The New York Times "Education Life" supplement asks that question of America's colleges and charter schools. But why not ask it of education policy think tanks? No doubt, Fordham would win that contest by a mile.


Liam Julian

You've waited all year....

Update: I cannot believe the University of Florida took the top party spot, with FSU??crossing the finish line??in??lowly tenth place. Who does Princeton Review have??running this harebrained outfit???Oh... and Stanford offers, like, the best classroom experience or something.

From the Associated Press's description, it's hard to believe that the "paragon of taxpayer-funded cradle-to-grave welfare" would have supported a school choice program 16 years ago, and have seen it be so successful. But believe it we must--and embarrassed we should be.

There are differences, of course, between the Swedish system and the American one, most notably that private or "independent" schools in Sweden really are free since all schools are state-funded, whether they are run by the state or a private company. And there are some problems, of course, such as the offer of laptops and iPods as incentives--a practice we have mixed feelings about. We know it's not a perfect solution. But that's not the point. The point is that even the L??rarf??rbundet teachers' union is on board, reports the BBC. The union.

Maybe our own unions can take a page out of Sweden's book. It's not a matter of politics anymore, it's a matter of good policy that works....

Eduwonk Andy thinks that merit pay is the new vouchers. (Actually now he says "everyone" knows that to be the case.) Not really. Merit pay is more like charters--an issue that is promoted primarily by Republicans (especially at the state level) but which enjoys significant support among reform-minded Democrats. A better analogy is virtual schools, particularly the no-holds-barred, outside-the-system versions, which are openly despised by the teachers unions and increasingly under fire.

I used to work at K12, a company that manages lots of these virtual charter schools around the country, and have been following their "public policy challenges" over the years. Consider this episode from Wisconsin, for example, where the unions led a legal fight to shut down these options. (Thankfully the legislature later forged a compromise to keep them open, after thousands of angry parents turned up the heat.) It's easy to understand why the unions see this as a high-stakes debate: such schools replace labor (teachers) with capital (technology)--the great fear of organized workers. More specifically, by relying on parents or other guardians to provide much of the instruction, virtual charters are able to put in place much larger teacher-to-student...

Liam Julian

Interesting to note that liberals Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias have both blogged recently about how socioeconomic and racial integration (the 2008 kind of integration, which seeks to overcome housing patterns; not the 1950s kind, which sought to overcome de jure separation of black and white) won't work. (Drum is here; Yglesias is here and here.) Richard Kahlenberg doesn't like this anti-integration trend: "No one should minimize the obstacles to achieving fully integrated schools, but particularly from our liberal friends, we could use a little more ???yes, we can.'"

"Yes, we can" is great, unless we can't. I wrote about integration in this week's Gadfly. Drum and Yglesias are right--these ideas about socially and racially diversifying schools are logistically impossible in most urban areas and logistically arduous in others. Furthermore, they probably can't help students learn more. Parents (black, white, you name it) are pretty united in the conviction that children should either be assigned to close-to-home schools or parents should have more varied public-school choice options. The push for socially engineered ratios of white to black, poor to middle-class in schools manages to detract from parents' wishes and to distract from...

Now that both presidential campaigns are releasing additional details about their education plans, and their surrogates are yacking it up all over town (and all over the country), the shape of the debate is coming into sharper relief. Some of it is familiar stuff: the Republican candidate wants more school vouchers; the Democratic candidate wants more federal spending. Yawn yawn yawn.

But here's one interesting development: the debate appears to be transcending Washington's current focus on schools serving poor children. Think back to 2000, and you'll recall that both Candidate Bush and Candidate Gore targeted their policies on failing inner-city and rural schools. Partly that's because disadvantaged communities are the historical focus of the federal government. And partly it was because George Bush wanted to paint himself as a different kind of Republican--a compassionate conservative who cares about poor and black and Hispanic kids.

Fast forward to today, and the conversation is ever-so-subtly different. During the primaries, Barack Obama's biggest applause lines came when he complained that NCLB was forcing art and music out of the curriculum--worries...

That's what Mona Charen argues in this National Review Online piece,* using No Child Left Behind as Exhibit A. Much to his dismay, they don't seem to love him back.

* Shameless plug alert: She mentions Fordham's recent high-achieving students study, too.

The slugfest between Checker, Diane Ravitch, and Randi Weingarten that ran in yesterday's Gadfly is the subject of an item in today's New York Sun.

Virtual classes may be morphing into entire virtual schools. What is lost and what is gained? How will virtual education change how we define the school experience? The debate rages today in the pages of the Washington Post and Teacher Magazine.

Liam Julian

Dumbed-down and becoming more so?