Study Hard -- Or "Get Stuck In Iraq," Says Kerry

Grownups are often telling kids to do things "or else," but former Presidential candidate John Kerry may have beat them all. On the campaign trail in California, Kerry told his student audience that they should study hard and get good jobs if they don't want to "get stuck in Iraq," according to this report, which is getting lots of play from the blogs and the right.

UPDATE: Apparently Kerry meant to impugn President Bush's study habits, not the military's, but Kerry's gaffe has turned into the big political story of the week. Doh!

Why The Media Is Giving Gallaudet So Much Coverage? Convenience.

It's not just that the controversy at Galluadet isn't really a K-12 issue that has kept me from wanting to write much about it. Rather, it's the seemingly inexhaustible, wall-to-wall coverage from the mainstream media-- little of it very insightful -- that's made me hesitate.

I'm not the only one to note that the coverage has been nothing short of spectacular, given the circumstances. "First, and most amazingly to me, the internal events at a small educational institution for the deaf have become a major media event," states a commentary by Lennard Davis in today's Inside Higher Ed (The Real Issues At Gallaudet).

In the piece, Davis argues that deafness and disability, once marginalized, have become central issues in American life. "The events at Gallaudet were momentous not just because a little university had an internal disagreement but because the issues raised around identity resonated with the general public."

I wish that were true, but I think the instead the coverage probably comes from journalistic convenience -- the search for a story that's visceral, seems to have clear winners and losers, and -- best of all -- takes place near everyone's downtown DC offices. It's too bad, since there are other, arguably more far-reaching and substantial stories that are being largely ignored by the mainstream media, like Reading First.

It's Agreed, Then: No NCLB Reauthorization Until 2009

On Monday, Eduwonk wrote "I've figured [NCLB reauthorization won't] happen until at least 2009 because neither party really wants its various intra-party divisions over education to spill into the open with the White House in play." Not until 2009, you say? How daring and insightful a prediction. Except that, a month ago, some other blogger wrote: "NCLB doesn't get reauthorized in 07 OR 08, but instead is left for a new administration."

Reading First: A Mess, & A Shame

Andrew Brownstein and Travis Hicks of the Title I Monitor have written a pair of fascinating inside looks at the fallout that's taken place in the month since the OIG report on Reading First came out, including coverage of things like a "surreal" going away party for the program's director, conflicts of interest among reading experts, and findings suggesting many districts found RF helpful (Former RF Director Draws Fire — and Defenders, and ED Ignored Early Warnings on RF Conflicts, Report Says). Clearly, the story isn't as simple -- for or against -- as some have made it. But it's a mess, and a shame. Whatever the specifics, what a truly unfortunate time for a new round of the reading wars and questions about early intervention.

UPDATE: In last week's HotSeat, Richard Lee Colvin said Reading First is not a real story, but if that's true it's only so in the most narrow sense. What's happening with RF has and will affect reading instruction nationwide, as well as the future of NCLB.

UPDATE 2: This Washington Times commentary (Reading comes first) suggests that there's less wrong with Reading First than meets the eye and that the program should be expanded.

NEA Scare Tactics

Thanks to a reader for pointing me to this somewhat overheated notice from the NEA, titled Congress Prepares To Raise Teacher Taxes, as if (a) Congress was in session and about to do anything, (b) most teachers claimed the tax deducation. It's not timely, it doesn't meet the straight face test, and it undercuts the NEA's, ahem, legitimacy.

UPDATE: A Chicago-area teacher and local NEA president takes issue with the notion that the NEA is using scare tactics, etc. It's good, heated stuff. Check it out here: A Rare Random Rant.

Morning Round-up October 31, 2006

Campaign to End Race Preferences Splits Michigan NYT
Three years after the Supreme Court heard Jennifer Gratz’s challenge to the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policy, she is still fighting racial preferences, this time in a Michigan ballot initiative.

School in works for autistic youth CST
Easter Seals today breaks ground on a unique $28 million school for autistic children. The building itself will be therapeutic, designed to offset autistic students' hypersensitivity to sights and sounds.

Breaking Down The Ivory Tower
Never has the nation paid so much attention to improving the quality of teaching. Yet the institutions that produce teachers have never faced so much criticism.


Jay Mathews Revisits The "Likes Math = Not Good At Math" Study

There's a long history in Washington of "revising and extending" your remarks -- that is, going back and changing what you said the first time, without necessarily admitting the need for correction -- and the Washington Post's Jay Mathews illustrates that that phrase in his online column from last week reflecting on how he (and most other education reporters) covered the Loveless/Brookings study that came out a couple of weeks ago. (You remember, the one about kids who didn't like math doing better at it.)

In his more recent piece (Fun with Statistical Excavation), Mathews admits that he wrote about that element of the study because it was "eye-catching, contrarian part" -- but not necessarily the most useful or important part of what Loveless found. For example, Mathews writes, Loveless found that states had been lowering proficiency requirements long before NCLB came around. "The new law did not make the states cheat. They had always made decisions that made them look good." He also points out that international comparisons of math performance aren't always apples to apples, and that the unhappy/high performing angle that nearly everyone used might not have been so solid.

Previous Post: Education Reporters Do The Math

Public Engagement: The Slow Road To Reform

Talking about "public engagement" can seem soft and slow to certain kinds of impatient reformistas, even though there's no argument that reformers, schoolfolks, communities, and politicians rarely talk, much less take the time to agree -- and that reforms tend not to last without multiple levels of engagement. Check out the PEN NewsBlast recap of this EdWeek piece on the topic.

Morning Round-up October 30, 2006

In New Jersey, System to Help Poorest Schools Faces Criticism NYT
A growing number of New Jersey officials say that an ambitious experiment in the schools to narrow the achievement gap has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.

Minority enrollment in college still lagging USAT
Despite significant gains in minority undergraduate and graduate enrollments at the nation's colleges and universities, the rate at which black and Hispanic students attend college continues to trail that of white students, a report says.

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Nonlawyer Parents May Sue Under IDEA Ed Week
The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to decide whether parents who are not lawyers have a right to represent their child with disabilities, or themselves, in federal court under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


The Best Of The Week, October 23-29


Morning Round-up October 27, 2006

Schools Spend $600 Billion on Facilities, But Inequities Persist, Report Finds Ed Week
States and school districts spent almost $600 billion on building and renovating schools from 1995 to 2004, but the money did not go to the most disadvantaged districts that needed it the most.

Next leader of L.A. school district vows to remove 'bad teachers'
Los Angeles' incoming schools chief vowed Thursday to make removing "bad teachers" a major focus of his plan to improve schools — and made clear he was willing to sacrifice his early popularity over the issue.

Closing the Gap, Child by Child WaPo
But the size and wealth of Fairfax and the strong reputation of its schools make the county an important case study of efforts to eliminate educational disparities. The county has the region's largest school system, with more than 164,000 students. About one-tenth are black, and half are white.


Does "The Wire" Depict Balto. Schools Accurately?

Kudos to the AFTies for finding last night's Nightline segment on HBO's "The Wire." The scene at left shows Prezbo, the new teacher (and inept former police officer) getting a bit of the inside scoop from veteran colleagues, who warn him among other things not to bother trying to get students to not chew gum in class. Check out the Nightline segment here. Check out what AFT Michele has to say about it here.

Reviewing The Ed Sector's "BiWeekly Digest"

Last week, we graded The Gadfly. This week, it's the Ed Sector's turn. The Education Sector's "Biweekly Digest" has some striking similarities to The Gadfly and other weekly newsletters, but it lags behind due to the two-week intervals between publication and lack of links to recent news.

The Education Sector Biweekly Digest comes out every other Wednesday and is shorter but similar content-wise to The Gadfly.The Digest usually contains these main pieces: A variety of "This Week", "Charts You Can Trust" and "What We Are Watching/Reading" (The September 12th issue has all three, but not all issues do), "Also From Education Sector" which contains written pieces from Ed Sector analysts or fellows, "Upcoming Events" and "In The EduBlogs" which includes links to Ed Sector's two blogs.

Some differences from The Gadlfy (and most other education publications) is the lack of links to recent news. But again we probably read news all day long so it may not necessarily be a drawback. On the upside, its presentation is a little neater. Most of these publications have links at the top of the page referring to passages just below. In the Gadfly, the whole piece is right there below (and I did mention in the last post that perhaps it was hard to follow). The Digest has shorter descriptions below the original link meaning that you need to click another link to read the entire piece, but it also allows the pieces to be longer and not distracting to the reader initially.

The Interview feature reminds me of our Hot Seat. However, the ES Interviews are usually a little softer in nature. For example, in the September 26, 2006 issue Andy interviewed E.D. Hirsch, Jr and the result was informative and interesting but...not all that much fun to read. Having said that, in the October 11, 2006 issue Thomas Toch interviewed Lawrence Patrick III with more provocative questions. Toch's questions seemed to encourage Patrick to really fight his side of the issue (in this case school choice).

The Education Sector Biweekly earns a B+ for creativity in the interviews, commentary and layout - but the jury is still out on whether or not it should include news pieces not directly related to the ES or come out weekly.

What Kids Wear For Halloween

Picking up on a NYT story from last week about how Halloween has for adults increasingly become a time for sexually charged costumes and antics -- as well as reportedly being the 2nd largest nonreligious holiday for adults after New Year's Eve -- the Boulder Weekly asks about whether some kids' costumes are too getting sexy: "Costume designers have made eye candy more popular than chocolate on Halloween," opens the article (BuzzLead). "But do we want prepubescent girls dressing like prostitutes for sweets?"

Also in the news today: Captain Underpants costume foils students school fun via Jimmy K

Pre-K On The Cheap In FLA...And Elsewhere?

"Florida's universal prekindergarten program was hailed as a national model when voters approved it in 2002," according to this article in the St. Pete Times (State pre-K program under fire). "These days, pre-K advocates from across the nation are calling Florida the example to avoid."

"My Daddy Left Home When I Was Three"

Just when you think that maybe the folks over at the AFT Blog have lost their mojo since John left, they pull out something like this post about the behavior of boys with girlish names: Boys Named Sue. And for those who may have forgotten the lyrics (by Shel Silverstein): "My daddy left home when I was three/And he didn't leave much to ma and me/Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze./Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid/ But the meanest thing that he ever did/ Was before he left, he went and named me "Sue."

Morning Round-up October 26, 2006

L.A. mayor, next schools chief vow to put students before politics LAT
In their first appearance after the contentious selection process, David Brewer and Villaraigosa say they will put L.A.'s students before politics.

Scientists Endorse Candidate Over Teaching of Evolution
They hope Mr. Sawyer, a Democrat, will oust Deborah Owens Fink, a leading advocate of curriculum standards that encourage students to challenge the theory of evolution.

Allen, Webb Stake Out Positions on 'No Child'
Virginia Sen. George Allen and challenger James Webb each say they support the goals of No Child Left Behind but quarrel with how the federal law has played out.

Ohio charter schools constitutional
A divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that publicly funded, privately operated charters schools are constitutional.

Students, officials locking horns over blogs
But school districts now are reaching into students' home computers, severely punishing and even expelling students for what they write on those sites from home.


Indiana's Weighted Student Funding Troubles

Having the money follow the child is a good idea, but as Indiana shows it's tough to get anything like WSF implemented without compromises to soften the blow for districts that are losing students to charters or out-migration: "Lawmakers adjusted Indiana's formula for paying schools in 2005 to spread money more evenly among the state's 293 school districts," according to this story (Schools got $64M for students long gone). "But the biggest beneficiaries of the system continue to be the state's urban school districts."

Tutoring, 2006: Two Million Students, $2.2B Smackaroos

Get used to it. Private tutoring, and its online variations, are continuing to grow, according to this SF article (One for the books). Online tutoring "accounts for about 6 percent of the $2.2 billion U.S. private tutoring market, which reached 1.9 million K-12 students last school year, according to Tim Wiley, senior analyst at Eduventures, an education and research consulting firm in Boston."

Plagiarism, Diploma Mills, & Federal Employees

From the September Harper's Index: (sources in brackets): "Estimated number of Americans who get degrees each year from nonaccredited “diploma mills”: 100,000 [Allen Ezell (Apollo Beach, Fla.)/George Gollin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]. Number of Pentagon employees who had such degrees on their resumes, in a recent congressional study: 257 [U.S. Government Accountability Office]." I wonder what that figure would be for the USDE?

"More Than A Passing Mention" For NCLB In CT

EdWeek has a story out this week suggesting that, in one Congressional race at least, NCLB is getting more than a passing mention(No Child Left Behind on the Campaign Trail). As you might expect, it's the Democratic challenger bashing her Republican incumbent opponent for his support for the law.

UPDATE: The Washington Post tries to make the case that NCLB is going to be a substantial part of the VA election for governor Senate (Allen, Webb Stake Out Positions on 'No Child'). I don't buy it. Neither does Eduwonk.

The 90th Edition of the Carnival

The Carnival is up at Andrew Pass's Current Events In Education. Here's a post I found to be most interesting:

"Reality Sets In, according to Teaching in the Twenty-First Century when you you actually visit an American school in which Mexican children are being educated."

You may also read Alexander Russo's post entitled, The Testing Backlash that Wasn't There.

Morning Round-up October 25, 2006

Federal Rules Back Single-Sex Public Education NYT
The Education Department will allow districts to create single-sex schools and classes as long as enrollment is voluntary and also make coeducational schools and classes of “substantially equal” quality available for members of the excluded sex.

Spikes in College Price Tags Not So Sharp
The College Board said the increase in tuition and fees at public four-year colleges, although still higher than the national inflation rate, slowed for the third year in a row.

Flag is raised on admissions USAT
This month alone, a pediatrics group sounded alarms about the stress of this rite of passage on teens. And Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says she wants the process to be less confusing and frustrating.


Stateline Story Suggests One Thing, Says Another

Here'a another one of those news stories where the headline and top half of a story says one thing (that voucher proponents are picking off moderate Republicans in state races) when the reality -- several paragraphs down -- says they're trying but it isn't working.

"...School choice advocates focused heavily on the Republican primaries, hoping to get more conservative yes-votes that could get a bill through the legislature," states the unusually speculative Stateline article (Voucher groups seek to oust opponents). "Still, the election tide isn’t necessarily turning in favor of vouchers." So then shouldn't the headline be, voucher proponents hope to elect more supporters despite past failures?

Miller Wants More

Saying that the decision announced yesterday "doesn't settle the matter," a press release from Democratic Congressman George Miller late Monday proclaimed that "No Bush administration official has yet been held accountable for the decision to hire Williams and other commentators to routinely promote the federal No Child Left Behind Act on television, radio and in newsprint without revealing to audiences that they were being paid by the government to do so." Oh, and he also wants $240K more paid back.

Let me see. Between them, Harkin and Miller have called for criminal and oversight hearings on Reading First and now this. Previous Posts: Why Haven't Dems Called For Spellings' Resignation?, "Dribels" Scandal Trumps All, In Defense Of Reading First?

Help Run The "New" FairTest

Now here's an opportunity that doesn't come along every day: Flush from a recent round of fundraising (after teetering at the brink earlier this year), FairTest is now looking for a co-director to help deepen and expand its work: Co-Executive Director Position Description 2006.

I've been a critic of the organization's recent work, but what a cool and important organization it could be. Previous Posts: What Next For FairTest?, FairTest's Most Excellent Winter, The Space Where FairTest Should Have Been, How “Fringe” is FairTest?, Who's Covering The Testing Industry?

Morning Round-up October 24, 2006

State Chiefs Offer Views on NCLB Ed Week
State officials want more money to carry out No Child Left Behind and Council of Chief State School Officers said member should be able to measure individual students' academic growth and they should be able to use a variety of tests.

Voucher groups seek to oust opponents Stateline
Before Utah’s June 27 primary election, a group advocating school choice – using public money to pay for private school tuition – drew up a hit list of at least 11 lawmakers they wanted to oust.

In Quest for Speed, Books Are Lost on Children WaPo
The problem is that speed isn't the only element to fluency, educators said. Key elements are also accuracy and expressiveness.

A paradigm shift for school software? eSchool News
Now, many students and teachers are using web-based software programs that are accessible over the internet and hosted by the application provider.


An "October Surprise" From USDE?

Democrats are worrying themselves silly about some sort of October Surprise from the White House that would turn the midterm elections away from them, when they probably should be worrying more about shooting themselves in the foot. This, sad to say, is probably all that the administration can muster: Money starts flowing in teacher bonus program (CNN). Not much, I know.

UPDATE: Joe Williams goofs on the rollout here: "Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and her SLG's are set to hotwire Ed McMahon's sweepstakes van on Monday and start touring the country, doling our larger-than-life bonus checks to teachers who are showing strong performance."

The Testing Backlash That Wasn't There

A couple of weeks ago, I raised objections to Valerie Strauss's story in the Post about testing, and this week's version (Political Backlash Builds Over High-Stakes Testing) seems just as objectionable. Again, this latest Post piece ignores national survey data showing no particular groundswell of public objections to testing -- this time by inserting local and teacher-funded opinion polling data -- and resurrects claims about widespread test stress among kids that are at worst dubious and at best anecdotal (see Throwing Up Over NCLB). Who is ordering up this stuff, and why are they forcing reporters to create a story that frankly just doesn't seem to be there? [Previous post: WashPost Works Hard To Perpetuate Testing Fears.]

UPDATE: Eduwonk makes fun of the Post here: "Let me get this straight: In states where standardized testing figures as a big issue in the gubernatorial races it turns out to be controversial and concern about it increases...while nationwide polls show the public remains generally supportive of standards-based reform. Wow!"

Spellings On The Ohio and Indiana Campaign Trail

Today and Thursday, Secty Spellings heads out to do what I'm sure are being billed as nonpolitical appearances with Republican House members in hotly contensted races in Ohio and Indiana, including Cong. Steve Chabot at the Cincy Zoo Academy, Ralph Regula at the Southmore MS in Columbus, and Cong. Chris Chocola at Sycamore ES in Kokomo Indiana.

Coincidence? I think not: In a GOP Stronghold, 3 Districts in Indiana Are Now Battlegrounds (NYT), Novice wants to oust veteran congressman (Cleveland Plain Dealer), Six-term Republican incumbent in heated battle (Ft. Wayne News Sentinel).

Morning Round-up October 23, 2006

Good test scores mean $42 million for teachers AP
In the closing weeks of the fall campaign, the Bush administration is handing out money for teachers who raise student test scores, the first federal effort to reward classroom performance with bonuses.

Pundit Armstrong Williams settles case over promoting education reforms
Under an agreement signed Friday with the Justice Department, he will pay $34,000 to settle the case. The terms do not address whether he wrongly promoted Bush's education agenda. They consider only whether he was paid for public-service ads he didn't produce under the contract.

Bush's family profits from "No Child' act
A company headed by President Bush's brother and partly owned by his parents is benefiting from Republican connections and federal dollars targeted for economically disadvantaged students under the No Child Left Behind Act.


Week In Review October 16-22


What You Missed At New America's PK-3 Forum

In the beautiful Senate Caucus Room, the New America Foundation and the Foundation for Child Development yesterday co-hosted a forum called "Ready to Teach? PK-3 and NCLB." The forum featured Kimberly Oliver, 2006 Teacher of the Year who teaches Kindergarten in Silver Spring, MD, Rebecca Palacios , Vice Chair of NBPTS, Josue Cruz, Jr, Dean of the College of Education at Bowling Green State University (Ohio), and Stephanie Robinson, President and CEO of the Jamestown Project. What jumped out at me most was that the forum was full of NCLB supporters - each of the speakers stressed different ways of strenghtening the law, from putting the best quality teachers in classrooms to creating more consistency in standards for teacher ed and PK-3. New America Foundation was also releasing an issue brief authored by Justin King and Lindsey Luebchow found here.

Previous posts:
What To Do About Universal Pre-K?
Integrating Head Start & K12

Finally, President Bush Really Explains No Child Left Behind

Bill Maher: "The Real Menace To American Kids"

"We demonize Mark Foley but ignore the industries medicating children and making them fat, and even open our schools to people trying to kill them -- military recruiters," writes fierce, foul-mouthed, and funny Bill Maher in Salon (The real menace to American kids). "The fact is, there are a lot of creepy middle-aged men out there lusting for your kids. They work for MTV, the pharmaceutical industry, McDonald's, Marlboro and K Street."

What To Do About Universal Pre-K?

One of the big problems with the universal preschool thing that's going around is that few of the folks touting it to get elected know or care anything about the implementation challenges, and few of those aedvocates who know better are willing or able to risk losing their big chance at expanding coverage by saying, 'hey, wait a second..."

How do you make universal preschool any good if so many preK teachers remain woefully under-educated and underpaid? One possible answer mentioned in this Slate magazine article (Do preschool teachers need college degrees?) is to "fold preschool into the existing public-education system, as New Jersey has done." Well, it's an answer if you don't mind everything that comes from enlarging the current public school system. But rolling out low-quality preschool initiatives isn't the answer, either.

Morning Round-up October 20, 2006

Writing Instruction Necessity at Secondary Level Ed Week
The Alliance for Excellent Education report promotes high school improvements outlines 11 components of writing instruction that have been shown to be effective in rigorous research studies.

Experimental charter posts big gains among poor students
Their lively shouts echo down the hallways at Elm City College Preparatory School, an experimental charter school that is making noise of its own by posting big academic gains among some of the state's poorest children.

Questions Arise on Virtual High School Science NYT
A dispute has flared over how far the Internet can go in displacing the brick-and-mortar laboratory.

Charter School Supporters Respond to Falling Scores NPR
With test scores falling behind in some states, charter school supporters are calling for greater scrutiny. They say weeding out under performing schools will actually strengthen the movement.


Grading The Gadfly

Given the Fordham Foundation's tendency to grade everything it sees, it's only fair to to grade its weekly newsletter, The Education Gadfly, too. And -- just for fun -- let's make late Thursday afternoon the report card pickup time.

The Education Gadfly is a weekly publication of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation that is published every Thursday. Some people (well mostly just Alexander) have argued that Thursday may not be a good time and that The Gadfly should be a blog not a newsletter (or at least recognize that blogs exist).

But, however stubborn and old-fashioned it may be, The Gadfly often makes up for any of those perceived flaws with its distinctive and high-quality content. The Gadfly tends to question the conventional wisdom and sometimes comes up with interesting if unrealistic ideas (national standards, anyone?). Unlike some other newsletters, pretty much everyone at Fordham from top to bottom seems involved in making sure it's not just a throwaway email.

Looking at a Gadfly from a couple of weeks ago (October 5th edition) you'll find most of the usual sections, including commentary from the desk of one of the senior contributors (in this case, a piece from Checker Finn called All aboard the charters?), news and analysis (including Liam Julian's Campus Progress 101 questioning ending early admissions, recommended reading (four articles from the past week), a link to the Education Gadfly Show podcast (this edition features a segment called Ph.D envy, short reviews of new (basically a repeat of 'recommended reading' for reports and books), and a section called from our readers (this edition features Penny Kiser).

Most of all, the Education Gadfly earns an A- by involving so many of its staff in the development process, by offering quality commentary and analysis and by having unique features such as "From Checker's Desk" and The Education Gadfly Show.

Previous Rants From Alexander: The Gad-Blast,The Gadfly Writes Himself The Gadfly Gives In - Sort of, The Gadfly Forgets His Own Adage, Why There Needs To Be A Conservative Education Blog.

On The HotSeat: Journalism Guru Richard Lee Colvin

Like many rock stars, Richard ("Ricky Lee") Colvin has three names, wears an earring, and used to hang out on the West Coast. Unlike the rest of those guys, Colvin used to be the lead education writer at the LA Times and now heads the Hechinger Institute, the Columbia University-based program that trains and supports education journalists.

On the HotSeat, cagey Colvin does his best to avoid naming names but still reveals juicy tidbits like why the Reading First story isn't much of a story (kids were learning), what stories reporters should really be covering (and which stories he's tired of), what it's like being kicked off the Education Writers Association listserve (he claims not to have minded), and (sort of) why there need to be two different education-focused journalism organizations.

Why didn't the mainstream education press pick up on the Reading First scandal, even though it had been reported in the trades and rumored for years?

RLC: This is a big story to some Inside-the-Beltway education wonks. It’s not of much interest to parents who just want their kids to learn to read. Having said that, I did see it covered in USA Today, Washington Post, New York Times.

Really? I don’t get it. How is it that only Beltway types would be interested in schools allegedly being forced to buy and use a curriculum that may not be any better than the one they already had? And if it’s not a big story, then why did the papers you mention cover it?

RLC: IG reports are good news hooks. And, hey, what reporter wouldn’t want to write a story where you get to quote juicy emails? But juicy emails don’t make it a story that matters to the average person. You make it sound like kids weren’t being taught to read because they were forced to use educationally unsound materials. The bottom line is that kids were learning to read. To the extent this is a story, it’s about the limits of federalism in education.

Then what are the big education stories now, and are there any that aren’t getting enough coverage – or too much?

RLC: One big story that should get more attention is the lack of rigor in high schools, even those that have been reformed or are newly established. The rapid growth of publicly funded pre-kindergarten, and the poor quality of some of the state programs, deserves far more attention. We’re missing an opportunity by paying for pre-k programs and not making sure they are of high enough quality to matter...On the other hand, I’m bored with stories that say schools aren’t teaching certain subjects anymore because of NCLB. And almost five years in, I’m surprised at how many stories blame the federal NCLB law for stupid decisions states make in implementing the law.

Why is education considered such a tough sell to reporters (and to editors)?

RLC: Considered so by who? Also, what do you mean by “tough sell”? Most newspapers have more reporters on the schools/education beat than they do on any other beat.

What papers are doing a good, if unheralded job on their education coverage, and what coming stars are there out there whose bylines we should be watching?

RLC: There’s lots. [Proceeds to name roughly a dozen reporters and newspapers.]

So basically everyone’s doing a great job. I get it. Well, what papers aren't as strong in their commitment or coverage as they used to be? I recently named the CSM as one example. Willing to name any others?

RLC: It’s no secret that the newspaper business is trying to find its balance, given the profit pressures. I don’t think we’ve yet seen the net impact of the Knight-Ridder sale on education coverage. It could work out OK in Philadelphia but San Jose lost some senior people on the education beat. The folks in Akron are feeling the pressure to do more with less. We’ll see. But it’s not about education. It’s about the newspaper industry in general.

I’ll take that as a “no” to your being willing to name anyone whose coverage has suffered. OK, one more try. If we were playing a schoolyard game of education reporting, and you got to pick first, who would you pick? Mathews? Merrow? Feller? Whitmire? Someone else?

RLC: That’s an all-star lineup of guys right there. I’d try to be George Steinbrenner and hire them all plus Sam Freedman. But I’d also want Stephanie Banchero and Tracy Dell’Angela from the Chicago Tribune and Erika Hayasaki from the Los Angeles Times and Betsy Hammond from the Oregonian in Portland and Sarah Carr from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Years of asking questions have clearly helped you learn how to avoid answering them, Richard. Let’s change the subject. What about education blogs? Any place for them in a respectable news organization, and if so what's the place?

RlC: Alexander, are you looking for a job? Atlanta, Dayton, the Journal News in Westchester, Miami, Los Angeles [newspapers] all have blogs and all do them differently. I think blogs have a lot of potential to connect with a very committed, passionate audience that cares about education.

What did you do before you were the main education writer at the LAT?

RLC: I covered state education issues and before that I covered gangs, housing issues, development, general assignment for the Times. Before coming to the Times I wrote about education for the Oakland Tribune and a small paper outside of Oakland.

When I first heard of you, you went by the name Richard Lee Colvin, but recently I see just plain Richard Colvin. Was there a switch, and if so, why?

RLC: I’m covetous of the “Lee” in Richard Lee Colvin because that’s my byline. I always use it. I can’t make sure everyone does. (My family and close friends call me Rick. My grandmother called me Ricky Lee.)

What was your biggest story?

RLC: The wars over reading, math and science in California. I was the first to write about how math is taught in Singapore, one of the first to write about the loss of faith in the self-esteem movement, and the first to write about how New Zealand had an enormous influence on the U.S. whole language movement.

Why did you leave the newsroom?

RLC: I left only because I was given a great opportunity to influence the coverage of education nationally, to build on something I knew, to learn a whole new set of skills, and to continue as a working journalist.

As some folks know, the EWA email listserve is perhaps one of the best things they’ve got going. What was it like being banished from the listserve, and what do you think about EWA's policy regarding "full-time reporters only" on the list?

RLC: That policy was in place when I was on the EWA board and I didn’t try to change it.

How are Hechinger-EWA relations, anyway? At the annual EWA meeting last summer in New Orleans, which you attended, I felt like was a kid whose divorced parents both came to Thanksgiving dinner.

RLC: How was the turkey? EWA and Hechinger just collaborated on a very successful seminar in Atlanta for journalists across the South. The folks at EWA were great partners. They lined up some first-rate panels and recruited so many reporters we actually had to turn some away.

What's the difference between the Hechinger Institute and EWA, and do there really need to be two education reporter organizations?

RLC: The EWA is a membership organization. Such an organization is one of the hallmarks of a professional activity that requires specialized knowledge or training. Hechinger is not a membership organization. It offers training in various forms—publications, seminars and, soon, our redesigned website...As to your question of whether there’s room for two organizations, we usually turn people away from our seminars because we like to keep them small enough to foster rich discussions. I don’t think EWA has any trouble attracting participants either. So, the hunger for more knowledge and training is strong.

Q. How have the East Coast, your board, and your funders responded to seeing you walk into the room with an earring?

A. No complaints so far. I was just trying to fit in on the subway.

Morning Round-up October 19, 2006

Bush Touts Education Program LAT
He says No Child Left Behind is working and he won't back down on standarized testing.

Graphic-arts software targets schools
eSchool News
Two leading makers of graphic-arts software have released scaled-down versions of their most advanced multimedia deisn products, built specifically for use in schools.

How students can break the 'code of silence' CSM
Anonymous hot lines and email systems are gaining momentum in the push to encourage students to tell an adult.

Preschoolers Grow Older as Parents Seek an Edge NYT
Many parents are strategizing to keep children out of kindergarten until they are nearly 6.


Another Black Eye For NCLB: Sexual Misconduct By Recruiters

Not that some folks need another reason to hate NCLB, but this AP/CNN segment cites widespread sexual misconduct by military recruiters -- who gain access to high schools through a controversial provision in NCLB.

Previous news reports have cited recruiters' efforts to target low-income and minority youth, as well as recruiting LD kids. A Washington Times commentary suggests how to combat the problem (Remedies for recruiter abuse).

To me, this is the Pentagon's problem more than the USDE's (see previous posts like Blaming NCLB For The War In Iraq, What Recruiting Has Done (Could Do) to NCLB ...), but I'm sure that others would disagree.

The 89th Carnival of Education: Hand Sanitizer Is For Wimps

This week's Carnival of Education is up over at contributor extraordinaire Margaret Paynich's site (Poor, Starving, College Student). Check it out -- including my post from last week about Samuel Freedman's overheated NCLB column.

As often, my favorite headline comes from the AFTies: Hand Sanitizer is for Wimps. No Purell wall dispensers for those folks. Cough, cough.

Education Reporters Do The Math

Today's one of those days where several folks have written about the same thing, in this case a Brookings study with the finding that countries where students don't love math do better at it. Journalists sure love them "man bites dog" stories, and this counter-intuitive story proves irresistable. But the Post, USA Today, and AP writers all treat it somewhat differently.

Over at the Washington Post, Jay Mathews focuses on teachers' use of self-esteem (Self-Esteem Might Not Equal High Scores), and has this line from Tom Loveless, one of the Brookings authors: "It is interesting that people grasp this notion in other areas of self-improvement -- eating healthy foods, getting exercise, saving for retirement -- but when it comes to education, for some reason, the limitations of happiness are forgotten."

Developing the athletics metaphor, USAT's Greg Toppo (Enjoying math not always a plus) gets a nice quote from Saxon Math's Frank Wang: "No one questions a football coach when he says we have to have two-a-day practices in 100-degree heat. People don't question it because they feel it's a necessary price to win."

Only AP's Ben Feller (Happy, confident students do worse in math) takes real a stab at questioning the study's results and implications, quoting the NCTM's Francis "Skip" Fennell: "If I'm a math student and I don't perceive myself as confident, you think I'm going to major in it? The answer is no...Is enjoyment important? You bet it is. Is confidence important? You bet it is. If we don't have those variables, we can't compete."

UPDATE: Sara Mead makes fun of the press coverage, too:Stupid and Happy

Another Great(?) Education Writer I've Never Heard Of

Higher education writer Anya Kamenetz is a big deal at a very young age -- largely for her Village Voice columns and her book, Generation Debt.

But someone more diligent (and interested in student loan debt) will actually have to read her work and figure out if she's an incredibly talented and insightful writer or a telegenic Millennial who happened onto a timely issue or both.

Based on a completely superficial scan of the titles of her columns and the pull quotes they're using, the thrust of what she's writing seems reminiscent of 90's era "us-against-AARP" movements like Lead...Or Leave. As always, fill me in if you know more than I do or if I've got this one entirely wrong. Until then, I'm still on the Kate Boo bandwagon.

Morning Round-Up -- October 18 2006

Today's biggest education stories:

States Get Tough on Programs to Prepare Principals EdWeek
State policymakers in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee have moved in recent months to require graduate programs in educational leadership to meet new standards. Iowa and Louisiana already have done so, prompting a few programs to go off-line.

Brownie the Cow Has Some Parents Alleging an Unfair Test NYT
Parents said an essay involving the analysis of a fictional cow's behavior highlights a broader concern that New York City is misusing standardized exams.

Texas Ramps Up Math and Science Requirements NPR
Texas is about to become one of the first states to require students to take four years of math and science. Supporters say it will ensure that students are ready for jobs or college. But some educators fear that, if not done right, the additional work could push some students to drop out.


SFA's Bob Slavin Weighs In On Reading First

EXCLUSIVE: Bob Slavin (of Success For All and Johns Hopkins fame) deconstructs Bob Sweet's recent efforts to defend Reading First as "misleading half-truths."

In the following post, Slavin claims that the links between Reid Lyon and Rod Paige and Randy Best are clear, that DIBELS went from being unknown to everywhere assessment to almost every state's choice in five years, and that Scott Foresman's involvement and financial self-interest are clear. It's pretty detailed stuff, but invaluable reading if you're into this.

Writes Slavin:

"The Sweet response (Former House Staffer Takes On Washington Post Reading First Story) is full of misleading half-truths. For example, Reid Lyon and Paige are working for Randy Best, who owns the for-profit American College of Education and once owned Voyager. So it is true that at this moment Best is not involved with reading, but the linkage is clear.

"Yes, Grunwald overstates in saying that DIBELS is used everywhere, but the fact is, this assessment, unknown in 2001, is used in almost every state as the main Reading First assessment.

"Kame'enui's $100,000 to $250,000 in royalties may be in part from college textbooks, but he and Simmons were authors of the Scott Foresman remedial reading program that existed before Reading First, and they advertised it on their Reading First web site, and they were the authors of a supplement to Scott Foresman that states felt they had to buy if they wanted to use Scott Foresman under Reading First.

"Sweet notes that 9 out of 15 states that had a list included Success for All. I doubt that is true, but it is irrelevant. The fact is that through a variety of mechanisms, schools were informed that applying to use SFA was risky, while choosing the big five textbooks was safe. A total of 124 schools that were already using SFA (2.5% of the schools funded) were able to continue doing so under Reading First, but they did so under considerable pressure to drop or substantially modify SFA, and about 20 of these schools ultimately dropped SFA because of this pressure.

"The AIR report documents the fact that schools that never received Reading First funding were more likely to use SFA and DI than schools that did receive Reading First funding. Sweet notes that since there was no evidence on the big basals favored under Reading First, it is impossible to say that they were ineffective. Well yes, but I think the law had in mind a higher standard of evidence than "not proven to be ineffective."

Previous Posts: Reading First Rebuttal Update, Former House Staffer Takes On Washington Post Reading First Story

Can Hopkins -- Or Anyone -- Make Research Useful?

Fair or not, education research isn't held in very high esteem.

There are several reasons for this, of course. It lacks any truly prominent peer reviewed journals (like medical research's New England Journal of Medicine or JAMA). It's produced by a broad range of academic disciplines (economics and poly sci seem to be in vogue right now), as well as by an increasing number of think tanks and advocacy groups. There's little or no agreement on proper research methods. And it often seems obscure or irrelevant in terms of topic or sample size. It's settled very few debates.

Into this challenging situation comes the latest of many efforts to create a place where educators and others can see what the research says, and how robust its findings are.

Put out (somewhat ironically) by Bob Slavin's research center at Johns Hopkins and called The BEE (Best Evidence Encyclopedia), it contains "educator-friendly summaries of research on educational programs as well as links to the full-text scientific reviews." Check it out.

Speaking of research findings, EdWeek has a pair of articles from last week that shouldn't go without note -- the first a piece on the AIR report showing that only 10 of 18 widely used middle and high school programs have evidence of even moderate effectiveness (No School Improvement Models Get Top Rating). A couple of the programs are Slavin's. The second piece highlights research suggesting that district-led reforms can work under certain conditions (Synthesis Finds District Leadership-Learning Link). Superintendents matter.

Reading First Rebuttal Update

As you can imagine, I wanted to hear more when I saw Bob Sweet's rebuttal to Michael Grunwald's Washington Post article on Reading First from yesterday (Former House Staffer Takes On Washington Post Reading First Story), and wrote each of them asking if they wanted to talk.

No response yet from Sweet, who perhaps has had his say. Grunwald (who's not a regular education reporter) was kind enough to write back and say that he was fine with what he'd written, didn't agree with much of what Sweet had to say, and that he'd heard even more since he wrote the piece.

Not that this story is turning into the Halliburton-level scandal that it might have if we weren't three weeks out from the midterm elections, but it's still fascinating. Is this a heavy-handed law, implemented with a heavy hand, or is there really any criminal or financial angle? Why did SFA and DI get the cold shoulder, given their phonics underpinnings? And where has Chris Doherty gone to, anyway?

Morning Round-up October 17, 2006

Tips for a Better Parent-School Relationship WaPo
Ten reccomendations from educators and school savy parents on how to forge a constructive parent-school relationship.

Seattle's graduation rate dips as state's rate rises
Seattle Times
The rise in graduation rates state-wide is attributed to the Washington Assessment of Student Learning and national standards like No Child Left Behind as well as better record keeping.

Schools shuffle iPods out of classrooms JS Online
The policy states that students "may use musical players before or after school and during school day in study halls. They may not be used in the class unless it is part of a class assignment or at the discretion of the teacher."


What You Missed At AFT Forum: Food, Agreement, Long-Winded Questions

Last Tuesday, AFT began its series of policy forums with a discussion of an AFT-published paper by Paul Barton, "Failing" or "Succeeding" Schools: How Can We Tell? The PDF can be found here. At first I was impressed - the topic is an important one, there was food and drink, and the room was nice and full. As Fordham, New America, and EdSector can tell you, sometimes it's hard to fill a room.

Anyway, Barton spoke about his paper followed by comments by the panelists: Andy Rotherham, Raul Gonzalez and AFT's own Joan Baratz Snowden was able to comment in Jack Jennings absence (Jennings had a personal matter to attend to). But there wasn't much disagreement among them. And many of the questioners rambled on.

Related post: Semantics, Or Some Antics? (Eduwonk)

Former House Staffer Takes On WPost Reading First Story

I remember reading Michael Grunwald's piece on Reading First and thinking that it was pretty aggressive stuff for a news story in a mainstream publication, and didn't seem particularly balanced in its assessment of the program or its implementation. But I didn't have time to dissect it -- and was at the time mostly glad that the story was getting covered at all. (See here for more on that.)

Now, Bob Sweet, a former House education committee staffer, has written a long letter to the Post decrying various mis-statements and inaccuracies: Significant errors and misconceptions - “Billions for an Inside Game on Reading” by WP's Michael Grunwald via EdNews.org.

Did Grunwald over-state the case, or miss some key facts? Some, including Reading Panel member Tim Shanahan and former USDE staffer Mike Petrilli, have suggested that Reading First wasn't getting a fair shake in the press. Maybe they were right.

UPDATES: EdWeek points to the ongoing political (criminal?) fallout (‘Reading First’ Details Sought by Lawmakers). Eduwonk splits the difference and says that just because Grunwald "overshot" doesn't mean that RF isn't messed up.

Morning Round-up October 16, 2006

NYC School Takeover Inspires Fenty, but Critics Abound WaPo
Adrian Fenty will meet with NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein to discuss his ability the takeover the DC school district. Bloomberg says his advice to Fenty is "Do everything right away. Beg for forgiveness, but not permission. Just do it."

Wanted: Schools Chief With Zero Experience LAT
Claiming that career educators can become oblivious to the flaws of their schools, David L. Brewer III was chosen to run the second-largest school system without any experience running or working in a school.

Gunman in classroom? Texas students told to fight back
Seattle Times
Instead of sitting quietly or hiding under desks if a gunman invades the classroom, students are being taught to rush him and hit him with everything they have: books, pencils, legs and arms.

UPDATE: At Philly 'Future' School, Books Are So 20th Century NPR
The School of the Future, a much-anticipated high-tech high school, opened its doors last month in one of Philadelphia's poorer neighborhoods. Designed with input from Microsoft, the school uses the latest technology to teach students the fundamentals.


Week In Review October 10-15


Cash For Coming To School?

Teachers and principals and even superintendents have been giving prizes and recognition to students for years -- trips to Great America for good attendance, etc. But what if the rewards came from the city or the state, and what if they came in the form of cold, hard cash?

That's the focus of this article little-noticed James Traub article from last Sunday about the politics of poverty (Pay for Good Behavior). New York's Mayor Bloomberg recently announced some new antipoverty proposals, including the idea of giving poor New Yorkers an incentive “to stay in school, stay at work and stay on track to rise out of poverty.”

Apparently this has worked wonders for school attendance in Mexico, and has been proposed at various times by folks including Newt Gingrich. Not surprisingly, opinions differ on whether this could work, whether it's demeaning, etc. But Bloomberg has put it into play, so we may soon see.

Morning Round-Up October 13th

Little Rock School Board Has First Black Majority AP
For the first time since federal troops enforced public school integration here by escorting a group of black students into Central High School 49 years ago, the Little Rock school board has a black majority.

Ex-Admiral Is Named New Schools Chief LA Times
David Brewer III draws praise for his leadership and administrative skill. Villaraigosa says he's disappointed the board acted alone in its choice.

Gates spending $30M for charter schools Seattle Times
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is spending $30 million to help build 200 new charter schools for low-income students around the country.

Georgia Employs High School 'Graduation Coaches' NPR
Every high school in Georgia has a new "graduation coach." The coaches' mission is to identify students at risk of dropping out of school and help them graduate on time. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Susanna Capelouto reports.


NYT Column Makes Mountain Of An HQT Molehill

The most striking and problematic things about this week's Samuel Freedman column (about a handful of highly educated teachers in California who are told they're not "highly qualified" and decide to quit) are that the column (a) focuses on dramatic and relatively unusual exceptions rather than the widespread problems that need addressing, (b) blames NCLB for drumming out star teachers more than teacher training programs for their poor quality, and (c) -- perhaps most important of all -- may represent a highly exaggerated or even inaccurate interpretation of HQT rules in NCLB and California.

UPDATE: Ryan Boots at edspresso writes "I think Freedman picked a rather extreme anecdote to illustrate his dissatisfaction with HQT. Pacific Collegiate is an outlier in nearly every respect: sky-high SAT scores, high college acceptance rate, and lots of faculty with master's (even doctoral) degrees? Sounds like pretty much no high school I've ever heard of."

Over at Eduwonk, Andy points out that "...this one is squarely on the states. NCLB only requires subject matter expertise and state certification..."


With a column that basically focuses on the plight of a dozen teachers at a single school (Unqualified to Teach), Freedman is not alone in falling prey for dramatic, exception-finding "poor teacher, poor school" stories about NCLB like this one. (For a previous post on this, see here.) There's no evidence I know of suggesting great teachers are leaving in droves "because" of NCLB in particular.

And Freedman does mention the related problem of teacher prep programs of low quality, which is a real issue. Who would want to spend hours and hours and thousands of dollars on more training if it's not relevant or helpful?

But I think that his reporting about what NCLB requires in re HQT is perhaps more than a little off.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in California, as in most states, teachers don't have to be HQT they just have to be on a path towards becoming HQT. While they're not, parents get sent home letters explaining the situation. Thus far, at least, no one that I know of has been fired for not being HQT; in fact, the USDE has given everyone yet another year to get there.

And, through the HOUSSE provision, there are myriad ways for teachers to become HQT without necessarily going back to school.
LinkI'm told that by the folks at the Ed Trust that there are fast track and intern programs that take as little as six weeks for certification.

VA "Turnaround Specialist" Gets Turned Around On PBS

It's hard to be gleeful about the failure of the turnaround specialist Parker Land shown on PBS last night -- the last of a yearlong series of Merrow Report segments tracking this principal and his arrival at a troubled school (audio and transcript -- no video yet that I can find).

Failure, discontinuity, glimmers of hope -- it's like an episode of The Wire. The principal leaves for another school, and the school he was supposed to turn around goes backwards on test scores.

Other districts and states experimenting with this approach (including Chicago) should note that the overall experience of the program has been similarly troubled, according to the segment: "Fourteen of the program's 21 principals failed to meet federal standards for improvement this year. The turnaround specialists made three-year commitments, but already more than half have either changed schools or left the program."

UPDATE: Merrow speaks! Apparently you can now view a streaming video version of the segment on your computer at the site above, and a DVD version of the entire series is coming out soon.

Is That PhD From Columbia Or Capella? No Matter.

Now this is something that I don't think the Levine report from last month ever really got to: the large and growing proportion of the degrees that teachers, principals, and admins use to get ahead on district salary scales -- and improve their skills, of course. That's what makes Kevin Carey's recent mini-report on ed school graduates so interesting -- in essence it shows how big Nova, Argosy, Capella, and other nontraditional and often online programs have become (The No. 1 Graduate School of Education?). After all, the thinking goes, if you get the same salary bump whether you go to Columbia or Capella, why not go to the cheaper, more flexible school? And, given the sorry state of many traditional education schools, it's not entirely clear that it's not the right decision.

Previous Posts: Levine Slashes Teacher Prep Programs. Related posts: Teacher Education: What Happened Then, What's Wrong Now? (at Jenny D).

Morning Round-up October 12, 2006

How to make US schools safer CSM
Tuesday's presidential conference on school safety focused on the human face of the solution: getting "stakeholders" - students, school officials, parents, and police - working together, practicing school crisis plans as regularly as fire drills, and, most critically, identifying students who need help before they pick up a gun.

Code Blue at Schools Rattles Nerves
A seventh grader's false claim that an armed man approached him at a bus stop and threatened violence prompted officials to lock the doors and heighten security at 13 campuses in Montgomery Co.

Despite furor, schools back gay history month
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia School Districts's decision to note Gay and Lesbian History Month on its official calendars drew vocal supporters and critics to yesterday's board meetin.


Overpriced Wrapping Paper Vs. Funding Schools

"If you find yourself short of overpriced wrapping paper, scented candles, gourmet popcorn or coupon books for discounted meals at restaurants you never frequent, you’re in luck," according to this insightful little NYT opinion piece (Will Work for School Supplies). "Fall is here and with it school fund-raising season, when seemingly every elementary and middle school student from sea to shining sea is sent home from class with a glossy catalog and a complicated order sheet and told to go forth and squeeze money out of their friends, relatives and neighbors."

The 88th Edition of the Carnival

The Carnival is up at The Education Wonks and here is a interesting one that caught my eye,

"When, if ever, should a school hold students accountable for what they write and publish off campus? Respectfully submitted for your consideration is our take on an Indiana school district that does just that. "

I will be hosting next week's Carnival at Poor, Starving, College Student and submissions can be sent to edpolicypolitics@gmail.com.

Morning Round-up October 11, 2006

Bush: Shootings can be stopped AP
President Bush said adults, communities and teachers should be more aware of youths in need. No new policies or money were announced. The administration instead touted Web sites of existing resources.

Despite a Doctorate and Top Students, Unqualified to Teach
Rather than submit to what he considered an expensive, time-consuming indignity, a teacher-certification program geared to beginners and would qualify him under California's standards as "highly qualified," Mr. Jefferds Huyck decided to resign and move cross country to teach.

The Handwriting Is on the Wall
Handwriting instruction has fallen, as only 15 percent of students completing written exams on the SAT wrote cursive - the rest wrote block letters.


No Guns Left Behind

Last night on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert went off on the word "safety," determining that not only should teachers be armed to prevent school violence -- but so should students.

Getting The School Safety Story Right

Just two mainstream outlets that I know of have gotten the school safety story right -- NPR and the Chicago Tribune. Thank you!

School Violence Drops, Despite Shocking Crimes NPR
"President Bush's education summit on violence in schools begins Tuesday, following a rash of school shootings. Despite high-profile cases such as the Oct. 2 shooting at an Amish school in Pennsylvania, school violence is down nationwide since the Columbine attack seven years ago."

Recent shootings are scary, but most schools are very safe Tribune
In less than a week, six students and one principal were killed at school...[But] Less than 1 percent of homicides of school-age children happen at school, near school or en route to or from school, according to the Centers for Disease Control Injury Fact Book 2001-2002.

Bingo And Bongs, On The Public Dime

Over at Joanne Jacobs, there's a hilarious post about mis-spent FEMA money and similar mishaps in Britain ('Windy Biggie is our friend').

WashPost Works Hard To Perpetuate Testing Fears, Ignores Own Chart. Oops.

I guess I should be thankful that Valerie Strauss doesn't quote anyone from FairTest in her piece today in the Washington Post on testing (The Rise of the Testing Culture), which presents many of the usual ominous scenarios, gathers many of the usual types of critics, and comes to the many of the same conclusions. But the piece has too many problems, both factual and journalistic, to ignore.

For starters, there's a careless description of NCLB that associates the law with student promotion decisions and seems to try and revive the false notion that NCLB makes decisions based on a "single test." Then there's the strikingly clear anti-testing slant. There's no mention of the recent rise of formative assessments (used to diagnose and intervene early rather than waiting until 3rd grade).

There's nary a mention of the daily tests and exams teachers themselves impose on students, which are more common and in many cases more stressful on students. And the piece ignores until the very end fundamental political reality that taxpayers and lawmakers are unwilling to fund schools without some measures of performance, however imperfect.

Most of all, the piece ignores public opinion polls showing overwhlemingly strong support among parents and students for current testing -- a point that contradicts Strauss's piece almost entirely -- and appears next to it on the page (click image left).

How Did The Mainstream Press Miss The Reading First Scandal?

Is anyone else but me wondering how the mainstream press missed the story of how Reading First was being abused? Politically and substantively, it's arguably the biggest education story of the year. It's got politics, greed, and ideology galore-- not to speak of all those little kids taking DIBELS tests all day. And the program's prescriptiveness was an open secret in Washington and the states.

So what happened? Do the national reporters not read the trades or think tank reports? (Education Week and the Title I Monitor had both run stories going back at least a year about possible conflicts of interest and other problems. The Center on education Policy did a 2005 report (PDF) alluding to heavy-handedness.>) Hard to imagine that. Was the story not considered big or sexy enough by someone's editor? It's possible. Or, did someone actually cover it and I just missed the piece? Always a chance of that.

UPDATE: Over at edspresso, Ryan Boots points to a D-Ed Reckoning post (at EdNews) saying that at least one former state superintendent says maybe Chris Doherty didn't do anything wrong.

Morning Round-up October 10, 2006

The Rise of the Testing Culture WaPo
Kisha Lee tests the children in her day-care program on spelling and math. It hurts her to do it, but it will hurt the kids more if she doesn't.

Kids put stamp on school fundraising AP
ArtStamps, a Connecticut company, has begun converting student art into U.S. postage -- marking the first time that children's color drawings will appear on real stamps.

Mo. student arrested after firing AK-47 in school AP
Authorities found that the student had been planning an attack for a long time. A note indicated a bomb in the school and the students were moved where their parents picked them up.