Comments on Florida’s incendiary race-based proficiency standards

Harold Kwalwasser, November 15, 2012

On November 9, the Orlando Sentinel published my commentary on Florida’s race-based proficiency standards.  Having gotten a waiver from the US Department of Education from No Child Left Behind, the state crafted new standards, where the expected levels of performance depend on a student’s race.  It is a wrong-headed solution in so many ways.  See […]

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Teacher Evaluations: The Challenge to making them successful

Harold Kwalwasser, November 1, 2012

Teacher evaluation. It was a flashpoint (maybe the flashpoint) of the recent Chicago teacher strike. The union and the Chicago Public Schools wrangled about how to implement the new Illinois law requiring more stringent teacher evaluations – including the requirement that any assessment include student test scores.

But the strike settled. The issue seemingly was resolved. So we can all move on to the next issue. Right? Wrong. Teacher evaluation is a piece of a much bigger story where the most interesting parts have yet to be written.

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Great Talk at Baltimore’s Pratt Library

Harold Kwalwasser, October 3, 2012

On September 19th, I spoke at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, MD, as part of its author’s lecture series.  The link is below.  The discussion is a great introduction to Renewal, Remaking America’s Schools for the 21st Century.  I was honored to be introduced by an old friend, Prof. Larry Gibson, a legal scholar at […]

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Watch the book trailer for Renewal

Harold Kwalwasser, April 13, 2012

Here’s a promotional book trailer video I put together for Renewal, Remaking America’s Schools for the 21st Century – take a look:

Click “continue reading” for a transcript of the video…

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Mythical Manicheism: Charters Are Good and Public Schools Are Evil – Wrong

Harold Kwalwasser, March 2, 2012

The Manicheans of ancient Mesopotamia divided the world between good and evil – with no in-between. They probably were not the first, and, as has been recently demonstrated in The New York Times, they certainly were not the last.

The Times ran an article in September, 2011 headlined “Troubled Schools Try Mimicking Charters.”. It opened: “In the first experiment of its kind in the country, the Houston public schools are testing whether techniques proven successful in high-performing urban charters can also help raise achievement in regular public school.” That introduced a story about Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Greer, who was about to put in place a variety of new instructional strategies, like the frequent assessment of student learning, longer school days, intensive tutoring of those who were struggling, and a “no excuses” attitude about student success.

The story was wrong on several counts…

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Mr.Mayor: About Your Education Agenda

Harold Kwalwasser, March 2, 2012

I’d love to sit down with Mayor Bloomberg to talk about his education agenda, but we’re not friends. So here is the conversation that ran through my head after reading his State of the City speech, especially the part about proposing to pay teachers $20,000 more if their students did exceptionally well on their standardized exams two years in a row.

“Mr. Mayor,” I’d say, “I sympathize with your struggle with the unions to turn the schools around. It does sometimes seem as if ‘Dr. No,’ first appeared in the Daily News rather than in the pages of a James Bond novel.”

“Your pay idea may be good politics and it might be something you can squeeze through, but you need to rethink it. Yes, it would break down the single salary schedule that pays both good and bad teachers the same money, but that’s not good enough.”

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The Opposite Ends of the Education Spectrum

Harold Kwalwasser, March 2, 2012

In 2009, I visited forty schools districts, charters, private and parochial schools. Because I wanted to know what is working in American education, most of them were already high performing or steadily transforming. A couple, however, were, to rely on a euphemism, “base lines.” Translation: they were troubled districts that were useful comparisons to the ones that were doing well.

When I finished, I was pretty confident I had identified two school districts that were at the opposite ends of the education spectrum. On the high performing side was the Blue Valley District in Overland Park, Kansas. On the other end, my own Los Angeles Unified School District, where I had served as General Counsel during the superintendency of Roy Romer, the former Governor of Colorado, whom education reform forces had brought in to oversee a major overhaul.

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