Friday, February 03, 2006
Shine On Mr. Sun!
As noted down below it was shocking and unsettling for many readers to see the good Mr. Sun dragged kicking and screaming by "John" into this back and forth between the AFT's NCLB-correction blog and Eduwonk. Many were left wondering: Is nothing (besides NAEP, of course) in our troubled world still pure?
Yet despite some educensorship by "John" or "Michele," Mr. Sun is able through limerick to speak up for himself about the whole sorry episode and those long ago days on Blogback Mountain.
Update: Over at The Chalkboard, Joe Williams weighs-in and is unhappy with "John" and Michele" about their thoughts on KIPP, too, which boil down to:
Michele: KIPP teachers work too hard!
John: I'm tired...hold me...
Perhaps Eduwonk should have given the Bush Administration the benefit of the doubt? Word on the edustreet is that the peer review panel for Ed Secretary Spellings growth model pilot program is going to include Stanford's Rick Hanushek, Ed Trust's Kati Haycock, CCCR's Bill Taylor, and U-Penn's Peg Goertz. Those aren't four people you'd put on there if you were trying to sandbag this thing. That said, it's debatable how much this administration heeds the advice of experts...but still a moderately hopeful edusignal.
Last summer Education Next sent a restaurant critic into the nation's school cafeterias to have a look around. Now, along comes the blog Idle Words with evidence that the French are beating our pants off -- not in math and science, Chamber of Commerce types please step back from the ledge -- but rather in school cuisine! Worth reading, more seriousness than Freedom Fries...via ML.
CRPE's Paul Hill and UI's Jane Hannaway have produced a gumbo of an analysis about what to expect eduwise in post-Katrina New Orleans. Well worth checking out.
Teach For America is looking for a Director of Teaching and School Leadership Careers. Big job and big fun with great people.
Also, Ed Sector is hiring, too. Low pay, horrible, sweatshop-like working conditions, tyrannical bosses.
Dear brothers and sisters, after our great leader, Tom DeLay, the House Republicans have elected me, a simple, humble worker in Tom's vineyard.
And with those words (or something to that effect anyway) House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) is now the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.
While it's unclear how Boehner's ascendancy will do much to address concerns that the House majority leadership is too close to lobbyists, it does have big eduimplications. First, it means that the House Ed and Workforce Committee will get a new chairman in Buck McKeon (R-CA). He's more of a higher ed guy than a K-12 guy though. Second, if you were hoping that No Child Left Behind was going to go away then this is bad news for you. Boehner was one of the "big 4" along with Rep. Miller (D-CA) and Sens. Kennedy (D-MA) and Gregg (R-NH) who cut the final deal on the law, he's been strongly supportive, and the Republican leadership keeps pretty tight reins on what the House does. Finally, if you were hoping for more tobacco money to pay for some new eduinitiatives, that's probably off the table now...
Incidentally, just Wednesday Boehner covered his right flank with the righty folks who are all upset about this Bush Administration proposal...every vote counts in these races.
Over the past few weeks I've received a bunch of notes and know there is some glitch that is making the archives on the left sometimes unavailable for some readers. Someone who understands that stuff is looking into look into what the issue is. For those of you who want a search function, I'm looking at adding one but in the meantime if you go to Google and type in "Eduwonk" and "whatever you're looking for" it'll find it for you.
If you are having this problem and could let me know by email what browser and operating system you're using (Windows, Mac, etc...) that will help isolate the issue.
Update: Issue apparently solved. Make sure your browser is set to allow Java.
Yikes! And, Another Loophole Outed!
Oh dear, seems a like a nerve has been hit and now we find out what happens when "John" and "Michele" attack! Hold me! First though, two corrections. First, Eduwonk apologizes on the name misspelling, that's fixed. And they are correct that states can incorporate NBPTS certification as part of their definition of what makes a teacher "highly qualified" under No Child Left Behind so there is a tangential connection with the law in yesterday's post. That, of course, means it was 19 days, not 18 as Eduwonk originally stated, before they stopped blogging about NCLB because today's horrific attack surely can't count under any reasonable definition!
In any event though they inadvertently make Eduwonk's underlying point about the NCLB rub because the provisions by which NBPTS teachers can meet the highly qualified definition are some of the weakest in the law (pdf) -- that's not an indictment of NBPTS, by the way, it's just that the loopholes in the provisions for veteran teachers are 18-wheeler sized and allow for much less demanding routes to also qualify-- and show how hard it is to actually have accountability here. According to the National Council On Teacher Quality*, "where veteran teachers are concerned the law [NCLB] is doomed to disappoint, save in a minority of states." (*Disc. I'm on the Board).
Afterthought: "John" also maligns Mr. Sun! Eduwonk asks you: In this troubled world of ours, isn't anything sacred?
Running On Empty? Or Starting Their Eduengines? Or Is It Time To Pile On?
The AFT's anti-No Child Left Behind blog has run out of things to say about the law on day 18 of its existence...so now they're on to National Board Certified teachers! That's actually really good because more topics will be more interesting but here they (a) tout a somewhat old study (pdf) (b) ignore that some things have been written about remedies to get more National Board teachers into high poverty schools though the usual suspects are nowhere in sight or even essentially opposed (pdf) and (c) ignore that the AFT Connecticut chapter has been a leader on getting National Board teachers into high poverty schools! Likewise, this post about NCLB might have mentioned a useful report by the AFT's Rosenberg on the grade-level issue...Hmmm....What's up with the blog's "John" and "Michele" dissn' their brothers and sisters like that?
Afterthought: In any event, Eduwonk guesses that the "Harry and Louise" ads of health care fame were the inspiration for the "John" and "Michele" back and forth format but it's already tiresome because every post more or less boils down to something like this:
Michele: NCLB requires this provision or that or could lead to this outcome or that…
John: I’m frightened…hold me…
Leave aside the chronically worried tone, can't they work independently of one another and cover more ground? That's what EdWize, Kindling Flames, and other "group" blogs do.
Piling On Afterthought II: The other day John or Michele wrote the following in response to Eduwonk’s plea that the AFT blog focus on more eduissues than just No Child Left Behind:
Considering the NCLB reauthorization was probably the biggest thing to happen to public education since Sputnik was launched (OK, maybe not that big), we think there is plenty to say.
Actually, breathlessness aside, NLCB was probably just the biggest thing to happen to public education since the last time the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was reauthorized in 1994 and that reauthorization was arguably much more significant in terms of really being a policy shift because it put the federal government in the standards game. NCLB, however, was more significant in terms of what it meant politically and substantively for the teachers’ unions, and that, of course, is the rub.
Surprise! Ed Week's Olson tells us in this week's issue that lots of states want the chance ($) to participate in the "growth model" accountability experiment that U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings wants to have. Wow, didn't see that coming...a chance to lower-standards for your low-performing schools and put off the day of reckoning about dealing with them a little longer...who would've thunk that states would be so excited to participate in that?
Problem is, not that many states yet meet the letter or even spirit of the parameters that Spellings laid out for participation. This, of course, was the concern voiced by critics like the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights at the time and there are also some technical and equity concerns about this approach more generally. And, because it's no secret that few states are where they need to be on this so it begs the question of why have a pilot of up to ten rather than fewer.
Basically, right now NCLB requires states to set performance targets for schools and hold them accountable for not only meeting those targets in the aggregate but also for ensuring that subgroups of students, like minorities, also meet them. Right now a lot of these state plans are not yet all that rigorous and more than a few only require that around half of the students in a school be passing the state test for the school to make "adequate yearly progress" or "AYP" right now. Over time the targets rise and become more rigorous for schools as they move toward a goal of having almost all students passing their state tests by 2014. Many state plans, however, delay that pain for as long as possible by designing their performance goals to essentially look like a "balloon mortgage" as Checker Finn has characterized it.
Incorporating "growth" into these plans basically means that even if schools don't reach the targets, they get credit for doing so if they meet some less rigorous benchmark but are still making progress. Fair enough except it begs the question of when a state should take action. NCLB has a modest growth mechanism now that rewards schools for making progress even if they fall short of the targets, but critics want a lot more.
Thing is, the states know that 2014 goal will shift over time and so the game right now is to put off serious consequences for schools as long as you can because who knows what sort of changes might happen! It's like deferring income taxes into the future as much as you can, it's usually the sensible thing to do. But what about the kids stuck in low-performing schools you say? Well, worry not, their interests are not completely ignored, but they do come after generally making sure all the adults from the state political chain down to the school level are taken care of first. Displacing adult interests in education is really tough because they have interest groups to represent them and make the politics difficult. This is why, for example, many states happily lay accountability requirements on kids like exit exams and graduation requirements but still have essentially no accountability for the adults running schools.
Now in theory under these growth models the 2014 deadline will hold and so while low-performing schools might get a little breathing room now through temporarily lower standards they won't escape accountability (in eight more years but still...). But that's probably not going to happen because something else will come along, or the law will be changed, etc...
Consequently, it falls to Ed Secretary Margaret Spellings to hold the line (and under some very stringent guidelines it would be possible to incorporate "growth" into AYP without walking away from kids in low-performing schools. But, make no mistake, right now the NCLB standards are not that tough and growth models are a postponement of them. Whether it's a temporary postponement that's sensible and helps schools that are working hard to get better or an evasion of accountability remains to be seen.
And while Ed Secretary Spellings might indeed be an "anal retentive chowderhead"* at home, it's so far an open question about whether she will be similarly hard on DC's insatiable education special interest groups. And, there is a body of literature about how the implementation process of a law is merely the continuation of the political debate that gave rise to it in the first place. In other words the players try to re-litigate their losses in a different venue. That's what is generally happening here with NCLB and things like this growth model experiment are worth watching as indicators of the degree.
*For an edublogger that WaPo profile of Spellings is a gift that just keeps on giving...
More Navel Gazing...
One more thought per this issue about off/on-the blog record stuff. Franklin Foer makes some great points in this TNR article ($) about why blogs shouldn't replace the oft-vilified" mainstream media." That was the attempted point below, this isn't journalism, it's perspective which is fine, but not a substitute.
Update: Russo responds to the post linked above but I think he misses the key point: I'm not claiming quasi-journalistic cred but rather the opposite. Likewise, it wasn't about what should or should not go into a blog, as I said, it's marketplace and bloggers and readers should decide for themselves. It was merely about what does and doesn't go into this blog. Finally, he asks for some inside scoop on being a source. Well, reporters call and you talk and sometimes they use what you say in a story but more often not. It's (a) not exactly must-see TV and (b) we work on ed policy not, say, national security so it's not cloak and dagger stuff...Eduwonk doesn't put a flower pot on his porch when he has a thought about NCLB...
More big girl panty action in CT: Civil Rights groups including the NAACP are intervening in the anti-NCLB lawsuit in CT -- against the state. A very significant edudevelopment up there. Not good politics for the AG...a boost for Spellings' case.
New paper on testing from Ed Sector's Toch. Shows that the demands of NCLB and state accountability schemes are creating some quality problems in student testing. A lot of information about the current state of play in the industry that you probably haven't seen yet and some sensible reform ideas. Ignore USA Today's inflammatory headline the sky isn't falling on NCLB but some things can be done better on the testing front. The political breakdown here is obvious: To oversimplify only slightly: A lot of folks on the left don't like any testing and a lot of folks on the right like testing regardless of what it looks like. There is not much of a constituency in the political center yet for quality testing because of those dynamics. These are problems that need to be addressed or they could imperil standards based reform so Margaret Spellings needs to put on her big girl panties and deal with it.
While you're at the Ed Sector site, also check out the new Education Sector Interview with England's Michael Barber. He's a key architect of the Blair reforms and all around good guy and Ed Sector's Mead caught up with him recently in London.
Put On Your Big Girl Panties Because Margaret Spellings Talks Dirty!
That admonition about "big girl panties" is apparently a key part of U.S. Ed Secretary Margaret “Earth Mother” Spellings’ approach to management -- The product placement opportunities for Victoria's Secret are countless! That gem, plus much more, from one of the more colorful profiles of a cabinet secretary to come along in a while…Guess Joe Williams wasn't kidding about those glasses...
Would be nice, of course, if more than episodically she’d tell a lot of the NCLB whiners to put on their big girl panties and get serious about helping minority kids but that may be too much to hope for…
In any event, it’s another indication of the clear success of President Bush’s campaign to change the tone in Washington. I surely never associated Dick Riley with panties, "big girl" or otherwise.
Over at This Week Russo raises the question of when/what to post that you glean from various conversations, in particular with the media. It's worth reading because it raises some complicated questions about the medium.
For Eduwonk's money though the answer is pretty straightforward and different than Russo's. He says: "Everything's on the record unless you tell me otherwise." Here the policy is exactly the opposite: It's off-the-record unless we agree otherwise. I'm not a journalist and this is a blog, not some sort of streaming real-time dissemination tool about what's happening in the ed policy world with an obligation to relay everything that comes across the author's desk. Consequently, I choose whether or not something rises to the level of reader interest and/or appropriateness to post it here. Put more plainly, there are plenty of things I am aware of that never make it into this blog for various reasons. While that's not so different than how professional journalists are, there are still some differences.
First, in order to function effectively as a professional people have to be confident that emails, phone calls, and conversations with me are strictly off-the-blog-record and that I'd never repeat or relay something without express permission. I could, for instance, discuss plans and initiatives that various organizations are launching but that would break confidences and I'm not prepared to do that. Of course, if I pick things up through the rumor mill that's a different kettle of fish, but if a colleague asks me to review something for their organization or to bounce some ideas around then don't expect to learn about it on this site until it's made public even if it is germane to something posted here.
In addition to other policy types, I talk daily with folks from the media, both reporters and editorial types. They have to be confident that I'm not going to swipe their ideas or preview their stories. I'd probably get a lot of new readers if I telegraphed a big news story that was coming in some outlet but it would be an enormous breach of faith if the reporter had contacted me about it and I then used that information public in advance of the story running. In fact, perhaps I even take this too far. For instance I waited to post about the AFT's new blog until after Michelle Davis' story in Ed Week had run since she called me for it and my post would reflect the same things I told her. But, I'd rather err on the side of caution.
I also review proposals and manuscripts for foundations and publishers so often I'll know that something might be coming on a particular question but again, I can't post that. Finally, I work with public officials and serve on a public body myself, and those folks, too, have to be able to trust that things they say will be treated with discretion. I work in the policy world, that's what pays the bills, and the ability to work candidly and sometimes confidentially with people is key to being able to operate in that world.
On the other hand, what readers get here is a high degree of transparency. They can be confident that if I'm writing about an organization I've consulted for, or serve on the board of, or that gives grants to support/or has supported my work, or generally where there is a conflict of interest etc...I'll point that out. So, while an item might not include every tidbit, readers can be confident I'm not, for instance, touting someone's reforms while doing work for them without sharing it with readers.
Now the great thing about blogging is that it's a highly democratic and market-oriented medium. If someone else wants to sail closer to the wind and, for instance, out upcoming stories in newspapers and magazines then that's their business (and of course media outlets are always competing to be first on a story anyway so that pressure is already present to some extent in the public debate about these issues). How that would be received and what the impact would be on the writer's ability to get such information in the future is an open question. Drudge is one example of something like that but my guess is that nothing in the eduworld would likely rise to that level and be able to survive while behaving like that.
Nonetheless I'm confident that readers of this blog know that they're getting one take on things that is necessarily run through a few filters. And, readership is sustained and enthusiastic enough that I think this model works well and adds some value. And, there are different kinds of blogs out there so you're going to get a little of everything and I suspect the issues I raise above are more localized to niche policy sorts of blogs though every blog makes editorial decisions of some sort or another.
I still hold out hope that Education Week will start a more "expose" oriented blog if they're willing to take the heat. Journalists like the folks they have there can operate with a different set of rules and it might bring more stuff out into the open. In the meantime, as Don Rumsfeld says, you've got to take the edublog you have not the edublog you might want!
Interesting Boston Globe story about competition among public schools. Some charter supporters will tout this as evidence that more choice is working but as I'm Rick Hess Bi**h has noted it's pretty cosmetic stuff not the sort of substantive change that is necessary to really radically change education in under-served communities. Again calls into question the competition theory of change as leverage in isolation in a political situation.
Remember Siobhan Gorman, widely considered a rising star on the edureporting scene during the creation of No Child Left Behind because of her outstanding coverage for National Journal? Well, now you can find her at The Baltimore Sun where she covers homeland and national security. In yesterday's Sun she had a big story bustin' the NSA.
In yesterday's New York Post Eduwonk reviews two recent edubooks: The Emergency Teacher by Christina Asquith and Our School (the latter is Joanne Jacobs' new book).
Thanks to Ed Sector's Kevin Carey for his post below and many thanks to Robert Gordon for pinch-hitting on Thursday and Friday. Sorry for mixing him up with his musical brethren. That's not a problem Eduwonk has because no one confuses him with his babe-magnet celebrity surfer cousin. Now back to regular order.