The Kentucky Conference on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning merged with the Teacher Quality Summit to offer college faculty and administrators a forum to examine topics related to K-12, adult, and postsecondary education. The 9th annual conference was jointly sponsored by the Council on Postsecondary Education, Kentucky's public postsecondary institutions, and the Kentucky Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
Aside from the usual presentations, panel discussions, and poster sessions the participants heard from new CPE head Robert King at dinner and Marc S. Tucker, author of the report Tough Choices or Tough Times at lunch. (Photo: Robert King)
King, a former budget director to New York Governor George Pataki (R) and former SUNY Chancellor has been on the job in Kentucky for four months now. King's invitation to Tucker may have shed some light on the direction he wants Kentucky to go.
His old boss, Pataki, came under fire for politicizing public education in New York. According to the Village Voice, Pataki brought "a dramatic shift in mission and tone."
A Republican elected on a small-government platform, Pataki has slowly but markedly moved the university away from its stated mission of access and affordability and shaped it along the lines of his free-market, lower-taxes philosophy. Its deepening relationship with the corporate sector is only one example of the changes.."Would King do the same in Kentucky?
Marc Tucker is President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, a leader in the movement for standards-based school reform in the United States. Tucker authored the 1986 Carnegie Report, A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century, which called for a restructuring of America’s schools based on standards.
Although Kentucky has made measurable progress since passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) of 1990 and the Kentucky Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997, we still have a long way to go to be considered among the best educational systems in the world. While Kentucky continues to be innovative in teaching and learning, the stakes are higher now, and the system is losing ground in a number of important areas. This is compounded by an economic downturn of severe proportions that calls for a new educational reform framework.
The recommendations include:
S T E P 1 : Assume that we will do the job right the first time and get students are ready for college — really ready for college — when they are 16 years old.
S T E P 3 : Recruit from the top third of the high school graduates going on to college for the next generation of school teachers.
should be governed, financed, organized, and managed.
S T E P 7 : Give strong support to the students who need it the most.
What we need is not a new system based on flawed assumptions about the efficacy of the private marketplace, but a system guided by the wisdom of educators. In the past decade, the voice of teachers has been absent. That fact speaks volumes about the theory of change – the strategy – of the reformers. Reforms that also dis-empower the key actors, teachers, have bred cynicism, and have failed to unleash the creative energy of the profession.
The key "Tough Choices" prescriptions take us in the wrong direction. They essentially sidestep the issue of how to get us better teaching and learning to world class standards, because, at their core, they are not about improving the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. They focus instead on who should administer public education.
While the report focuses on preK–12 issues, the commission’s recommendations place heavy demands on institutions of higher education, which would need to make substantial changes in the way they operate to align with restructured high schools. The commission itself notes, “The sea changes we propose in higher education will not happen unless the higher education community is deeply involved in the discussion” (p. 48). However, while the commission demands much from colleges and universities, Tough Choices or Tough Times fails to engage thoughtfully with the challenges currently confronting postsecondary institutions, such as access, accountability, cost, quality, and student success.
Given both the criticism of the report and the lack of enthusiastic support from key players such as state education boards and teachers unions (see, e.g., McNeil, 2007; National Education Association, 2006; Ravitch, 2007), worth serious consideration is whether these recommendations are even desirable, much less attainable, or whether they merely serve a symbolic function. For example, the report’s recommendation to restructure high schools clearly responds to existing problems with secondary schools and the transition to college, but its heavy reliance on a shift in postsecondary education without any discussion of what it will take to get there reveals a substantial weakness.
Access to higher education in America since the civil war a was truly an anomaly in the world. While attendance at a university in Europe and Asia had historically been reserved for the sons of wealthy or politically connected families, the United States had chosen a different path expanding access to anyone with the intellectual talent and determination to seek a college education.