Los Angeles Superintendent Roy Romer, the former governor of Colorado, is a radical, writes George Will.
The school district’s dramatic improvement in elementary school scores is the result of a rigorous curriculum featuring instruction in phonics. Plus what Romer calls “really trained teachers — trained after they leave school,” trained especially in how to teach reading. Plus teaching coaches in classrooms. Plus — Romer calls this “the real culture-changer” — diagnostic measurement. Tests developed by the Educational Testing Service to serve as models for other school systems return results in 24 hours, revealing what homework is needed and shaping classroom instruction for each child during the subsequent 10 weeks.
To those who criticize “teaching to the test,” Romer responds: That is what flight schools do. Because we take flying seriously. He likens testing throughout the school year to what many football teams now do by studying photos during the game, when diagnosis is immediately useful.
Romer, whose reformist agenda has a Rumsfeldean breadth, believes the six-hour school day is too short. So is the 180-day (163 for 300,000 Los Angeles students) school year. In Japan and Europe the school year is 60 days longer. And Romer thinks it is unwise to base teachers’ pay on length of service plus post-B.A. credentials rather than on students’ cognitive accomplishments plus peer review by other teachers.
Most contemporary policy arguments — how many foreign interventions are too many or how much deficit is too much — are questions of prudence. The education of poor children is a question of justice.
Via Number 2 Pencil.