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August's Blog Watch

What education insiders are saying about Warren Buffett’s bucks, the end of Schools of Education, learning disabilities, and more.

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This Week in Education
Will more money help or hurt the Gates school-reform effort? “It’s hard to find much fault with Warren Buffett’s decision to gift his billions instead of passing them on to his kids, and it’s understandable that he’d want to give the money to an established foundation rather than start or grow his own. But the past five or six years have been tough ones for the Gates Foundation when it comes to school reform—they rode in hard on the small-schools horse, and are just now broadening their agenda. “I wonder—as many others probably do—how the new money is going to be divided between education and health. Whatever the division, I wonder whether an even bigger amount of money to give away every year will help the program folks at Gates, or pressurize their thinking in ways that won’t help them think and act as wisely as possible.”
Put the money in the backpack. “Rod Paige, the former Education Secretary, blasts the ‘65 percent solution’ (requiring 65 percent of education funds to be spent ‘in the classroom’) and argues for a ‘100 percent solution’ that would provide more funding for hard-to-educate students and let the money follow students.  One good idea now picking up support is ‘weighted student funding.’ Under this approach, each child receives a ‘backpack’ of financing that travels with him to the public school of his family’s choice. The more disadvantaged the child, the bigger the backpack. When those funds arrive at a school, principals can spend them as they see fit. Does the school need to pay more to snag a top-notch math teacher? Are extra hours needed for intensive tutoring? Accountability systems like NCLB give them strong incentives to make good decisions.”

Peter Wood, Provost of the King’s College in New York City, on basic schooling. “By 2036, the forms of teacher preparation that currently prevail in Western nations will have sunk into oblivion. We will have discarded schools of education, the pedagogies they teach, and the certification apparatus that they serve. Such schools, pedagogies, and certifications have clung to life stubbornly for the better part of a century despite ample evidence of their unsuitability. Why predict that in the next 30 years they will finally follow the giant ground sloth into the La Brea tar pit of history? In an era when jobs that require a high level of trained intelligence flow easily to India and other countries, Western countries are awakening
to the awkward reality that we are not very good at basic schooling.”

The Fordham Foundation’s Education Gadfly
Why can’t learning-disabled students read? “Americans are generally supportive of special education. Educating disabled children so they can live independent, satisfying lives appeals to our sense of fairness and shared responsibility. But too often, special education inflicts harm by keeping children from reaching their potential. Instead of  giving these students an extra hand, the special education bureaucracy unnecessarily segregates them while passing them from one grade level to the next, irrespective of how well they’ve mastered material. The result is a faulty system that creates in these students a crippling sense of helplessness and entitlement.” 

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