Flypaper

Cleveland can be a tough place, what with its harsh winters and difficult economic times. Its education politics aren't especially welcoming, either; Cleveland is home to one of the most restrictive teachers union contracts in the country, for example. So it's doubly heartening to see the district reach out to some of the city's highest performing charter schools in an effort to bury hatchets and benefit children. According to this Plain Dealer article :

Instead of slipping on boxing gloves, leaders of traditional public education and upstart charter schools treated one another with kid gloves on Wednesday, agreeing to work together to provide opportunities for all Cleveland children. "We're in this together," said Eric Gordon, chief academic officer for the Cleveland public schools. "We either go down together, or we reinforce things that work."

What a great way to celebrate National Charter Schools Week . If it can happen in Cleveland, it can happen anywhere.

Photo by Flickr user spatulated ....

Wouldn't it be great if the candidates were to duke it out over education reform? I've said so, and I'm not alone, but Mike says "not so fast":

In contrast, some conservative groups of education reformers are not bothered by the fact that the topic of education has been sidelined during this campaign season. "It's not the worst thing in the world. We have a history of creating unintended consequences, as with No Child Left Behind," says Mike Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Fordham Institute. "So I don't mind if the federal government takes a breather."

The feds, banned from school reform for one tiny, little mistake.

Japan has slipped in international science rankings, so the government has announced a plan to train a special cadre of "super science teachers." Gotta love the enthusiasm.

Gadfly Studios

Mike and Christina discuss what kind of ed talk to expect from the presumptive nominees as we near the general election.

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=p3sUyP-c8AE

As with any program, implementation in AP really matters, so it's disappointing that Tom Stanley-Becker doesn't say more about how history is taught at his school. Was the AP class his only recent exposure to American history? I have fond memories of my own AP history experience, years ago, because it was precisely what he says he's missing--we read only essays, and the classes featured roundtable discussions of big and interesting issues. But this was possible because we had all taken the basic American history class the year prior, consuming dates, people, and events in order to free us to talk more about ideas in the second year. I could easily see it being impossible to do both well in a single year, and if that's happening it's the fault of the school, not the program.

1. Bills proposed by Florida lawmakers to allow teachers to caveat their teaching of evolution have, for the time being, fizzled out.

2. Cool video on how the eye, that amazing bit of complexity that's often proffered as proof of intelligent design, likely evolved:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOtP7HEuDYA

3. And a very funny parody of Ben Stein's anti-evolution film Expelled:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ThQQuHtzHM

Jeff Kuhner

The Catholic Church is not the only institution facing a sex abuse crisis. The Los Angeles Unified School District has an ugly scandal of its own--and teenagers are again the victims. Richard Winton, a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, has written several incisive articles on the burgeoning crisis involving a former L.A. assistant principal, Steve Rooney. According to the Times, Rooney is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with a then-15-year-old female student at the Foshay Learning Center.

The Foshay student says she told a school administrator that she was having an affair with Rooney, in which she lived with him at his downtown apartment for some time. Rather than report the improper--and illegal--relationship, the student alleges that the administrator urged her to "recant" her statements. Why was the administrator, whose name has not been divulged, so determined to cover up for Rooney? Because the student feared that the revelations would result in Rooney being criminally charged for committing lewd acts with a minor and going to jail.

Hence, Rooney was never discharged, suspended, or even investigated by the LAUSD--even though law enforcement authorities had conducted a criminal probe into accusations by the Foshay student's stepfather that Rooney threatened him with a gun for demanding the relationship be terminated. Instead, Rooney was transferred by school district officials to Markham Middle School in South Los Angeles last year. During his tenure at Markham, Rooney is alleged to have molested two female students, one a 13-year-old,...

Greg Anrig is smart, eloquent and likable, as was his dad, whose memory I cherish. (His mom is pretty terrific, too.) But he's overhasty in declaring that the voucher movement has "stalled" and not until you get to the end of his long piece does he acknowledge the larger point, which is that school choice in its infinite variety is accelerating and that the voucher movement is largely to thank for that.

A majority of U.S. students now study either in bona fide ???schools of choice??? or in neighborhood schools that their parents chose with a realtor's help. That's an amazing change since I was a schoolboy in the fifties and a very positive one. The pity is that the girls and boys with the least access to decent education options today are poor and minority youngsters trapped in wretched urban school systems.

Those are the kids being helped by vouchers in Milwaukee and D.C. and Ohio--and who would be helped in myriad other places if Greg and his friends would allow this to happen (and if a bunch of states would repeal their nativist, anti-Catholic "Blaine Amendments").

I surely do not suggest that vouchers are the only worthwhile form of school choice, much less that the mere existence of vouchers leads to improved student achievement. The schools have to be worth attending, too, places where quality teaching and learning occur. That's true of many but not all private schools, just as it's true of some...

Birthday-boy Coby beat me to the punch, but here you go.

Regarding the Absent Teacher Reserve controversy, Randi rants:

"The chancellor should stop his grandstanding. The chancellor's ideology of simply wanting to fire people at whim-regardless of fairness, reasons for displacement or statutory/contractual obligations-have gotten him into this mess. To pretend the union hasn't tried to offer solutions is just wrong."

How fitting that Randi admits in her own statement that "statutory/contractual obligations" might be related to something other than fairness (otherwise, why mention them both?). And speaking of fairness, what's not fair is that taxpayers have to keep paying the salaries of people who don't work and probably can't teach. Maybe those taxpayers should get some "contractual" protections of their own.

* Last week's here.

Education Sector just released a new survey, Waiting to be Won Over, by Farkas Duffett Research--a top-notch policy research firm that's done great work for Fordham in the past (and is working on a teacher survey of our own, due out later this year). It looks at teachers' views about various reform ideas and includes some interesting (and generally depressing) trend data. The top-line findings are that unions are ascendant (54 percent of teachers view them as "absolutely essential" vs. 46 percent in 2003) and that merit pay (at least via test scores) has taken a bit of a beating (support is down four points to 34 percent).

Still, there are plenty of findings to hearten reformers, including strong support for "hardship pay" for individuals willing to serve in tough schools (8 in ten teachers support it) and, at least among newcomers, extra pay for shortage subjects like math and science (almost two-thirds of newbies support that).

These data are illuminating, and no doubt the survey's authors are correct that "independent public opinion research that investigates what teachers think about various issues is a necessary contribution to the national conversation on education policy and reform."

Still, as Rick Hess would say if he had a blog (Rick, no one reads books anymore), the views of current teachers (even new ones) shouldn't be the last word on how tomorrow's teachers might react to various workplace reforms. The point of merit pay, for...

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