The Sacramento Bee's editorial page weighs in on the racial remix controversy at Will C. Wood Middle School, coming to the defense of the school's principal:

A Bee analysis found that 80 schools across the state changed racial designations for students in ways that allowed the schools to meet federal standards. And why not? Race is an artificial social construct, not a science. When a child is half black and half white or half Asian or part Indian or part Latino--what exactly is she?


The situation at Will C. Wood highlights a conundrum posed by No Child Left Behind. While the performance of racial, ethnic and socio-economic categories of students can reveal much about how well a school is meeting its needs, those categories by themselves reveal little. A struggling student is a struggling student, whether he or she is white, or black, or Latino, or Asian.

It sounds like Liam's arguments might be having an impact on the Left Coast. Perhaps it's time to move past NCLB's obsession with race, after all.

This month's issue of The New Criterion is all about education. There's lots on the value of the classics/liberal education/learning for learning's sake from smart folks like Roger Kimball, Victor Davis Hanson, and James Piereson. There's also another piece from the always-provocative Charles Murray on the supposed futility of trying to close the achievement gap.

The Washington Post reports that the Institute of Architects has recognized a new building on the campus of the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., "as one of the 'top ten green projects' of 2007":

The building uses 93 percent less water than it would if simply hooked up to the city's water and sewer system; energy efficiency and passive solar design cut energy use by 60 percent; and 78 percent of materials used were manufactured "regionally" (within 500 miles of the site) to cut the environmentally degrading effects of long transit.

It's great to see environmental awareness spreading to all sectors of our society, including think tanks.

Looks like the United Federation of Teachers is not going to back down on the Absent Teacher Reserve issue. (Background here.) Yesterday the union sent the New York Sun a data analysis that challenges claims by The New Teacher Project that educators on the Reserve list are sitting around doing nothing, sapping the district of $81 million. The UFT claims that a third of 665-or-so Reserve teachers are actually teaching and that the drain on the district is closer to $18 million.

The other side isn't buying it:

"I believe this is a red herring of the first order," Deputy Chancellor Christopher Cerf said. "I believe there is no possibility that her number is accurate."

The president of the New Teacher Project, Timothy Daly, said he knew of no way to collect data on precisely what ATR members are doing inside schools.

"Why didn't I hear about this before now if this is a widespread problem?" Mr. Daly said.

The Styles section features a piece about online services that let parents track their kids' grades in real time. Not surprisingly, the author reports that in many places a new brand of parent-cum-Big Brother is causing "exacerbated stress about daily grades and increased family tension." Here's an idea: employ the real-time monitoring once a student shows signs of struggling, but not before.

Also, a front-page article on Turkish schools in Pakistan, which offer a milder brand of Islam and more rigorous academics than many Pakistani madrasas.

Liam Julian

The political maneuvering of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick might offer a preview of an Obama administration, says Jon Keller in the Wall Street Journal. If he's right, education reformers should be wary:

Education may be the one area where Mr. Patrick could have done the most to demonstrate that he is indeed a new man of the left.... But to the delight of education unions, Mr. Patrick instead appears to be laying the groundwork to dismantle [the state's] reforms. He appointed antitesting zealot Ruth Kaplan to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, where she repaid his confidence recently by disparaging the college preparation emphasis of some charter schools. She said these schools set "some kids up for failure . . . Their families don't always know what's best for their children."

Liam Julian

This is a travesty. Thank heavens we disaggregate these data.

The media gleefully reported the news that a big interim Reading First study??from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Educational Sciences (IES) found the program to have no impact on reading comprehension.

And it's hard to blame the media, for three reasons. First, it loves to pile on the increasingly-unpopular Bush administration. (Contemplate this AP headline: "Bush administration's reading program hasn't helped.") Second, IES head Russ Whitehurst--who has earned a great deal of respect and credibility for moving the federal research and evaluation function toward a new level of rigor and professionalism--stands firmly behind the report. And third, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings's press office totally bungled the response, coming up with nothing better than the "popularity" of the program. (This is hardly the first time Spellings dropped the Reading First ball.) See this, from Amanda Farris,??deputy assistant secretary,??and printed in??the AP story:

Secretary Spellings has traveled to 20 states since January. One of the consistent messages she hears from educators, principals and state administrators is about the effectiveness of the Reading First program in their schools and their disappointment with Congress for slashing Reading First funds

Here's what Spellings's team should have said:

This study provides important insights into the Reading First program, but readers should be cautioned that it's not nationally representative. Because IES launched the study after the program was up and running, the evaluators had to settle for a very imperfect design. The schools selected for study might have

Liam Julian

Regarding the just-released study of Reading First's effectiveness, Mike tells USA Today that

...the study was poorly designed and "certainly not the last word on Reading First's effectiveness." For one thing, he says, researchers looked at "lackluster" Reading First schools that just barely qualified for grants, comparing them to schools that just barely missed getting grants.

Liam Julian

Naomi Schaefer Riley writes in the Wall Street Journal about obstacles beyond??lousy??instruction in the classroom??that often prevent students in urban public schools from attending college: Letters of recommendation that are poorly written (when they're written), guidance counselors who can't be bothered to turn in on time their students' applications, and reams of??confusing paperwork.

The article's title, "Not by Tuition Breaks Alone," is apt. Getting more low-income pupils into college obviously requires more than legislation.