Wednesday, July 12, 2006

So Long, Mike

Michael Winerip, head and shoulders the very best education columnist I've ever seen, is leaving the NY Times. My friend Schoolgal also bemoans the loss of a columnist who took the time to respond to her emails. Many education columnists seem not to have encountered teachers since they left high school, and have seen public school teachers only in museum photos.

He leaves with some choice words about No Child Left Behind, characterizing it as relying on standardized testing because it mistrusts teachers, along with a plea for reduced class size. There's a little history on how figures like Jeb Bush and Michael Bloomberg have battled against it.

Of course standardized tests suggest teacher judgment is inadequate. If they were the only way to judge progress, no one my age would be able to read. A better step would be to insist on and seek out quality teachers, even if it meant (gasp) paying them. This is particularly important in places like NYC, where adult role-models are not always in abundant supply. What can you expect from a city that elects demagogues like Rudy Giuliani?

As a parent, I can't imagine how the obvious advantages of smaller class size eludes anyone with children. Kids need more attention from adults, not less. This is particularly true, again, in areas like NYC. There are studies, but why anyone needs one is beyond me.

Lastly, Winerip suggests a "No Family Left Behind" act, as crushing poverty, unbeknownst to the likes of Bush and Bloomberg, can severely inhibit education. He points out that NCLB is resulting in curricula that sacrifices education to test prep.

There's no one to replace Mike Winerip, and very few education writers with the remotest notion of what goes on in classrooms, and I'm very sad to see him go.
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