Editor’s note: In our third installment of “blog stars,” we’re shifting course slightly. We’ll continue to highlight posts from ed blogs. But if we stumble on a thoughtful newspaper column now and then, we’ll throw that in the mix, too.
Rick Hess Straight Up: The Culture of ‘Can’t’ in American Schools
When it comes to reforming our nation’s public schools, we hear a lot about what educational leaders can’t do. Contracts, laws, and regulations assuredly handcuff school and system leaders. But the ardent drumbeat for “reform” has obscured the fact that school and system leaders can actually do much that they often complain they can’t, if they have the persistence, knowledge, ingenuity, and motivation. In truth, it’s tough to know how much blame should be apportioned to contracts and laws and how much to timid school boards and leaders who prize consensus and stakeholder buy-in …
The problem is that in selecting, training, socializing, and rewarding leaders, we do not equip or encourage them to lead. Traditional educational leadership counsels tell leaders that they should rely wholly on coaching and consensus — while placidly accepting contractual, bureaucratic, or policy barriers. Meanwhile, would-be reformers divert attention from lethargic leadership by rushing to blame “the union.” Full post here.
Hartford Courant: A Eulogy For New London’s St. Mary’s School
That the school hung on until 2012 may be a minor miracle. The nuns are gone, but like other Catholic schools it managed to attract talented lay teachers willing to work for less than they would make at a public school. I chatted with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Robert Washabaugh, who said a foundation called The Compass Fund has been a godsend to the school, helping many youngsters from low-income families — the traditional constituency of Catholic schools — make the $2,600 tuition. Alas, the recession caused the fund to cut back on its support.
What is particularly sad is that the school had come up with a good pedagogical plan. The school’s 115 students today are 60 percent Latino, 30 percent African American and 10 percent Caucasian. Last year the school developed a dual language initiative, a plan that would make it the first Catholic school in the state to teach classes in English and Spanish. It was an excellent idea for 21st century America; sadly, the fiscal realities stopped it barely out of the gate.
In New London, where the public schools have struggled, St. Mary’s was a great option for many families. At the risk of offending my friends at the ACLU, a situation such as this cries out for school vouchers. Religion and ethics aren’t the worst problems these kids face. Full column here. Continue Reading →