Dana Goldstein grew up in Ossining, so she had the experience of being educated in a high quality yet integrated school system.
In a talk Thursday night in the Ossining High School library, Goldstein related what she has learned in the years since as she researched and wrote her book “The Teacher Wars,” back to her own experience in the school. The book was released last year.
For one, test scores are not the only measure of a good district. Goldstein said she advises her friends to look beyond test scores when choosing schools for their children. Also, integration makes for better schools, she said, though it’s not enough in and of itself to address the achievement gap.
“Of course we still see a lot of disparity,” said Goldstein, who wrote a high-profile story in 2007 on Ossining’s efforts to close the achievement gap by providing extra support to black and Hispanic boys.
Goldstein’s book on the history of fights over the teaching profession is well timed, coming as the nation grapples with the common core and testing and New York State lawmakers fight over a long list of proposals intended to reform education and free children from failing schools. The proposals have become Albany’s battle of the year, with the teachers unions and their supporters clashing with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over teacher evaluation changes, school takeover rules and school aid.
Goldstein ends her book with several suggestions for improving education based on what she has learned. First, she said, research has shown that higher teacher pay is associated with better student outcomes. Districts should also focus on the quality of principals and tests should be used to gauge what students know to allow teachers to target instruction. Also, it should not be prohibitively expensive to fire bad teachers if they are evaluated fairly and found wanting. She also suggests teachers be allowed more time to collaborate and learn from each other.
Goldstein said a recent study showed that students who attend school with better funding have lifetime earning gains.
“One thing I’ve been encouraged by is that conversation is back on the table,” she said.
Goldstein also said she thinks the criticisms of the way the common core has developed are legitimate.
She profiled the architect of the common core standards, David Coleman, a couple years ago and liked his emphasis on writing and learning some subjects in greater depth. But now that the common core has become part of the movement for holding teachers accountable through standardized tests, she said it’s right for teachers and parents to question it.
“It has gotten tied up with this standardized testing push,” she said.