Thanks for adding to the discussion, Paul--
For your liesure moments, which modern travel seems to afford in great
abundance, I will forward recent commentaries.
Why do you think it is that unions did not make themselves felt in your
study? Because the work
took place where unions are weak (??--the south?? as in Peter's note) or
because the form of
the re-form made their working conditions better (including better in the
sense that they could teach
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Paul Cobb <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Jan 6, 2007 8:13 AM
Subject: Re: Cobb & McClain from a different perspective
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mike and David,
Here is an overly hasty reply to some of your questions as I am
travelling at the moment.
>Last night I had dinner with an early mentor and friend, Dick
>Atkinson, who was head of NSF, UCSD, and UC overall and has taken a
>interest in things educational.
>We got into an argument about school reforms and Dick, a strong
>advocate of charter schools and variety creating mechanisms opined
>"The problem was the unions."
>I argued that indeed, in some configurations of circumstances made
>unions uncooperative with supervisor's grand schemes. Allan Bursin
>reforms in San Diego was an example.
>But, I also argued, that when reforms were organized in a proper
>manner, unions were NOT a problem and in fact, might be an important
>part of the solution.
I worry about any prognosis that identifies any one group as the
source of the problem. As background, I and a colleague in policy
and leadership at Vanderbilt (Tom Smith) are starting a new project
in which we will try to both understand and support the process of
improving math teaching in four sizable urban districts. We are
currently attempting to learn about these districts. The teachers'
union is very strong in two of these districts which neighbor each
other, but is appears that the nature of the relationships between
the union and the central administration differs radically. To
figure out why, we will certainly have to try and reconstruct the
history of the two districts, but it does seem that in case
considerable trust exists whereas in the other the union's current
role is generally oppositional. I mention this to point to the
danger of sweeping claims. In the case of the second district, it
would seem essential to begin to develop an infrastructure of trust
as an integral aspect of a coherent (potentially revisable) design
for instructional improvement.
>Question: What was the role of the unions in the case presented by
>Cobb and McClain?
Unions did not surface as significant in our data in either this
district or in a second district in which Kay and I worked.
>What does their experience teach us about dealing with draconian
>accountability schemes and "better" school as tightening the screws
>that hold together the iron cage??
The bottom line for us to focus on students' learning of significant
disciplinary ideas rather than to try and game the test. This in
turn has implications for the district's so-called capacity for
improvement that includes leaders' visions of what high quality
instruction looks like, and their (collective) understanding of the
challenges that teachers face in developing these forms of practice.
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