The White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools, underway at this moment, has about 300 attendees, all of whom already agree with each other about nearly all the issues on the table. No bad thing to rally the troops or (changing metaphors) preach to the choir. But I didn't spot anyone there whose mind needed to, or was likely to be, changed by the proceedings. Hence the main value of this event beyond the Ronald Reagan Building amphitheater (normally occupied by the satirical Capitol Steps) depends on whether word of it percolates out and anybody pays heed.

Four more takeaways, two of them admittedly churlish:

    • The President gave a good talk, peppered with positive examples from the world of Catholic schools (never mind the ecumenical audience and many flavors of faith-based schools) and from the recent Fordham Institute report on same. He called on states to repeal their Blaine Amendments. He was in excellent humor and form but also showed faint signs of final-year-in-office enervation.
    • Though the Fordham Report and its case studies permeate this event, it is never named, quoted from or referenced. Even session moderator Scott Hamilton, who edited it and has a Fordham tie, is identified on the program by another part of his work life. We don't need to ask why the systematic shunning. It's payback for Mike's and my occasional truth-tellings about the Secretary of Education (here, for instance).
    • The social science evidence offered (mainly by Cal
    • ...

    Not so many moons ago, Boston University's college of education was the brightest spot in the dim universe of U.S. ed schools, full of heterodox thinkers on important issues (e.g., Charles Glenn, David Steiner, Kevin Ryan, Steve Tigner). Some of those thinkers are still there, but the school's leadership--recently in Glenn's able hands on an "acting" basis--is about to be turned over to a far more orthodox sort.

    Last month B.U. announced the appointment of Dr. Hardin Coleman, a psychologist specializing in counseling, currently at the University of Wisconsin, a well-known warehouse of conventional thinking. Coleman's main stated interests are topics like "identity formation" among "culturally diverse" adolescents. He is reportedly hostile to charter schools and high-stakes accountability and just about everything else worth being in favor of nowadays--and just about everything that Massachusetts is celebrated for doing well.

    As B.U. heads back into the ed school sheep pen, let's at least note that it wasn't always there and didn't have to return.

    Are you a teacher looking for field trip ideas, now that testing season is over? Do you live in the greater Washington, D.C., area? Would you like to totally gross out your students? This oughta do the trick.*

    *Moms, and Dads, you can get in on the act too... don't miss Sunday's special event.

    Liam Julian

    The Economist has an article about the challenges confronting South Dakota's rural schools and school districts.

    In many of these cases, virtual education could be a solution. Education Sector's Bill Tucker recently wrote about virtual education, albeit as a catalyst for high-school reform, in The Gadfly.

    Liam Julian

    Now is as good a time as any to mention that the deadline for Fordham Fellows applications--the day by which all those who wish for Fellowship must submit the apposite materials--is nearing: April 30th it is.

    Fordham Fellows is a 9-month program that endeavors to bring bright young things to Washington, D.C., and introduce them to the world of education policy by setting them up with work at one of several top-notch education-policy organizations. Furthermore, Fellows earn the equivalent of $25,000 for their 9-months of work ("equivalent" not because we pay in yuan, but because we're including healthcare and transportation subsidies in the sum).

    Click here for information, and hurry!

    Liam Julian

    You can find a different take on George Will's column over at The Quick and the Ed. The author, Kevin Carey, is a very detail-oriented guy, but one wonders if today he hasn't missed the forest for the trees.

    It's no secret that George Will's writing is less than confident (realistic, perhaps?) about the future of public education, but is Carey's assertion that Will "believes that public education is irredeemable, that efforts to improve it are basically useless" correct? One can't know what George Will thinks, but one can know what he writes, and his article today is simply a clear evaluation of the "reforms" that have predominated in the k-12 sphere. Like it or not, they've largely failed. Whether or not Will thinks the whole operation is "useless" and "irredeemable" is never stated, and it isn't all that important, anyway.

    Carey nitpicks about some of the least important parts of Will's piece, and he doesn't like Will's harsh tone. Yet, Moynihan (who is mentioned in the column) did not soften his tone when deriding the more-foolish strategies that run amok in America's schools, and neither does Checker. But beyond all that, can Carey truly argue with Will's larger point: that dumb ideas have taken public education in the wrong direction?

    According to Sol Stern, it's not his (literal) bomb-throwing past but his (figurative) bomb-throwing present:

    Instead of planting bombs in public buildings, Ayers now works to indoctrinate America's future teachers in the revolutionary cause, urging them to pass on the lessons to their public school students.... As Ayers puts it in one of his course descriptions, prospective K-12 teachers need to "be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and... be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation."

    Nor is his thinking outside the "mainstream" of the ed school professoriate; Stern reports that Ayers was recently elected Vice President for Curriculum of the American Educational Research Association. Perfect.

    Liam Julian

    George Will has a nice column today on A Nation At Risk. He mentions Checker's book, too.

    Update: Mike says the column doesn't just mention Checker's book; it "summarizes it!" Let's compromise on "highlights."

    This Wired Magazine article sheds some light, however obliquely, on why it's so difficult to replicate successful school models in different places.

    Whitney Tilson, who blogs on education here , reflects level-headedly in today's New York Daily News on the struggles facing the UFT's charter school . The last paragraph offers a tidy summary of the lessons the UFT, and especially current-UFT-boss and AFT-president-to-be Randi Weingarten, can take away from the experience:

    Through its own hard experience with its charter school, the UFT is learning there's a reason why nearly all organizations, both for profit and nonprofit, have managers and employees that are not equals: because the interests of employees are not the same as the interests of the organization. The job of management is to represent the latter, and it needs a significant amount of flexibility in doing so.

    Nearly everyone has applauded the UFT for having the chutzpah to stake a claim in the school choice movement, and rightly so. But they've yet to prove that this bold experiment is intended as a true learning experience and not just an effort to co-opt the choice movement and recast it using their own mold. Let's hope that in the months and years ahead they're willing to engage in the kind of serious reflection present in Tilson's op-ed.

    (Also, see Eduwonk's take on the school's troubles.)...