Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Steven Maggi: A Couple of Hits, a Couple of Misses

The good Mr. Maggi is an education policy analyst for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, the loyal opposition to the WEA regarding school policy here in Washington State. In the EFF’s monthly newsletter, Living Liberty, he usually contributes a couple of columns talking about the scene both locally and nationally. Some quotes from the recent issue with my thoughts following, first regarding school choice and vouchers:

The School Choice Demonstration Project report, conducted by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, indicates that parents in Washington D.C. are extremely pleased with their city’s voucher program....
This is one of those things, though—does parental satisfaction matter? Many parents, especially suburban parents, are pleased as punch with their local schools, which doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem; it just means they’re happy. Satisfaction, especially regarding schools, might not be a useful metric to judge those same schools by.

Later on, in an article about Governor Gregoire’s new P-20 Council:

Most Washingtonians would agree: our school system has needed an overhaul for a long time.
Really? Would they agree to that? Most school levies still get more than 50% of the vote, which seems like a fairly authentic way to judge how the public feels about the schools. When charter schools have been on the ballot, they’ve failed. I’m not sure I see the consensus on a needed overhaul.

However, one of the main hindrances to education reform is the lack of accountability between the schools and the state government.
Here Maggi may have been on to something, but I think he needed to carry the point a lot farther for it to have the punch that it could, and it begs a question: what role should the state play in fixing a failing school? Take it away from the district? Refuse to pay the salary of any staff member who can’t demonstrate their results? Mandate curriculum? Offer more resources (i.e., $) and gentle prompting to get the school on the right track?

It’s good that we have people like Steve thinking about schools and contributing to the dialogue; I just wish he’d been more expansive here.


DrPezz said...

A few years back I read a stat saying 70% of people felt the local school was above average. Of course, this statistically cannot be.

Almost every parent I meet, no matter where I am, says the local school is great. The parents may take issue with an individual here or there, but they almost always like the school. It's an interesting phenomenon.

What ideas do you have for the state's role regarding failing schools?

Ryan said...

When it comes to persistently underperforming schools, I see the state's role as one of guidance. I have no problem with OSPI mandating a curriculum for those schools, funneling more money into extended learning, etc. I'd stop short of calling for replacing teachers, though others have made that point.

When the WASL scores are released in August, it will be interesting to see which schools around the state have reached that point where they haven't made AYP for 4 or 5 years continuously. Then, the ball will be in OSPI's court.

DrPezz said...

My school did not meet AYP by three students in a school of 2100 because those three fit into the math, Hispanic, and one other cell (an SES cell?). This put us into our 4th year of AYP danger.

We have gone from 9 math teachers to 16 in three years because of the mandates and new laws. I'm curious when it, the ballooning, will stop. Thus far, the state has not mandated a curriculum change, but it may be coming.

One interesting change is the elimination of pre-algebra classes since students were not passing them. I'm hoping students will rise to meet the algebra standards but am mystified by the logic: students can't pass the basic course, so put them in a more challenging one (and doubling many students up in math and losing their electives). This will be quite an intriguing year for us.