Liam Julian

A New York Times op-ed answers that question.

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Over at the water cube in Beijing, Michael Phelps won his fourth and fifth gold medals, for a record eleven total in his career. Nearby, the American women's gymnastics team captured a disappointing silver in an event where gold was within reach.

"Disappointing?" said Toby Jenkins of the U.S. Education Olympics team. "We'd gladly take a silver in any event." Indeed, the American students still have yet to secure a top-three finish in this year's Education Olympics.

Meanwhile, Finland kept up its feverish pace, winning six golds and a silver today. The East Asian tigers have begun to roar, as well. Read all about it at


Or so the post-graduate cram schools in South Korea have been accused. No make-up, no fraternizing with the opposite sex, no iPods, no fun--and classes and studying from 7:30 am to midnight. Sounds a bit extreme, but the ultimate motivation is sound: Korea won't let these students enter college without being prepared. A look at results from the Education Olympics show that Korea is kicking American tuchus. Maybe we should be taking notes.

Liam Julian

From that Ed Next poll, this caught my eye:

Race- and Income-based School Integration

Education Next/PEPG survey results show that 63 percent of the public are opposed to assigning students to schools based on racial background in order to promote school diversity, a practice banned by the Supreme Court in 2007.

  • Only 16 percent say that districts "definitely" or "probably" should be allowed to take students' racial background into account; 21 percent of the public are unsure.
  • Among African Americans, only 30 percent think districts should be allowed to take race into account.
  • Surprisingly, on the question of assigning students to schools based on family income--a strategy now being considered by many districts as an alternative to race-based policies--the opposition is even greater. Only 13 percent support the idea; 62 percent are opposed and the remainder uncertain.

Support for renewing No Child Left Behind with minimal changes is down from a year ago, from 57 percent to 50 percent, according to a brand new poll by Education Next (where I serve as executive editor). Confidence in public schools is also dipping, particularly among minority groups, with just 20 percent of African-Americans giving the schools an A or B--down from 27 percent last year. And both African-Americans and Hispanics express significantly greater faith in local police departments than in local public schools. (This is true for whites too, though to a lesser degree.) So the next time the Phi Delta Kappan reports that Americans love their public schools, keep in mind that they love their police departments even more.

As for whom the public trusts to fix the schools, the Democrats have re-opened their wide lead on the issue. From the press release:

  • Sixty-one percent of respondents rate the Democrats' record on education more favorably, and 62 percent think them more likely to improve the public schools.
  • Teachers prefer the Democrats by even larger margins, as do Hispanics and African Americans.
  • Democrats and Republicans both tend to favor members
  • ...
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We're three days in to the 2008 Education Olympics, and the Finns are firing on all cylinders. Also making some noise today are Estonia, Macao, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The Americans, meanwhile, seem to be stuck in neutral. Follow the action at

Australian Education Minister Julia Gillard is taking a lesson from the Big Apple. Having visited with the New York Chancellor of Schools Joel Klein, Gillard wants to start ranking Australia's schools on an A-F scale. The Aussie unions, of course, have already slammed the idea as "divisive". Seems unions will be unions, no matter what time zone they're in.

My gambit this morning didn't work to spark a full-fledged office debate, but I did entice Amber to respond to my prompt about whether the "end of black politics" is good for school reform. And I'm glad she did, because her post is characteristically thoughtful and illuminating. Amber, we miss your blogging! (Yes, we all have day jobs, and in Amber's case a pipeline full of interesting research studies in need of tending.)

My answer to this question is unequivocal: yes, it's great for school reform that the old-line civil rights groups are losing their monopoly as spokespeople for the "black community" and that new leaders such as Cory Booker are rising to power and influence. Partly that's because the Bookers of the world tend to be much more open to school choice and other promising reforms (though there are always exceptions; see Deval Patrick for instance). But mostly that's because the traditional civil rights groups have been in bed with the teachers unions forever, muting their advocacy for change.

And maybe it's the rise of a new generation of leadership that is forcing the civil rights community to start to break...

Take a look at the text of an invitation that landed in my inbox a few hours ago, and tell me this isn't new and different:


On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, many of the nation's top progressive education reform groups will be convening a forum in Denver to highlight the growing consensus for a bold new direction in federal education policy--and to spotlight the exciting work of a new generation of reformers who are already making change happen on the ground across America.

We invite you to join us for this important discussion and hear the Challenge for Change we will be issuing to the Democratic Party leadership to push for a truly innovative, 21st century education agenda.

So who are "the nation's top progressive education reform groups" that are convening this forum? Have a gander:

Democrats for Education Reform; The Education Equality Project; Daniels Fund; Piton Foundation; Center for African American Policy at the University of Denver; New Schools Venture Fund; Education Reform Now; Education Trust; Ed In '08; Progressive Policy Institute; School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado; National Association of Charter School Authorizers;