Friday, February 10, 2006
Two New Edublogs
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has started an edublog, School Zone. Top reason you want to read it? Because MJS's Alan Borsuk is one of the best there is on the edubeat. Second, and related reason, there is a whole lot happening schoolwise in Milwaukee worth keeping an eye on.
And, Mike Klonsky has a blog, Small Talk, looking at small schools issues but also education more generally. Worth checking out, a lot there.
Both on the blogroll on your left, too.
The NY Judge overseeing the finance case there threw out the attempt to introduce vouchers into the equation there. But it's not over there or elsewhere, worth watching. Backstory here, here, here. Via NSBA's Legal Clips.
Over at The Chalkboard, Joe Williams notes a burgeoning idea at Columbia's Teachers College to develop more comprehensive measures of school accountability. Whoa...as they say up on Blogback Mountain: That one's got no reins. That's because the more aspects of schooling that policymakers seek to measure the more things become standardized and geared toward a lowest-common denominator. That in education we're pretty bad at distilling things and instead tend toward an expansionist approach to decision-making only exacerbates this problem. And, many of the things most people want schools to do like teaching civic-mindedness, tolerance of others, etc...are pretty hard to measure. Isn't the more productive marriage there to...drum roll please...marry essential things like math and reading with a high degree of parental preference among various public educational options?
Nonetheless, with or without a more public market for schools, more reporting on indicators of school quality would be great. NCLB flirts in this direction but doesn't do enough even if it were being vigorously enforced. Accurate measures of intra-school district finance, teacher quality (not BS indicators like certification but measures/characteristics actually linked to student learning) (pdf), and student course taking and curricular patterns would be wonderfully useful to parents, policymakers, and the media. More real time performance information would be great, too, and can be had with technologies that exist today. But hard to see those sorts of things catching on anytime soon among a lot of the usual suspects.
Meet The New Boss: Also, speaking of Teachers College, they're in the market for a new president. Doesn't this seem like a great opportunity to really bring in someone dynamic who can work to put an academic institution like TC on the front burner of educational debates as well as tend to the traditional academic responsibilities? There are some really great people there now and some exciting projects (Hechinger Institute, current TC President Levine's ideas on reform, etc...) but Eduwonk's not giving away any trade secrets when he points out that TC (and other big name ed schools) aren't exactly in the mix on a lot of stuff that's happening in education today. TC’s not even engaged on some of the most exciting stuff even in New York City. Let's hope they cast a wide net beyond folks in traditional academic jobs today. Here are three names that Eduwonk thinks should be in the mix because they could take things to the next level: Jane Hannaway, Kim Smith, Eva Moskowitz.
Afterthought: Schools of Ed are teetering on the edge of becoming completely irrelevant except to the extent they survive by regulatory capture at the state level. Regardless of what one thinks of Ed Schools today, this isn't good for the profession. Doesn't TC have a chance to help change that by breaking the mold with a bold pick for their next president? The signaling effect would be important and it would be good for the institution. Conversely, going with one of the usual suspects and turning the place into a bunker for the dead-enders seems guaranteed not only to be bad for TC but bad for Ed Schools overall.
Update: Jenny D. weighs-in.
Over at One Dupont Circle which is the home of most of DC's higher education associations the word this morning on the edustreet is "holy edush*t!" That's because of this scary NYT story about possible Bush Administration plans to use standardized measures to increase accountability in higher education.
A few thoughts:
First, there is an accountability problem in higher education. Costs, graduation rates, etc...are real issues. As unaccountable as K-12 schools can be, colleges and universities are even worse.
Second, however, though K-12 accountability is complicated higher education is even more so because of, just to name a few key issues, differences in financing, lack of curricular core, and greater heterogeneity among institutions. The idea of standardized testing akin to what happens in K-12 does seem pretty inapplicable to the issues at hand.
But, that said, the "just say no" approach to this, given voice in today's Times story by Bard College President Leon Botstein, is a loser for colleges and universities. Something is going to happen here -- especially with Buck McKeon taking over the House Ed and Workforce Committee in the wake of Rep. Boehner's ascension --and it's going to be done with the colleges and universities at the table or done to them in their absence. The higher ed folks have only to look as far as K-12 and No Child Left Behind to see what happens when no one comes forward with serious reform ideas for a serious problem. At a minimum it leads to stunningly bad cartoons and often more serious consequences, too!
More Edupunditry…And, Russo Cooks The Edubooks!
In Michelle Davis’ Education Week article ($) about John Boehner’s ascension to majority leader UVA’s Larry Sabato says that education was a “focus” of Boehner’s.
Really? He didn’t care much about it before he became Ed and Workforce Chairman. Isn’t a more plausible explanation that Boehner used education to rebuild his congressional career after he was ousted from the leadership in 1998? He’s never been particularly interested in it though he did a good job carrying the Bush Administration’s priorities in Congress and education helped him build relationships in Congress, both things that paid of in the leadership race. That said, two thoughts (a) He’s not going to let himself get embarrassed by the committee he used to chair, and that’s bad news for No Child Left Behind foes and (b) He understands the political upsides of education for the party that really engages on the issue and that’s bad news for Democrats.
And, speaking of edupunditry, took a look at Russo’s numbers on edusourcing which are all the buzz this week among the handful of people who care and I don’t think they’re right. Looks like a lot fewer mentions than he says, about 10 percent as many. That’s because if you don’t put the search name in “quotes” you get a skewed result cause the word “Andrew” appears a lot. Try it yourself, quotes and then no quotes.
Geez! Either it’s sloppy or it’s almost like he doesn’t want reporters to call me! Nah, couldn’t be that cynical!
Update: Russo has the new numbers now and sets the record straight.
Day 25, it's come to this: The AFT eviscerate NCLB (but we mean only sorta, really!) blog has put together a little song and dance routine about No Child Left Behind.* Apparently they hired a PR firm for this whole undertaking, too.
*In fairness, word on the edustreet is that going down this road was far from a unanimous position inside the AFT.
Update: Give the AFT some credit, their number is hardly the worst No Child Left Behind song...Thx to reader EC.
Update II: From an NCLB critic at Kindling Flames:
When thinking about what it takes to truly create large scale policy reform, you have to wonder if the AFT has the right formula. I mean, do you really picture Dr. King, Malcolm X, or Gandhi in the throes of the civil rights movement saying to their peers; "Don't you think a cartoon musical with singing animals would inspire a change in the hearts and minds of a country and get Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964?"
A new one is now online.
Bush Plays The Nerd Card!
Truly nothing is off the table in politics today. Nonetheless, Ed Sector's Carey plows on and has a new chart that you can trust getting at the difference between the desire to choose a career in science and the ability to do so. Over at TPM Matthew Yglesias wonders whether the "nerd" factor might be at play here, too. It's a legitimate point because there is some evidence about the effect of various stereotypes. The President raised the nerd issue the other day in NM saying that science was important not just something for the "nerd patrol." But, it wasn't the first time, he also played the nerd card in 2002 to devastating effect. But, seriously, if you read his remarks, in both cases he was trying, granted in his own unique way, to make a good point. From '02:
Or you hear students saying, don't take the tough courses, it will make you a nerd. You're missing out if that's the way you think. See, you're missing an opportunity. It's an opportunity lost. It is not in your self-interest that you think for such low standards. And I want the parents of this state and across the country to understand that the minimum isn't acceptable for your children.
The President sent his budget request for Fiscal Year 2007 to Congress yesterday and it included some edu-action. Let's dispense with the policy, since there is very little beyond an apparent administration policy of referring to cuts as "savings."
First the good: There are a few good ideas tucked in here like the Adjunct Teacher Corps which actually makes sense on a couple of levels.
Then the not-so-good: The budget is basically flat for the two big K-12 programs, the Title I program which is the backbone of No Child Left Behind and the IDEA program which funds and governs special education programs. After the increases of the past decade this is not exactly cutting to the bone -- though you'll hear howls to the contrary -- but it's surely not good news either. And, it's avoidable if one thinks back just a few years to when the country made some budget/tax cut choices. Also for all its rhetoric the competitiveness ideas are still pretty small bore and by taking the foot of the gas on fundamental K-12 reform it's like trying to fill a bucket with a colander.
Then the bad: Though the back and forth on spending will obscure it, the real problem is that the Administration still is not leading in a big way on No Child Left Behind. They could put forward a whole host of initiatives designed to make the law's core mission of helping students in low-performing schools more effective. These include obvious things like improving the supply of good schools in low-income communities and less obvious ones like initiatives on teachers, professional development, and using data. The feds are now getting serious about demanding the "what" from school districts: better performance for all kids. But they're still not doing nearly enough to increase the toolbox for the "how." And again, we'd be in a better position to invest in activities like this but for choices not circumstances beyond our control...
Now the politics, the real bottom line here. This is a political year. It's a midterm election year and base turnout matters a lot in midterm elections. This budget is calibrated to help with the Republican base. The proposed voucher initiative will fire them up and the lack of spending will, too. Saying you're "holding the line" on spending is red meat for the 'wingers. And, all this business about expanding the federal role in education also doesn't help a lot on the right either and this budget minimizes that issue. And, because there is not a vice-president positioning himself to run, they can put out a budget that might not be great come the general election in '08 but fits their needs now.
Besides, they know that a lot of this will change as it moves through Congress anyway. And you should know that, too. This is the first inning of a game that generally goes into extra innings so all the panic and hand-wringing now is good theater but really premature.
Hess' Disposition In The WaPo And NCLB's Times, Are They A Changin'?
After this op-ed in Sunday's Wash. Post Outlook section, what's the over-under on how long it is before Art Wise slashes I'm Rick Hess Bi*ch's tires?*
Also, while you're there, the Wash. Post ed board takes note of the significance of what happened last week in CT. Worth heeding.
*Afterthought: Seriously, isn't part of the issue here implementation? Eduwonk has no doubt that NCATE's Wise is sincere when he says that that NCATE's goal is not to create the sort of circumstances that Hess rightly is concerned about. But, Wise has about 1300 schools of education in this country on his hands and some of them, quite frankly, are populated by banana-heads (that's a technical industry term). So regardless of his good intentions or sincerity he's in something of a box where guys like Hess and George Will can pound on him pretty much at will unless he speaks out to a degree that causes upheaval amongst his members.
Russo says so...oh dear. But, all things considered, isn't this a little like being the best chef in England?
Update: While you're there, Russo has Richard Whitmire's response to this Slate article about Whitmire's TNR article on boys.
All roads seem to lead us back to Blogback Mountain…"John" and "One-L Michele" at the AFT's anti-(but allegedly not really) NCLB blog and Chalkboard's Joe Williams are now having a debate about KIPP (Punchline: Joe thinks One L is lazy, she thinks he's full of it!) The AFT'ers have invited Joe's readers over to comment about the AFT's position on KIPP and charter schools so go do that if you want. But, before the AFT'ers get too sanctimonious about their comments policy they might want to glance to their left, their blogroll is a who's who of like-minded thinkers…
But, leaving aside last week's poetic silliness, the posts by "John" and "One-L" about KIPP reveal an interesting tension in education policy today. During the 20th Century the meta-quest in American K-12 education was to build and perfect a "one best system" of public schools. We know how that turned out: It worked very well for some kids and led to important strides for minorities and students with special needs but left a lot of kids, especially poor and minority students, grossly underserved today.
Now, albeit contentiously and clumsily, we're trying to move toward system with common results but divergent, or pluralistic if you will, ways of delivering public education. That's the meta-theme now, how to make the system work for all kids, not just the fortunate ones and there is a growing consensus that more pluralism is a key ingredient in this effort in addition to standards-based reform. Charter schools are one-stab at that, vouchers another, public school choice yet another, and of course all the various curricular approaches out there like Core Knowledge or Montessori and networks like the Coalition of Essential Schools also are attempting to solve this puzzle. There are pros and cons to all of them but they're aimed at the same question.
That's where KIPP comes in. The AFTers basically ask: What good is it if it's not scalable and what ideas are scalable? But what if that's the wrong question to ask in this new environment? Sure, there will never be 10,000 KIPP schools, or maybe not even 1,000 but isn't even 100 OK if simultaneously there are a many other good public options for kids as well? In fact, Eduwonk doesn't want to see every, or even most, schools looking like KIPP schools. It's one approach but is not going to work for every kid any more than the system we have does. Besides, what other industries right now are trying to find one way to do things? From the military to the private and non-profit sectors things are moving in the other direction.
That's why perhaps the idea that needs to be scalable is not a particular model, but rather the idea of more dynamism and agility in how we think about delivering public education. If we can create a continuum of options in our cities and space in policy for those desiring to create more, we move closer to mass customization rather than what we have now. Those options might be what we think of as the traditional public schools, networks like Aspire, Green Dot, resource intensive options like KIPP or SEED, or simply good schools that exist in one place, create a good space for kids, and are but one part of a larger effort to ensure a healthy supply of good options for the children in a community. This is what Indy's Mayor Bart Peterson is trying to do deliberately and what is happening from the bottom-up in some other cities.
One idea about how to do more of that comes from CRPE's Paul Hill who will present a new paper on that issue at an event this Friday morning at the Progressive Policy Institute.
Afterthought: Worth nothing that in the past few days the AFT blog is careening wildly toward becoming something, well, somewhat interesting! The AFTers are now blogging about all kinds of edustuff besides NCLB...Hmmm...are "John" and "One-L" pursuing an eduflypaper strategy? They lure us in with interesting stuff about other issues then once we let down our guard they hit us hard with the NCLB-changing Kool-Aid? Could be...beware!
Update: EdWonks give you a handy edumap to this whole back and forth.