Conventional wisdom in Washington, circa 2001, was that states and schools were not to be trusted. Give them an inch, they'll take a mile--that was the sentiment when it came to devising NCLB's accountability system. We all knew that devious states would try to game the system and make schools look better than they really were, and that schools themselves would find loopholes and abuse them. So NCLB's crafters tried to preempt any shenanigans with a web of rules that would snare nefarious attempts to maintain the "soft bigotry of low expectations."

Worried that schools would keep poor performers home on test day? Require that 95 percent of all students (and all students in each subgroup) take the test. Concerned that schools would push poor performers into the "special education" category? Require children with disabilities to take the test too, and even mandate that their scores be evaluated as a separate subgroup under the law. Nervous that schools would obsess only about test score results and nothing else? Require states to add another indicator--typically attendance--to their accountability metrics.

Now, this attitude wasn't entirely out of line. We've seen plenty of shenanigans despite the best efforts of the Potomac...

I admire Stafford's passion, in joining Mike's anti-Ed-in-???08 crusade, but I think she puts way too much stock in the Washington Post-ABC News poll as a measure of education's importance in the campaign. The poll's question is just too simplistic, in asking only about one's "most important issue in your choice for president." Education is almost never going to be that for many voters--heck, even I probably would answer "foreign policy," or "the economy," and I work at an education policy think tank. I'd be a lot more interested in a poll that could tell us what the voters list as their top 3 or 5 issues. (And in fairness to Ed in '08, Obama did mention education as being his 3rd highest priority during the last debate.)

And given that other issues with only 1% support include immigration, taxes, the environment, and the deficit, education doesn't seem to fare so badly after all. Even the Iraq war only gets 6%, while Iran and global warming get less than 1%. So while there are plenty of reasons to pan Ed in '08, I don't think this poll tells us anything useful about education's relevance--all we...

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...