No One Knows Anything, Says AFT Michele

If you're wondering why things are so slow online today, it's probably because everyone who's everyone is schmoozing at the AEI event on NCLB, or some other event on NCLB. It seems like there are two of these a week right now. Thankfully, AFT Michele is liveblogging the proceedings -- making appropriate fun of the general state of non-knowledge and the predominance of white men on the panels.

In her first post, she praises Mike Petrilli for calling for more "humility" in the next reauthorization (but fails to note the ridiculousness of having Petrilli and Finn, both from the same organization, appear on the same panel). She sums up the second panel (again all white men) as follows: "Parents aren't accessing public school choice or supplemental services, but we don't really know why. Districts are choosing the "soft" options for schools in restructuring." Hilarious. It's almost a haiku. The most recent update is called Ooh, a woman!.

Colvin Joins The Blogosphere: A Hearty Welcome & Some Unsolicited Suggestions

I think it's going to be a lot of fun having Richard Lee Colvin, the former LA Times education writer who now runs the Hechinger Institute, join the blogosphere. He did some guesting for Eduwonk, took a lot of ribbing from me for not starting his own (or giving this site a home at Hechinger), and now he's launched his own site, called Early Stories, which is going to focus on how reporters cover education, with a special focus on early education.

Commenting on how education stories get covered is a topic that's near and dear to me, and the site looks great so far. (In a recent post, Colvin makes fun of how much reporters like unschooling stories "Maybe because they secretly want to be unleashed from controlling editors!" he writes, and debunks the myth that learning to read is natural and inevitable.)

However, there are four things that Colvin needs to do to make his blog as valuable as it could be: Keep away from too much promoting the Institute's work, include blogs as well as traditional media outlets in the blog's coverage, keep the blog updated and dynamic (it takes time to maintain a website and Hechinger has not done this well in the past), and -- most important (and most difficult) of all -- be brave enough to criticize as well as praise the folks who come to his conferences and serve on his panels. Colvin was particularly reluctant to do this in his recent HotSeat appearance, but perhaps his blogging alter ego will be more willing.

DonorsChoose On The HotSeat: Can Micro-Donations Make The Difference?

You may never have heard of this week's HotSeat contestant, Michael Everett-Lane, but you've probably heard at least a little about the organization he's involved with, DonorsChoose, which, by attracting lots of new, relatively tiny ($100) donations to classroom projects, has become the media and philanthropy darling of the moment -- the Grameen Foundation of education philanthropy. Well, other than KIPP.

Fairly predictably, all this attention led me to air some questions about the organization's model earlier this year -- most if not all of which were (or are here) rebuffed.

On the HotSeat, Everett-Lane, who runs the organization's New York outfit, dishes on how DonorsChoose works (think eBay for donors and classroom teachers), describes some of the most outlandish requests teachers have made (not quite a Segway, but close), and fills us in on how matching donors and classroom teachers directly is bringing in new education funders and shaking things up in the foundation world.

UPDATE: Donorschoosemakes another convert!


How did you get involved with DonorsChoose and what did you do before?

MEL: I got involved just over a year ago -- someone sent me an article about DonorsChoose. Looking around on their website, I saw they had "TBA" as the New York Executive Director. So I applied. Before DonorsChoose I worked for Computers for Youth, another technology-and-education nonprofit.
Just how big is the DonorsChoose empire, and how long has it been around?

MEL: We've been around since 2000. Geographically, our empire stretches to eight states (Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas) and four metropolitan areas (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area).

Is it true it was started by a high school teacher?

MEL: True! Charles Best was teaching at Wings Academy, a public school in the Bronx, when he had the idea for DonorsChoose while talking to other teachers in the teacher's lounge. His students were our first volunteers.

Seriously -- no one had thought of this before?

MEL: I'm sure there were others who thought of it before -- and we now have some imitators, both here and abroad. But Charles was the first to go ahead and build it. If there's one thing about entrepreneurship I learned in business school, it was that great ideas are easy—it's the execution that's hard. DonorsChoose executes the idea really well.

Who are the imitators, and what does DonorsChoose do better or differently than the others that have popped up?

MEL: Means for Dreams (http://www.meansfordreams.org) was an spinoff of DonorsChoose, serving the Washington D.C. school system. We are actually going to absorb their operations early next year. There’s also a version of DonorsChoose in Hong Kong called EdExchange (http://www.edexchange.org). Global Giving (http://www.globalgiving.com/) started around the same time as DonorsChoose and follows a similar model to ours, although applied to international aid projects.

Adopt A Classroom is our closest “competitor,” although their operations are different from ours. For instance, DonorsChoose funds discrete educational projects and offers teachers a wide range of options, including field trips, while Adopt A Classroom funds general supplies from a few vendors. While we require that all teachers submit feedback and thank-you letters to our donors, Adopt A Classroom leaves the interaction up to each teacher. And finally, DonorsChoose funds our operations with a fulfillment fee (usually 15%) that is transparent and optional for each donor. Adopt A Classroom funds its operations out of rebates from their affiliate vendors. When DonorsChoose gets rebates from our vendors, we use those to lower the cost of classroom projects or apply them to fund new projects.

What do the traditional funders think about DonorsChoose?

MEL: There are plenty of "traditional funders," from foundations to corporations to individuals, who support DonorsChoose because they see the value of the service we provide by directly connecting their financial resources to the classroom. Obviously our model is much different from a "traditional" nonprofit. We represent a different way of doing business, and that doesn't appeal to all funders. Operationally, we have more in common with eBay than we do with Teach for America or the New York Community Trust. In a way, we're more like an e-commerce site than a nonprofit (or a foundation) -- it's just that we're "selling" philanthropy.

Does the existence of DonorsChoose undercut the need for more resources for
schools and classrooms?

MEL: There are probably some who might say that our existence, or the existence of local educational foundations, means that schools don't need more money. I think that we actually inform the debate over the need for increased education funding. If a teacher has to ask for a DonorsChoose grant to buy pencils for her classroom, how can you argue that the schools need less money? The public education market is $500 billion dollars a year. Teachers spend $1 billion a year out of their own pockets for classroom resources. This year we'll put $5 million into classrooms, which is great, but it's only about .001% of the total educational pie.

What's the most common type of thing teachers ask for?

MEL: Of those proposals that get funded, 46% are for some kind of classroom supplies. Books run second at 25%, and technology (which we define as anything that gets plugged in or needs batteries) are 17% of funded proposals.

What are some of the most unusual requests that have been made --whether or not they ever got approved or funded?

MEL: We had a big laugh at the teacher who requested a motor scooter for his own personal use -- so that he could "set a good environmental example" for his students. That didn't make the cut. But Give Cindy A Voice was a pretty amazing proposal; we funded a voice machine for a student with Spastic Cerebral Palsy.

Does DonorsChoose make any effort to monitor or make sure that teachers in the know don't "hog" donors choose while others aren't even aware?

MEL: Well it's not as if DonorsChoose is a secret they can keep to themselves! In some regions we're actually giving some teachers a bounty (in the form of a DonorsChoose gift certificate!) if they refer a friend; in others we're partnering with the union to get the word out. Most of the projects do get funded (86% of those at or below the median cost of $430), so there's plenty of funding to go around!

Do you track where the funding is going, in terms of school poverty or other demographics, to make sure that it’s spread out evenly or reaching the most needy schools, or is that entirely left up to market forces?

MEL: We carefully track the proportion of proposal dollars that go toward low-income schools, both nationally and on a regional basis. In the 2004-05 school year, 87% of our resources went to low-income schools (40% or more of students at Title I). Last school year, 90% of our dollars went to such schools, and 68% of our dollars went to schools that had 60% or more of their students in the free lunch program. Also, project funding isn’t left entirely to “market forces,” as we have some discretionary grant funds that we can apply to deserving projects in low-income schools.

What’s the trick to writing a successful DonorsChoose proposal?

MEL: I would say that the best proposals are specific about the situation in the classroom, and how the resources will address that situation. They creatively and clearly introduce the school, the teacher, and the idea. They not only describe the situation, they describe the solution by 1) listing necessary resources and 2) giving details on a student based project.

What's the biggest obstacle to getting teachers to apply?

MEL: I'd say there are two big obstacles. One is that teachers have so little time. Whenever I meet a teacher, they've almost always heard about us, but haven't used DonorsChoose because there are so many demands on their time. The second major obstacle, and one that we're working to address, is that writing a proposal and using our e-procurement system could be easier.

What are you doing to make it easier?

MEL: We're actually about to launch a new version of the software that runs the DonorsChoose site. While teachers won’t see changes right away, the new platform will enable us to make improvements in the future.

What have you learned since you started at DonorsChoose about how teachers, donors, and philanthropy works?

MEL: One thing I've learned is how much people really respond to the idea that they can decide where their money goes. Ordinarily you have to give a five or six figure grant before you can designate how your gift is spent. At DonorsChoose, we give that level of service to a donor who gives us $100. In our surveys, most donors say their primary reason for supporting DonorsChoose is that level of choice -- not necessarily because they want to support public education!

What is the overhead/admin cost for the DonorsChoose operation? Is it higher or lower than most other philanthropies?

MEL: Our administrative expenses are 9.3% and our fundraising expenses are 8.3%. One thing I should make clear, is that an individual donor can choose to have 100% of her donation go to the project they select. There's a fulfillment fee (usually 15%) which is completely optional and transparent. I was pleased that over 75% of our donors choose to make the additional donation.

How much do donors typically give, and what portion of them are new or nontraditional donors – folks that haven’t given to education before?

MEL: Our median donation is $100. Of those surveyed last spring, 68% said that this was their first gift to public education.

Are there any policy implications that come from DonorsChoose – things that school districts, schools, or philanthropies could learn and implement more broadly?

MEL: First, we recognize that our philanthropic model isn’t for everyone. Our ability to break our funding into small discrete projects is only possible because we’re building off the existing platform of the public school system which is actually paying the salaries of the front-line educators who do those projects.

For schools, I think the policy implication is that teachers and front-line educators are an amazing source of innovation. We’re just one mechanism to tap into that source. Applying small resources to those innovative ideas, with the proper accountability, can have a disproportionate impact in the classroom.

For the nonprofit sector in general, I’d say that a lesson to take from DonorsChoose is the importance of customer service for donors, including those who make small donations. It’s at the heart of our operations and our philosophy, and properly done it can transform donors into evangelists.

Previous Posts: <Mixed feelings about DonorsChoose

Kozol-Orfield-FairTest Ordered To Disband

I guess the liberal power nexus in Cambridge had grown too strong for its own good, between FairTest, the Kozol folks, and Orfield's Civil Rights Project, forcing the trio to disband ( Harvard civil rights group headed to LA). Rumor has it that Kozol's moving to Iowa next. (Joke.)

On a more serious note, there was also some similar moving about between NYU and the Annenberg Institute. I forget the details, but I think it involved Norm Fruchter leaving NYU for Annenberg or something like that. But, as per below, I could be mis-remembering.

UPDATE: The NYT's Sam Dillon tells his version of the story here, focusing on Harvard's indifference to the project and longstanding problems on the civil rights front. However, Dillon ignores the fact that some including USAT's Richard Whitmire have questioned the quality of the project's work and/or Orfield's attacks on NCLB.

UPDATE 2: Annenberg's Bob Rothmen helpfully clears up the story of what happened with Norm Fruchter and Annenberg: "The Community Involvement Program, which Norm directs, had been part of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at NYU. Norm had also directed IESP, but he stepped down from that post and when the new director was appointed, CIP and Annenberg began discussions about incorporating them." According to Rothman, the 15-member CIP program is now part of Annenberg (not just a separate center), but still based in New York. "By the way, this merger did not involve a marriage."

"Lenny" For Secretary

This whole "making fun of Margaret" thing is picking up steam, thanks to seemingly oblivious statements (think "99.9 percent pure") from the Secretary about higher education data availability.

Picking up on a mocking piece from Inside Higher Ed (Right Under Her Nose?), Wonkette posts this gem (Education Sec Bemoans Inability to Use Own Website).

The post wonders, "is it too late to just appoint Michael McKean Education Secretary, or what?"

Morning Round-up November 30, 2006

Some Ideas May Not Wait for NCLB Renewal Ed Week
The Democrats have introduced bills to improve the quality of teaching and make states’ standards more challenging, and they may pursue those agendas whether or not the NCLB law is revised in the two-year lifespan of the 110th Congress.

FLVS debuts forum for virtual teachers eSchool News
School administrators are faced with an important question: How to prepare traditional teachers for success in an increasingly online world.

City Leaders Take Debate to Florida WaPo
D.C. Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty and incoming council Chairman Vincent C. Gray expect Miami-Dade County school Superintendent Rudolph F. Crew to offer advice on urban school reform.


Steve Robinson -- Obama's Education Guy

In yesterday's post about job openings and changes (Let's Play The "Who's Going Where?" Game), I tried to give Steve Robinson's job away -- mistakenly thinking that the job working education for Obama was open.

It is, arguably, the best new education job out there. Obama's on the committee, there's lots of education work to be done. Etc. But apparently Robinson, an Einstein Fellow, scientist, and science teacher, now has the job and isn't going anywhere. Sorry about that, Steve, and anyone who got their hopes up.

Alternative Certification -- For Lawyers

Here's an NPR piece that describes how folks in Vermont and a handful of other states can become lawyers without going to law school or even necessearily finishing college -- and how some law schools are responding by integrating this apprenticeship model (Reading the Law in Vermont).

This is basically alternative certification for lawyers, right? Well, we've got alt cert coming out of our ears, but -- so far as I know -- relatively little changes in the mainstream university-based teacher training programs that still produce most new teachers. When is that going to happen, does anyone know?

The Myth Of The Broken NCLB Promise

There's an interesting if not entirely accurate description on Slate.com of how the bipartisanship that marked the creation of NCLB fell apart right after the law was passed.

Bush took "a good Democratic idea (education reform), added his own wrinkle (annual tests), and charmed leading Democrats into writing most of the bill," according to former Clinton domestic policy guru Bruce Reed (The upper-class squeeze). "But once it became law, Bush couldn't take the heat from conservatives who oppose national support for education. He promptly broke his promise to provide the funds to make reform succeed and gave up on bipartisanship altogether."

Is that really what happened? Not really. To my recollection, it was liberals and the education establishment who first renounced NCLB, and Congressional Democrats who originated the idea of the "broken promise" on funding -- a myth that I first tried to dispel in Slate three years ago. As for Kennedy and Miller having been "charmed" into collaborating on NCLB, if that were true it seems they would, five years later in the shadow or Iraq and all the rest that's happened, have renounced the law or signaled its imminent demise.

The 95th Carnival of Education: Chapter style

This week's Carnival is up at A History Teacher. Here's a taste:

Chapter 2: Aren’t they cute? Stories from the inside.

Apparently the 8 - 12 year olds of the world are starting to act like teenagers - what could be worse??? The Science Goddess talks a little science and a little culture to explain this scary effect of the modern world.

Morning Round-up November 29, 2006

Children's grades aren't hurt by time online Seattle Times
About 80 percent of the children say the Internet is important for schoolwork, although three-quarters of the parents say grades haven't gone up or down since they got Internet access.

Non-Asians Showing Growing Interest in Chinese NYT
With its booming economy and aspirations to expand its global influence, China may have achieved a victory in American classrooms.

At a Bronx School, Latin Is the Root of All Learning NYT
The Bronx Latin School is gambling that teaching Latin will initiate poor and working-class students into the mysteries of how any language works.


Let's Play The "Who's Going Where?" Game

It's not just elected officials who are getting (or thinking about) new assignments and possibilities based on the midterm elections. The elections create lots of tempting job opportunities for staffers (think education LA for Obama), and also starts the clock ticking on the wind-down of the Bush administration.

So who's going where? I have absolutely no idea. But I do have some guesses (and welcome yours):

For example, it's not a big stretch to guess that Alex Nock (left), the former Miller staffer who's been running the Aspen Institute's NCLB Commission (whose final report is supposed to come out in February) might well be getting calls from House Democrats eager to have him return to the Hill and work on the reauthorization, even though the Commission is apparently not closing up shop right away.

Speaking of commission staff, there's also a bunch of folks like Cheryl Oldham and Kristen Vetri from the Spellings Commission-- will they return to the USDE or find something else to do? They, like Spellings Chief of Staff David Dunn (right) have to be thinking about where to head next or how to burrow (convert from a political to civil service position at the Department).

Then there are the bunch of folks who have done a lot of thinking and writing about education but haven't yet been through the federal process themselves. Would research/ think tank/ advocacy folks like Kevin Carey (left), Sara Mead, Ross Wiener (right), Rick Hess, or Craig Jerald want to get some legislative work under their belts and affect the reauthorization directly? I wouldn't say it's likely, but I can imagine it happening (and that they'd be good at it).

There are also some folks who are less likely to be going anywhere, it seems. For example, Mike Dannenberg has done two tours on the Hill and is building his empire at New America. Danica Petroshius did a long stint in the Kennedy office and is now apparently working at Kris Kurtenbach's strategy shop. Vic Klatt just got back to the Hill less than a year ago, so he seems likely to stay. Andy Rotherham at Ed Sector is still building up his organization and might be waiting to pick a winner for 2008. Carmel, JD, and Roberto all seem set in Kennedy's office -- but again, what do I know?

Maybe you know more or have an even better idea. If so, feel free to send me an email (AlexanderRusso@gmail.com) or put something in the comments section. Yes, you can send something to me or post something anonymously. Just make sure it's not knowingly false or malicious.

Grassroots & Lawsuits: Renewed Efforts To Fight NCLB

There are at least a couple of renewed efforts to halt NCLB going on, even as the Democrats take over Congress and the law is almost (well, not for a while) on the way to being reauthorized.

Last week, for example, the Nashville Tennessean reported about Susan Ohanian's efforts mount a "whirlwind lobbying effort" to halt the law in its tracks (NCLB critic a hit with teachers).

Just today, the AP reports that the NEA and the Pontiac et al districts are appealing the dismissal of their unfunded mandate suit (Schools, teachers fight NCLB in court).

You gotta admire these folks for there persistence, if not their pragmatism. They win my Paul Wellstone Award for idealistic ineffectiveness.

Transgendered Teachers: When "Mr." McBeth Turns Into "Miss" McBeth

Transgendered people are all the rage, it seems, whether you're watching TV's Nip/Tuck or your favorite soap opera (CNN via A A Socialite's Life).

And now, according to an AP story, the issue is coming to a handful of classrooms around the country: "For nine years, he was Mr. McBeth, a substitute teacher who kept things moving along in the classroom and filled in ably when the regular teacher was out sick," opens the AP story (Schools adjust to transgender teachers). "And then one September, he was Miss McBeth (pictured above)."

Read the story and you'll see some amazing stories about brave folks, uncomfortable moments, and the resilience of kids.

Homeschooling In The Next NCLB?

Homeschooling seems to be in the air -- or at least in the media -- and could soon be the subject of more state and even national policymaking.

First, this NYT article from over the weekend focuses on a Chicago family who, like an estimated 1.1 million families nationwide, has decided to unschool its children (basically homeschooling without the religious focus). Interesting facts from the story (Home Schoolers Content to Take Children’s Lead) include the fact that only 25 states require testing of homeschoolers, and that Illinois and several other midwest states have the most flexible rules.

Then there's the MSNBC squib in which it's reported that actor Will Smith is homeschooling his kids for lack of confidence in teachers: Will Smith thinks teachers are useless (MSNBC via The Superficial). He's quoted as saying: "The date of the Boston Tea Party does not matter. I know how to learn anything I want to learn. I absolutely know that I could learn how to fly the space shuttle because someone else knows how to fly it, and they put it in a book. Give me the book, and I do not need somebody to stand up in front of the class."

The NSTA Scandal: A "Suggested" Blog Item

If you think your favorite bloggers choose what to write about purely based on what seems most interesting to them, or most important, or simply in response to what other bloggers are writing about, you may be sorely disappointed. More and more bloggers are posting about things that have been conveniently suggested to them by advocates, PR folks, and others.

Just tonight, for example, a nice guy named Jon from the NRDC working after hours sent me an email about a recent Washington Post opinion piece about "whether contributions from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and others might be the reason that the [NSTA] turned down an offer for 50,000 free copies of the global warming film 'An Inconvenient Truth'."

In truth, I like being sent items, whether I use them or not. Some of the most interesting things I hear about come over the transom. And it's not like folks haven't been sending press releases to mainstream journalists for decades, influencing what gets covered and how. But I think it makes a difference if an item is something has been suggested. And if you ever read several blogs that seem to be covering the same topic for no particular reason, or wonder why a blogger is writing about something over and over again, remember it might not be just a coincidence.

Morning Round-up November 28, 2006

States give failing grade to graduation rates CSM
For every 100 ninth graders, only 18 will enter college and finish within six years.

Escaping Average WaPo
With extra help,
many more students could be taking algebra in middle school and college-level courses in high school.

Court turns down school vouchers case
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up the issue of school choice in Maine, where a state law bars the use of public funds to send students to private religious schools.

Arabic Moves to the Head of the Language Classes NPR
The federal government is increasing funding for teaching foreign languages in school, particularly those considered critical for national security.


Spellings Loses To "Lenny" From Laverne & Shirley

What are we to make of Secretary Spellings' second-place finish on Celebrity Jeopardy last week to Michale McKeon (aka "Lenny" from the 1970s TV show Laverne & Shirley)? See: Education secretary places 2nd on 'Celebrity Jeopardy!'

To be sure, there are conflicting accounts. Some sources have Spellings saying she had buzzer problems and was shut out of several answers. Another has her saying that McKeon had an unfair advantage having been on the show before ("soft bigotry" if I ever heard it). Over at Wonkette, a writer points out that she under-bet on the Daily Double.

NPR Sneaks In Education Coverage Over Holiday Lull

It happens every year -- education stories without a strong news hook (or robust interest from harried editors) get slipped in during holiday lulls in the news cycle. The latest example are the four NPR stories aired late last week and over the weekend: Do Board-Certified Teachers Lift Test Scores?, An Inner City Debate Team's Rise to the Top, Troubled Schools Try New Lures for Better Teachers, and Aid Program Extends Liberal Arts to Poor. If only NPR covered education that thoroughly the rest of the year.

Reading First: A Tempest In A Teapot?

Maybe Reading First oversight won't be such a big deal after all, according to Eduwonk's close reading of a National Journal of all the things that Dems have on their priorities lists that seem bigger and better (A Reprieve?). Investigated or not, I still hold that it will hang over any consideration of future education legislation in the next year or two.

PovRacers Vs. SchoolRefs, Revisited

No one could be blamed for not making it all the way through Paul Tough's NYT Magazine thought piece on school reform (What It Takes to Make a Student), which rehashes a lot of what we already know (the rise of NCLB & KIPP) and tries not entirely successfully to tie everything (accountability, charters) together. But there are some important and interesting points that he makes, including some about tensions within school reform about how much schools can be expected to accomplish.

In fact, longtime readers of this site might be reminded of a post from a year ago -- Two Warring Camps: PovRacers vs. SchoolRefs -- which began: "There are basically two main factions when it comes to thinking about education these days -- those who think underylying problems of poverty and race need to be addressed before significant improvements can be made in education, and those who believe that schools can get much better at helping children learn within the current reality."

UPDATE: This AFT blog (Right Questions) notes that Tough's article is covering old ground about things like the "word gap" and throws in the PovRacer argument that neighborhood segregation as yet another factor that should be addressed.

Morning Round-up November 27, 2006

Affirmative action era is over, longtime foe says LAT
Buoyed by the victory this month of the Michigan ballot measure banning racial preferences in public education and hiring, the former University of California regent Ward Connerly is ready to take his crusade to the rest of the nation.

Home Schoolers Content to Take Children's Lead
Parents are “unschooling” their children, a philosophy that is broadly defined by its rejection of the basic foundations of conventional education, including not only the schoolhouse but also classes, curriculums and textbooks.

School makeovers, fueled by the middle class
Boston Globe
Savvy, often well-connected, middle - class parents are joining forces and adopting undesirable schools, infusing them with new life, resources, and expansive extracurricular offerings.

After Class, The Parent Becomes The Pupil
A growing number of Washington area schools are adding math or reading nights or taking other steps to introduce parents to the latest teaching strategies.

Schools are top scorers, but have jammed classes
If you're looking for a high-scoring Chicago public school, be prepared to accept larger class sizes in the early grades, just when some experts say smaller classes count the most.


Carnival Back Home For 94th Edition

The 94th Carnival of Education is up at it's home, The Education Wonks. Here's a taste:

"Closing campuses is almost always controversial. But The Essential Blog, which is the EduSphere voice of The Coalition of Essential Schools, wonders why the City of New York wants to close six of it's more successful schools... On a related note, check-out NYC Educator's "transcript" of a recent press conference by New York City's mayor Michael Bloomberg as he "explains" the need to close some of that city's schools."

"Humbly submitted for your consideration is our entry, which is about school districts that have money to spend but no students to teach."

NYT Highlights University President Bloggers

Diana Jean Schemo writes about university presidents who are blogging - and the article's picture shows how busy and messy MY university president is. The article talks in depth about Trinity University President, Patricia McGuire, discusses an issue involving a student turning in another student for posting profanity on her personal website which linked to Trinity's. While TU President McGuire is addressing issues such as same-sex unions at an all-girls Catholic school, Towson University President Robert L. Caret says isn't a blogging enthusiast. “In this day and age of political correctness, it exposes the president to all kinds of unfair and unwarranted criticism.” Read on about Dick Celeste, the president of Colorado College and Lou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State University.

Morning Round-up November 22, 2006

An Investment In Education WaPo
School officials said Monday that the 18-student investment class will soon be making decisions with $25,000 in cold, hard cash.

Nature programs' goal: No child left inside USAT
Programs, public and private, are starting or expanding as research shows kids suffer health problems, including obesity, from too much sedentary time indoors with TV and computers.

School mull new Microsoft technologies eSchool News
With major new releases of Microsoft's industry-leading Office and Windows software programs scheduled for Nov. 30, school technology leaders face an important decision: Upgrade their software now--or wait?


The Current State Of Mayoral Control

Mayoral control is so 90's, it's true, but don't tell that to Los Angeles or Seattle, where the mayor is being urged even by some community activists to seek oversight of the system. This Seattle Times piece (Nickels urged to take some control of schools) reviews which districts have turned to mayoral control and where the holdouts are (San Francisco, for example). It also reminds us that mayoral control is no panacea. Chicago, which has had mayoral control for longer than everyone except Boston, showed up with some of the lowest NAEP scores on the science results released last week.

A Secretary In Jeopardy!

She's got her collar flipped and her smile at the ready (left), but will it be enough for Secretary Spellings when her celebrity episode of Jeopary is aired tomorrow night? We'll have to tune in to find out (This is JEOPARDY!).

Imagine if the show was about Secretary Spellings:

"Who was Congressman John Boehner?"
"I'll take Unpopular Education Laws for $500 dollars, Alex."
"What is '99.9 percent pure?'"
"How to respond to Congressional oversight hearings for $100, Alex."

UPDATE: They're even having a party to watch the show in Austin.

Morning Round-up November 21, 2006

Those Who Pass Classes But Fail Tests Cry Foul WaPo
Driven by the federal No Child Left Behind law and tougher state diploma standards, the testing blitz has left these students in a curious limbo: They pass their classes with B's and C's yet fail the state exams.

N.Y. Is Ordered to Pay $1.93 for City Schools NYT
The figure is much lower than the $4.7 billion a year that lower courts had said was needed to give the city’s children the opportunity for a sound basic education guaranteed by the State Constitution.

Students break record by reading aloud for 6 straight days
A team of high school seniors set a six-day reading record on Monday as a way to bolster students' interest in books and boost their school's spirit.


Journalism By Anecdote & Exception: Paras In St. Paul

I feel bad for Lee Yang, the St. Paul para who might lose her job if she can't get a degree or pass a test, but I feel even worse for kids who have to be taught by aides who can't meet even the law's minimal qualifications. But kids aren't even mentioned in this misguided, knee-jerk piece in the Pioneer Press(Test puts school aides out of work). Nor is the long history of districts spending big chunks of federal education funds on aides and subs instead of certified teachers. Nor -- until the last paragraph -- is the fact that 95 percent of the aides in the district have already passed the test.

Staffing Up On Education At Bloomberg

I learned from this article in CJR Daily that Jim O'Neill is one of the Dallas Morning News writers who's joined Bloomberg's education team. O'Neill wrote an eight part series that's just been published this fall. He's apparently now the higher ed guy at Bloomberg, which earlier this month put out a big investigative piece about how testing errors have affected half a million students and teachers due to a highly unregulated and fast growing testing industry. See my post about that story, and the federal oversight study that I haven't heard anyone talk about in recent weeks, here.

Anyone who's got other education beat news, or a pic of O'Neill, let me know.

Democrats' Best Friend: College Aid

A friend of mine recently remarked that the college affordability issue is a "gift that keeps on giving" for Democrats, and this morning's NPR story illustrates that it's a lesson not lost on the Hill (Democrats Seek to Boost Aid for College Students). College affordability is a much simpler-seeming issue than improving low-performing schools, with clearer good guys (students & parents) and bad guys (banks and colleges) much broader appeal.

The Achievement Gap & NCLB

There are three important things worth noting in Sam Dillon's take on the achievement gap. First off, Dillon focuses rightly on student achievement, which is what most of us care about, rather than school ratings, which are usually used as a proxy but are of narrower concern. Second, Dillon restrains himself from blaming the existence and persistence of the achievement gap on NCLB, as many do (and will). To be sure, NCLB has been no miracle maker. But it remains to be seen whether this is due to failings in the law, flawed implementation by the state, or intrinsic limits on school- based reform. Last but not least, the piece reads to me at least as remarkably balanced -- noting the existence of schools that have closed the achievement gap along with the difficulties that NCLB creates for Democratic lawmakers. Or maybe I just need a second cup of coffee.

Link: Schools Slow in Closing Gaps Between Races

Morning Round-up November 20, 2006

Black Enrollment in AP Surges in Montgomery WaPo
Now, a black student in Montgomery is more likely to take an AP test than a white student elsewhere in the nation.

Schools Struggle for Middle Ground on Safety
Since the school shootings in Lancaster, Pa., school districts around the country have been re-examining their security practices to make sure they're prepared for the worst.

Gaming for school credit via Jimmy K
It’s the only one of its kind in Florida’s university system, and one of just a handful of graduate programs nationwide to tap into the multibillion-dollar gaming industry’s insatiable demand for talent.


Week In Review November 13-19


Minimum Wage Makes The NewsBlast

Thanks to Howie Schaffer at the PEN NewsBlast for linking to my post about education groups and the minium wage. It isn't often that the NewsBlast or any of the other newsletters link to blog posts (or at least, not to mine), and I probably haven't helped matters by being uninformed and over-opinionated most of the time. Anyway, you can check it all out here: NewsBlast.

Obama Joins Committee; Top Kennedy Priorities Don't Include NCLB

There's nothing unexpected about Senator Kennedy taking over the education committee, or the return of stalwarts like Dodd, Harkin, Mikulski and my old boss, Jeff Bingaman. But it's interesting to note that not only did Senator Clinton decide to stay on the committee but also that Barack Obama decided to join as well (along with newbies Sanders and Brown). That's a lot of juice for a committee that's normally not been considered to be a lot of fun or very useful to one's career, and an indication that Clinton and Obama want to have a leadership role on social policy issues.

In terms of substance, committee-watchers would do well to note that K12 issues are NOT among the top priorities for newly-reappointed chairman Kennedy. Minimum wage, stem cell research, college affordability, and -- yes -- health care reform -- lead the way. On NCLB, Kennedy says "we’re ready to work with President Bush, as we did five years ago. But given the many failures of implementation by his Administration and the meager commitments to education reform in his budgets, the President has a high hurdle to cross to demonstrate that he is seriously committed to these reforms." Sounds like more of the same to me.

Link: Kennedy on new committee membership and priorities

Morning Round-Up November 17, 2006

SAT Monitors Napped, Ignored Rules, Teens Say Washington Post
They started the SAT that Saturday morning more than an hour late, not helpful for a college-entrance test many consider an ordeal under the best circumstances. But the situation worsened for eight students with learning disabilities in one second-floor testing room at Woodrow Wilson Senior High.

For 'Hoop Dreams' scholars, quitting is the only unavailable option CSM
One woman's work has helped more than 800 inner-city youths better themselves through mentoring, tutoring, and scholarships.

School Administrators Fight Spending Initiatives NPR
Supporters of a voter initiative on the ballot in several states say they know how to boost education funding without borrowing money or raising taxes. They say the answer is to mandate that at least 65 percent of all education funding goes to the classroom. State educators have been fighting the proposals.

2-year colleges low on transfers SJ Mercury
Most of California's 2.5 million community college students will neither earn associate's degrees nor transfer to four-year schools, according to a study released this week.

Cop uses stun gun on student who won't show ID CNN.com
A UCLA police officer shocked a student with a stun gun at a campus library after he refused repeated requests to show student identification and wouldn't leave, police said.


Slate Hates Boys

I'm guessing that Slate.com doesn't have any formal editorial position for or against boys -- its mantra seems to be contrarian more than anything else. But in the past few weeks and months this well-known instinct has led them down some paths where just a little bit of classroom experience (and, egads, a male perspective) would prove worthwhile.

Last winter, it was Ann Hulbert's skeptical but unconvincing attempt to debunk the boys crisis: Will Boys Be Boys?. She seemed to think not. This week it's Meghan O'Rourke's piece on single-sex education (Is single-sex education all it's cracked up to be?), which makes all sorts of good points but won't convince anyone who's ever taught that it wouldn't at times and in the right hands be helpful to have the boys and girls in different classrooms.

For the other side of this argument, I'll refer you to an Equire story from this past summer (The Problem with Boys) and Richard Whitmire's piece in The New Republic (Boy Trouble).

Webcasting From The Classroom

It had to happen eventually, but it's still a little bit of a shock to think about. Now, in addition to all the security cameras on the streets and nanny cams in peoples' home -- not to speak of teachers videotaping themselves or being videotaped for national certification or as part of being evaluated -- a school in North Carolina has started webcasting from the classroom so that parents can watch what's going on from their computers (Teachers Broadcast Class Via CJC Daily). It's not clear how extensive the school's webcasting plans are, but you can easily imagine how eager parents and principals might be in having an eye on the classroom. I'm guessing there will be more of this.

Community Colleges In The Forefront

You're going to see and hear a lot about community colleges in the next few weeks and months, as a handful of big foundations turn their attention to them, providing direct support, funding for media coverage, and research dollars. One recent example is from the PBS NewsHour: "Thousands of would-be nurses are waitlisted at community colleges -- the main affordable choice for them. At the same time, the United States is facing a nursing shortage and importing nurses from abroad because of the high demand." (Thousands of Would-be Nurses Denied Affordable Training Options). And earlier this week the NYT published a piece that explained some of what's going on: "The institutions that are attracting the attention of more and more philanthropists are public two-year colleges that measure their fund-raising in thousands of dollars, not billions. That interest is reflected in the decision a few years ago by a group of foundations — including Ford, the James Irvine Foundation, Lumina and the Heinz Endowments — to start meeting to learn more about community colleges." ( Big Givers Turn to Poorly Financed Community Colleges).

UPDATE: Michele at AFT says that teacher prep is one big growth opportunity for community colleges (Community Colleges and Teacher Prep).

Morning Round-up November 16, 2006

UMass student arrested in Chicago bomb threat Boston Globe
A college student was arrested yesterday on charges he made a false threat claiming that a Muslim man would conduct a suicide-bomb attack on the Sears Tower in Chicago.

Most Students in Big Cities Lag Badly in Basic Science
The National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that student performance in urban public schools was not only poor but also far short of science scores in the nation as a whole.

Program creates IEP's for all students eSchool News
Kentucky has introduced a web-based program that will help students map out their academic careers and give them an idea of what career path they'd like to explore.


Reading First Update: Who Is Edward Kame’enui?

To me, the Reading First scandal seems pretty outrageous and remains curiously under-reported given its key ingredients: billions in federal contracts, conflicts of interests, and little kids. A big part of the probelm is that no one seems to have found anyone who was "hurt" by the misuse of the program except vendors who were frozen out. Sympathetic as they may be, it's not the same as a school or classroom of children who were denied access to an effective program. (Hint, hint.)

Until that happens, at at least there are some more potential villains shaping up. According to this NYT column, Ed Kame’enui is a former Reading First advisor who had major conflicts of interest that may have prevented him from giving small, homegrown reading programs a chance (She Found Abuses in U.S. Plan for Reading).

Letters To The Editor And Blogs

Readers of this week's HotSeat interview (Mathews On The HotSeat) might recall education columnist Jay Mathews mentioning that he didn't have any time to start a blog but enjoyed reading some of them. In this week's column, he writes how blogs are a modern version of letters to the editor, and asks readers to send in the names of their favorite education blogs. Check it out here: What Are the Best Education Blogs?. Or skip all that and email Jay your favorites here: mathewsj@washpost.com

UPDATE: In addition to appreciating the link, I like this blogger's definition: What is it that makes a blog great?

Get Your Feast On At The Carnival

"The doorbell rang," begins an intriguing edition of the Carnival Of Education (Get Your Feast On). "Three teachers, dressed in warm winter coats and holding bowls of food, awaited entrance."

Morning Round-up November 15, 2006

Early-Childhood Issues Raised for NCLB Law EdWeek
But some educators think the attention should be directed downward—toward the preschool years.

She Found Abuses in U.S. plan for Reading NYT
Dr. Cupp’s reading program “did not meet the benchmarks it had to meet,” he said, adding that the officials who could explain why no longer worked in the department.

School Districts With Officials but No Schools?
Yet Teterboro has no schools and only 10 students, who are sent to neighboring districts.

Philadelphia High School Integrates Latest Technologies PBS NewsHour
Microsoft has helped build a high-tech high school in a Philadelphia community that serves low-income families. Students at this state-of-the art facility incorporate the latest technologies throughout their curriculum.


Another Step For Gates: Performance Pay

Gates-watchers will be interested to note that he included performance pay as a key reform element in an AP interview published today (Bill Gates says U.S. education system needs work). According to the piece, Gates said "'It's astonishing to me to have a system that doesn't allow us to pay more for someone with scarce abilities, that doesn't allow us to pay more to reward strong performance,' he said. 'That is tantamount to saying teacher talent and performance don't matter and that's basically saying students don't matter.'"

Disconnecting Wal-Mart From Charter Schools

UPDATE 2: Still no word from Tom Toch or Eduwonk about the conflict of interest issue (see previous posts), but in the meantime the Ed Sector's Kevin Carey rides in to say -- unconvincingly -- that Wal-Mart's anti-unionism is separate from the Walton Family Foundation's support for charters, and that it's the AFT's job to prove the charter/antiunion connection (AFT: He Who is Not the Enemy of My Enemy is My Enemy, Or Something.) It's not the AFT's responsibility -- it's the Ed Sector's. Remember what the report is called, Kevin: Connecting The Dots.

Previous Posts:
Connecting The Dots Behind "Connecting The Dots"
UPDATE: More Walton Foundation Report Concerns

More: EdWize says basically what I said above, but better: that it's hard to separate Wal-Mart from charters, and Carey's fancy rhetoric doesn't sway. So much for the new politics of education.

Jay (Call Me "Uncle") Mathews On The HotSeat

The Washington Post's Jay Mathews doesn't follow many of the rules. Instead of starting out as an education writer and then moving to a more prestigious beat, Mathews first rose to the top covering foreign affairs and then came to the education beat. Still, it took him years writing about education on the side -- including the book that became Stand And Deliver -- before he could get the Post to let him cover the issue as a reporter.

On the Hotseat, Mathews explains his unorthodox reporting techniques and role as both reporter and columnist. He's unabashed about his support for KIPP schools and Advanced Placement programs, and says he has no regrets about creating the Challenge Index. He says he's not against blogs but doesn't want to write one, and that the midterm election results don't matter much since there's so much agreement between parties these days. And he thinks that most people still don't believe that low-income kids can learn at high levels.

When approaching the dais, what is the proper form of address? “Sir,” ”Mister,” “The Honorable,” or "Jazzy Jay”?

Mathews: I am 61, and am doing my best to market myself at the Post by assuming an avuncular role. So “Uncle Jay” would be best.

So, Uncle Jay, tell us the story again about how you ended up covering the education beat after years as a foreign affairs guy?

Uncle Jay: I knew when I was 19 that I wanted to be the Post's China correspondent. It is a great advantage to have that kind of focus so young. It took me awhile, but I did get that job, and then at age 37 had to figure out what to do next. I didn't actually get to be an education reporter formally until I was 52, but I wrote the book about Jaime Escalante, and another one about high schools in my spare time to keep up my morale while I did the usual reporter thing, one damn story after another. And finally they let me do my thing full-time.

For which we're all glad. So what do you make of the big midterm election changes – do they change the immediate prospects for charters, national standards, or NCLB’s survival?

Uncle Jay: I don't think they change a thing. The two parties have been remarkably together on all education issues, even the need for standards, testing and accountability, for a long time. The exception is the voucher issue, which I think was designed in part to give each party a perfect education issue to rally its base and beat the other party over the head with. Charters are a little trickier, but as long as there are some very good ones, like KIPP, no smart politician is going to want to come out strongly against them.

Is it true that you, heretic, actually show sources their quotes before finalizing a story? What conceivable purpose could that serve, and do your overseers know about this?

Uncle Jay: I try not to talk about that too much. Many people think it is a very bad idea, but I have the opposite view. I have found that my stories are more accurate than they would otherwise be. The sources consulted almost never try to take advantage, and become much better sources in the future because the fact checking process leads them to trust me more.

Even then, I’m sure you’ve made a mistake or two along the way – got any you’d like to get off your chest?

Uncle Jay: As my wife and former competing Beijing reporter reminds me often, I predicted in print that the Chinese army would have little influence over the turn of events in China in the 1980s. That was pretty embarrassing. And I did tell everybody I thought Kerry was gonna win big in 2004. Of course I think I am right on everything education related because it is so difficult to actually get at the truth, given the absence of much solid data.

What's it like having your book turned into a major motion picture, and what did the movie lose that was in the book?

Uncle Jay: Stand and Deliver began as a project for PBS by two very bright and committed young filmmakers, and so the script was very intelligent, the casting very smart and once it was done it was a wonderful reflection of what went on with Jaime and his kids at Garfield. Alas, I did not receive any money for the movie.

Just how obsessed with advanced placement are you, really? I mean, have you ever dreamed about it, or thought about it at inappropriate times?

Uncle Jay: No comment. But I am deeply offended that you failed to capitalize the A and the P in Advanced Placement.

Got it. What's it like being a beat reporter and a columnist at the same time?

Uncle Jay: I try to keep my opinions in the columns under control, and present the other side, so the Post will continue to let me do both. My beat for the paper is whatever I think is important on the issue of schools. If a competing publication dumps a big story on us, it is difficult to blame me. I like that. The younger reporters, who have real beats and have to shoulder the blame, probably think this is unfair, but I tell them “Uncle Jay is old and cannot take that kind of stress anymore.”

What about the charge that you are “pro charter” and in particular enamored of the KIPP model? Is it true, and if so how does it affect your work?

Uncle Jay: I have been trying for the last 24 years to find schools that work, just as I discovered Garfield did, for low income students. The data from the KIPP schools, compared to what we get from most schools, is very good and very impressive. And when you visit the KIPP schools, you discover they are doing just about everything smart teachers have always told me ought to be done. Since they are the best example I have at the moment of school success in the inner city, and since they are mostly charter schools, I may be seen by some as pro-charter. But if you look at the big stories I have done about charters for the front page of the Post, first with Justin Blum in 2003 and this year with Lori Montgomery, you will see us playing it right down the middle. There are lots of bad charter schools too.

Why no Jay Mathews/Washington Post education blog yet, or is there one in the works?

Uncle Jay: That would be WAY too much work. I barely have time to do my job, and answer emails, and worry about the Redskins.

Fair enough. And yet, you’re one of the few reporters I know who has his own Wikipedia entry. What do you think of yours?

Uncle Jay: Oh my goodness. I did not know this. I once checked out Jaime Escalante's Wikipedia page to see that it was accurate, but never thought to look for mine. Wait a minute. I will go check. I am figuring you are joking. . . . Well, it is there, very accurate and flattering. I thought Wikipedia was supposed to attract all one's enemies to mar one's legacy. I have escaped, I think, because the Wikipedia main page link to my page spells my name wrong.

That’s Wikipedia for you. Has the spread of education blogs affected your work in any ways, good or bad?

Uncle Jay: I wish I had time to read more. They are a wonderful addition to the conversation. Yours is terrific, and a few others have helped me explore interesting topics from new angles. My column this week is on this very topic. I ask readers to send me the links to their five favorite education blogs. I plan to judge them in a future column, along with champion letters to the editor writer Walt Gardner, the star of the column. [Here's the column: What Are the Best Education Blogs?]

If you were going to make a Challenge Index that measured education journalists rather than high schools, what would the main indicator be, and who would be the top 10 (past or present)?

Uncle Jay: I think I would rate reporters by how many stories they had written from inside a classroom. But that is just my taste.

Speaking of the Challenge Index, which has become increasingly controversial as it’s become more well-known, got any regrets or lessons to share about getting into the school rating business?

Uncle Jay: High schools are my passion, and I think I felt about the work the same way some kids do who collect beautiful butterflies. And this way of looking at schools has allowed me to write about important trends and damaging policies from an entirely different angle, which was and is the point. I have plenty of critics, which is fun because I love a good argument. But I also get many emails from parents and educators at overlooked, and often disadvantaged, schools, thanking me for finding a way to point out the good things they are doing.

I'll take that as a no. What is the most over-done education story of the past year? What is the least adequately covered?

Uncle Jay: The most overdone is the coverage of test scores---SAT, state scores, NAEP. Are they up? Are they down? Over the long term those numbers are important, but we rarely look at the long term. The least adequately covered is special ed--how it works, why so many schools do it poorly, what methods actually help kids.

What's the story you've written that's had the most impact or that you're most proud of, and why?

Uncle Jay: That's easy. Jaime Escalante and the many educators who are proving that low-income kids can succeed in something as difficult as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses if you give them enough time and encouragement.

But that’s going back a ways. Got anything new or different for us?

Uncle Jay: Unkind people might say that is the only story I have been writing for the last several years. And they would be right. But it remains very important, and it is a truth that is still not believed by most readers or by most educators.

Morning Round-up November 14, 2006

As Math Scores Lag, a New Push for the Basics NYT
For the second time in a generation, education officials are rethinking the teaching of math in American schools.

Just Whose Idea Was All This Testing?
How did we go from the Socratic method to an educational model shaped by standardized, normed, charted, graphed, regressed, calibrated and validated testing?

Gates: U.S. education system needs work Boston Globe
Specifically, he said the U.S. education system needs higher standards, clear accountability, flexible personnel practices and innovation.


UPDATE: More Walton Foundation Report Concerns

The AFT Blog comes after the Ed Sector's Walton Family Foundation report from another angle, and with a vengeance, among several things calling out the Ed Sector for leaving out some parts of the foundation's activities and calling Walton's attacks on teacher unions "the dark side of the so-called 'new politics of education' (Why Don't the Dots Ever Seem to Connect Quite Right?).”

If the Sector's report leaves out substantial elements of the foundation's efforts, that would only confirm my argument that that there was the appearance of a conflict of interest here. See previous post: Connecting The Dots Behind "Connecting The Dots".

Suburban Schools Not Always Better

This NYT article (Leaving the City for the Schools, and Regretting It) turns up on the "most emailed" list today, and you can guess why: the article debunks the myth of suburban public schools. Instead, it appears, some are under-resourced, complacent or inflexible, and just as testing-focused as their urban counterparts if not more. For eons, it seems, parents have been moving themselves out of cities for a chance at a better public school system -- even as cities have become safer and revitalized. However, a small but growing number in the NYC area seem to be finding the experience less than adequate, and are -- get this -- enrolling their kids in pricey private schools back in Manhattan even as they're paying all that property tax money into the public system.

Morning Round-up November 13, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction? Having People Live on Top of Branch Libraries NYT
Why not tear down obsolete branch libraries and replace them with libraries that not only are bigger and better, but also have apartments built on top?

'Second Life' develops education following eSchool News
The program, called Second Life, which first opened to the public in 2003, immerses participants in a virtual world of their own making.

Studying in a paperless classroom Miami Herald
But instead of a textbook, the children's eyes are glued to the computer screens built into their desks.

An effort to bridge learning Balt. Sun
Called the Learning Advantage, the partnership aimed to bring schools and libraries together, two entities that have worked together informally for years even closer.

Election Week In Review November 6 - 12


Rumsfeld And Vander Ark Resignations: Similar Reasons, Similar Revelations

There've been two big resignations over the past week and change -- well, one really big one (Defense Secretary Rumsfeld) and one slightly less big one (Gates Foundation guru Tom Vander Ark) -- both of whom had perhaps "stayed the course" just a little too long.

But that's not the only similarity. The news of both resignations were both first revealed to the public by upstart blogs. In the case of the Rumsfeld resignation, Comedy Central actually broke the story (Comedy Central blog predicts Rumsfeld resignation) by minutes.

In the case of Vander Ark, it was this post (How Soon Until Gates Guru Goes?) that beat everyone by a mile, surprised many insiders-- including some in the Gates Foundation itself -- and may have forced the foundation to make the formal announcement earlier than planned.

Watch Out For Illegal Immigrants Being Taught Evolution

Click play to see Steven Colbert warning viewers about the brave new world we're about to face, including as (I'm muddling this up) increasing taxes to buy electric cars for NPR, gay stem cell doctors sterilizing their instruments over burning American flags, and teaching evolution to illegal immigrants. Yes, it might be offensive.

Why Education Groups Should Rally For The Minimum Wage Increase

The last time Congress raised the mininum wage was a long time ago, and the issue seems to be one of the first and most likely things for the new education committees to do -- especially since several states and cities have taken the lead in the intervening years and disproved the notion that the sky will fall if you raise the minumum (Election could drive minimum-wage hike).

So what I'm wondering is whether a minimum wage increase is something that school reformers could -- and should -- get behind?

In high-poverty areas especially, a minimum wage increase means that parents have more time for their kids because they don't have to work two jobs. In theory, they make it to more teacher conferences. They help more with homework. They make sure the school is doing right by their kids. They have time to improve their own education.

To be sure, it's not a direct means to school improvement, and many reformers will sit by, tapping their fingers, waiting for the more traditional education issues to come to the top of the calendar. Call me Richard Rothstein, I think it would be interesting and compelling if the education groups (not just the labor-affiliated teachers unions) got out of their foxholes and did something with broader, if more diffuse, ramifications -- especially since they're likely to have to wait until the minimum wage issue is decided anyway.

Are Textbooks The New Pharmaceuticals?

High and rising drug prices have put the pharmaceutical industry under tremendous pressures to cut prices, provide subsidies, and defend their pricing structures. According to this LA Times article, the textbook industry could be next (When you can't afford to go buy the book via CJC Daily). The average price of a college textbook? $120. Prices have climbed at twice the rate of inflation for the last 20 years, according to a GAO report, leading to a June hearing on the issue and state legislative actions. Just 35 percent of college students now buy all the books they're supposed to. But they're still spending over $900 a year on books and supplies each year. Online-only editions, and black and white versions, are some of the newer cost-saving measures that are being tried.

More Midterm Tea-Leaf Reading

EdWeek put out a roundup of election implications last night that includes some tidbits not previously available -- but not earth-shattering, either (Education Week). At least it wasn't full of random speculation and reported some news. The piece points to banal statements by Spellings, President Bush, and others about NCLB, and shows how little change on the committees there's likely to be (unless folks later try and get off and get on better committees, as they often do). It also notes that in the few places where NCLB was anything of a real issue, the candidates more critical of NCLB were still unable to defeat the incumbents (Shays and Lieberman).


Have Policymakers "Cut And Run" On Education?

Credit to Assorted Stuff (and Schools Matter) for pointing me to these powerful lines from a recent Bill Moyers speech that suggest that schools should not be expected to do what society and the rest of government cannot, and that politicians -- including Democratic ones -- have essentially "cut and run" on education:

"Teachers now are expected to staff the permanent emergency rooms of our country’s dysfunctional social order," says Moyers in an excerpt from Assorted Stuff (America 101). "They are expected to compensate for what families, communities, and culture fail to do. Like our soldiers in Iraq, they are sent into urban combat zones, on impossible missions, under inhospitable conditions, and then abandoned by politicians and policy makers who have already cut and run, leaving teachers on their own."

UPDATE: Over at The Chalkboard, Joe Williams goes deeper into Moyers' speech and calls for a student revolution (Cutting and Running).

Education Reporting, Internet-Style

Traditional reporting usually involves normal things like visiting schools, interviewing sources, and reading documents. But for an upcoming story in the Post, Jay Mathews goes the nontraditional/ interactive route by asking his readers to contact him and provide insights and information ( see here). Some people call this two-way communication and reader-generated information "Web 2.o," others say it's just a public version of what reporters have done for years -- putting out a call for sources and ideas. Regardless, it's a good way to ensure that a reporter's not just hearing one side of a story or talking to the same people over and again.

Another Setback For Universal Pre-K

Give Governor Mitt Romney some credit for bravery (or short-sightedness, depending on your view). He just stood up to the Pre-K mafia and vetoed a law that would have made preK universal in Masschusetts (Romney vetoes universal prekindergarten).

I'm not against preK, but I do have questions about implementation quality and concerns about how little scrutiny has been given to some of these programs. See previous posts: Pre-K On The Cheap In FLA...And Elsewhere?, What To Do About Universal Pre-K?, and What The Press Is Missing In Its PreK Coveage.