Flypaper

One of Senator John McCain's most attractive virtues is his willingness to stand on principle even in the face of adversity. He promoted comprehensive immigration reform even though his own party's base hated it. He continues to support the Iraq War even though the public wants the troops out. Now, with his strong, almost-no-caveats embrace of No Child Left Behind, he's got a twofer: he's found a policy position opposed by his party's base and the general public.

Such a position gives Senator Barack Obama all kinds of room to run. He can support the tenets of NCLB while criticizing its specifics, placate his teacher union base while offering reforms that paint him as a different kind of Democrat. And yesterday, in a major policy speech at the Mapleton Expeditionary School for the Arts (MESA), that's exactly what he did. (Full text here, Washington Post Online coverage here; AP coverage here.) Here's the beef:

I believe it's time to lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education, one where we all come together for the sake of our children's success. An era where each of us does our part to make that success a reality: parents and teachers, leaders in Washington and citizens all across America.

This starts with fixing the broken promises of No Child Left Behind. Now, I believe that the goals of this law were the right ones. Making a promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher is

...
Liam Julian

The Economist recently??ran an article about Mexico's attempts to fix its education system. But??the country??must first deal with this.

From Newsweek, this article provides a well-argued and sorely-needed counterpoint to Mark Bauerlein's recent youth-bashing book, The Dumbest Generation. Some choice bits:

IQ scores in every country that measures them, including the United States, have been rising since the 1930s. Since the tests measure not knowledge but pure thinking capacity-what cognitive scientists call fluid intelligence, in that it can be applied to problems in any domain-then Gen Y's ignorance of facts (or of facts that older people think are important) reflects not dumbness but choice. And who's to say they are dumb because fewer of them than of their grandparents' generation care who wrote the oratorio "Messiah" (which 35 percent of college seniors knew in 2002, compared with 56 percent in 1955)?

... we suspect that the decline in the percentage of college freshmen who say it's important to keep up with political affairs, from 60 percent in 1966 to 36 percent in 2005, reflects at least in part the fact that in 1966 politics determined whether you were going to get drafted and shipped to Vietnam. The apathy of 2005 is more a reflection of the world outside Gen-Yers' heads than inside, and one that we bet has changed tack with the historic candidacy of Barack Obama. Alienation is not dumbness....

Bauerlein is not the first scholar to pin the blame for a younger generation's intellectual shortcomings on new technology (television, anyone?), in this case indicting "the digital age." But there is no empirical evidence

...

Folks like Mark Bauerlein, and probably Checker, won't like this.

As part of its effort to trim $200 million from its budget, the New York City Department of Ed will take down a notch its plan to expand screening programs for gifted and talented pupils.

(Look for more on high-achieving students in an upcoming Fordham report.)

I'm not a special education (SPED) expert nor will I ever claim to be one. But I do know that it happens to have one of the most mobilized and vocal constituencies in education. And that's no surprise--understandably, parents of special needs children want their kids to receive the services that they need. But this article brought up a couple issues in special education that continue to be a problem.

I'm assuming the fact we continue to see our SPED numbers grow (and their associated costs) is one of the reasons that Virginia lawmakers have proposed that parents be notified--as opposed to approve--when a district wants to terminate services. I'm guessing some parents look at these services as given. But aren't most kids (not talking about the ones diagnosed with severe and profound disabilities) supposed to be benefiting from this assistance and eventually testing out of services? We're told that over a third of special education students in Virginia are deemed learning disabled (LD). Now, I'm not saying that these kids are not learning disabled--just that there's some pretty solid research that says that early identification and prevention programs (esp. in reading) are better for kids who later end up getting labeled LD than are years and years of SPED services.

One of the other proposed changes places limitations around how often schools are required to update parents on their children's progress. It's no secret that special education as a field is particularly rife...

Guest Blogger

A post from guest blogger and Fordham Vice President for Ohio Programs & Policy Terry Ryan.

Ohio's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Susan Zelman, announced to her staff today that she will be stepping down as state superintendent. She is leaving after several months of public, and sometimes nasty, tussling with Governor Strickland and his emerging agenda for Ohio's K-12 education. Dr. Zelman will be missed, and now speculation turns to her possible successor. Scott Elliott of the Dayton Daily News has listed on his blog four possible candidates (including the Governor's wife). He is seeking suggestions on other names to consider; if you have any insights here please share with Scott and his readers.

On the front page of today's Washington Post is a feel-good story about Ocean City Elementary, a Maryland school in which 100 percent of the students passed the state's math and reading tests. I don't want to rain on the school's parade (or give the Post reporter, Dan de Vise, a hard time for finding an excuse to mix business with pleasure (hmm... this school is at the beach... the article appeared just after Memorial Day Weekend...)) but isn't it worth pointing out (again) that when everyone can meet a standard, it means it's not really a "standard"? Perhaps this is a sign that Maryland should raise the passing scores on its tests? Can you imagine a front-page Washington Post story reporting that an entire high school student body got a perfect score on the SAT? Surely someone would question whether standards had slipped.

Still, I'm sure we're only days away from hearing Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings declare that "this school proves that 100 percent proficiency is an achievable goal." And with low enough standards, yes it is....

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.

Pages