Friday, September 22, 2006
The Bushies Bungle The Most Popular Part of NCLB! Is It Time To Beat The [Expletive Deleted] Out Of Them?
Like everyone else I'm reading this new Inspector General Report on Reading First (pdf)...wow. It goes downhill from the excerpt below. And don't miss the emails, they don't learn! For instance:
Beat the [expletive deleted] out of them in a way that will stand up to any level of legal and [whole language] apologist scrutiny. Hit them over and over with definitive evidence that they are not SBRR, never have been and never will be. They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the [expletive deleted] out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags.
Title I Monitor is all over it here. Quick reax: First, this is going to walk on the message the Secretary was hoping to get out next week in her big speech. Second, harder to argue that Jack Jennings is in the tank for Democrats now, here is his recent evaluation praising Reading First! Finally, politically, this could set the issue of good reading instruction back a good bit, and that's seriously a real shame.
From the IG Report:
Specifically, we found that the Department:
• Developed an application package that obscured the requirements of the statute;• Took action with respect to the expert review panel process that was contrary to thebalanced panel composition envisioned by Congress;• Intervened to release an assessment review document without the permission of the entity that contracted for its development;• Intervened to influence a State’s selection of reading programs; and• Intervened to influence reading programs being used by local educational agencies(LEAs) after the application process was completed.
These actions demonstrate that the program officials failed to maintain a control environment that exemplifies management integrity and accountability.
Fall guy: Chris Doherty.
From: Simon, Ray
Sent: Thursday, September 21, 2006 10:56 AM
To: All Exchange Users
Subject: ODS Personnel Announcement
After almost 5 years with the department, Chris Doherty intends to return to the private sector, effective October 1. Chris has been a valuable asset to my team and to the department during his tenure here. The children of America are fortunate to have had such a tireless champion. His intelligence, counsel, wit and friendship will be immeasurably missed.
Wendy Tada has agreed to serve as the new Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary. Wendy will join ODS from OVAE where she is currently serving as Chief of Staff. Previously, she worked in OSERS and was instrumental in developing the IDEA regulations. Her distinguished career in the education field also includes positions as school physical therapist, assistant professor, and education research analyst.
Please join me in congratulating Chris on his new opportunity and welcoming Wendy to the ODS team.
Raymond Simon Deputy Secretary U.S. Department of Education
If they're not careful, Detroit Public Schools are going to run out of kids before too long...
Kevin Carey has a new report out on higher ed rankings. Chron. of Higher Ed here ($).
"The biggest obstacle to liberating higher education from the tyranny of the flawed U.S. News system is higher education itself," says Carey.
Bennett Bets Big On National Standards...But Is It Just More Think Tank Noise?
Remember when I said you should start taking the think tanky excitement over national standards seriously when a prominent national politician championed the idea? Well, Bill Bennett and Rod Paige don’t fit the bill, sorry! But they did jump on the national standards train in this morning’s WaPo. Four thoughts:
First, shouldn’t Paige have at least signaled to readers that when it comes to citing Fordham Foundation work, he’s not just an observer/consumer, he’s a playa’! He’s on the board. Don’t think Bennett has any formal affiliation there though.
Second, every time someone lobs one of these National Assessment of Educational Progress v. state standards comparisons you get a rehash of the old debate about whether NAEP’s standards are meaningful or too rigorous. Fair enough, it’s a legitimate debate. Nonetheless, there is some utility to NAEP at least at the extremes. In other words, while I wouldn’t use NAEP to impugn a state where say 55 percent of the kids are “proficient” on the state test but only 45 percent were on NAEP, when you have really enormous spreads, for instance Tennessee’s 87 to 27 as Paige-Bennett cite, that does tell you something.
Third, Bennett and Paige say that a reason for bottom-up standards is so that Washington doesn’t mess it up. That’s really just a throwaway Republican line. There is no guarantee that the states won’t screw it up either. After all, they did produce much of the current mess. Instead, why I think that if you want to see national standards bottom-up is the only way to go is because it’s the only way to get genuine buy-in at the state and local level. Remember, No Child Left Behind doesn’t impose federal standards; it just forces the states to get serious about enforcing their own. And, at least so far, they’re not too keen to do that. Don’t expect them to enthusiastically embrace someone else’s standards. That’s because a big part of this problem is political, not technical or substantive. The politics of dealing with low-performing schools are knotty and even with some sort of Platonic standards and measurement system, those politics still remain.
Finally, bottom-up standards will take a while so they’re not an immediately actionable solution for the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind. That means that regardless of what provisions Congress puts in the law to encourage the creation of national standards, thorny questions about accountability between now and then remain. That, for my money, remains a more interesting debate.
See also Jal Mehta's dissent from the zeitgeist here. And ignore AFTie One-Ls hysterics about privatization*, she gives good info on where this issue stands on the Hill.
*Why ignore? Because the NCLB problem isn't that states are privatizing schools, or being forced to, it's that they're doing next to nothing!
It's appalling someone didn't think of this sooner! SchoolMe offers odds on various possibles for the LA Sup't job. Some are worth checking out. Eduwonk thinks that like Kentucky Derby Futures they also need a betting line on all others. In all seriousness, there are some names in the mix that are not on this list, but I can't tell you them...and in all seriousness, the dig on Clinton is ridiculous, ESEA '94, standards, charter schools, public school choice etc...
A lot of readers want to know why I haven't blogged about former Teachers College president Arthur Levine's latest report on the quality of education schools (pdf). Well, first reason is that I'm buried, hence the light posting lately. Second, it's a fine report but it's hardly earth shattering, most people in and out of the field knew the punchline: There are a lot of problems with the ed schools and many are downright lousy! Not a shocker...
But hey, regulatory capture is a powerful thing so they're not going anywhere anytime soon and besides there is not a great model just sitting out there to replace them. In our book on the issue Rick Hess, Kate Walsh, and I basically concluded that there are four models and that policymakers have some decisions to make to clear up today's muddle.
For my money the most interesting part of the report is sort of inside baseball, it has a pretty scathing attack on NCATE. That's a ball worth watching...Jenny D. has a lot more on the report here. Ed Week here.
Also, related and too often overlooked issue: Teachers earn more salary for completing additional degrees and coursework at these ed schools. No evidence linking any of this to effectiveness. So, just how much money could be used to raise teacher pay in a more efficacious way but is instead currently sunk in this system?
Nomadic blogger Matt Yglesias weighs-in on this ongoing achievement gap debate between Kevin Carey and the AFTies (if you're inclined links to walk back here). Matt makes an interesting point about the dynamic nature of the achievement gap, namely that affluent parents are always going to seek out advantages for their kids. That's true and in a liberal society hard, and I'd argue unwise, to curtail. But that's not what No Child Left Behind is about. In the NCLB gap closing context gap closing means eliminating racial and economic gaps in the percentages of students scoring "proficient" on their state tests. Considering the nature of these tests, which should be floors rather than ceilings, this can be done regardless of what affluent parents do.
Also worth noting that while there are many out-of-school factors that bear on the gaps we see on tests, outcomes, etc...it's important not to forget that the way schools are organized, financed, and so forth today means that once students enter the public system they encounter an environment that compounds those gaps rather than addressing them. A quick spin around the Ed Trust website will give you plenty of examples about that in terms of teacher quality, curriculum, and money.
Update: Matt responds, and there isn't a huge disagreement here and again the prospect of a robust center-left/left/center-right coalition to really address social and educational reform rears its head. But in terms of No Child the semantics do matter because understanding what the policy of NCLB is intended to do is key to a reasonable decision about the law's merits. And all kinds of things are being ascribed to it that it's not intended to do.
Spunky HomeSchool is giving one away in a contest at her site. But what you really want is that gun...
If you follow school choice issues, I don't have to tell you the importance of this must-read by Alan Borsuk in the MJS.
Wanna work with foundations? Come work at ES, fun job, good team, well groomed employees. Also, Edison Schools is hiring teachers. You gotta be certified.
Boston wins the 2006 Broad Prize. They've been waiting for this one...nice swan song for Payzant.
Sam Freedman turns in an interesting column about Joel Klein's reform efforts in New York. He argues that the new schools Klein is creating are less than public. Not at all sure that's right, they may a different kind of public.
This is complicated though. First, what Klein is trying to do is create disruptive innovation within the system, that’s hard as hell to do. Worth noting that one of the theoretical underpinnings of vouchers is that you have to do that from outside the system so voucher foes should be cheering not jeering Klein's efforts to show that the public system can reform itself. In other words the irony here is that this “not so public” may hold the key to reinvigorating urban public schools.
In addition, the stark delineations between "public" and "privatization" really don't work. There are a lot of gradations between the traditional public system and what I think you could reasonably consider a private one. So, while I obviously think it's vital to maintain strong linkages between wellsprings of democratic input into schooling and schooling itself, that can take a lot of forms besides the traditional district arrangements.
Finally, in the case of New York, Bloomberg, in concert with Klein, staked his reelection on education and voters apparently strongly approved. So, there is (a) some accountability there and (b) a signal on where a lot of people are on this.
Not saying this is all perfect, just that it's more complicated than the "public" - "private" debate lets on.
If I was a Ford worker in Michigan and was watching all this unfold, I might be really pissed off...Anyway, worth pointing out that it's hard not to see that a lot of urban school districts are in a Ford-like situation or will be over time with out some real improvement.
ES' Kevin Carey on low-grad rates at some colleges:
“When you have a system where virtually everyone fails, how is that different from designing a system in which the point is for people to fail?” Mr. Carey added. “No one can look at that and say this is the best we can do.”