Saturday, February 11, 2006

Open letter to Ron Gidwitz Regarding his "Education Plan"

Kevin Killion of the www.Illinoisloop.org sent the below message to Ron Gidwitz regarding his education plan. Illinoisloop.org is a must read website for all true education reformists.

To: Ron Gidwitz


Dear Ron,

It seems that the press has all but ignored the announcement of your "P16" plan for education in Illinois. I'm sorry to say it, but that's not a surprise. The plan was woefully lacking in anything that would actually enthuse anyone. Where was the EXCITEMENT? The INNOVATION? Where were any common-sense REFORMS?


Here are the points in your press release, which I've copied in their entirety:


- Creation of more pre-school opportunities, with a special emphasis on encouraging enrollment of children from low income families;

Yawn. Maybe it would be simpler just to insist on effective,
research-based and teacher-directed reading instruction in
K-3?


- Mandatory kindergarten for all Illinois children by the age of 6. For parents who choose to homeschool, the state will provide educational resources.

Huh?

WHEN the state schools start demonstrating competence at
what they have now, THEN let's talk about expanding their
dominions.

Why not simply offer a full-cost voucher for Kindergarten,
good at ANY school?


- Smaller class sizes during the early years to allow more individual attention

Aw, Ron, c'mon now! YOU KNOW that smaller class sizes haven't
been shown to improve objective scores! We DO know that
small class sizes are popular with the Big Ed unions because
they cut workloads. Unfortunately, small class sizes,
besides being hugely expensive (more teachers and more classrooms),
also make it MUCH easier for weak teachers to fill class time with
pointless projects and activities.


- Intensive reading programs focused on first, second and third graders to assure that students are not promoted to fourth grade without achieving reading proficiency;

Uh, and that means what exactly? What exactly are you pledging
to do? Boring, boring, boring, Ron.

Ron, if you had put some DRAMA into this, you would have
had something. For example, "We have to sweep out the remnants
of failed education theories from our classrooms and ed schools.
It's time to concentrate on what works!"


- Shifting of the high school mathematics courses of algebra and geometry into the middle school experience.

Oh Ron, what a distinctly HORRIBLE idea!

Only a lousy half (54.3%) of students even came up to the
MINIMUM state standards for 8th grade math in the 2005 ISAT,
and yet you want to cram MORE into pre-high school years?

What a horrible, horrible idea!

We've got a vast number of kids in this state who can't
handle basic math, don't know standard algorithms, have
little or no experience with operations on fractions,
are vague at best on decimal conversions -- in short,
are utterly incompetent. AND YOUR RESPONSE IS TO
FORCE ALGEBRA AND GEOMETRY INTO THOSE YEARS?

I honestly can't even begin to imagine what you were
thinking on this one.

Meanwhile, you're ignoring the more basic problem:
the infestation of our K-8 schools by theory-based fuzzy math
programs that have been a disaster.


- Increased graduation requirements: four years of math and three years of science

Let me get this straight:

1) Our schools are using trendy but discredited fuzzy theories
to teach math,
2) and a thin soup of gee-whiz pyrotechnics to "teach" science,
3) with predictably awful results.
4) And your solution is NOT to restore rigor, but rather
to extend the nonsense by extra years?

Do I have that right?


- More options for 11th and 12th graders, including career training and apprenticeship programs and dual enrollments with community colleges and universities

OK, so that sounds like a fine idea since so many kids
come out of our schools with little ability to do much
of anything that requires thinking or knowledge.


- Cooperation and exchange between public and private higher education

And this is in the press release WHY EXACTLY? It's
inscrutable and means nothing on its face, so why did you
think anyone would be enthused about this?


- Incentives for teachers to encourage excellence in instruction

Ah, a Rorschach test!

Uh, does this mean you are going to reward teachers for
"achieving" meaningless steppingstones such as goofy
NBPTS certification, or going to fuzzy-wuzzy in-service
chatfests?

Or,

does it mean that you will reward teachers for
concrete evidence of teaching success, through merit pay
for gains in Value Added Assessment (VAA)?

If it IS the latter, and you are prepared to support
the common-sense notion that GREAT teachers deserve better
compensation, then why not simply SAY so and generate
some enthusiasm for your campaign?


- Funding our state's P-16 education needs FIRST, before all other programs

Sounds good for a few seconds, until one thinks,
"But what is that supposed to MEAN?"

I've tried and tried, but I can't see that it means anything
other than you intend to spend EVEN MORE MONEY on
a bloated cesspool of a bureaucracy that is already
awash with cash!


Heavens knows the education bureaucracy in this state needs a major shaking up. TWO MILLION KIDS in public schools in Illinois need your help in fixing the lunacy in their classrooms. It's an old but apt metaphor: We don't need to talk about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We need REAL REFORM.

I suspect that Illinois voters would respond to a message of REAL REFORM as well.

Sincerely,

Kevin Killion
Director, Illinois Loop

1 comment:

Scott W. Somerville said...

HSLDA has been actively opposing P-16 in Indiana, but this is the first I've heard of it in Illinois. Thanks for putting this up!