Flypaper

Liam Julian

With the release of every new education report, it seems, we hear from commentators that the findings are promising but certainly do not constitute a "silver bullet" or a "panacea" for k-12's problems. No longer. This sounds like a bonafide silver bullet to me.

Liam Julian

The latest issue of Commentary contains a review of Checker's newest book, Troublemaker. It's available here for subscribers.

Baffled by America's arcane process for electing a president, the Edmonton Sun's Edward Greenspan has this to say:

One super delegate is Inez Tenenbaum, South Carolina's former education superintendent. That makes her the most super super delegate of all.

Ha! Good one, Edward! Jeff, is this sort of thing that made you want to leave Canada?

Amid all the news of doom and gloom, here's one reason for optimism: America's best spellers appear to be getting better and better. According to the Washington Post, these are some of the words which clinched the National Spelling Bee over the years:

1925: gladiolus

1932: knack

1938: sanitarium

1940: therapy

1956: condominium

1960: eudaemonic

1973: vouchsafe

1980: elucubrate

1991: antipyretic

2001: succedaneum

2004: autochthonous

2006: Ursprache

2007: serrefine

2008: guerdon

"Knack," really? Maybe the "Greatest Generation" (whose members would have been right around 12 years old in 1932) weren't our greatest spellers ever. Or maybe, what with the Great Depression and all, they had other concerns on their mind. Regardless, it's pretty cool that American students (or at least .000001 percent of them) have gotten better at something.

It seems that students at top colleges can't soon shed the feelings of anxiety that accompanied their hypercompetitive high-school careers. Our intern Amy notifies me that the stress that bears down upon aspiring college-goers can manifest itself even more intensely after one matriculates at the university of his or her choice.

Take her high-school classmate, currently studying theater at NYU, who, determined to face his demons, wrote an off-Broadway musical about the dog-eat-dog world of AP testing:

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=YfoyVS_3hMs

More here.

Jeff Kuhner

In response to Mike's question: "Yes."

Brian Greene, a Columbia professor who wrote two top-selling popularizations of physics, pens a passionate call for American students to rekindle their love affair with science in Sunday's New York Times.

Update: Wow--it's currently the most emailed article on nytimes.com. Must have hit a nerve.

My recent post on special education (SPED) had one education scholar emailing me to point out that a perverse financial incentive exists to place students in special education. I agree with that, though it doesn't discredit the influence that special education advocacy and parental groups have exerted on the issue (which others like Wade Horn and Douglas Tynan have also acknowledged).

But I'm also intrigued by some other factors that may be influencing the rise in SPED costs. I'm referring to research in Massachusetts a few years ago which found that cost increases in that state were less a factor of district policy or practice (e.g., inaccurate over identification of SPED students) and more a case of increasing numbers of students with significant special needs requiring more costly service. Specifically, researchers found several major underlying causes of rising SPED costs. One was changes in medical practice that now enable increasing survival rates for premature babies (many, unfortunately, with lifelong developmental and neurological problems); deinstitutionalization (more SPED children once served by state facilities are now served by school systems); and social/economic factors (more children exposed to child abuse, neglect, drug use, and dysfunctional family environments). So it's not just perverse financial incentives or influential SPED advocacy groups that are contributing to rising costs. Given these findings, it may be both our good intentions and our bad ones....

Liam Julian

Mike and I can disagree all day, during normal business hours, about the level of transparency we should demand from voucher schools. But in the NOLA case, the issue is "contentious" and might stall the $10 million proposal (although the city's Catholic schools will accept standardized testing--they're desperate).

It's entirely appropriate that the Louisiana Senate would require schools participating in a possible New Orleans voucher program to "administer state tests to voucher students." That's hardly out of line for other voucher programs. Milwaukee's requires schools to test all students (not just those in the program); D.C.'s requires all voucher recipients to participate in an annual evaluation--i.e., testing. (Though, regrettably, the D.C. results aren't broken out by school.)

These are public dollars. The more transparency, the better.

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