Saturday, January 15, 2005
Be All You Can Be
Longish New Yorker article about new ideas for training and disseminating information/knowledge/experience in the Army. Now being applied during combat operations in Iraq, there are obvious parallels between both the ideas and the infrastructure being used to support them that are applicable in public education.
Thanks to reader MP for flagging this.
You all can stop sending emails about this story. Rest assured we'll keep abreast of it.
Three recent articles here, here, and here on how choice is becoming more embedded in public education. Is this really so bad?
From MA: ''Choice is here to stay, and not just in education," said Framingham Superintendent Christopher H. Martes, who calls the shift ''probably long overdue."
You hear some grumbling from conservative types that the TV show "The West Wing" is just a front for liberal issues. Eduwonk doesn't watch it (preferring shows like this) and has no idea if that's at all valid. But, for what it's worth, they're giving the Center for Education Reform, which hardly qualifies as a liberal organization, some play.
Interesting Jacobs post on social mobility, or lack thereof. Related NYT story here.
Here's some good news for the Department of Ed, Alexander Russo says they're right about Chicago's supplemental services dispute.
NYT's Herszenhorn hits the NYC small schools program. Must-read if you follow this, already burning up the email lists...And from Boston, who says competition has no place in public education?
One reader writes to set Eduwonk straight:
You and the New York Times have been generally supportive of the No Child Left Behind Act since its conception, and apparently you still don't get it. This is a plan developed by southern white conservatives who have been working to destroy our public school system and fighting for vouchers and tax money for religious schools ever since Brown vs. Board of Education in the 50's. Unable to accomplish their goal of public funding for their White Christian Academies in an honest campaign for vouchers, they have used the same incremental approach this administration has taken toward the debates about freedom of choice and flat taxes. Through the use of "disaggregation" in their use of testing scores to create failing schools, the right wing is working to accomplish their ends, one school at a time. This should be called the "Re-Segregation Act." It's no coincidence that the "newscaster" they bribed is African American, a group you might imagine would be most concerned about re-segregating the schools.
Yikes! I should have seen this all along...
How'd they get Ted Kennedy and Bill Taylor to go along? That's clever and diabolical...
Brink revisits this issue. Two quick thoughts. First, we're still debating a fictitious bill. NCLB won't, for instance, require children to be held back that's another urban myth. Second, on polls, the Joint Center poll has only one NCLB question, you can find it buried in here (pdf), and Eduwonk's leery of any question that says "federal government's" as part of the question. Here's another poll (it's from some front group or another but you can see the poll itself) of 1000 registered voters but African-Americans are underrepresented. Few months old, mixed results, margin of error +/-3. Anyway, enough on this. The polls say about anything right now depending on how the questions are asked.
The U.S. Department of
Speaking of flames...FCC here, United States Senate here...
And, word is that despite his original commitment to support an investigation, House Ed and Workforce Committee Chairman Boehner hasn't signed off formally. Interesting...
Today's bottom line: Whatever these guys spent on PR, it wasn’t enough.
Strong-Arm Gate Day VII...And A Tease
Still can't get enough of US DOE political hijinks? Wash Post editorial board piles-on big time and joins the growing drumbeat of calls for the money to be returned (perhaps so it can be used for more cost-effective payoffs?).
Mojo, the newish blog on Mother Jones, which incidentally is well-written, snappy, and fun to read weighs-in here. Key line:
All told, I like NCLB, and there are quite a few liberals out there who would agree with me. The program's not perfect by any means—for starters, it badly needs better mechanisms for dealing with those schools that are failing—but it's a good first step on the way to preserving and strengthening the public school system.
Also in Wash Post, George Will jumps-in. But in a Pavlovian flourish he drags President Clinton into this calling him the "teachers unions' poodle."
Right. They loved the 1994 ESEA reauthorization and the Clinton - Riley push on standards. The national testing proposal went over big with them, they can't get enough testing! The work on low-performing schools? Hoo boy they just eat that up! And, of course they're ga ga over charter schools! Another Clinton priority.
Aside from the tiredness* of it, it's a caricature every bit as inaccurate as the caricature of Bush as relentlessly bent on privatizing public schools and every bit as unproductive to real discussion of complicated issues.
One place this story might go...lots of gossip about various groups around Washington that have received federal grant money and then caught flack/pressure from the Department when they go off-message (for instance criticizing No Child). What's interesting is that it's not the ELC's of this world but rather more establishment groups...as Drudge might say...developing...
*Bill Buckley said that in a debate, the first person resorting to insults is the one who has lost. We can safely update that axiom and say that considering he's been out of office for four years, as soon as Republicans insult Clinton, it's a good bet they've lost whatever point they were arguing.
More Strong-Arm Gate...And A Confederacy Of....
More on the Gang That Can't Flack Straight from NYT. And also from NYT, must-read Freedman on what a fiasco this is. Here is a taste:
William L. Taylor, a fixture in several major civil rights organizations, said he had listened with chagrin as Democratic critiques of No Child Left Behind, often echoing the platform of the National Education Association, began to sound increasingly like efforts to blunt its impact. The Armstrong Williams bribery report, he went on, only gives aid and comfort to those foes, though they lack a plausible alternative of their own.
"It will increase the cynicism," said Mr. Taylor, who chairs the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, a private bipartisan group. "The administration has simply shot itself in the foot, and for no good reason."
He continued, "The thing that worries me most is that this law is only going to work if the people who are in the system - teachers, administrators - can become believers and see the positive side, rather than see it as a law that's out to get them."
And the Ed Trust weighs in. What a disaster.
The President is doing an education event this morning in suburban Virginia. Will he mention this latest fiasco? AP's Deb Riechmann (once a star of the education beat) previews the event. By the way, J.E.B. Stuart High, where the event is, is a fine high school. Still, with all the money the Bush team is investing in public relations you'd think someone would've told them that it's a bad idea to have the event at a school named for a dead Confederate. Seems like an avoidable case of what the pros call "bad optics" and a good way to muddle the message especially because there has been controversy about this school's name and Confederate names on schools in general (pun, of course, intended...). And, this could be wrong, but it doesn't look like the school is making AYP...Uh oh.
Presidential campaign didn't work out right? Hate your boss? Can't stomach the nonsense you have to spew any longer? Just looking for a change? Regardless, look no further....That's right, read Eduwonk, get a job!
Greatschools.net, an avant garde service you should check out if you haven't, is looking for a managing editor. More here.
The Charter School Leadership Council is hiring a communications director. Position description and information here.
New Leaders For New Schools is holding information sessions for people seeking to become urban school leaders.
And, also in urban ed, the Broad Residency is still accepting applications.
None of those stuff your turkey? You can always wait for this job to come open...
ELC's Follow The Leaders is useful to educators. ELC's Follow The Leaders is a boondoggle. By the way a lot going on in this second article…a lot. Anyway, Ed Week reports, you must decide...
Or, let Paul Hill decide for you! In the same Ed Week, a very sensible look at all the recent charter flaps.
Another Idol Falls? A Golden Chance To Just Say No...And, Eduwonk Pimps SREB (For Free!)
Is anything sacred? More questions raised about AP courses reports Chronicle of Higher Ed's Glenn. And more AP from Wash Post's Mathews here and here.
From California, just-say-no watch...disheartening.
January is National Mentoring Month, though you probably knew that. In any event, Rodel Foundation's Carol Peck takes a look at a mentoring initiative in Arizona. Short, sweet, and replicable.
Interesting commentary on voc-ed from Ben Brown in USA Today. Unfortunately, SREB's terrific High Schools That Work project is buried at the bottom.
Eric Liu, former Clinton White House speechwriter and domestic policy aide, has a new book out. Guiding Lights is about powerful and transformative teachers from a variety of different areas and disciplines. It's well worth your time as this taste from a Liu Slate column shows.
Here are book tour dates.
Turns out Education At The Brink does read polls, just not good ones and just not the laws they're based on. He responds to the admittedly snarky comments at the bottom of this post by noting the PDK poll about No Child Left Behind. Great point, except that in places, the PDK poll is almost a push poll. It has some interesting data about an education law, just not the one popularly known as NCLB (click here, for a slightly different take). For instance, contrary to popular mythology, NCLB does not require states to base school accountability on a single test.
Leave aside the general problems with public opinion research about issues the public knows little about, several PDK questions are simply poorly constructed. As Ross Wiener of Ed Trust told Ed Week: "[T]his poll employs questions that are clearly designed to produce particular results".
More texture, but still limitations about what the public knows here.
Brink doesn't address the issue of whether its payola for all of NLCB's liberal supporters. It's not just him, the considerable support on the left is such an inconvenient issue for the law's critics...
For more PDK public opinion debate, this time about vouchers, click here, here, and here.
Reader Query...Strong-Arm Gate: Show Me The Money!
Regarding Strong-Arm Gate, a Democratic Hill-type writes:
What would be great is to know how much EVERYONE is spending on PR on this thing [NCLB] — from NEA to Business Roundtable. My guess is that $240,000 is peanuts. Journalistic ethics aside (I'm sure NEA has its fair share of not yet uncovered questionable practices over NCLB). It's getting to the point of absurdity. Adults are spending more time and money on spinning this damn law than they are on figuring out ways to improve implementation so the law works better for everyone. The law is here to stay, even if Congress seeks minor changes to it. So, Spellings needs to clean up the Dept's act and start spending its money more wisely while doing better job of reaching out to schools and educators. And, opponents need to quit wasting so much money trying to undermine it and start working with the Dept.
Sounds like a good follow-up story for some intrepid reporter...
Plenty of links about Strong-Arm Gate below here and here. Today, the question of ineptitude v. nefariousness rears its head again at the Bush Department of Education.
Make no mistake, Eduwonk is aghast at this entire episode which really is ethically bankrupt on all sides. Nonetheless, assuming for a moment that it even is OK to try to bribe the media, isn't this instance an appalling waste of taxpayer dollars? After all, Armstrong Williams' defense partly rests on the argument that he's a big No Child Left Behind supporter anyway so this money didn't buy favorable coverage he would not have otherwise given. If true, the Gang That Can't Flack Straight wasted almost a quarter-million on media that was already on their side! It's not only nefarious, it's inept, too!
Eduwonk's outraged that Bush Administration lackeys do not use taxpayer dollars for more cost-effective, sensible, and strategic bribes than this! That money would have been better spent on more skeptical media. And it's not like the Department doesn't know who they are: They've been keeping score after all, as AP's Feller reported last year!
More seriously, Democrats run the risk of overplaying their hand here. The Williams episode is truly egregious and possibly illegal. Rep. George Miller's call for an investigation is the right move and it's to House Ed and Workforce Chair Boehner's credit that he is so far cooperating.
But, there is an enormous difference between the money going to Williams and the money the Department is giving to groups like BAEO. Tapped makes a move toward lumping it all together and others will no doubt follow that lead.
That's a mistake because giving money to like-minded groups to help implement or advance policies (in this case by making parents aware of their rights under the law) is fair game. Eduwonk certainly has differences with BAEO and some other organizations the Department works with, but it's their prerogative to fund them for legal activities. That's what you get to do when you win elections. Clinton did it and Kerry would have also.
Conflating what is at its core a dispute about education policy with the Armstrong Williams incident, which crosses ethical and possibly legal lines, could end up minimizing the latter in all the noise. It will appear to the average person as, at best, the normal partisan back-and-forth and at worst as hysterical ideological sniping.
That would be unfortunate because this episode is a pretty graphic illustration of the kind of Bush Administration arrogance cum ethical relativism that is all too common and that Democrats have done a poor job driving home to the country. Stick with the Williams fiasco, it's a clean hit.
Also, here is a bizarre article trying to justify why the payoff was OK...And Jenny D. notes that NCLB is one of the few (only?) progressive things this administration has done yet they're systematically screwing it up. Meanwhile, Education at the Brink apparently doesn't read public opinion polls, even the profligate spending Bushies couldn't have paid that many people $240K. Besides, are people like Mike Casserly (pdf) and Kati Haycock on the take, too? Give me a break.
#2 Pencil, back from a hiatus, thinks Eduwonk is unimpressed with the Governator's plans to promote pay-for-performance for teachers.
That's not the case though. Eduwonk's point was that he just wants to see (a) all the details, which matter greatly in proposals like this (b) solid proposals from the Democrats rather than a just-say-no posture which is politically deadly (c) other education issues on the table rather than a debate over pay-for-performance serving as a smokescreen for less progressive ideas.
In New York a surprising turn of events. The charter school that Richard Hague had been trying to start will be approved after-all. NY Post here and MO here for more details.
Also, new analysis from Boston Globe on test scores. Remember, stop these schools!
In CA, longtime charter school supporter Sue Bragato has passed away after a battle with breast cancer. Obituary and more information here. She worked tirelessly for kids in California and worked on both sides of the aisle (including with the Clinton White House) because she never forgot what really mattered in these debates.
New Hampshire State Representative Peter Sullivan has started his own blog where he'll report on the legislative session there and other political goings on. He's got a keen interest in education, so it figures to appear among other issues he's tackling.