Friday, June 30, 2006
Out Of Left Field...
Gosh, it seems like there might be some problems with urban schools that could create political complications for Democrats if not addressed...who knew?
Department of Ed getting ready to crack down on states about their testing systems, even with calls to chiefs this week looks like fewer than 10 are going to make the full cut...ED's strategy seems to be to penalize states but then send the money to local districts to ease the political sting. But, send in the lawyers! Some say this raises a separation of powers issue. Funny though, when ED went extralegal on growth models the states were not ready to rush to court, were they? More on the enforcement issues in the Title I Monitor.
Per the sad news about Eric Rofes, full obit here and Andrew Sullivan here.
How Bill Gates should spend his (new) billions from David DeSchryver.
Though the Gadfly is fun and interesting to read, listening to the podcast "Gadfly Show" is basically a herniating experience, though it's slightly less so when ES' Sara Mead is on so check out this week's episode.
Finally got to reading the Arlington Central School District v. Murphy case (pdf). Punchline is that school districts don't have to reimburse parents for the costs of experts under IDEA when the parents prevail (the districts have to pay attorney fees now and this case turned on whether or not experts were included). Broader implications: Seems to me this is far from a spending clause slam dunk as it relates to the ongoing NCLB litigation and it's a showcase of legislative history v. original meaning. Useful analysis of the case in NSBA's Legal Clips, which they inexplicably don't make available online in a way you can link to, it's usually a great product. More here and here from SCOTUSblog.
Update: NSBA has kindly put this week's issue up on the web for you!
A friend passed this email along. NCLB's got its problems, sure, but doesn't "murderous impact" overstate it a bit? Lots of interesting stuff buried in here. Update: Checker Finn on this email here.
FROM JONATHAN KOZOL:
An Update, Bulletin, and Manifesto to the Education Activists who have asked me: Where do we go next?
June 16, 2006
This is to report that, at long last, the network of activists in education that I've been assembling from the thousands of teachers and advocates for children who turned out for massive rallies while I was on that grueling six-month book-tour for The Shame of the Nation as well as the many local groups of teachers organized to fight racism and inequality and the murderous impact of the NCLB legislation is now up and running.
We're using the name Education Action and will soon set up a website but, for now, I hope that you'll feel free to contact us at our e-mail, EducationActionInfo@gmail.com
By the start of August, we'll be operating out of a house we've purchased for this purpose (16 Lowell St, Cambridge, MA 02138) in which we hope to gather groups of teachers, activists, especially the leaders of these groups, for strategy sessions in which we can link our efforts with the goal of mobilizing educators to resist the testing mania and directly challenge Congress, possibly by a march on Washington, at the time when NCLB comes up for reauthorization in 2007.
We are already in contact with our close friends at Rethinking Schools, with dozens of local action groups like Teachers for Social Justice in San Francisco, with dynamic African-American religious groups that share our goals, with activist white denominations, and with some of the NEA and AFT affiliates in particular, the activist caucuses within both unions such as those in Oakland, Miami, and Los Angeles. But we want to extend these contacts rapidly in order to create what one of our friends who is the leader of a major union local calls a massive wave of noncompliance.
My close co-worker, Nayad Abrahamian, who is based in Cambridge, will be the contact person for this mobilizing effort, along with Rachel Becker, Erin Osborne, and a group of other activists and educators who are determined that we turn the growing, but too often muted and frustrated discontent with NCLB and the racist policies and privatizing forces that are threatening the very soul of public education into a series of national actions that are explicitly political in the same tradition as the civil rights upheavals of the early 1960s.
We want to pull in youth affiliates as well and are working with high school kids and countless college groups that are burning with a sense of shame and indignation at the stupid and destructive education policies of state and federal autocrats. We want the passionate voices of these young folks to be heard. College students tell us they are tired of so many feel-good conferences where everyone wrings their hands about injustice but offers them nothing more than risk-free service projects? that cannot affect the sources of injustice. They've asked us for a mobilizing focus that can unify their isolated efforts. We are writing to you now to ask for your suggestions as to how we ought to give a realistic answer to these students.
IMPORTANT: When I say we're 'up and running,' I mean that Education Action, as a framework and an organizing structure for our efforts, is in place. I do not mean that our goals and strategies are set in stone. We are still wide-open to proposals from you, and other organizational leaders we're in touch with, to rethink our plans according to your own experience and judgment. We'd also like to broaden our initial organizing structure by asking if you'll serve, to the degree that's possible for you, as part of our national board of organizers and advisors. We don't want to duplicate the efforts strong groups are already making. And the last thing on our minds is to compete with any group already in existence.? (Political struggles ever since the 1960s have been plagued with problems based on turf mentality. We want to be certain to avoid this.)
Tell us how you feel about our plans and how you think they ought to be expanded or improved. How closely can we link our efforts with your own? Do you believe that NCLB can be stopped, or at least dramatically contested, by the methods we propose?
Let us hear from you! We want to be in touch.
In the struggle,
Jonathan Kozol for Education Action
The paraprofessionals now have their own blog. Could be interesting to keep an eye on, the para issue may again emerge as a flash point in No Child Left Behind reauthorization.
Eric Rofes 1954-2006
Very sad news. Eric Rofes, a veteran activist in the fight against AIDS, respected academic, and strong believer in the empowering potential of ideas like charter schools passed away unexpectedly yesterday in Provincetown, MA. More about Eric here and his must-read book on public charter schools here. In terms of charters, as far as I know most recently he was at work interviewing people for a study of the politics of state charter school caps to start to bring some sense to that issue. A loss on many levels, he was courageous and thoughtful and will be missed by many.
Update: At Q&E Sara Mead offers more.
Funding Free For All!
An op-ed by Rod Paige in today's NYT kicks off a new round of debate about student finance. Paige makes some good points, criticizes the 65 percent solution, and touts a new ecumenical manifesto about school finance organized by the Fordham Foundation and signed by a wide range of people including former Clinton WH Chief of Staff John Podesta and former NC Governor Jim Hunt. But, because the manifesto is bipartisan, or really non-partisan, it's a shame Paige's op-ed doesn't have a dual byline to better frame the issue. Incidentally, hard to miss that while a few years ago few on the left wanted much to do with Fordham, that's really changed. Sign of the changing edupolitics. (Disc. I signed.) It's also hard to miss the enormous impact Commodore Marguerite Roza is having on this debate.
It's a bridge to a new generation of philanthropy....yesterday's big Buffett to Gates gift is causing a lot of chatter in educircles. It's good news, obviously, but also raises some obvious and subtle questions. One of the most interesting subtle ones is whether current tax code provisions regulating philanthropy really work with this new generation of "super foundations." In order to prevent philanthropic endowments from becoming unchecked sources of wealth into perpetuity, the tax code sensibly requires foundations to spend five percent of their endowments annually. There is a long history of Congressional oversight on the issue.
But, while there is some flexibility, it's legitimate to ask whether it's really wise to force foundations to spend five percent every year. Does this lead to rushed spending or ill-planned gifts? Well, it's no secret that at the end of the year some foundations have to rush money out the door. And there is an enormous difference between a small or mid-sized foundation doing this and one of the super foundations such as a Gates (disc. an ES donor) or Ford or Walton in terms of the real dollars involved.
Not saying that the payout requirements should be lowered as a net matter (and in this particular instance Mr. Buffett attached requirements to his gift) but as a larger issue it's worth thinking about restructuring the rules in this new environment to allow for more planning. Perhaps a staggered system to take into account foundation size. Some foundation program officers say this would help, others say that it would merely lead to some last minute giving on a different timeline.
Bonus Reading: For a good look at education philanthropy today it's hard to beat Rick Hess' With the Best of Intentions.
Interesting debate in New York yesterday where AEI's I'm Rick Hess B*tch took charter advocates in New York to task for how they're spinning charter data. He's really kicking them while they are down since the legislature just adjourned without raising the charter school cap there. Hess' point is right, point in time scores don't tell you enough about charter school performance to draw causal inferences. Without knowing how the students were doing previously or having some sort of experiment or quasi-experiment, it's just an isolated data point. But what I think Rick, a friend and colleague, is really doing here is taking an opportunity to distance himself from people who signed the 2004 NYT ad criticizing snapshot studies and then subsequently touted them (I sorta dissent from that consensus to begin with, that and a quick primer on charter research here).
That's fine, and I don't blame him, but what Rick fails to note is that I don't think Bill Phillips, who is singled out in the piece (another friend and colleague, who sort of works for me because I'm on his board) ever claimed that this data was definitive or causal, just that the people saying that charter school kids were uniformly doing worse were wrong. And, Bill is not a researcher or policy analyst, didn't sign the now-infamous ad, and is in fact just a guy trying to raise an arbitrary cap on the number of charter schools in New York in the face of parental demand. And, the data Rick wants doesn't exist yet so Bill isn't hiding anything.
So I've got friends on all sides of this one, and I'm sticking with my friends. Another guy with friends on all sides of this is Chalkboard's Joe Williams, what does he think?
Update: Joe responds quasi-lamely! One other thought on this in Bill's defense: The list of schools he put out included some with low scores. He didn't cherry pick.
Last week's USA Today story on challenges for business travelers may not seem like an education story but it's got an interesting eduangle because the same stress is hitting a lot of folks in the eduworld. In fact, it's proving to be a recruitment challenge for some of the big ed foundations and high impact NGO organizations because the amount of travel is virtually incompatible with a decent outside life. Education, as much as any industry, is spread out all over the country and to be good at your work you have to get out, get around, and spend time in schools and communities. And let's face it, it is fun. But, at almost any gathering you'll find a lot of Ambien poppers and plenty of folks having that extra drink to get to sleep. And the burnout issue is one that the lead folks at most of the major organizations talk about, a lot...I'm not surprised how frequently these issues come up, but how infrequently they're discussed in anything but hushed tones.
NYT's Dillon turns in a must-read on the case and what it means.