Saturday, January 08, 2005
Strong-Arm Gate, Day II: Bush Department Of Ed, The Gang That Can't Flack Straight
More on Strong-Arm Gate. Following the trail laid down by USA Today's intrepid Toppo, Washington Post and New York Times weigh-in. Harsh Post editorial, too. They've also lost the amen corner.
What's amazing is that there have been a lot of phony attacks on the Bush Department of Ed, and through it all Democrats like George Miller and Ted Kennedy have stood by them on the core aspects of the NCLB policy. Yet despite all this, the Department apparently never seemed to realize that they should clean-up their act and watch themselves because they were not paranoid -- lots of people were out to get them.
Instead, what do they do? They hand NCLB opponents yet another public relations coup on a silver platter (and bizarrely paid a million dollars to do it!). The NEA should save all the money they're investing in their various anti-NCLB front groups and coalitions; it's not needed with this gang. The gang that can't flack straight.
This outrageous action puts all supporters of the NCLB policy in a bind.
Post reports that House Ed and Workforce Committee Chairman John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed to George Miller's call for an investigation. Watch out for follow-up stories, who knew what, when? Ugly.
Crimson, Grey, And Furry
They have a lot of time on their hands at Harvard's Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences...
This rumor has been kicking around and now USA Today's Toppo outs it with confirmation on the front page. Must-read.
Punchline: The Department of Education paid commentator/columnist/talk show host Armstrong Williams $240K to promote No Child Left Behind in his various media outlets.
What can you say about this? It's sleazy on several levels. Margaret Spellings can't get confirmed fast enough and clean house. Regardless of party, these guys are just an embarrassment if you care at all about education. They keep score on some journos and pay others? In any event, this story sure won't help Toppo's already apparently low-score for favorability to the Department!
“I respect Mr. Williams' statement that this is something he believes in,” said Bob Steele, a media ethics expert at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. “But I would suggest that his commitment to that belief is best exercised through his excellent professional work rather than through contractual obligations with outsiders who are, quite clearly, trying to influence content.”
Inside Baseball Afterthought: In all of their shotgun-sytle attacks on the Department, how did People for the American Way miss this?
Update: ABC's Note weighs-in calling it "utterly astonishing", "We'd say more, but we're having a hard time picking our jaws up off of the floor. " Yeah.
Update II: The folks are Booker Rising are also less than impressed. And Tapped sees a pattern.
This Friday Eduwonk's California Dreamin'... a prophet on the burning shore?
In addition to the outrageous Battle of Hastings, two other happenings:
1) Governor Schwarzenegger's State of the State address. He's proposing some sort of merit-based pay scheme for teachers. Note this line:
"My colleagues, this is going to be a big political fight. And you all know it. This is a battle of the special interests versus the children's interests. Which will you choose?"
Uh oh. He probably knows the answer to that and secretly likes it...Let's hope Democrats there rise to the occasion and put forward their own ideas. Otherwise, this looks like it will be an effective smokescreen for the K-12 budget cuts he's apparently also going to propose.
Two pro-Governator quotes to note via the Teaching Commission who are big-time in love with the man once known as Hercules of New York:
"The time is long overdue to put in place a more professional pay system for California teachers," said Hailly Korman, a kindergarten teacher at 122nd Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. "As a teacher of young children I have daily reminders that standardized tests, just like any other single assessment measure, are not when considered alone an accurate or appropriate measure of student achievement. That said, I welcome changes to our current salary system that are based on merit and I am ready to be assessed and paid accordingly."
"We need to develop a better compensation system that recognizes the awesome responsibilities we place in the hands of teachers every day," said Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District and a member of The Teaching Commission. "First of all, we need to pay all teachers more, beginning with entry-level salaries. But we also need a system that adequately and fairly rewards those who work the hardest, perform the best, or whose skills are in greatest need. Although all their jobs are challenging, not all teachers possess the same skills or work in equally difficult roles. As in medicine or other professions, those who teach in the most difficult schools, perform the most specialized functions, and get the best results should be rewarded accordingly."
2) Good LA Times editorial about Larry Rosentock's teacher training program at High Tech High and the broader implications. Incidentally, the establishment fought Rosenstock every step of the way...He's just another off-message Dem...no wait, he's off message on two counts, he runs a charter school and he's calling the question on traditional teacher prep programs...Yikes! This is a dangerous man!
"Of course, Rosenstock runs the risk that once the teachers trained at his school gain a free credential, they'll go off to another school. That's OK, he said. At least there will be one more good teacher out there."
Goldstein Has Gone Wild!
He’s baring it all!
You won't find much here on the Spellings hearings. Unless it turns out she wrote memos authorizing the torture of Gene Hickock and Nina Shokraii Rees, her confirmation is just Kabuki theater. Besides, she's smart, funny, non-ideological, competent, and not much of a Republican. A good pick all things considered. The praise from Kennedy and Miller about says it all.
But in California, there is a confirmation worth watching. Reed Hastings, a Democratic member of the state board of education and its former chair, is in political trouble. It's an appalling case of how identity politics are so deadly for Democrats.
Hastings is a valley entrepreneur (most recently the hip DVD service www.netflix.com) and has been very active in a variety of educational issues out there. Conservatives want to do him in because he supported a recent, and important, proposition in California making it easier for school districts to pass bonds (by lowering California's "supermajority requirement"). No surprise there, conservative anti-tax fervor has already pretty much ruined California's educational system, why stop now?
Yet that's not Hastings' only problem, and it's one he could probably survive. Liberal Democrats are ready to torpedo him over bilingual education. Hastings isn't a supporter. Of course, Bilingual education is, unfortunately, too often another example of politics masquerading as pedagogy. The research on outcomes is grim but somehow the tiresome political debate continues while too many kids get hurt because of inadequate programs for English-language learners.
So, a solid progressive Democrat who really cares about low-income and minority kids in California is about to be thrown-over to make a political point that has a lot to do with identity politics and very little to do with kids. What's more, it's a counter-productive political point in the first place because most parents, particularly immigrant parents, want their kids to learn English as quickly as possible! Great strategery, as they say.
Remind me again why Democrats are in danger of becoming a regional political party?
Also, this Samuel Freedman NYT column from the summer gives a good ground-level look at this same issue in NY.
SF article link via Jacobs.
Update: Sac Bee's Weintraub adds some state political context.
Here's an op-ed by MATCH School founder, off-message Democrat, keen student of Bay State policy and politics, and all-around good guy, Michael Goldstein. From the Boston Herald but not online. He doesn't brag about his school, but he could. For aficionados only: More Goldstein here and here.
Some Charter School Facts Aren't Taught
Boston Herald, January 3, 2005
By Michael Goldstein
Everyone starts the New Year with lists. So here are 10 things about education reform I bet you didn't know.
1. You knew that there continues to be an achievement gap, with race and income as the big predictors. You probably didn't know, however, black and Hispanic students in some suburban districts do better than in others. Framingham and Brookline have 57% and 55% of their African-American kids earning "proficiency" on Grade 10 MCAS math, whereas Newton and Lincoln-Sudbury have just 39%.
2. You're used to Boston Public Schools getting constant criticism. On the same test, black sophomores in Boston earned "proficiency" at a 30% rate, beating the Lexington mark of 25%. Would you say Lexington High's math department is failing? No Child Left Behind was designed, in part, precisely to do this: identify struggling kids in well-regarded suburban schools.
3. Did you know that black and Hispanic sophomores from Boston had the same proficiency as those in Cambridge? Yet Cambridge spends about 50% more on each student (over $5,000 per year more per child).
4. You're used to hearing the argument that teachers leave cities for the suburbs because of the pay. Did you know that according to the Department of Education, the average Hub teacher salary is higher than in every nearby suburb, including Weston and Wayland? Another theory is that teachers want better working conditions. That is one reason Boston is trying to break some larger schools into smaller, less chaotic ones.
5. Did you know the Boston superintendent and many teachers want more than the current 19 pilot schools (which come under the school department but not union rules)? But once Boston charter schools were capped at 16, unions began opposing pilot expansion unless they can get something else (like salary hikes)?
6. You knew that with the controversial attempts at desegregation of Boston Public Schools some three decades ago, white enrollment had declined. Did you know it's gone from roughly 60,000 then to about 9,000 today? Or that BPS then served about 90,000 kids of all races, and now serves 61,000 total?
7. When charters started a decade ago, you heard Boston charters would "cream off the white kids", because their parents are more motivated. The DOE 2003 data shows Boston charters serving 70% black students - more than the 47% in the district as a whole.
8. The anti-charter playbook used to claim the charter school funding formula was unfair, and if that was fixed, they'd stop complaining. Did you know that Haitian-American Representative Marie St. Fleur led a successful effort to amend the formula last year, indexing it by poverty and special needs students? Probably not, since charter opponents continue their assault.
9. More recently you've heard charges -- especially from teachers union officials who despise union-free charters -- that charters schools aren't doing well. There are 29 open-admissions high schools in Boston. Charters were ranked #1, #2, #3, #4, and #9 out of 29 on MCAS proficiency.
10. Did you know the Department of Education is considering a new MCAS measurement system pioneered in Tennessee and Minnesota, called "Value-Add"? The idea is similar: given your starting MCAS (in 8th grade, for example), how many points can you gain (by 10th grade)? Wellesley High gets to say it's amazing because it happens to have kids who show up with huge MCAS scores, despite the fact that their MCAS proficiency gap (white+Asian compared to black+Hispanic) that exceeds 50 percentage points. And without Value-Add, Hyde Park High will continue to be excoriated, because it serves kids who show up with failing scores, instead of accounting for how much improvement they make. If "Value-Add" is approved, it has the potential to answer, once and for all, which area public schools - suburban or city, district or charter, large or small - actually help kids the most.
There may come a day when New York Times education columnist Samuel Freedman starts writing boring and repetitive stuff, but today is not that day.
Per this post, a reader writes that:
"Agree with your "don't paint unions with a broadbrush" comments, but I would like to offer some additional precision. My experience is that any union with a role in education is opposed to charters or wants the law changed to be like their "deal" in the traditional schools. Just to be safe, I tend to use the term "education unions."
As we have seen in XXXXX, the administrators' union is just as bad as the teachers' union. I don't get any sense that any of the other 7 unions (9 total) like charters either. More than anything, they are opposed to the concept of giving employees a choice of whether or not to choose to be in the union. They know that when you have membership locked up, it's only a matter of time before you get everything else. They may hate the loss of money to the district, but it's not the fundamental driver.
So your comment is correct as long as the union has nothing to do with education. That still leaves A BUNCH of unions that do not need to be needlessly antagonized."
The illogical decrying of No Child Left Behind while simultaneously arguing that it's under-funded continues...
It sucks, but it's not funded enough! Makes perfect sense...
So, you want to be a rock and roll star? Then click here.
If you think you might want to be an urban school leader, then check out one of these information sessions about the Broad Residency program, a project of the Broad Foundation. The program is developing and placing urban school leaders around the country.
NCLB Meets Mr. Madison
Good Jay Mathews column...
It's no secret that there are some divisions within organized labor about the direction things should go. SEIU head Andrew Stern has been a vocal critic and voice for change but Eduwonk missed this provocative statement he made over the summer:
“I think we [Democrats] are a stale party of ideas. We can’t talk about education. We can’t discuss when it is failing our members’ (children) in public schools in urban areas. You know, we’re the experiment. Maybe vouchers aren’t the only answer, but then what is? I’m tired of hearing if we just pay teachers more, you know, life will be terrific. It’s a huge problem.”
It was dug up by the NY Daily News' Joe Williams who is finishing a fantastic book about education politics. It will be out toward the end of the year and is an important book because Williams unpacks the curious politics of education and how the debates defy facile left-right or liberal-conservative labels and frameworks.
Stern's comments may be merely the macro-version of some micro-politics that have played out in a few cities. A handful of savvy urban school superintendents have either tacitly or explicitly cut deals with various local labor leaders to essentially isolate recalcitrant local teachers' unions and deny them a broad base of organized support for various issues.
In these cases the labor leaders realize that outrageous demands by the teachers' unions give labor a black eye and they also realize that it's their members' children who are impacted by archaic pay schemes, the lack of high quality public options in some communities, and all the rest.
What's unfortunate, however, is that some in the charter school "movement" have yet to realize that unions are not a monolith and employ similar political nimbleness. Instead of, rightly, criticizing teachers' unions that fight tooth and nail against charter schools they paint the opposition with the broad brush of "unions". Yet outside of teachers' unions, there is no reason why union members should be any more naturally predisposed to support or oppose charter schools (or any other education reform) than the general public. So antagonizing them from the get-go isn't very politically smart. In fact, on the contrary, a lot of union members make likely allies in various educational improvement efforts because it's their kids bearing the brunt of some of these problems, too.
A trend and an issue worth watching? Eduwonk reports, you decide.
There is a lot of complaining about the interstate variation in standards and the corresponding variation in what it means for a student to be proficient or for a school to make "adequate yearly progress". Yet defined standards are not going away. The only other plausible alternative on the table is to have nationally defined ones. But that's not a palatable alternative for most of the same folks grumbling about the interstate differences either. And it's surely not going to fly with most conservatives. These compromises don't happen by accident.
David Broder looks at Virginia Governor Mark Warner's emphasis on high school reform and the upcoming high school summit. Right now, Warner is chair of ECS, using his National Governors Association chairmanship to promote high school reform, and tackling education reform in Virginia. Along with Ted Kennedy and George Miller, he's probably one of the three most influential Democrats on education policy today.
Hechinger Institute's (and former Eduwonk pinch hitter) Richard Colvin discusses a genuine crisis in higher education in The Los Angeles Times:
…why do U.S. media, policymakers and university administrators continue to worry more about who gets into elite colleges and how much they pay for that privilege? Why don't they focus on how few students make it through this nation's higher education system with the tools to help keep the society we all share on track?
Probably because most reporters, policymakers and influential educators wouldn't be in the positions they're in if they had to recover from the setback that some public schools inflict. If they had faced that struggle, they might better understand why many of those foundering students find it too difficult to work and go to school at the same time. Why some, especially Latinos and those who live at home, will succumb to the tug of family obligations. Why loneliness will overcome many. Why plenty of motivated, hardworking students will simply be unable to overcome the despair of stepping onto campus and feeling as if they've entered a black-tie ball wearing a thrift-store T-shirt. These are the students who met every high school requirement, scoring higher grades than most of their classmates in courses the academic establishment said would prepare them for the future.
That was a lie.
Yes, these students have the required credentials. But they don't have the skills. They won't comprehend what they read in college well enough to jump into classroom discussions. They can't write analytically. They'll find college-level math over their heads.
Read the entire thing...
New study (pdf) from Achieve on high school course-taking. Even if you don't agree this this statement...
To be prepared for the challenges they will face after graduation, every high school student should take four years of rigorous math, including Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, as well as data analysis and statistics. Every student also should take four years of grade-level English, with courses that include literature, writing, reasoning, logic and communication skills.
...there is still plenty of useful information about where states are on this front.
Per the item below, for a more serious consideration of markets and education check out Revolution at the Margins by Rick Hess. Review here.