Friday, January 20, 2006
Interesting facts about Baby Einstein stuff for getting your kids off to a good edustart.
Interesting debate going on about what to do with the windfall from the painting found at New Trier High School and it's even got a TFA angle...
SEED's national expansion tour is underway. First stop: Baltimore where the Baltimore Sun's Bowie writes-up the happy talk. SEED gets something of a pass on the "nothing is as annoying as a good example" backlash that greets some other good charter schools because its model is so exceptional, but nonetheless you can bet it won't be too long before all the critics start crawling out from under their rocks.
Uh oh...back in October Eduwonk said that the convergence of vouchers and school finance suits was nigh...and indeed it is, in the form of one Ms. Dianne Payne of Queens, New York who wants some of the money from the big settlement up there to pay for some vouchers. NY school finance rock star Michael Rebell sufficiently not-dismissing-out-of-hand to probably terrify the folks bankrolling his finance work...
Says her unusually funny lawyer:
The two children, 10 and 12 years old, he wrote, "are not cryogenically frozen, waiting to emerge from a state of suspended animation when the state gets its act together to fulfill its constitutional duty."
What Do Derrick Frost And NSBA's Legal Team Have In Common?
Eduwonk's been wondering about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito...when it comes to his edulaw thinking should he be confirmed, rejected, filibustered, loved hated, or what? Naturally, the place to turn for help thinking about the answer is the National School Board Association's well-regarded legal team...but again they're no help because on the big calls they punt more than the Redskins!
Recall that after comparing now-Chief Justice John Roberts to Socrates (pdf) NSBA declined to take a position on his nomination to the SCOTUS and now they're similarly non-committal on Judge Alito! C'mon! Sure, the NEA opposes Alito, duh, that's as predictable as the sunrise, but some actual analysis and opinion about this edulegal thinking from the top lawyers in the school law business would be helpful especially because there is some evidence that Alito is something of a judicial activist on educational issues.
Jay Mathews revisits KIPP in The Washington Post. Includes some bonus social entrepreneurs in love features that will excite the conspiracy-oriented paranoids!
New RAND study (pdf) about the demographics of charter schools, worth reading if you follow that debate. Based on data from CA and TX, the RAND team concludes that:
We find that black students in both states are more likely to move to charter schools and tend to move to charter schools with a higher percentage of black students, and those schools are more racially concentrated than the public schools they leave. We also find that students who move to charter schools are on average lower performing than other students at the public schools they leave and that this performance gap is largest for black students...
...In both states little evidence can be found that charter schools are systematically cream-skimming high-performing students, and indeed in Texas the opposite appears true.
There is a lot more including interesting demographic information on CA and TX which are not insignificant states because almost one in four charter school students are in them.
Probably won't settle anything though because despite a general consensus that integrated schools are more desirable than segregated schools, a lot of disagreement about whether that desirability should trump a parent's desire to get their child in a good public school regardless of its racial composition. Also, recall that during the halcyon days of the Catholic school - public school debate critics of the research about a "Catholic School Effect" would argue that there were intangible characteristics, that could be indicative of skimming, that made students choosing Catholic schools different than other students in ways that the research methods couldn't pick up. Fair enough, but reverse skimming is an equally plausible scenario and could be the case here.
Incidentally, look for more work and more textured work like this as better data systems allow researchers to look more at students and less at schools and consequently drill down a lot more.
In your edujaunt around the web today be sure to stop by and see Education Sector's new website. Plenty of new content including a review of the new Frank McCourt book by Sara Mead and some new analysis from Kevin Carey about why, financially, it's good to be an affluent student and not so good to be a low-income one on campus today...Plenty more, too.
If you only have time to read one article this week make it Richard Whitmire's outstanding look at the overlooked issue of the underachievement of boys in The New Republic (free reg.). Whitmire delved into the issue while on a sabbatical from his post as an editorial writer at USA Today.
Too much to pull quote here but Whitmire walks through the available evidence, analyzes the landscape, and lays out the important questions researchers, educators, and policymakers need to figure out. It is, yes, must-reading.
2005 in education according to I'm Rick Hess Bi**h!
Edwize Gets A Playmate: Williams In The 'Sphere
Important new blog on the scene penned by outstanding education journalist (and occasional Eduwonk guest blogger) Joe Williams who most recently wrote this book. The Chalkboard will chronicle education issues in New York and is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association but will cover education, and education in New York, more generally. Edwize will have some company now.
Over at the TPM Cafe Century Foundation's Greg Anrig worriedly weighs-in about No Child Left Behind pegged to Michael Winerip's typically misleading article the other day. Anrig makes two basic points, (1) that NCLB is a conservative victory because it's eroding support for public schools by making people think the public schools are failing and (2) that Winerip demonstrates the injustice of all this through his NY school example.
Let's quickly take the second issue first. The contention that a law is unjust to schools is simply not borne out by the Winerip column but does demonstrate how Winerip's perpetual motion machine of NCLB disinformation is causing a lot of confusion even among smart people who ought to know better. First, the bureaucratic problems encountered by the principal and described by Winerip were driven by state and city officials, not federal ones. Second, even accepting Winerip's contention, should schools not be held accountable for special needs students and English-language learners? And besides, it seems a little hysterical to say that a bureaucratic hassle (and an episodic one at that, this does not happen everywhere) or giving parents the right to transfer to a different public school, a right that none of them in this case exercised anyway, is a consequence worthy of indicting the law as unjust.
Anrig's notion that NCLB is a gift Milton Friedman could never have even hoped for is similarly over-the-top. First, Eduwonk interviewed Friedman for a book project recently and he's no fan of NCLB. But more to the point, we live in a country where only about half the minority students finish high school on time, where poor and minority students routinely trail their peers on state and national assessments (by four grade levels in high school), and where poor and minority youngsters are systemically given less in the way of resources like good teachers or state dollars (pdf). Those aren't conservative statistics or liberal ones, they're just stubborn facts. And, those students do go to school somewhere, and it's not just in our big cities. So while Anrig and the NEA fret that the law has forced states to say that 25 percent of public schools can do better than they're doing now for those children, considering the numbers above, a reasonable person might ask, against that backdrop only 25 percent need to do better?
The obvious dual-client issue in education policy notwithstanding (meaning you have to have policy for the schools because they serve the students), a reasonable person might also ask why there is so much concern about the schools and so little about the students in them. Here is one plausible explanation: Politics. Anrig praises "attentive" liberals for opposing NCLB when it was passed and fingers the DLC for its support while ignoring liberal groups like the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, The Education Trust, and others that supported and still support the law. He then cites UVA's Jim Ryan, who is a voucher guy, as a voice of reason. This illustrates the incoherence of the left on the public education issue because presumably Anrig isn't a voucher guy. Here's the thing: Guys on the left like Ryan and Ted Sizer, for instance, have an answer to the problems cited above. Though a different answer, so does the center-left coalition that supported NCLB. And the conservatives have one, too. The real debate right now is about these various theories of action. But the left is too often AWOL from this debate because there are a bunch of folks without much interesting to say about how to change things because they fear criticizing the public schools as an institution, are part of the institution itself, or see everything through a left-right prism. Unfortunately, rather than supporting an important liberal institution like public education this posture is actually debilitating for it over time, leaves Democratic politicians in a political bind, and it's not very good for the kids either. In fact, it's pretty illiberal really.
Update: The hard-to-please Russo wasn't impressed either.
There Is Always An Educonnection!
Sooner or later everything comes back to education, even the scandal du jour!
More about what the Florida voucher decision means going forward from the St. Petersburg Times in an Eduwonk op-ed. Punchline: Dancing on the grave of the voucher program without seeing it as a wake-up call misses the point.
The popular and pretty successful High-Tech High public charter schools are expanding in California to ten more sites. Uncharacteristically weak argument against this from the CA School Boards Assn:
Stephanie Farland, a senior policy consultant with the California School Boards Association, is worried that the lack of local school board approval would lead to a lack of local accountability. "The local community where these charter schools will locate will have no local body to turn to if issues arise with the charter school," she said.
Leave aside the very debatable notion that local communities can turn to local school boards when their local public schools aren't accountable to them now, some local boards in CA have not proven to be great shakes (pdf) with charter school authorizing either...