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A Head Start On Your Weekend Reading

17cover395 Get ahead on this weekend's reading -- you're going to need extra time -- with the early release of Paul Tough's latest piece in the New York Times Magazine, called A Teachable Moment. As you'll see, there's more Pastorek and a little less Vallas than you might expect.  There's some of the newfangled talk about portfolios.  And the signature Tough ruminations on poverty, education, and society.  I need to read it more carefully before I weigh in -- let me know what you think.

UPDATE:  Slow news month plus start of school = lots of education stuff.  There's also a new Harper's article on the test prep industry that's out -- subscription only:  Tyranny of the test.

UPDATE 2:  Jeff Chu has a profile of Michelle Rhee in the new Fast Company.

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Great juxtaposition of articles. A compromise between the Bolder Broader approach and the EEP jumps out of Paul Tough's article: combine Pastorek "let a hundred flowers bloom" portfolio riding the energy that comes from the bottom up, with Diane Ravitch's proposal to set national Standards, remove sanctions from AYP, and make testing for the purposes of ranking and faciiltating the disinfectant of sunlight. We could then satisfy both the real and the political needs for accountability by aggressively shutting down the worst schools and firing the worst teachers, and then steadily raising our sights.

As far as Michelle Rhee though, I can not imagine a compromise between her "culture of accountability," and advocates of a respectful learning culture. The last sentence of Chu's article may be prophetic. If she can not get her contract proposal through, Rhee said, that she is " screwed."

She should have known better. Human nature has not progressed from the ancient wisdom "live by the sword, and die by the sword." If human beings could function under the old piece work system, Rhee's corporate buddies would have already imposed "Taylorism." D.C.'s educational culture is poisonous, but how do you fight poison with poison and not damage school children? Why add more toxicity to the Districts schools' culture? I prime rule of education is, "the feces rolls downhill."
She also violated a second principle, "If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?"

Since Rhee is too arrogant to heed the lessons of history, I expect she'll be in its dustbin soon. Hopefully, she'll be discredited before President Obama chooses how to balance the Bolder Broader principles and the urgency of the EEP. The optimist in me says she will be. But the skeptical veteran teracher in me worries that the horrible situation in D.C. will just be made worse before it happens. I'm afraid it will be the same old story that her failure will just strenghten the anti-reform antibodies of the District's schools, making them more immune to real reform.

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