Flypaper

The editorial board of the Washington Post looks back on Mayor Fenty's first year after taking control of the D.C. public schools and is pleased so far. Unlike me , they're not too concerned by the fact that Chancellor Michelle Rhee is abandoning weighted student funding --rather, they look forward to "the promise of music, art and physical education teachers in schools this fall."

And ironically, they caution that:

There have been problems, including with the amount and quality of information provided to the public as changes are made.... We also worry about the amount of money being spent. In seeking control of the schools, Mr. Fenty vowed that money was not the issue, but an extra $200 million later, it's clear that the administration was either kidding itself or the public. The system needs to show it is fixing, not just throwing money at, the problems.

Transparency is one of the great virtues of weighted student funding. Rhee's step backwards is only going to make it harder to tell how money is spent in D.C.

The United Federation of Teachers is protesting a teacher's removal to one of New York City's famed "rubber rooms."

The president of the union, Randi Weingarten, said yesterday that Mr. Brown was asked to leave the school last week after he criticized his principal in front of one of her supervisors.

"She won't ever meet with me or talk to me," Mr. Brown told the supervisor, according to Ms. Weingarten.

"This is the worst abuse of the rubber room," Ms. Weingarten said. "This is a principal who wants her way, and if she doesn't get her way, she'll go to every length."

A spokesman for the city's Department of Education, Andrew Jacob, declined to specifics of the case, but he said the principal had not reassigned the teacher to a rubber room alone.

"Before he was reassigned, the principal reviewed the situation with our legal office, and they approved the reassignment, and they're in the process of preparing charges," Mr. Jacob said.

Unions are wrong about a lot of things, but it probably is indeed the case that some principals value loyalty over competence and consequently make stupid personnel decisions. Most of them attained leadership positions by toeing the district line, and now they expect the same obedience from their employees. Thus, a New York City teacher who's smart enough to realize how poorly-run her school is has to hold her tongue or risk having it ripped out.

So well done on...

Anecdotal gripes that gifted children are not getting their needs met abound. Take this post from a gifted-education advocate that states: "Schools in America are not being evaluated equitably, and the gifted children are among the ones who are suffering" and "NCLB does not even talk about gifted and talented children--our country's greatest natural resource."

Flypaper readers will be happy to learn that we have an upcoming study titled "High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB" written by esteemed Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless due to be released in the next month. As its title suggests, it will examine empirically how gifted students have fared during the NCLB era. Stay tuned to find out whether anecdotes and opinions about meeting gifted children's needs have any relationship to their academic progress.

Of course our fallen soldiers deserve the recognition they receive this special day (deserve much more than that, for sure), but this Memorial Day Weekend brought some recognition for a few living heroes, too.

I'm referring to this shout-out for SEED from uber-columnist Tom Friedman in the Sunday New York Times. (By the way, nice title.)

Every once in a while as a journalist you see a scene that grips you and will not let go, a scene that is at once so uplifting and so cruel it's difficult to even convey in words. I saw such a scene last weekend at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in Baltimore. It was actually a lottery, but no ordinary lottery. The winners didn't win cash, but a ticket to a better life. The losers left with their hopes and lottery tickets crumpled.

The event was a lottery to choose the first 80 students who will attend a new public boarding school - the SEED School of Maryland - based in Baltimore. I went along because my wife is on the SEED Foundation board. The foundation opened its first school 10 years ago in Washington, D.C., as the nation's first college-prep, public, urban boarding school. Baltimore is its second campus. The vast majority of students are African-American, drawn from the most disadvantaged and violent school districts.

Some reformers are upset that he didn't use the term "charter" to describe the school, though to be fair, SEED...

This Memorial Day Weekend also brought a great piece in the Washington Post about the Washington Middle School for Girls.

You won't see metal detectors or security officers at either campus of the Washington Middle School for Girls. Instead, you'll find parents clamoring to get their kids into the school.

The parents look beyond the physical setting to what happens in these classrooms, which is nothing less than the transformation of the same kind of children who drift through the city's public schools and emerge, on average, less likely to succeed than when they entered.

Left unsaid is that this thriving Catholic school is part of the NativityMiguel Network, which is the KIPP of the Catholic school world. Its 64 middle schools nationwide are proving that the decline of Catholic schooling isn't inevitable and that a traditional, faith-inspired education can still work miracles. Read our recent report on Catholic schools to learn more.

School reformers have been infatuated with D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee since she took office last fall. But for me, that ended today when I read that Rhee has ???scrapped??? the weighted student formula (WSF) used in D.C. for the last decade.

This is no mere ???budget formula change,??? as the Washington Post headline would have us believe. WSF is a comprehensive reform, one that banishes old-fashioned funding schemes and makes possible a host of other reforms. By developing school-level budgets based on per-pupil funding amounts, tailored to the needs of students, WSF is efficient, fair, and transparent, unlike district-centered models that control funding from a central office and allocate teachers and other resources to schools based on staffing formulas or the whims of bureaucrats.

Under WSF, inequities in funding between schools can be erased, as funding levels are based explicitly on the students each school serves. In contrast, the type of system to which Rhee would return allocates teachers to schools and then lets school ???budgets??? be driven (primarily) by the sums of their salaries. Certain schools can far ???outspend??? others for no better reason than that veteran teachers chose to teach there. Marguerite Roza and others have found that such nuances can lead to huge funding inequities between schools in the same district ??? inequities that may be worse than those between districts or between states.

...

Liam Julian

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Liam Julian

Mike makes good points about Thompson's article. But modesty about the lengths to which the KIPP/Amistad/SEED models can be stretched is warranted. District public schools should copy many of the "no excuses" methods at work in high-achieving charter schools, but KIPP and its ilk have luxuries that district schools do not; for example, they can easily expel students who don't subscribe to their academically demanding, disciplined philosophies.

And let us not get carried away with the paternalism idea. Mike writes:

The KIPPs and the Amistads and the Cristo Reys take in loco parentis to an extreme, intervening in all corners of their students' lives if that's what it takes. We need inner-city schools to be more paternalistic, not less.

This type of??talk should, and will, make lots of people uncomfortable.

Former presidential aspirant Fred Thompson has a piece on conservatism in the Wall Street Journal today that's getting lots of attention. He argues that "smaller government will always appeal." On education, he writes:

An education system cannot overcome the breakdown of the family, and the social fabric that surrounds children daily.

This is the way to "revive the conservative cause"? Through Charles Murray-style defeatism? Of course parents are a child's first and most important teachers. Of course we're never going to eradicate our social ills until we stem the decline of the family. Still, there are three big problems with Thompson's statement.

First, we aren't, by and large, even trying to use our education system to overcome family breakdown. In the inner-city, where such meltdowns are most acute, typical public schools remain awful and resistant to reform. If we had excellent public schools (or lots of urban kids in excellent charter or voucher schools) and they still couldn't overcome the challenges of family dysfunction, then this statement could be plausible. But we're light years away from that.

Second, the excellent schools that are getting amazing results and preparing their students for college and for success in American society reject this notion out of hand. The KIPPs and the Amistads and the Cristo Reys take in loco parentis to an extreme, intervening in all corners of their students' lives if that's what it takes. We need inner-city schools to be...

Liam Julian

Mike Antonucci tracks the latest media wave, about teachers who don't teach.

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