Flypaper

Liam Julian

Race-based school integration is on the way out. But Richard Kahlenberg thinks, and hopes, that economic integration is on the way in. Jefferson County, Kentucky, where the school assignment policy discriminated by race until the Supreme Court put an end to it, has decided that integrating classrooms by income is a legal way to achieve diversity. (Although, Kahlenberg points out,??a "white Louisville lawyer"??still thinks Jefferson's new plan could be challenged in court.)

I won't dive into the specifics of Jefferson's new system, but anyone who reads the paragraphs in which Kahlenberg describes it will have to stop... and reread... and reread again. Why? Because??Jefferson County has needlessly complicated its k-12 structure with statistical muck that serves no identifiable purpose. If only school districts??heaped the same effort and resources into recruiting quality teachers that they do into shuffling students around their domains.

Economic integration is a flop. It won't work; it doesn't work. (Kahlenberg consistently cites Wake County, North Carolina, as his example of success. If success is??pissed-off parents and lawsuits, he's right.) When I wrote an article about??economic integration??last year, I called the piece "There They Go Again"--because proponents of income diversity in schools are trying to get there by repeating the same, failed methods that proponents of racial diversity in classrooms used 30 years ago....

Liam Julian

I read stuff like this and think it's some kind of joke. That teachers in Los Angeles??are required to spend one hour of the school day protesting outside school, or else, according to union president A.J. Duffy, they "will be crossing a picket line," is just anachronistic and ridiculous. Students (remember them?) will be supervised by aides, administrators, and parent volunteers--although the district is concerned that pupils will not, in fact, be adequately supervised and that mischief will ensue. Too bad.

Also: What do students learn when they witness their instructors shirking their job responsibilities, marching around the schoolhouse's exterior walls, banging drums and hoisting signs? While Americans puzzle over how best to instill some sense of discipline and respect for authority in the public schools, teachers engage in??this type??of irresponsible display, which puts forth a clear message: "Kids, challenge authority and don't live up to your commitments."

Teachers bridle when someone makes the mistake of not calling them "professionals." Certainly many teachers are fine people and fine workers and provide an honorable service for which they deserve respect. But the fact is this: Public school teachers are simply missing in their jobs--by choice, I should add--huge chunks of what "professionalism" entails. They are not judged by their performance; they are paid in lock-step salary schedules that their unions favor; and many of them, it seems, find it completely permissible to leave their classrooms whenever they have a bone to pick with the governor, legislature, district leadership,...

Liam Julian

The NEA is finally moving to endorse Senator Barack Obama for president, reports Mike Antonucci. Well I'm glad they cleared that up!

It's not just that Leo Casey noticed that I lost a few pounds, or that Seattle's school leaders are prioritizing achievement over "diversity." Now Education Week has published a balanced article about Reading First. This is new, different, and exciting.

What's most interesting about the article is the backpedaling of Institute for Educational Sciences director Russ Whitehurst. Such backpedaling started a few weeks ago, though too late to find its way into the mainstream press reports about the study. (Before backpedaling, he backed the study wholeheartedly.) No longer:

"I would say you have to wait for the final report before it would be reasonable for people to draw conclusions about the Reading First study," said Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, the director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education that commissioned the congressionally mandated study. One difficulty in doing the study, he said, is that the treatment is not clearly defined, and implementation of the program varies from site to site.

"The 'it' [what is being measured] is more ambiguous than it might be in certain other impact studies," he added. "There's not a manual that you can get on the Web and order that is Reading First."

And here's the kicker:

The findings, Mr. Whitehurst said, do not support the arguments made by some critics that the Reading First principles, or the research-based approach to instruction overall, are ineffective.

"Scientifically

...

Today's is Samuel Freedman's last New York Times column, he reports. That's a real shame, as he brought a great amount of compassion, and common sense, to his writing on education. For example:

No education column received greater reader response than one last August about an award-winning, idealistic young math teacher, Austin Lampros. He had been overruled by his principal at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan when he tried to give a failing grade to a senior who missed scores of classes, didn't even show up to take the final and claimed a dubious medical excuse.

The student got her passing grade and her diploma. The principal still has her job. The only loser was Mr. Lampros, who quit a profession he adored rather than be party to a travesty.

Now we'll have one less voice speaking up for academic standards. Which means that there aren't many of those voices left.

Liam Julian

If high-quality teachers don't want to work in schools where students of one race predominate (a claim that seems dubious, for the reasons Mike points out), this fact??remains: students at lots of schools are going to be of the same race. Alas, housing patterns make it so. The nation should've learned from its busing experiences--which hastened k-12's racial separation--that socially engineered school assignments don't work. Forcing students to attend class across town, whether it encourages more highly qualified teachers or not, is no longer a realistic option for school districts. We waste time acting as if it is.

That's one implication of her recent post about my take on the "resegregation" of Seattle's schools. I lauded Seattle's superintendent and school board for prioritizing student achievement over concerns about the racial make-up of their classes. Eduwonkette responds:

Here are my two cents on this false choice: Even if you only care about student achievement, racial composition is important. Put simply, it's more difficult to attract and retain high-quality teachers in schools that are racially isolated. There are oodles of papers on this topic, but here is a good one. Mike has more to say about this point, so I'll let him take it from here...

I do indeed! That's an interesting rebuttal from Eduwonkette, though wouldn't high-flying schools such as KIPP, the Amistad Academy, etc. contradict that argument? Don't they show that great teachers will teach at racially isolated schools that are well-run? Isn't it possible that teachers just don't want to teach at dysfunctional schools, which unfortunately is how many racially isolated schools could be described?

This is a causation/correlation quandary. If racially isolated schools tend to be located in high-crime areas, or led by weak principals, or lacking in parental support, then good teachers might avoid them for those legitimate reasons. Or is Eduwonkette suggesting that teachers are simply racist, and would avoid racially isolated schools in safe neighborhoods, with great principals, and lots of parental involvement? Maybe I'm naively optimistic (I grew up in the Midwest, after all),...

Still trying to get your head around the recent Reading First evaluation? Do you work on Capitol Hill and want to give your member of Congress a quick overview of the hub-bub? Cut and paste this Eduflack entry and you're golden.

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