Friday, May 20, 2005
When The LAT Attacks!
Really tough editorial...
Why does the phrase "overplayed hand" keep coming to mind?
Each day ASCD puts out a small collection of the news stories of the day with a little commentary. Not infrequently it's more the news as they wish it read, than as it actually does, but yesterday's takes the cake for sheer detachment from political reality. Pegged to the NYT analysis about the reading scores ASCD informs us that:
The number of New York City's fourth-graders scoring at grade level on the state's English Language Arts exam this year rose 9.9 percentage points, while the percentage of the city's eighth-graders meeting state standards dropped 2.8 percentage points. The mixed results complicate the re-election picture for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has urged voters to judge him on his school reform efforts.
Right! Complicates it like a 400 point jump in the Dow might "complicate" your portfolio…
The NYT's own analysis (with good analysis from TC's Jeff Henig) concluded this is a big pro-Bloomberg moment. And, per one connected Eduwonk political observer:
Every political consultant in the city (both Dem and Repub) at least privately agrees that this is entirely good news for Bloomberg, not a mixed bag, because the mayor effectively spun the 8th grade scores as victims of a bad early education. One key political operative said his advice to [UFT head Randi Wiengarten] would have been to just say nothing unless she was going to limit her comments to congratulating teachers – which even Bloomberg did. This operative thinks from a political perspective it is silly to argue the nuance of the scores, perhaps even counter-productive, because this will be viewed as a clear win for Bloomberg by swing-voters. The die-hards on each side have already made up their minds on Bloomberg’s handling of the schools.
Politically, isn't it almost never a good idea to bet on bad news (or be seen as sort of hoping for it), particularly when the opposite good news will be welcomed by most of the public?
St. Michael's Donna Frietas writes a lively essay in the WSJ about Senior Week, sex, and religion.
This is all over the news. It shows an interesting split. An informal Eduwonk poll shows that those inside the profession see the logic and get what the teachers are doing, those outside really do not. Something to think about...
And, U.S. kids lead the world in Star Wars knowledge!
The significant interest and response from your readers to “Chef Finn-gate” has me thinking. This little episode has brought into focus the demo you’re serving: highly literate, cultured, introverted, homebodies. Hmmm...if you could somehow weave together NAEP scores and references to Cat Fancy, I bet your ratings would go through the roof.
Just a thought,
A Helpful Fan
Update: Per the above, another reader responds:
This whole thing could explain why no one has ever formed an education policy softball team or garage band.
Making some fast lemonade...UFT head Randi Weingarten says that the new reading scores show that there is no problem with the contract. OK, assume that's true. Does it mean in all the places where scores are flat (about everywhere according to No Child Left Behind foes) that the contracts are a problem? At the PPI - UI conference on collective bargaining Chuck Kerchner called for incorporating performance measures into contracts...
Also, the UFT honored noted educational historian Diane Ravitch with its John Dewey award earlier this week. It was compared to the Southern Poverty Law Center giving David Duke an award. That's offensive, way overstates it, and is a sad commentary on the state of today's debate. However, while Ravitch is an outstanding historian, the award is a little ironic in light of this book (though Dewey himself would probably shudder at some of what is done educationally in his name).
Nonetheless, as you can see from Ravitch's speech accepting the award, she and the UFT have a common foe in Bloomberg - Klein.
The NYT weighs-in on the good news NYC reading scores. Also, NYT's Healy takes a good look at the politics of all this. But don't worry perpetually grumpy New Yorkers, still plenty to grumble about. For instance, despite their little spurt of late, the Yankees still basically suck.
NYC Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz has put together a handy guide (pdf) to the NYC schools budget.
And, to the UFT's credit, they post the teacher's contract there online. Here it is. PPI and the Urban Institute hosted a conference this Monday and Tuesday on teacher collective bargaining, more on that later.
Per Chef Finn, updated cooking action below.
An IDEA due process hearing involving a school district in Illinois dragged on for 42 days. Reports are that it cost the district almost $800,000 and the parents about $500K in legal costs. It's the longest hearing in IL history.
But is it a national record? Any information about that appreciated at this email address.
Some interesting jobs open.
Public Impact, a NC-based public policy consulting firm that does a lot of ed policy work is looking for a consultant/project manager for education management and policy work. Email Bryan Hassel for more info.
The Boston-based Project for School Innovation is looking for a new executive director. More information and resumes at this email address.
If you want to be part of this, then Roxbury Prep is seeking 6th – 8th grade math, science, English, history, reading, and physical education teachers who:
· Are dedicated to and effective with urban middle school students of color.
· Have subject matter expertise and use a variety of teaching methods to engage students.
· Are committed to improving curriculum and instruction through collaboration.
· Communicate effectively with students, parents, colleagues, and community members.
Fax resumes and cover letters to: (617) 566-2373.
NYC Reading Scores
Look for some back and forth about this. A lot of folks have a lot invested in attacking Joel Klein and despite some caveats about participation, these results make it somewhat harder to do that.
From this article in Chronicle of Higher Ed: More than 100 professors at Calvin College, in Michigan, have signed a letter criticizing the policies of President Bush, who is scheduled to speak at the evangelical Christian institution's spring commencement on Saturday.
From an anonymous reader, and yes, it is true...Eduwonk ran down a copy and sure enough in this month's Real Simple magazine there is a recipe for Chicken Stroganoff from one Chester Finn heretofore better known for policy than polenta…
Many of us have long thought that the similarities between Chester Finn and Julia Child are downright eerie. Now it turns out that they also share a penchant for fancy cooking! Please see the latest issue of Real Simple magazine.
So, Finn’s a published policy wonk and a published gastronome. My fiancée has taken note, and now she thinks I’m a slacker. All I hear all day is “I bet Finn’s reading Dewey right now, not watching reruns of Friends,” and “Finn would’ve made me a real dinner, not canned stew,” and “Finn would be nicer to my mother,” and on and on...
Eduwonk, he’s throwing off the curve for the rest of us! What can I do?
A chagrined ed reformer
PS: Please don’t share my identity with your many readers. My enormous street cred would be comprised if it were revealed that I read Real Simple magazine.
Update I: Chef Finn himself writes to Eduwonk that:
There are innumerable similarities between analyzing education policy and making chicken stroganoff. To mention only the most obvious:
* deconstruction is involved, in the one case of concepts and interests, in the other case of fowls and vegetables.
* tears are entailed, in the one case for children left behind, in the other case a result of slicing onions.
* one must cook with heat and vigor, in the one case at a stove, in the other at a word processor, conference or committee room.
* spice is essential, in the one case to provide flavor, in the other to attract interest.
I could go on but will forebear. I must, however, observe that your tipster seems worrisomely insecure about his fiancée. Perhaps he should take cooking lessons. Alternatively, he could seek to become the Escoffier of education policy.
Update II: It's not only Finn with the Real Simple connection. Apparently, pace several Eduwonk tipsters, Brenda Welburn, the CEO of NASBE, has a daughter who will be part of Real Simple's television show.
Update III: A reader writes:
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Measure this exactly. I don't want to hear any nonsense about how I should "trust" the cook; use a standard measuring spoon. Add the diced unions, um onions, and the mushrooms, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, like the progressives, about 8 minutes. Leave no mushroom behind. Don't worry about their "self-esteem." Instead, with a wooden spoon, loosen all the bits stuck to the pan and let cook with the rest of the sauce. The liquid should thicken slightly, not to the point of Reg Weaver, but more to Andy Rotherham level.
$1 At A Time!
Another great example of how to build support for public education...this time from NH.
Jacobs has hunted down a few more stories.
Debunkers to arms! Wash. Post's Dobbs takes a favorable look at Amistad Academy. Here's another example of a school that is outpacing others, Roxbury Preparatory Charter in Boston. It's not only outpacing nearby schools, but schools statewide. Note how the high minority Roxbury Prep stacks up against white students statewide in MA. (Ed Note: Now that Eduwonk has learned how to upload charts to blogger, look for plenty more!). The chart below shows Roxbury Prep's students and statewide scores by subgroup.
However, per the Dobbs piece, isn't it less "No Excuses" than "whatever it takes"? There is a difference. There are legitimate explanations for the achievement gap that go beyond schools (though schools often compound these issues), it's just that these schools just don't use them as a crutch or constraint. No excuses seems to overly simplify this work and imply that it's only an issue of effort whereas what really makes these schools different is the entrepreneurial energy of the teachers and staff in terms of doing whatever it takes, including a variety of outside activities, to make the program work for kids. Sort of effort plus.
Per this, a principal writes:
As an aside, I thought I'd mention that I shared your coverage of the Linda Darling-Hammond hatchet job of TFA with some of the teachers in the charter school where I work. Our school was founded by and is staffed almost completely by TFA alums. Every single one of them will admit to you that in their first years, they were lousy. That's how it is for everyone when they start teaching. But they will also all tell you that the alternate route certification programs or master's degrees they were required to pursue were, for the most part, useless distractions, and in some cases here in XX, actually detrimental to their development as teachers. And these teachers,rated as some of the most effective around by authoritative sources [results provided but redacted to preserve anonymity] are legitimate authorities on the question of professional development.
Up and comer Elliot Haspel (currently a UVA undergrad doing all manner of interesting work at the university and dipping his toes in the DC policy water) offers his thoughts on Jay Mathews' recent Newsweek high schools package on his blog.
Per this post, see also this update.