Flypaper

Liam Julian

We must excavate the salient parts. If the title of this AP story is true, then the chaperone in question possesses a supreme mastery of duct-tape techniques??and probably should write a book. It's not true, though. I know. It's impossible to seal a door with duct tape. In college, I tried it several times, and even the most weak-muscled victims were able to break the barrier.??(I think it's obvious that the chaperone in question was simply implementing the old tape-on-the-outside-of-the-door-so-if-you-leave-I'll-know-and-so-will-your-parents-and-Susie's-parents trick.) AP: Get your facts straight. This stuff matters.

Mark Bauerlein, the Emory professor, Phi Beta Cons contributor, and author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future, takes aim at Wikipedia in this new Education Next column. He writes:

The site is criticized for its superficiality, erroneousness, and amateurism, but, in fact, Wikipedia provides ready access to a fact, definition, or overview. No, the real problem with Wikipedia is a stylistic one. Read a dozen entries on the similar topics and they all sound the same. The outline is formulaic, the prose numbingly bland. Sentences unfold in tinny sequence. Perspectives arise in overcareful interplay. If a metaphor pops up, it's a dead one. Consider the entry on Moby-Dick:

Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby-Dick, a great white whale of tremendous size and ferocity. Comparatively few whaling ships know of Moby-Dick, and fewer yet have knowingly encountered the whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off Ahab's leg. Ahab intends to exact revenge on the whale.

Compare that to a sentence from Collier's Encyclopedia, first published in 1950: "As he makes very clear to Starbuck, his first mate, Captain Ahab envisions in Moby-Dick the visible form of a malicious Fate which governs man thoughtlessly..." Or the description of Ahab in the 1953 Encyclopedia Americana: "a crazed captain whose one thought is the capture of a ferocious monster that had maimed him..." Or even this in CliffsNotes from 1966: "Ahab's monomania is

...
Liam Julian

This article out of New Orleans is about several selective charter schools that admit only those students that pass entrance tests or navigate complicated admissions processes. This is a big no-no with charter supporters. According to the piece:

Todd Ziebarth, the senior policy analyst at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said he worries that having even some charter schools with competitive admissions in New Orleans sends the message to the community that charter schools are elitist.

But what are the convincing educational arguments against allowing charter schools to establish admissions policies? It's one thing to worry about politics and perception, but it's another thing to worry about what educational structures work best for kids. Why not have a tiered system of charter schools that caters to students at different levels of academic ability? Lots of kids, for example, don't need the paternalism of KIPP or SEED; lots of others do.

Liam makes a good point.

Did I mention that Mitt Romney is smart and savvy on education reform?

Liam Julian

We've written before about Governor Bobby Jindal. There's lots to like. And then there's this (from the New York Times): Jindal campaigned in Louisiana as a social conservative, which meant "favoring teaching 'intelligent design' in schools as an alternative to evolution."

The New York Times reports today that Senator John McCain is set to meet with three contenders for the VP slot on his ticket: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney; Florida Governor Charlie Crist, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

It stands to reason that the vice president in a potential McCain administration would be handed a major role on education policy; after all, McCain himself hasn't shown much interest in the issue in his career or campaign, though that's starting to change a bit. (His education secretary would also have a lot of leeway, or so I argued here.)

So how do these three stack up on the edu-front? Mitt Romney hails from the state with the highest test scores in the country; though he didn't spark the "Massachusetts Miracle," he didn't mess it up, either. And unlike McCain, he did talk a lot about education on the campaign trail, generally in a smart, data-savvy sort of way. It's easy to imagine a Vice President Romney kick-starting Vice President Al Gore's old "reinventing government" work--and applying it thoughtfully to education.

Charlie Crist is another story. He inherited perhaps the fastest-improving state education system in the country; Florida's recent progress for poor and Hispanic children is monumental. But rather than defend the hard-fought gains of his predecessor, Jeb Bush, he seems intent on retreating. He cleared most of Bush's top education advisors out of Tallahassee and has shown an...

Liam Julian

From The Economist: Mexico is making moves to fix its broken educational system (a system that affects the U.S.??in obvious ways). One wonders, though, whether Mexico's union boss (see here and here) is really willing to give up any power over teacher-staffing decisions.

Liam Julian

The newest Gadfly is out. In it, Checker and I write about how states, loath to see their dropout rates rise, are backtracking on high school exit exams. It's easy to understand why: At a superficial level, reducing the number of dropouts and ensuring that all students leave high school with advanced skills are contradictory goals. Gadfly also contains this week reviews of reports about career and technical education, how Islam is portrayed in textbooks, and state standards.

At a news conference yesterday, New York City teachers union boss Randi Weingarten called Joel Klein's protestations over Albany's inflexibility on school funding the "height of chutzpah."

Beautiful. It's alliterative (more or less, depending on how you pronounce the Yiddish/Hebrew "ch"), elegantly cadenced, and well-suited to its demographic context. That's how you do a sound bite.

I'm encouraged this morning reading this article about Idaho's work in crafting standardized performance evaluations for teachers. Apparently, some are hoping it paves the way for pay-for-performance plans for teachers (another good thing).

To be sure, recent reports indicate that teacher evaluations are pretty poor on the whole. I've had the opportunity over the years to take a look at some of these evaluations, particularly those in urban school districts, and concur that they can be pretty embarrassing, often treating "personal hygiene" on the same plane as "teacher knowledge of subject"--that is, if the latter is even included.

To be fair, there are some fantastic evaluation instruments out there for assessing teachers' skills and knowledge. The Teacher Advancement Program, for instance, has one they use as part of their professional development and performance-based pay program. It's a research-based rubric that includes nearly 20 indicators (such as teacher content knowledge, teacher knowledge of students, academic feedback, and use of problem solving skills)--each one with corresponding benchmarks that operationalize what it means to be exemplary, proficient, or needing improvement. Let's hope the potato state can be a model for other states/districts interested in overhauling their teacher evaluations so that they actually serve to help teachers serve students....

Pages