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.

And Liam has been pushing for more of this.

(That's not some weak attempt at a joke; he really has.)

Liam Julian

It wouldn't surprise me if appreciable, overarching??positive changes in most big-city school districts??occur??only if and when the demographics of??the??big cities in question naturally shift??(emphasis on the word naturally).??Certainly it would be interesting if someone could observe a??metropolitan "tipping point," after reaching which??a city's??schools get much, much better. Perhaps someone already has? Certainly many people claim that individual schools have race and class "tipping points" (i.e., if a school's enrollment is more than 50 percent low income, for example, that school is statistically likely to be??bad and get worse).

Liam Julian

George Leef is no fan of David Brooks's column??in yesterday's New York Times (which we were the first to "cover" so cite us or else). Here's why he doesn't like it:

I am all in favor of widespread prosperity, but am not convinced either that the college versus high school earnings gap is a problem or that a system of universal college education would make the slightest bit of difference.