Carol Broos is one of twelve teachers who were invited to participate in a round table discussion concerning the direction of education with new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Jan 21. She was sent the following questions, and asked for feedback and ideas. Here are the questions with links to the discussions that ensued:
Good questions... I'll take a shot at my answers as a parent and not a professional educator...
1. What is the one most important education issue?
Rethinking how schools are evaluated. Considering moving away from student multiple-choice standardized test scores as the main means for evaluating schools towards more holistic, more humanistic measures.
2. How should NCLB be altered?
Have it move more towards facilitating the process of school improvement and diversification at the local level rather than directing education from above.
3. How should the Obama administration respond for need for better teachers?
Maybe go against conventional wisdom and educational orthodoxy and encourage a credentialing environment that encourages more professionals outside of education to become teachers without having the lengthy teacher training. This would involve moving the teaching paradigm away from transmitting instruction to facilitating student-driven learning.
4. How should Obama administration do to increase student engagement?
Give all students the opportunity to be engaged in real democratic governance of their school and direction of activity in their classroom(s), with the teachers playing more of a facilitative role rather than a directive one. Most people generally acknowledge that giving this kind of agency to adults works, so why wouldn't it work with kids?
5. How should funding equity be addressed?
This may be the one area where the federal government should really play a leading role. Create a new education act called something like "No School Left Underfunded", and based on civil rights principles create policy to ensure equity in funding.
I am taking my shot as a former teacher, current director of an educational non profit focused on innovation.
1. What is the one most important education issue you wish Secretary Duncan to focus on during his tenure and why?
Investment in high quality assessment .. national assessments ...that incorporate core skills like reading and invest in methods for assessing more advanced skills that are difficult to measure like critical thinking skills, presentation skills etc.
50 states, 50 sets of assessments -- 50 requirements for customizing curricula and resources to align to these assessments from the private and other sectors -- is a significant cause for our fragmented education system.
It makes innovation extremely expensive.
2. How shall the tenets of the No Child Left Behind act be altered or invigorated?
Focus on value added assessment accountability measures.
Make assessments adaptive and able to measure a much wider range of what a child knows.
That way we can really get at where students are starting and where they move. Reward schools for how well they move students -- not where they get to.
In addition if the assessments were focused on performance measures that mattered, and were more wholstic, and addressed the range of skills that actually mattered, they wouldnt narrow the curiculum so much.
We also need to offer optional assessments in areas like music and the arts and they need to be performance based.
Like can the child play an instrument or paint in a particular form.
What are its positives? Holding schools accountable for improvement among all types of students and addressing the achievement gap.
3. How should the new administration respond to the nation’s need for better prepared and more qualified teachers?
Invest in the development of simple metrics for teacher quality and develop an innovation award to districts that can demonstrate effective models for increaing teacher quality. Urban districts can make easy improvements just be doing some basic things with regard to recruitment, crediting requirements, and working with specialized groups like the teaching fellows who allow districts to outsource much of their hiring process. (less useful for small districts but very important in large systems) We went from emergency openings every year to having extra teachers that met the requirements for highly qualified that couldn't find openings.
4.What should the new administration do to increase student engagement in mathematics, the sciences and the arts?
Increase incentives to teach in these hard to staff areas (science and math) by funding pilot programs to pay science and math teachers higher salaries and signing bonuses. Again, in urban centers, we find our ELA teachers are often of a higher caliber. (Why there is a greater supply of ELA teachers than science teachers) -- I have seen ELA teachers who connect to students do a better job at teaching science. So while ELA and social studies teachers work just as hard (if not harder) -- and rightly should be paid the same, those that can could switch fields if they want the increase in salary. It isn't fair, but its basic economics that we can't ignore. We should also fund programs to subsidize the education of science and math majors that go into education.
Investment in new technology enabled gaming and other environments (aligned to national performance assessments) to deliver stronger curriculum resources.
Change the science and math national assessment to focus on depth and not breadth . Thus making it possible to develop aligned curricula and teach deep and not wide.
Also, consider testing at different levels – like calculus A or calculus AB. In high poverty areas, where we are likely to be dealing with other factors (language, reading level etc) teachers often can't get through the curriculum and don't have time to go as hands on as they should. Allow schools to create courses at different levels so that a student could take a course in two parts A then B or just in one year AB.
5. How should funding equity issues be addressed? If you mandated national assessments (that were performance based and technology supported) there would be such an improvement in the fragmented, recreate the wheel, current education system, the cost savings alone would do wonders to improve the value ad of the current funding system. But that obviously doesn’t go far enough.
Increase title I goes along way. Provide incentives to states to reallocate some percentage of tax dollars based on need. (not sure that last idea is feasible!)