Flypaper

Liam Julian

Greg Toppo's story in??USA Today about the rift between two segments of left-leaning education types is noteworthy. Education has for some lengthy period been relegated to the outskirts of political conversation, and it's refreshing to see it command a little spotlight, however briefly. The story, summed up, is this: Al Sharpton ("a political gadfly," writes Toppo) and Joel Klein have teamed up to do right by poor and minority children, and part of their agenda might run afoul of teachers' unions, which have traditionally been partners of civil rights organizations and personalities such as Sharpton. What does Randi Weingarten think about it?

"Too often what happens is that when people get into this, they blame all the people who have been toiling in this field without the resources and without the public focus on it," she said. "It's like saying that those of us who have been frontierspeople in this fight for equity for the last 50 years are the ones who should be faulted, as opposed to saying, ???We'll join you ready for duty--what can we do to help?'" ??

The above is called peevish whining. Weingarten is scandalized, it seems, that some are not ready to "join" her and would rather put forth ideas of their own. But what are Weingarten's ideas other than sound bites and continuation of the failed status quo? And what does Richard Kahlenberg think about it all?

Education historian Richard Kahlenberg said that while unions' and civil rights groups' interests "are

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Liam Julian

In this week's Gadfly, published mere moments ago, one can find a riveting examination by Checker of what we mean when we talk about "international benchmarking." We pull no punches regarding Eleanor Holmes Norton and the minions of A.J. Duffy. And Checker explains why Fordham now makes movies.

Regarding the news that Al Sharpton and Joel Klein will team up to bring fresh ideas into education, unions be damned, New York teachers union head Randi Weingarten had this to say:

"Too often what happens is that when people get into this, they blame all the people who have been toiling in this field without the resources and without the public focus on it," she said. "It's like saying that those of us who have been frontierspeople in this fight for equity for the last 50 years are the ones who should be faulted, as opposed to saying, 'We'll join you ready for duty--what can we do to help?'"

These words illustrate more clearly than any Weingarten has uttered that the UFT puts its own interests before those of students. Two reasonably well-respected public figures propose new ideas for closing the achievement gap, and Weingarten issues a self-pitying apologia so obsessed with the plight of her union that she fails even to mention the students for whose future she is supposedly so concerned. Time spent toiling aimlessly in the field and starving in the wild frontier, which Randi would have us believe are her union's main claims on Al Sharpton and Joel Klein's attention, are not the criteria by which serious ed reformers judge applicants to their club. They're more concerned with what you can bring to the challenge of educating kids....

Gadfly Studios

Mike and Christina discuss a recent rash of education reform proposals.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKibmnVrC4M

Liam Julian

Some good news from Boston.

Liam Julian

It's true--it's tough to predict the future. Of course, that doesn't mean we should be content to let the progression of technology sweep us up and take us where it may. A strong argument can be made, for example, that books, regardless of whether they can be rendered "obsolete" in a decade, deserve to be taught and protected and cherished. My friend Coby is more sympathetic to industry's and technology's whims than??I am. He has more confidence that it will do the "right" thing, largely, I think, because Coby is reticent to call one educational path "right" and another "wrong" (though he may disagree with??that assessment). Others, however, are less shy about ascribing judgements to change, recognizing it??isn't always positive, and??airing their concerns about the direction in which, say, education is heading.

On another note, Coby nails it here.

Liam Julian

The last paragraph of Coby's latest post,??directly below,??contains this: "But once they're washed downriver by the unyielding tide of technological progress, they'll sound as quaint as Socrates' reminiscences about the days before writing." Progress has both a quantitative and qualitative definition, and one wonders if Coby doesn't concentrate overmuch on the former.

A few weeks ago at the NewSchools Venture Fund summit, Newark Mayor Cory Booker's jealousy about Washington mayor Adrian Fenty's successful takeover of D.C.'s schools was palpable. This isn't going to help: Governor Corzine has selected, as Newark's next superintendent, Clifford Janey--the very man Fenty ran out of town as soon as he got the reins of the school system. I can hear Fenty laughing now.

Liam Julian

The Wall Street Journal editors defend D.C.'s voucher program.

I was expecting a bit more from Eduwonk's $5 billion challenge. The winner, just announced, would use the money to

Create a new role for the classroom called an "Associate Teacher" that works with a teacher for 2 years before becoming a full-fledged teacher. Every classroom team would include a teacher, an associate teacher and a teacher assistant. It would cost a lot of money to run, but would help meet the needs of all children.

This might improve teaching quality a bit, but it would leave a lot to fix in the teaching profession, let alone American education writ large, which was the subject of the challenge.

For instance, this plan would do nothing to raise the quality of teaching candidates, who typically have lower SAT and ACT scores and come from less-competitive universities than their peers in other professions. Furthermore, even when districts ramp up recruiting efforts, bureaucratic and union barriers often deter the most qualified candidates from taking the jobs anyway. Why use the $5 billion for a bit of professional development (of questionable utility) when you could try to attract better candidates from the get-go?

Nor does the "associate teacher" plan do anything to fix the dysfunctional school culture that spurs so many qualified teachers to switch to careers that are more professionally rewarding and less of a threat to one's sanity. The $5-billion teacher will still waste valuable time and energy battling with incompetent administrators. She'll still bump...

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