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Big Stories Of The Month?

Later today three big-time education journalists -- the Post's Jay Mathews, the LA Times' Beth Shuster, and USA Today's Greg Toppo -- are going to weigh in on what they think are the big stories of the past month, what got too much coverage (or not enough), and what the big stories are going to be in June.

But what do they know, anyway? you can get a head start by looking over the cheat sheet that I sent them -- a list of stories and blog posts -- and see what you think. Let us know, or listen along when I post the audio from the conversation later today and see what we missed.

Big Stories Of The Day (Thursday, May 31)

Besides the spelling bee, that is...

A struggling school finds reason for hope CSM
By forming community partnerships, Hope High School in Rhode Island and other struggling public schools are showing signs of improvement.

Narrowing The Grade-School Standards Gap CBS Evening News
After five years of No Child Left Behind, it's time for a report card. What's evident is that schools are focusing on testing, but it isn't an even playing field, becuase each state defines "proficiency" differently

Most Americans want 'No Child' law left behind Scripps News
A survey of 1,010 American adults reveals that nearly two-thirds of them want Congress to rewrite or outright abolish the landmark No Child Left Behind Act that mandates nationwide testing of elementary students to determine whether public schools are performing adequately.

How Nebraska Leaves No Child Behind Time
Eschewing the Washington-created remedy, they have developed a homemade model called the School-based Teacher-led Assessment Reporting System (STARS) that has yielded impressive results, been praised by education scholars and attracted interest from Edward Kennedy, NCLB's Senate custodian.

What People Mean When They Talk About Human Capital

Tomas_hanna2There's a lot of talk about "human capital" these days, and that talk can get awfully dry. Out there in the real world, perhaps no one else besides Tomas Hanna epitomizes this trend. 

A former career principal in Philadelphia, Hanna was brought into the central office to revamp teacher recruitment and retention, with the help of community groups and others that had focused on the teacher retention crisis.  Now in Providence, Hanna is trying to do the same thing as [deputy] superintendent. 

I met him recently, and he seems to have that elusive combination of school-level credibility and central office savvy, and knows how to switch back and forth to get things done.

Kennedy Began Immigration Push At NCLB White House Meeting

From NCLB to Medicare to the current immigration reform bill, Ted Kennedy's ability (and willingness) to make deals and get things done is legendary. In fact, it was a meeting over NCLB that led in part to the current push on immigration reform, according to the Post article ( here), which also hints at Kennedy's desire for some additional influence this time around on NCLB. "I'm not trying to be cute with anybody about this. I want to get things done [on] challenging public policy issues that affect real people," he is quoted as saying in the article.

Teacher Firings: Still A Myth Until One Percent Go

Over at the AFT Blog, they're still mulling over whether NCLB-caused teacher firings are a myth (as I contend) or not. Most recently, they've found someone who was fired and declared that, therefore, teacher firings are real (here). But that doesn't change things, really. Sure, handfuls of teachers have been fired through NCLB closings and conversions in San Diego and Chicago, among other places. But there are 3 million teachers out there. Teacher firings due to NCLB are still a myth, to me at least, until one percent get pink slipped. And we're nowhere near that.

To Sir, With Sarcasm: Just What We Need With Two Weeks Left

Maybe I'm the last person to hear about this, but there's a new-ish mockumentary about new teaches that came out last month called Chalk that seems to be the antithesis of the sappy inspirational education movies that we all can't stand (but watch anyway). Check out the trailer here -- it might make you giggle:

Getting Ready For The Obama Switcheroo

A lot of folks still seem not to understand that candidates' views and positions are going to change,once we get out of this long, tiresome Democratic primary thing -- and it may be an unpleasant surprise for many educators. This seems especially likely for Obama, who's already indicated some of his centrist (some would say conservative) views and ideas on schools, while Clinton has gone the safe (UPK) route and kept her mouth tightly shut on that front. (As I've noted in the past, Obama has already come out for charters, and has in the past said that he's open to the idea of vouchers.) Some of the best tea leaves on Obama come from the recent New Yorker profile of him (The Conciliator), which among other things parses the differences between Obama's voting record (liberal) and his rhetoric (conservative-ish): Obama "speaks about liberal goals in conservative language." Indeed, in the article he's quoted as saying that "the impact of parents and communities is at least as significant as the amount of money that’s put into education.”

More Rolling Water Jugs In Education

Some juicy tidbits from the last few days include an article about the not-so-bad real life experiences of ELLs taking English exams (As Tests Begin, English Learners Have Troubles but Few Tears Wash Post). At the same time, apparently year-end exams are going the way of the Dodo in some schools (More schools are ditching final exams LA Times). Then there's a coupla pieces about schoolgirl gossip (Grade-School Girls, Grown-Up Gossip NYT) and weed-laced yearbook photos (Yearbook photos ignite storm MSNBC). A refresher on science basics (The Known World NYT), plus yet another NYT thing on elite colleges (Elite Colleges Open New Door to Low-Income Youths). Last but not least, a piece about inventions to help the poor -- including a luminescent map, a safe drinking straw, a rolling water jug (pictured), and the supercheap laptop (Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor NYT). I wish that there were more such inventions and ideas coming out for education -- are there?

Guest Commentary: Kevin Kosar On Muddled AYP Fixes

In the Sunday New York Times Magazine, Ann Hulbert wrote (Standardizing the Standards) that “With “high stakes” testing, N.C.L.B. introduces an incentive not to cheat, necessarily, but to manipulate. Signs are that states define proficiency down while schools ramp up narrow test prep.”

What’s the solution to this problem? “The National Assessment of Educational Progress could serve as a model for a test that judges students’ ability to apply their knowledge and thus discourages [sic] rote coaching. But recent experience … argues against making test results the sole trigger of federal sanctions.”

This is a bit of a muddle. The feds should create a new test for reasons unclear but the test results are not to be the “sole trigger” for accountability.

Continue reading "Guest Commentary: Kevin Kosar On Muddled AYP Fixes" »

Big Stories Of The Day (Wednesday May 30)

Well, not really that big...

A Bush Brother Spreads His Vision NYT
Neil Bush, brother of the President of the United States, is behind a teaching method that is intended to bypass textbooks.

Putting His Wealth to Work To Improve Urban Schools Washington Post
He counts the Prince George's County school superintendent and D.C. school board president among his disciples. He has advised the D.C. mayor on cuts in school system bureaucracy.

With lawsuit looming, Spellings discusses No Child Left Behind Danbury News
US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings vigorously defended the No Child Left Behind Act today in Connecticut, which has filed a federal ...

Big Stories Of The Day (Tuesday May 29)

The student loan rip-off Salon
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings sounded like a reformer when she testified on Capitol Hill earlier this month over recent revelations of waste, fraud and bribery in the $85 billion-a-year student loan industry.But education experts weren't buying it -- and neither were Democrats.

Report Card: No Child Left Behind Good Morning America
So on its report card, ABC News gave No Child Left Behind's central element — testing students to meet standards — an A-. The standards themselves got a C. Equal money to schools got a D. Improving teacher quality earned a C. The handling of special needs and non-English speaking students got a C. Rescue plans for failing schools got a D.
Standardizing the Standards NYT
Testing has never been more important; inadequate annual progress toward “proficiency” triggers sanctions on schools. Yet testing has never been more suspect, either.

Charter Schools Look to Address Educational Woes NPR
Charter schools are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional public schools. Ted Hamory, co-founder of New City Public Schools, and Jennifer Stern, a partner in the Charter School Growth Fund, talk to Farai Chideya about whether these schools are living up to their hype.

Assessment Industry Faces a Test of Its Own Washington Post
One in an occasional series on the culture of testing.

The Week In Review (May 21-28)

On The Hill/Campaign 2008
Early Childhood Proposals, Realistic and Otherwise
Why Are Miller & Kennedy Not Calling Beth Ann Bryan?

Spellings Is To Gonzales As "I Don't Recall" Is To Lunchables
Five Questions For Jon Stewart To Ask Spellings Tonight
The Secretary's Necklace: Too Bad It Wasn't Larimar
Spellings Suck-Up, Part 234

Growth Models For Everybody!
How NCLB Is Like A Russian Novel
Does More Reading Make For Better Social Studies?
The "Lost Teacher Jobs" Myth

Policy Trends
Check Registers: Do They Help?
I Find It, You Read It: The Failed Takeover Story In LA
Utah Puts Seven K12 Admins On HIgher Ed Boards

School Life
Now They're Outsourcing Your Kids' Fast Food Jobs, Too
Finding The Hidden Gems In The System

Media Watch
Snap Judgements In Education Reporting
Watch Out, Cambridge
Now I Know Your Home Phone Number

Site News
More Misogyny And Anger (And Irony, Too) At The HuffPo
Mother Jones Mention
The Worst Blog On EdWeek

The Worst Blog On EdWeek: This One

Shallow, combative, and close-minded, this blog is arguably the worst blog on EdWeek.org, which includes more than just a couple of more reflective and reasonable blogs that you may not know about: On the Reservation, for example, chronicles the experiences of a second year SPED teacher on a reservation (on break until fall), while Certifiable? follows one teacher's quest for national certification (still waiting to find out). Then there's Ready or Not, about a career-changer. More are in the works. Of course, there's also the Meier/Ravitch confab Bridging Differences (currently on break) and MA Zehr's Learning the Language focused on ELL issues.

No, EdWeek didn't pay me to say this. But they should have.

How NCLB Is Like A Russian Novel

The big Time article on NCLB reauthorization (How To Fix NCLB) is a fun read, though it struggles hard to say much that's new. It describes the law "astonishingly" ambitious and points out -- shouldn't Toppo get royalties for this? -- that administrators and wonks like the law better than frontline teachers. There are also a handful of minor but annoying mistakes -- calling NCLB tests "high stakes," for example, is a pet peeve of mine. (That's not what high stakes really means.) But there are also some highlights, including an Ohio educator's comparison of NCLB to a Russian novel: "it's long, it's complicated, and in the end, everybody gets killed."

Utah Puts Seven K12 Admins On HIgher Ed Boards

Here's an interesting and apparently newfangled way to get your PK-16 system integrated: put lots of K-12 folks including your state supe on the state board of regents and the college board of trustees. That's what Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has done with seven state higher ed spots, according to this Deseret News article (School Chiefs To Join Regents, College Boards). "The idea is to make for a seamless education system for kindergartners through college graduation."

Growth Models For Everybody!

Apparently in honor of Memorial Day Weekend, the USDE announced news on the growth model front for us all to consider with our hot dogs and diet Cokes. Basically, Iowa and Ohio get to join North Carolina and Tennessee in the growth model club, plus Florida. It's more flexibility for states, without caving in on what NCLB s supposed to be all about. How do I know? Because it says that they're going to follow the "bright-line principles of NCLB," and that sounds cool and reassuring. Like "benchmarks." Let the celebrations begin!

Continue reading "Growth Models For Everybody!" »

Big Stories Of The Day (May 25)

How to Fix No Child Left Behind TIME
It's countdown time in Philadelphia's public schools. Just 21 days remain before the state reading and math tests in March, and the kids and faculty at James G. Blaine Elementary, an all-black, inner-city school that spans pre-K to eighth grade, have been drilling for much of the day.

Teachers Lacking Certification Are Told They Will Be Terminated Washington PostA D.C. public schools official has notified more than 300 teachers that they will be terminated next month if they do not have the proper credentials to remain in the classroom.

U.S. spends average $8,701 per pupil on education CNN
The United States spent an average of $8,701 per pupil to educate its children in 2005, the Census Bureau said Thursday, with some states paying more than twice as much per student as others.

Scoring error raises questions Miami Herald
Human error inflated last year's third-grade FCAT reading scores, state education officials said Wednesday -- an admission that again called into question the state's controversial high-stakes testing system.

Nebraska repeals racially charged breakup of district CNN
The governor signed a bill Thursday repealing the planned breakup of the Omaha school district into three districts, largely along racial lines.

Spellings Suck-Up, Part 234

Over at Eduwonk, Andy's Spellings suckup continues with his typically belated and rose-colored recap of Spellings' appearance on TV. According to Rotherham, Spellings "looked good, and came off well, pragmatic and not ideological...they should send her out to big-time TV more, would help their case.". Excellent. Hey, why read about it here when you can read a less critical version of it three days later over there?

Online Journalism Courses: Now I Know Your Home Phone Number

Much as I am trying to avoid it, becoming a better journalist is apparently getting easier and easier. Thanks to the folks at Poynter Online, you can now participate from your desk in "webinars" -- short, cheap, phone-Internet combo training sessions -- rather than traveling for a costly workshop or weeklong session. It's all part of Poynter's News University, a two year-old effort that currently offers 40 courses to more than 40,000 registered users. Many of the online courses are free, and interactive -- popular with journalism students and working reporters alike. There's no education-specific course yet (hint, hint), though they do have a health care module, something about interviewing better, and a couple of things about reporting across cultural boundaries.Even without taking their online research course, I learned about a cool new online phonebook called Argali and looked up all your home phone numbers.

The Secretary's Necklace: Too Bad It Wasn't Larimar

I am informed (not by the USDE) that Secretary Spellings was wearing a necklace made of rose quartz, not larimar, the other night on The Daily Show. "Reflecting the azure blue waters of the Caribbean, Larimar is a recently discovered rare gemstone found in only one minesite on our Planet,"according to this website. Too bad. According to the site, "Larimar works to bring truth to the communications process."

I Find It, You Read It: The Failed Takeover Story In LA

VillaraigosaOK, here's the deal: I find the articles, you read them. This time, it's a long look at Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's repeated failed efforts to win control over the district schools in a recent New Yorker (Fault Lines). Looks like a fascinating story of politics, ambition, and -- now -- onward and upward to gang violence as the new issue of the day.

Big Stories Of The Day (May 24)

Schools for Pregnant Girls in New York Will Close NYT
Created in the 1960s, when pregnant girls were such pariahs that they were forced to leave school until their babies were born, the city school system’s four pregnancy schools — or P-schools, as they are obliquely referred to — have lived on, their population dwindling to just 323 students from 1,500 in the late 1960s.

Clinton Pitches Pre-school Access for All NPR
Sen. Hillary Clinton said this week that if she's elected president, she will ensure access to high-quality pre-school for all families in the United States. Advocates say the effects of quality pre-school last far beyond elementary school.

City Schools To Tie Principals' Pay to Performance Pittsburgh Post Gazette
In what Superintendent Mark Roosevelt called a major part of his turnaround agenda, the district is doing away with annual step increases that principals received without regard to performance.

Merrifield's blog comments on education reform assailed Rocky Mountain News
Two Republican lawmakers who sponsored a bill to strengthen math and science standards this year are accusing the former House Education Committee chairman of taking cheap shots at them in a blog.

Mother Jones Mention

Over at the Mother Jones blog, Gary Moskowitz goes off on Spellings for shedding responsibility too easily and gives me a little shout-out for the Spellings-Gonzales comparison (despite the fact that I've been mis-spelling the AG's name for weeks now). Money quote: "In the first 30 seconds of her Daily Show interview last night, [Spellings] laughingly deferred Jon Stewart's joke about Lunchables to agriculture officials, and Stewart's food pyramid question to Health and Human Services. But her "hands are tied" arguments are wearing thin."

Contests, Finger Length, And More

Boy who slept in trash is student of the year MSNBC
For much of his life, 11-year-old D.J. Graffree was a cocky kid who didn't need any adults to look after him or tell him what to do. Now he is an example for other children.

How to avoid pesky NCLB testing requirements EIA Intelligencer
Just start measuring fingers.

Washington state teen wins geography bee MSNBC
What city, divided by a river of the same name, was the imperial capital of Vietnam? The answer won 14-year-old Caitlin Snaring from Redmond, Wash., a $25,000 college scholarship Wednesday at the 19th annual National Geographic Bee.

Watch Out, Cambridge

Congrats to education journalism star and all-around smartypants Joshua Benton of the Dallas Morning News (not nearly as angelic as he appears here) for having been named just one of 30 folks to get a Nieman Fellowship to go party learn stuff at Harvard next year. (See here for the announcement). I don't really believe in these residential sabbaticals, but would go if I weren't too chicken too apply and had better clips. In any case, Cambridge will never be the same. Congrats and condolences to Benton and the rest of the education team in Dallas. I guess the New York Times will just have to wait another year to get him.

Why Are Miller & Kennedy Not Calling Beth Ann Bryan?

What's the connection between former Justice Department official Monica Goodling (no relation, far as I know), who is testifying about her role as liaison between the White House and DOJ on the fired attorneys, and education?
Well, Goodling's counterpart in the Reading First scandal has yet to be heard from. Her name's Beth Ann Bryan, and once this whole Gonzales thing is done with I hope we'll get to hear from her, too -- ideally under oath and without immunity.

Spellings On The Daily Show: Watch It For Yourself

Forget what I have to say (below), and check out the video yourself:

That face she makes when asked about smiting the teachers unions is good, as is the wink she gives when offering her "I don't recall" answer.

Does More Reading Make For Better Social Studies?

EdWeek's recent NAEP test results story (Test Gains Reigniting Old Debate) does a good job exposing the ritualized response that follows the release of NAEP scores as various folks try and make sense of the results (and, often, bolster their cause).

How big were the gains, and were they attributable to -- or in spite of -- the focus on reading and math that has come with NCLB and Reading First? Not surprisingly, the Administration takes the view that all good things stem from NCLB, while others -- social studies advocates, for example -- aren't so sure that federal programs have helped with any but the most basic results. Meanwhile, time for social studies has declined a half hour per day since 1998, and time for reading has increased by an hour.

Big Stories Of The Day (May 23)

Integration compromise is reached Omaha.com
Lawmakers took major strides Monday toward creating a metro-area school integration plan that would settle lingering disagreements and keeps the Omaha Public Schools intact.

Literacy Push Starts Earlier Washington Post
By pushing for all children to read before the start of first grade, Montgomery school leaders have embraced an emerging goal in public education. In essence, kindergarten has become the new first grade.

Immigration Raid Leaves Sense of Dread in Hispanic Students NYT
After a sweep yields 49 arrests in one Minnesota community, students head to class fearful their parents will be targeted next by government agents.

Role of Teacher-Coaches Grows Teacher Magazine
Eager to help more students pass the state's standardized math test, some school districts are turning to instructional coaches to give teachers real-time advice as they try to sharpen students' skills.

Spellings Is To Gonzales As "I Don't Recall" Is To Lunchables

For anyone who's not an education geek, the real fun of last night's Daily Show wasn't EdSec Spellings' appearance but rather the show's hilarious coverage of the current immigration debate going on in Congress, which included one segment in which a correspondent says reform opponents are worried about the US becoming a "backup" country for illegal immigrants -- "like Wesleyan," and another correspondent, this one tall white and balding, goes to Mexico and try and get back into the US illegally with the help of his burro "Smuggly." Hilarious, over the top, can't-believe-they-said-that kind of stuff that's usually found on the Colbert Report, not The Daily Show.

Then Spellings came on, wearing a light blue blouse and a matching double-strand necklace that was either aquamarine or larimar. Stewart took out some pencils and Lunchables, thanked Spellings for being on the show, and handed her an apple she later smoothly attempted to give back to him for some added nutrition (the Lunchables and CapriSun folks are pissed).

Asked about NCLB's alleged curriculum-narrowing, Spellings responded with the usual talking point ("kids need to read to learn social studies"). Asked whether she would want to smite the teachers unions on the head if she were Education God for a day, Spellings smirked and paused -- and then perhaps sensing that she was on the verge of pulling a Rod Paige -- said "kidding!" Asked about the student loan scandal, Spellings said it was complex or something like that and Stewart -- clearly knowing and caring little about the topic -- let it pass.

Perhaps the best moment came at the end, when Stewart asked Spellings an old school SAT analogies question (they don't do those anymore, Daily Show writers) that went something like: Alberto Gonzales is to "I don't recall" as trees are to....(d) "I don't recall," the answer Spellings chose. Indeed. [UPDATE: You can see video of this last bit here.]

Over all, it was a harmless exercise, neither particularly humorous nor scathing. Stewart treated Spellings with a combination of kid gloves and that mystified air that most folks display when talking about education (why is it so hard, what is the problem, etc.) Spellings did fine.

Now They're Outsourcing Your Kids' Fast Food Jobs, Too

First went the manufacturing jobs. Then the back office call centers and tech support functions went overseas. Then, just a few years ago though it seems like an eon, we learned about tutoring from across the world. Most recently, editors started looking for overseas reporters to cover domestic news (Pasadena, to be specific). Now, one more step: outsourced fast-food order-taking. As this USA Today story describes, it hasn't gone international yet, but that's just a matter of time: 'Want fries with that?' could be coming from Delaware. What's next?

More Misogyny And Anger (And Irony, Too) At The HuffPo

If you have absolutely nothing better to do, check out my latest screed over at the Huffington Post (Spellings Does Comedy), which combines my last few posts about Spellings and the media into one big pile of misogyny and anger (hence the ominous picture of Heath Ledger as The Joker in the upcoming Batman movie). I promise to write about something other than Spellings next time. In the meantime, for lighter fare, check out Gerald Bracey on education research, or Ravitch on history. Man, don't those two ever shut up? (The promised irony.)

Five Questions For Jon Stewart To Ask Spellings Tonight

Dear Jon:

Here are some questions you might ask Secretary Spellings tonight on the show:

In an all-out brawl between you and Secretary of State Condi Rice, who do you think would win, what is your preferred fighting style, and can I watch?

How come that guy Alberto is getting such a hard time from Congress while you're sharing laughs and brownie recipes? Is it because he's short, or just because he's Mexican?

So basically Reading First is being fixed and you've got a commission studying student loans, so we shouldn't worry or anything, right?

What are we to make of the fact that you are such a big fan of American Idol, a show in which talent matters little and there is a shocking lack of accountability?

People have said you use your charm and pleasantness to defuse tense situations and deflect criticism. Is that fair to say? If so, who do you think is hotter, Kennedy or Miller? Hey, did you just wink at me?

Finding The Hidden Gems In The System

In even the most troubled big-city school systems, I like to think that there are at least a few folks who have a combination of institutional knowledge, big-picture savvy, and organizational and interpersonal skills to get useful things done.

Sometimes these gems are old hands who have been in the system forever and somehow managed not to get crushed or narrowed or made mean. All they need is to have their energies and inner entrepreneur unshackled. Sometime they are newcomers, fresh out of biz school or somewhere else who manage to pick up what they need to know about how things really work (and a little humility for those who have come before them) while still pushing for changes that would otherwise not get done. They are generally marked by their ability to work up and down the system -- with the office next door, outside folks, school and classroom staff, and community groups.

However, they are few and far between -- and I know about precious few of them. I know a couple of folks at Chicago Public Schools who seem to fit the model. There's that new Denver superintendent and his deputy, who some think are a good mix. I hear about some folks inside the NYC Department of Education who might fit that bill. And I remember that there was someone in Philadelphia who got brought in from a school leadership position to do teacher recruitment. But that's about it. Anyone got any ideas?

Snap Judgements In Education Reporting

Always looking for vivid details to open and close their otherwise mundane education stories, reporters and their editors often glom onto little things that may or may not really make much of a difference to students' lives and school improvement. In this reporter's notebook, NPR's Larry Abramson comes clean about his own tendencies towards snap judgments and first impressions, and the effects reporters' feelings have on their coverage. He compares his impressions of two New Orleans schools, one favorable and the other not so favorable, and wonders how much his first impressions really matter and whether they cloud his ability to see beyond things like how children are greeted or whether there's toilet paper in the bathroom. If only everyone else -- reporters, researchers, and policymakers -- were as honest. Or at least that's my impression.

Check Registers: Do They Help?

For a while now, especially in Texas, reformers and advocates like Peyton Wolcott (here)have been calling on school districts to publish their check registers online so that everyone can see what they're spending their money on. However, as this Dallas Morning News article points out, not every district that is participating does it for the right reasons -- and not every check register is easy to find or to understand (here). Does your district post its checkbook online, and if so what does it tell you about how they're spending their money?

Big News Of The Day (May 22)

Parents of Disabled Child Win Ruling NYT
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that parents of disabled children do not have to hire lawyers to sue school districts when they attempt to ensure that their children's special needs are adequately met.

Education put to the humor test USA Today
With twin scandals nipping at her heels, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings tonight appeals directly to America's youth: She appears on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

Documentation for the Undocumented? Inside Higher Ed
Immigration reform package would offer path toward permanent legal status to college students lacking residency rights in U.S.

College Presidents Campaign Against "Misleading" US News Rankings Washington Post
A group of college presidents, fed up with the annual U.S. News & World Report list of top colleges, has begun pressuring colleagues to limit the information they provide to the magazine and eliminate any mention of the list when promoting their schools.

Early Childhood Proposals, Realistic and Otherwise

On Monday, Sen. Clinton came out with a $10 billion early childhood proposal that (Clinton Pushes Pre - Kindergarten Proposal). Apparently designed by Catherine Brown and Jake Sullivan on the Clinton domestic team, it looks pretty vanilla to me, but wins a speedy approval from the Ed Sector's Sara Mead, who says about the Clinton plan that it is "right on the merits and also plays well politically." Oh, goody.

Over at Early Stories, Richard Colvin takes a slightly broader look around, pointing out that neither Clinton nor the Ed Sector are alone in the early childhood space (New America, Obama, and Pelosi are others), that there are complicated politics to expanding the federal role in early childhood (ie, Head Start), and that the Clinton plan includes some unaddressed and unrealistic elements (ie, college-educated teachers in early childhood classrooms).

For some early childhood ideas that are more closely connected to existing legislation and that have some more realistic ideas for where to get the money, check out New America's event and new paper on early childhood, also released today. And I'm not just saying that because I did some editing work on it. The event includes tasty new comments from Mead, Sullivan, and Bel Sawhill.

The "Lost Teacher Jobs" Myth

The AFT blog links to a song that's apparently going around via email these days (Not on the Test) and then pretty much simultaneously debunks and scaremongers about the idea that teachers' jobs might depend on student test scores: "Thankfully, for the most part, and for now, this is not really true. Teachers are not yet losing their jobs because of students’ poor test performance. But it is a frightening concept. A teacher’s career and livelihood could depend upon the performance of a bunch of eight-year olds. Think about any eight year-old that you know. Even the best kid is probably a spaz."

Funny, yes, but it's easy to read this and end up thinking that teachers are losing their jobs over kids' test scores. They're not.

How Immigration Reform Will Really Affect Education

Over at Eduwonk, Andy says that the wrangling over an immigration reform bill may anger conservatives and scuttle chances for anything constructive on NCLB reauthorization (The Conservatives Are Revolting!), but I think that would only be the case if NCLB 2.0 was closer to being ready to go. If immigration reform gets done, its main effect will be on the families of schoolchildren whose parents aren't here legally. Either way, it seems to me that there'll be enough down time -- and enough differences when it comes to committee jurisdiction -- that NCLB reauthorization (I'm still betting '09) won't be adversely affected.

Spellings Lucky She's Not Going To Be On Colbert

In honor of EdSec Spellings' appearance [tomorrow] tonight on The Daily Show (lucky for her she's not going to be on Colbert, who's much harder on his guests), here's the transcript from Stephen Colbert's famous spoof, No Guns Left Behind, about how the answer to school safety is to arm the teachers: here. Enjoy. She's also apparently an American Idol fanatic.

It seems a little frivolous, given her current circumstances. I mean, shouldn't she be hanging out close to home, fixing student loans and Reading First instead of indulging herself? But then again, Stewart will probably fall for the charm like everyone else does. That woman can do no wrong when it comes to charming the press.

NYT Weighs In On Reading First -- "Cornerstone" Of NCLB

My telepathic powers over the NYT editorial board seem to have returned momentarily with this weekend's blast regarding Reading First (Putting More Profit Before Education). I have long been calling for equal treatment of Reading First with that upstart, student lending. For this I'll forgive the Times for calling RF the "cornerstone" and for calling the Kennedy report on RF a Congressional study.

Big Stories Of The Day (Monday May 21)

Evolution Opponent Is in Line for Schools Post NYT
A member of the Kansas school board who supported its efforts against teaching evolution is running unopposed for the National Association of State Boards of Education.

What If Every Child Had A Laptop? Sixty Minutes
Are Intel and other computer giants helping or hurting the worldwide One Laptop initiative?

Fiscal Chill Puts Squeeze on Several States Ed Week
In all, 11 states were taking in fewer dollars than they had expected as of February of this year.

Schools can't agree on what to do with twins Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Dawn Lynch had mixed emotions when she found out administrators at McClellan Elementary School had assigned her twin sons to separate first-grade classes without consulting her first.

The Index: Why They Are the Best Newsweek
The Challenge Index list of America's best high schools, this year with a record 1,258 names, began as a tale of just two schools.

Africa’s Storied Colleges, Jammed and Crumbling NYT
Far from being a repository of the continent’s hopes for the future, Africa’s decrepit universities have become hotbeds of discontent.

The Best Of The Week (May 14-21)

Washington Watch
Reading First Scandal Moves Up The Media Food Chain
Why Spellings (Probably) Won't Get Canned
Kame’enui KO'd: Reading First Official To Leave ED

Campaign 2008
Edwards Rolls Out College Aid Plan
Top Dem 2008 Candidates Have UPK Fever
Candidates Begin To Talk Education...

NCLB Notes
Everyone's Got Different Takes On NAEP Scores
Hey, Let's Convene, Says Spellings To The Hill
Big Surprise: Chicago Hates Tutoring
A Recruiting Campaign That Would Make Joe Camel Proud

School Life
Headline Of The Week: "Love Me Tenure"
The Dangerous Book For Boys

Media Watch
One Student Dead Every 10 Days In Chicago
US News Reporter Moves To NY Sun
Former Ed Reporter Heads West

Site News
Complaints & Misunderstandings

Why Spellings (Probably) Won't Get Canned

Now that Wolfowitz is out at the World Bank, and Gonzalez seems poised for his own departure from Justice, it might seem logical that Spellings would be next. And, to some, her departure would be an appropriate result given the current spate of scandals plaguing the Education Department.

However, there are a number of reasons why Spellings won't get canned, for practical, political, and other reasons. For starters, the Democratic lust for blood is likely to be sated somewhat by the Wolfowitz and Gonzalez departures. Ditto for the media. No lawmaker has taken the lead on the Spellings issue -- out of fear of Kennedy and Miller or insufficient evidence of harm. Kennedy hasn't even scheduled a hearing.

Then there's the fact that the two main victim/accusers in the Reading First situation (Doherty and Slavin) are both somewhat unsympathetic characters. Doherty apparently lied about his wife's working for a DI company. Slavin has been a remarkably successful proponent of SFA for at least a decade.

Last but not least, the evidence is still thin and our tolerance is high. A revolving door between the USDE and the loan industry? Sure. Poor oversight of major programs? OK. But we're used to all that at this point, given Iraq and New Orleans. Financial gain for Bush friends? Yeah.

The Dangerous Book For Boys

Book for Boys Soars to Dizzying Heights Wall Street Journal (free)
"The Dangerous Book for Boys" purports to aim itself at a particularly inscrutable and un-book-friendly audience: boys around the age of 10.

So here are instructions on how to skip stones, fold a paper hat, make a battery, and hunt and cook a rabbit. It includes a description of the Battle of Thermopylae, but also how to play Texas Hold 'Em poker, and use the phrases "Carpe diem" and "Curriculum vitae."

Big Stories Of The Day (Friday May 18)

GAO report: Schools need more training on handling emergencies USA Today
Eight years after the Columbine High School shootings and nearly six years after Sept. 11, 2001, many of the nation's public schools are short on both the equipment and expertise they'll need in case of a full-scale terrorist attack, natural disaster or biohazard emergency, a government report says.

Principals Act in Plan to Reduce Bureaucracy NYT
Chancellor Joel I. Klein is challenging New York City’s public school principals to free themselves as much as possible from outside oversight under a new reorganization.

Bullying teen gets public punishment MSNBC
A seventh-grade girl got suspended from school for a week for bullying another student. Then Mom got involved, and things got worse for Miasha Williams.

A Recruiting Campaign That Would Make Joe Camel Proud

"Almost 600,000 of America's 1 million active and reserve soldiers enlisted as teens," begins this piece from In These Times that is the latest riff on the old NCLB military recruiting story (America's Child Soldier Problem). "The military lures these physiologically immature kids with a PR machine that would make Joe Camel proud. Its 7,350 17-year-olds needed parental consent to enlist, and only this April were all barred from battle zones. But the military aims even lower, marketing itself to children as young as 13 with multimedia videos, school visits and cold calls to teens' homes and cell phones."

Top Dem 2008 Candidates Have UPK Fever

There's not much detail -- or surprise -- in this post from AFT John about Sen. Obama Addressing the AFT's Executive Council, but we'll take what we can get. Sounds like Obama has UPK fever. Ditto for Clinton. Do you have any signs of UPK fever? If so, see instruction sheet for self-care guidelines.

How Educators View The Media

I'm not sure I agree with everything in this piece about how educators view the media (Elephants in the Room), but it's an important perspective:

"City teachers brace themselves when a school-related story makes the front page. The news usually isn't good. When mainstream media report on urban schools, the real story is often what goes unsaid."



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.