Friday, September 30, 2005
Meet Vernice Jones
She's blogging from New York where she's got a 4 1/2 year old...she's skeptical of the public schools there and of Charles Murray...check her out.
Joe Williams' new book has apparently hit the sweet spot. Has a writer ever been compared to Jonathan Kozol and Checker Finn at the same time?
She is back, and she continues to rock.
U.S. News' Ewers gets Chris Whittle to stay still long enough to be interviewed about his new book. Some background here. Worth reading, Whittle is genuinely brilliant. Here's a taste of the interview:
The greatest intellectual property that Edison currently owns are all the mistakes we've made over the last 15 years. In fact, if you go back and read a little bit about Thomas Edison, at one particular point, when they were taking the furniture out of his house, they asked him, "What did you learn from all this?" and he said, "I've learned the 500 ways not to make a light bulb."
One of the things I want to be clear about is: We've been far from perfect, but we've been incredibly relentless in our pursuit of what the answers are. We've done 15 years in the trenches. Very few people actually get to be in the trenches for very long in this. [The average tenure of big-city school superintendents is less than four years.] I think I'm the longest serving head of a major system of schools in the U.S. And that is incredibly valuable. If you're in it, and you stay in it, you learn every year. I'm not saying that I'm the only voice that should be listened to, but it's one voice.
Yet several answers still make Eduwonk wonder if Whittle and Edison have absorbed the fundamental lesson of the last 15 years. Education is not a build a better mousetrap or build a better light bulb industry right now. Political rules not economic rules drive things. To be clear, that's not all bad at all in Eduwonk's view, though guys like this think it is, because our schools are political creations and that's OK since they belong to all of us.
However, it does mean that even if you do build a better mousetrap most of the people beating a path to your door will be there to tell the world why your mousetrap really isn't what it seems, why it can't possibly work except in isolated cases, or that mice aren't much a problem anyway. And meanwhile, behind the scenes, the folks who make their living using lower-quality mousetraps or have a stake in those mousetraps will be trying to burn your house down. That's a tough environment for any entity to operate in (especially one that needs profits to survive) and one reason our urban school systems look the way they mostly do.
But perhaps they have absorbed this and for political reasons Edison still can't just come out and say that because this is the environment they have to operate in as a company. Regardless, makes you wonder whether the non-profits that can absorb philanthropic support and consequently have more stability and longer time horizons actually are a better bet over time in terms of building new school models.
From The New Jack
News Hour's Merrow profiled NYC Chancellor Joel Klein last night. Transcript and videos can be found here. Judge for yourself, but it didn't seem to help the UFT's case much...
Governor Vilsack has a group blog going on his website, interesting stuff including a long post by Virginia's Mark Warner, Eduwonk chimes in here.
Per this item, thanks to Mickey Kaus for locating the entire article free online.
No, not the DeLay indictment (DeLay involved in shady dealings...it's a shocker, who knew?), rather Eduwonk refers to the certification of this class action suit on appeal in Florida. Worth watching. Via Jenny D.
It's Banned Books Week courtesy of the American Library Association. You can celebrate by checking out one of these books, the 100 most frequently challenged according to the ALA.
Interesting tidbit...according to ALA data (pdf) it's parents, not politicians, local officials, interest groups, etc...initiating the challenges.
In 1902 Mark Twain sent a letter to the Denver Post on this issue, specifically the banning of Huckleberry Finn, a book that still attracts controversy. Not stale yet:
There's nobody for me to attack in this matter even with soft and gentle ridicule--and I shouldn't ever think of using a grown up weapon in this kind of a nursery.
Uh oh...the blogosphere is proving to be quite an outlet for young teachers with something to say. TFA blogs are popping up like mushrooms after a rain and here is another new blog...Newoldschoolteacher. This one is going to be fun to watch. Here's a taste:
So I am at a school of education, home of teaching people how to give urban kids a crappy education. I am currently using all my powers to ward off the incessant doctrinal attacks on being oldschool.
Jeepers! Plenty more...agree or disagree it's well written and hard hitting.
Also, while you're looking for interesting teacher blogs have a look at What Up, Mz. Smlph who has been busy and has a great blog going. Plenty more linked over there to your left.
Update: Academic freedom? Fearing retribution Newoldschoolteacher has decided to go dark, and though Eduwonk now knows her identity he's not telling it nor the way to find her new site. Sorry for the tease.
Update II: Reborn! The blog is back, try the link above.
Must-Read Freedman...He Doesn't Grade On A Curve
In today's Times Samuel Freedman turns in an absolute must-read about No Child Left Behind. Read the entire thing:
..."If you scratch the surface of this town, a lot of contradictions are going to emerge," said Ron Plummer, a project manager for a technology company and a co-chairman of the school district's minority education committee. "I do have some suspicions when measurements come from standardized tests alone. But if it's going to shine a bright light on the inadequacies of the system, especially as it regards children of color, then I'm all in favor."
In any case, there can be a tone of defensiveness, even smugness, among certain school leaders in Princeton. "We're proud of our F," said Lewis Goldstein, the assistant superintendent, referring to the contradiction between the district's overall success and its standing under No Child Left Behind. "It's as if you handed in your homework and the teacher handed it back and you got a 98 on it and an F. That's the situation we're in"...
And that there is what they call a tension...especially when according to Freedman that "98" includes:
Last month, the school [did not make "adequately yearly progress] for the second year in a row, this time because 37 percent of black students failed to meet standards in English, and 55 percent of blacks and 40 percent of Hispanics failed in math.
98? Guess they grade on a curve.
Update: Kindling Flames asks a good question.
Hedrick Smith's new documentary which is already causing plenty of chatter will be unveiled here tomorrow. If you want to go in person, it's at the National Press Club (529 14th Street, top floor) in Washington, 10-11:30. RSVP here.
The new Carnival of Edublogs is up, check it out...a lot of work goes into compiling this.
Thanks for playing, good try! This could be the most honest and straightforward Ed Week headline ever...is the transparency tide turning? If so it'll make a lot of folks nervous...For a more serious look at the high stakes issue research by Carnoy-Loeb and Hanushek-Raymond is a better bet, this new "index" doesn't really hold up.
The Bush Administration is clamping down on the ELC.
David Ethan Greenberg of the Denver School For Science and Technology gets RMN space to put forward an oil-spot strategy for New Orleans. Paul Hill does the same in Ed Week.
Jay Mathews re-discovers charter schools.
And, just in case you were not disgusted enough with how urban education politics screw-over poor kids, try this on for size: After he agreed to help Robert Thompson make his $200 million gift to Detroit to build new, smaller, high schools there, Dave Bing was rewarded with a "Sambo Sell-Out Award" from a group called the "Call 'Em Out Coalition." Local elected officials were on-hand and one actually made the award. Dave Bing of all people...Why is only the conservative press on this story? Backstory here and here.
The World According To Schuyler
Here's a new student blog out of California, he's not shy...worth checking out.
US News' Butler profiles Norfolk, VA, the winner of this year's Broad Prize. The print edition has more charts and data than the online one.
All we heard from San Diego for years was that if Bersin wasn't there reform would plow ahead and everything would be harmonious...well, apparently not...and this isn't even the really complicated stuff...
Ed Week's Usually Reliable turns in an early and important story on the goings on about the "Hurricane Vouchers" issue. Key takeaway is buried, Senator Dodd signaling his support for some arrangement (he's not the only one) and Senator Landrieu floating a compromise.
But, in the precedent setting department, isn't direct general aid for non-public schools more of a precedent than giving money to parents? According to the article, that seems to be the compromise some of the school groups are now signaling they could live with. But aren't they actually setting themselves up here? They fear giving money to parents, but that doesn't really plow new ground as policy or a church-state issue, especially considering the exceptional circumstances here and if it is a one-year initiative. However, regardless of how long it flowed, more generalized aid would go beyond the settled issues about specific aid for secular purposes and plow new ground (besides, it's not great policy and cuts against the grain of what the voucher crowd has said they're about for a long time...).
As to what Democrats should do? A bunch of different pieces of advice and strategery from readers but rather than dump them all on you, they can pretty much be grouped under the three approaches voiced by readers below:
Sherman Dorn writes:
Combine Kennedy's first-impression "let's not play partisan games" approach with a strict "let's make sure that the money is accounted-for" approach. The advantage of going through public schools is that they already have to account for the cash they receive, and they're set up for it (or at least they're supposed to be). What we know from the history of Florida's voucher programs, esp. the corporate tax-credit scheme, is that neither clearinghouses nor private organizations can be trusted to even count kids properly without significant oversight. Who has the burden of oversight if funds go to private groups? It'll inevitably be the states.
"This will be one more unfunded mandates on states, to oversee private schools to make sure the money is accounted for properly, at a time when state departments of education will already be stretched to accommodate the Katrina survivors in public schools. This is unfair to states and unfair to taxpayers of those states. If there's one thing states don't need, it's another burden at this time."
Jim Stegall of Monroe, NC writes:
Here's a novel idea--Give them the vouchers and get the hell out of the way! This is nothing more than pure common sense. Government can't provide the needed services (education) at the moment, so contract for them like you would for anything else. Oh, and Senator Kennedy, it's only a political issue if YOU and your friends make it one!
And, a reader writes:
These kids come from a state that spends little on education and are among the most disadvantaged in that state. They will start out well behind and will have all sorts of problems that will make it hard for them to catch up.
Democrats should "jump on" this train -- insisting only that those using vouchers to attend private or parochial schools take the same year-end state tests as other students. They'll score incredibly low and vouchers will seem to have failed. There's no need to disaggregate the scores of transferee students from those in regular public schools, however, since doing so might show stronger performance among voucher users.
Update: Jenny D weighs-in.