Friday, June 23, 2006
Or not. Via the AFTies, the AFL-CIO blog reports that a freedom of information request shows that an anti-union group is working closely with the Bush Administration. I'm shocked! Next they'll tell us that the NRA and the Republicans are in cahoots! Anyway, turns out some edublogs, including this one, are mentioned in the filings (pdf), see the AFTies for more. But, though folks are getting excited, this seems more like a labor issue than an education one, or particularly an edublog one. No?
In a piece that had all the usual suspects on all sides of the debate chattering, school voucher advocate Clint Bolick crowed yesterday in the WSJ about the spread of school choice. Couple of thoughts: First, this -- Bolick's progress to date -- is the inevitable outcome of trying to fight something with nothing. The field is wide-open for ambitious public school choice and public charter school plans to counter various voucher proposals. Parents want choices (ignore the polls, they vote with their feet after choice programs get established, and sometimes sooner) so just fighting it is like fighting gravity. Second, per my back-and-forth with Matt Ladner about McKay special education vouchers, Bolick lets the cat out of the bag about the end game there: Surprise! It's not really about special education! So third, what's the point here? Bolick's a pretty savvy guy, why is he tipping his hand on the macro strategy like this? Not as though it was a big secret but it's still unusual to see it laid out like this.
Update: Possible theories as to why it's time to crow now: (a) Lay out a kinder gentler approach focused on disadvantaged kids to try to lure moderate reform oriented Dems and lefty grassroots Dems into the fold (b) To scare Dems into the fold with Matrix-style "That is the sound of inevitability. That is the sound of....your death" scare tactics or (c) Bolick is getting ready to move on to his next act and this is a swan song to get a marker down on all he's done to date. Photo Credit: The Birdchaser.
Update II: Several readers with good knowledge of the voucher community say it's a lot of (c). Apparently there has been some grumbling of late about a lack of strategy and small policy initiatives and this was an effort to tamp that down.
From The Asches...
The idea for a public service academy is gaining more traction, Chris Myers Asch makes the case for it in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Background and relevant disc. here.
In AZ it seems that Governor Napolitano has basically told the AEA to jump in a lake. But they're pissed, really pissed. Nationally, it's an evolving relationship and less Stockholm syndrome which is good, but I wish this particular trade had been for better reforms than these. For instance in 1999 when President Clinton wanted more money for low-performing schools, he "traded" it for public school choice for kids in low-performing schools and in the end got two things he wanted in the final education spending bill. Sure, that's a warmed-over Clintonism as AFTie John, who now is apparently a Clinton critic, might say, but it's also a pretty good roadmap for how to get good policy and good politics. Be for reform, on Democratic terms, and be for investment.
The unspoken crisis.
House Ed and Workforce is holding a hearing on character education next Weds. Jack Nicklaus to testify about his First Tee initiative.
Here's some lousy timing: IES just released their grad rate calculations. Will they get much ink in the midst of the Swanson Storm? But, here they are for your reading pleasure (pdf). Don't miss page four, a nicely done walk-through of caveats (especially the definitional issues which are really confusing this debate). Punchline: Marginally higher rates in some states than Swanson reports, substantially higher in some others. But substantially lower than the debunkers are claiming and closer to the various cumulative methods.
Update: NSBA's Patte Barth -- she's the former Ed Truster at the helm of this new outfit they have the "Center for Public Education"-- does an online discussion of various grad rate issues. The functionality is a little off but worth dealing with it because the content is on.
School Me has everything you need to know about the LA mayoral deal, links etc...so rather than repeat it all here, go there. But, I can't help but think that the mayor could have done even better if he'd deployed the Piscalnator.
Here's a guest post by "Horace Womann." She's a researcher who is involved with ongoing work in Maryland and Baltimore and needs to remain anonymous.
On Monday, Bonnie Copeland’s resigned as CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. The Post and The Times have barely a clue about the reasons behind Copeland’s departure. aptly described by Hurricane Piche last week, is not doing well. Sure, there’s the low achievement that everyone knows and whines about, but “Diploma Counts” bestowed upon BCPSS a new dubious distinction: the second worst graduation rate in the country. At least it’s not Detroit.
Of course, this news comes just months after the state tried to takeover BCPSS in a contentious move that knocked the charm out of Charm City. Though admittedly Mayor O’Malley and Copeland made a magically delicious picture on the front page of the Sun as they railed against the state takeover.
But let’s figure this. The Democratic mayor is challenging the incumbent Republican governor in this fall’s gubernatorial election. His top priority, he claims, is education. The Republican governor is slamming O’Malley by pointing out the tumultuous state of BCPSS. In response, the Baltimore mayor needs to show that he’s tough on education.
Why is Copeland’s resignation good news for O’Malley? As of Copeland’s departure date, the BCPSS financial house will be in order. The Dems can take credit for a deficit-free school system. And O’Malley can say that if his team could do that in B’more (and that’s saying something), then they can do it for Maryland.
Another reason that the Baltimore mayor is sitting pretty: Montgomery County Executive Douglass Duncan’s pull out today from the MD governor’s race for the Democratic Nomination – how could O’Malley have stacked up to Duncan on ed issues with Montgomery County’s graduation rate in the nation’s top 4?
Plus, Copeland’s departure limits the possible damage that could fester around the former COO’s “gone fishin’” trip and other staff missteps. The mayor can’t afford scandals on the road to Annapolis.
Extra bonus is that when the election rolls around this fall, the new CEO won’t have any evidence to show whether he/she is more effective. Any complaints about BCPSS performance or management can be seen as part of the old regime, not the new one.
Then again, here’s the million-dollar question, sure, Baltimore schools showed improvements in math scores, but how much improvement would be enough to keep the politicos happy and the jobs at North Avenue stable?
This seems like just another round in the blame-game. Believe (it or not). --Guestblogger "Horace Womann."
Please Sir, More Grad Rates...Now, With Free Bonus Grad Rate Politics And The Plan To Deploy The Piscalnator!
The Ed Week grad rate map makes the cover of USA Today (the low-fi state map at right, not the high tech county one)...along with a big story by Greg Toppo in the top spot. I think this means this debate is mostly over. Game, set, and match to Swanson et al...I'm not particularly troubled by that since I think their approaches are the best at hand (though not foolproof), but it means someone wasted a lot of money trying to debunk them...If you don't feel like wading through this paper (pdf) to learn about the methods, Sherman Dorn cribs them for you at his place. This matters on substance because until states get their act together on data, there are real implications stemming from this data. On politics, it's Silence on the Scams. You can't help but notice that this is one where the Ds have a pretty clean shot at the Bush Administration for really dropping the ball on this issue and yet it's Democratic special interest groups gumming up the works. If Democrats can't criticize Republican education policies except where it carries no adverse consequences or means no bad PR for adults in the system there isn't going to be a lot to say, is there? Unless it's the fault of the kids...
Update: 8-Mile Madness! AFTie Ed weighs-in and alludes to the Detroit number. As I said, it's not believable. But I think it's going to become the thread folks pull on going forward in an effort to debunk Swanson even though it's (a) one estimate in 50 for the big cities and one datapoint nationwide and (b) anomalous because of what's happening in Detroit. Behind the scenes the efforts to trash Swanson are already in full swing and it's not even noon! Worth remembering that nothing is going to be perfectly plum here, the issue is what's the best method at hand in a messy data environment. Swanson et al lay out their argument here, worth re-reading as the decibels go up.
Update II: Press round-up, here's a sample: School Me was exactly right on the LA angle but what the mayor really ought to do is call Piscal and turn him loose*! NYT here and CSM here. Indy Star here, they've been on this for a while, Philly Inq. here, and St. Paul Pioneer Press focuses on the racial disparities. *The plan is elegant in its simplicity: A bus ticket to Sacramento, Piscal himself, spreadsheets of grad rate data, a bottle of whiskey, and a thermos of coffee. Trust Eduwonk, it's foolproof. Mayoral control guaranteed within 72 hours.
The Homie led edublog carnival is on.
Yesterday I characterized The New York Times as "the most important newspaper in the world" and several readers wrote to take exception. But I think it is. When I worked at The White House you'd check it first thing each morning because the content and placement of stories on its front page would drive the day's news cycle and its opinion pages also set the day's debates up. I still do. On education what the paper writes, even when it's not accurate or complete, for instance on charter schools or curriculum narrowing, becomes the CW almost immediately. Just Monday the op-ed page ran a piece about too much summer homework and later that day broadcast journalists were calling around about different angles on the summer homework story. Coincidence? Of course not. I can think of plenty of important newspapers, several that I read daily, but none with that sort of impact every day.
Anyway, because it's important you probably want to know what's happening there and if you're reading this blog you are probably interested in education (or you're just wasting time on the company's dime). So this long Q and A with NYT Education Editor Alison Mitchell is worth your time. Best line? The deadpan: "I'd be curious how many of our readers would read a story written all in Latin." But plenty of other good stuff.
Incidentally, the most salient meta-critique I've ever heard of The Times' education coverage is that they treat it like a welfare state issue rather than a distinct policy realm. That's been true for a long time and it clouds the coverage. But though it's still early Mitchell seems a departure from that mindset. In the past this frame of reference has made them susceptible to being hoodwinked by shoddy studies and there Mitchell seems to have a decent BS detector and a good understanding of the scene and the various axes people and institutions are grinding.
You're going to see more stuff like this, efforts to hold teacher preparation programs accountable. In the public relations debate about this issue often what happens is that the ed schools hold out the best programs as cover for the rest. For instance as the chart accompanying the article shows, 95 percent of the students from the flagship U of Michigan passed the certification test on the first try. But the thing is, Michigan doesn't prepare most of the state's teachers. Same pattern is true in other states. Stanford doesn't prepare most of California's, Harvard doesn't prepare most Massachusetts teachers and U of Virginia doesn't prepare most teachers there. It's the lesser known schools where the action is, but they fly below the PR radar.
Reader Feedback: Titles
Regarding titles of posts I get two kinds of email. Some people write to say they like the titles best of all. Others, like a correspondent today, write to say: "your blog rocks, your titles suck..." It used to be almost entirely the former, but the rise of the syndicated feeds is creating a constituency around the latter...
Big and important Ed Week opus on grad rates just out. Lots of interesting perspectives and analysis but the punchline everyone will focus on is here (pdf). Pretty grim. Stand-by for back and forth and efforts to debunk (always helpful for addressing social policy problems). The image at left (pdf) shows the intensity of the problem, red's the most severe, dark blue the least. Though no method is plum because of the data today, I think this one give you reasonable estimates but I will say that the number for Detroit is so amazingly low -- (21.7%) that's not a drop-out rate that's an on-time completion rate -- as not to be believable. It would be hard to design a system to lose 4 out of 5 kids, they're just more persistent than that. As School Me notes, the LA number (44.2%) may fuel the debate there. But, 14 of the 50 largest districts with on-time completion under 50 percent and none over 85 percent seems to indicate that there is a problem with dropouts, no? Important backstory, grad rate combatant Chris Swanson now runs the research show at Ed Week. Also, note the numbers for Florida. Despite their grumbling about how unfair NCLB is to them, it does seem like there is some problem with the schools there...especially if you're a minority.
Update: The grad rate debate over at Edspresso continues and it's time to switch to decaf...it's getting nasty and personal.
Andrei Cherny and Kenny Baer are launching their new journal, Democracy, today. A lot of good stuff and expect more going forward.
Astute readers will note the obvious and subtle caffeine headache implications/references in this LAT story about some tensions playing out in the CA Gov's race. Also, the WSJ ($) editorial page jumped into this fray noting the intra-Dem tensions and the bigger stakes.
Why Homeschool is hosting this week's Carnival of Edublogs. Just send links to cate [at] panix [dot] com by 7 p.m. California time tonight. Then, stop by Wednesday for all the action.
In an otherwise interesting column about a NYC school, anti-No Child Left Behind propagandist Michael Winerip manages to get a dig in on the law. One is again left dumbfounded about why the most important newspaper in the world, The New York Times, has kept this guy on this beat for so long:
Ms. Senechal sees a school that takes poor children — 100 percent get free lunches — and provides opportunity. This is why she has no faith in the federal No Child Left Behind law, which labels I.S. 223 a failing school. While I.S. 223 students in every racial and ethnic subgroup made their testing goals in English, math and science, the law requires 95 percent to be tested, and on the English exam, the school was 7 students short. "That makes us a failing school?" she said. "Nonsense. Remarkable things happen at this school."
Why is this tendentious? Well, the law doesn't say the school is failing; merely that it doesn't make adequately yearly progress if it's not assessing 95 percent of the kids. Why? Well so that you can't game the stats by excluding kids who might not do well on the test. And Winerip is cognizant of this issue because, for instance, in a 2003 column he busted Texas officials for manipulating data and in a 2004 column he lamented that Texas was evading accountability by having larger subgroup sizes than Florida (that one was a classic of the genre, he rose to the defense of a school with about 1/3 of its minority kids at grade-level, you can't find just anyone to do that!). Of course, this is not the first time that Winerip has moved the goalposts all over the place to launch a salvo. In fact, just a few weeks ago he was saying how textured the federal accountability system is because of all the things it measures compared to Jay Mathews' "Challenge Index."
If Michael Winerip wants to wage a jihad against No Child Left Behind that's fine, the law is hardly flawless. And with any large scale federal policy doing so is easy because there are always kinks in the joints. But his columns are just the journalistic equivalent of terrorism, lob a grenade and run. There is no consistency or theme beyond his visceral dislike for the law. Criticism is useful but this is just a string of cheap shots that surely must confuse readers and adds nothing to the conversation. Can't The Times do better?
WWMHD? What Would Ms. Hernesma Do?
AFTie John recently told us a bit about his kindergarten days under the care of the kindly Ms. Hernesma. It's telling. Let's face it, apparently AFTie John is basically that kid in elementary school who during dodge ball whined incessantly to the teacher about classmates throwing bouncy balls at him. Besides, if this blog is so lame, why do they write about it so much? Ms. Hernemsa make that mean Eduwonk stop!
In Sunday's San Jose Mercury News ES' Sara Mead explains why the defeat of the California pre-K initiative is for the good in the long run if you support expanding access to high quality pre-K education.
This would be the smartest thing the DC School Board has done in a while. Bigger picture: Just like closing down low-performing public schools and public charter schools that are not getting the job done, authorizers that can't get it together ought to get the boot, too. That said, I think Esteban Guzman is a little too deterministic, districts can play a big role here (though not the only role, obviously) but they have to want to do the hard work and it doesn't look like the DC School Board has been up to it. Sara Mead gets into some of this in her report on DC charter schools. Update: Sara Mead weighs-in but wants the school board to get it together rather than bail out.
Mike Antonucci offers the sensible take and a bit of history about why last week's teachers' union endorsement of Senator Lieberman's challenger in the Dem CT primary isn't as big a deal as it is being made out to be. Not saying that Lieberman isn't facing a stiff challenge and isn't in some trouble but this is less about momentum for the challenger than business as usual.
Seems like AFTie John didn't give us the whole story on the edublog panel from the Yearly Kos meeting in Vegas. Leave it to TNR's Ryan Lizza to do some reporting for us:
[Iowa Gov. Vilsack] sits on a poorly attended education panel with two know-it-all bloggers who dominate much of the session.
Hmmm...seems one of the bloggers was AFTie John's favorite font of blueberry wisdom...
Also, AFTie John has revisited the tax credit issue that so surprised him the other day. But his response seems a little impoverished and static. Two thoughts, OK, just one thought plus a snarky comment. Snark first: AFTie John shows no concern about this horse tradin' strategy, is the AFT now OK with trading education tax credits for teacher pay raises? Let’s hope not. More seriously, if Democrats had an aggressive reform agenda of their own, wouldn’t they have been able to get the pay raises and not had to eat the tax credits? Pay raises + choice versus pay raises and no choice…sure seems like if the Democrats championed choice on Democratic terms they’d be in stronger position…and worth noting Iowa has one of the weakest charter school laws in the nation (something Dem state legislator Phil Wise has been working hard to change) so the Hawkeye state is not a public school choice utopia in the first place.
Also, while you’re at AFTie HQ, worth pointing out that while they credit outgoing Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson with the devastatingly effective “soft bigotry of low expectations” line, they neglect to mention that it was Clinton Ed Secretary Riley who coined the phrase “tyranny of low expectations” from which the Gerson line is borrowed. Where's the love?
Gosh, when this news broke Edwize told me it was all much ado about nothing...but from the looks of the settlement apparently not. LAT is justifiably crowing.
More seriously, this relates to various ways teachers' unions can become providers of high quality services in a more pluralistic educational environment. They should be offering investment help for their members, especially as defined-benefit pensions go the way of the buggy whip. But brand quality matters and stunts like this hurt not help the effort.