Liam Julian

The NEA is gathering in Washington--some "10,000 delegates and a few thousand other union members and guests," according to the Washington Post. The union is going to decide whether to offer its presidential endorsement to Barack Obama or to John McCain. (I wonder what are the Vegas odds on McCain?) What's interesting about this, though, is that Obama will address the group on Saturday. I predict that Mr. Postpartisanism (a concept that shares much with postmodernism), will offer up a bland speech about making sure all children have a future and all teachers have support and all American classrooms are splendid. Maybe he throws in a few lines??like, "We??should reward the best teachers as they deserve to be rewarded,"??from which??ed-reform tasseographers can??divine the candidate's future support for merit pay. The key, of course, is for Obama to give a talk that a) doesn't offend the NEA and b) doesn't make him sound any less postpartisanismishy. We'll see if he can pull it off.

Liam Julian

Britain's schools minister is Lord Adonis. Its schools secretary is Mr. Balls.

Liam Julian

Britain's schools minister is Lord Adonis. Its schools secretary is Mr. Balls.

New Philadelphia schools CEO Arlene Ackerman is making an impression right away; the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

More than 200 Philadelphia School District staffers received layoff notices this week, a move the new schools chief hopes will begin to de-centralize the district and move resources into classrooms.

The employees were all academic coaches, mostly veteran educators who supported teachers in a variety of roles, from technology to mentoring new teachers.

In short, she's quickly asserting control over a behemoth bureaucracy, much like Michelle Rhee is in D.C.

The Philly union leader suggests it's for show: "This is the kind of thing that happens each time a superintendent takes over." I might be so cynical myself, except we know that such central-office "coaches" are often poorly managed and, unbeknownst to them or anyone else, can help cause huge funding inequities between schools. Marguerite Roza has studied this phenomenon; in an anonymous city where four psychologists float among 10 schools, one "says she spends most of her time at a school where the principal ???values her work,'" and another "spends the largest portion of her days at the school her own child attends." As a result, some schools are shortchanged--and often those with the neediest students.

Ackerman might have such a problem in Philly: "When I asked what these coaches do, people would sort of shrug their shoulders and say, 'Well, I don't know.'"

But what's most encouraging to me is that it's "a move the...

There's been a development in New York City's "rubber room" controversy. According to the Daily News, the Department of Ed has agreed to hire more arbitrators and tighten investigation procedures in an effort to expedite the cases of teachers put on prohibition for misconduct.

The baby boomers are on the way out of the nation's colleges and universities. The New York Times reports that liberal professors birthed into academia in the 1960s and 70s are retiring--and being replaced by younger and more politically moderate academics. This shift has had numerous effects, not the least of which is the exit of ideology in the way academics understand and study public education.

Michael Olneck, a professor from the University of Wisconsin and the article's token old guard professor, introduced the syllabus in a class last year entitled, "Race, Ethnicity and Inequality in American Education" with the following: "Schools in the United States promise equal opportunity. They have not kept that promise. In this course, we will try to find out why." By contrast, Sara Goldrick-Rab, his new guard replacement, embraces a more empirically based approach. Her class on inequality and opportunity in community colleges will have an "emphasis on the critical evaluation and assessment of current up-to-date research".

The renaissance of data will undoubtedly have a great impact in the field of education. With colleges full of professors who haven't lived through the Civil Rights Movement, Brown v. Board, and a host of other educational milestones, we may be able to move into the future rather than stagnating in the past. While these events had incredible political impact and undoubtedly should not be forgotten, the visceral reaction they created in a generation of professors has fundamentally impeded the ways in which we discuss...

You may remember that both Amber and Liam first alerted us to, and then wrote on, what's now being called the Gloucester pregnancy pact--that a group of sophomore girls in Gloucester, MA decided to get pregnant and raise their babies en masse. Well, Time's Editor-at-Large Nancy Gibbs thinks the Gloucester incident should be interpreted differently.

In a July 7 article appropriately titled "Give the Girls a Break," Gibbs argues that the lesson is not that there are more teen pregnancies or that we should find the "anecdotal evidence" supporting the pact "certainly troubling." (Wow Nancy, I award you the understatement of the year award.) Instead, she says, maybe this incident is an indication of changing teenage attitudes about abortion. I'm not going to go near the validity of this conclusion; what I'm interested in is the absolute insanity of her argument. Gibbs decides that teenage girls (and boys) have more respect for life because the Gloucester girls kept their babies. Wait a second... wasn't the whole controversy over this slew of pregnancies about the fact the babies were planned? (And maybe the fact that one of the fathers was a 24-year-old homeless guy--as reported by Gibbs's own magazine).

The best part is that she starts the article with the following observation: "You know you've found a perfect cultural touchstone when everyone brushes past it on the way to opposite conclusions." Well done, Nancy....

I'll ignore the rest of Leo Casey's EdWize post this morning in favor of this one comment:

Are Checker and the boys in a competition to publish the ultimate reductio absurdum?

Leo: Meet Amber, Stafford, and Christina. Women. Who write for this blog (and have done so for several weeks now). If you're going to call out the Fordham team, find a more gender-neutral way to do so. And you call yourself a liberal.

Photo by Flickr user drbrain.

In today's Wall Street Journal, we hear from college graduates who recognized a crummy job market and decided to channel their energies into service programs, like Teach for America. Great idea, right? More teachers for TFA in the interim and more opportunities to introduce grads to a career they may not have thought about.

But then we read this:

Teach for America has an agreement with certain companies, such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., to grant corps members with existing job offers a two-year "deferral" so they can teach for two years and still have a job waiting for them when their commitment is over. It also runs something akin to a career-placement office to connect former teachers with recruiters at major companies, including General Electric Co., McKinsey & Co. and Google Inc.

And this:

That kind of partnership with non-teaching career paths helped Mike Stewart's father feel better about his son's joining the organization. "My fear was that he'd go into the teaching world right off the bat," after his service, says the elder Mike Stewart, executive vice president of a medical-device company. "One thing that gives me some comfort is that he is still planning on going to law school."

With so many reasons to bail from teaching the second a commitment ends (great job connections! Parent pressure!), how will these grads consider classroom service a career instead of a bullet point on a resume?...

The USDOE announced a couple days ago the six states approved for "differentiated accountability" plans (Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, and Ohio). The purpose of the program according to the Department is to "assist those states by targeting resources and interventions to those schools most in need of intensive interventions and significant reform." Targeting resources to the neediest of needy schools clearly makes sense, but I share Mike's concern relative to how this program might loosen the pressure on suburban schools in particular. One of the key flexibilities under the new program is that "the state clearly defines its process for categorizing?? schools" and from the looks of it, each pilot state is absolutely elated to do so.

Recall that under the current NCLB system, if a school fails to meet AYP two years in a row, it is labeled "in need of improvement." Since all subgroups of students must also meet AYP benchmarks, that's meant that many "successful" suburban schools--previously judged to be so based on aggregate student performance--now find themselves "in need of improvement" when one or more of their ESL, special education, Latino, etc. populations don't make adequate gains.

The Differentiated Accountability program essentially gives states permission to develop kinder, gentler labeling systems for these suburban schools and others. In Maryland, Indiana, and Illinois, for example, it's out with the "in need of improvement" label and in with the "focused needs" and "comprehensive...