Flypaper

In today's Wall Street Journal, we hear from college graduates who recognized a crummy job market and decided to channel their energies into service programs, like Teach for America. Great idea, right? More teachers for TFA in the interim and more opportunities to introduce grads to a career they may not have thought about.

But then we read this:

Teach for America has an agreement with certain companies, such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., to grant corps members with existing job offers a two-year "deferral" so they can teach for two years and still have a job waiting for them when their commitment is over. It also runs something akin to a career-placement office to connect former teachers with recruiters at major companies, including General Electric Co., McKinsey & Co. and Google Inc.

And this:

That kind of partnership with non-teaching career paths helped Mike Stewart's father feel better about his son's joining the organization. "My fear was that he'd go into the teaching world right off the bat," after his service, says the elder Mike Stewart, executive vice president of a medical-device company. "One thing that gives me some comfort is that he is still planning on going to law school."

With so many reasons to bail from teaching the second a commitment ends (great job connections! Parent pressure!), how will these grads consider classroom service a career instead of a bullet point on a resume?...

The USDOE announced a couple days ago the six states approved for "differentiated accountability" plans (Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, and Ohio). The purpose of the program according to the Department is to "assist those states by targeting resources and interventions to those schools most in need of intensive interventions and significant reform." Targeting resources to the neediest of needy schools clearly makes sense, but I share Mike's concern relative to how this program might loosen the pressure on suburban schools in particular. One of the key flexibilities under the new program is that "the state clearly defines its process for categorizing?? schools" and from the looks of it, each pilot state is absolutely elated to do so.

Recall that under the current NCLB system, if a school fails to meet AYP two years in a row, it is labeled "in need of improvement." Since all subgroups of students must also meet AYP benchmarks, that's meant that many "successful" suburban schools--previously judged to be so based on aggregate student performance--now find themselves "in need of improvement" when one or more of their ESL, special education, Latino, etc. populations don't make adequate gains.

The Differentiated Accountability program essentially gives states permission to develop kinder, gentler labeling systems for these suburban schools and others. In Maryland, Indiana, and Illinois, for example, it's out with the "in need of improvement" label and in with the "focused needs" and "comprehensive...

Liam Julian

That's what they're talking about at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Ross Douthat moderates.

Liam Julian

Julie Greenberg wrote about the "Mantle of Martyrdom" in a past edition of??NCTQ's TQ Bulletin.

Sandwiching thirteen years of teaching between two periods of policy work, I have acquired an unusual perspective on the culture dominating the teaching profession. I learned early on that we teachers are a sensitive bunch. My warning to non-teachers: never question the martyrdom of teachers.

Whoops.

Liam Julian

The Gloucester, Massachusetts, principal who told Time that several students made a "pact" to get pregnant stands by his remarks. (Last week, Amber wrote a sharp Gadfly piece related to this subject.)

Liam Julian

NPR's Morning Edition aired today a segment on which presidential candidate, John McCain or Barack Obama, is actually the most bi-partisan or post-partisan or something like that. Frankly, I couldn't care less, mostly because these glorified labels are hooey. But here's how Obama, when asked to speak about??a time??he has broken ranks with his party, explained his bi-/post-partisanshipishness:

Obama also points to his willingness to consider merit pay for teachers. "I've gotten in trouble with the teachers union on this--that we should be experimenting with charter schools," he said. "We should be experimenting with different ways of compensating teachers."

We've been accused at times of union-bashing (as distinct from the teacher-bashing attributed to Liam, yesterday and today), but perhaps we can cede that mantle to Thomas Sowell. From his column on National Review Online today:

during the Second World War, France collapsed after just six weeks of fighting and surrendered to Nazi Germany. At the bitter moment of defeat the head of the French teachers' union was told, "You are partially responsible for the defeat."

His point, though, is that patriotism matters, and that the French union helped water it down in the 1920s and 30s. I'm not enough of a historian to wade into that issue, but as we approach July Fourth, it should be said that teaching students about America's greatness (and yes, mistakes too) is something we should applaud, not shun. In 2003, Fordham gathered an esteemed group of authors who made that very point, in a volume that still has relevance today.

At Fordham, we normally avoid the paparazzi and gossip columns by donning dark sunglasses and entering buildings only by tunnel or back alley, but still, Checker couldn't avoid the New York Sun's "Out and About" blog, which caught him and others in New York last month celebrating Fordham trustee Diane Ravitch's 70th birthday.

If it hasn't been said on Flypaper before, a belated happy birthday to you, Diane!

New York City's experiences in the last couple weeks reinforce my belief that the notion that we can "hold public schools accountable for results" is questionable.

No one bought the district's announcement that test scores have dramatically improved. And why should they have? The doubters seem to understand that politicians who pledge to raise student achievement are heavily motivated to make it appear that they've raised student achievement--even if they really haven't.

What puzzles, though, is that this sage observation seems to have died at the doorsteps of Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein. The skeptics blame these particular politicians as if the perverse incentive to varnish test scores afflicted only certain snaky individuals rather than all holders of public office. Why is that? Why when public servants invariably fall prey to the sinister tug of politics do we blame the individuals and never politics?

"3 of 4 City Students Say They Took No Art Class This Year"

Update: NYC Department of Ed press secretary David Cantor writes in the comments section:

This New York Sun headline from today's edition is inaccurate, and the Sun will be publishing a correction.

The Sun misread our student survey, publishing the percentage of students who said they participated in arts activities before or after school rather than the number who said they took classes.

In reality, 46% of students said they took at least one class in visual arts this year; 37% of students took at least one music class; 15% of students took at least one dance class; and 12% of took at least one theater class.

To supplement these classes, many students said they participated in arts activities before or after school or during free periods, including 27% in visual arts programs-the number from which the Sun's headline derives. Here's the link to the survey.

Given that New York City high school students are required to take only one year of arts, these participation rates for last year are good news.

David Cantor

Press Secretary

NYC Department of Education

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