Mind the Gap!

A predictable Arizona Republic op-ed by Goldwater Institute’s Darcy Olson opposes full-day kindergarten by arguing that “data show the majority of children at the onset of kindergarten have the skills that are the foundation for school achievement.” Never mind that the same Education Department data show massive preparation gaps for disadvantaged and minority kindergarteners. And it’s these kids who stand to benefit the most from full-day kindergarten.

Afterthought: Olson calls Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s all-day kindergarten proposal “a problem in search of a solution.” Leave aside evidence that suggests all-day kindergarten is a promising response to the very real problem of preparation gaps. Given the Goldwater Institute’s penchant for proposing vouchers as a response to every educational ill, this strikes Eduwonk as the pot calling the kettle black.

Do High School Exit Exams Increase Drop-Out Rates?

Critics say yes, but a new study by the Manhattan Institute’s prolific Jay Greene and Marcus Winters argues they don’t. Greene and Winters analyzed graduation rate data from 18 states that adopted exit exams in the 1980’s and 1990’s and found no evidence graduation rates were lower in years when exams were in place.

Deep in the Heart of Taxes

Debate over school finance in Texas continues. Meanwhile, a special education advocacy group strongly suggests that the Bush Administration is suppressing bad news about Medicaid reimbursement in Texas. Hmmm….wouldn’t be so plausible if not part of a pattern

Thanks to the leadership of Governor Mark Warner and some Virginia Republicans willing to defy party orthodoxy on taxes, the state is getting its fiscal house in order and undoing the wreckage left by former Governor Gilmore.

They don’t like her…they just don’t like her!

More trouble for Minnesota Education Commissioner Yecke.

If you’re scoring at home, here is a helpful pro-con tip sheet from The Pioneer Press:

THE YECKE DEBATE

Pro: Strong leadership skills, instituted new education standards

Con: Polarizing rhetoric, draft socials studies standards showed conservative bent

You can’t find that sort of analysis just anywhere!

Leave No Advocate Behind

National Journal’s Brian Friel reports on the National Education Association’s new spin-off group, “America Learns.” Modeled after issue advocacy groups like the Sierra Club and NRA, the group will “enlarge the public policy debate about public education and zero in on No Child Left Behind,” according to its new director. Eduwonk wonders which of those two issues will be the priority?

So let’s recap. Faced with a strongly anti-labor administration (that particularly loathes the NEA) and a Labor Department and IRS investigation of its finances and political activities, the NEA is….launching an organization to attack a law aimed at ensuring that poor and minority kids get a decent education. America might learn…but apparently not the NEA.

Changing Minds?

According to the New York Times, a new study shows promising results improving brain function for dyslexic readers. But, the treatment group got intensive and systematic phonics. Interesting finding…will it have any effect on the minds of the strident anti-phonics crowd?

Update! Education Week is on the case too!

Posting the Post

Ruth Mitchell has a must-read op-ed in today’s Washington Post on teaching, learning, and standards. It’s overly anecdotal in places (despite plenty of data to support her point) but overall a compelling argument for standards and the tough love of No Child Left Behind for struggling schools.

Jay Mathews writes on teaching about the Brown v. Board anniversary and the 1954 Bolling v. Sharpe case which desegregated public schools in Washington, D.C. His piece is historical, but as Mitchell shows, in many ways we’re still a nation with dual school systems.

Key Mitchell grafs:

The public is largely unaware of the problem. Those who follow education, write editorials and commentaries and make policy were themselves successful students who were in the highest tracks at their high schools, and their children are also successful students enjoying the best and most experienced teachers, because they’re in the AP and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. Legislators and policymakers tend to come from a social class in which people not only have benefited from good teachers but also have fond memories of a particular teacher or teachers who turned them on to the pleasures of poetry or the intricacies of DNA.

Students in the schools we visit are not turned on. Black, brown, speaking broken or accented English, with cultural values clashing with those of the white middle class, they are seen as needing elementary instruction in secondary school; as capable only of drawing and coloring; as in need of discipline rather than encouragement. They are asked to make acrostics in middle school social studies; to write eight sentences in high school English class; and to fill out endless worksheets in math class.

Teachers say they have to teach the students where they are, which means at sixth-grade level in high school if they can’t read well. Their attitude may be compassionate, but it is misguided.

Well said. Except it’s not obvious the public is unaware of the problem. The continuing support for No Child Left Behind despite the mobilization and P.R. campaign against it is one indicator. Majority support for vouchers among African-Americans is an ominous sign too.