Friday, September 17, 2004
Breaking News: Substantiated Rumor...Lifeboat Time For The Leaders?
Is Education Leaders Council going under? The organization's travails are no secret but here's a new development:
The Caribe Royale Resort and Convention Center, where their annual conference was supposed to be held in a few weeks, reports that all reservations and room blocks have been cancelled.
Anyone with more information, please email Eduwonk at: education AT dlcppi DOT org.
Update: Reports of layoffs/downsizing...And, one connected reader says, "I don't think they were expecting the hotel to blab." Don't blame the hotel, Eduwonk's tipster was just surprised to learn the conference was cancelled when he/she went to make a reservation...
Is it time to Follow The Leaders to the lifeboats? A lot of taxpayer dollars tied up here though, women, children, and non-competitive federal grants first?
Update II: Another connected reader says it's all weather related and that Eduwonk is all wet, so to speak...Eduwonk doesn't buy that excuse though because (a) no mass email letting the world know and (b) you can't predict a hurricane a few days out, the conference is still weeks away! If it's concern about damage, still weeks away, too, and the hotel says it's fine. Also, too many other emails going the other way, on a Friday evening no less...
Earlier this week Senators Kennedy and other Senate HELP Committee Democrats introduced a bill with some very modest changes to No Child Left Behind. This close to the election, Republicans are muttering that it’s politics. But that’s not right. Most of what is in the bill are the exact same issues these Democrats have been raising all year in communications with the Department of Education. In fact, it’s only becoming legislation because the Bush Administration has been so thoroughly non-responsive to some legitimate concerns.
The legislation covers several areas. The bottom line is that it’s not a departure from the core accountability requirements of NCLB. Notably it does not include changes to "adequate yearly progress."
What it would do is authorize new funding to help facilitate public school choice. But, it’s only a few-hundred million so if this is the opening bid in a new NCLB funding debate, the NEA can’t be very happy. It also reiterates long-standing concerns about the civil rights requirements that apply to supplemental services providers. It takes on the graduation rate issue and includes authorization for additional funding to help states develop special assessments for disabled students and English language learners and undertake data collection. It would also make NCLB regulatory changes retroactive to previous years, a common-sense policy that the Bush Administration has inexplicably decided to resist. And, it puts a mostly-useful shot across the administration’s bow about scientifically-based research and addresses some problems with multi-disciplinary certifications. So far, so good.
Less encouraging are proposals that would weaken the teacher quality requirements for veteran teachers and paraprofessionals. Who has juice in the teachers’ unions? Guess. Paras are, in fact, the only area where their membership is really growing. Adults versus kids…
So far the reaction from the liberal pro-NCLB Education Trust? Silence. Read into that what you want. Reaction from the NEA? Praise for an important "positive step." Give a moose a muffin…
Also, more on the teacher quality issue from PA.
Today’s New York Times takes the California Charter Academy to task. Bravo. That disaster was reprehensible and is a key argument for high quality charter school authorizing. Loads of students were inexcusably displaced at the start of the school year and the whole episode stinks.
Yet, you have to read to the 23rd graf to find some important contextual information: Most students are in other schools now. But, the article doesn’t note that under the leadership of the dynamo Caprice Young, the California Charter School Association did yeoman’s work to ensure that students found new schools. And, although it’s nowhere in the article, the association was supportive of the closure of the California Charter Academy in the first place. More from Gadfly here.
Moreover, the school superintendent who the NYT portrays as the victim here actually authorized this school in the first place and the district was making a lot of money off the fees for being an authorizer. One informed source tells Eduwonk that the district's budget doubled. Again, what California Charter Academy did is inexcusable, but how about some accountability for poor decision-making by the school district that elected to make a deal with these hucksters in the first place and allowed the situation to get out of hand, too? Not news fit to print apparently.
This debacle is a story worth telling, but worth telling in full because it’s about what went wrong, as well as what went right. The California Charter School Association was every bit as good as the California Charter Academy was not and the school district was not simply a sympathetic victim, really sort of an accomplice…. Again, one solution, better authorizing.
This has to be the most unusual way to find Eduwonk.
Per yesterday's item, Boardbuzz is still weaving their cocoon. Turns out though it's only a half-cocoon, or a cocoonette, if you will. They’ve found a quote in the Wash. Post from one activist about the D.C. City Council race. She was upset at Kevin Chavous’ support for vouchers. Fair enough, though it’s unclear one quote from a political activist in a story indicates a trend.
Nevertheless, to learn more, Eduwonk spoke with another source very familiar with Chavous’ race about this today. According to this person, vouchers did play some role but more as a proxy for the pervasive sense that incumbents were not paying attention to their particular wards rather than as an education issue per se. The defining issue of the race was perceived inattention to the wards, everything else was subsumed by and filtered through that. So, different accounts, and even with this latter one it's unclear what larger inferences can be drawn from it.
In any event, as close readers will note, the irony here is that Eduwonk isn’t even a voucher supporter! But, the relentless search for any shred of evidence to debunk the documented demand for them in some communities is counterproductive. Deny, deny, deny is a recipe for disaster in terms of building long-term support for public schools.
Also, from the department of insatiable appetites, MO argues that CO Senate candidate Ken Salazar's support for voucher pilot programs is insufficiently bold. Apparently it's universal vouchers or bust! Two blogs. One can’t reckon with vouchers, one can’t reckon without ‘em.
Two From BoardBuzz: False Hope And A Dilemma You've Probably Faced Yourself! Boardbuzz takes note of the primary defeat of D.C. Councilman Kevin Chavous. They speculate, implicitly, that perhaps his support for vouchers had something to do with this. Sorry! According to plugged-in D.C. political types the race turned on economic development in neighborhoods that have not benefited from D.C.'s real estate boon. Voucher support was apparently considered something of a plus in the neighborhoods. As Kaus would say, that's how the cocoon gets woven...And, what will Boardbuzz say when Ken Salazar wins the Senate race in CO? Better start planning that spin now! Boardbuzz also has a very interesting write-up about a case in Pennsylvania's Lower Merion School District where the community is debating whether the school district should sign a deal with Nike to market NBA star Kobe Bryant's high school jersey. Boardbuzz wants feedback from school board members who have faced similar situations. Sure. NBA star, accused of rape, criminal case dismissed under weird circumstances, civil suit ongoing, player wants to merchandise high school jersey...this stuff happens all the time. Update! Indefatigable Eduwonk correspondent MS writes to say, "...if they can't have vending machines in schools anymore, then they need to raise money somehow...maybe Michael Jackson has an old band uniform that could be sold."
Boardbuzz takes note of the primary defeat of D.C. Councilman Kevin Chavous. They speculate, implicitly, that perhaps his support for vouchers had something to do with this. Sorry! According to plugged-in D.C. political types the race turned on economic development in neighborhoods that have not benefited from D.C.'s real estate boon. Voucher support was apparently considered something of a plus in the neighborhoods. As Kaus would say, that's how the cocoon gets woven...And, what will Boardbuzz say when Ken Salazar wins the Senate race in CO? Better start planning that spin now!
Boardbuzz also has a very interesting write-up about a case in Pennsylvania's Lower Merion School District where the community is debating whether the school district should sign a deal with Nike to market NBA star Kobe Bryant's high school jersey.
Boardbuzz wants feedback from school board members who have faced similar situations. Sure. NBA star, accused of rape, criminal case dismissed under weird circumstances, civil suit ongoing, player wants to merchandise high school jersey...this stuff happens all the time.
Update! Indefatigable Eduwonk correspondent MS writes to say, "...if they can't have vending machines in schools anymore, then they need to raise money somehow...maybe Michael Jackson has an old band uniform that could be sold."
In the past few weeks two longtime education journalists have decided to join the education fray rather than just report on it. Karin Chenoweth of The Washington Post and Fredreka Schouten of Gannett have swapped pen for sword.
The significance of this? They both landed at the liberal and staunchly pro-NCLB Education Trust... Guess you can only watch poor kids get screwed for so long before you want to do something about it! As one, still working, journalist recently remarked to Eduwonk, it gets awfully hard to do the "half one side and half the other side" on some of this stuff.
Indy Mayor Bart Peterson is New Democrat of the Week.
Topo and AFT's Howard Nelson debate the charter school data on NPR. Trust Eduwonk, you don't want to miss this one... Also, word is that NYT has the Hoxby study but has sent it out for an expert review. Sensible policy, where did it break down last time?
Merit pay in MN.
Parents of college bound students, don't miss Freedman's NYT column today. Also, NYT's Arenson reports on a new study indicating the need for more college aid, except, as NYT's Winter reports, at Brown...
House Republicans have launched a website to fight back against "radical left-wing opposition" to No Child Left Behind. Don't forget the radical right-wing opposition!
New 21st Century Schools Project Bulletin here, sign up to get it free here.
Here is one example of why, unfortunately, education research is frequently derided and ignored: This Education Week article lauds a new study about National Board teachers that is so fundamentally flawed as to have no real validity. The participants in the study elected to participate, they were not really a "sample", and constituted only about half of the NBTPS teachers in Arizona, where the study was conducted. This problem with the research design was raised in the article, by NCTQ's Walsh, but presented as merely a criticism (and sort of an ideological one), not as a problem with the research design serious enough to render the findings pretty meaningless.
Maybe the National Board doesn't see it, but this sort of stuff is bad for them, too. Every study like this diminishes the impact of more sophisticated studies like Dan Goldhaber's (pdf), which give encouragement to the National Board.
Straight Talk On Student Loans
If you follow higher ed issues, don't miss this new paper by Bob Shireman about student loan financing.
Chicago Sun Times takes a look at charter authorizer extraordinaire Greg Richmond.
New data on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from NCES. Lots of interesting and important stuff in here. One striking finding: In 2001, more than one-fifth (22 percent) of all bachelor's degrees awarded to African-Americans were from HBCUs. But, this is down from 35 percent in 1977.
Wanna crank call NY Post editorial writer and blogger Ryan Sager? Well, you're out of luck: This letter to the NYT's Public Editor Xs out his phone number. But, it's a pretty good look at some of the problems with the NYT's charter school reporting although he does not get into the chart. In Eduwonk's view that's probably the most misleading part of the whole sorry episode. He also trots out Topo's new study. This isn't quite fair in this context because it came after the Times story. They could, of course, revisit the issue.
Jonathan Schorr in the Wash. Post and Daniel Weintraub in the Sac. Bee discuss charter schools.
CMS looks at student expulsions. Good and important piece, one quibble. NCLB's provisions on this (which Eduwonk is no fan of anyway) are having no effect because they're basically being gamed. Look elsewhere for culprits.
Bush education advisor Sandy Kress (apparently channeling e.e. cummings) answers questions from Education Week readers here. The guy can sell...
Charter BS Interrupted...Was Fun While It Lasted!
Harvard's Caroline Hoxby has produced a new analysis of charter school achievement (pdf). Rather than the NAEP sample data which has garnered so much attention, Hoxby was able to analyze almost the entire universe of 4th-graders attending charter schools and compare their achievement in reading and math on state assessments to students at the schools they most likely would have otherwise attended. Where 4th-grade data was not available she used 3rd-or 5th-grade data. It's a much more sophisticated study than the recent AFT report (pdf).
Her findings? In every case - except one - where there was a statistically significant difference (at .90 or .95) between public charter schools and the schools charter students would have otherwise attended the difference was positive in favor of public schools. The exception? You guessed it, North Carolina. Nationwide, average gains were small but positive. That'll be the headline; however, because the study is based on state tests this finding is less relevant than the state-by-state data.
Unfortunately, Hoxby's study, too, is limited to elementary schools. More data on charter high schools would be useful as well. And, because some states have fewer than 200 fourth-graders in charter schools they could not be analyzed. Hoxby notes that because the numbers of charter school students are relatively small overall, it's just too soon to jump to sweeping conclusions about whether the charter idea "works". Still, although it would be helpful if Hoxby also published the raw numbers her analysis produced, overall the study is transparent, accessible, and pretty useful. Surely you'll be reading all about it in the NYT any day now.
Cartography Afterthought: Hoxby previously used rivers to draw inferences about parental choice. This study uses longitude and latitude to locate schools. Was she a map maker or explorer in a previous life? Should her nickname be "Topo"?
Update: Welcome Drezner readers. And, Ed Week has more on Topo Hoxby's study. Duke's Helen Ladd raises a good point about the snapshot nature of the study but (a) that didn't stop boosters of the AFT study and (b) for a national study, Hoxby's efforts are pretty good. Not every state has an assessment and data system that allows for the kind of study that Ladd did in North Carolina.
This item from last Thursday has occasioned emails from readers wondering what the big news is/was. Sorry! Other things came up and it slipped.
The news is this $300K Bill Gates contribution to the campaign in Washington State fighting to preserve that state's charter school law which the teachers' union there is trying to take down through a referendum this November. John Walton and Don Fisher have already made large contributions along with many smaller donors. The Gates contribution is noteworthy because it's personal money and not something he generally does.