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Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

Dear Quality Counts 2007:

Greetings from Nebraska!

So good, as always, to hear from you. As a red-blooded American, I love to count things. I can't get enough numbers, charts, graphs, and, above all, rankings. And you never disappoint.

But I have to say, you've really outdone yourself this year with your Cradle to Career report. I love the cradle-to-career image, and not just because of the cute alliteration. What's great about it is that it allows you to come right out and treat states and schools like companies making investments in human capital instead of, say, public trusts dedicated to fostering democratic citizenship. (Honestly, I'd never thought of babies, like the cute one on the cover of the report, as bundles of capital just waiting to have value added to them. So obvious!) No messy talk of helping youngsters learn to be good people, or learning to live well together, or any of that soft stuff. It's all about economic competitiveness and getting ahead. And as your title shows, this kind of hard-nosed thinking simply cannot begin early enough. I only wish you'd taken it just a bit further-maybe "From Conception to Career"? I'm thinking next year you might try From Embryo to Employment or at least From Womb to Work. Think about it.

In the past, I'll admit I have been critical of your accounting methods. I didn't like the way you simply counted up the number of tests and "sanctions" and rewarded states for "reforms" that we could all see were leading to narrowed curriculum, deprofessionalized teachers, anxious kids, emphasis on rote memorization rather than higher-order learning, misuse and misreporting of data, cheating scandals, and so much more. And I didn't like that you gave Nebraska low grades for its unique statewide system of local assessments, which sought to avoid those negative consequences of high-stakes state testing while ensuring high-quality classroom assessment aligned to standards, just because that approach didn't fit your metric (oh, that sonorous word!).

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