Friday, October 01, 2004
No Debate: Bloomberg Blows It, Thernstroms Debate Race, AYP in SC...And, Unpredictability From Reason!
Read past the ridiculous shot at Teach For America, this Ed Week commentary by NCATE's Art Wise is thought provoking and worth reading.
Good news for charter schools in Buffalo here and here. Punchline? No moratorium. NYT's Winter has an update about action on student loans.
Update: More Buffalo here. Very strong column.
There are so many things wrong with this Bloomberg story it's hard to know where to begin. The school profiled is not even a Title I school (and it's in Scarsdale...) when the law is aimed to help disadvantaged ones; it plays into this nonsense about NCLB being a corporate plot by showcasing the support of "corporate executives" while ignoring the primary impetus behind much of the law -- liberal school reformers; the NEA gets away with all sorts of unchecked assertions; and, while Gary Orfield says that, "It [NCLB] shows an ignorance and arrogance that's stunning...People who really care about schools being good for poor kids see it is doing damage," these people, and these people, and these people, and this person, and this person, (just for starters) not only don't make an appearance in the story, but apparently don't care about poor kids? Can't we at least argue on facts and not outrageous assertions, or is this what it has come to?
In case you missed it, here is NYT's Freedman with a more informed and less black/white perspective.
RFK's children send a letter to LAUSD asking them to turn the entire Ambassador Hotel into an education complex. Berkeley's Bernard Gifford and the Thernstroms discuss the achievement gap here. And, U.S. Department of Education announces new Blue Ribbon School here.
Reason's Snell looks at some of the problems with No Child's public school choice provisions and proposes a solution...you'll never guess what...
Some hand-wringing over about half of South Carolina schools not making "adequate yearly progress" under NCLB. But, as this article notes, to make AYP this year fewer than one in five students at a school needed to be proficient in math and reading based on the state's test. Next year the cut jumps to an equally outrageous one in three! State schools chief (and U.S. Senate candidate) Inez Tenenbaum notes, "We continue to make progress, and that’s very good news," Tenenbaum said. "But we have a long way to go before all of our students and schools are achieving at the ‘Proficient’ level. When it comes to academic success, no child should be left behind."
Forbes writes up another example of why charter schools must be stopped as soon as possible! The current issue profiles San Diego's High Tech High, which has now expanded to include a High Tech Middle, and an international school. The school is doing great things for all kinds of kids and can't expand fast enough to meet demand.
The schools founder, Larry Rosenstock, is one of the true innovators in public education. There is too much to excerpt here, read the whole thing. Or, if you must have a summary, visit Jacobs for excerpts.
And, someone please remind Eduwonk again why it's bad for public education to have schools like this? I forget sometimes, must be all the orthodoxy making me woozy...
*Photo Credit: The Eduwife
If you’re interested in rural education be sure to check out this new GAO report (pdf) on how the Bush Administration is handling NCLB implementation for rural districts. The punchline? Not too well.
Serious and Silly In San Diego
Earlier this week Alan Bersin, superintendent of schools in San Diego, convened a group of national experts to evaluate the progress of reforms undertaken under his watch. It was a top-down review of major facets of the schools there. The papers, some positive, some critical are a remarkable look at the workings of a major district. Bersin, and the San Diego Public Schools, deserve a lot of credit for submitting themselves to this sort of scrutiny and evaluation.
Unfortunately, not everyone in San Diego seems to care all that much about serious evaluation or policymaking. Part of Bersin's program is to bring in new management in a handful of the city's lowest-performing schools. It's an issue that reasonable people can disagree about, but when San Diego school board member (and teachers' union water carrier) Frances O'Neill Zimmerman likened supporters of Bersin's plan to "Jews who herded their own people onto trains headed for gas chambers" she gave a candid glimpse into the ideological ferocity that too often characterizes debates such as this.
Update: The Greater San Diego Anti-Defamation League is demanding an apology or resignation. From the local teachers' union...silence...although they seem to have plenty of time to gripe about other things...(Incidentally, Eduwonk was in the room for this and they had plenty of chance to respond and blew it on petty little process questions rather than substance. Rather telling, no?)
Cleveland Plain Dealer on these studies. Ed Week here.
Chester Finn and Rick Hess have written a long analysis of No Child Left Behind in The Public Interest. It’s generating a lot of buzz as the first serious entry in the coming sweepstakes on ideas about how to improve NCLB. That’s largely because (a) Finn – Hess put NCLB in a valuable historical context and (b) their basic project is improving it rather than gutting it. For no other reason than that, it’s worthwhile reading.
Hess and Finn walk though some of the compromises and resulting contradictions in the law and analyze what we can tell about their efficacy, or lack thereof, so far. They also show how NCLB in some ways re-creates the macro mistakes of previous initiatives tracing to the Great Society. This is an animating theme for Hess and it’s well described here.
Still, though some NCLB critics are already touting the article as evidence of the broad support for their position, they should think again. Finn and Hess note that NCLB abandoned “time honored” school choice principals and despite many thoughtful recommendations for improvement, skepticism about whether public institutions can get the job done implicitly pervades much of the analysis. The foundational dispute between right and left in education boils down to whether the leverage needed to improve public education comes down to allowing clients to leave or whether it can be publicly applied through standards, more money, or whatever. Most left-leaning NCLB critics come down in a different place on that question than Hess and Finn though their zeal to take down the law seemingly blinds them to this.
NCLB proponents will find much not to like as well. For starters, Hess and Finn essentially argue for jettisoning many of NCLB’s rules for “subgroup” accountability (basically holding schools accountable for various subgroups of students). They also tout a “value-added” model for accountability while simultaneously acknowledging that for most states a system of this nature is still just a speck on the horizon. Though hardly alone in this regard, Finn and Hess don’t tell us how, in light of this, it constitutes an actionable idea for a near-term fix to NCLB. (They also, like others, fail to reckon with whether even under a value-added model we’ll again flinch at crunch time, see below.) Similarly they do not address why NCLB’s current safe-harbor rules do not get at some of the problems they describe or how these provisions could be modified. Hess and Finn also chide NCLB for being out of touch with basic political and policy realities while they, apparently without irony, propose national content standards as one way out of the current thicket.
Still, make no mistake, there are plenty of good ideas as well (for instance requiring states to differentiate among schools that need improvement for different reasons and accelerating the timetable for supplemental services – though Eduwonk doesn’t see the need for a corresponding deceleration of public school choice).
But, overall Hess and Finn seem to largely ignore the political realities that surround the creation of a law like NCLB. For instance, it’s not fair to lay the law’s contradictions at the feet of an administration seeking bipartisan compromise on its signature education bill or blame them on the various political coalitions that came together to pass the law. These compromises are the result of the educational policymaking environment. Groups representing special education students would want these children included in the accountability rules regardless of who was in the White House. Similarly, the push for disaggregated accountability, which Bush embraced in Texas, was also a key priority – and continues to be -- for the Education Trust, Citizens Commission on Civil Rights and key leaders on the Hill including Representative George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Bingaman (D-MN). And, regardless of the research evidence, the teachers' unions are going to demand that the law require certification for teachers in addition to subject matter expertise.
When it comes time to try to fix the parts of NCLB that need fixing, these same politics will surround the discussion. So, while Hess and Finn point out some sensible ways forward, their ideas will meet the same obstacles and likely suffer much the same fate. That’s the messy reality of education policymaking right now. It’s important to remember that with a few exceptions, NCLB’s provisions are not there by accident or happenstance.
One final irony bears mentioning. Hess, who has written insightfully about the “predictable” politics of retreat when educational initiatives begin to cause real consequences could himself in a small way be abetting this process in this case.
Many of the problems Hess and Finn describe are real. But many more NCLB gripes are the inevitable result of calling the question about our most under-performing schools. Lost in the hand-wringing about schools currently being identified as “needing improvement” because of NCLB is the serious discussion of what’s being asked of these schools. Overall, the answer is, for now, not too much. Down the road NCLB’s provisions will fail to work and need modification, this reality was not lost on its architects. But they were keenly aware that there would be multiple opportunities to revisit the law before these issues came to a head.
For now, it’s gut check time for doing something about those schools most demonstrably failing to educate minorities and low-income students. The academic Hess would predict that we’d back off from doing so when the heat comes. In this case though, the policy advocate Hess is seemingly helping to turn up the burner a bit himself…
If you only read one news story today, make it this column by Samuel Freedman. It will be a travesty if the NYT doesn't keep him on. His work is a return to the nuance a news analysis column like this needs, and a far cry from this sort of stuff.
Important Abell Foundation report on special education, implications elsewhere.
Washington State voters could be embracing a smart synthesis of investing more in education and modernizing their schools.
NY Post's Sager notes that while new schools for white affluent kids are non-controversial, ones for minority students are...
Been wondering how charter schools in Dayton are doing? Fordham Foundation has the answer.
Finally, it's true what they say: Private schools do have their own culture. In this case, cocktail culture...
Politics In MD, A Good Idea In VA, Charter Politics...And, Two Edgy Papers From ECS
New school reform commission in MD. The politics of this one look to be interesting, check out the line-up...
In Virginia, Gov. Mark Warner has lined-up more help for struggling schools.
Two new papers from ECS that promise to stir some debate: Turning low-performing schools into charter schools and increasing the supply of good choices for parents. The latter is particularly good because it shows the challenges as well as the opportunities of this strategy.
In an interesting bit of irony, Robert Bifulco and Helen Ladd go to a state where charters are working pretty well to argue that they're a bad idea because they're not working so well elsewhere. Go figure...Bifulco and Ladd are right about NC, but their larger attack is pretty tired and social scientists should know better than to make such sweeping generalizations anyway.
There has been a lot of low-level (and not so low-level) buzz about data from Caroline Hoxby’s recent charter school study. Basically, the whispering campaign goes like this: Don’t trust (or in the case of reporters, write about) the study because she doesn’t share her data. Leave aside that the core insinuation here is the serious charge that a tenured professor at Harvard is engaging in academic misconduct, it’s also just not true and a pretty tacky way to challenge the research anyway. Here’s a link that will get you the data if you’re interested.
Incidentally, Hoxby may be a conservative, but, contrary to what is apparently conventional wisdom in some circles, that doesn’t make her research invalid on its face.
Update: Sorry for the bad link, fixed now. My fault.
Before this school district goes too far down this road, they might want to reflect on the experience of this school district...
Seems like Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier bolsters the district's case, but the National Rifle Association is pretty relentless.
See also this useful ASBJ write-up here.
Here are two charter schools that are doing exactly what critics allege: Skimming certain kinds of students!
Preuss School UCSD, only takes students if they are low-income and neither parent has finished college. Remember, these are the very students who allegedly make achievement gap closing impossible. Yet at Preuss all apply to four-year colleges and of the first graduating class 91 percent are going on to four-year schools.
Kipp Adelante did so well its first year open, with a low-income/high minority population, that more affluent students started applying. As a public school, the school must take students first-come first-served or by lottery. How did the school respond? It stepped up outreach and recruitment in low-income neighborhoods even more to ensure that it continued to serve the students it opened to serve.
Public charter schools nationwide serve more low-income and minority students than traditional public schools. This is in no small part because many schools are explicitly targeting these students. This scandalous skimming of the most underserved students must stop! So remember, results like these don't matter, ideology does! To the barricades! It's very important to discredit such schools as quickly as possible.
*Photo credits: The Eduwife.