Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Weighing Weighted Funding
Great Ed Week letter to the editor from a Seattle teacher about one of the reforms du jour, weighted student funding. In essence he says that to make this strategy work you need some Hessian style tough-love. Tough sledding considering the culture...
Writing in Newsday Jay Greene argues in favor of President Bush's proposal to expand No Child Left Behind to include testing at the high school level. Greene is basically right that increased accountability produces some benefits, as Martin Carnoy told The New York Times "There's some probability I would be wrong. But if I were to put my money on something right now, I would try [accountability]."
Still, the President's proposal raises two eduissues. First, as a practical matter testing companies are about stretched to their limit in terms of their capacity to deliver exams to states, minimize errors, and yes, make any money. The money point matters because a race to the bottom on test quality is not a desirable outcome. No Child Left Behind increased the amount of testing around the country (though it did also thankfully displace some existing testing). While the 3-8 testing is shaking out, is it really wise to lay more pressure on the system to produce more tests (and at the high school level more complicated tests)?
Second, this proposal is basically what passes for a "big idea" on education for the Bush second-term. Eduwonk can't help but wonder if the persistent inability of too many Democrats to say very much interesting about education, beyond opposing various ideas and demanding more money hasn't lowered the bar so much for Republicans that even lame, small, or ill-considered ideas take on an outsized veneer of importance. You know, a lot of the Bush education ideas were pilfered from Democrats, even back in Texas. Perhaps now, if the Bush well is indeed running dry, is a good time for Democrats to pounce with some new ideas of their own?
There was a lot of debate about school discipline during the just-completed IDEA reauthorization. It's an important issue and was a contentious debate but Eduwonk is pretty sure this approach was not on the table (course Senators-elect DeMint (SC) and Coburn (OK) have not taken office yet):
At the Mantanuska Christian School in Wasilla, Alaska, the principal caught two student couples kissing, in sight of the younger students. Rather than punish the students he took the discipline on himself, removing his belt ordering a teacher to, "discipline me like you would discipline your own son" in front of the two offending boys. He told the teacher to stop only when the students admitted their mistake.
At least one parent protested that only Jesus can take on the sins of others. Yet theological issues notwithstanding, the Anchorage Daily News reports that, "School officials are looking for a new principal" for even more basic reasons.
The blog EdWonks (unaffiliated with the blog you're now reading) wants to ensure that the teacher is not held accountable, too, writing:
"What teacher can resist giving an obviously loony-toon administrator a beating?"
Over at Tech Central Station, Ryan Sager of the New York Post recommends that Democrats embrace vouchers as a values issue. His argument is worth reading, though Eduwonk doesn't buy it. Accountable choice, which ultimately means charter-like arrangements, is better policy and accomplishes the same political purpose.
However, if Democrats don't offer some sort of clear position on school choice generally (and not just saying no, clear but wrong) and act aggressively on it, the default position is going to become the urban voucher pilot as the patience of minorities and urban politicians runs out.
Miller On NCLB
George Miller's comments about No Child Left Behind on PBS' News Hour last week are important reading for all you tea leaf watchers out there...counter to the CW...
Here's a taste:
But I think what is happening now is we are starting to turn the corner. I think more and more members of Congress are starting to understand that this legislation is in fact starting to get some very positive results, and it's starting to close the gap between majority and minority students, between rich and poor students. It's starting to put more time on task for students so that they will have the chance to read at grade level and to progress with what that means for that, to have that capability.
Just in time for Thanksgiving! A new report (pdf) from the Department of Education released the other day is reigniting the debate about charter schools. Charter proponents say the report is, if not worthless, next to worthless. Opponents say it's more evidence that these schools just plain suck and we should stick with the statist system that serves poor kids so well.
Both sides are wrong. Although the lede of today's New York Times story is:
A new study commissioned by the Department of Education, which compares the achievement of students in charter schools with those attending traditional public schools in five states, has concluded that the charter schools were less likely to meet state performance standards.
In fact, it's an evaluation of the federal Public Charter Schools Program (FCSP) with one chapter of six containing five state case studies on performance. The evaluation of the FCSP is useful with some interesting data (be sure to see the appendices) on what's happening with that program.
The utility of the data on performance is limited because it's now several years old and because in the case of two states, TX and NC, better quality studies that consider growth are available. It's also a snapshot, though Eduwonk dissents from the CW that such snapshots can tell us nothing. They give a piece of information about one point in time that does have some utility.
So read the whole report, and the appendices on the performance section which are well put together, forthright, clear, and not as cut and dry as either side claims, but remember this caveat about the performance section of the study that comes from the authors themselves. They write (pp. 57):
These limited findings point to the importance of additional analyses of charter school performance because they do not illuminate the reasons that charter schools in the case study states were less likely to meet state performance standards. Additional studies could examine the extent to which charter schools that do not meet the state performance standards serve students with low prior achievement, for example, disabling conditions, or other characteristics that may hinder their achievement and the extent to which certain types of charter schools are more successful in meeting state performance standards.
These findings do not indicate that charter schools were less effective than traditional public schools but suggest that many charter schools will have difficulty meeting the standards established by states under NCLB. With the passage of NCLB, all schools must meet school-level standards or face interventions in the current accountability policy context. Future studies should examine the extent to which charter schools exhibit growth in student performance in addition to whether they meet absolute standards.
These data provide a single snapshot of school-level performance using state performance standards as a measure and controlling for some basic characteristics of students. The findings are important to (and should inform) the policy debate around the implementation of NCLB. However, many other variables affect student achievement. Therefore, future studies must examine charter school performance in more depth.
That's pretty sound. The data tell us more than some critics are claiming but a lot less than what charter opponents are buzzing about, too. Also, incidentally, despite the above critique of the lede, today's NYT story is a far cry from their August hatchet job and is pretty sound, too. Unfortunately, it's likely to set off another counterproductive wave of back and forth rather than much reasoned discussion anyway.
C'est la vie...(the election is over, we can talk French again, right?)
From Ohio, improvement in the state's urban districts reports the Plain Dealer's Stephens with plenty of contextual analysis.
From Kentucky, a Pritchard Committee report (pdf) on the state of play of teacher quality reforms there.
New Dept. of Ed report on alternative certification offers general guideposts and examines six programs around the country.
Is this David Driscoll the same Massachusetts education commissioner who recently said that cut scores on the test in his state were too low and whose spokesperson called them a "minimum standard"?
Reader Feedback – Clarification
On Friday Eduwonk asked if, pace the New York Daily News, Joel Klein had called some New York high schools hellholes? The answer, as it turns out, is apparently not. Klein tells Eduwonk:
Contrary to what is in the Daily News, I never called any school a “hellhole.” I did say that many of our high schools were “not highly desirable” choices for our parents and students.
Eduwonk regrets relaying the earlier information.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to help the team from Lynwood Middle School compete in the FIRST LEGO League. Happy to report the team won the Rookie Award, Mentor Award, and Judges Award. Apparently more awards than any other team.
Contra Costa Times updates the status of the GAO investigation into Department of Education grants to K-12 and ABCTE.
Blogger Dave Shearon deconstructs some NCLB mythology.
Washington Post looks at teen drivers and minority higher ed application rates. Post also reports that Educate is planning to expand rapidly in the tutoring market and takes a look at Sallie Mae, a must-read if you follow the issue.
NYT's Schemo unpacks the new IDEA bill. Boston Globe looks at some of the problems the new law seeks to address. Via Jacobs.
Pete Wright of WrightsLaw has put together a marked-up version of major changes to IDEA.