Friday, February 04, 2005
Important Ed Week interview held today with new Ed Secretary Spellings. Only on the web, some lines to read between...
Also, Joanne Jacobs, of the aptly named JoanneJacobs.com, writes to say that her web hosting outfit having some problem so her site may be down for a short time.
A reader writes:
Dear Eduwonk: Please, more discussions about two bloggers arguing over Dewey and NCLB! What a rush! Next to being horsewhipped, I can’t think of anything more enjoyable! Thanks for killing a Friday buzz. -- A disappointed reader
Hey, as Rummy says, you have to read the edublog you have, not the one you might want…
Worth watching this lawsuit in Georgia, it's loaded with political and legal implications (though probably more of the former). Interestingly, it's the old lefty strategy for finance equity pioneered by Jack Coons and others. Though this time Eduwonk doesn't expect the left-leaning groups to be lining up...
Boy, didn't see this coming...
More misguided progressives who think schools have something to do with kids and learning, what a weird way to think about American education...what's more, they've written a book! Seriously, it's an outstanding and historically grounded book.
Speaking of progressivism, edubloggers Jenny D. and Brink are having a debate about whether or not No Child is "progressive" and you can join in! It's an important and too often oversimplified debate, probably because today the moniker "progressive" is pretty unhinged from its historical roots (which is good and bad). Brink says NCLB is not because it runs afoul of Dewey. But, that's (a) an educational benchmark in the way he is using it rather than a political one as Jenny D. seems to be and (b) more importantly, not entirely true anyway. Jenny D. gets more at the historical roots of progressivism and why NCLB is arguably progressive in its emphases, methods, and use of government which is why, though lost on much of today's left, it's such a delicious irony that it was President Bush who passed it. Brink's appeal to Dewey falls into the trap that Richard Rorty nicely unpacked in a 1989 essay, namely lack of historical context. Seems like a fine time to note how unfortunate it is that at most ed schools students get only an episodic, at best, look at Dewey.
Excellent Peter Schrag unpacking of the school funding debate in CA between the Governator and the ed establishment there.
Margaret Spellings chats with the press for the first time...
Major NCLB changes, no. Less testing, no. Gay friendly bunnies, also no.
Two inside baseball items with larger ramifications:
This development in North Dakota means that Margaret Spellings can expect a bums rush from the states. Insiders saying Department may be going soft on teacher quality provisions, and who knows what else?
Also, word is that House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner is now refusing to investigate the Armstrong Williams affair. This is...what do they call it again...a flip flop? Boy, those guys were crazy for investigations, couldn't get enough, just a few years ago. What's changed?
Update: Nevermind! Here is what's changed!
Let the debunking begin!
In The New York Times a must-read Samuel Freedman column looks at efforts in Rockford, Illinois that seem to produce results for a school and its students, but sadly run afoul of orthodoxy and apparently conflict with other district reform efforts.
Thankfully, and refreshingly in view of his valuable piece of real estate, Freedman is rapidly becoming a real thorn in the side of the establishment. Must be that he just doesn’t get it. It’s not about the kids, c'mon, they’re just passing through...it’s about the system!*
And from KY, the Pritchard Committee has a new study (pdf) out about high performing – high poverty schools.
*By way of illustration, this recent episode in San Diego really shows this. Alan Bersin's critics hardly ever went after him about educational issues; it was mostly about how he worked with other adults, teachers, the board, etc...That's what matters, right? After all, the kids come and go, but c'mon, people have to work here!
Not much to say about the State of the Union with regard to education (though Secretary Spellings looked dashing). The President only glanced at expanding No Child Left Behind into high schools. Could this be the school vouchers of the second-term, a head fake rather than a serious policy effort?
This article by Tom Edsall and John Harris in The Washington Post has a lot of people, and a lot of bloggers, buzzing. Essentially, the article suggests that the Bush Administration is pursuing a deliberate strategy of advancing issues that cause political problems for Democrats.
To be sure, Eduwonk thinks the Administration loses no sleep over the intra-Democratic problems their proposals on guns, tort reform, education, labor, and other issues cause. But, it seems more likely that this is gravy for them. Republicans have been pushing these issues since before Bush came to office. What's the evidence they're deliberately changing positions just to create political problems for Democrats?
Though not in the Edsall-Harris article, education is an instructive example here. Republicans have not only supported, but actively worked to enact school vouchers since the early 1990s. Various factions of the Republican party support vouchers from a libertarian, efficiency, welfare state, or faith-based perspective. At the same time, vouchers also happen to be an effective political wedge issue, forcing Democratic officeholders into hard choices between important parts of the Democratic coalition (African-Americans and teachers' unions). But wreaking havoc on the Democratic coalition doesn't seem to be the primary impetus for Republican voucher efforts. For this variety of reasons, Republicans genuinely believe it's the best policy. The collateral political damage it causes for Democrats is just, again, a bonus for them and one more political tool for activists pushing the issue.
Worth noting that because Democrats are organized more around coalitional politics than ideas right now, various wedge-political strategies become that much easier and obvious for the Republicans. Consider education again, wouldn't the voucher gambit be less effective if Democrats were offering a cogent critique of, and solutions to, the problems facing public education? But, even a casual glance at the Democratic coalition makes clear why that's a hard critique to offer, why serious solutions are even tougher, and why all this makes it pretty easy for the Republicans. And, that's not just a problem on education...
NYT on TQ
Today's New York Times editorial on high schools is really about teacher quality:
The federal Education Department failed to push the states toward doing better under the disastrous leadership of its departing secretary, Rod Paige. No matter how hard localities try, the best-designed high schools in the world will still fail unless the states and the federal government finally bite the bullet on teacher training. That means doing what it takes to remake the teacher corps, even if it means withholding federal dollars from diploma mills pretending to be colleges of education, forcing out unqualified teachers and changing the age-old practice of funneling the least-prepared teachers into the weakest schools.
That's a double ouch (though not 100 percent fair since at the end of Paige's tenure the Department was starting to get serious about enforcing No Child's teacher quality provisions).
New report by Alexander Russo examines the promise and the problems of charter schools in the Buckeye State. Some issues that should trouble charter supporters but the picture is also not nearly as bleak as the organized opposition out there claims.
Cleveland Plain Dealer's take here, AP here.
Michigan State Sup't Watkins is resigning...no more of this.
The Department of Education and Chicago have settled their dispute. Who won? Well, if you were rooting for Chicago you're disappointed ...
And Jerry Brown is still a radical.
Spellings says mea culpa about Strong-Arm Gate. Will this shift attention from Lesbian Bunny Gate? By the way, concerning the bunny episode, all things considered it's hard to think of anything Spellings could have done coming into office that wouldn't be seen in a favorable light, yet they persevered and figured something out anyway!
This is funny.
Though not as explicit as these comments from last year, yesterday's important NYT Magazine profile of SEIU's Andy Stern carries obvious implications for education policy and politics. It's also worth reading in general; Stern's trying to address some serious realities.
However, the article, though not Stern, implicitly puts forward the notion that just changing positions on school vouchers is the way for Democrats to deal with their education problem. That's a little simplistic (though a surprising number of Democrats think it...). The larger, and more substantive, issues the party must confront include accountability that actually carries consequences for adults and the teacher quality problem, which does as well. Those issues are more cross-cutting and have more impact than most of the small voucher programs currently on the table.
Yet, addressing one aspect of the teacher quality problem -- the archaic steps and lanes pay system that doesn't reward teachers who, for instance, take challenging assignments, have special or scarce skills, or do an outstanding job -- cuts against the grain of industrial unionism. Would be interesting to hear Stern's thoughts on squaring that circle.
Incidentally, for a good look at one approach Dems could pursue on choice, see this article by Siobhan Gorman in a recent Washington Monthly.
Avert your eyes if you don't like dirty secrets...concerning this and other ongoing shenanigans in Colorado, an astute and partisan Democratic observer of politics there writes Eduwonk to say the following about education policy and politics in the Rocky Mountain State:
The Democrats here seem to have a 10-year plan to forfeit all Latino and black votes to the Republicans. Once the Republicans get over their latent racism enough to recruit minority candidates, it will be even worse. The Democratic education "reform" agenda is dedicated to giving the schools and teachers a break from reform, easing up on them, and congratulating their suburban districts for doing such a good job with their affluent white students. I'm not really exaggerating, it looks that bleak.
Ouch. Thank goodness this isn't happening elsewhere...