Friday, October 08, 2004
Ban The Books!
New campaign slogan for BC04: Even Our Spouses Are Ideologues!
Not quite sure what to think of this. Eduwonk has never second-guessed the terror warnings before because of politics, and there seems to be some evidence supporting the warning for schools. Yet the timing is curious. Why wait until now? Boardbuzz wonders about that, too, and has a good rundown and some useful links.
The politics clearly benefit Bush. The horror at the school in Beslan did have an impact here among soccer moms, security moms, office park spouses, or whatever you want to call them. The President mentioned it in last week's debate and will likely do the same tonight because it reminds these voters about security and does so in a very personal way.
Josh Marshall second-guesses here. Joanne Jacobs reports here. Let's fervently hope this does remain an academic debate.
In yesterday's Wall Street Journal ($), former IBM CEO and current Teaching Commission head Lou Gerstner writes about improving the nation's schools. He's right about the need, and his commission has produced some important recommendations (pdf) that demand the attention of policymakers.
Yet wouldn't Gerstner, and many others, have a stronger case if it consisted of less economic scaremongering and more clear-eyed presentation of the facts? Sure, continued economic competitiveness is keenly related to quality of education but that's a long-term problem and a subtle one. It's folly to blame the public schools for outsourcing (which turns out to be much ado about almost nothing anyway), just as it was to blame them for the rise of the Japanese (we don't hear much about that anymore), rising Soviet supremacy (Admiral Rickover, call your office), or other temporal issues.
A more immediate problem, and one that Americans are not yet inured to (because most don't really know about it), is that we have a school system where, nationwide, half of minority students fail to finish high school and enormous gaps in achievement divide students. The systemic inequities this is creating, in a country where economic self-determination is increasingly predicated on education, are a serious threat to our social fabric. All this, of course, impacts business (and lest we forget it is the private sector that largely creates jobs in this country), but it would be refreshing to hear a CEO lay it out in equity terms rather than sky is falling economic rhetoric. And it just might get some people's attention, too.
Campaign 2004 Afterthought: Gerstner also chastises the candidates for failing to address education in the campaign, yet he inexplicably fails to note that John Kerry has included many of the Teaching Commission's recommendations in his campaign agenda.
Writing in National Review (!!!), Rick Hess challenges the notion that more money is what schools need. Of course, like many debates in education, asking the global question, "do schools need more money?" misses the real nature of the problem which is that some do and some don't and the problem is much more state level finance than levels of funding from Washington. Still, it makes great political theater!
Hess is right that the current system is inefficient and policymakers need to address those issues (and new analytical technology is making it increasingly possible to do so). But he notes that, "Buying off the status quo is no way to focus the education debate on accountability, competition, parental choice, flexibility, or results." Huh? Sure it is! Public policy is littered with success stories that involved doing exactly that! And, of course, some failures, too. But buying off opposition re NCLB is exactly what Eduwonk recommends here and here, for example. It's a small price to pay in the big scheme of things. Good poker players recognize that their chips are tools and weapons to be employed in the game, good policymakers recognize the same thing about money and don't get bogged down in pointless academic arguments.
Afterthought: The Bush Administration obviously does not understand this. They passed a reform-heavy education bill and have not used money strategically and they passed a funding heavy Medicare bill (that we probably can't afford) and didn't use the funding as leverage to get any real reform...Perhaps some
NCLB Afterthought: Also, in their zeal to take down No Child Left Behind, some foes of the law are touting Hess as their new public intellectual because of this article. Great thinking! His position on funding dovetails so well with the establishment position…never mind his position on choice.
Jacobs v. Federal After-School $$$!
Joanne Jacobs takes a pop at federal after-school programs. She's right about the Mathematica study but there is more to the story than that. This PPI paper has it.
In the NYT Dynamist Dynamo Virginia Postrel takes a look at the school finance case in Texas. She's mostly right but it's the penultimate graf that is the key one going forward.
Just as ideological foes of electricity deregulation exploited the California experience to attack deregulation in general, some people opposed to redistribution on principle now point to Robin Hood. But just as California's complex system was not true deregulation, so Robin Hood does not represent the only way to transfer funds to poor school districts.
The USCharterschools.org website is now back up and operating. But, it turns out that's because of the good graces of WestEd, the organization that used to run the site, rather than a new long-term contract being awarded. Realizing that the site would be down until the Department got its act together on the contract, WestEd stepped up and agreed to host the site gratis in the interim.
Incidentally, after AIR is done taking over the world and other changes impacting education research play out, it seems likely that WestEd, AIR, and these guys will be the last three big organizations standing.
2 From #2 Pencil
Interesting example of school fundraising, but one that seems sure to increase parental involvement, at least among some parents!
#2 Pencil also Fisks this article. Eduwonk will only add one thing, per the photo accompanying the story. Eduwonk knows a little bit about Upper Arlington, Ohio. Nice place to live, good public schools, very quiet, and quite literally almost no minorities. There is an important component to the anti-NCLB "revolt" (or adult temper tantrum if you prefer) that gets insufficient attention.
And hold the outraged emails. This is not an accusation of racism, but rather of inattention to, and lack of awareness about, the obscene disparities in our system of public education, which works very well for some kids and miserably for others -- and not at random. See, for instance, this data on Ohio.
NYT's Winter writes up a new report by Ed Trust ace Kevin Carey about school finance. A lot of new data coming on this issue soon that should continue to shift the debate to a more empirical footing.
Yet another gem from NYT's Freedman. His columns are consistently like a hot cup of coffee with Baileys (the favorite morning drink of this pajama person).
Ed Week's Keller says that despite the high profile cases, there are fewer strikes by teachers these days. And Ed Week's Olson writes up the San Diego Review (less the acrimony) and though it takes a lot to shock UI's Jane Hannaway, Olson finds something that does!
Via a discussion on the paradox of choice, Jay Mathews writes about choosing colleges. There is a lot going on in this Andrew Wolfe column. And, here is a little more on unobligated funds.
New DC Sup't Janey dismayed about the DC schools and vows change.
More debate about the E-Rate, good AP story will bring you up to speed if you haven't been following this. More detail from Ed Week here.
In the wake of last night's debate, here is a handy tip-sheet to the election.
eSchools News takes a look at the ELC situation. Nothing new in the main article that has not been written elsewhere. However, the accompanying article about Follow The Leaders is interesting and worth reading. More encouraging news than previously reported.
Is the American Institutes For Research taking over the world? They recently acquired New American Schools and now they have acquired The McKenzie Group, too.
Insert your own joke about concentrated power here ____________.
Washington Post's Mui writes about hired-gun parental advocates. NYT's Schemo writes up the new GAO report.
Billy Bob Thorton holds forth and offers a critical assessment on Shakespeare, a must read for English teachers everywhere.
Finally, Gordon Cooper, one of the original Mercury astronauts (and a Gemini astronaut, too) and the last American to orbit the earth alone, died yesterday in California. As the country debates whether it's feasible to ensure that every student can read and do math in grades 3-8, it's worth remembering other daunting tasks the nation set itself to in the face of long odds and great skepticism.
Or even just tasks like this, for that matter...
Law students, don't miss this useful letter, via Mr. Sun. Mr. Sun also offers a haiku on school fundraisers and encourages Eduwonk to violate copyrights (but he's right about the Rauch Atlantic piece).
Arthur Miller Meets Larry Flynt, A Good Idea in LA...And, Two School Finance Debates
Contra Costa Times writes up the new GAO report (pdf) from late last week about NCLB implementation. The report is worth checking out. Also, thanks to alert reader JS for pointing Eduwonk to the GAO's name change.
Boardbuzz reports on a new play in NYC. It's about a stripper and a school board but somehow not getting rave reviews. They're bummed. Also from NY, the NY Sun looks at the charter debate there and Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz busts school report cards for not being very useful to parents. Incidentally, the report itself, which Eduwonk can't find online right now, is another good example of why external accountability matters.
If Los Angeles AFL-CIO leader Miguel Contreras doesn't neglect preparation issues, then this proposal is a really good idea on several levels.
Good day for school finance junkies. From NY here is Chester Finn's testimony (pdf) in the case there and a rebuttal from The Campaign For Fiscal Equity. From MA, Robert M. Costrell from the state and Catherine A. Boudreau, president of the state teachers' association debate the school finance case there.
USCharterschools.org is back up and working!
Finally, it's not a picture of a man reading My Pet Goat with a blank look on his face, but check this out anyway.