Article written by

David Hursh

For the last decade David Hursh’s writing and political organizing has focused on the dangers of high-stakes testing. His most recent book, High-Stakes Testing and the Decline of Teaching and Learning: The Real Crisis in Education (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008), situates the rise of high-stakes testing in states like Texas and New York, and at the federal level with No Child Left Behind within larger debates about the purposes of education and the nature of society. Marilyn Cochran-Smith, John E. Cawthorne Professor at Boston College, wrote: "In this unusual book, David Hursh combines rich recollections of classroom teaching with trenchant analysis of the "real crisis" in education today-the neoliberal package of high stakes testing, accountability, markets and privatization. The result is a deeply disturbing but compelling and original book that puts democratic education back where it should be--at the center of discussions about schools and schooling.” In 1998 Hursh helped start the Coalition for Common Sense in Education, a group of parents, students, and educators working to changed education policy through lobbying in Albany and hosting forums. Some of the speakers the Coalition has funded include Jonathan Kozol, Angela Valenzuela, Deborah Meier, Peter Sacks, Monty Neill, and Susan Ohanian. Since the publication of his book in March, Hursh has delivered invited talks to numerous groups, including the Rochester Teachers Association, Monroe County School Board Association, and in the Arts and Lectures series at SUNY-Cortland. This upcoming academic year he has been invited to present at universities across the United States. David Hursh is a Professor at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester.

33 Responses

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  1. Tracie Glazer
    Tracie Glazer at |

    Dr. Hursh,
    I caught your interview on YNN news.  Great commentary about the realities of what a takeover might actually mean.  We need more people in our local media discussing this issue.  Thank you so much for adding your insight!

  2. Laura Brophy
    Laura Brophy at |
  3. Andrew Wyner
    Andrew Wyner at |

    What we have here is a debate between the descriptive (what has happened) and the speculative (what could happen).  Such discussions are never definitive.  One thing is certain though:  the present system in Rochester, with all of its potential for parental input and democratic choice, has produced abysmal results.  As we speculate about an alternative approach, it is natural to seek evidence that might be predictive.  When citing precedents, however, one must be prudent in selecting applicable precedents.  It may be true that placing the control of school systems with hundreds of thousands of students under the auspices of megalomaniacal mayors does not work.  But is it appropriate to extrapolate these examples to Rochester where the school system is much smaller and the civic administration is much more in touch with the views of the electorate?

    Just because a policy has not worked when ineptly executed does not mean that it could not work when implemented competently.  We need not look further than the Obama administration’s handling of healthcare reform to understand that truth.  

  4. David Hursh
    David Hursh at |

    While it’s true that comparing Rochester to NYC does not mean that Rochester will turn out just like NYC. However, I see nothing in the proposals to lead me to think that an appointed policy board will be more responsive than an elected board. Moveover, while Mayor Duffy may competently implement mayoral control, there is no assurance that the next mayor would. I’m always concerned when we implement a new policy because we approve of the current office holder, but don’t have policy structures built in that limit abuse. While Duffy might not do so, there is nothing in the proposals that would keep a mayor from, as in NYC, replacing board members whenever they vote against the mayor’s wishes.

  5. Lisa Fish
    Lisa Fish at |

    Watch for closed door *promises* between Duffy and Urbanski in 5, 4, 3, … C’mon,  when has NYSED ever NOT come through for the unions?  Seriously, does anyone not see the ruse that is playing out in front of the cameras and the D & C?  Puh-lease.

    While I try to keep an open mind, it’s hard not to view this as a money/power grab by Duffy.  Duffy’s plan fits right in to Obama’s education remarks during his SOTU: That schools and districts should be institutions that parent and educate urban American children (schools open longer hours, sponsoring glorified babysitting programs, weekend hours?).  Liberalism: Help more of those that can’t or refuse to take responsibility for their children, and to hell with the disabled and/or gifted students who want to learn.  Keep dummying down the tests so no one can hold the schools accountable for NOT educating, ad shout Hooray! for merely shuttling kids through the mediocre chute.

    Another issue that isn’t being addressed are the legal.  Education law is still relatively new and how will Duffy handle litigation?  Probably with a different load of additional campaign friends attorneys. 

    Call me cynical or call me psychic….I see a position for Molly Clifford somewhere in Duffy’s proposed school takeover. But I digress…

    What is Duffy’s commitment to special education?  Is he going to be as equally abysmal as RCSD on that front?  Bottom line: NYSED does nothing to oversee where the money goes, nor does it police its own regulations, let alone the Fed’s.  Whether Duffy or the RCSD school board is at the helm, money is going down the garbage chute.  IMHO.

  6. Kate
    Kate at |

    I appreciate your point of view. I am especially concerned about the ‘dumbing down’ of tests in order to keep things looking good. It is disgusting, and our children deserve better.
    Kate

  7. Jacob
    Jacob at |

    As a rochester alumnus, and coming from the meat packing district of New York for a high school background,  I do appreciate this post – it puts a lot of NYC politics in perspective. I think our children deserve better, so I’m writing a book (published by Schiel & Denver Book Publishers) about the probelm blighting our children’s lives. It will be available from http://www.schieldenver.com in December 2010. Thank you, Jacob

  8. Mike Logan
    Mike Logan at |

    Hello All,

    I have small children whose education I am of course concerned about, and they could be in a school district that has been in disarray for a couple of decades.  Thanks for the thoughtful discussion.  Mike

  9. Jared Squire
    Jared Squire at |

    What is disgusting is that a man such as Mr. Hursh interferes with our childrens’ education.  Our children deserve better than Mr. Hursh’s “democratic” classroom, in which the teaching of basic skills is shunned in favor of the teaching of his personal social agenda.

  10. Shelby
    Shelby at |

    Mayorial control of a school district seems like a recipe for disaster even without the statistics from the NYC example. Taking control away from a board elected by the public, by the parents of the children attending, takes the control away from the parents directly. To say that replacing the elected board with a board appointed by the mayor will raise scores doesn’t add up. It’s not the board, but the teachers and administration who deal with the children and their learning acheivements. Maybe the government should focus on getting more funding for the administrators and teachers to be able to do their jobs effectively instead of micromanaging.

  11. Nancy
    Nancy at |

    Interesting point of view here. Our schools need a great deal of support and one way that members of the community can contribute is to adopt a classroom at AdoptAClassroom.org. When you adopt a classroom, you are providing a classroom grant to the teacher in an accountable, safe way – 100% of funds go to the teacher and they use the money to purchase much-needed classroom supplies that are not provided by the school district. To make a teacher grant to a classroom in Rochester, the schools are listed here: http://www.adoptaclassroom.org/adoption/LocatorCity.aspx?State=NY&City=Rochester&Private=0&inter=0

  12. Larry Sims
    Larry Sims at |

    No big surprise that government agencies and politicians are corrupt. It seems that there isn’t any bottom to the depths of corruption, but the first step in making any change is bringing the problem into the light. Thanks for your contribution in get this information out the people.
    Sincerely,
    Larry

  13. Cara
    Cara at |

    There are many pros and cons to the mayor taking over the district.  How are things going now?  With budget cuts and dwindling funds to help with curriculum and school supplies, it will be a very interesting move to watch over the next several years.

  14. sss
    sss at |

    I just wanted to add a comment here to say thanks for you very nice ideas. Blogs are troublesome to run and time consuming therefore I appreciate when I see well writen material. Top 10 Movies

  15. Jake "Solar Pond Pump" Maline
    Jake "Solar Pond Pump" Maline at |

    Using scores for everything is brutal to children. I was really a complete idiot regarding standardized tests all through school. I did terrible. But, I graduated high school, the I got an A.A., then a B.S., then an M.A.then another one (no Ph.d.) … that was because of all the essay tests, projects and non-standardized testing after getting into college. There was some, but it was minimal.

  16. Renato and the Watch Movies Online
    Renato and the Watch Movies Online at |

    I appreciate your point of view.I really like this blog , always a very interesting reading and information , thank you for everything!

  17. Flip Video MinoHD
    Flip Video MinoHD at |

    isn’t this the same trend we see nationwide?

  18. Psychic Readings
    Psychic Readings at |

    It’s really unclear how the mayor can run both a town, and a school?  I can only imagine both will end up being run to mediocre results?

  19. Richard Porter
    Richard Porter at |

    It dose not take a whole lot to see which way this is going. No Mayor should have control of the school board. We should strive for more of a open school board. Where issues are voted on. Not stamped yea or no by any one person. What is America coming to?

  20. Zaiqa
    Zaiqa at |

    The politics and policies affect many people with such issues. Policy makers actually don’t consider what the end user would be willing to have it like.

  21. Solar Man
    Solar Man at |

    I think control of schools should be left to local authorties, supported by a more flexible national curriculum.  In the UK, unfortunately the government seems to have decided testing kids every year, instead of teching them is the best way to make themselves look good, at our kids’ educational expense.

  22. Denver Tickets
    Denver Tickets at |

    Why would a mayor seize control?  I agree with Solar Man – leave it to the locals.  They know what their children need.  They know what their children should learn.  If we leave all the power in one person’s hands … then what?  Despotism?  Or did the Mayor not learn that in his school education?

  23. Student Grant
    Student Grant at |

    How can they think that dumbing down tests for better results will benefit in the long run?

  24. nyc mma
    nyc mma at |

    Replacing the elected board with a panel chosen by the mayor doesn’t seem like a good idea to me at all. In many cases the local community is very educated about what’s happening in their schools…they have their ears to the ground and many of them are directly affected because their children are enrolled in the school. These are the people best suited to elect board members…not the mayor who isn’t as personally involved with each individual school.
    And as for the test scores being manipulated, can’t say I’m very surprised to hear that. Politicians are notorious for obscuring the truth to make their claims seem valid.
    The road to improving our educational system is ridden with challenges…I guess these are just a few more we not must do our best to overcome.

  25. Lovely Denver
    Lovely Denver at |

    Bloom berg has summarily dismissed panel members who vote contrary to his wishes, there is no power independent of the Mayor and School Chancellor. Replacing the elected board with a board appointed by the mayor will raise scores doesn’t add up. It’s not the board, but the teachers and administration who admire Denver attractions deal with the children and their learning achievements.

  26. Butterfly Mark
    Butterfly Mark at |

    All comunities should have the right to vote for school board. Strange to live in a democracy, when you get robbed from the opportunity to be able to form your own local environment.

  27. Schwinn Bicycles
    Schwinn Bicycles at |

    Under the authoritative control of mayor school might be run like a state under the rule of a dictator. it will be really unfortunate if it does happen. Mayor is not an educationalists but an administrator.

  28. larry
    larry at |

    OUr education system is already too close to politics.  I say we push to keep them seperate.  I think the success of the charter schools is a good example.

  29. Mercen S
    Mercen S at |

    While I try to keep an open mind, it’s hard not to view this as a money/power grab by Duffy. Duffy’s plan fits right in to Obama’s education remarks during his SOTU: That schools and districts should be institutions that parent and educate urban American children (schools open longer hours, sponsoring glorified babysitting programs, weekend hours?).
    Just because a policy has not worked when ineptly executed does not mean that it could not work when implemented competently.  We need not look further than the Obama administration’s handling of healthcare reform to understand that truth.

  30. Kids Projects Dad
    Kids Projects Dad at |

    Schools should be run by those in-charge not by politicians. But they can help improve the school.

  31. Milwaukee Locksmith
    Milwaukee Locksmith at |

    I do not like the idea of a city controlling the school district.  I think we need more accountability out of the administrators and the teachers.  The parents of the children in the district do need to take more responsibility for their children’s education.  But then the teachers and administrators should be accountable to the community also and if they are not doing a good job, they need to be removed.  The way the systems work now the staffs jobs are protected just as well as the city government jobs (that’s another area we need to fix).  There needs to be a system in place where the community reviews and controls the schools and it’s employees.

  32. lmp
    lmp at |

    I agree that we need need to keep the city from controlling the school district. I think the cities have enough problems to deal with. Running a school district is not like running a city or a company. And standardized testing ends up teaching the student how to take the test. It certainly doesn’t encourage the teacher to prepare them for life.

  33. voiture occasion maroc
    voiture occasion maroc at |

    Under the authoritative control of mayor school might be run like a state under the rule of a dictator. it will be really unfortunate if it does happen. Mayor is not an educationalists but an administrator.

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