Edgar and Daley, Sittin’ in a tree

When these two are co-authoring an Op-Ed, you KNOW there is REAL MONEY to be made. Yet again, we are being sold a bill of goods under the rubric of reform. When either of these two Bozos calls for the complete de-Unionization of education, I may start taking them seriously.

Forcing public schools in Illinois to measure up

But the risk of losing new funding pales in comparison to what’s at stake if Illinois fails to change how it approaches education. Illinois has fallen behind the country on virtually all educational measures, and this at a time when the U.S. itself increasingly lags the rest of the industrialized world.

Fewer than 30 percent of Illinois students demonstrate proficiency on national tests, placing the state at or below national averages in all subjects and all grade levels.

Research by the college-testing organization ACT determined that less than a quarter of Illinois high school graduates are ready for college; that drops to 7 percent and 3 percent for Latino and African-American students respectively. Put together, the picture is bleak: For every four freshmen who enter high school, one will drop out, two will graduate unprepared for work or further education and one — just one — will graduate ready for whatever comes next.

So how do we think very, very differently in Illinois? As we gather information and hear from experts, teachers, students and families from across the state and country, a few answers emerge.

Teacher quality and performance are critical factors for student success. A 2006 paper by the Brookings Institution concluded, “If the effects were to accumulate, having a top-quartile teacher rather than a bottom-quartile teacher four years in a row would be enough to close the black-white test score gap.” At the same time, research by the Illinois Education Research Council tells us just the opposite happens in Illinois. According to the IERC, just two schools in the state with high concentrations of poor, minority children have a top-quartile teaching staff, compared with 420 schools serving a more affluent white population. It is time to get serious about recruiting, training and supporting effective teachers to ensure they are serving our most vulnerable students, then evaluating them rigorously and based on student outcomes.

In focusing on teacher quality, we should not minimize the central role played by principals. Research confirms what common sense tells us: Great teachers will not stay long at a poorly run school. If we are serious about employing the most effective teachers, then we must invest in strong leadership. That includes tougher certification, more relevant preparation and more autonomy at the school level.

Thin Gruel from 2 has beens.

The idea that any of this equals reform is laughable. Fund the Child, not the bureaucracy, break the backs of the awful unions, and abolish the school district while converting every school into an independent charter. It’s easy once you throw the greedy off the bus and put the child in the center of the equation.