Friday, November 10, 2006
I still think it's a long shot, but there are some behind the scenes moves being made by the incoming Democratic leadership on the education committees that signal a desire to do some actual work on it...keep your edueyes peeled and your eduear to the ground...
Post Global blog solicited bloggers for ideas, here's mine: A New Deal For Urban Schools. The election wasn't about schools, but maybe the start of bipartisanship can be.
Well, if you thought the Gadfly Show couldn't go lower, I'm on this week's edition...
New feature! Readers can send in their fish pictures and we'll run them from time to time. This fellow here with the nice rainbow trout is Jim Griffin, President of the Colorado League of Charter Schools. In addition to being a thoughtful presence on the charter school scene, he's a great guy to spend a day on the water with.
What's it all mean in general and for NCLB in particular? If you're in DC next Thursday, Dutko Worldwide and Ed Week are hosting an election debrief to discuss exactly that. More information here (pdf). Panelists: Dept. of Ed COS David Dunn, Ed Week's Lynn Olson, top aides from the House and Senate Education Committees, Eduwonk, and Dutko's Wild Gene Hickok.
Per the post below, a couple more thoughts. First, forgot to mention CO's incoming governor (Ritter) and NY's (Spitzer) as potential innovators. They are, Spitzer has an enormous mandate, and like Patrick in MA they're inheriting lively charter school sectors. That's for the good, another positive byproduct of all the governorships that Ds picked up yesterday is that owning these statehouses for a bit might force a greater seriousness about education policy within the party. And keep an eye on new Dem Governor O'Malley in Maryland. He's got innovator instincts and now he is the one guy in the state who can broker a serious deal to do something about the public schools in Baltimore.
Also, I think this is some sort of cry for help but have no idea what the right intervention is...
Everyone wants to know...what does it all mean for education? And as an education analyst I guess I'm supposed to hype it as a big thing but I can't with a straight face. While I do think this election mattered a lot overall, and I'm pleased with the outcome, I don't think it means very much on the education issue because these days education politics pretty much transcend party lines. But here are a couple of interesting notes and a bit of forecasting. In PA, incoming Dem Senator Casey championed Sara Mead's universal pre-K access plan, a national advocate for that idea from the political center is a good step. In MA, incoming Governor and Clinton Admin. alum Deval Patrick has been warming to charter schools --which overall are doing a pretty good job in MA -- data here -- so that's worth watching. And in AR Bill Halter is now the LG, he's an innovative and forward looking guy, part of an up and coming generation of smart, solution oriented Dems like DE Treasurer Jack Markell, Indy mayor Bart Peterson, etc...who you should keep your ed eye on.
But that's down the road...in terms of this new Congress, George Miller taking over the education committee in the House will probably surface a misunderstood dynamic around national education politics. Namely, while a lot of people think that the No Child Left Behind debate is Republican v. Democrat, in fact it's really intra-party. Miller is a stronger accountability hawk than President Bush's Administration is. He's for teaching to standards in that debate...Senator Kennedy (who seems likely to again chair the education committee in the Senate) has moved to a pro-accountability position over the past decade (and his key staffer on education is a former civil rights attorney so she gets these issues from that lens which is the Ed Trust, CCCR, etc...lens).
But, a lot of Dems who won last night are relatively conservative, for instance Senator-elect Jim Webb (VA), Congressman-elect Heath Shuler (NC), etc...and their serious concerns about No Child are more likely to be about federalism, flexibility, and the proper federal role in schools than the silly back and forth about No Child funding. And don't forget the National Education Association - Republican Study Group axis of weasel...there will be pressure on NCLB from the right. That's all worth watching in terms of the coalitional politics. Still, right now I don't see much happening until 2009 on NCLB but in a fluid political environment like this, 6 months is an eternity. Higher ed still seems the safer bet.
Windy Or Real?
While you were shorting Republican futures on Tradesports, Chicago quietly became ground zero on performance pay for teachers. Very much worth watching how this plays out, a lot of promise, and some risk...
Ed Week looks at LA's Steve Barr...I knew him before he was all rock star famous! Doubt he remembers the little people now...ES looks at the LA story here.
WaPo's Fred Hiatt turns in a must-read on outgoing Boston sup't Tom Payzant. Ostensibly pegged to incoming DC Mayor Fenty's challenges but broader implications:
...Payzant says there's a legitimate discussion to be had about the need for universal preschool and other reforms beyond the schools' control.
"But I've never gotten into the debate about how much can schools do, because you've got to keep people focused and moving and not give them excuses by saying, 'I wish we had better kids,' " he said.
Right. So why do we make it so political? Especially worth thinking about today...
Public charter school Roxbury Prep delivers again:
On the 2006 8th grade math MCAS test, Roxbury Preparatory Charter School outperformed every school district in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In fact, Roxbury Prep was ranked 2nd of 458 schools in the state on the 8th grade math test. Furthermore, for the third consecutive year, Roxbury Prep—an Intel and Scholastic School of Distinction—stands as the highest-performing urban middle school in Massachusetts.1 Roxbury Prep is a public middle school in Roxbury enrolling 200 students of color, 66% of whom qualify for the federal free and reduced price lunch program.
Since enrolling its first 6th grade class in 1999, Roxbury Prep has redefined what families can expect from urban public education. On six of the seven MCAS tests administered in 2006, the percentage of Roxbury Prep students scoring Advanced or Proficient was higher than that of the state’s White students. Roxbury Prep demonstrates with clarity that the long-standing “racial achievement gap” can be closed.
On the 8th grade math test, Roxbury Prep had the highest percentage of students scoring Advanced or Proficient (90%) of any predominantly Black school in the state and any public school in Boston. Moreover, Roxbury Prep students scored Advanced or Proficient at the same rate as the Boston Latin School and at a higher rate than students in Wayland (70%), Wellesley (66%), and Weston (66%).
Remember, don't allow this sort of thing to expand, it could ruin public education!
Yesterday we discussed betting futures on today's election. Today, real futures! The Apollo Group, they own U of Phoenix among other for-profit ventures, is having some trouble with backdated options (who says that education can't be just like other industries!) The CFO was sacked end of last week.
This reminds me, keep hearing a lot of buzz about some public for-profit education companies going private...and that seems to be something of a trend? It's hard not to think that pressure from Wall Street caused Edison Schools to make some bad decisions and some other companies seem to think the increased freedom of action of being private would be good for business. Education is a tough field, long time horizons, political, and all the rest so it's certainly not a baseless approach. But can they find the private equity? The Florida teacher pension fund can only bankroll so many for-profit education ventures at once!
In Vino Veritas?
If you support charter schools in Washington....Here's a chance to have a good time for a good cause: A wine tasting fundraiser for Washington's Maya Angelou Public Charter School.
AFTie Ed responds to this post. I'll post a more thorough response later but for now a couple of quick thoughts. First, the WV plan Ed cites is not as cut and dry as he makes it out though it was hardly a success. Second, as I've said, I believe any reform must honor commitments that have already been made, teachers are public servants. That's ultimately a value judgment but an important one, I'd argue. Third, there is a bigger finance problem out there than the AFTies apparently want to let on and if left unattended it could be like the S&L issue but with a larger political backlash -- and will result in breaking faith with older and retired teachers. And, there are a lot of perverse and misaligned incentives in the current system for individuals and school systems (e.g. benefit lock for older teachers, school systems making decisions that involve long-term cost shifting) Fourth, to assume that shifting to a defined contribution plan from a defined benefits plan means shifting from generous benefits to no benefits is too reductionist, there are myriad policy options in between. And I'm certainly not an advocate for any sort of wholesale rollback of benefits for teachers.* Finally, while I do think this is related to larger teacher quality and labor market issues, it certainly won't solve them alone. But because a public finance fix is coming, it makes sense to ensure that it leverages solutions to education's human capital problem as effectively as possible.
As an aside, on the benefits issue, there is growing pressure on health care coverage for teachers. Seems to me that there might be a grand-bargain in here somewhere. I've never completely understood why we don't do more to aggregate, intrastate, health care for teachers to increase leverage and why the unions don't push harder for that. Bargaining it district by district, as is most often the case, seems needlessly inefficient for them politically and for their members financially. I know it results in some short term victories, especially when times are tight and districts need less transparent ways of giving "raises" to teachers at the bargaining table but it doesn't seem like a good strategy over time. Instead, seems like it would make more sense to have a state plan, or a menu of state plans, for teachers. And as I understand it, the teachers unions want more uniformity anyway -- at least when it comes to public charter schools!
*This could end up being like the debate over teacher pay where anyone who is not for across-the-board raises gets attacked for wanting to keep pay low. When in fact, many people like me want to pay teachers more but also differently. Same dynamic applies here: Seeking some reform of the pension system is not axiomatically synonymous with wanting to eliminate retirement benefits for teachers. Both are more about modernizing policies that are mismatched to today's conditions.
All anyone is focused on the first part of this week is tomorrow's election, who will win, lose, and what that means.
The markets think the Republicans are done for in the House and are pretty bearish:
But still have a chance in the Senate and are somewhat bullish, though with as many races as tight as they are I don't see it.
All that data is from Ireland-based Tradesports.com, where you can also follow and buy shares of Senate, Gubernatorial, and competitive House race futures.
Though overall the stakes are high in this election, for education less so. That's because on the big issue of the day -- No Child Left Behind -- regardless of who the players are, a general consensus exists. In the House a Chairman Miller will provide more oversight of the Department of Education --something sorely needed -- but he isn't going to oversee an evisceration of No Child Left Behind. In the Senate Kennedy is pretty vested in the law as well and thus far seems more interested in new directions than refighting the old battles. In fact, I think we'll see more attention to higher ed than K-12 over the next two years because it's (a) more salient for swing voters* and (b) once you move past the student loan issues and Republican water-carrying for the student loan industry there is actually a fair degree of consensus on some of the policy issues.
*One reason it's salient is that the financial services industries have everyone scared to death on college costs. Sure, they're rising, and sure, saving is a very good idea, but these astronomical projects of college costs in 15 or 20 years are simply not politically tenable. Complete aside: If I were an analyst of personal finance issues I'd be interested in some data on the extent to which people are unwisely saving for college at the expense of personal retirement based on these projections.
Joanne Jacobs has been having some tech trouble but she's back in action now.