Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In this Hot Mess, Which Burner is Education On?: Relevant Social Agenda


Most agree that to remain competitive in the global economy and shifting economic and industrial models we must make quality and access to education a top priority in an agenda that is decidedly crowded. The urgency is underscored by the recent report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education that found that, "published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families. " Even more chilling is the analysis that, "Already, we’re one of the few countries where 25- to 34-year-olds are less educated than older workers.”

Washington, we have a problem. Another one. And like the others it is a big one.

Get in line you say? Well, this one has some serious implications for all those other pressing issues. That new-fangled clean tech economy? We need some more engineers. Not to mention a workforce ready to hit the assembly lines, and build and install. "Rogue states" bent on our destruction? We need some well rounded thinkers, ideologue resistant doers in the diplomatic corps.

But like everything else on the long list, the solutions are not simple. In addition to issues of access and affordability, some believe that of current method of education and decentralized administration leads to inequity, inconsistency, and ineffectiveness. Legendary former IBM chief Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. says that we should abolish local school districts and manage a federal standard of education from Washington. He reasons that education is simply to critical to leave to individual interpretation and management.
A chief concern in the debate over education also includes the issue of teacher accountability and student performance to standards. Most agree that there need to be assessment standards for teacher effectiveness and metrics with which to gauge our performance, but No Child Left Behind, while raising some metrics, has soured a growing portion of an already embattled profession. Some recommend that we look to Finland's peer review model of performance management. The method aims at guarding standards, while addressing the trickier intangible aspects of teaching that are not so easily quantified, and providing critical mentorship in a profession that sees a large percentage exit early.

President elect Obama has signaled that he recognizes that education is a central core issue in our future prosperity, but it remains to be seen if he can work it in to an already pressing agenda. But can we afford to wait?

1 comment:

Karoli said...

Part of me feels like the mess in our schools has been deliberate on the part of the current administration, to dumb people down enough that they actually believe what the republicans sell.

Then I take off my tinfoil hat and just try as best as I can to push here locally for whatever it takes to get our kids well-educated. I believe heart and soul in public schools, and want to see them flourish, not suffer.


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