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Collective Bargaining in Education: Negotiating Change in Today's Schools

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Why Newsweek's List of America's 100 Best High Schools Doesn't Make the Grade

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A Qualified Teacher
in Every Classroom

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America's Teaching Crisis

By Jason Kamras and Andrew J. Rotherham

Rethinking Special Education For A New Century

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Making The Cut: How States Set Passing Scores on Standardized Tests

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Cash & Counseling

What would happen if Medicaid recipients - poor people - were allowed to get cash directly?

That is, let's say you were paralyzed. Traditional Medicaid would pay for a specified type of wheelchair; a specified type of therapy; a particular type of person to drive you places.

Our little thought experiment: what would happen if you basically controlled the cash? You were allowed to, say, spend a lot more on the super-duper wheelchair and cut back on some of car rides. You were allowed to pay your cousin Sal to drive you for $12 per hour instead of Medicaid paying the bureaucratic van program $37.50 per hour. Maybe you could cut back a bit on the in-hospital therapy and pay for this cool water aerobics class you heard about at the YMCA.

Well, Stalinists would fear the worst. No central control! Cousin Sal would get paid for rides he never provided! The YMCA lady would let you drown - or at least swallow a lot of water! You'd cut all your therapy out and go wheelchair racing for pinks!

But this is NOT a thought experiment. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Boston College, and others have collaborated to actually start this:

"The Cash & Counseling approach provides consumers with a flexible monthly allowance that is based on an individualized budget, which allows them to direct and manage their own personal assistance services and address their own specific needs. In addition, this innovative program offers counseling and fiscal assistance to help consumers manage their allowance and responsibilities by themselves or with the aid of a representative. These main features are adaptable to consumers of all ages with various types of disabilities and illnesses. Cash & Counseling intends to increase consumer satisfaction, quality, and efficiency in the provision of personal assistance services."

So who cares?

Same idea, different industry: What would happen if we let students and their parents control part of their per-pupil allocation?

I.e., what if a Boston kid could control, say, $2,000 per year of the $14,000 per year spent on her education? BPS would strip back a bit to offer a $12,000 per year "basic education" - math, English, science, history.

And then the student, with parental permission, could choose: extra math tutoring, an English class size of 15 instead of the usual 30, guitar lessons, free Harry Potter books from Amazon, AP Psychology, counseling for her boyfriend problems, Spanish class with a year-end trip to Spain, college advising, the "Advisory" that progressives love so much, art class.

I know, I know. The Stalinists would freak out. In a high school where 1,000 kids made their choices, they'd I.D. the 5 stupidest uses of money - a kid who needs math tutoring spends all of the money on guitar lessons AND her mom signs off on it.

But that's not the standard that Cash & Counseling uses, of course. The reasonable standard is: would this method improve student achievement and graduation rates (closely linked to student satisfaction) compared to the current centralized method of allocation, where the school district decides what electives and clubs to offer, in what quantities, with zero thought to perceived student quality.

If Alan Simpson High had a great part-time art teacher, it would quickly become oversubscribed, and the school would have the student-directed funds to make her full-time. Meanwhile, kids would vote with their feet to avoid the crappy college advisor, who would become de-funded.

If Robert Reich High had a wonderful college advisor, and an insane art teacher with 30 cats at home, the opposite would happen.

Student satisfaction up, student attendance up, graduation rates and possibly achievement up.

- Guest blogger Goldstein Gone Wild
Posted at 4:08 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Would you like pi's with that?
A tasty Associated Press story was picked up by a bunch of major newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronice, and Boston Globe.

"Students working at some McDonald's restaurants around the country are getting paid whether they are flipping burgers or flipping through textbooks. At Kathy and Jerry Olinik's two restaurants about 55 miles west of Detroit, high school and college students will be allowed to stay on the clock for an extra hour before or after their shifts this fall, as long as they spend the time doing schoolwork."
Posted at 2:55 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Friday, August 05, 2005

Tales From The Staff Lounge: Real Teacher Life

Does NCLB actually help real-life teachers with real-life problems? Here are three great posts from some Blog archives.

1. Quasi Dictum flunks a kid who exerted zero effort all year. Parents threaten lawsuit. In theory, NCLB stiffens spines of pathetic principals tempted to socially promote their students. Reality at suburban schools is that few face any risk of sanctions - except for their minority acheivement gaps. Result: with no backing from the principal, QD caves in and passes the kid.

2. Hipteacher happens across a student blog (not school project, just kid's personal blog) where he threatens to gun down some enemies. Probably joking, but still. Should she turn him in? In theory, NCLB measures student safety. Reality is that the measurements are so hopelessly wrong that this provision does nothing. It should be that a school is somehow credited for identifying a threat, right?

3. In theory, NCLB should help reduce ridiculous math curriculum and replace with commonsense rigorous curriculum combined with lots of hard work. GGW thinks that's happening more than if there were no NCLB, but luckily Instructivist is there to capture all of the exceptions and keep our eye on the "work hard" ball.

- Guest blogger MG
Posted at 11:47 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

NCLB Grab Bag
On Tobacco Road, "Ill schools getting expert help."

In Terrell Owens land, "Eleven failing schools to be top priority."

In Atlanta, "Student transfers from failing schools almost double."

"One hundred sixty-one Gwinnett County students are taking advantage of a federal law that allows them to transfer to a better-performing school. The transfers are possible through the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires schools to make continual progress in the academic performance of all students. Schools that miss the standard face sanctions. Ten Gwinnett County schools were required to offer transfers because the schools missed testing goals for at least two consecutive years."

Hard for NCLB opponents to deny that the law isn't succeeding in creating a sense of urgency to improve failing schools.

Whether that urgency is leading to actual student achievement gains, now THAT we can debate. The meta-teacher-blog seems to collectively show some skepticism of how much the "experts" really know about driving student achievement.

In Chicago, not this much joy since Jordan shoved Bryon Russell and nailed the game winner. Headlines trumpet big reading gains. Even tough-to-please Russo calls it "a nice end of summer/start of school treat for the city school system and its many helpers and shapers." Plus Da Bears haven't yet lost a game!

Look more closely, though, at the actual data - then you make the call.

- Guest blogger Goldstein Gone Wild
Posted at 8:31 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Thursday, August 04, 2005

You Forgot Dandruff Doug

Mr. AB at his usual hilarious self - check out his "10 types of teachers."

"Eccentric Emily – Probably well–meaning, Emily asks questions and offers comments that make you think, “This person is allowed to teach children?” She generally wears teacher-clothing gone to a horrible extreme and leaves you worrying about just how far from her you really are. You guiltily spy her sitting alone at lunch but nonetheless eat with your own teacher-clique."

- Guest blogger Grumpy Goldstein
Posted at 9:19 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Krispy Kreme-fueled Professional Development
Assorted Stuff brainstorms on teacher training: "One of the biggest problems with professional development programs in most schools systems is there really isn’t a plan that links the training to the improvement of teaching. Traditionally, teachers must earn a certain number of credits to retain their jobs and earn more money. But it’s largely up to each individual teacher to decide what they they will study....Someone could choose a class in jewelry making or one on using the internet to teach social studies and the two courses would carry the same value..."

Meanwhile, Bud The Teacher is pumped about training on how to teach writing. Instead of useless one-shot lectures, he notes that "one district has committed the resources to provide a year long in-service (five meetings over the course of the school year)."

Coach (not Larry) Brown is probably getting his car keyed this very moment by angry classmates in his current professional development program. "If you aren't for Multiculturalism in the classroom, you are a racist bastard.........or so the attitude that I'm getting from my Multiculturalism class that I'm taking..."

The must-read multi-post is by the sizzlin' Ms. Frizzle. She describes a week of PD at a UConn teacher training conference called Confratute (Q: why do educators get no respect? A: we have the stupidest names for everything). Frizz's post is meaningful reflection with a dash of (legitimate) complaining. Start here and work towards July 23.

Goldstein Gone Wild adds: We educators chirp a lot about how we want the same respect as, say, doctors. Let me share an example of doctor professional development.

GGW's better half is currently spending a week at a snazzy Colorado hotel for some doctor training [note to self: apartment = disaster, 24 hours to clean].

Sounds good, right? Golf, tennis, buffalo, martinis, idle chatter about Martha Stewart's ankle bracelet?

Nope. These docs are working 14 hours per day "writing protocols" - i.e., they propose an experiment creating a new combination of cancer drugs and how they would structure a randomized trial; then frantically research to find biological arguments to back up their ideas; then they make presentations to a committee of experts who ruthlessly rip them apart. Then they go back to work, present again, and get ripped apart again, all in an atmosphere of urgency and stress.

Is all medical training like this? Hell, no. But can any of us honestly say we've ever been to weeklong boot-camp PD where teachers actually got up and taught, had their efforts critiqued without lots of false praise, were dismissed to labor obsessively to improve, tried again, more brutal feedback, etc?

GGW: What have you learned?

Sounds like the KIPP of PD.
Posted at 3:46 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Lactose Tolerant Charter School To Teach Moon Made Of Cheese
You've no doubt seen President Bush's controversial, off-hand remarks endorsing "intelligent design" (the re-branding of creationism). Yesterday's NY Times has some backpedaling:

"At the White House, where intelligent design has been discussed in a weekly Bible study group, Mr. Bush's science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, sought to play down the president's remarks as common sense and old news. Mr. Marburger said in a telephone interview that 'evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology' and 'intelligent design is not a scientific concept.' Mr. Marburger also said that Mr. Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean that the president believes that intelligent design should be discussed as part of the 'social context' in science classes."

From Catholic World, interesting reader comments including:

"A few oft repeated observations: 1)Darwin didn't know DNA. He didnt even know Mendel's work (black peas/white peas) on inheritance. 2) Everything in nature tends to disorder and entrophy... Darwin evolution postulates the opposite and that, Captain Kirk, is illogical."

And from Islam Online:

"In short, Intelligent Design is not alien to Islam. It is very much our cause, and we should do everything we can to support it."

As for the free-market, liberatarian organizations which you'd expect to smack Bush upside the head, Cato Institute instead plugs school choice:

"Under a system of school choice, parents could choose the school that best fit their child's needs -- with or without school uniforms, with or without school prayer, teaching evolution or creation, and so on. We'd have no more trials of teachers, and fewer dissatisfied parents."

And the most novel argument is published in National Review:

"...Intelligent Design aggressively challenges the status of many professionals currently laboring in secular academia. And because one of the hallmarks of the defense of Darwinism is precisely the kind of rhetorical displays of intimidation, threat, authority, and insult that Pinker describes."

Get it? The scientists are reacting in a Darwinian way -- they are animals, fighting to hold onto their beliefs -- and therefore they cannot be trusted under their own theory. Nice bit of twisted logic.

GGW's favorite is from the Pulitzer Prize winning "Betty The Crow News Online"

"We would also urge that other neglected areas of science be returned to the classroom. Flat Earth theorists have received short shrift these past several centuries, and when was the last time exponents of Apollo’s charioteering got a fair shot at debunking the notion that nightfall occurs when the earth “rotates” away from the sun?"

- Guest blogger MG
Posted at 8:47 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Paging Lou Gerstner

Merit pay-palooza! Must read success story. Somehow I didn't notice it when the NCTQ bulletin clipped it from an Arkansas newspaper, but JoanneJacobs.com did.
--Guestblogger MG
Posted at 4:17 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

The other Gates Foundation
The Gates Foundation recently announced the coolest thing. No, not the Tom Vander Ark education foundation (we bow low in supplication), the Richard Klausner medical foundation down the hall. They funded 43 innovation grants in world health that just blow you away.

There are genetically altered bananas to help malnourished Ugandan kids, and refrigeration-free, single-dose vaccines (multiple-dose vaccines administered over several months – the norm – fail with hundreds of thousands of children every year due to access problems).

My favorite: bringing sophisticated medical tests to remote areas of the developing world, where health care workers load a tiny blood sample onto a credit-card sized disposable card, then plug it into an IPod-ish thing which, 10 minutes later, ID’s bacterial infections or HIV.

When was the last time you heard of something really innovative in K-12?

Jenny D tried to stir up some discussion on this and was underwhelmed.

By contrast, one Gates Foundation winner’s plan: “The premise of this project is that for some infections, including HIV, the immune system’s natural responses are inherently inadequate. As an alternative, Dr. Baltimore and his colleagues propose to genetically engineer immune cells that can produce adequate responses.”

That is awesome!

Why can’t we try something like, I dunno, how about: The premise of this project is that for some education challenges – like 9th graders who are illiterate – a school system’s natural responses are inherently inadequate. As an alternative, the student receives a voucher for a special school where, for one year, all they do is read, 8 hours a day. No math, no history, no science, no art, no gym. Just phonics, silent reading, read-alouds, recitation, Barnes and Noble trips, library fine amnesty, Harry Potter, Autobiography of Malcom X, newspapers, community service reading with shut-ins, posting reviews for each book on Amazon, book clubs, read read read.

- Guest Blogger MG
Posted at 2:11 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

AP Mac N Cheez
Must read for staff retreats, from The Onion, spotted by the good folks at Teach and Learn

"Our public high schools place too much focus on preparing kids for professional careers," Chao said. "This waste of resources leaves our dropouts, the majority of whom have no chance of ever finding a job, wholly unprepared to sleep till 1 p.m., or watch daytime television while eating ramen noodles out of an upturned Frisbee."

--Guestblogger MG
Posted at 8:50 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Achievement Gap Trio
In today's newspapers, but hardly news. Hey, it's August, cut those reporters some slack!

The Washington Post finds Special-Ed Racial Imbalance Spurs Sanctions in Maryland.

"The Anne Arundel school system is 21 percent black. But in that system, blacks make up 43 percent of students who are considered mentally retarded, 36 percent of the special-ed population taught in separate classes and 41 percent of suspensions."

"Diane Black, director of special education in Anne Arundel, said she was aware of the disparity and is working to correct it. Part of the problem, she said, is that special education is so generously funded that teachers in regular classrooms have come to think of it as a safety net for all manner of academic and behavioral malaise."

[One Eduwonk reader writes in to add: The county has been far from receptive to our efforts to start a charter school for low-income kids in Annapolis (where the vast majority of black county students live). The kicker? Our charter school is a KIPP school! KIPP has a great track record of proving that students previously labeled “special education” can achieve at high levels if they are educated in a rigorous program with high expectations for all.]

Meanwhile, NY Times takes another tack: Little Known Crisis At Black Colleges.

"For some 185 incoming freshmen like him, and indeed for Texas Southern as an institution, the summer courses in reading, writing, and math form one front in a battle to reverse a disturbingly low graduation rate. Of the students who received diplomas last May, only 6 percent had earned their degree in the normal four years, and only 21 percent in six years. Those numbers, incredibly, reflected improvement from prior rates."

The low grad rate of historically black colleges is little known: I wasn't really aware of the frightening stats until our small charter school sent three kids Virginia State from our first graduating class (you go Naman, Shante, Ashley), and two to Spelman in our second.

Big picture, though: the 38% 6-year graduation rate for HBCUs is just "slightly lower than the figure for black students at all other institutions."

Translation: this sounds like more of a K-12 Achievement Gap issue than a collegiate one.

Luckily, key K-12 stakeholders in big cities are firmly committed to doing nothing!

- Guest blogger MG
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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Get A Load of Broad

CONTEST: A Malcolm Gladwell Connector Award will go to the Eduwonk reader who personally knows the highest number of these 23 spanking new Broad Foundation Residents in Urban Education (48% distaff – now that’s more like it!)

This 2-year training program recruits superstar MBA and law school grads who will hopefully rule the K-12 world in 10 years or less. Philanthropy at its best. Special shout-out to Emily Lawson and Suzanne (no relation) Goldstein. Only quibble: just 2 Duke alums?

PRIZE: Coveted MATCH School T-shirt. Email your 6-degrees-of-separation claim to Goldstein2003@aol.com

At ease: Don’t confuse this cohort with the ex-generals and CEO types who make up most of the Broad Superintendents Academy.

-Guest Blogger Michael Goldstein
Posted at 9:32 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Raises For Everyone
Sit back all week, dear readers, while we collaborate (drink) on a Boston-centric, developmentally-appropriate (drink) train wreck (drink).

Goldstein Gone Wild begins with Conrad Harper, a Harvard trustee. Former, that is. He quit. The New York Times has Harper ticked off about a proposed 3% raise for embattled President Larry Summers.

Just 3%? Heck, even GGW gets that much each year. Too bad Summers can’t just cross the Charles River and line up Hub Mayor Thomas Menino as his boss. As the Boston Globe reports, the Mayor doles out hefty raises for everyone. Check out the teacher salary growth: the average Boston teacher now reels in over $69,000 per year. That’s more than every nearby suburb.

And in return for his largesse, what has Menino received? Merit pay? Um, no. How about teachers agreeing to additional training that their principals believe will help improve student achievement? Not exactly. (Click and scroll for a Talmudic discussion on how teachers are counseled to avoid training).

Okay, well at least will the Boston Teachers Union support the well-regarded Superintendent and its own teachers, who want to create more win-win (for students and teachers), high-performing pilot schools?

EdWeek reports the opposite: the BTU is killing the pilot schools movement. These popular quasi-charter schools are autonomous, small, and funded on a per-student basis. Teachers waive union work rules and participate in decision-making.

Yet the BTU has overruled its own teachers who want more of these schools. Their argument is that the teachers who choose to work at schools where they can stay late to help failing kids (stuck in inter-generational poverty, no big deal) jeopardize the teachers who want to hit the parking lot at 1:40pm. What does the BTU want?

Another raise (in the form of overtime).

Which brings us back to Mr. Harper. “In my judgment, [Summers] 2004-05 conduct, implicating, as it does, profound issues of temperament and judgment, merits no increase whatever.”

Summers’ Shot Heard Round The World – that women may have “what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end” in science – had already led to a $50 million “settlement” of sorts, for a new initiative to bolster every level of the pipeline for Harvard female scientists.

And while the move was a big step towards campus detente (the issue is not just the sciences, by the way, only 13% of Harvard’s tenured professors are women), Harper remained dissatisfied.

Fair enough. No 3% soup for you.

Naturally, Harper’s own law firm, the eminent, white-shoe Simpson Thacher in New York City, has a much better track record when it comes to creating family-friendly partner tracks for women.

Although…what’s this?...I may be miscalculating, but isn’t 20 female Simpson Thacher partners out of 158…exactly 13%?
- Guest blogger Michael Goldstein
Posted at 8:38 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

When Dinosaurs Walked The Earth...
This little item engendered all this....Funny, they don't refute the numbers (though Eduwonk added a caveat at the time that still holds), they just, well, shoot the messenger...

As an aside, Eduwonk had it on very reliable information that The Daily News independently checked the numbers before running the story. Second, no one claimed that this was the be all-end all of the charter debate, just one data point but one that would impact the debate in NY. That's unlike...well, third, this speaks for itself doesn't it...
Posted at 3:04 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

He's Going Wild Again!
He was already looking like a hall of famer...he has the numbers...he put it all on the line and looked at the powers that be, pointing his figure at them and denying everything...and yet still, he's done it again...

Not Rafael Palmeiro...Eduwonk speaks of MATCH School founder Michael Goldstein! Despite his protestations he can't help himself, he's going wild again! Right here at Eduwonk starting Wednesday for an entire week! Stay tuned...
Posted at 2:39 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Monday, August 01, 2005

Avert Your Eyes From...A Conundrum!

This isn't fun to read, but you do hear it a lot from younger teachers. When a profession has most of its resources (and political clout) tied up in labor and there is a problem like this, it presents what some might call a conundrum.
Posted at 3:43 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Optimism and Pessimism
DC Edublog points to this depressing article in the upstart DC Examiner. But meanwhile Jenny D's readers are solving all sorts of problems over at her place.
Posted at 12:38 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Piscal Goes Wild Again! And, Does Every TFA'er Have A Blog?
Charter School operator and Huffie extraordinaire Mike Piscal says teacher training has problems. Who knew?

Update: More along the same lines here from another TFA'er from IL. Via Jacobs.
Posted at 10:36 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Mind The Gap
BBC's Mike Baker looks at the gap closing issue in England.
Posted at 8:02 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

The Adventures of Jallon...And, The Adventures Of David Steiner!
The Washington Post Magazine has a quirky feature that chronicles the lives of various people, for instance an aspiring restaurateur or a stand-up comic. Starting yesterday, the current person is Jallon Brown, the principal of a new and controversial KIPP school in MD.

And, in the NYT Anemona Hartocollis takes a look at ed schools and revisits David Steiner's past research and his immediate future.

Update: Russo weighs-in on the NYT story...hated it!
Posted at 7:59 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

A reader writes:

Dear Eduwonk:

Lyndie England idea is top-shelf. This has dollar signs written all over it. How about we pitch some Hollywood types on an Odd Couple meets buddy cops meets education reform series.

We’ll cast the Earth Mother as the schoolmarm, Felix Unger type. She’ll be the scold/straight man. Lyndie England will be the irascible but likable Oscar Madison of the show. The Earth Mom will try to get states to behavior better thru equal parts shame and diplomacy. But when she’s not looking—BAM!—Lyndie comes in and drops the hammer. Earth Mom can have a clever catch-phrase like, “Oh Lyndie, will you ever learn?”

This is money in the bank. If people watch C-list stars compete in a dance-based reality show, they’ll eat this up! I know you Dems are all tight with the Hollywood crowd. Can you make a meeting happen?


An entrepreneurial reformer
Posted at 7:58 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post