The Education Gladfly

Continuing his stunning career ascent, Common Core architect David Coleman has agreed to take a top post in Pope Francis’s inner circle, just months after joining the College Board. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Coleman through a spokesperson, who also noted that he’s converting to Roman Catholicism. He will be in charge of designing a new church liturgy, which will focus on close reading of Biblical texts and won’t shy away from the most demanding passages in scripture. “Previously, the church was afraid to assign many readings from the Book of Revelation because of its text complexity,” Coleman said in an interview. “But if we expect our faithful to be ready for Heaven—not to mention college and career—we need to aim higher.” Still, Coleman stressed, regardless of Rome’s involvement, the Common Core remains a state-led initiative.

French President Francois Hollande faced international ridicule last year when he banned homework. Undeterred by the ensuing jibes and mockery, he recently announced new national mandates from the Élysée Palace: So as not to give undue advantage to some children, Hollande proclaimed that French parents may no longer read to their kids, spend any time with them, or show them any love at all. To which one commentator asked, “And this changes things how?”

In a misunderstanding of supersized proportions, San Francisco mayor Edwin M. Lee has pushed through a new “weighted-student” funding plan that...

Pick Nits-Off

North Korea’s pudgy young Supreme Leader, fresh from his triumphal get-together with Dennis Rodman, has determined to broaden his ties to influential individuals named Dennis and non-governmental organizations in the United States.

“We will conquer America with love and other weapons,” Kim declared on Radio Pyongyang, “and I look forward to addressing my comrades in the National Education Association during their convention in July. I shall deliver an address in which I instruct America’s teachers on how to resist the malevolent policies of Great Satan Obama and will offer them online courses delivered by my glorious nation’s expert nuclear physicists to counteract the shortage of qualified high school science teachers in the United States—and also counteract the malevolence of Obama and evil henchman Harold Duncan.”

NEA president Dennis Van Roekel told the Dayton Daily News, “We need all the help we can get.” The White House declined to comment.

RELATED ARTICLE: Tennis Codman, “From one Dennis to another,” Ewe Cork Rhymes, April 1, 2013....

Harry’s Purple Crayon

A recent re-analysis of the Head Start Act of 1981, which significantly expanded the eligibility requirements of federally funded pre-Kindergarten, revealed a startling loophole that has nearly two in three Americans trading in their Outlook accounts and Crackberries for Green Eggs and Ham and naptime: It was recently revealed that the law does not specify a maximum age of enrollment (see sec. 645. [42 U.S.C. 9840] (b)). Recent publicity afforded this otherwise buried statute has resulted in an unexpected turn: Nearly 200 million U.S. adults have gone back to preschool.

Those who have enrolled cite numerous benefits: Justin Baker, a civil engineer in Denver, CO, related, “During play time, we’ve experimented with different types of building blocks. We’ve learned that structures made of Lego are more durable than those made of Lincoln Logs. Plus, there’s Play-Doh!” Ellen Shaw, a lawyer in San Diego, CA, enthused, “I’m learning skills I never was never taught in law school, like how to work out problems before suing someone over them.”

Although some parents of three- and four-year-olds expressed concern that the influx of larger students put their kids at a disadvantage in time-honored games like Duck, Duck, Goose, and though a handful of employers worried about the loss of productivity as employees take leave from their jobs to go back to school, the overall reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. According to Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Greasy,...

Ivanna B. Rich

The gauntlet was truly thrown when charter tycoon Eva Moskowitz issued a public challenge to fellow New Yorker Chris Whittle. In the latest battle for rich-kid enrollment, Moskowitz insists that charters will prevail over private schools. “Chris is charging parents a zillion-dollar tuition for his Avenues Schools venture,” she said. “But there’s no rational reason that rich people should pay for their own children’s plush educations when taxpayers are perfectly willing to foot the bill. My charters,” she declared, “with their IB curricula and teachers swiped from Andover and Choate—not to mention climbing walls, on-campus spas, water-polo facilities, and vegan dining options—come with all the amenities of Avenues without the personal price tag.”

“I welcome the competition,” snarled the usually affable Whittle, while sorting through his ascot collection. “Despite Eva’s claim that her charters provide everything, she’s going to have to hire expert lobbyists to amend state charter laws or else charge parents fees for the horseback-riding instruction, flying lessons, and personal valets. My schools are truly all-inclusive, and parents will happily pony up for pony lessons. Besides, my schools are now importing math and science teachers from Singapore and Shanghai. Astute families appreciate the added value.”

“Trust me, rich folks got that way by being smart about money,” replied Moskowitz during an interview on her yacht. “Chris doesn’t appreciate the marvelously regressive effect of my publicly financed schools. Wealthy parents will seize this opportunity—and the political base...

The Power Vested in Me by Nate Silver

Thirteen days after an infamous Obama-Boehner rock-paper-scissors battle brought the sequestration conflict to a head and the federal government to its knees, the Department of State is eerily quiet and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving has stopped making dollar bills. Yet at the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) offices servers hum, emails fly, and scrawling STATA printouts cover the walls as NAGB prepares to release the latest NAEP results. After a decisive move by Board Chair David Pistol, NAGB is the only operational federal outfit in town. “Instead of throwing in the towel like those wimps at Homeland Security,” Pistol said proudly, “I put on my thinking cap.”

So how have congressionally nixed “line items” like test creation, test administration, and results tabulation become redundant?

Simple: NAGB hired Nate Silver.

By acquiring Silver, the statistician who reportedly spends his post–happy hour evenings wandering the New York subway telling strangers the day they will die, NAGB was able to slash its budget to a workable $100,000, covering twelve months of dial-up internet and fifty pounds of Swedish Fish—all Silver needs to accurately and efficiently predict NAEP scores down to the last eighth-grader.

Not everyone was thrilled with Pistol's decision, however. Harvard test-grinch Dan Koretz, for instance, shook an angry fist, muttering something about “reliability and validity.” But others gave Pistol and his team great credit for saving NAEP. “I’ve always believed in doing more with less, next-generation testing, and the...

Queenie Bea

Maybe it goes back to when no one believed his UFO sighting during Kindergarten. Or possibly the time a remote-control car ran over his foot when he was ten. Whatever its deep-seated source, Senator Rand Paul has a thing against drones. Recall his tiresome outburst the other week about CIA drones and U.S. citizens. Yet ‘twas nothing compared with his recent fulminations over Arne Duncan’s Common Core classroom-drones program, officially the “Race to Observe Archaic and Simple-minded Teaching” (ROAST) program. Not only is Senator Paul revealing himself to be a one-trick pony, he doesn’t even seem to grasp the game-changing potential of this new technology for the revitalization of primary-secondary education.

Let’s set the record straight. These drones are not (heavily) armed, nor will they clog up U.S. airspace or bandwidth. (The Senator’s satellite re-runs of “Howdy Doody!” will continue to stream just fine.) These “child-centered” drones simply float around classrooms, observing and recording teachers’ instructional practices. It’s not really all that different from the Gates Foundation’s MET program—and we don’t recall Paul filibustering that.

As for privacy, fret not: The drone pilots at 400 Maryland Avenue SW are sworn to secrecy. Their mission, after all, isn’t to spy on little Jamal and Emma, only to check on their teacher—to make sure she’s putting all of the Common Core’s instructional shifts into practice. What’s more, unlike innumerable earlier ED initiatives, this one is working!...

Vladimir Gompers

It was yet another difficult week for Karen Lewis, whose recent rhetoric has her own flock calling for her head.

Math teachers United in Resenting Dumb Education Reform (MURDER) and Secondary Teachers After Blood (STAB) joined hands in protest on Wednesday outside Chicago City Hall, urging the teaching proletariat not to be taken in by Lewis’s “corporate-style” labor strikes. The past month has seen mounting dissatisfaction with what many crazed, leftist agitators perceive to be her massive—er, passive—leadership and supposed ties to Wall Street. (Sources have implicated her as possessor of a public pension, which may include so-called “investments.”) In a recent Mother Smith article, STAB executive director Mike Clownsky declared, “Ms. Lewis clearly lacks dedication. While she's half-heartedly suggesting that we decapitate the corporate pawns, we're in the streets pulling out their entrails and hanging them from the walls of school buildings. With her, it’s always too little, too late.”

In front of a riotous gathering of hopped-up educators and Hessian mercenaries, representatives from STAB and MURDER read from their list of demands:

  • Classes no bigger than eight kids
  • Tenure after one year of teaching (rounding up any partial years)
  • Rahm Emanuel’s head on a plate
  • Rahm Emanuel’s hide as a coat
  • Rahm Emanuel’s ears on a cat
  • Ten-year moratorium on standardized testing
  • Free ponies for all

Reacting to these events (and to Clownsky’s declaration that the ghost of Hugo Chavez—or, for that matter, Cesar Chavez—would be...

Gary Larceny

After Tony “the Idol” Bennett’s ousting in November from Hoosier chiefdom, reform funders commissioned public-affairs experts ED 08 Associates and The Acropolis Group consulting firm on how the stalled reform movement can regain momentum. Herewith the executive summary of their report.

Like the Republican Party, the education-reform movement has been searching its soul, examining its slogans, and bickering over who’s in charge. Those who lost hard-fought elections in typically reform-minded states in November understandably wonder: Are our policies off and our principles awry? Is it just “message” and “tone”? (Or could it be our weird spokespersons?)

Well, be of good cheer, reformers. Our state-of-the-art research has found that your policy prescriptions are still popular with the unwashed masses whose tax dollars you crave, whose children you yearn to change, whose neighborhood schools you insist on closing, and whose favorite teachers you are bent on firing. All you need to do is change your messaging and explain your intentions in focus-group-validated language uttered by hypnotically beautiful spokespeople.

We’ve learned that your present message is too often perceived as “dour,” “tough,” “mean,” and “divisive.” You must become the happy movement!

For example:

Closing sh***y, no good schools

Our research revealed that people hate this idea. Doubly so if Michelle Rhee is the one doing the closing—and that mishap with Rhee, the bulldozer, and Akron’s Coolidge Elementary School’s fifth-grade classroom didn’t help. (Luckily, the kids were out...


Springtime is at hand for America’s senior class—and for many of these graduating seniors, spring means daydreaming about college or a first job. Senioritis anyone? In a recent report, From High School to the Future: The Challenge of Senior Year in Chicago Public Schools, The University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research tackles the question of whether high school students’ entire senior year is one large case of senioritis. In other words, are senior years generally productive or wasted? To answer this question, the researchers analyzed the course-taking patterns of over 50,000 Chicago Public School graduating seniors, between 2003 and 2009.

The study’s key finding is that, for too many students, the senior year is indeed an unproductive and unchallenging academic year—far from a launching pad into college or gainful employment. In their analysis of student transcripts and follow-up interviews with students, the researchers found that many students chose to take easy elective courses that allowed them to “coast to graduation.” The researchers attribute this senior-year mess to the lack of an “organizing framework or common set of expectations” for what a rigorous and productive senior year looks like—for the college- and vocation-bound student alike.

Perhaps the only silver lining of this report is that the researchers found a solid quarter of CPS students engaged in an Advanced Placement (AP) heavy courseload (taking, on average, nearly two AP courses). Yet, even here, there is substantial variation in AP participation across CPS high schools, even among similarly qualified students....