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Amy Fagan

Fordham Institute President Chester Finn will be participating in?an education event in Atlanta one week from today -- on Monday, February 21 (Presidents' Day). The topic? ??Education Leadership for the 21st Century? ? in particular, the future of education leadership in Atlanta. (As you may know, Atlanta has been having some problems with education leadership lately.) The event is being sponsored by the Arthur M. Blank Foundation and the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Chester will serve as moderator for?the panel of four?-- ?Sarah Carr, Times-Picayune education reporter and Spencer Journalism Education Fellow; Andres Alonso, CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools; Gerard Robinson, Virginia Secretary of Education; and Mark D. Musick, President Emeritus, Southern Regional Education Board. That's a?terrific line-up?so?it should be a lively discussion of a topic that's important?to folks in?Atlanta and well beyond.

The event will be WEBCAST live. Tune in if you can!

--Amy Fagan...

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Liam Julian

A seminal problem with No Child Left Behind was that law's focus on race, not just because an overwhelming, overriding focus on race is bad, which it is, but because NCLB's racial categories?black, white, Hispanic, etc.?always seemed overbroad and largely unworkable. Dad's from Chile and Mom's from Italy. Who am I? Dad's ancestors came over on a slave ship and Mom's came over on a Boeing. Who am I? That sort of thing. And now here comes the New York Times with a story on the trouble.?This is?how bad it's gotten:

Under Department of Education requirements that take effect this year, for instance, any student like Ms. L?pez-Mullins who acknowledges even partial Hispanic ethnicity will, regardless of race, be reported to federal officials only as Hispanic. And students of non-Hispanic mixed parentage who choose more than one race will be placed in a ?two or more races? category, a catchall that detractors describe as inadequately detailed. A child of black and American Indian parents, for example, would be in the same category as, say, a child of white and Asian parents.

Ms. L?pez-Mullins, 20, is actually, according to the Times, of ?Peruvian, Chinese, Irish, Shawnee and Cherokee descent.? Which to the Department of Education makes her . . . Hispanic. The Times notes that ?new standards for kindergarten through 12th grades and higher education will probably increase the nationwide student population of Hispanics, and could erase some ?black' students who will now be counted as Hispanic or as...

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Though I have never been a big fan of our obsession with race and poverty as? useful?tools for improving academic achievement ? what starts as a sociological construct (thank you, James Coleman), quickly becomes a general principal, which, by the time you get to the classroom trenches has become a horribly self-fulfilling and deterministic pedagogy ? Michael Winerip's thoughtful profile of Ronald Ferguson in today's New York Times offers some hope that we can start focusing on what counts: what you know and when you know it.?

Ferguson, the deeply respected Harvard academic, begins to get at the root of the problem by finding, as Winerip explains it, that half of the achievement gap can be explained by the fact?that ?black parents on average are not as academically oriented in raising their children as whites.??

"On average"?? I'm no statistician, but my unscientific observations suggest that?researchers seem to turn a blind eye to apples and oranges when it comes to race. By citing the proverbial ?wealthy suburb? data ? ?40 percent of blacks owned 100 or more books, compared with 80 percent of whites? writes Winerip ? to prove the achievement gap, our academics continue, in the process,?to reinforce the racial stereotype.?

But at least book ownership begins to get at the source of the problem: hey, 'bro, content counts.? I could walk you through plenty of? households in my town -- as racially and economically as mixed as America itself -- where white parents are...

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It's only Thursday, but there's no reason we can't have a little fun. Have the perfect caption for this picture of the School Turnaround Group's Justin Cohen? Post it in the comments section below or send a tweet to @educationgadfly.

?Mike Petrilli

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Amy Fagan

Mark your calendars for a book event coming up next week. On Wednesday, February 16?there will be?a cocktail reception and book signing for Samuel Casey Carter's book, On Purpose: How Great School Cultures Form Strong Character. The book explores?school cultures that are designed to build character and yield student growth. The event will be co-hosted by Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform and Fordham's own president, Chester E. Finn, Jr. If you're interested, you can find more info here.? CER is collecting RSVPs. Please respond by February 11, 2011 to (301) 986-8088 or email events@edreform.com.

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Liam Julian

Malcolm Gladwell takes apart the U.S. News & World Report college rankings. He clarifies the obvious: that the U.S. News rankings are self-fulfilling; the magazine's metrics prize prestige and its top-rated schools are the most prestigious. And the prestige of those top-rated schools then increases . . . because they're at the top of the U.S. News rankings. This point has been made, over and over, by education-policy types, who are incredibly proficient at identifying the inherent weaknesses in U.S. News's methodology. One wonders, though, why the same education-policy types can be so obtuse when it comes to identifying the just-as-glaring weaknesses in other sorts of education-related rankings and comparisons. International testing come immediately to mind. The latest example: the PISA scores, the results of which showed that students in Shanghai had?done better than test-takers in other nations, including the United States. The obvious methodological problem here is that only pupils from one of China's most-affluent, most-educated areas took the test; one wonders how well Chinese youngsters from their country's rural west would've fared. But most unfortunate were all the subsequent extrapolations emanating from the American ed-policy realm?e.g., that a set of PISA numbers somehow foretold economic destiny and global eminence. The problems with such reasoning are far and away more egregious than any flaws in the U.S. News college rankings.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow...

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The Education Gadfly

We've undergone a facelift overnight but we're having some technical difficulties. You may see some older posts showing up among the new ones but, pardon our dust, we're looking to get that straightened out as soon as possible.

As always, thank you for reading Flypaper!

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The Education Gadfly

Did you miss our event -- Are Bad Schools Immortal? -- last week? Want a recap? Check out the Twitter feed below for some play-by-play action.

alexanderrusso: Do they know they're on camera? Looks like Justin still has that mountain mad beard #immortalschools http://ow.ly/3P7LG

educationgadfly: Are Bad Schools Immortal? LIVE online now: http://ow.ly/3Opss #immortalschools

PIEnetwork: Joining @educationgadfly webinar on #immortalschools - can anything be done to keep bad schools from staying open forever?

PIEnetwork: http://bit.ly/hv7gA4 link for @educaitongadfly event on #immortalschools.. I think Groundhog Day is the most profound movie on existence

educationgadfly: Our event: Are Bad Schools Immortal? has begun! Watch on the web: http://ow.ly/3P87o #immortalschools

educationgadfly: For our report, author David Stuit found that district and charter schools rarely turnaround, and rarely close #immortalschools

alexanderrusso: Not to be a stickler but isn't the proper movie reference to #immortalschools something about the Vampire Diaries rather than Groundog Day?

educationgadfly: David Stuit: Issue at the heart of charter schools: Autonomy for accountability. Should mean few persistently bad charters #immortalschools

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Liam Julian

Justin Cohen, a panelist at Fordham's recent Are Bad Schools Immortal? event, said that nobody should oppose, and nobody he knows opposes, engineering public schools' student bodies to be more racially varied.* But is the first part, the ?should? part, true? Might a parent not rightfully be concerned that, say, his child's affluent, mostly white, high-performing school would suffer if lots of poor, black pupils were transferred into it? Might he not fairly fret that the school's teachers would change their instructional methods?perhaps making their classes less challenging?to accommodate the new pupils, who may not be as academically advanced as the school's original denizens? Might he not justifiably worry that new students will bring new discipline problems?

These anxieties are not pernicious and trivial. And regardless, they are real. Parents do worry over such things. Parents also worry that policymakers who zealously pursue school diversity?will dismiss or ignore the difficulties that such diversity causes and will?dismiss or ignore (or be contemptuous of) parents who have misgivings about their children's schools being thusly radically changed.

Several points to make. First, a parent's primary and overriding concern about K-12 schools often is and can unobjectionably be (and perhaps should be) the education that his child receives. Second, a parent deserves no scorn for putting his child's well-being first, for being wary of large-scale changes to the student body of his child's school, or for suspecting far-flung parties of wishing to use his child's well-functioning school in a rash social- and...

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