Saturday, November 13, 2004
Plenty to read around the web, but save time and just read this Washington Post account. It's the best around, basically has it all, and you don't even need to read between the lines too much to see what's going on (note to investors, should Bill Bennett's comments be interpreted as a call to sell?). Odds are now on Spellings as the replacement...she's talented, competent, and pragmatic but it's unclear what she can do on the unity front...On the other hand, she's not a voucher zealot and doesn't drink that or other conservative Kool-Aid so 'wingers likely to be disappointed....
More NCLB Fizzle, New NCTQ Report...And, More Scopes!
A helpful reader sent a link to this NPR item about a school in Chicago. Interesting story...
In Virginia, the anti-No Child Left Behind revolt fizzles. Across the country -- for a variety of reasons -- this is a story of a dog that didn't bark, some enterprising reporter will write that up sooner or later...Virginia's SOL program is excellent yet NCLB critics in Virginia would have more credibility if they'd at least acknowledge and highlight the approximately 20 point gaps between black and white students in reading and math and the smaller, though still significant gaps between white and Hispanic students. Though positive in many ways, one thing that Virginia's SOLs did not do is explicitly hold schools accountable for gap closing.
Also re NCLB, This Week in Education writes up a new NCLB memo from the NEA that's floating around. The nut? About 10,000 schools in school improvement because of No Child. Sounds high until you consider that there were about 8,000 under the previous 1994 version of the law (though a Department of Ed analysis in the late 1990s found that only half got any assistance at all, fewer still meaningful help). Neither the memo nor This Week points the historical context out. The difference now, of course, is that being in school improvement actually means something.
Very provocative piece on ideology in higher education from The Chronicle of Higher Ed.
The National Council on Teacher Quality has released a handy primer (pdf) about policies that can help or hinder efforts to improve teaching.
Andy Anderson runs a cool blog about school law, in loco parentis. Per this post he also points up this Volkh post about the whole Scopes business.
Also, if school law issues float your boat, check out this WSJ column about the potential splitting of the 9th Circuit. Lots of implications, education decisions among them.
ELC Conference -- Whole Language or Decoding?
If you're dropping in because of the bizarre promotional email sent by the Education Leaders Council's flacks, be sure to read the entire item, not just the selective bits in the email...the minor correction will make more sense, too.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Who says young people are not passionate about politics?
Three zoo school students face charges for using a bat to beat another student who taunted them about being John Kerry supporters days after the contentious election...
"It's a good thing to see young people interested and excited about politics," said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom. "It's obviously very disturbing to see this kind of violence over it."
Here's a great and pretty comprehensive roundup of state education action from election day via Ed Week's Hoff and Trotter.
In Business Week William Symonds discusses the trend of public universities seeking to operate like private ones.
Catalyst Chicago points out that the new requirements for teacher quality don't do much to actually improve teacher quality...key graf:
[CPS Official] Botana says the revamped requirements won’t necessarily dilute teacher quality. But, he concedes, “If you equate having a degree in the content area with being higher quality, then the new requirements probably don’t help the quality pool.”
In other words, unless you think that knowing something about the content you're teaching matters, this is no biggie…
From NYC Samuel Freedman looks at small schools and growing pains related to that initiative. The Gothamist says, forget the big picture, the even the bathrooms are a dump. One solution here, used by some schools, is have the adults and the kids all use the same bathrooms. Empowers and respects the kids and you can bet the toilet paper and soap get refilled...
The Washington Post reports on high-achieving students using transfer provisions under No Child Left Behind that were ostensibly designed to help struggling students. This is a tough dilemma; the obvious answer is to restrict transfers to students who are below grade level or in subgroups that are not making Adequate Yearly Progress. However, NCLB's architects (unfortunately they don't make the story) were concerned that limiting the transfer rights to such students would lead to a "push-out" problem as schools sought to send struggling students elsewhere rather than focus on them. On a more basic level, wouldn't allowing parents to chose from among various public schools as a matter of course make more sense and increase buy-in anyway? When you stop and think about it, it seems amazing that we're still having a huge debate about whether all parents should be able to choose among public providers of a public service. Not a way to ensure constituency loyalty over time, that's for sure...
Update: D.C. Education Blog offers a take on this, more blunt, but he probably speaks for a lot of parents...
Like others, Eduwonk was skeptical about whether ELC was going to be able to pull out of its tailspin. Yet they seem to be doing just that (and caught a big break with the election, Eduwonk assumes the early exit polls caused an anxious afternoon at ELC world headquarters!). Here's the agenda (pdf) for their annual conference (December 3-4), rescheduled from October. It's a little light on the bipartisanship (isn't unity the order of the day now???) but some interesting folks nonetheless.
If you go, don't miss the dynamite panel on standards and assessments with Achieve's Matt Gandal, Princeton Review's John Katzman, NWA's Allan Olson, and ELC's Ted Rebarber. Similarly, the charming and brilliant Denzel McGuire, a key Republican education aide in the Senate, speaks about special education and
Eduwonk won't be there (he's well over his Orlando quota for the year) but any feedback via email much appreciated...
Postcard From The Edge
A Mid-Atlantic urban administrator writes Eduwonk about No Child Left Behind, he/she's a fan, here is why:
...the public has no idea just how powerful NCLB is....and that the [Bush] administration has actually failed to effectively convey what it's truly all about and what it's truly accomplishing...
...for the first time in years, in the poorest performing of this city's schools, the discussion and focus is all about kids doing grade level work. Not about eking out gains, moving kids closer to grade level, but actually about moving them to grade level...
...for the first time, administrators and teachers are looking at the data constantly...and that in many of the lowest performing schools, it's transforming the way in which educators talk about kids...schools are starting to understand that this is all about kids. That improving from having 5% of a middle school's graduating 8th graders to 15%...which is what AYP's [adequate yearly progress] "Safe Harbor" requirements is all about...actually comes down to committing to having thirty 8th-graders leave on grade level, versus just ten, in an average-sized urban middle school...
...I'm seeing that happen in many schools…the criticism that this can be easily manipulated or leads to 'test prep city' is totally misguided. We've done test prep every year for years....and our lowest performing schools haven't moved. At all. [NCLB] is forcing us to look at grade level standards, and figure out what it's going to take to move kids to them. And, in our schools that are now moving, the challenge is now tomove from 15% of the graduating 8th graders to 25%....and so, in a middle school that just two years ago had 10 students head off to high school being able to do grade level work....they are now aiming (and on track!) to send 50 students on to high school fully able to compete, graduate and go on to higher ed if they want.
This is a totally misunderstood law…[NCLB] is a wonderful tool and leverage point for district leaders...if they choose to buy in....those that don't, are missing out on a great opportunity.
Wash. Post's Jay Mathews takes an interesting and fair look at the experience of Edison Schools in Philadelphia.
Robert Kimball is still beating the dropout drum in Houston, but this will likely have less traction now that the election is over.
Karl Rove wants to think we are relieving the Mark Hanna days, and he might be right. But do we have to go through the Scopes trial again, too? There is a lot of this going around in several states. Link via Teach and Learn.
This weekend was the 19th Annual World Championship Punkin' Chunkin' in Sussex County, Delaware. Competitors from around the country matched wits and machines to see who could hurl an 8lb frozen pumpkin the furthest. The winner, Old Glory, hurled their second pumpkin an impressive 4,224', shy of the world record but good enough to win the day.
An increasing number of school groups, like this one below, are entering. It's a great way for students to learn about physics, engineering, sportsmanship, and c'mon, it's a whole lot of fun... Eduwonk thinks that in addition to their obvious sagaciousness; this school won the youth trebuchet division!
Photo Credit: The Eduwife
NY Daily News' Williams takes a look at an interesting argument put forward by NYC's Klein in the school finance case (but possibly too late in the game...).
Here's a case of poor charter school authorizing from MN. They're experimenting out there with allowing a variety of community entities to sponsor public charter schools. But, for the authorizers, as Spiderman learned, with great power comes great responsibility. Looks like it was not exercised here. For the school's part, a lot of poor planning and apparently, according to folks on the ground, an aversion to taking advantage of various supports that were in place to help new schools get off the ground.
Here are some interesting thoughts on charter schools, rural communities, and the WA state referendum. Via Jacobs.
Wonder why some teachers are understandably skeptical of pay-for-performance schemes? Here's an indication.
Keep an eye on IDEA during the lame duck session. These folks will! Via Educationnews.org
In Jay Mathews' Washington Post column Harvard's Marty West and the American Federation of Teachers Howard Nelson debate the recent AFT charter report.
It's a worthwhile read if you're interested in the issue but will likely do nothing to clear the air around the basic issues here. That's in no small part because West can only wait three paragraphs to accuse the AFT of being hypocrites when it comes to using test score data to make inferences about school quality. He, and several coauthors, unfortunately employed the same argument in a Wall Street Journal column immediately after the AFT report was released and missed a golden opportunity to set the record straight.
It's a line of argument that is counterproductive for two reasons. For starters, except apparently at the New York Times, there is little doubt among major education journalists about the AFT's reliability as an objective source of information on these issues. Second, raising these issues obscures the real problems with how the AFT presented the NAEP data (and of course how the NYT reported it) in a cloud of ideological back and forth. People assume that this is just another iteration of the left-right education debate. Unpacking the charter data for lay readers would be a lot more productive than pushing a point that has a lot more to do with the voucher debate than charters. To be fair, West makes a lot of good points about the AFT study, but probably after many readers have stopped reading.
Nelson offers thin gruel. He continues to accuse the Bush Administration of suppressing this and other information about charter schools (Yoohoo! The election is over…we lost. Enough is enough…). Careful readers will see that Nelson is skating on thin empirical ice and frequently seeks to change the topic.
The debate also gets into the recent Hoxby study and is well worth reading. Still, one wishes that the insightful Jay Mathews, who knows how to aggressively moderate a debate and get at the facts, had done more of that here.
West clearly wins on points but it could have been a knockout.