Day 2 of Classroom Politics: A Symposium on Education Reform

Lisa Alexander, Public Relations Chair for Fireplace, Albany Government Law Review Member


Charter or public?  Tenure or no tenure?  Testing or no testing?  These are just some of the questions that the roundtable panelists addressed on the second day of Albany Government Law Review’s symposium, “Classroom Politics: A Symposium on Education Reform.”

The panel, held on Thursday, November 11 in the Dean Alexander Moot Courtroom, featured a roundtable discussion by five distinguished panelists.  Panelists included Kathy Ahearn, Esq, Partner at Guercio & Guercio; Thomas Carroll, Chair of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability and Founder and Chairman of Brighter Choice Charter Schools; Douglas Gerhardt, Member of Harris Beach PLLC; Pauline Kinsella, Executive Director for New York State United Teachers; and Dr. Henry Levin, Ph.D, William H. Kilpatrick Professor of Economics & Education at Columbia University Teacher’s College.  Scott Waldman, Education Reporter for the Albany Times Union, moderated the discussion.

Robert Barrows, editor in chief for the Albany Government Law Review, welcomed the audience and stressed the importance of education, quoting Sam Seaborn of The West Wing, who said “[e]ducation is everything.”  Mr. Barrows turned the panel over to Scott Waldman, who emphasized the issues plaguing education in the United States.  Each panelist then gave a brief description of his or her background and began fielding questions from Mr. Waldman.

Mr. Waldman’s first question addressed whether schools needed reform.  The panel’s consensus was yes.  Some panelists noted that the U.S. was lagging behind other countries in education, while others stressed that there are regulatory hurdles to overcome.  This discussion led to additional questions from both Mr. Waldman and the audience, including the emphasis that should be placed on standardized testing when evaluating teachers, what regulatory hurdles impede education reform, the role of education in children’s lives, the impact of “social promotion,” and the tenure process in secondary education.  Each response from the panel begot additional questions, and the panelists engaged in discussion and debate until the end of the two-hour roundtable.

The panel demonstrated that there is no singular method to reform education.  The school year could be extended or maintained.  Standardized tests could be deemphasized or supplemented with periodic diagnostic testing.  The tenure process could be altered to a symmetrical approach (where it is equally easy or difficult to achieve tenure as it is to lose it), or reformed to shorten the hearing process.  The roundtable panel illustrated the complexity of education reform and the challenges of successful reformation.  But the panel did agree that reform is necessary.  And if education is indeed everything, then we cannot afford to do nothing.

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