Flypaper

Ok, Eric caught me. I used the Washington Post-ABC News poll just to poke fun at??Ed in '08 again. With our current situation, someone would have to be off their rocker to list education as their top priority over the gazillion other things that are plaguing this country and the world. HOWEVER, that's not really the point. Ed in '08 has demonstrated a type of hubris that is yet unparalleled in my recent memory. Not only did they think that they could singlehandedly make education into a top priority by throwing money around and producing unsubstantive and not-that-funny TV ads, but they decided that their three education "pillars" (if you can call them that) were their sole intellectual property as if no one else had possibly thought of these three things before. Here they are in all their simplistic glory:

1. creating clear learning standards,

2. improving teaching,

3. and giving adequate time and support for student learning.??

Are you trying to tell me that Ed in '08 is the sole proprietor of the idea of "improving teaching"? Is that a joke?

But back to the Washington Post-ABC News poll. Eric is right that...

Richard Whitmire, who wrote this USA Today editorial in support of single sex schools, wants those of us at Fordham to send a video crew to the Excellence Charter School in New York City to capture and disseminate its effective practices nationwide. (Richard must have been impressed by these videos .) Furthermore, he bemoans the lack of a major federal evaluation to explore the rapid growth of single sex schools and learn from the best of them. On that front, I have a suggestion for Doug Mesecar and Kelly Scott, now the top political appointees in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement (where I once hung my hat): reallocate dollars from the Women's Educational Equity Act to support exactly the sort of study Richard is describing. That's how we funded these evaluations of single sex schools several years ago, and it still makes me chuckle when I think about how mad that must have made the American Association of University Women....

Sam Dillon has a great article in today's New York Times which illustrates the wide variation in the number of schools making "adequate yearly progress" under No Child Left Behind. He writes,

A state-by-state analysis by The New York Times found that in the 40 states reporting on their compliance so far this year, on average, 4 in 10 schools fell short of the law's testing targets, up from about 3 in 10 last year. Few schools missed targets in states with easy exams, like Wisconsin and Mississippi, but states with tough tests had a harder time. In Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Mexico, which have stringent exams, 60 to 70 percent of schools missed testing goals. And in South Carolina, which has what may be the nation's most rigorous tests, 83 percent of schools missed targets.

In December, Fordham and the Northwest Evaluation Association will release a new study--a follow-up to last year's Proficiency Illusion--which will dig into this state-by-state variation and show that the tests alone are not to blame....

Let's assume for a moment that the current trajectory of the presidential election remains the same and Obama wins by a significant margin, maybe even a landslide. Surely he will have a mandate for "change." And on a few issues that he put at the center of his campaign--Iraq, the financial meltdown, energy, health care--he'll have a mandate for specific legislative action. But what about education?

While he hasn't ignored the issue as McCain (mostly) has, it's been at best a second tier subject for his campaign. Let's look at what Obama has told the American people about education. During his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, he said:

America, now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy.

You know, Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance.

I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers,

...

Two weeks ago, I had a bit of fun at Ed in 08's expense. One of our readers accused me of unfairly picking on the poor initiative (get it?). Well, we could feel sorry for Ed in 08??? or I could point you to the latest findings of the Washington Post-ABC News poll and we can continue our joviality. Question six asked, ???What is the single most important issue in your choice for president???? Take a wild guess how many people picked education. Take a guess, seriously.

1%. Yes, that's right, 1% of people think education is the single most important issue in their choice for president. What's more, that's down one percent from August when education was the most important issue for??? wait for it??? 2% of survey responders. Wow. (I know there is a margin of error here and losing one percentage point is not statistically significant, but still, a decrease is a decrease.) Predictably, it's behind the economy, health care, Iraq, terrorism, and energy. But it's also behind "morals/family values," "abortion," and "ethics/honesty/corruption in government." Wow, great job Stronger Schools. Education is not even as important as governmental corruption. Of course it...

A few weeks ago I introduced Barack Obama's scalpel to a list of what I referred to as "ineffective" Department of Education programs worthy of elimination. Almost immediately, Education Sector's Chad Aldeman criticized me for giving so much credence to the Bush Administration's "Program Assessment Rating Tool," (PART) which judges federal programs on their effectiveness or lack thereof. I wasn't too impressed by Aldeman's complaints, but Chad, when you join the Obama Administration, you can tweak the PART to your liking. I suspect a new and improved version will still determine that most ED programs don't work.

Where I did err was in conflating the programs the Administration has put on the chopping block with those that have been judged to be ineffective. Not so, writes Carol Rasco, the president and CEO of Reading is Fundamental, which found itself on the list:

I was very disappointed to see your September 29 posting that included Reading Is Fundamental as an "ineffective program" as no one in the Dept. of Education can show us where we have been so identified.?? The commentary in the budget document indicated:

Supports an annual award to Reading is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF) to

...

Readers are lighting up the comments section on this one regarding a comment made by "that one." (Note to John McCain: please try to remember your opponent's name next time.)

Even among well-informed Flypaper followers there is a great amount of disagreement regarding just how much teachers earn. So let me admit that it's a bit unfair to expect a presidential candidate to get these particular facts straight. In fact, Barack Obama is in the mainstream when he talks about a teacher making $30,000 to $35,000 a year. A recent Education Next article based on a national poll showed that most Americans think teachers average $33,000 per year, when the actual amount is $47,000.

Of course, as one colleague expressed to me, these figures don't include the generous pensions that teachers receive--pensions that are buffeted from the current turmoil in the market and which most private-sector employees no longer see.

I think we can all agree, however, that many teachers are underpaid. The key question is: which ones? It's going to be hard in the current fiscal climate (really, any fiscal climate) to dramatically raise salaries across the board. It would be smarter to...

Amy Fagan

Fordham staff received an email this afternoon from D.C. parent Jean Hoff and decided to post it (in part, and with her permission):

I am a very upset parent with children in the D.C. Public Schools.?? My daughters attend Shepherd Elementary School.?? I learned today that Michelle Rhee has just fired our principal, Dr. Galeet BenZion.?? Dr. BenZion was appointed in July of this year, and has from my perspective as a parent, made great inroads at Shepherd in a short time.?? One thing she has not been shy about is sticking up for our children when it comes to getting resources from downtown.?? Ms. Rhee has not yet released any justification for the firing, but is scheduling a meeting to discuss next week.[...]?? My immediate goal is to see Dr. BenZion reinstated.

We're awaiting Ms. Rhee's response...

With a title like that, we already know you RSVP'd (if you didn't, what are you waiting for?). More good news! The ten papers being presented at this stupendous conference are now posted online. Your weekend reading is all taken care of--you're welcome. A teaser:

From??Brown v. Board of Education??to "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," the past fifty years have seen a striking rise in judicial supervision of education. From race to speech, from religion to school funding, from discipline to special education, few realms of education policy have escaped the courtroom. Predictably, much controversy has ensued. Supporters of education litigation contend that the courts are essential to secure student (and civil) rights and needs, while critics insist that the courts distort policy and that the mere threat of litigation undermines the authority of teachers and administrators.

Alexander Russo reported earlier today that Institute for Education Sciences director Russ Whitehurst is heading to Brookings. That's true--I hear that he is replacing Tom Loveless as the director of the ??Brown Center on Education Policy. Loveless has been trying to find his successor for the better part of two years now; it looks like it's finally happened. (Loveless will remain a scholar at Brookings, too, I understand.)

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