Ed Schools: Undermining Accountability?

by Robert Pondiscio
February 11th, 2008

ednews.orgGeorge Cunningham throws down a gauntlet at the feet of state policy makers in an interview with Michael F. Shaughnessy of ednews.org, noting that ed schools are effectively thwarting standards-based education and accountability.

A former professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology at the University of Louisville, Cunningham, recently issued a paper critical of teacher training at education schools in North Carolina and nationwide. While the public and policy-makers demand greater accountability, ed schools “do not think that academic achievement is an important purpose for schools,” he says. “They are committed to the achievement of a set of non-academic goals such as diversity, technology, critical thinking skills, and social justice.”

In plain but powerful terms Cunningham describes the disconnect between the accountability message being preached by the public and policy-makers and what new teachers are bringing to their jobs. “Newly minted teachers come out of education schools either with no awareness of the importance of academic achievement tests or with an acquired hostility towards them,” he notes, calling the situation “unsustainable.”

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Just Win, Baby!

by Robert Pondiscio
February 11th, 2008

Back in the day, the key to being a successful principal was to be a successful politician. Now, says Nelson Coulter, principal of Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville, Texas they’re like coaches. “You have to win,” he says.

Austin American StatesmanThe insightful quote is from a Austin American-Statesman piece on principal turnover. School districts nationwide are finding it harder to hold on to principals as standards get tougher and the list of demands from the state and federal governments gets longer. In Texas, the paper reports, “about 61 percent of high school principals leave their schools or the field within three years; by the fifth year, that figure increases to 76 percent.”

“We know that school reform takes time — much more than one year’s time,” says Ed Fuller, associate director of the University Council for Educational Administration at the University of Texas. “If a principal leaves within three to five years, the principal’s vision for reform is left incomplete. Over time, teachers become jaded and simply ignore the reform effort….Teachers believe the principal will leave and all of their efforts will be wasted.”

Plus, while principals put pressure on teachers to deliver accountability outcomes, teachers rarely lose their jobs over low accountability ratings, Fuller notes. “Principals do.”

Fast Times at Gizmo High

by Robert Pondiscio
February 11th, 2008

The Washington PostPatrick Welsh, a 30-year veteran English teacher, goes to work every morning at one off the most expensive school buildings ever constructed. Opened last September, the $98 million T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia has “a cafeteria that looks like something out of an upscale mall” and its classrooms are packed with every technological gadget a teacher could imagine.

“So you’d think T.C. teachers would be ecstatic,” writes Welsh in the Washington Post. “But it’s just the opposite — faculty morale is the lowest and cynicism the highest I’ve seen in years. The problem? What a former Alexandria school superintendent calls ‘technolust’ — a disorder affecting publicity-obsessed school administrators nationwide that manifests itself in an insatiable need to acquire the latest, fastest, most exotic computer gadgets, whether teachers and students need them or want them. Technolust is in its advanced stages at T.C., where our administrators have made such a fetish of technology that some of my colleagues are referring to us as “Gizmo High.”

Welsh wonders whether all the gadgetry is actually getting in the way. “The big question isn’t whether teachers like spending their time learning one new gizmo after another,” he writes, “but whether a parade of new technologies will help kids learn. From what I can see, that’s not the case.”