Every four years, it seems, enterprising campaign staff put out talking points about how their candidate wants to "help" failing schools improve, not just batter them for their poor performance. And this year's rhetoric is no different. But are these campaign aides aware that the federal government already supports a fairly elaborate system meant to "build the capacity" of state departments of education, so they can help to improve failing schools and districts?

I'll admit that I was barely aware of this myself until I was invited to serve on the "technical working group" for a national evaluation of the Department of Education's "Comprehensive Centers ." I am not at liberty to disclose the early results of said study (I'm sorry, Good Morning America , you'll just have to wait), but the campaigns should at least become familiar with the Centers' work. In a nutshell, there are 16 regional centers (each serving a handful of states) and five "content" centers (one each for high school reform , innovation & improvement , instruction , testing & accountability , and teacher quality ). And a big focus for almost...

Liam Julian

Gary Babad creates satirical news about New York City's public schools.

It was shortly after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took over the school system in 2002 that Mr. Babad started to speak up, because, he said, things struck him as paternalistic and overly controlling. He recalled a PTA meeting at which someone said a particular bylaw needed to be changed to comply with a request from administrators downtown.

After a heated debate broke out, one of Mr. Babad's daughters, who was about 10, came by to ask what the commotion was about.

???I explained to her that they were telling us our votes don't count and that's what some countries of the world do all the time,??? Mr. Babad remembered. ???She said right away, ???Well, Dad, that's not fair.' ???

I've come to admire the anonymous edu-blogger Eduwonkette, what with her skillful use of Photoshop, fearless questioning of the high and mighty, and, yes, lavish attention and fun she heaps on us here at Fordham.* But I've got to call her out on this morning's post about New York City's achievement gap.

My beef isn't about NYC in particular but her analysis of the achievement gap in general. (An analysis that is strikingly similar to Charles Murray's, by the way.) She writes:

Proficiency rates, or the percentage of students passing a test, are often used to measure achievement gaps. For example, if 90% of white students passed a test and 65% of black students did, some observers will say that the achievement gap is "25 points." Proficiency is a misleading and inaccurate way to measure achievement gaps. Primarily, the problem is that we cannot differentiate between students who just made it over the proficiency bar and those who scored well above it. Proficiency rates can increase substantially by moving a small number of kids up a few points---just enough to clear the cut score. But

Liam Julian

"Community leaders on Monday called on students from poorer parts of Chicago to protest inequalities in school funding by skipping the first day of classes."

Article here.

Liam Julian

Well, is it or isn't it?

Update: The Onion weighs in.

Liam Julian

David Brooks thinks it's human capital. His column confuses me, though, because Brooks wrote just??last month that schools should not abandon academic reform??to instead concentrate on remedying what occurs outside their walls (poverty, family breakdown, etc.).??Today's piece??seems to say the opposite, but perhaps I'm reading it the wrong way.

American extracurriculars win again. A study from Temple University found that obesity in children is linked to a tendency to shy away from athletic teams--and lower test scores, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Long plagued by high dropout rates amongst Latino students, the Texas Education Agency has been ordered by the U.S. District Court to overhaul its bilingual education program, reports the Houston Chronicle. It's about time, honestly. According to Judge Justice's (yep, that's his name) decision and the El Paso Times, ELL students are held back twice as often as other students and routinely underperform on standardized tests. The ruling calls for more monitoring of bilingual ed programs and a "review" of the system. Sounds great in theory but this is totally inadequate in practice.

Here's the problem, Texas: you let your students languish in bilingual classes until sixth grade. Only then, in seventh grade, do you re-label them ELL, test them in English, and then wonder why they all drop out and/or fail their tests. This is not an occasion for just instituting more monitoring programs. This calls for a serious overhaul of bilingual education. Why don't you try instituting more support systems for students, transitioning them from bilingual to ELL starting in fourth or fifth grade, mixing English immersion with bilingual classes at?? younger ages, or even ending bilingual education in fourth grade...

Liam Julian

We at Flypaper??like Alexander Russo. He's a shameless, quirky guy who writes for a blog of much the same temperament. One of his particular quirks, for example, is his insistence that he is an "education reporter" who "covers" news. (I may occasionally wear a red hat and carry bottled water, but this does not a fireman make me.)??And so??Russo takes umbrage today that we at Flypaper did not mention him when we ostensibly wrote "about something [he] covered." That "something"--the "something" that Russo "covered"--is??a recent New York Times Magazine piece about class-based integration.

Several things. First, Russo is not the only person who receives on Sundays the New York Times at his doorstep. This weekly ritual is in fact part of the lives of millions of Americans, and millions of Americans were no doubt aware that the Magazine had in it last week an article about class-based integration. (Russo, it should be noted, is also not the only person to be aware of The New Yorker or Senator Barack Obama. Nor can he call "dibs" on the Iraq War; people know about it.) Second, Russo...