First, that virtually all children (even those living in poverty) have the capacity to achieve a reasonable level of proficiency in reading and math by the time they turn 18--and that it's the education system's job to make sure they do. Second, that everyone benefits from having someone looking over his shoulder and that schools and school systems need external pressure-i.e., accountability-in order to improve; good intentions aren't enough. Third, that good education is synonymous with good teaching. This requires good teachers, which every child deserves, but which today's education bureaucracies, licensure rules, ed schools, and union contracts too often impede. Fourth, that giving parents choices within the education system has all kinds of positive benefits, from creating healthy competitive pressures to allowing educators to customize their programs instead of trying to be all things to all people. And fifth, that improving education is a national imperative, and that the federal government can and should play a constructive role.
I'm on board with points one through four. Point five is more dubious. The constitution didn't give the Feds a role in education and the fact that they took it doesn't mean we need them to stay in it. They're failed at raising educational outcomes so far and all they really do is take tax dollars from state citizens and redistribute them. States could easily do this on their own.
But, Petrelli has left off at least one crucial element. If he really thinks it's possible to achieve point one (that virtually all children ... have the capacity to achieve a reasonable level of proficiency in reading and math), something that never has been accomplished anywhere at any time in history, it's going to take a lot more than "good teachers" (point 3).
Good teaching alone won't do the trick. There's plenty of good teachers in "good" suburban schools full of higher performers that would fail miserably if asked to teach a school full of low performers. The missing ingredient is what and how these good teachers are going to teach -- the curriculum. With the wrong curriculum, and most curricula is incapable of teaching low performers, good teachers aren't going to be any more effective with low performers than average teachers, which is to say, not at all. Ed schools don't train teachers how to make effective lesson plans and this is not a skill that is learned easily in the field. More importantly, the is scant evidence to the contrary. So, when Petrelli nailed his five treatises to the door, he's still relying on magic to make them come true because these five things alone aren't going to do the trick. Never have and never will.
What we really need is four things to teach the heretofore uneducable:
- a great curriculum (there are a few)
- a properly trained teaching core to teach the curriculum (we have the teachers, but they are by and large not adequately trained)
- an accountability system to make sure what needs to get done gets done (NCLB provides the framework)
- sufficient funding (which we already have)
Did I miss anything?