Monday, April 21, 2008

McCain on education

Later this spring, say McCain aides, the senator will start trickling out his education positions - many of them holdovers from his last run - and proposals will include empowering parents by offering more school choice. He'll back No Child Left Behind as a bare-bones accountability system that needs tweaking, and he'll talk up independent education reforms such as Teach for America. It appears he will sidestep issues, such as dramatically ramping up federal assistance for state preschool programs, promoted big-time by the Obama and Clinton campaigns.

All of this buttresses the conventional wisdom that education will be a back burner issue for McCain, lagging far behind terrorism and the economy, a notion not disputed by his aides. George W. Bush, they say, was able to lean on education as a top issue in his 2000 campaign because the country was not at war and the economy was relatively stable.

That conventional wisdom, however, may get challenged in two ways. First, while McCain has consulted on education with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, his key, close-to-the-ground adviser is likely to be Lisa Graham Keegan, the former state schools superintendent in Arizona.

She is a close friend of McCain who shook up Arizona's education system while serving as superintendent and then gained a national - but controversial - reputation with the Education Leaders Council, a national organization of conservative school reformers. With her blond good looks and disarming candor, Keegan has what the TV world dubs a high "Q" factor, that indefinable something that makes people pay attention.

That said, there's another side to Keegan. Her relentless push in Arizona to launch charter schools and win tax credits for private school tuition make her a polarizing figure in Arizona education. If you're a presidential candidate planning to put education on the back burner, you don't pick Lisa Graham Keegan as your adviser. Even if education remains a minor issue for McCain during the campaign, a Department of Education run by Keegan could make the tenure of the current secretary, Margaret Spellings, look like a backwater.

More here

100,000 jobs vacant in Louisiana

And the unemployed are not educated enough to fill them

Despite having about 100,000 job openings in the state, many residents do not have the proper training or education to fill those positions, Labor Secretary Tim Barfield said Monday. Legislators are considering bills to overhaul the state Labor Department, to coordinate worker training programs across the state, and to better align training with available jobs.

Before starting the regular session last week, Gov. Bobby Jindal said about 40 percent of the state's population over age 16 is unemployed or underemployed. "Educational attainment, or lack of attainment, keeps a significant amount of potential employees unemployed or underemployed," Barfield told the Baton Rouge Press Club.

House Bill 1104 would restructure the Department of Labor, changing its name to the Louisiana Workforce Commission and expanding its scope to coordinate many of the job training and employment-related educational programs in the state. Barfield said the issue does not rest on the Department of Labor alone but on the integration of services between several other state agencies including the Department of Economic Development, Department of Corrections and Department of Social Services. "The goal here is to have that one-door principle that we've all heard so much about," Barfield said.

The 84-page bill, sponsored by House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, would continue the department's responsibilities of doling out unemployment benefits and managing other federal labor programs. But it also would give regional boards jurisdiction over federal worker training dollars. The measure would set up a work-force investment council to provide job market information, as well as create an automated system to match employers and job seekers. It would also create a committee to forecast the anticipated demand for jobs by occupation and industry to show what training is needed for workers. "It's doing a better job of connecting the dots," Barfield said.

The Senate Labor Committee plans to hold a hearing on the proposal Thursday, and Barfield said the House Labor Committee will hold a second hearing on the bill next week. Two more bills before the Legislature this session would create a $10 million fund to immediately provide training for high-demand jobs.

Jindal also wants to rework state spending on the Louisiana Community and Technical College System to allocate dollars per student based on the type of training they will receive. Barfield said programs offered through the system should be more aligned with industry needs, and funding should be based on the demand in the work force and cost of training. The idea needs approval from the Board of Regents, which oversees public colleges in Louisiana, not the Legislature. It is expected to be considered in May or June by the board.


'Moral panic' and 'policy hysteria' harming British primary schools

Schoolchildren are reduced to the status of 'targets'

Primary school education has been damaged by "prescriptive state nationalisation", which has taken all the fun out of children's learning, the biggest review of primary education in 40 years has concluded. A mixture of "moral panic", "policy hysteria" and "fad theory" has had a devastating effect on primary schools in England, according to the latest reports of the Cambridge University-led Primary Review. The three reports published today examining teacher professionalism, training and leadership followed 22 earlier reports that have delivered a damning indictment of the Government's record on primary education.

Children had been reduced to the status of "targets and outputs" in a school system ruled by political "whim", researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University said. Their report, part of the ongoing Primary Review, warned that teachers had been de-skilled and demoralised by the constant Government interference and that the relentless focus on targets had created an "impersonal" system. The study, by Liz Jones, Andy Pickard and Ian Stronach at Manchester Metropolitan University, concluded that many older teachers felt demoralised by lack of freedom to run their own lessons in the face of government "micro-management of their work".

Centralised control over primary education has increased in the past 15 years as ministers introduced new targets, more testing and league tables. Initiative overload, hysterical response to media scares and scapegoating of schools and teachers had become "a permanent feature of contemporary modernisation by New Labour", the study warned.

A second study, on teacher training, for the Primary Review warned that ministers' strict control of training courses had created a "culture of compliance" among teachers and pupils. The report, by Olwen McNamara and Rosemary Webb at Manchester University and Mark Brundrett from Liverpool John Moores University, warned that successive governments had "progressively increased prescription and control", which had left schools subject to "political whim".

The third report, by Hilary Burgess, from the Open University, examining staffing reforms, warned that children with special needs were missing out on time with their class teacher because they were being left in the care of classroom assistants.

The Liberal Democrats accused the Government of treating teachers like robots. David Laws, their education spokesman, said: "There is a danger of the Government squeezing the life out of education and preparing teachers in a robotic way to deliver a very prescriptive curriculum." Andrew Adonis, the Schools minister, defended the Government's record. He said: "We make no apology for policies which are delivering the highest standards ever."

The problem areas

* A narrowing of the curriculum - primary schools are increasingly focusing on literacy and numeracy to boost their league table positions but at the expense of children's wider education. "The remorseless pursuit of grades had unhealthy effects on other educational goals."

* Loss of self esteem of pupils and teachers - pupils are being demoralised by the "impersonal" education system with its excessive focus on targets and tests. Teachers, particularly older staff, feel deskilled by government "micromanagement" of their lessons. "The reconstruction of the child in terms of targets and outputs... has impersonalised education in ways that are now being recognised."

* A reduction in creative pedagogy - government interference in teacher training has led to increased focus on preparing teachers to deliver government strategies rather than developing them as thinking professionals. Teachers are under increasing pressure from politicians and the public to be more accountable and raise standards. "There is evidence teachers are being deskilled and their work intensified."


No comments: