Ed Week reports on an interesting new study showing the impact of teacher absences on students: "taking into account the effects on student achievement that might be produced by various characteristics of the teachers, students, and schools--including teachers' levels of skill and effort--the researchers found a small but significant negative impact on student math scores attributable to teacher absences alone," such that 10 days off were akin to "the difference for a student of having a first-year teacher as opposed to a second-year teacher." In their sample, teachers averaged 5.3 sick or personal days each per year.

None of this is terribly shocking, but did the unions miss a PR opportunity here? Instead of saying "see, an inexperienced substitute is no substitute for a true professional; teachers really matter," Rob Weil of the AFT urges us to "be careful about overemphasizing these results," in case the authors "are implying something that may not be true: that teachers are taking more days off than they are allowed." And why on earth would anyone get that impression? Perhaps because "teacher sick days occurred on a day adjacent to a weekend or a holiday 52.3 percent of the time, compared with 45.7 percent of the time on the other days, which usually fell midweek," and "conversations with school principals revealed that many teachers viewed such absences as an entitlement that they could use to fit their preferences."

There was no mention of whether teachers' golf handicaps improved after their...


New Yorkers got a dose of d??j?? vu yesterday when New York's new governor, David A. Paterson, and his wife Michelle held a press conference to discuss their marital infidelities.

In more disturbing news, this New York Times story reveals that Governor Paterson's father, Basil A. Paterson, is an adviser to Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Jeff Kuhner

Iran's students are being taught the virtues of Islamic world supremacy and jihadism. This is the conclusion of a major new study on Iranian textbooks by Freedom House (read the full story here). The study, entitled "Discrimination and Intolerance in Iran's Textbooks," is a somber reminder that Iran's theocratic regime is teaching its children to embrace anti-Americanism and prepare for a holy war against the West.

Saeed Paivandi, a sociologist at Paris-8 University and one of the West's few experts on Iran's post-revolutionary education system, looked at 95 compulsory textbooks taught in grades one to eleven. His conclusion: Iranian students are repeatedly told that humans don't all enjoy the same rights; rather, we are classified into a distinct hierarchy--with Muslim men at the top, and women and non-Muslims occupying the lower rungs of the social ladder.

The textbooks assert that "some individuals are born first-class citizens, due to their identity, gender, and way of thinking, while others become second- and third-class citizens. Those who are excluded from the inside are victims of this discriminatory system."

In fact, following the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini and his mullah thugs to power, Iran has systematically imposed a series of discriminatory laws that deny non-Muslims access to senior government posts, sanction the murder of homosexuals, enforce a strict quota system for Christians and Jews in universities, and insist that all Jewish- or Christian-owned businesses be publicly designated as non-Muslim.

Iran is one of the world's...

Liam Julian

Barack Obama said today that our currently segregated schools create and prolong achievement gaps. He compared them to segregated schools 50 years ago. These ideas are patently false--segregated schools circa 1960 are not, for a pile of reasons, analogous to the naturally, racially separated schools that exist today. To keep blurring this distinction doesn't get anyone "beyond race"; it merely misrepresents a complicated issue by eliding the facts and history of public-school desegregation. And it neglects to acknowledge the fine work being done in some of the most educationally separated settings.

The Mississippi Board of Education wants superintendents to be held accountable for student learning, the Clarion-Ledger reports. Supes in underperforming districts would be removed after two years, even if they were elected by the public. (Yes, some southern states still elect local superintendents.) Unfortunately voters don't appear to put student achievement high on their priority lists when voting for education officials--at least in the case of school boards--so this tonic is more than appropriate. Fair is fair: if educators are to be held accountable, their bosses should be too.


Liam, you're right to question whether Catholic schools are necessarily better than public schools or public charter schools. Of course not; there are great Catholic schools, and lousy ones, and everything in between, just as is the case for the other sectors. But where there are strong Catholic schools--particularly those serving non-Catholic poor kids--it's a tragedy to see them going away. Could their buildings be sold to charter schools? Sure. Could those schools be excellent? You bet. But is it harder to start excellent new schools than to maintain excellent schools that already exist? By a mile.* That's why great Catholic schools are worth the fighting for--and worth paying for too.

*Do I sound like Margaret Spellings, answering my own questions? Absolutely.

Gadfly Studios

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has announced a pilot plan to let some states "differentiate" between really bad schools and mediocre ones--i.e., those that fail just one or two of their subgroups instead of all of them. In exchange for a pressure valve on the so-so schools, states must agree to crack the whip on the most egregious offenders. Is this a well-calculated adjustment or a ham-fisted over-correction? Fordham's own Michael Petrilli tells Fordham's own Christina Hentges what he thinks about it in this week's Fordham Factor.


According to Inside Higher Ed, Luke Wilson will star in an upcoming film that producer Brendan McDonald says will "lampoon the tenure process" in colleges and universities.

Tenure 2: Back to K-12 would make a great sequel.

Mike, I agree that holding superintendents accountable for the performance of their schools is entirely appropriate, but as with any new law, the devil will prove to be in the details. The Commercial Dispatch reports that school performance will be based on the state's accountability system; that's not terribly encouraging in a state that earned a D+ from Fordham for its state standards. And what about a superintendent whose district shows great improvement for two straight years, yet still rates "underperforming"? The proposed law appears to be a blunt instrument applied to a complicated problem, especially considering that two years is barely time to implement changes, much less see the results show up in testing. Finally, we can't forget that superintendent turnover is already a problem, with the average tenure lasting just a handful of years, and that should give us education reformers pause: change is hard to sustain without consistent leadership. Let's hope this law works as intended, weeding out those superintendents who do little to help kids, and that it doesn't exacerbate the leadership shortage found in too many school systems today.