Flypaper

The NEA is finally moving to endorse Senator Barack Obama for president, reports Mike Antonucci. Well I'm glad they cleared that up!

It's not just that Leo Casey noticed that I lost a few pounds, or that Seattle's school leaders are prioritizing achievement over "diversity." Now Education Week has published a balanced article about Reading First. This is new, different, and exciting.

What's most interesting about the article is the backpedaling of Institute for Educational Sciences director Russ Whitehurst. Such backpedaling started a few weeks ago, though too late to find its way into the mainstream press reports about the study. (Before backpedaling, he backed the study wholeheartedly.) No longer:

"I would say you have to wait for the final report before it would be reasonable for people to draw conclusions about the Reading First study," said Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, the director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education that commissioned the congressionally mandated study. One difficulty in doing the study, he said, is that the treatment is not clearly defined, and implementation of the program varies from site to site.

"The 'it' [what is being measured] is more ambiguous than it might be in certain other impact studies," he added. "There's not a manual that you can get on the Web and order that is Reading First."

And here's the kicker:

The findings, Mr. Whitehurst said, do not support the arguments made by some critics that the Reading First principles, or the research-based approach to instruction overall, are ineffective.

"Scientifically

...

Today's is Samuel Freedman's last New York Times column, he reports. That's a real shame, as he brought a great amount of compassion, and common sense, to his writing on education. For example:

No education column received greater reader response than one last August about an award-winning, idealistic young math teacher, Austin Lampros. He had been overruled by his principal at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan when he tried to give a failing grade to a senior who missed scores of classes, didn't even show up to take the final and claimed a dubious medical excuse.

The student got her passing grade and her diploma. The principal still has her job. The only loser was Mr. Lampros, who quit a profession he adored rather than be party to a travesty.

Now we'll have one less voice speaking up for academic standards. Which means that there aren't many of those voices left.

Liam Julian

If high-quality teachers don't want to work in schools where students of one race predominate (a claim that seems dubious, for the reasons Mike points out), this fact??remains: students at lots of schools are going to be of the same race. Alas, housing patterns make it so. The nation should've learned from its busing experiences--which hastened k-12's racial separation--that socially engineered school assignments don't work. Forcing students to attend class across town, whether it encourages more highly qualified teachers or not, is no longer a realistic option for school districts. We waste time acting as if it is.

That's one implication of her recent post about my take on the "resegregation" of Seattle's schools. I lauded Seattle's superintendent and school board for prioritizing student achievement over concerns about the racial make-up of their classes. Eduwonkette responds:

Here are my two cents on this false choice: Even if you only care about student achievement, racial composition is important. Put simply, it's more difficult to attract and retain high-quality teachers in schools that are racially isolated. There are oodles of papers on this topic, but here is a good one. Mike has more to say about this point, so I'll let him take it from here...

I do indeed! That's an interesting rebuttal from Eduwonkette, though wouldn't high-flying schools such as KIPP, the Amistad Academy, etc. contradict that argument? Don't they show that great teachers will teach at racially isolated schools that are well-run? Isn't it possible that teachers just don't want to teach at dysfunctional schools, which unfortunately is how many racially isolated schools could be described?

This is a causation/correlation quandary. If racially isolated schools tend to be located in high-crime areas, or led by weak principals, or lacking in parental support, then good teachers might avoid them for those legitimate reasons. Or is Eduwonkette suggesting that teachers are simply racist, and would avoid racially isolated schools in safe neighborhoods, with great principals, and lots of parental involvement? Maybe I'm naively optimistic (I grew up in the Midwest, after all),...

Still trying to get your head around the recent Reading First evaluation? Do you work on Capitol Hill and want to give your member of Congress a quick overview of the hub-bub? Cut and paste this Eduflack entry and you're golden.

The Seattle Times is into the third day of its series on the "resegregation" of the Seattle Public Schools. (See Sunday's, yesterday's, and today's articles.) The first quote in the first article makes the paper's angle clear:

"We like to think of ourselves as these enlightened, liberal folks," says School Board member Harium Martin-Morris. "But the fact is our schools aren't the way that people really think they are."

So what's the way Seattle's schools are? They are, by and large, racially imbalanced, with percentages of minority children that tend to be much higher or much lower than the district average. As goes Seattle, so go most of our schools--because people still tend to live in racially imbalanced communities. (Though Monday's story illustrates that housing patterns don't explain everything.) The Times obviously wants its readers to be outraged about this. Thus the use of the highly charged (and highly inaccurate) word, "resegregation."

But guess what? Many people in Seattle--particularly those running its schools--don't appear outraged. According to the paper, they are "resigned."

Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson hopes Seattle residents see the value of living and going to school with people from a wide mix of backgrounds. But she says she can't change where people live. And as much as she values racial diversity, she values high-quality schools more.

A quality education, she says, "trumps diversity."

School Board Chairwoman Cheryl Chow puts it more bluntly: "It's not my job to desegregate the city,"

...

While Eduwonk Andy and Leo Casey of the United Federation of Teachers spar about teacher collective bargaining agreements and whether or not they "prevent educational innovation," some unionized teachers in Denver weigh in with views of their own. Their verdict: indeed they do.

Nearly two dozen teachers from Denver's Montclair Elementary took a field trip of their own Friday--to their union headquarters to urge a vote on the school's six-week-old request for autonomy.

Montclair is the third Denver Public School, and the first elementary, to seek freedoms from district and union rules in budgeting, hiring and scheduling.

Casey may argue that collective bargaining agreements don't stand in the way of flexibility. Even his fellow teacher union members aren't buying that one.

Liam Julian

From this Palm Beach Post article, about college graduates??who have??a tough time finding jobs:

About 75 percent to 80 percent of UCF students who completed internships found a job in the field they majored in, he said. For students who had no job training outside the classroom, the number is less than 50 percent.

It's not news that internships are important, or that most interns earn paltry sums that usually don't cover even their living expenses and that, therefore, lots of??poor students are excluded from their ranks. But as more less-qualified pupils enter college, as a college degree's value??is degraded, garnering competitive internships will grow evermore important for 20-year-olds??who desire good jobs after they graduate.??Look for anti-internship articles like this??and testimonials from college grads who, unable to do a sophomore-year summer stint in D.C., now find themselves with a B.A. and without a job--all coming to an op-ed page near you.

Liam Julian

From Ed Week: States that set easy targets during No Child Left Behind's early years will now??"have to make annual gains of 10 percentage points or more in the proportion of students scoring as proficient in those subjects...."

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