Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Montgomery Superintendent Joshua Starr sharpens critique of national reforms

wow....I have a new hero.
Posted in The washington Post at 02:16 PM ET, 04/18/2012

Montgomery schools superintendent Joshua Starr congratulated the school board Tuesday on standing firm against some of the turbulent reform efforts being embraced around the country.

He called their political posture, including the past decision not to support the state’s application for a federal Race to the Top Grant, “one of the reasons I was so thrilled to come here.”

Starr’s comments, which came during a board briefing on the roll-out
Montgomery Superintendent Joshua Starr. (Katherine Frey - THE WASHINGTON POST)
of some key state and federal initiatives, bolstered his emerging role as a vocal and prominent critic of national policy trends.

He criticized what he called a reversion to an “industrial model” of public education. A hyper reliance on measurement and an embrace of quick, cure-all solutions means systems will be destined to repeat past failures, he said.

Montgomery County Public Schools was one of two districts out of 24 in Maryland that passed on federal funding by refusing to sign on to thestate’s Race to the Top grant application in 2010.

School officials said they held out because of the competitive nature of the reform approach and, in particular, its provisions for a new teacher evaluation program that would challenge its existing, successful system.

During Tuesday’s meeting, school employees talked, in some times bewildered tones, about the uncertain status of current overhauls to state and federal policies. They highlighted the roll out of new common core standards, expected to be in place by 2014-2015, which still lack standardized tests or dedicated funding streams for implementation.

They reviewed the pending request for a waiver to be held harmless from some existing sanctions of the current federal accountability system as the new system is being developed. (Starr argued that there should be a “three-year moratorium on standardized tests while we figure all this out.”)

And they talked about the status of state reforms tied to Race to the Top, focusing on the emerging teacher evaluation system that is already being piloted in some districts, including Prince George’s County, and that is expected to link teacher pay or evaluations more closely to students’ performance on tests and other measures.

Starr critiqued the growth models and rubrics being developed as contradicting research on what motivates teachers. He said Montgomery’s current system, which mentors struggling teachers for a year before decisions about termination are made, is a “hill to die on.”

And he said that singling out teachers as the culprit for education failures and shaming them is the most “pernicious part of the national reform movement.”

Accountability for student success should rightly extend to “you, me, and the entire community,” he said.

But in the midst of all the flux and change, he struck a hopeful chord. He said the transition could give Montgomery a chance to carve a distinct path.

“As No Child Left Behind is dying its slow death, it’s an incredible opportunity to fill that void with what we believe we should do for kids,” he said

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, this article leaves out a lot. The Washington Post fails to ever actually report on what goes on in Montgomery County Public Schools. The reporters do, however, go to lunch with the MCPS Superintendents.

    At the same time that the Board of Education was opting "out" of Race to the Top, they were opting "in" to Pearson Education, Inc. The BOE sold the MCPS curriculum to Pearson for about $1.5 million. The deal is that MCPS will write the curriculum with Pearson in secret. Parents can NOT be involved in curriculum development. Then, MCPS will have to buy the Pearson curriculum to use in our own schools. Pearson assessments will be used 3 times a year in all elementary grades. More dollars to Pearson.

    Parents with students currently in elementary school are reporting that the Pearson curriculum is one-size-fits all and children that could advance are bored.

    Parents in Montgomery County are not allowed to ask Superintendent Starr direct questions. He holds panel discussions where he is the moderator and parents cannot dialogue with him.

    Our last superintendent was all about his national image, but never about running our school system. Are we getting that again?