SOTU 2013: Four Great Education Ideas Obama Won't Mention Tonight
So far, at least, I've come up with a measly handful of things that President Obama could propose and implement without Congressional approval -- neither of which is likely to get mentioned tonight or done anytime soon.
But they're good ideas -- take a look, White House speechwriters! -- and others have lots of ideas. They're not going to happen, either -- and hey, it's possible that something could come out of tonight's speech. Unlikely, but possible.
Herewith, 4 Russo recommendations (none of them really my ideas) for actions Obama could take on the education front in his speech tonight, related to high-intensity tutoring, charter school diversity, an audit of testing, and a renewed call for equitable teacher distribution (Vergara!).
Image: The Dialectic, via Wired
1) The first Russo recommendation is a decree (regulation, really) that districts be allowed to use federal SES funding for high-intensity tutoring that's showing achievement gap-closing power in a Chicago pilot study that just came out.
Currently, SES tutoring can only be provided after school, by approved providers, and usually goes to elementary schools rather than high schools.
Many waiver states have moved away from SES (which they hated for reasons understandable and otherwise), but there's a role for quality tutoring that shouldn't be abandoned.
Match tutoring costs $2,000-2,500 per kid, I'm told -- well worth the cost if it's as effective as it looks right now.
2) The second Russo recomendation is the release of a regulation that would allow charter schools whose aim is racial and economic diversity to use methods other than a single random lottery for admissions.
Charter schools set up to serve diverse communities often "flip" when white and more affluent families flood the application pool, but it's extremely difficult for charters to get federal education funding any other way.
There are civil rights concerns, to be sure, but I think that there's got to be a way to balance them with the idea of diverse charters.
For more on gentrification and diversity in DCPS, see Petrilli/Chastain/Kahlenberg's recent Washington Post oped here.
3) A third recommendation (I'm on a roll!) would be for Obama to call on Secretary Duncan to do what Chicago and DC among other districts are already doing (and was also apparently included in one of the ESEA reauthorization drafts that never went anywhere): audit and then streamline testing requirements and test prep to get rid of overlapping and unnecessary testing.
Chicago studied and streamlined testing last year. DCPS is doing it now. There's no better time for the USDE to take the lead in addressing concerns about test proliferation, even if most of the tests that have been added on are state or local requirements or only indirectly required by federal initiatives.
4) Of course, education advocates are full of suggestions and wishes for the State of the Union speech (Huffington Post, Atlantic Education). The most interesting of which to me is the one raised in the Huffington Post article by the EdTrust and DFER related to students' access to quality teaching. There's a long-standing federal law calling for states and districts to make sure that low-income kids aren't getting less-qualified teachers than everyone else.
For a time it seemed like the Obama administration was going to push forward on this. It won't happen tonight but maybe the Vergara case in California will prompt some renewed consideration for teacher quality and distribution issues. For starters, do we know what if anything Arne Duncan has said about the case?
I don't actually think these speeches are all that important other than that they help us pass the time between the long MLK weekend and Super Bowl with speculative blather and navel-gazing.
I don't agree with this morning's news theme, either, which is that the President doesn't get much of what he asks for; it's an issue with Congressional productivity, really.
OK, now I'm done. Your turn!