Friday, July 21, 2006
Looking for a new edublog? Check out Eponymous Educator. Education grad student, blogging up a storm. He's all over the recent public-private back and forth.
Interesting Denis Doyle column on productivity and time:
If education is funded without measuring results decisions are based on impulse and sentiment, a risky business that. Yet if education is to be funded on results we need a high degree of social consensus on what results are desirable (and measurable).
They keep telling me there is no issue here, but then I read stories like this: Tenure helps good teachers and shelters the bad ones.
Two things jump out here. First, while "tenure" is an issue, it's not as though school districts in states with fewer rules are somehow models of good human resources and sensitivity to talent. The more core problem is that education -- regardless of the specific labor context -- is simply not very sensitive to talent right now. That's cultural, institutional, and a function of policy and it's a much bigger issue than work rules alone. Second, as a general rule, the same teachers that get headlines like these are ones reformist union leaders would like to see gone, too. Consequently, seems like there are some deals to be cut in some places. The joke is that all teachers favor having classes with three fewer students -- especially if they get to choose the three. Some union leaders would be OK with a few fewer if the deal is structured with an eye toward the right few...
That's an opportunity for a grand bargain in some locales...
Sherman Dorn responds to this post saying that none of the ideas in play are very new. Fair enough, but my point wasn't about the message as much as the messenger(s) in the article. There is an unmistakable shift starting to happen among some elites with strong ties to Democrats and leading Democrats (like Joel Klein) themselves. How it plays out? TBD.
New college tuition idea from Senator Clinton's American Dream Initiative. Clinton, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), and Governor Tom Vilsack (D-IA) describe it here in today's Denver Post:
We propose a plan to produce one million more college and community college graduates a year by 2015. Paid for by getting rid of wasteful business subsidies, our plan consolidates existing tax credits into a new $3,000 refundable tax credit for four years of college or training, and proposes a performance-based block grant that will enable states to reduce tuition costs and increase graduation rates. Together, these ideas will make it possible for any student willing to work part-time or perform community service to go to college for four years tuition-free.
It's an innovative framework and higher ed is not a bad place for Dems to focus going into 2008 since it's easier to achieve party unity than around K-12 where there are some tough issues thwarting consensus. But, ultimately you've got to have something to say about K-12 'cause these college graduates have to come from somewhere.
Pro-voucher OH African-American (former) Democrat Dixie Allen has switched parties in no small part because of the issue. I'm not a voucher guy, but I do think that like abortion there are some issues that a party needs to signal that reasonable people can disagree and multiple viewpoints are welcome. Scott Elliot, tell us more!
For the past week several journos have been calling around trying to get confirmation that Tom Luce was indeed stepping down from his post at the Department of Education. Though everyone in town seemed to know that this was happening and why (sheath the knives, no sinister story at all, he's not well) journos were having a hell of a time getting people whose paycheck comes from the U.S. Treasury to confirm it. Best I can tell Ed Week's Michelle Davis was the first to nail it down with a big story out today. This is a big hole for the administration to fill since Ed Sec. Spellings relied heavily on Luce and was sort of the de facto number two there. It's also unfortunate timing for the Bushies since Kevin Sullivan is departing for the White House to run the communications shop there (which means that soon I should be getting an exclusive bloggy education interview with the POTUS which will prompt poor SEJ Russo to toss himself from a window) so they're losing some key players all at once.
So, on the Luce matter, mixed metaphor inside baseball-horserace handicapping: Big loser? Secretary Spellings, she's losing a key aide. Big winner? Russ Whitehurst. No secret there was no love lost there and some real disagreements about the interaction of research and policy.
Your tax dollars at work: An interagency project collects data on the well-being of children in the United States. Newly updated for 2006 you can find it here though lots more coming in 2007. Also see this interview with NICHD's Duane Alexander here. Good resource.
More Vouchers? And, Why The New IES Is Working
I have trouble seeing this new Republican push for vouchers as anything more than base-pleasing gibberish. But hey, in a tight political climate that stuff wins elections! But, if they were really interested in quickly expanding the number of seats in high quality schools available to under-served kids, why wouldn't they champion a big initiative to leverage the best public charter schools? Less controversial, more impact, big bipartisan potential...
On Ed Secretary Spellings' contention that the first she even heard of this new NCES report on public and private schools* was in the newspaper, I have a little trouble believing that she hadn't even caught a whiff of it -- she's pretty plugged in and everyone else knew about it. But, that said, the real story here is that the 2002 reorganization of federal education research is actually working. Like the NAEP charter school data from a few years ago, that the politicals were caught somewhat flatfooted is a good thing and shows that the firewalls are having some effect.
*See also this very sensible NYT editorial board take on the new study.
Changin' Edupolitics...And, Why Joel Klein Has To Sleep With One Eye Open...
If you want a quick look at the new edupolitics you can't beat this Mort Kondracke column. Read the entire thing and add another body to Joel Klein's security detail...(what's the over-under on the Edwize response? Eduwonk predicts a reference to Montaigne and a response in less than 36 hours). Also, buried in the column is more on the Chamber of Commerce initiative, which has changed direction some since its announcement.
Highest Paid Migrant Workers In The Country...
Creg Williams out as sup't in St. Louis:
He portrayed his departure as par for the course in his business." The board's changed," he said. "When the board changes, you change leadership. That's the way it works in this industry."
Par for the course, yes. A good way to run a railroad???
New MDRC study on Project Grad that is worth your time if you follow the issue.
The long awaited NCES report on public - private school student achievement (pdf) is out. The AFTies had been beating the drum that this report was being squelched and Saturday's Times story credits them and says as much. Maybe, though having been on the other side I'm sympathetic to how long it takes gov't to release things like this and IES Director Russ Whitehurst is a pretty stand-up guy and is seriously committed to freeing up research from political influence. And it would be a dumb thing to suppress anyway since there really isn't anything incendiary in it anyway one way or the other. It has zippo in the way of causal claims, is well done, and pretty much confirms what other research has shown: When you account for demographics much of the difference between public and private schools, insofar as standardized tests are concerned, evaporates (Wash. Monthly's Kevin Drum dissents here*). Besides, the construct here (in terms of the argument that the Admin isn't playing straight pool) is that the Bush Administration's education agenda begins and ends with privatization. While they're certainly not hostile to private schools and private providers of educational services, in fairness there is more to their educational agenda than that.
In any event, even though the report looks at different kinds of private schools to some extent, both the public and the private category are so broad and heterogeneous that just comparing them doesn't tell us much because within these categories there is so much variation. In fact, rather than being a scathing indictment of vouchers as some are framing it, I think it's more just a reaffirmation that all schools receiving public money should have to follow some basic rules about transparency and information since being private (or public) is by itself no determinant of quality.
*One thought: Keep an eye on math scores more than reading scores when trying to see what effect schools are having on learning. That's because reading today is more linked with social capital than math is. In other words, kids learn about reading in a variety of ways but mostly get math in school.
The Ross school controversy seems to have found a resolution where wealthy parents don't have to have their door darkened by this charter school and Klein-Bloomberg get a political win (and help the school out of this mess). Yet while The Times compares Klein to Rod Paige (the latter also gave over school administration space to charters when he was superintendent in Houston), even though Klein is not running the school, isn't the more relevant NYC parallel, at least politically, between Klein having a charter a few floors below his office and the UFT opening some? Joe Williams breaks his no-Ross pledge and has more.