Thursday, March 10, 2005
McCown To CA Democrats: C'mon!
Former Clinton aide, current Teaching Commission head, and all around class act Gaynor McCown lays it on the table in a San Jose Mercury News op-ed. Worth reading, it's the case for changing how teachers are paid and the case against just saying no.
Yikes! High school juniors are being waylaid in hallways across the nation - by eager guidance counselors and principals. Their quest? Get more kids to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses, particularly low-income and minority students.
In the suburbs, "B-average" kids, particularly minorities, are being cajoled to join the academic heavyweights in more rigorous classes; in inner-city schools, like the one I run, AP courses are being offered for the first time, again disproportionately affecting black and Hispanics.
But this harmful trend must be stopped! So argues Patrick Welsh, a suburban AP English teacher in USA Today (he's also the resident teacher mouthpiece at The Washington Post). This is a disaster, he says, AP is being watered down.
"It's better for a child to have a great teacher in a regular course than a poor teacher in an AP course," Welsh writes. C'mon, great rhetoric but that's not the issue. Most of us would take a great teacher in ANY course over a poor one in our favorite subject. The real question is whether it is better for a kid to have a decent teacher in, say, a regular English 12 course where he can definitely coast, or a more rigorous AP English course where he'll struggle, complain, get frustrated, perhaps study all weekend and pull a C- on a test, write twice as many essays, and read three times as many books.
Welsh's answer is: stick with the easy course kid and stay out of the way of the really promising students. Kids coaxed into AP probably don't have the skills and motivation to succeed. And they'll fail in higher numbers. This is all bad.
He's right that they'll likely fail at a higher level but wrong that this slippage is inevitable. First, teachers will definitely need to work a lot harder to motivate the "marginal" kids - and many don't want to do that, it's easier to blame the kids than question anything we're doing. Second, to combat the low skills too many students currently have, schools must provide - and require - a ton of extra effort among the coaxed-in AP kids, so they can legitimately keep up with the "A" students. Our school, for example, does precisely that. Our seniors do more than 100 hours of required after-school tutoring each year on top of their classes and the homework. And teachers work nights, weekends, and vacations towards the noble goal of getting inner-city kids - who have the talent but start high school with very low skills - to succeed.
Besides, is trying and failing bad as Welsh contends? In fact, the College Board has data showing that even students who score a 1 or 2 on the AP test (too low to earn college credit) are more likely to succeed in college than kids who don't take AP at all. Welsh argues that the AP courses themselves are becoming watered down, possibly hurting the "A" students in the process. That's a legitimate point and most teachers teach to the middle. But this problem is not inevitable. Rather than stop trying to do as much as we can for disadvantaged kids, let's hold schools accountable for their use of the AP label by publishing their AP test scores, and comparing and benchmarking by race and income to national averages. A little transparency can go a long way.
Finally, Welsh contends: "Any reasonably bright kid could get a 3 on the English literature test without taking the course." Later he adds: "70% of African-American students who took the AP test last May in English literature received scores of 1 or 2." Does Mr. Welsh think all those kids aren't reasonably bright? Hopefully not. He's just rhetorically trapped. He likes to indulge in the College-Board-as-evil-corporate-behemoth attack, feathering the bottom line with $82 AP fees. To undermine the College Board, he must show that their claim that AP equals "college-level mastery" is false. Most Americans could not score a "3" on the AP English exam, and a "3" probably correlates fairly well to the ability to pass a typical university Writing Course - not at Princeton, Yale, Stanford or Duke, perhaps, but at most colleges.
Schools need to get beyond the hype," Welsh writes, "and their quest for a better public image, especially one that suggests that the needs of minority students are being met when they are not." Amen to that. Thankfully, the drive for more challenging standards, and - and the AP dust-up is just the latest front in that effort - says to kids, parents, teachers, and administrators: "Stop whining, a lot more kids can succeed at the hard stuff if we all work our asses off on their behalf, so let's get going."
Michael Goldstein is founder of the MATCH Public Charter School in Boston, MA.
Want more on this issue? Jenny D weighs-in here along with her readers.
Very important CSM op-ed by Paul Hill and Marguerite Roza. Dirty secrets on the finance front, fixing them would help address some of the concerns below...
Look for more of this to come. Third graf from the bottom lays it out in pretty stark terms and the political consequences are obvious. Boardbuzz, for God's sake, do something!
New Carnival of Education Blogs is up. Seems like a lot of work to put it together so many thanks to the confusingly named EdWonk site.
Important essay by Leo Casey ostensibly responding to the vocal criticism of Bill Gates from left-leaning education activists but actually making a larger point. It's must-reading for those interested in the through-the-looking glass world of edupolitics. Casey is a big wheel at the UFT in NYC though this essay is his own. Too long for Eduwonk to do it justice here, and Casey criticizes Gates and NCLB, too, so read the whole thing. Nonetheless, a couple of excerpts:
Bill Gates is not the issue. What should concern those of us on the American left is not that Gates has made some negative comments about American high schools, but that in so doing, he has outflanked "the left," especially the "educational left," from the left.
...That graduation rate for students of color is a national scandal, pure and simple. And the achievement gap which underlies that differentiation in graduation rates is a national scandal, pure and simple.
And yet an American left which once championed the cause of ending racial segregation in American public schools, of doing away with separate and unequal schools, is largely silent and inactive on these issues. Instead, it is Bill Gates who is speaking out, and who is giving his philanthropic money to efforts to remake and reform American high schools. So we attack Bill Gates? Denounce him as the "hit man" on public high schools?
Yes, we should be shouting "shame," but on ourselves, not on him. The world's richest man is more of an advocate for educational equity than we are, and that is our problem, not his.
...Will the epitaph of the American "educational left" be that we saw the world through the eyes of the well-to-do suburbs?
Junkies, for more in the same vein click here, here, here, and here. It's an important conversation that is getting going in fits and starts.
Predictably good column.
Big Apple Edu-Politics
Joel Klein comes out swinging in the mayoral race in NYC. Very important subtext...
New from NCES, everything you ever wanted to know about the NAEP but didn't think to ask.
Per this, as "technocrats from the well-fed policy class"!
OK, put down the Marx-Engels Reader and the bong and back away slowly...
More circumstantial evidence (pdf) that a rethinking of teacher recruitment, hiring, and licensure is in order. From Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp:
In a growing economy, when jobless claims are at the lowest point in four years, Teach For America has received a record 17,000 applicants. Twelve percent of the senior classes of Yale and Spelman, 11 percent of Dartmouth's senior class, 9 percent of the senior classes of Princeton and Harvard, and 4 percent of the University of Michigan's senior class have chosen to compete to join Teach For America.
More about TFA here. And, the numbers caught the attention of Teach and Learn, too. He's also a TFA vet.
The U.S. embassy in Afghanistan seeks an Education Advisor to oversee the rebuilding of the education system there. From the posting: "This position, entailing a minimum one-year commitment, offers a unique opportunity to help reconstruct the educational infrastructure of the country and secure its social stability at a pivotal time in its history. Based in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and reporting to the Ambassador, the Education Advisor will work closely with the newly established American School in Kabul and American University of Afghanistan as well as other appropriate organizations and initiatives."
Accommodations are described as sparse but secure. Applications, which should include a C.V. and a letter explaining interest and relevant experience, should be emailed here.
"Martha Stewart now has more street cred than 50 cent."
Via Betsy's Page.
New writing prompt for the SAT: Bill Gates said today's high schools are obsolete, discuss.
The Washington Post found six young people to do just that. Interesting discussion.
The other day an Eduwonk reader wondered where Robert Reich was in his on-again and off-again support for vouchers. Looks like off because this commentary would have been the place to mention it. Two other quick thoughts:
Per Reich's education tax proposal, big national tax plans for education have the allure of sounding like great big radical ideas, but in terms of policymaking they're not serious ideas because they stand almost no chance of becoming law. Meanwhile, state reforms, including statewide property taxes (and other statewide taxes), have the potential to help address the inequity problem. Though interstate disparities obviously exist, the basic issue at hand is much less property taxes per se than the reliance on localized property taxes that disadvantage low-income communities.
In terms of the high school part in Reich's commentary, Bill Gates and the governors were not really talking about tests -- in fact there was not much love for the president's plan to require states to expand testing to high schools at the summit. Rather, Gates was talking about equity and how poor and minority kids systematically get the short end of the stick. That problem should be a theme animating the Democratic left but it means tough choices and tough conversations with allies. Big schemes are a lot easier.
An informed reader writes:
There’s an emperor-has-no-clothes aspect to this whole [Utah NCLB] imbroglio that’s gone un-noted and I wonder if Eduwonk can illuminate the masses that are being left uninformed by the NYT.
It’s not hard for Utah to like their accountability system better than AYP, because Utah DOES NOT HAVE AN ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM. Last year, the legislature instructed the state department of education to develop a new accountability system. It currently is being designed.
So, for the time being, everyone in Utah can agree they like their own home-grown accountability system better because no one knows what it is – this really cuts down on criticisms. One of the shortcomings of actual accountability systems is that they identify schools with weaknesses that need to be confronted – but not Utah’s, not yet!
Here’s a posting to a PowerPoint presentation on Utah’s state department of education website showing the state of the UPASS system:
OK, this reader is informed except about the "illumination" part, you'll get none of that here...but a good point nonetheless.
DCEdublog Finds His Voice
Usually he reports and you decide, but now the top chronicler of, and a must-read about, Washington DC Public Schools reports and decides! Good coverage of the ongoing mercury incident around the blog, too.
A lot of buzz about the changes at the Department of Ed. A key aide in the special education office is leaving, sparking paranoia in that community. But there is a lot more. Here's the memo from Spellings outlining the changes, they sound bureaucratic, but are significant if they're carried out. Skip to the bottom if you want some names...
What does it mean? Power consolidation. Spellings is going to make sure that she's got her thumbs on the right stuff or that people she trusts do to ensure that she doesn't have an Armstrong Williams-style episode on her watch.
From: Spellings, Margaret
Sent: Friday, March 04, 2005 4:03 PM
To: All Exchange Users
Subject: Proposed US Department of Education Coordinating Structure
MEMORANDUM TO EDUCATION DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES
FROM: Secretary Spellings
SUBJECT: Proposed US Department of Education Coordinating Structure
Today I am pleased to announce a new coordinating structure that focuses the resources of the Department on the people we primarily serve and aligns our leadership with the results we all seek in educational excellence in K-12 education and postsecondary education.
I have spent the past six weeks reviewing the operations of the Department, listening to senior officers and meeting with employees in an effort to ensure that we are serving constituencies through the most effective alignment of the leadership and talent of the Department. I believe this proposed structure will add great value in the way we do business and how we serve our customers. The details are still being determined, but I thought you would be interested to see the overall “big picture” in the meantime. The new structure sets a high priority on clarification of roles, responsibilities, processes and the key integration that needs to occur between policy development, program implementation and communication.
The first changes involve the portfolios of the Deputy Secretary (ODS) and Under Secretary (OUS). In simple terms, ODS will focus on K-12 policy: No Child Left Behind, the President’s High School Initiative, and IDEA; OUS will focus on higher and adult education policy: postsecondary policy, college aid, and the President’s financial aid reforms for the Pell Grant program. Thus, the various Principal Offices that oversee those policies and programs will coordinate their efforts through ODS or OUS as follows:
· Coordinating through ODS: the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS). In addition, the High School Initiative, the Mathematics and Science Initiative, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans and the Office of Indian Education will be integrated with the efforts to raise the visibility of the elementary and secondary focus and will be housed in OESE.
· Coordinating through OUS: the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE), the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) and Federal Student Aid (FSA). In addition, the functions of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities will be integrated with the efforts to raise the visibility of the postsecondary focus and will be housed in OPE.
I am also proposing a new office called the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development (OPEPD), which will be led by an Assistant Secretary who will report directly to me. OPEPD will integrate and coordinate the policy development process across the Principal Offices. This office will supervise the functions of the Budget Service, Strategic Accountability Service and Policy and Program Studies Service. The office will also coordinate the efforts of the Office of Educational Technology.
In addition, I am proposing a new office to consolidate and better coordinate the communication functions of the Department to ensure clear, consistent communications across the Principal Offices. The new Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO) will include the functions of the former Office of Public Affairs (OPA), most of the functions of the former Office of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs (OIIA) and the function of internal communications. An Assistant Secretary who will report directly to me will lead OCO. The Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs (OLCA) will acquire the function of state legislative outreach from the former OIIA.
A Senior Advisor reporting directly to me in the Office of the Secretary will facilitate the reorganization and oversee the transformation of other critical processes to ensure enterprise-wide effective investing and risk management of the Department’s grants, loans, contracts and related services.
The Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) will coordinate the functions of the Office of Management and the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).
And finally, the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the International Affairs Office will remain part of the Office of the Secretary and their functions will be coordinated through the Deputy Chiefs of Staff.
In terms of a timeframe for these changes, we anticipate that the process will be conducted at a constructively aggressive pace in the coming weeks. Some of the changes will progress quickly whereas other changes involving movement of functions from one Principal Office to another will take longer.
During this brief period of change, I ask that all staff continue to focus on serving the American people by doing the great work of this Department. In short, there is no doubt these changes will result in a better workplace and continue the success of the agency. I thank you for your continued commitment to the Department’s mission, and for your continued support as we move ahead with these improvements.
That's the end of the memo, as for possible personnel moves: Smart money figures current Asst. Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Ed Ray Simon for the Deputy Secretary job and Sally Stroup for the Under Secretary slot.
Hot rumor is that Tom Luce, Texan and honcho at National Center For Education Accountability, is coming up to take the new policy job.
NYT and Wash. Post look at the new SAT writing section. Pretty predictable Patrick Welsh article in The Post's Outlook, interesting op-ed by Curtis Sittenfeld in The Times. Outlook is valuable real estate, what about soliciting pieces from some other area teachers (like, for instance, one Curtis Sittenfeld who teaches at St. Albans)? If Eduwonk's email is any indication there are many that write ably and have a lot of interesting things to say.
In today's Post, Michael Dobbs (who incidentally just won some awards for his impromptu coverage of the tsunami disaster) looks at the new SAT, as well, very worth reading.
No Bias Left Behind! Compare the New York Times' account of a Utah meeting in which federal officials sought to calm fears about the No Child Left Behind Act ("Bush Education Officials Find New Law a Tough Sell") to the account in the local paper ("No Child Left Behind Comes Into Focus"). Predictably, the Times missed this part of the story:
Afterwards, some parents and minority advocates said they didn't want things to change too much. The law forces schools to confront weaknesses, said Karen Duffy, a University of Utah researcher who studies education issues for American Indians.
American Indians have long lagged behind their classmates, she said, and the school system has failed to solve the problem. "This law is about the only hope they have," she said.
More to the point, thankfully buried deep (6 grafs from the bottom a 28 graf article) in Sunday's story is the nut of the issue:
Utah's main goal, however, is to gain federal approval to use the state's own testing and school accountability program instead of the federal system. But Ms. Spellings has said that a non-negotiable feature is the law's requirement that test results be broken down by student groups, so that parents and other can identify when minority, white and other student groups are achieving at different levels.
Utah does not break down test results by student groups. Last weekend, Mr. Huntsman met with Ms. Spellings, while Mr. Bridgewater and Dr. Harrington met separately with several of the secretary's aides. But the federal officials did not budge on Utah's request to use its own accountability system, Mr. Bridgewater said.
Right, against disaggregation....very progressive...they also like tax credits (another really progressive idea, just great for poor people....) and vouchers out there, too. The strange bedfellows NCLB foes are willing to make in their frantic quest to discredit the law are leading them down a path to a place they're not going to like...No NLCB doesn't mean a return to the old days of business as usual...
Two new ECS looks at the takeover/restructuring effort in Chester Upland, Pennsylvania here and here (pdf). Ed Week's Gewertz takes a look, too. Punchline: After a few years, looks like more of an example of what not to do than what to do. Yet despite that, some modest improvement. Too many compromises lead to a muddled situation and it takes resources to do this right.