Accountability Opinion

The Vision Vacuum

By Eduwonkette — July 16, 2008 1 min read
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“You’re too young to be this cynical, " he said, staring across his desk at me with a perplexed half smile.

I was 10, and in the middle of our classroom’s simulated presidential campaign in which we followed the election and voted for candidates, my 5th grade teacher had launched into a pep talk about the potential for real change.

The last eight years have done little to temper my built-in skepticism. These are dark times, Diane Ravitch reminds us this morning. If I saw the glass as half-empty when Bush assumed the presidency, I now see it as half full - with poison.

That spin has taken over education policymaking hasn’t helped. Accountability, as we used to talk about it back in the 1990s, was a way to evaluate reforms and provide incentives to implement them. It was never intended to be the reform. Now everyone’s being tested and rated and graded and held accountable, but no one is supporting schools to improve the day-to-day work of teaching and learning. Policymakers say they want to leave “no child behind,” but are willing to deny them health care in their next breath. We’ve adopted every technocratic solution that newly minted MBAs can come up with, but we have no educational vision.

So it was with cautious optimism that I followed Randi Weingarten’s acceptanceof the AFT presidency on Monday. As Dan Brown articulates in this post, she’s a fighter, and one at the forefront of critiquing our current reform movement’s easy slogans, “Too often, testing has replaced instruction; data has replaced professional judgment; compliance has replaced excellence; and so-called leadership has replaced teacher professionalism.”

In her acceptance speech, which was bold and unapologetic, she embraced the proposed reforms of the Bolder and Broader coalition, and let us imagine what an alternate educational vision for public schools could look like. Watch the whole speech and let me know what you think - or just take a look at the clip below.

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