September 24 2004 Edition

House Parties Galore (NCLB): While no one invited me to one, “house parties” about education were apparently happening all across the country this week, courtesy of the NEA among other organizations. It sounds pretty gimmicky to me, but you can read about what you missed (or did) here: House Parties Will Focus On Education (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Parties Seek to Put Education on Agenda (ABC News), House parties seek attention for schools (CNN), and my favorite for hyperbole: Largest mobilization ever for public education occurs tonight (The News & Observer).

Nonetheless, NCLB continues to get not much more than a mention from the Presidential candidates: President shifts focus of education summit (Philadelphia Inquirer), Bush Carries His Attack Against Kerry to Pennsylvania (New York Times), and Kerry-Edwards 2004: Bush Has Failed America's Students (US Newswire). There will likely be no more than one education question or reference in the entire debate, and a cursory one at that. The Choice on Schooling (Washington Post) boils it all down in a single column.

Weighing NCLB and What's Next? There were a slew of reports and books and commentary issued this week, all attempting to weigh the impact and potential of NCLB: A book edited by Debbie Meier: Many Children Left Behind, a column by Bob Kuttner: A broken promise to children (Boston Globe), and one by Jesse Jackson: School 'reforms' flunk reality test (Chicago Sun Times). The only positive one of the bunch comes from the Ed Trust and the National Association of Black Educators: Closing the Gap: NCLB (Education Trust).

There's also a new website out there this week, full of real-world (but mostly negative) examples of how NCLB is affecting schools and kids. Grassroots it's not, despite the name. The site might include some of these stories from the past week: Exam privatization threatens public schools (CorpWatch.com), Districts Tackling Truancy with New Zeal, Pitching the Quick Fix (Baltimore Sun), No Child Left Behind: It's Working PDF (Business Roundtable), Schools expected to miss U.S. goals (Houston Chronicle), Schools Vying For Share Of Tutoring Funds (Washington Post), Tutoring Spinoff of Sylvan Expects IPO of 15 Million Shares this Week (Baltimore Sun), NCLB Choice Requirement Hindered by Lack of Options (ECS), NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

In the meantime, more and more folks are coming out with their suggestions for how to change NCLB, including ways of measuring schools’ progress from year to year – which ironically is not measured that well in the current definition of “adequate yearly progress”: No Child Left Behind Act Changes Weighed (Education Week), Kennedy Bill Would Give States, Districts Leeway (Education Week), No Child Left Behind loophole (Palm Beach Post), Ex-education chief suggests fixes to No Child Left Behind (WKAAL TV). Meanwhile, the budget process moves on, including a $1 billion increase for Title I: Senate bill raises Education Department's budget (Education Week). But who knows what happens next, if anything: Even Education Legislation Grinds to a Halt (Education Week).

A Perfect Storm? (Charters and NCLB): There are two new reports out from ECS about charters and NCLB, reform efforts that intersect in “corrective action,” the NCLB rating category in which where schools that have been struggling for many a year have to be closed, taken over, or converted to charters. ECS Paper: Charters Can Help Meet 'No Child' Demands (Education Week). Or you can read the papers directly, here and here. To be sure, charters can help with the transfer provision among other things. But starting new charters in vacant office space is a tremendous challenge already; only braver souls than I would think about starting a new charter on top of the ashes of a beloved but dysfunctional neighborhood elementary school that has been closed by the Man.

Unrelated to NCLB, not everyone is having such a fine time with charters -- even charter supporters: Charters Seen As Worsening Budget Woes (Buffalo News), Line separating school, private firm is blurred (Austin American-Statesman). Perhaps most interesting of all is the internal debate going on within the charter school movement about whether charters are better off operating inside traditional school districts or keeping their ‘outsider’ status by being sponsored by nondistrict organizations: The charter revolution is come . . . and gone? (Gadfly).

In the meantime, two new upbeat case studies about charter schools in NYC and Indianapolis came out from PPI: Charter schools in Indy praised (Indianapolis Star-Tribune), Think Tank: N.Y. Charter Schools Succeed (Boston Globe), Report Lauds Charter School Successes (Albany times Union), or directly at Seeds of Change in the Big Apple: Chartering Schools in New York City, Fast Break in Indianapolis: A New Approach to Charter Schooling.

Critiques, Shout-Downs, Stakeouts, and More (Renaissance 2010 Chicago):
It was not a great week for Chicago's proposed new small schools reform plan, even though the Board approved it on Wednesday:
Renaissance 2010 Plan Approved At Board Meeting ( NBC5), New Plan Eliminates Underperforming Schools (WBBM), Chicago approves school reform policy (Chicago Sun Times), City Oks plan for 100 new schools (Chicago Daily Southtown). There was some fairly good news about small schools, which are at the heart of Ren10: New small schools rated safer, more cooperative (Sun-Times). But that was about it.

First the Chicago Teachers Union finally came out with its analysis of the plan (which is actually pretty well-written): Teachers union comes out against mayor's school plan (Sun-Times), Union takes shot at schools plan (Chicago Tribune). You can see the real deal at http://www.ctunet.com/. Then, a strange and incomplete list of potential Ren10 design teams came out, full of names that many folks here have never heard of and missing names that many would have expected: City school ideas delve into unusual (Tribune), 50 groups ask to open Renaissance 2010 school (Sun Times). Where's the real Ren10 list?

Things peaked on Wednesday with all the protests over the board's approval of the plan and the creation of new “TACs” (transitional advisory councils) to help select new schools: Protesters rally after board approves Renaissance 2010 (WLS). TACs are essentially precursor versions of watered-down LSCs, and, for a moment during the board meeting when the TACs were being introduced, I was worried that community members and protesters in the audience were going to start calling TAC members out for going along with a plan that will likely eliminate LSCs at those schools.

Later on came the stakeout of CPS mastermind David Vitale’s house: Schools' 'Hidden Hand' Targeted (Chicago Sun-Times).

SIDEBAR: Some of the current uproar surrounding the role of Vitale, the “hidden hand” behind the on-again, off-again Mid-South plan and Ren10, reminds me of a few years ago in San Diego, where the superintendent, Alan Bersin, brought in part-time NYC carpetbagger Tony Alvarado as the architect of his controversial Blueprint reform plan. For a time, Alvarado was not around that much, and sometimes refused to appear in public to defend his plan. (There's a Catalyst story about this in the archives.) Now Vitale is no Alvarado, but he doesn't seem to show up at public meetings very much, which among other things makes targeting him a powerful way to demonize Ren10.

Finally, CPS released the number of schools on probation -- a necessary and good thing in many ways but in the current context yet another incursion on local school control and an immediate concern to schools worried about being closed down and Ren10-ized: Record Number Of Schools On Probation (WBBM), Record number of city schools on probation (Sun Times), Mixed results (Chicago Daily Southtown), and 130 more schools put on probation (Chicago Tribune). Probation schools, like most of the new small schools under Ren10, won't have fully functioning LSC. Pretty soon, CPS is going to be no more than half and half when it comes to who has LSCs and who doesn't. And we're all still waiting for the transparent school closing plan.

The national press covered a little bit of the overall dispute, as in
Chicago hope: 'Maybe this will work' (Christian Science Monitor), and A renaissance in the Windy City? (Gadfly). The relationship between Ren10 and other reform efforts in Chicago also got some space from Mike Lach: Take Me Out: Ren10 vs. Instruction (TeachandLearn.org).

New and Notable (National):
California district wins public education prize (Associated Press)
California district wins big prize for reform efforts Los Angeles Times
Report: Obese kids costs schools millions MSNBC
Saving the smart kids Time
Report: Grade-skipping Helps Gifted Kids Des Moines Register
More Opt for Spanish GED Rocky Mountain News
Ex-Superintendent in New York City System Faked Credentials Newsday
Is the Comprehensive High School Doomed? Education Week
How to Measure What You Learned in College Washington Post
The liberal college conspiracy (Salon.com)
Low-income students scarce at elite colleges USA
TodayBoarding schools offer a sense of community to poor students The Washington Post
Bouncing Among Shelters and Among City Schools (NYT)
Budget woes force curriculum cuts at elite Brooklyn school New York Times
Beyond Zero Tolerance American School Board Journal
Falling Behind Education Next
Does Teacher Certification Really Matter? The Mackinac Center for Public Policy
Girl Power: Why Girls Don't Need the Women's Educational Equity Act Heritage
Software Tutors Offer Help And Customized Hints New York Times
Study: U.S. Teens Have Big Hopes, Average Skills USA Today
School report nails mediocrity Oregonian
Textbook Prices Soar Washington Post
Teacher policy follies: ten top errors Education Gadfly

Chicago Illinois:
Instructional Areas: Supersize Me TeachandLearn.org
Governor names new state ed board FarmWeek
Schools chief still in post, but replaced Chicago Sun Times
New schools chief comes through 'revolving door' Chicago Daily Herald
State schools chief is history Chicago Tribune Schools Target Problem Students Tribune
Truancy Fight Refocuses On Parents Tribune
Schools may drop race policy Chicago Tribune
Mom faces trial for boy's truancy Tribune

School Life:
A Nostalgic France Looks to the Era of the Dunce Cap New York Times


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