Thursday, July 03, 2008

Spellings Tantrum (Precious); Reading Zeroed; Democrats Snicker; Dems Should Hold the Line on Something Worthwhile for a Change

Check out this delicious little diddy from none other than our Secretary of Education madam ambition in USAToday:

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings reacted angrily Tuesday to the "outrageous" cuts and called them "political theater."

Under President Clinton, she notes, Congress put more than $300 million a year into reading.
"Now we're going to turn back the clock, not only to pre-Bush but pre-Clinton (levels)," she says. "I bet it's been a long damned time since the federal government spent no money - zero - on reading."

Note the language. From a teacher, no less. Teacher-in-Chief. Ouch! Seriously though. I have to say that I am not pleased with Congress giving the bird to the White House at the expense of reading programs. Reading First is actually very popular. And based on an IES interim study with major caveats, the biggest of which is that Reading First schools look a lot like non Reading First schools in the districts where RF is implemented, you have to wonder if the Hill is just ignoring the waving flags of the research community. Word on the street (see Ed Daily) is that the finished study, with evidence to the contrary of the interim report, is just lying around in IES someplace.

Honestly, I got to give it to the Dems for eliciting a precious response from Spellings. RF is a pretty important policy to draw the line on, however. How about bring some troops home instead. What about FISA? Misguided = Everyone.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Spellings' ECS Speech: More Broken Analogies for NCLB

Tuesday morning in Austin, TX at the annual ECS meeting, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings revealed the states that had been approved for a differentiated accountability pilot. Her speech is notable for a variety of arguments and symbolism. Many are designed to further education as a civil right to keep the few remaining supporters of a botched law close. The text from her speech follows.

For this post I am going to harp on one failed analogy from Spelling's speech in this excerpt:

Which brings me to my next point, using data to support innovation for greater student gains.

Customization has already improved every other aspect of our lives. We have computers built to order...eyeglasses in an hour...and most web sites know what I want before I do. Yet while other fields rocket ahead, our education system is trapped in the industrial age. If Rip Van Winkle woke up today, classrooms would be the only thing he'd recognize. The term "24/7" has no relevance in education because we're still clinging to an outdated notion of 6 hours a day, 180 days a year.

Spellings thinks that the fields that produce Lens Crafters, Dell, and whatever web site she visits that "knows" what she wants before she does (I've never been to any site like that) "have rocketed ahead" of education. That's pretty incredible given how commoditized and old those technologies are. More so incredible, given that her analogies are purely consumeristic. The consumerism that she admires is in most ways antithetical to the hard work, concentration, deep learning, and subject mastery those original inventions/innovations required. Well then, you might say, her analogies are proper; she's talking about the hard work it takes to innovate. Right?

Wrong... she's not talking about the hard work it takes to innovate. She's talking about making education more customizable, and she makes this argument by suggesting kids should have access to education that more closely resembles a one-hour wait for glasses/a ten minute wait for a new Dell/ a 10 millisecond wait for a new pair of Nike Air Force Ones. And who is to say that education isn't already highly customized? Last time I checked school standards and curricula were jammed packed with choices. Many would argue that's part of the problem.

This speech is definitely not "99.9 percent pure or something."

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