Friday, December 24, 2004
Pell Grant Holiday Surprise, NY, FL, And Church - State News
One amazing thing about the Bush Administration's Education Department is that even when they're doing something defensible, they end up doing it in such a way that it looks nefarious. It would be easy to play the readjustment of Pell Grant eligibility rules as a backdoor plot to cut student aid with Grinch-like timing. Yet it's not. As American Council on Education's Terry Hartle points out, a change was "inevitable", the data are 14 years old now and it was time to update. Besides, better targeting programs like Pell on the neediest students is an important policy goal. But why do it right before Christmas? And why do it in a way that looks slippery? There are 50 ways to leave your lover, almost as many to deliver policy news in a way that doesn't invite suspicion, and they do this, right before Christmas?
Eduwonk's most likely guess as to the timing? The President's 2006 Budget Request for education is going to be so grim that they wanted to try to divorce these two issues as much as possible by getting this out of the way ahead of time. If they were going to seriously invest in Pell Grants in the next budget, it would make sense to package this change with the new funding to create more favorable "optics" as they say. But, based on what connected folks say about the budget, that probably wasn't an option.
Elsewhere, in New York, negotiations on the teacher contract are stalled. Consider that a little holiday gift from Eva Moskowitz. In Florida, the voucher cases there are being consolidated and fast-tracked. Assuming this goes the way it looks like it will, with Florida's voucher program being declared unconstitutional under the state constitution, then even though Rehnquist may want the court to stay away from free exercise cases like the recent Washington State case but it's going to be hard to do...(link via Educationnews.org).
NSBA's Legal Clips has a great round-up of the various church - state dusts-ups related to the season. Unfortunately, it's not online yet so you'll have to sign-up to get it.
Blogging will be light over the next week but there will be some. But, as they say, you have to read the edublog you have, not the edublog you might want.
In the meantime, in the spirit of a break from education policy (regardless of how entertaining it may be...) many readers have asked after the Eduwife, whose digital photographs occasionally grace the site along with her views. Well, ask no more. Below is the Eduwife revealed! What's probably striking to some readers is that it's not Eduwonk with the horns! Actually, she's seen here in Denali Nat'l Park, in real life she's an outstanding high school literature teacher.
And, below is the Edupooch, and, under her is the Edupup. He's just 10 weeks in this world. Happy Holidays!
PS--Don't hold your breath waiting for cat blogging on this site, it's bad enough that they're cloning them...
Under Pressure, Look What You Started, Rocky Mountain High...And, A Three Way!
Here's an interesting article from the NYT about a forthcoming study looking at how pressure impacts various types of people:
...in a new study of math testing, psychologists are reporting that intense exam pressure is actually more likely to impair the performance of very good students than mediocre ones.
In the Wash Post, Jay Mathews looks at a forthcoming study about whether taking advanced courses in high school helps students in college if they don't take the end of course tests. Aside from the content, the story is a great model. Mathews does an admirable job showing how this new study nests in the existing research and literature on this issue.
From Colorado, public charter schools outperforming traditional public schools. But, Colorado charter demographics may be anomalous. Nationwide charters disproportionately serve low-income and minority students, but possibly not in CO which could skew the data. There are a lot of charters in suburban areas of Colorado and places like Fort Collins and Colorado Springs (more than you see in most other states). This isn't a bad thing, these parents are demanding more customized options from the public sector and the public sector should respond. Core Knowledge, for instance, is popular out there. But, the recent reforms to the state's charter law, championed by state representative Terrance Carroll (D), increase the emphasis on opening charters in under-served communities.
Bloggers Mathew Yglesias, Ross Douthat on AndrewSullivan.com, and David Adesnik on Oxblog discuss college for all.
Through The Looking Glass
Is someone slipping acid in the eggnog?
Ed Week writes up the new NCTQ study (pdf) about No Child Left Behind's teacher quality provisions. In the article, NCTAF, the prototypical establishment group on teacher certification, says too much emphasis is being put on "inputs"!
NCTAF wants more attention paid to value-added. Major technical and measurement issues aside, good luck getting sign-off from the teachers' unions on any value-added plan that has any consequences attached to it.
Hopefully, he won't forget about edukashun policy!
Yes, it's real.
Update: Alert readers point out that Spellings is taking over just in time! Yes indeed. But it just seemed too easy. This isn't the Catskills.
Thanks Education At The Brink.
In New York City the school chancellor Joel Klein put in place a $5 limit on holiday gifts for teachers. This NYT story has more. The reasons behind it are obvious and sensible but many people also cried foul. Is the policy Grinch-like?
Eduwonk solicited the views of some teachers and administrators in various communities to see what they thought. Here is a sampling:
Rural Public High School Teacher:
As a professional, I do not think it right to expect a gift from my students. I do not see the holiday as a time for handouts.
The [NYT] story talks about elementary school teachers. Often elementary school teachers spend a lot of money out of their own pocket to buy necessities for their classroom. Parents could help out over the holidays by buying items for the teacher’s classroom. If it is not a personal gift, there is no conflict of interest. If they wish to donate expensive items to the classroom, I do not know any teacher who would say no. As long as it is very clear that the gift is for the school and not the teacher.
If I could write a “Dear Santa” letter as a teacher, I would ask the taxpayers of my county to raise the salaries of teachers, buy some books to donate to the school library, take an active role in your child’s education, take an active role in the lives of children who do not have money to spend on the holidays, and support my efforts to give your child homework. Those are the best gifts I could ask for.
I think the policy to limit gifts to teachers is just fine. The most important gift a student can give me is to put in extra effort in their school work. When they do that it shows me that they care about themselves, and they feel proud that they have done something for me. Students also give me cards and notes at the holidays that are an important way for them to say “thank you.” I actually think more students would want to give gifts if they knew they only had to spend $5.00. They would enjoy the challenge of getting a great gift for that amount.
A K-8 Private School Teacher:
I totally agree with placing a limit on gift amounts to teachers. They are in a position of authority over students, and their influence and grades should not be able to be bought. HOWEVER, creating a limit of $5 means that even the most sincere holiday wishes or appreciation could not reasonably be granted. Most greeting cards cost up to $2.50. Even a candle from a grocery store could cost $5.00.
Teachers are always getting the short end of the deal. Maybe holiday time is the one time of the year when teachers can be appreciated and be told by their students how much they do for them. Limiting gifts usually means that you are also limiting the cards and hand-written notes that go with them. Our school sent out a letter to parents to limit the gift giving and now it means that I don't even get a lot of cards from my kids telling me thank you for being such a great teacher.
In a profession where I give up $100,000 in salary every year based on the equivalent salary I would have in any other profession given my number of years on the job and level of education, I think that teachers should be able to receive gifts from students. A limit of $25 or $50 would seem way more reasonable. That is the point beyond which a gift would be lavish. Setting the limit at $5.00 is basically sending the message that it is not even worth it to attempt giving a gift.
Urban Public Elementary School Teacher:
I doubt I've ever gotten a gift that costs more than $5. When it comes to gifts from students, it's really the thought that counts. I wouldn't want my students or their families to spend money on me. I don't know if there should be an official rule about it but it doesn't bother me much.
Former Private High School Teacher:
I think the real question here is what, exactly, can one get for less than $5 in New York? A diet coke? A pack of gum? Tissues?
As a matter of policy, it seems to me that Klein would have been better off banning gifts altogether, if he's serious about wanting to protect kids who can't afford to give gifts to their teachers. I don't agree with it, but at least that would be a meaningful statement. The $5 ceiling seems arbitrary and just plain silly.
Suburban Public High School Teacher:
I asked around the lunch room and got some mixed responses. Some folks believe that accepting gifts is a real conflict of interest and that it could be construed in a poor light by some people. We heard stories of an elementary school teacher in XXXXX that received an all expense paid trip to Bermuda (or some place like that) from the parents of her students. We thought that was a bit excessive. Some teachers say “bring on the gifts.” Personally, I think that if a student or parent wants to express appreciation then they should be free to do so. Just today I received a bag of chocolates with a $10 gift card to Starbuck’s in it. I guess in NYC I’d have to return it. I also think that teachers should use professional judgment in accepting gifts. An all expense trip would be nice, but I think a true professional would not accept something that extravagant. However, we all know that many people (teachers included…) lack professional judgment. Teaching in a school where extravagant gifts are part of the norm is just one more reason that schools like that are more attractive. I can see how limiting gifts would even the playing field. I don’t know the answer to this one...I can see the logic behind both sides….
Rural Public School Principal:
The issue is one of potential “undue influence” on teachers in relation to their evaluation and support of students. I think one of the biggest issues facing educators today is palpable lack of trust from parents, administrators, and communities, and this situation only serves to highlight that lack of trust. We, under the law, allow significant amounts of capital to flow from private interests to lawmakers’ campaign chests at the state and national levels, but the system can’t trust a teacher to make good decisions about students’ education as a result of a gift worth 10 or 12 dollars? No wonder that, as I once heard a superintendent say, “I know more ex-teachers than ex-anything else!”
Former Public High School Teacher:
I usually would side with not putting low-income parents or kids in a bad situation or one where it appears you need money to compete. However, there are so few ways for parents to thank and support teachers, that a holiday or year-end gift is one of the only chances. The problem with the profession is that good teachers rarely receive rewards that all other teachers don't get as well and this is likely one of the only areas where teachers get what they deserve. Am I sounding like a "let the market run its course" Republican?
Tough Love, More Acronyms, Lots Of Math...And, A Little Gossip
Arlene Ackerman on tough love for some low-performing schools in San Fran. The nut of the issue is buried in the 7th graf, worth reading it all... Also, see this new ECS paper on school restructuring.
If you're into TFA, KIPP, or the PGA then you'll be sorry if you missed this special on ABC on Saturday.
Chris Correa writes about the Flynn effect and math education and Wash. Post's Strauss writes about math education. NYT's Dillon looks at declining enrollment of foreign students in U.S. higher ed, multi-causes, long piece. Worth reading.
Gannet's Weiser writes up the annual Boehner-Kennedy dinner (which really pisses off some true-believers in the anti-voucher crowd...).
NCTQ On HQT
A new report (pdf) from the National Council on Teacher Quality grades the states and points out that states are evading the spirit of No Child Left Behind's teacher quality provisions:
In the short term, the prospects are dim for making genuine strides in improving teacher quality. The law’s clarity on the academic preparation required of new teachers bodes a more promising future, but where veteran teachers are concerned the law is doomed to disappoint, save in a minority of states. The evidence accumulated here suggests that the highly qualified teacher provisions will be brought down by the burden of NCLB’s internal compromises and ambiguity and by states’ unwillingness to cede control no matter how important the cause.
Even with the 2006 deadline looming, only a handful of states appear willing to comply with the spirit of that portion of the law that seeks to correct the long-tolerated, widespread and inadequate preparation of American teachers in their subject areas. Some states are indifferent or even antagonistic about the prospect of declaring significant numbers of their active teachers unqualified.
The report asks whether the Department of Education will actually enforce this part of the law (though there is some evidence they might). Over to you Margaret!
Watch this story, because it's TX, it will make some news if there is something there.
This is really a hell of a story, why is it only being bird-dogged in the national media by a conservative columnist?
Teach and Learn writes-up an interesting Wash. Post letter to the editor with some additional context.