Today, a group of seven education and civil rights groups released a six-point plan for equitable and sustainable national education reform in this country. And, big surprise, the report is basically a 17-page repudiation of the Obama administration’s education reform platform.
Groups including the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Urban League, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the Schott Foundation for Public Education called for an end to many of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s signature initiatives, and a commitment instead to policies that incentivize positive results and lay the groundwork for long-term change in the neediest school districts. On every major Duncan policy initiative–aggressive promotion of charter schools, turnaround models for failing schools, national education standards, punitive teacher accountability measures–the coalition had harsh criticisms. And this morning, the Education Department issued a pat response:
We’re listening. The administration is dedicated to equity in education and we’ve been working very closely with the civil rights community to develop the most effective policies to close the achievement gap, turn around low performing schools, and put a good teacher in every classroom.
On charter schools, the civil rights groups write that not only is charter school performance uneven at best, but many charter schools only serve a small selection of the neediest students. The civil rights groups criticized the blind acceptance of charter school-as-panacea, because charter schools often don’t accept as many students with disabilities, students who rely on free school lunches, and English language learners–many of the groups of students who could jeopardize their test scores.
“While some charter schools can and do work for some students,” the report says, “they are not a universal solution for systemic change for all students, especially those with the highest needs.” Regarding “turnaround” models, the reform approach that demands mass firings of teaching staff when schools are deemed “failing,” the report said that where they’ve been tried, they’ve rarely produced positive results.
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SOURCE: Color Lines