6/29/2006

Buffett's Gift: Too Much For Gates To Handle?

"It sounds good–more money for more good causes," says this week's US News (Buffett's gift). "But are there drawbacks to such an infusion of cash for just one (already large) organization?"

Previous Post: Will More Money Help Or Hurt...?

UPDATE: Ed Knows Policy points to the BusinessWeek article and has some additional points to make (Bill Gates Gets Schooled).

World Cup Update: Where's Spellings?

Note to all World Cup fans. Keep an eye out for Secretary Spellings in the crowd at the World Cup quarterfinals tomorrow. My sources tell me she's likely to be cheering for Argentina in the first game and Ukraine in the second.

Media Hypes Report On Boys -- Not Necessarily A Jackpot For Ed Sector

I'm not sure it helps the cause of those who are concerned about boys in schools to have conservative columnist John Leo weigh in as an ally (Media keep the boy crisis at bay). The issue has already been diminished as a "conservative" one, and Leo's assertions that the pushback is a feminist conspiracy will only fuel that perception.

But Leo certainly gets it right when he points out just how overeager and credulous the press has been about the piece that was written by the Ed Sector's Sara Mead and launched into the MSM by Jay Mathews' not very critical-minded page one story in the Washington Post. Like they say, "man bites dog" stories always get a lot of attention from the media. A slow pre-holiday news week doesn't hurt, either. But still, shame on everyone who's been swallowing this one whole.

Whether the report's impressive notoriety turns out to be the "jackpot" for Mead et al remains to be seen, however, given the Ed Sector's aspirations to be taken as a place that puts out thoughtful work. Leo calls the report nothing more than "a long op-ed piece," which seems too harsh. But the 21-page analysis isn't based on any original research. Its arguments seem more cute than comprehensive. Politically speaking, the report pushes the organization out towards the liberal end of the spectrum. These are all things that the ES, its board and funders have to consider, especially given the current scrutiny in the blogs and among academics surrounding around think tank research.

UPDATE: Mead bravely claims the research high ground here. Meanwhile, the blogosphere comments here and skewers the Post's coverage here.

Morning Round-up June 29, 2006

Could school be out for Paul Vallas? Phila Daily News
Paul Vallas, the Philadelphia School District's charismatic chief executive officer, had hoped to have a contract extension right about now - one year before his five-year contract expires

Microsoft looks to academia for talent AP
Through academia, Microsoft hopes to convince young minds to become loyal to Microsoft products, help influence university and government research -- and perhaps ensure it doesn't miss out on the next big technoloical wave.

Goo and Fluff Prevail in Battle Over Lunches NYT
A Massachusetts state senator has backed off a pledge to restrict sandwiches made from Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter in elementary schools.

Steering Minority Teens Into Teaching Washington Post
A New York based non-profit will choose 50 9th, 10th, and 1th graders to be linked to paid mentors in their schools, place them in SAT prep courses, and help them apply to a select group of colleges who have promised to reduce their tuition by at least 5o percent.

6/28/2006

100 Percent Solution -- Who Signed, Who Didn't

Remember the episode of the "West Wing" where the staffers slowly find out who's on the VIP emergency evacuation list and who isn't? That's the thought that came to mind when I started looking at the list of who signed and who didn't on this weighted student funding initiative that got rolled out yesterday. Who's on, who's not-- and why? (UPDATED)

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Having gathered signatures for letters like this many times in the past, I'd have to say it's a fairly impressive list -- though I wonder what the pitch letter looked like, and who said no thanks (A 100% Solution Signatories). Send me a copy of the pitch if you have it.

I didn't count but it looks like there are more Rs than Ds -- that's pretty obvious when you lead with somewhat disgraced former Secty Bill Bennett (along with the initiatiative's name a questionable decision, alphabet be damned). But it's not all Republicans. There's former Clintonite John Podesta down there at the bottom of the VIP section. Not to be left out of the center-left think tank game -- someone from the Jefferson Institute and NAF's Mike Dannenberg. Another Clintonite who shows up is Delia Pompa from NCLR.

Mike Casserly signed from Great City Schools -- given how crazy WSF makes school boards, I wonder how it's going to go over with his members when they find out about that (Paul Vallas is the only sitting supt whose name I saw on the list). No Joel Klein (Bloomberg would have killed him), or Arne Duncan (strange since CPS is trying a WSF pilot). No Tom Payzant from Boston -- I bet he declined or wasn't asked.

Assumedly to get the number up to 100, there are lots of repeats -- multiple signatures from the same organization. Russlyn Ali signed from EdTrust West -- and Kati Haycock. Lots of KIPP signatures. Lots of Chartwell signatures from Rod Paige loyalists.

Some notable non-signers: PEN's Wendy Puriefoy, Dianne Piche and/or Bill Taylor from CCCR, Bob Gordon from Brookings or wherever he's from, or any elected officials who are still in office. Checker signs but not Mike P. Rotherham signs but not Toch.

UPDATE: What about Secretary Riley, a number of folks have asked me?
UPDATE 2: Former NC Governor Jim Hunt is/was a Dem.

Carnival of Education, Week 73

The Carnival of Education is up, featuring quotes about teachers from an eleven year-old homeschooler named Jane: Carnival of Education, Week 73.

Advice For PR Folks: Use Google, Get Used To Calls From Bloggers

The vast majority of the communications/external relations/PR folks that I talk to are great -- responsive, knowledgeable, quick, etc. Then there's the one I ran into at Columbia University's Campaign for Educational Equity yesterday morning

I called him yesterday to try and track down whether a rebuttal to Fordham Foundation's weighted student funding initiative (that I'd gotten from Fordham) was legitimate. I think that's what they'd have told me to do in journalism school, had I gone.

Instead of help, what I got instead was a lot of crap about "who I was" and "what this was for" -- you know the drill. Even after I sent the requested email (granted, with a few chiding remarks), I never got a response. Nice work.

So here's some unsolicited advice for PR folks: Be prepared to take calls if your name is listed on the website. Get used to getting calls from bloggers as well as reporters. Maybe think about putting some bloggers on your media list. That old "will you email me with this request" gambit is annoying (and sorta paranoid) when you can just Google me while we're talking.

Morning Round-up June 28, 2006

One-size-fits-all doesn't suit our students Boston Globe
A study of the Chicago public school system found that 90 percent of our urban public school student body does not graduate from high school or attend college, even though it's reported that 79 percent of students say they wish to attend college.

Lawmaker Softens on Fluff Legislation
LA Times
Massachusetts lawmaker Barrios' is trying to get himself out of a sticky situation by dropping his opposition to Marshmallow Fluff.

Teacher Says Charter School Fired her for Organizing to Improve Pay Scale
NYT
An investigation is underway to investigate a claim that a teacher from a New York City charter scchool was fired for organizing her colleagues to press for better salaries and benefits.

eBay For Educators

"Lots of Web sites offer lesson plans that can be purchased or downloaded for free," writes Ben Feller in this AP article (Teachers Put Lessons, Study Guides on EBay). "Yet Edelman says they don't cover a fraction of what teachers themselves have come up with. By offering them a way to make a buck, the 33-year-old former teacher says he's found a niche. "

Charters "Shop" Sponsors In Ohio

This article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer describes how troubled (or savvy) charter school operations can "shop" for more accommodating sponsors or find new ones if they're dropped. This issue came up in my report on charter schools in Ohio from a couple of years ago.

6/27/2006

The Boys Crisis: Just Because It's A "Loser" Issue Doesn't Mean It's Not Real

The debate over whether there even should be a debate about boys' struggles in schools continues, with lots of comments on the NSBA blogsite and a link to this article in Esquire.

In it, author Tom Chiarella (a university professor with two sons) makes no bones that the boys crisis is an unpopular issue. It's "a loser," he writes -- in large part because it's so easily hijacked by ideologues.

But Chiarella quotes none other than the EdTrust's Kati Haycock saying that resistance from educators has persisted despite ten years of data.

And he comes up with solutions that rely in particular on men -- not just fathers or even teachers -- jumping in and being part of the solution. "Select two boys, the ones who need it, the ones you know are hurting. Take a lesson from Joel Klein and convince two more men to do the same. Two more men: That's your assignment."

Banned Activities: First It Was Dodgeball, Now It's Tag

First they got rid of dodgeball for being too competitive. Now they're getting rid of "tag" for being too dangerous (USATODAY). What's next? A ban on rock-scissors-paper?

Will More Money Help Or Hurt The Gates School Reform Effort?

It's hard to find much fault with Warren Buffet's decision to gift his billions instead of passing them onto his kids, and it's understandable that he'd want to give the money to an established foundation rather than start or grow his own (Gates: Buffett gift may cure diseases). But the past five or six years have been tough ones for the Gates Foundation when it comes to school reform -- they rode in hard on the small schools horse, and are just now broadening their agenda (Vander Ark: "I Could Kick Myself").

I wonder -- as many others probably do -- how the new money is going to be divided between education and health. Whatever the division, I wonder whether an even bigger amount of money to give away every year will help the program folks at Gates, or pressurize their thinking in ways that won't help them think and act as wisely as possible.

UPDATE: The Times' DealBook asks much the same question, noting that under Buffett's terms Gates -- already at 300 staffers -- will have to double its grantmaking to $3 billion a year within two years.

No States Will Be Fined On HQT; Some Won't File Revised Plans Until Fall

According to this story (via Stateline), the list of nine states who were initially deemed not to have met the "good faith" standard for complying with NCLB's teacher quality provisions is down to two -- and even those states aren't going to get fined.

It's amazing how these things happen. States already off the list of 9 (according to the Missoulian): Alaska, Delaware, Minnesota, and North Carolina. States on the verge of getting off (according to this story): Montana, Nebraska, Iowa. Here's a clip about how Alaska got off the list.

Who's left? Idaho and Washington.
Not that being on the list really matters, it seems. According to the story, the USDE official in charge of all this (René Islas, pictured) said "he didn't expect any of the state's money would be restricted or held back."

So what, exactly, then is the pressure on states to submit great revised HQT and equity plans next week and get a lot done in 0607? Not much, apparently. This clip says Utah won't submit it's revised plan -- due July 7 -- until October.

NYT Summer Scare Tactics, Part 2

The latest unfounded Administration fearmongering (about homegrown terrorist cells who want to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago) reminded me about the NYT's latest bit for fearmongering for parents: Young People's Web Postings Worry Summer Camp Directors. This is the Times' second "be afraid" piece in a week -- the week before it was about the "new" perils of summer camp. Come on, folks. Go back to the its-so-hard-to-get-into-a-good-preschool stories.

Highly Qualified Countdown: Ten Days Left

States have just 10 days to finish up and submit their revised plans for meeting NCLB's highly qualified mandates -- including both HQT and inequitable distribution of teachers -- and it's going to be a rough road for some of them.

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As you may recall, none of the states met the original HQT requirements set in law -- this despite the HOUSSE loophole. Last month USDE announced that 29 states appeared to have met the "good faith" standard that would give them an extra year. Nine states plus DC and PR -- many of them that had reported 99 percent HQT rates -- were told they were in danger of having Title II funds withheld. Twelve states weren't fully evaluated at that time.

-- How many of the 9 states (Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina and Washington) have since gotten out of the doghouse? (Iowa agreed to a Praxis test for new teachers last week, and CT agreed to a HOUSSE plan for veteran teachers.)

-- What's happened to the 12 unassigned states -- are they good to go or in trouble? Do we know? Do they?

-- How much scrutiny will the USDE give the revised plans, having already told a majority of states that they've met the good faith requirements?

In the meantime, Stateline has a roundup of where states are and how they're trying to work to address what they say Spellings calls teaching's “dirty little secret”; Rod Paige has an oped in today's NYT touches on weighted funding as a way to reduce inequities across districts; and the AFT Blog says that USDE still hasn't done enough to help states come up with equity plans.

Morning Round-up June 27, 2006

Short list emerges for school chief Boston Globe
Boston has narrowed its search for the next superintendent of schools to a list of five candidates, all career educators with experience in urban schools.

For School Equality, Try Mobility NYT
DUMB liberal ideas in education are a dime a dozen, and during my time as superintendent of Hhouston's schools and as the United States secretary of education I battled against all sorts of progressivist lunacy, from whole-language reading to fuzzy math to lifetime teacher tenure. Today, however, one of the worst ideas in education is coming from conservatives: the so-called 65 percent solution.

Tag! More schools ban games at recess USA TODAY
Some traditional childhood games are disappearing from school playgrounds because educators say they're dangerous.

6/26/2006

Travel-Happy Spellings Headed To World Cup

A close examination of Margaret Spellings' schedule for next week leads to only one possible conclusion: our travel-happy Secretary is sneaking off to the World Cup.

You see, her official schedule has her in Athens and Spain during the week, ostensibly for an OECD meeting and a meet and greet with Fullbright students. From Madrid, it's a hop skip and a jump to the semifinals in Frankfurt and Gelsenkirchen on Saturday.

Will Mayoral Control Create More Choice?

The folks at edspresso riff off of my review of the Clint Bolick piece last week to say that mayoral control in LA might -- or might not -- help increase the dismal amount of NCLB and other choice that's been provided there: Clint's WSJ column and LAUSD. I hadn't thought about how mayoral control and choice might intersect, and I'm not sure I entirely follow or agree with the argument, but it's an interesting thought.

Boy Vs. Boy: Whitmire Takes On Mathews

Click "Read More..." to check out the vigorous response from USA Today's Richard Whitmire to Jay Mathews' Washington Post article (Study Casts Doubt On the 'Boy Crisis') on whether there is an education "crisis" that's particular to boys.

In addition to calling out Mathews for using an Ed Sector paper that rehashes old data, Whitmire points out -- as he has before -- that the cumulative picture of boys in education makes a persuasive case that there is a serious problem there. Whitmire is working on a book about this topic.

UPDATE: "Most of this year's high school valedictorians had something in common besides being smart," according to this article from Charlotte (Best in school? In 2006, girls rule) from the wekeend. "They're girls."

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To the Washington Post:

I'm trying to imagine Jay Mathews taking his argument (that girls overwhelming boys in school is nothing to worry about) to Clark Atlanta University where only 30% of the students are male. My advice: Tell your cab driver to keep the engine running.

Mathew's front page Washington Post story (Study Casts Doubt on the 'Boy Crisis', June 26) relies on a paper from a Washington think tank that offers no fresh data. By citing minor test score gains made by boys in the lower grades, the paper seeds doubt that boys are in academic trouble .

Over the years, Mathews has employed a sharp reporting eye. But in this case he failed to go beyond the think tank paper to ask the right questions. Those include:

-- Does it matter that male college attendance has flat lined? Ask women at a college where the percentage of females has crept past 60% and you'll get a big "Yes!" Ask an economist who weighs the value of education in a global economy and you'll get the same answer

-- Do the modest gains by boys in the lower grades matter? They are hopeful, but all too often we've seen elementary school gains wash out in middle school and high school. What matters in the college process is high school, where the gender reading gap continues to widen. The gender gap in writing skills is huge.

-- Is this really an issue affecting only poor and minority boys?. I just returned from a visit to a nearly all-white, mostly middle class Oregon high school where all seven valedictorians were female. The year before the count was 15 girls, one boy. Year before that it was 16 and zip. The number of private colleges keeping their gender imbalances under control by offering affirmative action admissions to white, middle class boys is one of the best kept secrets in higher education

Mathews suggests the boy issue is being taken advantage of by conservative and liberal authors with their own agendas. I don't fit into either camp, and yet I'm so convinced this is a problem I'm writing a book about the issue: "Boy Troubles: Rescuing Boys from their Academic Slide, Broadway Books.

Richard Whitmire, Arlington, Va.

Previous Posts: The Backlash Against Boys Begins

States Not Checking For Cheating

"Even with all the money and prestige that's riding on standardized test results in this era of the federal No Child Left Behind law," states this Philadelphia Inquirer story (Education tests: Who's minding the scores?). "Only about half the states responding to an Inquirer survey do any sort of statistical analysis of scores to identify signs of organized cheating." via CJC.

Not So Fast, Say Charter Opponents

Maybe Clint Bolick spoke a little bit too early last week (Vouchers In NCLB) when he crowed about what a big year it'd been for choice advocates, because -- despite a fullcourt press from Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Pataki -- the NY state legislature just rebuffed an effort to increase the cap on charter schools in NYC: Legislature Deals Setback to Mayor (NYT).

Mis-timed hardball tactics played a role in the upset, according to the Times: "Just as Assembly Democrats began to have discussions on the issue, a charter school advocacy group ran television and radio advertisements blasting several of the Assembly members over their opposition."

UPDATE: Rick Hess takes on charter supporters for playing fast and loose with charter school scores: "Charter proponents who play it fast and loose will come to regret their stance," writes Hess. "It's hard to complain about unfair treatment when one's scruples appear to be a matter of convenience.

Morning Round-up June 26, 2006

Study Casts Doubt On the 'Boy Crisis' Washington Post
A study to be released today looking at long-term trends in test scores and academic success srgues that widespread reports of U.S. boys being in crisis are greaty overstated and that young males in school are in many ways doing better than ever.

A New Competitive Sport: Grooming the Child Athlete NYT
Parents are spending upwards in the tens of thousands of dollars to pay for professional coaches, private trainers, athletic testin, sports camps, travel with elite teams, and family travel -- sometimes only get their child on a high school sports team.

370 Uncertified Teachers Will Be Fired; 450 at Risk
Washington Post
More than 350 teachers will be dismissed Friday because they have failed to prove certification or work towards one, and 45o teachers are at risk while earning their certification if fully certified teachers are found first.

Veterans take charge in US classrooms Boston Globe
Many troops return home and find their skills put to use in the classroom -- often through a federal program called Troops to Teachers which allows veterans and reservists with college degrees to earn a teacing certification.

Week In Review June 19-25

6/23/2006

A Lovely Respite...But Will It Last?

In case you hadn't noticed, it's been a lovely four-day respite from the once-constant AFT Blog - Eduwonk bickering. After a little bit of gentle chiding from this site and others, the two sides kept away from each other all week, and on Friday Andy even managed to link to an AFT post (sent to him by AFT John) without making too much of a mess of it.

Can they make it to the Fourth of July Weekend, though? I hope so, but I'm not sure they can. The sibling rivalry may prove too much -- not to speak of the reduced numbers of site visitors.

UPDATE: TNR and DailyKos are apparently more than picking up the slack, anyway.

Turnaround Specialists For 7 Philly Schools

"The Philadelphia School District is giving some veteran principals the boot and sending a cadre of replacements to the University of Virginia next month for special training in how to turn around academically low-performing schools. (Philadelphia Inquirer)."

Maybe Vallas hasn't watched the Merrow segments on PBS.

FOIA'd!

The AFT Blog reveals that this site and some of the other education blogs have been FOIA'd (AFT NCLBlog). Woo hoo! What's next -- lawsuits? subpoenas? Very exciting.

What You Missed at the Aspen Institute Roundtable

On Tuesday, a roundtable of NCLB Commission members welcomed the usual suspects from PEN, the PTA, etc. for a dicussion about what parents think about NCLB and it's implementation.

After a rousing introduction (with special emphasis on each person's school aged children/ grandchildren), the invited speakers described the feelings of parents, which seemed to boil down to the following: parents are not well enough informed about their children's SES options, districts receive inadequate funding for necessary programs, NCLB should have stronger sanctions for states that don't comply with the law, schools may be hiding poor scoring students, and neglecting students with disabilities.

Check out the recommendations offered.

Bottom line: Schools blame parents, parents blame schools.

Morning Round-up June 23, 2006

Schools bank on good publicity Boston Globe
The Boston public school system is banking on a public relations makeover, which will cost several hundred thousand dollars, to boost its image and attract more families and investors to the school system.

Title IX changes could stifle dreams USA TODAY
The Department of Education quietly issued a new Title IX policy that lowers the bar for what schools must do to provide equal sports opportunities for women.

Best in school? In 2006, girls rule
Charlotte Observer
Most of this year's high school valedictorians had something in common besides being smart. They're girls.

6/22/2006

Vouchers In NCLB

The thing that jumps out at me from Clint Bolick's gleeful WSJ piece about recent progress on vouchers ('Toe-Hold Strategies') isn't so much that some state and federal Dems are crossing over and supporting vouchers (in DC, for Katrina) or that voucher advocates have adopted a "toe-hold" strategy to get around powerful teachers unions.

Rather it's that Democrats and school officials have done such a bad job pushing for public school choice in NCLB and elsewhere that they've created room for voucher advocates to jump in. Or, as Bolick puts it, they're "running out of viable alternatives." No big surprise, then, that Dems are going to have to consider voucher options when NCLB gets reauthorized.

UPDATE: Eduwonk plays catch-up here.

Previous Posts:
The Decline Of Choice, The Rise Of Vouchers
SES Hurts Vouchers Like NCLB Transfers Hurt Choice

NSBA Not Worried Re N-Size Review

The only really notable thing in Edweek's recap of the AYP loophole story is the second to last graf where NSBA's Reginald M. Felton says "he welcomed the scrutiny and believes that federal officials will find states’ N-size limits are, for the most part, appropriate (Ed. Dept. to Weigh NCLB Subgroup Issues)."

Wow. That's pretty confident. I wonder how his bosses and members are going to feel about that if and when the USDE starts looking hard at n-sizes and confidence intervals. Not that the USDE has promised to do very much (An Underwhelming Response).

Morning Round-up, June 22, 2006

Lawsuit Is Filed Over Banned Children's Book About Cuba NYT
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a federal lawsuit challenging a decision by the Miami-Dade School Board to remove a children's book about Cuba from tis elementary school libraries.

Schools Consider radio on buses
Boston Globe
A company called BusRadio is marketing to school districts radio programming for school buses that includes advertisements and school districts would earn a percentage of the ad revenue based on the number of students on the bus.

Meeks: $50K could lure teachers to bad schools
Chicago Sun-Times
State Senator Meeks wants to offer proven, qualified teachers a $25,000 signing bonus to teach in hard to staff schools in Chicago.

U.S., State Reach Accord Hartford Courant
Thousands of veteran Connecticut schoolteachers whose qualifications were called into question by a recent U.S. government review will no longer have to worry about undergoing additional training or testing, education officials said Tuesday.

Inside The NYT Education Machine

Everybody thinks the Times' coverage is biased, focused on the wrong things, and generally off. At least that's what I get from the fascinating little Q and A with the Times' education editor that was posted earlier this month (Talk to the Newsroom). I wish there had been more about how the Times covers education, past controversies (Richard Rothstein, charter school coverage), and what direction it's heading in the future, but still it's still a useful peek inside the NYT machine. Via Eduwonk.

Internet Plagiarism Reduces Term Paper Assignments

If you can't beat 'em, find some other way to foil them, says this LA Times story about teachers' responses to high-tech cheating (Teachers Adjust Lesson Plans as Web Fuels Plagiarism): "Rather than spend all of their grading time trying to catch cheaters, teachers are changing their lesson plans."

6/21/2006

Which Is Worse -- Preschool Graduations, Or 8th Grade Ones?

Today's Boston Globe describes a "quiet backlash" among some parents and educators against increasingly-elaborate preschool and kindergarten graduation ceremonies: A rite of passage, with tears and fidgeting.

Meanwhile, Chicago-area educators and parents debate whether 8th grade graduation ceremonies are appropriate, given the expectation that kids graduate high school at least.

More Caving On HQT From USDE

There's just about two weeks until states are supposed to put in their revised highly qualified teacher plans. Today's Hartford Courant says that Connecticut's HOUSSE standard has been reviewed and approved by the USDE. Thirteen thousand veteran teachers get "highly qualified" in an instant. Big surprise.

For a slightly broader view of things, NPR overviews the current state of play here: States Struggle to Certify 'Qualified' Teachers

Morning Round-up, June 21, 2006

A Third of U.S. Dropouts Never Reach 10th Grade NYT
More than a third of high school dropouts across the nation leave school without ever going beyind the ninth grade, according to a report released here in Tuesday.

Big-city schools struggle
USA TODAY
Students in a handful of big-city school districts have a less than 50-50 chance of graduating from hih schol with their peers, and a few cities graduate far fewer than half each spring, according to research released on Tuesday.

Charter schools joining the mainstream
California Mercury News
A decade ago, charter schools existed largely on the fringes. Many were start-ups operating out of rented church basements - alternatives to failing urban schools that struggled to teach the basics.

Massachusetts Fluff Ban Update: A Political Kerfuffle Over Marshmallow Fluff NYT

The Alphabet Of Blog Posts

"One of the first things children learn are the ABCs," writes Why Homeschool. "In this carnival we have the alphabet of education. We hope you enjoy the variety of interesting posts." (The Carnival of Education: Alphabet Version)

Schools Trash Windows, Go "Open Source"

We all know that the software these days sometimes costs more than the computer or monitor, and this story in the Times (Free Ways to Do Desktop Work on the Web) reminded me that a little piece I wrote about schools migrating to open source software has just come out in Scholastic Administrator (Trash Windows, Go Open Source).

It's not just Firefox and Linux they're talking about, either. Online and otherwise, districts are saving thousands by using open source versions of Word, Photoshop, and PowerPoint -- and finding more and more open source instructional titles as well.

Is TFA Going To Be The Wal-Mart Of Education?

According to this article (TFA Surging in Popularity: ), Wendy Kopp's teacher recruitment and alt cert program has grown so big that it now "hopes to call itself the No. 1 employer of recent college graduates in the country." Wow. I have no idea if they're anywhere close -- I can't imagine they are, with Fortune 100 companies and giant law and consulting firms vacuuming up college grads right and left. But whether you're a fan of TFA or not, that's a pretty amazing objective.

6/20/2006

How Immigrants & Their Kids Fare

One of the least-noticed education stories from the past week has to be the NYT's weekend piece on how immigrants are likely to fare educationally. According to the piece, "children of immigrants complete more years of education than their native-born counterparts of similar socioeconomic backgrounds...still, it can take several generations for poor immigrant families to catch up to American norms." Check it out: Immigration Math: It's a Long Story

Laptops Lose

Handing out laptops in schools sounds like a great idea, but three articles last week describe programs that appear to have bleak futures due to funding and curriculum woes.

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In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Laptops-in-schools program in doubt demonstrates how Gov. Rendell and the Pennsylvania Department of Education want to start implementing the laptops-in-schools program before the funds are allocated in the legislature.

In the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Court rules against Cobb laptop program demostrates how the wording of a ballot itemthat specified the tax was for the purpose of updating computer lab stations used by all students caused the Georgia Supreme Court to rule against a measure where Cobb County was using the money for take-home laptop computers for middle and high school students.

In the comment section of Education Secretary supports laptop program by the AP, readers are concerned that intoducing laptops into classrooms will distract from the core parts of curriculum that are already suffering such as reading, mathematics and writing. (For those reasons, some Harvard biz school professors want to ban laptops.)

German Robots Win Robot World Cup

It sounds like the US fared no better in RoboCup than it's doing in the real thing: "The final whistle has blown on the 2006 RoboCup in Germany and it was the host machines that dominated the competition. China finished a close second with Japan in third." From: World Cup 2006 Blog

A Garden Grows In LA

It's easy to forget that School Me includes both blog posts and a weekly column by Bob Sipchen (aka the LA Times' Jay Mathews), but if you're sick of the NYT's Michael Winerip and have want to read some excellent writing about schools, check out this week's edition: Asphalt Is Easy: "Readers whose children don’t [attend public school] will be exasperated by the saga of 24th Street Elementary School’s struggle to plant a garden. Survivors of the LAUSD will be encouraged. I find myself flip-flopping." Check it out, and put School Me on your reading list.

The Shadowy World Of Education PR Companies

CommunicationWorks' Matt Maurer is part of the clubby world of education PR companies -- the folks who help package and present reports, help make sure that initiatives get press coverage, and generally try and connect their customers -- think tanks, foundations, advocacy groups -- with the mainstream press and the public.

On the HotSeat, Maurer won't say how much he charges his clients and won't talk about the recent CEP/New York Times fiasco (in which the Times broke or got leaked part of a CEP report on NCLB implementation, and the blogosphere went wild over how the report was presented). But he does remind us that the Associated Press -- not the NYT -- is the way to reach the most readers, talks some very mild trash about his competitors (Widmeyer, KSA-Plus), and says he wants EdWeek to give him equal time for the space they gave Widmeyer earlier this month.

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What’s your role at CommunicationWorks and who else is there at the company?

MM: I’m director of media relations, and I manage most of our larger projects and oversee all of our media projects. Shep Ranbom and Mary Callahan founded the company in 1997, and both have strong backgrounds in education and policy. Judith Weitz is another senior staff member who for many years was a state organizer and lobbyist for the Children’s Defense Fund, and who later founded KIDS COUNT.


How big is the company, in terms of revenues, clients, or whatever?

MM: We’re currently about 15 people, and we’ve probably worked with about 150 different clients in the last 10 years; though about 15-20 are usually active at any given time. Our estimated billings for this year are in the $2-2.5 million range.

What are some of your big clients these days, and what exactly do you do for them?

MM: We are working with the National Assessment Governing Board to release The Nation’s Report Card results of student achievement on NAEP. We’re also doing a lot of work with Achieve and its American Diploma Project Network, a group of 22 states working on high school reform.

What would you say has been your biggest success for a client?

MM: We’ve had a number of big successes, including overseeing communications for three National Education Summits, the most recent of which drew the attention of over 100 million Americans in 2005. But we’re also proud of the fact that we’ve been able to help launch a number of organizations and projects and help more established organizations make a real impact in policy and practice. Education Week’s Quality Counts report is a good example of something that was unknown 10 years ago but has since become an important benchmark for how well the states and the nation are faring in improving public education.

Regarding the Summit, how do you come up with those numbers?

MM: The numbers are based on an analysis of media coverage and include the official circulation and viewership figures for the media outlets that covered the Summit.

If you can’t get a New York Times story, what’s second best?

MM: I’d have to say “This Week In Education.” But really, at the risk of offending our good friends in New York, the Times isn’t always necessarily the ultimate hit. It depends on what kind of audience you are trying to reach. If you want to get to opinion leaders and influentials, you can’t beat the Times. But the Associated Press may be the one single outlet that reaches the most readers in the country, online and in print, period. USA Today probably reaches the largest number of “regular Americans,” and the Post is unparalleled for getting to the policy community and the Hill. And we haven’t even gotten to Oprah. So they’re all really important in different ways and that’s how we approach working with them.

What's your view on embargoes and exclusives? Use ‘em? Give ‘em?

MM: Exclusives might make sense under certain circumstances, but we don’t really like them, and we’ve rarely used them. We regularly use embargoes because, in releasing complex information to a broad range of reporters around country, everybody has equal access and equal time to dig into the material, which can make a big difference in the quality of reporting.

What makes CommunicationWorks different from any of the other communications firms in town (Widmeyer, KSA-Plus, etc.)?

MM: While other firms have chosen a growth model that calls for diversifying the client base (health care, technology, etc.), we’ve decided to expand within the education field to allow us to continually build from our strength – a deep and substantive expertise on the about issues, communications, and the field.

Do most clients pay for it out of their grant or have a budget line in their grant specifically for outreach?

MM: Many of the reports we release are supported by foundation grants, and normally those grants include resources that can be used for outreach. Most foundations know very well that it’s not enough just to conduct the research or write the report – you have to get it out there and make sure it gets attention from key audiences who are in position to affect – or be effected by – the findings.

Why do some reports land with a thud and others get used, referred to , etc.?

MM: So much of it depends on the value that the report offers to the field and the uniqueness and scope of the information it provides, and the bar has been raised in the last decade.

Is there just too much chatter out there for a report to break through?

MM: We talk to reporters and policy people all the time who simply cannot keep up with the glut of material they receive each week. The only way to make sure your report doesn’t get buried is to make sure that it provides critical new information on a major issue of the day – or an important issue that others have overlooked. Working with us doesn’t hurt, either.

Can you tell ahead of time whether a report is going to make a big splash, or is there still a big unknown element?

MM: You usually have a pretty good idea. There are some reports that we expect to get more play that don’t, depending on what else is happening in the world that day. I’ll never forget the time we released a report on the same day that the Monica Lewinsky/Linda Tripp tapes were released. So we understood why the networks weren’t calling. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some reports have a more limited reach and aren’t intended to be the next A Nation At Risk. But we work to ensure that those reports get the level of penetration and visibility they deserve.

What did you think of the Widmeyer column in EdWeek the other day, and EdWeek’s decision to run it?

MM: Well, I used to work for Scott and Ed Week is a client, so I can’t say anything bad, can I? I think Scott has a good point. Kind of what I was talking about earlier – the bar has been raised for what’s going to cut it in the education and communications marketplace, and you have to have evidence to back up your information and ideas in order to be credible, especially as the education space gets more complex and as media, consumers, providers, etc. develop a more sophisticated understanding of the issues. As far as Ed Week’s decision to run the piece, we’re now going to have to call them and ask for equal time.

Morning Round-up June 20, 2006

Let's get back to the blackboard Boston Globe
Tom Payzant pursued, at a reasonable pace, a set of research-based, nationally endorsed reform strategies, and these have had substantial impact. Yet in spite of all this, we are still a long way from achieving our goals of proficiency for all Boston students.

Baltimore School Chief Quits Amid Mystery NYT
The chief executive of the Baltimore school system, Bonnie S. Copeland, has submitted her resignation and neither Ms. Copeland nor officials would say why she is leaving.

New York asks curb to shocks at school
Boston Globe
New York regulators recommended severe limits yesterday on the use of electric shock and other painful punishments at a Massachusetts school for students with mental retardation, autism, and emotional problems.

Report card: 'F' for fatalities
Philadelphia Daily News
As the school year comes to an end, the city schools have been handed their own report card, and they flunked the critical issue of reducing school violence.

All About Teachers

Teach for America Surging in Popularity Washington Post
At sites around the country, the 17-year-old nonprofit has begun training about 2,400 recent graduates for two-year teaching stints in disadvantaged schools, nearly triple the figure in 2000.

Those who can, teach; those who teach well get awards Boston Globe
Take Oliver Sicat, a 27-year-old math teacher at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. He completed this year's Boston Marathon and raised $20,000 so he could buy laptops for all 20 of his college-bound seniors.

State seeks time to hit teacher goals
The Detroit News
The state is seeking a one-year extension on the June 30 deadline to get teachers to meet standards.

The AFT Blog & Eduwonk: Fire At Will!

I'm probably not the right person to point out that that the Eduwonk/AFT sniping has been on the rise these past few weeks, given how many times I 've gotten into it with Andy and mocked/been mocked by the AFTies. But these guys are real marathoners about it. AFT gets the edge for humor. Eduwonk wins when it comes to bite. Read at your own peril.

6/19/2006

Turning Schools Around, Part 3

Whether you're into school leadership, accountability, or any other element of school reform, you should check out the latest PBS NewsHour segment on Virginia's school turnaround specialist program (viewable online at The Turnaround Specialist). In just a brief segment, John Merrow shows both the enormity and the possibility of turning a school around.

Single Sex Classes/Schools To Rise

Get ready for the accelerated spread of single-sex classes and schools once Title IX regs are updated this summer, says a provocative article from the Chicago Tribune that reports 223 public schools with single sex classrooms (up from four eight years ago). You know lots of the arguments pro and con, but maybe you didn't see the NYT commentary on physiological differences between men and women that's increasingly being used to argue for single-sex formats: The Weaker Sex.

Morning Round-up June 19, 2006

A Memorial at Last for Columbine Killings NYT
Construction of a long-delayed and reduced memorial to the victims of the Columbine High School shootings began on Friday n a quiet spot between two hills in a park where students took refuge as chaos descended on April 20, 1999.

Can this spread be stopped? Boston Globe
The escalating war on junk food has targetd a new enemy -- that gooey, sugary, and often irresistible sandwich spread known to children everywhere as Fluff.

Race is still part of equation for equal education USA TODAY
The fight is no longer violent, of course - a measure of how far we have come - but its persistence shows how vast the gulf between the races remains.

How Schools Pay a (Very High) Price for Failing to teach Reading Properly
NYT
Federal disability law offers public school systems a stark choice: The schools can properly educate learning-disabled childre - or they can fork over the money to let private schools do the job.

6/18/2006

Week In Review (June 12-16)

The past week's best posts, all in one place:

Washington Watch
Margaret Spellings, Frequent Flyer
An Underwhelming Response

National News
Parents Gaming The System
Screening Teaching Applicants Via MySpace & Facebook
Temps Score FCATs In FLA
Can You Hear Me Now?
Pehaps Not All Affirmative Action Is Created Equal

Teachers
Iowa Caves On Praxis II
Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) Effectivenes
AFT-EdTrust Conflict Looming Over Teacher Quality
Merit, Performance, Combat Incentive Pay Trial And Error
Michigan Ed Schools Comply With Higher Education Act-Nine Years Later

NCLB News
Florida Sours On NCLB
Closing The NCLB Barn Door...Or Stemming The Tide
Florida Sours On NCLB

Blogging & Journalism
Scaring Parents To Sell Papers
Look, Ma-- I'm In The Washington Post
Great Education Journalism
NYT's David Brooks Joins The Boy Brigade

6/17/2006

Iowa Caves On Praxis II

The Des Moines Register notes that Iowa -- one of just three states in the nation that don't require a content test for new teachers (MT & NE are the others) -- has agreed to administer the Praxis II under pressure from the USDE: DesMoines Register

Parents Gaming The System

States, districts, and schools aren't the only ones who game the system as much as they can. Over at JoanneJacobs.com, there's a post about how some Ohio parents are signing up their kids for the last couple of days of the year at low-performing schools in order to qualify for vouchers to go to parochial schools: Who gets a voucher?

Margaret Spellings, Frequent Flyer

The Education Wonks (who have been charting Spellings' travel habits) point to a Ben Feller AP story about how much more than her predecessors Spellings has been travelling: Spellings Goes Overseas to Tout Education. To make his points, Feller digs out Taxpayers for Common Sense to criticize the expenses, and Christopher Cross to defend the need.

For what it's worth, Spellings is apparently staying in the country this week. She's got four official events, in DC and Minnesota.

6/16/2006

Scaring Parents To Sell Papers

"Bunkmate pranks, dirty jokes and misinformation about the facts of life are still part of camp, camp directors and other experts say," according to the fear-mongering NYT (For Campers, New Facts of Life). "But now fears of inappropriate touching and misuse of cellphones and digital cameras have been added to the list of discussion topics."

The Decline Of Choice, The Rise Of Vouchers

Over at Eduwonk, guestblogger Dianne Piche posts about how the NCLB choice requirement has been woefully under-implemented: "There are too few voices out there arguing to keep and strengthen NCLB's transfer provisions, especially given all the resistance, whining and waiver-seeking going on. " She also points out (in a subsequent post this AM) that even while public school choice has fallen off the radar for many folks, once-taboo ideas like vouchers are making inroads in some Democratic circles. It's an interesting notion, and I think that the two trends may be somewhat related: the "failure" of NCLB transfers creates interest and demand in other choice based options.

Morning Round-up June 16, 2006

Suicide-Risk Tests for Teens Debated Washington Post
A growing number of U.S. schools are screening teenagers for suicidal tendencies or signs of mental illness, triggering a debate between those who seek to reduce the toll of youthful suicides and others who say the tests are unreliable and intrude on family privacy.

Miami-Dade School Board Bans Cuba Book
NYT
A children's book about Cuba will be removed from Miami-Dade County school libraries because a parent objected to its contents, saying it contains deceptive information and paints an idealistic picture of life in Cuba.

New teachers will have to pass test
DesMoines Register
This comes after officials from the U.S. Department of Education threatened to withhold millions of dollars in grants because the state's licensing system did not include a content-based test.

6/15/2006

Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) Effectiveness

On Monday, June 12 the Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran Will more teachers accept merit pay? This article talks about how teachers of Waseca, Minn. rejected the test run of TAP in their schools. Reasons they site for their choice are: the teachers didn't like the evaluation process, the added workload, the pay differences and the fact the program negatively effected the team atmosphere and created a more indivdual, competitive one.

I am not trying to say that the TAP program has been unsuccessful, but I would have liked to have heard Solmon address these concerns at the event~What You Missed At the Shanker Institute Forum On Performance Pay


Florida Sours On NCLB

The St. Petersburg Times reports that state officials including Jeb Bush are miffed at how schools are being rated under NCLB in response to the latest ratings being released: State: Gap grows in how schools graded. This is apparently a far cry from last year, when state officials were "praising the law and winning concessions from the federal government on how to measure student achievement." (via edspresso)

"Not So Fast" On N-Sizes, Says NSBA

The NSBA Blog bravely comes out against tightening up on state subgroup sizes -- urging caution on the part of Congress and essentially (implicitly?) defending the USDE's performance. The official statement is here. They also point out that NCLB requires states to publicly report subgroups’ performance even if the number of students is too small to include in the AYP calculations.

Merit, Performance, Combat Incentive Pay Trial And Error

Incentive pay enters classroom Dallas Morning News
Texas teachers are embaarking on a massive,quarter-billion-dollar experiment to find out whether big bonuses can produce big gains in student achievement, despite criticism that such plans are largely unproven.

Will more teachers accept merit pay?
Star Tribune (Minn.)
Waseca teachers overwhelmingly voted to scrap the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) because of the numerous problems, especially resentment over pay differences.

Patrick proposal would reward school performance, not teachers
Boston Globe
Democrative gubernatorial candidate Deval L. Patrick will unviel a plan today to reward entire schools for performance instesad of individual teachers.

6/14/2006

Temps Score FCATs In FLA

"The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported this week that hundreds of the temporary workers hired to grade the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test have no apparent experience as educators or degrees in a field related to the academic subjects they are grading." FCAT scoring is accurate, governor insists (via DA Daily)

Sternberg Vs. Spellings, The Timeline

In honor of Betty Sternberg's announced departure from the CT state superintendent's job, there's a fun blow-by-blow timeline of the Spellings-Sternberg back and forth over at District Administration magazine: Timeline of a Waiver Request. No, the long-threatened lawsuit still hasn't been filed. I doubt it ever will be.

AFT-EdTrust Conflict Looming Over Teacher Quality

Over at The Chalkboard, Joe Williams picks out a telling comment in a recent Cleveland Plain Dealer story that highlights the looming conflict over teacher quality issues between the EdTrust and the AFT: Tiring of Haycock?

Basically, it seems like the AFT is OK with the EdTrust and others when they stick to describing problems with the distribution and quality of teachers, but increasingly uncomfortable with proposed solutions. (See my post from last week for links to the critical responses from the AFT Blog and the AFT itself.) But that's not going to work for the EdTrust.

Partisanship In The House Education Committee

A day after an amicable House hearing on NCLB (see Dianee Piche's description here), Republican Committee Chair Buck McKeon took his Democratic colleagues to task on other education issues: "On education, the Democrat hypocrisy is striking,” said McKeon in a Press Release.

What To Do About NBPTS?

Over at Ed Knows Policy, Ed takes school reformers to task for not coming to terms with the poor NBPTS results and wants EdWeek's Bess Keller to do better in reporting the response to the NBPTS findings: Educators agree to ignore research.

"Why do we even bother doing research when the education world just chooses to believe what they believe as an article of faith?" asks Ed. ""Why didn't [reporter Bess Keller quote] the state legislators and school board members who pony up extra money for Board certification and those who hire teachers to comment...?"

End-of-Year Carnival of Blog Posts

This week's Carvnival of blog posts is up and running over at What It's Like on the Inside: End of Year Staff Party

Closing The NCLB Barn Door...or Stemming The Tide?

Wondering which states have been denied lately in their efforts to push for bigger subgroups (and fewer schools not making AYP)? According to the USDE, six states that have been denied include AK (moving from differentiated group size of 20/40 to 25 for all kids in 06-07), as well as IL, MI, AL, NV, and OK (all requested for a higher n-size that was "not supported by data." The Spellings letter also indicates that the Department intends to ban differentiated group sizes like AK'S at some point in the future.

Morning Round-up June 14, 2006

Agency to Examine 'No Child' Loophole AP
Under pressure from lawmakers, the Bush administration outlined plans Tuesday to examine why some states are excluding huge numbers of children when reporting test scores.

Poor Students Were Charged for Free Tests, Inquiry
Finds NYT
Three of the city's most elite hish schools improperly charged poor students a total of $180,000 over several years to take Advanced Placement exams.

Bush education policy to miss goals: Harvard study
Reuters
U.S. President George W. Bush's signature No Child Left Behind educatoin policy is failing to close racial achievement gaps and will miss its goals by 2014 according to recent trends, a Harvard study said Wednesday

No Change on No Child Harford
Courant
Sternberg, who gained national atttention as state education commissioner for her staunch opposition to elements of the federal law, will pursue her own vision of school reform as she takes over one of Connecticut's wealthiest school systems.

An Underwhelming Response

Under what seems like increasing Congressional pressure, Secretary Spellings has now promised to stop approving AYP gimmicks in the future and to gather state and local officials together three months from now to talk about it some more. That's it. There's no promise of any immediate action to roll back unwarranted n-sizes or rein in confidence intervals, or even a review of past approvals. The only crumb of action is news, tucked into a footnote of the letter Spellings sent the Committee Tuesday night (see below), is that the Department is seeking to ban states from continuing to have larger n-sizes for ELL and SPED kids than for other kids.

Read More...

The AP article is here (Agency to Examine 'No Child' Loophole).

The letter from Spellings to McKeon can be found here.

The Simon testimony is here:

ORAL TESTIMONY FOR DEPUTY SECRETARY RAYMOND SIMON

Before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Good morning. Chairman McKeon, Congressman Miller and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me today to discuss the No Child Left Behind Act and the state accountability systems on which it relies. We start off in agreement. We agree with the Chairman that the law has been a “positive step forward for students, teachers, parents, and taxpayers.” And we agree with Congressman Miller that the law “is making a difference.” I hope my testimony will be useful as you consider its reauthorization.

You deserve to know whether the No Child Left Behind Act is working as intended. I am here to report that it is. Across the country, test scores in reading and math in the early grades are rising, and the “achievement gap” is finally beginning to close. Students once left behind, I am pleased to say, are now leading the way, making some of the fastest progress.

We know this because No Child Left Behind measures the academic performance of all students through testing. And we know it because the law breaks down these results by student subgroup—African American, Hispanic, students with disabilities, the economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient and more.

This disaggregation of data, as it’s known, is at the heart of the law. It shines a bright light of accountability on our schools for all parents and taxpayers to see. And it allows teachers to catch students before they fall behind.

To see where we are today, it’s important to know where we came from. Prior to the law’s passage, schools were not held accountable for the performance of student subgroups. Only a handful were disaggregating data for SOME students for accountability purposes. Reading/language arts and math assessments were only required three times in a student’s entire K-12 education. And some states did not participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

All that has changed. Today, parents know more, teachers know more, Congress knows more and the U.S. Department of Education knows more. Every state and the District of Columbia has a school accountability plan, reading and math assessments, and data broken down by subgroup. We are light-years ahead of where we were five years ago.

This data is helping us determine whether we’re making adequate yearly progress toward our primary mission: all students at grade level in reading and math by 2014.

This effort depends on valid and reliable accountability systems that accurately reflect student performance while protecting student privacy. The No Child Left Behind Act allows states to set a minimum number in defining a student subgroup, called an “n-size.” Congress recognized the need to ensure accuracy and avoid distortions when, to quote the law, “the number of students in a category is insufficient to yield statistically reliable information.”

This numerical floor varies from state to state. Most states use an n-size of about 30-40 students per school. Taken together, about 25 million more students are currently accounted for—a huge increase over pre-NCLB levels.

But the question naturally arises: due to n-sizes alone, are there some students being left behind? The answer is no. Even when, say, only four Hispanic students are enrolled in a school, those students’ test scores may, depending on the student, be counted in a second, third or fourth subgroup—such as Limited English Proficient or economically disadvantaged—that exceeds the n-size minimum. Their scores are also counted toward the school district’s performance in that subgroup.

Finally, and most importantly, in schools such as Frankford Elementary in Delaware and Centennial Place Elementary represented by Principal Kuhlman with us today, their scores are reviewed individually by teachers. These teachers, and those in thousands of other schools across the country that have truly adopted the mission of No Child Left Behind, use test results to guide instruction and use their individual and collective creativity to focus with laser-like precision to tap the strengths and identify the weaknesses of each child.

Thus, the law, with built-in redundancies partnering with creative teachers, enable us to get as close to 100 percent accountability as we possibly can.

It is a delicate balancing act to develop a state accountability system that’s both valid and reliable —or, put another way, fair and accurate. The good news is that as the number of students tested has risen, achievement data has become more reliable.

This is why we have taken a firm stance against calls to increase n-size minimums, approving just one state’s request so far this year. We want to ensure that children are counted in every possible way.

Our decisions also take into account the reliability of a state’s system for reporting and collecting data. In many states, this infrastructure is still being built and aligned with the law. I thank Congress for providing tens of millions of dollars in grants for this effort. The Department is building and improving its own data system, called EdFacts, and we will share what works as we go along.

Our goal is to work closely with states to maximize the inclusion of students in all subgroups while maintaining public confidence in accountability. To this end, the Department is planning to host a national technical assistance conference later this year for state assessment and accountability directors, in concert with our Assessment and Accountability Comprehensive Centers. With full testing under NCLB now underway, we will work with states to acquire new impact data on school and student inclusion rates and discuss with them a process for justifying how their specific n-size is necessary for valid and reliable results.

The Secretary is also finalizing the creation of an NCLB sounding board, which will be made up of local and state educators, concerned advocates (such as business people) and researchers. The purpose of this board is to request feedback on NCLB implementation. One of the first issues, Secretary Spellings will have this board discuss and offer their perspectives on is the issue of n-size and how the Department and states can ensure that schools are held accountable to the maximum extent possible for student achievement.

In the meantime, we will continue to follow the core principles of No Child Left Behind as we help states leverage the law into improved academic performance. And, I know I speak for the Secretary when I say that we look forward to collaborating with Congress as well.

Thank you, and I will be happy to answer any questions.

6/13/2006

Look, Ma -- I'm In The Washington Post!

This won't be new to everyone, but the Washington Post and a handful of other papers have started including a "Who's Blogging This Article?" feature, which as you can see mentions this site (and several others) in connection to a story from earlier in the week. That way, Post readers can check out some blogs, and bloggers can see who else is stealing their ideas (or whatever). The NYT version of this same sort of blog-meets-newpaper thing doesn't tell you who's blogging particular stories, but it tells you which stories are most blogged-about (and emailed and searched).

Bilingualism Revisited

As this CSM article describes, "increased attention to immigration on Capitol Hill, including an amendment in the recent Senate bill that would declare English the national language, is again putting focus a growing immigrant population." (Bilingualism issue rises again).

Previous posts:
Immigrant Students Rally For Their Parents
Where Immigration Reform Meets Education

A Little Bit Of Backup

Policy Guy has some problems with NCLB (who doesn't?) but seems to agree with the basic point in my National Review article that taking the edges off of NCLB hasn't necessarily helped improve things for schoolchildren: About the SES pilot program that lets districts provide their own tutoring, he says: "If this pilot program is expanded, much of the value of NCLB will have been wiped out. It will have turned into just another story in the story of putting more money into the sane old system."

Michigan Ed Schools Comply With Higher Education Act -- Nine Years Later

If you're ever worried that federal school rating and accountability mechanisms are too tough (rather than too weak), check out this Detroit News story about how Michigan schools of education might finally complying with a 1997 Higher Education Act requirement: Teacher colleges may get own grade. "By identifying low-performing [education] schools, the state would comply with a federal requirement for the first time." Not that compliance has meant much; most states game the ed school rating system by only enrolling candidates who have already passed the test.

Great Education Journalism

Congrats to Burt Hubbard, Nancy Mitchell, Holly Yettick and Jennifer Miller of the Rocky Mountain News for winning (yet another) journalism award for their series, "Early Exit: Denver's Graduation Gap."

According to the citation from the Casey Journalism Center, "This enlightening, comprehensive package may be the most precise and nuanced statistical portrait of dropouts that has yet been done in a big-city school system."

Perhaps Not All Affirmative Action Is Created Equal

According to this Jeffrey Rosen piece, apparently, there are circumstances in which some conservatives think that affirmative action might be OK: Perhaps Not All Affirmative Action Is Created Equal. "There is a vigorous debate among prominent Republican judges and legal scholars about whether racial balancing in public schools is an acceptable form of affirmative action. Some conservatives believe that racial balancing plans, while not colorblind, are still constitutional."

Morning Round-up June 13, 2006

U.S. Gived Charter Schools a Big Push in New Orleans NYT
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced MOnday that $24 million in federal aid had been awarded to Louisiana for the development of charter schools, more than double what the state has already recieved to help create such schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Pairing a Diploma With Associate's Degree
Washington Post
Programs that allow students to earn college credit while in hih school sound as if they have been designed for the smartest, most ambitious teens. But that's not necessarily so.

Eye-catching system helps students read Miami Herald
Dozens of Miami-Dade schools are diagnosing reading problems by using infrared goggles that chart how students' eye move.

Fast Learners Benefit From Skipping Grades, Report Concludes
Washington Post
The report says that America's school system keeps bright students in line by forcing them to learn in lock-step manner with their classmates.

The headline that made me laugh: "Safe" social networking sites emerge eSchool News

Immigrant Students Rally For Their Parents

It's far from the first story on how immigration reform could affect students and their families, but it's a good one: Children of Immigrants Take to the Streets for Their Parents' Sake (NYT). "Even after nine years, she has not forgotten the paranoia, the sleepless nights and the tearful phone calls after immigration agents picked up her father at work and deported him to Mexico."

Screening Teaching Applicants Via MySpace & Facebook

Wonder what that teaching aide or prospective 3rd grade teacher is really like? Check out their MySpace and Facebook profile. Lots of folks are doing it: For Some, Online Persona Undermines a Resume (NYT). Including a handful in Illinois.

6/12/2006

Spellings A No-Show On House Witness List

To what I'm sure will be the dismay of some observers, it looks like the 2nd House education committee hearing is going to focus on the "secret AYP loophole" issue that the Associated Press gave such prominence.

It's scheduled for Tuesday at 1030 in Rayburn 2175 and the witness list so far includes Ray Simon from USDE and Ron Peiffer from the Maryland SDE. (Given that it's been on Spellings' watch that the subgroup sizes and other games have grown wildly, I'm not surprised she's a no-show.)

According to her official schedule, Spellings is busy that morning speaking at the National Kinder Excellence Teaching Award Press Conference at the Willard Hotel.

UPDATE: I'm sure not everyone will agree with what I have to say, but the National Review Online has just posted my latest piece on Margaret Spellings: The Near-Death Of NCLB.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Check out this NYT story (via DA Daily) about a new high-pitched rington that some kids are using to evade cellphone and text message bans. Apparently most adults can't hear it: A Ring Tone Meant to Fall on Deaf Ears. You can also listen to the tone here: The High-Pitched Ring Tone. All I heard was a high pitched whistle -- very annoying.

Morning round-up June 12, 2006

Spelling Gutting National Review Online
A few weeks ago when an Associated Press story revealed that more than half the states had created gaping loopholes in No Child Left Behind's strict school-rating system--with the approval of the U.S. Department of Education--the press and members of the Congress on both sides of the aisle were quick to decry the situation and call for an immediate fix.

More will be left behind if tutoring is not utilized Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
In far too many places, it's not the parents' fault or an oversight that's to blame. It is the people in charge of the schools, who, in far too many cases, think that the money set aside for free tutoring is money that ought to stay with their school and disctricts instead - that it's their money to manage as they see fit.

Testing Kid's Web Smarts
Harford Courant
Do they have the reading skills they need to explore the wide-open, uncharted world of the internet?

The headline that made me laugh: A Ring tone Meant to Fall on Deaf Ears NYT

NYT's David Brooks Joins The Boy Brigade

Is it hard for women to see boys sympathetically when it comes to education? Is it hard for men to see them otherwise? The thought occurs because, according to my informal scorecard, there are now at least people on the "pro" side of the boys-need-different-teaching argument, and one person against. Those on the pro side are USA Today's Richard Whitmire (Boy Trouble) and -- as of today, columnist David Brooks (see below for the full text). On the con side sits Ann Hulbert from Slate (Will Boys Be Boys?). For lots of past posts about boys look here.

Read More...

Here's the Brooks column:

There are three gender-segregated sections in any airport: the restrooms, the security pat-down area and the bookstore. In the men's sections of the bookstore, there are books describing masterly men conquering evil. In the women's sections there are novels about well, I guess feelings and stuff.

The same separation occurs in the home. Researchers in Britain asked 400 accomplished women and 500 accomplished men to name their favorite novels. The men preferred novels written by men, often revolving around loneliness and alienation. Camus's ''The Stranger,'' Salinger's ''Catcher in the Rye'' and Vonnegut's ''Slaughterhouse-Five'' topped the male list.

The women leaned toward books written by women. The women's books described relationships and are a lot better than the books the men chose. The top six women's books were ''Jane Eyre,'' ''Wuthering Heights,'' ''The Handmaid's Tale,'' ''Middlemarch,'' ''Pride and Prejudice'' and ''Beloved.''

There are a couple of reasons why the two lists might diverge so starkly. It could be men are insensitive dolts who don't appreciate subtle human connections and good literature. Or, it could be that the part of the brain where men experience negative emotion, the amygdala, is not well connected to the part of the brain where verbal processing happens, whereas the part of the brain where women experience negative emotion, the cerebral cortex, is well connected. It could be that women are better at processing emotion through words.

Over the past two decades, there has been a steady accumulation of evidence that male and female brains work differently. Women use both sides of their brain more symmetrically than men. Men and women hear and smell differently (women are much more sensitive). Boys and girls process colors differently (young girls enjoy an array of red, green and orange crayons whereas young boys generally stick to black, gray and blue). Men and women experience risk differently (men enjoy it more).

It could be, in short, that biological factors influence reading tastes, even after accounting for culture. Women who have congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which leads to high male hormone secretions, are more likely to choose violent stories than other women.

This wouldn't be a problem if we all understood these biological factors and if teachers devised different curriculums to instill an equal love of reading in both boys and girls.

The problem is that even after the recent flurry of attention about why boys are falling behind, there is still intense social pressure not to talk about biological differences between boys and girls (ask Larry Summers). There is still resistance, especially in the educational world, to the findings of brain researchers. Despite some innovations here and there, in most classrooms boys and girls are taught the same books in the same ways.

Young boys are compelled to sit still in schools that have sacrificed recess for test prep. Many are told in a thousand subtle ways they are not really good students. They are sent home with these new-wave young adult problem novels, which all seem to be about introspectively morose young women whose parents are either suicidal drug addicts or fatally ill manic depressives.

It shouldn't be any surprise that according to a National Endowment for the Arts study, the percentage of young men who read has plummeted over the past 14 years. Reading rates are falling three times as fast among young men as among young women. Nor should it be a surprise that men are drifting away from occupations that involve reading and school. Men now make up a smaller share of teachers than at any time in the past 40 years.

Dr. Leonard Sax, whose book ''Why Gender Matters'' is a lucid guide to male and female brain differences, emphasizes that men and women can excel at any subject. They just have to be taught in different ways. Sax is a big believer in single-sex schools, which he says allow kids to open up and break free from gender stereotypes. But for most kids it would be a start if they were assigned books they might actually care about. For boys, that probably means more Hemingway, Tolstoy, Homer and Twain.

During the 1970's, it was believed that gender is a social construct and that gender differences could be eliminated via consciousness-raising. But it turns out gender is not a social construct. Consciousness-raising doesn't turn boys into sensitively poetic pacifists. It just turns many of them into high school and college dropouts who hate reading.

6/10/2006

Week In Review June 5-12