Big thanks to J.B. Schramm for stepping in while I was away. College-going and grad rates seems to have been something of a theme last week along with some other issues:
Six Degrees of Kevin Carey. In The Los Angeles Times Kevin Carey and Lindsey Luebchow write about graduation rates for athletes and the NCAA tournament. In The Washington Post Ted Mitchell and Jonathan Shorr write about the same and cite Kevin’s work. On USA Today’s page I take a slightly different take: Universities should support low-income and minority kids who are struggling with the same intensity they support their athletes, but I also mention Kevin. It’s a surefire op-ed technique apparently.
Teachers’ Unions and Kids. Over at The Gadfly they’re puzzled about why I would say in The New York Times Weingerten profile that most of what teachers’ unions want is also good for kids. Ummm…because it’s true? This debate is too often framed by absolutists arguing that teachers unions are always at odds with what’s good for kids or, conversely, that they never are and the interest of teachers and students are the same. Lots of things that teachers’ unions want are good for kids, too. But some are not, and in some cases they matter a lot. This debacle in New York over using test scores to evaluate teachers is one good example of the latter. The NYT’s ed page, hardly a bastion of reactionary conservative thought, had it right. It’s really an embarrassment for the profession and the field. Gadfly’s correct that right now that when the interests of teachers and kids clash too often the adults win out. But that’s an argument for changing the politics of education more than the fault of the teachers’ unions, they’re just doing what they’re supposed to do.
More Mind-reading. Writing in ASCD’s magazine Richard Rothstein says that:
The commonplace “no excuses” ideology implies that educators—were they to realize that their efforts alone were insufficient to raise student achievement—would be too simple-minded then to bring themselves to exert their full effort.
Funny, I’ve never heard anyone say that…But, since Richard has psychic abilities unavailable to the average analyst, perhaps they are thinking it? What I have heard a lot of people say is that because we know that different schools and different teachers have different effects on the same kids, we should start organizing the public education system more along those lines rather than around the implicit assumption that schools and teachers don’t matter. That’s hardly the same thing. Richard is right that some of the “no excuses” rhetoric minimizes the complexity of these issues, but these strawman arguments he puts out there are just ridiculous.