Saturday, July 16, 2005
Not Your Average Joe
Work calls Eduwonk away to locales where blogging may be difficult but you're again in good hands. Joe Williams,
big band singer, baseball player education reporter for the NY Daily News and author of this book will guest blog all next week. Bryan Hassel and Richard Colvin have set a high bar...Back on the 25th.
While guestblogging Bryan Hassel offered one way that so-called growth models of accountability could benefit high achieving kids and noted that Eduwonk has been less than enthusiastic about the rush to embrace this strategy.
Here's why. In theory, there is little objectionable about incorporating value-added or growth measures into NCLB (though it’s worth noting that NCLB’s oft-overlooked “safe-harbor” provisions are basically a growth model now). In fact, all else equal it's the way to go. Thing is, all else isn't equal and there are substantive and political problems with growth/value-added as a widespread solution now.
First the substance. Despite all the talk, few states are positioned to really implement such changes now. That’s because data tracking systems and assessment systems are still too primitive or incomplete. As the Education Commission of the States notes "most states can report broadly about how various groups of students are doing. But in general, state systems aren’t yet able to put together different types of information to look at the performance of individual students over time."
NCLB helped set some progress in motion on this front but the Bush Administration has failed to make it a priority either in terms of funding or technical support. A massive national effort is needed and the Administration has basically been AWOL when it could be a valuable partner for the states. Good primers here (pdf) and here (pdf) on some of the issues involved.
In addition, while Hassel is proposing something for kids already "proficient" in math and reading, it's worth remembering that a lot of students, particularly minority students, are not. Consider Illinois from this recent post or visit www.schoolmatters.com and look for your own state. A primary impetus behind the 1994 and 2001 versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the latter the infamous No Child Left Behind) was to ensure common standards across states. Deciding how much value-added or growth is enough does run a risk of turning back the clock, as they say. And, if the standards are at all meaningful then allowing growth or value-added will not result in significantly fewer schools being identified as "needing improvement" another goal of some growth/value promoters.
The politics are tough, too. Fixing chronically low-performing schools is not a measurement problem, it's a political one. Actually holding adults accountable is the hardest thing to do in education policymaking and the track record of doing so is pretty poor. As George Miller has noted, a meaningful accountability system cannot allow low-performing schools to always be "getting there." However, politically, establishing parameters that trigger consequences gets you right back in the box policymakers are in now: Aggrieved interest groups demanding relief from actual consequences. It's an old story. The law's hardcore critics are not holding out for a more textured measurement system but rather one without serious consequences.
Bottom line. Important idea going forward, probably some intermediate steps along the way and opportunities for leader states that are further down the tracks, but not actionable in lieu of the current system now (and a real risk of creating something in the meantime that looks like accountability, but isn't).
Thankfully though, less dour prognoses abound! Look for a magazine piece by Tom Toch sorting out these issues and pointing a way forward in the coming weeks.
This is a good list to be #4 on.
NY Post still fired-up...Eduwonk thought the last time was do or die...hard to keep track of all these do or die moments in charter authorizing in New York...Update: SOB lays on the silent treatment! Update II: NYT reports forward movement.
Per this item, Eduwonk wasn't quite sure why, out of the blue, Alexander Russo decided to pick-on Fairtest, but now it is clear: Free PR! Fairtest has now issued a press release responding to Russo (and asking for money). Sure, they're reduced to debunking bloggers but this sort of contretemps is good for everyone in the end.
Getting into the fringe mindset here's Eduwonk's bonus conspiracy theory: Fairtest paid Russo to launch his missive to (a) generate PR, sympathy, and money and (b) distract attention from the NAEP scores being touted by the big corporate moneyed interests and oligarchs!
Interesting article about religious organizations and charter schools from Chicago Trib. This guidance (pdf) has more.
Update: Per the article one reader writes:
Your lukewarm reception to religion in schools combined with your French kick of late (Bastille, La Guerre Charter, tres reasonable) makes you a questionable commodity during these times. Expect a call from Homeland Security.
NAEP Madness is already fizzling. NYT runs a mostly upbeat cynicism-free story on the front page, Wash. Post plays-up high school reform with an action photo of Kati Haycock no less.
But the same day as This Week's Russo says don't quote Fairtest, both the Post and the NYT stories run quotes verbatim from the Fairtest press release about the scores. Lame enough since there are actually thoughtful critics who could have been reached with these new fangled communications tools we have these days, phones, emails...and might have offered real nuance or texture.
But even lamer still because the quotes are the same stuff Fairtest says about any test (which seem a lot like NEA talking points, right down to the "so-called" NCLB gambit....). They have little to do with the issue of the day, the NAEP. The NAEP doesn't result in pushouts, teaching to the test, or any of the rest. It's a no-stakes test given to a sample of students. It is only related to high-stakes testing in the sense that Fairtest sees the NAEP and all other testing as part and parcel of some corporate or oligarchic plot to dominate American society.
Eduwonk disagrees with Russo that fringe groups shouldn't be quoted. Lots of important social movements, as he notes, started on the fringes. However, they should be quoted with some context and in a relevant way, not just as bomb throwers.
By the way, there are problems with standardized testing particularly some high-stakes policies for kids. Isn't the real tragedy here how Fairtest (which once was for fair and open testing) essentially has become Notest and lost the ability to do much serious work to address them beyond howling at the moon (aided by lazy reporters)?
Mr. Sun asks a pointed question about this Eduwonk item...
For a look at a big debate in education circles today see this Harvard Family Research Project Interview with Class and Schools author Richard Rothstein. See also this response to the meta-argument by CCCR's Diane Piche.
In the interview, Rothstein argues that:
Currently, our national education policy expects something we cannot possibly achieve if schools alone are seen as responsible for student achievement. Our national goal is that all social-class differences in education outcomes will disappear by the year 2014. However, when 2014 arrives and gaps have not disappeared, we will judge that schools have failed. Policies will follow from that judgment. But most of these policies will not work, because we will have made an incorrect diagnosis of the problem and therefore formulated an incorrect or incomplete treatment as a solution.
This is a something of a rhetorical strawman, NCLB is about proficiency in math and reading on state tests for most kids, not the elimination of all social class differences across-the-board or in all outcomes as a sweeping statement like that seems to imply. It's sort of a hysterical assertion, too. Here's a prediction: Though there will be some progress, all of NCLB's goals probably won't be reached by 2014. And guess what? The sky won't fall policywise, there will not be a big realignment around education because of the results or lack thereof, and the debate in the wake of this great deadline will look quite a bit like it does now! In fact, 2014 might be something of a snoozer except as a convenient peg for big-thinky type articles. Other things drive this debate. Seriously, will the pressure for vouchers, demands for more funding, or resistance to structural reforms in education change much if NCLB "works" or doesn't? Goals like NCLB's are important markers and important to driving policy but advocates on all sides tend to ascribe too much power to them to do great things or unleash great ills.
To the larger point, Eduwonk, like many, strongly supports better pre-k education, health care, and expanding other social services in low-income communities. However, pitting those goals against NCLB's gap-closing imperative creates a phony war. First, because schools can do more now even in the absence of these things, and second because there are plenty of folks who support doing both so it's not a binary debate politically or substantively except for those on the right and left who choose to make it that way.
In fact, one can envision a powerful left, center-left, and center-right coalition demanding resources and reform and isolating the harder right on the education issue. The center-left and to some extent the center-right (when they don't go wobbly under NEA pressure) are on board with reform, but too much of the left -- with noteworthy exceptions -- refuses to budge on any reform that displaces any adult interest in public education. The reason? Obvious but too often unremarked on: Interest-group liberalism rather than reform liberalism.
Besides, once upon a time bold goals and fits and spurts of progress excited progressives. Now they get people scared about sinister policies they might unleash. Not the sort of narrative that gets Americans excited about or politically bought into the possibilities of change...
Heresy! C'mon...that's crazy talk! Via ASCD Smartbrief.
On differential pay from Indy.
Critics argue it's not fair to pay a high school trigonometry teacher more than a second-grade classroom teacher since both work equally hard transforming lives.
Is it fair to our kids that 15 percent of high school math teachers didn't major or minor in mathematics? Is it fair that 95 percent of urban school districts have openings now for math teachers and can't fill them?
C'mon...that's crazy talk!
Via ASCD Smartbrief.
News from the front in Columbus, OH. Alex Medler would call this the competition frame...
New NAEP results just released. Earth Mother declaring victory. More later.
Update: First AP wire report here.
Update II: Instareax: Certainly some good news and Earth Mother is entitled to a victory lap because critics surely would have pounced had the data gone the other way, or even flat-lined. Still, probably a little early to declare victory for No Child.
That's because despite some good news for the black-white gap in math and reading (though it's still a gap that must be aggressively attacked), except in the early grades the white-Hispanic gap remains stubborn in math and reading. Overall the news is not as good in high school as in the early grades but that's to be expected and points to the need for more supports for struggling students and schools and more intensive (read resource intensive) interventions in the later grades.
Instapunchline: A lot still to do but one indication that when you actually focus attention on student learning, instead of say, creating a Department of Peace, kids learn.
Instaadvice to Ds: Don't attack, looks small. Instead put forward some serious big ideas for what the federal government could do to take this to the next level. After all, this was accomplished (by educators it should be noted) despite a truly astounding amount of bungling from the Bush crew).
Instaadvice to Rs: Tough luck, good news but surely not enough to distract attention from the leakgate feeding frenzy.
Instacynic and possible angle for despondent NYT types: The way this was released sure cuts it close on the requirement that NAGB release the data first....and some Rs were apparently talking it up earlier in the week...NAGB in the tank? It's a handy way to write the story and bury the good news!
Update III: Cynicism-free Ed Week story. In-house Brookings cynic Tom Loveless: “There’s no question, those are outstanding results...”
In this story on the for-profit charter issue in Arizona Ed Week's usually reliable Robelen falls prey to an undisclosed conflict of interest. He quotes Center For Education Reform's Jeanne Allen as an expert on the issue, and giving favorable quotes for the for-profit providers, without noting that she also has ties to an organization representing for-profit providers. She's not just an observer or analyst, she's a playa'!
This Ed Week story from last year has the backstory. Another victory for transparency in the education debate!
Ed Week's Jacobson writes-up the AFT's new campaign to "fix" No Child Left Behind. Good piece, real texture.
But isn't the AFT's basic problem that they've waited too long to publicly get in the game? To its credit, when NCLB was being put together, the AFT put forward some serious ideas about accountability attempting to address some of the intended and unintended consequences of NCLB's provisions. Eduwonk says "serious" in the sense that they were different than the NEA's ideas which, despite their lame protestations, amounted to, and still amount to, basically no accountability at all.
Since then the AFT's staff has rightly cringed (and sent corrective emails, phone calls, and pleas) every time the phrase "teachers' union" and "NCLB" are used together arguing that they're in a different place than the NEA and that the umbrella phrase is inappropriate. (Humorous -- in a wonky way -- aside: At a recent PPI-Urban Institute conference on teacher collective bargaining a free-thinking (or non-talking points reading) representative of the UFT pointed out that the AFT and the NEA were not in the same place on NCLB. Before he'd fully sat down an NEA lobbyist was on his feet lamely trying to argue that (a) the NEA supports NCLB, who knew? and (b) there is no difference between the NEA and AFT positions. Whatever. Now and then it still astounds that we even play these games...)
The fact is that, though Eduwonk's not on board with every AFT proposal, there is a difference, to the AFT's credit, between its position and that of the NEA both in substance and intent. It has something to do with where the core of their membership is located (AFT is more urban, NEA more suburban and rural) and somewhat different philosophies.
However, because the AFT remained quiet for so long while the NEA trashed, distorted, and campaigned against the NCLB law, they've lost the rhetorical high ground. They let themselves get lumped in with the NEA. Now, when the AFT says let's "fix" NCLB, most serious people think of that phrase in the sense that the NEA uses it, where "fix" actually means "eviscerate."
So, rather than rely on others to make the distinction between the AFT and the NEA clear in various outlets, the AFT needs to do that itself. Sure, it's tough at a time when labor is under attack from a very unfriendly administration and facing its own internal struggles, but it's what the AFT needs to do if it really wants to stake out an independent position in this debate. Otherwise, all the ads they're running now about NCLB are just, albeit inadvertently, reinforcing the NEA message and putting them on the wrong side of this debate.
BTW: Inside Baseball Buried Lede? New Unionism patron saint Adam Urbanski says he would have preferred that the AFT take a more hard line like the NEA on NCLB? The subtleties distinguishing New Unionism and the old kind often elude Eduwonk...
Carnival midway that is...new Carnival of Education is up.
Update: Since they're hosting the carnival, good a time as any to point out that Ed Wonks is a separate, albeit entertaining, site (started after Eduwonk) with no affiliation with this site. So, when they write something you don't like, better to send them an email than send one to Eduwonk. There has been some confusion lately.
Nothing to do with Eduwonkery, just a very big tuna.
NAACP chair Julian Bond went after the Bradley Foundation yesterday during NAACP's annual convention in Milwaukee. Fair enough, Bradley is hardly a progressive force.
Yet their involvement in the Milwaukee voucher program is more complicated than Bond's caricature. For starters, Bradley spread a lot of money to liberal and left-leaning groups in Milwaukee that also supported vouchers. In fact, looking at it in a content neutral way, what Bradley accomplished in Milwaukee provides a great roadmap for foundations looking to effect a policy change in some locale. They ran a soup-to-nuts operation supporting local activists and got a substantial policy change put in place and defended in the courts. Rather than bemoaning it, the left should try it with say, pre-k education, school facilities, teacher salaries, etc...
Moreover, Bond's attack is pretty selective. Unless one believes that Bradley somehow duped the, mostly African-American, parents of the 14,000 students now using publicly funded vouchers in Milwaukee then it's pretty insulting to characterize them as the victims of "ventriloquist dummies." It's also simply denying a tension in the Democratic coalition that the party needs to address. In the long run what those 14,000 parents want may not be great public policy (for instance, concerns about accountability notwithstanding, we can't afford two public school systems), but their desire is hardly irrational or illegitimate and Democratic elites better start paying attention and putting forward serious solutions to the educational problems they're facing.
MJS link via the patronizing Brink who also finds it inexplicable that a black leader might support vouchers on substance and not just be on the take.
Interesting CSM story about the Denver school being forcibly converted into a charter. The ever-sensible Greg Richmond makes two important points. The first is that it is essential to arrive at some commonly accepted definition of what a charter school is in terms of evaluating them. In addition to basic public responsibilities like oversight and access, important dimensions would include characteristics like autonomy of operations. Otherwise, all these things called "charters" will be lumped together even when many are not actually charter schools.
Richmond also notes that you can't force this idea on schools. That's an enormous and too often overlooked point. NCLB provides a broad menu of choices for district and state leaders in terms of dealing with chronically under-performing schools (and remember, these are schools with widespread problems, don't believe the NEA generated hysteria, the law does not call for the reconstitution of schools where, for instance, just a single subgroup is struggling). Just calling low-performing schools "charter schools" is a cosmetic fix not a substantive one, yet it's going to be an easy temptation.
In terms of the KIPP school in Denver, worth waiting to see what happens. KIPP has the leadership and competence to pull this off and bringing KIPP to the kids rather than kids to KIPP is an intriguing idea if there are other public options for parents who don't want the KIPP model.
He beats the rap in the tuition case (and then proceeds to graciously rub lemon juice in the paper cuts...).
Wash. Post's Haynes writes-up the entry of the New Leaders For New Schools program into Washington, D.C. Interesting story though he's too polite to note the absurdity of complaining about trying anything that isn't one of the "proven" things happening now in D.C. (particularly because of the thin evidence base for traditional principal preparation programs now...Wasn't one of Levine's reccomendations to create professional track quasi-MBA programs for aspiring managers? It was! And, that's basically what NLNS does...).
All D.C. is "proving" at this point is the political, economic, and social death spiral that occurs when public schools become the educational provider of last resort. Try something new and judge the new leaders on their results.
Here's one more Rip Van Winkle thing from a week off. When Eduwonk left for vacation Sandra Day O'Connor was considered pretty villainous in education circles for her decision in the Zelman case (leave aside that gem of jurisprudence Bush v. Gore)...Now, just a week later, to listen to the left-leaning interest groups and dig through the accumulated emails, she's an irreplaceable model of moderation…Hard to keep up!
Harvard Ed Letter has a new site all about early-childhood education. Already some stuff there, those in the know say look for more soon.
You go away for a week and all sorts of things happen. For instance:
The NEA announces a new effort to close the achievement gap, notably lacking in particulars, at the same time the NEA president says that No Child Left Behind is “forcing states to spend money they don’t have on tests they don’t need, for results that don’t matter.” Well, it surely would be easier to close the achievement gap if we decide that reading and math don't matter.
Bruce Reed starts an outstanding blog at Slate. Today it has everything you need to know about the SCOTUS situation plus plenty of Orwell.
And, the NYT runs another story about NCLB funding shifts as a result of better targeting of federal dollars to poor students. It's absolutely atrocious for its lack of context. This Week's Alex Russo does a nice job explaining why. Just a thought, but this seems like a dubious strategy for increasing funding for Title I overall or getting more money where poor kids are concentrated.
Today in the Times this piece by new Fordham Foundation star Mike Petrilli takes a hard hit at Earth Mother arguing that NCLB's real promise is in the leafy suburbs. Worth reading for its substance and some interesting Kremlin politics. Fordham is the Paige regime in exile after all...