Flypaper

Liam Julian

Tom Stanley-Becker is an AP dropout. The young man writes today in the Los Angeles Times:

The problem with the AP program is that we don't have time to really learn U.S. history because we're preparing for the exam. We race through the textbook, cramming in the facts, a day on the Great Awakening, a week on the Civil War and Reconstruction, a week on World War II, a week on the era from FDR to JFK, a day on the civil rights movement--with nothing on transcendentalism, or the Harlem Renaissance, or Albert Einstein. There is no time to write a paper. Bound by the exam, my history teacher wistfully says we have to be ready in early May.

AP and IB are rigorous programs (as we've noted), and when compared to the usual public-school classroom experience, they dazzle. But for students who want to learn more than surface facts, who desire a deep and engaging dialogue with the material they're covering, AP and IB can be profoundly unsatisfying. Educators have every incentive to "teach to the test," and no incentive to encourage their classes to think critically or to spend time penning essays that do more that recite facts. AP and IB programs can suffer from the same problems that hurt NCLB.

Some say: "But AP and IB students must learn the basic facts first; they can react to them later."??But "later," which presumably means "in college," often never??comes because??university freshmen??are no longer required to...

Liam Julian

Mike has been all over the connection between Obama and Bill Ayers. Today, Bob Novak is on it, too; he thinks that Obama, who called the terrorist-sympathizing, America-hating Ayers just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," will have to offer voters a more thorough explication than that.

Obama supporters should hope any such explication is better than the one??put forth??by Stanley Fish, law professor and New York Times blogger, who justified his own association with Ayers by noting that people should not be held accountable for the actions of their acquaintances. That's baloney. It's also shockingly relativistic. It also won't convince voters in Ohio. It also violates what everyone's mother told him in first grade.

And while the sins of Ayers's past are disturbing, so are his present sins--i.e., the drivel that he continues to publish and proffer. In one of his latest blog posts, for example, Ayers suggests that teachers structure their lesson plans to??encourage the ideas in Whitman's Leaves of Grass, such as "love the sun and the earth and the animals, despise riches, give alms to anyone who asks... dismiss whatever insults your soul," etc. Ugh....

No, I'm not referring to this survey from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, though there are some promising tidbits. (Six in ten parents express interest in enrolling their children in charter schools once they are described as "independent public schools that are free to be more innovative and are held accountable for improved student achievement.")

I am referring to the fantastic news (hat tip to Alexander Russo ) that reporter Diana Jean Schemo is leaving the New York Times . Schemo wrote the infamous 2004 front-page story, "Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal ," which was an AFT-aided hit job on the charter movement. (Read all about it in Jeff Henig's newish book on the topic .) She also completely politicized the paper's coverage of the Reading First program (see here and pages 28 to 31 here ) and, in a 2006 column , finally admitted her own skepticism that schools can do much good for kids in poverty:

A growing body of research suggests that while schools can make a difference for individual students, the fabric of children's lives outside of school can either nurture, or choke, what progress poor children do make academically.

Russo reports that Schemo is now working on a book about the Naval Academy. That's too bad for the Academy--but good for K-12 schools....

Liam Julian

Yesterday, we noted that Kevin Donnelly, authority on all things related to Aussie-ed, was displeased that Victoria was offering its teachers a massive, across-the-board pay raise decoupled from accountability. With principals, though, it's another story.

It's one thing if you unwittingly do this, but you can't do this and keep teaching. (Or can you?)

Cleveland can be a tough place, what with its harsh winters and difficult economic times. Its education politics aren't especially welcoming, either; Cleveland is home to one of the most restrictive teachers union contracts in the country, for example. So it's doubly heartening to see the district reach out to some of the city's highest performing charter schools in an effort to bury hatchets and benefit children. According to this Plain Dealer article :

Instead of slipping on boxing gloves, leaders of traditional public education and upstart charter schools treated one another with kid gloves on Wednesday, agreeing to work together to provide opportunities for all Cleveland children. "We're in this together," said Eric Gordon, chief academic officer for the Cleveland public schools. "We either go down together, or we reinforce things that work."

What a great way to celebrate National Charter Schools Week . If it can happen in Cleveland, it can happen anywhere.

Photo by Flickr user spatulated ....

Wouldn't it be great if the candidates were to duke it out over education reform? I've said so, and I'm not alone, but Mike says "not so fast":

In contrast, some conservative groups of education reformers are not bothered by the fact that the topic of education has been sidelined during this campaign season. "It's not the worst thing in the world. We have a history of creating unintended consequences, as with No Child Left Behind," says Mike Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Fordham Institute. "So I don't mind if the federal government takes a breather."

The feds, banned from school reform for one tiny, little mistake.

Japan has slipped in international science rankings, so the government has announced a plan to train a special cadre of "super science teachers." Gotta love the enthusiasm.

Gadfly Studios

Mike and Christina discuss what kind of ed talk to expect from the presumptive nominees as we near the general election.

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=p3sUyP-c8AE

As with any program, implementation in AP really matters, so it's disappointing that Tom Stanley-Becker doesn't say more about how history is taught at his school. Was the AP class his only recent exposure to American history? I have fond memories of my own AP history experience, years ago, because it was precisely what he says he's missing--we read only essays, and the classes featured roundtable discussions of big and interesting issues. But this was possible because we had all taken the basic American history class the year prior, consuming dates, people, and events in order to free us to talk more about ideas in the second year. I could easily see it being impossible to do both well in a single year, and if that's happening it's the fault of the school, not the program.

Pages