Flypaper

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.

Ohio AG Marc Dann isn't the only one coming in for a beating. Take a look at this analysis of the recent Reading First interim evaluation study from Dr. James Salzman, the co-director of the Ohio Reading First Center.

To paraphrase Mark Twain: There are lies, damned lies, and the latest Reading First report. The report is methodologically flawed, statistically glamorous, and ultimately meaningless in terms of its conclusions. It's caused the usual sharks to roil the waters as if chum were being served. And in the end, it says nothing about the positive impact of Reading First in Ohio.

Makes Fordham's critique of the evaluation and defense of the program seem dispassionate and reserved. The key Ohio points:

- Students in Ohio have gained more than a year's reading achievement for each year that they are in the program....If students stay within the program, they are able to catch up to benchmark scores in fluency, even though they start significantly behind.

- Students have closed the gap on state performance on the third grade Ohio Achievement Test (OAT) over the past four years.

- Teachers have helped students close the achievement gap for students of color.

- Equally importantly, Westat's (2008) independent evaluation of Reading First Ohio has documented that the more time that students spend in Reading First schools the more they outperformed their peers in comparison schools across the state.

A message...

Liam Julian

Mushy Mike knows it's not news that college graduates live longer than high-school graduates. The article??to which he refers??is a comment on the lousy healthcare that many poor Americans receive, and it really doesn't have??much to do with getting a college education. To assume (as Mike seems to) that if we directed more academically unprepared pupils onto ivied campuses we'd see a marked drop in healthcare disparities is, for sundry reasons too numerous to expound upon here, an incredible oversimplification. College attendance, of course, does not cause disparities in health, wealth, happiness, etc. as much as it reflects the disparities that already exist. And I do not believe universities have the redemptive powers to magically reshape anyone who attends their classes.

K-12 schools are supposed to be places where students, regardless of their backgrounds, can garner the information they need to succeed at college or in the workplace. K-12 schools, not colleges,??are supposed to be the equalizers. Obviously, America hasn't yet structured the k-12 system to work as it should, and we keep graduating 18-year-olds who can't read. Therfore, ed reformers, having so far failed to markedly improve k-12 classrooms,??are??shifting their aspirations for k-12 schools onto colleges. It's a foolish strategy, and it will have bad consequences.

Liam Julian

Here's another interesting video from The New Yorker Conference (those New Yorker people are always so darn interesting!). In this one, the magazine's financial columnist, James Surowiecki, chats with Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern about the future of unions. This year's New Yorker Conference is supposed to focus on innovation, but even as Stern talks about how organized labor has innovated and changed with the shifting economy, it's clear that he still thinks of employment as a collectivist enterprise. That is, he thinks of writers as working in a writer's community, not as individuals who should??be hired, fired, paid based on their individual skills.

Liam Julian

Mississippi has passed legislation, and the governor has signed it, that would fire superintendents whose districts are labeled "underperforming" for two years straight. (Before it's active, the law needs to be approved by the feds, for Civil Rights-related reasons that Education Week explains.) The Gadfly likes the law. I don't.

Officials note that the Magnolia State is one of just three (in the company of Alabama and Florida) where some superintendents are elected. The thinking is this: Local elections for superintendent are easily corrupted because of their small turnouts; elected superintendents are more likely to make decisions based on politics, not on the interests of students; and elected superintendents, especially those supported by teachers' unions, may fill the superintendent role for years without appreciably improving the classroom instruction of which they're ostensibly in charge. (These concerns relate to few. Most superintendents in Mississippi are appointed.) Furthermore, advocates for the new law say, if the state holds teachers accountable, it should treat superintendents similarly.

Fair points, but points outweighed by the pitfalls of Mississippi's new law. Pitfalls such as: There is no solid definition of "underperforming"; qualified candidates for superintendent positions will be dissuaded from taking open jobs in Mississippi; two years is not enough time to appreciably improve a failing school district; the law's process for actually firing underperforming superintendents is complicated (see the Ed Week article); and voters are having their democratic voice overturned...

Lisa Graham Keegan, school reform trailblazer and former state superintendent of Arizona, has quit her day job to spend most of her time working on behalf of Senator John McCain's campaign, reports the Arizona Republic:

"Having Senator McCain be in a position to get ready to start talking about education a little bit more fully in his campaign, it's just a great opportunity to be a part of," said Keegan, 48, of Peoria. "It just didn't make sense to do both at the same time."

Keegan is an extremely effective advocate of school choice, meaningful accountability, and the smart use of data and technology. This is another sign that McCain isn't planning to cede the education issue to his opponent.

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