Friday, October 20, 2006
Maybe It's Just Me
but it doesn't seem like the D.C. taxpayers are getting their money's worth from the DC schools...reminds me of the Piscalnator's similar take on LA. I'm not sure what's more amazing though, the numbers themselves or that incoming D.C. Mayor Fenty is going to have to build a case that radical change is necessary...
From Pontiac, Michigan, the site of the NEA's once flagship now faltering anti-No Child lawsuit, the local teachers' union is now worried that the district is out of compliance with NCLB...Not a "cruel irony" but an irony nonetheless!
Not sure which of these is more eyebrow raising...shotgunning cats -kittens actually- on school property (via Gadfly) or suggesting that thick textbooks are a good shield* against school shooters (via multiple readers). Though, gotta say, the latter is the most interesting pitch for McGraw-Hill political support I've seen in a while...*This guy (at right) is the Republican candidate for state schools chief in OK. You do not want to miss the video where he demonstrates his theory on a calculus, earth science, and language book...
This new report on NCLB from the Council of Chief State School Officers feels like I should be reading it in the bathtub with the lights low and candles going...it's all nice mood music but few specifics, fewer teeth...Shouldn't the states just be, you know, upfront that they don't have the capacity to do a lot of what No Child asks of them? Some federal assistance would help with that and would be supported by a lot of people...
AFTie One-L tries to use the Broad Prize* to further impugn No Child Left Behind asking how Boston could have won the prize while so many of its schools are not making "adequate yearly progress?" It's tendentious, and she must know the answer, but AFTie Howard's response is worth checking out anyway.
But, that the prize is such a handy foil in the hands of AFTie One-L reveals the source of some serious chatter about it. It's intended to reward the nation's top urban school district not the best district in the country. But with an award of this size and caliber, it can be interpreted in the public and political spheres as rewarding outright excellence rather than improvement and relative merit. That's why it has some critics who see it as a celebration of middling performance.
For my part, I think rewarding improvement like this is a good thing if it's done in context. And before AFTie One-L says this means I must be for growth models, too, remember that there is a big difference between an accountability system in public policy and a philanthropic award.
*I'm on the review board.
If you're a doctoral student with an interest in education policy, check out these fellowships at Jay Greene's U of Arkansas center.
The Miami football team brawlers? No! President Shalala does damage control.
Useful report on Ohio charter schools (pdf). Joint effort by NAPCS, NACSA, and Fordham Foundation. If you want an illustration of how toxic the politics around this issue are, check out this Cincy Post article. To their credit, charter proponents in the state are trying to fix the problems with charters in Ohio, but they're not going to get much help from critics.
Speaking of which, Paul Hill and I got some folks together to try to see where there is common ground between the charter crowd and the teachers' union crowd. Here's a report on that discussion.
LA Sup't...The Admiral Is Heading Into Rough Seas...
Haven't blogged on the choice for LA Sup't, I don't know much about him. But, that he would take the job without meeting with the Mayor --even just by phone -- considering what is happening there is simply stunning.
Veteran Washington hand and reading policy expert Bob Sweet says that the WaPo take on Reading First was wrong (and even annotates!). Aside: Here's one thing the internet has changed in terms of journalism. Sweet's piece is a long letter to The Post. In the bad old days, when someone challenged a story like this it was really up to the paper to decide whether it got eyeballs on it or not.
Background on all this here and here.
Update: Russo suggests that this might vindicate the Reading Firsters. Not so sure. Just because Grunwald's article overshot (I thought it did, too) doesn't mean there is nothing here. Both things can be true in this case.
Man and God and law...In a must-read Ed Week story, former Dept. of Ed official Gene Hickcok comes to Mike Petrilli's side and puts a serious shot over Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings' bow...Susan Neuman also pops her head up...worth watching.
Also, everybody says she's the brains behind Pa, and now's our chance to find out. Spellings is competing on Celebrity Jeopardy. I'm getting lots of emails about how silly or vain this is, but I have a different take: This takes some guts. I can imagine that when the lights are on and the cameras rolling it's very easy to forget something or make an embarrassing mistake. Especially if you're the Secretary of Education so the bar is extra high...
Update: Washington Whispers has more on Spellings' Jeopardy star turn...
Haven't blogged yet on the AFTie event of last week, it was a good event and kudos to the AFTies for putting it together. The Paul Barton paper (pdf) is worth reading if you follow this issue (though I think it wants for political context** and more context about the creation of NCLB, and what parents want by way of information). For my money, most interesting takeaways:
*First, Paul Barton candidly acknowledging that growth models are not really achievement gap closing initiatives. You could feel the air go out of the balloon when he said it. That shows a central tension in the discussion today: The theoretical best way to measure school progress and the most effective public policy to address gaps in achievement correlated with racial, ethnic, and income groups.
*The subtle but seismic shift in the conversation from teaching to standards to being just "standards-based." This also relates to the point above. There are people who believe (Ed Trust for instance) that the policy should be focused on ensuring that kids are taught to specific standards and that school accountability stems from that. No Child embodies that view. Of course, there can be a little wiggle room in that, No Child's current growth model safe-harbor, or initiatives like the recent pilot program, but the basic emphasis is on teaching to standards. Now though, in the context of growth models, we're hearing more discussion of standards being the framework but school accountability being focused on student growth year-to-year. Sure, makes sense theoretically, but that's a standards-based system but not one explicitly focused on teaching to standards.
Of course, these two approaches can be married in a hybrid model but that raises very complicated questions about where to put the accountability load and who bears it. In other words, at what point is just growth not enough? Or does no such point exist? In fact, the very arguments that support the push for growth models argue against ever having a fixed point where schools/teachers are held accountable for getting students to a standard…
*Third, pretty much everyone acknowledges the states have a long way to go before this is a reality, so the conversation is akin to discussing manned missions to Jupiter in 2007. And, ironically, this probably isn't nearly the most interesting NCLB reauthorization discussion anyway because it seems pretty apparent where it will land: A high bar for states that want to use growth, along the lines of the pilot, and NCLB's default system for everyone else.***
**Namely, states and school districts are gaming the system now. That's no surprise, it's par for the course in policy implementation. But, is there any reason to believe they wouldn't game another system? Especially one that is less transparent?
***And hopefully a bit more attention to all the creative things states can do accountability-wise under NCLB now, but aren't. Especially at the elementary and middle school levels states could do a lot more under the current law to address some of concerns raised by the growth model crowd (aggregating across grades, etc...).
Indy Star gives Mayor Bart Peterson some overdue love on his charter school initiative.
Interesting commentary from Achieve challenges higher-ed to step up on P-16 alignment. I'm hoping to be proven wrong, but outside of specific activities like the ones described here there seems to be more smoke than fire on the secondary-post secondary alignment issues overall, and that's unfortunate.