Saturday, November 19, 2005Friday, November 18, 2005
Why Bush’s Iraq Policy Is Not Like His Education Policy
Look for an announcement on a pilot program for growth models from US DOE later today…administration rollout already starting. Pretty straightforward parameters for participation though some vague language and a lot of concern that this opens the door for a lot of mischief because of where the states are on data etc....
That said, if they’re serious about allowing a few states that have the capacity to try something new try to without retreating on standards then that’s good. Their willingness/ability to hold the line is questionable though because as opposed to Iraq, it appears that the Administration is pretty willing to accommodate insurgents here (or, to mix metaphors, has an emerging Stockholm syndrome situation at the top levels).
Not much of an exit strategy in either case though…
Russo has useful links on this including the advance to AP's Feller.
Update: There is some promise with growth models but the haphazard way that the Department has put this pilot together could end up discrediting the idea rather than bolstering it. Some key Dems on the Hill not thrilled about this announcement and here's the statement from the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights:
We support Secretary Spellings’ willingness to take on the complicated challenge of exploring whether so-called “growth models” can be a useful substitute for or addition to current accountability requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act.
Nonetheless, we are skeptical that the experiment, as we understand it, will be rigorous enough to yield valid and useful information for the next reauthorization of Title I. The issue here is not whether the adults in the system will be pleased – and clearly many of them are – but whether children ultimately will benefit. We are particularly worried about how the children who are most behind and most often left behind will fare when states change their accountability systems. These students include: homeless and other students who move from school to school; students who enter schools significantly below proficiency standards for their age; students with disabilities who have been taught below grade level despite their capacity to achieve at higher levels; English language learners; and students who have been promoted from grade to grade without mastering essential literacy and math skills.
We fear that too many school board members and educators will view the growth-model approach as an invitation to water down expectations for student achievement in order to reduce the numbers of schools identified for improvement under Title I. But we believe a growth model system done right would actually surprise many in the education establishment who hold this view. This is because a growth model system with any integrity would require far more growth from year to year than is currently being made by many students trapped in high-poverty, low-performing schools.
CCCR also suggests limiting the pilot to five states (a very sensible recommendation considering the current capacity of states to do this well), including a third party evaluation of the pilots after they're implemented which the Dept's proposal inexplicably leaves out (aren't these the evidence-based guys?), and ensuring real transparency in the review and approval process. Link to the entire statement coming when it is online.
The great political philosopher Bob Weir tells us that "you ain't going to learn what you don't want to know" [Friday Contest: A free copy of Joe Williams' new book "Cheating Our Kids" to the first reader who correctly ID's the reference] and if this story in USA Today is any indication it's true. Despite structural deficit problems (pdf) and the demographic crunch in a lot of states, tax cut fever is again taking hold...amnesia or ideology, you decide. Either way, bad news for schools.
Steve Barr and hundreds of parents marched in LA on Tuesday:
Armed with about 10,000 signatures from South Los Angeles parents, students and other residents, hundreds of marchers converged on school district headquarters Tuesday, calling for the district to relinquish control of struggling Jefferson High School and transform it into six independent charter schools...
Unless the two reach a compromise, Barr and the district could be headed for a showdown over Jefferson. If the board turns down Barr's charter applications, he could appeal to the state Board of Education. On Tuesday, Barr said he would prefer to work out "a local solution."
Marchers began their spirited but orderly two-mile march at a church parking lot south of downtown. Police closed off streets as marchers moved through traffic, waving signs in Spanish and English and chanting, "What do we want? Small Schools!" and other slogans. Barr held his 3-month-old daughter in a carrier strapped to his chest, while many others pushed their children in strollers.
Dunno...sure seems like there is a message here that those who care about public education ought to heed, those who were there say this was something to see...
So, at Jefferson we're going to find out if a revolution every generation or so is a good idea after all...Sac Bee's Weintraub weighs-in here.
There Is Something To See Here! And, Updated: Is This The End Of New Unionism?
Very important report (pdf) from the New Teacher Project about the impact of seniority and excess rules in teacher collective bargaining contracts. Yes, yes, we always hear how "there is nothing to see here..." and this is not an issue. But in fact there is something and it's worrisome. Summary here (pdf).
Punchine: Hard to run a school in this environment, hard on new teachers (yes, the same ones everyone ostensibly wants to support and retain), and not real good for the kids. 40 percent of vacancies in the five urban districts that NTP surveyed were filled by transfers that schools had no say or limited say over and about half of principals surveyed said they hide vacancies to try to evade this system. And, pretty damning evidence that the teachers being forced on schools often are the low-performers because the excessing/transfer process is easier than the termination process...
Hopefully the information in this report, coupled with its sober tone and sensible recommendations will spark a serious discussion that moves past charges of "teacher bashing" because these issues can be addressed without either fundamentally damaging teacher unionism or treating teachers unfairly. Besides, is this really what unions are supposed to be about? Sure seems like it makes it harder to get health insurance for janitors or a decent pension for firefighters marching under the same banner as this stuff...paging Andy Stern.
The report, additional information, and statements of support can all be found here.
PS--Don't shoot the messenger, the lead author is a Clinton alum.
Update: Wash. Post here, Ed Week here ($). Lots of angst about this one...more later.
Update II: Is "new unionism" officially dead now? New Unionism patron saint and TURN leader Adam Urbanski resigned from The New Teacher Project's board saying that allowing schools to choose to hire new teachers they want instead of excessed ones is employer disloyalty. That basically shows the outline of this debate though Eduwonk speculates that the resignation has more to do with Urbanski's own politics than anything else...a lot of displeasure about this report in the teachers' union community and surely a lot of pressure to go to an "us and them" posture even though this is not an us and them report as these statements of support illustrate.
Have not had time to write about the goings on in Dover, PA but Leo Casey does at Edwize and makes the apt point that Darwin was proven right in more than one way in the recent school board election…
A new Carnivial of Edublogs is up at the EdWonk site.
ISO: Married White Eduwonk Seeks National Commission To Tackle Current Property Tax Policies And Propose Reforms. Must be fit and active, nationally recognizable, and enjoy cooking, in particular a witch’s brew that will offend the political right and left. Appreciation of other cultures also a big plus.
The recent report from the President’s tax commission is getting a lot of attention and sparking some interesting discussion (for instance this NY Times essay by Eduardo Porter about homeownership which interestingly flirts with one of the causes of today’s school segregation problem) and surely the tax code can use some work on both the fairness and simplicity fronts.
However, there is another tax issue that just does not get the attention it should: localized property taxes as a key source of funding for schools. Eduwonk is not opposed to property taxes per se, but when they’re drawn from localized areas to fund schools in those communities they do introduce obvious disequities (pdf) into school funding.
Basically, though school funding debates - especially at the national level- focus on spending per-pupil, when thinking about a community’s ability to pay for adequate schools it is the assessed value per-pupil that matters (this is the amount of taxable property meaning less abatements, less than 100 percent assessments, etc...divided by the number of students in the community). In a community with more property wealth, say an affluent suburb or town with thriving businesses there is more property value per student to assess to finance schools and it is consequently easier for these communities to raise money for schools. Conversely, in communities with a lot of agriculture, few businesses, major property tax abatements, or mostly lower-end housing there is much less property value to asses.
For example, assuming a hypothetical tax rate of 1 percent, in community A with an assessed value per-pupil of $500,000 and community B with an assessed value per-pupil of $100,000 community A will raise $5000 per student and community B $1000. In other words community B will end up working a lot harder to raise the same revenue as community A. In theory most states will make up for these differences though state foundational programs but that's often not the case in practice. Now what's really perverse here is that all else equal, communities with a lot of low-income students actually need more resources to deliver a top-flight educational program so in essence they're doubly penalized.
The solutions here are not easy politically or substantively, for instance statewide property to spread the load more evenly or other taxes and revenue schemes so states kick-in a greater share of school funding. And, while such policies do not have to explicitly penalize high-spending school districts there is no escaping their redistributionist nature.
Yet both sides of the political spectrum have something to gain by tackling this problem and there is something of a grand bargain out there. Conservative choice schemes (and centrist charter school schemes) will never be serious solutions as long as school finance remains a district by district affair. But, given the country’s political contours it’s hard to envision a political solution to these problems that doesn’t give at least the center-right enough reform to put together durable state-level coalitions a reality the left must acknowledge. Resources will come with reform. Besides, it’s hard to envision serious and sustainable educational improvement that does not involve attention to how we finance schools, so everyone has a stake.
There are both commonalities and differences across states meaning that a singular solution from such a commission would have limited utility. But that’s an advantage not a road block because clarion calls and guiding principals with powerful endorsements, not unlike what The Teaching Commission (pdf) did, rather than a detailed policy proposal is what these sorts of commissions do best. And, although litigation will still precipitate most activity on finance reform, having good ideas for remedies out there will help states when they have to act and increase public awareness of this issue.
But, since there could be a meeting of the minds such a commission seems like a great way for left-leaning foundations like Ford, Carnegie (big players in the original school finance reform efforts), and MacArthur along with centrist foundations like Gates, Broad, and Joyce, and pro-voucher foundations like the right-leaning Bradley and the Walton Family Foundation to all support an independent commission with a broad mandate: School Finance for the 21st Century. Essentially, get smart people with a variety of perspectives from inside and outside education together and then let them run. For national stature and expertise have it co-chaired by a smart, serious, middle-of-the-road team like Paul O’Neill and Jim Guthrie.
Worth mentioning, though the choice stuff will send chills down many spines, this also seems like a good way for the left to get ahead of this emerging issue (more here) and help proactively shape remedies rather than be reactionary and ensure they address issues like segregation.
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a 6-2 ruling in Schaffer v. Weast (pdf) an important special education case focusing on who bears the burden of persuasion in hearings about special education services.
Though it's being played in the press as a big victory for school districts at the expense of parents*, in fact it's not a little guy against the big guy sort of thing but rather a fair decision because the court held that it is the plaintiffs in such cases, whether parents or a school district, who bear the burden. That's a sensible standard.
In practice, however, it is more often than not parents bringing these actions but as the court noted this law gives parents a variety of substantive and procedural rights so although the school districts may have access to greater resources and knowledge in these cases, parents are not without recourse.
IDEA is a vitally important law and parents of children with special needs do need protections and exceptional rights but balancing those against other legitimate interests (scarce resources, the need to run orderly schools and serve a variety of students etc...) necessitate hard choices.
Schaffer v. Weast will help ensure that this tough balancing is in fact closer to being in balance.
NYT's Greenhouse here, Washington Post's Lane here. Background on IDEA here.
*Sloppy editing: When this post first went up this sentence was not clear because "parents" and "school districts" were flipped during editing. Sorry for any confusion.
Gaynor McCown 1960-2005
Gaynor McCown, executive director of The Teaching Commission passed away early this morning in New York. Along with seemingly inexhaustible energy Gaynor brought a wonderful mix of grace and grit to her life and her work. She will be sorely missed professionally and personally. Among other positions prior to taking the helm at the Teaching Commission, Gaynor worked in the Clinton White House and for Edison Schools. While at first blush those might seem like odd bedfellows, it's just indicative of how Gaynor was not a slave to orthodoxy, was unafraid to swim against the tide, and stood up for what she thought was right and would benefit others. She did not live nearly long enough but she did live fully and many are better off for her professional efforts and friendship.
Remembrances from The Teaching Commission here and from NCTQ, whose board of directors she chaired, here.
Here's a handy talking point for critics of elected school boards, this fellow just got elected from jail. But don't worry, he gets out soon and can serve. Via Intercepts.
Russo has the links to a blogosphere - MSM discussion going on to the effect that perhaps there was a point of view in Hedrick Smith's recent documentary...Whoa, stop the presses! It comes through pretty clearly in this interview and frankly...who cares? Everyone has a point of view...the differentiation is who is upfront about it and who pretends to be fair and balanced.
The other issues up for debate are whether some folks in the documentary were not properly ID'd in terms of their affiliations and whether the presentation of NYC issues was balanced. Can't remember about either and like Russo don't have the time to watch it again but (a) undisclosed conflicts of interest are a common problem in education reporting because sources often don't disclose real or potential conflicts and it's pretty damn hard for journos to keep tabs on them and (b) the Daily Howler is all over the NYC angle so you can read up there if you're interested.
Per a note from CRPE, there appears to be some misunderstanding from West Coast readers about this post. The CPRE-UI event next Monday is in Washington, D.C. not Washington the state. Sorry for any confusion, it was that insidious East Coast bias showing through.