INSTITUTE FOR EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP
"LEADERSHIP FOR STUDENT LEARNING:
TASK FORCE PANEL PARTICIPANTS:
The First Amendment Lounge
MICHAEL USDAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm Michael Usdan from the Institute for Educational Leadership. And it's my pleasure to welcome you to the last of our four task force forums on the interconnected problems of American leadership. Some of you have become perennials. We have had these task force reports now on teacher leadership, principalship leadership, district leadership, and in many ways this last report, because of the saliency and the significance of the state role, might be conceived by some as the capstone.
The IEL 21st Century Leadership Project has been in operation now about 15 months, and it's a product of multiple funding by OERI from the Department of Ed, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the UPS Foundation, and the Metropolitan Life Foundation, a nice blend of public and private sector funders, which kind of documents what has quickly emerged in the media and elsewhere as the transcendent, or certainly one of the transcendent issues facing American education. And that's the whole leadership question. And we recognize that the four task force reports are obviously very much interconnected, but at least our approach, in terms of delineating the four areas, provides an opportunity to focus on those areas while acknowledging the interdependence and the systemic nature of the problem.
As I indicated, the centrality of the leadership issue has certainly been explicitly acknowledged. I do think we have a national crisis, without being guilty of hyperbole, but also a national opportunity to look at the way leadership roles are construed in American education at all levels, and perhaps to redefine some of the roles so that they're more realistic. And, indeed, what John Gardner mentioned years ago as the anti-leadership vaccine in the public sector is very much alive, and the pipeline issues confronting school systems and state agencies throughout the country in terms of recruiting and maintaining a pool of leaders at the principalship level, at the state education department level, throughout the system is becoming a very, very serious problem.
One of the undergirding rationales in terms of IEL's approach, many of you are familiar with IEL, many of you are not, but we're a unique organization in the sense that we pride ourselves in the fact that we have no constituency, and have an ability that's relatively unique to span sectors, and levels and so forth. And one of the major goals of our particular approach to this very complex issue has been to secularize the issue. In other words, to get the business and political communities involved and engaged in understanding the complexity of the leadership issue.
So in creating the four task forces, in addition to eliciting nominees, if you will, or representatives from the mainstream education groups, teachers, administrators, school boards, and so forth, we have also worked with the business and political groups, and asked them to basically designate people who could work with us. And so we basically have met with CED [Committee for Economic Development] and the Business Roundtable, the National Alliance of Business, the Chamber of Commerce. Over on the governmental side, we've met with the National Governor's Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and so forth, in an effort to get representation on these task forces so that this just doesn't become an intramural discussion and debate within professional education, because the solution to these issues are going to require an investment of resources and political support that's going to require the involvement of the business and political communities.
So the panel today, some members of the task force, some other respondents, reflect this effort to secularize the issue. And we hope that these reports, which are the product of a day-and-a-half's deliberations from diverse groups that don't have answers to very complicated problems, and the goal of this particular project is to try to stimulate and catalyze discussion and debate at the local and regional level. And hopefully the way we've attempted to model this in terms of the way the task forces were structured, and the outreach and these forums that we've had to release these reports, will model the kind of multi-sector perspectives on these complicated issues that we think are needed at the state, regional and local levels.
Before turning the program over to Betty Hale, let me thank Mary Podmostko in the back, doing a solo back there in the bleachers, who basically has provided remarkable leadership and conscientiousness in getting these task force reports out on time, and we're all very much indebted to Mary; Carrie Schmitz, who works with Mary; and Denise Slaughter, who is our perennial down at the National Press Club, the director of communications at IEL who does wonderful work in this area.
It's now my pleasure to turn the program over to my colleague, and moderator par excellence, Betty Hale, who is president-designate of IEL, who will basically lead us through today's program.
BETTY HALE: Thanks, Michael.
Many of you are familiar with Richard Elmore at Harvard University. And Richard wrote an article about a year ago, and in it he stated that state policy-makers were requiring things of schools that schools were not able to do. And it seemed to me that the question that that also posed for me was, is it a problem of the system or is it a problem of the people? We hope that the conversation this morning will give us an opportunity to think about that particular issue. Is it the system, or is it the people in the system, up and down.
One of the things Michael said is that the work of the 21st Century Leadership Initiative has been that we want to stimulate, catalyze discussion. So we want to take a few minutes this morning, and I want you to imagine that you are sort of eavesdropping, and you're eavesdropping on a conversation with a group of individuals who represent the diversity that Michael talked about that needs to come together as we start trying to figure out how to resolve these issues.
So, I'm going to do right this time, on my right, Jack MacDonald, who has been a chief state school officer, is going to take a few minutes and set the stage for us about the issue and the work of the task force.
Ron Cowell, who is a former state legislator, and a former state board of ed member, is going to talk about the report and the issue from that particular set of hats.
Larry Leak, who is seated immediately next to me, is currently in a state department of education, but Larry also comes from a state university. So Larry has both an implementation hat, as well as experience with preparation.
On my left, Ed Donley, who is going to give us the business perspective about this issue, but Ed also sits on the state board of ed. So we have a very interesting opportunity here which is to say that if Ron Cowell says something about it from a state board perspective and Ed doesn't agree, we're going to expect Ed to sort of jump right in this discussion, because it's the same state board of ed.
EDWARD DONLEY: I almost always agree with Ron Cowell.
BETTY HALE: Very good.
And on my far left, and again I'm not making political statements here, Kris Amundson is a member of the house of delegates with the State of Virginia, and Kris also served on the school board in Fairfax County, Virginia.
So we have just the range of people here who can help us start the conversation, and I did say to the panelists that we'd like them to stay as much as possible within the five-minute time frame so that we can have more time for you to jump into this discussion.
So, are we ready, Jack?
JOHN MacDONALD: I got a kick out of reading the title, Recognizing the State's Role in Public Education, and strange as it might seem, what we find nationally is the fact that we've inbred the concept of local control so strongly in the United States that I can remember five years ago following the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, getting a call from the FCC saying, can you help us with a problem? And I said, what's that? And they said, can you give us a definition of schools? And I said, look in your legislation, it's defined using the Elementary and Secondary School Act of 1965. It's stated there. Oh, thanks, but do states have any role to play with schools? And I said, yes, a little bit. I said, constitutionally, education is a function of the state, not of anyone else. And, as such, when you're considering the implementation of the E-rate, you'd better not be leaving the states out, because many of those things you're going to be doing are state run, or run under the auspices of the states.
So this report that you have differs greatly, I think, from the content and substance of the other two reports that you've received three reports actually, but two of them in particular, the one on principals and the one on teachers. The reason I say that, and I was privileged enough to be able, Mike invited me to attend the task force meetings, and what we learned with the teachers and the principals task force is the fact that the issues they brought up were highly personal. They had to do with the nature of the work, the nature of the job, the fact that in many cases they felt it was undoable. In many cases, they felt that it was not remunerated properly. It was not recognized nor appreciated, and so forth.
So that the tendency for those reports was to deal with these professional as well as personal domains. Not that that has anything to detract from a state policy role in terms of listening to that, heeding that, and doing something about it in terms of, again, the public policy that's put in place by legislators, governors, chief state school officers, and their boards to do something about those issues to correct what is happening in our local schools, particularly since we're watching a period of time now where the school unit will become the issue of accountability in terms of the performance of children.
This report traces the evolution of the state agency, which most people are not clear about. And it's particularly important they be very clear about it now. For example, if we look at the genesis of state agencies in the 19th Century, and their work through the 19th Century into the 20th Century, up until the 1950s, basically it dealt with only a couple of areas. It dealt with school enrollment policies. It dealt with school finance policies. It dealt with such things as school construction, and so forth. And that was about it until I can remember being in a classroom in 1957 when something was putt, putt, putt, putt over us, and the next thing you know we had the National Defense Education Act.
And after that, we watched, for example in 1965, the Great Society legislation, which brought us things that we are very familiar with today, the Elementary and Secondary School Act, and then again in 1974, the 94-142, the Educational Disabilities Act, and a whole myriad of different legislation taking place between 1975 and 1980.
The nice part about this period of time was the fact that the federal government recognized at that time that they had to pay for what they were putting in place. So we saw monies come into the state agencies to beef them up in terms of staffing, which permitted them to not only design, but implement the various programs, Title I which is the compensatory education, special ed, vocational education which came out prior to that, Title II, Eisenhower national programs and local programs for science and math, and so forth.
That period of time was followed, however, in terms of the early '80s with A Nation At Risk, which put on line, particularly in the states saying, look, something has to happen better with your public schools than what is currently happening now. But simultaneously with A Nation At Risk, which again was the primary creator of what we have now in terms of standards based initiatives, we started to see the decline in terms of staffing in state agencies. In other words, simultaneously with the growth of all these federal programs and a new federal role in terms of, again, what should be happening or what's supposed to be happening with kids, we first saw the growth of the state agencies, and then through the '80s the decline.
This followed, in terms of the President Bush's administration with the national goals, which again we saw as an upsurge in terms of state obligations, which led to the America 2000 legislation, which Ed Donley remembers very, very well, and I remember very, very well, which then led to Goals 2000 under the Clinton administration. Goals 2000 forged not only a further link between the federal and state, but also imposed upon the state agencies the problem of working with a multi-population base to develop strategic planning to implement standards-based initiatives in all the respective states. This then was followed with additional federal legislation in terms of the Telecommunications Act, the Technology Leadership Challenge Fund, and 21st Century Schools, and on I can go with about 15 new programs, all, again, at the time when the state agencies were declining in capacity.
This upset me to the point in 1993 and '94 wondering where this is going in terms of my work with the chief state school officers, and my work with my former colleagues saying, how are we going to deal with, again, a new stronger federal relationship that's impacting on state legislation at time when we're seeing our human resources decline to the point where we simply do not have the capacity to deal with these.
So I put together a study called The Transformation of State Departments of Education in Support of Systemic Performance, and surveyed the states to ascertain really what was going on there. And what I was able to document was put forth in reports in the National Governor's Association, and again circulated amongst the council.
I would like to give you a quote from that report, which kind of highlights what the problem is currently in terms of where state agencies are in the work that they need to do to maintain the course in standards based reform. I said, if state departments of education are to be successful in their endeavors to support the kind of transformation to public education envisioned by the Goals 2000 Educate America Act, and the ESEA Reauthorization of Hawkins-Stafford-keep in mind this was written in 1993 and '94-much more federal and state attention has to be paid to building greater SDE capacity, state education department. For example, as indicated in the report, 15 states indicate reorganizing due in part to budget and staff reductions. That is of the 35 that actually reorganized to deal with all of these issues. This number is probably higher than merely the 15 states reporting. In fact, more states are known to the author which could be added to the list.
Currently, Congress is considering further cutbacks to SEA's administrative set-asides as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act, ESEA. If allowed to stand, the Chapter II reduction from 20 percent to 15 to 10 percent will further reduce the numbers of SEA instructional support personnel at a time when their services are most needed to support state and local reform initiatives.
Governors and legislatures should be sensitive to the need to support adequate federal and state funding for SEAs to assure that the necessary SEA capacity is in place for the respective states to enable the reforms to go forward.
Other state policy structures should also come under review by governors and their agencies to assure that the same level of flexibility afforded local districts is, likewise, available to their respective state agencies. State personnel policies, contracts, et cetera, are good places to start if agencies are going to gain better control over employment, training and deployment of career personnel.
In summation, state departments of education are rapidly transforming their organizational structures and external relationships with local districts and other human service agencies. What is noticeable, however, is the vast majority of state departments are making their changes with little help from sources of state support. If state departments are to be successful in their endeavors to support the kinds of transformation of public education envisioned by Goals 2000 Education America Act, and the ESEA Reauthorization of Hawkins-Stafford, much has to be done in the area of state department capacity building in the areas of instructional staff expertise, state and local professional development standards and assessment development technology, networking, and technical assistance support.
The body of this report deals with that myriad of kind of problems, and they have further gone through and listed not only priorities that the task force felt were most evident, and secondly came up with a shopping list of principles to guide you. And, again, I think these last two pieces are very, very important in terms of, again, the kinds of commitment that states are going to have to make in terms of revising policy, and in particular the implementation of current programs if we're going to be successful in making standards-based reform work across this country.
BETTY HALE: Jack, I have a question. I would like to hear what state boards and what Ron would say. Tell me from your vantage point as a former chief, if you had to sort of draw an organizational chart, tell me where chief state school officers and state departments of education fall on the policy-making role, are they the influencers or are they simply the implementers?
JOHN MacDONALD: Based on the research that I did in '93 and '94, you will find that most of the state reform initiatives were generated by the chief state school officer in cooperation with the board. Also, if you look at the list of governors mentioned in the report, you could add other governors to Lamar Alexander and Jim Hunt and so forth. I mean, you had Tommy Thompson, you had Governor Branstad. You had a whole host of governors who were present at the 1989 National Goals Assembly, and, again, if you will look closely, with the exception of possibly one of those governors, every one worked in close connection in terms of their state department of education, and in terms of their service and advisory capacity to guide what their policy actions were going to be in terms of their leadership role --
BETTY HALE: You have one minute.
JOHN MacDONALD: -- particularly in regard to the use of their bully pulpit.
What I found though, and right now I'm in the process of setting up a Northeast Regional Center on Education Policy and Leadership for the Northeast states at the University of Connecticut. And one of the things I've been doing is running the circuit talking to chief state school officers about, you know, the priorities they have in terms of implementation and maintenance and, over time, of systemic arrangements in their respective states. I talked to one the day before yesterday, and his priorities differ somewhat from what we have listed there in terms of the vision, the capacity, the resources, and all the other things that are listed on those pages. You know, this chief, for example, in terms of being responsive to a structure around a coherent vision for his state would say, the first critical issue he is dealing with is the standards alignment with the state curriculum, pedagogy and assessments. And this is one of the most forward-thinking chiefs we have as well as one of the most forward-performing states that we have in the country.
Secondly, he is concerned about the quality of the delivery system, teachers and administrators. In other words, what do I do about attracting, preparing, continually providing education and support, and remuneration for these folks over the long-term. In the meantime, I'm facing an 80 percent attrition of my key lead teachers and key administrators. I'm looking at my superintendents who average in age right now 54.
Third, the whole issue of adequacy and accountability, how do I close the achievement gap between my urban versus my suburban districts. This is one of the most affluent states in the country. And I can remember doing a study there in 1970 of the five cities, and they still haven't closed the gap.
BETTY HALE: Jack, you have 15 seconds.
JOHN MacDONALD: Okay. Next one is early intervention. We know where the focus should be, it should be on pre-zero to three based on the Family Literacy Act. We can't afford it. So, finally, where are the resources going to come to make all of these components of systemic arrangements work as they should? And what kind of policy is going to enforce the sustaining of that kind of resource base?
Thanks very much.
BETTY HALE: Thank you.
RON COWELL: Thanks very much.
Good morning. As was suggested, I'm here largely because I'm a former legislator and a former state board member. And I always hold my breath a little bit when people introduce me with those credentials. Yesterday, I did a program in Pennsylvania, and I was introduced as the formerly honorable. So, whatever I had to say after that was largely irrelevant.
So, Betty, thanks for being more gentle with the introduction.
Those who are looking to this report for a list of bills that legislatures ought to consider, or policies that ought to be embraced by state boards will be disappointed. That's really not the message of this particular report. I think what the message is, at least as I had the benefit of the great engagement that we had with the task force and the work since, is that if we are serious about closing the achievement gap among students, and if we are serious about promoting improved learning for all students, and we must be, then the role of the states is absolutely central, it's imperative. And if we understand that what we need to accomplish that closing of the gap and improvement of learning for all students, we understand that we need more effective instructional leadership, more effective school leadership and district leadership, as was discussed in earlier reports from other task forces, then we need to get a lot more effective at supporting our state agencies, and we need much more effective state policy-making.
And in all of that, again, the role of state policy-makers, from my vantage point, especially legislators and state board members, the role of those policy-makers is absolutely critical. The conversation that we had highlighted, and this report reflects a number of things including the great diversity among the states. We need to recognize that. We need to recognize that. We need to recognize that there are different structures, there are different processes to make policy among the states, the dynamics are quite different from state to state. There are different cultures and different histories, and, in fact, different starting points, if you will, if today might be considered a starting point for the consideration of whatever we have to say. So there's no prescription to be found in this report. There's no suggestion that there's a one-size-fits-all policy. As Mike said in the introduction, this is intended to stimulate and inform a state-level discussion about these critical issues.
There are a few pieces of free advice that you'll find directed at business leaders and legislators and governors and others. But I think the most important stuff in the report is that, I'll call it a check list or a list of key principles to be considered, and I think that what we want to accomplish is to have each state board member, each legislator, and their respective institutions examine that list of principles and consider how they apply to their own circumstances.
And I'll just review the 11 because there are only 11. There are some key words, one is vision. I suspect that if we would talk to most legislators in most states and ask them what the vision is that they have institutionally for kids or for education in their state, we'll get blank stares. There is not typically a vision that is well articulated, well understood, embraced and honored, and so one of the messages, one of the key principles that we encourage legislators and board members, and all policy-makers, indeed, to consider is, what is the vision that we have, even as we take on a host of policy issues, a host of assignments, what vision anchors all of that activity. What vision is, in fact, reflective of the goal, where we want to get to for our kids, for our system. And, is it, in fact, a shared vision, not just my vision, or the vision of our board, or the vision of an education committee, but a shared vision by all the stakeholders.
Secondly, there is the point about using the best available data or information. I know that there are a lot of policy-makers who ask for more and more information, they want more and more information about what works. But, unfortunately, in so many circumstances, the nature of the business, the culture is one that neither demands nor respects good information, good data, when it is available. And so one of the principles that we challenge policy-makers to adhere to is the use of, really the demand for and then the use of, the application of the good information.
Thirdly, there's the reminder about this educational capacity need. It's one thing to talk about standards. It's one thing to talk about tests. But it's a whole other matter, and a lot of state policy-makers come up short on this issue of educational capacity, at the building level, the district level, and indeed even at the state level. Certainly at the state education agency level.
There's the point about engagement. It doesn't hurt to remind policy-makers and for us to remind ourselves that we've got an obligation, if we're serious about this business, to engage lots of others. We may have the best of ideas, we think. But if we don't have the benefit of others, and if we don't have the benefit of lots of fingerprints on what we do, lots of ownership on what we put into place, then it is not likely to be sustained. It is not likely to be nearly as effective as it might be.
There is a reminder about applying this principle of new relationships. We can't do business as we once did. There is more and more the need for intergovernmental relationships, interdisciplinary relationships. Again, as legislators, as board members, we need to think, what does that mean in our circumstances, in our state with this particular set of issues. There is also the reminder that we can come up with a wonderful set of policies, but if we are not thoughtful about making sure those policies are aligned and, in fact, are complementary, then what we present to those in the field, in particular, is what looks like a competing set of entrees on a very long menu. And so, as state policy-makers, legislators, and state board members, in particular, as well as governors and chiefs, we need to be much more thoughtful about making sure that those policies are complementary and, in fact, are aligned. And, similarly, we've got a reminder in here about the need for a closer working relationship than ever before between the P-12 community and the higher ed community.
There is the reminder about the obligation for effective state interventions. Again, it's one thing to say we're going to have standards in tests, and hold somebody accountable, but what are we prepared to do as state leaders to provide effective interventions for kids who need help, or for school districts that need help. There is this reminder about the system of measurement and assessment not being an end unto itself. This is not about having a set of tests. It's about having a way of measuring how well kids are doing, and how well our system is doing, and how effective our policies are doing in pursuit of that vision.
There is the reminder about focusing on results. There is the reminder that this system of accountability is not just about state level policy-makers holding others accountable, but that we need to hold ourselves accountable as well. I mean, if you look at most state policies and most state systems, there is this growing trend to hold others accountable and to have consequences for just about everybody and their brother, but [not] ourselves as policy-makers. So there is that reminder about including policy-makers among this group that are going to be held accountable.
And, finally, there is the reminder, this principle about leadership pipeline. Leadership doesn't just happen. And it's not just about leadership at the school level or at the district level. It's also absolutely imperative that key state policy leaders, legislators and state board members in this instance take responsibility for developing and identifying, nurturing leaders even in their own ranks, or those who should join their ranks. And there are messages there then for legislative chairs, there are messages for leaders of legislative institutions, and certainly leaders of state boards of education as well as departments and these other folks in the executive branch.
But this need to, in a thoughtful way, build the pipeline so that we've got folks who are prepared to become the education chair, prepared to be the state board member, prepared to be the chief, is just as important as making sure we've got an adequate supply of teachers, principals and superintendents.
BETTY HALE: Thanks, Ron.
LAWRENCE LEAK: Thank you.
Good morning, folks. I come to the table bringing the perspective of state departments of education, and I think the report that you have today speaks in volumes and delivers potent messages in terms of what state education agencies must do in this era of reform, educational reform.
There are about five or six messages that I'd like to just run through as I read the report and participated in the deliberations that led up to the production of this report. There are five or six messages that I think are really potent for state education agencies.
The first is that state education agencies cannot approach reform as the quest for the Holy Grail. This report tells us that reform is ongoing and incremental, and at times as us in state education agencies are about the reform business, the reform can go slower than you ever imagined. So, sustained leadership in reform efforts is critical, and this report speaks to the importance of leadership and sustained leadership.
The report also says that the states can't be afraid to start with standards. Odds are without an infrastructure to support you, you won't come close to meeting the standards that you embrace. But if we set standards as states that are researched and valid, challenging yet attainable, we can quickly amass the data we need to build the kind of infrastructure that will lead to success, standards, assessments and the tools for all to succeed.
A third point that the report brings out is that states and state education agencies must keep devolving accountability, accountability at the state level, accountability that moves the district, that moves from the district to schools, from schools to teachers, and from teachers to students. No one is absolved from the process of continuous improvement, and continuous improvement starts with leaders.
Another point that the report brings out is that SEAs must make accountability their mandate. Why should we do this? Because it instills confidence in the people that you need as partners. And in our state, in the State of Maryland, over the last several years our accountability has been under severe scrutiny. In fact, I'm proud to say that Education Week has rated the state of Maryland, in terms of its accountability and assessments, and given us an A+. This has helped us garner the additional support and new funding that we need to bring about the kinds of change that we need to bring about in the state of Maryland.
A sixth point that the report brings out is that state education agencies must continue to scrutinize their spending. There is not an infinite supply of money. So, therefore, we must align, integrate, and consolidate wherever possible.
Another point that the report brings out is the whole notion of partners. What others can do better, let them do, and SEAs must establish partnerships with business leaders, with researchers, with colleges and universities, and with other stakeholders. Anyone that understands the mission of an SEA and can align to that should be allowed to help that SEA fulfill it.
SEAs, as Ron talked passionately about, must also realize that they, too, are suffering from critical shortage of qualified personnel. The SEA is graying, and the leaders in the SEAs are getting older, and there really are very few people stepping up to replace them. We face challenges in finding qualified senior leaders. We face challenges in finding skilled policy analysts. We face challenges in finding skilled IT personnel to help us with the data supports that we need to answer critical policy questions. We face challenges in having very knowledgeable instructional people to help us bring about the educational mandates we must fulfill. So, therefore, we have to develop mechanisms to recruit and retain quality leadership personnel to help us fulfill the mandates that we have for ourselves.
And the last point I would like to make is the point that the report speaks about. When it comes to education reform it is a state issue, it falls under the providence and purview of the states. And to do the heavy lifting, the heavy lifting is the state education agency. And leadership at that level is very critical, and this report helps us lay out a vision to address that issue.
BETTY HALE: Thanks, Larry.
Sometimes I think that we attribute characteristics to certain people and certain types of organizations that we shouldn't. But I am going to tell you that Ed has been sitting here drumming his fingers ready to get into this discussion.
So, Mr. Donley, can you share with us what it is you think you've heard, and how this report can help us make sense and maybe answer the question, is it a systemic issue or a people issue?
EDWARD DONLEY: I wasn't aware that I was drumming my fingers. Probably I'm so nervous because I'm sitting next to you.
BETTY HALE: Oh, I see.
EDWARD DONLEY: The report did treat the business role in education, I think, very favorably. It concentrated mostly on the role the business community has played in Texas, and I believe that's been very good. I believe the business community has had a very constructive role in the development of the record that they've made in Texas. I wish that what the report says has been done in Texas was done in all of the states. I don't believe that's true. I believe that it's very difficult for business to play the role that it could play in education reform. Every businessperson will say, yes, it's very important to us. We're all for it. But it's extremely difficult to reform education. The business community needs a well-educated workforce. Reforming education is one way to get that.
Another way to do it is to institute in-house education and training programs and American business is doing that to the extent of several tens of billions of dollars annually. And one of the really difficult parts of reforming education, I think, looked at from the business perspective is that the education community worships, since the beginnings of country, at the altar of local control and state control as we heard from the speakers here. Business used to be that way. In the days when Henry Ford invented the Model T, it tended to be a local business. Since World War II, business has changed enormously. The business community is globalized in this country and around the world. And for a board of directors or other business leaders looking at capital investments of billions of dollars in 50 or 75 countries around the world, to then turn and concentrate on education reform in the local district or even at the state level is very difficult. The easier way to do it is, let the education establishment deal with the issue and provide the in-house training we need for our own work force.
Now, the way to remedy that, I think, is to look above the issue of local and state control. I think it's my view that right, today, in the U.S. Congress issues are being debated which in the next two weeks will have, in my opinion, a profound influence on the nature of education in this country for several decades in the future. The chairman of IBM recently said, if you can't measure it, you can't fix it. And the program that President Bush had in Texas, testing those kids from the third to the eighth grade, and then doing the necessary remediation, got results. As you all know, the NAEP tests show that Texas and North Carolina made more advances than any of the other states, and it's that idea that he has brought to Washington. It's in trouble particularly in the House. The principal issue there, I believe, is whether the testing will have some uniform measure so that the results in State A can be compared to State B, and the amendments in the House, as I understand it, are to provide that each state will be able to not only use their own test, but use their own separate chosen method of calibrating the quality of the test.
A week ago today I spoke to a business group in Pennsylvania, and I said, if that is done it will create a hodgepodge in American education. Last Friday, Secretary Paige came over to a board meeting that I'm on, the National Assessment Governing Board, and he made a talk similar to what I said in Pennsylvania the day before, but instead of using the word "hodgepodge," he used the word "quagmire." And I think a quagmire is worse than a hodgepodge.
So I believe that those of us interested in education reform ought to write today, bringing pressure to bear to the extent we can on the members of the House of Representatives saying that, unless we have a uniform method, a uniform device to calibrate the quality of the test in the various states, we won't have the kind of uniform standards that will make us successful.
If you turn and think about it for a moment in state terms, the company that I served for most of my adult life is in the chemical business. We have global standards on chemicals, chemical quality, chemical products, chemical viscosity, et cetera, is required the same in the European Union, in Asia, in the United States, it's uniform. Supposing we tried to produce chemicals with different local standards, or different state standards. It's not possible.
Now, I understand it's rooted deeply in the history of the United States that local control and state control is sacred. But the world has changed, the world has become globalized. And the decisions being made in the U.S. Congress this week, and next week, are going to determine the extent to which we can apply global concepts to the development of our education reform in the years that lie ahead.
BETTY HALE: Thank you so much. We're going to shift from a global perspective to the state that gave us the SOLs and Kris, I believe, was on the school board in Fairfax County when that test was instituted. And with her new role she may have something to say about that.
KRISTEN AMUNDSON: Thanks very much. I'm glad to be here, and I think that this work that IEL has just issued is really important in terms of opening up a conversation. You know, those of us who care about education believe, I think, at this point that it really ought to be a little easier to make changes than it turns out to be. Mike talked about both crisis and opportunity, and I often think of the words of cartoonist Walt Kelly who said, we are now confronted by a number of insurmountable opportunities. I think that's very true for those of us who care about education.
You know, education is clearly the number one issue on voters' minds. And there is a growing consensus that kids cannot be successful in the 21st century with the skills that maybe didn't serve them all that well in the 20th or even in the 19th. So why isn't more happening? And I think that this report is going to open up a conversation I hope that will start us talking about that. Now, as a member of a local school board I did find myself often saying, well, why don't they just, and now that my venue has changed I think I do have at least some thoughts on that.
The first is of course that change is hard. Those of you in this room who have kept your New Year's resolutions about diet, exercise, and quitting smoking please raise your hand. There aren't any are there? You know, the most powerful pressure in any policy-making body I think is always the pressure to do nothing. And yet, and yet it is important, as Ed said, not to -- we cannot lose sight of the fact that we have made terrific progress in education. When I began my career as a teacher, I taught a class -- I swear I am not making this up -- called the Poetry of Rock. Rigor was a real issue, and I will atone for that for the remainder of my professional life.
I would say to you however that when we begin to be nervous about the distance we still have to come, I would venture to you that there are now no high schools that provide English credit for a class called the Poetry of Rock. So I think the first thing that we do need to recall, all of us, is that change is hard. The second, and I'm quoting Albert Einstein here who said politics is more complicated than physics. The truth is that if there were easy answers we would have done it by now. The truth is there aren't many easy answers left. And so we as politicians, and I will malign here only members of my current profession, are always looking for easy answers so we can go home and assure our voters that we're down there, by golly, doing something about it.
I will use only Virginia as an example. We spent time this year debating whether students should recite the Pledge of Allegiance before they started the day. We thought that was a good thing. And we spent quite a bit of time talking about whether our classrooms should carry signs reading "In God We Trust," and on that we took a pass. Those are the bills that got out of the education committee. So I think we need to resist as policy-makers the pressure for the easy answer and the sound bite.
I want to echo what Ron said. We have a tendency to hold everyone accountable except ourselves. And while it is easy to talk about accountability, a phrase from this report that I will commit to memory and use forever more is that we need to develop a system based on "democratically determined and rigorous yet realistic standards"-very hard to do. The third thing that I want to remind us all is that while, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice of course there is.
And I think that one of the other really significant parts of this report is a discussion about the need for legislative leaders who really understand the practical effect of the policies they espouse. I will take some issue with the recommendation that the education committee chair have no other committee assignments. My education committee chair in Virginia is here, Jim Dillard. And I will tell you that I think he would be loathe to give up his seat on appropriations, and I as a person who both cares about education, and who believes that ultimately the only policy document for any organization is its budget would be loathe to have Jim not on the appropriations committee when those decisions are being made.
So those are just three of my thoughts. I know we're going to get into a more extended conversation. I think this is a really interesting report. I have learned an awful lot just this morning, and I know I look forward to hearing the rest of the conversation.
BETTY HALE: First let me ask the panel members. Would you like to ask anybody a question up here. Did Ed or Kris say anything that Ron or Larry or Jack want to ask a question about, or vice-versa from this side of the house?
KRISTEN AMUNDSON: I have a question. I can't remember who talked about it, but it was on the use of information and the critical need for data, with which I could not agree more. And yet, how do we balance that with the fact that most of that data is going to be generated at the classroom level, and yet we don't have any real easy way yet for teachers -- I mean, heck, teachers don't have telephones, let alone computers with Internet connections.
RON COWELL: I guess that was my suggestion. I think I was underscoring the recommendation of principle number two. What I most had in mind was the information that is available to most of us now about how kids learn, about what works in terms of good practice, and what kinds of policies can support good practice. For instance, in my state, and I'm always somewhat embarrassed to say this, we know that preschool programs for large numbers of kids can be very effective. Pennsylvania remains one of only eight states that provides no state money to support preschool programs. Hopefully that will change in the next week or two as our legislature debates the budget. But that's the kind of good information, or good information about developmentally appropriate kindergarten programs, or good information about the critical nature of teaching if we, in fact, expect kids to be good learners. So it's that kind of information rather than necessarily a set of numbers that as you suggest would normally come out of a classroom.
BETTY HALE: Jack?
JOHN MacDONALD: Kristen, one observation that I heard a chief make recently is that we've really made an effort to pull together the best data that we can gather from our school districts, and particularly their schools, in terms of the achievement gap. Our problem in dealing with the data is the fact that we do not have the personnel with the skills to be able to analyze that data and come up with a coherent statement of action that should be taking place that should be transmitted to the schools, that it can be understood by local principals and their teachers as to what should be their course of action. In other words, it's the same thing that we have been dealing with for years is that we simply are not able to collect the right data, assemble it in the right format, at the right time, and get it out to people so they can make corrective action. The capacity is not there.
Another thing that came up in Larry's comments that I didn't get an opportunity to get into is that in the decline of the state agencies we watched in the '80s the very people that we needed to help design the standards be cut from the state agencies. We watched the very expertise that we needed to design aligned assessment systems cut from the state agencies. The very people that we needed to package the preparatory training and continuing education for teachers, to deal with the former, cut from the state agencies.
In other words, we were attempting to implement Goals 2000, TLCF [Technology Leadership Challenge Fund], the E-rate and all of the foregoing programs related to standards based initiatives without the horsepower to do it. It got so bad that with the Council what we did is identify those states that we thought were making it better than other states, and get them together to share their expertise with others. And that was the only vehicle that we could find, or that we could design to get the kind of assistance to people that needed the assistance. And that need is still out there. We still have not been able to recover from that mid-'80s cutback where we lost the 60 percent funding we were getting to support people in those critical areas.
BETTY HALE: Ed?
EDWARD DONLEY: I'd like to comment on the comments that were just made, and it relates to my concept regarding the mindset of the education community and the business community. It's as Ron Cowell said, Pennsylvania is one of the minority of states that doesn't have an adequate pre-K program. The data are well known that the learning of children in those early years influences their whole lifetime. We do have a business organization in Pennsylvania called the Business Roundtable, it's comprised of the CEOs of the 40 largest corporations in our state. Within the past year they've come forward with a recommendation to the governor that his budget contain $75 million per year to remedy this deficiency in the state, regarding pre-K education.
It's not hard for 40 business leaders to get together and come to that conclusion. But we have 501 school districts with their own school boards in each district. It's not possible for them to come together as a group and recommend a change this dramatically. And it relates to what I said earlier, that the mind set of the education community is so centered on local control that it makes it difficult to for to speak on statewide, nationwide, or worldwide reforms.
BETTY HALE: It's your turn. You've been a very nice audience. Do we have people out there with burning questions? Ron Anson in the back of the room, who has the microphone.
RON ANSON: My name is Ron Anson. I work at OERI in the Department of Education.
There is a concept in learning theory that I like, I think the phrase they use is the zone of proximate improvement. And the idea is that when you teach a kid, you don't want to teach him within the sphere of things he already knows, because he's not growing, but you don't want to teach him things beyond his grasp, because he simply won't grasp it. So you have to find that place where the kid is going to really understand and basically grow.
Now, as I listen to the discussions here and we've all heard many of these discussions, there are lots of very large and elaborate and well designed plans for improving education. And the discussion and the documents that you all have provided certainly fits into that category. The problem is, the zone of proximate improvement. If you were to try to pick the next step that is realistically take-able, that will have the greatest impact, given the resources and the capacities and everything that you have now, of all the things that have been discussed and laid out, where do you think the realistic, next best steps would be in order to carry out some of the grander goals that you've identified in your document. Just a small, little question.
BETTY HALE: You can see they're all dying to answer it.
EDWARD DONLEY: I think it's a very difficult question, and I don't know the answer to that. We are having a major debate in our state now about the proposal to change Head Start and emphasize reading instruction to a greater degree. And I've heard people on both sides of that argument saying that it's good, it's bad, the nurturing of the child should come before reading. I don't know the answer to that. Intuitively, I say let's expose the kids to reading education even in the pre-K period and see how they do.
BETTY HALE: Jack?
JOHN MacDONALD: Let me say something that I said a lot of years ago, and maybe you'll remember. Frankly, I do not think that public schools are established and organized to fulfil the instructional needs of children and their families. I feel that they're basically established and organized to suit the convenience of those people employed within them. I think the paradigm of what we provide in public education is all wrong. We've watched the Title I program go on since 1966, basically, if not starting in '65, but, basically espouse a direction that started in early intervention and move into remediation, waste millions of dollars over the years. I think that people publicly recognize now that that is wrong, that the system itself needs to be restructured, really particularly for youngsters coming from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, or with atypical learning needs, [to] receive an opportunity that, I would say, pre-zero to age seven, provides an opportunity for them and their families to have a totally different kind of start.
I think our schools need an opportunity [to] really operate totally differently than they operate today, which is again totally child-centered. Basically our elementary schools, and the concepts of approaching children in elementary schools and middle schools be transcended into the high schools. And secondly high schools start facing up to the fact that the way they provide services for children is archaic and, frankly, not needed at this particular juncture. In other words, what I'm espousing is a preschool up to about grade ten, followed by at least two to three years in some kind of community service or extension for different kinds of children with different kinds of learning needs, staffed by a profession that understands that it's not a 9:00 to 2:30 profession that functions 9 1/2 to 10 months a year, but functions on a year-round basis.
I think we have an opportunity to create that kind of thing, that kind of structure in this decade, for the simple reason that when you look at the current delivery system that cannot deal with standards-based initiatives, it's not through their fault, but basically they're not prepared to deal with standards-based initiatives, in terms of an aligned system of content standards, curriculum, pedagogy, and assessments. They just are not there yet and will not be there with the current resources we're bringing to bear.
So I look at this next decade as a total opportunity to restructure the whole system, because we're going to lose 80 percent of the people who are currently in it. An opportunity to, one, reach out and try to retrain as best as we can to fill the gap in the interim, and at the same time totally reconstitute what we're doing to attract, educate, prepare and sustain the future classroom teachers and school leaders of tomorrow. And I think if we miss this ten years, that opportunity, we're not only failing the children and the citizens of this country, but we're going to fail in terms of implementing and making work what we're supposed to be about today, which is standards-based initiatives. We frankly have a system in place now that does not have a quality delivery system to make it happen.
BETTY HALE: Jack, I want to ask a question. I thought Ron was asking, based on all of the bright ideas that the panelists have mentioned. What is it do you think we are poised to do?
JOHN MacDONALD: What we are poised to do really is start with the first step, and that is face up to the fact that we have to start with early intervention.
RON COWELL: I'd like to respond. I agree with your suggestion about the zone of proximate learning, but I disagree with the implied conclusion that we've got to choose among things on the menu then. It's already been acknowledged that an awful lot of the change is likely to happen in an incremental way. That's that zone of proximate learning. But we don't choose to teach kids math instead of language skills, instead of history, instead of other things. And I don't think we need to choose among the various principles that were stated here, or even among some of the very modest suggestions that are found in this report. In fact, I think those principles are complementary. And we don't need to say to policy-makers, use data instead of having a vision, or use data instead of being collaborative. So I don't think we're in a position where we've got to choose. I think we ought to be promoting all of these principles. And where appropriate I think we ought to be encouraging policy-makers to think about all of the specific suggestions that have been made.
BETTY HALE: We have a question here. Sir, there's the microphone.
JIM FORAN: I'm Jim Foran with the Maryland State Department of Education.
I'd like to follow up with Ed on a comment that he made a couple of times about the distinction between education and business, with education decisions being made locally and so forth, with businesses becoming more globalized. Do you believe that we should have mandatory national content standards and a national curriculum?
BETTY HALE: How about that for a question.
JIM FORAN: I'd like the others maybe to respond too.
EDWARD DONLEY: I understand the political realities that that's not doable at this time. I like the Bush proposal, which in their second phase was that each state could use there own test, but there would be calibration by a NAEP sample, to calibrate the quality of those state-by-state tests. That would I think be achievable from a political standpoint, although the hearings in the House raise a question about whether it is doable or not. But it would be close enough to a uniformity so that it would be neither a hodgepodge nor a quagmire in my view.
BETTY HALE: Anyone else? Jack? Short answer.
JOHN MacDONALD: Jim, there is no way to get at that unless we face a few facts, and the facts are simply that the first Bush administration espoused national content standards and, in fact, did them, and then, even though it was denied over this last eight years, also recommended 22 national tests to go along with those, which never occurred. Right now we're watching 15 states spend about $400 million a year just for reading and math tests at grades 3, 5 and 8. And yet we know out front, instead of watching, again, you mentioned a hodgepodge, Ed, of different kinds of ways of getting at things, there's only one test that we have out right now that a majority of states participate in. And I cannot for the world understand why we have not asked the states to simply benchmark their standards against NAEP, and simply use NAEP as the vehicle in terms of setting some kind of national assessment that is used in terms of making the kind of judgments that we should be making in terms of the quality of what we're delivering to children.
We're estimating right now, and I read an article, I think it was the day before yesterday, that Brenda Welburn from NASBE is saying that the amount of money that we're going to be spending on national testing is going to be somewhere around $7 billion. Now, where is that going to come from? And what kind of a hodgepodge is that going to create in terms of us sorting out where people are and where they aren't. NAEP exists.
RON COWELL: Another relatively short answer.
BETTY HALE: Have you noticed, those of you who have been at all of these, the state people somehow think they have more to say. Have you noticed this?
RON COWELL: I spent 24 years as a legislator and 12 years as a state board member. I never, with the exception of a few issues around special education, never felt encumbered by or in any way inhibited by what was happening in Washington. And I don't understand colleagues or former colleagues who use that as an excuse, or spend a lot of time complaining about it. I don't think that's the reality. On the other hand, now, given the question should we have some national standards, or even some national testing, from a state point of view, I think it probably would be helpful, not necessarily against federal government standards, but it seems to make a whole lot of sense if we're going to keep asking taxpayers in this country to invest hundreds of billions of dollars annually in public education, why should we not have a shared vision of what we want our kids to learn, and what we want our kids to be able to do.
And why, as state policy-makers and taxpayers who support those state policy-makers, should we be not be more comfortable with a system that will hold state policy-makers accountable. I think that an awful lot of the complaining about the threat of national standards, or the threat of some kind of accountability coming out of some national entity comes from folks who themselves don't want to be held accountable. So I don't see it's all so threatening. A lot is going to depend on what the details look like. But I tend to very much agree with the suggestions that were made by Ed Donley, that we've got to start to have a bigger view of this than what's going on in my neighborhood, or my community, or even my state alone.
BETTY HALE: Larry?
LAWRENCE LEAK: I agree with my colleagues up here. I think we need to have a broader vision of what education is all about. And if you really take a look at where we're heading and what's going on, we have in our respective communities and nationally a movement for charters, and vouchers, but this whole Internet is really exploding and virtual high schools, virtual learning communities are cropping up all over the place. And so to have a broader vision about standards that takes us beyond our own local communities I think will do us all well in the long run.
BETTY HALE: We have a question here.
JIM DILLARD: Thank you. First, I guess a comment.
BETTY HALE: Introduce yourself, please.
JIM DILLARD: I'm sorry. Jim Dillard from Virginia.
In relation to the testing program that Mr. Donley mentioned, one of the major factors that the states are concerned with is the fact of the cost of this, and mandating that on the states. The $340 million they've got in the bill now ain't going to go very far. And so that's one of the concerns that the states have. I'd also say that there is great resistance to some of this, as we've already pointed out. I attended a meeting with the Southern Regional Education Board and helped encourage a movement that they're doing to at least have the Southern states develop a single [test] -- and they started with like Algebra I, which is certainly neutral. We'll never do anything on a national social studies test, but certainly we ought to be able to do it in reading and math and science and some of those. And I would encourage that, but again emphasize we need more money.
Then a question to Mr. MacDonald. You talked about the vision, and we need a vision and leadership needs vision, but you didn't really spell out the details of that. My question to you, and I'm not asking you to do it here, but have you articulated in a written document or something the vision that you have. You mentioned three or four different things, year-round school, et cetera. Is there something that's available that we could look at?
JOHN MacDONALD: Something I wrote years and years ago. I've been very, very much -- well, my background is elementary and secondary --
BETTY HALE: Excuse me, Jack. I don't think they can hear you.
JOHN MacDONALD: I said, I wrote something many years ago on this issue in terms of the restructuring of public education. And my background is elementary and secondary education. And having served as a teacher and a principal, and a superintendent, and as a commissioner of education, I felt that we're about this all wrong. But there are some building blocks, and there's a statement in the report that I think is very cogent, and that is the fact that we should be building on what we have, and also rebuilding on the mistakes where we've made them. And one of the things that we have continued to do which is fostering the achievement gap we have across the country now is not to address the needs of our disadvantaged kids, by facing up to the fact that we have to differentiate programming for all children. And these kids need a start unlike other kids, in a different setting. And that the schools also have to accommodate to those learning needs of children. And we have to think about supporting public schools in a different way other than an annual per pupil cost. The costs relevant to the education of the child should be relevant to that child's, or related to that child's particular learning style, needs, family circumstances and so forth. So that's what I'm talking about, when I talk about a totally new paradigm. And I think that's has to happen for the long run with public education, starting again with early intervention.
BETTY HALE: Actually we've got two questions over here. The woman, and then the gentleman in front. And then we've got Marty Blank in the back, and Penny here.
SHARON NELSON: My name is Sharon Nelson, and I'm the Teacher in Residence with the U.S. Department of Education. And I have a little bit of a different viewpoint on this, because I've had the opportunity now to step out of a classroom after 23 years and now see how others view education. And never one to lose the opportunity to teach, I would like to share that if there is anyone here in this room that really, truly believes that schools today are set up for the convenience of the people who work there, they maybe should go visit a school. The idea of a 9:00 to 2:30 for teachers is absolutely not heard of. The idea that what we do there is for the convenience of the teachers, or the principals that are there is absolutely a ludicrous idea. I'm sorry. I really do --
BETTY HALE: Do you have a question?
SHARON: I guess I'd like to get to the idea of, if we're going to change that idea, if we're going to change that paradigm, if we're going to look at how we can make schools better, how do we involve the people who are there who have the practice and know what's happening with those kids -- how do we better involve them on decision-making levels? Where, right now, that seems like an impossibility. This year I have talked with lots of teachers. Very few have said that they wouldn't agree with going to a different calendar where maybe 9 1/2 months or 10 months are spent with kids, and a month or a month and a half spent in professional development, rather than trying to catch up with that during the summer. And as was stated in the last panel here, the issue about that is money. How do we get around that? How do we work together to make that happen?
LAWRENCE LEAK: One of the ways that we are trying to address this in the State of Maryland, in my remarks I mentioned the tremendous challenge of getting talented people in state agencies. And in Maryland our state superintendent, who has really been at this for almost 10 years, which is really unprecedented if you look around the country, she is a firm believer in getting talent that is very knowledgeable and can help inform policy. And so what she does, and Jim Foran in the audience is an example of that, in Jim's case we in Maryland are bringing on some high school assessments, these high stake assessments for kids earning a diploma. Who better to talk about that experience and understand the implications of that broad policy initiative for high schoolers, high school teachers, principals, and parents, than having people from the high schools come in and help build the policies that the board has adopted.
And so it's not a long term solution to the issue that you address, but it's vitally important for state education agencies to reach down to people that work on the line, so to speak, to help bring those folks into the agency, to help formulate and assess the policies that we are contemplating implementing, and policies that we're about to formulate.
BETTY HALE: Jack?
JOHN MacDONALD: I just heard a comment on the convenience and needs, and I just want to offer this to you. I just finished visiting four very large urban schools in one of our largest urban cities in the country, both elementary and secondary. What I saw I reported.
BETTY HALE: Jack, you need to speak into the mike.
JOHN MacDONALD: I said what I saw I reported in terms of, again, the disconnect between what was going on with the children, both elementary and secondary, and the disconnect with the faculty I observed. And I've also observed this other times in my career. And that's why I think in terms of the current construct of public education we've got to do something to reconnect kids with learning, and reconnect faculty with learning. There was a time in the history of this country when teachers lived as part of the community they teach in. That regrettably has gone by the boards due to social and demographic conditions in the country today.
BETTY HALE: And cost of housing.
LAWRENCE LEAK: And housing costs. There are some communities where teachers cannot even afford to live in the communities that they work in.
JOHN MacDONALD: That's right. But there's a converse to that, too.
BETTY HALE: Well, that's certainly awakened the panel. Kris?
KRISTEN AMUNDSON: Let me chime in and offer as one example, but I am going to tell you it is not cheap, of trying to do exactly what the questioner is talking about, which is involve teachers in decision making, involve teachers in professional development, and also address the issue that we all know is true even in a superb school system like Fairfax, which is that once you get a little experience you use that as your ticket out of the most challenging schools. And so what you have are the very best teachers teaching the kids who, frankly, need their help the least.
In Fairfax, and actually in my district, at Riverside Elementary School, Dan Domenech has begun in cooperation with the Fairfax Education Association, a really creative model that has put national board certified teachers in that school, that is asking all teachers who stay at that school to go through the process of board certification, that is paying teachers extra. It's extra pay, it's extra work, I will tell you that the teachers that I know who are at that school say that it is the professional development challenge of their lives. But that is at least one model. Now, if you've looking for solutions on the cheap, which we always are, that isn't it. But it might actually make a difference.
BETTY HALE: Larry, you want to jump in?
LAWRENCE LEAK: Yes. Just in the State of Maryland, talking about low performing schools, what we've found is that in many low performing schools the teachers that are least prepared are found in those schools. And in Maryland what we've tried to do is similar to what is going on in Fairfax. We want teachers that earn our highest certificate. We provide them stipends to work in the most challenging schools, we provide them extra funding support for those initiatives. To get teachers in schools with high poverty, we provide mortgage -- low interest mortgage loans so that they can move into communities and work in those communities. So I mean there are a bunch of strategies that are in place. And in Maryland our Teacher Quality Incentive Act of 1999 addresses a bunch of those, including national board certification.
BETTY HALE: I was going to make a comment that when Ron stated his first principle was that states needed to have a vision. And his second principle was the business about data. And I think sometimes we only think about data in one way, and that is sort of who scored what on what particular test. I believe there is a way to get a story out about what you're just suggesting, which is to say that you know of no teachers for whom it is a 9:00 to 2:30 proposition, and so part of this is a business of learning, figuring out how to tell your story in ways that are compelling and will get messages across.
The gentleman here, who has been very kind, had a question.
DON ERNST: Thank you. My name is Don Ernst. I'm at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
In reports like this, and, first of all, let me say thank you for your leadership on this. But my rhetorical question, and serious question as well, is what's missing? And, Ron, your point about perhaps one of the things that's missing is information beyond psychometric data, how kids learn. Mr. Donley, you mentioned a worldview. If we were serious about that we might find some things that suggest that this current paradigm of standards and assessment, this linear, rational, overly so, might be profoundly impacting in a negative way, particularly in the SOL context in Virginia, creativity, joy, the over-reliance upon listing, contrary, I think, to what we know about learning theory, which tells us much more than we do.
So my question is, if we learned, Mr. Donley, with all due respect, if we looked at Sweden, for instance, Sweden doesn't formally teach reading until after age eight. Guess what? Their literacy rate is 100 percent. It's a different place. Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. If you look at the number of adults who surround kids early on in Cuba. God knows, we don't want to look at Cuba. But I guess in general my point is you all raised all sorts of other common places of education. Finland. Do you know there is no high school larger than 300 in Finland? Now, if we're serious about this cross-cultural stuff, what are the other ways to enrich this report and this rhetoric, with all due respect, that goes beyond, if you will, this current paradigm as standards and assessment as truth, as a direction.
Final point, and question about the politics of this. What's happening in Massachusetts is fascinating. You've got bright kids boycotting the test. You have amazing coalitions developing politically against the high stakes nature of this test. It's happening certainly in Virginia. It's happening in other places. So ultimately politicians it seems to me have to be responsive to that. So I would appreciate any and all reactions to these points.
EDWARD DONLEY: Well, I'll attempt to react to that. I recognize that there may be just beyond the horizon a gold nirvana to which we could all aspire. But in the city where I live, Allentown, Pennsylvania, we have two-thirds of the children in the school district who are eligible for the free lunch. Sixty percent are Hispanic children, large numbers of whom have a single parent, substantial numbers of whom have no parent. And my disposition is to deal with those inner city children across this country. There are tens of millions of them who are being deprived of an adequate education, even to learn reading and writing. And I'm prepared to concentrate our effort in our inner cities to deal with that issue now, in this decade, because the next decade will be too late. And I recognize that we may be depriving some children of some golden opportunity, but I'm willing to forsake that and concentrate on the children who so desperately need to learn how to simply read.
KRISTEN AMUNDSON: The truth is, of course, that they aren't just all concentrated in inner cities any more, and I would offer up Fairfax as the perfect example of that, a place where we have kids from every continent, except maybe Antarctica, and I didn't look today, they might be from there now. We have schools where kids speak 100 languages. We have schools where you do have 85 percent of the kids maybe speaking a language other than English. And so to suggest that the problem is only going to be in the inner cities I think is just wrong.
But, and we'll go back to this one size fits all, and I think that's where you're finding issues around the Massachusetts testing, and frankly also the SOL testing. It is not parents of kids who have just arrived here from Bosnia who are complaining about the SOLs. It's the more traditional, what your image is of Fairfax County parents, it's the two parent kids. And I'm here to tell you that the issue around changing school calendars is not going to be, again, with those low-income parents. It's the damn swim leagues. You know, you're never going to get around changing school calendars until in Fairfax you figure out a way for kids still to do age group swimming. That's the reality.
So that's not an answer, and I go back to what I said before, if it were easy we would have done it by now. But I think that the challenge is both to find ways to stimulate and motivate those very high performing kids. And frankly, one of the ways, and in Virginia they're finally trying to bow out of some of this, is by saying, gee, we'll accept the results of your AP or your IB score. And that's frankly, I see -- first of all, it's probably educationally real sound. But it's also going to get rid of some of those big pain in the neck parents.
RON COWELL: I may be responding to something that you did not intend. So if I do -- but, for anybody, which may or may not include you, for anybody who makes the case that this is really tough, and it is tough stuff, but then who makes the case that we should retreat from standards, retreat from assessment, retreat from accountability, you're dead wrong. And I don't think it's going to happen. And I think that those who suggest that, be they educators or policy-makers, do a disservice to what we're trying to accomplish, ultimately do a disservice to kids. What we need to do is to figure out how to do this stuff better, we need to figure out how to improve kids learning to read, and to add, and to speak, and to think critically, while not ignoring the other stuff that may not be the subject of some state assessment for which there are consequences attached thereto in law. I think that's part of the dilemma for teachers and superintendents and school board members. If the state is saying we're going to hold you accountable and threaten you with maybe some negative consequences if kids don't do well on this single test, which is about reading and math on one particular day, that's probably a system that isn't quite the way it ought to be. And we need some changes. But the solution is not to abandon the standards, not to abandon the goal, not to abandon assessment, not to abandon some notions of accountability, but to make it work better while accommodating all those other things that the education system is also about.
BETTY HALE: Jack?
JOHN MacDONALD: A word of caution here. States are really, as Don indicated, starting to rethink some of the things they've done with the whole high stakes assessment piece, and properly so. I can remember two years ago this November a couple of us were asked to go in to consult with the Kentucky Commission on Student Accountability, which was a specially set up group to look about why shouldn't we hold students accountable if we hold teachers and schools accountable. It was a very simple answer that we gave them. If you're going to go with high stakes accountability with youngsters, you'd better have a support system in place that recognizes the need for early identification of need, appropriate placement of those children in terms of support, whether it carries over into their families or not, and finally the fact that you have appropriate placement programming through the course of the construction, with follow-up work in case they fail. If not, in our opinion at the time, two of us spoke on this issue to the commission and said, look you're going to be wide open to wrongful act litigation, very much parallel to a lot of the litigation that's been ongoing with special needs children over the years.
And so, again, unless a state really is sure it has that support system in place all the way along the line from entry to the time they depart from school, they are really putting themselves at risk if they do not have that kind of support for children all the way along, if they're going to make high stakes work and mean something to kids. Massachusetts has a history of revolt on testing.
BETTY HALE: A history of revolt, period. That's in everybody's history book.
JOHN MacDONALD: They have backed off this kind of testing before, with the same kind of actions, and usually Kristen, with the most affluent towns involved in it.
BETTY HALE: We have a question here. Carol, let's let you. I'm going to take Marty last, he works at IEL, and so we're going to get him last.
CAROL CHELEMER: Thanks, Betty. My name is Carol Chelemer, and I work at the U.S. Department of Education. A question for Ron, just a follow up, and I think it is a policy question at the state level, and it has to do with standards. One of our regional laboratories, McREL, has done a lot of work on education standards, and they've put together a compendium of standards. It's pretty clear that for educators and students to master the standards it would take probably 20 years to do it. So I'd like to know what legislators or state board members can do to put a little sanity into the standards movement, because the expectations for learning and teaching are just way over the top.
RON COWELL: I don't know the answer to the question. There are some considerations, though. I think, first of all, the last thing we want are legislators writing standards. In my notion of how to operate, we want legislators to own the standards, in so much as they authorize them, and receive them, and ratify them or endorse them. And then honor them, with all the kind of capacity building that needs to be pursued, but I think the real debate occurs at the state board level, or somewhere in the agency.
And I think one of the concerns that I've heard expressed a lot from folks at those levels, or in those places, has been this concern that what they do not appear to be dumbing down. And so in some cases folks may have erred on the side of more rigor, or more -- and sometimes it's been more rather than more rigor. I think folks are going to learn. State leaders are going to learn, policy-makers are going to learn. It's one of the advantages of sharing. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me that we've got 50 or 49 separate enterprises trying to create and maintain and revise state level standards for their state. And obviously there's an awful lot of sharing going on. And I think the greatest progress, and the greatest level of sanity, may in fact get incorporated when folks are sharing, and learning from one another and as they move towards something that from state to state will tend to look more similar.
But I understand what you're saying. I agree with what you're saying in terms of some of this stuff just can't be accomplished. But we're going to learn. It's a process, again, of evolving, and it's a process of accommodating what is realistic with the expectation that we're going to create a rigorous set of standards, or standards have some rigorous expectations. And that's a balancing act.
LAWRENCE LEAK: And I would also add that standards in and of themselves isn't an end all, be all. If the curriculum isn't in line to the standards, if the assessments aren't aligned to the standards, if the professional development isn't aligned to the standards, then you're going to have this big disconnect. And so I think that you need a system in place, and the standards set the framework, but there are lots of pieces that have go be aligned to achieve those standards.
KRISTEN AMUNDSON: And I do think -- I think you're right, and I'll take even the example of chemistry, which is not -- doesn't come with all the baggage of, say, American history. Our chemistry teachers tell us that the Virginia chemistry standards are wonderful for a 220 day school year. But, you can't do it in 180 days. I am less sanguine and less optimistic I think. I personally can write the Washington Post story right now, Virginia dumbs down chemistry, drops blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, and then goes out and interviews three college professors who say that if you haven't learned this, whatever it is, that is in the 40 days that you dropped, students are now essentially consigned to a life of working the line at the candy factory. I just -- it is political, and that's the reason all that stuff is there, and that's the reason it's probably not possible to teach, and that's the reason teachers are feeling the tremendous stress that they are. I'm less sanguine that all sanity and wonderfulness is going to happen.
BETTY HALE: We have a question back here, and then Penny.
JOHN MITCHELL: John Mitchell with the American Federation of Teachers. I'd like to first of all just point out item 7 on your 11 guiding principles. I really appreciate that being in here, that there is a need for states to look at resources, and things for districts with high poverty, and not just districts, but areas within districts, particular schools. I just think that within an hour drive of here you can find high schools where juniors are expected to take AP courses, and you can also find high schools where we hope that juniors can read. And I just think the idea that there are two different education systems is important to acknowledge.
But, the question I have is as you look -- you did a great job in a quick read of the report of pointing out just the diversity of state systems that are out there, but my impression after being able to look at things from the national level for a while is there are some state systems that are so complex that the teacher in the classroom has a very difficult time getting any type of clear messages, because there are so many policy-makers involved. What I'm speaking of are places where you've got a state board of education with leadership, a superintendent of schools with leadership, you've got initiatives, referendums, legislative bodies, and all of them making policy that teachers are expected to enact. I just wondered as you worked on the report, and as you think about the governance issues, do you see any states out there that you think are so dysfunctional that somebody needs to get in there and say -- I mean, am I off on an extreme? I think you all have looked at this more than I have.
BETTY HALE: Let's answer your question in private.
JOHN MITCHELL: They may want to. And without mentioning state names, I just wondered.
JOHN MacDONALD: I would say, John, there is a degree of dysfunctionality in every state that has not sought to clarify at the board level, and at the state board level, the need for clarification of role and responsibility in terms of the authority lines of teachers, principals, superintendents, as well as themselves. Right now the biggest point of conflict that we have in terms of policy development and policy implementation is the lack of clarification, who is responsible for what, to whom. And that's why the teachers, God bless them, get caught in this dilemma. They're the last ones to be fed information. A lot of times that information they're given is distorted, incorrect, or only partially there.
And there was a study done last year funded by Ford Foundation that had to do with the role between local boards and superintendents. And the thing that we forced down their throats to put in the report, until you can establish clear role delineation between local boards and superintendents, you're never going to be able to form any governance structure that works, because the players on the team are not going to know what position they're in. Now, that is one of the recommendations you'll find in this report under state boards. And I think it's a responsibility not only of the state boards, but of the governors and legislatures and chief state school officers to assure that that role clarification and delineation takes place at all levels of instructional input, and import, and participation, or this dysfunction, which you're absolutely correct about, will continue.
Only one state so far has attempted to do that, and that's the state of Massachusetts. And of course, they've got other problems right now, as Don just pointed out. But, that's the only state that's made the move so far. There are other states, however, that are currently looking at it.
BETTY HALE: Penny [Engel], a question here.
PENNY ENGEL: My question is about the pipeline issue. I'm with the Educational Testing Service. This is not about K-12 testing, but about measurement and skills of the people that are so desperately needed. The report points out the shortage of chief state school officers, and state Department of Ed administrators. Where are these people going to come from, and is there a defined set of skills that someone could articulate that these people should have?
BETTY HALE: So we have two questions on the table. Where are they going to come from, and once we find them what is it they need to know and be able to do, right?
PENNY ENGEL: Correct.
BETTY HALE: Okay. So who wants to answer this question?
RON COWELL: Well, I'm not a very good person to talk about the skills. I'll leave that to one of the folks who does that as a business. But in terms of the supply issue, one of the things that legislators and legislatures must get over is something that I saw particularly prominent a number of years ago, but it still persists in a lot of places, and that is this notion that we can brag about and make political hay if we can demonstrate that there are fewer people working in the department today than was the case last week or last year. That was the culture again, and there were political rewards for that kind of tearing apart of departments, and that literally is what was happening. We dramatically diminished the capacity of departments to be of service to districts and boards and professionals, and good advisers, if you will, to other policy-makers, including legislators. We've got to get over that notion.
Secondly, I think legislators, and state boards in some cases, have got to get better at thinking about, and then making consistent decisions about the role they expect their department of education to, in fact, play. If we're serious about all these other reforms, it's not just a matter of imposing standards on kids or school districts or teachers. It's not just a matter of saying teachers ought to have more professional development, and we're going to pass a law that requires them to engage in more activity every so many years. We need to be more thoughtful about the role and the capacity that is required of the department of education or the state agency. So I think that is part of the message here for those kinds of lawmakers or policy-makers. I'll leave it to somebody else about the skill issue.
KRISTEN AMUNDSON: What I would say in terms of the pipeline issue is that I think suggested at least in this report is one possible way to grow some people who might move to leadership on a state level. And that is if you bring together these task forces and issue specific working groups, as this report really strongly suggests, I think that's one place that you begin to identify and then groom some people who might be in local school divisions, and have the ability eventually to be moved into the state level.
BETTY HALE: Penny, I think -- I'm sorry, Jack.
JOHN MacDONALD: I'd like to address two issues, the pipeline issue. Traditionally, the pipeline was provided through the deputy's position.
BETTY HALE: Jack, you need to speak into a microphone.
JOHN MacDONALD: The deputies are the chief operating officers of the state agencies. That was one traditional pipeline. The other was the public schools. Many of us who became commissioners of education were former urban and suburban superintendents, and came through that way. Basically what I'm saying, it came through one the bureaucracy and secondly through the field. What we've seen occur in the last ten years is that the field aspirants have seemed to dry up, and the only pipeline we have left is the deputy commissionership. What we're now noticing is that we're getting commissioners coming in through the legal profession, corporate people, people also interested who are currently military, or will be retired military, those seem to be other fields.
In terms of the skills, I did my research in the four functional specializations of the superintendency, which are basically curriculum, pupil personnel, which is kids, staff personnel, which is people in the relationary areas, and finance. Those are the four functional skills you have to have under your belt if you're going to be a halfway decent superintendent, particularly the ones relating to children and curriculum. That changes when you become a commissioner. A commissionership is not a superintendency. An area of expertise that has to be there is an innate ability to deal with people in a relationary way, particularly at the public and political levels. I would have to add that to the superintendency, much more so than I would as a local superintendent, because you deal in a wider arena than ever before.
We have a dearth of candidates right now for superintendencies that are open. I can remember in one of the largest states that opened some years ago where there were three candidates, only one of whom was really capable of doing the job.
BETTY HALE: Penny, I think there are competing lists of skills qualities and attributes of effective leaders in various positions, and I think that there are, though, some general agreement areas, and we at the Institute have been doing some interesting work, doing some interviewing, and one of the words that they wanted us to probe about was the word "ruthless," and somehow that has become a serious negative word in terms of leaders and leadership.
So, I would be happy to spend some time just giving you some other sources where you might go to look at some of these competing lists.
Marty Blank is going to ask the final question of the morning, and then we're turning this over to Mike Usdan.
MARTY BLANK: Jack began to get to it when he suggested that the people at the local level who used to move up into the state system are no longer coming along the line. The underlying theme of these previous reports is that we have a crisis of leadership in terms of teachers, in terms of principals, in terms of school districts. What should states be doing to improve that leadership capacity? The reports have critiqued the role of higher education. They've suggested preparation is inadequate, that professional development is inadequate. What should we be expecting of states in dealing with those multiple levels as we think about really developing leaders for student learning?
EDWARD DONLEY: We could raise the compensation level so we'd be able to attract people with the necessary level of human skills.
MARTY BLANK: That would be great, but could we get corporate support for that as well?
EDWARD DONLEY: I think you could.
JOHN MacDONALD: I think we have to look at some of the states or to some of the states that have said that teaching and leadership in learning has to be a premier position in the state and has to be recognized as the premier position. And not only we have to be extremely selective as to whom we let into this in terms of the preparation, but also how we nurture them through that kind of program, and how we place them properly supported for a period of time to learn what the educational enterprise is all about, and finally how we really have to reward and pay them.
There are states that are making moves like that, Connecticut is one of them. They were one of the first states, like New Jersey, to really work on the salary issues. But, more importantly, the preparatory programs for teachers, and now administrators, again, are very selective. You have to compete to get into those programs. The programs at the university level are among the honors programs, they are the most highly esteemed programs that the university offers. So, the consequence of that is, in terms of 350 positions that can be opened each year for these things, they turn away about 400 students who apply who can meet most of the standards, but not all of them.
But, again, it's a matter of making sure that people realize that this profession is one that's not only needed, but appreciated and will be recognized, because it becomes a priority for the states who support it. And it's that kind of incentive, as well as those kinds of attractive things, that are stimulating the kinds of enticements or attraction, preparation and quality that I'm seeing emerge in the State of Connecticut through their preparatory programs.
BETTY HALE: About two weeks ago at the Institute we received a copy of the annual report from the Lilly Endowment, and I started reading the report, and just stopped dead in my tracks, raced in to give the copy of the report to Mike Usdan. Many of you know that the Lilly Endowment has a very large program of work that focuses on America's religious institutions, and here was the big article, who will be the ministers? I think that this is a larger problem around public sector leadership.
And then I read an article recently about the incredible shortage of nurses. And so I think that it's bigger than sort of where are the next superintendents.
KRISTEN AMUNDSON: Well, I was going to say that I'm on the vestry of a church that is working with the Lilly Endowment as a matter of fact to do entry of people into the priesthood. And they're doing essentially a residency program. I think you're exactly right. We aren't going to have nurses. We aren't going to have cops. We aren't going to have all sorts of people in public sector jobs because we've tended to undervalue them, and we've tended -- you know, you reach a point at which you say, for this amount of money I'm going to get yelled at all the time? You know, it's a lot easier to go sell shoes at Nordstroms.
BETTY HALE: It's like, who needs it?
Well, as I indicated, I promised you I'm going to turn this back to Michael. Before I do, I want to offer a piece of information from Kris' colleague in the State of Virginia, and I believe you said he chairs the appropriation committee.
KRISTEN AMUNDSON: Chairs education.
BETTY HALE: Chairs education. He wants me to tell you that there's a great web site that is www.schoolmatch.com, and they do articles, periodic articles on education, and he handed one to me just now which is Understanding the Principles of Effective Leadership, Understanding the Principles that Lead to Better Schools. So, let me give you the web site again, www.schoolmatch.com.
Did I do that okay? I think if they get to the website, then I was trying to make that. All right. Very good.
Here's part of what I think I've heard so far this morning. We have a sitting legislator who is saying, if there were any more easy answers left, we probably would have found them and maybe even then started implementing them.
We have a business person saying, the business world has changed, we might want to be shifting our thinking a bit more broadly.
And then a gentleman in the audience who says, and don't forget even 100 miles from here, or an hour away from here, and I think there are probably schools that are closer than an hour away, that we might want to take a look at.
A state department of education employee also on leave from a state university saying that we need to be bold, I think, and don't be afraid to start with standards, and it's almost like, understand that you're going to take the heat, but stick with it.
And we have a very honorable former legislator -- I was trying to think about how to do that -- who has given us a list of things to remember, and a set of principles that can guide state policy-making.
And for me, all of what you read, and this goes back to Penny's question, about leadership says quite simply you have to have vision. And what's intriguing, and I think challenging about what Ron Cowell is suggesting is, this has to be a state's vision for the education of its citizens, and that everyone plays a role. And Jack McDonald is reminding us that we need to think about shifting the paradigm of schooling, and I think also wants us to know that the capacity of those in the state department of education may not be, for a whole variety of reasons, where it needs to be.
And with that, I'm turning this back to Mike Usdan. Thank you for the panelists, and thank you for the audience.
MICHAEL USDAN: Well, about 20 years ago I learned never to try to top Betty Hale in terms of any kind of a summary, so I will not be presumptuous enough to attempt to do that, other than to thank the panel very, very much, and Betty, for what I think is a very rich discussion that if we can find ways of emulating it at the state and local and regional level, and get these diverse perspectives on the table and break down the isolation and insulation among each of these sectors, we will be much better off.
I keep learning about the infinite variety of American education, and I must say I've studied educational policy for a number of years. Kris, I have never heard of the power of the age group swimming lobby before, and do they have a geriatric section or no? Okay.
But in any event, thank you all for attending, and I'm sure the panelists will be available for any additional questions.
[APPLAUSE AND END OF EVENT.]