Friday, January 13, 2006
Long NPR discussion with various viewpoints about No Child Left Behind. Worth checking out.
That title is just too easy...the school board in Houston wants to experiment with merit-based teacher pay there. Not a lot of details yet but keep an eye out. It seems as though the political debate about this issue is pretty much over in terms of the general principle that excellence must be rewarded in a profession. In other words, what was once considered a controversial idea is now accepted even by pretty left-leaning groups. Now comes the hard part, figuring out what works in practice and that's going to be messy since ideological opposition has stymied most innovation until recently. NYT here.
He's Back...NYT's Winerip Dusts Off The Proven Methods!
What a bargain. The Bush Administration had to pay Armstrong Williams but the NEA gets New York Times education columnist and prolific No Child Left Behind Act disinformation machine Michael Winerip for free!
In today's column Winerip returns to his favorite storyline: the school not making adequate yearly progress and the unfairness and horror of it all. He also employs a method familiar to long-time readers: misleadingly conflating state and federal requirements to paint a Kafka-like nightmare. There is no doubt there were hassles for the principal he describes, but they're really because of state and city officials though most readers can't be expected to piece that together on their own in a column basically attacking the federal law. He also continues a USC-like streak (with no Texas in sight) of failing to offer readers any reason for the inclusion of provisions about special needs students in the federal law or that groups representing these students want them.
Finally, it's really two columns forced together to make one. The bulk of the test pressure at this school is because of the intense competition for slots in good middle schools in the city. Winerip mentions this but then proceeds to pile on NCLB. Fair enough, but again can lay readers, presumably the column's primary audience, be expected to sort all this out on their own? Should The Times force them to? Repeatedly?
Charter school principal doesn't know the secret handshake and gets busted for much more! Sure it's nothing a kegger can't fix though.
The new edition of The Education Sector is now online (get it free by subscribing here). More about the new adult literacy data, Teach and Learn's Michael Lach reviews Sarah Sentilles' Taught By America, plus much more.
Whether and how to include special needs youngsters in mainstream classes is always a hot-button issue. But, here's one parent of a special needs student who wants some exclusion from inclusion.
More Adam...Smith That Is...Or Perhaps Not?
At first this story looks like another example of why choice alone is an incomplete theory of change for K-12 education. But, without knowing anything about the students in question it's hard to know if they were succeeding in their previous high-performing districts or not. Regardless, the number makes the resistance to charters among high-performing districts more rational.
CPD's Koff looks at House Ed and Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner's bid to become majority leader. Eduimplications because Boehner was one of the "big 4" who finalized the deal on No Child Left Behind so worth watching along with associated changes at the committee. As Koff's piece shows, Boehner is tight with lobbyists and not necessarily a guy to go to for the much needed cleaning the House needs, but he's a good pol and a survivor so you never know.
Bonus Boehner story: In various committees he served on staffers used to take bets on the over/under for how long Boehner could go without a cigarette.
Writing at NRO UVA's sharp Adam Schaeffer (currently on loan to I'm Rick Hess Bi*ch over at AEI) makes an interesting point about the FL voucher decision. Schaeffer thinks the age of vouchers may be ending in favor of the age of education tax credits. He might be right, and that's a shame. Despite their problems, vouchers do at least put money in the hands of poor people and let them make a decision. Tax policy in general is a much weaker lever to accomplish the same goal.
To be fair, Schaeffer is touting tax credit funded choice programs like Florida's Corporate Tax Credit which gives businesses a dollar for dollar tax credit for money they contribute to private school programs run by non-profits. But these programs reopen the issue of essentially using public resources to fund schools with varying degrees of publicness rather than a common framework.
Eduwonk's been hoping that some of the problems with vouchers meant that they were in fact a stalking horse for more charter-like arrangements. If indeed, pace Schaeffer, they're paving the way for tax credits of various kinds then that's a step back not forward on the equity front.
Hugh Osborn will discuss his ideas on an interactive web chat here today at 3PM.
And he has more un-PC stuff to say...
Very good overview in the Times about where things stand on the charter cap in NY. NYC Chancellor Joel Klein:
"To me it's unimaginable that we wouldn't be allowed to create more charter schools," Mr. Klein said in an interview. "It's not like you've got a whole bunch of high-performing schools in the South Bronx or in central Brooklyn. What you've got is a whole bunch of long-term failures in the system, and an opportunity to bring in new blood and new talent."
He's right, but the potential for a side-deal that gives the city more charters but cuts off the state is still a concern, it's a short term win with long-term adverse consequences.
Disclosure: Along with Northstar's Norm Atkins, Eduwonk just joined the board of directors of NYCSA.
To note the 4th anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush will visit and give a speech today at North Glen Elementary in Glen Burnie, Maryland. By all accounts it's a good school with more low-income students than the district average and is making steady progress to improve. But at 241 students it's a small one so its test scores may fluctuate more year-to-year than some others. Update: Wash. Post coverage of Bush's visit and AP here.
Celebrating The 'Right' Way: More interesting, apparently MD's Republican governor and lieutenant governor are skipping the visit. The governor is facing a lot of pressure from conservatives and apparently celebrating NCLB isn't going to do much to help there.
On the 4th anniversary it's worth noting that Bush's Nixon-to-China move on education is still the linchpin of the law. If conservatives really go south on No Child it spells big trouble for the law. It's a general interest reform (pdf) that displaces existing special interests but has few immediately traceable benefits for the public at-large. The special interest politics mean broad support from Democrats is a long-shot, at least for a while, so if the bottom totally falls out on the other side the political coalition crumbles. Urban reform oriented Dems and centrist Dems cannot sustain a reform by themselves, there simply are not enough of them.
Consequently, President Bush needs to thread the needle of quieting discontent about No Child within his own party without eviscerating the law. So far, not so good. On this one, the President does not have to go thousands of miles to a foreign land to find the hotbed of insurgents. Instead, the President could just walk across the National Mall. That's because on a host of issues, teacher quality, inclusion of students in accountability systems, and (pdf) enforcement Secretary of Education Margaret "Earth Mother" Spellings seems more interested in making nice with special interest groups than holding the line on the law. Still plenty of time for that to change but the clock is running. While the Paige regime certainly had its problems, it's an open question whether there is anyone left at the Department of Education with the inclination or the nerve to make the hard decisions.
Through The Looking Glass: The standard critique of pro-No Child Dems boils down to how can you side with President Bush on anything? That's a pretty impoverished political analysis but that notwithstanding, isn't an at least equally legitimate question how the Democratic left can side with the conservative Republicans who hate No Child because of concerns about federalism and the federal role in education? The merits of federal equity efforts aside, seems pretty counterproductive to longer term progressive goals.
A few blog posts worth checking out about the FL voucher decision:
Over at A Constrained Vision, Katie makes the point that other FL private-choice programs are in jeopardy. That's a no-brainer given the wording of the case (pdf). However she also asks what this might mean for public charter schools. That's a good question. Given the decision they might have a problem, too, some observers say, depending on what "uniform" means.
At Dan Gerstein's new blog Dangerous Thoughts he questions the logic of the decision and also raises the charter question. Gerstein has a proclivity to say interesting and provocative things so this blog should be an interesting read. In fact, in terms of his ability to shake things up -- and they do need some shaking -- Gerstein with a blog is like a chimp on acid with a loaded shotgun so look for good stuff from there going forward.
At Boardbuzz they're beside themselves with joy and are lathering up with various links about the case to celebrate.
Three more thoughts: First, the decision could end up being the school voucher parallel of Roe, meaning a decision where one can agree with the larger point (a woman's right to make her own reproductive decisions or the need to have common accountability standards for schools) and still think the logic of the decision itself was pretty tortuous.
Second, supporters of public school choice, public charters, and more pluralism in the provision of public education need to get in front of this "uniform" issue and make the case about why multiple public options and uniformity are not at odds. Otherwise, we're back to trying to make a one best system work.
Finally, the Blaine Amendment question is an interesting free exercise one and despite the apparent signal from the SCOTUS in Davey v. Locke (2004) that it didn't want free exercise cases, the prevalence of these Blaine Amendments around the country and their intersection with the school choice debate means it's an issue that needs to be settled. But the FL decision seemingly took that issue out of play there by focusing on the "uniformity" issue.