University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Posts Tagged ‘The View from OEP’

Attacks … or Civilized Debates?

In The View from the OEP on April 19, 2011 at 11:09 am

Every once in a while, you find yourself in a discussion where common ground seems impossible to find.  Two people see the exact same movie, watch the same ballgame, or observe the same goings-on, and come to completely opposite conclusions!

Education policy battles heat up!

I think that we have all been involved in a situation like this for the past decade as we observed (participated in) education policy debates/discussions in Arkansas and across the nation.  Well-intentioned and thoughtful people continue to end up on opposite sides of the fence with respect to important educational questions.  And the volume has recently been turned up in these debates over the past year. Unfortunately, as the debates heat up, so does the hyperbole and extreme talk.

For example, on the topic of charter schools, you are either:

  • A zealous advocate of charter schools, who obviously seeks the destruction of all public education and hates teachers, or ….
  • A cranky obstructionist, who cares more about saving the jobs of adults than about creating meaningful opportunities for children.

How about teacher evaluation and merit pay? On this issue, you must choose between:

  • An excuse-maker who claims that everything under the sun (poverty, cultural differences, bad luck, missing a breakfast on test day, an unlucky horoscope, etc.) influences student achievement — except the teacher, or ….
  • A teacher-basher who wants to wallpaper the public square — or the LA Times —  with student test scores and teacher ratings to publicly shame all the unprofessional teachers, who would most certainly slack off were it not for such public scrutiny.

Of course, I am exaggerating here, but sometimes this is the tone these debates take.  A friend of mine from the central part of the state recently referred me to this essay from a UCLA lecturer entitled, graphically enough, “The beating will continue until teacher morale improves.”

And this brings me to my point … last week, I was fortunate to attend a lecture given by Rick Hess, the author of   “The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday’s Ideas.”  He made a point that seems obvious (and hearkens back to Progressive educator John Dewey) — these false dichotomies do not foster genuine debate and are unlikely to lead to solutions to the real problems our students face.

While the Fox News and MSNBC types find it profitable to highlight the extremes, can’t we well-meaning policymakers, educators, and constituents engage in reasoned debate on these thorny issues?  Hess thinks so. Perhaps our discussions on education policy in Arkansas would be more fruitful if we could dig ourselves out of our ideological trenches for a while and simply engage in policy debates on these important questions that will affect the lives of about 450,000 Arkansas students each day.

What do you think?
  • The next time someone says charter schools are not going to lead to improved student achievement, let’s not call him an obstructionist!  
  • The next time someone asks that student test scores be part of teacher evaluations, let’s not call her a teacher-hater!  
  • And the next time we disagree on an issue, let’s use terms like disagree and debate instead of attack and hate!

The OEP would love to get your thoughts on this …. thanks for reading.

— Gary W. Ritter

Snowed In

In The View from the OEP on February 8, 2011 at 10:19 pm

The schools in Northwest Arkansas were snowed out since Tuesday. As of Friday morning and afternoon, it looked like the majority of the state  joined us. From the McGhee area on the eastern end of the state, and the Mena area on the western side, schools shut down Friday morning due to already accrued snow and ice. Little Rock and other schools in Central Arkansas preemptively shut down out of concerns that proved to be valid. As I traveled from Little Rock back to northwest Arkansas today, I heard rumors of other schools closing in anticipation of  a major snow that will hit tonight.

We hope you all stay warm in this weather and thought we would pass along some reading material for the storm:

We’ll post a legislative update in the morning…and who knows, we may just throw in a weather update as well. 🙂

OEP Blog

In The View from the OEP on January 11, 2011 at 2:24 am

Welcome to the newest addition to the OEP website, the OEP blog. Over the last few months we have contemplated how we can better facilitate thoughtful discussion about education policy in Arkansas. Often after sending out our weekly OEP Web Links (O.W.L), we receive responses from the OWL readers about some of the stories featured. We wanted to develop a better system for “two-way” interaction between the OEP staff and our readers. We hope you will feel free to join in the conversation about education policy in Arkansas in a few ways:

  • Provide responses to the stories we link
  • Provide responses to our reports
  • Provide research suggestions