Thursday, March 23, 2006
Posting has been light since Tuesday and will be for the rest of the week. But it's for a very good reason: This morning my wife gave birth to two wonderful baby girls. Back next week.
PS--If you needed further evidence that there are serious problems in American health care, since the birth they've actually left us alone with them for extended periods of time!
Challenged Index Redux
WaPo's Mathews responds to this paper that Sara Mead and I did criticizing the Challenge Index as a measure of "America's Best High Schools." Thoughtful and worth reading, especially if you're one of the fifteen people absolutely riveted by this debate! There is also a Mathews response in the original paper so now he's up 2-1 on us...we're contemplating our next salvo now...but what's that they say about no picking fights with people who buy ink by the barrel…
Seriously, Jay's point that other ways of rating schools might eliminate high-poverty urban schools from the list is important. After all, starting on third base isn't the same as hitting a triple. But, this is not a binary issue. A good index can account for the challenges schools face but also have face validity, which we contend the Challenge Index does not because, for instance, according to it, the third "best" high school in the country has only 12 percent of its black students at grade-level.
An index that takes these factors into account will be more complicated, as Jay notes, but we don't think that simplicity should trump accuracy and currently the Challenge Index isn't an accurate way to find the very best public high schools in America.
Just what the world needs, another edublog! Welcome The Quick and the Ed to the blog world. It's an Education Sector blog, written by Ed Sector's policy team, and you can look for big things from it, especially on higher ed and pre-k education but also on education issues overall. They've come to play, just check this out. It's got sharp minds and sharp pens so cut into your productivity a little further and add it to your list of morning reads.
Don't Malign, Align!
Excellent Achieve report (pdf) on efforts to better align secondary and post-secondary education. Sounds boring but is a really important effort underway, to differing degrees, around the states. A trove of data about where states are on various dimensions of this issue.
In relation to the story in today's Times about black men which has obvious eduimplications (including the grad rate issue the article mentions) Joe Williams notes that "this problem is so much more severe than the "World Is Flat" problem that everyone seems to be talking about."
I couldn't agree more. One is a long-term problem, the other is staring us in the face, right now, every day. Good Brian Friel story in National Journal ($) getting at this a few weeks ago.
Amazing, they're a gang that can't shoot straight either. For some reason the Bush Administration seems hell bent on undermining the one high-profile thing that is going well for them right now. Either unbeknownst to the Department of Education (sloppy) or with their knowledge (stupid), last week the Bush Administration Department of Justice weighed-in against the Connecticut NAACP's motion to intervene in the lawsuit there. That's right, though they somehow managed to keep it out of the press: The Bush Administration stiff-armed the NAACP when the NAACP was on their side! In other words, state makes grandstanding lawsuit against No Child Left Behind, NAACP moves to weigh-in on behalf of the Bush Administration, and the administration says no thanks!
The administration's reasoning was procedural and tied to Department of Justice policies about who can and cannot intervene in various cases. And the brief (not yet available online as far as I know) does generally support the NAACP's contentions on the merits. And, apparently after a week of wrangling between various lawyers from the civil rights community and the administration the Department of Education is now filing a formal stipulation that they support the merits of the NAACP's position and they should be allowed to intervene.*
So why does this circus stunt matter in the first place? Politics and substance. AG Blumenthal found himself in the awkward position of having to decide whether to oppose the NAACP's motion to intervene in the case or face off with them in court. Neither outcome was very appetizing and illustrated how far beyond the end of his rope the AG found himself. Blumenthal was punting and hoping for a way out of the box. The Bushie bungling almost gave him one...
On substance the questions at stake in the case are important and boil down to whether the feds can draw a line in education with laws like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and more broadly whether federal laws like this mean anything or if states can simply disregard parts they don't like. Regardless of what one thinks of the Bush Administration overall or even of NCLB, supporters of liberal and progressive causes should want to see them succeed here legally. That's in no small part (along with educational concerns) why the NAACP intervened. Yet it turns out that neither God nor the NAACP can help those who don't help themselves…
*I'm sympathetic to the administration on one aspect of this. I recall during the Clinton Administration a court case involving a disparate impact case being brought against a state teacher test. The test was an 8th-grade level test so the administration obviously did not want to be seen to be in any way saying that teachers shouldn't have to demonstrate at least that level of education to teach. But the case also raised procedural issues about who has standing to bring lawsuits under various civil rights laws. As I recall it was a bit tricky to produce a brief that protected the civil rights equities at stake while steering clear of giving any cover to the plaintiffs on the substantive issues. Nonetheless, a team was convened and worked it out. This isn't rocket science.
Speaking of charter schools and Ohio, the Cleveland Plain Dealer is taking a look at Ohio charter schools. Charter Blog rounds it all up for you. Case study on Ohio charters here (pdf).
In a much watched case a Wisconsin court has ruled that a virtual school there does not violate various parts of the state code. Slightly different cut at the Florida uniformity issue. The ruling seems to make sense and it's important to get the policy around these virtual schools right. But it's my sense that these virtual schools consume a disproportionate amount attention relative to their market share now and their market share in the foreseeable future. Right now there are about 80-something nationwide according to NAPCS (and more than 40 of those are in one state -- Ohio). That's about two percent of the entire charter school market and not even a blip on the overall public school market. Seems to me they're an option that can work well for some kids but that overall will have limited appeal.