The Washington Post reports that Maryland has shown huge gains in test scores, particularly among disadvantaged students, though the usual doubts about dumbing-down abound. Fordham's own study of state test cut-scores suggests such skepticism is warranted.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Alabama has announced a revolution in higher education: It's going to make sure that fake for-profit institutions of higher ed are no longer skipping town with students' tuition money. Apparently, an overwhelmed Department of Postsecondary Education has been unable to adequately regulate private colleges in the state, allowing phony schools to set up shop in the great state of the Southern Longleaf Pine and sell degrees willy-nilly. The new safeguards are overwhelmingly brilliant:

Proving that they're not diploma mills will mean doing things they've never had to do before such as producing audited financial statements, federal and state tax returns, requiring owners to have good reputations and adopting a definition of academic fraud.

However did they think of all these great ideas? To Alabama's credit, the Associated Press gives a slightly clearer (and less guffaw-inducing) take on the situation. And perhaps we should give the poor Department of Postsecondary Education a break since, according to the Montgomery Advertiser, it has only a "two and a half-person staff."

...What is a half-person?...

Liam Julian

On steamy summer days such as this one, when the education news is reduced to a trickle, one must seek other sources by which to slake his eduthirst. The Harvard Educational Review arrived last week in the mail, and today I decided to read it.

My first selection was "The New Outspoken Atheism and Education" by Nel Noddings, who Wikipedia tells me "is an American feminist, educationalist, and philosopher best known for her work in philosophy of education, educational theory, and ethics of care." Undaunted by this description, I forge ahead, letting the beneficence of doubt be my guide, and run smack into this first sentence: "We live in an age of great contradictions."

That is true, insofar as it has been true of every "age" in which humankind has lived. But why the compulsion to note such a self-evident thing at the start of an essay that ostensibly hopes to address the topics of atheism and education?

I further forge and encounter, beyond the dubious introductory line, what is meant to be evidence bolstering it. "On the one hand," Noddings tells us (and you can bet there's an other hand where that one came from), "religion...

Liam Julian

Randi Weingarten, soon to be the head of the American Federation of Teachers, would have us believe that the ideas she proposes as fixes to k-12 public education are new. According to the New York Times, Weingarten "wants to replace President Bush's focus on standardized testing with a vision of public schools as community centers that help poor students succeed by offering not only solid classroom lessons but also medical and other services." One portion of??a speech to be delivered today by Weingarten at the AFT convention reads, "Sisters and brothers, this is an idea whose time has come." But isn't this actually an idea whose time has passed, an idea whose time yielded no noticeable gains in student achievement???

What does Richard??Kahlenberg think? ???My sense is that Randi Weingarten is continuing Al Shanker's tradition, clearly standing up for the interests of teachers but also trying to engage in thoughtful education reform that will be good for students."??After uttering which quote??Kahlenberg hung up the telephone and resumed work on his forthcoming op-ed??detailing how??Al Shanker would never have??allowed Fannie Mae and??Freddie Mac to borrow from the discount window....

Columnist Jay Mathews writes in today's Washington Post about Fordham's latest report, High-Achieving Students in the Era of No Child Left Behind.

Here's a teaser:

My theory is that we have unconsciously taken our concern about the income gap--a lively issue in the last several years--and adopted the same vocabulary when we worry about how our children are doing in school, even though making money and learning to read, write and do math are different enterprises. I can understand distaste for people who build 50-room mansions with gold bathroom fixtures. But can anyone learn too much? Wisdom tends to help everyone who comes in contact with it. Ski chalets in Aspen are less useful to those of us who can't afford them.

Fun factoid of the day: Neither the ACT nor the College Board/ETS (giver of the SAT) tells colleges or universities why they cancel student scores. Joe Shmoe faints during a test? Joe Shmoe has his pal Freddy take the test for him? All the same in the testing companies' eyes. They'll cancel the score and let the student take the test again. And this is how they might explain it (as ACT recently did to UCLA):

The ACT cancels scores for a variety of reasons, including illness of the examinee, mis-timing of the test, disturbances or irregularity at the testing site.... It is the ACT policy to treat the ACT's reasoning for canceling a specific score as confidential.

Even in cases where cheating is suspected, as described in today's Los Angeles Times, the testing company investigates students directly--but doesn't tell the high school or college that Joe has run quite the scam.

It seems to me that, although sponsored by external organizations, college entrance exams are inextricably linked to high schools and universities alike. Their value has come into question as some institutions no longer require the scores, but for many students the SAT/ACT remains a...

The Economist reports that Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal apparently struck a deal with state legislators to get his voucher bill passed???a 123 percent pay raise for them in return for an escape from failing schools for 1,500 kids. Unfortunately for Jindal, voters are much more peeved about the politicking than they are pleased about the school reform.

Michelle Rhee's radical teacher pay proposal also made this week's issue. (The Gadfly covered it, too.)

Catching up on the news out of the National Education Association conference earlier this month, I noticed that the union's "representative assembly," in its infinite wisdom, voted against accepting private school teachers and staff as members. As reported in Education Week:

A push by the NEA leadership to admit private school workers was strongly opposed by members who said it would generate conflicts when it came to the union's position on vouchers and religion in schools.

Actually, the smartest thing the NEA could do to dampen enthusiasm for vouchers is to organize private schools. A huge amount of the motivation for voucher supporters is to free poor children from schools under the grip of the unions. Creating unionized private schools would largely remove this motivational factor, and support for vouchers, I suspect, would largely dry up.

So thank you, representative assemblers, for voting as you did. Now, back to our regularly scheduled voucher activism....

That's my synopsis of this E.J. Dionne column about our current economic tribulations.

Since the Reagan years, free-market cliches have passed for sophisticated economic analysis. But in the current crisis, these ideas are falling, one by one, as even conservatives recognize that capitalism is ailing. You know the talking points: Regulation is the problem and deregulation is the solution.

I can hear the education blob-osphere now: "That's right, E.J., and we've had too much deregulation in education, too. Too many charter schools, too much ???alternative' teacher certification, too much power in the hands of principals. What we need are some good old-fashioned regulations!"


First of all, I suspect that even E.J. would agree that merely calling for re-regulation wouldn't pass as "sophisticated economic analysis," either. But more importantly, in education, we're nowhere near the point where we've deregulated too much. Yes, there have been some high-profile examples when certain states or jurisdictions went too far; the early days of Arizona's or Texas's charter school programs come to mind, as quality-control mechanisms were not strongly in place. But the answer is not a return to old-fashioned regulation, but a move to smart regulation.


That's a fair way to describe presidential candidate Ralph Nader's opposition to No Child Left Behind, as presented in this Washington Post online chat transcript:

Pikesville, Md.: I am a 28-year-old father, husband, student and educator. Would you be in favor of repealing No Child Left Behind? Do you believe--as many educators do--that NCLB punishes lower-income students/schools while rewarding the schools that already have a wealth of money and community support? Explain.

Ralph Nader: The Nader/Gonzalez campaign favors repeal of the No Child Left Behind law. Narrowly-based multiple choice standardized tests rupture the relationships between teachers and students and forces the teachers to teach to the test which themselves are of poor design. States are gaming the law, violating it and the overwhelming number of teachers are opposed to it--for good reason. There are far better ways to stimulate higher qualities of education and their assessment.

Tests "rupture the relationships between teachers and students"? I hadn't heard that one before....