Saturday, January 22, 2005
Still More Golden State Action!
Haven't yet had your fill of political shenanigans in California? Then keep an eye on San Diego where one of the nation's longest serving urban superintendents is facing political trouble. National implications as this episode shows what can happen when push comes to shove on NCLB.
Superintendent Alan Bersin is poised to reorganize several of the city's chronically underperforming schools. At two of the three schools a majority of teachers have voted to make the schools charter schools to help facilitate this and at all three 60-80 percent of parents voted to do the same. Remember, these are not schools that didn't do well "on a single test" but schools that have not done right by students for years.
Yet the school board member who represents these schools has apparently decided to oppose this and in the process force a vote on buying out the remainder of Bersin's contract because he won't play ball. Possible reasons for her move? (A) It's a great way for her to make a lifelong friend of the Bersin-loathing teachers' union there. Or (B) concerns that if several schools in her district become semi-autonomous it will hurt her political clout and power on the board. There is no (C) because it's generally agreed that changes are in the interest of the kids....600 parents showed up at a recent school board meeting to push for these changes.
So the pressure is on Bersin to ignore the chronic problems for children at these schools and go against the wishes of a majority of parents and in two cases teachers or see one more (possibly decisive) board vote slip into the union's column.
Board meeting on Tuesday. Could be the second time in a month the establishment does in a Democratic education reformer in California.
Parents Beware Of This Poor SpongeBob, he's got clowns to the left of him, jokers to the right…Depending who you ask SpongeBob wants to make your kids fat corporate stooges…or he wants to make them gay…or maybe, in a Third Way twist, fat gay corporate stooges?
Poor SpongeBob, he's got clowns to the left of him, jokers to the right…Depending who you ask SpongeBob wants to make your kids fat corporate stooges…or he wants to make them gay…or maybe, in a Third Way twist, fat gay corporate stooges?
Outstanding CSM editorial about charter schools -- comes out strongly in favor of lifting caps and implicitly against stunts like this. CSM, however, places a little too much faith in the market mechanism side of charters. Eduwonk would like to see an equal emphasis on the public sector role balancing the public interest with parental choice.
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R) has put a sensible teacher quality proposal on the table. He wants to better target funding for National Board Certified teachers (NBCTs) to struggling schools. This PPI paper (pdf) gives an overview of the issue.
Currently NBCTs get $7500 annually. Sanford wants to continue that incentive for NBCT's in schools that are low-performing or those with critical needs. Other NBCTs would get $3,000. There is also a very fair hold harmless. Teachers already receiving $7,500 would continue to regardless of where they teach as would teachers who complete National Board certification in 2005. More details in his proposed budget (pdf).
Behind the scenes the National Board treats proposals like this as an attack on the program. That's unfortunate because the data is abundantly clear that NBCT's disproportionately teach in affluent schools.
NBPTS claims that about 37 percent of NBCTs are teaching in high-poverty schools, which they define as schools receiving Title I money. Yet Title I funding is an imprecise proxy for poverty. Fifty-eight percent of all U.S. public schools receive some Title I dollars. Thus, even this estimate of only about one in three is overly optimistic.
Better data is more sobering. A 2003 study (pdf) led by Dan Goldhaber found that NBCTs in North Carolina were disproportionately teaching in more affluent school districts, as well as districts with fewer minority students. A 2004 study (pdf) by SRI examined distribution in the six states with the most NBCTs -- California, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, and South Carolina -- or about 65 percent of all NBCTs nationwide. The SRI researchers found that only 12 percent of NBCTs teach in schools with more than 75 percent of students receiving free or reduced price lunch; only 16 percent teach in schools with more than 75 percent minority student populations; and only 19 percent teach in a school in the bottom third of performance for its state.
Put plainly, you're unlikely to find an NBCT in a school that is high poverty, high minority, or seriously struggling. That's a pretty straightforward equity issue considering how important teacher quality is to student learning and the inequitable distribution of top teachers overall.
Of course, in an ideal world states would be able to offer larger differentials than just $3,000 or $7,500, but policy must be made based on the circumstances at hand, not the ones we might like. Sanford has the right idea (as do a few others, NY, CA, IL and in CT the AFT state affiliate there has its own targeting program) and more states should follow this lead.
Democrat reformer and rising star Terrance Carroll passes a bill to improve that state's charter school law by allowing for multiple authorizers of public charter schools. This year some
Missed The Inauguration Speech?
Mr. Sun lets you recap the highlights here.
More from this Administration's secret weapon on education in the second term?
Ed Week's Robelen turns in the requisite story about whether it matters that incoming Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings doesn't have K-12 teaching or administration experience. It's replete with lots of quotes expressing wonderment at this extraordinary state of affairs.
Hard to believe that just four years ago the buzz was running solidly in the opposite direction with hearty enthusiasm about how terrific and noteworthy it was that Bush had appointed a practicing school superintendent, one who was named Superintendent of the Year shortly thereafter.
In fact, of the eight secretaries (including Spellings) Paige's background is anomalous. More common are lawyers (Hufstedler, Cavazos, Alexander, and Riley)*, and academic types (Bennett and Bell) or former governors (Alexander and Riley), and probably even gamblers (Bennett, and odds are there's probably another in a group of eight) are as common. Though Bell brought an education background to the table, Paige is the real exception on that score. A better headline might be: Back to business as usual at Dept. of Ed.
Besides, it really doesn't matter much. Background is not deterministic in jobs like this, experience, intellect, and commitment to the issue, education in this case, are. Teaching no more qualifies you to run a large federal agency than running a large federal agency qualifies you to teach. If Margaret Spellings fails in this job (or fails to live up to the big expectations that are being set for her...) it won't be because she wasn't a teacher.
Consider that few on either side of the aisle argue that Dick Riley was not an outstanding Secretary of Education. And it's hard to believe that establishment education groups wouldn't have jumped at a Paige for Riley swap at almost any point in the past four years. Yet Riley was a naval officer, attorney, and politician in his career not an educator.
However, another South Carolinian a few years older than Riley had experience as a public school superintendent. Should Clinton have nominated Strom Thurmond instead?
*Correction: Cavazos was a doctor, not a lawyer.
NH Rep. Peter Sullivan's blog is already turning out to be interesting reading. He's trying to bring public charter schools to New Hampshire. Heresy! Check out some other posts while you're there, good stuff.
The ever-predictable Boardbuzz is whining about NCLB and touting lawsuits with big potential. But isn't the real story here that all the much ballyhooed lawsuits have, at least until this point, amounted to nothing? Who can forget the great NEA-led legal crusade that would turn this law on its head? Or the lawsuit in PA, that was the one!
The school finance lawsuits will likely have some impact, but ironically in a direction that most NCLB critics should favor.
Yesterday, at a forum on charter schools in Massachusetts, Eduwonk heard people simultaneously arguing that there was absolutely no grassroots support for charter schools while decrying all the money that is being "drained" from local school districts by parents choosing to send their kids to public charter schools. How can both these things be true?
It seems like everybody involved, except the top folks at the Department, thinks something was wrong with the Armstrong Williams deal…
Williams - The President - The PR firm - Secretary Paige. One of these things is not like the others...
Update: One very knowledgeable insider writes "...your use of the plural in "folks" is wrong. To be accurate, it should've read top dog..."
Gigi Douban of the Birmingham News takes an interesting look at one struggling school there. Someone call these guys....
But, wait, those guys are pretty busy busting colleges and universities for their graduation rates. Handy website and data tool here, USA Today story here.
NYT's Freedman writes on writing and NYT's Saulny on interstate differences in proficiency. And, NYT ed board urges Spellings to clean house at Ed.
Governor Granholm going after schools chief Watkins...
Though there are other issues in play, there is no way it could have anything to do with this, is there?
Strong Arm Gate Returns!
Still unconvinced that the Armstrong Williams payoff was a phenomenal screw-up? Then read this USA Today article, the President thinks so! Incidentally, this probably renders Rod Paige’s recent statement, as they say, inoperative...
In Washington, the practice of "earmarks" for pet projects in the education appropriations legislation is way out of hand. Wash. Times Archibald writes-up the excess in elementary and secondary education (1,175 earmarks totaling about $400 million). He also revisits the ELC issue.
At the higher education level, the Department of Education had to cancel the annual grant competition for the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education because there was almost no money left after 400 earmarks totaling $146.2 million reports ($) the Chronicle of Higher Ed.
It's laughable, but it's also really unfortunate. Eduwonk thinks that as a rule, large formula driven federal programs are the way to go because they're the best way to drive dollars to the neediest kids. But, the only way the federal government can serve as a catalyst for innovation is if it can run some honest grant competitions to help spark new ideas and innovations.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution has started an education blog. Get Schooled looks at education in Georgia and nationally. Worth checking out.
Also, Eduwonk's been stopping by A Constrained Vision, who says she's a -- "Fourth Generation Jewish Republican; Third Generation Economist; Second Generation Blogger, and First Generation Blue Devil." What she is is prolific and she blogs on a host of issues but has a lot on education. Worth dropping in on, too.
Also, long overdue, the list of edublogs on left is updated.
and insert foot. Good thing they don't like giving Summers a hard time up there in Cambridge, otherwise this could be a problem...
Update: NYT's Dillon here. And, Today's Katie Couric had an interview about this Tuesday AM in the first half hour...
Always good reading (pdf).
Timely note from an Eduwonk correspondent in NYC:
I saw [NYC Schools Chancellor] Joel Klein speak this morning at a black church in Harlem. He noted that only 1 in 10 black NYC high school students graduate with a Regents diploma. This is a situation that I can't possibly fathom. In theory, you'd think that kind of statistic would - in and of itself - be a call to arms to do something drastic. Klein understands the gravity of the situation. I think he also is amazed that people haven't treated this as a societal emergency.
Bradford Plumer does a nice job laying it out. Key line:
What we really need is a calm, good-faith discussion about what sorts of tweaks the law needs, where schools are struggling, what resources states do and don't need, etc. At the moment, though, we have hysterical Democrats on the left, and dishonest Republicans on the right who capriciously slash funding, monkey with the regulations, and pull stunts like Armstrong Williams. Truly a pox on both houses. But notice: As soon as a Democrat who believes in NCLB comes to power, this can all end, and we've got a wonderfully workable, progressive law in the making.
President Bush is proposing to raise the maximum Pell Grant award by $500 and make the program a mandatory spending item in the federal budget. If the Administration follows through on this and finances it responsibly (for instance by addressing some waste in the student loan program) it's a sensible albeit expensive proposal. It also further gets the administration off the hook on this issue (but why they did not announce all this as a package is a mystery...where does the PR money go?). Assuming they deliver, this would also put Democrats in something of a box on higher ed financing.
Big losers here? Possibly the student loan industry if the Bush team actually decides to pay for this thing. And, keep an eye on how this plays with efforts to make spending for the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act mandatory. Probably doesn't help proponents of that cause. Policywise because (a) of the expense (b) the two programs work somewhat differently (both have eligibility criteria but Pell's are much more clear). Politically even more so because if they have to eat this Pell proposal Congressional Republicans will be in no mood to make even more programs mandatory.
In Saturday's Wash. Post CA State Board of Ed member and founder of Accelerated Academy, Jonathan Williams, responds to this op-ed from charter foe Amy Stuart Wells.
Charter schools are doing a lot better than critics acknowledge. Granted, charter school performance varies. But research by the Rand Corp., the Hoover Institute and the Brookings Institution shows that over time the performance of the charter sector is improving. In California, where charter schools were the subject of a damning 1998 report by Wells, Rand found last year that the performance of charters is now comparable to that of other public schools, achieved with considerably fewer resources.
Note the last graf as well. It's another good example of a larger problem that falls squarely in the category of "I'll take really stupid ways to make your political party unpopular in some communities for $1000 Alex"...
Also, on charter policy, new GAO report. Highlights here (pdf), full report here (pdf). Punchline: Collect more data (and U.S. Department of Ed is working on that issue).
Golly, Why Is It So Hard To Get Anything Done On Education Policy?
On a similar note to the item below, outstanding must-read NYT piece about Brad Jupp, his efforts in Denver, and the bigger picture here. Loads of important stuff buried in this one.
Do tenure, seniority and the traditional pay schedule always work in everyone's best interest? ''Of course not,'' he [NEA President Reg Weaver] says after a long pause. ''But I can't say that. Our enemies will take that and use it against us.''
Does the NEA use the same PR consultants as the Department of Education? Just wondering...
Susan Estrich opines on the Democratic-led takedown of Democratic State Board of Education member Reed Hastings in California. In addition to Hastings' record of support for public education, Estrich notes that, ironically, it's the first defeat of a Governator nominee...
"I'm ashamed today to be a Democrat, to have to come up here to convince Democrats that this is a good thing," my friend Steve Barr, the president of Green Dot Public Schools, one of the most successful charter school groups in California, said. Steve was one of the founders of Rock-the-Vote and has worked at the highest levels of Democratic politics for 20 years. He went to Sacramento to testify for Reed.
Eduwonk also knows Steve. He's a Democrat's Democrat and a veteran organizer. He runs several outstanding charter schools which in time should help lead to a change in thinking about what's possible in urban education. When people like this start to become radicalized it ought to be a wake-up call...What was it the Governator said about special interests anyway...
Links via Kaus who weighs-in, too, noting Hastings' support for charter schools and refusal to water down standards for No Child Left Behind and asking:
Are those secret reasons he was defeated--with the Democrats carrying the teachers' unions water, but letting Latinos take the lead? The unions might not want to be seen publicly opposing someone like Hastings who had been effective at getting more money for schools. ...
Good question, but regardless of the answer, Democratic strategist Garry South's point that:
"We're in serious trouble if Democrats are going to go on a purge and get rid of every single Democrat who has moderate, mainstream views," he added, "and doesn't adhere to total orthodoxy as members of the Legislature define it."
is valid and not only applicable in California...