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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

American Educator
Chronicle of Higher Education
Education Next
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Jay Mathews' Class Struggle
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Teacher Magazine

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The Politico
Post Global
Real Clear Politics
Taking Note
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WSJ's Blog Federation
Washington Whispers


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
Assorted Stuff
Mr. B-G's English Blog
Barnett Berry
Bill Jackson's Education Blog
Bridging Differences (Meier and Ravitch)
Bulletin Board (NASBE)
Campaign K-12 (Ed Week)
Chaos Theory
Charter Blog (NAPCS)
Charter School Policy Inst. Blog
Chez Dormont
Chris Correa
Class Context
The College Puzzle
College Ready Blog (Athens Learning Group)
The Common School
Conversation Starters
Core Knowledge Blog
Critical Mass
Dangerously Irrelevant
Daryl Cobranchi
Dave Shearon
Dave Saba (ABCTE)
DC Education Blog
Dems for Education Reform
The Deputy Head
Early Ed Watch
Early Stories
Educated Nation
Educating One Mind
The Education Network
The Education Wonks
Edwize (UFT)
Eponymous Educator
Essential Blog
Extra Credit
Flypaper (Fordham)
Fordham Fellows
From The Trenches
The Gadfly
Get On The Bus (Dayton Daily News)
Get Schooled (AJC)
The Gradebook (St. Pete Times)
Grumpy Professor
The Hall Monitor
Higher Ed Watch
Hip Teacher
I Thought A Think
In Other News (Ed Week)
Inside Pre-K
Jay Greene
Jenny D.
John Merrow
K-12 Hotlinks
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
Paper Trail (USN)
ParaNews (NCP)
Paul Baker
The Portable Princess
The PrincipalsPage
Principal's Policy Blog (NASSP)
Quasi Dictum
Roy Romer
Running on Empty
School of Blog
School Zone (MJS)
Schools for Tomorrow
Science After School
SF Schools
Sherman Dorn
SITE Mentor
Small Talk
Special Education Law Blog
Starting Over (Ed Week)
Swift & Change Able
Teach and Learn
Teacher Voices
Teachers At Risk
Teachers' Lounge
Teaching in the 408
Teaching Rookie
Think Lab
This is how I Swim
This Week In Education
Tim Fredrick
Up The Down Staircase
Urban Angle
What up, Mz. Smlph?
Whitney Tilson
Why Boys Fail
Why Homeschool

Educational Resources and Organizations

AALE Charter School Accreditation
Alliance for Excellent Education
American Association of School Administrators
American Educational Research Association
American Federation of Teachers
American Institutes For Research
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Aspen Institute
Asia Society
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
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Building Excellent Schools
Center for American Progress
Center for Education Reform
Center for School Change
Center on Education Policy
Center on Reinventing Public Education
Citizens Commission On Civil Rights
Coalition of Essential Schools
Community College Research Center
Community Training and Assistance Center
Council of Chief State School Officers
Council of Great City Schools
Core Knowledge Foundation
Data Quality Campaign
Democratic Leadership Council
eSchool News
Education Commission of the States
Education Evolving
Education Sector
The Education Trust
George Lucas Educational Foundation
Haberman Foundation
Hechinger Institute On Education and the Media
Joyce Foundation
Just for the Kids
Knowledge Alliance
Learning Point Associates
Local School Directory
Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning
The Mind Trust
National Academies Center for Education
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
National Association of Charter School Authorizers
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.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tell Us What You Really Think, Willie!

Must read article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Willie Jude, a tireless educator when I knew him in the 1990's, retired Friday after 32-years as a teacher and administrator in the Milwaukee Public Schools. He cuts loose on some of the problems he sees. Story notes that as a kid in Mississippi he never saw an actual telephone until a teacher brought one to his high school class. But his parents, he notes, provided things that too many kids today don't get: high expectations and discipline.

You've got to read all of his quotes, bulleted at the end of the article.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 12:00 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Breaking News in San Diego
Long Beach's Carl Cohn has been selected to be the new superintendent of the San Diego City Schools, replacing Alan Bersin, now California's Secretary of Education. VERY interesting move. Read the Union Tribune story here.

For those still binging with us, note in the story that not only was the San Diego Education Association praying for Cohn, Cohn is known for COLLABORATION. Drink!!

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 10:55 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Friday, July 22, 2005

Get Out Your Blenders and Drink Up!

First off, I wish to thank both the highly-qualified readers here, as well as Eduwonk himself, whom I consider to be one of the kings of higher-order thinking, for allowing me to rant, rave, and post my way to a new paradigm for a few days this week. (Drink, drink, and drink!) Seriously, it was a pleasure to get as much feedback as I got here this week.

As promised, here is a list of 24 jargony words to drink by. Special thanks to all of those who played along, and to all those who will hoist a few henceforth. The rules are simple: Each time you hear one of these often-used words from the education world, take a swig of whatever makes you happy. If you have no beverage (as often happens when these words come up) feel free to giggle, as long as you promise to do it in a manner that is completely condescending to those around you!

Eduwonk returns on Monday. In the mean time, get your glasses ready...

1. Rubric (Just try not to laugh the next time you hear it!)
2. Paradigm
3. Time-on-task
4. Incentivize
5. Dead white guys
6. Scaffold (as a verb)
7. Authentic learning
8. Differentiated instruction
9. Integrated learning
10. Constructivist
11. Balanced literacy
12. Highly qualified
13. Standards-based
14. Performance-based
15. Research-based
16. Scientifically-based
17. Self-directed learning (Sounds too much like something that causes hair to grow on palms.)
18. Developmentally-appropriate
19. Capacity building
20. Best practices (Mandatory group hugs, however, around anyone who uses the vernacular "stuff that works pretty good.")
21. Higher order thinking (I had a roommate in college who was really into higher order thinking. He is no longer able to produce children.)
22. Collaborate (Not unless pastries are served.)
23. Transparency (It doesn't really exist.)
24. Train wreck (When used to describe standards movement/NCLB, etc. )

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 3:05 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

What Do Checker And Randi Have In Common?
In many respects, Chester Finn and the Fordham Foundation are the polar opposites of Randi Weingarten and the United Federation of Teachers. At least on the political spectrum. But both are in the process of putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to school reform. Fordham has initiated contracts with 13 charter schools in Ohio, meaning they will soon have a bunch of living, breathing schools under their watchful eye -- each school bearing a potential bull's eye for their idealogical opponents.

Likewise, the UFT yesterday got the final green light they needed to open their new charter elementary school in East New York, a neighborhood in desperate need of additional quality schooling options.

There has been a lot of strange politics involved in the union's attempts to get a charter here in NYC, particularly since the union's official lobbying stance lists charter schools as a no-no. And despite a steady drum of critics who had problems with the curriculum and structure of the school as it was proposed, the union's application was as solid as some of the most successful charters in the state.

Like the Fordham Foundation, the UFT (and Randi Weingarten in particular) now has certain bragging-rights attached to this school. Does anyone really think the union or Fordham will allow these schools to fail? In many respects, this is a level of accountability that even transcends regular, run-of-the-mill charters. Both Randi and Checker know full well that every move they make will be watched closely, and that there will be no shortage of folks ready to pounce on them if things go wrong. What an amazing time in education, that both are so willing to take a risk.

Many critics of the UFT have been skeptical about the union's stated goal that it wished to use this school to prove that its labor contract isn't an obstacle for reform. That will no doubt be an interesting and important debate if and when we get to it. But the teachers we met with yesterday at the union's Manhattan headquarters sounded an awful lot like the teachers who will be teaching in the schools Fordham will be chartering: They are sick of all the crap that the bureaucracy hurls at them and are seeking refuge in a charter school, where they will be able to most effectively perform the work they believe they were called to do.

No matter where you sit on the political fence, I think you've got to give credit to people and groups who are willing to get dirt under their fingernails in this debate, rather than just pontificating from the sidelines. And if the rest of us are serious about longing for a better education for our kids, we should be congratulating these risk-takers for putting their tails on the line and praying for their success.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 11:10 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Strong Leadership in DC
The folks at the Fordham Foundation have put out this feel-good paper, which describes how one person with a vision is capable of making significant change that impacts the lives of students. Mary Anne Stanton has led 13 inner-city Catholic schools in Washington, D.C. into a consortium that has not only strengthened the schools' financial health but also greatly improved the academic performance of their students. Read more here.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 11:03 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Failure Is NOT An Option

This one is kicking around all over the net, but was simply too good to pass up. The same people who brought you Benny Hill and Monty Python, give us this latest bit of hilarity: They want to ban the word "failure" in schools, replacing it with the more child-centered and constructivist term "deferred success."

For those getting an early start on our Hi Bob-style drinking game, I believe this means you are looking at at least three swigs.

Read the story here. Seriously, it's like butter it's so good!

UPDATE: Alert reader suggests that N.Y. Yankees skipper Joe Torre will henceforth refer to strikeouts as "deferred hits." It is amazing to me how many Red Sox fans have been swirling around this site this week. I am getting close to going with the nuclear option. (Two words: Bucky... Dent...)

-- Joe Williams
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When Technocrats Attack
You'd think having summer reading programs for students would be an easy enough feat for people with doctorates in education to pull off. You steal one of the many summer reading lists already available all over the globe, run off a few million copies and get it into the hands of students and their parents. (Or, if you are into the whole consensus-building thing, you appoint a commission to meet a few dozen times over 18-months to create a list similar to the ones you can just-as-easily rip-off from other states and districts on the Internet, run off a few million copies, etc.) Then, the kids come back to school in the fall and you make them write an essay or give them a test of some sort. (I remember cramming on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle on the night before school started when I was in high school, cognizant that my first quarter grade would depend upon it.)

But in New York State, the men and women in charge of the state’s schooling bureaucracy recently were forced to issue an 866-word “Guidance on Locally Required Summer Reading Assignments” to remind everyone that since we’re talking about public education there are rules, rules, rules which must be followed! Check it out here.

The rules aren't particularly shocking (you can’t force kids to buy the books, which means you’ve got to make sure they are free and available, teachers must be available over the summer to help students if they need it, etc.) So why must this stuff be formally codified for the highly-educated men and women who run school systems? For the answer, you have to go here , and here , and here.

So, do we come up with stupid rules for smart people to follow, or smart rules for stupid people to follow? You decide.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 9:46 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Friday Eduwonk Happy Hour Set
Tomorrow afternoon we'll post the growing list of overused-to-the-point-of-thirstiness words in the education world, with the hopes that readers will be inspired to honor them by tipping back their beverage of choice each time they hear it.

You can continue to send in your suggestions for our little drinking game to eduwonkguest@yahoo.com. Five lucky winners among those who submit entries will win free copies of my forthcoming book Cheating Our Kids, which deals with the glamorous world of education politics in America. Top winner will get a handwritten copy of the book converted into Haiku. (Disclosure: Many of the terms being submitted for our Eduwonk Happy Hour DO appear in the book, but sometimes in a naughty, naughty way!)

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 9:30 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Any Eduwonk Readers At These Meetings?

The San Diego Education Association recently held informational meetings for teachers working in schools that were listed as 3rd year AYP/PI (Adequate Yearly Progress/Program Improvement.) You can see their notice here. Under No Child Left Behind, the 4th year is when double super secret drastic things happen to these chronically failing schools like this.

It would be interesting to know, from any participants at the meetings, whether any presentations were made to attendees by the dues-paying teachers at those four San Diego schools who voted this year to convert their 4th year AYP/PI schools into charter schools. The hunch, obviously, is that these meetings were called SPECIFICALLY to prevent teachers from stepping out of line again this year and voting for that kind of local autonomy. Prove my hunch wrong someone!

If you were there and can comment, drop a line to eduwonkguest@yahoo.com.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 12:34 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Randi and Bloomy, Sittin In a Tree?
Tis the season in NYC for reporters and politicos to watch intently for any hidden signals being sent by UFT President Randi Weingarten about whether (a) there is a new teacher contract in the works, (b) the union will be endorsing any of the candidates for mayor, and (c) there is any sort of connection whatsoever between (a) and (b). The parsing of her words is particularly intense.

So it made for some good chatter this week when Republican Mayor Bloomberg, who continues to make Gotham's Democratic candidates seem irrelevant at times, announced his plans to create a new retention policy for 7th graders. The usually-bombastic Weingarten issued a statement calling it "a good way to help build on past successes and help better prepare our middle school children for high school." Come again?

Speculation kicked into gear that Bloomberg and Weingarten were secretly making plans to break bread again at the ballpark. Some teachers and at least one visitor to this NYC political blog speculated that a contract deal for the city's teachers would be sealed up by the start of school in September, and that the UFT might even join the chorus of endorsements for Bloomberg before November's general election.

I can see why a guy spending his own money to win re-election might covet such an endorsement. A battle with angry teachers in the weeks before the election might cost him a few million more than if they were behind him, or even sitting this one out. But I don't understand the CW that a UFT endorsement is something all politicians for higher office dream about at night. History shows the city's teachers union hasn't endorsed a winning candidate for mayor since David Dinkins in 1989. So is a UFT endorsement for mayor really a feather in the cap, or the kiss of death?

UPDATE: See what Bloomberg had to say about the contract here. Note that Bloomberg said the same thing last summer, at which time Weingarten was heard laughing out loud throughout Brooklyn. She didn't laugh this time.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 12:10 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Eminence Front - It's a Put-On
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel muckrackers Cary Spivak and Dan Bice take a look at how minority contracting requirements for school construction have been handled in the Milwaukee Public Schools. Good intentions gone awry? Are the firms involved front groups for white businesses? “We thought we were playing by the rules,” said project manager Joe Schmidt, of J. H. Findorf contractors, describing the way things seem to work in Brew Town. Read about it here and decide for yourself.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 12:05 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Should "Webinar" Be On The Drinking Game List?

Perhaps it hasn't been adequately beaten into the ground yet to make the cut. But in the mean time, a webinar of epic proportions is planned for 1-3 p.m. EST Wednesday on “innovations in promoting teacher success.” The cast includes Teaching Commission Exec. Dir. Gaynor McCown, U.S. Ed Dept’s Nina Rees, Harvard’s Stephen Goldsmith, U-Penn’s Ted Hershberg, Denver merit-pay guru Brad Jupp, and Teacher Advancement Program Foundation’s Lewis Solomon. You can find the webinar here.

PS – You will be able to tell the Eduwonk readers because they will be furiously taking sips of their favorite beverages every time someone types “capacity building” or any other term on the growing “Hi Bob” list.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 4:45 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

What Do You Do If Your Kid Gets A 'D' In Science?
If you are Ed Secretary Margaret Spellings, curiously and affectionately known in these parts as Earth Mother, you throw on your SLG’s (sexy librarian glasses) and high-tail it down to your daughter's school to, in her words, “tackle the problem head on.” Lo and behold, her daughter got an A in science the next grading period!!! This according to Spellings’ speech to the National Council of La Raza, which can be found here.

All kidding aside, this and other kinds of meaningful parental involvement seem to be exactly what is needed in our nation’s schools, which was sort of the point she was making.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 4:41 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Mayoral Control in L.A.?
A bill introduced by state Sen. Gloria Romero would allow the mayor of Los Angeles to appoint members to an expanded school board. See L.A. Times story here. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is sending mixed signals on the issue. He has called for mayoral control of the nation’s second-largest school district, but responded to Romero’s bill by saying he would rather “build trust and confidence” around the idea of mayoral control by first appointing a panel of experts to tell him what the silver bullet is when it comes to urban school reform. Hopefully, the Purple Pen lobby will be adequately represented on the panel. The LAT story adequately captures the predictable hand-wringing from representatives of the local education cartel. For her part, Romero comes off sounding like she actually means business: “People can have all the commissions they want, but I want action. At the end of the day, you need to have some teeth to get anything done.”

UPDATE: More on Villaraigosa's position here.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 12:20 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Wasn't Midnight Basketball Supposed To Stop This?
A bunch of South Side Chicago teens, who were clearly White Sox fans, broke into a school bus parking lot over the weekend and started playing demolition-style bumper-bus. Two of the buses were driven through a brick wall. Good grief. The Chicago Tribune has the story here.

Speaking of the Sox, their red-dyed counterparts in Beantown took one heck of a butt-kicking from a washed-up Republican named Al Leiter over the weekend. Heck of a game. Could have NYC mayoral election implications? Anyone who wishes to pitch for the Yankees need only call Bloomberg, who brags that his Manhattan home number is listed.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 12:18 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

School Choice in the Commonwealth
They used to shun competition for reasons both practical (their schools were full) and philosophical (they, uh, didn’t dig the whole competing thing) but today, 149 of Massachusetts’ 328 public school systems have begun pitching their services to students outside their district boundaries. Boston Globe story reports they “woo the students with promises of safer schools, full-day kindergarten, and perhaps a better shot at making the basketball team.” Under Massachusetts state law, if kids opt to enroll in a participating district, their home district is required to pay the receiving district a portion of the cost of the child’s education. The idea is allow school districts with tight budgets and declining enrollments to hustle to keep their livelihoods.

Interesting that big cities like Boston and Worcester choose not to participate. Worcester Superintendent James Caradonio reminds Globe readers that the only form of school choice that he finds groovy is Choice By Realtor. “If you really want to come to our schools, move into our city,” Caradonio barked. Harvard’s William Howell had some fun looking at Caradonio’s philosophy with regard to students transfers under the federal No Child Left Behind law last year. In this lively piece, Howell describes how only one child out of the 4,700 students who had the right to transfer from a failing school in 2002-03 braved through the bizarre process required to bail out. Howell calls the process, which requires parents who want school choice to meet face-to-face with their principal and then, later, a bureaucrat in charge of keeping a lid on transfers “friendly discouragement.”

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 12:14 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Keep Those Submissions Coming
Thanks to all those who emailed responses for our on-going "Hi Bob" style drinking game. (See yesterday's post on this for details.) I'll put a list of the best ones together for Friday. Five lucky winners from the submissions will be given free copies of my soon-to-be-released book Cheating Our Kids, which just happens to be available for pre-orders on Amazon at an amazingly low price. Grand prize winner will get a handwritten copy of the book that has been converted into Haiku.

Send your favorite overused (to the point of becoming meaningless) education-related phrases to eduwonkguest@yahoo.com.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 12:10 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

CFE and the UFT
New York Post columnist and libertarian blogger Ryan Sager has an interesting take on one way to pick away at the United Federation of Teachers contract. See here. The idea, which has been bandied about somewhat in Gotham, involves using the precedent set in the city's Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit to initiate a similar case against the union. The CFE case hinged upon the notion that students had not received a "sound, basic education" from the city's public school system. Judge Leland DeGrasse ruled that the culprit was inadequate funding and ordered the state to find a way to pump a few billion ($5.6 billion per year, not counting capital funds) into the city's coffers. Sager suggests a case could be made for the impact of the UFT contract on the same kids.

It's an interesting discussion, and observers have long regarded the CFE case as a Pandora's box that could lead in many different legal directions. But why stop with just tinkering with the labor contracts? Why not use the case to provide some relief for the victims?

Politicians and interest groups have been tripping over themselves demanding that New York State provide financial relief to the city school system. It always sounds like they think the SYSTEM is the victim -- rather than the students who have been getting screwed in its schools for decades. The bottom line in the case was that hundreds of thousands of city youngsters were being denied a proper education because they were attending crappy New York City public schools. Let's reward that system that produced the crappiness with even more money, the argument goes. So as long as we're throwing ideas around, why not cut out the middle-man in this case? Take the $5.6 billion and give it directly to the city's 1.1 million students and let them seek out their own "sound, basic education" as a form of reparations. That amounts to more than $5,000 for every public school kid in the city - without touching the existing $15 billion school budget.

Just imagine the possibilities. Of course, $5,000 isn't a lot in a city that prides itself in its outrageously high tuitions for its elite private schools, but there are many Catholic, charter, and traditional public schools which would be more than willing to take drastic measures to make their schools more appealing for parents and effective for kids. Give the money to the parents and require them to sign it over to the school of their choice, in addition to the regular per-pupil allocations. Some parents might even be smart enough to hold out on signing the check until the schools shaped up.

The bonus is that if some kids do bolt for private schools, it will help reduce class size in our public schools without having to build so many new schools. Dude, pass the bong. This is getting interesting.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 12:07 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Monday, July 18, 2005

New 7th Grade Retention Plan in NYC

Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced today that he is expanding his push to end social promotion (sort of) to 7th grade. In January 2004, he announced that as of immediately, that year's 3rd grade class would be required to score a level 2 or above (level 2 is passing on a scale of 1-4) on math and reading tests in order to be promoted to 4th grade. Panic ensued. No one was killed or injured, but it ended up a sloppy rush-job of a policy. Last year, the mayor announced much earlier in the school year that the policy would extend to 5th graders, and things were much quieter. Now, the 7th grade plan will be part of an intense new focus on middle schools -- a longtime disaster area in NYC.

The policies have been very controversial in certain quarters, and represent the kind of policy that previously might have been killed for lack of a consensus among the establishment. That was before control of the schools was given to Bloomberg in 2002. The mayor pointed himself in this direction, stubbornly dug in his heels, and demanded that his education team make it happen. NY Times story is here. Newsday story is here. Time will tell whether this all makes a difference. In the mean time, no matter where you sit on the retention issue, it is noteworthy that Bloomberg keeps finding a way to plow forward with it.

-- Joe Williams
Posted at 7:02 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

We've Been Cleared for Takeoff!
This is a rather intimidating assignment. The bar has indeed been set high by both my fellow guest-bloggers and Eduwonk himself. Let’s see if we can make it through the week without harming any animals or jeopardizing my cushy and extremely high-paying job at New York’s Hometown Newspaper. At this time, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position, and for gosh sakes, keep the seatbelt fastened. The pilot is expecting some serious turbulence by about Wednesday. In the mean time, I’ll be making my way through the cabin with the beverage cart – and it’s all free!

-Joe Williams
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When I Think Back On All The Crap I Learned
In high school. Were Simon and Garfunkel ever considered threats to public education? It’s a wonder they could think at all. A new National Governor’s Association Survey found most American high school kids think their schooling is a complete joke, and that a majority of kids who plan to bolt before graduation would do so because they were “not learning anything” or “I hate my school.” Interesting quote from the National Education Association’s Barbara Kapinus in this NY Times story on the survey. She seems to find it fascinating that what real live kids are saying seems to be in line with what critics have been saying for some time. Those rascals!

-Joe Williams
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First Charters, Now the AFL-CIO
A recent post here by Eduwonk referred to a connection between religious institutions and charter schools. This fascinating L.A. Times story highlights the labor movement’s hope that God will help boost union membership nationwide. The story notes that this isn’t entirely new, giving a nod to Cesar Chavez’ work with religious leaders, among others. But I was really hoping someone would offer up a quote about how Jesus was a carpenter and look what The Man did to him, afterall.

The whole thing reminded me of one of my favorite religious experiences at an event packed with public school teachers. At the 1998 NEA Representative Assembly in New Orleans, a local rabbi led an invocation in which 10,000 teacher delegates prayed to their maker for protection from vouchers and tuition tax credits.

Meanwhile, teachers all over America this summer are having trouble sleeping over this whole Wal-Mart boycott thing. Actually, they insist it isn’t a full-fledged boycott, but rather a national “Wake Up Wal-Mart” campaign. For years, activists have been urging teachers to spend their cash elsewhere because of Walton-family support for charter schools and school choice. It doesn’t seem to have crippled the retail giant yet, and expect this campaign to be as successful as the union’s work in the last few presidential campaigns. This Orlando Sentinel story quotes David DeMond, president of the Orange County Teachers Association, offering one possible explanation: Where he lives, there ARE no other stores.

-Joe Williams
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Call For Submissions
Looking for some help from alert and witty readers. Remember that Bob Newhart drinking game you used to play back in college? Where you had to drink every time someone said “Hi Bob” and by the third set of commercials you were already making plans to drop your 8 a.m. Tuesday-Thursday classes? For a few years, some colleagues on the schools beat here in NYC have offered fun, yet obnoxiously overused phrases from the schools world for a similar effort.

So, whenever someone says “best practices,” we all have to drink. (I think Elizabeth Hays at the Daily News offered that one.) Same with “pedagogue,” which I think came from WNBC-TV's Carol Ann Riddell, and most will agree is a word that gives you the heebie-jeebies. For me, whenever I hear the phrase “capacity building,” I get thirsty as all hell.

I’d love to round this out with a solid-list of about 20 phrases from the Praxis of Evil that would make game-players giddy nationwide. Got one for the list? Send all ideas to eduwonkguest@yahoo.com. I’ll prepare a list of the best entries by the end of the week.

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