Flypaper

Liam Julian

Mark Bauerlein, author of this book about dumb people and the harm they do, has the numbers.

Liam Julian

Mark Lampkin, executive director of ED in '08, responds here to an earlier attack, launched by the Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey,??on ED in '08's priorities.

This over-the-top, the sky-is-falling article from the Boston Globe is yet more evidence that the concept of "standards" has taken a beating in public discourse. At issue is the MATCH public charter school, one of the nation's best, according to Newsweek . It pushes its students--most of them poor--to take challenging Advanced Placement courses and provides gobs of extra support in the form of intensive tutoring. Almost all of its graduates go on to succeed in college. So what's the problem? Some students, not feeling up to the school's rigor, are "bolting" for the Boston Public Schools.

Boston officials accuse MATCH of not offering enough support for students to graduate on time, leaving Boston with the awkward task of determining the students' fate.

MATCH officials, on the other hand, say Boston presents an easy out - an automatic promotion - for their students struggling under rigorous graduation requirements. They deny encouraging students to leave, and ask that Boston make diploma determinations based on the charter school's standards.

"It breaks my heart to see students leave this late in the senior year, but it would break my heart more to change or lower our standards," said Jorge Miranda, the school's principal. "There's no compromising on the standards. They need that preparation to succeed in college, and when they get that college degree, that's their ticket out of poverty."

Read that again: "It would break my heart more to change or lower our standards." Amen, Mr....

Liam Julian

"Can too much education hurt your chances of getting hired?" Yes.

Thanks to a friend for sending this mind-boggling Palm Beach Post article:

PORT ST. LUCIE--A 5-year-old kindergartner was "voted out of" his classroom at Morningside Elementary on Wednesday when his teacher asked his classmates to take a vote on whether they wanted him in class, police say.

Teacher Wendy Portillo told the boy, who is known to have disciplinary issues, to stand in front of the class that day, according to police.

"The teacher decided to bring him in front of the class and let the other kids tell him what they didn't like about him, kind of ridiculed him," said officer Michelle Steele, spokeswoman for the Port St. Lucie police.

Portillo then had the class take a vote on whether to boot the boy out of the class and send him to the principal's office.

The class voted 14-2 to send the boy out for the day, Steele said.

Yes, this teacher should stop watching so much Survivor. Maybe she should even be fired. But should the teacher face criminal charges?

After conferring with the state attorney's office, which said the case didn't meet the criteria for an emotional abuse case, police are not pursuing this as a criminal incident, Steele said.

After conferring with the state's attorney office? Doesn't our criminal justice have enough to do? You know, fighting crime?...

Liam Julian

Roy Romer, chairman of ED in '08, tells NPR why education is not a big issue in this year's presidential election.

Liam Julian

Tough to miss over the weekend were two pieces--one in the New York Times, the other in the Wall Street Journal--about high-achieving high school students and their struggles. (Such students, the Times tells us, do not eat lunch.) Columnist Anne Applebaum rightly points out in today's Washington Post that similar stories appear each spring, without fail, and that they provide vivid contrasts to??articles about America's thousands of high school dropouts. It seems clear that a two-tiered (or three-, four-, or five-tiered) public education system exists--has always existed--and that the tiers are growing farther apart. Far less clear is why so many are unwilling to recognize it. They abstain from reality by??not offering classes of different difficulty levels (thus the hasty push to get more kids into AP courses, for instance); by denying??the benefits of quality career and technical education; and by insisting that most, if not all, students should (must!) go to college. But this approach just isn't a smart one. To paraphrase: You have to reform the education system you've got, not the education system you wish you had. Doing otherwise can exacerbate the??trends one is attempting to mitigate....

Monday's Washington Post had a fascinating article on new research showing the impact of social networks on smoking. (The research team previously completed a study showing the impact of social networks on obesity.)

In a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, the team found that a person's decision to kick the habit is strongly affected by whether other people in their social network quit--even people they do not know. And, surprisingly, entire networks of smokers appear to quit virtually simultaneously.

Taken together, these studies and others are fueling a growing recognition that many behaviors are swayed by social networks in ways that have not been fully understood. And it may be possible, the researchers say, to harness the power of these networks for many purposes, such as encouraging safe sex, getting more people to exercise or even fighting crime.

"What all these studies do is force us to start to kind of rethink our mental model of how we behave," said Duncan Watts, a Columbia University sociologist. "Public policy in general treats people as if they are sort of atomized individuals and puts policies in place to try to get them to stop smoking, eat right, start exercising or make better decisions about retirement, et cetera. What we see in this research is that we are missing a lot of what is happening

...

Or so reports Politico in an article that has Ed in ???08's fingerprints all over it:

Although it takes a back seat in campaign coverage compared with the economy and the Iraq war, education remains a high priority for many American voters. An April 21 CBS News/MTV poll of young voters found that education was their third most popular concern, behind only the economy and Iraq and ahead of health care, terrorism and the environment.

A Pew poll in January also found that more Americans chose education than terrorism as the most important problem facing the nation.

While the presidential candidates emphasize their commitment to improving America's education system, the issue has received scant attention from the media. Less than 1 percent of the questions in presidential primary debates were devoted to education, according to a forthcoming study whose results were provided to Politico on a confidential basis.

The editorial board of the Washington Post looks back on Mayor Fenty's first year after taking control of the D.C. public schools and is pleased so far. Unlike me , they're not too concerned by the fact that Chancellor Michelle Rhee is abandoning weighted student funding --rather, they look forward to "the promise of music, art and physical education teachers in schools this fall."

And ironically, they caution that:

There have been problems, including with the amount and quality of information provided to the public as changes are made.... We also worry about the amount of money being spent. In seeking control of the schools, Mr. Fenty vowed that money was not the issue, but an extra $200 million later, it's clear that the administration was either kidding itself or the public. The system needs to show it is fixing, not just throwing money at, the problems.

Transparency is one of the great virtues of weighted student funding. Rhee's step backwards is only going to make it harder to tell how money is spent in D.C.

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