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Marvin's and Mike's mothers coordinated on the phone last night before laying out their sons' outfits. (Click the photo for a bigger version.)

Separated at birth?

Liam Julian

Principal Jana Fields knows that No Child Left Behind looks at school test-score data by subgroup. She knows that the scores of black students are evaluated separately from those of white students, that the scores of Asian students and those??of Hispanic students are gathered in their own, specific cluster.

So, she thought, I should gather in their own specific cluster all the actual black students at my school and pump them up by telling them that their exam grades are worse than those of their white peers.

According to the Sacramento Bee, some parents disagreed:

"To me that was outright blatant discrimination by race," said Marie Townsend, an African American mother whose daughter Mikalah attended the meeting. "If you have a group of students that are struggling, don't you think all the whites and Asians and Hispanics who are struggling would benefit from that assembly?"

Yes, one would think so. But in our race-obsessed schools, it seems that any type of racial segregation is okay, as long as it's done with the kid's interests in mind.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It's time our public schools got past race.

Nancy Zuckerbrod at the Associated Press previews today's regulatory actions by the U.S. Department of Education here . Mostly these are initiatives that have already been announced--moving toward a common graduation rate, for example, and tightening the rules regarding how many students states can exempt from schools' Adequate Yearly Progress calculations (a.k.a., limiting "n" sizes). Most important, in my view, is the Department's intention to curtail one of the law's most perverse incentives--allowing school districts to keep Title I money that's supposed to go for "free tutoring" if not enough students show interest. It appears that the Administration would move toward a "use it or lose it" policy:

The regulations also call for school districts to demonstrate that they are doing all they can to notify parents of low-income students in struggling schools that free tutoring is available. If the districts fail to do that, their ability to spend federal funds could be limited under the proposal. The department estimates only 14 percent of eligible students receive tutoring available to them.

These changes could have an especially large impact if they demand that states sign off on districts' actions and "certify" that they have indeed done all they can to advertise the free tutoring before they can use the funds for other purposes. I'd like to see a state official claim that school districts have done "all they can" when less than 10 percent of eligible students are using the free tutoring.

What today's actions all...

Why does Liam have such a beef with paying poor teenagers to work on their studies rather than flip hamburgers at the local Mickey D's? Perhaps he agrees with the ed school professor quoted in the NPR piece, to the effect that such a strategy will "harm students' intrinsic love of learning." I might be going out on a limb here but we're talking about high school kids who have failed remedial math or science classes. I'm gonna bet their love of learning has already been extinguished. Why not see if a little cash incentive gets them to give said love another chance?

Liam Julian

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert tells us that American schools aren't very good: "We've got work to do."

In his piece, he mentions the new Common Core organization and references its recently released report, Still At Risk.

Liam Julian

More paying kids for studying. (Newt Gingrich's idea, according to NPR.)??

Bad idea.

As the world awaits the education X PRIZE, the folks at PETA prove that the X PRIZE Foundation isn't the only group that can offer rewards for innovative solutions to pressing problems.

Israel's education system faces some familiar-sounding problems:

The Dovrat recommendations included giving school principals the right to sack poor teachers and reward the better ones with higher pay, which they currently lack. But such moves have been blocked by Israel's two teachers' unions, one of which has paralysed secondary schools with a series of long strikes over the past few years. At the end of last year it settled for a wage rise in return for token increases in flexibility, but other reforms remain blocked.

That's from The Economist's special report on Israel in its sixtieth year. Israel ranked 39th out of 57 OECD countries in the 2006 PISA rankings and had the biggest gap between high- and low-achieving students.

And this isn't helping things, says one commentator.

Gadfly Studios

We at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute fight to improve K-12 schooling in America, but that doesn't mean we're ignoring the environment:

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=loZjzAwHDaQ

You gotta give it to purebred libertarians, they never let their vision of how the world ought to work be distorted by any realities about how it actually works. Nowhwere is this clearer than in K-12 education, where the CATO crowd, indistinguishable nowadays from the "separation of school and state crowd," basically doesn't believe in any form of public education. They believe in private education, purchased in the marketplace by parents who want and can afford it for their kids from schools that are not accountable to anybody for anything except keeping those tuition payments rolling in the door. The heck with everybody else's kids. The heck with an educated polity or transmitted common culture. Check out Neil McCluskey's review of my book.

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