Friday, July 16, 2004Eduwonk: Your Source For Non-Stop Home-Schooling Action!
In response to this, this, and this post (and in particular Eduwonk's assertion that the recent Virginia homeschooling bill vetoed by Governor Warner was a political gimmick) a home-school parent writes Eduwonk to say:
It wasn't the [VA homeschool] legislation that bore the political agenda, but how it was promoted: aggressively, with repeated, intentional misinformation, in a time when "accountability" is the big educational buzzword. Some also believe it is part of a larger push by Home School Legal Defense Association to change homeschool laws across the country, perhaps spurred by a reduction in cash flow; this hyped-up promotion of a small change in the law gets them lots of exposure, reinforces hyperbolic visions of the educrats against the poor little homeschooler, and demonstrates how much homeschoolers "need" this organization.
You pretend it doesn’t bother you, but you just want to explode...
Secretary of Education Rod Paige cut loose in the Wall Street Journal yesterday criticizing the NAACP on several fronts, but in particular about NCLB. The same day, moderate John McWhorter said essentially the same thing in the LA Times. There are larger politics at work here as parts of Paige's too partisan op-ed make clear. (Hint to reflexively partisan ghostwriters: Cheap shotting Clinton is (A) ridiculous on the merits and (B) doesn't help your case. Clinton was in the trenches laying the groundwork for what became NCLB in the '80s and early '90s and by almost any measure the 1990's were a pretty good decade for low-income Americans).
Nonetheless, this increasingly loud debate will impact education and only an ostrich can still think something is not happening. Here's the nut of Paige's NCLB argument:
School should be a leg up on life, which is why No Child Left Behind is designed to provide a quality education to all children, regardless of their race, spoken accent or street address. How a civil-rights organization could characterize NCLB as "disproportionately hurting" African-American children is mindboggling, since it is specifically designed to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.
By the time African-American students reach 8th grade, only 12% can read proficiently and only 7% are proficient in math. Or, as education researchers have put it, the average black high-school senior is leaving 12th grade with 8th-grade skills. We know they can learn. Now we must educate...
Although the NAACP says it is committed to erasing this pernicious achievement gap, has it put its money where its mouth is? No Child Left Behind is the most aggressive attempt to attack this problem to date, and it is the law. Yet, the NAACP would prefer to attack it merely because of its origins in the Bush administration. How sad for black children everywhere.
Important new study (PDF) on school finance finds that weighted student formulas are more equitable for low-income youngsters. From CRPE.
In the New York Sun Greg Forster says that Michael Winerip got it wrong on his major July 4, special education story. Here's more on a possible Department of Ed investigation of NYC from Educationnews.org.
NYT's Gootman reports that a self-response email survey of New York City principals (with a 13 percent response rate) found that respondents don't like the new Bloomberg-Klein way of doing business and believe they don't have enough money. In other news, it's hot in the summer in Florida...
The NLRB said yesterday that graduate students at private colleges and universities do not have a right to unionize. The decision reverses current policy and seems pretty partisan. This is a potentially major decision with ramifications for union membership, universities, and, of course, the students themselves . Inside baseball background: A lot of testy back and forth behind the scenes between the American Federation of Teachers and the United Auto Workers as both unions seek to organize graduate students.
Once an urban myth, Wash. Post's Strauss reports that colleges are taking a harder line on the senior slump.
CSM reports that the Texas accountability system won't take into account small charter schools. A problem yes, but a solvable one.
AP offers a sneak preview of John Kerry's AFT speech and focuses on the money, let's hope Kerry doesn't.
When the recent and flawed Department of Ed "study" of sexual abuse in schools came out, Eduwonk asked, how long before the voucher crowd picks up on it? Well, this essay is not exactly a clean hit but reading between the lines it looks like the answer is about two weeks.
Detroit News ed board says bring on the charter schools in the Motor City.
Still wrinkles to iron out on the NCLB teacher provisions and rural schools.
Finally, more bad news about collegiate diploma mills. This time, mainstream schools...
ECS Round-Up...Spelling(s) Out the Hot Rumor...
ECS puts on a great conference. You can tell because during the sessions the hallways are pretty empty, meaning people are inside the sessions rather than chit-chatting in the halls.
A couple of noteworthy things:
*The big rumor making the rounds is the same one kicking around D.C., namely that Margaret Spellings will be the next Secretary of Education if President Bush wins reelection in November. Smart money says the President is on board with this and that political folks in the department are, well, scared.
*Between ECS, the National Governors Association, and his work in Virginia, Mark Warner is the education governor right now. He also got Virginia out of the red, no mean feat.
*This new ECS report on NCLB is full of interesting information. USA Today's Toppo writes it up here. Secretary of Education Paige likes the report, but key recommendations (PDF) fly in the face of Bush Administration policy.
*A lot of rumbling about a tacky move by an NEA staffer at a morning session. Apparently displeased that the "so called" No Child Left Behind law had been referred to as a civil rights issue at the opening session, this staffer took to the microphone at a mid-morning session, asked all ECS staff and commissioners to stand up, and then proceeded to express her displeasure at NCLB being referred to in this manner at an ECS forum. Maybe this is considered laudable back at NEA headquarters, but in the real world it's rightly regarded as boorish, and the ECS staff present deserved better.
By the way, in today's environment, if ensuring that public schools teach minority kids to read and do math at grade level is not a civil rights issue, what the hell is? Incidentally, ECS believes (PDF) it's a civil rights issue.
*A relatively senior Department of Education staffer who will remain anonymous confirmed late yesterday afternoon that: (a) The bags US DOE gave away last month in Miami were indeed man purses and (b) By a long shot the ECS bags were better.
*RD, your quote was by far the funniest thing I heard at this conference, or probably any conference ever for that matter, but as a family friendly venue Eduwonk cannot repeat it here.
Today's USA Today includes an editorial page back and forth between the ed board and John Kerry. Basically, USA Today urges Kerry to Sister Souljah the National Education Association over NCLB. But this is not quite fair because implicitly Kerry has already done just that. The paper basically acknowledges as much, writing that
Kerry bashed the law during the primaries and complains that it is underfunded, though he voted for it and says he favors the tough accountability provisions at its core. But he hasn't campaigned for a principle advanced by Bush and rejected by the NEA, reinforcing critics' portrait of him as a waffler.
This is wrong (and the wrong yardstick). Take, for instance, Kerry's teacher proposals, which also run counter to NEA policy and were not warmly received there. There is also a lot of daylight between Kerry's NCLB position and the NEA's. Most importantly, the paper itself says Kerry's not backing away from the core of NCLB! What's the issue?
Kerry responds by sensibly pointing out that: (a) Since the Democratic primaries there have been some changes to NCLB and (b) NCLB is necessary but not sufficient. It seems that USA Today's real beef is with the NEA. That's fine, but making Kerry guilty by association isn't fair.
Motoring...Daryl Cobranchi is still displeased with Eduwonk's view on the VA home-schooling law. You can read why for yourself here.
Cobranchi cites Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925) to bolster the argument that the state should not regulate home-schooling noting that the SCOTUS said,
The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.
Right, but in the same decision SCOTUS also said,
No question is raised concerning the power of the state reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise and examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare.
Virginia's law seems to fall within these broad parameters.
Subterranean Home-School Blues
Daryl Cobranchi doesn't like Eduwonk’s views on the Virginia home-schooling debate and cites this study as evidence of the folly of requiring home-school parents to have a college degree. Problem is, the study is a voluntary sample of home-school parents so it’s hardly representative.
Cobranchi notes that the study shows that even when neither parent has a college degree home-schooled children out-perform the public school student average. Yet this statistic is interesting, but essentially meaningless. A self-selected group of home school students (whose parents are more likely to have college degrees in the first place, a key predicator of academic performance) out-perform the average for all public school students. Eye catching? Sure. Yet irrelevant to the college degree debate.
In fact, in terms of the importance of college degrees the study noted that among home school students, "children of college graduates out perform children whose parents do not have a college degree." And remember, we're talking about college degrees here, not having the state require teaching certificates for home-school parents (even though, interestingly, the study found that, "almost one out of every four home school students (23.6%) has at least one parent who is a certified teacher").
Cobranchi argues that the issue is one of personal religious freedom. Fair enough, and again, Eduwonk's not against home schooling. But Virginia's collegiate degree requirement includes a religious exemption (keeping it on the right side of SCOTUS rulings in this area) and has some other loopholes that hardly seem unreasonable in light of the complexity of the content students need to master. In fact, the law is sufficiently accommodating now that it's hard not to speculate that proponents of the bill Virginia Governor Warner vetoed were less interested in "improving" the current policy than scoring political points with key constituencies.
NY Daily News reports that First Daughter Jenna Bush wants to teach at a charter school in New York. Long hours though, surely gonna conflict with happy hour...
Black and Hispanic students leave high school, on average, four grade levels behind white students. This is on top of an average 50 percent dropout rate for minorities. Yet these people think it's hilarious!
In the NYT another Freedman gem. He writes about Latino displeasure with bilingual education programs in New York. A counterintuitive story that doesn't get enough attention. Public Agenda looked at this a few years back, too. Two thoughts: (A) Al Shanker understood this and (B) This is a classic case of interest-group disconnect.
Speaking of Shanker, in the Wash Post Jay Mathews writes up Sandy Feldman's impending retirement from the AFT. This is very important on a couple of levels.
New incentives for National Board Certified Teachers in PA. Would be nice if they were targeted to help poor communities.
Good news from the Arthur Academy, a public charter school in Oregon. Impressive results and plans for replication. But remember, despite this, it's very important that people organize to make sure schools like this can't open...
This letter looks like another constituency realizes that NCLB provides real leverage for under-served groups...
Ed Week readers, including former governors Barnes and Hunt, weigh in on all sorts of stuff (some serious and some silly) here (reg). And, Ed Week's Keller writes up the NEA's convention. Some interesting nuggets buried in here.
LA Times readers weigh in on Riordan-gate.
Joanne Jacobs offers one more reason to be suspicious of the French!
Mathews on TFA
Still can't get enough TFA? Jay Mathews weighs in here. It's funny though, when NBPTS teachers turn in incremental gains relative to their peers people shout hallelujah to the rafters. When TFA teachers do the same thing (even compared to veteran and certified teachers)...mostly silence...
Eduwonk is in Orlando for the ECS conference this week. Great program this year and -- U.S. Department of Education take note –- really killer tote bags. Most definitely not man purses.
NYT's Arenson reports on serious grading mistakes on the Praxis that caused about 4,000 people to wrongly "fail" the test. Of course, considering the rigor of the Praxis you would have thought that the high failure rate would have raised red-flags before now...
Update: Number Two Pencil has more (and knows a thing or two about ETS...)
For new board members in Buffalo, it's payback time for all that teachers union help in the election. This works out well for everyone...except the kids...
Kaus weighs in on Riordan. But he blames the victim! No, not the kid...the hapless state assemblyman who waded into the middle of this.
Last week's musing on the five (plus two more) underreported education stories generated a lot of interesting emails as well as posts elsewhere. President Clinton liked to say that every problem is being solved somewhere around this country and, as it turns out, every story is likely being written somewhere -- especially on a blog somewhere. But, just because it's been written once or somewhere does not mean the issue is getting the sustained attention it merits.
Number 2 Pencil took issue with Eduwonk's assertion that President Bush's mishandling of NCLB is not getting the attention it deserves. She pointed to the slew of stories about NCLB and assumed Eduwonk was kidding. Perhaps this wasn't clear. The stories are mostly about interest group ginned up resistance to NCLB. Interest group angst is an old -- if too often misunderstood -- story. Any reform with broad benefits to the public or a broad class of citizens (in this case poor youngsters) but burdens on selected constituencies is bound to spark the sort of resistance that NCLB is facing. That same dynamic is why it's hard to reform agriculture subsidies, drug costs, and a host of other policies with strong special interest backing. Education is no different; people just like to think it is.
President Bush is, obviously, not to blame for this dynamic. However, it was pretty clear that this was going to happen and he is culpable for (a) failing to plan for it through an aggressive public information campaign and (b) making several key implementation blunders that only served to fuel the fire rather than help tamp it out. This article has more on all that. Examination of these issues -- rather than tired back and forth about funding or the law itself -- is sorely needed, especially considering the President is campaigning on "leadership."
James Metzger writes in Sunday's Washington Post that Virginia Governor Mark Warner was wrong to veto a Virginia bill that would have allowed a parent without a college degree to home-school their children (current law already includes a religious exemption for parents lacking a degree who wish to home-school for faith-based reasons).
Metzger would be on firmer ground if he didn't have to resort to an exceptional anecdote about Benjamin Carson to make his case or absurd examples of regulations the state might put on home-schoolers. He might have mentioned, too, that home-schoolers do well in the national spelling bee, but that's not any more relevant. The plural of anecdote isn't data.
Eduwonk's not opposed to home-schooling (and knows several families doing a phenomenal job at it) but some commonsensical regulations are important. Virginia's current policy towards college degrees makes a lot of sense, particularly considering the lack of data about this issue. Not only was Warner right, but more states should follow Virginia's lead and ensure that there is sufficient regulation of home-schooling.
Afterthought: Home-school advocates promoting this bill inappropriately conflate the college degree requirement with current teacher certification policies. They're right that teacher certification isn't a good proxy for effectiveness. (That's so obvious you don't even need a college degree to make that point! Sorry, couldn't resist...) But certification is not relevant to this debate about college degrees either.
NCLB is helping with equity lawsuits, say the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund.
But in MA it's leading to uninformed hysteria. Via Educationnews.org.
In the CSM, Hoover's Evers and Walberg say bring on accountability.
More Riordan news and the LA Times ed board turns up the heat. They say: Show Riordan the door. Not a lot of ambiguity there...
In Florida, Governor Bush vetoed a proposal for universal pre-K for four-year olds there. The Trust for Early Education says he was right to do so. Trust executive director Libby Doggett:
"I wish to commend Florida governor Jeb Bush’s courageous veto of HB 821. While the legislation would have provided pre-kindergarten for all Florida’s four-year-olds, it didn’t include the quality standards necessary to ensure all children enter school ready to succeed.
Governor Bush’s veto sends a resounding message to the children of his state, their parents, and elected officials: The promise made to Florida’s children in the ballot initiative for a high quality pre-kindergarten system will be kept."
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Jay Mathews discusses portfolio assessments.