Friday, April 21, 2006
The Ongoing Story Of O...
Matthew Ladner, of steak dinner fame, weighs-in in the Philly Inquirer about what the Oprah hype all means. You can disagree with Ladner's advocacy of vouchers but he nails the macro-problem here:
Our education system has become tragically divorced from the engine of progress that drives the rest of our economy at the behest of a narrow set of self-interested parties who guard a failed status quo.
But Americans, for all of our differences, universally share a commitment to equality of opportunity, and will not continue to tolerate a school system that looks as though it was designed to serve only the privileged.
Earth Day is tomorrow. Plenty of things to do but for one eduangle, Trout Unlimited has put together a Trout In The Classroom program. Good opportunity for teachers and the local community and a hands-on way to teach students about conservation environmental issues. Shown here at left is the Eduwife with nice Virginia rainbow trout she caught (and released) on the Jackson River, a river featured in TU's Guide to America's 100 Best Trout Streams.
There seems to be something of a disconnect between the public schools and the public...almost like some weird producer - consumer tension... but that only happens in other industries so it can't be right...Worth reading the entire AP article, it's just a poll but it sheds some light on some pretty profound issues for American education. Also, D-Ed Reckoning unpacks the AP story for you.
Apropos of today's state visit, in today's CSM Kevin Carey and I argue the Chinese are less worrisome than the rampant educational inequities we tolerate here.
Let me get this straight: Washington DC's SEED School is one of only two non-selective public high schools in all of Washington to make "adequate yearly progress" under No Child Left Behind last year, it's sent all of (100 percent) its first two graduating classes off with acceptances to college, and it's a national model for public schools, the nation's only public boarding school*. And yet this clownish group called "Save Our Schools" is organizing a protest of SEED's offices for next week to try to curtail their plans to open a second campus in the city! In a recent letter to DC Superintendent Janey, Save Our Schools claimed that charter schools in DC have "not had any positive effects on DCPS children or on the DCPS system." Righto! That explains why they're oversubscribed and accounts for all those kids heading off to college...Mark Twain was right, apparently few things are as annoying as a good example...
For a clown-free overview of the good and the bad of DC charter schools, you can't beat Sara Mead's Capital Campaign.
*Update, to be clear: 4-year, non-selective public boarding high school.
Per this post on grad rates, here's the entire series I referenced from the Indy Star.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, This Week's Alexander Russo writes to ask for a clarification per a link in the post below on the Hamiltonians. So, to be clear, to the best of my knowledge based on what Russo tells me, former Bush Admin. official Nina Rees did not in fact say to him:
Alexander: If you ever get within 15 feet of me again, I will rip your head off your shoulders and shove it up your ass. Regards, Nina
Apparently someone posted that on his site as some kind of prank. Remind me again why it's so invaluable to have comments?
Here's a good idea (and some common ground) from NYC, offer teachers a housing incentive as part of a recruitment package...sounds suspiciously like...gasp...the private sector! In San Jose, another high cost housing market, Mayor Ron Gonzalez also offers housing assistance.
The school voucher folks have started an edublog: Edspresso. In what looks like a smart strategy it's not going to just tout vouchers, which wouldn't be that interesting -- they like vouchers, I get it. Instead, they've got stuff like a Mike Petrilli - Neal McCluskey intra-conservative cage match debate about national standards and guest posts and so forth. Just one thought though: You're the school voucher crowd, you want to have a blog to show the small 'd' democratic impulse behind your movement (which actually does genuinely exist in some cities), and you name it after an upscale yuppie coffee beverage? I don't get it.
The new Education Sector discusses the happenings in LA along with several new ES products including an interview with Denver teachers' union leader Brad Jupp. Update: LA Times ed board jumps in on the LA play.
Jumping on the Hamilton Project seems the order of the day. Most prominently in today's WaPo Harold Meyerson raises several criticisms. In terms of the history lesson he offers, while needling the Hamiltonians for choosing Alexander Hamilton as their namesake, Meyerson neglects to mention that, especially when it comes to education, today's "progressive" movement not infrequently sound like rabid anti-federalists.
Second, and related, Meyerson says that Hamilton, "feared the common people, dismissed their capacity for self-government and supported rule by elites instead." Hmmm....fair enough, though the context of the times matters a lot in considering all of this. As a more contemporary matter that sounds not unlike a pithy analysis of a big reason Dems lost (failed to win outright) the last two presidential elections...
Finally, education specific, though he doesn't like the Hamiltonians taking on the teachers' unions, let's hope there is a more spirited defense to be mounted than the brittle one Meyerson offers here, which amounts to saying that it's bad to pick on them. Could be indicative of the Zeitgeist...Anyway, to help, here are three defenses: (1) If you think that schools are underfunded now, think where they'd be without the teachers' unions over the last few decades (2) Teachers are not-infrequently treated capriciously, especially in large urban districts, and the unions are the ones who put out those fires/defend their interests (3) the teachers' unions are one of the most stable presences on the education scene. Of course, all of these defenses also carry costs of their own.
In the edublogs, Ed Knows Policy takes on the Hamiltonians (and everyone) on the education component of it. And, so does Russo. Joe Williams speculated recently that Nina Rees should watch her backside but then speculated Russo had that covered (and it looks like Nina can take care of herself in any event!). Instead, perhaps it's Hamiltonian Robert Gordon who ought to watch out...this is Russo's second broadside!
More seriously, not sure it's fair to ding the Hamiltonians for taking on ideas that are not "new" per se. Ideas need hosts and it's not as though these ideas are yet in wide circulation, especially in Democratic circles, now. I've been working on these ideas for several years and I'm pleased to see this effort and the attention it is getting. Besides, shouldn't all ideas be welcomed right now anyway? Not like we've got the political or substantive problems licked!
Yesterday's AP story has set off all sorts of reverberations. Couple of things worth keeping in mind. First, a reader of some of the back and forth might end up thinking that the law requires some minimum subgroup or that the feds set the subgroup size. It doesn't, they don't. Here are the exact AYP regulations from the Federal Register (pdf) and here is Ed Trust's explanatory piece. It's left up to the states although the feds approve the state plans and consequently have approved the various sizes in effect now. Now they're trying to figure out how to clean up (pdf) some of the mess they've created.
Second, you're always going to have some number of unreported/"unaccountable" minority kids unless you have an n size of 1, meaning you report each child's score. If you set the subgroup size at 25, there will be schools with 20 African-American or Hispanic students, at 45 there will be schools with 40 etc... In a system of 48 million kids, many of whom are minorities, all those underreported kids will add up to some nationally eye-popping number that sells papers but really doesn't convey the reality on the ground. The real challenge is balancing statistical soundness with accountability for traditionally under-served students in a resonably defensible way. This is an art not a science.
So, it's not really fair to call this a "loophole" because it's right there in the law very deliberately. That said, it does call attention to two important issues, the flexibility- prescriptive tension in a national policy like this and the extent to which states will try to game the law. As the President himself might say, accountability is hard work. And until people stop thinking of the schools, school districts, and states as the clients here and instead start thinking of the kids in those terms this stuff will continue.
Steve Barr is thinking very big in LA if Green Dot's newly released transformation plan (pdf) is any indication. One more reason LA is very much worth watching.
Old meta-theme from the media about No Child Left Behind: It's much too inflexible and unfair for states and schools.
New meta-theme from the media about No Child Left Behind: Wait a minute, the states and schools are up to something here!
Aside from the story overall, two things jump out. First, will Spellings as Captain Renault fly? She can't really be surprised about this since it all happened on her watch. Second, related, when Dave Shreve of the National Conference of State Legislatures says in the story that Spellings "inherited a disaster," is he just sucking up? She's been there from day one and stage managed a lot of this from the White House before she became Secretary.
Davis Guggenheim's award-winning documentary "Teach" is now available free online along with some related resources.
Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce are having an online hearing about college affordability. I guess when you only have virtual powers you have to have virtual hearings, that's life in the House in the minority. Will be interesting to see how much response it gets. The "netroots" are really good at being pissed off, are they good at doing anything about it?
Oprah has managed to annoy about everyone with her recent shows on education. Some people thought she channeled Jonathan Kozol, others John Stossel. Does that mean she hit the sweet spot? Here is the website for the public awareness campaign that Bill and Melinda Gates kicked-off on the show.
And here's a guest post from Fordham's Checker Finn who is currently on a book sabbatical on the West Coast but found time to do some low-brow guestblogging. He wonders why charter schools were the love that dare not speak its name on the shows:
The Schools That Dare Not Speak Their Name
That Oprah has discovered school reform is probably a good thing, if only because she adds middlebrow legitimacy and an immense audience to most of the causes that she embraces and because far too many Americans (middle, high and lowbrow alike) need reminding their schools, too, not just those across town, need a kick in the pants.
Her two-part discussion on April 11 and 12 had millions of viewers. It had some fine moments and did a competent job of framing “the problem” with primary-secondary education in the U.S. It included impassioned, convincing talk by Bill and Melinda Gates about the urgency of radical reform, something in which their foundation is investing many millions. It also profiled three terrific schools that have succeeded in boosting the achievement of disadvantaged kids, thus illustrating what can be done despite the many barriers to change erected by the education establishment and the political system. Sacramento’s St. Hope Public Schools, San Diego’s High Tech High, and the District of Columbia’s KIPP school are all swell examples of schools that beat the odds.
What nobody on the Oprah show let their millions of views know, however, is that all three of these fine educational institutions are charter schools—and schools of choice. The word “charter” was never uttered—not by Oprah, not by the Gateses, not by the people describing these schools. There is some reason, in fact, to think the show’s planners and producers banned it, or edited it out.
Why? One can only speculate. At best, maybe they dream that schools don’t really need charter status to accomplish these things, or that the charter part of their existence isn’t all that important. At worst, it’s because they’re embarrassed, or politically afraid, to admit that critics of the public school monopoly might just be right: that it needs to be busted if kids, especially poor kids, are to have a ready supply of great schools to attend.
To be sure, not all great schools are chartered. And not all chartered schools are great. But when the fundamental attributes of three great schools profiled on national television include the facts that they operate outside the system, that they enjoy all sorts of freedom that the system doesn’t normally permit, and that they’re attended by kids who are there by choice rather than by assignment—when these features are central to the very existence and success of the schools, wouldn’t you think that Oprah and her guests might feel some obligation to let their viewers in on the secret?
In The Boston Herald MATCH's Michael Goldstein weighs-in on efforts to bring charter schools into the traditional public school fold in MA. And, The Boston Globe writes-up the MATCH Corps, a good example of a new way of doing things fostered by some autonomy.
Hmmm...why are Americans often so confused about education issues? It couldn't possibly be the way the issues are often presented in the media. Take for instance this Pittsburgh Post story which meanders from graduation rates to vouchers with a pit stop for strawmen along the way -- and all in about 600 words! I'm not a journalist but it seems to me that when the last graf of the story is entirely unrelated to the first one, something isn't quite right.
One of the strawmen is the idea that grad rate experts are claiming the graduation rate is falling. EPI's Larry Mishel pushes back on that notion in the story. But in fact the only people who are saying that are the anti-testing folks, not the graduation rate researchers like Chris Swanson, Jay Greene, etc. All they're saying is that the rates haven't been well reported for a long time and are basically stalled or slowly rising.
So two thoughts. First, Mishel's EPIers could find themselves in a dissonance jam here. They're supposed to be down on accountability and reform but the only people saying that grad rates are dropping are the professional anti-accountability crowd who link dropouts/pushouts to various accountability schemes. If the anti-accountability political Left and EPI can't both be right then someone is missing their blocking assignments! Second, as one easy check on this whole thing, urban reporters could just take a look at the number of ninth-graders in schools they cover and then again at the number of 12th graders graduating. All those kids do go somewhere... Not perfect but one indicator. The Indianapolis Star did this a year or so ago and really opened some eyes...Instead, this story just sort of throws up its hands, it's all so confusing!