Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Education Reform Becomes Dirty 'R-Word' To School-Focused Mayors By Joy Resmovits

The splashiest education reform wars in recent years have been the province of big-city mayors. New York's Michael Bloomberg (I) and Chicago's Rahm Emanuel (D), for example, regularly clash with teachers' unions and have become national spokesmen for controversial policies that include expanded charter schools and teacher evaluations based in part on student test scores.
Now there's a new group of Democratic mayors with an interest in education beyond the borders of their cities. And they're hoping to be more subtle about changing public education than their predecessors.
This week, four politically ascendent mayors from smaller cities -- Julián Castro of San Antonio; Angel Taveras of Providence, R.I.; Michael Hancock of Denver; and Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif. -- kicked off a what they're calling the "Mayors for Educational Excellence Tour" in Denver. The goal, according to promotional materials, is to "learn how each city is helping spark significant turnarounds in their different regions of the country and how to scale these achievements." The group plans to visit all four of their cities by March.
The tour is not branded as an education reform effort.
That term often conjures images of Republicans, Democrats and hedge-fund donorswho advance policies that promote charter schools and rigorous teacher evaluations, and has become so loaded that a school board candidate in Denver recently referred to it as the "r-word."
Even so-called reformers have recognized the shortcomings of their good-vs.-evil narrative. John White, the schools chief of Louisiana who made his name as a New York City deputy education chancellor under Joel Klein, recently gave a speech arguing reformers must adapt to survive. He said America's inherently populist tendencies will topple the movement if it doesn't move beyond the same old fights and self-righteous justifications.
White may be onto something, If New York's recent mayoral primary election is a sign. Bill de Blasio (D), the city public advocate, trounced his Democratic opponents by campaigning against Bloomberg's policies -- especially on education. He called for a moratorium on school closures, a centerpiece Bloomberg policy.

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