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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A day in the life of two suits continued

video

A day in the life of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's search for El dorado 

As usual Secretary Duncan did not meet with children, teachers, or parents today. He did not recommend any books, read to any children, or engage in any dialogue with parents. He did not participate in any community events at a local library.  He did have an article published "Despite cheating scandals, testing and teaching are not at odds" He writes: "Competing in a global economy is the ultimate high-stakes test for American students, and there are no shortcuts to success. Closing our eyes to the knowledge requirements of a 21st century economy will not make them go away." 
My take on Secretary Duncan is that he wants us to know that while America's local school budgets are forcing the layoffs of librarians, Special Needs Para-professionals, along with teachers, he's spending another three hundred and fifty million dollars on a new generation of assessments.
Imagine if you can, our Secretary of Education actually meeting with parents, discussing and listening to their concerns about the increase in class sizes in their local schools. 
Maybe he might be helping to distribute some lollipops, and "I'm a Reader" stickers to hundreds of children.
Imagine if you can, that he manages to get local university football and basketball players, in-coming college freshmen and their lecturers  to volunteer to read to children at a local Read-A-Thon on the library lawn. 
Oh but wait, our secretary Duncan is far too busy to participate in anything  quite so trivial as this; he's our there looking for the "Perfect Assessment" He is working so very hard finding out new ways to contract out that $350 million dollars to some ole publishing company.  There are  endless meetings and dinners to attend with  those testing publishers. 
Amazingly, it's now been ten years,  a full decade of NCLB Reforms, they've spent nearly a trillion dollars, and our United State Department of Education are still searching for that perfect assessment.  Secretary Duncan leads the search for that elusive El Dorado assessment.  He never tires, he never gives up, and he never ceases to find ways to spend more and more of the tax payers money ~ on testing...
While Arne Duncan searches for El Dorado the world of books was truly alive in today's annual  New Britain Reads Campaign, Connecticut. 
It was hot.  It was 90 plus degrees today.  But the lawn outside the New Britain Library was over flowing.   Filled with children and their parents, teachers, CCSU Blue Devil football players, basketball players, female soccer players and some in-coming freshmen.    From 10:00am until 8:00pm ~ all day long ~  these volunteers chose their favorite book and read with great gusto to the children who were sitting on the library lawn under tents, with beach blankets, and lawn chairs.   No New Britain teachers were paid, but 8 volunteered. Maybe Secretary Duncan might want to be this data into his teacher evaluation schemes? 
The Mayor was there, the Provost from the University was there, reading to the kids, and handing out bookmarks with reading tips, fun-stickers.  Adults came from all walks of life to read to children for 10 hours. The Blue Devils Athletes were on hand with the cold water, pretzels and animal crackers.  There were suggested Great Summer Reads for parents and children.
 The volunteers distributed new library cards and gave guided tours of the Children’s room.  They signed parents up for the monthly library newsletter.
This was a good day, no, it was a great day, and nobody even saw a penny of Secretary Duncan's $350 million dollars... Where does this data fit Secretary Duncan in your Race To The Top?

The New Britain Reads Campaign targeted the library today, because study after study shows that library quality (number of books available or books per student) is related to reading achievement at the state level (Lance, 1994), national level (McQuillan, 1998), and international level (Elley, 1992; Krashen, Lee and McQuillan, 2008), even when researchers control for the effects of poverty.
We have to wonder out loud,  why $250 billion dollars was spent  during the last decade, and they now need another $350 million, all  in the search for new perfect assessments?
Dr. Krashen suggests “If more access leads to more reading, and if more reading leads to better reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and a larger vocabulary (for overwhelming evidence, see Krashen, 2004), this means that the first step any literacy campaign needs to take is to make sure children have access to plenty of books.”
Imagine this, rather than spending hundreds of millions on a search for the perfect assessment consider increasing the access to books. Perhaps even consider using NCLB monies to extend library hours.  What about trying to improve library holdings, rather than finding new assessments. Maybe the Department of Education might Google search for the Holy Grail of Assessments, the Fountain of Youth Assessments, or for Shangra-la Assessments?
With all due respect to Secretary Duncan,  forgive me if I don’t join you on your search for El Dorado.  I spent today on the New Britain library lawn reading to children .  There were no people in Giorgio Armani suits.   We  spent our day trying to increase access to books.   Honestly, I can’t think of anything  better than to sit and read a few great books on the lawn with children.
See you in DC,
Jesse
PS Here is a short video of today's Read-A-Thon Mr. Secretary.  
Mr. Secretary here is a newspaper article about our Reader-A-Thon:
http://www.newbritainherald.com/articles/2011/07/20/news/doc4e263aab6b543551291628.txt

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