Flypaper

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.

Categories: 
Liam Julian

Mike, I may agree with your point that Catholic schools should receive public funding. But it doesn't look likely that they will, on any grand scale, in the near future, especially if come January 2009 both the White House and Congress are run by a party more friendly to public-school teachers' unions and more hostile to choice. And even where voucher programs exist--Milwaukee, for example--several Catholic schools that receive vouchers have closed despite boosting their enrollments. The Catholic schools' troubles can't be remedied by public funding alone, it seems.

But you haven't answered the main question: Why the big push from education-policy groups to save Catholic schools, in particular? Is the assumption that all Catholic schools are superior to their k-12 public-school, or public charter-school, counterparts? And is the assumption that closed Catholic schools cannot be replaced by high-quality charter-school alternatives?

Categories: 

Liam asks "if urban Catholic schools can't compete with charter schools, why do they deserve special help?"

But Liam, charter schools are free for the families who choose them, while, outside of the handful of cities with voucher programs, Catholic schools ain't. If we could find a way for both charter schools and Catholic schools to receive public support, then I'd say yes, let the best schools win. Until then, somebody needs to give deserving Catholic schools a lift. And if the Pope isn't willing, how can we expect Uncle Sam to volunteer?

Categories: 

Over at The Corner, Victor Davis Hanson wonders why Barack Obama is so worried about teaching students about oppression. He quotes a recent "news source":

He said schools should do a better job of teaching all students African-American history "because that's part of American history," as well as women's struggle for equality, the history of unions, the role of Hispanics in U.S. and other matters that he suggested aren't given enough attention.

"I want us to have a broad-based history" taught in schools, he said, even including more on "the Holocaust as well as other issues of oppression" around the world.

Perhaps Senator Obama missed the news stories about a recent poll of high school students, asking them to name the "most famous" Americans in history, presidents excluded. Here's the list of the top ten, with the percentage who voted for each:

  1. Martin Luther King Jr.: 67%
  2. Rosa Parks: 60%
  3. Harriet Tubman: 44%
  4. Susan B. Anthony: 34%
  5. Benjamin Franklin: 29%
  6. Amelia Earhart: 25%
  7. Oprah Winfrey: 22%
  8. Marilyn Monroe: 19%
  9. Thomas Edison: 18%
  10. Albert Einstein: 16%

Looks like schools are already doing a decent job teaching some of these "underrepresented" groups, after all....

Categories: 
Liam Julian

I'm still not wholly convinced that the decline of k-12 Catholic schools in this country merits the sort of "save them!" mobilization that many are calling for (see Mike's post, below). If urban Catholic schools can't compete with charter schools, why do they deserve special help? One response: Catholic schools instill in their students not only numbers and letters but discipline and respect for authority, too. Yet, don't the best charter schools do exactly the same thing--and for free?

From a religious and personal perspective, I'm sorry to see Catholic schools go. From an educational one, I'm not so sure.

Categories: 
Liam Julian

Michael Winerip has a new book out. The NY Times reviewed it this Sunday, too.

The Oregonian reports that its state board of education last week gave the green light to "virtual" charter schools in the state, but put them on a "short cord." Under the "compromise," such schools will be limited to 100 students per grade, all of whom must ask their home school districts for permission to go virtual. The enrollment cap is a major disappointment. Such a "slow growth" policy might make sense in states without any virtual school experience; getting a foot in the door is a decent political strategy, and creates an opportunity for the schools to prove themselves, demonstrate parental demand via long waiting lists, and build momentum for more flexible state policies. But Oregon is no stranger to virtual education; it is already home to the 1,800 student Connections Academy, which by all accounts is doing well. Another 900-student school, the Oregon Virtual Academy, operated by K12*, was slated to open in the fall. It's hard to see this cap as anything but a boon to the traditional public school system--and its unions--and a slap in the face to parents looking for a school that fits their child's needs.

But even worse is the veto power given to local school districts that don't want their students attending these schools. In an age when the value of "public school choice" is widely agreed upon, I can't think of any other "inter-district" plan where the "sending" district can block children at the schoolhouse door. Of course this...

Categories: 

Peggy Noonan turns in another characteristically perceptive "Declaration" for Saturday's Wall Street Journal--though one with uncharacteristically hokey imagery about a new house (Obama) and an old house (McCain). But her advice to the Arizona Senator is well worth heeding: "get serious."

In the most successful political careers there is a purpose, a guiding philosophy. Not an ideology--ideology is something imposed from above, something abstract dreamed up by an intellectual. Philosophy isn't imposed from above, it bubbles up from the ground, from life. And its expression is missing with Mr. McCain. Political staffs inevitably treat philosophy as the last thing, almost an indulgence. But it's the central fact from which all else flows. Staffs turn each day to scheduling, advance, fundraising, returning the billionaire's phone call. They're quick to hold the meeting to agree on the speech on the economy. But they don't, can't, give that speech meaning and depth. Only the candidate can, actually.

Senator McCain, she argues, is "defined by his maverickness."

That's who he is. (It's the theme of his strikingly good memoir, "Worth the Fighting For.") He stands up to power. He faces them down. It's not only a self image, it's a self obsession. But it has left him seeming passionate only about those issues on which he's been able to act out his maverickness, such as campaign finance and immigration. He's passionate about McCain-Feingold because . . . because people don't understand how right he is, and how wrong they are. He's

...
Jeff Kuhner

News update: School officials have decided to go easy on an eighth-grader caught purchasing contraband goods. Was it guns, drugs, or tobacco? Actually, none of the above. It was candy--and not even the hard-core kind like Snickers or M&M's, which if consumed in large quantities can really pack on the pounds (trust me, I know). It was a bag of Skittles.

For this "offense," Michael Sheridan, an eighth-grade honors student in New Haven, Connecticut, was suspended for a day, barred from attending an honors dinner, and stripped of his title as class vice president. You can read the full story here.

Following local media reports and a public uproar, Superintendent Reginald Mayo said in a statement last week that he and Principal Eleanor Turner will clear Michael's record and restore him to his student council post.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates the growing loss of common sense and proportional judgment in our nation's schools than Skittlesgate. Apparently, the New Haven school system banned candy sales in 2003 as part of a district-wide school "wellness" policy. Leaving aside whether prohibiting candy sales is something schools should be concerned about (whatever happened to teaching reading, writing and, math?--things schools aren't doing very well), buying a bag of Skittles from a classmate hardly warrants a suspension . Back in the good old days when I was an eighth-grader, suspensions were meted out for serious offenses: school violence and destruction of property, vicious bullying, and verbal abuse of teachers.

...

Categories: 

Pages