No more wooly-headed education reform ideas from me. In today's Education Gadfly I wager

...that a majority of teachers in remote rural schools and mid-sized urban communities will continue to come from the middle ranks of middling colleges. Or worse. So policymakers and philanthropists might ask: what can we do to make sure that their students get a strong education too?

Read the whole piece here....

Liam Julian

What you can expect from this week's Gadfly: Mike tells us what to do about mediocre teachers, we uncover lots of anti-union liberals in Denver (and Australia), and Christina tells us why we shouldn't throw a party for the College Board. Over on the podcast, Stafford brings us a dazzling new segment, called Rate That Reform.

According to this article in today's Washington Post, Democrats on Capitol Hill are starting to work with Barack Obama's policy staff to craft a legislative agenda for 2009.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has assigned her committee chairmen to begin with low-hanging fruit to build confidence and provide a new, young president quick legislative victories.

How much do you wanna bet that reauthorizing No Child Left Behind isn't on this list of low-hanging fruit?

If I were advising either presidential candidate--which I'm not--I'd tell them to say as little as possible on education. Partly that's because of the electorate: Americans are focused on other things, what with $4-per-gallon gas and flat-lining wages. And partly that's because of policy: it's hard for a candidate for federal office to talk about schools and not mention the big gorilla in the room: the No Child Left Behind Act. But the bases in both parties hate the law, yet neither candidate wants to run away from it entirely. So they keep mum. Good idea.

Dan Gerstein, a onetime aide to Senator Joe Lieberman and a consultant to Democrats for Education Reform, disagrees. He took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal yesterday to urge Barack Obama to make education a key part of his acceptance speech:

The ideal issue for Mr. Obama to focus on in the speech and beyond, as Mayor Bloomberg can attest, is education. No challenge is more consequential for our country than closing the achievement gap in our urban schools and raising the competitiveness of our workforce. And no special interest has done more to stand in the way of change

Guest Blogger

A post from guest blogger and Fordham writer and researcher Emmy Partin .

It's frustrating to be a charter-school supporter in the Buckeye State. Charter performance in Ohio is, overall, barely equal and too often inferior to that of the district schools with which they compete. According to the latest data from the state, some 64 percent of Ohio's urban charter schools are rated "D" or "F" by the state, compared to about 50 percent of their district peers.

There are exceptions. In Fordham's hometown of Dayton , 6 of the 10 highest achieving public schools are charters. There, charter school students not only outperform their district peers on traditional measures of student achievement (47 percent of district students attended a school rated "academic emergency" while 28 percent of charter students were in such a school), but also on the state's new value-added growth measure (68 percent of Dayton charter students met or exceeded overall state growth expectations while only 37 percent of district students did). And there is more hope on the horizon. Ohio's first KIPP school opened its doors this month, and a trio of high-performing charters in Cleveland recently announced...

Check out his interview here, and get a quick and helpful overview of his book, Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism.

I suppose we'd been warned, weeks ago, that the New York City Department of Education was watching us. So I shouldn't have been surprised by the voice mail from Commissioner Joel Klein's personal assistant (a woman with a lovely British accent) that arrived just hours after I wrote this post.

As you may recall, I tweaked Commissioner Klein for refusing to admit that his "Balanced Literacy" reading program in use across the district was a fraud.


We connected late yesterday, and Joel voiced his strong disagreement. Didn't I know that New York City and Boston both got better reading results at the fourth-grade level than any other city--and that they both use balanced literacy? Didn't I see the latest research (referring to this What Works Clearinghouse review) showing that Open Court and Reading Mastery are lacking in evidence of effectiveness? He argued that New York City is actually doing quite well, thank you, in the decoding department, as indicated by strong fourth-grade reading scores. Where it falls down (as illustrated by poor eighth-grade scores) is in helping students develop comprehension. And that's why he's become boosterish on Core Knowledge as...

If this sort of empty rhetoric is the most we can expect to hear about education for the rest of the campaign, it's time to declare the Ed in '08 initiative a failure.

I was surprised by how strongly Rick Kahlenberg attacked the new Ed Sector report on interdistrict public school choice, since the study really has nothing new to offer us other than some really neat maps. Instead of keeping things in proportion, we get Kahlenberg waxing poetic on the basic standards of "Social Science 101" and methodology nitty gritty in an excessively long winded diatribe. Of course, Dillon actually spends quite a bit of time explaining her choices (try page four, which Kahlenberg calls "the fine print in a sidebar"-it's actually an entire page-or the Appendix). I've extricated his two main points from the overblown rhetoric: Dillon makes two inappropriate assumptions, which cause her findings to be unnecessarily pessimistic, and she's giving fodder to choice's opponents.

Kahlenberg doesn't like Dillon's first assumption, a 20 minute driving time as her outside radius for...

Liam Julian

Ben Wildavsky's Wall Street Journal review of Real Education is much better than this. One point: Wildavsky worries that in Murray's system, capable students will be tracked, early on in their educational careers, into academically undemanding courses and eventually similar jobs. Those who, with a little tough love and nurturing and fine teaching, could have become doctors and lawyers will end up mechanics and plumbers.

While determinative tracking is a bad idea, it is not a bad idea to allow pupils who want to be mechanics and plumbers--regardless of their academic potential--to be... mechanics and plumbers. Instead, we shuttle them as 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds into college-preparatory classes that they don't enjoy and they feel are wastes of time. Seriously, let's give these near-adults some educational and vocational options and quit shoving college down their throats. Murray's book makes some solid and compelling points about this that Wildavsky ignores.