Friday, May 06, 2005

The Real Reformers

I just got back from a conference in the bay area put on by New Schools Venture Fund, which provides venture philanthropy to school reform efforts in various states.

Talking with the clear-eyed, bold and courageous people at the conference and hearing about their school reform efforts provides quite a contrast to the fake school reform projects here in Oregon.

For instance, both Oakland and Chicago school districts have embarked on aggressive reforms to build a competitive system of schools. They are inviting proposals from school management organizations to run failing schools in their districts, and start new schools from scratch. They are closing down failing schools and reopening them as charters or contract schools. They are putting every school on a five year performance contract - which, if they don't measure up, are closed and re-opened with another operator.

Compare that to what passes for school reform in Oregon: CIM/CAM, Project Chalkboard, the Quality Education Model, Cultural Competency -- just a mish mash of establishment empowering piffle.

Will Oregon decide someday that it wants to be competitive? Signs are not good. As you may know, I'm behind a bill in the house, HB 3162, which would repeal CIM and CAM and replace Oregon's chronically unreliable and costly assessment system with one that would actually work and give us good data. Guess who recently lined up against it?

The Associated Oregon Industries, who pretend to represent business. I cannot imagine that a single one of the members of AOI would continue to throw money at an initiative with such a 13 year record of failure as CIM/CAM - yet this pretend business association is protecting the education bureaucracy by throwing its weight behind preserving the status quo.

Why? My theory: they supported CIM/CAM at the start, and don't want to admit they were wrong, because they would lose face.

This is the same organization that refused to oppose the tax increase that was obliterated by the voters almost 60/40 last year. The dirty little secret why they sat it out? Because it would have shifted the tax burden from large business to small business. AOI's members are Oregon's larger businesses.

Also, word is the Governor has told Senate Education Committee Vicki Walker to kill the CIM/CAM repeal if it gets to her committee. And the State Board of Education recently decided that since 70% of high schoolers find CIM to have so little value they don't bother with getting it, that the best thing to do is to make it mandatory for graduation.

With leadership like this, is it any wonder Oregon has the lowest graduating standards in the county?

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