Thursday, July 27, 2006
Mostly Play, But Some Work
Friday I'm going to the Aspen Institute for some meetings and then a vacation in Colorado with the Edufamily. So, I'm hoping to be spending more time with them and in the Frying Pan River than in front of a computer.
But I'm leaving you in the very capable hands of Newoldschool Teacher. She can divulge as much about herself to you as she wants, but she used to blog here, is very sharp, and will keep you informed and entertained until August 10, when I return.
Two thoughts about the first post-Winerip NYT "On Education" column. First, on form, I hope it doesn't turn into a venue for various activists. As I said, let's get some real people in there, too. Otherwise, hire top talent like Joe Williams, Siobhan Gorman, or Mike Rose.
Second, on content, I'm very sympathetic to concerns that younger and younger children are entering a world of pressure and stress before they should. But the charter school that the author cites several times really doesn't bolster that case for me because (a) it's a public school of choice and (b) disadvantaged kids do need more structured schooling. Romantic notions about just giving them time to play may sell books for some authors who have turned it into an industry but do nothing to level the playing field for the kids.
Mike Petrilli of Fordham and I discuss the recent NCES study and what it does, and doesn't, mean on NPR's Talk of the Nation.
All you need to know about the new Supplemental Education Services (read tutoring) pilots you can find from Ben Feller's AP story and the Department of Ed's link heavy release. It's amazing the extent to which the Department is implementing the No Child law in an extra-legal way (Feller says "bend," I hope he tries that euphemism the next time he gets pulled over for speeding). At some point these precedents might come back to haunt...On the specifics, I actually see much more promise in public school choice over time than in SES so I'm not very excited about this new direction.
I'd rather see a lot more in the way of carrots and sticks around public school choice to really try to make that work than expanding SES which best I can tell is wildly uneven in quality and curricular alignment. At its worst SES is a return to the old problems that plagued Title I during the '70s and '80s just under a different guise. It's also interesting that through their foot-dragging, the school districts are going to end up with more "privatization" through SES than they would have if they'd just really tried to make the public school choice provisions work.
Over at Fordham, Mike Petrilli, who doesn't do a very good job hiding some delightfully progressive tendencies that must annoy his boss, takes on Charles Murray for his ridiculous WSJ op-ed of yesterday. What's most troubling to me about this is that like other conservative broadsides against the No Child law, some on the left cheered this op-ed...
Also, if you just can't get enough Petrilli, don't miss his must-read Ed Week commentary on No Child. What works, whatever works, and what it means.
Per the post below, one more thought I didn't have time to get to this AM: I don't think there will be a teacher strike in NYC, I don't think the public would support it and I think the union knows that. And, teacher strikes have been declining for some time anyway. What this tough talk about a strike is really about is internal union politics, letting the members know that the leadership is going to fight for them, building solidarity, and so forth Remember, union heads do have to be reelected so they're politicians, too…What's different now, as opposed to just a few years ago, is all these blogs. In the past you could send out these internal messages and for the most part they stayed below the radar. Now, since the unions' blogs are a good way for them to communicate with members, they rattle their sabers there, and before long it boomerangs around all over the place to places like Joe Williams' haunts.
There is an eduscuffle between Joe Williams and AFTie Ed. In reference to a possible teacher strike in NYC Joe asked:
For those elected officials who still think a bunch of political ads aimed at grownups are "too mean," what do you make of job actions aimed at kids who desperately need every ounce of education we can give them?
AFTie Ed then responded:
Joe, it is dishonest to frame a labor-management dispute as a conflict between service providers and the recipients of those services. That’s management’s way of using the people receiving the services as hostages.
Enlightened AFTies, help me understand this. Seems to me this is basically exactly that kind of dispute. Schools (using teachers) provide a service that people receive and that we are all stakeholders in since it's a public service, no? The disputed issue is at its core the question of what it is fair and/or possible to pay for that service. Sure, the kids are caught in the middle but, specific demands notwithstanding, are no more "hostages" of labor than management. Seems like AFTie Ed, whose posts I usually enjoy reading, is falling into the trap of (a) neglecting to engage with the very real differences between unionization in the public and private sectors and (b) assuming that the teachers' union position on any of these questions is axiomatically the correct and right one and that criticism is inherently wrong or dishonest. On the latter, don’t we already have enthusiastic eduflack AFTie John to beat that drum?
Joe responds here.
Update: AFTie Ed responds. Read it for yourself. What's interesting, and telling, is his contention about the public - private issue. He frames it as an issue about perceived greed from private sector unions which is reasonably easily refuted. That's a smart stance for the teachers' unions to take because it blurs the issues. Unfortunately, it completely ignores the serious distinctions.
In the private sector, organized labor gives workers collective leverage against management and in the negotiation process each are free to work their wills as best they can. In other words both serve as a check on the other and while not perfect in the particulars, in general it's a healthy system and one reason that pretty much across the Democratic Party private sector unions enjoy a great deal of support.
In the public sector, by contrast, management and labor do not operate as largely unfettered checks on one another because labor can influence management a great deal through politics. In other words, while the UAW doesn't get to choose the management of the car companies, teachers' unions do get to exert great influence over who their management is through the political and electoral process and they get to influence many of the key rules of the game as well. In addition, while in the private sector businesses can relocate elsewhere, providing another healthy check on the process, the public schools in say, Philadelphia, can't just up and move to North Carolina. And, similarly, while the threat of bankruptcy, which ultimately hurts both management and labor, curbs excesses in the private sector, the public schools cannot go bankrupt and must open and operate. Those are real differences in the context in which public and private sector unions operate.
It's not an argument for or against public sector unions in general or teachers' unions in particular. But it is an argument for recognizing that, contra AFTie Ed's romantic notion that, "you can’t look at labor’s battles in the public sector as being isolated from our broader fight," in fact, yes you can, and what' s worrisome for the teachers' unions is that even some private sector unionists are starting to…
Seems like the seeds of a revolution are being sown out in LA.
Title I Monitor channels Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page to point out that the Department of Ed seems to be becoming stricter on No Child Left Behind again. NYT's Dillon also weighs-in with a long piece setting the stage for the next phase of all this...Update: And, AFTie One-L goes all Babe I'm Gonna Leave You on Nebraska!
This is interesting, Maine, which is home to Bates College, the high temple of anti-SAT enthusiasts, now wants to further ingrain the SAT into the state's public education system....*
Also, speaking of Maine, it is hard as hell to find a piece of blueberry pie in Portland...I was just there to give a talk and getting a piece of pie to wash down some lobster was an ordeal. Wasn't so hard when I lived further up the coast a decade ago.
*Incidentally, we have these periodic fits about how the SAT is in trouble, but I don't see it.
Mickey Kaus wonders if (a) there really are changing edupolitics among the Ds and (b) if this new charter data out of New York is really as explosive as the New York Post claimed the other day.
Data first: Yes and no. By itself the "new" state data proves little, you can’t make causal claims from it because it tells us nothing about how the kids were doing before they came to charters. But, because the line in New York from charter foes is basically that they’re unproven, uneven, etc…in other words that they are pretty consistently not as good as other public schools, then this data does have some real resonance in the political debate because it at least gives the lie to those claims. And sure, as Rick Hess noted recently (click through for relevant disc.), charter proponents shouldn’t oversell the data, but they also need not fight with one hand behind their backs either. And it’s OK to say that while this data doesn’t prove anything positive about charter schools it surely debunks some of the outlandish and negative claims about them.
Politics: Kaus busts the Center for American Progress for being in bed with some folks who want to bust teachers’ unions. Perhaps, but it seems to me that the whole teachers' union issue wouldn’t have the resonance it does if Democrats were not frequently so entirely tethered to them. Put another way, I don’t think CAP is in the union busting business but because there is frequently so little daylight between the teachers’ unions and Democrats any effort to do much of anything interesting on education policy almost inevitably runs afoul of them and their constant habit of crying wolf about anti-unionism only fuels that fire. I've got other concerns about this ranking project, but I don't see how it is by definition anti-teachers' union -- yet I have great faith in the ability of today's leadership at the teachers' union to make it so.