Friday, January 19, 2007
No Play In Washington?
The D.C. City Council is showing more sense than the D.C School Board by essentially saying 'stop us before we kill again.'
Big Play In The Big Apple
Try to say more later, but for now if you follow urban education don’t miss the latest iteration of Bloomberg – Klein education reforms in New York City (pdf). You’ll see something that looks like weighted-student funding though not exactly and you’ll see something that looks a lot like the Robert Gordon Hamiltonian teacher evaluation idea. And that might not be a coincidence since he works for Klein now…Still, there will be plenty to argue about (though no real privatization!) and arguments sure to come…but overall it’s not a bad blueprint for the direction things are going and worth checking out.
Update: Here's Klein on the plan and here's Klein in the Washington Post on the larger issues. From the WaPo:
Obviously, mayoral control by itself is not a panacea. The mayor must be willing to lead, to make tough decisions and to put the interests of children first. But in the absence of mayoral leadership, too often it's politics as usual in urban school districts.
Nothing is more important to cities, indeed to our nation, than ending decades of neglect and dysfunction in our public schools. To do that will require leadership. Mayors are our most important city leaders, and they should be at the helm of this most important city responsibility.
Couple of random teachers' union thoughts:
First, you know you've got a brand problem when people like Eric Alterman are saying things like "I don't like the teachers' unions."
Second, you keep hearing how no one in government listens to teachers, it's a mantra. Yet ask any state or national pol whether they hear from teachers and they say, of course! Just about every day! They're referring, of course, to union reps but still not a voiceless people...
And finally, the teachers' unions do feel under attack, and not without some reason, but it is a little ironic to have the most powerful player on the field crying victim, no? It's like the T-Rex grumbling about the salamanders.
Also, Andy Smarick writes-up last night's screening/discussion of the UFT's movie about their charter schools. Some of his critiques are fair but I think he's far too down on its promise over time. And, at the risk of hurting Randi Weingarten among her brethren, I think what she did here is pretty bold and signal. Here are a few other ideas on new roles, too.
Update: Jenny D and her readers weigh-in on this, too.
Update II: Joe Williams jumps in, and makes an important point.
New Article On New Schools
Ed Week's Usually Reliable Robelen turns in a long story on New Schools Venture Fund, well worth checking out as they're a big and often misunderstood player on the reform scene (and one I work with and that has supported my work in the past, so the disc list here is long...).
Wrong End Of The Bell Curve
Charles Murray is at it again with another WSJ op-ed. Dead Reckoning does a good job of explaining why this argument misses the mark, too. Murray's problem seems to be the old hammer > nail one.* He's got this idea, and now he tries to apply it wherever he can, regardless of whether it fits or not. In this case, he misunderstands both a basic premise and method of today's education reform movement. *To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Hard to remember now, but a big bone of contention during No Child Left Behind's passage was how much flexibility to give to states and school districts. Basically, conservatives said give 'em loads of it, New Democrats said give them flexibility about how to spend money but not about where to spend it (e.g. don't loosen rules about targeting federal dollars to poor kids) and liberal Dems said don't give 'em any.
Now, five years later, the data are coming in and it turns out that the compromise flexibility that ultimately was put in the law has led to...drum roll...very little.* Probably a couple of reasons for this. Institutional and cultural norms run deep so just saying "go be flexible" doesn't really produce much. And, the theory of action behind more flexibility assumes that people aren't doing the "right" thing because they can't. In fact, they might not know how. The British learned these lessons, too, with some Blair initiatives.
In addition, regulations and rules are complicated and there is often misunderstanding about what one can or can't do anyway. One of the most interesting findings from the original Ed Flex pilot during the Clinton Administration was that about two in five waivers requested were for things that were already allowed under existing law.
So, all else equal I think that the "tight-loose" question matters and balancing flexibility with accountability is something policymakers must wrestle with. But, it's more complicated than just saying 'go forth and be flexible...'*
The hard-core flexibility types will argue that these initiatives were not a real test of the flexibility theory of action because they didn't loosen the requirements on everything or give states enough latitude. But, so little has happened with what flexibility there was that it casts doubt on this.
Update: Title I Monitor on the same issue.
Rested and back blogging, AFTie John makes an important point and tries to distance the AFTie NCLB approach from the anti-No Child Left Behind nutroots types (could be too late). AFTie One-L can't read.