Flypaper

Liam Julian

For those??who doubt that competition has positive effects on public-school systems, this article , from the Houston Chronicle , is instructive. The Houston district's enrollment is dropping; meanwhile,??charter schools there, such as KIPP, can't keep up with demand (this is occurring in other cities , too). HISD school board member Diana Davilla told the Chronicle about KIPP, "They're attracting more students than we are. Somewhere, we're missing something because they're building schools and we're closing them." The district hopes to change that:

Leaders said they're also working on ways to use data, including performance pay information, to create a profile of ideal teaching candidates. They plan, for instance, to use the data to determine which universities are producing HISD's best teachers.

Good ideas. None of which would have germinated without healthy competition.

To see but one example of why we can't trust local school boards to lead meaningful reform efforts, see this post from the National School Boards Association (NSBA). Regarding this recent Wall Street Journal article on No Child Left Behind's lack of "bite"* for failing schools, NSBA says:

If the system that judges school performance is innately flawed, should??we be rushing to sanction these "failing" schools or should we be rushing to fix the system? Until NCLB gets its diagnosis right, schools should not be forced to make radical changes that are disruptive to students and their learning environment.

Well, yes, NCLB surely labels some schools as "needing improvement" that are pretty decent, such as those that are succeeding for most of their students but not for kids with learning disabilities, or those that are not up to standards yet but are making big gains over time. But all evidence indicates that the vast majority of "failing" schools are just that, and we shouldn't waste any more time (or come up with any more excuses) before we intervene aggressively in them. NSBA's proposal is a prescription for paralysis. Which is fitting, because most local school boards have resisted real reform forever.

Update: *As Liam notes below, Washington, D.C.'s, school system is instituting real reform. And guess what? It reports to the mayor, not the school board. Hardly a coincidence....

Plenty of bad ideas make their way from the business world to education, but here's a good one: replicate successful school models via franchising. That's the argument made by business writer Julie Bennett in an essay in the new Education Next.??

In the business world, when the owners of restaurants or retail stores want to expand, they choose between two models: corporate-style growth with central management or franchising. Chains like Starbucks scale up corporately; each of its 7,087 U.S. stores is owned by and managed from its Seattle headquarters. Others, like McDonald's, follow a franchise model. Though they look and feel much the same, the vast majority of the 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the United States are operated by a founding franchisee. The advantage of franchising is that it allows an organization to grow rapidly without putting its own intellectual and financial capital at risk. While franchisees are building individual units, the central organization can spend its resources on promoting the brand and developing new products and services.

Bennett goes on to explain that KIPP, the Big Picture Company, and EdVisions Schools belong in the franchise bucket, while Lighthouse Academies, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools are closer to the corporate model. (All of these are non-profit organizations with chains of high-quality charter schools.) Both approaches have their advantages and drawbacks, but KIPP, the Mac Daddy of education franchises, has grown the fastest.

No, schools aren't businesses and kids aren't burgers, but neither is education the first field...

Liam Julian

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story titled "No Child Left Behind Lacks Bite." Not in Washington, D.C., it doesn't.

Liam Julian

Someone once wrote, "You can't trust Alexander Russo to report on a school bake sale and give an accurate account of the price of brownies," so one hesitates to put much stock in this post. It is nonetheless peculiar that a gaggle of bloggers would criticize other bloggers for blogging, or that they would inveigh against time-wasting while sitting on a panel, discussing blogging. Certainly Flypaper's frequent posting is a benefit to our readers, who desire timely analysis and opinion on the day's education issues. And for those who would rather imbibe an occasional off-the-cuff observation or two, perhaps about baseball or Howard Stern, other outlets exist.

Liam Julian

It's tough to capture a summer internship at Fordham. Expectant mothers often email us tabula rasa resumes on behalf of promising blastocysts, in fact, to be updated as??Embryonic Emmy??and Zygote Zach grow and garner accomplishments over the impending score. This summer, however, we have an unexpected internship opening! Click here (quickly) for more information.

It's not quite as bad as Marion Barry embracing vouchers, but is it necessarily a positive development that the United Way has selected dropout prevention as one of its three key initiatives? As the Washington Post reports,

The United Way of America, alarmed at the nation's fraying safety net, will announce today that it will direct its giving toward ambitious 10-year goals that would cut in half the high school dropout rate and the number of working families struggling financially.

Curbing the dropout rate certainly deserves attention from the nation's charitable donors, but the chances don't appear high that a mainstream, let's-all-get-along group like the United Way will tackle the underlying problems that lead to massive educational failure. Will the charity push for rigorous state standards or even national standards? Will it work to put pressure on failing school districts by supporting charter schools and other forms of parental choice? Will it tangle with recalcitrant teachers' unions? Such actions are hard to imagine, which is why savvy observers should get ready to watch a whole lot more private money go down the tubes....

Liam Julian

Check out this New York Daily News column about career and technical education (formerly vocational education).

Not only is career and technical education nothing to laugh at, it's a way to replace the unrealistic "college for all" bias of public schooling with a greater degree of practical preparation for lucrative and rewarding careers in fields like nursing, desktop publishing, computer networking and the building trades.

This is encouraging:

And here's the kicker: Two-thirds of CTE students go on to college, and when they do, there's research suggesting they outperform other students. Those that go straight into the world of work are generally getting jobs in fields where the pay is good and demand is strong.

Liam Julian

This week's Gadfly is now available for public consumption. Fordham's nascent research director, Amber Winkler, makes her Gadfly debut with a smart editorial about Reading First (she says it's not yet dead). And former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll and the former chairman of the??Massachusetts Board of Education, Jim Peyser, write in to talk MCAS and standards and college readiness.

Nice to see that at least one state is trying to exorcise its anti-Catholic demons . If??the country cares about saving its Catholic schools , it should hope Florida's efforts are elsewhere replicated.

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