Friday, September 10, 2004
More Bush Administration NCLB
Per the item below, it's also worth mentioning the September 3, Wall Street Journal editorial (sorry, not free online). As much as they could bring themselves to do, the WSJ took the Bush Administration to task for not enforcing the public school choice provisions of the law in New York City and elsewhere. They likewise praised NYC Councilwoman and education committee chair Eva Moskowitz for her work on the issue. Funny, none of the speeches at the Republican Convention mentioned this...probably just an oversight.
New Catalyst is out, several interesting articles on alternative certification. And, among the offerings, two with national implications. Worth reading is Alexander Russo's look at supplemental services in Chicago. Note the Department of Education's tough talk on oversight...yeah right, don't hold your breath! Russo notes that Chicago may have captured the market just in time to lose it all.
Less worthwhile is a look at Teach For America (TFA). TFA places exceptional recent college graduates in hard-to-serve schools for a two-year stint. After that about two-thirds stay involved in education in some capacity and the rest go on to other pursuits. That means --surprise! -- TFA teachers are less likely to stay for a third year. Critics are outraged and apparently this is news.
Sure, it would be ideal if more TFA teachers stayed on but, as the article points out, these young people have many opportunities to choose from. And, there is general agreement that they do a good job in the classroom while they're there and - gasp - help the children they serve which, after all the adults are done fighting, is the goal. No?
Retention matters, but so does context. TFA works in the most troubled schools where students are least likely to have good teachers now. Beating up on TFA about retention is a classic case of making the perfect the enemy of the good. Besides, according to the article, actual Chicago principals seem pretty happy with their TFA'ers. Let's stop ascribing all sorts of goals -- that are not actually their goals-- to TFA and then castigating them for falling short of these various strawmen.
Also in Catalyst, TFA critic Barnett Berry gets a few licks in about the recent TFA study. Apparently modest gains are sufficient to laud the National Board For Professional Teaching Standards, but not good enough for TFA. And, released just Wednesday, here is another study (by some TFA critics, incidentally) where small gains for National Board teachers are big news! In fact, here's Berry's organization lauding that very study, too. Their analysis soberly notes that, "It is always important to understand the methods researchers use to answer their questions." Indeed it is! Modest gains aside, this new study is basically a self-response study, the National Board teachers elected to participate, they were not a random sample...take with much salt...(Pssst! National Board advocates, stick with Goldhaber!)
So hmmm...where does that leave us? Establishment types like the National Board, so modest gains there are great news! Establishment types very much dislike TFA, so modest gains there are cause for great concern... OK, fair enough!
Charter School Hat Trick, Kudos For Warner...And, Eduwonk Comes Clean: I Never Reported For National Guard Duty In The 1970s...
On the charter front a generous gift for facilities in D.C. from Sallie Mae, good news from CA, and more good news from Indianapolis. And, big charter news coming later today...stay tuned...
The DLC has named Virginia Governor Mark Warner "New Democrat of the Week" for his work on education.
BoardBuzz offers some interesting historical context about education and makes a good point about the lunacy of current state finance practices, but they're a little too sanguine about graduation rates, which aren't as good as they claim...
On a boring conference call? Try your hand at TIMSS math, science, and civics questions here.
Homeless kids as human shields...nice tactic!
The conventional wisdom about No Child Left Behind is that (a) Democrats hate it now and (b) the law will identify every school in the nation as a failure within a year or two.
Yesterday, Democratic Representative Tom Allen (ME) was preparing to introduce an amendment to the appropriations bill that would have suspended NCLB's accountability provisions until the law was "fully funded." Leaving aside what a dreadful political move that is in the current environment, below are excerpts from letter sent by George Miller (CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee and a key NCLB architect, to all his colleagues:
...While I strongly support full funding of NCLB, I am opposed to the Allen amendment because its passage would send the signal that Congress is not serious about NCLB's reforms and, even worse, it would reduce the impetus for improved achievement. We must continue to improve our schools even as we fight for full funding and fair implementation of the law.
The Allen amendment risks the progress we have already made under NCLB by removing incentives to improve schools. In 2003, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, approximately two-third of fourth graders still are not proficient at reading or math - and the numbers are even worse for students from low-income families and minorities. What is the message of the Allen amendment to these students and their families: schools don't have to continue efforts to improve performance for all students? Congress doesn't care if over 60 percent of students perform below grade level?
If the House wants to address the education achievement problems these students are experiencing, the proper way to do so is to provide the resources we promised the schools when we passed the law, not by sending a signal that Congress will not hold schools accountable if children continue to fall behind.
Attached is a letter signed by more than 100 African American and Latino school district superintendents that urges, 'Don't turn back the clock on the accountability provisions in Title I.' They recognize that while NCLB is challenging, the high expectations NCLB sets for every child - including those who are disadvantaged, minority, or living in poverty - are good news for these children, who can no longer be swept underneath overall averages. These superintendents appreciate the leverage that NCLB's accountability requirements give them for improving their schools.
I urge you to oppose the Allen amendment.
Miller sure doesn't sound too wobbly. The amendment was withdrawn.
The second piece of CW is about the rampant over-identification of schools. In theory this could be a big problem down the road for technical reasons if the law were not changed, but federal laws are overhauled every few years and NCLB's drafters were keenly aware of this. In any event, USA Today reported earlier this week that the sky is not falling and Education Week's Olson confirms this (with charts, too!).
Afterthought: Eduwonk does the naysayers work for them...possible CW revival here!
Pre-K Education Gaps...Solvable
The problem: Big gaps in preparation for students entering school, one key cause of the achievement gap.
The solution: Expanding access to high quality pre-K education. In a new paper, PPI analyst Sara Mead explains how policymakers can wed the liberal call for greater preschool investments to the conservative call to reform existing programs to raise standards and offer more children quality academic preparation.
Yes, yes, yes, Eduwonk knows there are exceptions to this characterization on both sides of the debate, but it's a good synopsis of the general contours. If you're hungry for more nuance, read the damn paper!
Many of you asked, we belatedly responded. You can all stop sending notes about newsreaders now; on the left are two buttons so you can now add Eduwonk.com to your favorite newsreader. Many thanks to our web manager, adding those was way beyond Eduwonk's technical capabilities.
NY Post writes up the new Hoxby charter school study but, sorry, no link to the study itself yet. Consequently, also no review yet.
NYT's Gootman takes a long look at new principals from the Klein - Bloomberg principal factory. Pretty much a must-read if you follow that issue. Also in the NYT, Samuel "Freud" Freedman takes a look at anxiety dreams and school anxiety.
Concerned about investments in education and other social programs? Then this should scare you...
Conflicts between No Child transfer rights and athletic eligibility for high school students have been causing concern. Here's a story from KY on the issue. There is not a simple solution to this one. Via NASBE.
The rumors about NEA membership troubles appear to be entirely unfounded. The President's column in NEA Today (Eduwonk's an avid NEA Today reader so he knows what to think, and you should be too...) notes that 1 in 10 Americans are NEA members. That's a lot! In fact, as alert reader Mike Antonucci of Education Intelligence Agency fame was quick to note, the real figure is 1 in 100. What's a decimal point left behind among friends? Quickly fixed/Kremlin-style airbrushed version here.
Finally, in the character education department, if you needed any more evidence about how horribly craven the New York Yankees are, it's here.
USA Today: Sky Not Falling
It's been rumored for a while, but now it's official: The sky is not falling because of No Child Left Behind.
USA Today's Toppo writes up the story that has NCLB foes frustrated and hard-core proponents skeptical: Fewer schools not making "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) under NCLB than forecast.
Why? Explanations abound, regulatory changes, politics, gaming, or even - gasp- more attention to students who were not doing so well.
In Eduwonk's view here are three likely reasons that, in concert, are likely the cause:
1) More attention to struggling students. Though the law is not without problems, when you get out around the country it's hard to miss the increased attention to students who were previously shunted aside. And, though they get eviscerated by the powers-that-be for saying it publicly, a lot of educators privately acknowledge that.
2) The regulatory changes. Under pressure, the Bush Administration did make some sensible regulatory changes, that's obviously had an effect too. However, these changes did not "help" as many schools as was assumed.
3) Statistical fluctuations. Single-year test score are imprecise and subject to all kinds of fluctuation. This is why the law allows states to employ a variety of tools to average scores over multiple years, use confidence intervals, and so forth. It's also why no serious consequences are attached to AYP until a school fails to make progress for several years. In other words, this year's numbers are just one year, not definitive.
Afterthought: The charge that these changes are all politics is silly. Had the Bush administration not moved on some changes people would be charging politics, too. Remember, the CW not long ago was that this was all about making public schools look bad, now it's about making them look too good?...One exception to all this, of course, Texas...
This article in Education Next about "multiple intelligence" along with another journal article are reigniting that debate. Jay Mathews gives you the landscape in today's Washington Post.
A new study (pdf) by Duke's Helen Ladd and University of Connecticut Professor Robert Bifulco about charter school achievement in North Carolina is worth reading. Ladd and Bifulco find that, overall, charter school students there lag and make smaller gains than they would in traditional public schools. This study is much more methodologically sophisticated than the recent AFT study, both because of the data available and the skills of the researchers.
Couple of takeaways:
1) Something is amiss in NC and hopefully further research will tease out what. Ladd and Bifulco cite student mobility as one factor.
2) This shows how state specific charter schooling policies are. The findings stand in contrast to results from other states and other studies. Something to keep in mind.
3) Calculus of education politics: Well done study = very little press, hatchet job = front page of New York Times...oh well.
Also, North Carolina's public schools have been improving (pdf) over the past decade as the state has pursued a standards-based focus. That improvement could be enhancing this effect...still not good news for charters though.
Also, Part II: Harvard econ whiz Caroline Hoxby has new charter data coming out, apparently this week and apparently much more robust than the AFT data.
Also, Part III: CSM's Mendez takes a long look at the choice debate.
NYT Baffles Readers! Mr. Sun Does Education...And, More DC Vouchers...
In Governing Alan Greenblatt takes a look at state level politics and policy around No Child Left Behind. Also, No Child Left Behind data from NYC. Punchline: Sky not falling there either.
But, no matter! Surely it must be falling somewhere...Thank goodness the New York Times will not rest until we know where! The result: Big Sunday NYT story on the conflict between state and federal school rating systems.
Sorry Republicans, the NYT bias is not a liberal one. A liberal bias might mean, for instance, clearly pointing out that previous state accountability systems (including North Carolina's, which is featured in the story) didn't hold schools explicitly accountable for the progress of poor and minority students and explaining why the new law does so. Instead, this article only gets at that indirectly and in a confusing way while focusing a lot on overall averages at various schools and disabled students. Readers left baffled? Probably.
Best line of the story:
When she met with four other Hinsdale South mothers to discuss the problem, she wondered aloud whether colleges would now look down on Hinsdale South applicants. And a friend, Donna Siefer, voiced another worry: How would real estate agents finesse the bad news to potential home buyers? That rang bells for Diane Bolos, president of a Hinsdale South fund-raising group.
"Yeah, did Congress consider what labeling a school would do to property values?" Mrs. Bolos asked.
There was a time when Timesmen would be outraged by such naked self-interest at the expense of the disadvantaged. Comforting the afflicted? Whatever...
Update: MO has more and channels Hirschman cum Chubb and Moe...NCLB foes, beware...
Elsewhere, Wash Post takes another look at the DC voucher program. Gadfly and DC Education Blog both point out that most analysis at this point is pretty subjective.
Neall Pierce weighs in on the charter flap here. And AP dissects an emotional education controversy here.
Mr. Sun, a hilarious blog you should be reading if you're not, makes a foray into education reform.