Liam Julian

If any district is thinking about setting up a career and technical education program for aspiring bike messengers, it should think again. The internet is apparently killing that occupation. Books; bike messengers; youthful, inquiring minds.... What isn't the internet killing? Outdated public schools, for one. Or isn't it?

That's the impression I get from reading Karin Chenoweth's post about Fordham's high-achieving students study. First she spins our findings in as positive a light as possible (after all, No Child Left Behind was Ed Trust's baby, and this spin fits its preferred "narrative"):

While the highest performing students in the county are making steady gains, the lowest performing students are improving even faster in math and early reading. This, even though most teachers say that the amount of attention that high-performing students receive in school has stayed the same or increased.... Loveless's analysis indicates that we may have finally figured out some things about how to ensure that students who struggle master the basics of reading and math while pushing up the performance of those who easily master the basics. He provides some deeply disturbing findings about eighth-grade reading, which I'll get to in a minute, but fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading show gains at both the top and bottom of the achievement scale, with the bottom showing the most gains.

Then she gets snarky:

You would think these findings would be cause for major celebration and some well-deserved thanks to elementary

Liam Julian

Does the??penchant of universities??for outsized emphasis??on production of new research create professors who shirk??one of their primary duties, namely??to teach undergraduates? I think so.

Here's what the economists think.

When I wrote in the Education Gadfly a few weeks ago that "in times of budget crunch, school boards are tempted to consider extra-curriculars as, well, extras, frills even," I wasn't making it up.

Liam Julian

Over here, over there, those "right-wing thinktank[s]" are always so spot on. How do they do it? From The Guardian:

High-flying graduates should be encouraged to dip into teaching rather than commit to the profession for life, a right-wing thinktank has argued.

The Policy Exchange says would-be teachers should be given more opportunities to train on-the-job only, rather than on lengthy teacher training courses.

It also recommends schools opt out of national pay rules in England and lure the best teachers by offering them more money.

The report (pdf) is here.

The New York Times "Education Life" supplement asks that question of America's colleges and charter schools. But why not ask it of education policy think tanks? No doubt, Fordham would win that contest by a mile.


Liam Julian

You've waited all year....

Update: I cannot believe the University of Florida took the top party spot, with FSU??crossing the finish line??in??lowly tenth place. Who does Princeton Review have??running this harebrained outfit???Oh... and Stanford offers, like, the best classroom experience or something.

From the Associated Press's description, it's hard to believe that the "paragon of taxpayer-funded cradle-to-grave welfare" would have supported a school choice program 16 years ago, and have seen it be so successful. But believe it we must--and embarrassed we should be.

There are differences, of course, between the Swedish system and the American one, most notably that private or "independent" schools in Sweden really are free since all schools are state-funded, whether they are run by the state or a private company. And there are some problems, of course, such as the offer of laptops and iPods as incentives--a practice we have mixed feelings about. We know it's not a perfect solution. But that's not the point. The point is that even the L??rarf??rbundet teachers' union is on board, reports the BBC. The union.

Maybe our own unions can take a page out of Sweden's book. It's not a matter of politics anymore, it's a matter of good policy that works....

Eduwonk Andy thinks that merit pay is the new vouchers. (Actually now he says "everyone" knows that to be the case.) Not really. Merit pay is more like charters--an issue that is promoted primarily by Republicans (especially at the state level) but which enjoys significant support among reform-minded Democrats. A better analogy is virtual schools, particularly the no-holds-barred, outside-the-system versions, which are openly despised by the teachers unions and increasingly under fire.

I used to work at K12, a company that manages lots of these virtual charter schools around the country, and have been following their "public policy challenges" over the years. Consider this episode from Wisconsin, for example, where the unions led a legal fight to shut down these options. (Thankfully the legislature later forged a compromise to keep them open, after thousands of angry parents turned up the heat.) It's easy to understand why the unions see this as a high-stakes debate: such schools replace labor (teachers) with capital (technology)--the great fear of organized workers. More specifically, by relying on parents or other guardians to provide much of the instruction, virtual charters are able to put in place much larger teacher-to-student...

Liam Julian

Interesting to note that liberals Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias have both blogged recently about how socioeconomic and racial integration (the 2008 kind of integration, which seeks to overcome housing patterns; not the 1950s kind, which sought to overcome de jure separation of black and white) won't work. (Drum is here; Yglesias is here and here.) Richard Kahlenberg doesn't like this anti-integration trend: "No one should minimize the obstacles to achieving fully integrated schools, but particularly from our liberal friends, we could use a little more ???yes, we can.'"

"Yes, we can" is great, unless we can't. I wrote about integration in this week's Gadfly. Drum and Yglesias are right--these ideas about socially and racially diversifying schools are logistically impossible in most urban areas and logistically arduous in others. Furthermore, they probably can't help students learn more. Parents (black, white, you name it) are pretty united in the conviction that children should either be assigned to close-to-home schools or parents should have more varied public-school choice options. The push for socially engineered ratios of white to black, poor to middle-class in schools manages to detract from parents' wishes and to distract from...