Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Monday, August 27, 2007

OK, Now I’m Concerned

The Plush Duck is definitely in a squawky mood about this topic!

Since listening to the latest radio interview with Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan, where he chatted about redesigning high school in Connecticut, I decided to investigate his plan of action for this lofty goal. Here is what I found on the website of the State Department of Education, quoting verbatim from a document entitled “Framework of Ad Hoc Committee:”
Assumptions Regarding Secondary School Redesign

1. A Connecticut high school diploma will be based upon successful completion of required courses of study using model curricula and benchmark assessments developed by the SDE [State Department of Education].

2 Benchmark assessments will consist of two types:
- End-of-year course examinations
- Performance assessments demonstrating 21st-century competencies

3. A Connecticut diploma will require the demonstration of core and specialized competencies that map onto a set of post-secondary options or career paths.

4. Required courses are year-long, will have credits affixed to them, and will be graded; elective or pathway courses may be semester-long.

5. A minimum number of credits will be required to graduate, in addition to completing required courses, passing end-of-year exams and performance assessments. Letter grades will not be abandoned.

6. Secondary course sequence begins at Grade 8 and ends at Grade 13, allowing students six years to complete their diploma requirements.

7. Future uses of the CAPT examinations after 2012 is uncertain.
Well, praise the Lord, at least he is reconsidering use of the CAPT test! Aside from that, the rest of his plan makes me cringe. Here are just two reasons why:

First, he uses the term “model curricula” in the same sentence as “developed by the State Department of Education.” What I hear: the state not only wants to tell me what to teach but, apparently, also wants to tell me which curriculum I should use for each subject --- the model curricula…developed by the state. Is it just me, or does this smack of central planning of education by the state?

Second, the required courses will “map onto a set of post-secondary options and career paths.” What I hear: the state wants to tell my student which career path she will take, one can only presume, based on her performance in the required courses which will be mandated by the state ala the model curricula. Is it just me, or does this smack of central planning of the work force by the state?

Forgive me, Mr. Commissioner but, so far, all I hear in your framework is central planning and more central planning. The last time I studied the history of the United States, central planning was not a virtue espoused by the Founding Fathers (or, for that matter, by the capitalist system that operates in the United States). Being a political science major, I do recall the use of the term “central planning,” but it was not used in the same sentence as the term “democratic republic.” I will give you two guesses where I have heard that term. Can you pass my exit exam?

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