Education in Texas: The 69th Edition of the Carnival of Education

The 69th edition of the Carnival of Education is up over at Education in Texas. My favorite blog post this week is the one from Scott Elliot's Get On The Bus, which teases "Which racial subset tests significantly lower for mental functioning at age 8 to 12 months in a national study -- white, black or Asian children? The answer may just surprise you."

Targeted or Universal Preschool? Not Enough Debate In Illinois

This Washington Post article (California Initiative Renews Preschool Debate) doesn't mention Illinois as one of the states where the targeted vs. universal preschool argument is going on, but Illinois has increased preschool spending over several years now and claims it's going to be the first state in the country "to make all 3- and 4-year-olds eligible for state-funded preschool" (whatever that means). Sadly, however, there's been notably little debate over whether the universal approach is the best way to go.

The Problem With Think Tank Research

Over at Education News, guest columnist Checker Finn follows many others in asking questions about the recently created Think Tank Review Project.

True enough, Alex Molnar and the other folks in the TTRP may not be in the best position to say what's biased and what isn't, given their established positions on various issues under review. Equally true, Checker Finn probably shouldn't be the one pointing that out, given that he and his kind are the intended subjects of the project.

Think tank research is increasingly being used by both sides of pretty much every debate to substitute for academic research. Done poorly, think tank research can confuse the public, create a certain amount of policy churn, and undercut confidence in academic research it purports to complement.

Morning Round-up May 31, 2006

Black, Hispanic pupils see school as tough AP
Black and Hispanic students see school as a more rowdy, disrespectful and dangerous place than their white classmates do, a poll says.

Dole, McGovern champion free breakfast USAT
Thirty years after the national school lunch program made its debut, hunger relief organizations and food service providers are pushing to raise awareness about a virtually unknown federal service for children: free breakfast.

In Harm’s Way: Guns and kids Washington Post via CJC
Gun-owning parents who think their children don't know where firearms are kept or haven't handled the weapons without permission may be in for a disturbing surprise.

Don't demonize MySpace Chicago Tribune (column)
If you didn't know MySpace, recent media coverage might lead you to think the online social network was a newly discovered circle of a dark, hot place... Collectively it's starting to add up to something bordering on hysteria and a major public-relations problem.


Morning Round-up May 30, 2006

Interested in the Pre-K Debate? The Washington Post has links to an overview of a report by PreKNow regarding PreK proposals in each state, but feel free to visit www.preknow.org for the full report details.

California Initiative Renews Preschool Debate Washington Post
Debate over a universal pre-kindergarten proposal on the ballot June 6 in California shows that widespread disagreement continues over whether the education of all 4-year-olds should be a public obligation.

Early education key to scientific career choice Boston Globe
Teeange career preferences are a more reliable indicator than mathematical aptitude for predicting which students become scientists, suggesting a flaw in federal education strategies, a University of VA study found.

School districts turn to paid readers for grading student essays
Seattle Times
Seattle's Garfield High School is piloting such a program to reduce the workload of teachers and allow the students more writing practice.

Minority gifted kids left behind
San Antonio's Express-News via Jimmy K
In too many cases teachers and administrators fail to identify poor and minority children as gifted, especially in schools with a wide range of ethnic, racial and income diversity.

Schoolkids are 'Metal Detractors'
NY Post
More than 100 students protested school-safety policies yesterday, demanding an end to metal detectors and random scanning procedures.

Why Charter Scores Don't Matter: A Post From Kevin Kosar

Political scientist Kevin Kosar, whose book about the politics of national education standards some readers may remember from this past winter, was kind enough to send me his provocative thoughts about charter schools and test scores.

He writes: "As the charter school movement has grown, so has the intensity of the political brawls over their academic performance. Intense debate is not a bad thing. Each side has an interest in showing that the "facts" support their position. Yet, from this political scientist's perspective, there is also something irrelevant about this debate."


By Kevin R. Kosar

As the charter school movement has grown, so has the intensity of the political brawls over their academic performance. Intense debate is not a bad thing. Each side has an interest in showing that the "facts" support their position. Yet, from this political scientist's perspective, there is also something irrelevant about this debate.

If, as political sociologist Harold Lasswell once put it, politics can be defined as "who gets what, when, and how," charter school advocates seek to direct public funds away from an existent institution (government-operated schools) toward parents.

The political dynamic, then, is a clash between an institution and the citizenry. The dissatisfied many are challenging the reigning few. Critically, the many have much to gain— power over public funds and choices for schooling for their children. The few, meanwhile, as defenders of the status quo, have only to lose.

In a liberal-democratic system such as ours, a dissatisfied many tends to extract concessions from the few over the long run. The charter school movement's capture of public schooling funds over the past decade appears to be only the beginning of a shift in power.

Politics can also be seen as a struggle over government support of particular values. Here, too, charter school advocates appear to have the upper hand. They have tapped into deeply held American values by promoting charter schools as "independent" and "diverse."

They have portrayed charter schools as an expression of positive liberty, understood as the possession of the power and freedom to pursue one's own good. Charter school proponents have also been able to hitch the notion of choice to equality. "The rich," they note, "already have school choice. Why not the poor too?"

The opponents of charter schools, meanwhile, have stumbled when taking values positions. They appeal to American's sense of nostalgia by recalling the glorious tradition of government schools. Then, to the confusion of listeners, they issue pleas for more money and time to improve the schools.

Worse, as an idea, "public school choice" little connects with Americans' values and seems internally confused. It holds that parents should be free to choose the best school for their children; yet, parents' range of choice must be limited to government-operated schools. This baffles many and appears to subordinate the best interests of the children to those of the government-run schools.

In the short-term, political skirmishes over charter schools will continue to be protracted, nasty battles. And I am not suggesting that whether charter schools do or don't raise student achievement and serve children and parents well are unimportant issues.

But these "facts" about charter schools' performance may have little effect on the long-term outcome of the political clash over charter schools. They are political epiphenomena.

Even if charter schools are not clearly better than the government-provided schools, parents will want the power to choose. Like it or not, then, over time, we can expect to see elected officials concede more control over public funds for schooling to parents and to permit the opening of more charter schools.

Accordingly, we all might benefit from spending less energy debating test scores. Charter schools are here to stay, so let's ponder how best to make them work for America's children.

Kosar is the author of Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education Standards (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005).


Gone Fishing - Back Tuesday

This Week In Education is off duty until Tuesday AM. If you really need your daily education fix, check out all the blogs and news outlets on my Bloglines blogroll in the "Links" section of the right margin. Have a great Memorial Day weekend.


Did The Times Get the NAEP Science Story Right?

That's the question over at Let's Get It Right, where John scrutinizes the headlines and the analysis from yesterday's story: "No quotes. No named sources. No explanation of why this affected fourth grade but not eighth and 12th. Two things are clear: Failure is more newsworthy than success. And experts can't agree on an explanation for either."


Best of the Blog Posts This Week

Is Spellings flabby and inflexible, which students are "Big Macs"?, a student version of MoveOn.org, and more...


Connections AssortedStuff
Has anyone else noticed a similarity between the immigration plan being pushed by Congressional "leaders" and the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA)?

Student "Big Macs" PoBronson.com
More students work full time and go to school than Hillary Clinton might think.

Spellings Remains Flabby and Inflexible Schools Matter
The big winners here, of course, are the Kaplans and Princeton Reviews and Carapults of the world who want to lap up this federal gravy before the Bushies are run out of town.

Student Voices Matter Teaching Matters Most
Our Education, a newly formed non-profit organization is mobilizing student voice to demand a quality public education for all of America's children.

Underreporting Crime in Public Schools: A Shell Game? The Wonks
It is being said that some New York schools are underreporting incidents of violent crime in order to make them appear to be safer than they actually are.

Morning Round-up May 26, 2006

Want more info on the "hoax" email about NCLB? Here's ED. Dept.'s press release...

Education Dept. Warns of Erroneous E-Mails on No Child Left Behind
The U.S. Department of Education is seeking to debunk widely circulated e-mails that erroneously say the No Child Left Behind Act mandates that students who fail their 10th grade reading and math tests must accept an inferior high school completion certificate that would prohibit them form attending college or vocational school.

Science scores fallling among older students
Elementary school students are getting better in science, but middle and hih school students are not, a blow for a nation wary about losing its competitive edge.

Site connects users to education research
eSchool News
A Rice University faculty member has created a system for the free exchange of curriculum material and other educational research.


TIME Magazine's Strange Take On The Current State of NCLB

With opening lines that include"the Bush administration is finally beginning to show some leniency," it's amazing just how behind the curve this week's TIME Magazine article on NCLB seems at various moments. What the reporter is referring to is the growth model approvals from last week, which were -- amazingly -- not all that lenient. As evidence, there's a bitter quote from the NCSL's Dave Shreve about states being disappointed that more weren't approved for growth.

Later on, the piece seems to capture the current reality a little bit better: "This change is one in a series of moves over the last year by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings..." blah blah blah. The piece also reminds us of other NCLB "fixes" that may be in the wings, including special exams for disabled students. And it also points out something few seem to appreciate, which is that the flexibility hasn't won many converts. Mike Petrilli -- my hero -- sounds the alarm that Spineless Spellings may have given away too much. Via ASCD SmartBrief.

Morning Round-up May 25, 2006

With the large amounth of articles reporting results of the 2005 NAEP on Science, here's Secy Spellings comments and the report...

Test Shows Drop in Science Achievement for 12th Graders
The first nationwide science test administered in five years shows that achievement among high school seniors has declined across the past decade.

Justices Restore Exit Exam
LA Times
Thosuands of sturggling high schools seniors are likely to be denied a diploma after the state Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated California's exit exam.

'Great' Educators not enough under law
Pensacola News Journal
The Brownsville Middle School exceptional student education teacher has taught for 9 years, is nationally board certified and is working on her doctorate in education evaluation and accountability, and yet not "highly qualified".

On The HotSeat: AFT's Joan Baratz Snowden Goes Off On Education

Joan Baratz Snowden is not your stereotypical teachers union apologist. The self-styled “czarina” of teacher quality and ed reform at the AFT used to work for ETS, of all things, and is just as happy to rip a bad Democratic idea to shreds as anything else. Excellent.

On this week's HotSeat, Baratz Snowden dismisses the NBPTS study as nothing more than an errant bird (seriously), compares economists working in education to drunks looking for their keys (seriously), says that the whacky policy ideas are coming from left as well as right these days (no doubt), and warns against too much hype about mentoring programs that are too feel-good (wonder who she means?).

What's the biggest misconception about the AFT, would you say?

JBS: That a union can’t represent teachers and at the same time advocate for the interests of children. We can and we do.

So, is the AFT for, or against, NCLB these days?

JBS: We have always supported the goals of NCLB. After all, we are the folks who were for standards based accountability before it was enshrined in public policy. And, similar to Checker and lots of observers of its implementation, we believe it needs to be improved.

What about charter schools – pro or con?

JBS: Yes.

I heard you took on Bob Gordon and some other talking heads the other day at a Center on American progress event about value-added – what happened?

JBS: It’s hard to tell the “left” from the “right” these days when it comes to zany proposals for the improvement of teaching.

What's the problem?

JBS: Getting more economists looking at the issue is a hoot, if it weren’t for the fact that people occasionally listen to them. The call for eliminating certification on the basis of a graph allegedly depicting no differences between the trained and untrained in teacher effectiveness is a great example of pushing data through a model with no understanding of the meaning (or meaninglessness) of the data. You got some numbers, grind them out. It’s like the drunk looking for his keys under the light—-not because he dropped them there, but because it is the only place where he can see.

Whatever happened to peer review and evaluation, which I remember being at least mildly popular for a while?

JBS: The rigorous review programs such as those implemented in Toledo, Rochester and Cincinnati have been shown to be effective. Other research has shown that good mentoring programs are important to the retention of good teachers who might otherwise leave the profession. Unfortunately, not all “mentoring” programs are equal—some are glorified buddy systems.

If you're all for incentives for teachers to work in hard to staff or otherwise struggling schools, which teachers should be eligible? NBCTs? Others?

JBS: If people take on harder assignments they should be paid to do so. If we want highly qualified teachers in hard to staff schools we must not only offer incentives, but selective about who gets hired. Yes, NBCT’s should get such pay, but so should other teachers who go through a rigorous, selective process.

What else is needed to make it work?

JBS: The much admired “Chancellor’s district” that Rudy Crew and the UFT implemented in NYC showed that they needed to address other factors—e.g., safety, administrative effectiveness—in order to attract highly effective, veteran teachers.

What do people need to know about the recently released study on NBPTS effects?

JBS: I certainly was disappointed that it didn't provide definitive support for the greater effectiveness of National Board teachers. But the study is just one of several that looked at the value-added of National Board teachers and larger scale studies have reached opposite conclusions. As the poet remarked, ”One swallow does not make a spring.”

It seems like teacher evaluation's failings are often blamed on principals. why don't principals rate teachers as unsatisfactory, and what would happen if more did?

JBS: There are lots of reasons that principals don’t rate teachers as unsatisfactory, but principle among them is the fact that too many of then are not knowledgeable about effective instruction and too often the evaluation tool is meaningless. The question is not whether something would happen merely because more teachers were rated unsatisfactory, the question is what is the evidence for the rating—satisfactory or not. What we need is better evaluation instruments, and trained evaluators—both teachers and principals.

Where are the good ideas coming from these days?

We don’t need more “good ideas,” we need to implement some of the good ideas we already have. The current penchant for discounting formal preparation for the classroom has captivated policymakers at the expense of true progress on the teacher quality front. We know what works… What we lack is the political will to implement these policies, so we go for the quick fix and wishful thinking approaches of luring the best and the brightest into teaching on a short term basis instead of shaping and sustaining a teaching force organized for student success over the long haul.

Whose writing about education do you like, if anyone's, and why?

The rise of the blogosphere has created an immediacy in educational debates that is a quite interesting phenomena. The instantaneity of news and opinion is terrific, but the lack of reflection at a deeper level in some of the writing is really quite stunning. I still think folk like John Goodlad and Larry Cremin are worth rereading. Too many of the big names in education are too busy scoring ideological points to offer much in the way of either new ideas or good ideas.

Fixing The SES Program

I'm not particularly opposed to the tutoring companies, but I'm getting a little tired of these pro-provider SES columns -- first Hickock's in the Post over the weekend, now this one in EdWeek. Neither seems particularly insightful or balanced, and their appearance one after the other makes me suspicious that there's some sort of coordinated campaign going on. There's also something a little unseemly about the arguments they make, given that the Secretary just created a giant windfall for them by expanding the so-called SES flip. Well, maybe they didn't know that was coming. Right. This one at least has some concrete (if self-serving) ideas about how to make SES work better. For what it's worth, I would propose creating independent agencies of some sort to administer the SES and choice programs -- along the lines of the organizations that ran the St. Louis busing effort, or the Cambridge choice program. The SES and choice programs represent a clear conflict of interest for the districts.


Crazy Time In Illinois

First there was the Illinois district that tried to deny educational services to undocumented kids who lived in the community. Now there's this strange and ineffective online monitoring plan from nearby Libertyville: School District to Monitor Student Blogs. Oh yeah, and the Governor is -- get this -- going to sell the state lottery to pay for a supposedly big increase in state funding for schools. Great ideas, everyone. Keep it up.

Why Administrators And Education Officials Fear Blogs: It's Not The Online Predators.

I think that beneath the surface school administrators and other officials might be just as concerned about how blogs all the rest could affect them as they are about how they might affect kids. In part, at least, it's reflected anxiety. And the anxiety is not entirely unwarranted. For example, you can read over at Peyton Walcott about how the investigation she kicked off has changed the course of events in at least one Texas district (Peyton Wolcott). Or check out what happened to this poor superintendent who was trying to engage in regular online chats with folks about his district-- click through past Paul Brown Baker's post and you'll see it didn't work out very well (Superintendent’s live online chats engage hundreds). Or there's the story in this week's EdWeek -- the second story in as many weeks to come from the blogs -- about how an author who's critical of NCLB got disinvited to a recent conference (Author, Publisher at Odds Over Content of Talk).

Morning Round-up May 24, 2006

Suggested improvements to NCLB, lottery money for Chicago schools and more, program in NYC aims to offer opportunities to overlooked students and more...

National test would promote No Child goals
Philadelphia Inquirer
So the law needs serious revision and the place to start is by implementing a national standardized test, such as the NAEP.

Education Becoming Top Issue For D.C. Washington Post
Homeowners, business leaders and newcomers with a finacial stake in the District's economic revival are pushing the troubled D.C. school system to the top of the city's political agenda in a landmark election when voters will choose a mayor and a council chairman.

Gov's $10 billion jackpot for schools
Chicago Sun-Times
Gov. Blagojevch pushed a plan Tuesday to make Illinois the first state to put its lottery up for sale or lease, a move that could generate $10 billion -- including a $4 billion, four-year windfall of new dollars for school programs.

In Search of Standouts Who May Not Stand Out Enough
More than 90 percent of Posse students graduate within five years, compared with about 60 percent at private four-year institutions nationally.

Science scores up in grade four, stalled in grades 8 and 12
The lackluster performance by older children underscores the deep concern among political and business leaders who see eroding science achievement as a threat to the U.S. economy

Spineless Spellings: SES "Flip" Goes Nationwide -- What About Choice?

Much was made of Secretary Spellings' newfound "spine" over at The Gadfly (and elsewhere), but I'm still not sure that she has anything in mind other than loosening the law up as far and farther as the statute and the press will allow her.

Sure, only two states got approved to pilot the growth model alternative to AYP last week, but states can already do pretty much do as they will with AYP.

Sure, 9 states might face sanctions over their definitions and implementation of HQT, but I bet they'll squeeze by in an election year.

Just today, the Egypt-bound Spellings issued a letter telling districts that the SES "pilot" program in Virginia would be expanded nationwide in the new year.

She's even considering letting more low-performing districts provide their own SES (currently being piloted in Boston and Chicago), though of course the providers wouldn't be happy with that.

Like the President, who can leak top secret information at will, Secretary Spellings seems to think that she can make NCLB into whatever she wants -- or whatever's most convenient.

UPDATE: "Lawyers [Bolick and Piche] at two advocacy groups that want tougher enforcement of the law’s choice provisions argue that the secretary’s move oversteps legal bounds," according to EdWeek (Choice, SES Would Flip Under Plan).


Trends In Crazy Baby Names: "Nevaeh" Comes Out Of Nowhere

Look out, parents, nurseries, and primary school teachers: There are about to be a lot of kids named Navaeh in your classrooms, according to one of the NYT's most-blogged articles of the past few days (And if It's a Boy, Will It Be Lleh?). It traces the rise of a particular name -- this one popularized by a Christian rock star.

As an added bonus, check out baby naming trends in the US with this cool online tool that shows you graphically the rise and fall of various names over time: The Baby Name Wizard (via Eric Zorn's Change of Subject blog).

Morning Round-up May 23, 2006

Outdated teacher education methods, uncertainty on the higher ed commission, and more...

Teachers learn dated methods - USA Today USAT
Most U.S. undergraduate teacher-education programs give prospective teachers a poor foundation in reading instruction, according to a new study by a Washington-based non-profit group that is working to reform the nation's teacher-education system.

Reaching consensus on future of higher education proves difficult Sam Dillon
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings established the commission last fall to study how to increase access, affordability and accountability in higher education. Its recommendations could be critically important for the country's 17 million college students and their parents.

When Districts pull sweets from menus, schools lose bucks
Gannett New Service via edspresso
While health advocates applaud the decision earlier this month by soft drink makers to voluntarily restrict the on-campus sale of full- calorie drinks nationawide, school administrators are bracing for belt-tightening.

Milwaukee's lessons on school vouchers Christian Science Monitor
In March, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) signedd a ill that raises the cap on the number of voucher sutdents and also requires accountability measures - such as standardized testing and accreditation - for the first time form the private schools in the program.

Schools Bank On Teaching Kids How to Save
Washington Post
With savings rates falling and personal bankruptcies on the rise, educators and policymakers are beginning to insist that the basics of money management and, above all, the importance of saving, become part of school offerings.

Cup Stacking Saves Education Education

It's clear from last week's demonstration in front of the House education committee that cup-stacking (aka speed stacking) is going to save education -- or at least make gym class a little more interesting (Cup stacking rising in popularity). Thanks to the EWA listserve for getting me up to speed. Go, cup-stacking. Boo, suduko!

Where MySpace Meets National Security: Sexy Pictures, Yes. NSA Eavesdropping, No.

In stark contrast to those of you who can't resist reading and writing tired old "Dangers of MySpace" articles (Filtering Access), Justin Berton over at the SF Chronicle seems to be onto something fresh and interesting with this piece that contrasts attitudes towards sites like MySpace with the NSA eavesdropping program: Generation Gap: Parents, exhibitionist young people differ on NSA spying (via CJC). First off, it connects to something that's in the news. Even more important, it focuses on a key and oft-neglected issue: how and why younger people have come to feel so comfortable putting crazy stuff online. To me, that's the real story -- not the pedophiles and stalkers.

Which Blog Gets The Most Page Views? Not This One. Which Blog Gets A Lot of Page Views? None Of Them.

What I get from this chart comparing daily page views for five education blogs over the past six months is that Education News (not really a blog, but sorta) leads the pack, with Joanne Jacobs right up there. Eduwonk and The Education Wonks seem to be gaining ground -- or maybe the others are declining. This Week In Education trails them all -- not so surprising considering the obviously poor quality of the site, the recent creation of the Chicago schools blog District 299, and all the mechanical flaws (having more than one URL, for example). Or at least, that's what I'm telling myself. None of the blogsites is read very widely -- EdWeek (not shown here) -- outpaces everyone, as you'll see if you plug it (or pretty much anything else) into the Alexa-meter. What do you see? What will it take for education blogs to be more widely read?


Insufficient Disclosure, or Just Wasted Space on SES At The WPost?

There's a post over at Assorted Stuff about how the Hickock opinion piece on SES is an example of insufficient disclosure on the part of the Washington Post. True enough, you don't find out until the end (and then only vaguely) that Hickock now lobbies for SES providers as part of his work on behalf of the education industry. My main complaint, though, is that the piece seems intellectually dishonest -- blaming the lack of SES entirely on schools and districts. I'm no apologist for how the ed bureaucracy has implemented SES, and I know that folks like Hicock and Rees have to make a living, but the providers have mucked things up a fair amount as well. Rees's piece in last month's Gadfly at least had some interesting political analysis.

Freakonomics Endorses Stossel's "Stupid In America"

The boys over at the Freakonomics Blog should get ready for a boycott (or an invitation to teach) from the pro-teacher hordes once word gets out about the following pro-Stossel/Stupid In America post from Sunday night:

"There aren’t enough people like John Stossel on television: smart, curious, cantankerous, and very willing to shoot at sacred cows...I’ve always admired his reporting and especially his attitude. His recent 20/20 special on education, “Stupid in America,” is a particularly good example."

Where's The Washington Post Blog?

Last week's HotSeat interview with the LATimes' Bob Sipchen got a nice mention in LA Observed, a widely-admired site covering all things Los Angeles. So far, no response from Jay Mathews about his so-called "reign of terror," the duel, or the Washington Post education blog. Maybe that means it's about to launch? Meanwhile -- welcome to the blogosphere -- School Me receives its first swipe from Mike Klonsky's Small Talk about seeming to drink the Gates Kool-Aid.

Power Ranking The Education Committees

NCLB reauthorization watchers might want to check out who the power players are on the Senate HELP Committee and the House Education Committee, based on influence, rank, and ability to get legislation passed (USNews). As you'll see, the education committees aren't necessarily stacked with the most powerful, visible, or accomplished legislators on the Hill -- which is why party leaders (not committee chairs) have often had strong influence over the shape, timing, and disposition of legislation coming out of the education committees.

What If Teen Sex Is A Good Thing?

In this supposedly globalized, Internet-dominated world, it's easy to forget just how strong differences can still be. Apparently none more so than around whether teenage sex is OK -- and what happens if it is. In some places, apparently, the answer is lower teenage pregnancy and STD rates (Washington Post via MoJo).

Backlash Against Illegal Immigrant Kids (But Not Alberto Gonzalez)

Well, so much for my misty-eyed hopes that the immigration reform debate wouldn't end up being at least in part about immigrant kids. Last week over on Fox, Michelle Delacrocce -- the right's own Cindy Sheehan -- called out President Bush and others for letting illegal kids "dumb down American children and overpopulate our schools." (Media Matters via Huffington Post).

Meantime, some Senators moved to make English the national lanaguage. Oh, and Attorney General AlbertoGonzalez admits that his grandparents might have been illegal.

UPDATE: There's also a great NYT Week In Review explainer on how the Sensennbrenner bill and the Minutemen, plus new business and labor alliances, have strengthened pro-immigrant advocacy, even as the right has made immigration into nearly as big a hot-button issue as abortion.


What You Missed at Yesterday's NCLB Hearing: Speed Stacking!

Much of the House's kickoff NLCB hearing yesterday consisted of witnesses describing just how successful they've been at integrating math, science, art, reading and writing into their classrooms, defending the testing requirements, and asking for more money that they aren't likely to get. However, there were some notable highlights, including newly-appointed committee chair Buck McKeon looking dapper in a bold yellow tie, and a Speed Stacks demo by students of DE's 2005 Teacher of the Year. Check out Speed Stacks, it's a must-see.

UPDATE: Watch a video of it in action here.

Is Eduwonk "In The Tank"? It Sure Seems So.

Yesterday afternoon, an annoyed-sounding Eduwonk called me a malcontent for saying he was picked to come to a USDE lunch because they knew he'd spin it favorably. (I sure am. He certainly did.)

The underlying issue here is that there's a conflict between how Eduwonk presents himself and what he actually does on his blog. He claims to be an independent, honest broker who'll say anything about anyone, but if he really did that he'd piss off a lot of people he likes and needs: his think tank friends (Gordon or Dannenberg or Petrilli or Hess), his foundation patrons (Gates' Tom Vander Ark, HP's Mike Smith), or the politically powerful (Clinton, Obama, Warner, Kennedy, Miller). Hell, he won't even go after Spellings, who was obviously using him and offers nothing more than being asked to the next fancy lunch briefing. So he just doesn't do that.

Most people who know Washington get this intuitively and are merely annoyed by the protestations of independence and claims of candor, but it's still not really honest to those readers who believe him when he says he's providing the whole story or who are looking for a honest, warts-and-all discussion of what's going on inside Washington's ed policy world.

UPDATE: Eduwonk's response here. It's hard to tell -- he's mad at me and there are some incoherent parts -- but I think he's conceding the point. He says people already know what they are and aren't getting from his site. He doesn't give any examples where he's actually taken on any of his centrist Dem or think tank buddies. Meanwhile, there are some interesting opinions in the comments section below, and an item from School Me that puts us in our place (Fight! Fight!). Not content to let things die down, Michele over at the AFT blog hints at the homoerotic subtext of the while thing. Check it out.

Morning Round-up, May 19, 2006

The Associated Press covered the House Education and Workforce Committee from yesterday, stay tuned for a more indept first-hand account of the hearing...

Lawmakers willing to work on No Child law AP
Lawmakers said Thursday they were willing to make the No Child Left Behind law more flexible, but warned there won't be a lot fo extra federal money to help pay for it.

Illinois State Board of Eduction Voted to Cut Testing Contract
The Illinois State Board of Education voted to cut the state's contract with Harcourt Assessment Inc., the testing company that handles most of the testing required under the No Child Left Behind.

Schools that took in displaced students get break on test scores
Shreveport Times
Schools in six states that took in thousands of students displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year won't have to worry that the influx of disaster-weary children could hurt their schools' academic standing.

How The 65 Percent Solution Resembles A Da Vinci-Style Movie Plot

The story behind how the 65 percent solution came to dominate this past winter's state legislative sessions is like the plot out of something in the Da Vinci Code, says this article in the May issue of Scholastic Administrator that I wrote:

"A mysterious newcomer appears on the scene. His ideas are met with acclaim, despite uncertainty about his motives or what the impact of his ideas will be. Nearly overnight, his influence spreads. Soon after, a handful of doubters raise concerns. A secret memo is revealed. Just at the brink of success, the newcomer’s efforts are largely thwarted."

I wonder if the movie will bomb like the 65 percent rule seems to have done?


The USDE's Own Jeff Gannon?

Kudos to the USDE for having invited a blogger to a briefing with Secretary Spellings -- I think. This seems like yet another wakeup call for the education "establishment" (journalistic and otherwise) that blogs are in the house. It's somewhat chafing that the blogger they picked (Eduwonk's Andy R.) continues present himself -- and get treated -- as an uninterested and independent observer which he's clearly not. However, I take solace in the likelihood that the they, like the White House with Jeff Gannon, invited Andy because they know he's buying what they're selling. With any luck, there are no male escort pictures lying around.

UPDATE: Eduwonk's annoyed response from Thursday afternoon is here. My follow-up effort to clear things up on Friday is here.

Best of the Blog Posts This Week

Bloggers on probation, throwing money at think tanks, EdWeek "stenographers," and school speed limits.


School District Warns Bloggers Education Matters. US
The students at 2 Lake County schools have been warned about their blogging.

Throwing Money at Think Tank EducationNews
In his report, Graduation Rates in the United States , Greene denied the existence of completion ratios and accused the Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics of “not providing” this key information to the public and, thereby, misleading the public.Believing Greene's report, some journalists accused education statisticians of ignorance and fraud.

I can't drive 25 Miami Gradebook
School zones are actually 15 mph, but that doesn't have Sammy Hagar's brilliant rhyme scheme.

Teacher Induction: Ed Week Stenographers at it Again Ed Knows Policy
The thing that really bugs me is that EdWeek seems to have their problem again with a malfunctioning bullshit filter.

Learning to Communicate the 20th Century AssortedStuff
The College of Education at our local University is sponsoring a summer institute for school administrators on "effective communication and community engagement."

Educational Sites at Their Best? Andy Carvin
While all of these sites have their strengths, overall I found myself underwhelmed by this year’s winners. I would have thought that the best educational websites of 2006 would demonstrate best practices of how to engage students in online learning, including having students using the Internet to create their own content.

My Ten Commandments for Education
Going to the Mat
Last Week, I posted a little commentary about NEA President Reg Weaver's Ten Commandments for Education. This week, here are my Ten Commandments for Education.

As always, please visit The Carnival of Education, hosted this week by The Education Wonks.

Morning Round-up, May 18, 2006

As you are reading Ben Feller's article about NC and Tenn and Dept. of Ed's pilot program, feel free to check out more details from the Dept. of Ed.

N.C., Tenn. chose for federal experiment AP
North Carolina and Tennessee, the only two states chosen for the No Child Left Behind education experiment, will be allowed to change the way they measure student progress under the schooling law.

Does Higher Per-Pupil Spending Guarantee Success? The Numbers Say No
Washington Post
As county governments in Northern Virginia continue finalizing their budgets for the next fiscal year, one number always stands out: their school divisons' cost per pupil.

Teachers earn more in combined and vocational schools
Boston Globe
Teachers at regional and vocational techincal schools and at one of the most urban districts in the area lead the region in pay, according to a Globe survey.


Newbie LATimes Blogger Challenges WPost Veteran: "Jay Mathews' Reign of Terror Will Not Stand!"

This week's HotSeat Q & A features the LA Times' Bob Sipchen, who earlier this month launched what I described last week as a new, hybrid kind of education blog -- one that enjoys the best of both worlds in being run by a mainstream paper but written by a full-time staff columnist.

On the HotSeat, Sipchen yearns for smarter education reporting (and explains why journalists get sucked into writing lame articles), tells which his favorite blogs are (and how shockingly easy it was for him to get the LA Times to give him one), describes the pros and cons of starting a blog as a veteran editor and columnist (mostly pros), and challenges Jay Mathews to a duel (no, not really).

Given Sipchen's credentials and the support of the LATimes, it's not hard to imagine that School Me won't soon be a standout. But, given how close the Post's Jay Mathews already is to having a blog (it's online, it's commentary, it's just not daily), I'm guessing Sipchen won't be the only mainstream columnist with an education blog for long. I give it a year before Jay is at it, though I know he's got better things to do. No matter. There's no resisting the blog. Takers?


What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of education coverage in the press, would you say?

BS: Education is an insular stupifyingly complex, acronym- and jargon-laden field populated with self-important people who’ve been inculcated in an ethos of obfuscation. It’s also a vibrant, thrilling, relatively simple realm filled with bright and articulate people who speak their minds with wit and insight. Too often we’re bamboozled into focusing on the dreary side of schooling.

How and why do reporters get bamboozled into covering the stupefying parts of education?

BS: I think reporters on any beat can be drawn into the insularity. If the writers refrain from embracing the jargon and refuse to let the wonkiest players set the agenda, their insider sources can make them feel that their stories don’t grasp the awesome importance of the subject.

What does "better" education coverage mean, anyway, besides making it more fun?

Good coverage is smart. And smart coverage, by definition in my view, is intellectually stimulating, vigorous, engaging—fun even (a lot like good teaching, I think). From what I’ve seen, the edusphere, as you call it, does a pretty good job of side-stepping pedagogy’s pretentious, self-important twaddle and ignoring those who think that coverage of a serious subject (education is that) must always be deathly serious in tone.

Got any favorite education writers, regular or occasional?

BS: Yes: Joel Rubin, Mitchell Landsberg, Erika Hayasaki, Carla Rivera, and Hemmy So. They’re the Times’ education team. They’re smart and tough. And I’m competitive and tribal. The rest of you are the enemy. We will destroy you! Jay Mathews' reign of terror will not stand! (Joking -- Mathews is the master. I can only aspire. And there are many more great education writers out there.)

How hard or easy was it to convince the powers that be to let you blog, and how many pieces of silver did you have to give up?

BS: Easy to get the blog. Rob Barrett, LATimes.com’s business side guru, thinks online education journalism makes good economic sense, so he’s supportive. The tough part is getting it up to snuff. We have grandiose plans for School Me. We’d like it to be more of a full-fledged web magazine. So we have our work cut out for us.

What have you learned these first few weeks about blogging and the edusphere?

BS: The edusphere confirms my long-held suspicion that schooling is vastly more fun and exciting than 93% of standard print education reportage would make you think.

How much time have you been spending so far?

BS: Every waking moment.

Got any favorite blogs to recommend, besides of course this one?

BS: I do very much admire your blog and several others. I know quite a few mainstream bloggers—if that’s not a contradiction in terms—and I’ve learned a lot from watching and talking to them. School Me, to some extent, is blatantly trying to rip off the model of Kevin Roderick’s LAObserved. Though we may be putting a bit more of an edge on School Me than he does on his indispensable roundup of Southern California news.

I’m still exploring the education genre, and I’m not ready to pick favorites at this point. There’s lots of impressive work being done. The references we make in our posts and the links we throw up will, over time, reveal our biases (I say we, because the brilliant Janine Kahn, a recent USC grad, is doing most of the really cool stuff on School Me).

What do you like about LA observed and other mainstream blogs that are your inspiration?

BS: LAObserved is sort of our model. It’s just a must-read for people who care about what’s going on in LA, and we’d like to become that for southern California education. Other blogs I like aren’t necessarily an inspiration for School Me. I enjoy political head-butting and snarky insider gossip, but I don’t think those are the best models for School Me.

Were there any concerns about objectivity or balance, and are you edited?

BS: Joel Sappell is the executive editor of the web, and he’s the omnipresent lurker. My column, which appears in the Time’s California section on Mondays as well as online, is aptly edited by Ms. Beth Shuster. But it is a reported opinion column, so no one objects to an element of pontification and no one—so far—is asking me to pull punches. I need to be fair, but not necessarily balanced. Other than that, I’m responsible for the online component of School Me. I’ve been an editor for quite a while and involved in web projects for over a decade so I’m confident that I can walk the online line between attitude and basic journalistic principles.

Is it a big deal that you are unlike the other MSM-run education blog authors, a columnist not a beat reporter?

BS: Not a big deal, really. But it makes my job a lot easier. I don’t have to tip-toe around the obvious the way reporters sometimes do. If a teacher were to come to class naked except for a thin coat of Jiffy peanut butter, I could say that was inappropriate, rather than quoting experts on either side of the pedagogic attire issue.

Are blogs going to take over the world, or is that a bunch of hooey?

BS: Blogs, in my humble view, will always be ancillary to traditional journalism—which is not to say that some blogs don’t do real journalism. News will someday be delivered directly to the cortex via implanted microchips. But the reportage will still have been gathered and processed by hardworking reporters and editors who take their watchdog role and the nation’s First Amendment seriously.

To what extent is School Me just advertising stories written by LAT education reporters? do you always link to them, sometimes, or rarely? what about if there's a good piece in the sacbee or god forbid the LA Daily News?

BS: Ugh. We try to link to stories we find important and/or interesting—whether we agree with them or not. We’ve already linked several times to the LA Daily News, the Daily Breeze and other local publications as well as the Sacramento Bee and New York Times.

How did you get to be interested in writing about education?

BS: It interests me because I think the age of education is upon us. Globalization is spurring worldwide focus on the subject, billionaires are shoveling money into reform, politicians are battling for control of school districts and big thinkers are wrestling with basic questions of how we school our kids.

On a personal level, I’ve been watching schools fail students in LA throughout my 20+ years at the Times and lobbying for better education coverage for most of that time. Assistant Managing Editor Janet Clayton also thinks education is critically important and when she took charge of all local and state coverage, she began ratcheting up the paper’s education reportage. I was eager to join the team.

My wife and I have three children who managed to receive good educations in Los Angeles public schools—my son’s a high school junior, my daughters are in college now--and their experiences motivate me too.

And I guess it also goes back to my own sometimes-sketchy public school education. One teacher in particular was inattentive. Midway through an oral book report I started pretending to talk in tongues. When I was done he glanced up and said: “Very good.”

Hot For Teacher

I've got three things to say about the whole sexy teacher/pedophelia meme that's been going around: First, as I've said before, female teachers aren't seducing boys more often, or getting lighter sentences than men. Don't believe the hype. Second, the best examination of the sex-with-teacher issue is Classroom confidential from Salon. (Click on the ad to read the full story.) Third, if you want to see the video that Tennessee teacher Pam Rogers allegedly sent to her underage lover after she'd been told not to contact him anymore -- with some classic Van Halen -- click here. NSFW.

UPDATE: Don't wag your finger in my direction, Michele. I popularized this genre back when no one else even knew how to upload pictures to their blogs (ie, last summer) with hot pics of education studmuffins Tim Knowles and Pedro Noguera, and others.

Morning Round-up May 17, 2006

Ben Feller continues the conversation about the lack of recess in today's news...

Schools Plan in Nebraska Is Challeneged
In a constitutional challenege to a state law that would divide the Omaha public schools into three racially identifiable districts, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued the governor of Nebraska arguing that the law "intentionally" furthers racial segregation."

School recess: Playtime is no longer a given
One sure way to get parents exercised is to take away recess, the playful part of the school day when their kids can run wild. In some places it no longer exists.

New Exit Exam Suit Rejected
LA Times
Judge rules the state did not violate the law when it required igh school students to pass the test.

Odd Math for "Best High Schools" List
Newsweek says it can rank all 25,000 public high schools in the U.S by assigning a precise numerical value based on a single variable: the number of College Board Advanced Placement exams taken by students at a high school, divided by the number of graduating seniors.

Why Bother With A Growth Model When You've Already Gutted AYP?

As part of Secretary Spellings' relentless effort to eviscerate improve NCLB since last year, look for a growth model conference call and announcement Wednesday afternoon.

In the meantime, check out Hot Air, Kevin Carey's report on what the states have been doing to NCLB on their own this past year. These guys don't need growth models. They've sliced AYP into little bits pretty well all on their own. And AP's subgroup loophole is just the tip of the iceberg.

Lots of people think the growth model is a cute fix for the problems with AYP. I think it's just as likely to turn out to be a whole 'nother can of worms. The fact that it's split the trio of NCLB supporters (the Ed Trust, CCCR, and George Miller) tells you what a tough issue it is.

Based on no direct evidence at all -- except the fact that they're rolling this out rather than just letting us find out about it (and Haycock and Hanushek are apparently still on board) -- I'm guessing all 8 states made it through, or maybe seven. But I have no idea which ones.

UPDATE: So much for my predictions. It's two states -- TN and NC.


Former Publisher Says Textbook System Hurting Kids

Here's a timely example of why I'm an increasingly big fan of the Casey Journalism Center's daily collection of stories: The CJC caught a national story on the evergreen issue of textbook adoption (A Textbook Case of Failure) that contained some interesting ideas and that I didn't see anywhere else.

"President Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative put almost every imaginable part of the U.S. education system under a microscope, establishing national standards for teacher training, student testing and basic funding. But glaring in its omission from the program is any significant examination of that most basic of classroom tools, the textbook."

Now I'm not sure what Congress could or should do about textbooks, or whether letting districts make their own textook decisions is the way to go, but it might be the first time I've seen a former Saxon official say that the current system is "unintentionally hurting the kids.”

Where's McKeon Going With This?

Given how hot the AYP "loophole" issue has been over the past few weeks -- it's arguably the thing that finally pushed the committee into holding hearings -- how interesting and strange that McKeon is starting out his hearings on Thursday with curriculum-related issues (including, I'm sure, whether NCLB has "narrowed" what's being taught).

True enough, the curriculum issue has been a big and persistent concern about NCLB. From the witness list full of teachers and principals, it's hard to tell whether McKeon is intending to refute or support the narrowing argument. It'll be an interesting first look at the new committee.

Fired Teachers Union Leaders: Too Progressive, Or Not Effective?

As I pointed out last night on my Chicago schools blog, there's just one problem with Mike Antonucci's interpretation of the departure of 22 year Minneapolis teachers union president Louise Sundlin and other teacher union heads: they're not all defeated becuase they're "progressive."

Antonucci (EIA Communique) says that Sundlin and others get dumped for being reformers: "Recent history is replete with union presidents turned out of office because the members perceived they were "too cozy" with management."

But Antonucci's Chicago example, Debbie Lynch, doesn't really fit that description. Sure, she tried some progressive things, but she also suffered from a political tin ear and failed to deliver on some key wage and benefits issues. Her effectiveness, not her progressiveness, was the main issue.

Morning Round-up May 16, 2006

A little bit on Nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Elizabeth G. Hill who suggested Monday that the California Legislature reject the Governor's proposal for classroom supplies, arts and physical education programs and subsidized preschool expansion and instead spend on covering retirees with health insurance...

Read More..
Officials Seek Flexibilty on "No Child" Law Washington Post
Fairfax County school officials say the sanctions imposed under the federal No Child Left Behind Act aren't helping struggling studetns, and the system is seeking permission to try a different approach at one school.

U.S. immigrants lag behind in school, but gaps are bigger in other nations
The findings are based on the Program for International Student Assessment, a test that measures the literacy of 15-year olds and how well they apply skills to the real world.

Janey Proposes 6 Schools to Close Washington Post
D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey yesterday recommended closing six of the city's public schools by August, the first phase of an effort to shirnk a vast majority of underused buidlings and redirect millions of dollars into academic programs to reverse dismal student achievement.

Analyst Gives Gov.'s Budget Mixed Review
LA Times
While applauding Schwarzenegger for paying down the state's debt, legislative expert says his plan would give too much to schools.


Where Immigration Reform Meets Education

Now that Congress is wheeling back around to immigration reform, I wanted to point to a piece in the LA Times from last week and offer some reminders and context.

As noted previously, this spring's immigration debates have been harder for education reporters and others to latch onto because they don't directly address schoolhouse issues (services to undocumented kids, langauge of instruction, etc.) like in the past.

And yet, the proposals will affect immigrant kids and the schools that serve them, notes the LA Times: "Illegal immigrants whose children are legal residents by birth fear seeing their families split up if some in Congress get their way." (The Great Divide of Citizenship via CJC).

I've also heard about renewed fears among parents about coming to school with their kids, and teachers newly worried about liability for serving kids and parents whose immigration status is unknown.

My latest immigration reform article in Scholastic Administor isn't out yet, but in it you'd reminded that just under 5 million of the nation’s children have undocumented parents, according to a recent report from the Pew Hispanic Center. However, two thirds of those children -- over 3 million -- were born in the US and are thus citizens despite their parents’ citizenship status.

Hype Threat Levels: May 2006

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

Dangers of MySpace.com (up*)
Impact of immigration reform (new)
Fixing the AYP "loophole" in NCLB (new)
Impact of charter schools (up)
Likelihood of National Testing (down) Margaret Spellings (down again)
Special challenges for boys (down) Universal preschool (down)
KIPP Schools (unchanged)
New teachers/induction/retention (unchanged)
One-to-one laptop computer initiatives (unchanged)Constitutional Education Amendment (unchanged)

*From last month

Best Online Daily News

Not counting Education Daily or the running list of stories clipped by Stateline, there are five main education news roundups that come out every day: ESC's E-Clips, EducationNews.org, EdWeek's Daily News, ASCD's SmartBrief, and the District Administration Daily. Some come by email, others are available via website or even RSS (ideally). All but the EdWeek clips are totally free.

But which is best -- in terms of comprehensiveness, organization, unique content, and time of delivery? You may be surprised. We weigh in below -- and await your comments and suggestions. What do you think?


From best to worst:

Daily Education News by Educationnews.org: This site has finds that no one else seems to pick out, as well as education commentary and international education news. It doesn't have topical subject headings, but it's usually ready when you get to your computer in the morning. Has RSS. Skews right.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD): The ASCD Smartbrief provides a good mix of national and local education news. The News is separated into convenient catagories such as: Eye on Curriculum, Professional Leadership, Technology Solutions, and Policy Watch, and the SmartBrief (a service ASCD pays SmartBrief to provide) provides a medium amount of news -- not 5 articles, but not 25 either. It's easy to find what you are looking for. The only downsides are that it seems to come out later and later each day, and there's no RSS feed.

Daily News from EdWeek.org: One of the first to put out a daily roundup, the Daily News is very comprehensive mix of national and local news, organized by publication -- but not by topic (which would be much more helpful). There is a Today's Best feature. It's not available until noon. Full access to the site requires $$.

ECS E-clips from the Education Commission of the States: The E-Clips, one of the first of this kind, picks out about 6 articles and features a good mix of national and local news. It's particularly good for quick look if you aren't looking for a specifc topic area, but want some education news. However sometimes the stories are from the previous day. Has RSS. Links go through ECS not directly to the source.

DA Daily from District Administration: The Daily has some nuts-and-bolts features that others do not have -- the Executive Position of the Day and the Contract News sections. But it only carries a few national stories, and has a lot of ads and clutter. It is obviously focused more towards administrators. But it arrives pretty early in the day.

Wildcard Entry: The Casey Journalism Center Daily Summary: Focused on children and families rather than education, the CJC Daily Summary contains some great and little-noticed pieces every day by noon.

Morning Round-up May 15, 2006

On the topic of oursourcing of tutoring, here's a good look at public school outsourcing from January, and the most popular news from this weekend -- the fact that no state will have the correct number of quality teachers,

No states meet teacher-quality goal set in federal law AP
Not a single state will have a "highly" qualified teacher in every core class this school year as promised by President Bush's education law.

Homework Help, From a World Away Washington Post
Thousands of U.S. students are relying on overseas tutors to boost their grades and SAT scores.
Groups Fight Rule on Aid to Students
LA Times
A huge number od denials has sparked a backlash by students, educators and civil libertarians who are seeking to repeal the drug-conviction provision through Congress and the cocurts.

High School Exit Exam Tossed
LA Times
A judge says the test, rewuired for graduation for the first time this year, places and unfair burden on students in low-performing schools.

Former University President Will Lead U.S. Math Panel
The Bush Administratoin has names a former President of the University of Austin to lead a national panel to weigh in on the math wars playing out across the country.


What You Really Need To Know About Charter Schools

People have been hashing over the NYT's editorial (Reining in Charter Schools) all week. For different reasons, I agree with the overall assessment that charters haven't lived up to their promise and don't seem to be on a path towards changing that.

But if you want some new knowledge, check out Mike Kirst's NCSPE piece (The clashing politics of national charter movements and state/local charters PDF) for a peek at how things work inside the charter world. You may think charter proponents are all of a kind, but it's just not so.

Only 12 11 States Face Sanctions Over "Highly Qualified Teachers"

Breaking News: The USDE is this morning releasing the results of its last-minute review of states' HQT compliance plans, in which it will be announced that only 12 11 states (Alaska, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, & Washington) face possible sanctions over this long-neglected and widely-ignored NCLB requirement. The rest of the states are considered to be fine, or will be allowed to revise their plans. Letters being issued to the states today regarding highly qualified teacher compliance will be available here.

[Update: No States Meet Teacher Quality Goal Washington Post. My original list of 12 states was of "unassigned" states -- not the ones facing sanction. Oops. No word from USDE about what "unassigned" means. Could be double secret probation.]

AP via Yahoo! News

Previous HQT posts: So Much for Getting Tough on NCLB Compliance, Belated Review of HQT Reports -- Why Now?, USDE Back Off -- Further -- on HQT

Morning Round-up May 12, 2006

Congress will be considering a bill to keep predators away from students in public schools and libraries...but not without some resistence from News Corp who says they have already handled the problem.

Bill Seeks to Block Access to MySpace in Schools LATimes
Concerned about reports of pedophiles trolling wildly popular "social networking" websites for teenage victims, REp. Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R-PA) has introduced a bill to prohibit anyone under 18 from accessing them on school or library computers.

Crunch Time for Commission Inside HigherEd
As U.S. panel prepares to meet with deadline looming, tensions rise. Can its members reach consensus?

Colleges Report Mystery Decline in SAT Scores NYT
College applicants' average scores this year fell significantly, by more than 10 points at some universities. Usually, scores change glacially, a point or two a year.

New budget rules draw educators' ire eSchool News
Georgia and Texas are among the first state to implemenet a controversial rule that would rewuire schools to spend at least 65 percent of their operating budgets on classroom expenditures.

Southern lawmakers battle over studying Bible in public schools Chicago Sun-Times
The long-dormant idea of teaching public school students about the Bible is getting a frsh look this year from state legislatures and local school boards...

Paige Vs. Spellings

I'm not sure which of them is destined to go down in history as the better Secretary of Education, but by at least one measure Rod Paige comes out ahead of Margaret Spellings. Over the past two plus years, according to my simple-minded understanding Google Trends, Paige (the blue line) has a higher search volume and news reference volume -- even though he's been out of office for nearly two years.

Blaming NCLB For The War In Iraq

No doubt some will try and blame NCLB for this horrifying story about how (among other examples of atrocious behavior) military recruiters in Oregon convinced an autistic high school kid to enlist.


Dueling NCLB Hearings -- Why Now, How Different?

Interesting as the Aspen Institute's NCLB hearings may be, I've been wondering if the Comissions' hearings would have any impact and also when there would ever be "real" hearings on the Hill. Not that Congressional hearings are better, but different and more revealing maybe. I guess I wasn't the only one.

Today the House education committee announced its own set of hearings, focused on a variety of NCLB issues including the AYP loophole, and yesterday it released a bipartisan letter calling Spellings to account for her oversight of the law. A Democratic letter along the same lines had been sent last month. The letter is signed by the chairman and ranking members of both the education and school reform committees.

Some questions to ponder: Why did the Hill finally decide to have hearings -- was it the loophole news, or folks asking why they were letting someone else do their job? How will the dual sets of hearings be different, substantively and otherwise? Will either set of hearings have any big effect on the revision of the law, or do they just provide cover and pass the time?

Rick Hess On The HotSeat: A Liberals' Kind Of Conservative?

Rick Hess might well be considered too hot for the HotSeat, if such a thing were possible. He's got three jobs, four advanced degrees, and he's EdWeek's favorite pundit. He's on every panel and at every conference, and he spins out books seemingly every six months (two already this year).

Even more, everybody seems to like him. He's liked the education version of David Brooks -- a conservative that liberals (and the media) can live with. [UPDATE -- well, not everybody --see comments.]


On the HotSeat, Hess tries valiantly to avoid saying anything impetuous, but -- let this be a lesson -- the heat is simply too much. He ducks the issue of whether he's for vouchers (I'm guessing he's not) and debunks the notion that a big national effort is what's really going to improve education (someone should tell the competitiveness junkies). He says that says anybody who voted for NCLB in 2001 "ought to have the conviction to stand on principle now," and he denies rumors that a team of attractive young conservatives does all his work for him in a secret lair.

What's the best and worst part about being a rising star in the education world (as Diane Ravitch recently named you)?

RH: Not sure that I qualify as "a rising star"... but I will say that the best part of a heightened profile is the access it's given me to interesting thinkers, educators, and organizations. The worst part of the new opportunities and demands shrink the amount of time I'm able to spend in the field, reading, or doing research.

Is it true that a group of attractive young conservatives do all of your writing for you in a secret lair?

RH: I have been blessed with a string of phenomenal research assistants who are doing their best to carry me. They don't pen anything that appears under my name, but they offer outstanding editorial feedback, and they are responsible for just about everything else that we do.

Why no blogging (for you or any of the other conservative education folks)? It can't be that you've got nothing to say.

RH: Actually, while some may not believe it, I'm not really crazy about opining on new developments. I think that some writers prefer to deal with ideas and events from a distance and as abstractions, while others prefer to engage in practical ongoing debates. I feel more at home in the first school than the second. In general, I'm left a little cold by the opinion-mongering and attacking that's part of the whole online discourse.

Then why the weekly Gadfly Show you and Mike Petrilli just started doing as a podcast?

RH: Probably because I'm weak-- I enjoy the time with Mike and his team. More seriously, the podcast format seems more suited to the silliness that we engage in (like trying to sing the "Charter School Blues") than does blogging. At least for me, and it might be my academic training, the written word is different than the spoken word.

Speaking of conservative groups, how can I tell the right-leaning education groups apart? They all look the same to me.

RH: I think the big distinction is whether they're focused on a political agenda (like the Heritage Foundation, the Friedman Foundation, Cato, and the Lexington Institute) or whether they're primarily devoted to an intellectual agenda (like the Hoover Institution and the Manhattan Institute).

Where does AEI fit in?

AEI is a funny place. Like a university or the Brookings Institution, we don't hammer out institution-wide policies or have any explicit agenda. Our education program is whatever the scholars are working on that year. In most cases, that's determined more by intellectual interest than the policy agenda. Whether the topics or the takeaways are "conservative" in any particular sense is a judgment that your readers will have to decide for themselves.

So do you have any nontraditional positions when it comes to education -- are you against vouchers?

RH: It's hard for me to know what's nontraditional anymore. After all, the time was that being against vouchers was considered "traditional." I'm generally for reducing barriers to new providers, making it easier for folks to enter the educational sector, and encouraging attention to productivity and efficiency.

What would you say your biggest accomplishment at AEI has been?

RH: It’s been convening folks to pursue topics that I find interesting and important but that, for whatever reason, schools of education and advocacy organizations haven’t spent much time on. This includes the conferences and books I've done on educational philanthropy, educational entrepreneurship, the nontraditional loan market in higher education, licensure and teacher quality, and so on.

What about NCLB -- mend it or end it?

RH: I think we have to concentrate on mending it. NCLB is so big and so all-encompassing, that I'm not even sure what it would mean to end it. A lot of those programs aren't going anywhere. I would like to see the federal role simplified, focused on results (at least one reason to think about the national testing question), and then pared back. Checker Finn and I sketched a vision of what this would look like in our 2004 Public Interest piece.

If you were a Republican lawmaker who'd voted for NCLB, would be you be running away from that vote now or standing by it?

RH: Look, we all know how bills are really passed on Capitol Hill, especially when it comes to ambitious social programs. Most folks didn’t fully understand the law then, and are getting conflicting reports on it now. More snarkily, I’d say anybody who voted for the law without understanding how it was likely to unfold probably deserves the dilemma they're now in-- and anybody who thought it worth doing in 2001 ought to have the conviction to stand on principle now.

RH: What approach or circumstance is it going to take for there to be a concerted national effort to upgrade public education?

RH: I think this stuff always happens in dribs and drabs. Outside of mobilizing to win a world war, to tackle a bricks and mortar obstacle (like laying a highway system), or to pour resources into a specific technical challenge (like landing a man on the moon), I don't think national efforts tend to accomplish much. I think the results of federal efforts to reform the intelligence community, improve port security, or make Amtrak self-sufficient show just how hard it is to make a concerted national effort pay off.

So you’re debunking the notion that the US ramped up its science and math education to compete with the Russians, or that programs like Medicare aren’t national efforts?

RH: Oh, not really. We certainly did ramp up in '58 and some of the efforts, like increasing language mastery or research fellowships, worked as intended. What I'm skeptical of is whether the broader push did much good. I'd make pretty much the same case with regard to Medicare. It's certainly helped improve the quality of life for older Americans, but almost entirely by massively increasing the availability and affordability of health care for seniors. This is what government does well, mail out checks to providers. When it comes to all the ancillary questions posed by Medicare-- controlling costs, fiscal responsibility, encouraging efficiency, or ensuring quality of care-- I think the record is pretty bleak. These are the things government doesn't do well, foster creative problem-solving, productity, or organizational improvement.

How do things get better on the schools front, then?

RH: For my money, the key to improving schools isn't going to be a grand national effort, it's going to be a strategy that helps light a bunch of small fires and then fans them into flames. This requires a stream of venture capital, a deep pipeline of people, and the training and infrastructure to support the spread and adoption of new, more effective educational approaches.