More on yesterday's announcement that D.C. test scores are up. A Washington Post article today says that some principals are attributing their schools' successes to Michelle Rhee. Super, great, on and on.?? It was this line that really caught my eye:

At Bell Multicultural High School in Northwest, Principal Maria Tukeva introduced a Saturday "Quiz Bowl" in which students competed on sample tests for prizes such as iPods and movie tickets.

iPods? iPods?!?!?!?! Now, perhaps they were the little guys that retail for around $50 and I shouldn't have had a heart attack after reading that sentence. Or not. Is a fancy gadget really an appropriate reward for correct test scores? What's next, laptops? High-definition plasmas (50 inches or more thankyouverymuch)? It's a slippery slope to motivate students this way. We all want the principals to be creative, but throwing a sexy reward at them isn't the way to go.

Not to mention that in Washington, DC, we've had a little problem with iPod theft for some time now....

I'm always on the lookout for interesting education research, and Natascha (Fordham intern and fellow Wahoo) does a nice job helping me track down studies. She found this one carried out??by researchers from our favorite university. Basically, they conducted experimental research with children ranging in age from 6 to 11 and found that the "style of information processing triggered by happiness could be a liability." They??"induced" (their word)??happy or sad moods in children by playing certain types of music and video clips (unclear from the summary whether Mozart was the happy or sad music), then asked them to perform tasks which required attention to detail. Children induced to feel sad repeatedly did better on the task than those induced to feel happy. Researchers concluded:

Happiness indicates that things are going well, which leads to a global, top-down style of information??processing. Sadness indicates that something is amiss, triggering detail-orientated, analytical processing. However, it is important to emphasize that existing research shows there are contexts in which a positive mood is beneficial for a child, such as when a task calls for creative thinking. But this particular research demonstrates that when attention to detail is required, it may do more harm


Some days our blog exhausts me. Not writing for it--I'm usually too busy--just reading it and thinking how I would have said something differently myself or would have bitten my tongue and said nothing at all. When we started it, I promised not to edit, just occasionally to point out what I take to be errors--and once in a while to pen items myself that can't wait for next Thursday's Gadfly or aren't appropriate there.

In the past, these are the sorts of??"corrections" I would have sought to make via quiet meetings in the office, but Mike insists that today's fashion is to air our internal disagreements in public. So here are a few that cropped up today (which is just half over):

For reasons not clear to me, Liam wants to prove that the Democratic party is not anti-charter school??or anti-merit pay. So he names a few worthy Democrats and Democrat-leaning organizations that themselves have advanced the charter and/or merit-pay cause. He's right about the names. Indeed, there are more. But a few swallows do not prove that spring has come. Go to state capital after state capital around this broad land and anywhere that charter...

Liam Julian

Chinese students are, overall, far more advanced in mathematics than their American peers. Which is probably why they can create Segway armies.

(Hat tip to The Big Picture.)

Check out the war of words happening at in response to its editorial (and a ridiculous rebuttal by Stephen Krashen) on Reading First. Reid Lyon learned how to fight in Vietnam and it shows.

Kindergarteners urged to learn key languages

WASHINGTON, DC (A.P.) -- Speaking to the National Association of Kindergarten Students (NAKS) today, presidential hopeful Barack Obama called on five-year-olds to embrace change and challenge themselves with languages from around the world.

"Si se puede," said Obama. "Si se puede."

* Real story here.

Liam Julian

This week's Gadfly is now out. You won't want to miss Checker's feature editorial, in which he writes about why he sees "parallels between America's present condition and Rome circa 350 A.D." (Teaser: "Frappuccinos aren't very powerful weapons against Al Qaeda.") We're also offering a piece about why Louisianans can't get angered by jokes at their expense. (Teaser: It has to do with their legislature's rejection of modern science.) And Amber makes her podcast debut with her very own segment, "The Gadfly Research Minute."

Yes, Liam, some Democrats like charter schools and merit pay. But the base of the Democratic Party (the teachers unions) doesn't. And most politicians are careful not to alienate their core supporters. (Except on The West Wing.)

The rigorous-math crowd continues its string of victories in California with this decision to test all eighth graders in algebra. State board chair (and generally good guy himself) Ted Mitchell wanted to allow a watered-down version of algebra but relented under pressure from the Gubernator. Here's hoping that other states follow California's lead.

Liam Julian

Mike writes??that merit pay and charter schools are "anathema to the teachers unions." They're not at all anathema to the Democratic Party, though.

Update: Checker wants examples. Off the top of my head: I remember George Miller, a very liberal, establishment Democrat, sparring publicly last year with NEA President Reg Weaver about merit pay. And the Center for American Progress, a think tank loaded with establishment Dems, is in favor of merit pay and charter schools. Bill Clinton, too,??liked charters, didn't he? There are lots more instances. Maybe the NEA doesn't speak for the Democratic Party anymore??(via Russo)? One might make the point (and I have) that??clashing with??the NEA is not synonymous with clashing with the Democratic Party, or with bipartisanship or post-partisanship or whatever we're calling it.

Update II: I appreciate Checker's post, but my defense of Dems comes in response to Mike, who believes that when a national Democrat goes against merit pay he is stepping out of line with his national party. This is simply untrue; it's entirely okay for national Dems to be in favor of merit pay and charter schools, just ask Andy Rotherham. So, I??balk when??a Democratic candidate??(or...