Gadfly Studios

Today Roy Romer--formerly governor of Colorado and superintendent of Los Angeles Public Schools, and currently chairman of the Ed in '08 campaign--joins us to discuss Team USA's heretofore dismal performance in the 2008 Education Olympics. Also, don't forget to check out the complete results from today's events at

Once in awhile, I take the time to sniff around and find an education study worth talking about in this blog. I wish I had the time to do it more often, but judging from my quick look-see this afternoon, the research terrain isn't overflowing with milk and honey these days anyway.

First, there's this Education Week news story about a technology study conducted by Central Connecticut State researchers. We're told that, when college students respond to instant messages while they are reading, they take longer to read. Alrighty then. The supposed shocker of the research is that students still understand what they read... probably because they re-read. Now, I'm all for learning more about how new technologies affect learning. It's one of the reasons I'm pretty excited that we have a new, federally-funded research center on education technology. To be sure, we need to better understand how to harness new technologies and learning forums for such media. But I'm also of the opinion that some research questions can be answered by common sense. ??And whether kids take more time to read and understand while they are instant messaging falls into that category. (Granted, I...

Liam Julian

Augustine Romero defends the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American/Raza Studies Department (read about it here), of which he is the senior director. I'm unconvinced by his words.

During Saturday's "Saddleback civil forum" with candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, pastor Rick Warren asked a single education question. (That he asked an education question at all was probably viewed as a major victory by Ed in '08.)

80 percent of Americans recently polled said they believe in merit pay. Now, for teachers, do you--I'm not asking do you think all teachers should get a raise. Do you think better teachers should be paid better? They should be paid more than poor teachers?

What a lame question. Not because merit pay isn't important, or because there aren't differences between the candidates. (Obama basically said "maybe" and McCain basically said "yes.")

It's lame because it has almost nothing to do with federal education policy. The program that all of this merit pay pandering is about--the Teacher Incentive Fund--provides $100 million per year to a handful of school districts. That's one-quarter of one percent of the federal K-12 budget. To be sure, this program has been an important driver of innovation, but it's tiny, and it impacts just a slender number of American schools.

What's especially disappointing is that Warren asked a number of...

Introducing Monday's uber-wonk special: Tom Loveless vs. Gregory Camilli on high-achieving students in the era of NCLB! This one has it all: "straw man" accusations; differing interpretations of NAEP; and, rest assured, a happy ending on "common ground."

Want to enjoy all the action? Start by reading Tom Loveless's report on high-achieving students, then peruse Gregory Camilli's review of said study for the union-funded Think Tank Review Project, then enjoy Loveless's response.

With my prodding, Michael Goldstein, the sometimes guest blogger at Eduwonk and founder of the fantastic (and, I would argue, paternalistic) MATCH Charter School in Boston, writes in to add his two bits to the debate around David Whitman's new book, Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism:

I certainly look forward to reading the book. And I think you did a service in publishing it. And I wonder how it will square with Jay Mathews's book on same topic.

Certainly this nugget is on target. "Unlike the often forbidding paternalistic institutions of the past, these schools are prescriptive yet warm; teachers and principals, who sometimes serve in loco parentis, are both authoritative and caring figures. Teachers laugh with and cajole students, in addition to frequently directing them to stay on task."

But I'd have to read more to understand what he means by "serve in loco parentis." And I hesitate with "paternalistic."

I agree with you that there's an initial "Uh oh" reaction by school leaders because it's probably bad marketing for us, Cosby-izing


Jay Mathews thinks David Whitman's new book, released by Fordham on Friday, is "splendid," but he doesn't like the subtitle.

(Previous thoughts about that here and here.)

Gadfly Studios

The Education Olympics resume after a weekend hiatus--for some competitors, that is. Students from Finland and Hong Kong were spotted engaging in some last-minute cramming, while the Americans played Nintendo Wii. The outcome was predictable. Complete results at

I'm just going to assume that the last couple paragraphs of Jay Mathews's column today are tongue in cheek. He thinks that the word "paternalism" is loaded enough that it has a negative effect on the largely positive work of attitudinal schools like KIPP and its ilk. Fine. He wants to have a competition to replace the word "paternalism" with something a little less loaded. Fine. But then we get this:

Among other things, the label makes these inner-city successes sound like a guy thing, when in fact many of their principals and most of their teachers are women.

I'm stumped. Is this a joke? I wish I could be generous and assume that Jay's intentions were innocent, na??ve even, but then I got to this:

Although I don't think it is such a hot name either, maternalistic schools works better for me than paternalistic. The ones I have looked at energetically recruit and train teachers who will give their small campuses a family feeling, with firm rules for behavior but warmth and respect for each child, more Meryl Streep than Robert De Niro, more Laura Bush than George Patton.

Wow, Jay, stereotype much? After we get...

At least that's how I imagine it. As displaced students return to the Big Easy, the 2008-2009 school year will prove to be mighty interesting. Since Katrina washed away the school system, New Orleans is in a unique situation: it gets to start from scratch. And while "scratch" also includes a host of hurricane-induced problems (post-traumatic stress, homelessness etc.) it also means that more than 50 percent of schools are either new or converted charters. This is good news. The Times-Picayune reports that schools are competing for students , encouraged by reform minded superintendent Paul Vallas. And while the bad will sprout up with the good, there is neither the infrastructure nor the extra cash to keep the failed schools open. Paul Tough takes to the pages of the New York Times Magazine to expound upon the attitudes of young reformer-principals, teachers, and administrators--all of whom know that this is a boom or bust year. A veritable army of 20- and 30-somethings have descended on New Orleans with their market values. To top it off, millions of recovery cash dollars are being spent on school building renovations and construction to support this growth....