Venture capitalist-cum-school reformer Whitney Tilson comes in for a ribbing at the Education Notes Online blog, at the hands of Norm Scott, whom one New York friend of mine calls ???an anti-UFT lefty who is very smart.??? It's a pretty good piece of satire, but Scott's complaint is an age-old and tired one: everyone thinks they're an education expert because they attended school at one point. We should leave education punditry to the classroom teachers, Scott implies.

As a certified education pundit with limited classroom experience myself, I take umbrage at that assumption, for two reasons. First, the skills required to be a great teacher and to convince policymakers to act are quite divergent; the former takes a sense of humor, the ability to talk to children, perseverance???wait, maybe the skills required are the same. But my second point still stands: what some business types like Tilson can do???and what is difficult for most rank-and-file teachers???is to see the big picture, the forest for the trees. Mrs. Smith might know how to teach reading really well, but that doesn't mean she knows how to set national policy that will make great reading instruction more likely in classrooms nationwide. (Not that Congress has been doing all that great on that front lately either.)

At least half of education reform is about garnering the political will for change, and the rest is about the details of implementation. If the Tilsons of the world can help build political will,...

The New York Times's Samuel Freedman provides a great introduction to the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program???basically a Teach For America for parochial schools. Never heard of it? You're not alone:????

Teach for America has become a virtual brand name on elite college campuses and a coveted item on graduate-school applications and corporate r??sum??s. Programs like [one at Seton Hall] have received far less public acclaim, and yet they are vital to the almost literally lifesaving role that Catholic schools play as an affordable alternative to chronically failing public schools in many low-income areas.

Big funders, including the NewSchools Venture Fund and the Gates Foundation, are said to be looking at targeting future investments toward ???human capital??? initiatives. May I suggest that expanding ACE be on their list?

Liam Julian
Liam Julian

Britain's largest teachers' union will vote, at its upcoming annual conference, to determine how many students the ideal class should enroll. What bosh! Perhaps I should take an office poll about the appropriate number of employees at an education-policy think tank? One may argue that teachers manage their own classrooms and therefore have a darn good idea about how many students they can adequately teach, but that's at best an unsettled claim. It is settled, however, that taxpayers, not teachers, are footing the bill for public education, and scant are the data showing that pupils in smaller classes learn more.Therefore, it seems a poor investment of the public's money to lower class sizes when little to no educational improvement will result. Furthermore, Checker Finn has written:

Over the past half-century, the number of pupils in U.S. schools grew by about 50 percent while the number of teachers nearly tripled. Spending per student rose threefold, too. If the teaching force had simply kept pace with enrollments, school budgets had risen as they did, and nothing else changed, today's average teacher would earn nearly $100,000, plus generous benefits. We'd have a radically different view of the job and it would attract different sorts of people. Yes, classes would be larger-about what they were when I was in school.

The obsession with lowering class sizes has kept teacher salaries stagnant--not a good thing for teachers but a wonderful thing for their unions, which have rapidly added to their...


Over at the "ELL Advocates" blog, whole language apologist Stephen Krashen makes a lame attempt to poke holes in Sol Stern's recent Fordham report, Too Good to Last: The True Story of Reading First. In particular, he takes issue with Stern's claim that the Golden State's adoption of whole language reading in 1987 led to California's disastrous, bottom of the barrel NAEP performance in 1992. Krashen is right about one point: The '92 NAEP was the first to break out results state-by-state, so it's impossible to know whether California's scores "plummeted," as Stern argues. But then Krashen goes on to make a fool of himself. First, he offers this stunning piece of revisionist history:

Whole language, according to (urban) legend, was introduced by the 1987 Framework committee, which I was a member of. The 1987 Framework committee never mentioned whole language. We recommended that language arts be literature-based, hardly a revolutionary idea. Phonics was never forbidden.

This is ridiculous; of course California adopted whole language reading in 1987. For the definitive history of this episode, see here. Then Krashen goes on to argue:

Of great interest, and rarely noted, is that fact that California still ranks at the bottom of the US. NAEP scores released 2007 show that California is still in the basement, in a virtual tie for last place with Mississippi and Louisiana. Dumping whole language did not improve things.

But if dumping whole language did not improve things, why...

Liam Julian

Florida's governor rightly opposes this bone-headed bill.

Gadfly Studios

This is what $60 million gets you.


(The original Ed in 08 video is here.)

Rumors are circulating that the Secretary is about to announce her resignation from the Department of Education. Texas governor's office , here she comes?

Liam Julian

For the same reason I'm opposed to sex-ed class in schools, I'm opposed to clubs like this. A parent sends his students to a public school to receive a rigorous education in the core curriculum. Parents should not be forced to send their children to public schools that allow controversial subjects--unrelated to science, math, geography, etc.--to be a part of the school environment. Such subjects distract from what needs to be occurring in classrooms and often isn't: learning.


Will Okun, who teaches school in Chicago, blogs at the New York Times:

I do not understand why society and parents rely on our much criticized, overcrowded and under-funded schools to teach children about such important issues as abstinence and safe sex?