Monday, January 12, 2009

Al Sharpton on Supporting Charter Schools and Education

The good Reverend has much to agree with in the WSJ:
We, too, believe that true education reform can only be brought about by a bipartisan coalition that challenges the entrenched education establishment. And we second your belief that school reformers must demonstrate an unflagging commitment to "what works" to dramatically boost academic achievement -- rather than clinging to reforms that we "wish would work."
I disagree with some of the diagnosis that stems from his idea that we have had a "race to the bottom" in state standards, and as a result need federal standards. I think the federal guidelines of the NCLB Act have created a lot of poor incentives for states, and rather than adding more federal standards we should start by first repealing these ones. Unfortunately he uses the equality language, which can be accomplished in undesirable ways. Since his true message is to improve the chances for those who are doing currently poorly, I wish the framing of this message was as such. He insists it can only be accomplished through bipartisan mandates, which to me is clinging to an idea that we "wish would work." Nonetheless, much of it focuses on changing incentives. Especially:
Finally, our coalition also promotes the development and placement of effective teachers in underserved schools and supports paying them higher salaries. By contrast, we oppose rigid union-tenure protections, burdensome work rules, and antiquated pay structures that shield a small minority of incompetent teachers from scrutiny yet stop good teachers from earning substantial, performance-based pay raises.
Despite my reservations, as far as these institutions go his Education Equality Project looks promising.

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