A Puff Piece For Paul Peterson And Poly Sci

The Education Sector's sophomore publication, an 11-page profile of Harvard political scientist Paul Peterson, looks at first like something that you'd find in Education Next, the contrarian magazine Peterson edits (and that I write for occasionally) or in a regular newspaper or magazine -- except it's not nearly as interesting or persuasive.

I'm not sure how it happened or what the Sectorans were going for, but this disappointing profile (by former Philadelphia Inquirer education writer Dale Mezzacappa) comes out so bland and without supporting facts that it's hard to know if Peterson really deserves credit for bringing political scientists to education -- and even harder to tell if the arrival of the polysci crowd has made any a difference (to education research, or policymaking, or kids) that we should care about. A handful of proteges and name recognition don't really make the case.

None of this is helped by the fact that neither Peterson nor anyone else's work on vouchers has settled the debate or created widespread momentum for them, that the quality of education research remains hotly debated, and that political scientists have been replaced by economists as the novelty of the day in education research. As for the Education Sector, well, it says it wants to be "journalistic" in its work. In journalism, this is called a puff piece.


Undaunted By SAT SNAFU, Pearson Enters Teacher Testing Market With NES Buy

You might be interested to learn that media giant Pearson PLC, one of the testing companies called into the fake Spellings woodshop session (see below) and the folks who mucked up the SAT scoring earlier this year, just bought National Evaluation Systems, according to The Guardian (via EdWeek) -- entering the teacher testing market for the first time and making Pearson an even bigger giant in the US testing and publishing world.

Payzant To Harvard. No Replacement At BPS. Education Next Article On Its Way.

There's still no word on a Payzant successor for the Boston Public Schools. Payzant's next job at the Harvard School of Education was announced earlier this week. But it's still another couple of weeks before Education Next publishes my hard look at whether Payzant's tenure was all it was cracked up to be.

Actress Set To Name Child After Federal Education Law

Following on the recent trend of famous actors naming their children all sorts of outlandish things, actress Angelina Jolie recently announced she would name her child after the education law, No Child Left Behind.

Well, not exactly. But, according to one blogger's account of Angelina Jolie's recent interview on the Today Show, the actress did call on the Bush administration to live up to the real meaning of NCLB's name, not just in the US but worldwide.

Video Clip: National Teacher of the Year Raises Test Scores -- For Kindergarteners

If you're a glutton for platitudes, check out this Fox video clip of the National Teacher of the Year ceremony. My favorite parts are towards the end, where GWB, the First Lady, and Secty Spellings fumble around with the photo op.

Also, it's sort of delicious to hear the President try and link the impact of the teacher's work to standardized test scores. Kim Oliver is a kindergarten teacher.

A Fake Woodsheding: Spellings Spins Her Own Performance

It's pretty easy to figure out from how public the USDE made it (and the fact that it was scheduled during the week of the state education heads conference) that the meeting between Secty Spellings and the testing company heads wasn't primarily about substance but about perception -- not just of testing, but of Spellings herself.

Testing fiascos aside, Spellings is slowly but surely getting a reputation for the watering-down of NCLB that she's undertaken for the past year. She knows that the puff pieces everyone has written about her (you know who you are) won't stand up forever. So now with this faux woodshed meeting with the testing industry, last week's "shocked, shocked" response to the AYP loophole scandal, and the belated review of state teacher qualification reports), she's trying to look a little tough.

What would it look like if anyone really got tough with the testing industry? Oversight hearings, with subpoenas and sworn testimony. Anything short of that is pretty much curiosity-seeking or, like this meeting, mere showboating.

Just What Education Needs: Its Own Version Of "The Smoking Gun"

For almost a decade now, The Smoking Gun has dug up embarassing documents, photos, and transcripts about public officials and celebrities and posted them online before the rest of the press.

Now, Peyton Walcott has taken somewhat the same approach and applied it to education -- filling her site with scandalous tax returns, court filings, pictures of educators' mansions, and the like (Via Edspresso and EducationNews).

The latest posts cover a suspicious-seeming technology vendor in Katy ISD Texas and news about some superintendents who live outside the districts (or states) where they work. She names names, gives addresses. It's intense -- I like it. Just what education needs.

Morning Round-up April 27, 2006

Low marks in polls, Judges weigh in a education spending, students with parents in jail, and more...

Public Systems Get Low Marks in Poll
LA Times
Californians are increasingly frustrated and dissatisfied with their public school system, and so skeptical about government's ability to spend money wisely that they oppose any general tax increase to improve education, according to a statewide poll scheduled to be released today.

A mentor makes a difference Philadelphia Daily News
About 2.4 million children have a parent in jail in the U.S. Without help from a caring, involved adult, up to 70 percent of those children could easily follow their mother's or father's path and wind up in jail.

Educating from the Bench Opinion Journal (via educationnews.org)
Spending is so low, these litigants claim, that it is in violation of state constitutional provisions requiring an "adequate" educatiom. And in almost half the states, the courts have agreed.

School Board to consider returning to more rigorous grading standards Las Vegas Sun
The Clark County School District is turning back the clock on grades, trying to raise both academic standards and accountability by returning to a strict numerical scale for weighing student acheivement.


The Best of the Blogs This Week

The "READ MORE" gizmo isn't working, so we'll keep this blog roundup short:

Microbiology for preschoolers Aetiology
Tara Smith, an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology spent a day teaching 3, 4, and 5 year olds about germs. Apparently the latex gloves were a bigger hit than the mircoscope.

Where NCLB Meets Special Ed NCLB Let’s Get It Right
In an article that strikes many of the same nerves jangled by last week's big Associated Press story, Education Daily is reporting that 9 of 10 schools are not reporting special education figures to the USDE.

Jonathan Kozol -- Education's Greatest Monster
D-ED Reckoning
In two parts, D-ED Reckoning describes Kozol's latest move: actively bashing effective instructional programs that are successful in educating poor kids.

A Think Tank's Credibility Tanks EducationNews.org
From Nancy Salvato: I was amused, as I'm sure are many others, to read about a group of education researchers involved in what is being called “The Think Tank Review Project”.

Science Tuesday: The Hip-Hoppers The Education Wonks
I guess that schools have to do whatever it takes in order to hook kids into science. (Be sure also to check out the Wonks' inimitable Carnival of Education.)

Morning Round-up April 26, 2006

Benefits of Preschool, Excellent public education, and more...

Benefits of preschool come with every dollar
LA Times
As California voters consider whether to vote for Proposition 82 - the ballot measure that would fund preschool for 4-year-olds in the state - attention has focused on a Rand Corp. report we wrote last year documenting the value of preschool education.

New Science Foundation chief calls for stronger educational focus
Business Journal of Phoenix
Tuesday he was the festured speaker at the M&I Bank Power Breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, giving his insight on how Ireland changed from an agrarian economy to a knowledge-based powerhouse.

Mitt Romney: Six steps to excellent public education
Providence Journal
We found our education prescription by interviewing parents, teachers and principals; studying actual data; mining
lessons from successful districts and charter schools; and digesting the recommendations from commissions and experts.


Teacher Hiring Policies

Teacher Quality is a phrase everyone is talking about, but have we REALLY been able to decide what highly qualified means, in the classroom? Nope --not even today, as the National Teacher of the Year is being announced.

National Title Goes to MD Teacher Washington Post
The choice of Kimberly Oliver, the first educator from Maryland to win the national honor, marks the second year that a Washington-area teacher has won the competition.

A little attention to hiring teachers goes a long way Providence Journal
Policy is a boring topic until you realize how much bad policies can hamper progress, waste money, and encourage mediocrity of worse.

Hiring, keeping good teachers a challenge
The News Journal
But do tests, degrees and certification -- or being highly qualified, according to the federal criteria -- necessarily make a teacher good?

Where the ELLs Are

For all you reporters and researchers out there who are tracking the immigration story or what's going on with English Language Learners under NCLB, there's a newly-enhanced language mapping tool over at the MLA site (via Inside Higher Ed) that will show you in easy visual terms the languages spoken in any part of the country -- down to the zip code. Three hundred languages, numbers or percentages, three different age brackets, data on English proficiency. Very nice.


More Cowbell!

The world doesn't really need another opinion-free education blog. However, what's going on in Miami is fascinating and instructive for other urban districts, and if anyone can make a newspaper-run blog interesting, the Miami Herald's Matt Pinzur is probably the guy. So let's give a warm if hesitant welcome to The Gradebook, the Miami Herald's new education blog. Just remember, Matt: More cowbell!

Boys Vs. Girls

It's a slow week so far for education news, but USA Today and the NYT have some good stuff on the controversial issue of whether boys are in any particular crisis in American schools.

The Final Four NYT
With national alarm about underperforming boys, the few remaining men's colleges find themselves relevant again.

As boys slip behind, some feminists reject helping them
USAT via EducationNews
With its powerhouse basketball teams, famed chemistry department and high rankings in college surveys, the University of North Carolina shouldn't be lacking for qualified male applicants. But UNC's current freshman class is 60% female.

For the opposing view: Recent reports on male students' crisis in schools are overly simplistic, divisive.

Morning Round-up April 24, 2006

What happens when you revamp high school requirements, city schools ignore parents, and the seemingly inevitable slew of MySpace stories...

Making the new grade Denver Post
While Denver joins a nationwide trend toward more-specific course mandates for graduation, it does so amid mixed results as schools around the country grapple with their own higher expectations.

Teachers get First Amendment education Herald-Journal
Teachers need to weigh their job options before speaking out against employers, a state official told teachers and parents.

City schools are accused of ignoring parents Inquirer
The Philadelphia School District has failed to involve parents in its plans to improve failing schools as required under federal law, a complaint filed by a public-interest group said yesterday.

Making Friends Was Easy. Big Profit Is Tougher. NYT
MySpace.com, a social networking site, is ready for its members to meet advertisers.


Blog Shines Harsh Light On Struggling High School - And Its Author

An angry teacher's blog was discovered by students and staff last week at a struggling Chicago high school, and rumors about his identity forced him to call in sick (Teacher's biting blog stirs storm).

The offending (and sometimes offensive) blog itself was supposedly taken down, but you can still see parts of it here (they may be reposts by another author). It's sad, and angry, and sounds like an extreme version of an all too familiar problem.


Six of 100 Chicago Frosh Make It Through College

"Pipeline" stories are nearly always interesting, whether they're measuring attrition among prospective teachers before they get to the classroom, or high school students making it through high school, or college freshmen making it to graduation.

Now the Consortium on Chicago School Research takes it one step further by figuring out how many Chicago high school freshmen make it not only through high school but also through college. The answer? About six of 100.

City schools do poor job of college prep: study Crain's
Chicago Public Schools are doing a poor job in putting students, particularly Latinos, on track to succeed in college, according to a report issued today by a University of Chicago research group. The university's Consortium on Chicago School Research found that though 80% of ...

Of every 100 freshmen entering a Chicago public high school, only about six will earn a bachelor's degree by the time they're in their mid-20s, according to a first-of-its-kind study released Thursday by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.

6.5% of CPS freshmen finish college Sun Times
Chicago public high school freshmen are battling daunting odds: Only 6.5 percent of their predecessors have been earning four-year college degrees by their mid-20s.

Only One Week Left To Nominate Me For Fordham Prizes

Don't forget that you only have until next Friday (the 28th) to nominate me for the Fordham Foundation prizes for Excellence In Education.

What else would you call the brutal truth-telling, the exquisitely nuanced commentary and analysis, and the regular trouncing that I give all comers from my lonely perch in the nation's midsection?

Plus which, it would irk Checker.

Full Of Feller

Not everyone's happy about what he's been writing, but there's no doubt it's been a busy past week or so for AP's education writer Ben Feller and the education team at AP. First, Feller helped write the big story about the AYP loophole and the Federal response (Congress Leaders to Probe No Child Scoring, Spellings, too). We all know what a doozy that one's been. Then yesterday he filed a story (AP Poll: Teachers Dubious of 'No Child') about how parents are actually more confident about NCLB than teachers. Early Friday morning, he filed this one (For contractors, education law means money), which chronicles the rise in opportunities for vendors that NCLB has brought. (Before anyone goes crazy about the $22 billion number, remember that the entire K12 education venture in the US is estimated at $400-500 billion a year.)

Does Guestblogging Work In The Long Run?

Few people can or want to have their own blog -- especially over a prolonged period of time -- but many have lots to say. Hence, the creation of the extremely useful "guestblogger" designation. It's usually done as a temporary thing, a trial run or a fill-in. But the latest guestblogger setup in the edublogosphere is in theory at least going to be an ongoing thing. It's taking place over at the Education Wonks, where Number 2 Pencil's Kimberly S. has signed on as she shelves her site after four years of excellent work.

I like the idea of an ongoing guest contribution and would hate for the edusphere to lose what little talent it has just because someone doesn't want to blog full time. But I wonder if it works to be an occasional blogger. There's something about blogging that suggests it's an all-in type of thing, or that once you lose the habit it's gone. Or maybe I'm just too close to see that's not the case.

Loophole Story Tests Bloggers' Political Instincts

This AP loophole story has continued to tie people in knots -- especially those who are (a) generally skeptical about NCLB or (b) somehow miffed that the AP story is getting so much attention.

What only a few bloggers seem to understand is how bad it looks to be against 2 million kids' scores being counted. That's why you haven't seen any lawmakers out there defending or even trying to explain the thing.


To see the first wave of reactions, check out my inital roundup of responses.

Since then, few bloggers seem clear or clean about what they think:

Over at a Constrained Vision, for example, Katie is skeptical about the breathless tone of the AP story. She goes back and forth about the thresholds, but concludes that “one national rule might be better.” Indeed.

Similarly, John and Beth from the AFT Blog are all over the place on this one. Initially they said they weren't defending the loopholes (like I said they were), but then on Thursday come back again to the issue again, calling the loophole story "hype" and detailing how schools can't afford to ignore kids regardless of the oversized thresholds. They still sound like they're overall pro-loophole to me, but who knows.

Ditto for Eduwonk, who goes for the "go ask your mother" answer by dismissing the AP story as a mere effort to sell papers that "doesn't convey the reality on the ground" and ignores statistical soundness but...sorry, I nodded off right about then.

Then there are those who just seem to fly whereeever they want to go on this one:

The NSBA's BoardBuzz tries to hijack the story to (a) argue for growth models -- huh? -- (b) blame USDE and the states (as if districts weren’t part of pushing for creating oversized subgroup thresholds), and (c) to argue that minority kids are actually over-counted under NCLB. Yikes.

The Gadfly soundly trounces the blame-the-states/Feds argument: "Local superintendents, school board members, and teachers associations abhor the spotlight and sanctions that come with tough accountability; they are responding by putting withering pressure on state officials to lower the bar. And, not surprising, some state officials are obliging."

Over at Schools Matter (I know, I know), Professor Horn is conflicted. He hates NCLB, of course, but he doesn't like the AYP loophole either. What to do? Blame the feds for segregation. Yeah, that'll do it.

The right answer, however, is that giving schools a pass on being held accountable for the scores of up to 50 minority kids at a time is ridiculous -- even if you hate NCLB.

That's just what AlterNet, the alternative weekly blog, has figured out, calling the thresholds "the most ridiculous loophole in the worst education act." I like it.

Morning Round-up, April 21, 2006

Rasing the bar, mumps, teacher lawsuits and more...


A bar raised for all Christian Science Monitor
In the United States, the "achievement gap" in student test scores can be seen through any lenses: from race and gender to income, special needs, and language barriers.

Mumps Epidemic Spreads; More Vaccine Promised NYT
In the largest mumps breakout in the United States in more than 20 years, almost 1,000 people have contracted the disease in the Midwest.

Teachers sue state, alleging inequality Journal Gazette
A battle expected to reach the INdiana Supremee Court began Thursday when the Indiana State Teachers Association officially filed a lawsuit challenging the state's funding of education as unconstitutional.


On The HotSeat: Uber-Contrarian Diane Ravitch

Education historian and former USDE muckety-muck Diane Ravitch says she’s trying to lead a quieter life, but still it seems like she’s pretty much everywhere – in the papers, on the bookshelves, and even in the blogosphere.

On the HotSeat, Ravitch explains how education research is slowly getting better, why textbook snafus don't get as much attention as testing foul-ups, how the whole K12 voucher debate is nothing more than a fluke, who the Republican rising star of the moment is, and why she likes a few blogs but doesn't want to blog too much.

Whatever you do, don't try and pigeon-hole Ravitch. Think she’s a rightie? She says she’s not. Think she’s for mayoral control? Au contraire. Big on vouchers? Not so much as you’d think. Gung-ho for local control? Actually, she's more for national standards. Ready for an ed school beat-down? Not really.


Years ago when you were at the Department and I was working at a research firm, I had a sign up on my bulletin board quoting you about how education research was "a jobs program for the over-educated." Have things gotten any better, or are they worse?

DR: I don't recall saying that, but I do think that education research is definitely improving. There are more and more randomized field trials, more concern for quality, and more education researchers with a strong background in social science.

You and others had been arguing of late that the time was nigh for national standards and testing. I and others had been arguing that the timing wasn't right. Where are you on this topic as of now?

DR: I think that the time will come when this country adopts some form of national curriculum and testing, probably first in mathematics and science. I don't think the time is right around the corner (although it was the Thatcher government in Britain that installed a national curriculum and national testing), but I do think it will happen.

How does a national system actually happen?

DR: I see NCLB as a transition in that direction, with the federal government taking on more responsibility for education quality, and with growing confusion about the difference between high scores on NAEP and much lower scores on state tests. Maybe in three years, or five years, or ten years, but it will happen.

What happens to NCLB in the next reauthorization, generally or in particular?

DR: It will be reauthorized, perhaps switching to value-added measures, with possible addition of other subjects to be tested, such as history.

Looking at the HEA reauthorization and beyond, what do you think should be done with the nation's ed schools and teacher prep programs?

DR: I am reluctant to see more federal mandates piled onto educational institutions, even those doing a poor job of preparing teachers. I would hope that all states would insist--as some already do--that newly prepared teachers demonstrate that they know what they are expected to teach and that the states hold the preparing institutions accountable for their students.

In light of recent debacles surrounding the testing industry, tell us the main things we need to know about the textbook approval and publishing industry about which you've written. Same players and issues, or an entirely different beast?

DR: The issues are somewhat different, and to some extent so are the beasts. The basic problem, which is common to both testing and textbooks, is the reliability of the product. The media is shocked, shocked, when there is a foul-up in the testing industry and scores are not reported correctly or lost or something else goes wrong. They should be equally shocked by the errors that appear in textbooks and by the insertion of political correctness or the elimination of controversial passages, but those things don't capture headlines the way the testing problems do.

Why don't textbook errors get as much attention?

DR: In the main, I'd say it is because textbook reviews are few and far between, many are issued by single-issue groups, and even when they are on target and eye-popping, the most coverage they get is a single story on p. 14. Why do testing scandals make big waves and textbook "issues" turn into yawning non-scandals? Probably it is that specific individual students get hurt by the testing scandals, while the "victims" of bad textbooks are widely scattered and have no names.

Paige or Spellings, and why?

DR: The job of the secretary is to explain the President's agenda and build public support for it. Paige was excellent at this. Another part of the job is to lobby Congress for the agenda and negotiate behind closed doors; this seems to be Spellings' strength. A tossup.

Clinton or GWB, and why?

DR: That's a tough one for me, as I like both of them. Clinton was the best articulator of education issues that I have ever met or heard. He really believed (and I guess still believes) in the importance of strong standards (his original platform—Putting People First-- called for a system of national standards and tests). One time I saw him talk to an assembly at a high school in Silver Spring, Maryland. The kids were nearly leaping out of their chairs and cheering as he urged them to take harder courses and study more. The man really understood and communicated.

GWB is obviously not in the same league as a talker as Clinton. But he understands the issues too and NCLB was his attempt to address them. There are a lot of things wrong with NCLB, but there are a lot of things right about it too. Recall that it passed both houses with 90% of the votes. Many compromises wre required to get to that 90% mark.

Where do you and other right-leaning education thinkers overlap on policy issues, and where -- assuming things aren't as monolithic as they seem -- do you differ?

DR: I am not a right-leaning education thinker. I am an independent-minded education thinker. I put a premium on having a rich liberal arts curriculum, which serves as the basis for testing, professional development, teacher education. That's why I like the Core Knowledge curriculum, which has much similarity to AP and IB but is aimed at pre-K through 8. I care more about what kids learn and whether they get a good education than about the political structure that surrounds schooling. Thus, while I have written favorably about choice, I worry about letting thousands of flowers bloom and discovering that most of them are weeds; I prefer, as one of my heroes Isaac Kandel wrote many years ago, to "prejudice the garden toward roses."

What ideas, left or right, seem over-hyped or otherwise unlikely to meet the expectations that have been set for them?

DR: A favorite of the left--more money--will not by itself produce great education; how it is spent makes a world of difference. A favorite of the right--vouchers--seems unlikely ever to happen, and if it did happen, would be bogged down in endless legal challenges, and even then, might lead to a plethora of mediocre schools that don't get great results. A favorite of the coroporate reformers, who are now in the saddle, is to change the structure (e.g., let the mayor run the schools), but that ignores the fundamental problems of curriculum and instruction.

How has it happened to turn out that it's considered just fine to give federal funding to private and parochial colleges but not to private and parochial K12 schools?

DR: This is a historical fluke. When Pell grants were debated, there was a big issue about whether aid should go to institutions or to students. Ultimately the decision was to aid needy students, and that effectively ended the question about "funding" private and parochial colleges since they too had students who were eligible for Pell grants. Underlying the difference, however, is the fact that the organized interests attached to K-12 education have always been focused on the goal of excluding private and parochial schools from aid formulas. The reasons for this are complex, but the end result has been fairly consistent (with the exception of Title I in 1965, which did include religious schools on a funding-follows-the-student basis).

What about Catholic schools?

DR: Although I’m Jewish and attended public schools for 13 years, I care a lot about Catholic schools, which are especially valuable in urban centers, and would hope we can figure out a way to help them survive. I say this as someone who is deeply committed to public education. In higher education, there is no inherent conflict between supporting the state university and the local Catholic college. Both serve important public purposes.

Is there anyone out there that qualifies as a rising star on education issues from the right, an academic or politician? Who and why?

DR: Frederick Hess of AEI, because he is so articulate and brilliant, even when people disagree with him.

Do you track any of the education blogs, and if so what do you think of them?

DR: I read your blog and Eduwonk and Joe Williams. They are snappy and I always learn something new from them.

A lot of my readers are education reporters. Who are the best education writers our there in the press, and what do you look for in a good education story?

DR: My personal bests are Sam Freedman of the NY Times and Jay Mathews of the Washington Post. To me a good education story is one in which the writer examines the situation, the claims, the press releases, and questions whatever the authorities told him (or her). If for example the government or a think tank or someone else releases a major study, the writer reads it carefully, checks the evidence, talks to people with contrary views, and writes a story that puts the study or report into context.

Who are the worst, and what does a bad education story look like?

DR: A bad education story is one that takes such a study or report at face value, without checking the facts or evidence. A bad education story is one that allows public officials to use the media for its own purpose, that treats press releases from public officials as if they were facts that were beyond dispute.

Why aren't there scads of right-leaning education blogs out there to go along with the scads of left-leaning ones, and do you think it matters?

DR: I have no idea why there aren't, and no idea if it matters.

What did you make of your experience guest-blogging for EdWize the other day? Instant commentary is interesting, isn't it?

DR: I enjoy blogging and could undoubtedly write a commentary every day (I do my best thinking in the middle of the night). My two worries are a) that I would pop off and be irresponsible and later regret what I wrote in haste; b) that I would waste a good idea that could have been published somewhere as an op-ed with a possibly larger audience.

What are you up to right now in terms of writing projects, teaching, research? What's coming next?

DR: Among several things, I am putting the finishing touches on an anthology that I edited with my son Michael Ravitch; it is called The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know, and it will be published later this year by Oxford University Press. I am also finishing up a glossary that I call EDSPEAK, which contains about 1,500-2,000 words and phrases of lingo and jargon that educators use. I am also writing and doing research for the Hoover and Brookings Institution, where I am a senior fellow. I am trying to lead a quieter life, with fewer obligations other than to my writing.

Morning Round-up, April 20, 2006

Students keep marching, AP Poll on NCLB and more...


Poll: Teachers skeptical about law's expectations AP
Teachers are far more pessimistic than parents about getting every student to succeed in reading and math as boldly promised by the No Child Left Behind Act.

2,500 join schools walkout Denver Post
Hundreds of students spilled out of Denver's North High School on Wednesday morning - officially, an unexcused absence - for a 2.5 mile march that grew into an immigrant-rights rally and served as both energetic political statement and ultimate teachable moment.

A move toward citywide educational equity
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission approved a resolution yesterday promising to equalize educational services and programs throughout different areas of the city over the next four years.


Democrats Need Better Education Ideas -- Badly

Not suprisingly, Andy Rotherham again plays apologist for his brethren Democratic think tankers over at the Hamilton Project --without really considering the merits of the constructive criticism that's coming their way or acknowledging (until the very last) that he's essentially defending his own work.


He's "not sure it's fair to ding the Hamiltonians for taking on ideas that are not "new" per se. Ideas need hosts and it's not as though these ideas are yet in wide circulation, especially in Democratic circles, now," says Rotherham. "Besides, shouldn't all ideas be welcomed right now anyway? Not like we've got the political or substantive problems licked!"

Let me get this right: Ideas need homes. Putting out old ideas as new is fine, as long as they're new to someone. All ideas are welcome, even bad or politically impracticable ones. Wow. We're supposed to get the education issue back with this? Funders are OK with paying for this?

Piling On The Democratic Think Tanks

Ed Knows Policy, and he's even more critical of the center-left education think tanks than I am. The Center on American Progress papered its recent education event with interns to make the room seem full. The Hamilton Project's Robert Gordon is "a classic DC type -- a lawyer who latches on to campaigns giving policy advice in hopes that his guy gets elected and appoints him to something." (Something wrong with that?) And the Hamilton Project's much-touted paper is full of ideas about performance pay and retention that "have all been tried before or have been in circulation for decades" -- and are apparently refuted by their own authors.

Welcome to the party, Ed. So far, it's just you and me (Not Another Center-Left Think Tank, National Testing Jumps The Shark). But I think there are others, and I'm hoping we can prod everyone into doing better.

Morning Round-up April 19, 2006

Principals, Luring teachers, Girls vs. Boys and more...


Principal Loses Job for Assisting Students on Test Washington Post
The Charles County school board yesterday accepted the resignation of an elementary school prinicpal who was found to have given her students answers, extra time and coaching on state-mandated tests administered last month.

New York Offers Housing Subsidy as Teacher Lure
New York City will offer housing subsidies of up to $14,600 to entice new math, science and special education teachers to work in the city's most challenging schools, in one of the most aggressive housing incentive programs in the nation to address a chronic shortage of qualified educators in these specialties.

Communities unite to save failing schools Miami Herald
After decades of benign neglect, communities around some of Miami-Dade's most troubled high schools have organized to demand -- and implement -- reforms.

Critics Fear Plan Gives Mayor Too Much Power
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's call for a dramatic change in how local schools are governed received a largely harsh reception Tuesday as critics warned on significant political opposition.

Congress leaders to probe "No Child" scoring
Congressional leaders and a former Bush Cabinet member said Tuesday that schools should stop excluding large numbers of minority students' test scores when they report progress un the No Child Left Behind law.

Boys Are No Match for Girls in Completing High School
Nationwide, about 72 percent of the girls in the high school class of 2003 - but only 65 percent - earned diplomas, a gender gap that is far more pronouced among minorities, according to a report being released today by the Manhattan Institute.


Pushback & Piling On: Responses to the NCLB Loophole Story

While most states are getting pummeled for not counting what ends up being scads of minority kids in school ratings (560 related stories on Google news), school officials in New Jersey say that they're bucking the trend and proposing a smaller minimum subgroup size and lawmakers in Albama are asking questions about whether the AP story was misleading.

UPDATE: The NCLB Commission piles on (but promises no changes) and the AFT blog bravely but mistakenly tries to defend the AYP loophole.


New Jersey officials did the best job of flipping the story outright, pointing out that the state has requested a change that might lower the threshold from the current 20 per grade to an average of 10 per grade (N.J. seeks to give minorities' scores wider exposure Philly Inquirer).

However, close observers will note that it's really a 30-student gradespan minimum that they're asking for, which could cut either way depending on the actual distribution of kids in the state. Other states are doing this -- anyone know how many -- and I'm not sure it always increases accountability.

Meanwhile, state officials in Alabama push back on the AP story and point out that the kids are not left out entirely -- their scores are included in the whole-school rating -- even when there are not enough to meet the subgroup threshold.

The AP story does include this point -- twice -- albeit not very prominently. One example from the second half of the story: "State educators defend the exemptions, saying minority students' performance is still being included in their schools' overall statistics even when they aren't being counted in racial categories. Excluded minority students' scores may be counted at the district or state level." It's a point many will have missed.

Trying to get into the mix, the NCLB Commission release calls for greater transparency -- but not necessarily any limits on subgroup minimums: "The practices raised in this article have had the effect of making these children invisible and speak to greater transparency over how this law is implemented." Transparency is the focus, not changes.

Over at the AFT blog NCLB, the AFTies bravely paddle upstream and defend the loophole, pointing out that subgroup thresholds make sense conceptually (if not at 50 students), that educators can't avoid low-scoring kids forever without any impact on AYP ratings (that's not very reassuring), that interventions like tutoring and transfers are available to all students even if their subgroup isn't big enough to be scored (tell that to most parents trying to get either), and that -- of course -- the 100 proficiency rate isn't realistic or even possible under current AYP rules. This last argument aggravates me the most, since it -- along with the "underfunding" argument -- has been one of the most pervasive and least honest arguments against NCLB over the past four years.

Morning Round-up April 18, 2006

LAUSD, Gates Foundation, nonprofits, and more...


Mayor to push for control of LAUSD
LA Daily News
Taking his campaign for education reform to a citywide audience, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to use tonight's State of the City address to ask the public to back his efforts to take control of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Gates Foundation gives $21 mil. to schools Chicago Sun-Times
Freshman at 14 Chicago Public Schools will have a more challenging and engaging curiculum in English, math and science - and better trained teachers - thanks to a $21 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Charlotte nonprofit tackles education issues Charlotte Observer
The non-profit Charlotte Advocates for Education is leading the shift. The group is recruiting a third "parent leadership network" class, which will start a two-year training and advocacy stint this fall.

Student Meal Program To Expand to 3 a Day
Washington Post
As many as 20,000 District children will soon be eating three government-subsidized meals a day, beginning with breakfast and lunch at school and ending with dinner at after-school programs, according to a acomprehensive plan to end child hunger in the city.


Vander Ark: "I Could Kick Myself"

It's not quite the same as Condoleeza Rice admitting that the Bush Administration has made thousands of mistakes during the war in Iraq, but this afternoon's Chicago Tribune includes the Gates Foundation's Tom Vander Ark saying "I could kick myself that five years ago we should have paid more attention to curriculum."

While notably candid, Vander Ark's admission isn't news to those who've been following the foundation's evolution. Over the past year or two, the foundation's shift from focusing narrowly on school size to broader issues of rigor and instruction has been welcome but extremely challenging for foundation staff and many of those who've worked with them.

Previous Posts:
Dear Tom: What Is Going On at the Gates Foundation?
Gates Foundation: Not Just About Small Schools Anymore
How the Gates Foundation Got So Hard
The End of Small Schools--Or The Beginning?

Not An Argument For A Growth Model

Associated Press didn't "discover" the small sample loophole in state AYP calculations -- everyone in education has known about it for a while now -- but AP writers Frank Bass, Nicole Ziegler Dion, and Ben Feller seem to have done a bang-up job reporting the cumulative effects -- numerically and demographically -- of the loopholes, and of how states and the USDE have let NCLB get swiss-cheesed.

I first saw this at Joanne Jacobs, but go to Yahoo! News if you want all the online goodies, says the ever-helpful Feller. There's not just a main story showing nearly 2 million exempted scores nationwide, but an interactive table where you can see state, district, and school statistics as well as little video sidebars. For example, 82,000 kids in Illinois were exempted (over half of them black and Latino), and in Chicago 35 percent of the kids at one school (Audobon Elementary) were not counted.

Just Saying No

This LA high school did what more schools probably should (and maybe do without the news getting out): surprised everyone and turned down grant money and a program that wasn't a good fit with the school.

"Depending on who's asked, it was either a case study of union power run amok or of high-handed, top-down management." (In Carson, Teachers Say No Thanks to Grant LATimes)

Not Another Center-Left Think Tank

Perhaps not surprisingly, I am skeptical about the Hamilton Project, a new Brookings Institution effort staffed with former Clinton and Rubin folks to put out new ideas in education and other areas that has gotten a few prominent mentions over the past couple of weeks, as well as a big endorsement from political superstar Barack Obama.

At first glance, the Project doesn't seem particularly focused on education issues, its first set of education ideas (summer school, performance pay) don't seem innovative, and -- most problematic -- there's little attention given to political considerations that need attention to bringing any new ideas to reality.


First off, I'm dubious about what happens when organizations try and cover a broad spectrum of policy areas (in this case, economic policy, education, and a few other things). As we've already seen in other situations, there's usually a expertise and quality problem when that happens (Foundation Fix).

At the same time, there's already a positive glut of think tanks and policy shops out there, broad (New America, Center on American Progress) and narrow (Center on Education Policy, Education Sector). Does everybody have to have their own think tank these days -- Hilary has the Center, so Barack gets Hamilton?

Substantively, I'm not sure I see much that's new or even controversial in the first paper, Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job, nor in the idea of more summer school, which almost everyone has been doing for a decade now.

Most of all, I don't I see any notions about how to make any of the changes that are being advocated into reality. It's the political piece that so much of what passes for education thinking these days is missing, at least in written form.

Is it considered bad form to write about these things, much in the way that traditional journalism tries to hide its sentiments behinds the conceit of objectivity? Is it considered inappropriate to consider crass political considerations in print, even when political objectives are clearly afoot?

A couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of dicusssion about whether think tanks and their research are independent enough. This is a separate, but related problem. Can think tanks, in their effort to see academic and neutral, effectively address what are at least in part political problems?

Whatever the cause, so much time and thought seems to go into everything but the crucial issue of how to get it done -- as if the ideas are so new and so powerful that they can overcome the host of political challenges that keep things as they are. As we've already learned this year with national testing, that's usually not the case (It Takes More Than A Good Idea To Change Education).

Perhaps there are strategic memos going around that I'm not seeing, or tough-minded conference discussions that I don't get to. Part of me wishes that were the case. But I'm guessing it's not so.

Updated Hype Levels: April 2006

The Threat Awareness Office at the Department of Education Hyperbole has just posted the following adjustments to the National Notification System:

Mayoral Control (up from last month)
National Testing (down) Margaret Spellings (down)
Special challenges for boys (up) Universal preschool (new)
KIPP Schools (down) Dangers of MySpace.com (down)
Charter schools (new) Small schools (new)
New teachers/induction/retention (down)
One-to-one laptop computer initiatives (new)Constitutional Education Amendment (steady)

Morning Round-up April 17, 2006

Bullying, unions, drop-outs, drug convictions and more...


MD to Use Data to Combat Bullying
Washington Post
Maryland's middle school students are more likely than their elementary or high school peers to be involved in incidents of bullying and other harrasment, according to a recently released state report - the first such effort to track the problem.

Union Wants Early Say on School Reform LA Times
Intent on being a player in the ongoing scrum over the future of Los Angeles schools, the powerful teachers union and a coalition of community organizations will outline Monday their own plan to overhaul the city's public school system.

Changes target potential dropouts Orlando Sentinel
Last year, more than 51,000 Florida students who should have been in the class of 2005 failed to march in cap and gown. At least 30 percent of the state's students typical do not graduate in four years, an attrition rate often shrugged off as inevitable.

Drug convictions cost students their financial aid USA TODAY
Drug convictions cost students their financial aid today by Students for Sensible Drug Policy says 189,065 people have been turned down for financial aid since the federal government added a drug conviction question to the financial aid form in the 2000-01 school year.

New D.C. Test Demands More than Circling an Answer

Washington Post
With Exam Next Week, Schools Busy Showing Students How to Turn Analytical Skills Into Written Responses.


Alphabetical Privilege

Parents and teachers have always known that, in the roll-call world of schools and teams and honor rolls, kids whose last names come earlier in the alphabet do better than those towards they end of the line.

Now it's been proven, according to a study (via The Washington Monthly) that shows the impact of "alphabetical privilege" on professional recognition and accomplishment in economics departments that give top billing to the Albertsons of the world and relegates all others to "et al."


Campaign Work as Internship

With all the current plans to provide students with the tools they need in the classroom, Vermont Republican Candidate Richard Tarrant has his own plan to throw into the ring - offer laptops to students in return for volunteering on his campign.

Is it bribery -- or a valid way of introducing students to the American political process? Would anyone know the difference?

Morning Round-up, April 14, 2006

Cafeteria tutors, random police searches, Praxis scores matter, and more...


Tutors outside the box Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Debra Long oversees the cafeteria at Arnco-Sargent Elementary School for 180 days a year, ensuring her charges attend classes with full, satisfied tummies. But for the pat six weeks, Long added a task to cafeteria duty: test tutor.

Students to Get No Warning Before Searches NYT
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced yesterday that police officers with metal detectors would conduct unannounced sweeps of students and their bags at middle schools and high schools thoughout the city beginning later this month.

Teachers With High Licensing Scores Found More Effective EdWeek
Students whose teachers score high on state licensing exams learn more mathematics over the course of a school year than peers taught by teachers with low scores, according to a new study that draws on 10 years of test-score data on North Carolina schoolchildren.


Ninjas Vs. Pirates

Dressing up like a ninja and running through the UGA campus is all well and good unless the ATF is around. Then you get taken down and cuffed.

Why dressed as a ninja? To help settle the ninjas vs. pirates debate, of course.

Good to know that educators aren't the only ones locked into never-ending battles over unanswerable questions (choice vs. money, class size vs. teacher quality, etc.). We clearly need better costumes.

Dear Checker: The Gadfly Writes Himself A Letter

This week's Gadfly includes a small but staggering example of just how circular things can get in the think tank world: Checker Finn, the original Gadfly, essentially writing a letter to himself.

If that isn't the echo chamber, I don't know what is.

The fact that Checker's on sabbatical, and in California, doesn't make a whit of difference. It's still a hokey ploy to call him a "reader." It's also one more reason that the Gadfly should be converted into a blog: limitless opportunity to revise and extend your remarks in real time instead of a fixed space and a two-week time lag.

SES Hurt Voucher Proponents Like NCLB Transfers Hurt Public School Choice

As promised, Nina Rees's guest column in this week's Gadfly includes some interesting things to say about how the SES provision has been ignored by private school choice advocates who don't realize that they're hurting their own cause:

"School-choice advocates should be particularly interested in SES’s problems with quality. If left unremedied, they could cast a dark shadow on future efforts to expand choice and to allow newcomers to build innovative programs for low-income students."

It's well worth noting that many of these same arguments apply to the left on the issue of NCLB transfers. By ignoring and belittling the transfer option in NCLB, and letting it go unattended, public school choice advocates have made the public system appear as monolothic and monopolistic possible. If they had instead embraced the notion of transfers, they might have blunted at least some of the right's arguments for vouchers. Instead, both left and right get what they deserve.

UPDATE: Eduwonk's got a different (and somewhat incoherent) take on Rees's commentary. Something about buying the cure, drunk pilots, and accreditation. But I'm glad he's finally got pictures to go along with all those self-referential hyperlinks. Yay, pictures.

Condoleeza and the Watermelon? You Gotta Be Kidding Me.

Just what testing needs right now: The Seattle Times reports that a racist question appeared on a math test at Bellevue Community College, according to the WSJ Best of the Web (Liberal Racism Watch).

Best Of The Blogs

Ring tone protests, Jewish carnivals, censored news clips, and the US of Mexico -- it's my own little best of the best of the education blogs.


United States of Mexico Joanne Jacobs Immerse immigrant students in American culture, writes Aaron Hanscom, a substitute elementary teacher in mostly Hispanic schools, in the Orange County Register. Most of his students say "Los Angeles" or "California" when asked what country they live in.

Identify the Evil Genius Intercepts He wants mayoral control of the school board; state audit of classroom spending; an end to the district's "culture of complacency; longer school days and an academic year of 10 1/2 months; teachers' pay tied to their responsibilities, not to seniority; and an increase in the number of charter schools. When asked about the response of the teachers' union to these proposals, he replied, "They're going to go nuts when [we] do it."

Ed Week Goes Blogback! Eduwonk

Giddy up! Here's a really gratuitous pop from Education Week... not that there is anything wrong with it... Accompanying this story about the woes of ELC and the Follow the Leaders Project is this photograph of former Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene Hickok (who is barely even mentioned in the story!)...What’s next, an article on STEM careers and a picture of Margaret Spellings with a bong?

There They Go Again AFTBLog
Back when President Bush found out the U.S. Department of Education had hired Armstrong Williams to promote NCLB, he declared, "Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet." Apparently, the word didn't trickle down to the appointees at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) who put out "No Child Left Behind Extra Credit," an online newsletter.

Protesting Their Right To Ring-Tones Ed Wonks
In New York City, some students are loudly protesting the loss of what they view as their God-given right.... to bring cell phones to school.

Carnival of Education Blogs Magic School Bus A roundup of the education blogs -- this one in the style of Passover.

HotSeat #6: Controversial Charter Figure Re-Emerges As Private Industry Expert

Even though he may be one of the most interesting thinkers in education, I’m guessing that most readers haven't even heard of Marc Dean Millot, this week’s HotSeat.

On the HotSeat, Millot fills us in on what the education “industry” is all about (not just textbooks and SES), reminds us what happened to New American Schools (it worked), lets us peek into the development of national charter school organizations (they were hijacked), disses on education think tanks (no new ideas since charters), and tells us to get ready for more private-sector involvement in education:

“The question of private engagement in public education is not whether we should permit it, but how fast it will happen and how intelligently it will be regulated.”


Some might call him a controversial figure -- I just like reading and hearing about things I haven't heard a thousand times before. He’s got a background in nuclear warfare. He did a long stint at NAS getting the models up and running. He sued the charter school leadership organization that hired and then fired him. And now he runs the School Improvement Industry Weekly, a weekly publication that gives a glimpse at how education companies view the world of schools and teachers.

What is the "school improvement industry" and why shouldn't I be scared of something with such an ominous name?

DM: Any collection of sellers, buyers, regulators etc. is typically called an “industry.” The school improvement industry is about the firms and nonprofits that provide products and services premised on their contribution to student, teacher and school performance; the schools that purchase those services; the government that has created the market in such services and regulates it; the policy wonks and education evaluators who study it; the investors who finance the providers; and the politics surrounding it all.

OK. I’m still a little scared. Are you a gung-ho privatization guy?

DM: It is all about making public education better, rather than replacing it with vouchers or leaving it isolated from the rest of the American economy as it was for so long. Unless you believe public education is the one exception to the general rule that capitalism – while horribly flawed – is still the best means man has created for allocating resources to their highest and best use on behalf of everyone, you should be more afraid of a sector that bears closer resemblance to Eastern Europe under state socialism.

I’m just guessing, but I’d say that the test makers and publishers are the biggest part of the education industry, followed by textbook publishers, then -- far down the line in terms of size -- SES providers, school improvement outfits, and the like. Is that right? Paint us a picture of the school improvement industry.

DM: Publishers are the largest players in the teaching and learning value chain. Most of their products – books, and specifically content – have arguably been part of the problem. Never the less, at the industry’s current course and speed, it is likely that many if not most companies trying to change teaching and learning will become part of a big publisher.

So everyone gets bought up by a publishing company?

DM: Testing is a good example, with the publishers buying testing firms and those units buying newer smaller firms with related services. EMOS, CSR providers, EMOs, professional development still occupy a fraction of the market – but it’s the fastest growing segment and that fraction SII Weekly focuses on. The details of this information are available to clients.

Rumor has it you worked at RAND-- what did you do there, and why did you get out of the research business?

DM: I joined RAND in the 1980s to run large-scale nuclear war-related studies. I moved to public education studies after the Berlin Wall fell - based on then- RAND Washington Office VP Paul Hill’s response to my interest in another hugely complicated problem of public policy - but this time one that wouldn’t go away.

What did you work on first?

DM: I spent my time on the then-emerging policy initiatives of charter schools and school contracting. On the charter school side I did most of my work for the joint RAND-University of Washington Program on Reinventing Public Education (now independent of RAND). I had a role in writing some of the federal law governing DC charters and a statute the Washington State Business Roundtable pushed in that state legislature. I wrote guidebooks for charter organizers in general, applicants in DC and Pennsylvania, technical assistance organizations and chartering agencies.

On the school contracting side, I worked on the New American Schools Development Corporation’s problem of taking its eight independent R&D design teams’ programs to scale. NAS’s board – made up of CEOs like David Kearns and Lou Gerstner were serious about achieving this goal and understood strategy. We all agreed that the only way to approach national scale was to get schools to buy our teams’ programs. That strategy required helping our teams’ transition from R&D groups to professional service firms and creating demonstration markets in districts across the country. I drafted a roadmap for the first and the memorandum of understanding NAS used for the second.

I remember New American Schools -- so 1990s. But why’d you leave RAND?

DM: I left RAND for NAS, first because I always believed that as a client I’d be skeptical of any advisor who hadn’t had to face problems as a decision maker; second, because I was convinced that NAS was going to make a serious go at the strategy I’d helped to formulate; and third because I’d been going to law school at night (George Washington) since the Wall fell, and thought this was the best way to put all my skills to work.

What happened at NAS?

DM: We built a $15 million investment fund, I worked to help most teams spin out of their parents, we did a lot of creative high-risk venture financing and lending. I ultimately became NAS COO and CEO of that investment fund. Every one of the NAS teams was confident enough in the efficacy of their programs to undertake the incredibly painful process of harnessing market discipline to their missions. As their banker, our relations were not always happy, but they were ultimately productive.

Did the NAS investment strategy work? Are any or all of the 8 still in action?

DM: All but Audrey Cohen is in the market and financially self-sustaining. We did similarly effective work helping a number of organizations that were not originally NAS teams move towards fee-for-service – Accelerated Learning, Different Ways of Knowing, TurningPoints, and Voices of Love and Freedom come to mind. We built some side businesses in quality assessment, grant identification and business consulting. The designs are in thousands of schools, the fund was financially successful, and our investors were repaid. It was a great ride, but in the end I wanted to be my own boss.

You recently wrote a withering analysis of education think tanks and more on this site. What's your beef with Andy Rotherham -- and education punditry in general?

DM: I have no beef with Andy as the guy occupying the centrist DLC Democrat position in Washington’s ongoing education debate. I think he writes well and says sensible things. The question with all pundits is whether it passes the “so what?” test. My beef with punditry is mostly that it’s now all derivative. The last big policy ideas in public school reform were charter schools and school contracting. They are now over 15 years old. The real issues are simply the hard work of implementation and even good writing just doesn’t get us very far. I’d like to see them break some new intellectual ground - which in my view is all around empowering students and teachers in the classroom – or actually try to solve some of the problems they have dissected in such detail.

Tell us as much or little about the Charter School Leadership Alliance debacle as you can without being taken to court. You were hired to run it, you were asked to leave, you sued. Is that the gist of it?

DM: I was hired by the unanimous consent of the National Association of Charter Schools as its first CEO in the spring of 2003. The job lasted to about the fall. In retrospect, I was caught in the middle of a top-down change in the charter school movement’s direction made by its new philanthropy funders. They were tired of the “one school at a time” approach to scale, and somewhat dismissive of grassroots organizers. It had already committed itself to the nonprofit EMO strategy and a movement management by “leadership” rather than “membership.”

My search committee consisted mostly of old-timers I’d known from my RAND days, my executive committee was completely later to the charter game. At around this time there were “similar changes in management” of the movement occurring in DC and California and elsewhere affecting some of the original and more independently-minded charter leaders like Shirley Monestra, Eric Premack and John Ayers.

Was there a substantive disagreement about which direction to go, then?

DM: Based on my hands-on investment experience with almost every conceivable business model of program dissemination, my view of the strategic problem was that “one school at a time” and CMOs were both bad strategies for scale. The former lost every conceivable economy of scale. The latter lost diversity of approaches, shrank the pool of folks interested in running independent public schools, attempted to centralize school quality when it would always be owned by the sites, and disconnected the schools from their communities – which in my view is the foundation of charter schools’ competitive advantage.

What would you have done if you were in charge of growing charters?

DM: My plan was to create a backbone of services that would lower overall costs but maintain independent schools and lower the barriers to entry for those capable of running a school. It would be owned by the schools through their membership organization. I wrote a plan, it was unanimously approved by my board, and generally considered plausible by outside observers.

In the end, however, the bottom-up/backbone/membership model wasn’t funded, and the top-down/CMO/leadership model was. The golden rule (he who has the gold rules) applied here. My commitment to consult members before acting as the organization’s President, to think practically about the movement rather than ideologically, and my pointed opposition to heavy investment in CMOs proved to be disadvantages. My board and I came to an agreement on the end of my contract.

How long have you been putting out the SIIW, who gets it, and what's it for?

DM: I wanted to create the publication I wish I had when I moved from RAND to NAS and just didn’t have time to find the information that I should have been aware of in a more ideal world. School Improvement Industry Weekly reports on the players I described at the outset. It aggregates content across the wide range of sources reporting on each slice of the marketplace, and arranges them in a context relevant to those who see school improvement as an industry. It consists of excerpted items and hotlinks, so that readers can skim it like a newspaper, or go straight to the source for more detail. In addition, it contains an editorial of my views on the industry; seven rotating guest columnists from the industry; summaries of relevance to NCLB implementation, general school reform research, a program evaluation; and now your HotSeat interviews. A site license (for all employees at an organization) is $500 per year.

Who reads the SII Weekly, and how do people like it?

DM: Ironically, while the service was designed to give small organizations access to the kind of information large organizations take for granted, the bulk of our clients are large for- and nonprofit providers. The typical sale is first made to the CEOs or Chief Marketing Officers. An open door/phone/email policy for clients leads to lots of interaction with development and business planning staff. My guess is we have about a thousand regular paid readers between the two publications. We offer complimentary subscriptions to SII Weekly to state and federal education agency staff and education writers who are employed by recognized media.

What do you think is coming down the line in terms of private sector involvement in education that readers should know about but probably don't?

DM: While the media is focused on EMOs and SES providers that seem to substitute for the traditional public school, the revolution is occurring elsewhere. Until recently, all the processes and activities surrounding education have been entirely government functions. The only evidence of private sector involvement has been books. Today private sector providers are becoming more and more deeply and extensively embedded in that process and its underlying support. This trend will not be reversed, although the speed and extent of its growth is highly problematic. So the question of private engagement in public education is not whether we should permit it, but how fast it will happen and how intelligently it will be regulated.

Previous Posts
How The Private Sector Thinks About Education
So Much Business In Education -- And So Little Coverage

Morning Round-up, April 13, 2006

LA take over, NYC model for urban schools, rigorous math classes and more...


Details of Schools Takeover Emerge LA Times
As mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pursues control of the Los Angeles school ssytem, his advisors are considering wide-ranging changes that could gut the central bureaucracy, sell the district's headquarters, keep students in class until 5 PM, and extend the academic year to 10 1/2 months.

Maryland and Baltimore at Odds Over City Schools NPR
The Maryland legislature has blocked a proposed state takeover of 11 Baltimore schools. The schools have limped along for years with low student achievement. The school district says it's fixing the problems. But state officials are skeptical.

In NYC, model emerges for fixing urban schools USA TODAY
Annoyed with embarrasingly bad schools you don't control? Persuade the legislature to hand you the reins. No money to fund a Leadership Academy? Get corporate leaders to donate $70 million. Have too many schools spinning wheels? Put high-performing charter schools inside existing schools.

Pawlenty's math instruction goal might not add up St. Paul Pioneer Press
In a plan first touted in last month's State of the State address, Pawlenty said he wants all eighth graders to take Algebra 1 and high schoole students to pass Algebra 2 before graduation.

Backstory: A teen ‘hijabi’ comes of age CSM
Behind the counter of Brigham’s Grille, 16-year-old Sarah Ismail takes rapid-fire orders. Customers’ eyes, invariably, settle on the head scarf Sarah wears beneath her Brigham’s cap. In all her faithfulness, Sarah is a committed Muslim. She is also, in her autonomy and ambition, and in the premium she places on her freedom of expression, a thoroughly American teenager, intent on becoming herself.


Belated Review of HQT Reports -- Why Now?

Ben Feller has a fascinating little story out this afternoon about how the USDE is doing some sort of review of state, district, and even school claims in re "highly qualified teachers" -- a notion that the Department has neglected until now despite widespread reports that HQT was being substantively ignored.

"Thirty-three states claim 90 percent to 99 percent of their main classes have teachers who are highly qualified," states the story (Education Dept. Checks Teachers' Rankings). "The accuracy of those accounts is now under review by the Education Department, which is checking not just total numbers but also the figures within poor and struggling schools....Some states have allowed teachers to qualify based on conferences attended, awards won, years taught and other accumulated experience."

Why is the USDE doing this now, after so long? What happens if the inititial reports turn out to be inflated or incomplete? And -- existential question -- why was HQT so soft in the original NCLB and so ignored and watered down in the implementation?

UPDATED: Ben reminds me that the review is being done to see whether states deserve the extra year they were promised. I'm still on the hunt for any within-district stats regarding the distribution of HQT across the poverty spectrum, if anyone has that.

All Hail Greg Toppo, Education Reporter Extraordinaire

Much as I don't always like USA Today, I've always liked USAT education reporter Greg Toppo's stuff. And this week at the AERA conference, he's put out a ton of interesting pieces -- about bullies preferring text messages, the spread of the 65 percent solution, the ineffectiveness of laptop programs, and the mismatch between Praxis and what teachers need to know.

At the very least, you gotta give him credit for being hard working. That's a lot of stories in a week, especially with free drinks and San Francisco in the background. But I think you'll see it's more than that.


High-tech bullying may be on the rise
In a small-scale study presented at a meeting of the American Educational Research Association here this week, researchers surveyed 65 girls ages 15-18 in an upscale Sacramento suburb in 2004 and found that self-identified female bullies most often text-messaged harassment by cellphone, preferring it nearly 2 to 1 over e-mail, websites and instant messaging. About 45% had been victims of cyber-bullying.

States sign on to '65% solution' for funding schools
Versions of the "65% solution," so dubbed by columnist George Will, have been adopted in four states and are being considered in another six. Department of Education research shows that 61% of school dollars now go directly to the classroom for items such as teacher salaries, chalk, textbooks and computers.

Computers may not boost student achievement
Give a kid a laptop and it might not make any difference. That's the message from research presented here Monday, which suggests that spending millions of dollars to bring technology into kids' homes and schools has decidedly mixed results.

Skills tests for teachers miss mark, studies find
The skills tests that most public school teachers must pass to get a job are poor predictors of whether they'll actually be good teachers — and in some cases may even keep good ones from entering the classroom, new research suggests.