Flypaper

Liam makes a good point.

Did I mention that Mitt Romney is smart and savvy on education reform?

Liam Julian

We've written before about Governor Bobby Jindal. There's lots to like. And then there's this (from the New York Times): Jindal campaigned in Louisiana as a social conservative, which meant "favoring teaching 'intelligent design' in schools as an alternative to evolution."

The New York Times reports today that Senator John McCain is set to meet with three contenders for the VP slot on his ticket: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney; Florida Governor Charlie Crist, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

It stands to reason that the vice president in a potential McCain administration would be handed a major role on education policy; after all, McCain himself hasn't shown much interest in the issue in his career or campaign, though that's starting to change a bit. (His education secretary would also have a lot of leeway, or so I argued here.)

So how do these three stack up on the edu-front? Mitt Romney hails from the state with the highest test scores in the country; though he didn't spark the "Massachusetts Miracle," he didn't mess it up, either. And unlike McCain, he did talk a lot about education on the campaign trail, generally in a smart, data-savvy sort of way. It's easy to imagine a Vice President Romney kick-starting Vice President Al Gore's old "reinventing government" work--and applying it thoughtfully to education.

Charlie Crist is another story. He inherited perhaps the fastest-improving state education system in the country; Florida's recent progress for poor and Hispanic children is monumental. But rather than defend the hard-fought gains of his predecessor, Jeb Bush, he seems intent on retreating. He cleared most of Bush's top education advisors out of Tallahassee and has shown an...

Liam Julian

From The Economist: Mexico is making moves to fix its broken educational system (a system that affects the U.S.??in obvious ways). One wonders, though, whether Mexico's union boss (see here and here) is really willing to give up any power over teacher-staffing decisions.

Liam Julian

The newest Gadfly is out. In it, Checker and I write about how states, loath to see their dropout rates rise, are backtracking on high school exit exams. It's easy to understand why: At a superficial level, reducing the number of dropouts and ensuring that all students leave high school with advanced skills are contradictory goals. Gadfly also contains this week reviews of reports about career and technical education, how Islam is portrayed in textbooks, and state standards.

At a news conference yesterday, New York City teachers union boss Randi Weingarten called Joel Klein's protestations over Albany's inflexibility on school funding the "height of chutzpah."

Beautiful. It's alliterative (more or less, depending on how you pronounce the Yiddish/Hebrew "ch"), elegantly cadenced, and well-suited to its demographic context. That's how you do a sound bite.

I'm encouraged this morning reading this article about Idaho's work in crafting standardized performance evaluations for teachers. Apparently, some are hoping it paves the way for pay-for-performance plans for teachers (another good thing).

To be sure, recent reports indicate that teacher evaluations are pretty poor on the whole. I've had the opportunity over the years to take a look at some of these evaluations, particularly those in urban school districts, and concur that they can be pretty embarrassing, often treating "personal hygiene" on the same plane as "teacher knowledge of subject"--that is, if the latter is even included.

To be fair, there are some fantastic evaluation instruments out there for assessing teachers' skills and knowledge. The Teacher Advancement Program, for instance, has one they use as part of their professional development and performance-based pay program. It's a research-based rubric that includes nearly 20 indicators (such as teacher content knowledge, teacher knowledge of students, academic feedback, and use of problem solving skills)--each one with corresponding benchmarks that operationalize what it means to be exemplary, proficient, or needing improvement. Let's hope the potato state can be a model for other states/districts interested in overhauling their teacher evaluations so that they actually serve to help teachers serve students....

I've been a patient at the Massachusetts General Hospital and my-son-the-doctor did his residency there. They do a mighty good job of diagnosis, patient care, and treatment. If Senator Ted Kennedy's brain tumor is treatable, he's in good hands. Whether it is or not, our thoughts are with him, his family, and his amazing far-flung cast of loyal staffers and staff alumni/ae. One reason he's been so productive a lawmaker and crusader in so many spheres over so many years has been his adroit use of lots of able aides and advisors. And one result of that is a vast band of current and former staff who view him with respect, affection, and gratitude. As his Senate colleagues (and President Bush) have already made clear, Kennedy also commands the friendship of many, many people on both sides of the aisle. The thoughts and prayers of that throng cannot but help the MGH docs to do all they can--and the Senator himself to maintain his fighting spirit during the rough days ahead.

Photo by Flickr user imijfoto.

So reports Charles Barone, a former (Democratic) hill staffer:

Memo to Democrats:

  • Bush used a message similar to McCain's to good effect in 2000.
  • We suggest you claim the high ground again rather than cede it to the leader of the Republican party.
  • Let's hear more about what you are for and a little less about what you are against.

First it was Randi Weingarten, who yesterday embraced Core Knowledge as the sort of program New York City's schools need. Then today Education Week published a very friendly article about the approach. But every piece of journalism needs its "alternative" perspective; enter Alfie Kohn:

The curriculum "steal[s] time from more meaningful objectives, such as learning how to think critically," Alfie Kohn, an education writer and opponent of test-based accountability, wrote in an opinion piece in USA Today last December. "The best classrooms aren't organized around a ???bunch o' facts' but around problems, projects, and questions."

Yup, gotta hate those facts. As they say, "history: it's just one bloody thing after another." But come on, Alfie, does anyone but you accept the characterization of Core Knowledge as just a "bunch of facts"? At a time when teachers are deeply depressed about everything but dumbed-down reading and math skills getting narrowed out of the curriculum (depressed in part because of Alfie's exhortations), isn't a curriculum with lots of deep, rich, engaging, exciting content across history, literature, science, geography, and more worth praising and embracing? There, Alfie: now you have your "questions."...

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