A Dismal Future for Education?

In case you haven’t read John Kuhn’s “Letter from the Alamo” yet, it’s really a brilliant little piece of writing. In it, Kuhn (the superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt school district in Texas) pleads with the state government to “come to our aid” and rescue education from the quagmires in which it we are currently stuck.

More recently, Education week did a little Q&A Interview with Mr. Kuhn and asked him about many of the things going on in education today. In this interview (well worth the time it takes to read), he raises many of the same issues I mentioned in my last post – bureaucracy, poor evaluation models, etc. – as things that are hindering education. He makes a lot of interesting points about how teachers have no choice but to “teach to the test” in order to keep their jobs, how teachers are expendable but testing is “non-negotiable” when annual budget cuts roll around, and how “accountability” is mostly just another word for blame in politics.

His most interesting point, however, is his suggestion for more comprehensive accountability:

“The other major gripe I have is this: if we really believed that accountability works, wouldn’t we have accountability for all public servants? Why do we not require our legislators to make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have the data from their congressional districts, do we not? There is crime data, health care data, poverty figures, and drug use statistics for every state and federal legislative district. Why, exactly, do we not establish annual targets for our legislators to meet? We could eliminate 100% of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014!

If accountability is the answer, we must move from the selective accountability that merely targets schools to a universal accountability that targets all players. We know that poverty, illness, crime, and addiction in the home all have a direct impact on the educability of our students–when legislators fail, schools fail. But we only blame the second domino to fall–it seems very cynical to me.”

I can’t help but wonder how our representatives would react if the people voted and approved a “legislative AYP.” For example, crime, health, poverty, and drug use are the equivalent of the four core subject areas in school (English, Math, Science, Social Studies), and if those numbers are not progressing by 5% a year, then the legislator is first put on probation, then eventually fired. Not a bad idea to me.

On a side note, one of the commenters made a good point – the original “Letter to the Alamo,” written by LTC. William Barret Travis to Sam Houston, was ignored and all but two soldiers at the Alamo were killed.


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