Thursday, December 08, 2005
A lot of buzz about this incident at a UFT charter school in NYC. Two quick scatology- free thoughts:
First, this is the sort of anecdote that charter haters would be having a field day with so a little back and forth is to be expected. Second, that said, UFT chief Randi Weingarten has been very forthright about dealing with it. You can’t ask for much more than is in this story.
Update: An edusavvy and connected Democratic NYC reader who wished not to be identified further writes to chide Eduwonk for being too charitable:
Remember, part of the basis for the UFT's charter experiment was to prove that teachers were capable of running their school without a principal messing things up. The school head is not a principal, and they clearly point that out in their charter application. It is interesting that with the first sign of trouble, they turn to a retired Brooklyn principal to calm the waters and restore order. Perhaps now the UFT will concede that leadership and management at the school site DOES matter? In any event, the rest of us will have a slightly easier time brushing off their claims that the contract isn't the problem, since this case shows this school is unlike any other in the city. Elsewhere it would be very hard to "discipline" a teacher so quickly.
Can't get enough Mickey Kaus? He and Robert Wright have set up bloggingheads.tv an idea which seems more likely to be the next generation of blogging than podcasts. Now anyone can be a talking head and give readers blog links to follow-up. It's the worst of both worlds! Nonetheless, Kaus and Wright are pretty good at it and interesting listening. Good commentary.
Over at Edwize, they're quite upset about the recent New Teacher Project report. Never mind that they misidentify NTP as a "DC-based education policy think tank" (which is, of course, a slur) and botch a direct quote from Eduwonk, the real reason to wade through this excruciatingly long "rebuttal" to TNTP is not accuracy**, it is because it is a true classic of the misdirection genre. One day, when kids visit museums to learn about the edupolicy battles of our day this post may well be under glass for them to see next to a #2 pencil.
Rather than acknowledge that TNTP's data raises some pretty serious questions or even really refute the findings per se, the post's author, Leo Casey, points to all the other issues that are also problems.
Of course, Leo is right that intradistrict school finance is a disaster, he's right about the instability of staffing at too many high poverty schools, and while giving more authority to principals is a practical step in the here and now there is a very legitimate debate about its efficacy as the only method to staff a school. Would TNTP disagree with any of that? Do most serious people in this debate? But try this: Read the TNTP report and ask yourself, even if school finance were much better and high poverty schools did a better job with retention (and induction for that matter) and were more desirable places to work overall, would that eliminate or even seriously alleviate the problems identified by TNTP?
The misdirection play is a losing strategy. It's the same strategy in fact that the UFT tried in the fact finding during the recent contract negotiations, where as Leo points out the TNTP testified. The result? The UFT got its clocked cleaned by the fact finders report in no small part because while Leo and the UFT were loudly proclaiming that there was nothing to all this the fact finders were seeing different data.
Come to the couch: So, while Leo accuses TNTP of selective diagnosis "Some symptoms of illness in the patient are highlighted; others are passed over without comment" its actually pretty good self-diagnosis for the teachers' unions reaction to TNTP and others raising questions about this issue. The refusal of too many within the teachers' union community to acknowledge that some of the problems lie with the contracts (and to stop ridiculously attacking every critic as wanting to stifle the voice of teachers or extend authoritarian schemes to school management) as well as these other issues prevents sensible progress and reform here.
Come to the table: The rub is that reform is coming and plenty of Democrats are starting to talk about these issues and not just favorite teacher union villains like Alan Bersin, Joel Klein, or Eva Moskowitz. The only question is whether reform will follow the unfortunate historical pattern of educators having things done to them rather than with them or whether the unions will come to the table.* Unfortunately, the misdirection play is an almost sure-fire recipe for the former while it lessens the chances of addressing the other problems either because it forces a predictable(and in Eduwonk's view avoidable) split in the progressive coalition.
*In fairness, after the relatively close vote on the recent contract the UFT can hardly rush out and embrace the TNTP work and they're the only big teachers' union with a blog which gives them a different profile. Nonetheless, the misdirection strategy is still not a good one. Might have been a case of if you can't say anything nice...
**Update: A knowledgeable reader in a position to know writes to point out that while TNTP’s Rhee did testify in the fact finding process she was not a “paid witness” as the Edwize post claims.
Adventure travelers pay great sums of money to go to places like the Galapagos Islands and Patagonia to see pristine examples of things in their natural settings. As for you, you can just come to Eduwonk and see this pristine example of what's wrong with American education right now from the comfort of your home or office.
What's most frustrating is that Eduwonk's all for more investment in schools, thinks turning all low-performing schools into charter schools doesn't make a lot of sense (though admissions, the concern voiced in this article, is actually not the problem) and would very much like to see a more sensible financing structure in most states. Yet the tenor of this exercise seems like pretty much exactly the way to make sure none of that happens anytime soon!
Also, though there is a hopeful tone from several supt's at the end, don't miss the hapless parent who wandered into this. Isn't that the lede?
A new edition of The Education Sector is now online. Get it free in your emailbox by clicking here. The 65 percent solution, NTP report, Earth Mother's growth experiment, higher ed aid on the hill, and more...
This is a really basic but frequently misunderstood principle in the design of state charter school legislation. From a Wash. Post story about MD charter schools:
Deborah Driver, one of the organizers, said the obstacles to opening a charter school in the county are immense because the school system wields power of approval over a would-be competitor. "It's like you make an application to McDonald's to see if you can open up a Burger King," Driver said.
It's also relatively easily dealt with for instance in MN and Indy but don't do what they did in OH, though to their credit they're trying to deal with that. Also, an interesting natural experiment unfolding on this in Washington DC that has a quality dimension as well: Ed Sector's Mead here and GAO here (pdf).
Education Sector is hiring a mid-level policy analyst (pdf). Great chance to join a dynamic team, work on interesting issues, and publish under your own name not along with a bunch of people who didn't do the work...Send resumes and other information here.
Today The Washington Post ran a big op-ed by Norman R. Augustine the former CEO of Lockheed Martin and yesterday the Baltimore Sun ran one by Clinton Administration quality guru and U. of Maryland professor J. Gerald Suarez. Both had roughly the same theme, that the nation faces a competitiveness crisis, though Augustine and Suarez offer different solutions.
Over time competitiveness is an issue particularly as other countries improve their education systems and produce more highly skilled workers. But here's a question that does not seem to gets asked enough, what's the more immediate risk to our quality of life: Is it competition from overseas countries or is it the remarkable disparities we tolerate in educational outcomes right now? Sure, these are related, but it sure seems like the latter is the more immediate problem yet it gets a lot less ink than all the scare talk about other countries. Besides, in terms of galvanizing the attention of educators Eduwonk tends to think that the competitiveness stuff gets little traction because people have been hollering about it for generations.
Background: Great Ed Week package laying more of this out here.
Oxford University Press has a blog and Patricia Graham, author of, Schooling America: How the Public Schools Meet the Nations's Changing Needs is blogging about her book.
Reliable sources say keep an eye on ELC...apparently Follow The Leaders is being spun off under the leadership of Faye Taylor (though the domain name is dead), Ted Rebarber has apparently had enough and is moving on, and the rest of the organization is slowly being taken down. Amazing how fast things can change...just a few years ago serious people were seriously wondering if the chiefs would survive this.
Edublogs...And Ginny In The 'Sphere
Some new edublogs on the left side of the page including Ed Week's new education blog In Other News.
Folks in the Bush Administration and many Republicans do seem to have some trouble following the law these days and in that spirit it is entirely possible that Earth Mother's growth model gambit could end up being more than a little extra-legal, too.
But, don't look for Democrats to be able to capitalize on this one. Instead, it's another example of how the inability of Democrats to take a strong stand on accountability as a party costs them good chances to legitimately attack the Republicans on education and build collateral credibility on other issues. Democrats could make a strong case that Bush and company are going completely wobbly on No Child's commitment to poor kids almost across the board but too many years of inhaling NEA laughing gas about the law while forgetting who the real constituents are makes it tough for a lot of Dems to credibly make that case. Forget the oil spot strategy, Dems are in danger of becoming education's U.N.!
This is too bad. It should be a natural for the party to be standing up for poor kids and demanding and conducting oversight hearings about the Department's inconsistent implementation, bending of the law, etc...Would be a useful exercise and good politics for Democrats to boot.
One Dem who hasn't forgotten is Rep. George Miller, who strongly hinted at the legal issue in his letter to Earth Mother:
While the No Child Left Behind Act does not permit growth and student progress as determining factors in state accountability systems, we share your belief that as states progress toward the goal of universal proficiency, states and schools should also be recognized for achieving meaningful incremental success. We urge you to ensure that in approving and implementing alternate accountability models under this pilot, the achievement of certain students and the intent of the No Child Left Behind Act will not be undermined.
Politically, not capitalizing on this isn't leaving a scrap or two on the table, it's a meal.
Afterthought: Worth mentioning that on a conference call announcing this new growth initiative CCCR's Bill Taylor asked Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon about the legal authority for all this and didn't get much of an answer…
Two interesting new Education Trust reports on high schools. Gaining Traction Gaining Ground (pdf) compares four high-performing high schools to three average ones and examines what makes the difference. Power to Change (pdf) is three case studies of strong high schools in NY, MA, and WA that are doing well for all types of students. Both reports seem to not-too-gently imply that more can be done now...that's heresy! Debunkers to battle stations!
Live in New York? Interested in the pre-k issue? If so, then this site is for you: Winning Beginning is a clearinghouse for pre-k issues there.
WestEd is hosting an interactive meeting to discuss the intersection between the two on December 14th.
Big job with an eduangle: Common Good is seeking a president. Job description and information here.
Each time the American Institutes For Research wades into evaluation comprehensive school reform models it sparks a lively debate -- their most recent foray should prove no exception. Nonetheless, it's an important debate to have.
“Our purpose in providing ratings is not to pick winners and losers but rather to clarify options for decision-makers,” said Steve Fleischman, a managing director for AIR who oversaw the study.
Ha ha ha!!!
Seriously, though it's always perceived as picking winners and losers -- and lets not kid ourselves, it is -- the report is a useful analysis for policymakers and practitioners as it evaluates CSR models along five key indicators: Evidence of positive effects on student achievement; Evidence of positive effects on additional outcomes; Evidence of positive effects on family and community involvement; Evidence of a link between research and model design; and Evidence that model provider's services and support to schools enables successful implementation.
Read a brief summary here, executive summary here (pdf), full report here (pdf), searchable database here.
The ratings themselves aside, one big takeaway is the lack of evidence about some programs. Some of the models that AIR rated as "zeros" (how's that for not picking winners and losers?) get the rating because there is little evidence about their effectiveness. That points to larger problems in education, namely the lack of rigorous evaluation and evidence and the lack of demand for it in the first place.