Friday, June 02, 2006
More Pension Tension
Like I'm trying to tell ya, this pension issue has legs...
Via Drudge. More evidence that charter schools are a big right-wing conspiracy. Plus, interesting strategy for dealing with the media! More here. This is going to put the hardcore choiceniks in a bit of a box, no? They hate this sort of thing but this is a public school of choice...Seems though that it's why you need public accountability along with choice.
In case you haven't had enough, then here's more grad rate back and forth from a debate on Edpresso. In this one HCRP's Losen does a nice job walking through the differences in the datasets that are really the crux issue here. Sorry, still seems pretty one-sided to me. In fact, though I obviously want to see foundations invest in education research and policy work, episodes like this do make their reluctance to do so seem like a pretty rational decision...what's the point when basically anything goes?
It's not just the AFTies on the attack with less than one percent, or skim, teacher voice, NewOldSchool teacher is about to graduate so not too much more of this sort of stuff...Her experiences, however, would make a terrific op-ed or article about teacher preparation...she's smart and can write...
She's the kid who beat back the Canadian menace to win the National Spelling Bee last night. I just don't think I could have listened to weeks of conservative belly-aching about how an American kid couldn't win our own spelling bee and the corresponding complaints about our public schools without losing my mind. Also, for spelling bee junkies there is the official bee blog or the unofficial but much more comprehensive Mr. Sun spelling bee live-blogging. Why was I so interested in the spelling bee? Duh! Disc--The Eduwife is a Canadian citizen (dual) so the Eduspawn are dual...no kidding. A little Friday trivia for you... Photo: Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee
Update: More Bee and Your Celebrity Moment: Saryn Hook, the poised Tarheel speller who was disqualified and then re-qualified in last night's dramatic bee as she outspelled the judges is doing a touch of guest blogging over at Mr. Sun's place where she was glorified this week as "The Hook." She says, "I'm hanging up my hook for now, but I'm sure I'll find use for it later." Scroll down and send her a note.
Via Matt Yglesias, NRO's John Derbyshire is all worked up about dual-language schools where students are taught in two languages in elementary school. But leaving aside the xenophobia there are still a couple of problems with his post. First, there are dual-immersion schools in some other languages so his hysterical fear that these programs are just about the "Hispanicization" of America is silly. Of course, most are in Spanish but that doesn't really prove much here because long before this latest round of attention to/concern about immigration, Spanish was already a very popular language among students. In fact, Derbyshire misses the real problem with these programs: They're very resource intensive and hard to deliver well for students. Consequently, as they become more common and fashionable the real risk is students who end up semi-literate in two languages, the outcome data on the small number that exist was pretty mixed the last time I looked (late '90s). And it's worth remembering that overall we don't do such a great job teaching all kids just one language. Update: Ed Knows Profanities.
Really, who can get enough McKay voucher action? As Matt Ladner has noted, he and I are attempting to defy type and show that a reasoned debate about school vouchers is indeed possible. I criticized the McKay program, Matt responded to that post, I responded to him, and now he's responded again over at Edspresso, a low-class joint he frequents from time to time. Matt has a technical advantage here because he's able to do annotated-style responses and I don't know how to do that, but I will respond to several points here that are not addressed in the earlier back and forth.
First, poor Rawls has been dragged into this probably because I was not clear enough. I think that a Rawlsian "veil of ignorance" is arguable in the case of McKay-style spec ed-only vouchers, I wasn't addressing vouchers overall, that's another debate. Second, Matt says that children with less-severe disabilities are as likely or even more likely to need alternatives to the pubic schools as other students since they can be overlooked. That's a debatable point but here's one data point: When Progressive Policy Institute, Fordham Foundation, and Public Agenda surveyed special education parents (pdf) we found that parents of students with more severe disabilities were more likely to consider suing their school district. Ladner seems to be saying that parents need McKay because they're not empowered in the current system. But accepting that point is an argument for fixing a problem in IDEA, not creating vouchers. I've never seen the McKay crowd working to ensure that the parental support components of IDEA are funded... And in fact, that's the problem with Ladner's other points, for instance about the anecdote he offers about a student poorly served through their IEP; they point to possible programmatic flaws but voucher supporters then jump to the conclusion that the only solution is vouchers. It's CATO-like in its certainty that these problems can't be fixed within the program but only through vouchers. Consequently, I'm not biting on Matt's bait of picking particular disabilities to see which ones mean that a "free and appropriate public education" must mean a private setting either. It's mostly case-by-case issue and while the special education policy can certainly be improved, the policy and the case law offer pretty good rules of the road as these things go. Introducing a new set of perverse incentives for school districts and parents may help advance the voucher issue but it's lousy policy for special education.
The AFTies Attack! The One Percent Solution!
The AFTies have unleashed their anti-NCLB doomsday weapon! It's a petition with...cue Dr. Evil..."nearly" 10,000 signatures! Sounds impressive, except there are 1.3 million AFTies out there across the land. Not even one percent? Steve Barr got 10K parents to sign a pro-charter school petition just in one part of LA...I'm very underwhelmed by this gambit. Coming next: The AFTies threaten to abandon their commitment to good reading instruction unless Reid Lyon pays them...one million dollars...
This Shanker Institute event on teacher performance-based pay looks well worth your time if you're in D.C. on June 6. And there is such a thing as a free lunch.
Cut the stunts and improve the schools.
I guess I'm dumb. Seems to me that recess is important for kids and that academics are important, too. So if, as today's Post breathlessly reports*, we're having trouble getting all that done in the time kids are in school each day/week then shouldn't we either seriously examine how we use time and/or extend the amount of time kids are in school? Sure, there are huge costs (apparent and hidden) embedded in that but it seems like the obvious thing to do. *Also, just a thought, recess proponents might want to consider downplaying the sexist stereotypes, I'm for time for recess despite the heartwarming tales of boys playing sports while girls play house that the Post relays...I think that girls like sports, too, don't they? At least the ones I grew up with...Update: Reader BP helpfully sends along this article on the issue. Update II: Helpful reader BH sends long this excellent Mass 2020 report (pdf) which also digs into the issue. Update III: The AFTies helpfully point out that the "no recess" scare is a perpetual one and there is some data going the other way.
Here's a real problem in education policymaking and public policymaking/politics more generally: It's dangerous to make policy based on the intense views and experiences of some individuals rather than looking at the aggregate picture.
Take for instance Ned Lamont, challenging Senator Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut. Reports the NYT:
Mr. Lamont said that his frequent meetings with voters had altered his views on some issues. Initially, he said, he considered some job losses caused by free-trade agreements to be a necessary "transition cost" for succeeding in a world economy. But after meeting manufacturing workers who had been laid off, he said he realized that "we're going to have to be respectful of our workers when it comes to negotiating a trade agreement."
He said he had regarded President Bush's No Child Left Behind education policy as having some positive elements, such as "having a benchmark and seeing how schools perform." But after talking with teachers, parents and students, he said that he has decided that "fundamentally, the bill is irrelevant."
Great, just the kind of backbone we need in the Senate! Perhaps free trade is beneficial overall even though it's very hard on some workers (who we should be doing more to assist in my view). And, even though some teachers don't like No Child Left Behind, perhaps it's for the overall good precisely because of the benchmark issue? This happens all the time. For instance, aspiring teachers who cannot pass the low-level tests required to become teachers show up at meetings and plead with state board of education members to further lower the standards and boards sometimes oblige because the natural inclination is to help distressed people if you can. Or presidential candidates visit Iowa and hear from activists about this and that and mistakenly ascribe those views to the populace overall (I remember one who in 2004 after being trailed around by NEA activists concluded that voters really didn't like No Child even though multiple polls showed something different).
It's all about the general good and the specific interest. Really good politicians don't needlessly antagonize constituencies they need to stay in office, but they also keep their eye on the ball not just the hecklers in the stands. For another slice of this issue, very good article by UVA's Eric Patashnik here (pdf).
Also, it's going to be interesting to see if the CT NAACP thinks that No Child is so irrelevant...
Here is a thankless job, insiders know what I'm driving at (Hans Moleman, where are you when we need you?)...upside, however, you will not want for things to do! Also, NEKIA is looking for a director of policy and advocacy, some work with the research community, some lobbying. And, this opportunity in ed philanthropy is very cool.
It's National Spelling Bee time so that means Mr. Sun is blogging along with all the action. More here.
More Adults V. Kids
AFTie Ed does a good job laying out another case where what's good for kids takes a backseat to what works for grown-ups, in this case the amusement park and vacation industries...this isn’t something that every kid needs but it is good to have the flexibility for some.
Last week my colleague Kevin Carey explained why the latest poll (pdf) purporting to show American's nearly unlimited appetite for more education spending has some problems. Like Kevin, I'm all for more federal spending on K-12 schools and think the fiscal priorities of the current administration are outrageous. But this poll (and other similar ones) do not seriously help move the needle on that issue. In fact, we have an ongoing natural experiment about education spending and it contradicts these polls. Most of the increase in education spending is driven by essentially built-in escalators: State funding formulas, special education, teacher salaries and so forth. In the context of a $450 billion industry, even the billions put into No Child Left Behind in the first few years after it was passed or the amounts being argued over now are pretty small potatoes and boil down to a few hundred dollars per student (and just a bit more if you include special ed). We're not going to revolutionize American education on that. Anyway, when voters are given the chance to increase spending directly at the state and local level while they're certainly not uniformly opposed to spending increases, the record is very mixed and indicates reluctance. Besides, demographic changes mean more attention to productivity and better use of existing resources going forward because we can't spend our way out of today's problems even if we wanted to. That's the political and substantive reality today and why spending and real reform, not just spending has to be the strategy going forward.
Harvard CRP's Dan Losen is all hacked off about the recent EPI graduation rate report, more Losen here with some back and forth. As I said I think this whole thing is basically political. Here's a good test, assume for a moment that the EPI estimates are correct and that grad rate researchers Greene, Swanson, and Warren are wrong. Substantively, would that really change any of the policy prescriptions for addressing the problem anyway? Would we want states to deemphasize the problem or stop focusing on data gathering, curriculum, retention, high schools, literacy, and engagement? Of course not. That's why it's hard not to see this as an effort to reframe the debate than really attack the problem.
Interesting political test for charter schools unfolding in MN. The state's Fifth Congressional District seat has been long been held by the well-regarded Martin Sabo (D) who recently announced his retirement setting of a frenzy for the Democratic nomination. That's because the seat is pretty safely Democratic so whomever snags the nomination is likely going to Washington.
There is a crowded Democratic field but after the early fundraising totals were announced, after only about a month of campaigning, two candidates have basically emerged as front runners. Keith Ellison, an African-American attorney and state legislator from Minneapolis who captured the endorsement of the local DFL and former state senator Ember Reichgott Junge, well known as a champion of women's issues and also of public charter schools -- she wrote the nation's first charter school law, a winner of the Harvard Innovations in American Government Award. Ember's something of a surprise since she's been away from politics for a little while. She raised enough money fast to surprise some analysts of MN politics with her strong showing in a crowded field that includes Sabo's former chief of staff. Interestingly, charter school supporters, especially in MN but also nationally, are proving a key source of her support and some observers think that grateful parents will play a role in the race at the polls.
Privately some charter school supporting Democrats have complained that while "atta boys" are nice, hard campaign cash is even better in the rough and tumble world of politics. That's why it's worth keeping an eye on MN, are charter school supporters finally stepping up to the plate in a big way? Disc--I'm not just an observer, I'm also a $ contributor to Ember's campaign, I've known and worked with her for years.
Also, related is that Andy Smarick (R), author of this blog and a staffer at the National Alliance For Public Charter Schools is running for the state legislature in MD. Worth watching as he gave a very stiff challenge to a longtime incumbent 4 years ago despite being outspent 12-1. He's a smart guy and knows the charter issue inside out. And, in NH, maverick Democratic charter school supporter Peter Sullivan is making a bid for the U.S. Congress. Charter politics in both those states are contentious (much more than MN) so keep an eye on how the issue plays out...