Friday, February 18, 2005Two New Studies Very Much Worth Your Time Today
Education Trust West unpacks intra-district disparities in an excellent new study. Important implications for the teacher quality and school finance debate. Interesting finding on race/ethnicity v. low-income as a factor here. Must reading. Está en Español, también.
From the Center For Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington comes "Buried Treasure" (pdf) a valuable new study by Mary Beth Celio and James Harvey about using data to make educational decisions. The report has a focus on leadership but broad utility.
Congrats to US DOE Office Of Innovation honcho Nina Rees and her husband Matt who became parents of a healthy girl on Valentines Day. No word yet on possible Godparents, though Eduwonk is betting heavily against Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA).
Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The NCLB Water...
The Feds get tough...but will they hold the line or cave? Stay tuned...this could be a test case on the "trading teacher quality for accountability" theory...
Sensible discussion of the interaction of research and innovation by Frederick Hess.
If you haven't checked out the Teachers Institute in New Haven, it's worth doing so. Becoming a model elsewhere.
Important editorial on the guaranteed v. direct loan issue. New data from the new budget request, another nail in the coffin of the case against direct loans. Background here.
The Bush Administration has put together a handy website showing the education programs facing the axe this year.
In Los Angeles the "well connected" Steve Barr is launching an effort to inject charters and small schools into the mayors race. Don't underestimate it, Barr is an accomplished Democratic (big and small "d") organizer and political operative.
In Ohio, the anti-charter lawsuit is proceeding to the state's top court although a key plank of the case against charters -- basically that they're not public schools -- was thrown out. For more on Ohio charters click here.
This is funny, though it's unclear if TFA's critics have much of a sense of humor.
Incidentally, in the "if you build it they will come" category, it's now harder to get into TFA than most of the top business, law, and graduate schools.
Nonetheless, for some reason it’s apparently still important to stop TFA ASAP!
Important LA Times editorial.
More NCLB Changes?
Important NYT story on Spellings and NCLB. This probably won't make the Ed Trust very happy. Word is the Department will basically trade teacher provisions for accountability and Spellings hints at that in the story.
Jenny D. is hosting an interesting discussion about NCLB changes. You can join in.
Justin Torres of the Fordham Foundation writes in the current Gadfly that Eduwonk is, "generally perspicacious, sometimes even wise"...with prose like that you know the knife is coming!
And it does! Torres basically argues that new unionism and teachers' union reform efforts are a fraud and amount to nothing and that anyone hoping for anything progressive from organized labor, in this case Eduwonk, is basically a sucker. That's an oversimplified summary, though not far off, you can read the whole thing here.
Labor's (and the teachers' unions) important historical role notwithstanding, there are still several problems with the case Torres makes.
First, he discounts the clout of SEIU's Andy Stern in the labor movement. It's in large part because Stern has the power to splinter the AFL-CIO that his case for change is attracting so much attention. And though private-sector labor has certainly seen better days, the AFL-CIO in general, or SEIU in particular, are not paper tigers. SEIU spent $52 million during the last presidential election (more than NEA and AFT combined) and about half of its members are public sector employees...Also, Torres ascribes status quo educational reform thinking to the "average public sector unionist." What animal is that? Is this the same average unionist vote that went, according to exit polls in the last election, almost 40 percent for Republicans? Besides, if the NEA is as powerful as Torres says, why can't they even bend the American Federation of Teachers, let alone private sector labor, to their will on things like No Child Left Behind?
Second, and equally divorced from today's reality, he scolds Eduwonk for urging school reformers not to just lump unions together either rhetorically or in terms of policy and politics. Torres argues that everyone knows that when someone in education says union, they mean teachers' union. But is this true? Most people who don't earn their living in the field tune into these debates episodically, at best, are not well-versed in its lingo or assumptions, and are not ideologically monolithic. As a practical matter, some urban superintendents have survived precisely by splitting local teachers unions and other local unions in no small part because the latter worried about both school quality and the negative impression of unions that some teachers' union demands create.
Finally, Torres' entire case is pinned to the tired canard that vouchers = school reform. Thus, by this line of argument, if Andy Stern does not support vouchers, then he's not really for reform. This is a ludicrous standard. (Torres' worldview here is easy to discern, all the elected Democrats he praises as bold education reformers have one thing in common -- all supported vouchers)
For starters, there are plenty of thoughtful school reform types who don't support vouchers, plenty of the same that do, and plenty less thoughtful folks who do and don't as well. Superficially, support or opposition is indicative of almost nothing. Besides, as even their thoughtful proponents acknowledge, vouchers are not a necessary predicate for progress, nor a sufficient reform on their own.
Moreover, this line of argument discounts other progress and hard won victories. When the local teachers' union in Denver decides to experiment with performance-based pay, that's progress. When Green Dot Public Schools, a LA-based non-profit charter school operator employs a modified version of the LA Unified School District teacher contract, that's progress, too. Is all well? Of course not and even many folks inside the teachers' unions argue that change is imperative. But change doesn't happen overnight or in a linear fashion toward some preordained policy goal. And change certainly isn't vouchers or nothing.
So, Torres is right that there is some "think-tank chin-tugging" going on. Unfortunately, it looks like it is happening at Fordham, a place that has, at times, been perspicacious itself.