Spec Ed and Testing

John Merrow gives one of the best popular media treatments we’ve seen of the difficult issues involved in assessing students with special needs in this News Hour segment. Though we think the report does not adequately disentangle the differences between state and federal policy requirements (and also IDEA) or give viewers enough understanding of the flexibility NCLB allows for assessing disabled students, it’s well worth a look at the transcript.

Bonus content! Really like alternative assessments and special ed or just want to learn more? This article provides a good overview of some of the issues.

Buckley Was Right!

A Columbine anniversary op-ed in the Washington Post by Lesley University President Margaret A. McKenna was so ridiculous that we added it to tendentiousness watch. Though No Child Left Behind is not without its faults it’s absurd to lay school violence at its feet too.

Turns out, when the Post held a webchat with McKenna, the general public thought so too. Lesley Unviversity isn’t Harvard but it is in Cambridge. Guess William Buckley was right after all about the first thousand names in the Cambridge phonebook….

Political afterthought: Pssst! Reflexive NCLB bashing Democrats, those Washington Post questioners are probably likely voters too!

Bonus political afterthought: Don’t believe us? Ask the NEA!

Fair and Balanced

Don’t miss Michael Dobbs’ examination of No Child Left Behind in the Washington Post. Ignore the typically inflammatory headlines; the story itself is a refreshingly balanced look at the upside and challenges of improving literacy and math instruction. Though Dobbs fails to disentangle and validate whether cutbacks in art and other activities are the result of NCLB or state budget issues that are misleadingly blamed on NCLB, he does present the other side of the coin, as bluntly stated by one principal who remarks, “It hurts me to give up art, but it hurts me even more to have kids who can’t read.” Of course, good schools show that this is something of a false choice. But hey, it’s an article, not a book.

Charter School Round Up

Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D) signed the Charter School Excellence and Accountability Act into law on Tuesday. The law will end a cap that limits charter schools to serving no more than 10 percent of a school district’s students and increase the maximum charter term to five years. A new State Board of Education Application Committee will review charter applications, though chartering authority is still restricted to local school boards.

***

In a series of reports beginning this week the Star Tribune will take a look at Minneapolis public schools–both district and charter–to note that Minneapolis cannot expect to raise academic achievement if schools continue to under-serve their students.

***

An op-ed in the Boston Globe makes the case that charter schools are here to stay and deserve to be expanded and supported in the Bay State. It dispels a few myths in the process.

Update!: You can only debunk so many myths in one op-ed! A Boston Globe reader frets that charter school teachers do not have to be certified. Could be a problem…if certification served as a useful proxy for quality.

Welcome to Eduwonk

Greetings and welcome to Eduwonk.com! Eduwonk is a product of the 21st Century Schools Project at the Progressive Policy Institute. Eduwonk.com will be the Project’s daily presence on the web.

Since we’re just starting this blog and have not publicized it yet, if you’re reading this that means you’re probably either a friend of the Project or someone with a really keen interest in education policy. Either way, in this early stage we’d very much like to hear any feedback you have about Eduwonk and ideas on how we can make it better.

Eduwonk will be a complement to the 21st Century Schools Project Bulletin, our biweekly newsletter. The Bulletin will continue to carry original content every other week but we will also offer additional, more real-time, items posted here daily by the Project’s staff. As with the Bulletin, we’ll be grateful for tips, ideas, and links that you pass along. And, as always with the 21st Century Schools Project, you can expect edgy, insightful commentary and analysis at Eduwonk.com.

So again, welcome and enjoy Eduwonk!

Comment Policy

Informed comment and debate about the issues presented in posts on Eduwonk is encouraged. Please try to keep comments clear, on point, and include relevant links. Inappropriate comments, for instance vulgarity, personal attacks, or other inappropriate content will be deleted as will comments touting commercial products. The comments section is not a forum for advertising. The appearance of a comment on Eduwonk does not constitute any sort of endorsement of its content. Email Eduwonk with questions or concerns.

About Eduwonk.com

Eduwonk is a blog written by Andrew J. Rotherham, Co-founder and Partner at Bellwether Education Partners. Occasional guest bloggers will also contribute, and the author(s) of these posts will be clearly identified.

The blog focuses mostly on education policy and politics. Obviously, that’s a field I work in as well as write about so a couple of things for readers to bear in mind. First, the views expressed here should be considered to be those of the writer(s) rather than organizational viewpoints of Bellwether or any organizations or individuals Bellwether works with or that I work with. Likewise, outgoing links do not constitute any type of endorsement of other websites or organizations.

In addition, readers can expect the highest commitment to transparency and disclosure on the blog. I will never write about something I have a formal stake in without disclosing that and will never mislead readers by withholding information substantially germane to something I’m writing about. On the other hand my work in the education field is complicated and varied. Here’s how I balance it with respect to the blog and other writing I do:  To keep confidences with entities that Bellwether works with, that I’m affiliated with in some capacity, or just around various work I am involved with professionally there are subjects that I elect not to write about and plenty of things I’m aware of that you won’t see discussed on the blog.  However, although some tin foil hat types try, thinking you can divine anything from what I don’t write about is a waste of your time.  Sometimes I’m just too busy and sometimes I’m just not interested in something or have nothing to add to the conversation.

You can also expect that any correspondence, written or oral, with me will remain private. I never publish anything on the blog without your permission to do so. For more about all this than you probably care to know, this post has more discussion.

To the apparent delight of Russian spammers I added a comment feature to Eduwonk in October 2007 and readers are encouraged to post comments about items. The Eduwonk comment policy can be found here. If that’s somehow still not enough Eduwonk for you, you can also join Eduwonk’s online community at the Eduwonk Facebook page and post content there as well.  And I use Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/arotherham. There is also a feed that tweets just Eduwonk posts http://twitter.com/eduwonk. Many readers choose to use various newsreaders and feeds to get content from Eduwonk.  You can also get a daily compilation of posts by signing up for a free email here.

I’m always grateful for articles, tips, and other information that readers pass along, as well as for reader feedback about items. Again, all correspondence is private. You can reach me through my email at Bellwether or eduwonk  [insert the at sign here] eduwonk.com.

By way of history, from its inception in 2004 until the creation of Education Sector in 2005 this blog was hosted by the Progressive Policy Institute. From 2005 until March 2010 it was hosted by Education Sector. Now it’s a part of Bellwether Education.  A complete archive of all posts since the blog’s launch is located on the upper right side of the Eduwonk site and there is a search function on the right side as well.

So welcome and enjoy Eduwonk!  To return to the front page of the site click here.

About Andrew Rotherham

Andrew Rotherham is a co-founder and External Relations leader at Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit focused on dramatically improving education and life outcomes for systemically marginalized young people and their communities. Rotherham, who also serves on the Virginia Board of Education, occupies a unique place in the U.S. education sector working across silos. He has been appointed to senior policymaking roles by Democrats and Republicans, works at the intersection of research and policy, media, and practice, and is a longtime champion of heterodoxy, empiricism, and pragmatism in education policy.

Rotherham writes the blog and newsletter Eduwonk.com. In addition to Bellwether, he founded or co-founded two other education organizations and served on the boards of several successful education startups. He served at the White House as special assistant to the president for domestic policy during the Clinton administration, as a member of the Virginia Board of Education appointed by then-Gov. Mark Warner and more recently by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, as an education columnist for TIME magazine, and as a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report. He also taught in traditional and experiential settings at the K-12 and college levels.

Rotherham is the author or co-author of more than 450 published articles, book chapters, papers, and op-eds about education policy and politics, and is the author or editor of four books on education policy. He serves on the board of directors for The 74, a national education media organization, and on the international board of directors for Classroom Champions, a Canada-based nonprofit that pairs Olympic and Paralympic athletes with high-poverty classrooms as mentors. Rotherham advises a variety of companies and organizations, including Whiteboard Advisors; Upbeat, a data analytics company focused on teacher engagement and retention; ClearForce, a security and threat prevention company; and several nonprofit organizations.

Outside of his professional work, Rotherham raises tens of thousands of dollars each year to support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, is an EMT, and he and his wife, a public high school English teacher, host a concert series featuring regional and national musical acts in a former one-room schoolhouse. A father of two daughters, he lives in Virginia.