Flypaper

It's not quite as bad as Marion Barry embracing vouchers, but is it necessarily a positive development that the United Way has selected dropout prevention as one of its three key initiatives? As the Washington Post reports,

The United Way of America, alarmed at the nation's fraying safety net, will announce today that it will direct its giving toward ambitious 10-year goals that would cut in half the high school dropout rate and the number of working families struggling financially.

Curbing the dropout rate certainly deserves attention from the nation's charitable donors, but the chances don't appear high that a mainstream, let's-all-get-along group like the United Way will tackle the underlying problems that lead to massive educational failure. Will the charity push for rigorous state standards or even national standards? Will it work to put pressure on failing school districts by supporting charter schools and other forms of parental choice? Will it tangle with recalcitrant teachers' unions? Such actions are hard to imagine, which is why savvy observers should get ready to watch a whole lot more private money go down the tubes....

Liam Julian

Check out this New York Daily News column about career and technical education (formerly vocational education).

Not only is career and technical education nothing to laugh at, it's a way to replace the unrealistic "college for all" bias of public schooling with a greater degree of practical preparation for lucrative and rewarding careers in fields like nursing, desktop publishing, computer networking and the building trades.

This is encouraging:

And here's the kicker: Two-thirds of CTE students go on to college, and when they do, there's research suggesting they outperform other students. Those that go straight into the world of work are generally getting jobs in fields where the pay is good and demand is strong.

Liam Julian

This week's Gadfly is now available for public consumption. Fordham's nascent research director, Amber Winkler, makes her Gadfly debut with a smart editorial about Reading First (she says it's not yet dead). And former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll and the former chairman of the??Massachusetts Board of Education, Jim Peyser, write in to talk MCAS and standards and college readiness.

Nice to see that at least one state is trying to exorcise its anti-Catholic demons . If??the country cares about saving its Catholic schools , it should hope Florida's efforts are elsewhere replicated.

Liam Julian

The American Enterprise Institute's education scholar, Rick Hess, has a new piece out about mayoral control of district schools. Basically, Hess concludes that mayoral control is no panacea for a city's educational problems... so cross it off your "Educational Panacea" list.

School Funding's Tragic Flaw ,??a new paper from Education Sector's Kevin Carey and Marguerite Roza of the Center on Reinventing Public Education is a nice, quick introduction to the reasons that school funding is often inequitable and unfair and??under-funds the neediest schools. Carey and Roza contrast two schools (one in Virginia and the other in North Carolina)??that serve??similar kids but??have drastically different budgets to show why inequity persists.

They point to a number of problems. Federal Title I funding is skewed toward the wealthiest states, and at the district level, its sneaky ???comparability??? provision effectively erases differences in teacher salaries between schools, giving schools with more experienced teachers more than their fair share of dollars. (District budgeting practices are to blame for that, too.) And some states are far better than others at making up for local property wealth differences.

Carey and Roza call for some sensible solutions, including changes to Title I and for districts to let money follow the child --that is, to ???allocate a standard amount of money per student to each school.??? These ideas may not be new to Flypaper regulars, but this paper is worth checking out because it plainly explains some complicated problems.

To further illustrate the point that contamination may have occurred among Reading First and presumably "non" Reading First schools, a point I made in my piece in??today's Gadfly,??Connie Choate, the director of Arkansas Reading First, writes:

I believe the design of the Impact Study is flawed.?? The study compared funded Reading First schools with non-funded RF schools within the same district.?? However in their RF proposals districts were required to include a plan for spreading the RF methodology to non-funded schools.?? States were also required to do the same.?? For example, all teachers across the state were invited to participate in ELLA, Effective Literacy, Summer Reading Camp, and several other professional development opportunities that are part of Reading First.?? We aligned all of this professional development to SBRR.?? So, even non-funded schools have benefited from RF.?? One example is the revision of the State English Language Arts Frameworks. The knowledge gained from the National Reading Panel Report and Reading First enabled the state to revise the English Language Arts Framework to align with SBRR.?? All professional development offered by the state is now aligned to SBRR.?? This should align curriculum and instruction in all schools to SBRR, not just our RF funded schools.?? We have created many materials in Reading First and have made them available to all schools.??

Ms. Choate got me thinking that it would be a good idea to take a look at the feds' application for state RF grants. And sure enough, what...

Guest Blogger

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

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann is embroiled in serious scandals and faces impeachment. His own political party (the Democrats) has disowned him, and he is under intense pressure from the Governor, the statehouse, and the media to resign immediately.

We take no joy in Dann's troubles, but his leaving office would raise some interesting questions. In September, Dann held a press conference to announce lawsuits aimed at closing two Dayton charter schools (he subsequently added two more schools). Dann cited the state's charitable trust laws and alleged that the schools had violated their "charitable" missions as 501(c)3 organizations because they were underperforming academically (see Gadfly's take on the first lawsuits .) One of the schools originally targeted by Dann has subsequently closed, but the second has vowed to fight the lawsuit. Oral arguments for that case are set for May 15 in Dayton.

If successful, this novel theory of trust law would effectively turn the state attorney general into a charter-school prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. Under Dann's legal theory, his office would determine whether a school is successful or not, thereby usurping the regulatory authority of the General Assembly, the Ohio Department of Education, and individual charter school sponsors. If the AG gets this authority, observers wonder what would prevent him from determining that nonprofit colleges and universities aren't up to snuff and should be...

Back when the controversy over unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers exploded (no pun intended) in the middle of the 2008 Democratic primary, Senator Barack Obama used an unfortunate analogy to defend his association with the bomb-thrower:

The notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn't make much sense, George. The fact is, is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions. Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements? Because I certainly don't agree with those either.

Umm, as about a million commentators said at the time, this is hardly moral equivalency. Ayers tried to blow stuff up and then refused to apologize for it. Coburn is making a public policy proposal. (One I'm not crazy about, by the way.)

But that hasn't deterred Eduwonkette, the anonymous blogger and proud member of the American Educational Research Association. I wondered if she might want the governing council of that group to strip Ayers's membership, before he takes office as one of its vice presidents. (See my post about that here.) Her response:

Mike believes that Ayers' presence reflects badly on the whole association, but guilt by association is a shaky

...
Liam Julian

At the very least, probably it could fix our schools' cafeterias.

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