Imagine, for a second, that you are in charge of more than $600 million in taxpayer money. You live in a city that has made deep investments in early education, and that aspires to provide universal preschool by 2014. You have a thriving network of public charter schools, and you want to help parents make more informed choices about where they send their children.
As the deadline for public comment on the PCSB’s proposed accountability framework for early childhood programs nears (August 28) — and as public reactions to the proposal intensify — PCSB’s executive director, Scott Pearson, published a formal reply to the change.org petition that is asking for greater balance in how schools are evaluated. Here’s Scott’s response:
As DC grapples with whether or not to adopt an accountability framework that would assign between 60-80% of a charter preschool’s overall rank to its students’ reading and math scores, it’s worth asking: What’s at the root of the problem here — the tests, or the stakes attached to those tests?
Last month, I gave a keynote address at the annual conference of the New Tech Network, and suggested that this seemingly innocuous question is one we might need to think more deeply about, and start to answer differently. The video was just released, so see for yourself:
There’s an anecdote the Calhoun School’s Steve Nelson likes to share when he speaks to teachers and parents about the purpose of education. “We should think of our children as wildflower seeds in an unmarked package,” he says. “We can’t know what will emerge. All we can do is plant them in fertile soil, give them plenty of water and sunlight, and wait patiently to see the uniqueness of their beauty.”
At a time when too many students are still being planted in highly cultivated gardens – trimmed and pruned to resemble each other closely – it is incumbent upon all of us to stand on the side of the unmarked package. And at a time when we stray further and further from our democratic roots – from Chicago to DC – it is essential we heed the words of Mission Hill founder Deborah Meier, who reminds us that “democracy rests on having respect for the judgment of ordinary people.”
All this talk of Edward Snowden and the tension between freedom and security has reminded me that back in 2006, as part of a documentary history of First Amendment Rights in America, Section 215 of the Patriot Act was one of the book’s 37 primary sources.
I think what we wrote then has relevance now, but you, dear reader, will have the final word on that point. Enjoy –