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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

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The question of whether schools and districts should play a role in battling childhood obesity has been prevalent in the news lately. Last week, the New York Times highlighted new citywide regulations on baked goods (among the strictest in the nation, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and yesterday, it ran an article on new regulations for vending machines in schools. A new report from the CDC indicates that in 2008, fewer schools sold soda or sugary fruit drinks or sold candy and "fatty" snacks than in 2006, suggesting that significant headway is being made in the childhood obesity battle (especially by states like Mississippi and Tennessee).

And on the flipside, Core Knowledge posted an interesting blog about a mother in upstate New York who is fighting a school policy that actually prohibits her son from riding his bike to and from school.

The New York Times article also makes a point that's worth noting - there's a correlation between student health and performance on standardized tests.?? Since schools and states are the ones being held accountable for student performance, will more of them start regulating things that affect student learning conditions?

In the Buckeye State, the answer is - not yet. Ohio has yet to join the ranks of states that have implemented regulations on bake sales and vending machines, passed laws requiring children to be weighed in schools, or set healthier standards for school lunches than federal...

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Late last Friday, when it would attract little or no news coverage, the National Education Association offered its detailed feedback on Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top" plans. 26 pages worth.

Strictly speaking, these are comments on proposed federal regulations that will guide the Education Department in disbursing these billions, including funding priorities, rules for eligible applicants, etc. This is the mechanism by which the Obama team is striving--against considerable Congressional and school-establishment opposition--to turn the education portion of the "stimulus" dollars into a driver of reform rather than simply a back-filling budget subsidy for strapped states and districts.

Duncan has been clear from the outset about his priorities. Here is how he stated them in late July when the guidelines were published:

States seeking funds will be pressed to implement four core, interconnected reforms. We sometimes call them the four assurances, and those assurances are what we are going to be looking for from states, districts, and their local partners in reform. For starters, we expect that winners of the Race to the Top grants will work to reverse the pervasive dumbing down of academic standards and assessments that has taken place in many states....That's why we are looking for Race to the Top states to adopt common, internationally-benchmarked K-12 standards that truly prepare students for college and careers. To speed this process, the Race to the Top program is going to set aside $350 million to competitively fund the development of rigorous, common state assessments.

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This paper aims to promote a clearer understanding of the graduation-rate debate by distilling the policy developments and controversy surrounding the measurement of these rate. Why are there so many different ways to calculate graduation rates? How do these different rates account for the multiple pathways to graduation? What are the data sources used in the various dropout-rate calculations, and what are their pros and cons?

Alex Klein

Quotable

"If the Senate passes something that differs by one word or more it is saying to the city: We want to resurrect the Soviet Union, we want to bring back chaos.... What [the senators] are doing is just saying to the parents, the students and the future of our city - 'We're going to destroy you.' That's the only possible explanation." ??--New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

'Soviet' schools if mayor control is lost, says Mayor Bloomberg

Notable

84,348 : The number of California high school students enrolled in independent study. This represents 4% of the 2 million California high schoolers. Most attend 231 independent-study high schools scattered around the state.

Researchers Spot Exotic New School Species in California

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The media is awash with stories about Ohio's brain drain: in 2007, the Buckeye State saw 6,981 more residents between the ages of 25 and 34 leave the state than migrate into it.  What's worse, the more education these young people have, the more likely they are to leave the state.  The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has sought to shed light on this important problem--and explore possible solutions.

We commissioned the Farkas Duffet Research Group to create a survey tool that could investigate the attitudes of the state's top college students about their views of Ohio as a place to live, work, and invest themselves after graduation.  We also wanted to know how these students view working in and around primary-secondary education and what it would take to entice them into this field.

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