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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

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Opinions on Eduwonk reflect the views of the author, Education Sector does not take institutional positions. Outgoing links do not constitute an endorsement.

Friday, October 28, 2005

NCSL Dissonance: Dave Shreve Punks Nevada's Teachers!

The NEA has actively been offering up the National Council of State Legislature's opposition to NCLB as one more reason thinking people should oppose it. But now NCSL says:

An analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures said Thursday there is no evidence that paying public school teachers more money will lead to better performance by students.

"Many of us have made the assumption there has to be a correlation, but there is no research to support that better paid teachers bring better student performance," said David Shreve, invited to address the first meeting of the interim legislative committee studying school financing adequacy.

"Yeah, sure, have that Shreve guy in, he's great! He opposes NCLB...what could go wrong?"

Incidentally, this paper (pdf) makes the case that NCSL's opposition to No Child is in no small part because of the law's potential to make states spend more on education through school finance litigation. That's good, and it sounds like something the NEA would support, right? Think again, there is no logic here or rather a perverse logic.

Article link via Intercepts.
Posted at 4:22 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Writing in TNR Jonathan Chait makes the following case:

There are two basic ways to think about President Bush's relationship with the religious right. The first is that Bush is a genuine ally of social conservatives who, while often cagey in public, takes every opportunity to advance their agenda. As liberals would phrase this interpretation, Bush is a tool of the religious right. The second--utterly diametrical--theory is that Bush is mainly interested in harvesting votes from religious conservatives in order to implement an agenda dominated by his economic backers. In liberal-ese: Social conservatives are hapless GOP dupes. At this point, five years and two Supreme Court nominations into the Bush presidency, we can arrive at a definitive answer. And the verdict is: hapless dupes.

He's right. And, this dynamic also plays out on education though less destructively. The religious right would like to see Bush working hard to rollback the overall federal role in education, expand private school choice, and push social issues like prayer. Instead, Bush has expanded the federal role, done next to nothing on vouchers, and nothing on their other issues. He's basically pushed the economic Republican agenda on education which is better performance, particularly in math and science, and more accountability. And, refreshingly, the economic Republican agenda on education is actually pretty mainstream and enjoys bipartisan support as opposed to that agenda on say, environmental regulation, tax policy, health care, etc…

Nonetheless, and despite the same dynamic in Texas for two terms, religious conservatives still think he's pretty much their guy on education because Margaret Spellings periodically lashes out at cartoon characters. Dupes indeed.
Posted at 12:59 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

We'll Always Have Durbin...
A lot of NCLB opponents were hoping USS Barack Obama (D-IL) would attack No Child Left Behind following the lead of Illinois Senator Durbin (D) who has sparred with Senator Kennedy over the law. Sorry! Turns out Obama has a pretty good sense of the lay of the land and the way to go. From his speech at the Center for American Progress earlier this week:

You know the arguments. On one side, you’ll hear conservatives who will look at children without textbooks and classrooms without computers and say money doesn’t matter. On the other side, you’ll find liberals who will look at failing test scores and failing schools and not realize how much reform matters. One side will blame teachers, and the other side will never ask them to change. Some will say that no matter what you do, some children just can’t learn. Others will make excuses for them when they won’t learn.

Some will say that the same public school system that succeeded for generations must now be dismantled and privatized, no matter who it leaves behind. And others will defend the status quo in these schools even when they fail to teach our kids.

Like most ideological debates, this one assumes that there’s an “either-or” answer to our education problems. Either we need to pour more money into the system, or we need to reform it with more tests and standards.

But we don’t make much progress for our kids when we constrain ourselves like this. It appeared for a brief moment that the President, working with leaders like Senator Kennedy understood this, and many of us were initially encouraged by the passage of No Child Left Behind. It may not be popular to say in Democratic circles, but there were good elements to this bill – its emphasis on the achievement gap, raising standards, and accountability. Unfortunately, because of failures in implementation, particularly its failure to provide adequate funding and a failure to design better assessment tests that provide a clearer path for schools to raise achievement, the bill’s promise is not yet fulfilled.

The shortcomings of NCLB shouldn’t end the conversation, however. They should be the start of a conversation about how we can do better. Yes, it’s a moral outrage that this Administration hasn’t come through with the funding for what it claims has been its number one domestic priority. But to wage war against the entire law for that reason is not an education policy, and Democrats need to realize that.
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Thursday, October 27, 2005

New Schools

A white paper(pdf) from the Bridgespan Group discusses theoretical issues about expanding the supply of high quality public schools and also some specific examples of current strategies and providers.
Posted at 1:45 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Behind The Curtain
EIA’s Antonoucci -- who has sources that should be the envy of any education reporter -- got his hands on a recent NEA member survey and has repackaged it as a report (pdf) you can read yourself. A lot of it is the same old stuff. For instance though the NEA trends to the left politically, its members are more representative of the politics of the general population.

Yet some of the data here are more interesting. For instance, about one in three teachers say they are “not at all” involved with the union and among new teachers (3 years or less) this figure rises to almost half. Only about 15 percent of teachers describe themselves as very involved in union activities or processes. There is also some interesting data about the political skew as it relates to the size of NEA locals.
Posted at 1:40 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

IBM Is Easy
IBM is giving it away, sort of, if you're working on education applications. More from the company here and the Boston Globe here.
Posted at 11:31 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Nerd Celebrity Death Match
So says Brad DeLong about this spat between Jesse Rothstein and Caroline Hoxby over, basically, whether competition drives improvements in education though it's actually much more fun than that as both sides see it as a clash between good and evil and plenty of coat holding going on...(Thanks to reader MT for the free link to the WSJ story.) DeLong's take is worth checking out, too.
Posted at 11:26 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Know Much About History?
These guys do. New website at MSU for history teachers, a trove of presidential campaign ads to help punctuate historical issues and trends.
Posted at 11:13 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Kleinfest 2005 (And Maybe 2009?)
New York Magazine turns in a longish and favorable profile of Joel Klein and the NYC teachers' contract process. NYC teacher Ron Isasc is not so enamored. One thought, whenever "non-educators" propose things like smaller classes, more money, less accountability, etc...they're lionized as sages...it's only when they propose things that are controversial that their status as "non-educators" suddenly become an issue. Curious.

You have to think that if Klein had come in and proposed a 30 percent raise with no changes to the work rules nobody would be grumbling that he's a "non-educator."

Update: Ed Week's take here ($).
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Higher Ed
Three recent looks at higher ed issues worth checking out. John Merrow interviews the Dean of Admissions and Finance at Amherst College for the inside take on the process. In the New York Sun, Adam Kirsch reviews Jerome Karabel's "The Chosen."

In the countervailing department, former Senator and VP candidate John Edwards has initiated an innovative financial aid initiative in North Carolina based on an idea from the '04 campaign. Stories here and here.
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A big thanks to Michael Goldstein for the past few says, a lot of good stuff below. Now he's back to his day job.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Parents Don't Matter!

Headline from the LA Times: Parents' Involvement Not Key To Student Progress, Study Finds.
Another conventional wisdom exposed as myth?

Hmm. GGW needs to digest the study itself rather than the newspaper summary (Of all we've learned from Kausfiles, #1 is Beware the LAT). Nonpartisan? Check. Solid researchers? GGW is a fan of co-author and Stanford smartie Michael Kirst. Solid design? They studied 257 public elementary schools with low-income populations, discarding charters and outlier (really bad) schools.

Most Effective

• Tying classroom instruction to state standards in academic subjects

• Ensuring enough textbooks and other teaching aids

• Using test data to analyze instructional strengths and weaknesses

• Making student achievement a top priority

Less Effective

• Enforcing high student behavior standards

• Encouraging teacher collaboration and professional development

• Involved and supportive parents

Factors Not Studied

• Offering halal chicken nuggets

- Guest blogger Goldstein Gone Wild

P.S. Beware the LA Times indeed. Email from a reader about the study:

FWIW, the EdSource study most assuredly did NOT conclude that parental involvement wasn’t important. In fact, the study showed that parental involvement was positively correlated with API achievement. However, the study did conclude that the four practices described in the story had a far greater impact on student achievement. In summary, it is correct to say that a standards-based curriculum, use of assessment data, etc, is far more strongly correlated with high performance than is parental involvement. However, it is not correct to say that parental involvement is not important.
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Parents Matter!
Today's must read comes from London's Independent: Britain's closest equivalent to No Child Left Behind calls for parents, not the state, to take over failing schools.

Sweeping new powers for parents to bring about the sacking of head teachers (principals) of under-performing schools have been spelt out in Tony Blair's long-awaited White Paper on education.

Parents were also given the green light to set up and run their own schools (convert a district school to a charter) - with local education authorities facing a veto if they turn applications down. The White Paper - Higher Standards, Better Schools For All - also envisages giving more power to pupils in secondary schools (to be involved in hiring new teachers).

- Guest blogger Goldstein Gone Wild
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Halal Chicken Nuggets
Sam Freedman explores a Michigan public school in today's New York Times:

Dearborn High is a place where the cafeteria serves halal chicken nuggets, girls wear the hijab along with embroidered jeans, the Ramadan food drive gets equal time with the Key Club on morning announcements, and - to come back to football - Mohammad Kassab leads his Muslim teammates in al-Fateeha, the prayer that asks God's protection in both spiritual and physical ways, before every game.

The divine one notwithstanding, Mohammad also has a favorite cheerleader hold his peanut-butter sandwich on the sideline for iftar.

- Guest blogger GGW
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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Urban and suburban teaching: 2 totally different jobs (duh)

Mutual fund managers and venture capitalists have different job descriptions, even though they both nominally do the same thing - invest in companies.

Yet suburban and urban teachers, despite very different customers, end up with the same job description.

– Teach about 20 hours a week
– Write lesson plans
– Grade papers
– Patrol the cafeteria at lunch, make photocopies, attend (often pointless) meetings, etc

The implicit job description for teachers in high-poverty schools (you think inner-city but don't forget rural), however, also includes:

– Single-handedly create order in the classroom (while the rest of the school is chaotic)
– Single-handedly remediate enormous, accumulated basic skill deficits
– Single-handedly enforce homework completion among kids who’ve historically done almost none
– Communicate with parents that have often, until that point, been disengaged in their children’s education

These tasks are essential. But now we’re talking 80-hours-a-week to do reasonably well. At most schools, a few teachers - the Jaime Escalantes, Rafe Esquiths - do the full job description.

Perhaps 50 to 100 of some 10,000 public inner-city schools nationwide, so-called “No Excuses” schools like KIPP, have managed to create cultures where all the teachers do the full job description, the explicit and the implicit. At such schools, the teacher job is easier, since there's no free-rider problem. Every teacher works hard. Therefore no one needs to "manufacture" a positive classroom culture from scratch.

Even at these schools, however, many teachers depart after a few years. Not for "regular" schools, usually, but to become principals, deans, MBAs, sociologists, stay-at-home parents, etc.

Eduwonk regularly and appropriately lambastes the "Excuses" crowd. But the No Excuses folks need a plausible, scalable theory of change, too.

Do you really think that if we get a perfect storm of standards, merit pay, school choice, et al., that the labor market will generate hundreds of thousands of workaholic No Excuses teachers? Or do you think that No Excuses urban teaching can be done in 40 to 50 hours per week, enough to appeal to the masses?

Replies welcome to MGoldstein@matchschool.org

- Guest blogger Goldstein Gone Wild
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Slicing (and Dicing) Science Standards
National Assessment Governing Board is preparing to launch a new science assessment for 2009. Fordham Foundation reviews its draft Framework, gives it a "C."

Yet only a 62%. That's a "D" up here in Boston [though admittedly a B+ across the river in Cambridge]. Checker Finn....grade inflation? C'est impossible.

Fordham recommendations to NAGB: aim higher, beef up the standards, add more math. No mention of integrating cooking into chemistry classes.

GGW was recently talking with some MIT folks and wondered: aren't we really talking about two different science education challenges: the TIMMS problem and the STEM problem?
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Latest Dan Brown Code-Breaking Thriller
Exclusive: We have cracked the Valerie Plame case. Today's NYT attempts to link Dick Cheney to the disclosure of her covert CIA status. The question: was he out to get her?

Guest Eduwonk has recovered some of the VP's notes from an undisclosed secret location. Under "delegate," we found: "1. Christmas shopping, 2. U.N. hellraising, 3. Exercise, 4. Anagram Valerie Plame."

It turns out that Valerie Plame anagrammed becomes "A Lame Evil Rep." Or worse: "A vampire elle." Case closed.

We now bring our anagram prowess to "No Child Left Behind." Did President Bush and Senator Kennedy plot this evil law to purposely harm the little kiddies?

Anagram says: yes. "Hidden belch, oft nil" describes the attitude of some towards the law's efficacy. "Fed blotch, Delhi Inn" is presumably a reference to the White House's secret plan to subcontract all instruction to India.

Of course, supporters and opponents of NCLB can agree that the law cannot possibly work if educators remain disinterested in actually closing the Achievement Gap, like in Alameda County. Good thing all their schools are shipshape.

- Guest blogger GGW
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Merit Slush Fund?
While Denver wrestles with merit pay, GGW wonders: besides cold hard cash, what else might we give to top teachers?

To wit: Personally I'm a fan of cold hard cash. But some teachers who would actually GET the merit pay STILL don't support the concept. Hmm.

I wonder if these high-performing teachers would instead be comfortable with (and motivated by) receiving merit bonuses in the form of discretionary accounts of, say, $5,000 for the year to spend on the general welfare of kids in the school? A merit slush fund, if you will.

A teacher could buy extra books without red tape, small rewards for the kiddies with the highest improvement on vocab quizzes, a brand new collared shirt for the student who seems to have only one. Ten meritorious teachers could band together and hire a social worker.
Mr. AB might hire an immigration attorney for prized student M. Ms. Frizzle might buy her school a robotics lab. Mz Smlph might hire Tony Soprano to deal with a rival tennis coach. It's all good.

- Guest blogger GGW
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Gates Foundation backing off from small schools? Broad Foundation chooses...Norfolk?? New Schools Venture Fund contracting with Smith & Wollensky to provide "high-protein" lunches at its top charter schools???

Learn all about it today at AEI's Philanthropy Conference in DC (walk-up registration okay), with I'm Rick Hess B*tch rocking the mic. Also, you can order the book version being published by Harvard Education Press.

- Guest blogger GGW

Full disclosure: I'm on the advisory board of HEP. I don't know of any reason why anyone would care, but I've always wanted to do a "full disclosure."
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Windy City To Hose Runny Nose
Chicago Trib examines whether 8th graders should have to have even a remote grasp on math (fractions, decimals, percentages) in order to be promoted to 9th grade (currently: no; proposal: yes).

Buried: How many unexcused absences per year before you flunk a kid for the year?

CPS Chieftain Arne Duncan wants to reduce that number from 18 (out of 180 days) to 9.

Key word here is "unexcused." If you use the "doctor's note" standard, then you make life difficult on the honest parent without insurance (who uses E.R. for everything, and they don't like writing notes for sore throats). If you use the "mom's note" standard, then you open a loophole bigger than Sammy Sosa's biceps (in his Cubs prime).

Either way, it's brutal on principals vying to be both consistent and humane.

- Guest blogger Goldstein Gone Wild
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Monday, October 24, 2005

Fearless Fellow Frees Fairfax of Food Fights

Jay Mathews WaPo feature, via folks at EducationNews.org

There are several reasons the National Association of Secondary School Principals and MetLife have named the tall, muscular Riddile, a 55-year-old former linebacker at the University of North Carolina, the national high school principal of the year…

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Questions for Kozol
I'm daydreaming that these questions are posed to Jonathan Kozol when he speaks tonight at First Parish Church in Cambridge, MA:

1. What if we could conclusively show, to your satisfaction, that inner-city black kids who attend highly functional suburban schools (through busing) fare worse (lower test scores, lower attendance, lower college graduation rates) than inner-city black kids who attend segregated "No Excuses" charter schools?

Which, to you, is the greater "evil"?

Black kids who attend "integrated" suburban schools (i.e., they are 10% of the school population), but who have very low academic achievement?


Black kids who attend the highly segregated charter schools - like New Jersey's North Star, or DC Prep, or Roxbury Prep on Kozol's home turf - and master academics such that they are much, much more likely to ultimately graduate from college?

In various interviews promoting this book, most recently the upcoming issue of NEA Today, he handles this question with a two-step worthy of Ari Fleischer.

Q: Some people say a Black student doesn’t have to sit next to a White student in order to learn. What’s your answer to that?

Kozol: There are two issues here. One is the recognition that money follows power. Once you cordon off a group of children in a form of physical sequestration, it is much easier to cheat them. Look at this: $12,000 a year per student in Roosevelt, Long Island, 92 percent poor. This is right next to Manhasset, 5 percent poor, which spends $22,000.

True. But he cherry picks his school district example. Boston spends more, not less, than most nearby suburban districts.

Kozol pulled this sleight-of-hand with his previous book. He compared spending in suburban Princeton, NJ to urban Camden, NJ: cherry-picking the high contrast as a way to show racism in education equity.

The problem for Kozol was that Camden's spending caught up to Princeton's a few years later, thanks to massive state investment. The Achievement Gap between the districts, however, did not close. The Thernstroms called him on this misdirection play. Why won't he address this?

Kozol: The second reason I believe is even more important: Children learn at least as much from one another as they do from any curriculum.

2. Exactly. Therefore: what makes you sure that an inner-city black kid will learn more from a suburban white kid than from a well-educated inner-city black kid?

3. Which is more important to you: more black kids attending integrated suburban K-12 schools, even if it doesn't bolster their achievement, or more black kids attending (and completing) integrated Grade 13 - 16 schools - i.e., college?

- Guest blogger Goldstein Gone Wild

P.S. Want more? Stuart Buck's take on Kozol here, via JoanneJacobs.com
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Upper Upper West Side
Today and tomorrow at Columbia University: "The Education Achievement Gap: Who’s Affected, and How Much."

Interesting conference: add up welfare, Medicaid, lost tax revenue, jails, et al, and exactly how much money could government save if we closed the Gap?

Of course, there's the usual implication - we need to spend more. A lot more. Too bad they didn't break off a piece of this Kit-Kat bar. Maybe we need to begin with the yo-yos.

- Guest blogger Goldstein Gone Wild
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MoTown Takeover Tales
One year ago, the Detroit Free Press turned in a fine 5-year check-in on school reform. We learned:

1. What happens when a state takes over a troubled school system (1999 to 2004)?
(Nice new facilities, financial shenanigans stop...and Achievement Gap widens)

2. What should Mayor do?
(Try to abolish school board, consolidate control - a la Boston, NYC, Chicago)

3. What should Governor do?
(Express frustration, punt)

4. What should Superintendent do?
(Blame charter schools)

One year later, what's cooking besides Jeff Garcia replacing Joey Harrington as Lions QB?

The State is giving control back to Detroit. School board election in November.

- Guest blogger Michael Goldstein
Posted at 8:43 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Hasta La Vista, Prized Pupil
A moving post from Mr. AB in the TFA Trenches:

I certainly don’t have a favorite student, but M--- could easily make a case for the title. She’s one of those students who does what I want even when I don’t explain it well, who buys into the class goals even more than me, who would do 100 pages of homework just because that was what was assigned.

M--- is one of only a few students who attends all three of my not-an-extended-day programs, she is with me from 7:20 every morning, and stays until 4:10 three days a week. She’s a low ELL, but she’s clearly a smart, smart young lady.

How do teachers pick favorite students? Usually these two criteria are involved.

She gets my strange jokes and she has worked her way to being one of top math students in the class.

Raise teacher salaries by $5,000 per year? GGW predicts little effect on urban attrition (remember, Boston teachers earn a lot more [$69,000 average], not less, than all the nearby suburbs - has not stemmed teacher attrition).

Bad teachers leave urban schools because their classrooms are chaotic. Good teachers leave because of the heartbreak, i.e.,

M--- was absent on Monday. Tuesday, she came in at 7:20 like usual. We worked on math skill-building games; when the rest of the kids went to take their break, M--- asked to speak to me privately. She began talking normally, explaining that she was absent because her family had a problem. They “weren’t, you know, from here.”

As the story went on, M--- stopped looking at me and started to look sad and scared. She struggled to explain what I gradually came to understand was a day spent pleading for mercy in immigration court. It wasn’t until she got to the point where her father was arrested and there was no money coming in and she admitted she was “so scared” that she really broke down.

He doesn't call it The Trenches for nothing.

- Guest blogger Michael Goldstein
Posted at 8:18 AM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post