Flypaper

NEW YORK SCHOOLS
New York City’s budget oversight agency finds that the Big Apple’s schools are becoming more congested, that funding has slumped, and that the number of kids in “temporary housing situations” has increased sharply. (New York Times)
 
SPECIAL EDUCATION
In response to the Education Department’s review of whether states are complying with federal SPED laws, the District of Columbia is considering an overhaul that would include speeding the delivery of services and giving families new tools in disputes with schools over services for their kids. (Washington Post)
 
PRE-KINDERGARTEN
As Mayor Bill de Blasio pushes his preschool-for-all plan, experts are arguing that more needs to be done to ensure that youngsters in informal pre-Kindergarten settings are getting a solid foundation. (New York Times)
 
TEACHER TENURE
In light of the recent Vergara case, the Hechinger Report has published some nifty infographics mapping the percentage of California’s teachers with tenure by county. (Hechinger Report)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
U.S. News: “Supreme Court Ruling Could Give Strength to Teacher Suit
Heartland: “Wyoming Continues Battle Over Science Standards”...

After nearly a decade of research, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) released in May the first outcomes of its efforts to use the results of the 2013 12th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to report on the academic preparedness of U.S. 12th graders for college. It found that only 38% of 12th graders meet its preparedness benchmark in reading, and 39% meet its preparedness benchmark in math. NAGB’s efforts to track college readiness in the United States is uniquely important as it has the only assessment program that reports on the academic performance of a representative national sample of high school students.

That said, the group that issues the Nation’s Report Card deserves a grade of “Incomplete” for its work. Reading and math are obviously necessary indicators of academic preparation for college and careers after high school, but higher education and employers say it’s not enough. When it comes to the ability to complete college level work (and to being career ready), writing skills are essential. Yet, despite the fact that NAGB also administers a 12th grade writing test, it inexplicably chose not to include writing as an indicator of readiness.

If NAEP wants to remain the “gold standard” for assessment, NAGB must remedy this situation quickly. Postsecondary institutions and systems throughout the nation assess writing in order to determine whether students have the academic skills to succeed in first year courses. According to ACT, approximately one third of ACT test takers do not meet its readiness...

Bravo to Fordham’s original gadfly!

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools yesterday inducted Fordham president Chester E. Finn, Jr. into its Charter School Hall of Fame—established to honor pioneers in the development, growth, and innovation of charter schools.

At its annual conference in Las Vegas, Checker was lauded for his long track record of support and hailed as one of the “intellectual godfathers” of the charter school movement. He was inducted along with Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz and the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund.

“Hall of Fame members include school teachers and leaders, thinkers, policy experts, and funders that have paved the way for the success and growth of public charter schools. They have strengthened public charter schools nationwide and inspired us to do more for our nation’s students,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance.

Checker is among twenty-six individuals and organizations named to the Hall of Fame since 2007. He joins U.S. senator Lamar Alexander, the KIPP Charter Schools, Joel Klein, and Chicago mayor Richard Daley, among others.

Check out this short video on Checker’s contribution to the charter school movement.

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UNION DUES
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that home healthcare workers in Illinois can’t be compelled to pay union dues. While this ruling was limited to home health aides, some argue that the ruling has set the stage for other rulings on union dues, such as one pending in California that pertains to public school teachers. (Washington Post)
 
COMMON CORE MATH
In response to a recent New York Times article that listed reasons that parents are faltering with the Common Core, Curriculum Matters asks, “Should instruction stay the same simply so parents can help kids with their homework?” (Curriculum Matters)
 
NCLB WAIVER STATES
Seventeen out of thirty-four states that received NCLB waivers have not followed through on their promise of turning around the schools performing in the bottom 5 percent. (Politics K–12)
 
SUPES LIKE THE COMMON CORE
A Gallup/Education Week survey finds that two-thirds of district superintendents believe that the Common Core will improve education in their communities. (Education Week)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Daily Caller: “Harris Decision Bad But Not Fatal For Teachers Unions
National Journal: “Principal Woes
Reporter-Herald: “Colorado teacher evaluations still face major hurdles after first year”...

Last Friday, I laid out policy scenarios that might result from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Harris v. Quinn. To recap, the case involved plaintiff Pam Harris and other Illinois home-healthcare workers whom public-employee unions had successfully organized (with the help of their allies in the Democratic political establishment). The problem was that Harris and others didn’t want to subsidize the union, didn’t think they were even public employees, and simply wanted to go back to providing healthcare services to their patients, who were often sick family members.

I theorized that the Court would either (a) side with the unions and tell healthcare providers to take it up with the state legislature, (b) side with the healthcare providers but limit the decision to them alone, or (c) extend the decision broadly to say that all public employees needn’t pay union dues or “fair share” payments if they did not want to subsidize the union’s activities. Option “c” is a doomsday scenario for public unions (the unions’ “gravest threat” in the eyes of one commentator) and would effectively prohibit “fair share” payments for workers nationwide.

Why this would cripple the unions isn’t hard to figure out. Last year, the Wisconsin Education Association Council reported a nearly 30 percent drop in membership in the two years since the Act 10 collective-bargaining law took effect. (Act 10 eliminated “fair share” payments, though it also limited collective bargaining, which the doomsday scenario would not do.)

On Monday, the Court ruled decidedly...

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NEWARK SCHOOL SUPE
New Jersey has renewed the contract of embattled Newark schools superintendent Cami Anderson, whose pro-school choice “One Newark” plan has garnered her the enmity of some union and parent activists. (Star-Ledger)
 
TEACHER JOB SATISFACTION
An OECD survey finds that teachers worldwide love their job but feel undervalued by society. (New York Times)
 
LONGER SCHOOL DAYS
Lengthening school days is one of D.C. schools chief Kaya Henderson’s top priorities, but the teacher unions are fighting her efforts. (Washington Post)
 
COMMON CORE POLITICS
Andre Perry opines that Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal’s flip-flop on the Common Core is a myopic political calculation is already backfiring. (Hechinger Report)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
District Dossier: “Why Good Principals Are Hard to Find and Keep
Denver Post: “Colorado teacher evaluations still face major hurdles after first year
New York Times: “New York Schools Chief Advocates More ‘Balanced Literacy’
 ...

My chief mentor, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, occasionally warned against “semantic infiltration,” which he correctly attributed to the late arms-control expert, Fred Ikle. It is, of course, the judo-like practice of using terms that are appealing to an audience as fig leaves for practices that the same audience would find repugnant—turning one’s own language against one’s interests, you might say.

Moynihan noted, for example, that countries that style themselves “democratic republics” are almost never either democratic or republics.

So it is with “balanced literacy,” which has reared its head once again in New York City, as schools chancellor Carmen Farina places Teachers College professor Lucy M. Calkins back on the English language arts curricular and pedagogical throne that she briefly occupied a decade ago until Joel Klein learned what a catastrophe that was.

Balanced literacy is neither “balanced” nor “literacy,” at least not in the sense that poor kids taught to read via this approach will end up literate.

Rather, it flies in the face of “scientific reading instruction” (phonics, phonemic awareness, etc.) and reinstates the disastrous approach to early reading known as “whole language.”

“Balanced” is supposed to signal that it conjoins the best of scientifically based instruction with the best of whole language. Indeed, “balanced” is a perfect example of semantic infiltration. Who would want their children taught to read in an “unbalanced” way? (And who would want them not to be literate?)

But “balanced literacy” is, in reality, and especially as interpreted and...

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While education reforms are nearly always won via legislation, rare exceptions do occur—and sometimes they’re significant. The year 2014 has already proven to be a landmark one for education reform thanks to judicial decision. Perhaps the most notable example thus far is Vergara v. California, which struck down tenure and kindred state laws that make it difficult for schools to ensure that their students (especially those living in poverty) have an effective teacher. This week brought word that some New York families are kick starting a similar challenge to equally oppressive laws in the Empire state. Other states could follow.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision in Harris v. Quinn, which could be even more momentous for education reform (and public-sector unionism broadly.) Indeed, some liberals are calling it the “gravest threat today to public-employee unions.”

This case deals with the representation of Illinois’s home health care workers (often family members taking care of loved ones). The issue arose when plaintiff Pam Harris (the mother of a disabled son whom she takes care of) worried that union dues (or “fair share” payments in lieu of dues) would divert money she needs for her son into political speech undertaken by unions with which she does not agree.

Traditionally, such in-home caregivers were not considered public employees, much less members of collective-bargaining units, but actions by former governor Rod Blagojevich and current governor Pat Quinn, designed to benefit large unions (and political megadonors) like...

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“Nobody expects new surgeons to be any good. It wasn’t until my fortieth or fiftieth bypass surgery that I started feel like I knew what I was doing.”

 “I wish I could go back and retry those cases from my first year. If I knew then what I know now, they’d never have been convicted.”

“Look, every rookie shoots an innocent bystander by mistake or arrests the wrong guy. That doesn’t make you a bad cop. Your first year on the job is all about learning from your mistakes.”

Odds are pretty good that you’ve never heard anything like the three statements above. Hopefully you never will. But ask a teacher about his or her first year in the classroom and you’ll hear, either with a smile or a shudder, how “nothing prepared me for my first year as a teacher.”

Funny thing, if you think about it. Other fields rarely send unprepared recruits off to their first jobs. In education, we not only expect it, but we seem proud of it. You haven’t earned your stripes as a teacher until you’ve earned your scars. I’ve said it myself to grad students and new teachers, thinking I was giving sage advice and comfort: “Your first year in the classroom is about moving from unconscious incompetence—not knowing what you don’t know—to conscious incompetence—knowing what you don’t know and need to improve.”

I wonder how many unconsciously incompetent...

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VOUCHERS FOR SPECIAL-NEEDS STUDENTS
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to make it easier for New York students with special needs to receive private-school vouchers. A bill in the State Assembly to force the Big Apple to do so was stopped when de Blasio promised to make the changes himself. (New York Times)
 
LOW-INCOME, BRIGHT KIDS
A new program called College Match guides high-flying, low-income kids to top universities. (Hechinger Report)
 
TEACHER TENURE
Next month, a lawsuit in New York will aim at teacher tenure and dismissal in a manner similar to the recent Vergara case in California. (Teacher Beat)
 
COMMON CORE IN LOUISIANA
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education called a special meeting to discuss Governor Bobby Jindal’s recent efforts to block Common Core–aligned state tests. (Times-Picayune)
 
FORDHAM IN THE NEWS
Yahoo: “Fordham Institute Correct in Suggesting Schools Seek Talent Outside Education Field
Real Clear Politics: “Common Core Panelists Rue Politics’ Toll on Reform”...

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