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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

educationgadfly: Are Bad Schools Immortal? LIVE online now: #immortalschools

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

PIEnetwork: 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: #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


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...

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!

Liam Julian

The first one is that the terms need changing. When we speak today of school ?desegregation? we?speak not?of the same sort of school desegregation that gave the phrase its resonance?i.e., the forcible insertion, occasionally by federal troops, of minority pupils into all-white classrooms in towns and cities and states whose political representatives were doing everything possible to keep minority pupils out. Now, one?can argue that in 2011?not a few?people still want to keep black kids and white kids separated, which is sadly probably true, but?2011 is patently not 1960 and making even inadvertent comparisons can be unhelpful. Today to?call a school ?segregated? is to attach to the observation historical recrimination, regardless of the claim's dictionary veracity. We should find better words.

Second, Kevin Carey is right to note as others have that creating racially diverse district schools requires that the district in question have a racially diverse student pool. Such pools are frequently nonexistent. Thus, as Carey writes,

That leads the conversation to desegregation policies that cross districts. After all, many high-minority districts sit inside larger metropolitan areas that are much more diverse. The fact that Wake County (atypically) encompasses all of such an area creates the conditions necessary for its desegregation program. But this also creates a new set of challenges.

First, it often means moving students non-trivial distances from their homes to schools and back again every day. That carries a significant non-educational time and money cost: resources spent on buses and trains...

Liam Julian

?The snowstorm kicked out electricity last week,? writes Jay Mathews on his Washington Post Class Struggle blog. ?It was hard to write the column without access to the Internet.? So he decided to travel a simpler route and pen a piece complaining that high-school-based television shows?e.g., Glee?never feature stories about academics. About Glee specifically Mathews writes, ?Have you ever seen any of those amazingly talented characters on that show doing their homework? Or discussing an upcoming exam? Or opening a textbook?? No? Well why not?

Why not? Because homework, exams, and textbooks are boring. Television shows like Glee are supposed to be entertaining. I understand that his internet service was down, but is Mathews serious?

Why not an episode in which history students reenact the 1787 Constitutional Convention? The dramatic possibilities are enormous. Or the writers could examine the comic possibilities of rival nerd gangs, like some of my high school friends, competing for supremacy in SAT scores. Or one sensitive biology student could sue for the right to opt out of frog dissection.

Maybe he's joking. Let's hope so. Let's also hope his internet connection has been fixed.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow


The story about Akron mother Kelley Williams-Bolar getting jail for sending her two daughters to a public school in another district is getting lots of well-deserved attention. But of course the Copley-Fairlawn district was unusual only in the lengths it was willing to go to enforce its boundaries. Hundreds of districts nationwide have found lower-profile ways to achieve the same ends: keeping poor kids out.

A year ago, my colleague Janie Scull and I released a report, America's Private Public Schools, which identified almost 3,000 public schools that serve virtually no low-income children. Some of the major findings:

  • More than one child in ten attends ?private public schools? in Connecticut (18%), New Jersey (17%), Arizona (14%), and Massachusetts (12%).
  • The metro areas with the largest shares of students in ?private public schools? include Boston (16%), New York (13%), Phoenix (11%), San Francisco (10%) and Denver (9%).
  • In some metro areas, a high percentage of white students in public schools attend ?private public schools:? New York (27%), San Francisco (21%), Boston (20%), Philadelphia (14%), Denver (14%) and Los Angeles (13%).

If you live in one of the nation's 25 largest metro areas, you can find a list of their private-public schools here. So before you throw stones at Copley-Fairlawn, be sure that your own neighborhood school isn't one of the excluders.

?Mike Petrilli...


I've been trying to figure out what to say about a State of the Union address that, on education at least, offered plenty of encouraging rhetoric but nothing new of substance. In the meantime, I've been reading about what other people are saying, and thought you might want to as well:

- Andy Rotherham, with probably the smartest and most straightforward analysis

- Rick Hess, who liked the music but not the lyrics

- Sara Mead, who is experiencing deja vu all over again

- Russ Whitehurst, who waxes poetic about political philosophy

-Mike Petrilli

Liam Julian

As we rhapsodize about the talents of Indian students, the country's burgeoning middle class, its phalanxes of engineers and its high-tech hubs, let us not forget that India is a country in which 421 million people are desperately poor (more destitute people there, in fact, than in all sub-Saharan Africa) and some 800 million depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. And how many millions do not have even ready access to potable water? Pankaj Mishra provides a reality check.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow