Saturday, July 24, 2004
Out Of His League? President Bush's Missed Opportunity Or His Empty Pantry?
Reading President Bush's speech to the Urban League on Friday (which, in fairness, had some good points) it's hard not to be struck by his inability to explain No Child Left Behind in a crisp way that crystallizes for listeners (a) what the law requires (b) why it's important to them (c) why many of the gripes from critics don't make a lot of sense and (d) what's next. In front of this audience all that seems especially important.
Although it's now CW that John Kerry should borrow John Edwards' "Two Americas" theme, it's probably President Bush who would benefit more from listening to Edwards as he describes the two public school systems that now exist.
Of course, Edwards follows up the indictment with some ideas for educational improvement whereas for Bush it's almost as if educational time stopped in January 2002, when NCLB was signed. Perhaps that's his problem, this is a game about looking forward, not back, and at this point he doesn't seem to have a lot of educational ideas to look forward to. It looks like the Bush - Cheney team was betting that the Democratic ticket would just campaign against accountability and in the process hand them an issue and now, because that hasn't happened, they're at a loss.
Inside Baseball Afterthought: Dan Gerstein, Michelle Stockwell, and Elizabeth Fay have all left the Hill, too, so the Bush team can't just steal their ideas this time around either!
Calling All Ostriches
The National School Boards Association is happily basking in some new CBS News polling results showing African-Americans are less favorably disposed toward school vouchers than some other educational reform options. That's true, as multiple polls show. However, it's a dangerous mistake to misread these poll numbers as evidence that minorities don't support vouchers, which NSBA also does. As Ellis Cose noted recently in Newsweek:
"...most people view vouchers in a positive light. Some 66 percent of blacks and 67 percent of Hispanics favor vouchers, as do 54 percent of whites. But most people understand quite clearly that in the real world they are not likely to get a voucher that will allow them to send a child to any school of their dreams. So it is not inconsistent that a majority of Americans favor increasing funding for public education over providing parents with vouchers. Nor it is surprising that blacks, even more than whites, strongly support funding for public schools."
Likewise, it's also not inconsistent that minorities are going to support vouchers when they're offered because many low-income parents are desperate for better quality educational options for their kids. They're not hostile toward public education, they just want what's best for their own children and there is an attractive immediacy to vouchers that most other reforms (with the notable exception of public charter schooling and radically changing the distribution of teachers) do not offer.
Eduwonk's no fan of vouchers for practical and philosophical reasons, but recognizing and acknowledging this reality -- the understandable support for them in the African-American community and the demand for change now -- is essential to addressing the very real problems that threaten to erode support for public education. Denying this angst is a recipe for disaster over the long haul.
This poll (PDF) from the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies also offers a more textured view about public opinion.
If you're interested in the politics of education, be sure to check out Frederick Hess' article "Inclusive Ambiguity: Multicultural Conflict in an Era of Accountability" in the January - March Educational Policy.
Hess writes that, "Today, hardly any prominent educators or academics explicitly oppose the principal of diversity in the curriculum…The debate is really about the appropriate extent of such efforts."
He notes that seeking to stave off conflict an "augmentative" approach is often used to include additional content in a curriculum. But, if for no other reason than time, this approach is at odds with high stakes accountability requiring students to master certain material at different points in their schooling.
Hess concludes that,
"The challenge for policy makers is that high-stakes accountability requires tough-minded choices regarding what students will be expected to master. Useful curricular guidelines must be coherent, reasonable, and concrete. However, the checks and balances of the American system, with its plentiful veto points, and permeable democracy, tend to promote grandiose ambiguity. Faced with intensely concerned particular constituencies and a largely apathetic public, policy makers tend to seek compromise when faced with sympathetic demands. Policy makers add material to the standards to placate irate constituencies or make standards vague enough to alleviate complainant concerns that their preferred content is being marginalized. Public officials find it easy to face down such pressure only when the complainants lack legitimacy, make demands that contradict authoritative scholarly principles, or run afoul of the constitutional regime."
There is plenty more. It doesn't uncover new information but it's a terrific analysis of an important issue and worth checking out.
Number Two Pencil doesn't think much of the proposal in NY to move away from the SAT. And, more funding back and forth in Albany. More here from NYT. Daily News weighs in here. Summer school figures out in NYC, too.
Uh-Oh in LA.
Yet, more CTU election news. Forgive the pun, but however this turns out it's very old school.
AP writes up a successful Virginia school.
And, DCedublog has some scoop on the still ongoing superintendent search in D.C. Kind of hard to find a candidate when actually wanting the job should be considered disqualifying...
A concerned reader writes:
I was absolutely appalled to read Tuesday’s lascivious post. After reading the line “the journalistic equivalent of a lap dance – some squirming and faux enthusiasm but no real payoff,” the only thing that could calm my nerves was the thought that so many of our children are unable to read. Never did I think Eduwonk would work blue.
Wonder why it's so hard to address teacher quality problems? Well, one reason is reflexive opposition to new ideas. Hint: They forget to mention that TFA teachers outperformed certified and veteran teachers too and no mention of the lack of research linking certification with student learning. Curious...
Wonder why schools are so worried about being sued? Well, one reason is a lot of litigous parents...
Excellent Peter Schrag column about California's school governance woes. Schrag says that Riordan's recent gaffe is symbolic of larger systemic problems. Via Schoolwise Press.
In Los Angeles favorable reviews for the school district's new administrator training program. In Minnesota, the same for the new state education chief there.
In NYC less favorable reviews for New York Governor Pataki's approach to the NYC schools. And, in Newsday, Sheryl McCarthy has less than kind words for Bloomberg-Klein.
Washington Times writes up the Department of Education's recent NCLB summit...they like it! And, AP reports that President Bush will lay out a new plan for high school reform...one day.
In Chicago, the mayor's new school initiative is getting dragged into the teachers' union election there.
Arizona is challenging a U.S. Department of Education policy that makes for-profit charter schools ineligible for federal funds (non-profit charters or charters that contract with for-profit companies can already receive federal funds).
New 21st Century Schools Project Bulletin available now.
Dan Drezner offers his thoughts on the recent Chicago Tribune series on NCLB and p.s. choice. And Hip Teacher and Joanne Jacobs both take note of Duke's decision to give students iPods.
And, if Eduwonk's email is a guide, many people are still wondering, who is Hans Moleman?
Working on Voc-Ed
Ed Trust doesn't like some parts of the vocational education reauthorization now moving through Congress.
Chicago Trib continues its ground-level look at how public school choice is working there. In MA, the legislature does not override the governor's veto of a charter school moratorium.
And, in The Washington Monthly, Jonathan Schorr writes about Senator Kerry's teacher plan:
"As the campaign moves forward, Kerry's teacher plan may prove to be very clever politics. By challenging the teachers' unions, Kerry gains centrist credibility in an area where he's bucked the liberal line before. (During his 1998 Senate race, he called for an end to teacher tenure.) It also gives Kerry a signature reform that contrasts him with Bush...
But if the plan makes for good politics, is it good policy, too? Is it focused on the big problem? Would it be a credible solution? And is there more Kerry should be doing? The answer to all four questions is yes."
It’s said that slot machines are the crack cocaine of gamblers: a quick rush but pretty financially debilitating over the long-term (just ask Bill Bennett). What’s less known is that they may have the same impact on state legislatures, too. An article by University of Nevada professor William Thompson in The Washington Post examines the broader fiscal impact of slot machine gambling. Considering that education finance is frequently offered up as a rationale for slot machines, Dr. Thompson's analysis, while not bullet-proof, has important implications.
Post readers dicuss the article with Thompson in an online chat here.
NYT's Dillon looks at student mobility, and Samuel Freedman offers the first part of a two-part look at education and youth in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute (and, incidentally, continues the resurrection of the column...).
Jay Mathews poses some tough questions about IB and AP teaching.
AP traces some of the Bush education agenda to Oregon, a state apparently previously better known for long hair and hackysack.
More evidence that the House Republican gambit on unspent funds is not getting traction.
The Baltimore Sun writes up a new analysis of the schools there. And, in WI will the governor expand the school voucher program there? Both via educationnews.org.
Don’t miss this evaluation (PDF) of the Chancellor’s District in NYC by the Institute for Education and Social Policy. Though the initiative is over, there are plenty of lessons for today’s policy debates. The intro does a great job laying out the parameters of today’s debate:
“…the Chancellor’s District initiative challenges several influential currents of recent reform theory that link the necessity for decentralization with the need to provide maximum autonomy at the school level to achieve successful schools. In Politics, Markets and America’s Schools, John Chubb and Terry Moe argued that the key characteristic that distinguishes academically effective private schools from less effective public schools is the extent of autonomy at the school level…
Chubb and Moe’s influential arguments stressed the inevitability of bureaucratization and consequent poor school performance unless schools are severed from district control and governed by market principles.”
Though it manifests itself through a variety of issues and political disputes, that’s the crux of today’s debate. And that's why this study is worth reading.
In the Summer 2004 City Journal Sol Stern takes a look at No Child Left Behind, its origins, status quo, and prospects. Parts of the article are the journalistic equivalent of a lap dance – some squirming and faux enthusiasm but no real payoff. That said, it’s well worth reading because: (a) It shows many of the counters of the debate today, and (b) Stern gives a peak at the Republican hole card should an overhaul of NCLB become a real possibility.
Stern notes that a lot of schools are being identified as needing improvement under NCLB’s parameters for “adequate yearly progress,” causing angst in many communities. He offers the deal that will likely be part of the Republican endgame should push come to shove on NCLB:
“… the top education reform goal of a second Bush administration should be to revisit NCLB’s accountability and choice provisions when the act’s reauthorization comes due in 2006. Since the branding of so many schools as “failing” has vexed public school officials around the country, President Bush, along with his education reform allies in Congress, could offer Democrats this deal: “Let’s agree to limit the number of schools considered failing, but if we can’t find room in successful public schools for the kids from the really bad schools, then at least let’s give those children a chance at private schools.”
This sort of gambit is what is waiting in the wings, which is why NCLB foes would be wise to tread lightly. It will be interesting to see if the urban schools are willing to stand by while suburban schools get let of the hook for comparable achievement gaps.
By the way, the root cause of the strictness of the accountability system? Well, it’s not this gem of revisionism (Quick! Look out for the falling anvil!):
A second concession changed the definition of a failing school, since liberal Democrats wanted to include not just schools with consistently atrocious test results for all students, but also those in which a small racial or ethnic subgroup was doing poorly, even if most of their classmates were doing fine. “Some of the Democrats on the other side didn’t want to say that it’s okay to have one group falling behind in a school,” recalls the administration’s point man in the negotiations, Sandy Kress, a former chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. “In effect, they were telling us that if you really want to say, ‘No Child Left Behind,’ then let’s really leave no child behind.”
Hmmm…didn’t the President campaign on the importance of disaggregated results and how integral they were to the Texas model? Besides, minority kids in suburban schools deserve a fair shake, too, don’t they? And NCLB doesn’t require states and districts to respond to poor subgroup results with whole school interventions, only interventions targeted to improve results for the specific subgroup, so these rules are less onerous than they’re commonly made out to be.
The Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality is looking for a policy analyst. If you have a good grasp of K-16 education issues and can write and think independently, this just might be for you. Teaching experience and/or a policy background a must. NCTQ is a small, entrepreneurial organization, so it’s a great chance to gain a lot of experience if you’re willing to pitch in with whatever is necessary. For more information email Kate Walsh at kwalsh AT nctq.org
More Detroit Charter School Nonsense...
It's hard to think of a more effective way to erode public support for public education than the tactics of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. Are they secretly getting payoffs from the pro-voucher folks? There is really no other plausible explanation...
More Detroit charter news here. 17 percent of Detroit students have moved to public charter schools since 1999. Perhaps a message? Apparently one that's lost on DFT...
NY Post says Klein-Bloomberg are doing pretty well. OK, actually, in the NY Post Klein says that Klein-Bloomberg are doing pretty well.
Don't miss Bob Herbert in the NYT today, major education hook.
More Praxis Disaster. Possible class-action lawsuits in PA and OH.
NYT's Gootman reports changes to the NCLB transfer provisions in Gotham. Expect a dust-up over this one. Here's Eva Moskowitz putting a shot over the bow of the SS Bloomberg-Klein:
"My fear is that this is a step backward in terms of the implementation of choice for poor parents," Ms. Moskowitz said.
The Chicago Trib looks at how the provisions are playing out there through the experience of one student.
Another look at Washington's SEED School. Via Educationnews.org
Wash Post's Balz says that when President Bush decides to share his plans for a second term, higher ed policy will play a role.
In Florida, more evidence that doing school choice right is harder than just doing it.
The right is thrilled about the NLRB ruling on graduate student organizing. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation writes, "While some students may have Marxist dreams that they are 'workers,' rather than students, who will be in the vanguard of an economic revolution when the workers of the world unite, the fact remains that they are students and not employees, and have little commonality of interest with most employees."
Well, it's a little more complicated than that. The obvious counterpoint is that assuming all teaching assistants have little commonality with most workers is to buy into a romanticized view of life in academia. It's not all seeking truth in the groves...
New, and positive, data on the well-being of American youth reports AP. And, AP's Feller writes up the formal AFT endorsement of John Kerry for president.
EIA's Mike Antonucci has some interesting thoughts on what the new AFT president means for that organization and for labor more generally. And, he outs the rumor of the week on that front.
Ms. Frizzle proposes a cool summer science experiment. Pinky Nelson, call your office. Number Two Pencil points out logical flaws in some arguments against standardized testing.
And, Ed Fitzgerald notes that the more obesity there is in a state the more likely it is to vote for Bush. He also notes that the same is true the less a state spends on education. The connection? Obvious! Weighted student formulas!
In the July 9, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education Review Robert Zemsky and William F. Massy discuss ($) the promise and pitfalls of e-learning. They write that a "pervading sense of disappointment" now surrounds e-learning because of unfulfilled expectations. Still, they caution that dismissing e-learning is foolish because it's here to stay and can play an important role in education.
Zemsky and Massy cite three common assumptions that they argue have been proven wrong:
*If we build it, they will come.
*The kids will take to e-learning like ducks to water.
*E-learning will force a change in how we teach.
They say that instead, "faculty members use the electronics to simplify tasks, not to fundamentally change how they teach their subjects" and conclude that,
The technology's skeptics, emboldened by the fact that, to date, its failures have been much more prominent than its limited successes, will challenge each new product and innovation. Yet despite the difficulties of the recent years, we count ourselves among the optimists who believe electronically mediated instruction can eventually become a standard mode of instruction. E-learning is still alive and kicking. On most campuses, money is being spent, smart classrooms are being built, and faculty members are experimenting with new ways of bringing electronically mediated learning into the classroom. Ultimately, the lure of learning anytime, anywhere will prove irresistible.