February 28, 2011

Carruolo: Hey, Why Hurry Reform?

Marc Comtois

Bah. Who needs a sense of urgency:

George Caruolo, the savvy former politician Governor Chafee has appointed to lead the state's top education board, says Rhode Island's $2-billion-a-year public school system is not that bad.

What is needed to improve the state's 300-odd public schools, he says, may not be an ambitious agenda of change but a dose of old-fashioned pragmatism -- or, as he puts it, "a realistic assessment of what's necessary to elevate results."

"It's not as important to get all of this work done in the next 15 minutes," Caruolo said in an interview last week, "as it is to get it done correctly."

Yeah. That sounds good in a platitudinous sorta way, except recent progress has been made due to a sense of urgency. Pragmatism--in our classrooms, in our administration buildings, at bargaining table--is what got RI at this point to begin with. So, yeah, I feel a sense of urgency. And so do the thousands of RI parents with kids in our public school system.

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Gump:"No hacks or cronies".Caruolo,Licht,Fogarty-duh.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 1, 2011 2:14 AM

"So meet back here in 8 years and be ready to fix education..."

Posted by: Dan at March 1, 2011 7:37 AM

This entire administration is a creation of the NEA-AFT. Pat Crowley should be getting a Wall Street-size bonus this year.

Meanwhile, we, the taxpayers and parents of RI, and our children, are screwed Provincetown-style.

Posted by: BobN at March 1, 2011 8:28 AM
Yeah. That sounds good in a platitudinous sorta way, except recent progress has been made due to a sense of urgency.

Sort of like being for "urgent reform," no? Personally, I think Caruolo makes sense in arguing that getting it right is more important than maintaining the illusion of progress with a flurry of activity. Kohn talks about how what passes for reform is actually just "the status quo on steriods" with a poorly thought out focus on individual accountability.

"How to Sell Conservatism: Lesson 1 -- Pretend You're a Reformer"

Even before the implementation of what should be called the Many Children Left Behind Act, states and school districts were busy standardizing curricula, imposing more and more tests, and using an array of rewards and punishments to pressure teachers and students to fall in line -- with the most extreme version of this effort reserved for the inner cities. Before anyone outside of Texas had heard of George W. Bush, many of us had been calling attention to the fact that these policies were turning schools into glorified test-prep centers, driving some of the most innovative teachers to leave the profession, and increasing the drop-out rate among kids of color.

Yet the so-called reformers have succeeded in convincing people that their top-down, test-driven approach -- in effect, the status quo on steroids -- is a courageous rejection of what we've been doing.

Here's what would be new: questioning all the stuff that Papert's early 20th-century visitors would immediately recognize: a regimen of memorizing facts and practicing skills that features lectures, worksheets, quizzes, report cards and homework. But the Gates-Bush-Obama version of "school reform" not only fails to call those things into question; it actually intensifies them, particularly in urban schools. The message, as educator Harvey Daniels observed, consists of saying in effect that "what we're doing [in the classroom] is OK, we just need to do it harder, longer, stronger, louder, meaner..."

So exactly what progress has been made due to this sense of "urgency?" How do you gauge that progress, and if improvements to quality did occur how did you decide that urgency was the reason for the progress?

Posted by: Russ at March 1, 2011 11:16 AM

I wanted to add that for any project, there are 3 equally important concerns: time, expense, and quality. You can maximizes any two of these aby making sacrifices in the 3rd. Folks like me argue that quality must be the first among these "equal" concerns, or invariably it becomes last.

This post is cause for some alarm with an environment where expenses are being cut and folks like you claiming "urgency" (time) as being paramount. What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by: Russ at March 1, 2011 12:02 PM

Crowley's idea of a porno film is "Norma Rae".

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 1, 2011 6:20 PM


The problem with the optimization you'd implement is that you allow for no way to measure "quality", except to have results approved by a committee selected for their fealty to Alfie Kohn's ideology.

Posted by: Andrew at March 1, 2011 9:21 PM
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