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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

"peppered with smart and witty comments on the education news of the day"
-- Education Gadfly

"don't hate Eduwonk cuz it's so good"
-- Alexander Russo, This Week In Education

"the morning's first stop for education bomb-throwers everywhere"
-- Mike Antonucci, Intercepts

"…the big dog on the ed policy blog-ck…"
-- Michele McLaughlin, AFT Blog

"I check Eduwonk several times a day, especially since I cut back on caffeine"
-- Joe Williams, fallen journalist, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform

"...one of the few bloggers who isn't completely nuts"
-- Mike Petrilli, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

"I have just three 'go to' websites: The Texas Legislature, Texas Longhorn sports, and Eduwonk"
-- Sandy Kress, former education advisor to President Bush and former chairman, Dallas Board of Education

"penetrating analysis in a lively style on a wide range of issues"
-- Walt Gardner, champion letter-to-the-editor writer and retired teacher

-- Susan Ohanian

Education News and Analysis

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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
Andrew Pass
a schoolyard blog
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Mr. B-G's English Blog
Barnett Berry
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Bulletin Board (NASBE)
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The Common School
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Eponymous Educator
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Extra Credit
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Inside Pre-K
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Jenny D.
John Merrow
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Kindling Flames
Kitchen Table Math
Learning Now (PBS)
The Life That Chose Me
Mathew K. Tabor
Media Infusion
Ms. Frizzle
Moving At The Speed Of Creativity
NCLB Act II (Ed Week)
NSBA's BoardBuzz
NYC Educator
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ParaNews (NCP)
Paul Baker
The Portable Princess
The PrincipalsPage
Principal's Policy Blog (NASSP)
Quasi Dictum
Roy Romer
Running on Empty
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Schools for Tomorrow
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Sherman Dorn
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Swift & Change Able
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This is how I Swim
This Week In Education
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Up The Down Staircase
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What up, Mz. Smlph?
Whitney Tilson
Why Boys Fail
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Educational Resources and Organizations

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Citizens Commission On Civil Rights
Coalition of Essential Schools
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Council of Chief State School Officers
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Core Knowledge Foundation
Data Quality Campaign
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Education Sector
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Haberman Foundation
Hechinger Institute On Education and the Media
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Local School Directory
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Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning
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National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Center for Postsecondary Research
National Center on Education and the Economy
National Charter School Research Project
National Council on Teacher Quality
National Education Association
National Education Writers Association
National Governors Association
National Institute for Excellence in Teaching
National School Boards Association
New Leaders for New Schools
New Schools Venture Fund
The New Teacher Project
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, July 01, 2005

Urban kids to suburban schools - a new twist

Enabling urban kids to attend suburban schools has long been thought a good thing by many progressives and other desegregation activists. The city of Wilmington, DE, for example, was split up into four wedges, each joined with part of the suburban ring in a school district. Boston, Indianapolis, and other cities have run transfer programs of various kinds for years?

But what if the suburban schools in questions are private schools? Then maybe this isn't such a good idea after all. Check out the emerging debate in DC over allowing voucher recipients there to attend private schools outside of the District. With a dearth of high school slots in DC private schools, some in Congress are calling for a change in the program to allow kids to go suburban. Provides a pretty good window on the challenges facing voucher programs -- both technical (finding a supply of schools willing and able to take voucher-bearing students) and political.

-- Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact
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The second "R": how good is good enough?
News broke last week that less than half of NC’s kids taking the state’s writing test this year passed it. Does this mean, as one district official opined in the news story, that the standards are too high? Or, as another suggested, that educators need to work harder to teach kids to write?

It’s a little alarming that in this era of accountability, it’s not that easy to figure out who’s right. Organizations who rate states’ standards, such as the AFT and the Fordham Foundation, don’t grade writing standards. Another possibility, as suggested by Caroline Hoxby in a recent Education Next piece, is to benchmark against NAEP. On that score, NC looks pretty good. Only 4 or 5 states statistically outscore NC on the 4th and 8th grade writing assessments.

Then again, only 32% of NC 4th graders were proficient or advanced in writing on the 2002 NAEP. So being better than average doesn’t mean the Tar Heel state’s job is done. No doubt we can improve the writing assessments in NC and elsewhere, but it would be foolish to think we’re doing as well as we can.

-- Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact

P.S. for procrastinators: take the NC writing test yourself at the bottom of this press release.
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More on graduation rates
Last week Guestblogger Colvin covered Ed Trust's report on states' suspect reporting of graduation rates. Fallout and commentary continues. Jay Mathews responds here. Finn in this week's Gadfly here. The Empire, in the form of the Council of Chief State School Officers, strikes back here, calling for better longitudinal systems to track individual students over time. The chiefs have a point - the methods Ed Trust and others are using to estimate graduation rates are a vast improvement over many bogus state estimates, but they're far from perfect. In the meantime, though, there's little doubt we've got a real dropout crisis on our hands.

-- Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact
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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Revamping LAUSD

Can the nation's second largest school district be restructured? LA's city council and school board presidents have teamed up to appoint a commission to think it through. Here are a couple of items for the commission's reading list. First, the school reform group LA Alliance commissioned a fascinating report (pdf) from WestEd in 2003. The report contained a lot of sensible ideas for long term reform of the district. But the most striking recommendation, which the Alliance is now running with, was to go outside of LAUSD and create a new network of high-performing schools. Second of course, an Eduwonk favorite -- Paul Hill's PPI monograph outlining a new vision for school boards.

-Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact
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Sports rage alert
You know it's bad when Sacred Heart Academy has to post a sign outside its sportsfield that reads: "Attendance at this contest is not a license to verbally assault others or to be generally obnoxious." See the sign for yourself and read about parent-coach combat in this NYT piece.

-- Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact
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Mishel v. Podgursky
The latest Supreme Court decision? No, this is a debate between economists Larry Mishel and Mike Podgursky on teacher pay, hosted and posted by the National Council on Teacher Quality. If you know these fellas you can guess what sides they take, but lots of interesting data and nuances in this back-and-forth. Added bonus: funny caricatures of the debaters.

Like a lot of debates about teacher pay, this one tends to focus on whether average teacher pay is high enough. The implied policy question: should we raise teacher pay across the board? Problem here is that a substantial across the board raise would be incredibly expensive. In NC, for example, giving all teachers $5,000 raises would cost about $444 million annually, nearly 8% of the state's ed budget.

And there's little reason to believe the raise would result in increased student learning. More fruitful question: what kinds of targeted pay raises could really drive improvements? Differential pay for hard-to-staff schools, hard-to-fill positions, and demonstrated performance are all candidates, outlined in our PPI monograph on the topic and under experimentation in places like Denver.

-- Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact
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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Naysayers take notice...

When an individual school gets great results with a hard-to-educate population, it's easy to dismiss the outcome as an unreplicable outlier. But a growing number of succcessful schools are setting up organizations to replicate their successes elsewhere. Can this work? News from that front...New Haven's highly successful Amistad Academy's offshoot posted great results in its first year, boosting its inauguaral class from 26% reading proficiently to 96% by year end. How does Elm City College Preparatory Academy do it? The principal's reaction to the results pretty much tells the story: "We have 4 percent to go. We have four students who need to learn to read." More about Amistad's scale up plans here.

-- Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact
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Charter Schools, You've Been Framed!
Hot on the heels of the Eric Rofes / Alameda County report highlighted in a recent Eduwonk post, here's another entry on the tension between charter schools as complementary vs. competitive with the mainline public school system, this one from the Colorado Children Campaign's Alex Medler via the Hechinger Institute. Medler examines how DC media stories "frame" charter schools - as a source of competition and conflict, or as complementary options for kids. Some interesting patterns - for example, stories on chartering as a policy tend to stress the competitive side, while stories individual schools play up complementarity. What's Medler's own "frame"? He calls on journalists to recognize and describe these "dual aspects of the charter school movement." Read it here.

-- Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact
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Thanks a Lot, Eduwonk
I realize we're all about "high expectations" at Eduwonk, but with this introduction to my guestblogging stint I'm feeling like the pressure is just too great. At least Eduwonk gets to blog under an assumed name, and no one really knows his (or her) true identity. It's rumored, though, that Eduwonk has some affiliation to an Atlantic Coast Conference school, which means he/she would acknowledge that the big "education" news story of the day is this, a natural follow-on to this.

-- Guestblogger Bryan Hassel, Public Impact
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Gergen On TFA...Plus, Today's Progressive To Do List!
OK, so he wasn't Deep Throat...nevertheless David Gergen lets the cat out of the bag in a great U.S. News piece on Teach For America:

As you can imagine, skeptics have popped up all along the way: professors at schools of education scoffing that college graduates who haven't enrolled in formal teacher education will never succeed in the classroom; cynics who say that these are a just bunch of elitist kids punching their tickets to make it into law or business school who will then turn their backs on social reform. Well, the doubters just don't get this young generation.

A year ago, Mathematica Policy Research found that students of Teach for America recruits got better results in math and the same gains in reading as did those of other teachers, including veteran instructors. In math, the TFA students made a month more progress than other students. The results partly reflect the fact that 70 percent of Teach for America volunteers come from among the nation's most highly rated colleges, compared with fewer than 3 percent of other teachers; the results also reflect the passion that these volunteers bring to their work.

Dedicated to the cause. The 10,000 alumni of TFA have not turned their backs after their service, either. The organization says that nearly two thirds still work full time in education, most in low-income communities. TFA alum Jason Kamras, a math teacher in a Washington, D.C., public school, was just named national teacher of the year. Two other alumni, Mike Feinberg and David Levin, founded and now run what is probably the most successful set of charter schools in the country: the KIPP academies (Knowledge Is Power Program). Started in Houston and New York, the academies have become a network of 38 schools in low-income communities that demand extra studies by students, balance that with extracurricular activities like martial arts, music, chess, and sports, and--guess what?--have achieved the largest and quickest improvement in learning around the country. No fewer than 25 principals in KIPP schools are alumni of Teach for America.

Education To Do list for self-anointed progressives:
  1. Stop public charter schools
  2. Stop Teach For America
  3. Complain about Robert Gordon and TNR.

It's almost as if there are conservatives on both sides of the debate...

Update: Yes, yes...per several emails this says nothing about stopping NCLB but #4 sort of covers that, no?

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Hassel Cometh!
Eduwonk is off for a week. But you're in good hands. Bryan Hassel, noted eduwonk himself, will be revealing his formidable blogging skills and wicked sense of humor right here over the next week. Stay tuned.
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It's Official!
Joel Klein can simply not catch a break in New York. Kids could be doing cold fusion in science, saving endangered species in biology, and publishing books and poetry in English and there would still be grumbling. Have there been problems? Sure. But the relentless naysaying is out of hand and proportion.
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Dream Deferred
Harold Meyerson writes up the tale of a young girl caught in immigration madness in The Wash. Post. What's really outrageous here is that despite a lot of soothing rhetoric from the Bush Administration the Dream Act is still in limbo. This is a president who has demonstrated he can basically get what he wants on stuff like this…why no action here…not enough to just blame xenophobe Republicans in Congress.
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War Of The Worlds?
Rep. George Miller has an important new bill on teacher quality, The Teach Act of 2005, which does a bunch of useful things (pdf). It helps with differential pay and career ladders, accountability for teacher preparation programs, funding to develop value-added programs for teachers, and recruitment of new teachers. It's important both substantively and politically, it's a good reform-oriented bill.

Host of endorsement letters here. Note that the NEA still can't bring itself (pdf) to support offering teachers in scarce subjects extra compensation. The new public rationale is that shortage subjects might change in the future...no kidding, really?...good thing laws and incentives can change, too (and, in practice, it's hard to imagine anyone having their pay cut so it's really a permanent pay increase anyway). Their retrograde posture on this issue is nothing short of astounding, at some point something will have to give.

One quibble. The tax deduction for teacher expenses is a good move since there are some unique aspects to teaching on this score, but making part or all of teacher compensation tax-exempt, while well-intentioned, opens up a whole can of worms. Why not emergency room personnel, police, fire and rescue, etc? Better to just pay 'em what they deserve and keep some consistency in the tax code.
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Expand Your Charter Facilities
Everything you ever wanted to know about charter school facilities (pdf). Seriously, a terrific resource, an overview of the national landscape.
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Special Regs
The regulations on the new IDEA law are out, always controversial but perhaps less so this time because they're pretty tied to the law itself, per some new language.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

John Walton

John Walton was killed yesterday in Wyoming while flying an ultra-light plane. It's obviously important economic news, he was one of the wealthiest people in the world and Wal-Mart, love it or hate it, is a major economic force. It's also educational news.

Walton was very committed to parental choice in education, vouchers and charter schools. In fact, the growth of charters over the past fifteen years owes a great deal to two leaders from Arkansas. Bill Clinton broadened support for charters and the federal charter legislation he signed gave essential start-up funds to many schools. Walton's foundation supported hundreds of charters across the country and helped numerous charter schools secure facilities and expand.

There will probably be caricatures of Walton in the coming days because of his support for vouchers and the lightning rod that Wal-Mart is. That’s a disservice to a complicated person. PPI's education work was not financially supported by the Walton Foundation and we parted ways with Walton over the efficacy of school vouchers. But, it's worth pointing out that Walton's support for vouchers was the right kind of support in the sense that he had a well-developed idea of progress and how he saw vouchers fitting into that. In other words, he wasn't a hater like too many on both sides. He was a listener, refreshingly low-key, and knew how to agree to disagree, an increasingly lost art.

So, the educational world is poorer for his loss. He put his money where his mouth was and enlivened the debate about a vital social policy problem of our day. His service in Vietnam (volunteering as a special forces medic) and his philanthropy (which it should be noted went far beyond education, for instance as a seven figure patron of the National Museum for Women in the Arts and the Clinton Foundation, support for various health and women's issues, and numerous projects around Arkansas) show his sense of obligation to others. Agree or disagree about vouchers, it's hard to quibble with a life lived like that.

Update: Excellent article from the San Diego Tribune.
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Looks like the charter cap issue in NY is dead for the year, says Newsday. Via SOB.
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More Approps
A bit more on the appropriations bill and a proposed fix for the ongoing dispute about for-profit charter schools in AZ from the Title I Monitor.
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Bypass Procedure
In education policy, "bypass" for parochial schools is akin to the "nuclear option" in the Senate. The Archdiocese of Washington is going nuclear...
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Monday, June 27, 2005

Eggers On Teacher Pay, Russo On Eggers

Dave Eggers, Nínive Calegari, and Daniel Moulthrop have an op-ed in today's NYT about teacher pay. This Week's Russo picks it apart here.

It is one of those pieces that makes you look like a real grinch if you criticize it, but it is exactly the kind of feel-good exercise that ultimately won't lead to what the authors, and many others, want, higher teacher salaries.

First, their solution, using school bonds to pay for salaries is against the law almost everywhere (and not without good policy reasons). It's a crazy idea because given the political pressure on school boards, is it really wise to let them borrow money in addition to raising taxes? It's not any more acceptable for George Bush to put us all in hock for his fiscal policies than for well-meaning liberals to do the same for their issues. At the local level voters have to approve bonds, of course, but that's hardly a great check on problems especially considering the dynamics of local education elections.

Second, while they talk about average teacher salaries and offer some compelling anecdotes the authors fail to note the wide salary variation around the nation. In some places salaries are wildly below market, in others no. In some the problem is starting salaries, in others it's the midpoints or high end on the scale. They also fail to note the often generous benefits that teachers enjoy. Their story about a Redwood City teacher forced to sell wine is less compelling when you consider the health benefits he'll enjoy as a result of his service -- something even some of his chardonnay sipping customers may not. Not a reason not to address salary issues (or expand access to health care for that matter) but relevant context nonetheless.

Rather than pay teachers more for the same work-year, it might be useful to think about lengthening the school year. Time is too often treated as fixed in education discussions. Longer school years, particularly for at-risk students, is not only a good idea, it's a reform the public gets. Likewise, their private sector executive who wouldn't try to improve staff quality without resources also wouldn't try to do it by paying everyone the same regardless of the scarcity of their skills or how challenging their work environment was.

Reform will help with new resources but one can't happen without the other.
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Illiberal Liberals
Peter Schrag reports on some goings on in CA and how ultimately counterproductive and sad this is. Too much great stuff to pull quote here, read the entire thing. Via Jacobs.
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New Charter Report
Kudos to Alameda County School Superintendent Sheila Jordan. Instead of letting charter public schools and traditional public schools fight like cats and dogs she convened a task force to provide an opportunity for leaders on both sides to sit down and talk through the issues.

The result is this genuinely interesting report (pdf). In short, there are differences, sure, that's life...but also a lot of common ground not just on the broad goal of serving kids well, but also on some specific policy issues. There is also a lot more nuance than the political back and forth from both sides often indicates.

Incidentally, the task force leader, Eric Rofes, also recently co-wrote this must-read book.
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Often there is a kabuki quality to Washington budget fights, but it's worth keeping an eye on the appropriations bill that funds education this year. Though most of the attention has been on the Viagra controversy, there are actually stiff cuts to some education programs.
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Landrieu For President?
That's exactly what more than one Eduwonk correspondent said when they saw this new idea from Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). It's not the first time she's gone outside the box on education.
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Many thanks to Richard Colvin for guestblogging for most of the last week. Bryan Hassel starts at the end of this week.
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