Thursday, January 26, 2012

State of the Union: education

Sorry, running a bit behind on the news here...
There was (as has been usual in this administration) a significant section of President Obama's State of the Union message on education on Tuesday evening.
The sections on college tuition and on dropouts have gotten most of the press here. Today's New York Times tackles the true cost of kids dropping out of school today. That tackles it from the national economic front; the personal and social costs are also high.
I assume at the end of this we'd like to have well-educated citizens of the world, rather than people who have filled a seat for another two years. If so, we're once again tackling this from the wrong end. If you've got thousand upon thousand of high school students dropping out, in what certainly seems clear violation of their own best interest, we're better off asking why rather than banning it.
We need better alternative education programs, and more of them.
We need night high schools.
We need an increase in vocational education. 
We need more and better support structures--guidance counselors and others--who catch the kids who are headed out, find out what's up with them, and get them what they need to stay in school.
And for those who persist in heading for the door, anyway, we need continued contact with them, to get them a GED or career training or what they need, recognizing that it is possible to drop out, pull yourself back together, and make a meaningful life for yourself.
Making another rule about what kids can't do doesn't do that.
As has been caught by nearly every commenter on EdWeek's coverage, it is a contradiction to cite as one of your values "to stop teaching to the test" at the same time a centerpiece of your education policy is evaluating teachers based on test scores.

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