Texas Education

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New Vision for Schools Proposes Broad Role

Posted by Texas Education on July 18, 2008

Here’s a story from the New York Times on Randi Weingarten, the New Yorker who is rising to become president of the American Federation of Teachers, says she wants to replace President Bush’s focus on standardized testing with a vision of public schools as community centers that help poor students succeed by offering not only solid classroom lessons but also medical and other services.

I’ve always thought a school that stays open longer, has more options, etc., would be an excellent idea. Taking away from schools, putting more on them, not in a good way, is detrimental to our future, our future leaders. I only hope Ms. Weingarten can do what she is setting out to do.

Randi Weingarten, 50, was elected Monday to the presidency of the national teachers union at the union’s annual convention. In a speech minutes later to the delegates gathered in Chicago, Ms. Weingarten criticized the No Child Left Behind law, President Bush’s signature domestic initiative, as “too badly broken to be fixed,” and outlined “a new vision of schools for the 21st century.”

“Can you imagine a federal law that promoted community schools — schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need?” Ms. Weingarten asked in the speech. (Picture by Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times)

“Imagine schools that are open all day and offer after-school and evening recreational activities and homework assistance,” she said. “And suppose the schools included child care and dental, medical and counseling clinics.”

By laying out that expansive vision of government’s role in the public schools, Ms. Weingarten waded into a fierce debate among Democrats seeking to influence the educational program of Senator Barack Obama, their party’s presumptive presidential nominee. In an interview last week, she said the ideas in the speech amounted to “what I’d like to see in a new federal education law.”

[…]

In Ms. Weingarten’s speech, she praised the ideas of a group of Democrats led by Tom Payzant, the former schools superintendent in Boston, who have argued that schools alone cannot close achievement gaps rooted in larger economic inequalities, and that “broader, bolder” measures are needed, like publicly financed early childhood education and health services for the poor.

Another group, headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein of New York, issued a manifesto last month urging the nation to redouble its efforts to close the achievement gap separating poor students from affluent ones and blaming “teachers’ contracts” for keeping ineffective teachers in classrooms.

Ms. Weingarten said the nation needs a new vision for schools “that truly commits America to closing the achievement gap once and for all.”


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