Friday, September 08, 2006
Narrowing Hysteria Returns!
Recall that last March a poorly constructed survey question coupled with a New York Times story in search of a punchy lede led to a week or two of great concern cum hysteria about curriculum narrowing as a result of No Child Left Behind. Now, analyst Craig Jerald has revisited the issue with additional data and offers a sensible walk through in a new report from LPA (pdf). Via Gadlfy.
SECRETARY SPELLINGS ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH 100 BLACK MEN
That's the actual (all caps) headline from a Dept. of Education press release today....and they have the nerve to say that President Clinton promoted small symbolic initiatives! This is just not sustainable or scalable. How is she ever going to get to the other 16 million plus with just 29 months left on the job?
Yeah, yeah, I know, it's actually a good organization and good partnership but still, where are you Kevin Sullivan? (Or for that matter Kevin Sullivan!)
Update: The release is now online. But they've modified it! New title: "Secretary Spellings Announces Partnership with 100 Black Men of America, Inc." Better, but hardly as fun...
So, you really like public service, school choice, pastels, and strip malls? If so this job in Florida might be just for you.
FairTest has joined the chorus of those concerned about the recent SAT score decline...Seriously, says this letter....
In today's column, Robert Novak takes Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate Bob Casey to task over fiscal discipline. Leave aside the absurd notion that this crop of Republicans have proven themselves good stewards of the federal treasury, he in part criticizes Casey for championing a universal pre-K proposal that would cost an estimated $8 billion annually. Casey's plan is based on the proposal put forward by Sara Mead, and it's a good idea. One of the real unfortunate side-effects of the fiscal policies of the last six years is that big investments in important initiatives, for instance pre-K, are so difficult. I certainly don't buy into the "no accountability until utopia" approach to ed policy, but there is no doubt that a more seamless start for kids is a vital complement to K-12 reform. I'm also not opposed to cutting and investing, that can be a true progressive approach to government spending. Reckless fiscal policies, however, create bad choices.
Also, New America has released a policy brief on pre-K (pdf). Much of it is related to this earlier paper they released in January (pdf), that Diane Ravitch and I reviewed at a NAF event. While it makes a good case for expanding access to pre-K education, like the January paper the new brief also calls for using new Title I money for pre-K. I don't care for that idea either in terms of the substance or the politics. While I'm not at all against redirecting money from some existing programs toward pre-K, there is no compelling reason to pit these two important programs against one another. There is a modest early-ed component to Title I now, but in terms of a lever for forcing action on low-performing schools, and a program to provide services to low-income kids, Title I is the best game in town and I don't get the logic of moving in the direction NAF wants to here. AFTie One-L doesn't like it either.
Goldstein's Gone Wild Again
in the Boston Herald:
Public school choice benefits children of all races. But it most helps the families who’ve been worst off. Instead of black families fighting for access to good schools, how about good schools fighting to enroll black families?
Sherman Dorn weighs-in on Jay Mathews much chattered about Sunday front page Washington Post splash on national standards. Sherman raises the issue of cut scores on tests. This recent ES Explainer looks at that issue, which doesn't get the attention it should.
What I think is unfortunate is that Mathews' article has set off something of a false debate, namely about whether all these people who support using NAEP as a national test are right or wrong. Thing is, the Fordham report (pdf) looked at a multiple routes to national standards including my favored route of common standards developed by the states themselves. I actually think using the NAEP for this is a lousy idea and that the states are not going to enforce anyone else's standards anyway, hell they mostly won't enforce their own now under No Child. Worth reading the entire report not just the clips.
It's Virtual Back To School Day over at NAPCS. And there is even a webchat (going on right now) with bloggers featuring Joe Williams, Alexander Russo, and Eduwonk about charter schools.
With Dick Riley it would have been Irish Spring. Last week Secretary Spellings compared No Child Left Behind to Ivory Soap, saying it was 99.9 percent pure.
Leave aside that it's kind of a weird analogy (was she saying we need to clean up American education? Or was it subliminal because she finds reporters dirty?), I'm not sure it's right either. I think you can argue that the framework of the law is 99 percent pure, but not the law itself. The framework, the choice - accountability marriage, is inescapably the direction that American K-12 education is heading. While some dead enders don't want any choice at all, or conversely want a purely choice-driven system, greater choice married with am emphasis on common standards is the rough consensus reflected in policymaking today. So, the arguments are about the latitude of choice (public or private) and who gets to define standards (state or national). In other words, they're within that general framework.
No Child, for its part, is a rough stab at moving federal policy to reflect this new consensus. It would have been amazing for it to be 99 percent pure in terms of the policy. After all, what other large scale domestic policy legislation got it 99 percent right the first time? The original ESEA took a few reauthorization cycles to iron out the kinks (which, of course, created some new kinks). That's par for the course with national policymaking, especially for a diverse set of providers like the states and local school districts that make up our education "system."
The Secretary would be better served by offering the media and the public that context. Rather than falling into the rhetorical trap laid by the law's opponents about whether the law is perfect or not, she should put the issue in the broader context of ongoing policymaking: Of course there are problems, and the key thing is to work deliberately to address them and constantly strive to improve the policy.
Unfortunately, the Administration's on again - off again attention to implementation makes that a harder case to make, but they still have 29 months on the job and the need to get it right on substance and rhetoric as best they can.
A big thanks to Steve Barr for guest blogging last week, interesting and provocative stuff. A reader wanted to know who has guest blogged over the 2 + years of the blog's existence. Best I can recall, here's the roster: Michael Goldstein, Robert Gordon, Diane Piche, Charles Pyle, Richard Colvin, Joe Williams, NewOldSchool Teacher, Alice in Eduland (anonymous urban teacher), Sara Mead, and Steve Barr.
Think you might be a good guest blogger? Then email me. Open tryouts soon.
Charter Schools of the World, Unite!
Happy Labor Day! Can we make significant change in a 100 percent unionized industry withnon-union schools? I see too many of my fellow reformers spending too much of their time fighting union opposition through school boards. What saddens me is most of the successful schools in our movement practice beautifully what most teachers and their unions push for: Better work conditions with smaller schools and smaller class sizes, more say in what goes on in front of them, and streamline funding with less bureaucracy, which should transfer in high teacher pay. I know these basic tenets are part of our success. We pay better than LAUSD, despite the fact that we get 30% less money than LAUSD. If I had 30% more money I could start teachers at $55,000 a year! Some of our best innovations have come from teacher-led initiatives. Like our ninth grade reading intervention project, where forty percent of our kids-test well below fourth grade reading level, ninety percent rally to grade level by the end of their freshman year. Do you know what happens to a fourteen year old who learns how to read for the first time? These teachers are creating an army of world-beaters! And our teachers gladly give up tenure for a more relevant just cause. They want to be accountable too!
I know that our union partnership is one of the main reasons we are successful. I think teachers feel the same way. 800 teachers applied for 80 jobs this year at Green Dot. There is no teacher shortage; there is a work condition problem.
I think we can drive revolutionary change with mission driven, generational relevant unions that dramatically improve the work conditions by putting all the resources into the classroom. We cannot truly reform public education without reforming and updating our teacher unions and look at teachers as partners, not our enemy. But we have to lead.
Guestblogger Steve Barr, CEO & Founder of Green Dot Public Schools