Obama on Accountability, Vouchers and National Standards

by Robert Pondiscio
July 23rd, 2008

One of Barack Obama’s education chamberlains chatted up DC reporters today about the Senator’s education agenda.  According to Edweek’s David Hoff, Obama’s man Michael Johnston said “high standards and accountability are good. The level of funding and the quality of assessments aren’t.”  Obama “believes a federal accountability system could measure students’ reading and math skills while not narrowing the curriculum to those areas.”  Amen to that.  Details to follow?

Fordham’s Mike Petrilli, also there, has issues with some of what he heard.  While Obama is opposed to school vouchers “in any context.” Petrilli wonders if ”that hard line will soften if Obama becomes president, particularly if he sends his own daughters to a private school once he moves to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Johnston, he notes, also ”wouldn’t say if Obama supports national standards and testing, though it was clear that Johnston sees the logic.” 

Principal Apologizes for “Excellent” Rating

by Robert Pondiscio
July 23rd, 2008

The principal of Rocky River Middle School in Ohio is sorry.

His school made AYP, earned an “excellent” rating from the state, and passed the 2008 Ohio Achievement. But principal David Root gave Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Regina Brett a remarkable two-page, single-spaced apology, addressed to students, staff and citizens of Rocky River, detailing the cost of those accomplishments. Among the things Root is sorry for:

  • That he spent thousands of tax dollars on test materials, practice tests, postage and costs for test administration.
  • That his teachers spent less time teaching American history because most of the social studies test questions are about foreign countries.
  • That he didn’t suspend a student for assaulting another because that student would have missed valuable test days.
  • For pulling children away from art, music and gym, classes they love, so they could take test-taking strategies.
  • That he has to give a test where he can’t clarify any questions, make any comments to help in understanding or share the results so students can actually learn from their mistakes.
  • That the integrity of his teachers is publicly tied to one test.
  • For making decisions on assemblies, field trips and musical performances based on how that time away from reading, math, social studies and writing will impact state test results.
  • For arranging for some students to be labeled “at risk” in front of their peers and put in small groups so the school would have a better chance of passing tests.
  • For making his focus as a principal no longer helping his staff teach students but helping them teach test indicators.

“We don’t teach kids anymore,” Root, a 24-year veteran principal, tells the paper. “We teach test-taking skills. We all teach to the test. I long for the days when we used to teach kids.”