Friday, May 19, 2006
Self-admitted "Eduwonk nerd" Matthew Ladner takes some time to say I'm wrong about McKay vouchers per this post from earlier in the week. Assuming he can't get any macaroons to me in the next 72-96 hours to induce a change of heart, I'll respond next week.
Joe Williams relays quite a story for your weekend reading, it's got all the ingredients for an eduthriller...
Also, if you haven't registered for the ES debate next Thursday about collective bargaining agreements and teacher assignment, hurry up and do so, it's filling up. AFTie One-L is typically spoiling for a fight (you'd think AFTie John would be a more calming influence on her) but it's actually going to be more interesting than that as AFTie Howard Nelson and NTP's Michelle Rhee discuss and debate the issue.
Over at his blog serious education journalist Alexander Russo is now steaming, not just huffing (though the huffing post has been changed with no note to readers, I didn't think serious education journalists like Russo did that?), about how this blog could have been invited to a briefing with the Secretary of Education. The problem with his argument is that he's ascribing views to this blog that are not only wrong, but that I've explicitly rejected. Namely, it's never been presented as journalism and readers know, or can easily find out, what they are and are not getting. And he, of course, knows this because we've discussed it before on the blogs.
He also claims that I'm in the tank for Secretary Spellings over this growth model pilot (and earlier that I'm in the tank for Democrats). Yes, she bought me off with chicken, salad, and a macaroon! But here's the thing: I expressed a lot of reservations about the pilot, laid out some criteria I thought was important, and they've basically met them. And it's not just me, the education civil rights community and pro-NCLB folks are satisfied as well and had also earlier been critical. Macaroons all around, we're all in the tank! Do I still have concerns? Of course, especially about what happens next year as I said, but I can't get very worked up about a two-state pilot and the process they used to make the decisions was commendable. And we'll probably learn something from these states. Moreover, I can only imagine that if despite this I continued to criticize the Spellies then Russo would (in that case rightly) accuse me of just being a partisan Democrat who would give the Bush crowd no quarter.
And that's why it is hard to take much of this very seriously because it's just not substantive; it's the all over the place temporal ranting of an aspiring professional contrarian or frustrated blogger. Now he wants to know when I've criticized "patrons" like Democrats? Please. If this is serious education journalism then we do actually need more blogs...
Update: Where Diplomacy Fails...I think Serious Education Journalist Alexander Russo needs to work on his reportorial skills because he somehow interprets the post above as "conceding the point." Let me be clearer then: I think his argument borders on the absurd and that the thrust of all this boils down to clownishly transparent indignant pique at not being included in this briefing since he sees himself not only as a Serious Education Journalist but as the must-read education blogger. In other words, as I said, it's not about substantive issues at its core. In addition to disingenuously ascribing views to this blog that he knows I've never claimed, he's ludicrously accusing me, a Democrat, of at once being hopelessly partisan and unable to dispassionately analyze education issues and also being in the tank for a Republican Secretary of Education as evidenced by the fact that I criticized a proposed initiative and then acknowledged that the Secretary actually handled it pretty well in the end. If what he's really trying to say is that I have viewpoints, well, duh. I've never claimed otherwise nor has my organization. But my take on the growth model pilot doesn't make his apparent point, it shows how ridiculous it is.
As he's moved from producing a useful email of education news clips to being a blogger cum Serious Education Journalist, Russo seems to be mistaking the ingrained skepticism that is the hallmark of good journalism and good social science for simply knee-jerk attacks on various folks. In this case under the guise that he "worries" or is "concerned" that readers may be hopelessly misled into thinking I'm a journalist. He must think they're stupid. I'm worried and concerned about Serious Education Journalist Alexander Russo. Enough about this.
Despite a lot of divisions among various players over students loans, there is some common ground. The Project on Student Debt has assembled a far reaching coalition to request some administrative action to change some student loans rules for borrowers. Such administrative petitions are a lot more common with other agencies than the Department of Ed...so worth watching on process as well as content as the Spellies act. And, again, the fine hand of Semper Fi Shireman is evident...
Interesting column on school finance and school choice from SC.
Art Levine, Jerk!
I mean, what other possible explanation is there for why someone would oppose class size reduction? He hates teachers and kids! I do, too! Edwize sets everyone straight. Joe Williams sorts it all out for you.
The AFTies are understandably upset about this WaPo editorial today about the offshoring of tutoring but basically, I think the WaPo hits the nail on the head in terms of the big picture issues and the AFTie post shows what this is basically about: jobs not kids.* The problem, however, is that the Bush Administration and the states have done a lousy job regulating the NCLB-sparked supplemental services industry right here in this country, bricks and mortar or otherwise, so I'm pretty leery of their ability to police quality in say Bangalore. That's obviously not an absolute reason not to go down this road, but it does mean the regulatory framework must be more robust than it is now. Disc: I hardly ever write Eduwonk anymore, I have a smartass kid in India who does it for 50 cents an hour plus bikini pictures.
Per this post, resident malcontented edublogger Alexander Russo starts grumbling about bloggy favoritism...you knew that was coming. Independent doesn't mean "on the one hand/on the other hand" you're allowed to have a point of view. It's about transparency. Russo's grasping at edustraws. The Spellies didn't invite Eduwonk because they see it in the same way they see the WaPo, Ed Week or other media, but rather because a lot of people read it and they figured they might as well try to get the word out unfiltered (and Spellings didn't even get rough with me about my sources over there...). Also, hard to miss that Russo has now accused me of being in the tank for the Spellies and for the DNC...I can't keep up!
In today's Balt. Sun Chris Cross says, let's talk about the federal role in education...fine by me, that's good for business!
So I had a strange experience yesterday. Periodically government officials have in a few reporters for an on-the-record but less formal briefing about ongoing things and future plans. Yesterday Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings held such a meeting over lunch with the usual suspects AP, NYT, WaPo, USA Today, Ed Week, Ed Daily, and...Eduwonk. Yes, you read that right, one of those things is not like the other (though I did bring a reporters' notebook and did not wear pajamas in an effort to fit in).
It seemed to me an interesting indication of the influence of blogs that the Spellies saw some benefit to including one and probably a smart strategy for them. Yet it could also be a Pandora ’s Box. We'll see. At a minimum they're going to get some whining thrown their way. More on what this might or might not signify later.
Anyway, a few reactions: The big news yesterday was the growth model announcement but Spellings seemed a lot more interested in discussing the evolution of No Child and what she saw as next steps. When asked by one reporter about Kevin Carey's analysis of state NCLB reports she said that while she hadn't read it she was open to discussions of more uniformity around some issues. Seeing as they couldn't even bring themselves to encourage states to work together even voluntarily on testing in 2001 lest it be seen as "national testing" her seeming openness to discussing where the law could use more uniformity is encouraging. It is also clear they want to do more on teacher quality.
She also laid out the children v. adults paradigm pretty forthrightly. That's one of the biggest fights you can take on since current providers of public education currently enjoy one of the last basically exclusive franchises in our society. So, it would be a big lift for any president but seems almost impossible for one who is regularly setting new lows in the polls. And she discussed the complexities of enforcement and seemed pretty candid in signaling that they hadn't entirely figured that piece out at all. She's right and there remains a lot of reason for concern especially around supplemental services but not on that issue alone.
Perhaps most interesting was her description of reaching out to Hill leaders about the growth model announcement. She started by discussing her conversation with Democrats Senator Kennedy and Representative Miller and saying they were on board etc...then, seemingly as an afterthought she said, and I wrote this down in my reporters notebook, "obviously I talked to [Senate Labor and Health Committee Chairman] Enzi and [House Education and Workforce Chairman] McKeon, too." That is about all you need to know about NCLB politics. While
Finally, watching Spellings with the reporters it was clear how she's been at the receiving end of so many glowing profiles. This crew was pretty hardened and wasn't buying but you could see how the charm offensive could be effective. Her policy background also makes her very effective in these settings. And yes, Spellings was wearing her sexy librarian glasses (settle down Joe Williams, settle...).
PS--Keep an eye on Sarah Sparks from Ed Daily, very sharp questions. What's the over-under on her being poached away from there?
ES' Kevin Carey produces a report about how states inflate their progress under No Child Left Behind in their reports to the Department of Education. Newspaper coverage of the report in Indiana focuses on whether Kevin was a good budget analyst when he worked there (by all accounts he was). Interesting and nice for his resume but perhaps more germane is the issue of whether, well, Indiana is inflating its progress under NCLB or not? Would have been nice if the reporter had adjudicated his claims a bit? The state says he distorted things, readers want to know what!
Coming next: Wisconsin readers are left wondering if they can trust Carey because he can’t name the starters on the last Packers Super Bowl team…
More L'Affaire Sanders...Free The Sanders Three!
Now the group that put out the earlier value-added study of National Board teachers has jumped into the fray...(pdf). Word on the edustreet is that the National Board is preparing to release the study ASAP. Background here, here, and media coverage here and here.
The Department of Education has announced the states that can try a "growth model" next year. Turns out that it was more Simon Cowell than Paula Abdul as only TN and NC made the cut. More states were encouraged to try again next year if they make some fixes so perhaps that is the ball to watch. But for now you've got to hand it to the Spellies, they didn't just throw open the doors as some had feared (and I resemble that remark!). More later.
Update: WaPo here, NYT here, AP here.
Good news! NYT education columnist, part-time FairTest flack, confuser of NYC parents, and anti-NCLB propagandist Michael Winerip has, pace today's column, discovered disaggregated data. He criticizes Jay Mathews' "Challenge Index" because "Newsweek's one-variable-takes-all ratings of the 1,200 best high schools are often at odds with federal, state and local assessment systems that typically use more than a dozen measurements of performance." Gosh, sounds bad, and from reading Winerip all these years I thought that the federal law was horribly one size fits all and that state accountability systems were no picnic either! That's in no small part because Winerip, of course, has turned using a "single standard" to castigate NCLB into an art form and doesn't have much good to say about NY's system either.
In any event, cutting through all the irony Winerip is right here. The Challenge Index is a flawed measure of the nation's "best" high schools except under a very loose definition of that term. Sara Mead and I explain why here (pdf). As Winerip notes, it's to his credit that Jay has acknowledged the criticism in the Post and in Newsweek but it would be great if they changed it, too.
It's Hard Out Here For A...
...for a reform teachers' union leader apparently. Despite Leo Casey's protestations it sure does seem like a lot of reformist union leaders lose their jobs! Louise Sundin in Minneapolis is the latest casualty voted out of office but joins other recent ousters like Rick Beck (Cincinnati), Edwin Vargas (Hartford), Deborah Lynch (Chicago), Kent Mitchell (San Fran), John Perez (LA)...Every time this happens we hear how it was really some other issue that caused it, certainly not their reformist ideas. But if that's really true then these reform union leaders have some absolutely rotten luck because they seem to have an uncanny ability to run into those other issues...article link via Intercepts.
Update: Yes, yes. I know that Louise Sundin no longer has teacher voice. It just seemed like too much of a cheap shot. So you can all stop sending emails now. And, yes, I know that not all the folks above were Kool-Aid gulping reformers but they did all give ground on something...
Over at Edpresso they're pretty much constantly bonkers about the anti-voucher editorials from the Palm Beach Post. But the PBP really lost me when on Saturday they quasi-embraced what I consider the worst of all three Florida private school choice programs, the McKay special education vouchers. In fact, the program has two serious flaws. First, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act includes explicit provisions for students with exceptional needs that the public schools cannot meet. And many (in real numbers not percentage terms) special education students attend private schools at public expense as a result (pdf). Second, as Sara Mead and I pointed out in a paper several years ago, offering vouchers for special education introduces a perverse incentive for parents to have their children identified for special education. We found, and last I looked the data continued to show, children who did not have "exceptional" disabilities but rather more amorphous issues like learning disabilities (pdf) were disproportionately represented in the program when the logic of the program is that it should be serving more severely disabled students.
Isolating one kind of students for vouchers based on a characteristic that can be somewhat murky is not good policy. Instead, special education should be incorporated into any kind of choice scheme to make sure those children are included. I assume the PBP ed board figured that spec ed kids need all the help they can get so this must be OK at least in theory. Look for a new ES analysis of the McKay Program from Joe Williams later this year.
It's hard not to notice the increasing Texas stranglehold on Bush Administration education policymaking. Obviously, Texans have always been well represented but other states also had key people on the inside, too. Now, the Secretary of Education is a Texan, as is the very very powerful Tom Luce, nominally Asst. Secretary for Planning, Policy, and Evaluation but really #2 over there, the acting Undersecretary of Education (doing double duty as Spellings’ chief of staff) David Dunn is from Texas, the NAGB Chair, Darvin Winick, is a Texan, as is the Chairman of the Secretary’s Higher Ed Commission, Charles Miller (pdf). And now comes news that the Chairman of the National Math Panel is also from Texas. More on that here.* Are all the other states really that lousy? *Eduwonk's free headline writing service: How long before someone uses "Spellings' math commission doesn't add up" or some variation of that?
With the President's speech likely to set off even more hysteria about immigrants, Kevin Carey's sober look at the data as far as schools are concerned is especially worth reading today.
Told ya! She's relentless! More from Ed Week's Bess Keller on the NBPTS Sanders Voice squelching episode. And, Ed Week is hosting a message board about l'affaire NBPTS.
Two thoughts. First, I still think full transparency is the best way out of this for the National Board. This research they're doing needs to be viewed in total, and unless they're open about it every study that comes along will take on outsized importance and create a pendulum effect they don't need. They're creating that dynamic now. Second, on Sanders' point in the Keller article about the Goldhaber effect (I mean the effect Goldhaber found for National Board Certified Teachers, not Dashing Dan's effect on the ladies) it is modest, yes, but as these things go it's something. Incidentally, the same thing could be said about Teach For America but the usual suspects can't quite get the words out...I can see why Sanders has his hackles up though, posting the criticisms the way they did with no response from him and without the underlying study so we can all make up our own minds...not a good move*.
Also see the Ed Week blog "Certifiable" written by a NBPTS candidate about his experiences as he seeks National Board Certification. It's actually more interesting than that premise might lead you to believe. But, on this whole Sanders episode he seems to take the tact of, I think this is important so data be dammed. Good feelings and anecdotes aren't enough, because of the hundreds of millions in public money tied to it, the National Board is going to have to demonstrate something more substantial than that.
*Here's a good example of why.
Though it's thus far mostly eluded the national media (Democratic activist, Rock The Vote Founder, Steve Barr takes on education establishment on behalf of poor and minority parents, it writes itself!), what's happening in LA at Jefferson High School is really profound, especially in terms of the implications. Basically, the high school is losing its freshman class to new, small, schools that are opening up around it. LA Times here, NPR here. Background here, here, and here.
Buried in the LA Times story is the crux of a big part of the problem here:
...Barr's campaign has rankled A.J. Duffy, president of the district's teachers union and a vocal critic of the largely nonunion charter movement. Duffy dismissed the significance of Thursday's large turnout. "All it shows is that Steve Barr is a good salesman. He knows how to sell his product," Duffy said. "And Jefferson, which is making strides, does not. But we'll get there."
Right, 1000+ poor families horribly deceived! ! But no. Actually the issue is that Steve Barr's Green Dot Public Schools are just better schools than Jefferson High School is and parents want to send their kids there. Duffy's statement shows (a) either a deadly condescension toward poor parents who are making these choices, they're just victims of marketing! or denial inducing happy talk and (b) it shows the extent to which a lot of people believe that most of the problems the public schools have involve public relations rather than substance. Both sentiments hurt not help public schools as they are signs of an industry ignoring the problems it faces.
Matt Yglesias posts a response to his voucher query of the other day. But while it's an interesting theoretical argument, it misses the reality of today's voucher debate. Hardly anyone besides the hard core Milton Friedman types are arguing for universal vouchers along the lines of what Yglesias' correspondent is describing. The serious proposals are for means-tested vouchers, targeted at the poor, and they generally do not allow private schools to charge tuition or fees in excess of the voucher.* For the most part the urban reform theory is that the competitive pressure from vouchers will force the public schools to improve thereby making them more attractive to middle and upper-class families, the idea is not to just give those families vouchers. Rick Hess shows some of the problems with that in practice in this book, punchline here. And, all that said, as I said I still think that at best they're a marginal reform (and they do have the potential to create a parallel publicly funded system besides the one, which we can barely afford, that we have now). *The last proposal for a universal voucher plan (2000), the brainchild of .commer Tim Draper in CA was soundly defeated and opposed by many traditional voucher supporters precisely because it wasn't targeted to the poor. In fact, though not well known, that caused a public rift between Friedman and Stanford's Terry Moe.