Friday, May 27, 2005
Less Is More...
Remember that guy in the commercials for Crown Books who would say sort of thuggishly that "books cost too much..."? Well, turns out that's not the problem, it's that books weigh too much! That's because they're just too darn long!
State Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg: "It's time for California to be the leader that it always has been." Those words should strike fear in 49 other states...
Fascinating column from the NYT...
Now Gordon's Gone Wild! Former Kerry aide, current informal Edwards advisor, and Center for American Progress staffer Robert Gordon lets loose in The New Republic.
Too many pointed comments to excerpt (and Howard Dean comes in for a few stern rebukes along with the teachers' unions), read the entire thing. Nonetheless, here's the gist:
I was one of Kerry's education advisers during the general election. I previously worked for--and have since advised--Edwards. The views expressed here are my own, but I bear plenty of responsibility for the developments described. Yet the attitudes of the candidates reflected the attitudes of the party. Top congressional Democrats today say nothing different...
In emphasizing resources, Democrats evade questions of culture and institutions. Those matter, too. It matters whether we set high expectations for schools and teachers or accept mediocrity, and whether we impose consequences for failure or excuse it. That Republicans are fond of making these points--and unions and school officials are not fond of hearing them--does not make them less true.
Progressives are misled by the logic of their own Bush-hatred: Bush is for nclb, so nclb must be bad. Never mind that President Clinton embraced accountability before President Bush, Governor Ann Richards before Governor Bush. As the demands of nclb mount, and as resistance to those demands spreads into conservative strongholds like Texas and Utah, many progressives are joining the fun. But opportunistic attacks are not an affirmative agenda...
...Strengthening teaching requires changes to the pay system and school culture that abet mediocrity. Standing alone, the usual liberal solution--across-the-board pay hikes--perpetuates the maldistribution of good teachers and reinforces the irrelevance of achievement. High-poverty schools need to attract more teachers with bonuses, and all schools need to attract better teachers with the promise of higher earnings for better results.
Eduwonk says: Stockpile canned goods and firearms! That guy by the subway station was right...the apocalypse is upon us! Key indicator? Pro-charter school NYT story here...front page NYT Sam Dillon pro-NCLB story here!
Here's the lead, make sure you're sitting down:
Spurred by President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, educators across the nation are putting extraordinary effort into improving the achievement of minority students, who lag so sharply that by 12th grade, the average black or Hispanic student can read and do arithmetic only as well as the average eighth-grade white student.
Update: Mickey Kaus suggests an alternative explanation...burying good news on a Friday!
ICE, a newsletter published by dissident UFT members in New York who oppose the current leadership of UFT head Randi Weingarten had this blurb about the UFT charter saga:
One of the best things to happen in Chicago (and I'm sure elsewhere) is that UFT is being forced to back off that charter school nonsense. If Randi and Leo (Casey) had gotten their ways and opened those charters, it would have set the opposition to charters elsewhere back five years, a fatal setback at this point in history. Charter schools in Chicago are the vanguard of the privatization of public schools, more dangerous than vouchers. The fact that UFT was blind to how serious its decision to charterize was for the rest of us across the country can't be overstated.
Also, on the NYC charter issue, don't miss this special collectors item pro-charter school story from the NYT based on an analysis they commissioned of the new NYC scores.
Per this, a reader writes:
When my wife was teaching in an urban district, she went to a couple of public meetings to speak in defense of the district's takeover efforts at her school, noting that the physical working conditions, books and supplies, and student performance all had improved since the takeover. Both times, a union representative stood up and called her a "whore" in the public meetings.
This was particularly curious for two reasons: a) she was a dues-paying member of the union (as were all the other teachers at the school); and b) she was making about 24k, which made her a particularly poorly-paid whore, thanks to the union contract that wouldn't allow any performance incentive pay.
As amazing as it is to see union officials berate the district administration "opposition," it's even more amazing to watch them consistently berate and belittle their own membership. It's not a sustainable m.o.; eventually, bailing out on the hardest-working and most-talented segment of union members to defend the job rights of the least talented catches up with you.
We keep hearing that money (the lack thereof) dissuades people from becoming teachers because of low-teacher pay. It's an argument that has some merit in some places. Yet when a CA district proposes paying teachers more to stay in challenging schools the teachers' union protests that people don't do the job for money? What's more, a teachers' union spokesperson in LA says that offering teachers more money for performance or challenging assignments is akin to treating them like "whores".
This is an absurd line of argument that succeeds only in the insular world of education politics. Does money matter or not? If it matters for overall pay, it matters for differentials, too. And if it doesn't matter in terms of behavior because intrinsic motivation is really determinant, then what's the policy argument for not just indexing teacher pay to inflation? Or paying teachers much at all for that matter? Those are absurd propositions as well because of course money is a factor in the professional decisions teachers make.
Is pretty much every profession outside of teaching populated by whores? Money isn't the only thing that drives people in other professions (nor is it the only issue for teachers issues like working conditions, leadership, and the rest also matter) but other professions are much more willing to make financial incentives one part of the picture while also addressing other issues and it's long overdue to recognize that in education. Incidentally, smart teachers' union leaders also recognize that regimented pay-schemes based primarily on longevity and course-taking are counter-productive to the interest of their members, too.
Jordan is not only a trendy name these days, it's where Secretary of Education Spellings has been passing some time...The Ed Wonks run it all down for you with a handy travelogue.
Free The UFT Two! Updated!
Per this, one liberal education observer and UFT critic in NYC writes to Eduwonk to note:
What is so disappointing is that the Republicans overplayed their hands so obnoxiously that this could prove to be more of a problem down the line. The UFT was on the ropes the last few weeks with all the attention their contract has gotten. But even I am annoyed with the way the union's application was treated. Those f**ers on the right don't know how to let destiny run its course.
NYT writes-up the state of play here. Who cares if UFT head Randi Weingarten is on the board? That's a political complaint, no? It's a UFT school, it's not as though they can disown it if things go poorly.
Update: Desperate Hill Staffers! A reader writes: Please tell me your liberal observer/UFT critic is a hot, young, and single woman. OK, first some basic ground rules...this is Eduwonk not Edupimp. Second, no, it's a dude...a middle-aged dude...
Update II: More NYC, column on the cap issue.
"...city charter schools have been running rings around the rest of the system for quite a while. Last year, for instance, an astonishing 70% of city charter schools outscored schools in their local districts on math and reading tests.
It's all the more astonishing considering that charters, by law, get 22% less state funding per student than other schools. The Legislature, in effect, designed these schools to fail. And still, they prevailed.
Denis Doyle takes a short and astute look at NCLB, past, present, and future.
Scores Charter Schools! Free The UFT Two!
Big doings on the charter school front the past few days in Gotham. Yesterday, SUNY's Board of Trustees decided to postpone consideration of the United Federation of Teachers' charter school proposal. This NY Post editorial ran on Monday and NY Post partisans were claiming a scalp. Todays Post ed here and NY Daily News ed here. It appears the postponement was political (and observers say the Post editorial did play a role).
This is too bad. Concerns about the accountability of this school seem misplaced. In addition to SUNY's good track record as an authorizer, these UFT schools would possibly be the most scrutinized charter schools in the nation since partisans on all sides are hoping to prove a point. Besides, the charter deal is about freedom in exchange for results. Both sides of that equation have unfortunately been chiseled away, but it really doesn't matter that the UFT's charter application is too prescriptive on inputs for some tastes. That's not the point.
Concerns about the appropriateness of the school are another matter. Not because the UFT shouldn't be running schools, they should. But rather because New York is close to bumping up against its cap of 100 charters statewide. Among other charter supporters, NYC schools chief Joel Klein wants the cap lifted. The UFT does not. It should be eliminated. Charters couple top-down public accountability with bottom-up parental accountability. That bottom-up effect provides a natural check on charter school growth. Charters that don't attract parents, don't survive.
So, free the UFT Two! Let the UFT have its schools but raise statewide cap. Maybe give the UFT the 101st and 102nd school? This is New York, there must be a deal in there somewhere...
Two very interesting new reports that reward reading and help point the way to some fresh thinking:
- The Finance Project has released a new cross-sector analysis (pdf) looking at professional development across some different dimensions.
- New Schools Venture Fund has released a fascinating new analysis (pdf) of performance-driven practices in education. Big implications for data analysis and feedback. Ed Week here but read the entire study.
Who knew? The Huffington Post is fast becoming a hotbed of education debates...first Huffie Sherry Lansing put forward an idea, then Piscal went wild, and now ABCTE has taken up residence!
Very entertaining NYT Magazine interview with Secretary Spellings (and they ask her the Earth Mother question...).
Key serious question:
NYT: Are you concerned about the rebellion against No Child Left Behind, the federal act that tries to improve school accountability by requiring states to test kids every year? Utah just announced that it doesn't want your money -- it wants to be left alone.
Spellings: That's their prerogative. But if I were a Hispanic mom in Utah, I sure would want an explanation as to why we left $76 million on the table and my kid is not being well served.
It's a good thing for NCLB foes that the President seems unable to put it in those terms...
NY Daily News unpacks the recent scores. Punchline: Charter schools beating the averages (in particular in 8th-grade though two really great schools possibly skewing the averages there).
Political implications: The Cap.
"There's 10,000 kids on wait lists," said Bill Phillips, of the New York State Charter School Association. "Enough of the excuses. Lift the cap."
The state is expected to reach the 100-school cap by the end of the year. The teachers union opposes the push to remove the cap, something Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Bloomberg support.
NYT's Michael Winerip turns in an interesting profile of his former high school and the predominance of Asian kids in the math club. Yes, it's stereotypical...but he also does a nice job capturing the perspective of students who are recent immigrants.
But here's where Winerip's favorite punching bag, NCLB, comes in sort of handy. He wonders why, in a predominantly white school, are there not more white kids in the math club? Hmmm....The chart below sheds some light on that and also on the lack of representation by other minority kids. It's based on 2003 numbers from this school and the state.
To be sure, as the chart shows it's unfair to singularly blame the school for what is apparently a statewide problem, but it's a problem nonetheless.
See, there are happy endings in education and in life...via Jacobs.