A few weeks ago we commented on L.A.'s less-than-tactful capital expansion plan . It's only getting worse. Today, the Los Angeles Times reports that the school board is going to ask for another $7-billion bond in November. They don't actually know what they're going to use the money for, but the $3.2 billion that was proposed last week just didn't seem quite enough. Never fear, they'll think of ways to use the money, the school board reassures us. Apparently the $20 billion they got from taxpayers over the last few years to build the plethora of new (empty) schools wasn't enough. Let's hope the L.A. taxpayers don't encourage this gluttony and mismanagement by acquiescing to hand over their hard earned dollars.

Liam Julian

Or perhaps it is. American Teen, a documentary about five high school seniors who live in Indiana, opens tomorrow. It picked up an award and a lot of buzz at the Sundance Film Festival, and the reviews have so far been pretty positive. Perhaps I can convince Coby, our resident film critic, to spend his Friday evening reviewing this movie, surrounded in the theater by gaggles of 17-year-olds whose cell phones, when called by their friends several seats away,??sing out??the latest from Ludacris.

If you can't make it to American Teen, though, be sure not to miss this.

Update: If you watch the video appended to the Wall Street Journal article, you may confuse??the reporter??with the "teens."

Liam Julian

With Rick Hess on vacation, sunning himself on some Chesapeake beach, we recruited Kevin Carey, he of the Quick and the Ed fame, to fill Rick's customary spot as Mike's podcast interlocutor. Sense must waft upon the air currents in Fordham's offices because Carey managed to make it through the recording session with nary a wholly preposterous remark escaping his lips. Sadly, I couldn't be on hand to witness it and for that reason remain unconvinced that it was the Kevin Carey on today's podcast and not some wily impersonator. Nonetheless, you should listen to this week's??segment, which is less jejune than usual.

Liam Julian

"What if ???improving teacher quality' isn't THE answer?," wonders Mike, who does not generally capitalize definite articles, so you know he's serious about THIS. In the newest Gadfly, just out, he writes:

Allow me to add yet another dollop of doubt to the reform consensus: Are we sure that "improving teacher quality" is the panacea that so many (including us and our friends) have suggested? Is it possible that our current fascination with "human capital development" is misguided? That both presidential campaigns' embrace of this issue is ill-considered?

Former Assistant Secretary of Education (and onetime colleague of mine) Susan Neuman promotes the "broader/bolder" agenda in the pages of the Detroit Free Press today. (HT to Alexander Russo.*) I've already expressed my dismay with said agenda (and Checker and Liam go even further), but let me quibble with a few of her article's specifics. First:

Six years after the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind law, there is frustratingly little evidence that it will close the achievement gap between low-income, minority children and their middle-class peers.

Perhaps not, but there is plenty of evidence that NCLB-style accountability is helping to narrow the gap between low-achieving and high-achieving students, for better or for worse. But let's be honest: none of the social service programs Neuman touts are likely to "close" the achievement gap between poor and middle-class children either. Maybe they can help to "narrow" the gap. That's a big distinction. As I wrote the other day, we're unlikely to entirely erase group differences in achievement, particularly class differences, so...

Liam Julian

Checker has been pushing for this for over 20 years.

Liam Julian

I found on Matt Yglesias's blog a link to this article,??which argues that housing vouchers have not??increased urban crime rates.

They don't seem to have increased urban??educational achievement, either. And that??they haven't??seems to damage the claim that poor kids,??when enrolled??in??schools or classrooms with??lots of middle-class kids, will learn more. It's not about who's in the school--it's about the school itself.

Update: To avoid confusion about this post and the post directly preceding it: I do believe that schools??that enroll??lots of low-income and minority students can do a fine job of educating their pupils. I wonder, though, if??lots of??urban districts, because of the entrenched big-city politics under which they operate, can successfully implement??educational reform unless the demographics of their customers shift. (Washington, D.C., is an outlier.)

I wasn't around in the salad days of American public schooling, but if The Wonder Years or Archie comics are any indication, most high schools used to offer auto shop classes. Not many do these days, unfortunately, which allows things like this to happen.