The Labrador That Mauled The Frenchwoman

"Of course, not all pit bulls are dangerous," writes Malcolm Gladwell (known best for his books The Tipping Point and Blink). "Most don’t bite anyone. Meanwhile, Dobermans and Great Danes and German shepherds and Rottweilers are frequent biters as well, and the dog that recently mauled a Frenchwoman so badly that she was given the world’s first face transplant was, of all things, a Labrador retriever."
It's not about education, but it is about policymaking: TROUBLEMAKERS: What pit bulls can teach us about profiling (New Yorker). And it's pretty good reading.


$9B Proposed for Science Education: Beating the President To It

Inside Higher Ed has this post about a group of Senators and their effort to beat the President at his own game just before the SOTU:Seeking Big Bucks for Science Education.

Lock Out Nosy Parents with Thoughtsafe

"Worst-case scenario: Mom decides to check out what you're up to and somehow works her way into your digital diary to find out you may not be as innocent as you look." via Gizmodo: Thought- Safe USB Flash drive with encryption for teens.

Media Coverage: Letter Questions EdWeek's Sourcing ... And Overuse of Checker Finn

I came across a sharp letter to the editor in last week's EdWeek written by an ed school professor who takes issue with the magazine's mix of sources on a story about national testing -- and it's overuse of the highly quotable Checker Finn.


The nut of the letter is this:

"...Can Education Week possibly write a story about policy without quoting Mr. Finn?" writes professor David Marshak in the letter. "This does not seem possible."

You're exactly right, professor Marshak -- it's not possible. I've tried many a time to write a policy story without Finn (or, in Chicago, the equally quotable John Ayers), all to no avail.

On a more serious note, the letter raises what I think might be useful points about how bias can creep into even the best education writing. I hope EdWeek will forgive me for presenting the letter here:

"Parroting the Party Line on Standards and Testing?

To the Editor:

The article “Nationwide Standards Eyed Anew” (Dec. 7, 2005) gives new evidence of your newspaper’s bias in favor of the standards-and-testing obsession currently defacing American schools. It cites eight sources who support standards and testing and would like to see these implemented nationally (all the usual suspects: Chester E. Finn Jr., Michael Cohen, Diane Ravitch, and James B. Hunt Jr., among others), but includes only a single comment from a source opposed to national standards.

Rather than reporting the complexity of views on this issue, Education Week far too often serves as a cheerleader for the received wisdom of the failing standards-and-testing model. The pattern is almost always the same: one, or at most two, disagreeing voices set within the words of six or eight or 10 sources who all concur in one way or another with the party line.

It’s the Pravda version of journalism, with an American twist—a dissenter or two for show. One would think that your reporters could find the phone numbers of a wider range of sources, given the Internet.

And can Education Week possibly write a story about policy without quoting Mr. Finn? This does not seem possible.

David Marshak
College of Education
Seattle University
Seattle, Wash."

CT NAACP & Others Seek To Intervene Against State of Connecticut

I'd heard from Bill Taylor now and then about the possibility of a counter-suit of some sort against CT for its efforts to avoid complying with NCLB, and now it's happening.

According to the press release, the CCCR, the CT chapter of the NAACP, and others are seeking to intervene against the CT lawsuit (filed by state AG Richard Blumenthal at left) because it "hurts minority and poor schoolchildren and wastes State resources that could be used to improve schools."

There's a press conference at
at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 in front of the U.S. District Court, 141 Church Street New Haven.


Here's the press release:
Connecticut State Conference
Of NAACP Branches

January 30, 2006 Andrea Comer, CT NAACP
Kim Alton, Lawyers’ Committee
Dianne Piché, Citizens’ Commission
301-802-0861 or 202-659-5565
State NAACP Seeks to Intervene
In No Child Left Behind Suit

HARTFORD – The Connecticut State NAACP, accompanied by several minority schoolchildren, today requested permission from a federal court to join a case brought by the State contesting the No Child Left Behind Act.

The NAACP claims the lawsuit (CT vs. Spellings), which outlines the State’s objection to testing and other requirements, hurts minority and poor schoolchildren and wastes State resources that could be used to improve schools. The group will hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 in front of the U.S. District Court, 141 Church Street, New Haven.

“This is a suit by two giants – the state and the federal governments – about educational policy primarily designed to help our schoolchildren,” said State Conference President Scot X. Esdaile. “The bottom line is, the concerns with No Child Left Behind shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not provide equity in education to these children, and they deserve a seat at the table.”

The NAACP and the group of minority schoolchildren want to block the state from creating a legal defense that allows them to avoid the obligations of No Child Left Behind on the grounds that the requirements are an “unfunded mandate.” Such a claim, if supported, could threaten the enforcement of many civil rights statutes.


Under the rules of federal procedure, the NAACP must join the lawsuit as a defendant in intervention on the side of the U.S. Department of Education. This unusual alignment for the civil rights organization, however, does not represent full support of the No Child Left Behind Act. The group’s position questions the reasoning behind the proposed suit, calling it an excuse to not meet the needs of Connecticut’s children of color. Specifically, the NAACP feels that rather than filing a frivolous lawsuit against the federal government, the richest state in the nation should be working to help the poorest children have the maximum capacity to succeed with qualified teachers and other resources.

Connecticut currently has the worst gap in achievement between poor and non-poor children, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Moreover, the State has not yet satisfactorily addressed the Connecticut Supreme Court’s order to reduce the extreme racial and ethnic isolation and unequal educational opportunities outlined in the Sheff vs. O’Neill case. The time has come for Connecticut to cease speaking about supporting the goals of NCLB, to start complying in good faith with its obligations and to get down to the hard work of eliminating educational inequality.

The lawyers for the defendant intervenors NAACP and minority schoolchildren include William L. Taylor and Dianne Piché of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights; John Brittain and Erika Woods of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Dennis Hayes and Victor Goode of the NAACP General Counsel’s Office; Steven Pesner, Andrew Rossman, James d’Auguste and Sarah J. Baumgartel from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld; and James J. Walker of Walker and Associates.

See CT v. Spellings, Civ. No. 3:05-CV-01330 (MRK), (D. Ct. New Haven 2005).

Journalistic Do's And (Mostly) Don'ts

Wanta know what folks had to say about my journalistic dilemma, but too lazy to read through everything yourself? That's totally understandable. That’s why I’m here to give you some of what seemed like the most interesting comments and quotes -- most of which are (one way or the other) pretty critical.

Read all the way through and I'll even show you the objectionable post. At this point it seems ridiculous not to.


“It sounds like you'd burn a stranger but not a friend. To me, that raises issues of fairness and credibility on your part.”

“With colleagues -- other journalists -- I generally consider the conversations to be off-the-record and a professional courtesy… I think, oddly enough, in your situation the journalists don't know they're on the record.”

“You are in a nebulous zone that may be hard for people to know whether you are talking to us as a colleague or as a reporter/commentator.”

“Having someone interview you and seeing yourself quoted later in an unflattering way really opens your eyes to how some sources must feel.”

“Janet Malcolm had a famous essay in which she says something to the effect that all journalists are betrayers at heart.”

“Teachers feel betrayed all the time by reporters. I think there's probably a good human behavior story here. Teachers are extremely sensitive to any hint of criticism and aren't generally very media savvy.”

“Here the policy is exactly the opposite: It's off-the-record unless we agree otherwise… I'd never repeat or relay something without express permission.”

Note: The full text of the comments is contained below the original post "Warning, Other Reporters..."

Here's the post that started it all: WBEZ Staffs Up for Expanded Education Coverage Pretty anticlimactic, right?

Do It Yourself (DIY) Classroom Gizmos

Do-it-yourself (DIY) is apparently now cool (notice all the knitting during faculty meetings?), and who's more DIY than a classroom teacher without lots of money for classroom supplies?

Thankfully, the DIY teacher is not on his or her own. The folks at Gizmodo have some ideas that might be useful in the classroom: How To make toys from trash.

"I love this abacus made from an old rubber house-slipper sole, and I'm also very fond of the matchstick mecanno and the battery railway. There's also a great little section of science experiments a kid can make out of household waste. Link (via Make Blog)"


SOTU Watch: Taking Bets On Big Education News

Clearly, folks in Washington who would know better think that there'll be "something big" in the SOTU speech on Tuesday, education-wise.

Me, I still don't think so.


The latest bit of hope comes from the Education Sector last week, which says "the buzz around Washington is that the upcoming State of the Union address will include initiatives to bolster America's international standing in science and math."

Fine. There well may be. A mention in the SOTU is a big deal. (I'm still proud of getting my boss mentioned in one years ago.) And to those of us who live and breathe education it'll seem like a big deal .

But there will also be a slew of proposals on other issues, precious few specifics beyond the same old same old, and -- I'm pretty sure -- no new funding.

The EdSector is worried about the proposal being too big, or not targeted or tailored correctly. Me, I'm just thinking that there won't be that much to talk about. No new ideas. No big bucks.

We'll see.

Subversive (& Delightful) Meanings of Green Eggs And Ham

Another delicious tidbit via the PEN NewsBlast from a no-cost Wall Street Journal article: News that the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham is either a "terrifying torture-and-kidnap story" or a "celebration, albeit a mischievous one, of two particularly American traits: salesmanship and open- mindedness." Most of all, it's a lot of fun.

State Medicaid Spending Creeps Past K12 Spending

Last week, the just-retired director of the Congressional Budget Office told NPR's Terry Gross that Medicaid and Medicare costs were likely to triple over the next 20 years from roughly 4 percent of the federal dollar to 12 or 15 percent -- each. Now, Howie Shaffer at the PEN NewsBlast digs out a USAT story telling us that states now spend more on health care for the poor than they do on elementary and secondary education. "The states spent 21.9% of their revenue on Medicaid in fiscal year 2004. Elementary and second education consumed about 21.5% of states' budgets. Higher education came in at a distant third, 10.5%."

Researchers (And Reporters) Against FERPA

There's an interesting post in The Gadfly from the past week about how the 1974 FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) law is hindering education research (and theoretically intiatives like growth models and value-added assessments as well).

One thing that gets left out of the post -- and the EdWeek story that inspired it -- is the impact of FERPA on reporters' efforts to document what's going on in schools. I'm all for student privacy, but I hate school officials invoking FERPA (not always accurately) in response to information requests. And for God's sake, change the name.

Eduwonk Catches Up on Frist Grants

Last week, I wrote about how a new college grants program was highly unlikely to result in any great incursion of federal control over high school curricula, but instead would result in watered down and weak efforts.

This week, Eduwonk catches up with a footnote about how "there is plenty of reason to worry that a federal definition will be applied inconsistently across 50 different states with 50 different standards and tests" and the somewhat predictable (though not necessarily bad) idea of putting Achieve in charge.

But wait, isn't the NCAA already in charge of HS curricula?

LAT Returns to Education w/ Big High School Series

For a while after Richard Colvin left the paper, it seemed like the LA Times' education coverage fell off the face of the earth. But starting today the paper is putting out a big series on high schools that starts with a look at how more than half of the kids entering one Van Nuys high school leave before graduation. Is it worth the long read?


Clearly, the paper has devoted a lot of time and effort to the series. "Six Times reporters and two photographers spent eight months studying Birmingham — by most measures a typical Los Angeles high school — and interviewing hundreds of former students and their parents, teachers, friends and siblings."

But did they get any insight?

There's some interesting stuff about how kids who transfer are less likely to graduate. "The more students transferred, the less likely they were to graduate — an ominous development in a district in which one-quarter of the students change schools annually. Of 18 students who attended three or more schools, only one graduated."

The piece also points out how HS credits needed for graduation, given only for passing grades, are substantially harder to come by than elementary school grades.

But mostly it just seems long.

Maybe things will pick up. Here's the rest of the series lineup:

Monday: Algebra — a formula for failure.

Friday: Fast friends — 11 started; three finished.

Saturday: The dropout industry.

On the Web

A photo gallery, a video report, a discussion forum and other multimedia features are available at latimes.com/dropouts. Use the Graduation Tracker to explore graduation rates and demographics for Los Angeles public high schools.


"Class of 2005," a segment of the news magazine "California Connected" produced in partnership with The Times, will air at 8:30 p.m. Friday on KCET in Los Angeles and at varying times that night on other PBS stations. For a complete broadcast schedule, go to http://www.californiaconnected.org .


"Warning, Other Reporters: This Conversation May Be Used In A Future Blog Post. Beep."

A journalist recently took issue with me for having having posted something that another journalist had told me over the phone.

"You gotta be careful about that stuff," said this reporter (I'm paraphrasing). "You can't just go and post things you've heard."

I can't? Really? Why not?


That was my first reaction: pissed off, incredulous. After all, writing up what they've heard is what reporters do, and part of my self-appointed "beat" is covering the education media. [Clarification: what I'd learned had to do with what was going on inside a newsroom, not about a story idea or scoop.]

Just because a reporter was my source doesn't really change things.
Reporters are notoriously prickly about being sources. If anything, a professional journalist should know better. The conversation wasn't off the record. The information wasn't damaging or even a secret, to my knowledge.

I even emailed him to let him know something was up on the site, and took something out that he said wasn't public knowledge yet.

But in truth, I have my own issues with what I'd done -- and by extension with being a journalist and a blogger who not only covers education issues but comments on them and on media coverage as well.

First off, I wish I'd told the reporter I got the information from (and everyone else I talk to) that I might report what he'd told me -- right then while we were still on the phone. He wouldn't have liked it, and might have told me not to, but he wouldn't have been surprised and potentially embarassed if he'd told me something he shouldn't have.

In addition, I wish there was a way that I could have ahead of time made sure he (and everyone else that I talk and email with) that there's a possibility that I'll use what they say. Everything's on the record unless you tell me otherwise. I'm thinking I should have an automated Miranda statement, or an intermittent beep like when you call 911. (I've seen some websites contain notifications like that, actually.)

Maybe this is Journalism 101, but I've never really been comfortable with the journalistic practice that you're on the record until you're not, even though I understand it's usefulness.

I also have to say that there is, emotionally at least, a difference between reading what you said in the papers the next day or week or month, and seeing it moments later online. I don't know how to accommodate this intensified response, but I can see that it's there.

There's also something different about getting and using information from other reporters. First off, they feel in some theoretical way like they are "colleagues" -- even though I don't formally work with any of them (and in some vague way compete with them).

And, since I also like to cover and comment on education writing, the relationship is even more complicated. I'm an education reporter, but I'm also a columnist, and a media critic of sorts.*

Again, I don't know what to do with this difference, but I can see it. I am friends with many education writers, and careful to guard their secrets and ideas because I value their friendship and support and feedback.

But I'm not friends with all of them, and in many cases my only contact with them is when I'm responding to a request for information or ideas.

That's as far as I've got. Not so far, I know. Any ideas, observations, suggestions, lessons would be much appreciated. Apologies for the navel-gazing, but it's been useful for me.

*In fact, I ran into a situation once a year or so ago when I pulled some responses about education writing off of the EWA listserve - stripped of names - and put them on this site without having gotten permission. In that case, my fault was particularly clear since I'd gotten the information off of a private listserve.

Secretary Spellings -- Education's Very Own Oprah

It's understandable that lots of news organizations would think of recapping Secty Spellings' first year in office -- it happens all the time, and it's a slow news time for education reporters.

But the press seems to be lavishing praise on Spellings, as if she saved – not eviscerated – NCLB. This praise is of course driving the lefty bloggers crazy, since they don’t want anyone praised for "saving" a law as bad as NCLB is.

Me, I just think it’s sad that she’s getting such creampuff media attention (it's embarassing) -- and predictable, knee-jerk opposition. It wasn't that good a year. In fact, Spellings might have done more damage than good to the law and to school reform in general.

And there's no getting around the fact that during the past year she's flip-flopped on NCLB more than Oprah has on James Frey.


I don’t care that she’s funny, or likeable, or more hip than stodgy old Rod Paige. (It's not hard.) I certainly don’t care that she had her babies without an epidural, or was a single mom before she married a lawyer nearly 20 years older than her. I’m not even sure I care that she’s got her kids in public school. I’m pretty sure I don’t care that she’s a woman.

What I do care about is how well she's done her job. And by that measure, I'm not so sure. Spellings pretty much gave away the farm this past year – over-reacting to what I think was exaggerated negative press about NCLB when other paths were available.

The wisdom of the move is arguable. That she's flip-flopped is hard to dispute. After nearly three years standing tough on NCLB from behind the scenes, as Secretary she's in the process of gutting it: an extra year for teachers – but not aides – to become high qualified, with little or no quality control on what HQ means or where qualified teachers teach.Exemptions galore for big urban districts that want to provide their own tutoring, whether or not they’re providing any meaningful choice. A vague growth model for states that want to try it. Easy signoffs on state plans that contain an ever-increasing number of statistical and bureaucratic loopholes for calculating AYP and dumbing-down profiency. A special deal for Texas on special education exclusions.

No, lukewarm quotes from Connecticut and Utah lawmakers just isn’t worth what she’s done to the law. Those guys were embarassing themselves and running out of steam before she blinked. It's especially disheartening that she's getting so little back from the states and districts in exchange for helping them out. Then there’s the bizarre, strident handling of the gay rabbits on PBS that everyone seems to have forgotten. Anyone asked her about Brokeback Mountain recently?

Site News: What Words and Topics Are Mentioned Most Frequently?

Ever wondered what words and topics come up most on a site like this? Well now, thanks to what's called a "word cloud generator," you know:

The larger the word, the more frequently it's used. I think it's just the most recent posts that are covered, not the whole 22 months of text. Or at least I hope so.


Baltimore Tries the "Hired Gun" Approach

Schools thrive under imported principals Baltimore Sun (via EducationNews.org) "If principals are the key to making schools better, why not take some exemplary leaders in good suburban schools, offer them $125,000 salaries and see if they can turn around failing Baltimore schools?"

That is, assuming you can get them -- and assuming they're not already making that much or more. And that they can handle an urban school.

In NYC, for example, the Chancellor's big effort to get out of town talent seems to have fallen flat. There's a similar effort in VA, where top principals are recruited as "turnaround specialists" and pulled into struggling schools -- to mixed results. (I posted about this a few weeks ago here: Tough Times for Principal-Based Turnaround Efforts.


Boy Hype: Is the Standards Movement Hurting Boys?

For months and months, there's little or nothing about boys and education. Then, seemingly out of the blue, there's too much.

With this week's issue, Newsweek is the latest to get on this particular bandwagon (I hopped on just a few minutes before them).

Sometimes there are virtues to being last.


There's scads of stuff in the cover package: The Trouble With Boys."They're kinetic, maddening and failing at school. Now educators are trying new ways to help them succeed."

In it, one neurologist calls most teaching a "biologically disrespectful" model of education. A conservative scholar blames the current situation on "misguided feminism" from the 1990s.

And the standards and accountability movement is blamed for creating new pressures that are "undermining the strengths and underscoring the limitations of what psychologists call the "boy brain"—the kinetic, disorganized, maddening and sometimes brilliant behaviors that scientists now believe are not learned but hard-wired."

Previous Posts:
Hip Hop Isn't The Only Reason for the Gender Gap: Schools Are
Fear Of Boys: How Society -- And Schools -- Misunderstand ...
Making Schools More Effective for (Black) Boys

What Do K12 Leaders Think About the New Frist Grants?

Doug Lederman has a nice writeup of the whole ugly SMART, ProGAP, etc. story behind what I'm calling the Frist grants ("The Gift Colleges Don't Want") at Inside Higher Ed, the upstart version of the Chronicle.

If you want to know how programs get created, this is the place to look. Unless you're squeamish.

I only wish I cared that much about higher education -- and that someone would report on what the K12 folks have to say about this whole "rigorous" curriculum thing. I'm sick of hearing from higher ed Hill staffers, lobbyists and association heads.

Second-Graders Wow Audience With School Production Of Equus

Some weeks, the only thing that gets me by is a little bit of sick humor from the Onion: Second-Graders Wow Audience With School Production Of Equus

"The story revolves around troubled 17-year-old Alan Strang, played by Kyle Keever, 7, and his encounters with his psychiatrist after he blinds six horses with a metal spike....'The kids loved it,' teacher and director Michael Komarek said."

A close second in this week's education-related humor contest goes to The Daley Show, a Chicago blog that's done a series of posts about how the members of the Chicago Board of Education have threatened to do one of those nude fundraising calendars unless the state gives them more money: Governor agrees to pay part of the ransom

Outsourcing 101: $50B That's Not Purely Public But Ain't a Voucher

Ideologues on both sides often try and draw a line between "public" education and "privatized" education that, in real life, may not be nearly so bright or distinct as it seems.

Towards a better understanding of the grey areas between what's purely public and purely private, TWIE research guru Eric Grodsky has dug up some interesting tidbits on outsourcing -- the first of what I hope will be a series of posts about the less-known world of K12 education and business.

During the 1999–2000 school year, public school districts spent some $35 billion on goods and services provided by private, for-profit businesses—about 10 percent of the nation’s annual K–12 education budget (The Private Can Be Public Education Next).

That figure has almost undoubtedly risen during the past five years. While one study suggests that the percentage of services being outsourced by school districts is declining (The Privatization Trend at Local Level NEA), large urban school districts have been busy outsourcers and NCLB has created abundant opportunities for the recipients of public funds (Annual Privatization Report 2004 RPPI.org).

For a good discussion of what’s being outsourced, see Keeping it Close to Home: Privatization Study.

While some decry the growth of outsourcing in education, others suggest that maybe there’s not enough. That’s what the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis recently suggested with regards to higher education (News-Leader.com).

What's next for outsourcing? Group outsourcing.

A recent report from the consulting firm Deloitte Touche suggested that districts could be doing much more outsourcing by using a model the firm calls "shared services." Nationwide, Deloitte estimates that districts could save $9 billion a year by aggregating just a quarter of the services beyond already shared tasks of professional development and shared transportation directors.

According to Deloitte, “School districts have barely scratched the surface in terms of tapping into the cost savings potential and other benefits” from shared service agreements.”

Want an introductory course on outsourcing? Check out Outsourcing 101(District Administration).

"Latinos Are the New Blacks"

Maybe Steve Colbert is right when he says on his fake news show that "Latinos are the new Blacks. "Or at least the WSJ seems to agree: Blacks vs. Latinos in New Race Cases. "A new wave of race-discrimination cases is appearing: African-Americans who feel they're being passed over for Hispanics. The cases highlight mounting tension between Hispanics and blacks in the workplace."

These tensions are of course evident in school reform, though they're not at a particular high point. I still remember when a family friend and longtime educator told me that Title I was for the black kids, and Title VII was for the Latino kids.


Vouchers: Dumb Issue Even For Education

I've been trying to avoid having to keep up with all this voucher nonsense in Florida. But that doesn't mean I can't pull together some good links for you.


My aversion to to the Florida voucher issue can be explained easily:

First off, it's about vouchers, which means everyone gets to bring out their ritualized arguments for and against. Snooze.
I left working in the Senate primarily to avoid ever having to write another floor statement about vouchers. It's like listening to a professor read off of yellowed lecture notes. Over and over again.

Secondly, it takes place in Florida. Double snooze. The only thing I'm interested in that happens in Florida is whether the aliens in "Surface" (or is it the other one?) are evil or not.

But that doesn't mean I can't give you the best links. (If you read them, tell me what I need to know.) And so:

Vouchers Are NOT Like Pell Grants National Center for Public Education (via ENews)
Florida Voucher Ruling Roils School Choice Waters Education Week
Florida vouchers: What comes next? Gadfly
After setback, what's next for vouchers?Christian Science Monitor
Blame the Legislature for ruling on vouchers Palm Beach Post


Do Pressurized Childhoods With Little Opportunity to Contribute Create 30 Year-Old Adolescents?

A thought-provoking piece (Eternally Teenaged) argues that adolescence in the US now extends into the early 30s -- perhaps as a result of over-pressurized childhoods that, among other things, render children useless much longer and more profoundly than need be:

"Contemporary childhood pressures children intensely but seems to do little to make them feel ready for adulthood... Perplexed parents [provide] ever more tutors, soccer skills camps and ballet lessons. They exhaust themselves ... and guarantee that children have no opportunity to make real contributions to family survival or well-being. ... No wonder they spend every free second in some virtual world - computer or television screens before them, iPods in their ears."

The Text Messaging Craze: Lots of Connection, Little Content

Curious -- or concerned -- about this whole "texting" thing that so many students like to do in class, after class, at home, etc.? Today's Times explains what it's all about -- and tries to make sense of why it's so popular: The Pleasures of the Text.

According to the Times, the universal attraction of text messaging is that it's "a kind of avoidance mechanism that preserves the feeling of communication - the immediacy - without, for the most part, the burden of actual intimacy or substance."

Don't Buy the NYT Hype: Frist Grants Unlikely to Make Feds Master of HS Curricula

Sam Dillon in the NYT tries to make the case that a $4 billion new college grant program muddling through Congress represents some sort of dastardly incursion of the federal government: "for the first time the federal government will rate the academic rigor of the nation's 18,000 high schools."

For reasons that will be obvious to some, this is overheated writing based on fairly thin concerns. Don't buy the hype. The USDE isn't taking over high school course requirements anytime soon.


I'm not saying the new program is the best idea in the world, but Dillon shouldn't get very far in making any making any but the most credulous readers concerned (
College aid plan widens U.S. role in high school education).

This is no NSA domestic spying program, people, much as Dillon tries to make it look ominous and scary. (It came from Texas. The haven't consulted Democrats.)

This isn't NCLB, or Reading First.

Take as a hint that the main objections in the story come from higher ed folks like lobbyist Terry Hartle and powerhouses like... the Association of Registrars.

Add to that the fact that many states have already figured out (and to some extent implemented) rigorous course requirements that would qualify students for the grants.

Rigorous is also defined loosely -- this is no multi-part statutory definition like NCLB's "scientifically-based research."

And so it's even more incredibly likely that whatever rules and regulations come out of DC are so watered down that they're of little bother to anyone.

Superintendent Search Season is Upon Us, and It's A Sellers' Market

I was there in the room one excruciating day 10 years ago when Dan Domenech and his family came to the NYC Board of Education offices at 110 Livingston Street, thinking that he was about to be named publicly as the replacement for Ramon Cortines as head of the NYC public schools.

But Domenech's appointment had unravelled the night before, and after a series of private conversations and public speeches that were, underneath it all, about race, Domenech lost out to Rudy Crew.

The lesson? Superintendent searches can be a strange and brutal process. Based on this Washington Post article, apparently not much has changed, whether the search is open or closed: Searches for Superintendents Hang on a Pivotal Decision.


Kids Who Need Exercise Join Gyms & Get Personal Trainers Instead of Playing Sports or Sledding

Who knows how big an issue this is outside NY and LA, but the NYT has a story about how more an dmore kids are joining gyms, and gyms are being modified to accommodate them: Playtime at the Health Club. Yuck. Cool.

"With health statistics pointing at an increasingly obese population, the national preoccupation with weight is leading the parents of teenagers and even younger children to sign them up at gyms tailored to them, hire personal trainers and schedule workouts as they do piano lessons."


Is That Child Gifted, Troubled, ADHD, -- or Just "Indigo"?

A couple of much talked-about articles about unusual children and their parents have come out in the past week.

Of many things to say, the most relevant here have to do with how schools and educators treat exceptional children.

Is that child gifted, troubled, ADHD, "indigo," -- or just being bratty -- and how should schools and teachers and parents respond?


First there was a January 12 New York Times article about so-called "indigo" children (Are They Here To Save the World?).

Then there was a distrubing January 16 New Yorker profile ("Prairie Fire") about a young gifted boy in Nebraska who inexplicably committed suicide -- and who some think was an indigo child.

According to the Times article, indigo children (so named for their psychic aura) are exceptionally intelligent, empathetic, and impatient.

For some, the misbehavior these chlidren exhibit in school is a push to create positive change:

"The purpose of the disruptive ones is to overload the system so the school will be inspired to change," said Marjorie Jackson, a tai chi and yoga teacher in Altadena, Calif.. "The kids may seem like they have A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. What that is, is that the stimulus given to them, their inner being is not interested in it. But if you give them something that harmonizes with the broad intention that their inner self has for them, they won't be disruptive."

For others, the "indigo" label is dangerous because it encourages parents of ADHD children to push for changes in their children's education that don't promote learning:

"If you conduct a very open classroom," says Stephen Hinshaw, a professor and the chairman of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley in the NYT article, "kids with A.D.H.D. may fit in better, because everyone's running around, but there's no evidence that it helps children with A.D.H.D. learn. On the other hand if you have a more traditional classroom, with consistent tasks and expectations and rewards, kids with A.D.H.D. may have a harder time fitting in at first, but in the long run there's evidence that it helps their learning."

The New Yorker article is much harder to discuss, not only because it describes a child who commits suicide without any obvious reasons why or warning signs ahead of time, but also because this child is educated apart from most others -- at home, and on the "gifted circuit."

There's a National Review essay about the piece -- about suicide, mostly, called Getting Off At Baltimore


Washington's Newest Education Group Reveals Itself With New Report

Ever wondered just what the Education Sector -- Washington's newest education organization -- was up to? (I have.) Well, now you can find out.


They're having a launch party (well, event) at the National Press Club at the end of the month (January 31 9:30 AM - 11:00 AM ) during which they're going to roll out a big new report about testing and the testing industry and feed early birds a little bit of breakfast.

The gist of the report? Testing's not bad, but its rushed and ragged aspects are creating problems for the standards effort. Challenges include "the scale of the NCLB testing requirements, competitive pressures in the testing industry, a shortage of testing experts, insufficient state resources, tight regulatory deadlines, and a lack of meaningful oversight of the sprawling NCLB testing enterprise," according to a release.

Media inquiries contact Molly Chapman Norton (mnorton@educationsector.org). All other inquiries contact Renée Rybak (rrybak@educationsector.org).

Nightclubs Try To Lure Teens - Without Booze. Teens Want the Real Thing.

Starter Clubs are popping up all over the country, according to the New York Times.

"Over the last few years adult nightclubs around the country have introduced teenager-only nights, giving young people an alternative to the fake ID route to fun."

Just what parents of teens and teachers need, right? However, the ruse doesn't work for the most "aspirational" teens: "Notoriously precocious about social life, they are able to sense all too quickly the difference between the real thing and a fake," according to the article.

Sudoku Is Wildly Popular -- But Can You Teach Anything With It?

I have almost no idea what Sudoku is -- except that it involves patterns but no math and it's become ridiculously popular of late in the US (The World’s Most Infectious Puzzle The Week). It seems like just the thing a classroom teacher might use to teach something--I just don't know what. Then again, I'm still a fan of rainforest units and growing sprouts on wet Kleenex and other debunked things.


Sign Up Now for New Weekly Email Notification

Starting in a couple of weeks, I am going to stop sending the weekly email that many of you have been getting directly from me at AOL.com. If you want to continue getting weekly updates, you can simply sign up here on the site. The sign-up box is on the right. A confirmation email will be sent to you (check your spam folder if it doesn't come immediately.) As you sign up, I'll take your name off the AOL list so that you don't get two emails. If you have any questions or problems, feel free to email me at AlexanderRusso@gmail.com (new email) or post a comment here.

The Perils of Online Tutoring

There's a delicious little tongue-in-cheek piece in this week's Talk of the Town about online tutoring that you might find worth checking out:

"Ben McGrath on the modern way of doing homework."

As you'll see, it's not always clear who's on the other end asking for homework help, and whoever it is isn't always willing to do much work.


Fear Of Boys: How Society -- And Schools -- Misunderstand & Stereotype Boys

As several of you know, I was a big fan of Raising Cain when it came out a few years ago.

At the time, the book helped me understand a lot about what was going on in the mind of my then-girlfriend's nine year-old son. The book also named many things that had taken place in my own childhood, which was like others filled mostly by mothers and sisters and female teachers (and 70's-era feminism).

Now the PBS version is being broadcast, with lots of online materials that may be especially helpful to parents of boys --and especially perhaps to female teachers who work with boys.


To be sure, the book and video can come off a lot like Dr. Phil for boys. I'm sure there are some who will take objection, or ridicule the notion that boys need or deserve special attention or understanding in school or in life.

But there's some good stuff in there as well -- including most notably the observation that many people not only tend to see boys' flaws rather than their strengths but also are
scared of boys. Think about that. I think it's true. Not just for women.

Boys can be unruly and out of control, and some are big. But our fearful, negative, and sometimes even punitive reactions are just as much the problem as boys' behavior, according to Raising Cain. We react to aggressiveness or even high activity levels as if they are something akin to -- on the verge of -- adult aggressiveness or even violence, which of course they almost always aren't .

According to Raising Cain, the positive traits of boys characteristically include the desire to help and protect, to solve problems, and to be courageous not just physically but emotionally. These positive traits can be strengthened, and some of the characteristic misunderstandings of boys can be addressed.

Don't Think Education's Going To Have A Big Role in the State of the Union

Maybe I've been gone from DC too long, but this little gem from the Center for Education Reform newsletter made me spit out my coffee:

"As the nation awaits President Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 31, in which education is expected to figure prominently, Governors are taking to the podium for their State of the State addresses and there appears to be more pomp than circumstance."


Wow. First off, I can't remember any big education initiatives from this White House since NCLB. Have there been any? Either way, don't hold your breath waiting for any new ones.

In the meantime, I'm not sure if CER really meant to slam the governors that hard -- or if there's much of a case to be made. For good or ill, the states have been pretty active. Someone call the NGA.

Maybe CER means the foreign-language stuff (Bigger Ed. Dept. Role Seen in Bush Foreign-Language Plan), which is a nice national/economic security tie-in.

Media Coverage: NYT Writers Assailed By Left and Center

NYT education writers are coming under assualt from every side these days, it seems.

First, Jerry Bracey and Jim Horn had some sort of petition going around trying to get Brent Staples to be fired or reassigned.

Now Andy "Eduwonk" Rotherham is calling in fire on Michael Winerip.

Policy disagreements aside, is there anything to these complaints that Times readers -- or other education writers -- should care about? Underneath the hyperbole, yes.


What makes it hard to get to the substance of both Bracey and Rotherham's critique (ditto for The Howler, who might still be investigating Hedrick Smith) is the overheated rhetoric and overuse of exclamation points. For example, I would hope Rotherham is joking here, but I'm really not sure:

"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!"

It's funny and smart -- but it's over the top and smacks a little too loudly of conspiracy theory.

Which is too bad, because Rotherham's being asking reasonable questions about Winerip since at least last summer, when he wrote a piece about him in Education Next called No Distortion Left Behind.

And indeed, one of the main points Rotherham is making -- that reporters tend to get caught up in the few schools that miss AYP barely or for no good reason rather than the many who really need to step it up -- is a good one that I and others have made in the past, and that warrants repetition. Just without exclamation points.

Previous Posts:
Better Education Writing In '05
NYT on Ed Schools: Who Needs Articles Like This?
The NYT Misses Badly on Education Funding Story
Unbalanced Sourcing, 101
Education Reporting -- The Good, the Lousy, the Lousy

Media Watch: Why Are Some Journalists/Media Organizations So Slow to "Get" Blogging?

I'm regularly astounded at how strange and "new" blogs seem to some journalists -- even youngish and/or tech-happy ones.


To me, a blog has always been just a website (ooh, the Internet!) and an opportunity to (a) write commentary (= "columnist") and (b) work without an editor (ahhh!/oops!). This article via CyberJourlist.com says it best: A blogger is just a writer with a cooler name (AdAge).

Of course, more and more papers are creating blogs, and how the integrate and process the postings is interesting to watch. Here's a piece about how the Washington Post edits blogs -- some of it's prescreened, but much of it is edited after the fact. And so far at least the world hasn't ended.

Speaking of journalists, here's a piece via Jimmy Kilpatrick about the ideological leanings of J-school teaching:THOSE LIBERAL J-SCHOOLS (Columbia Journalism Review) from over the weekend. Hide your Paul Wellstone pins and Utne Reader subscriptions, everyone.

Disclosure: As explained here, I'm just bitter that I haven't been able to get anyone to give a home to my little blog(s).


Female Teachers Aren't Seducing More Boys -- Or Getting Lighter Sentences

A couple of folks noted in the comments section of my 2005 Eduction Year In Review that 2005 was the year of female teachers seducing boys -- and not paying for it.

For anyone who's interested, this Slate article (Teachers' Pets:?Are teachers who sleep with boys getting off?) examines that popular notion and digs out some interesting numbers.

Its conclusion? "Sex offenses by women aren't increasing. Female offenders are going to jail. And while their sentences are, on average, shorter than sentences given to male offenders, the main reason is that their crimes are objectively less vile."

Where's All The Online Education Video Content?

I'm not sure what Jimmy Kilpatrick from EducationNews is up to, but it sure looks interesting: EducationNews.org Launches Internet Video Services Division

"In its first private venture, EducationNews.Org launches StreamingTechnology Partnership, a division of EducationNew.org publications, will offer Internet video streaming, recording, and delivery services to schools and education-related organizations."

More access to TV coverage of education news would be great -- right now there are just a couple of (buggy) services like Google video and Blinx that find and show media. You can watch the Daily Show and Lost online and on demand, but not CSPAN and Committee hearings?

The Century Foundation Gives Us Another Reason Why Part-Timers Shouldn't Play Education Expert

Over at The Century Foundation, Greg Anrig, Jr. (pictured) -- another education policy part-timer (see below) -- takes stock of four years of NCLB and comes up with an elegant way to say the same old thing.


In his post (NCLB's Poison Pill), Anrig points out the predictable and inconclusive nature of all the NCLB anniversary back-and-forth that's taken place over the past couple of weeks, for which I applaud him.

But then he goes on to make his own predictable and inconclusive point, which is that NCLB's big winner is conservatism, because it makes schools look so bad and endangers public support for them. "That's a gift beyond the wildest dreams of even Milton Friedman and other libertarian voucher supporters."

Oh, please.

From: Smelling the Coffee at the Century Foundation (Schools Matter)


Hip Hop Isn't The Only Reason for the Gender Gap: Schools Are

There's a thought-provoking and comprehensive piece by USAT editor Richard Whitmire in The New Republic about the challenges of educating boys, especially in literacy.

If you think you know everything about this topic, or -- horrors -- that it isn't important -- think again. It's not just the hip-hop, and it's not just black boys.


Titled Boy Trouble, the piece describes a growing gender gap -- not just in the US -- and debunks many of the convenient explanations used to divert attention from what may at heart be biological and instructional factors. That is, boys learn differently, and schools are highly feminized places.

There are some obvious school-based issues to consider, according to Whitmire. "Most literature classes demand that students explore their emotions (not a strong point for boys)...Basing grades on turning in homework on time guarantees lower grades for boys...Here's the boy-thinking: If I answered the homework question to my satisfaction, the task is done. Why turn it in? If you're the parent of a girl, that may sound bizarre. It isn't. Parents of slumping boys know differently."

There are also some limitations on how much schools -- or boys -- can change. "Expecting boys to become more like girls, however, will strike parents of boys as a bit odd--especially liberal parents who swore they'd never give their children violent toys, only to watch their sons mold clumps of clay into submachine guns."

Thanks to Joanne Jacobs for pointing it out and to Richard for providing a copy of the text (which is otherwise $$).

Previous Posts:
Making Schools More Effective for (Black) Boys
No More Papers, Becoming Bilingual
Google Geometry, PJs At School, Game Boy Jobs

Which Is "Worse"? Privatization, Or A Centralized Curriculum?

According to The Gadfly's summary of a recent report from Research For Action, educators may have less to fear from private management companies than they do from district administrators.

"Seemingly positive districtwide reforms (such as instituting a core curriculum and benchmark exams) had the unintended consequence of further weakening provider autonomy and eliminating distinctions among management companies," according to the summary.

There's only one problem: The report (Privatization “Philly Style”: What Can Be Learned from Philadelphia’s Diverse Provider Model of School Management) doesn't seem to be online yet.


A New Focus for This Week In Education, and a New Site for the New Year

As many of you know, I've been trying to make changes to this website in order to make it bigger and better within the confines of the time I have to dedicate to it. That effort continues.

To read all about the latest changes -- and give your two cents -- click below. The news includes changes to this site and the creation of a second blogsite.


The "big" news here is that, starting this week, I've created a second blog, District 299: An Unhealthy Obsession with Education in Chicago, for all my Chicago-related tidbits and notions, of which there have always been too many to fit into the original site. It's all Chicago, all the time -- something many of my Chicago-based readers have suggested for months.

At the same time, I am going to focus This Week In Education on a narrower set of issues than in the past, based on what's interesting to me and fits my background -- and also on what needs doing (ie, isn't being done better by someone else). So far, these main areas I've identified are federal policymaking, media criticism, and the business of education.

So as to not increase your reading burden, you'll be able to see the content from each site on the front page of the other site. This Week In Education will get you District 299, and District 299 will get you to TWIE. Either would make a great homepage for all your education news needs.

The long story of how I got here is as follows:

This site, started as a weekly email to friends and colleagues nearly two years ago, has been a lot of fun, a really good marketing tool, and a lot of work -- at times threatening my "day" job, which is writing articles about education that someone is actually willing to pay for. (Thanks to everyone on that list!)

Still, the quality and reach of the site has always been limited by how much time I can spend on it, and so part of what I've been trying to do over the past couple of years is to find financial support for the site that would allow me to dedicate more time to it and make it better.

Making money off of advertising or via charging for access to the site never seemed like a viable or fun way to go, so I haven't done much on that front (even though it's the way everyone says I'll end up going eventually).

Instead, my first effort on this front -- started almost from the start -- was was to find a "home" for the site within an existing media or education organization, of which there are many that I like and admire. This effort resulted in lots of interesting converstations but no perfect fit and/or timing. This was disappointing to me, but entirely understandable.

My next effort -- most of it this past fall -- was to try and find direct financial support for the site from a foundation or other type of sponsoring organization. This was also a good excuse to get lots of input and ideas but didnt' result in anyone writing a check. Again, disappointing, but understandable.

Over all, what I learned was that people like and value the site -- especially since I made the change from gathering links in as many as 10 categories to writing more commentary on a narrower set of topics-- but that the site still is trying to do too many things rather than digging into topics a little more deeply, thinking about them more thoroughly, and covering them better.

That's where the notion of creating a separate site for CPS-related content emerged, as well as the idea to narrow This Week In Education to a more defined set of issues that aren't being fully covered by others already.

Despite all the good coverage of Chicago education that's out there, no one covers the beat on a day to day basis like a good blog can -- including both links to MSM coverage, tidbits, and rumors. That's what District 299 is for.Check it out.

Right now, at least, there are a couple of organizations designed to help improve education writing (EWA and Hechinger), and lots of Romenesko imitators out there who know much more than I do, but there's no one besides me who's writing regularly online about education coverage from a critical-minded perspective.

No one covers the $500 billion a year "business" of education, so that's an obvious area where more might be needed.

There are lots of folks in the blogosphere with lots to say about NCLB, but few with any substantial federal legislative experience or first-hand knowledge.

The plan is to go with this format for a few months and see how it goes. Let me know -- what do you think?


Where Are All the Good New Education Ideas? Not Coming from NAF, That's For Sure.

A commentary in this week's Education Week by New American Foundation staffer J.H. Snider (left) seems to confirm my recent post (NAF Tries to Find Its Way in the Education Debate).

NAF is going to have to work a lot harder to carve out any real space of its own on education issues -- that is, assuming it or its funders really wants a strong role in education. I'm not so sure they do.


The EW commentary (The Superintendent as Scapegoat) covers little new ground on the high turnover/unrealistic expectations front and contains few new ideas (smaller districts and ... school choice).

According to his NAF bio, Snider is a telecommunications guy who used to be a school board member and very occasionally writes about education.

Of course, all this is just sour grapes coming from me, a failed NAF Fellowship applicant who would love nothing more than to get paid for coming up with new ideas.

Call me, Ted (right) -- I'm available. We met once at a party. Great hot tub at your old U Street place.

Sour grapes aside, I'm just a little bored by the ideas that are out there, all of which seem unproductive, unrealistic, or a long time coming.

Using something NAEP-like for AYP?
Unrealistic wishful thinking from Checker and Diane.

A Constitutional amendment guaranteeing an adequate education?
Amazing idea that will happen... a long time from now.

The 65 percent Solution?
That's just crazy talk from backwards state officials.

Tinkering with NCLB?
Yawn. I'm guessing it's '09 before it happens.

Small schools?
Even the Gates Foundation has gotten off that horse.

Charter Schools?
That's so 90's.

Vouchers for everyone?
Now that's a fast-moving idea.

Laptop initiatives?
Can you say MySpace.com, or Maine?

Medical 'residency' models for teachers and principals?
"Grey's Anatomy" and "Scrubs" taught me that too many smart residents and not enough strong attendings is bad, bad news.

Pay for performance and/or value-added?
Wake me up when there's the data to pull it off in more than a couple of places.

Everybody Wants to Start a Charter School: First Housing Developers, Next ... Starbucks?

A housing developer in Illinois is going to be the first in the state to start a charter school, according to the Tribune. I've heard of teachers starting charters, and the occasional university, but not a housing developer. There aren't many details, but take a look.

It may not be a first. According to this Miami Herald story from last year (Change drives charter school founder), a housing development guru who started a charter school in Florida. And according to this article from Pacific Research, "In several states, developers are including charter schools as part of housing developments."

Maybe the phone company or Starbucks will develop charter schools soon.


Chicago IL: Why More Controversy Over Little Village High School? Politics and Poor Communication

Talk about pulling defeat from the jaws of victory.

Little Village High School, the seemingly-successful result of effective community organizing and influence, is now encountering some belated controversy, with hunger strike moms crying at press conferences.

Both politics and the Board are to blame.

The resurgence of controversy is not entirely unexpected. Two and a half years ago the concluding lines of my feature article for Catalyst magazine warned that the process of developing LVHS could easily get ugly again.

Now it has -- at least momentarily. At issue is the not-so-new reality that LVHS is not large enough to hold as many area kids who will want to attend, and that the attendance zones drawn up by the Board exclude part of the community in order to create racial balance.

Why is it coming up now? Election-year political grandstanding is certainly a part of this. But it also seems like the Board and others might not have done enough outreach about the attendance zones and size limitations of the new schools. Otherwise, you wouldn't have hunger strike moms crying at press conferences.

Things To Read: Parents feeling betrayed (Tribune), 4 who fasted for high school can't send kids (Sun Times), Community organizing pays off (Catalyst, ), Not your father’s Farragut (Catalyst).

Illinois Education Association Trying to Keep Retired Members

This from Mike at the Education Intelligence Agency:

When delegates to the Illinois Education Association's (IEA) Representative Assembly meet in March at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, they will discuss and debate a bylaw amendment that I freely admit I am too dense to make heads or tails out of...If the amendment passes, the dues of all IEA active members will increase $6 per year and they will become "pre-retired subscribers" unless they take advantage of a 60-day window to opt out – in writing. It seems to free the union from the chore of getting active members to become retired members when they retire."

See the full post here.

What Can Education Writers Learn from the Mining Coverage Mishap?

The botched coverage of the miners' fates over the weekend has me wondering yet again about whether problems like this -- hopefully on a smaller scale -- are hidden in reporting about schools. Once again, I'm guessing that they do. We just don't hear about them.


As in the past (rapes in the SuperDome, etc.), many publications that got the story wrong are now hiding behind the "they told us it was true" defense. As in the past, this seems like a pretty thin explanation for getting it wrong, or for claiming that attributing the incorrect claims would be enough.

As Howie Kurtz puts it, "While the mining company's refusal to correct the misinformation for hours is inexplicable, the situation was exacerbated by the journalistic reluctance to say the facts are unconfirmed and we just don't know. Experienced journalists should have understood that early, fragmentary information in times of crisis is often wrong."

What makes the mining case particularly instructive is that, as with education news, few publications devote serious and ongoing attention to in-depth coverage to mine safety. Sure, there are lots of daily stories about schools, but not much of it is deep, and some of it is not particularly knowledgeable.

Others may have better ideas to guard against this type of mistake, but mine are simple: Make sure you know whether what you're being told is based on direct, first-hand information. Say so when it's not. Guard against being told stories that fit your preconceptions, or fit your source's agenda. Anything I'm missing?

News to Read: A Failure to look deeper Washington Post
Previous Posts: "Hurricane Reporting" in Education?

NCLB News: No Crisis for Paraprofessionals

I'm not sure if anyone cares about paraprofessionals anymore, but a relatively new little report from the Urban Institute points out that the NCLB requirements for paras might not be having the anticipated effects of forcing paras out of the classroom or limiting low-income students' access to minority and bilingual aides.

The report, commissioned by Recruiting New Teachers and funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education, is based on a survey of states and districts. "These districts projected that by the NCLB deadline next year, an average of 90 percent (urban) to 95 percent (rural) of aides would 'probably meet requirements.'"

Paras, unlike classroom teachers, were not given an extra year to comply with the HQ requirements of NCLB. Most have been asked to meet the HQ requirements via WorkKeys or ParaPro tests. However, most states don't have good data on paras, and rates vary widely.

Read the Report: Crisis Brewing? Paraprofessionals and NCLB
Recent clips: New rules may mean fewer teacher aides
Previous Posts: Paraprofessional Aides: Teaching's Underclass


Those Pesky Little School Districts

Looking ahead to the legislative session, the Chicago Tribune editorial page bemoans the fact that Illinois has so many small school districts at so much cost.

There are over 800 of them in the state, many of them serving just a single school. They also overlap in many places, with one district serving K-8 schools and another covering the same area for high school.

What the editorial (When local control goes loco) leaves out is just how hard it is, politically and practically, to consolidate districts. Illinois has tried to force consolidations in the past (as has been done in other states). There are also several studies showing that the promised money-saving often fails to appear.


What If the City Hall Hiring Scandal Reaches the Board of Education?

A Jodi Wilgoren article in the New York Times gives Jesse Jackson, Jr. a decent chance of toppling Daley Junior -- especially if the Federal investigation into City Hall hiring practices continue to expand. The piece (Corruption Scandal Loosening Mayor Daley's Grip on Chicago) also chides Daley for maintaining the vestigates of the old patronage system -- which are his only real vulnerability -- for so so long.

One of the issues Jackson is raising against Daley Jr. is the mayor's much-vaunted education miracle. Most recently, he's focused on the lack of resources at Harper High School. The real jackpot for Jackson would be -- and that no one seems to have asked or investigated -- if the hiring scandal spread to the Board of Education. An unqualified truck driver is one thing. An unqualified teacher is another.

Previous Posts: TIF Slush Fund Siphons Money from Chicago School Coffers


Bumper Sticker Rebellion: "My Kid Sells Term Papers to Your Honor Student"

There's an amusing little article in the NYT about the apparent pandemic of parental competitiveness going on in America these days -- largely fueled by adult anxieties -- which has led to backlash mong some parents that includes this bumper sticker.

I'm not sure the article helps ease any of these anxieties, but the sticker sure makes a funny point. Others include "Your child may be an honor student, but you're still an idiot" and "My child beat up your honor student at recess today."

Chicago Blog Makes Fun of ISBE Math Decision

You know you're in trouble when those pesky blogs starting piling on.

In a post called Do the Math Test Limbo, Chicagoist riffs off a Tribune article to out that "manipulating measuring sticks like this defeats the purpose of the testing regime in the first place, making them an even more colossal waste of time and resources."

See the Tribune article here: State changes school test.

Chief Innovator (and Education Hottie) To Leave USDE-- What Will We Do Without Her?

Education hottie and USDE top-gun Nina Shokraii Rees gets a fond farewell from the folks at The Gadfly, who cite her tenure as head of OII as "unusually productive and entrepreneurial" and list a long series of impressive-sounding accomplishments.

Hmmm. Much as I crush on her every time she's on CSPAN, I can't say I'd go so far as that. Vouchers for DC? Yawn. The supplemental services program? Still a mess. Weekly newsletters and occasional reports? You gotta be kidding.

I do agree with The Gadfly that Secretary Spellings needs to find a great replacement. To that end, I nominate Ana Marie Cox, aka Wonkette.com, who knows nothing about education but is smart and hot and just quit her day job.

Previous Posts: Hot For Education


Standards Without Equity: Illinois Falls Short in Education Report Card "Oscars"

In case there was any doubt about just how consistently below-average Illinois education is when it comes to overall performance and financial equity, Education Week's Quality Counts report -- the decade-old Oscars of the state report card season -- gives Illinois a C+.

The state does better than average on standards, but far worse on resource equity. "Illinois falls short in resource equity, scoring in the lower tier of states," according to Education Week. "Its wealth-neutrality score is among the worst in the nation." Get well soon, Emil Jones -- your state needs you.

Leaving the Civil Rights Establishment Behind

If, like some readers, you haven't been convinced that there really is any substantial disagreement among progressive advocates about NCLB, this week's Samuel Freedman column in the NYT makes the case pretty vividly.

What Freedman leaves out about Taylor and the civil rights groups is even more important.


In the column (Parting Liberal Waters Over NCLB), Freedman profiles the broken friendships and "intellectual gridlock" that has shaped up over NCLB between pragmatic-minded civil rights icon Bill Taylor and much of the liberal left.

Taylor, a longtime civil rights advocate and desegregation champion, scorns others' calls for larger societal fixes like universal health care and school integration as a replacement or precondition for NCLB's higher standards and parental choice -- despite the fact that some of the most vocal critics of NCLB like Gary Orfield are former comrades in arms.

In addition to highlighting Taylor's gamble, the column also reminds those of us who may have forgotten that it's now been 30 years since the Supreme Court overturned involuntary regional school desegregation orders that would be the only realistic way to integrate urban school districts.

What the Times profile doesn't make entirely clear, however, is just what sacrifices Taylor has taken for his beliefs, just how easy it would have been for him join the anti-NCLB bandwagon and rest on his laurels, and -- perhaps most important --
just how amazingly silent most other civil rights organizations have been about NCLB and the process that led to its creation.

In the current environment, folks like Orfield and Kozol seem to carry the mantle for civil rights. But where does that leave everyone else?

Asleep at the wheel, internally conflicted, or blindly following Democratic political imperatives.

This division has been noted before:

EdWeek's Karla Scoon Reid noted internal divisions among civil rights advocates last summer, pointing out that some groups -- the Education Trust, NCLR, and Taylor's CCCR -- had split off from the rest of the pac and joined a new pro-standards organization, while most -- including LULAC, the NAACP -- had joined the NEA and FairTest in opposition to the law.

In July, the USAT's Richard Whitmire took note of the missing response from civil rights advocates like Orfield to the release of the national NAEP figures, which were generally up.

And the WSJ noted that it was Taylor's organization that responded to the threat of a lawsuit from Connecticut. At one point, Taylor considered filing a countersuit against the state for failing to educate its poor and minority children.

When the law was first created, many noted that it took its name from the CDF tag line, "leave no child behind." What few noted at the time was that the CDF had been dormant for nearly a decade on education issues and, having pretty much left the field, was helpless to do much about it.

This context makes Taylor's stance all the more notable. I've seen him go to bat for the NCLB several times over the past few years. He knows going in that he's not going to make any friends or win many converts on panels and among audiences that are usually stacked against him. Right or wrong, it's pretty impressive.


More Than Lip Service for High Expectations

There's an interesting post about the expectations and achievement over at A Constrained Vision, in which Katie weaves together her thoughts about what I wrote earlier this winter about PovRacers and SchoolRefs with the writings of various scholars -- and comes to the opposite conclusion I did.


In the post (Poverty and school reform), her conclusion is that "the SchoolRefs and the No Excuses crowd are winning the debate. The sooner the PovRacers recognize that, the better."

Yikes. I'm not sure I agree with that.

My main thought (PovRacers vs. SchoolRefs) was and is that poverty and race in education continue to have tremendous resonance among teachers and the broader public as explanatory factors for student/school performance, and that large-scale progress likely won't happen until school reformers understand and address this persistent belief.

In short: It's not just low-income minority kids who aren't sure they can achieve at high levels, or the teachers who teach them, or those who follow Kozol and Orfield. It's parents, the public, the press -- a much broader group who often give lip service to high expectations and achievement that I'm not sure I buy.