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Summer (Ed Reform) Blockbusters

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Lead from the Start: Summer (Ed Reform) Blockbusters

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer (Ed Reform) Blockbusters

In the past I have written about riding the waves of reform. I've discovered one of the ways to do that in this space is to respond to those big reports that seem to arrive on an almost weekly if not monthly basis like blockbuster movies. But my doctoral studies have gotten in the way of my timely commentary even as my research papers I was writing for class is what is busting blocks on the reform front.
Here is the first of two.

Broader, Bolder-- This report has some very big names from the industry attached includingsome of my favorites like: Linda Darling-Hammond, John L. Goodlad, T. Berry Brazelton, James Comer, David Grissmer, (frick and frack) Deborah Meier Diane Ravitch, and Sharon Kagan. It is like a Robert Altman movie, everybody who is anybody has signed this thing.
I guess that might be the scariest thing about this statement, it is endorsed by the establishment. My esteemed TLN colleague, Renee Moore, brought some issues with the statement to the TLN breakfast table a couple days ago. She said, "On the surface, most of what the statement calls for is laudable and logical. But as I read it more closely, a few statements began to trouble me." She goes on to say:

For example: "Education policy in this nation has typically been crafted around the expectation that schools alone can offset the full impact of low socioeconomic status in learning." Oh, really? The children of the poor have been the primary concern of educational policymakers? And what is the evidence (or better yet, the results) of that concern?

The report's major claim is that we need to acklnowledge that schools, as they are currently structured, can't solve all of the social ills of America. It mentions that we need to start paying attention to what kids are doing outside of schools.

Many of the big names associated with this report were/are part of the Democracy At Risk report that came out recently. I thought that report rocked so I am more inclined to read Broader, Bolder with more interest.

The best part of the report, and another area Renee found issue with, was the pushing of Early Childhood education. I have been researching this approach to the achievement gap and find all of the reasons for investing in early learning sound on many fronts. (More on this later...) I do have to outright disagree with Renee on this statement in her post though...

I won't take time to go into it here, but the real history of the Head Start program, which began in rural Mississippi, is what I was thinking of when I read the statement's call for "increased investment in developmentally appropriate and high-quality early childhood, pre-school, and kindergarten education." That kind of noble talk has been heard before, and it translated into the worst kind of paternalistic racist usurpation's of parental rights and community-based cultural practices. It was well-intentioned educational policy during the desegregation of the schools that led to the dismissal of thousands of Black school administrators and highly effective teachers. Those same policies led to a dismantling of the cultural ties between communities (in our case Black communities) and our schools. These mostly unintended consequences were, nevertheless, debilitating. Collateral damage from poorly developed and implemented public education policy....Hmm...where have we seen that recently?
Personally, I am very proud of my work with Head Start and its history. As with any large scale reform there are bound to be misuses and unintended consequences, especially in places where segregation was still fought in in 1965. Richmond didn't desegregate until 1978. But, the strong African-American women who hired me, were the same women who started the Head Start program in Richmond in 1965. They have given me a respect for the program and it's place in history. They made sure when I was hired (as a white male substitute teacher) that I understood what Head Start is really about. They made sure that I understood that I was going to be a part of something bigger than myself, or Richmond, or Virginia. It is a social program meant to lift families up. And it has done that for 43 years.

The real history of Head Start is that of a National program created to serve at-risk children from across the country. It is not the story of Head Start in Mississippi.

photo credit: YWCA of Chicago

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At 8:18 PM, Blogger TeachMoore said...

Once again, I thank you for the pushback on my comments. The chunk you quote above is dense, so let me unpack it just a little. I'm reflecting on a pattern of educational policy decisions and implementations from the nationalization of Head Start (formerly known as CDGM here), to the desegregation orders, to Title I, just to name a few. Each of these programs is really valuable in its own right and way. But what I refer to as the "collateral damage" done during the turf battles around these programs and their implementation is just as real. I love Head Start, too. All eleven of the children I've raised came through and were helped by wonderful Head Start workers. But every social change/reform comes at a cost, and we must pay attention to the lessons of history and count the (real)costs of policy decisions beforehand, so we can prepare to avoid or mitigate them.

At 5:03 AM, Blogger j m holland said...

Renee, Thanks for your comments. I especially appreciated your point in your post about how easy it is to make Bold Statements and how hard it is to make those statements policy.


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