Wonk vs. Wonk

by Robert Pondiscio
February 7th, 2008

I have been watching the renewed hostilities between Eduwonk and Eduwonkette this week over the issue of No Child Left Behind’s impact on curriculum. I feel honor-bound to weigh in, since I inadvertently started the fight. A few thoughts on their posts:

The issue of whether testing has crowded science and social studies off the curriculum is beyond dispute, and I’m not swayed by the argument that if 44% of schools report a narrowing of the curriculum under NCLB, then the legislation is not the culprit, since 56% report no deleterious impact. If 44% of patients reported an adverse reaction to a medication, it would be off the shelves before the sun set. So it’s a problem.

Eduwonk is absolutely correct, however, in noting that good schools focus on curriculum and instruction. “While low-capacity schools may have spent time on social studies pre-NCLB,” he writes, “it’s a safe bet that many of them were not teaching it very well.” But the opposite is also true: most good schools were good schools without any external accountability measures whatsoever, so that’s not where our focus belongs. If the functional structures are in place — strong leadership, good teachers, active oversight, engaged parents who are informed consumers of education, etc. — there are multiple levels of quality control to assure good outcomes. NCLB is all about making bad schools act more like good ones in the absence of those self-policing mechanisms.

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Come to the Rug, Writers!

by Robert Pondiscio
February 7th, 2008

New York Daily NewsSome people have a way with words. Others not way have. New York City’s Department of Ed will be looking for more of the former, according to the NY Daily News, which reports prospective teachers will have to write an essay to get a job.

The paper doesn’t mention it, but presumably would-be teachers will be required to “turn and talk” with their writing partners, and write seed ideas on Post-it notes before beginning their essays. Screeners will undoubtedly be obliged to hold mini-conferences with prospective teachers and give each applicant a compliment, before discussing strategies for drafting. Presumably, teachers will also have to sit on a rug to write their essays, since we know that it is impossible to write unless one is on a rug.

Off you go!!