The battle for control of MPS is heating up as the new school year begins and Governor Doyle plans to present the Wisconsin state legislature with an “education package.” At the top of the list will be Doyle’s proposal to give power to Milwaukee’s mayor to appoint the MPS school board.
The framework for the present debates on education is attached to the stimulus money ($4.3 billion) being offered by the Department of Education (Arne Duncan is the Secretary of Education) in a package called “Race to the Top” ( RttT). This money will be rewarded to the winning states when the present education stimulus money runs out in 2011.
States must show a range of benchmarks to be eligible: improved achievement, raised standards, recruitment of effective teachers, turn around of failed schools, and development of data systems. The method for measuring these areas will be expansion of the Bush model of industry-generated, high-stakes standardized tests. This path will continue the devastating culture forcing public schools to teach to the test.
The continuation of neo-conservative policies toward public education will generate the same outcomes as we have now. As a teacher for decades and now a school board member, I know what these policies do to the classroom. We should be offering all students “…a rich and rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum designed to stimulate creative inquiry, intellectual achievement and independent thinking…” — as written in the philosophy statement of Sidwell Friends School, attended by President Obama’s daughters. Instead, urban public schools are forced to offer students regimented hour after hour of test preparation so they can take standardized tests. In many elementary schools, this test-prep regimen is followed by scripted direct instruction.