Friday, February 11, 2005
In Chicago Journal, Alexander Russo examines the departure of Greg Richmond from Chicago's Renaissance 2010 initiative. Must reading if you're following it.
Haven't had enough of the NYT-AFT-Charter World dust-up? The blogger MO, who is real life is a NYC journo, has apparently uncovered an internal NYT email on the whole affair and unpacks it. Though not mentioned in the item, the AFT also gave $50K to help overturn the charter school law in Washington State, in what parallel universe doesn't that count as hostility toward charter schools?
Looks that way at Stanford.
Here's something counterintuitive. One of the two reading programs with the most substantial research and evidence base supporting it, Success For All, is hurting big time in the wake of the bipartisan Reading First initiative.
Though Reading First is explicitly designed to ensure that states and school districts employ programs that are grounded in research, in practice SFA is getting marginalized...
New national task force with Education Commission of the States, Learning Point Associates, and ETS. Kick-off report here (pdf). More information here (pdf) and here (pdf).
The EdWonks have put one together for edublogs.
Ward Churchill Dust Up & Drezner Query
Interesting and thoughtful take on the Ward Churchill controversy. Thanks to reader LC for the heads up.
And, while we're touring the Academy, Dan Drezner asks an interesting question, too.
UFT may have a tough act to follow...The Times takes a look at CT's successful Amistad Academy. NYC's Klein has invited them to the city.
On his blog Rep. Peter Sullivan of NH writes-up the new school finance proposal on the table in New Hampshire.
Up The Down Staircase, an entertaining edublog written by a teacher with a charming Shakespeare fetish, is now on the blogroll at left.
Today, the United Federation of Teachers in New York is poised to vote to apply for charters to open two charter schools. You'll hear plenty of carping on the dissonance between this move and the apparent guerilla war the national AFT (and NEA for that matter) is waging on charter schools.
But that's not the real story, which is really two-fold. First, the UFT should be commended for this move. At a bare minimum it's a good way to create a few more decent public options in New York City. If universities, community groups, non-profits, and others are playing in the charter sector, it seems self-evident that a powerful actor like the teachers' union in the city should be, too.
Second, at the same time, everyone must beware the Potemkin Village trap. Obviously, part of the UFT's goal here is to show that high quality, effective schools, can be created within the existing master contract for teachers. But that's not really a serious point of debate is it? Such schools exist now. The analytic question is whether overall the master contract helps or hinders efforts to improve educational quality in New York, and obviously elsewhere. And, worth noting that in larger systems, isolated islands of success often displace problems to other schools.
So, while everyone should hope the UFT effort succeeds and a couple more good public schools come of it, like many things in education it's ultimately going to be anecdotal in terms of larger lessons. That doesn't mean it's devoid of value as a policy lesson, but must be viewed in context. Also, speaking of anecdotal, this is not the first time a local teachers' union has gone down this road and the record is mixed…
Afterthought: This move obviously also gets at the issue of whether charter school teachers should be unionized which has big implications considering the trends on the horizon (declining teachers' union membership in right-to-work (often high growth) states, more and more charters, etc...). It's a point of debate considering the ideologically diverse coalition supporting charter schools. For what it's worth, Eduwonk thinks that teachers should be if they want to be. Some charters are organized and that's great, some are discussing whether to organize - one in PA just did the other day - and some do not want to. Shouldn't teachers at individual charter schools be able to decide for themselves? Arguing it the other way calls into question all this rhetoric about professionalism and autonomy doesn't it?
People For The American Way has released a report (pdf) critical of the Washington, D.C. private school voucher program. Pretty predictable stuff and it's too soon for serious analysis of what's happening with this program anyway (though Eduwonk's not optimistic about its prospects to really change much in DC's beleaguered public education system). For sober background about how the program came to be, this piece by The Post's Spencer Hsu is excellent.
But, buried in the report and today's Washington Post story about it, are some wild email exchanges. Particularly this one from Department of Education Office Of Innovation honcho Nina Rees. From The Post:
Rees, in an e-mail to Sachar about the need to keep Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and other members of Congress in the loop about the program, wrote in May that Specter "(ugh) wants it and while I hate the guy, we need to be nice to him I'm told."
In an interview yesterday, Rees said, "I regret having made the comment and have the utmost respect for the chairman of the Appropriations Committee."
Via the Education Wonks (not to be confused with the site you're now perusing) a great actor has died. John Vernon, better known as Dean Wormer in the classic education policy movie Animal House, died last week of complications from heart surgery. Why is he great? Simple: Lasting impact. Apologies to E.D. Hirsch, but isn't "double-secret probation" basically essential social capital now?
Eduwonk could also cite other examples from the movie that have found their way into popular culture, including "more than two dozen reports of individual acts of perversion SO profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here" but will spare you...
This is a pretty cool idea.
You're going to hear lots of howling about the President's proposed education budget because it eliminates a slew of programs, and every one has an interest group(s) working on its behalf. Ignore most of the griping. Many of these programs have a dubious record of effectiveness, are more about symbolism than substance, or, in a few cases, are just plain silly. Besides, because most have political patrons they're not really in jeopardy anyway. In fact, a few are perpetually on the cutting block regardless of whether it's a Democratic or Republican presidency yet always skate through.
But some are very worthwhile. For instance, the Administration's decision to eliminate the Gear-Up program by folding it into their high school reform plan is inexplicable. It's particularly galling in the context of a budget that purportedly "Focuses Resources On Students Who Need Them the Most." Parts of the Administration's high school reform plan are meritorious, but it doesn't make sense to collapse a broader program with a discrete intent, especially one that is now getting rolling, into this new initiative as they're proposing to do. It couldn't possibly be because it's a Clinton-era program could it? Nah, they couldn't be that petty...
Also, the decision to cut funding for the regional education labs shows that, at least on education, they're more serious about shoehorning this budget into their deficit pledge than setting policy with it. Besides, shouldn't they be thinking about ways to better engage the labs (which are admittedly of mixed quality) into No Child implementation?
Important Catalyst Chicago article about intradistrict school finance disparities there. Poor schools often get shortchanged. Not only an issue in Chicago but common in many urban districts.
Education And The Economy
There is a long running debate in education - particularly intense since the 1983 Nation At Risk report - about whether school quality has much to do with economic competitiveness. It's a debate often characterized by stridency on both sides. For instance corporate leaders are often quick to castigate the quality of American schools during economic rough patches (remember the Japanese...) and rarely credit the schools when things are going well (remember the late 1990s...) though in reality the schools have not had a direct causal effect on either. On the other hand, too many self-anointed "defenders" of public schools latch onto the overheated rhetoric about competitiveness and the historical fallacies to argue there is no real problem here at all.
A terrific package of Education Week commentaries takes a look at this debate from the general perspective of little linkage (Gerald Bracey), lotta linkage (Eric Hanushek), and the times, they are a changing (Tony Carnavale).
For Eduwonk's money it's this third essay that really nails today's challenge. In practice, however, we face two challenges. The first is addressing the enormous, and race/income correlated inequities in resources, teacher quality, curriculum, and standards that exist today. The second is the question of increasing rigor overall.
Update: Jay Mathews weighs in.
Interesting article from the LAT, note the parental demand...there must be a message in there somewhere....no?
In particular, charter schools in LA are worth watching because of both their diversity and their growth. Some other cities, for instance Washington, DC and Dayton, OH have a significant percentage of students in charter schools but none the size of LAUSD.
Also, good overview of the state of the charter school movement at 14-years from Fordham's Chester Finn in Gadfly.
Listening to the San Diego Education Association one would be excused for thinking that everyone in the school system, top to bottom, spent their days hating Alan Bersin and hoping he'd leave. Only problem with their narrative? It's not exactly the case.