Flypaper

This Memorial Day Weekend also brought a great piece in the Washington Post about the Washington Middle School for Girls.

You won't see metal detectors or security officers at either campus of the Washington Middle School for Girls. Instead, you'll find parents clamoring to get their kids into the school.

The parents look beyond the physical setting to what happens in these classrooms, which is nothing less than the transformation of the same kind of children who drift through the city's public schools and emerge, on average, less likely to succeed than when they entered.

Left unsaid is that this thriving Catholic school is part of the NativityMiguel Network, which is the KIPP of the Catholic school world. Its 64 middle schools nationwide are proving that the decline of Catholic schooling isn't inevitable and that a traditional, faith-inspired education can still work miracles. Read our recent report on Catholic schools to learn more.

School reformers have been infatuated with D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee since she took office last fall. But for me, that ended today when I read that Rhee has ???scrapped??? the weighted student formula (WSF) used in D.C. for the last decade.

This is no mere ???budget formula change,??? as the Washington Post headline would have us believe. WSF is a comprehensive reform, one that banishes old-fashioned funding schemes and makes possible a host of other reforms. By developing school-level budgets based on per-pupil funding amounts, tailored to the needs of students, WSF is efficient, fair, and transparent, unlike district-centered models that control funding from a central office and allocate teachers and other resources to schools based on staffing formulas or the whims of bureaucrats.

Under WSF, inequities in funding between schools can be erased, as funding levels are based explicitly on the students each school serves. In contrast, the type of system to which Rhee would return allocates teachers to schools and then lets school ???budgets??? be driven (primarily) by the sums of their salaries. Certain schools can far ???outspend??? others for no better reason than that veteran teachers chose to teach there. Marguerite Roza and others have found that such nuances can lead to huge funding inequities between schools in the same district ??? inequities that may be worse than those between districts or between states.

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Liam Julian

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Liam Julian

Mike makes good points about Thompson's article. But modesty about the lengths to which the KIPP/Amistad/SEED models can be stretched is warranted. District public schools should copy many of the "no excuses" methods at work in high-achieving charter schools, but KIPP and its ilk have luxuries that district schools do not; for example, they can easily expel students who don't subscribe to their academically demanding, disciplined philosophies.

And let us not get carried away with the paternalism idea. Mike writes:

The KIPPs and the Amistads and the Cristo Reys take in loco parentis to an extreme, intervening in all corners of their students' lives if that's what it takes. We need inner-city schools to be more paternalistic, not less.

This type of??talk should, and will, make lots of people uncomfortable.

Former presidential aspirant Fred Thompson has a piece on conservatism in the Wall Street Journal today that's getting lots of attention. He argues that "smaller government will always appeal." On education, he writes:

An education system cannot overcome the breakdown of the family, and the social fabric that surrounds children daily.

This is the way to "revive the conservative cause"? Through Charles Murray-style defeatism? Of course parents are a child's first and most important teachers. Of course we're never going to eradicate our social ills until we stem the decline of the family. Still, there are three big problems with Thompson's statement.

First, we aren't, by and large, even trying to use our education system to overcome family breakdown. In the inner-city, where such meltdowns are most acute, typical public schools remain awful and resistant to reform. If we had excellent public schools (or lots of urban kids in excellent charter or voucher schools) and they still couldn't overcome the challenges of family dysfunction, then this statement could be plausible. But we're light years away from that.

Second, the excellent schools that are getting amazing results and preparing their students for college and for success in American society reject this notion out of hand. The KIPPs and the Amistads and the Cristo Reys take in loco parentis to an extreme, intervening in all corners of their students' lives if that's what it takes. We need inner-city schools to be...

Liam Julian

Mike Antonucci tracks the latest media wave, about teachers who don't teach.

The other day it was solving the childhood obesity epidemic; today it's improving the state of family life: "State curriculum on legalities of parenting coming to Texas high schools this fall."

Do you know the difference between an "alleged father" and a "presumed father?" Your child soon will.

The Texas attorney general's office has created a new parenting curriculum that will be required in every public high school this fall. It will cover everything from the legalese of paternity to dealing with relationship violence.

Governor Rick Perry, not wanting to commit political suicide in his socially conservative state, allowed the bill to become law, though without his signature. And he offered a gem of common sense that should be mailed to all state legislators in the country: "It is always my preference to focus on preserving a high-quality core curriculum that focuses on college and workforce readiness," Mr. Perry said in a statement.

Liam Julian

Psst.... Checker's had work done. (Via Russo.)

No, I'm not referring to my supposed McCarthyite tendencies, but this: "Girl barred from school over red highlights." (More here.)

Officials at Bowling Green Junior High say Angelica Hummel must dye her hair back, because the school's dress code prohibits hairstyles that bring undue attention or make the wearer conspicuous.

I know we at Flypaper tend to defer to school leaders' discretion on cultural issues like this, but haven't teenagers been trying to "bring undue attention" to themselves for eons? And isn't this a classic "do as we say, not as we do" situation? As far as I can tell, if workplaces disallowed highlights, most women in Washington, DC would go grey overnight.

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