Long-time education policy analyst Henry M. Levin now heads the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, based at Teachers College, Columbia. That center held its kick-off conference in April 1999. The conference papers have now been collected in this volume, which Levin edited. Fourteen of them range across a wide variety of issues that bear, in varying degrees and from diverse perspectives, on the "privatization" debate in education. As with any edited volume, they also vary in quality, insight and value. Since this is an agenda-setting volume for Levin's center, it doesn't purport to offer general conclusions or policy advice. If you'd like to take a look, the ISBN is 0813366402. The publisher is Westview Press, located at 5500 Central Avenue, Boulder, Colorado 80301 and on the web at www.westviewpress.com.

I was out of the country last week and expected to return to find an end to the media frenzy about Education Secretary Rod Paige being (a) unhappy with his job, (b) "out of the policy loop" and (c) on the verge of quitting. Alas, this foolishness seemed, if anything, to have intensified.

Having lived in Washington forever, I know this sort of thing occurs from time to time. Think of it as a form of political fiction writing or rumor mongering. The usual formula is to allege a rift or conflict between a senior official and the White House (or sometimes between White House aides), then make much ado about its significance and implications, using this occasion to cast the incumbent administration in a bad light.

These stories have three possible sources. The likeliest is journalists with little better to do, a yen to make trouble, keen awareness that gossipy stories about people draw more readers than dense articles about policy, and, usually, some anonymous source willing to abet this plan by saying something provocative off the record. Second, opponents of the administration (who may, of course, include the journalists and/or their sources) may deploy this tactic for their own purposes of policy or politics. Third, it's possible that someone within the administration-conceivably the person alleged to be unhappy-is using this public mechanism as a way to "send a message" into the Oval Office.

Whence came the Paige rumors? We'll never know for sure, but possibility three is not to...

School choice researchers and critics discuss the strengths and weaknesses of studies analyzing the effects of vouchers in "The Problem With Studying Vouchers," by D.W. Miller, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 13, 2001 (Article is available only to subscribers.)

(For more on this topic, see "Voucher Vortex," by David Glenn, Lingua Franca, May/June 2001 (not available at http://www.linguafranca.com, but you can order a copy of the magazine))

The National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council is at it again, taking money from the (Clinton) Department of Education to advance the education profession's conventional wisdom while claiming to be engaged in serious analysis. Someone at the Department evidently took it into his/her head in 1999 to ask the Academy to examine the tests that many states use as part of the selection, screening and licensure of new teachers. (This was evidently triggered at least partly by Congress's insistence that states begin to report passing rates on these tests for each of their teacher preparation programs.) The Academy empanelled a fifteen member "Committee on Assessment and Teacher Quality," chaired by David Z. Robinson of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. At least half the committee was drawn straight from the teacher-education-and-licensure establishment, and it apparently took the group no time at all to embrace the assumptions and prescriptions of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF, whose leader, Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, was a member) and its fellow traveling organizations, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC). Indeed, this report's key chapter on "defining teacher quality" is based entirely on those groups' ideology, as are most of the committee's recommendations. One can, nevertheless, learn a few useful things from these 300 pages, such as the fact that just 21 states test their new teachers for subject-matter knowledge. Mostly, though, this fat, boring report echoes...

In "No Vouchers for You," Sam MacDonald explores the growing political divide between black elites and typical black voters over vouchers. Exhibit A is a new study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies that examines divisions between young and old generations within the African-American community and finds, among other things, that "a large majority (69 percent) of black elected officials oppose vouchers, while a large majority (60 percent) of the black public support vouchers." The political fallout from this division is unclear. Will young black choice supporters turn to the Republican party? Maybe not, if the Bush administration's refusal to go to the mat for vouchers is any indication of what the party stands for.

"No Vouchers for You," by Sam MacDonald, Reason Online, June 15, 2001

Diverging Generations: The Transformation of African American Policy Views, by David A. Bositis, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

by Jack Bowsher

This new book by Jack E. Bowsher, who for many years ran IBM's education programs, is a worthy contribution to the standards-based reform movement. In 350 pages, it offers a sweeping rationale for reform-of both school quality and costs-and insists that this cannot be done piecemeal but must be "systemic." The author reviews why past "quick fixes" haven't worked, even as they boosted costs. Then he offers his version of "systemic" reform. Perhaps his most important contributions are the introduction of classroom-level "learning systems" and his suggestions for major management (and "change-management") innovations in schools and school systems. He ends-inevitably but less interestingly-with a ringing call for dynamic leadership! This one is probably worthy of a place on your shelf. The ISBN is 0834219042. It's published by Aspen Publishers, Inc., 200 Orchard Ridge Drive, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. The website is www.aspenpublishers.com.

Over the past few months, federal policymakers have grappled with both education and taxes. Americans want both improved education and tax relief, but some say these dual priorities are in conflict. That need not be so, according to the Cato Institute. In a new report analyzing the effect of education tax credits, Cato researchers Darcy Ann Olsen, Carrie Lips and Dan Lips bring good news to those who'd like to have our cake and eat it too. The study assesses the fiscal impact of a two-pronged education tax credit on state and federal budgets. The plan would contain a "parental choice credit," which would offer a dollar-for-dollar reduction in federal income tax liability of up to $500 per child for money spent on tuition. It would also include a "scholarship credit," which would provide an additional $500 tax credit for donations to a nonprofit scholarship clearinghouse for low-income children. Cato researchers conclude that the plan would cost $9.2 billion in federal revenues but would save $14 billion in state education spending. Most importantly, it would allow 2 million new students to attend private schools. The report's conclusions flow from a (less than universally accepted) theory that students who transfer to private schools decrease state education expenses and that tax credits (and scholarships) will increase the number of students who transfer. The report also estimates the 'savings' for individual states; of course, savings are largest in states where demand for private schooling is greatest and where public-school per-pupil expenditures are highest....

One in 10 Rhode Island students was suspended last year, and either sent home or forced to sit in isolated rooms for hours. The Providence Journal looks at who is suspended (disproportionately black students), why (less for violent offenses than for truancy and tardiness), and with what result. You can find this multi-part series at http://projo.com/extra/suspensions/.

The University of Washington's Paul Hill has written a fine short background paper for the Progressive Policy Institute on "charter districts," an idea that has been gaining interest as the charter-school movement has spread. (President Bush, it may be recalled, also proposed a "charter states" program, although Congress knocked the stuffing out of it.) In five pages, Hill explains his version of a charter district, namely a public school district that charters all its schools instead of running any of them directly. (Another concept of a charter district would be one that obtains freedom from state regulations, union contract constraints and other impediments to operating its schools as it thinks best, in return for demonstrated improvements in pupil achievement. One can also envision a hybrid of those two concepts.) He notes that several U.S. school systems are already all-charter, that several more are moving in that direction, and that seven state charter laws would permit any district to do likewise. Appended to this paper is a useful one-page synopsis by Andy Rotherham of Chester-Upland, Pennsylvania's recent move (under strong state pressure) to out-source all of its schools that weren't already public charter schools. You may obtain it from Progressive Policy Institute, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Suite 400, Washington DC 20003. Phone (202) 547-0001. Fax (202) 544-5014. E-mail ppiinfo@dlcppi.org or surf to www.ppionline.org.

Fresh from Canada, this compact package of ten papers, edited by the Fraser Institute's Claudia R. Hepburn, looks at whether and how competition-based reforms could benefit the Canadian education system. More than a few of its lessons also apply to-indeed, many were derived from research performed in-the United States. The compilation is partly the result of a spring 2000 Fraser Institute conference on school choice. South-of-the-border contributors include our own Checker Finn, with "Reinventing Public Education via the Marketplace" (based on the keynote address he gave at the conference); economist Caroline Hoxby, contributing an eye-opening essay called "Analyzing School Choice Reforms that Use America's Traditional Forms of Parental Choice"; and Jay Greene, providing "A Survey of Results from Voucher Experiments: Where We Are and What We Know," which dispels many common misconceptions about voucher research. From the Canadian side, William Robson offers "Publicly Funded Education in Ontario: Breaking the Deadlock, " which explains why that province could use an infusion of parent-empowering reform, especially to reduce its stubborn achievement gap between poor and wealthy youngsters. The University of Calgary's Lynn Bosetti shares "The Alberta Charter School Experience." (Alberta was the first province in Canada to enact a charter law which, though limited to just a handful of schools, is already revealing benefits for students.) A print version of Can the Market Save Our Schools? will be available in July and can be purchased by contacting sales@fraserinstitute.ca or by calling (604) 688-0221, ext.580 or (800) 665-3558, ext. 580. Or you...