening in our public schools. Our local school district. Marietta City Schools has created a culture of excellence that serves as a prime example of how change and improvement can happen in public education. The success of our school's is a result of persistent belief in the possibilities and the relentless desire to meet the educational needs of all students. The discussion must include recognition of successful schools in order to serve as both a model and to inspire hope that can end the cycle of despair and abandonment that impedes widespread reform in public education. You want all Americans involved? Give them something to believe in.
Posted by: Kim Sheram ( Email ) at 4/28/2007 11:57 AM

Roy, Congratulations on your new job. Given the limited success you had in improving academic achievement in Los Angeles Unified, do you really believe that the three key goals you've identified of national standards, quality teachers and more instructional time will be enough to save public education? I believe it will take a much more fundamental change in public education before we can see proficiency rates rise nationally. Unfortunately, as you found in LAUSD, the bureaucratic inertia within large school districts, coupled with the political influence of teachers unions and the apathy of political leaders makes it practically impossible to reform public education.
Posted by: ( Email ) at 4/30/2007 5:46 PM

Governor Romer: If you get a chance please read this article, and anyone else. The future of our children is very important, understanding the process and the history is also - 35k Thank you Stephany
Posted by: stephany Coffman ( Email ) at 5/6/2007 3:59 PM

The low acheivement in schools is a direct consequence of what our colleges are asking of our high school students, not a lack of standards, effective teachers or support. If you truly want to make a difference in education, make a concerted effort to change the entrance requirements for college. Currently, high school grades plus SAT drives the high school experience, which is a very low bar when compared to other countries with more effective schools. If colleges made a statement that higher acheivement is necessary and required more difficult tests (high quality/complex end of course exams would work), then our high schools would respond. At the very least with end of course testing, real high school effectiveness would be transparent. Course content changes in high school and high quality exit exams are roles that the federal government can not be effective in. However, these changes can be and should be made by our nation's colleges.
Posted by: Erin Johnson ( Email ) at 4/27/2007 3:13 PM

You presume that these three issues are the most important of all the educational issues we face. In my opinion they are not. The most important issue is the antiquated governance structure and large, comprehensive schools. These combine to create an environment that discourages effective teaching, no matter how long you do it. Maybe I'm all wet, but I believe you need to back up and see if a majority of people agree with you on what the most important issues are.
Posted by: Roger McPherson ( Email ) at 4/27/2007 5:30 PM

On effective teachers for grades 6 and above: Effective teachers have many traits but interest in the subject taught is an essential one. I would like to see debate on a proposal to abolish the role of Schools of Education in certification for teaching these grades. Instead, each university department would have faculty members who teach, say, Biology Education, as well as courses in the regular biology curriculum. To enroll in the course, students would need to be majors in the discipline who had completed a prerequisite number of hours with at least a B average. Quite possibly, some results would be university departments that take responsibility for preparing 6th through 12th grade students for courses and majors in their fields, outcomes-oriented research into best teaching practices in the field, and teachers with a strong interest in both the subjects taught and sound methods of teaching them.
Posted by: Madeleine Pepin ( Email | Visit ) at 4/27/2007 7:37 PM

Mr. Romer, David M. Herszenhorn reports in the NYTimes that your group will “shy away” from policies that increase educational option for parents (“Billionaires Start $60 Million Schools Effort,” April 25, 2007). Yet peer-reviewed scholarship suggests those are the very policies that could play a role in increasing academic achievement, especially for African American students. Four years ago, a commission financed largely by Mr. Gates said “the latest analysis favors a positive conclusion about the effects of choice on student achievement” (“School Choice: Doing It The Right Way Makes A Difference,” National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education, Brookings Institution, 2003). Why not support policies that expand parent education options? Thanks for considering this question.
Posted by: George Mitchell ( Email ) at 4/28/2007 8:13 AM

Thanks for clearly stating your three points for conversation. They seem reasonable, and perhaps necessary to discuss. I see how a presidential candidate can take a position about them. But they are "about" schooling. Answers to these questions may or may not influence student learning. No agreed upon empirical data conclusively indicate their influence. I'd like to know how a presidential candidate links student performance to costs of that performance. Then, how does that candidate propose to use Federal funds to help raise student achievement? As a former superintendent of an urban school system and as a business person, what useful discussion "of" schooling do you think we might also have? For example, what does it cost (on average) for a student to learn to read a word, any word? Knowing that cost, can we then anticipate how much to pay a teacher for a student to learn to read enough words to reach a given standard?
Posted by: Bob Heiny ( Email | Visit ) at 4/28/2007 8:57 AM

Mr. Romer and colleagues, congratulations on the launch of this effort. I support the campaign to make education one of the foremost issues in the coming (and subsequent) elections. * I endorse the emphasis on consistent, sensible standards. We need these, both so that schools can establish goals and objectives for instruction and so that the public can make meaningful comparisons across time and among schools. Without assessments of standards, we cannot ascertain whether outcomes are improving or whether some schools' approaches are more or less helpful to students. (To be sure, many factors affect outcomes, but removing the contribution of those is statistically possible.) * Also, I enthusiastically endorse the concept of having effective teachers in classrooms. This recommendation requires that American educators know what it takes for teachers to be effective, and knowing that reduces to knowing what teaching practices are effective. There is a wealth of knowledge on this topic and I hope that ED in 08 will help identify and promote the evidence base for effective education. Effective teaching needs to be based on verifiable evidence, not on personal opinion and popular theory. * I am alarmed that I could find no mention of students with disabilities nor teachers in special education while I perused the Web site and related documents (e.g., the policy primer). Very many students with disabilities are capable of making substantial contributions to the American society and economy (e.g., Charles Schwab, Paul Orfalea, P. Buckley Moss). Furthermore, many of the most well-documented teaching practices have been identified by or received significant boosts from special education research. This important aspect of education should not be overlooked.
Posted by: John Wills Lloyd ( Email | Visit ) at 4/29/2007 3:22 PM

I live in Ohio. I've attended every "Community Forum" conducted by our Superintendent and we are always talking bout funding. We do not go into detail where all the funds go. We talk about funding but not about spending. These meetings are heavily populated with employees of the district. Residents seem to have given up. I felt "told" how to feel. A healthy debate is basically nonexistent. If you disagree with the Unions, they seem to make it known you are an enemy, threat. In fact, I discovered one of their newsletters telling their members to treat all opposition as a threat. Our Community is divided. Our children struggle. Our taxes seem high. The committees and subcommittees seem specially stacked. Good communication with the public on all impacts seems lacking. We have many issues here in this district and I grow more and more concerned for my children's education. I have two bright boys, so I think yet Cody sits in two study halls and is failing Language Arts. He is excellent at putting things together from detailed, lengthy directions. He is good at Math and Science yet only a small handful are able to take the college prep classes. They seem to only help small groups and there seems to be so many falling behind truly but what can this little mother of two do? I do not have the persuasive power and dollars to lobby, to demand debate. What can we do?
Posted by: Heidi Smith ( Email ) at 4/29/2007 7:28 PM

I am a retired mexican engineer who is interested in your project because I am a member of a group of senior professionals interested in the improvement of Education of Mexico's children. Our group has a project titled "Reengineering of Mexico´s Educational System" and we launched it just the past Monday, April 23, here in Monterrey. Our group is non-political and act as a non-profit organization, witout official recognition meaning that we have no ties with parties. Tour campaign has inspired us to follow your steps, thou not related with future political issues, but only highly inspired by our goals. We have a lot to learn, but our educational field problems are same as yours, so we intend to follow your steps as heaven tutors and look forward to the solutions you recommend for your problems and apply them here, under not very similar circumstances. We intend to learn from you as much as possible if you accept to guide us whenever possible. I am sure that your help could be one of the best tools we could use to achieve or goals. I appreciate your comments in advance, José Albo, 76/M/Monterrey, Mexico
Posted by: Jose Albo Perez ( Email ) at 4/30/2007 4:39 PM

As you have stated a firm foundation is key. Children who have a firm foundation and love of learning will succeed despite the school system. I believe we need to instill in our children this love and this firm foundation before they enter into formal schooling. Science has shown us that our brain development is most crucial from 0-3 and 3-7. Children learn more during this time than any other time. I am a very strong advocate of the Montessori philosophy for children 0-9 I have seen these children excel in middle and high school no matter if it was private or public. These children had a sound foundation and a love of learning that went beyond the typical child. When completing assignments my son goes beyond what is asked of him and continues learning... He is in what is considered a poor school. His foundation is so strong I know that no matter how bad the school may be, he will continue. Parents understanding how important school is will also have to change, too many parents do not check on what their child is learning or who their children are being taught by. Parent involvement in anything school related is very, very, very, low. How do we convince these other parents how important it is to plug into their child's education? Thank you, Stephany
Posted by: stephany Coffman ( Email ) at 5/4/2007 2:52 PM

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