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I just got back from Joel Klein's address at the American Enterprise Institute (carried live on C-SPAN). The New York City Schools Chancellor gave a sober (read: boring) presentation of his tenure in New York, which left the audience a bit wanting in terms of engagement (read: he lectured from a text-packed PowerPoint for forty minutes and talked to the screen instead of the 200-person crowd).

Regardless, there's plenty to like about his story of New York City school reform. As one of the most prominent spokesmen of the "do whatever works" crowd (or, if you prefer, the incentivists), he talked at length about the structural reforms he and his team have enacted, including a freer and fairer market for hiring teachers; greater autonomy for principals; an expansion of charter schools and other forms of choice; and a version of weighted-student funding.

Still, seven years into his tenure it's clear that he's not particularly passionate about the "stuff" of schools, specifically curriculum. But maybe that's changing. Asked by a certain intrepid blogger about any regrets he might harbor, particularly considering New York City's lack of progress in 4th grade reading since 2003 (while the rest of the country is finally showing gains), he admitted a few. First, that he mandated "Month by Month Phonics" in his early years (read: we only put phonics in our program's name as a marketing ploy, but we're really all about whole language). And second,...

Liam Julian

Some sad news: Jeff Kuhner, our fearless communications director, is leaving us for the Washington Times, where he will produce his own, daily, nationally syndicated radio show and write a Sunday column. We've grown accustomed to having Jeff around the office, mostly in the bathroom, actually, where he can be found shaving at 12:30 p.m. (he claims his skin is??less sensitive in the afternoon) or brushing his teeth, several times a day, to counteract the juice from the bowlfuls of blueberries he??ingests to increase his antioxidant count. Jeff talks more about his new gig on this week's podcast. I'll do my best to encourage him to post here about this transition his thoughts, which are surely numerous and weighty. Perhaps, though, like Hillary Clinton, Jeff Kuhner, at this juncture, simply desires some time and some space to think and reflect.

Here's a twist. We're used to reading about state and local officials who bellyache about No Child Left Behind's requirements but aren't courageous enough to live by their principles and forfeit the federal bucks. (If you don't take the money, you don't have to follow the law's rules.) But according to an article in the Shreveport Times, now a district in Louisiana is turning this trend on its head. It's restoring the Congressional cuts to the Reading First program by using its own money to keep the initiative going.

Caddo received about $671,000 from the state Education Department for Reading First in previous years. However, if the money isn't received, the Caddo Parish School Board has decided to give the district the money from its general fund.

"(Reading First) helps students, and those kids' scores have gone up because of Reading First. I don't know why legislators want to cut something that works," said board member Dottie Bell, a former teacher. "I thought we were all on the page when it comes to educating children, and that's a good program. It's working."

You said it Dottie. Chairman Obey, Mr. Reading First Budget Slasher, are you embarrassed yet?...

Liam Julian

This doesn't bode well for the future of the LDS Church.

Liam Julian

Can't get enough Checker Finn? Well, he has two longish pieces in this week's Gadfly, hot off the virtual press. His first article??is about why teachers deserve both respect and sympathy.

Surf over to one of the Ed Week blogs, such as Campaign K12 or NCLB: Act II, and see if Joel Packer's face pops up at the top of your screen, too.

Joel is a very nice guy with an unfortunate job (flacking all manner of dubious ideas for the National Education Association's federal policy shop). This advertising buy should remind us all that in the education "war of ideas," the NEA still has the big guns--i.e., the big money. But guess what? Our podcast can take his podcast any day.

A study to appear in October by MIT economist Joshua Angrist and University of Chicago business school professor Jonathan Guryan apparently says yes, according to this article. That's a counter-intuitive finding, of course; many reformers (ourselves included) have argued forever that tough teacher tests will deter poorly educated people from becoming teachers while attracting talented individuals. But maybe not. Here's how the scholars explain it:

First, they note, applicants whose educational backgrounds qualify them to teach are also likely qualified to work in other fields. When they weigh their job options, they calculate the cost in time, effort and money of the mandated tests as salary reductions.

"Higher quality applicants, as measured by outside earnings potential, are more likely to pass the test," Angrist says, but they're also more likely to want wages that will repay their efforts to take the tests. In addition, they're consumers; they can look for jobs at companies that don't require costly licensing tests.

Second, the discouragement effect, as economists call it, serves as a barrier to applicants broadly, Angrist notes. People who might be great teachers may choose not to study or pay for certification for myriad reasons, a loss for U.S. students in public schools.

I asked my podcast buddy, AEI's Rick Hess, about his thoughts on the study. Though it's not yet available for viewing, that didn't dissuade him from weighing in. (He could be a blogger!)

It's not hard to imagine??scenarios where

...

The American--a "magazine of ideas" published by the American Enterprise Institute--has the latest review of Checker's book, Troublemaker. Check it out.

Yesterday I attended an informal event at Education Sector where Marc Tucker from NCEE spoke about international education. Tucker has spent a lot of time studying educational assessment and practices in various other countries and said a few blog-worthy things. First, that some of the biggest differences between many other high-performing nations and the US is that other nations hold students more accountable than the teachers and utilize "instructional systems" that integrate curricular exams, as opposed to the more isolated tests that we use. He spent quite a bit of time talking up the merits of various other high-performing nations, leaving a couple of us asking what political and economic hurdles the US faces in trying to adopt some of these reforms.

Tucker pointed out, as have others, that the US is much larger than other high-achieving countries and has a bigger disparity in income, though he has some ideas about how to address the latter. Pressed about cultural differences, he said if a solution is found to work both in Asia and Europe, then there should be no "cultural problem" with it in the US. He mentioned the strategy of teachers following students from grade to grade, which he believes builds in teacher accountability for student progress. It seems to me, as a nation, we have historically had the attitude that we can't learn from other nations because we are more democratic, capitalist,??individually-oriented, etc.-more unique in some way that makes us immune to learning...

This week, the good news never ends. Check out David Hoff's latest post: Principals' Group Joins Push for National Standards.

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