Let’s stop Rudy Crew and this achievement compact nonsense right now!
Oregon’s Chief Education Officer Rudy Crew wants some schools to redo their achievement compact goals for next year. From the Oregonian article “Rudy Crew says one third of Oregon school districts must rewrite goals, aim higher” by Betsy Hammond (here):
Oregon Chief Education Officer Rudy Crew has ordered 69
school districts, including Lake Oswego, Tigard,
Gresham-Barlow and Oregon
City, to rewrite their
academic goals for this school year because they aimed too low.
On Wednesday, Crew informed districts that failed to set goals to improve their high school graduation rate and their third-grade reading and math scores by at least 1 percentage point that they must do so by Oct. 15.
"We do not want flat," he said. "They have to show some measure of growth."
First, I am generally a skeptic when it comes to the achievement compacts. I think the goals are largely wrong (no foreign language, study abroad, or online learning goals), so I see, in economic terms, a large opportunity cost with them. It is not so much that the goals, if we could reach them, are bad, but that there are other more important goals that languish by inattention. The failure to pursue these other goals is more costly than the benefits of the goals currently pursued. We, simply, are heading in the wrong direction.
Second, just what are these achievement compact goals if they are not enforceable? Hammond writes further:
Districts face no penalty for failing to reach their goals,
nor reward for doing so.
Crew expressed confidence that districts will largely hit their targets, even without a tangible carrot or stick.
"What these do is they instigate the conversation, and that becomes a source of focused attention in a school and in a community, and that is a driver," he said. "Good or bad, it is attention, and that becomes a way that everybody knows there is something really, really significant about this work and that there is clarity about what movement looks like. The schools ultimately can keep score for themselves with their community.
This is just silly: no penalties, no rewards. I just don’t think conversation and attention will be enough for anything other that pretending we are doing something when we are not. And, back to my first point, to the extent that the conversation is focused solely on these goals, the wrong goals, we are missing the opportunities to talk about more important changes and goals.
Third, Crew thinks school district can do more with less funding. Again, Hammond writes:
Superintendents cited two main reasons for low goals:
confusion over statistics, because they were asked to set targets for 2013
before they saw their 2012 results, and financial straits that forced most
districts to make deep cuts in teaching positions, school days or both.
Crew pushed back, saying schools could make increases of 2 percentage points to 5 percentage points despite the cutbacks by making smarter, more focused use of the staff they still have to help more students succeed.
I predict that this notion of doing more with less resources will create a massive blowback and game playing from the educational establishment (who, generally, spend much of their time strategizing how to get more resources). It won’t be well received. Even with no penalties and no rewards the political drama will be intense (and time and effort wasting).
I’m disappointed that Crew did not mention the use of online learning, especially in high schools, to cut and shift costs. I, for one, think significant savings could be achieved in high school through the use of online courses with appropriate students.
On the other hand, my fear about this “more focused use of staff” is that it means shifting staff to teach to the third grade proficiency tests and shifting staff away from teaching towards some of the other goals that I think are more important.I’d also note that I am not a fan of the algebra requirement for high school graduation. Everyone does not need to know algebra (here). Just dropping the algebra requirement would raise graduation rates.