School Reform: So Many Questions, So Little Time

January 22, 2009 at 7:32 pm 1 comment

posted by BSCAA

Bank Street President Elizabeth Dickey with Niemeyer panelists Tom Payzant, Linda Darling-Hammond, Debbie Meier, Louis Delgado and Alec Gershberg

Bank Street President Elizabeth Dickey with Niemeyer panelists Tom Payzant, Linda Darling-Hammond, Debbie Meier, Louis Delgado and Alec Gershberg

Last night, Bank Street hosted a wonderful panel discussion that had been planned since last summer, long before we knew who would win the presidential election. “School Reform: Where have we been and where should we be going? Some lessons for a new American President” was a timely topic given the possibilities ahead of us now that Barack Obama is President Obama. Attended by alumni, graduate students, and Bank Street staff, faculty and friends, as well as members of the public, the Niemeyer Series brought together renowned scholars, school leaders, and educational reformers to discuss policy and practice.  Elizabeth Green, who writes about NYC schools for a blog called GothamSchools, posted a substantive piece called The future of school policy, if Darling-Hammond has her way in which she describes and analyzes some of the thoughts and ideas shared during the panel discussion.

Led by Deborah Meier, educational reform leader and senior scholar at NYU Steinhardt School of Education, the panel included Dr. Thomas W. Payzant, professor of practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, former Assistant Secretary of Education, and retired Superintendent of Boston Public Schools; Dr. Linda Darling Hammond, Charles Ducommon Professor of Education at Stanford University School of Education and one of President Obama’s top education advisors; Louis Delgado, principal of Vanguard High School, New York City; and Alec Gershberg, Associate Professor, Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy, and graduate of Bank Street School for Children.

Audience members wrote a variety of interesting questions, most of which could not be addressed by our panel members in the limited time we had together.  SO…please join this conversation! Choose a question. Write a comment. Let’s keep talking about how we can improve our schools.

The Niemeyer Series Panel Discussion Questions

  • How do you “return” teaching to a high status in a capitalist society? Is this not a contradiction?
  • Obama supports Harlem Children’s Zone. What are your thoughts about this early childhood program?
  • Because our students are often starting out behind, would it be possible to use a “pre-test” and “post-test” model to measure student growth and teacher success?
  • As policy makers, how do you create the space/time for reform efforts to take effect in the context of term limits, brief tenures of leaders of school systems, plus the short attention span of the American public?
  • Parental income is, I’ve read, the statistic most predictive of student achievement. Is it unrelated to class? Is this causal? What do we do about it?
  • Can you comment on the replication of the model given by the National Center for Arts and Technology? (Manchester Bidwell in Pittsburg, PA)
  • What does the future hold for the arts in public schools? How can we protect drama, dance, music and visual arts programs?
  • What advice can you offer a teacher leader, who wants to initiate a shift towards providing a multi-cultural education in her K-8 school?
  • How do performance-based assessments get built in to NCLB?
  • Comment on Arne Duncan’s “Business” model.
  • With the end goal of putting more and better teachers in classrooms, what can be done to help professional teachers?
  • How important is the national leadership? How will we get change in education when Obama’s choice to lead us, Arne Ducan, has pushed more testing, privatization, vouchers, etc. all in the name of school “reform”?
  • High level assessment systems are expensive to create and to evaluate/score. How do you propose that we make the shift of budget allocations from schools to test development administration/scoring palatable to the public? Or do you think there is enough money for it to be added to existing funding?
  • How can teachers at all schools become accountable?
  • What three things must be done to improve teacher training?
  • Dear Panelists, describe a high quality teacher. I was a lawyer, became a teacher, and quit within the first month at my first school this year. A Masters degree does not guarantee any more success when it comes to quality teaching. Teachers are in serious college debts due to this belief. Is it time to rethink this misconception?
  • President Johnson said: “Our People can stand on no higher ground than the school ground, or can enter any more hopeful room than the classroom.” When, where and how did this ideal of education diminish?
  • You all describe very exciting visions of a revitalized educational system of professional accountability for all children’s success. In this system, how will you measure teacher effectiveness? How frequently? Will tenure exist? Under what conditions?
  • Why should we trust/believe that Ed. Secretary Duncan understands education and the needs of our children?
  • Don’t tell me what works in small, homogeneous, quasi-socialistic countries. Tell me what we can do here.
  • Federal education policy can serve as the carrot or the stick for state and local policy. Which levers do you see making the greatest difference in the quality of teachers in our schools, especially city schools?
  • What would it take and what can we do to further “authentic assessment” across the U.S.?
  • What role can/should those of us “in the trenches” in classrooms and in leadership positions in schools play in responding to this accountability movement and in trying to reshape the conversation’s direction?
  • Can the panel speak to the role of unions in education reform? It often seems that the Right and Left want the same thing out of education reform and the unions get in the way.

Entry filed under: democratic education, dialogue, equity, leadership, policy, politics, school reform, standardized testing, standards.

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