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PBS Does Ren-10

Arne_DuncanFrom contributing blogger John Thompson, an Oklahoma city high school teacher:

PBS’s Now included an excellent discussion of Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 and

whether struggling schools should be completely reorganized with all

teachers and staff having to reapply for their jobs or whether

replacing the schools’ leadership is effective.

If we hope to address "the bottom one percent," or the toughest

95,000 schools, surely America will need both strategies - and others. All types of

principal and teacher training programs would need to be in overdrive

for years before we have the talent for the challenge.

I know many of you saw the show on Friday. Read below for the complete post, and share your thoughts about what Thompson -- and Duncan -- had to say.

The key is

whether Arne Duncan, and the rest of us, follow his own words, "We cant move forward without an honest assessment of the facts."

I will defer to Alexander and other journalists to evaluate the

actual facts regarding Duncan’s previous reforms in Chicago, but his

current rhetoric embodies the balance we need. Duncan worries:

"Our public conversation about educating children, lifting

struggling schools, and evaluating teachers and principals, too often

fall apart because we cant agree on facts, let alone solutions.

There is little agreement on what kids should know and be able to do how to measure it and how to report the measures.

We cant agree on whether standardized tests can accurately reflect achievement levels. We cant even agree on whether to test.

There is little agreement about which student outcomes matter most.

What are our priorities?

Higher graduation rates?

Higher test scores?

Better attendance?

Higher grades?

Better freshman year on track rates?

We dont agree on how to measure these simple outcomes not to mention the more complex ideas like value-added.

And there is even less agreement around the means to reaching these goals.

A positive school culture?

An administrators leadership skills?

Or a teachers degree of helpfulness?

We cant

agree on whether teachers should be measured by their peers, level of

qualifications, classroom observation, student performance or all of the above.

We need to develop a new generation of great teachers yet

there is little agreement on how to hire a great teacher. Is it college

grades, advanced degrees, or some intangible quality of empathy and

passion?

Somehow amidst all of this chaos and confusion differing opinions competing agendas -- and absence of broadly-accepted truths you and I must conduct an open, honest, and productive national conversation on public education.

Somehow, you and I must dismantle the barriers to straightforward, fact-based discussion and find the truth.

You and I must get to the bottom of the well.

This is no small challenge but to shrink from it -- is to shrink from the larger task at hand. - John Thompson

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