Friday Papers March 31 2006

State takeover blocked by legislators, House passes HEA without Dems, not every state is lowering its standards, and more.


Maryland Is First State to Take Over Failing Schools Under NCLB EdWeek
Maryland became the first state to use its authority under the No Child Left Behind Act to seize control of failing schools when the state board of education voted to take over 11 middle and high schools in Baltimore.

Bill Would Block State Takeover of Baltimore Schools BaltSun
The Maryland General Assembly moved swiftly yesterday to block a state-ordered seizure of 11 low-performing schools in Baltimore, maneuvering in dramatic fashion to pass legislation by this weekend to thwart the will of the State Board of Education.

House Passes Education Bill on Party Lines NYT
The measure would expand grants based on need and press colleges to control tuition, but did not include a Democratic proposal to halve the interest rate on student loans.

Mich. raises the bar for studentsDetroit News
Legislation placing Michigan’s high school graduation standards among the nation’s most rigorous won final passage Thursday.

Study to Examine Public Schools LA Times
No on can say with certainty how much money it would take to properly educate all children – if that’s even possible.

Study gives tips on Latinos Arizona Republic
When it comes to helping struggling latino kids learn, success has little to do with money, class sizes, fancy reading programs, parent involvement or tutoring, a study released Thursday concluded.


March Blog Madness: Five Blogs To Drop Now

After two years of trying to keep up with ever more education blogs, I give up. There are new ones every week. There are way too many of them on my Bloglines list.

Like this one, however, most really aren't all that good. No wonder that there are very few outside this little world who give a hoot what any of us say. Many education blogs say the same predictable things or pass along the same predictable links. Few education bloggers have any real expertise or particular insight. Even fewer provide any new reporting or original content.

And so I'm going to cut out a few, for now at least, starting with these five. And no one but the 100 of us who have education blogs will really care.


Looking over my over-long list of blogs, these are the five that seem like ones I can stop reading -- for now at least:

Daily Howler: An awful RSS feed. A crazed, obsessive, perhaps brilliant blogger. Completely unreadable and possibly unreliable. It has to go.

Get On The Bus: Written by a Dayton education reporter who can't really comment for journalistic reasons. Items, not blogging. May be useful to others, but too local for my taste.

Schools Matter: Just a little too angry and loose with the facts for my liking. Predictable, at least occasionally overly personal in its attacks. Bye!

Teaching in the 408: I so want to find and love a teacher/classroom blog, but this one's a downer despite the occasionally funny things it has to say about TFA.

The Quick and the Ed: One too many bites at the apple for the Education Sector, much as I admire all the Sectorans. Let me know when it's not mostly rehashing Andy's stuff and style.

What do you think? Any you'd keep? Any I've missed?

Today's Clips March 30 2006

AYP for Science, Swiss Cheese out of NCLB, Online Everywhere, Smart Brains, and more.


Bush working on plan to boosts science scores AP
President Bush, quietly floating a plan with big implications, wants schools to face consequences for falling short in science, just as they do in reading and math.

Cleveland schools struggle with "No Child" law's rules The Plain Dealer
Test scores in math and reading rose under the No Child Left Behind law in Cleveland and in districts nationwide, according to a new study, but there was a price.

Scans Show Different Growth for Intelligent Brains NYT
The brains of highly intelligent children develop in a different pattern from those with more average abilities, researchers say.

Will Charter Organizing Lead to Labor War in California?
EIA via JimmyK The plans of the California Teachers Association (CTA) to organize charter school employees are no secret to readers of the EIA Communique.

States making Swiss cheese out of NCLB The Gadfly
As Fordham’s Mike Petrilli explains in a recent Bloomberg article, many states are playing games with the federal law’s accountability system in order to make schools look better than they really are. Read the article here, and see a table of the number of schools making AYP (by state) here.

Online courses aren't just for home-schoolers anymore CSM
Small schools use them to broaden class offerings; Michigan aims to mandate them.

Playing Al Shanker's Podcast Backwards

The folks over at NCLB Let's Get It Right are occasionally funny as hell, and we even agree on things once in a while. Check out their Top Ten Signs the Standards Movement Might be Dead for a good laugh and some well-made points about the current predicament the standards folks might be in. My favorite? Reason #4:
If you play the Al Shanker podcast (slow download!) backwards, you can hear him saying, "Standards, schmandards."


Virtuous Spamming, Lame Blogs, & More: Howie On The HotSeat

Following up on the first three hotseats (Petrilli, McCann, and Rotherham), HotSeat #4 features Howie Schaffer, the founder of the PEN Weekly NewsBlast and -- it seems hard to believe -- a PEN spokesperson.

Beamed to 45K plus folks each week, the NewsBlast is probably still the one to beat, despite its unusual beginnings, old school ways, and predictably pro-public education content. Its clean, simple layout, its nuanced choice of posts and summaries, and its grants announcements are a powerful combination.

On the HotSeat, "SuperHowie" Schaffer slams empty school reform ideas and lame blogs, comes clean about his sketchy past as a spammer, crushes on his favorite education writers (platonically, of course), and claims that the Blast is an equal-opportunity critic. Right, howie. And Wendy P. is fun to work for.


Tell me again the story about how you started the NewsBlast without anyone really knowing what you were up to, and how it grew and grew into the current juggernaut that it is?

HS: Two wrongs make a right when it comes to the PEN Weekly NewsBlast. First, I am a reformed spammer. Second, I didn't ask my boss for permission to start the whole enterprise. The first issue of the PEN Weekly NewsBlast was first sent in February 2000 -- to an e-mail readership of about 400 people whose addresses I culled from our databases. Then I just started cutting and pasting e-mail addresses from anyone who wrote to me. Aggressive spamming (for about two years) and word-of-mouth has been the secret to growing our subscribership.

So just how big has this little operation gotten since then?

HS: Today, we have more than 45,000 subscribers. They in turn forward the NewsBlast to friends and colleagues and post it on numerous listservs and websites giving us about 240,000 sets of eyeballs each week. PEN is the voice of the public in school reform efforts. If I did anything revolutionary six years ago, it was to see the potential for an independent free source of education news.

How do you decide what stories to recap, and what's the trick to a good summary?

HS: How would I know what makes a good summary? Every week I get dozens of emails telling me that I am a lousy editor. The most common complaint is the the blurbs are too long. According to our annual subscriber survey, folks on our list like our formula and don't want it to change.

Got any favorites from the past that stand out in your memory?

HS: I think a good NewsBlast issue has a good mix of everything: sound policy analysis; bipartisan political provocation; humor; the human face of public education; and a diversity of voices. I am a softie for articles about underdogs. Stories of good people fighting great intractable obstacles gets my interest.

Why not a blog? Everybody's doing them. And why no HTML in your posts? Are you just an old school kind of guy? Please don't tell me you still fax that thing out.

HS: When we first started the NewsBlast, I did have to fax it to a few of our technology-resistant subscribers. That soon ended because I hate busy signals. Most folks print out the NewsBlast and take it with them away from their desks. HTML is useless to these folks who read the NewsBlast like a digest. Some of the folks who care too much about HTML are the same people who have infected the nonprofit sector with alleged business-based best practices.

Tell us what you really, think, Howie.

HS: I have special contempt for nonprofit and governmental organizations that spend excessive amounts of charitable or taxpayer dollars lining the pockets of expensive consultants to guide them through "branding" initiatives and marketing to "new philanthropists" and "cause-related marketers." I am a big fan of text-based e-mails, common sense, citizens marching in the streets, and neighbors going door-to-door to collect signatures for petitions.

Who are some of your favorite education writers, and what are some of your favorite education publications?

HS: Amanda Paulsen (CSM), Ben Feller (AP), Steve Drummond (NPR), Kavan Peterson (Stateline.org), and Bess Keller (EW) are a few of my favorites. They are straight shooters who use an impressive array of sources. I like to sneak in essays from Parker Palmer, who I consider to be the conscience of good teaching. I respect the team at Education Week although their attempts to stop losing money are stealing a bit of their soul. As I told Mike Petrilli just this week, I find the Gadfly alternately brilliant and underwhelming. I also like USA Today and CNN for quick and dirty synopses of complex ideas.

Is education reporting in good shape?

HS: I think education reporting is in decent shape. I have seen it improve greatly in the 13 years I have been involved in public school reform. Getting education reporters out from behind their computers and into schools and communities continues to be a great challenge.

Have you ever gotten into trouble, even of the mildest kind, for including or excluding stories in the blast? Could you include pro voucher, pro NCLB stuff without getting slammed?

HS: Yes, I have been reprimanded a few times for putting in articles that have been critical of our friends and partners. I try to be an equal opportunity critic. Just because you buy me a shrimp cocktail does not mean that I will not turn around the next morning and publish something that holds your feet to the fire. I have never been told that a story was too hot to handle. I include pro-voucher, pro-NCLB stuff all the time. NCLB gets one pro article for ever ten con articles in the popular press. My percentage is about the same as that.
Present company excluded, what do you think of the current state of education blogs -- what they do, how they do it, etc?

HS: Blogs make me sad. The value of a blog is that you have a chance to go out on a limb and use the flexible format to say something really strong or outrageous. Most institutional blogs are hardly either. Same is true of Podcasts. These exciting new media are quickly become middle aged before they had a chance to be rowdy teenagers.

Do you read any of them?

HS: Rarely. Many lack decent editing skills. Everything is a three-alarm fire. A real blog that contains insightful commentary and not just gossip or a couple sentences of angry venting is different from most of what I see. What I see from most education blogs is their boring website content repackaged in an equally mindnumbing format but with a conversational tone.

What about a PEN blog to show us how it should really be done?

HS: We contemplated doing one around here and I did my best to kill the idea. My perception is that readers want news, not thinly marketed products and ideology. At present, there are more blog writers than blog readers. I hope that soon changes. But it will require more risk and courage from writers.

Tell us something about yourself, the NewsBlast, pen, or the world of education reform that we don't know.

HS: You can view another side of me at www.superhowie.com. That site shows the parts of me that are alternately a loving family man and a lazy, self-destructive publicity hound.

Morning Papers March 29 2006

Falling behind, rigging tests, taking over schools, and more.


States Have More Schools Falling Behind Washington Post
More than a quarter of U.S. schools are failing under terms of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, according to preliminary state-by-state statistics reported to the U.S. Department of Education.

U.S. may look into reports of Camden test irregularities
Philadelphia Inquirer
The U.S. Department of Education may review allegations of test rigging at a Camden high school and unusually high scores at two elementary schools, a federal official said last night.

11 Troubled Baltimore Schools Facing Takeover Washington Post
The Maryland State Board of Education will be presented with a plan today to turn over 11 low-achieving Baltimore middle and high schools to independent management, according to city school officials, who said they were briefed about the proposal yesterday.

Drug woes growing in city's grade schools Philadelphia Enquirer
Four bags of marijuana tumbled out when a 10-year-old took off his hat, and two more fell as he entered his classroom. Three fifth graders took turns holding a bag containing a half ounce of marijuana, and the student who brought the drug to school had $920 in his pocket.


Is This What Joyce Et Al Paid For? A One-Sided View from CEP

I finally got a chance to skim through one of the case studies that make up the CEP report on NCLB implementation that's been getting some coverage this week, and I have to say that if I was one of the folks at Joyce, Spencer, or the Kauffman Foundation (who paid for this) I would be mighty disappointed right now.

That's because the Chicago profile is basically a long-form narrative of how Board officials and school staff think about NCLB -- without much if any independent analysis or outside opinions.

What's the point of that? There's no independent view, and precious little skepticism about what school officials have to say. Whether it's choice, tutoring, or school improvement, the view you get is either the party line from the district or the fairly predictable view from a school principal. It's important, but it's barely the full story.

For example, you'd never know from the CEP case study that CPS didn't include disaggregated data in its accountability system before NCLB came along, or long kept its probation cutoff at 15 percent to supress the number of "failing" schools, or ramped up its in-house SES program even though it knew it would soon be disqualified as a provider, or hid spots in some better performing schools until forced to reveal them by a judge last year, or initially refused to allow outside tutors to rent or use space for NCLB tutoring. You get the idea.

To be fair, the case study still looks like it's worth reading, and I haven't examined it closely. Still, it's already clear that CEP should take a more independent view the next time around.

What A Difference A Day Makes: Two Views of the CEP Report

Two fundamentally different interpretations of the CEP report on NCLB implementation are apparent when comparing Sunday's NYT piece (Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math) and today's NPR piece (Reading and Math Gain Ground with Education Law)

From the NYT: "Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the No Child Left Behind law’s reading and math testing requirements by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it."

From NPR: "New research shows that the No Child Left Behind law is changing the way individual schools work. Many schools say they're giving greater emphasis to reading and math than before. But some educators worry that other subjects are getting short shrift."

Morning Papers March 28 2006

Higher ed accountability, overstressed students, ineffective drug zones, and more.


Standardized testing at the university level?
Philadelphia Inquirer via Jimmy Kilpatrick
For at least half a century, leaders of the nation's colleges and universities have been touting U.S. higher education as by far the best in the world. Now, pressure is building to prove it.

Demands Make for a Roller Coaster Year Washington Post
Faced with SAT’s, after school activities and pressure to set life goals, some students report anxiety.

Drug-free school area ineffective, report says
Birmingham News via Jimmy K.
A new national report says that drug-free school zone laws fail to shield school children from drugs, and instead contribute to racial disparities in prison and to skyrocketing prison costs.

Too Much Homework? AP
Most parents say their children get the right amount of homework, and most teachers agree, according to an AP-AOL services poll.

SAT owner sharply criticized on disclosures AP
Another revelation about scoring errors on last October’s SAT exam has the College Board, the test’s owner, under heavy criticism even from admissions officers – a group that relies on the SAT and typically supports it.

~Margaret Paynich

Scholarships Going To Whites

Colleges are now considering white students for fellowships and scholarships that were previously available only to minorities. What do you think?


Asian Man

Jeff Hinzmann,
"It seems that being born black or Hispanic will only get you so far these days."

Young Woman

Jessica Hernandez,
"Thank God I can finally go to the bursar’s office without wasting a freaking hour applying blackface."

Young Man

Todd Owen,
"Finally, a level playing field for the white man."

From The Onion (Scholarships Going To Whites)


Who's EdBlogging Near You?

It's been a while since I last checked out the Education BlogMap, which uses a Google Map to show where education blogs are around the world.

There are almost 100 education blogs listed there now, and it's a pretty interesting variety. There's also a naked guy who wants parents to teach their kids about sex. Not sure what to do about that.

I've also posted a mini version in the sidebar (scroll down) to make it easy to see.

Monday's Clips March 27 2006

All reading and math, all the time, learning gaps, majors for high school kids, and more.


Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math NYT
Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the No Child Left Behind law’s reading and math testing requirements by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.

Glaring Gaps in Learning, Tests Show The Providence Journal
The results of the new tests given to elementary and middle school students in Rhode Island tell an old and sobering story: students in urban schools trail far behind their counterparts in suburban and rural districts.

Telling the Truth Daily Press VA
The drumbeat of opposition to No Child Left Behind was once again heard in the General Assembly. And once again it caught the ear of legislators and persuaded them to pass some misguided legislation.

Sweeping public education reform debated Palm Beach Post
Under a far-reaching education proposal that the state House approved Thursday on a straight party-line vote, Florida High School students you have to declare majors and minors in the 9th grade.

Forum on 'No Child' act brings out sharp division Mercury News
The federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act proved just as contentious during a forum on Palo Alto on Saturday as it is on the national scene.


Morning Roundup Friday March 24 2006

Advocates file against districts for not complying with NCLB, more money for NYC schools, student loans, and more.


Two groups say school districts violated US law Washington Times
Two national groups promoting education reform have filed complaints against two California public-school systems, charging that they are violating federal law by not telling parents of children in failing schools about transfer options.

Hundreds of teachers not qualified, city says Boston Globe
Nearly 9 percent of Boston public schools teachers are not qualified to teach under federal standards, primarily because they flunked the state teacher's test and do not have teaching licenses, Boston school officials said this week.

Judges Once Again Order More Money for City Schools NYT< st="on">New York City schools were being shortchanged by at least $4.7 billion annually in state aid, adding more firepower to the city's plea for more education money as lawmakers try to wrap up work on a state budget.

Student loans = major debt Courier News Online
Despite rising tuition costs and mounting student debt, Congress has voted to raise interest rates on federal student loans at a time when many are struggling to pay off their debt. Even some members of Congress who earn $165,200 a year are still paying off student loans.


Testing, 101: A Matter Of Trust

Last week, the folks over at Fordham thought I was "unimaginative" for raising warning flags about the current testing mess and belittling the immediate prospects for national standards.

This week, they echo much of what I've been saying: "This problem needs solving, and fast," writes Checker Finn in this week's Gadfly. "Unsolved, it jeopardizes the entire regimen that we know as standards-based reform and results-based accountability."

Like me, Checker knows that the current testing mess is more of a debacle than an opportunity. The first order of business is to restore a reasonable level of trust in testing. The next is to find ways to improve state standard and accountability systems. National testing is going to have to wait.

Today's News March 23 2006

Voucher supporters using NCLB, more SAT problems, big adolescent literacy grants from USDE, NAACP responds re lawsuit, and more.


SAT Problems Even Larger Than Reported NYT
The College Board disclosed that after rechecking additional tests, it found 400 more students whose scores were too low.

Voucher supporters look to new ally USAT
Advocacy groups that support taxpayer-financed vouchers are taking a new tack: using requirements of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind school reform law to force the government to pay private school tuitions.

$30 Million in Striving Readers Grants Awarded U.S.D.E.
A total of $30 million has been awarded for the 2006-07 school year to support the implementation of eight Striving Readers Programs across the country, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced today.

In Protest, Detroit Teachers Call In Sick AP
Hundreds of Detroit teachers stayed home Wednesday, forcing more than 50 schools to close in what school officials described as a sick-out to protest temporary pay cut.

NAACP Details opposition to NCLB lawsuit Hartford Courant
The NAACP's decision to back the law is an effort to guarantee that poor and minority children are represented in the courtroom argument over how it will be applied in Connecticut, he said. Still, Esdaile stopped short of an all-out endorsement of the law, the centerpiece of President Bush's school reform agenda.

Easy State Tests Sap US Education Bloomberg
As students throughout the U.S. undergo the latest round of tests this month, corporate leaders including Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel Corp., and Edward Rust, chief executive officer of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., say they're concerned about slipping standards among states. They're exploring whether to renew a decade-old push for national tests.

Tests show learning gaps between low-income students and peers AP (Vermont)
Overall, the results show wide gaps in learning between boys and girls and low-income students and their peers. In all categories, low-income students performed significantly worse than their peers. Less than half of those students were ranked proficient or better in reading and math and only 36 percent reached that level in writing.

~Margaret Paynich

It's Different For Girls -- Because Boys Don't Graduate High School

Today's Times includes an apologetic op-ed from someone on the admissions committee at Kenyon College who seems to think that the inequality in male and female college applicants is a purely "demographic" event: "Demographers predict that by 2009, only 42 percent of all baccalaureate degrees awarded in the United States will be given to men."

I get that fewer female applicants makes it harder for them to get into the college of their choice, and I know demographic trends do change the numbers from decade to decade. But, as may be no surprise to readers of this site, I don't think this is a purely demographic event. It has much to do with how boys do in school.


Unsustainable Interest In Current Events

"We Can No Longer Sustain This Level Of Interest In Current Events" The Onion
"For decades, the U.S. has led the world in its production of current events. Yet, as we enter the 21st century, we find that our national bleak-news tolerance reserves are dangerously close to running dry. And if we continue to ignore warnings, the consequences could be dire."

No Child Left Behind [Literally] Washington Post
Once upon a time, writes Miss Manners: "the concept existed, throughout society and at all economic levels, that entry into the adult social world was a privilege granted only upon being old enough to know how to behave socially. Now it is only childless adults who think that. Parents of young children believe that the proper age to lead a full social life begins at birth.

Morning Roundup - March 22 2006

Bird flu, student aid, NAACP on NCLB, and more.


Schools urged to take bird flu preparations seriouslyAP
The nation’s schools, recognized incubators of respiratory diseases among children, are being told to plan for the possibility of an outbreak of bird flu.

Federal Aid Is Focus of a Lawsuit by Students NYT
A student organization is suing the United States Education Department over a lawsuit that denies federal financial aid to 35,000 students a year because they were convicted of drug offenses while receiving the aid.

NAACP Holds Town Hall on No Child Left Behind US Newswire
On Wednesday, March 22nd, the Connecticut State NAACP will convene the first in a series of town hall meetings to discuss the organizations involvement in the controversial No Child Left Behind lawsuit between the State of Connecticut and the federal government.

Education">Standardized Tests Face a Crisis Over Standards NYT
Never has the nation's education system been so reliant on standardized tests and the companies that make them

~ Margaret Paynich


High Season For Testing Snafus

Accountability sought in testing industry Washington Times
Student testing, from Head Start to college, is a massive, $2 billion a year national undertaking these days. With problems stalking the mushrooming business of school tests, a growing chorus of students and parents is seeking industry accountability.

Firm's Error Gave 14 Alabama Schools The Wrong Status (AP)
A scoring error by a standardized testing company changed accountability reports for 14 Alabama schools, putting four on probation when they actually met their goals for reading and math.

All hail the SAT snafu (Salon)
The latest SAT scoring errors present a wonderful natural experiment. By going back to previous years and rescoring exams to detect any scoring errors, one could essentially perform the same experiment with no intentional harm done. Did the kids who had artificially low scores, thereby getting into their second or third choice for college, rather than their first, do worse in their later outcomes? Or did they perform better at these schools than would have been predicted by the (false) test results?

The Fall of the Standard-Bearers Chronicle of Higher Education
Useful lessons from Diane Ravitch on the history of the College Board ($$)

Today's Papers: March 21 2006

In today's papers: competitive teachers, anxious parents, kind words for urban districts, new FCC rules, and over-testing. Plus -- Los Angeles/NYC love-fest.


Teachers spurn talented rivalsUSAT
Earlier this month, two top Army scientists from the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland sat down with teachers from the nearby public high school to advise them on setting up a robotics course. Aberdeen scientists will also co-teach classes, mentor students and appear at school career days.

Secretary Spellings Praises Urban Schools U.S.D.E.
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today addressed the Council of the Great City Schools Annual Legislative and Policy Conference.

Los Angeles Mayor Sees Bloomberg School Reforms as Model NYT
Antonio R. Villaraigosa said that other cities should examine placing schools under mayoral control, as New York has done. (Also: Mayor Gets Takeover Tutorial in New York).

NCLB: No Culture Left Behind Quad City Times
Much of the trouble with No Child Left Behind involves its obsession with test-driven reading, math and science instructions at the expense of skills that really matter in the real world: creativity, problem solving, and expression.

FCC Proposes rules for Education TV LA Times
Rules proposed Friday by the Federal Communications Commission would require broadcasters to air at least three hours of children’s educational programs each week.

Putting Parents In Their Place: Outside Class Washington Post
They are needy, overanxious and sometimes plain pesky – and schools at every level are trying to find ways to deal with them. No, not students. Parents – specifically parents of today’s “millennial generation” who, may educators are discovering, can’t their kids go.

~Margaret Paynich


Where Next For Standards-Based Reform?

Over at Foresight, Jal Mehta proposes that standardistas should focus on deepening and strengthening progress on standards and accountability that have come through NCLB rather than on pushing for national standards and tests:
"Rather than inviting another fight over testing and federal power, policy energy should focus on the critical questions that NCLB has brought to the fore but left unanswered...This is clearly the next frontier for the standards-based approach: what ideas can their proponents offer that will make their laudably ambitious target goals (nearly all children proficient by 2014) a reality?"

Stroup and Klatt Return to the Education Committee -- All That's Missing Now Is Goodling

This from the National Journal, thanks to eagle-eyed Kevin Kosar:

"Vic Klatt and Sally Stroup will serve as staff director and deputy staff director respectively for new Education and the Workforce Chairman McKeon, the panel announced today. Klatt, a former policy coordinator for the committee, is currently vice president of Van Scoyoc Associates. Prior to his tenure at the panel, Klatt served as deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs at the Education Department under President George H.W. Bush. Stroup has been assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the department since March 2002, where she has been principal adviser to Education Secretary Spellings on higher education. Prior to working at the Education Department, Stroup was director of industry and government affairs for the Apollo Group, and from 1993-2001, she served as a staffer for the Education and the Workforce Committee. Klatt will begin his position April 3, with Stroup beginning her work at the panel April 24."

Site News: Hype Notification Sidebar

As several of you have noticed, there's a new feature on the site -- the National Hype Notification System (in the right sidebar) -- which measures education hype and categorizes it for the public using a familiar system of colors.

Feel free to suggest changes, additions, or corrections.

The Gadfly Forgets His Own Adage

In The art of the possible, the latest Gadfly calls my grim assessment of the current chances of national standards and tests "unimaginative," and goes on to suggest that the liberal support for civil rights and conservative support for competition make national tests political palatable.

With all due respect, I just don't think those forces are strong enough. Most folks's dislikes are clearer and stronger than their likes. And, as someone once remarked, conservatives hate anything with the word "national" in it and liberals hate anything with the word "test." Nothing about that sad but real formulation has changed for the better.

Monday March 20 Papers

Today's papers include Obama on education, the approval of a former PG County supt. as an SES provider, what LA is learning from Chicago, and more.


Obama at Garfield to talk up education Seattle Times
Of course, the schools need more money. And, yes, the system needs reform. But if you ask U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, who stood onstage at the Garfield High School gym Saturday, parents also need to take stronger charge of their children's education.

Hornsby Approved For Md. Tutoring Washington Post
Andre J. Hornsby, the former Prince George's County schools chief who quit last year after he became ensnared in an ethics controversy and an FBI investigation, has won approval from Maryland to operate a tutoring business in a taxpayer-funded program for needy students.

Chicago Schools Offer L.A. a Cautionary Tale LA Times
As he contemplates taking control of Los Angeles public schools, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is looking for ideas from Chicago and the few other American cities in which the mayor is the top school administrator.

White House pushes more schools to drug-test students Reuters
Student athletes, musicians and others who participate in after school activities could increasingly be subject to random drug testing under a program promoted by the Bush administration.

Work Starts on Islamic High School Washington Post
Mohammad Arafa, executive director of the Islamic Society of Annapolis, said the Mekkah Learning Center will be the first Islamic high school in the region.

~ by Margaret Paynich

Fish Porn, Fame -- Secretary Rotherham? Eduwonk On The HotSeat

On this weekend's HotSeat, Andy (Eduwonk) Rotherham talks about fish porn, what he did before he was famous, how there needs to be more and better education journalism, and whether he's going to be the next Secretary of Education.


I first heard about Andy Rotherham when I was still on the Hill and he was working at one of the education groups. As longtime readers already know, he's been a frequent presence on this site. We agree on a lot of things, and disagree on a few. Most of the time, it's enjoyable and thought-provoking either way.

Q: Is it true that you started out pushing block-grant proposals from AASA or some other part of the blob?

AR: No, not really. In terms of ESEA I worked mostly on Title I and IDEA funding when I was there and left before ESEA reauthorization became a big issue.

Q: As you know, everything does not turn up roses for everyone who works on education issues at the White House (think Claude Allen). How long were you at the DPC, and what did you get to do?

AR: Yeah, wow. I just had to return something to L.L.Bean this week and it occurred to me that I’d better keep the paperwork handy! Bogus returns are the new nanny trap, I guess. The experience turned out well for me though. For the year I was there it was a great chance to serve, I learned a lot, and worked with some terrific people. Bill Clinton was a rare political talent and rarer still because he genuinely cared about education and knew a tremendous amount about it.

Q: What's it like being on a state board of education?

AR: Just what you'd expect from the glossy magazines about it, it's the glam life. Actually, I shouldn't make light because it's a real honor and privilege as is the opportunity to engage in any kind of public service. It has again for me illustrated the challenge of policymaking in a field like education, the anecdotes and emotions are often compelling but the aggregate picture is where the action is in terms of quality policymaking that's in the best interest of kids.

Q: If VA Governor Mark Warner runs for president, will you go to the campaign or advise him, and if he becomes president, will you be Secretary of Education?

AR: There are sure a lot of ifs in that sentence! I think very highly of Mark Warner. He’s strong on education and he gets it. It was a real honor to be appointed to the state board of education by him. In terms of what’s next, I think he’d make a great president if he decides to pursue it. He’s got diverse experience, the right temperament, instincts, and smarts and I’ll help him out if I can. All that said, I don’t think you’d go broke betting against me to be Secretary of Education!

Q: Which is the "real" Andy Rotherham – you, or Eduwonk?

AR: It's a genuine mix.

Q: Your blog is known in part for its salty sense of humor. Do people really stop you in the street and yell, "I'm Rick Hess, B---"?

AR: Actually, they do, it's sort of funny and it's fun to get the feedback. I get stopped at a lot of conferences and so forth where people share inside jokes from the blog and suggest bits, names, and items. In addition to Rick's moniker, which is a big hit, the various nicknames for Margaret Spellings are perennial favorites as well and a lot of emails about Blogback Mountain, people really seemed to like that one. There is no reason you can't mix substance with a little humor as long as you keep your eye on the ball

Q: Education Sector sounds ominous – very “24.” How did you pick the name?

AR: It's probably more Lost Boys than 24. We chose it to convey that we're not a group that just worked on one part of education, say pre-K or teacher quality. We're covering education overall, including its linkages with society more generally.

Q: Why create a new education think tank –aren’t there more than enough of them already?

AR: You know, for all the groups out there already, there actually wasn't a group doing what we wanted to do. Achieve does great work but on a narrow slice of the issue: Standards based reform. And there are plenty of groups like that that do great work but are really focused on one thing. And there are plenty of big organizations that do great work on education. But there was no one just doing education in its broadest sense.

Q: What about the EdTrust?

AR: Not surprisingly, we work on a lot of the same issues they do because they're issues where the action is and where there is a chance to drive some positive change right now. But, at the end of the day, the EdTrust is an advocacy group and we're not. You're not going to see us on the Hill for or against certain pieces of legislation. We'll provide analysis and opinion, but we won't have legislative priorities that we're going to try and accomplish. That's not a slight, they do outstanding work and I'm a fan but this ecosystem needs different kinds of organizations tackling different parts of the problem.

Q: Sure, but there’s no shortage of education groups out there.

AR: There's no group that has the kind of journalistic and policy ethos that we are striving to have. That's the whole point of having two principles in the organization representing those two viewpoints and trying to create synergy from them. We want to put out work that is at once influential in terms of public policy but also accessible and grounded. In addition, there is no other group seeking to be as transparent in its operations as we are. If we do work on something, it's clear who's funding it. That lack of transparency is a real frustration for a lot of people, especially journalists, in our field and it's a real source of mischief.

Q: What about the New America Foundation?

AR: I'm hoping for really good things out of NAF now that Mike Dannenberg is there. He gets it. Some of their past ideas like nationalized funding coupled with vouchers were infeasible and marginal and I think he's going to take them in some good and useful directions now. Overall that place is a hotbed of interesting thinkers so it's been frustrating to not have them more out there on education.

Q: Who are your favorite education writers these days?

AR: Sam Freedman at the New York Times, everything that guy writes is I think worth reading. Same for Richard Whitmire at USA Today, whose new work on boys could end up being really important. Sam Dillon at NYT is really finding his voice, too. There's also Nick Anderson at the Washington Post, a former political writer at the LA Times where he was really strong, he's new on the eduscene but I'm hopeful he'll be doing some exciting stuff because he has great instincts and Jay Mathews is a must-read mainstay. Even when you disagree with Jay he's a must-read. In the trades Michelle Davis and Erik Robelen at EdWeek are two to watch. The one I really miss though is Siobhan Gorman who covered education for National Journal. She was a genuine star who was a great writer and a great analyst. Now she's covering national security for the Baltimore Sun. It's unfortunate that education can't hold people like that.

Q: What about favorite publications?

AR: There are not a lot of great education publications out there. In fact, I think there's room for another one. EdWeek you have to read, obviously. And I think Education Next is thought provoking and they're keeping it lively and diverse which isn't easy. And I read some of the online stuff. But most of my regular reads are more mainstream: The New Republic, Washington Monthly, Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, , and often the Weekly Standard to see what those guys are up to. I also read a few blogs regularly, Mickey Kaus, Andrew Sullivan, and you! And, aside from non-fiction, my vice is fishing magazines, especially fly fishing ones. It's like porn for me. Fish porn.

Q: Do you think there are voices or perspectives that should be seen or heard from in the education press more than are?

AR: There's one obvious group of folks who aren't in the press enough: Actual educators. I know it's tough to find them, and they're often understandably reluctant to talk to reporters, but it's a void. Sure, their representatives are in the stories in all the time but that's not really representative. The diversity of viewpoints that exist among educators about various issues rarely comes through in news stories and that's a shame. Just by way of one obvious example, it does educators no favors to have the prevailing public sense be that they're hostile to No Child Left Behind.

Q: What if we really, really need a talking head and you’re off fishing?

AR: Beyond the obvious names you mean. I actually think that our field is blessed by actually having relatively few talking heads. Most of the people you see quoted a lot have produced substantial and influential work about various issues. There isn't enough money or interest in education for anyone to make it as just a pundit and that's a good thing. But, the real gems I see right now are people like Jane Hannaway at the Urban Institute (full disclosure, my co-editor on my most recent book). She won't BS reporters and comment on issues she doesn't know about, she's doing important research, and she's really up to speed on the literature in the field. On the teaching front, Wendy Kopp and Michelle Rhee have so much to offer and such interesting perspectives; it's unfortunate they don't get called more. And social entrepreneurs like Kim Smith, Jon Schnur, and Don Shalvey don't get called enough. They're working at this from different angles, they're at it every day, they've learned a lot of lessons, but they're not asked often enough to share them.

Q: If Mike Petrilli is the "crown prince," who are you? Golden boy, king of all media, Andy Everywhere?

AR: You can't choose your own honorific, it's against the rules! I'd like to be remembered as that guy who used to do education policy work and now splits his time between the Caribbean and Montana, what was his name again?


Sunday Reading: Around The Blogs

Great posts and useful links from around the edusphere - AWOL states, pushback against HEA accountability, postsecondary indoctrination, Chicano walkouts, KIPP findings pro and con.


State help hasn't shown up Chalkboard
Struggling high schools were promised help from the state. But the teams of top-level educators haven't shown up in most of the targeted schools - including 12 in the Triad.

Exam idea is put to the test Boston Globe via Assorted Stuff
A parade of college presidents will appear before a federal higher-education commission meeting in Boston tomorrow, and early signs suggest it will be a lively, even contentious scene.

Kozol made him do it Instructivist
Sol Stern discusses how a quasi-official pedagogy permeating pre-collegiate education promotes political indoctrination: At least the higher education professoriate denies that it favors using the classroom as a political bully pulpit. By contrast, the K-12 public school establishment has adopted a quasi-official pedagogy that encourages the classroom teacher to shape students’ beliefs on controversial issues like race, gender, sexual preference, and American foreign policy

After the protest Joanne Jacobs
Edward James Olmos' Walkout dramatizes a 1968 protest by Mexican-American students in East Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the walkout led to years of dead-end bilingual education, writes Cathy Seipp on National Review Online.

Extry, Extry, Get yer KIPP findings here Ed Knows Policy
SRI just put out a study of 5 KIPP schools (Knowledge is Power Program) in the San Francisco area. It's a 90 pager, so brace yourself and your printer. I agree that they can't answer the question [which kids do better], but disagree on why. It's not "because the data are cross-sectional." It's because the comparisons are not really valid. You have self-selected students in schools of choice compared to the schools that those choosers abandoned.


Regulating the Testing Industry?

As students' futures depend more and more on standardized test scores, should the testing industry be more strictly regulated? (Testing Errors Prompt Calls for Oversight).

What was I thinking? Now, while everyone is feeling warm and fuzzy about testing, is definitely the time to be talking about revamping the testing system and expanding the federal role.


Back To The Hill For Stroup?

We already knew Sally Stroup was leaving the Department. Now it appears she might go back to the Hill: "Stroup, a former House education committee staff member, is widely believed to be planning to return to Capitol Hill to help lead this year's effort to renew the law governing most federal student-aid programs." From the Chronicle.

Boston Update

Today's Globe highlights what I was saying yesterday about the tough road there may be ahead for Boston in its search for a new superintendent: Lid is on search for Hub school executive.

"As the first scrutiny of superintendent candidates began this week, Boston school officials refused to provide basic information. They would not say how many candidates' applications and profiles were reviewed or how much the search costs."

Previous Post: Stability -- But No Successor -- In Boston

The Week Ahead

Check below some of the main education-related events for the week ahead.

Date: Mar. 17, 2006 - Mar. 21, 2006
Name of Event: Legislative/Policy Conference
Sponsor: Council of the Great City Schools

Date: March 20
Name of Event: Is College Still Worth the Cost?
Sponsor: American Enterprise Institute

Date: March 24
Name of Event: Policy Forum: High School Reform

Sponsors: Education Sector & The National Academies

Date: March 24
Name of Event: Women Who Make the World Worse
Sponsor: The Heritage Foundation

Date: March 31
Name of Event: Reconnecting Out-of-School Youth
Sponsor: The American Youth Policy Forum

Let me know if I've missed anything important -- or if you've got something coming up soon that I should know about.

Teachers On NCLB

Once in a while, just for kicks, I like to read what teachers and the like have to say about NCLB. It's not always the same old same old, as illustrated by this obvservation about why teachers aren't usually involved in policymaking:

"Teachers rarely consider policymaking to be an integral part of their work."


Why Aren’t Teachers Weighing In on Policymaking? (Ed Week)
Teachers rarely consider policymaking to be an integral part of their work; policymakers do not think of consulting teachers because of the history and tradition of task division; and few teachers would suggest that the best way to address educational issues is through increased student testing. Their input, therefore, could undermine the current political agenda.

Time to Rethink No Child Left Behind (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Elaine Olund of Clifton, Ohio discusses her experience helping her fifth and seventh graders practice for testing required by the No Child Left Behind Act. Olund believes in school improvement, but is finding the requirements and lack of common sense to lack testing of actual skills.

No Child Left Behind: Let's get it right NYSUT
Both NYSUT and AFT recognize that NCLB, though disappointing so far, has at least put focus on our schools and on the important issue of raising student achievement. That's why we declined to take part in lawsuits that have been initiated in an attempt to overthrow NCLB. Instead, we're working with lawmakers at the decision-making table to ensure our members' voices are heard and that the problems are fixed so that NCLB can live up to its early promise.

~by Margaret Paynich

The Next Bill Clinton? Not With A Picture Like That.

Instead of introducing him to the nation in way that might help him beat Hillary and/or Barak for the Democratic nomination in '08, this creepy, frightening -- and highly colorized -- NYT magaine cover seems to have hurt Virginia Governor Mark Warner's chances.

In a recent NPR interview, the Times explains why it altered the photograph -- and then ran a correction.

Click on the image at your own risk. In it, Warner looks like some scary combination of a Kennedy and a Schwarzenegger.


Stability -- But No Successor -- In Boston

One of the many things I learned about outgoing Boston supt. Tom Payzant for my upcoming Education Next article that won't be in the final piece is that -- for someone who was notoriously methodical and clear-thinking about his work -- neither Payzant nor his supporters put a whole lot of clarity or method into the issue of who would replace him when he left.


He did, however, agree to a checkup of sorts, which is now finally out. It looks back at his accomplishments and, to a smaller extent, towards the future, and is in some ways very thorough and well-timed. It can't, however, erase the fact that neither Payzant not his supporters groomed a successor as they might have, and that the selection of a new superintendent to replace him looks like it is going to be extremely contentious.

Payzant has been Mr. Stability -- in the best sense -- and many districts would be lucky to emulate the experience of Boston over the last decade. However, the stability seems unlikely to last much beyond his departure.

Renewed Suspicions

Over at Inside Higher Ed (SAT Failures Renew Suspicions), there's more about the SAT debacle and the long-standing criticisms that it has re-awoken:
"As a result of thousands of miscalculated scanning errors on SATs taken by students in October, traditional critics of the exams are seizing the opportunity to blast standardized testing. College Board officials are taking the blame for the mistakes, but say that race- and gender-based arguments against the test are equally miscalculated."

Nina Rees On The HotSeat?

I finally had the chance to meet Nina Rees, former Heritage educationista and more recently head of OII at the USDE, while she was in town talking to education folks about her new company, Knowledge Universe. It was pretty damn interesting to hear about her experiences at Heritage, in the Administration, and what she's doing now. I'm trying to persuade her to do a HotSeat Q and A so more to come -- maybe.


It Takes More Than A Good Idea To Change Education

There's been lots of chatter but no real consensus surrounding my post yesterday (National Testing Jumps The Shark) -- except for the fact that maybe I was a little too harsh on someone I don't know, for which I apologize.

Gordon is by all accounts a smart and good person, and I didn't mean to say otherwise. I just think he's really, really wrong on this issue -- and that he and others who are pushing it now could be working against their own interests.


It's interesting to me that none of the people who are pushing this as "the" issue right now come from the Hill, or have worked closely with the Hill.

I don't see Mike Cohen of Achieve out on this one. Ditto for Mike Dannenberg, who's been on the Hill more recently than I have. The Education Trust? Nope. I'm sure none of those guys are against it -- neither am I -- but there's a reason they're not pushing it like Fordham and CAP right now.

From what I (and maybe they) learned last time around, there are at least a few key conditions for a successful national standards push -- none of which seem present or on the horizon:

One is widespread public or media dissatisfaction, which I see no real signs of. Everyone seems to be enjoying bashing tests and dismembering NCLB right now. In AA terms, we haven't come anywhere near hitting bottom yet.

Another key condition is a bipartison group of political leaders who are interested in educating and pushing folks on the topic -- like Clinton and Goodling, now long gone.

Obama's just come out for innovation districts so you can see which way he's going. Is there anyone out there who's running on national tests, or talking about them, or who even likes them?

In the comments section below, I think it's fair to say that Kevin Kosar, who studied the last go-round with national tests, basicaly agrees with me that there's no such thing as a "nonpolitical" process.

Ditto for Andy Eduwonk Rotherham, who writes about the advocates that "none of them can explain --beyond generalities-- how this issue actually goes anywhere on the Hill considering the political realities up there."

Mike P over at Fordham says I'm way wrong on this one and that the idea is gaining steam Gordon is "prescient" on education issues. Show me some steam, Mike.

I'll believe I'm wrong on this when some or all of the conditions I've outlined come real, which may happen -- just not soon.

Specter Kills Kennedy/Collins Amendment to Push His Own

The folks over at Inside Higher Ed give the rundown on what's happening on the budget resolution this week, in which Specter killed a Kennedy/Collins effort to put $7 billion into the budget on education funding, in hopes of adding his own amendment later today.

Another Bad Headline For The Testing Industry...& For Advocates of National Testing

Day by day, it seems, the environment for national testing just gets worse and worse: Test service reaches deal in error suits (AP).

According to this story, ETS is putting up over $11.1 million to pay damages to thousands of teachers who were given incorrect scores on a licensing exam in 2003 and 2004.

It's neither fair nor right, but the public and the politicians won't support an expansion or change in the American testing system if the testing system (scoring, test security) doesn't seem solid.

And right now it doesn't seem solid.


What The President Really Means When He Talks About Science Education

In this video clip, Stephen Colbert, the brains behind Jon Stewart's "Daily Show," dissects what's really going on in the swamp that is science education, competitiveness hype, and religion.


Click the play arrow in the BOTTOM LEFT corner, not the one in the middle of the screen. Remember that the video may take a few moments to load. The science part starts about a third of the way in after the Gonzalez bit. Remember to turn the sound on.

National Testing Jumps The Shark

After several months of valiant effort by pundits and educationistas of various stripes, today's Robert Gordon commentary in Education Week will, I think, mark the moment when the current, stumbling effort to revive national testing finally jumped the shark. Let's make it a merciful death.


Identified as a staffer at the Center on American Progress and a former Kerry/Edwards education advisor, Gordon's piece is a little more scholarly than most, but wildly repetitive given the slew of similar pieces over the past few months -- and no more convincing than any of its predecessors.

It's also amazingly tin-eared on the politics of the testing issue and poorly timed given the fact that there's a testing scandal going on right now. But then Kerry was never known for his ear, his timing, or his education policy -- and in fairness Gordon is not really a fulltime education guy. Frankly, I'm not sure why EdWeek published it.

Friends, please stop now. There may be a time for national testing, but in the midst of the dismantling of NCLB -- the closest thing to federal standards in education that we've ever had -- and the SAT scoring fiasco is probably not that time.

This Is Just To Say

Eduwonk must have been in such a rush to respond to How The EduSphere Is Supposed To Work -- I Think that he somehow neglected to note something that would have made his otherwise not very convincing case against comments somewhat stronger: that one of the comments attached to my post (the one he was complaining about) was in fact written by an imposter, and that the ditzy webmaster (that would be me) hadn't figured out how to delete it yet.

Where School Policy Meets Business Interests

Thanks again to the School Improvement Industry Weekly for linking to last week's HotSeat with Mike Petrilli. There are many other reasons to check out the latest edition (click front page to enlarge, free trial subscription or discount subscription still available by emailing me).

It's intense. There's lots on tutoring (including providers' responses that aren't available otherwise). There's also other industry stuff, like the news that the regional lab once called AEL (now Edvantia) has just lost the regional labs contract, and that California has re-upped with ETS for its testing.

Spellings Replacement Arrested

Claude Allen, who handled domestic policy including education at the DPC after Spellings moved to the USDE, himself left a few months ago (Claude Allen, We Hardly Knew You). Now it's out that he did so under a big retail fraud cloud: For Ex-Aide to Bush, an Arrest Is a Puzzling Turn (NYT).

Apparently, Allen is the black conservative version of Winona Ryder. And the folks over at TMPCafe are already having a field day with it: "Allen resigned his $161,000-a-year job in the Bush White House last month, saying he wanted to spend more time shoplifting with his family. Among his other duties Allen led the White House's response to Hurricane Katrina, but his primary responsibility was letting the president be seen in public with a black person who wasn't Condoleeza Rice."

SAT Scoring Debacle Continues -- Caperton Comes Out Of Hiding

Today's NYT (1,600 SAT Tests Escaped Check for Scoring Errors) reports that there are even more SATs that need to be checked -- 1600 of them, or what used to be a perfect score. How delicious.

The debacle has also forced former WVa. Governor and current College Board president Gaston Caperton out into the public eye to issue an apology and a defense.

But someobody forgot to tell him about the 1600 tests, so he ended up looking uninformed or misleading, take you pick. Hi, Gaston.

Gratuitious FairTest Quote: ""The more we learn, the worse the problems are," said Robert A. Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest." Blah blah blah blah blah.

ONE MORE THING: You think anyone's going to go for national testing with all this going on? It'd be like saying you wanted to give more money to FEMA while Mike Brown was still there. Opponents would have a field day.

On The HotSeat: EdWeek's Jeanne McCann

On this week’s HotSeat, the little-known but extremely important Jeanne McCann, director of new media for EdWeek.org, spreads rumors about secret overseas news bureaus and trained monkeys writing the Daily News each morning, plugs new online live chats, and claims that EdWeek doesn’t need any blogs because it already has them. (Really?)

Click below to find out what's really going on inside the online world of education's newspaper of record.


How many hundreds of staffers and millions of dollars does it take to keep the EdWeek site up and running?

JM: You mean including our overseas bureaus?? Hmm. Speaking broadly: Four online producers, one tech manager, two assistant managing editors, one "director of new media" form the core of the Web team. Add in assorted consultants, a web hosting firm, and of course, the reporters and editors from Education Week and Teacher Magazine, without whom we would not exist. It takes a bit of dough.

When did the online version of the pub start and how big was it then?

JM: Edweek.org went online in 1996. I believe the staff then was one editor, one assistant editor, and a part-time techie. We had one Web server (Sun) and it sat in a back room right underneath an upstairs toliet. I got here in 1998. One of the first things I did was move that server.

What about the Daily News -- who does that, how long has it been going on, and how popular is it?

JM: The Daily News has been with us since the start. A bevy of trained monkeys... No wait, I meant to say, it's all automa...No, wrong again... We produce The Daily News by hand, M-F, which, I believe, accounts for its quality. No automation whatsoever. It takes about four to five hours daily to electronically "clip" the stories that go into the Daily News (generally three people take care of that); then another two hours or so for an editor to pull it together. We start clipping at 8:30 a.m. daily, and publish by noon.

What are some of the newer and / or most popular features of the EPE site?

JM: So many features, so little time... Let's see: We have our irregular-becoming-more-regular weekly online live chats; TalkBack (allowing readers to comment on articles); our new teacher blogs; The Daily News; International News; photo galleries; now-daily report roundups and people column; "the week-in-photos" (starting next week--you read it here first); new e-newsletters; the option to personalize the EdWeek home page; and RSS feeds.

How do you decide what features to add or keep?

JM: Some features are added to allow our readers a voice via different channels; some (like The Daily News) were there from the start, continue to be popular, so we continue to produce them (also, the popularity of The Daily News led to creation of the International News); blogs, oh just because they are so in right now (wait, that was last week, sigh); e-newsletters, as a way to push content to people interested in particularly newsy topics. We feel a real obligation to our readers--especially now--make edweek.org a daily publication; hence the uptick in Web-only content. And RSS because, well, it's pretty much SOP at this point. On deck are major updates to our search engine and our calendar of events

Earlier this year, EPE decided to start charging for complete access to its online content. How has that affected the site and the number of subscriptions?

JM: How much time have you got? The short version: When we made the decision to charge for access, we knew we'd have to change the architecture and structure of the entire site. A good portion of our online readers is teachers and we did not want to lose those users by requiring a subscription in order to see anything on the site. At the same time, we knew we could not continue to give away content that cost a lot to produce. So, one of the first things we did was design the site with different audiences in mind, and make some decisions about which sections we should charge for and which we would keep open. As it stands now, if you register you have access to most of the site, including two Education Week articles per week. If you want to read more than two articles per week, we're asking you to pay for it.

What about blogs? Any plans for EPE to start or maintain them, or to start linking to or reporting what they have to say? If so, why or why not?

JM: Ut-oh, someone hasn't done his homework!! We already have several blogs. Our first was written by a National Teacher of the Year, who went back into the classroom in a high-poverty school a year after her tenure as Teacher of the Year. Right now we have one written by a career-changer teacher, and another by a teacher going after national board certification. Teacher staffers write Blogboard, a roundup of educator blogs. "In Other News" is a roundup of education news from publications we don’t search daily. We've batted around ideas for other blogs. We're open to readers' suggestions.

Photo Sara Evans EdWeek

Ed Knows Policy

In a post earlier today (Russo on Petrilli) , Ed Knows Policy teases me with momentary praise and then slams me for fawning over Mike Petrilli in last week's Hotseat:

"Nice to see bloggers getting out there and doing some journalism, even if it's a brief adoring interview of a Bush official."

There's other good stuff in there as well, and I'll take the criticism to heart in the next round of HotSeats. Thanks, Ed.


Too Many "New Teacher" Organizations Spoil The Party

It used to be that there was just Recruiting New Teachers. Ahh, those were the good old days. Now, there's a confusing proliferation of "new teacher" organizations: New Teacher Center (the Santa Cruz one, I think). New Teacher Project(run by a TFA-er out of Denver, right?). There's one in New York -- or is that just a field office? And of course there's the New Teacher Network (one of my faves, in Chicago). Now I like new teachers as much or (some would say) more than the next person -- but enough's enough. Can't they just get in a room and horsengoggle for who gets the name, or figure out some big merger and take over the world?

Not. Gonna. Happen.

Sometimes even the smartest educationistas just can't gived it up, so I'll say it again: National standards and tests are just not going to happen anytime soon. Congressional researcher and author Kevin Kosar explains it here. Michael Dannenberg from the New America Foundation explained it here. Last week's SAT debacle (Bad Week For Testing Companies) was the coup de gras.

Does Pres. Bush Know What's In NCLB?

It's relatively rare you hear the President talking about NCLB for more than a moment, and usually sort of scary in a "what-is-he-going-to-say?" way when he does. At this recent event that the USDE has been determined everyone sees, Bush seems relatively well-prepared -- not that hard since he's only talking to editors -- but then lets loose with a bizarre comment that NCLB has "essentially ended social promotion in the early grades." What? How? Really? Where?

No Recess For White Kids:
Merrow Takes On Achievement Gap Thinking

In his weekly email to friends and colleagues, PBS's John Merrow takes an interesting swipe at our short-sided fixation with the achievement gap, which, taken to their logical extreme, should lead to things like ending recess for white kids so they can catch up to Asian kids.
"People who obsess about the Black-White achievement gap are either ignorant, intellectually lazy or mendacious." I can't remember who said that, but I am inclined to agree.

I'm not sure I agree with every word or every conclusion -- help, Kati, I don't know what to think! -- but I love how fierce it is. Let's shake this thing up, people.


Here' the rest of the email:

"Our public education system has THREE gaps: in opportunity, expectations and outcomes. The OPPORTUNITY gap is obvious--rich schools have the most experienced teachers, the most up-to-date equipment and facilities, smaller classes and other advantages. the EXPECTATIONS gap is real, because some teachers simply do not expect their poor disadvantaged students to be excellent--and, guess what, the kids often live down to those expectations. Given those two gaps, a pronounced difference in OUTCOMES is inevitable.

"To focus only on outcomes is self-defeating. Even when schools do get those scores up, it's often the result of mind-numbing drill, cuts in PE, art and music, and long classes in 'reading readiness' (instead of real reading).

"This week's podcast, a video, shows what happens when enlightened leadership addresses the first two gaps--and eliminates them. The school in question is in the hard scrabble city of Mount Vernon, NY. Against all odds, virtually every student in the school passes the state tests, a feat unheard of in the inner city.

"For more evidence of our foolishness regarding the Achievement Gap, ask yourself why educators and others aren't wringing their hands over the gap between Whites and Asian Americans? It was 'only' 30 points in 1981 (513-483), but it's widened to 44 points (580-536) in 2005. That's in math. It's 'only' 18 points in English Language Arts. Doesn't that call for more drill for the white kids, and no more recess?

I urge you to put down whatever you are doing (especially if you're obsessing about the achievement gap) and watch this video (produced by my colleague Tira Grey), because it's a road map for school success.

Go to www.pbs.org/merrow, click on the picture, and follow the simple directions.



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