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Criticism Of EdWeek's AFT Story

There's been some interesting pushback against EdWeek's story about the declining influence of the AFT -- not all of it coming from the union.  First, Joe Williams at The Chalkboard said that maybe the story had got things wrong (ie, backwards).  Now, the AFT blog points to various signs that the union might actually be not just alive but thriving -- including a recent report from the research arm of EdWeek itself. 

My only contribution is to wonder whether the article is the product of someone -- the reporter Vaishali Honawar (pictured) or an editor -- pushing to make a dramatic story.  Conspiracists will note that someone with the same name has a bunch of Washington Times bylines.  Needless to say, the proof will be in whether any of the charter-cap and transfer rule provisions in the Bush NCLB proposal -- not to speak of the voucher requirement -- get anywhere near being enacted. 

UPDATE: A couple more concerns about the story itself -- namely the use of several blind quotes in a row from inside AFT and the notion that NCLB didn't include much by way of AFT influences. That having been said, I did write in the Fall of 2005 that "nearly 10 years after Al Shanker’s death, the AFT is nowhere near where it once was." My issue is not with the general thesis but with the cumulative weight given to it in the piece.

UPDATE 2: Late but basically in agreement with the above, Eduwonk Andy weighs in Cheap Shot?. Yes, defending the AFT. I know.

UPDATE 3: Someone from the EPE research center writes in to point out that the AFT's ranking in the Influences report was for the last 10 years, not the present moment, meaning I guess that it would have been higher in 1997 and lower today.

UPDATE 4: Sherman Dorn, who as usual insists on always telling us where he is and how he's feeling, weighs in here (Sherman Dorn: Much Ado about the AFT) to say that he, too, thinks there are too many unnamed (and old) quotes. And that he's on his way somewhere.

The Other Kind Of Pay For Performance

Along with the recent spread of teacher-focused PFP experiments has come a similar slew of initiatives focused on paying kids (and their parents) for doing helpful things like passing tests and improving attendance. Here, Joanne Jacobs describes the latest (Paying students for performance). Recently, NYC major Bloomberg proposed paying parents for students' attendance -- something that apparently worked quite well in Mexico.

Quick NCLB Reauthorization Not Looking Likely - Still

I was one of the first guesstimators on the block to predicat that NCLB reauthorization would get delayed, and if anything the situation seems worse now than ever.

What makes me say that? Most of all, it's that the Administration decided to roll out its reauthorization proposal now, on the heels of the State Of The Union, instead of waiting for the budget proposal next week, or waiting for the Baker Plan Aspen Institute Commission report next month, or -- God forbid -- developing a joint plan with Congressional Democrats.

Maybe they wanted to do one of these things, but were rebuffed or their hand was forced. Maybe there were other imperatives, or distractions. And, to be sure, rolling their plan out now allows them to do what they did for many months on the Iraq War -- say "we've got a plan, where's yours?"

But it also means that they get beat up on, since they're the only ones out there. It's not a very bipartisan way of going about things, and some of the provisions are pretty inflammatory (ie, over-riding charter caps and teacher transfer provisions). All this could slow things down and make things more contentious, though it may affect the outcome very little.

The 104th Carnival of Education

The Carnival of Education is up at The Median Sib and it's a good one. Great pictures, such as this one that represents the category "School Governance and Edupolicy," and it has some great posts:

EdWonk at The Education Wonks tells us about a Rhode Island Catholic school that has adopted a silent lunch policy in ”The School of Silence.”

Patrick at The Psychology of Education looks at a new book that addresses “shadow children” and what the author claims is the #1 problem in education.

Look for next week's carnival right here at This Week In Education. Posts should be emailed to thisweekineducation@gmail.com by 9 PM EST, 6 PM PT on Tuesday, February 6th.

Minority 12th Graders Vs. White 8th Graders -- Who Scores Higher?

This month's Education Writers Association newsletter (here) digs into the oft-cited statistic that black and Hispanic 12th-graders perform academically at the level of white eighth-graders, based on a report comparing NAEP scores of those two groups. Based on a listserve discussion among reporters, the newsletter describes how several reporters questioned whether the test scores between eighth-graders and 12th-graders could be compared, talked to experts about the issue, a figured out what to do with the conflicting responses they got. Very interesting stuff -- that EWA listserve is great, I hear.

Future Forces Affecting Education

I'm conflicted, I admit it. Sometimes I want big ideas and complain at the small-mindedness we all get stuck in, and other times I'm overwhelmed by big ideas I can't really grasp. Looking at this KnowledgeWorks/ Institute For the Future map is one of the latter times, unfortunately. Called the Map of Future Forces Affecting Education, the map (a 2-pp PDF, actually) charts dilemmas and trends in various categories. Let me know if you find anything good on it, and thanks to the friend who sent it in to me. Here's the site. Clearly I need more coffee.

Morning Round-Up (January 31)

House Approves Plan to Cut Student Loan Rates AP
The House of Representatives approves a bill to cut student loan interest rates in half over the next 5 years.

Old SATs crop up again -- but it's not error by test-owners
A possible security breach on the SAT exam in South Korea is highlighting a common but little-known practice by the College Board: reusing entire SAT exams that have already been given.

Educators blast No Child Left Behind changes Baltimore Examiner
The Teachers Association of Baltimore County, a National Education Association member, criticized the White House for proposing to allow school officials to override collective bargaining agreements. Plus: State board gives city a break (Baltimore Sun).

On Education: History Teacher Becomes Podcast Celebrity NYT
In barely 18 months, the podcast "12 Byzantine Rulers" has become one of the phenomena of the podcasting world.

Police use stun guns on greased, naked student AP
A high school lunch period was disrupted Monday by a greased, naked student who ran around screaming and flailing his arms until police twice used a stun gun on him, authorities said.

Clowns To The Left Of Her, Jokers To The Right

EdSec Spellings is between more than a couple rocks and hard places these days. While lots of folks on the Hill are ramping up to see if the Administration proposes "enough" of a funding increase for NCLB in the budget, another set of folks are pushing at the EdSec to enforce the public school transfer provision in the current law, which has been blocked, sidestepped, and generally ignored for the last five years. To wit: "Leaders of 25 state and national policy organizations sent their request through a letter to Spellings on Friday."

Everyone's failure to implement the public school choice provision (and its structural weaknesses) have only served to create support for a stronger transfer provision that could include private schools. That's exactly what the President outlined in the SOTU.

When Hollywood Happens To Good People

Remember that story from a couple of weeks ago about the immigrant kids who were banned from playing soccer in a Georgia town? Well, here's what's happened since then -- and it's not all good:

"Scott Rudin urgently chased the movie rights to the heartwarming story of refugee kids playing soccer in small-town Clarkston, Ga," according to this Wall Street Journal article (Soccer Story Kicks Off Hollywood Fight). "Four days later, he vented about being on the losing end of the pricey auction, showing how sticky things can get when real people are sucked into the Hollywood vortex."

Fordham Math Grades Vs. NAEP Math Achievement

Everybody knows that I can barely count, much less do statistical regressions, but I do know some folks who are good at that stuff. Having looked at that recent Fordham report on state achievement levels, one of them sent in handy-dandy spreadsheet that -- I'm told -- shows a negative relationship between the grades Fordham give the states on math and NAEP performance on math. "The higher the Fordham score, the lower the NAEP score." You can see the spreadsheet here.

Got anything good to send in?
Send it to us at thisweekineducation@gmail.com.

UPDATE: The quick-response team at Fordham says that changes over time, demographic differences between states, and the alignment of the math NAEP with the NCTM standards explain the above. Click below for the details.

Continue reading "Fordham Math Grades Vs. NAEP Math Achievement" »

The Budget Is Coming, The Budget Is Coming

Unlike in most years, when Congress has already passed its spending bills by now, this year we’ll have the start of the new budget planning process begin while the old budget is still in process.

As pointed out in David DeSchryver’s Federal Update, the House is set to try and finish the FY07 spending bill next week – the same week the President’s FY08 budget request comes out. Most programs are going to get no funding increase, though as usual some folks will try and get one until the bitter end.

For example, Rep. Castle in the House is trying to get education, health, and related programs bumped up in the FY07 process. He’s sending a letter with some other moderate Rs, just as they did on earlier versions of the spending legislation. They’re asking for 2 percent above FY06

Meanwhile, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the New America Foundation are holding a FY08 budget preview event on Thursday at New America that will discuss some of what may be coming down the line.If you still don't have a copy of the budget by then, you might stop by.

Previous Posts
Good News For Ed Funding and Earmarks
$1B In K12 Earmarks Further Imperiled

Find Out About New Posts -- Without Coming Here

Let's be honest -- it's a pain to come back here all the time. You don't want to miss the latest scoop, education headlines, silliness, or banter -- but unlike me you've got real work to do.

So this is how to avoid ever having to come back here again to check for new stuff: You can sign up for a free weekly email in the little box to the right under my picture, and get the week's best posts in your email inbox Sunday nights. Or, you can get nearly instant updates by hitting the orange "Get RSS" box to the right for emails whenever something new gets posted (hopefully not by accident).

It takes a couple of clicks, but you can even set it up to send updates to your email. Via Internet Explorer, or Firefox, or a personalized Yahoo page, or Google Reader, a feed reader like Bloglines, NetNewsWire Lit, or Sharpreader.

Morning Round-up January 30, 2007

States tackle global competitiveness eSchool News
From increasing the rigor of the high school curriculum, to focusing more attention on math, science, and technology instruction, many U.S. governors this year have proposed new education programs that aim to raise high school graduation rates and better prepare students for success in the 21st century.

Public schools group jeers privatization
Washington Times
Today, NSBA members will walk the halls of Congress, lobbying for more funding and flexibility to help teachers meet the law's tough standards for testing students and making progress.

Staff Is Reeling After Bold Move
WaPo
Every staff member -- from custodians to the principal -- must reapply to stay in his or her job, an action called "zero-basing."

Please, Ma'am -- Step Away From The Blog

"After long days of grading papers and disciplining rowdy children, a growing number of tech-savvy teachers are creating online journals to vent about the stresses of the profession, according to this Houston Chronicle article (Teachers venting on blogs often go underground ). "Educators who have already embraced the technology — called blogs (short for web logs) — find themselves walking a fine, virtual line of conduct. They strive to entertain and inform, but can't violate their school districts' ethics policies or federal laws designed to protect students' confidentiality. Most teachers who blog have opted to do so underground — refusing to cite their names, workplaces or other identifying details — to avoid potential professional pitfalls."

Andy & The Unions, Again And Again

I frankly don't get what Eduwonk Andy gets out of banging so hard and long (and at times unreasonably) on the teachers unions, especially the AFT, as he seems to be doing again these days (with what little time he seems to have for blogging).

His latest play, citing the support of other noneducation bloggers, might seem at first to be a sign of self-importance or a way of "settling" an argument, but it doesn't really have that effect -- who cares what Alterman says -- and has some of the feel of bringing in the calvary (or your big brother).

Continue reading "Andy & The Unions, Again And Again" »

Education Segments From NPR and PBS

Sick of words and looking for something interesting to listen to or watch? Check out these two recent NPR and PBS segments:

"At a high school in Baltimore, two teachers take very different approaches to the start of a new semester. It's a chance to make a fresh start for some teachers, but also a confusing time, as new schedules upend their routines." (A New Semester At Northwestern High0)

Over on PBS, check out Teaching Entrepreneurship: Watch as inner city high school students launch their own soda company, and hear why some say entrepreneurship education is "the civil rights issue of our time."

School Reform Hurricane: The Atlantic Monthly's Amy Waldman On The New Orleans Recovery District

Earlier this month, Amy Waldman's article about the effort to rebuild New Orleans schools ("Reading Writing, Resurrection"), came out in The Atlantic Monthly -- a beautifully written, full-length magazine piece about the context and the characters surrounding what is a unique but still relevant effort at urban school reform. (Sadly, it's not available unless you subscribe to The Atlantic or have a friend who does.)

On the HotSeat, Waldman tells how she decided to do the story, how the district's recovery effort sometimes resembles postwar Iraq, what happens when choices are more theoretical than real, and what she thinks the main lessons of New Orleans are -- so far. Clearly, the story of New Orleans is about a lot more than Hurricane Katrina. Enjoy.

Continue reading "School Reform Hurricane: The Atlantic Monthly's Amy Waldman On The New Orleans Recovery District" »

"NCLB Make Sun God Angry"

Over at Intercepts, Mike Antonucci has -- yikes -- a video podcast about NCLB and all of its nefarious effects. Chief among them: "NLCB Make Sun God Angry." Check it out.

While you're there, you can also check out the videos for Van Halen's Hot For Teacher or the efforts of a teacher-led cover band called, yes, No Child Left Behind.

When The EdSec Meets The Blob

So apparently the EdSec is actually showing up at the NSBA event in DC today -- I wonder if she knows (or cares) what they're saying about her precious little NCLB on their blogsite. According to BoardBuzz, American schools are not in crisis, AYP just needs some...softening, and hey, Maggie, send cash. As for any new elements or requirements? Not so much.

"We cannot improve the law just by piling more layers onto it," opines the Buzz. "Instead, we must focus on improving NCLB’s accountability framework first and foremost. Get that part (and of course, the funding) right, and then think about any possible additions."

The rest of the week, the EdSec is in GA for some school and group events, back in DC for the National Prayer Breakfast, and then in NC at the Annual Emerging Issues Forum at the McKimmon Center for Extension & Continuing Education at North Carolina State University on higher ed. Last but not least, Friday with "Hispanic leaders" on NCLB.

Most Viewed On EdWeek

EdWeek now has a handy-dandy "most viewed stories" list next to each story you view (sorta like the NYT version). to which I point you merely to point out that This Week In Education squeaks in at #5. Not bad, considering what a short time we've been here. Thanks to everyone who's found their way over (and to all the promotion that EdWeek.org has been lavishing upon us).

Morning Round-up January 29, 2007

Pushing Back at Bullying NYT
This past November, the Greenwich High School principal, Alan J. Capasso, greeted an early morning assembly of more than 800 freshmen about to begin a mandatory anti-bias, anti-bullying program called “Names Can Really Hurt Us.”

High Schools eyed in No Child Left Behind
Washington Times
Educators, lawmakers and the White House are indicating that high school reform should be included in this year's renewal of the No Child Left Behind law, and the discussion about what it will include is already under way.

Bus driver background checks cause school closings
CNN.com
Columbus schools canceled classes for their 56,000 students Thursday after a contractor responsible for some school bus routes discovered it had not done complete criminal background checks on drivers.

The Week In Review (January 22-28)

Best Of The Week
Secrets Of The USDE: Insider Edelstein On The HotSeat
Subversion, War, Kit And Kaboodle - Hogwash! (NCLB Rhetoric)
Why No One Cares Deeply About Iraq -- Or Urban Schools
Are Management Companies Better For Charters

State Of The Union
Health Care Big, Education Small
Live-Blogging The State Of The Union (Sort Of)
Reaction Roundup - What Did You Think Of The Speech?
State Of The Union Preview: Reauthorize NCLB
More Stupid State Of The Union Fun

Campaign 2008
What Hillary's Candidacy Means For Education - Not Much
Obama & The Madrassa: The Real Education Story Of The Week
Where's Hillary On Education Reform?

Capitol Hill
Who's Under More Pressure To "Deliver" NCLB? Pelosi Or Bush?
The "Real" Congressman Miller Vs. The Other One

NCLB Reauthorization
Administration Pushes Its NCLB Plan - "Kit And Kaboodle"
States Not All Lowering AYP Standards
Tutoring, Textbooks, & Testing

Media Watch
Canned Quotes (& Questionable Experts) In The NYT
New Documentary: "Whatever It Takes"
Great Blog Writing
Public Agenda (Re)Starts Its Education Blog
Ravitch Moves Left On Teachers Unions

Weekend Reading

I generally try and avoid reading education pieces over the weekend, since I see so many of them during the week, but sometimes I can't resist. Here are a few interesting-looking ones (If you've seen any better be sure and let us know in the comments section):

Lives: Assimilating Circumstances NYT
I’ve taught English as a second language for eight years, and I’m no slouch. I’ve taught in Korea and in New York City’s Chinatown. I’ve taken on classrooms of 50 high-school boys at a time. I wouldn’t have guessed that one slim Afghan girl would represent my most difficult challenge.

Bush's Baby Einstein gaffe. Slate
For the succeeding 25 years, every January some hapless White House functionary has been called upon to find a few new heroes to park next to the first lady in the House visitor's gallery. The supply was bound eventually to run a little thin, but whoever chose Julie Aigner-Clark, founder of the Baby Einstein Co., should have done a little more research…No one told the president, I presume, that this profit-making scheme ignores advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children under 2 years of age shouldn't watch TV.

Social Networking Evades Schools Fast Company
A recent survey from the National School Boards Association found that most schools don't have policies regarding the use of social networking sites. Prior to the association's annual Technology + Learning conference, an e-mail survey revealed that 35% of respondents...

States Not All Lowering AYP Standards

State passing rates on AYP (the percentage of schools that meet state testing requirements and thus federal ones) varies widely, as you can see from the great chart to the right (courtesy of Stateline.org).

But, of course, this doesn't mean that the students in high percentage states are smarter than the rest, or that their schools are better. It probably just means that their tests are easier, or that the cutoff score is lower.

Some states like North Carolina have low AYP pass rates AND their state test cutoffs seem low, according to Pauline Vu's Stateline story. In NC, students had to answer correctly fewer than half the questions to pass [the middle school algebra test]. In some grades, they can flub two-thirds of the questions and still be marked “proficient.”

But not all states have lowered their requirements or rigor, Vu points out. There are lots of different things going on. Check it out: Where All the Children Are Above Average

PS -- Remember just a few years ago when it was hard to get state passing rates for AYP and folks didn't want state-by-state comparisons because they were thought to be misleading? Someone tried to retrieve a report listing state rates, but it lived on.

UPDATE: Sherman Dorn thinks Vu and I don't understand that it's rigor, as well as cutoffs, that affect state pass rates, and that we don't deserve a cookie. But he's wrong. Bad Dorn.

The PEN NewsBlast, In Summary

There's lots of good stuff as usual in the PEN NewsBlast (NewsBlast)t, though I wish they'd understand how hard it is to read anything after Happy Hour has started. The cutoff is Thursdays at 4 -- how many times do I have to tell them? Some of the standouts this week include a Local Education Fund handbook, and a peek into the secret world of grantmaking.

Health Care Big, Education Small

Whatever you may think of the Bush health care proposal being rolled out this week, it's hard not to notice how much bigger and bolder it is than pretty much anyone's education proposals, whether they be to fix NCLB or to develop national standards. To get something that big and transformative in education, you'd have to look at a nationwide universal preschool program, the elimination of local school districts (or teachers unions), or a Constitutional amendment giving everyone the right to an adequate education. But so far as I know, no one powerful is talking about these things right now. What we ARE talking about seems so puny by comparison.

UPDATE: The lack of bold solutions is just as bad at the state level, writes Joe Williams at The Chalkboard (though I'm guessing that some universal pre-K proponents would take issue with him).

The "Real" Congressman Miller Vs. The Other One

Over the AFTBlog they're chomping at the bit about the possibility that the "other" Representative Miller -- Brad, from NC -- might subpoena folks in the USDE as part of his newly-formed science oversight subcommittee (A Congressman Drops the S-Bomb). Don't forget that the "real" Congressman Miller (George, CA) hired a chief investigator to do much the same thing last month -- at the full committee level (Miller Ramps Up For Oversight & Investigations).

Friday Funnies

Inner-City Teacher Inspires Students To Stab Him
"Before Mr. Fitzsimmons came along, nobody had been dedicated and hardworking enough to show us that we had the power to make a difference," said student and stabbing participant Gabriel Salazar. (From The Onion)

UPDATE: School bans talking at lunch after choking incidents CNN
A Roman Catholic elementary school adopted new lunchroom rules this week requiring students to remain silent while eating. The move comes after three recent choking incidents in the cafeteria.

Canned Quotes (& Questionable "Experts") In The NYT

When I first read those quotes from Mike Petrilli at the end of Thursday's NYT, I wondered why he wasn't talking about national standards. Then I found out that they weren't the fresh, live quotes, they seemed to be (Mike told me). Instead, they're taken straight from Petrilli's essay on the Bush NCLB proposal (Mr. Fix-It). Which leaves us wondering which of the other quotes used by reporter Diana Jean Schemo (pictured) were canned. Others may not care, but I think it makes a difference.

And, I've said it before: reporters, maybe it would be good to find someone who's actually done a few reauthorizations (and who isn't just playing at being fair-minded). There are so many folks within easy reach who know more than Petrilli, and who aren't loathed by the current inhabitants of the USDE for being a turncoat and declaring NCLB a bust in order to promote Fordham's agenda. Talking to Petrilli about reauthorizing NCLB is like talking to Scooter Libby about Karl Rove and the war in Iraq -- it was an ugly breakup, and it's only getting worse.

Morning Round-up January 26, 2007

Colleges Regroup After Voters Ban Race Preferences NYT
Others are using many different approaches, like working with mostly minority high schools, using minority students as recruiters, and offering summer prep programs for promising students from struggling high schools.

Learning Improvements Among Head Start Children Tracked
EdWeek
Children participating in Head Start during the 2003-04 school year showed significant learning gains in vocabulary, early math skills, and early writing skills, according to the latest results of an ongoing survey.

Fairfax Resists 'No Child' Provision WaPo
The Fairfax County School Board last night defied the U.S. Department of Education -- and challenged the No Child Left Behind Act -- by declining to force thousands of immigrant students to take a federally mandated test because local educators think it is unfair.

Same-sex classes a growing trend in public schools CNN.com
Supporters say splitting students by sex minimizes distractions, helps them learn better and allows boys and girls to explore subjects they may not otherwise take.

Subversion, War, Kit And Kaboodle -- Hogwash!

You have to love EdSec Spellings’ use of the phrase “kit and kaboodle” to describe the Administration’s desire to win approval of their whole NCLB reauthorization package, though so far only NPR seems to have used it in a segment. So fun, so quaint. So Spellings.

But that's not the only rhetorical flourish up Spellings' sleeve. She defends the new tough restructuring requirements for persistently failing schools in saying, “I think we all have to answer…what are we going to do about that?'" Meaning: if you don’t like my ideas, come up with something better, but you can't say the status quo is OK.

Not surprisingly, the NEA’s Reg Weaver goes nuclear about the Bush proposals, declaring “This is war," according to Stephanie Banchero’s piece in the Chicago Tribune.

In that same piece, however, Banchero or her editors make what seems to me a mis-step in describing the Bush proposal as “subverting” state laws and local collective bargaining agreements, which seems unnecessarily ominous.

There are hundreds of provisions in federal law that require states and districts to do things as a condition of receiving federal funds -- highway speed limits are the most common example. Plus which, you've already got Weaver declaring war, so no need to reiterate that some folks don't like the proposal. I think it’s more fair to say that the law “strong-arms” states and districts into changing their policies.

I can already anticipate Banchero's response, in which she will undoubtedly paraphrase the Vice President's recent use of colorful if quaint language: "hogwash."

UPDATE: Banchero can't catch a break -- over at District 299, which focuses on Chicago schools, a reader berates her for saying that the Bush provisions would "benefit" CPS, which is operating under a 30-school charter cap.

HotSeats Galore

Earlier this week, we put USDE longtimer Fritz Edelstein on the HotSeat, where he told all sorts of secrets that only a 31-year USDE veteran can tell. But he's hardly the first. As some of you have requested, here are some past favorites:

Rick Hess -- A Liberals' Kind Of Conservative
Those rumors about good-looking slaves doing all his writing for him aren't true.

NYT Magazine's Paul Tough On The HotSeat
What he really thinks about school reform and social policy.

Matt Maurer & The Shadowy World Of Education PR Companies
Why it's better to get an AP story than one in the NYT.

Journalism Guru Richard Lee Colvin...
What makes a good education story? You might be surprised.

Fordham's Petrilli Survives The HotSeat
He'll always be our first -- and perhaps one of our funniest.

KIPP Co-Founder Mike Feinberg On The HotSeat

Any others you liked, or suggestions for future HotSeats, let us know.

Wanna Run A Public Boarding School?

Those crazy folks at the SEED Foundation are looking for someone to run their new Baltimore school -- a college-prep, public boarding school for students in grades 6-12. "The Head of School for Maryland will have a tremendous opportunity to create a brand new school, with the benefits of relying on proven aspects of SEED’s first school program, as well as the resources, funding and community support that you and we have developed over the past 10 years." Tell them Alexander sent you.

Where's Hillary On Education Reform?

Senator Hillary Clinton has not said much about PK - 12 education in the past few days since her Presidential campaign announcement, even as she has been soliciting questions from website visitors to answer in her live, online webchats. And she's probably wise not to. School reform ideas hardly ever get anyone elected, and have often arguably dragged them down.

Still, as first noted on The Chalkboard, former Senate staffer Dan Gerstein wishes he'd had a chance to ask Clinton some questions (five questions that won't make Hillary's webchats ). On education, Gerstein asks whether Clinton will "embrace controversial education reforms" as she has in the past, including an expansion of charter schools.

But instead, Senator Clinton is talking about what everyone else talks about -- making college more affordable (surprise, surprise) and improving life for the struggling middle class. She did mention an interest in providing additional relief to "young people" who go into shortage areas like math and science. Still no word about her position on national standards or NCLB reauthorization. We're not holding our breath.

Adminstration Pushes Its NCLB Plan -- "Kit And Kaboodle"

Slowly, the most important details of the Bush reauthorization plan are coming out -- a private school option we've seen before (but will play differently now that Congress is on record for vouchers in DC and New Orleans), the likely expansion of the growth model option for meeting AYP, some uncertain language regarding highly qualified teachers, and -- most obviously inflammatory -- beefed-up requirements for schools in restructuring and districts with inequitable distribution of teachers that could abrogate collective bargaining agreements and contradict state or local charter law.

The reactions so far have been as you'd expect. But the main thing missing or underplayed from the NCLB reauthorization coverage so far is that, in essentially rolling out their reauthorization proposal this week, the Administration made a choice that has substantive and political ramifications.

They could have waited until the Aspen Commission report came out. They could have developed a joint proposal with Kennedy and Miller. They could have waited until the budget was released next week. But they didn't. Of course, this approach let's the Administration do what it did for many months on Iraq, which is to say "we have a plan, where's yours?" And that's worked out really well for them so far, I guess.

Why The Poor Eat Too Much

It's not just about what poor people eat that makes them more prone to overeating and obseity, according to this article from Salon (The anxiety of appetite). It's why they eat.

"When food stamps run out, or the kids' medical expenses take precedence, or the local food bank shuts down or runs out of food, you're not going to eat a lot. And when food becomes available again, you binge."

In their efforts to help the poor eat healthy foods, says the author, those who are trying to help run the risk of failing and creating a new form of progressive discrimination against the poor and overweight.

Morning Round-up January 25, 2007

Bush Proposes Broadening the No Child Left Behind Act NYT
The proposals would give local school officials new powers to override both teachers’ contracts and state limits on charter schools in the case of persistently failing schools.

New education reforms get mixed reviews AP
Democrats and teachers‘ unions are criticizing the Bush administration for proposing to let school officials override collective bargaining agreements and state laws in an effort to reshape the No Child Left Behind law.

Teacher has ways to light a fire under his pupils USAT
In a new book, Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire, he offers practical advice for teachers and parents.

Obama & The Madrassa: The Real Education Story Of The Week

Sad to say, the only school-related issue that most folks out in the non-education world are paying any attention to right now is the issue of whether Barack Obama attended a Muslim school as a child in Indonesia: "Even last night, while Mr. Obama was doing interviews following President Bush’s national address, he was asked about the rumors," notes The Caucus (Obama's Religion and Schooling). "He was asked about it again on the “Today” show. Afterward, his staff released a fullblown offensive –perhaps a few days too late — to the media."

The 103rd Carnival of Education

The Carnival of Education returns home this week to The Education Wonks. As usual, there are a variety of education topics and submissions. Here's an interesting one:

NYC Educator teaches in the New York City Public School System. Educator is telling us all about the Petty Tyrant EduCrat who allowed a hurt child to bleed until the necessary hall pass was obtained. Only then was the kid put into an ambulance and rushed to the hospital...

More Stupid State Of The Union Fun

If like me you are trying to avoid doing any real work today, there's a fun little gizmo in the NYT that lets you see how often and where a word shows up in one of the SOTU speeches of the last six years.

Based on a quick search for schools, education, and no child, it seems pretty clear that this speech was less focused on education than others in the past.

I count eight mentions for schools in 2001, 11 mentions in 2004, but just 4 last night. But you better check for yourself - you know how bad I am at counting.

Are Management Companies Better For Charters?

Speaking of the education industry, last week Erik Robelen wrote a fascinating piece for EdWeek that among other things described the foundation trend towards funding the growth and spread of EMOs -- education management organizations -- to run groups of charter schools instead of invididual operations (Venture Fund Fueling Push For New Schools). 

This week, charter insider Marc Dean Millot writes that EMOs are "a poor business model" whose economies of scale are mostly illusory (What Happened to the Charter Idea?: (I) Why “Bottom-Up” Became “Top-Down”).  (subscription required).

But Millot, who formerly ran a national charter organization and now puts out a newsletter covering the school improvement industry, doesn't romanticize the good old days of mom-and-pop charter schools, either.  "Establishing charter schools is an entrepreneurial triathlon - combining the challenges of political campaigns, business starts and pedagogical creation," he writes.  "Schools resulting from the herculean efforts of the under-qualified missionaries who stepped forward were often too small to be financially stable, vulnerable to political opposition, and perhaps prone to mediocrity."

Reaction Roundup -- What Did You Think Of The Speech?

I'm still groggy from trying to give immediate reactions to the President's speech last night (Live-Blogging The State Of The Union) -- which was fun but ridiculous -- meanwhile, others make some interesting (and similar) points this morning:

UPDATE: A Constrained Vision: "At the State of the Union speech tonight, two of the First Lady's guests had something to do with education." (Ed policy in the First Lady's box)

UPDATE 2: Get Schooled: "It didn't take President Bush long to bring up education in his "State of the Union" address last night, and it took even less time for him to move on to other topics." ('No Child' Goes On)

UPDATE 3: Chairman Miller: "The task of renewing the law will be made much more difficult if the President's budget fails to provide a substantial increase in funding for schools to carry out their responsibilities under the law."

UPDATE 4: Mike Petrilli (Fordham): "Though it's not the fundamental rethinking of No Child Left Behind that we would have preferred, the president's reauthorization proposal represents a pretty decent repair attempt. It's 50% "stay the course," 30% "tweak and tuck," and 20% "bold new ideas." (Mr. Fix-It)

UPDATE 5: Quick & The Ed (again): "Note to NBC: This woman is NOT Margaret Spellings." (Will the real Margaret Spellings please stand up?)

UPDATE 6: Reality CheckED: "There's been a lot of talk about a backlash to testing, but to the extent that's happening, it seems to be happening among teachers...More than half of parents, about 54%, feel the amount of testing is "about right." (NCLB Gets A Nod)

Eduwonk: "The fact that President Bush’s State of the Union clearly said he wanted No Child reauthorized is significant, as is the placement of education at the top of the speech. But beyond that, not a whole lot in Tuesday night's speech." (All Hat, Hidden Cattle)

The Quick And The Ed: "Am I the only person who found it odd and somewhat unseemly that the President of the United States used a portion of his State of the Union Address to essentially advertise a line of baby toys?" (Bush Hearts Baby Einstein)

For more great blog writing -- that's not about the SOTU speech -- check out my little roundup of some recent favorites here: Great Blog Writing. There's some really good stuff in there.

Morning Round-up January 24, 2007

Bush Revives Some Past Proposals NYT
Mr. Bush also returned to the signature bipartisan accomplishment of his first term, the No Child Left Behind legislation that requires schools to demonstrate yearly progress in students’ achievements. He urged Congress to renew the law.

Bush to Push School Voucher Proposal AP
President Bush is making another run at giving poor students private school vouchers, but the Democratic-controlled Congress appears ready to block that move.

After the Last Lap, It's Time for SAT Prep NYT
The course, paid for with a $100,000 federal grant, is intended to help poor and immigrant runners in the Armory’s program decipher the often complex college admissions process.

Love of Learning: Which Children Have It Most NYT
A study uses Census data to look at children who are most interested in their schoolwork.

Tutoring, Textbooks, & Testing

V2620EdWeek has recently beefed up its coverage of the education industry -- I use the term in the most neutral sense -- and this week there are a bunch of articles about three of the main things that the education industry does for schools: tutoring, testing, and textbooks.

Companies Want Changes in NCLB Tutoring Policies
Disappointing numbers fuel call for steps aimed at boosting student participation.

Tougher Oversight Promised for Private Tutors in Georgia
Earlier this month, state officials barred the Get Smart Inc. service from working with public school tutoring for three years after investigators found some Clayton County, Ga., middle school students were being paid $5 to forge parent signatures for lessons that never took place.

‘What Works’ Review Finds Leading Math Texts Wanting
Only one elementary school math program has received even a qualified nod from evaluators for its research record.

States Adopt New Tests for English-Learners
The new changes aim to meet federal requirements, though some officials protest.

Live-Blogging The State Of The Union (Sort Of)

Jan2307bush_rdax_320x240I should be doing my laundry or feeding my new cat, but instead I'm here, live-blogging the State Of The Union for any glimpses of education news. This is not so easy to do without a drink - where's the Jameson when I really need it? Start at the bottom if you want to read in chronological order. But it's really all over after the first 10 minutes of the speech.

Continue reading "Live-Blogging The State Of The Union (Sort Of)" »

Great Blog Writing

Every week, The Education Wonks organize an amazing Carnival Of Education Blogs that includes dozens and dozens of author-submitted blog posts.

Every once in a while, I take my own look at the education blogs and come up with my own favorite posts – usually ones that are particularly counterintuitive, insightful, or well-written.

Click below to see some recent favorites. I guarantee you'll find at least a couple that you really like -- especially the funny ones.

Continue reading "Great Blog Writing" »

AFT Blog Scores President's Education Agenda

Kudos to the AFTies for being first to find and link to the President's education agenda, such as it is, in tonight's State of the Union. It's nothing unexpected, but it's the latest and offers some hints and details. Can we start the drinking game now, or do we have to wait until he actually starts talking?

Why No One Cares Deeply About Iraq -- Or Urban Schools

This article in Salon (Where's the outrage?) argues that there is no significant antiwar movement because the vast majority of the public who are "not facing death or the death of immediate family members, doesn't care enough."

I'd argue that much the same is true of reforming urban school systems, which are nearly as far away from many lawmakers' and middle class taxpayers' experiences as the Middle East.

According to the piece, by Gary Kamiya, "The elites talk and the kids who go to community college get blown up...People are capable of genuine concern for their fellow citizens, but self-interest is an exponentially more powerful driving force. "

According to some, reinstating the draft is the most obvious way to make sure that the middle class -- and elected officials -- pay attention. What would it take to do the same for urban schools? National service? A critical mass of folks who have a stake in urban schools? Maybe this is what Teach For America's Wendy Kopp is talking about, after all.

Public Agenda (Re)Starts Its Education Blog

Public Agenda has often done fascinating work on education issues -- telling us what folks really think, whether we want to hear it or not. To make education engagement a more regular thing, they're going to re-start their education blog, called Reality CheckED. It (re)lanches tomorrow (the old one seems to have come and gone during the summer and fall of last year). Maybe they got some of that Gates money to make sure education is big in the upcoming campaign.

From the press release: "Public Agenda is all about keeping people talking and the positive effects of exchanging ideas and sharing perspectives. We want to encourage the discussions cropping up around current educational reforms. We will be drawing on our years of research to enhance the conversation and welcome you to jump in with ideas of your own."

Welcome, and good luck.

Secrets Of The USDE: Insider Edelstein On The HotSeat

In honor of tonight's State Of The Union, this week's HotSeat honoree is longtime USDE insider Fritz Edlestein, who tells all under pressure, including among other things,

-- about his new endeavors (they are many)
-- on whether mayoral control is right for everyone (it's not)
-- on how to get a law changed after it's been passed (can it really be that easy?)
-- on his shameful involvement in Blue Ribbon Schools (now it can be told)
-- on whether it's a go for national standards ("the time is getting riper"), and
-- about some of his main accomplishments and favorite colleagues from 31 years at the Department.

Oh, and he schools us on how to pronounce his name correctly, too.

Continue reading "Secrets Of The USDE: Insider Edelstein On The HotSeat" »

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.