Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Prominent Educators Urge Greatly Expanded Federal Role in Improving Schools

Check out the Report: "Democracy at Risk: The Need for a New Federal Policy in Education" a MUST read. Excellent work! -Patricia

A panel of well-known education experts today called on the federal government to take a much bigger role in overhauling elementary and secondary education, partly by establishing large new training programs for teachers and principals and by pumping much more money into education research.

In a report timed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the issuance of the landmark “A Nation at Risk” study, the panel of educators, who call themselves the Forum for Education and Democracy, argues that the nation’s schools are farther behind now than they were when the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued that widely publicized 1983 document calling for sweeping education reform.

“While other countries have made strategic investments and transformed their schools to produce results, we have demanded results without investing in or transforming schooling,” Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University and co-author of the report, said in a news release.

The report urges the federal government to adopt a sweeping plan for training educators, to include new scholarships for prospective teachers, the establishment of the equivalent of a West Point for principals and other school leaders, and the creation of new professional-development schools that would work with universities to ensure that both prospective and veteran teachers learn new skills.

“For an annual investment of $4-billion, or less than what we are currently spending per week in Iraq, the nation could underwrite the high-quality preparation of 40,000 teachers annually (enough to fill all the vacancies that are filled by unprepared teachers each year), seed 100 top-quality urban teacher-education programs, ensure mentors for every new teacher hired each year, provide incentives to bring expert teachers into high-need schools, and dramatically improve professional-learning opportunities for teachers and principals,” the report says.

The report calls for the share of the federal research budget devoted to education research to rise from 0.2 percent to 1 percent, with much of the additional money to be spent ensuring that educators know of promising new practices.

Among the leading members of the forum are John Goodlad, president of the Institute for Education Inquiry; Sharon Robinson, president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; Ted Sizer, founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools; and Angela Valenzuela, the University of Texas at Austin’s associate vice president for university-school partnerships. —Peter Schmidt

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