Friday, June 18, 2004
Hunt on Teaching
Former Democratic North Carolina Governor and Hunt Institute founder James Hunt has a very important must-read commentary in the current Education Week. [Reg. required but worth it]
Hunt echoes many of the recommendations of the recent Teaching Commission report, but a few lines jump out as particularly significant in the evolution of this debate.
He uses the dreaded pay-for-performance line:
We need a new pay-for-performance system of compensation based on student achievement and expertise. We need a system that rewards teachers who mentor others, or teach in difficult schools or in shortage specialties such as math or science, and we need a system that recognizes the less concrete, measurable determinants that affect teaching, such as collaboration and classroom reality.
He does not have kind words for education schools:
Higher education leaders must share responsibility for improving public education. They have allowed our colleges of education to become sleepy backwaters on university campuses. The contrast between our nation's rigorous and academically challenging colleges of medicine and engineering and our colleges of education could not be more striking.
He says that a "steps and lanes" compensation system is archaic:
Lockstep salary schemes based on time in the classroom and level of education simply can't compete when measured against today's many career options.
And, he cites as authoritative favorite liberal villain economist Eric Hanushek! That alone is enough to get you thrown out of a lot of rooms...
Why does this matter? Because it's a good essay for starters, but also because Hunt is a credible and moderate voice on this issue with a record of accomplishments on education. A lot in here that is important on several levels.
Eduwonk is in Miami for the National Charter Schools Conference that the Department of Education is putting on. A couple of quick thoughts:
(a) The political folks at the Department of Education seem to have planned the conference to ensure that in the big sessions nothing interesting is said at all. The plenary sessions were predictable. Considering all the big issues charter schools are facing some actual discussion (or God forbid debate) might have been useful. What about the breakout sessions, you say? Most were too short to allow the discussion to get interesting.
(b) Miami Beach seems an odd choice of locales for a national conference about expanding educational opportunity for disadvantaged students. Reformers with results or reformers with resorts? More Versace than KIPP... Besides, since the theme of the conference was getting to 50, as in getting all 50 states to pass charter legislation, why not go to a state that is trying to get to 50 or one that is on the ropes like Washington State? Or anywhere that is not in the 90’s every day and humid...
(c) In the bad old days these trips also used to include visits to schools. Sure, an hour or two visit is not enough time to really get a sense of a school, but the visits were still a chance to learn something new. And yes, sure, this is in conflict with (b), but at least do one or the other...
(d) The Florida Marlins are an embarrassment to baseball. They can't even fill the lower level of Pro Player Stadium, while Washington still can't get a team [but they have won two more World Series in the past decade than the Red Sox have in the past eight decades—ed.] Right, you had to bring that up...
Update! Howard Fuller breaks the taboo and says something very interesting by noting at a breakout session that too many charter proponents are starting to resemble the very problems they set out to tackle when they complain about accountability in light of dysfunctional families, poverty, etc...Fuller says, "hell, you knew about all these things when you got into this..."
Also, Eduwonk shouldn't be too hard on the Department of Ed, they did give all attendees very nice black handbags, sort of man purses. Eduwonk suspects it's some sort of below the radar Bush Administration outreach attempt to meterosexual swing voters...
The CSM sees important implications in the Hibbs v. Winn case. Not so sure, the tax credit and voucher questions are largely settled. The new variety of tax credits that Arizona and some other states are trying may be constitutionally suspect but the court seems unlikely to revisit the underlying issues.
Yesterday's USA Today story about how school affluence relates to athletic success is well worth reading because as Virginia Tech professor Roland Lazenby notes, "The problem is the funding mechanism for schools in this country," he says, meaning the use of property taxes to pay for local schools. "Sports is a highly visible way to see the inequities. But if the football field is in bad shape, I wonder what kind of shape the chemistry lab is in."
The ed schools are asking, who lost the governors?
Important Wash Post story on the politics of education in Florida this election year. It notes the collision between Florida's previous accountability plan, which focused only on overall scores, and No Child Left Behind's requirements that states use disaggregated scores to measure progress for student subgroups, including minorities and special needs students.
Although the Bush on Bush accountability smackdown is too good a storyline to lay off, a few facts are worth mentioning. First, as this Herald Tribune article notes, to make adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind this year, schools in Florida need only have about one-third of students proficient in reading and math (as well as writing, which Florida chose to incorporate into the accountability system). That's worth remembering when schools that were highly rated under Florida's accountability system get labeled as needing improvement under NCLB. In this case the problem is not NCLB but Florida's system, which ignored achievement gaps. Perhaps one-third students proficient is just too rigorous a goal. But for Eduwonk's money, if you were shipwrecked on a desert island where your life depended on solving an education problem you'd want George not Jeb to wash up with you (though you'd of course rather a whole slew of others washed up first...).
The Post article has some of the usual silliness about NCLB as a stalking horse for vouchers, but it also offers this gem of subtext about the through the looking glass politics surrounding this issue. The authors, Terry Neal and John Poole, write that the organized opposition, "consists mostly of educated, affluent whites who are alarmed at what they see as the undermining of a well-rounded education." Umm...although Florida’s schools could certainly be better overall, it's generally not white students who are most seriously shortchanged by the system right now.
All this aside, as the article notes, Jeb Bush was reelected despite a campaign against him that focused overwhelmingly on education. The lessons are pretty clear and very worth heeding this year: a.) Don't mistake interest group discontentment for broad-based discontentment, and b.) Just because voters say they care a lot about education doesn't mean they vote the issue. Florida's state system has real problems, but if even those issues couldn't turn voters out against the incumbent it seems unlikely that the less discernable NCLB standards will. Besides, if education issues offer the best grounds for criticism of George or Jeb Bush that any campaign can find they're not looking very hard...
The Center for Education Policy reports that some school districts will get less Title I funding (the primary federal funds for poor students) even though overall funding has gone up. CEP reports that Title I funding has increased 41 percent overall since 2001. (That chortling sound you hear is the Bush - Cheney campaign, which has been trying to make that point for a while and must be thrilled to have some validation...) But because No Child Left Behind included provisions to better target federal funding to poor children, many school districts and some states stand to lose funding under updated data. CEP rightly notes that the best way to deal with this problem is to fully fund Title I, which still does not reach all eligible children or even all children in some high poverty communities.
Yet, in the meantime, it's a good idea to target the money as much as possible and resist the obvious political temptation to spread it far and wide but thin. Remember, the poorest school districts are most likely to have trouble raising money on their own to fund schools, and state finance systems often shortchange these districts as well. While highlighting the overall Title I funding shortfall, the CEP report unfortunately gives cover to the far and wide camp and efforts to dilute targeting. (That's the other chortling sound you may be hearing...)
Reality Check Afterthought: CEP notes that two states that stand to lose under the new formulas are Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Hmmm...MA Senator Ted Kennedy and PA Senator Arlen Specter, who chairs the Senate subcommittee in charge of education spending...unlikely they'll end up feeling much pain in the end...
Flashback Afterthought: Yes, this is basically the same data the Center for American Progress released a few months ago to make the same point.
Flashback Afterthought II: By the way, this isn't some right wing plot. During NCLB debate Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) was a key champion of better targeting federal education dollars...
The New York Post reports on yesterday's small schools hearing in NYC. As one person in the room relayed to Eduwonk, not a lot of news except that Moskowitz's own hearing seemed stacked against her. The Post also reports that since 1986, 350,000 students have dropped out or flunked out of the NYC schools.
Among E-rate cognoscenti this morning the question being asked is, "Who lost Sam Dillon?" Read this NYT story and you'll know why.
Joanne Jacobs reports that, thankfully, the silly boycott of public schools being considered by the Southern Baptist Convention and touted by a few culture warriors in the conservative press has gone nowhere.
Senator Kerry is proposing more federal aid for after-school programs and an expansion of the child tax credit to make it larger and increase eligibility.
Big Showdown Over Small Schools
In New York City (and some key parts of the foundation world) all education eyes will be on a hearing room in New York City where councilwoman Eva Moskowitz is examining New York City's small schools initiative. Columnist Andrew Wolf [sorry, he's not available free online, a travesty] writes it up as follows:
In the absence of an independent Board of Education, Council Member Eva Moskowitz's committee has emerged as the only game in town when it comes to governmental oversight of public schools.
That this subject [small schools] could even be discussed and debated is stirring concern in educational circles. Supporters say small schools make education more personal and nurturing; critics say they are too expensive, unproven, and promote a liberal agenda.
Wolf's no fan of the initiative and gets a few zingers in but he's still must reading for anyone interested in NY.
One Eduwonk source in a good position to know says that the real problems lie in the rapid growth of the initiative and some poor implementation not the ideological back and forth.
Stay tuned because (a) a lot of money is riding on small schools in New York (b) a lot of politics are riding on it too and (c) the small schools are very popular so expect some entertaining political theater of the kind only NYC can provide...
NPR's Juan Williams writes in the NYT that Democrats should not take the black vote for granted and cites school vouchers as one reason writing:
It's worth noting that for this group [young African-Americans], the president has an issue with considerable appeal: school vouchers. Despite strong opposition from civil rights leaders (and Democrats), 66 percent of blacks and 67 percent of Hispanics favor vouchers, according to a recent Newsweek poll. That is higher than the 54 percent of whites who say they want to see vouchers used to give students access to better schools.
Wouldn't this particular issue lose much of its salience if Democrats vigorously embraced public charter schools as a serious choice alternative? Clinton did.
Newsday reports that some principals in New York City want to hold back even more kids than Klein - Bloomberg saying that the current promotion policy is too rigid.
Samuel Freedman writes in the NY Times that this country needs more Arabic speakers to help in the fight against terrorism but that the Bush Administration isn't doing enough to get higher education into the game.
Interesting charter school article from North Carolina about the impact of charter schools on school district budgets. Lots of complaints but Jim Causby, executive director of the N.C. Association of School Administrators says, "I don't think the financial argument holds up when you're a growing system"
In systems with stagnant or shrinking enrollment, student defections to charters hurt because they leave behind half-empty schools...But in a growing district like Durham's, charter schools actually can help by reducing the pressure to add expensive new classroom space. "That's classrooms you don't have to build, mobile units you don't have to buy."
This is exactly the reason some urban districts are embracing chartering, a good way to create more seats in potentially good schools...and a good way to increase cooperation around charter schools.
In Georgia state officials are refusing to release some pretty basic information about the state test there and it's understandably creating suspicion. Transparency anyone?
Hercules in New York? California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says that New York Governor George Pataki's proposal to force colleges to turn student loan processing over to the state is against the law. Rod Paige recently warned of the same problem.
More residency back and forth from the D.C. area.
Apparently context really does matter -- even more than you probably thought -- according to this story about the ongoing football scandal at the University of Colorado.
Karen Arenson writes in the NYT about efforts to make GED classes more than test prep. And, NYT readers respond to the pledge decision.
Here (PDF) is the legal analysis behind the potential lawsuit against No Child Left Behind being considered in Wisconsin. It's worth reading although it's more of a political exercise than a legal one. The law's funding is adequate to technically cover the law's provisions and after some legal wrangling that's likely where we'll end up.
Yet such a minimalist approach is counterproductive to the larger goals of the law. As just one example, the Bush Administration is technically providing enough money for the testing provisions. But what's technically enough and what's sufficient to do the job right are two different figures, and the Administration's low-balling makes them complicit in the proliferation of low-quality assessments.
By taking a legal rather than political strategy the law's opponents only exacerbate this problem. A political debate that generates consensus about the level of resources needed to make the law succeed is a much more productive (and politically useful) dialogue than a legal debate about minimal compliance.
There was no doubt that the Supreme Court of the United States was in a bind about the pledge case. Striking down the "under God" portion of the pledge would engender another round of hysteria and posturing like the one that greeted the Ninth Circuit ruling. But upholding it raised some tough constitutional questions.
So what did the court do? They punted, dismissing the case on a technical standing issue and laying off the merits. It's a punt and not a duck because this issue is not going away and they'll have to deal with it sooner or later. SCOTUSblog has more about that here and here.
Eugene Volokh says Clarence Thomas is giving the Ninth Circuit some cover.
NYT's Greenhouse rounds it all up here.
Important NYT story on the Texas "Talented 10" higher education plan. Read the whole thing but here are a few lines that sum it up:
The dispute shows how hard it is to come up with a system for doling out precious but scarce spots in elite universities without angering someone...Any change in the rule raises the touchy subject of class, because those demanding change tend to be concerned about students at the state's elite high schools in wealthy areas, while defenders of the rule say they are worried about students from poorer rural and urban neighborhoods.
Also in the NYT Aspen Institute's Robert Shireman writes that the federal direct loan program is working pretty well and that claims of a scandal are unfounded. Bob worked for Clinton though, so you might expect him to say that. But the accompanying column by Republican Representative Thomas Petri provides pretty strong validation...Petri writes:
"...too many of my colleagues believe private enterprise is always better than a government program. But the direct loan program, which lends directly to students from the United States Treasury, has proved to be far less costly. Greater use of this program would free up resources that could be used to provide students with more money."
They're both right.
From Florida concern about public school choice under No Child Left Behind. NEA president Reg Weaver says, "This is nothing but a setup for young people to be moved from public school,'' said Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association teachers union group. ``It gives the appearance that public schools are not successful." Here is data on Florida's reading and math achievement, note the achievement gaps and evaluate that statement for yourself...(by the way, whether the public schools are successful or not is a rhetorical standard, of course many are...the real standard ought to be whether public education is successful for all students, and demonstrably for poor and minority students it's not in too many communities right now...)
They're still badgering the superintendent in Alexandria, VA, according to this Washington Post story. Now there is rumbling about whether she should receive a standard annual raise or not...the local teachers' union says that only teachers who pass performance evaluations receive raises. Fair enough, but what percentage of teachers is that? Good question to ask.
From Philly, an overview of new test scores and a more detailed look at Edison's role there. Registration required for both.
This News Journal story from Delaware looking at school resegregation and achievement is being feverishly emailed around. Richard Rothstein says that the notion of high poverty high performing schools is, "a fraudulent claim. These places just don't exist"...over to you Education Trust...
NYT readers respond to Samuel Freedman's literature review on Brown.
Andrew Wolf's NY Sun take on what new data from New York means is a must-read. Via Educationnews.org.
The New York Post ed board weighs in on charter schools there. They (a) like the Bloomberg-Klein charter initiative and (b) do not think the UFT does.
The AP takes a different view of the D.C. voucher program than The Washington Post. It's two sides of the same coin, total applicants versus qualified ones but an interesting study in how the same issue can be viewed in different ways. Doesn't obviate some problems for the program though.
In the CSM, Jim Bencivenga writes that law is tying teachers and schools down Lilliputian-style.
The Washington Post Magazine does its quarterly education review.