Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Forum for Educ. and Democracy: Democracy at Risk

I somehow forgot to get the news out on this report by the Forum for Education and Democracy to which I belong.

Here's a link to the press release (also see below).

To read the full report, go to: A recording of the April 23rd press conference at the National Press Club is available here.
Portions of the event are available as video on John Merrow's site.

Democracy at Risk

Press Release Contact: Robert Johnston (202) 955-9450
Beth Glenn (202) 372-7684
EMBARGOED UNTIL APRIL 23, 2008, 9:00 a.m. EST

Calling Federal Role in Education “Inconsistent and Shortsighted,”
Education Innovators Propose Alternative Agenda
Report Urges Nation to Pay off Education Debt, Introduce Marshall Plan
For Teachers, and Invigorate Research and Community Involvement

WASHINGTON – Federal education policy is “inconsistent and shortsighted,” despite 25 years of
education reform sparked by the release of A Nation at Risk -- and has left the United States further
behind than it was in 1983. A report released today by the Forum for Education and Democracy says that
we need to transform the federal role in education to meet longstanding student achievement and equity
goals. This new role should include fully funding federal commitments to low-income students, investing
in a “Marshall plan” for teachers and school leaders, refocusing research on educators’ needs, and
deepening community ties to their schools.
The report, Democracy at Risk: The Need for a New Federal Policy in Education, was written by
prominent educators and policy experts who have launched effective alternative schools, charter schools,
and school improvement networks. It notes that the United States’ education system and democracy are
even more at risk than at the release of A Nation at Risk.
Today, the United States ranks 21st of 30 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
countries in science and 25th in mathematics. The nation has fallen from first to 14th in higher-education
participation. Precipitous declines also have taken place outside of school. The report cites research
showing that more students live in poverty and lack health care than 35 years ago, and that democratic
engagement measured by voter knowledge, trust among citizens, and the strength of social networks is
The report is intended to be a road map for federal policy, to guide a new president, secretary of
education, and Congress as they debate the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It builds on
lessons learned from other nations and innovative schools created by local educators and community
members. Confronting old constraints, communities across the nation have developed new curricula,
teaching, and assessment strategies; changed how schools operate; and created learning communities
that could drive ongoing improvement. Under federal policy today, these kinds of schools are constrained
rather than enabled, the report challenges.
“While other countries have made strategic investments and transformed their schools to produce results,
we have demanded results without investing in or transforming schooling,” says Linda Darling-Hammond,
Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, who is a convener of the Forum and
served as a co-author of the report. Other authors include notable education scholars and innovators.
(See list of Forum Conveners attached.)
Democracy at Risk
The report argues that many promising initiatives have been developed recently, but a long-term policy to
take them to scale has been absent. A new strategy would require intensive and highly focused research
and development; a skilled teaching and leadership force; support for new organizational designs; and
investments in low-wealth schools to ensure they have the capacity to maintain productive strategies.
“Checklists and sanctions do not help communities develop each student’s unique potential,” said George
Wood, the Forum’s executive director and principal of Federal Hocking Middle School in Stewart, Ohio.
“This report is about empowering every community to provide a world-class education to every student.”
Key Recommendations
Paying off the education debt. “Just as questionable fiscal policies have saddled our young people with
an enormous monetary debt, our nation faces a huge educational debt resulting from hundreds of years
of unequal educational and economic opportunity,” the report says. By underfunding the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act and other statutes, the federal government has reneged on its commitment to
advance equity. The government pledged to fund 40 percent of the extra costs of educating students with
additional needs, but currently only funds 17 percent. In addition to meeting this obligation, the
government should link state funding to increases in equity, create an “opportunity index” that evaluates
school resources, alongside reports of student progress. It also should invest in out-of-school learning
supports, including health care for children and early learning opportunities.
Investing in a new “Marshall plan” for teachers and school leaders. For $4 billion, the government
could underwrite the preparation of 40,000 teachers annually, as well as seed 100 top-quality urban
teacher education programs, ensure mentors for every new teacher hired, and dramatically improve
professional learning opportunities for teachers and principals. The report also calls for the creation of a
national school leadership academy, a West Point for education leaders.
Supporting education research and innovation. The federal government needs to become much more
actively involved in gathering and sharing promising educational practices to help educators. Federal
assistance can support states’ development of innovative assessments that measure problem-solving
and critical thinking skills. It should return the National Assessment for Educational Progress to its original
form, as an open-ended performance assessment. The federal government also should give sustained
attention to helping educators’ better serve English-language learners and special-needs students.
“We need to restore the balance between research that tells us how we are doing and research that tells
us what we can do to improve education,” said Sharon Robinson, president of the American Association
of Colleges of Teacher Education and a former assistant secretary of education. “With the federal
government’s support, we can do a much better job of trying to evaluate good ideas and share them with
Engaging and educating local communities. The federal government should engage in a coordination
offensive, making schools true hubs of communities and gateways to social services for students and
community members. It can provide incentives for community-directed experimentation and participation
in school change, urge employers to give parents a day of leave each year to meet with teachers and
participate in school life, and provide much-needed resources, such as school translators for parents.
A Net Savings for the Nation
Taking lessons from successful nations and our own recent past, Democracy at Risk documents what it
would take to provide high-quality teaching and eliminate equity gaps. It provides data indicating that
equity gaps were nearly eliminated in the 1970s, and can be again.
The report’s proposals can be funded for a total of $29 billion annually, or less than one month in Iraq or
10 percent of the cost overruns indentified in federal weapons programs. The spending will more than pay
for itself in increased economic activity and reduced spending on remediation programs.
Democracy at Risk
Lost wages and taxes and increased social service costs for dropouts cost the nation $200 billion
annually. Deficits in basic skills for high schools graduates cost the nation another $16 billion in
remediation and lost productivity. In the long run, these proposals would save far more than they cost.
# # #
With offices in Amesville, Ohio and Washington, D.C., The Forum for Education & Democracy is an
education think tank dedicated to renewing America’s commitment to strong public schools. The Forum
works for school revitalization efforts and policies that prepare young people for lifelong learning
and engaged, thoughtful democratic participation. The Forum's vision for American education is
grounded in support for our schools and policies that build schools’ capacity to provide a world-class
education for every child.
Conveners of The Forum for Education and Democracy
The Forum for Education and Democracy is composed of nationally recognized educators who have
founded schools and school networks, pioneered new techniques, and been influential voices in
education research and policy debates. Following is a list of the Forum’s conveners:
Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director, Advancement Project;
Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University;
Carl Glickman, committee member, national campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools;
John Goodlad, president, Institute for Education Inquiry;
Gloria Ladson-Billings, professor, Urban Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison;
Deborah Meirer, senior scholar, New York University Steinhardt School of Education;
Larry Myatt, headmaster-on-assignment, High School Initiative in Boston Public Schools and founder,
Fenway High School;
Pedro Noguera, professor, New York University Steinhardt School of Education;
Wendy Puriefoy, president, Public Education Network;
Sharon Robinson, president and CEO, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and
former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education;
Nancy Sizer, lecturer of education, Harvard University;
Ted Sizer, founder and chair, Coalition of Essential Schools and professor, Brown University;
Angela Valenzuela, associate vice-president, University School Partnerships, University of Texas at
Austin; and
George Wood, director of the Forum and principal of Federal Hocking High School in Stewart, Ohio.

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