Flypaper

It is only once in a rare blue moon that we get news like this. The irony is almost palpable. Detractors jump up and down with glee. Latent metaphors abound. It's simply... beautiful.

What has me roaring with laughter before lunch?

The funders of Ed in '08, also known as Strong American Schools, are cuttin' the dough. Oh yes, that's right, the Gates and Broad Foundations have decided Ed in '08 is kaput!

But with Nov. 4 looming, education appears to have relatively low visibility. And the Gates and Broad family foundations have stopped contributing to the [Ed in ???08] campaign after putting in a total of about $24 million.

I hate to say "we told you so," (actually, I have no problem saying this at all) but really, we did. And if killing the initiative wasn't enough, the excuses are PRICELESS.

"If we spend less than the maximum, it is because it is a reflection of the strategies we are executing," said Marie Groark, senior program officer with the Gates Foundation. She acknowledged that it's a tough environment for the issue to gain traction. "We are aware that there are significant competing priorities on

...

Economist Roland Fryer's Educational Innovation Laboratory is off to the races, thanks to the Broad Foundation, experimenting with new ways of incentivizing kids to learn in three big cities (New York , Chicago, Washington ). In D.C., the plan involves paying students in fifteen middle schools up to $1500 a year if they (a) attend, (b) behave and (c) get good grades.

I'm a longtime believer in giving young people real-world incentives to study hard and do well in school, though I've long supposed that means doing a better job of hinging promotion, graduation, college admission and jobs on school success. I don't have any big problem with more immediate and kid-like rewards, either, such as taking students with perfect attendance records to a theme park at the end of the year or giving pizzas to those who read more books .

Paying them cold cash to do the right thing gives me pause, however. It's fundamentally??amoral. It creates??weird and perverse incentives for pupils and teachers alike. It could get very expensive, using serious money that might otherwise go into better teachers, better textbooks, longer times, more instructional technology, etc. (Chicago has about 125,000 students...

Check it out.

*??And maybe even a religion.

Last night: "Science should be taught in science class."--Sarah Palin

August 2005: "Science class is for science"--The Education Gadfly

Now that the financial markets have steadied themselves a bit, and Congressional leaders have started putting Humpty-Dumpty together again, it's easier to look at the demise of the bailout bill on Monday with cool detachment. And what's clear is that three factions were responsible for the bill's defeat: liberals, conservatives, and members from swing districts, particularly freshmen. What's interesting to me is that these were the same factions that rebelled against Chairman George Miller's No Child Left Behind reauthorization bill last year--and that would likely kill a similar bill today if it were brought to the floor.

Seven years ago, when the original NCLB made its way through Congress, it benefited from strong presidential leadership (in the wake of 9/11), plus liberal and conservative bases mostly willing to go along with their party bosses. Obviously those dynamics have changed.

As I write, leaders in Congress are working to tweak the bailout plan to get a few more votes on either side of the aisle so the bill can make it out of the House. Likewise, what would it take for an NCLB reauthorization bill to succeed? It seems to me that there are two choices for Democratic leaders,...

Cram schools seem to be popping up everywhere. Korea has them as does Flushing, Queens. The newest market? India. But where Korean schools are a post graduate addendum to improve university entrance exam scores, Indian cram schools are a high school addition. The goal is admission to one of the highly selective Indian Institutes of Technology and the cram schools only teach what will be on the test: math, physics and chemistry.??Traditional Indian public schools are complaining that the best and brightest are leaving their ranks for these schools (uh, hello? maybe these students are leaving for a reason?). On top of it all, these students still have to graduate from high school--while attending cram school at the same time, it seems.??

Local schools [in Kota, the cram capital] also have benefited: Cram students have to attend regular classes so they can pass their high-school exams and graduate. Some high schools have early morning classes so cram students can finish early and move on to cramming.??

Kota is in the throes of natural urban renewal as a result of the cram schools' popularity. The hoards of students need places to live, supplies and meals to keep...

Today on Forbes.com , Checker explains why he finds reforms in LA, NY and Denver promising instances of thinking outside the box. It's all about the numbers--of the test score and dollar variety. When the old ways aren't working, shouldn't we try something new? Absolutely.

It still makes me gag to see people I think well of--Roy Romer, J.C. Watts, Joel Klein--sharing a letterhead with the lamentable and reprehensible Al Sharpton. Much as I agree with the core principles of the Education Equality Project and pleased as I would be if they and the Strong American Schools (aka ED in 08) crowd successfully persuade the moderators to inject education into the two remaining presidential debates,??Sharpton's name on that press release carries a most unpleasant whiff of racialism, anti-Semitism, exploitation and corruption that taints the entire venture. (See here and??here.) Aside from all that, the paltry place that education occupies this election season is symbolized by the letter's pleading tone.??(Please, sir, could I have some more?)??Sure it would great to hear the candidates say more on the topic--after they've dealt with the Wall Street meltdown, terrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan, health care and climate change....

No, I refer not to the failed bailout, but to the extension bill or "continuing resolution" needed now that Congress has failed to pass a 2009 budget prior to the end of the 2008 fiscal year (today). This summer, Mike offered "three cheers for broken government," noting that a continuing resolution would at least let Reading First survive another year, defying its recent death. Unfortunately, Ed Week's Alyson Klein reports that it might not be that simple:

But the stopgap bill doesn't mean federal funding of the program will be continued. The money would not be allocated to school districts until July 1. If Congress decides to eliminate the program when it returns to the education spending bills in March, schools won't receive any new Reading First money.

The extension "is essentially a moot point," said Richard Long, the director of government relations for the Newark, Del.-based International Reading Association.

So Reading First may really be dead after all, unless our new president dares heed Mike's plea to fund programs that actually work....

Amy Fagan

Oklahoma is trying an education venture some say will help kids stay in school and do better: removing one or perhaps two critical grades and creating separate schools for them. Ninth-graders in Coweta this year are the first to occupy a campus that's just for freshmen and Cache Public Schools plans something similar. Sand Springs Public Schools in Tulsa County placed prekindergarten, sixth-grade and ninth-grade students all in their own buildings, with the aim of focusing on the years that are the "biggest hurdles in the schooling process," said Superintendent Lloyd Snow. ??Supporters say such setups can help ease difficult transition periods, cut down on discipline problems and prevent kids from falling through the cracks or dropping out. Seems like it could be a worthy endeavor, though supporters didn't offer any hard evidence (at least in the article) of their claims. Coweta Superintendent Jeff Holmes said he expects to see results this year. You can check it out for yourself here.

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