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Reviews of Eduwonk.com

2007 Winner, Editor's Choice Best Education Blog
-- Performancing.com

2006 Winner, Best K-12 Administration Blog -- "Best of the Education Blog Awards"
-- eSchool News and Discovery Education

2006 Finalist, Best Education Blog
-- Weblog Awards

Least influential of education's most influential information sources.
-- Education Week Research Center

"unexpectedly entertaining"..."tackle[s] a potentially mindfogging subject with cutting clarity... they're reading those mushy, brain-numbing education stories so you don't have to!"
-- Slate's Mickey Kaus

"a very smart blog... [if] you're trying to separate the demagogic attacks on NCLB from the serious criticism, this is the site to read"
-- The New Republic's Ryan Lizza

"everyone who's anyone reads Eduwonk"
-- Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media's Richard Colvin

"full of very lively short items and is always on top of the news...He gets extra points for skewering my high school rating system"
-- Jay Mathews, The Washington Post

"a daily dose of information from the education policy world, blended with a shot of attitude and a dash of humor"
-- Education Week

"designed to cut through the fog and direct specialists and non-specialists alike to the center of the liveliest and most politically relevant debates on the future of our schools"
-- The New Dem Daily

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-- Education Gadfly

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-- Alexander Russo, This Week In Education

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-- Joe Williams, fallen journalist, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform

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-- Walt Gardner, champion letter-to-the-editor writer and retired teacher

-- Susan Ohanian

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Collective Bargaining in Education: Negotiating Change in Today's Schools

Edited by Jane Hannaway and Andrew J. Rotherham

Why Newsweek's List of America's 100 Best High Schools Doesn't Make the Grade

By Andrew J. Rotherham
and Sara Mead

A Qualified Teacher
in Every Classroom

Edited by Frederick M. Hess, Andrew J. Rotherham,
and Kate Walsh

America's Teaching Crisis

By Jason Kamras and Andrew J. Rotherham

Rethinking Special Education For A New Century

Edited by Chester E. Finn, Jr., Andrew J. Rotherham
& Charles R. Hokanson, Jr.

Making The Cut: How States Set Passing Scores on Standardized Tests

By Andrew J. Rotherham

Education Blogs

A Constrained Vision
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a schoolyard blog
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Mr. B-G's English Blog
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Bulletin Board (NASBE)
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Chaos Theory
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The Life That Chose Me
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NSBA's BoardBuzz
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Paul Baker
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Roy Romer
Running on Empty
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Why Boys Fail
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Educational Resources and Organizations

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National Charter School Research Project
National Council on Teacher Quality
National Education Association
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National School Boards Association
New Leaders for New Schools
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New Vision
Pre-K Now
Harvard's Program On Education Policy and Governance
Progressive Policy Institute
PPI's 21st Century Schools Project
Public Agenda
Public Impact
Reading Reform Foundation
Rick Hess' World HQ
The Savvy Source for Parents
Scholastic Administrator
School Data Direct
Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services
Standards Work
Teach for America
The Teaching Commission
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Trust for Early Education
Uncommon Schools
United States Department of Education
The Urban Institute

Opinions on Eduwonk reflect the views of the author, Education Sector does not take institutional positions. Outgoing links do not constitute an endorsement.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Kennedy-Miller NCLB Bill...And More US DOE Man Purse Action!

There has been little press on the Kennedy - Miller NCLB bill which would retroactively apply the recent NCLB regulatory changes. And what has been written is pretty confusing.

For instance, Congressional Quarterly reported that Kennedy - Miller would "change a central component of the statute." Not really, it would retroactively apply a few rules changes that have already been made.

In Education Week Secretary of Education Rod Paige said the bill would, deny many students "their No Child Left Behind-provided tutors or [force] them back to a school from whose shackles they had already broken away thanks to" the law. Again, not really. The bill would continue supplemental services for students for the remainder of the school year and allow students who had exercised their right to public school choice to stay at their new school until they had completed the highest grade at that school.

However, Kennedy and Miller themselves probably didn't help defuse matters when they issued a press release headlined, "Legislation would spare thousands of schools from being
unfairly graded by the Bush Administration."

That said, the Bush Administration foot-dragging here is inexplicable. Kennedy and Miller (who are obviously not NCLB foes) are right. Make the fix now (which the Department of Education can do). As this article points out, every time the Administration screws around on this sort of thing it just hands NCLB opponents an easy issue. Margaret Spellings, it's time to crack the whip again.

Win A U.S. Department of Education Man Purse Afterthought: At least two, maybe more, states asked the Department of Education for authority to retroactively apply the new NCLB changes in amended accountability plans and were denied. One was North Carolina, and Senator Edwards is a Kennedy-Miller co-sponsor. The first reader who can identify the others (state department of ed officials take note...) wins a genuine U.S. Department of Education Man Purse. Email education AT dlcppi.org with any information (and include your address so we can ship this fine collector's quality product to you!).
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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Magic Bus

Eduwonk's a big fan of experiential education, but like most things, it can be taken too far...like this. Yes, it crosses the line even with the "three stalls and you're out" policy...via School News Monitor.
Posted at 2:26 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Mystery Poll Explained!
There is a lot of buzz about a new ETS poll examining what the public thinks about public schools. USA Today wrote it up on Monday, but ETS apparently has yet to post the actual poll on their site so there is a lot of head scratching going on.

USA Today's Toppo writes that:

The percentage of parents who give U.S. public schools a grade of A has dropped from 8% in 2001 to 2% today, and only 20% of parents give schools a B, down from 35%. Meanwhile, 45% of parents give schools a C, up from 33% in 2001.

Beware, there is less to these findings than meets the eye. Across a range of issues the public tends to view things in the abstract less favorably than concrete examples they interact with regularly or ones close to home. This is, for instance, why Congress as an institution rates poorly but individual members rate much better. In education this means that overall perceptions of education matter less than what the public and parents think about schools in their communities. Polls consistently show (with one important exception, more on that in a moment) that parents rate the schools in their communities more favorably than schools overall. That's the number to watch.
And, in this poll (Eduwonk's had a look) there is nothing to indicate that those numbers don't hold up. In fact, again, parents rate their own schools much more favorably (67 percent 'A' or 'B' in the ETS poll) than the general public does schools overall or than parents do schools overall. There is some movement on the numbers in the middle, (more C's, fewer B's, so much for grade inflation...) but no great shakes. One interesting finding tucked in there: The public seems increasingly to understand that public schools overall, and particularly affluent public schools, are not failing, but that low-income schools are in big trouble. That's a healthy development because it's a perception backed up by the facts.

The exception is minority parents. They give their own schools less favorable ratings than do other parents (in general, Eduwonk didn't see specific data on that question in this poll). What No Child Left Behind is doing is documenting empirically why they feel this way, and that makes a lot of people very uncomfortable for a lot of reasons...

ETS says the poll is evidence that either candidate can frame an effective message around education. Probably not because: (a) Bush can't claim too much credit since he has not followed through on NCLB well, (b) Kerry has to be careful attacking it, and (c) the public does not vote education in national elections anyway...
Posted at 7:54 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Thursday's News...100 Percent Florida Free!
In Education Week, Darcia Harris Bowman writes up the new Bryan Hassel and Michelle Godard Terrell Arizona charter school report.

Larry Summers a conservative? Read about it here in the Wash Post.

They're high on small schools and charter schools in the Windy City, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that former U.S. Attorney, current San Diego School Superintendent, policy wonk, and all around very talented guy Alan Bersin is a dark horse candidate for the coveted Valenti job at the Motion Picture Association of America. What does this mean? Well, as one excited reporter emailed Eduwonk this morning, "Yes! I could finally pitch my movie about teachers' union work rules and the escalating costs of health benefits in the public sector!"

The New York Times has an important story on higher ed diversity, showing the larger need to peel back the onion when analyzing this issue. Also, AP looks at U-Mass in the wake of last year's SCOTUS decision.

Also in the NYT, columnist Tom Friedman says beware the Chinese and do your homework to prepare to fend them off. Hmmm...hasn't China always been the next big thing...and double hmmm...the Prussians, the Russians, the Japanese, yet somehow we muddle through every time...maybe a better reason to improve the schools is for basic equity and social cohesion reasons; the economics and security questions tend to take care of themselves in our society.

In Massachusetts, more charter school debate. Governor Romney is proposing a last minute change to the financing formula there to try to stave off a moratorium. You have to work hard to make Mitt Romney look good politically, but with this charter moratorium Democrats and school officials there seem to have stumbled on a way...

John Merrow offers some thoughts on grade inflation in the new Carnegie Perspectives.

With demographics like this it's perfectly understandable why the teachers' union in Detroit is fighting against efforts to improve the schools there...

A disturbing story from St. Paul (and one you're not going to find in NBPTS promotional materials...)

More talented 10 debate in Texas (via educationnews.org).

If you're into wine and/or public charter schools, this Ben Giliberti Washington Post column is for you.

A new report (PDF) on teacher induction from the Alliance for Excellent Education.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Ohio Charter Lawsuit

Fordham Foundation's Terry Ryan takes a look at the lawsuit against charter schools in Ohio. Worth reading because it shows (a) how legally suspect the lawsuit is and consequently (b) how politically driven it is.

Ryan notes that:

This federal claim follows two unsuccessful lawsuits filed (against most charter schools themselves) in state courts by the other teacher union, the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) and its allies in 2001. In April 2003, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick McGrath issued a strongly worded opinion holding that charter schools are indeed sanctioned by the Ohio constitution and are a legitimate part of Ohio's public education system if the legislature says they are. In a devastating setback to the OFT and its dozen co-plaintiffs (including the OEA, which filed an amicus brief), the court dismissed all constitutional claims brought against the program. Judge McGrath ruled that: a) charter schools represent a constitutionally-sanctioned component of Ohio's public education system; b) they are legally funded and do not illegally siphon locally raised property tax dollars; c) they do not represent a violation of the DeRolph decision dealing with the legislature’s constitutional obligation to establish a "thorough and efficient" system of public schools; and d) they are not private schools receiving public dollars. Let it be said again: charter schools are public schools.

Ohio charter schools are not without their problems but this lawsuit is a distraction from addressing them and complete BS. More importantly, where is the left? Ryan's analysis is solid but shouldn't liberals be outraged at a (baseless) lawsuit aimed at curtailing opportunity for disadvantaged kids in Ohio too? And, isn't this the sort of thing Juan Williams was talking about in last week's NYT. More through the looking glass...

Afterthought: Hold the outraged emails about the Fordham Foundation, meaning don't send emails attacking them unless they have a specific policy disagreement to cite (and saying they're "against public schools" doesn't count, that's a stupid argument). Incidentally, Fordham is now going to be chartering schools in Dayton Ohio which puts them more on the front lines of this issue than most...
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Wednesday's News...90 Percent Florida Free!
In the NYT Samuel Freedman continues to revitalize the 'On Education' column taking a look at the small schools issue in New York.

In The Washington Post Jay Mathews points out that SAT scores are less than deterministic. For example, President Bush did pretty well on his...ha ha, just kidding!

Virginia Governor, and rising star, Mark Warner told a Washington audience yesterday how he managed to overcome enormous deficits left by his predecessor and promote innovative policies including in education. AP reports more.

In Arizona the Arizona Tribune reports some charter schools are resisting efforts to make salaries transparent. Back and forth about whether they're on firm legal ground in doing so but it's clear that they're on very weak PR ground...via U.S. Charter Schools

More on the consortium of Northeastern states working together on testing and further evidence that a "bottom-up" approach to any national test is more realistic than a top-down one.

The CSM takes an interesting look at how Minneapolis is responding to more educational choices.

The new 21st Century Schools Project Bulletin is posted here. You can subscribe (free) here.

Over the weekend the NYT Magazine took a long look at Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone in NYC. It's an excellent article. Pay particular attention to (a) Canada's relentless use of data while still running very warm programs (b) the UFT shot across his bow (c) the enormous stakes people are ascribing to his plan and (d) the network issue.

The National PTA gets its signals crossed with a group representing gay students.

More back and forth between Moskowitz and the mayor in NYC. Also in NY, though no articles online yet, SUNY voted not to re-open discussions about the closure of the Reisenbach Charter School. An Eduwonk source says that, after a "lively" discussion, the argument that the school had not acted with urgency to address problems or even appeal the decision carried the day.

The Washington Post has more on the voucher program in DC.

NYT readers respond to Juan Williams, including about vouchers.

And, who knows why, but this story about ABCTE in Florida is a hatchet job...

Finally, "Ask A Josten's Class-Ring Salesman" advice questions here.
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Eduwonk the Sourpuss?
A concerned reader writes about Eduwonk's notes on the recent charter conference:

You sound like a crabby old coot!

Complaining about the location, complaining about the plenary sessions, complaining about the bags, complaining about baseball(?)!!! My Lord!

Hey, I got an idea for a story that would fit in well with the new, geriatric tone of Eduwonk.

Eduwonk Condemns Young Punks Running Through His Lawn
Last evening, while sitting on his front porch, Eduwonk shook his cane and yelled at a bunch of kids with baggy pants and their hats on backwards. Said Eduwonk, "We need fewer kids on lawns and less Rock-and-Roll and more early bird specials and reruns of Matlock."

Afterthought: Fair enough, but about the purses, the Eduwife called them (unprompted) a handbag upon first glance, thereby confirming Eduwonk's observation that the Bush Administration was indeed passing out man purses at the conference.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Tuesday's News...Highly Kinda Qualified Teachers in PA...And Still More Florida!

The Los Angeles Times editorial board really likes Teach For America...and rightly so.

Conversely, in Pennsylvania they're watering down the standards for teachers because of problems with the pass rates on tests of content knowledge reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. There are so many delicious lines in this one that it would be a copyright violation to relay them all here...but they include:

"We're offering an alternative acceptable to the feds, but at a level of rigor we believe will keep 'highly qualified' and 'fully certified' synonymous." Yes, they're so synonymous now that generally you only hear them together in a sentence when separated by the words "does not mean"...

"The only members of the public to speak in favor of the new regulations were representatives of the teacher unions, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, and the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers." Surely this is just coincidence...

Read it yourself. It would actually be quite funny if the joke were not on Pennsylvania's minority and poor kids.

Florida has signed on (PDF) to become the third state to employ ABCTE as an alternative credentialing route. Rumor has it other states on the horizon...cue, respectively, rejoicing and panicking from various partisans in this debate!

More Florida...A reader sent along this column from Florida to showcase the madness of NCLB. Mary Jo Melone bemoans the unfair labeling of a Florida "A" school as "needing improvement" under NCLB. She's right that relative to other Florida schools the achievement gaps at this school are small and overall scores better than average. Still, average in Florida isn't great and at this school only about one in three special ed students are proficient in reading and math, and there are some other problems too. You can see more data here and decide for yourself...There are some problems with AYP, but this isn't one of them...

And yet more Florida...The Miami Herald reports on Secretary Paige's speech at the national charter school conference. Two key grafs:

"Our main concern is that, while the administrations in both Washington and Tallahassee hold public schools to extreme accountability measures, it's seemingly less for charter schools," said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, a statewide group of teachers unions. "If we're going to expand charters, it ought to be on the same playing field."

By and large, charters are already subject to the same measures under Gov. Jeb Bush's A+ Education Plan and the federal No Child Left Behind law. Charter students must take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and most receive grades from the state.

Hmmm...if the second graf is true, which it is, then why waste space and ink on the first one, which isn't? It's "seemingly" pointless...

Two new new studies worth checking out. Natalie Lacireno-Paquet examines EMO run charter schools and comes up with some interesting findings here. Frederick Hess, Robert Maranto, Scott Milliman, and Kathleen Grammatico Ferraiolo (who is wonderful and should really be hanging out with better company...) examine teacher characteristics and attitudes toward school choice here (free reg. required).

The Education Consumers Clearinghouse says that the new NBPTS research by Dan Goldhaber and Emily Anthony really does not prove much at all. Their primary gripe is that the effect sizes in the study are small.* A more important criticism might be a cost-benefit analysis instead...via educationnews.org

*Didn't TFA critics hail the NBPTS study and then deride the "small" effect sizes in the recent TFA study? They did!

In the Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes, "If teachers unions in Massachusetts spent as much time trying to improve the large number of public schools they control as they do trying to hurt the minuscule number of charter schools they don't control, public education in the Bay State would be the pride of the Western world." In case you couldn't tell, he's against the proposed moratorium on charters in MA.

In Maryland they're rethinking service learning in the wake of some questionable activities...

The Washington Post editorial board is skeptical of a temporary superintendent and again tells city officials to get their act together about the schools.

Jay Mathews bemoans the lack of hate mail that a column saying fire a third of all teachers engendered...here is one solution, run Jay's provocative (and usually excellent) columns in the paper rather than online, more readers = more hate mail.

The Star Tribune editorial board says reflect on public funding for education the next time a kid comes to your door selling things for their school. Good point.

USA Today reports that colleges are becoming more gay-friendly in response to an increasing number of incoming freshman who are out. But, superficial appeals will likely fall short. Notes one student, "I don't care if the school has rainbow flags everywhere," says Anthony Russell-Smith, 19, who graduates in June from Shepherd Hill High School in Dudley, Mass., and plans to take a year off before college. An active LGBT community is "not the most important thing, but I look for it," he says.

NYT readers debate the intersection of liberal arts and work.

Here is a really nice story, please send more of these...
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Public Schools Beat Back Offshoring!
As this issue of the 21st Century Schools Project Bulletin noted, blaming the public schools for the offshoring of jobs is more than a little far-fetched. Earlier this year among others, AeA, a high tech sector advocacy group, had done just that. But now, as Dan Drezner notes in a recent post, data are pretty clear that the whole off-shoring issue is mostly more smoke than fire. We're waiting for the headlines exculpating the public schools...probably will be a long wait though...Incidentally, we don't need economic crisis mongering to engage the public's interest in educational improvement. More respondents told a recent Business Roundtable poll that education reform should be a national priority for social justice reasons than said it's an economic competitiveness issue...
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Monday, June 21, 2004

Setting the Record Straight -- Guest Blogging by Alex Medler, Bryan Hassel and Todd Ziebarth

We're not going to turn Eduwonk into Speaker's Corner, but now and then a little guest blogging can't hurt and can probably liven things up from time to time.

So today, in that spirit, education analysts Alex Medler, Bryan Hassel, and Todd Ziebarth respond to what they, pretty understandably, think was a hatchet job review of their important new report on collective bargaining and charter schools. The report, produced by Education Commission of the States, was the focus of a PPI Friday forum a few weeks back which is why we're happy to give them a little real estate here on Eduwonk.

Medler, a national charter school expert, runs Medler Consulting. He formerly directed the U.S. Department of Education’s Public Charter School Program. Hassel, also a national charter school expert and author and editor of several books on charter schools, runs Public Impact, a public policy consulting company. Ziebarth, (an expert too!) a longtime analyst for Education Commission of the States and director of their charter school work now works for Augenblick, Palaich and Associates.

So, Medler, Hassel, and Ziebarth...take it away...

The Center for Education Reform (CER) is a busy organization engaged in a lot of important work. Perhaps that explains why they didn't have time to actually read our recent report about collective bargaining and charter schools before grossly misrepresenting it.

We expect, and in fact welcome, constructive criticism of the ideas in the report – which is entitled "Collective Bargaining and Teachers Unions in Charter Districts." We are less welcoming, however, of criticism that greatly misstates the substance of the report as CER did in their June 15, 2004, Newswire.

Nowhere in our report do we predict that "future charter-school teachers will likely be union members who collectively bargain for rights, rather than the traditional charter school, which allows employment freedoms," as CER writes. Likewise, nowhere do we conclude that "charter teachers will return to unions," as CER also claims.

Here is what we actually said. States will (and should) continue to allow entities other than traditional school districts to grant charters. Such entities include independent boards, city councils, mayor’s offices, universities, colleges, nonprofit organizations, state boards of education and state commissioners of education. States will not (and should not) bind these systems of charter schools to collective bargaining agreements.

But more and more, school districts (like NYC) are becoming interested in chartering schools. For legal and political reasons, leaders in these districts often can’t completely sidestep union agreements when they create charter schools. If you don’t believe us, just ask the folks in Buffalo.

The most obvious and desirable solution, in our opinion, is to change state laws so that charter schools, including those chartered by districts, are not bound to collective bargaining agreements. But we’re not going to hold our breath waiting for that to happen. We wrote our paper to give leaders some viable options now for moving forward with chartering.

The heart of the report lays out policy options in the areas of work rules, compensation, job security and benefits. These options are primarily focused on creating autonomous and accountable schools that operated under significant exemptions from provisions of collective bargaining frameworks, while still helping these schools attract and keep great teachers within a competitive labor market.

Now, you may think that these ideas are rubbish. You may say charter schools that are still linked in any way to district and union structures aren’t "real" charter schools, and should be discouraged. We’re inclined to regard them as (potentially) important cracks in the mortar. With all the appropriate cautions and caveats, we think they can provide a way to create new options for children and teachers.

So let's have that debate. But let's base our conversation on the real issues, not the misrepresentations in the CER Newswire. Don't take our word on all this, though. Read the report yourself. It is at the ECS website and you can get it here (PDF).
Posted at 7:26 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Monday's News
The CSM recently reported on graduation from the SEED school, a public charter school in Washington, DC that is the nation's only public boarding school. It's a college prep school, serving students from Washington's most underserved neighborhoods, and its students are attaining great results and heading off to top colleges. It's a great example of what's possible in public education yet an NEA analyst still manages to find fault as both Gadfly and Joanne Jacobs note. Ridiculous...there is no other word. A Jacobs reader sums it up saying, "I find it interesting that a teachers union is bitching about how much it costs -- aren't they the ones who keep saying that throwing more money at the problem will fix it?"

Also in Gadfly, Checker Finn rises to the defense of the Sunshine State and says lay off Florida. He thinks the FL is being unfairly maligned in the press. He makes some good points about some steps the state is taking and notes problems with the choice programs. Still, Florida's schools have a long way to go for poor and minority students and the state's accountability system was ignoring this prior to NCLB.

Important new bill proposed by Senator Kennedy and Rep. George Miller. It would make the recent NCLB accountability changes retroactive if schools apply for a change. This seems commonsensical but, of course, the Bush Administration is resisting. In the current climate with a lot of pressure to gut NCLB's accountability provisions a legislative battle is not a great idea but it's the only option when the Administration pointlessly digs its heels in on issues like this. By the way, the bill would not nullify transfers or supplemental services that students are now being offered so there really isn't much reason for Bush Administration foot-dragging here.

In Sunday's NYT Julia Mead looks at the story of a valedictorian who can't go to college because she's an illegal immigrant and is not eligible for public aid. Fortunately, she has public school officials in her community who are lobbying private colleges to help her. As an aside, a few charter schools are exploring ways to leverage private aid to help such students and institutionalize support for them. And, as the article notes, bills to help these students are bogged down in Congress right now.

Clarence Page discusses the "talented 10" plan in Texas.

Garnett Coleman, a Texas state senator and chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus responds to last week's NYT story on the talented 10 plan.

Cox's Bob Kemper reports that the Bush Administration is going squishy on their pledge to help historically black colleges. Via Educationnews.org.

Thomas Keane writes in the Boston Herald that charter opponents are getting the upper hand in Massachusetts. Via Joanne Jacobs.

Washington Post's Rosalind Helderman looks at new graduation requirements in Virginia and the story of one student. A very balanced piece showing where the student and the system went awry. Everything she writes seems (a) interesting and (b) balanced and in-depth...Draft Helderman!

Finally, if you still have not read James Hunt's excellent Education Week commentary, as Ben Stiller said in Starsky and Hutch, "Do it".
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