Liam Julian

The newest Atlantic (not yet online) contains an article about Memphis's experience with shutting down its noxious projects and offering housing vouchers to their low-income inhabitants, who use the vouchers to move to other areas of the city. The concept has been applied across the country. In Memphis, though, it's had the unfortunate effect of spreading all over the metropolitan area what were once isolated concentrations of crime. And overall crime rates in the city are way up.

Motivating housing voucher programs is the idea that if high-poverty, high-minority, high-crime neighborhoods are dispersed--if the residents of those neighborhoods move to more economically and racially integrated settings--than deleterious activity will wane. It's an idea that's been extended to k-12 education, too: If poor or minority students are removed from all-minority, high-poverty neighborhoods (and their schools), they'll do better academically. But it's not that simple. Nor is it true that other forms of shuffling kids from school to school to improve classroom "diversity" does much for the educational prospects of the shuffled. Dangerous neighborhoods are dangerous for a variety of reasons, but at the core it's because they're inhabited by... criminals, who, when transplanted to better neighborhoods, are simply able to steal better merchandise. Bad schools are bad not because of who sits next to whom, but mostly because of??the... bad teachers and bad administrators??who work in them. And good schools are good largely because they're staffed by people who are good at what they do....

Liam Julian

Joseph Epstein is incisive; his writing eschews faddish notions and also goes for the jugular. He won't dance around a topic. His latest Weekly Standard piece, "The Kindergarchy," is a fine example.

In America we are currently living in a Kindergarchy, under rule by children. People who are raising, or have recently raised, or have even been around children a fair amount in recent years will, I think, immediately sense what I have in mind. Children have gone from background to foreground figures in domestic life, with more and more attention centered on them, their upbringing, their small accomplishments, their right relationship with parents and grandparents.

The article is well worth reading. One concludes, after digesting it and other similar pieces, that today's parents are meddling with the wrong parts of their children's lives and staying out of the parts that demand attention. Epstein notes that a 21st-Century adult is keen to arrange his progeny's activities, playdates, and daily decisions, but loath to provide any stern guidance or discipline when needed. The result: A lot of spoiled, babied, charmless young adults who don't think for themselves and feel entitled to everything.

Epstein generalizes. But then, generalizing is often useful. And who can deny that America's public schools, too,??have succumbed to the daffy thinking he skewers? I think, for example, of the misguided notion to push academically untalented students into AP classes; to push all kids into college (and no, that's not a straw man; some big-name...

Liam Julian

The Miami Herald reports that Florida is ready to expand online education. But Education Sector's Bill Tucker, part of the virtual??schools cognoscenti, doesn't like what he sees.

Liam Julian

The Heritage Foundation's Dan Lips does not approve of the "21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act," just passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Under the plan, states and localities would be required to use federal dollars to make schools consistent with environmental standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council. States also would receive funding to encourage state agencies to track public schools' carbon "footprints" and energy efficiency. In all, the Congressional Budget Office projects the program would cost $20.3 billion over five years.

That's a lot of money. What are Lips's thoughts, I wonder, on Green education think tanks?

Am I referring to a policy scuffle over No Child Left Behind? Alas, no, that would be so boring and predictable. I refer to an actual food fight at George Bush High School in Fort Bend, Texas--an incident that resulted in the arrest of an assistant principal, Andre Credit, who was then defended by the teachers union. According to the Houston Chronicle:

"We have information that the investigation was not thoroughly done in a way that guarantees a full and complete closure to the situation," said Karrie Washenfelder, president of the Fort Bend Employee Federation, Local 6198.

Washenfelder made the comments at an afternoon news conference Thursday attended by several teachers from George Bush High School, north of Richmond.

None of the people who spoke at the news conference were in the cafeteria when the incident happened.

Is it just me, or is this story hilarious on several levels? Enjoy your Friday.

Mike thinks he has all of the Friday fun today. But the following headline just popped up in my Google Alerts: Teachers union meeting turns into "Springer Show." Alas,??and against my better judgment, I??had to open it up.

I just got back from Joel Klein's address at the American Enterprise Institute (carried live on C-SPAN). The New York City Schools Chancellor gave a sober (read: boring) presentation of his tenure in New York, which left the audience a bit wanting in terms of engagement (read: he lectured from a text-packed PowerPoint for forty minutes and talked to the screen instead of the 200-person crowd).

Regardless, there's plenty to like about his story of New York City school reform. As one of the most prominent spokesmen of the "do whatever works" crowd (or, if you prefer, the incentivists), he talked at length about the structural reforms he and his team have enacted, including a freer and fairer market for hiring teachers; greater autonomy for principals; an expansion of charter schools and other forms of choice; and a version of weighted-student funding.

Still, seven years into his tenure it's clear that he's not particularly passionate about the "stuff" of schools, specifically curriculum. But maybe that's changing. Asked by a certain intrepid blogger about any regrets he might harbor, particularly considering New York City's lack of progress in 4th grade reading since 2003 (while the rest of the country is finally showing gains), he admitted a few. First, that he mandated "Month by Month Phonics" in his early years (read: we only put phonics in our program's name as a marketing ploy, but we're really all about whole language). And second,...

Liam Julian

Some sad news: Jeff Kuhner, our fearless communications director, is leaving us for the Washington Times, where he will produce his own, daily, nationally syndicated radio show and write a Sunday column. We've grown accustomed to having Jeff around the office, mostly in the bathroom, actually, where he can be found shaving at 12:30 p.m. (he claims his skin is??less sensitive in the afternoon) or brushing his teeth, several times a day, to counteract the juice from the bowlfuls of blueberries he??ingests to increase his antioxidant count. Jeff talks more about his new gig on this week's podcast. I'll do my best to encourage him to post here about this transition his thoughts, which are surely numerous and weighty. Perhaps, though, like Hillary Clinton, Jeff Kuhner, at this juncture, simply desires some time and some space to think and reflect.

Here's a twist. We're used to reading about state and local officials who bellyache about No Child Left Behind's requirements but aren't courageous enough to live by their principles and forfeit the federal bucks. (If you don't take the money, you don't have to follow the law's rules.) But according to an article in the Shreveport Times, now a district in Louisiana is turning this trend on its head. It's restoring the Congressional cuts to the Reading First program by using its own money to keep the initiative going.

Caddo received about $671,000 from the state Education Department for Reading First in previous years. However, if the money isn't received, the Caddo Parish School Board has decided to give the district the money from its general fund.

"(Reading First) helps students, and those kids' scores have gone up because of Reading First. I don't know why legislators want to cut something that works," said board member Dottie Bell, a former teacher. "I thought we were all on the page when it comes to educating children, and that's a good program. It's working."

You said it Dottie. Chairman Obey, Mr. Reading First Budget Slasher, are you embarrassed yet?...

Liam Julian

This doesn't bode well for the future of the LDS Church.