Additional Topics

The Education Gadfly

A quick look around Fordham’s Gadfly Daily
blogs reveals that it’s been a busy week in education reform. Here’s a brief
recap of what our bloggers wrote about:

That’s just
the beginning, so be sure to explore all the Gadfly Daily blogs and sign up for
our combined RSS feed.
Also, keep an eye on Board’s Eye View this Monday for a special post on Martin
Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by Peter....

  • The Washington
    State Supreme Court’s ruling that the state wasn’t meeting its constitutional
    obligations to fund schools was thankfully toothless
    on enforcement, freeing legislators in a budgetary bind to include
    in some tough but necessary fiscal decision-making. Charter
    schools anyone
    • The
      Hewlett Foundation will hand out a cool
      to techies that code software capable of reliably grading essays as part of state tests. Ambitious,
      sure, but a great example of philanthropy driving needed innovation in edtech.
      • Dozens of Catholic schools in
        Philadelphia are shutting
        due to a 35 percent drop in enrollment since 2001 even as the
        mayor wants to get
        rid of 50,000 seats
        in underperforming district schools. Hmmm, there must
        be a solution
        • Slowly but surely, incentives and common
          sense are winning out, as the number of district schools in Chicago accepting
          the mayor’s offer of extra cash for a longer day quadrupled
          this week
          despite the teacher union’s continued
          . Keep at it, Rahm!
          • It’s that time of year: Governors from Virginia
            to Arizona
            are making all kinds of ambitious proposals in their State of the State addresses,
            from an extra
            $1 billion
            for Florida’s schools to Andrew Cuomo appointing
            as lobbyist for students in the Empire State. Let’s just see
            if these executives can back
          • ...

          Be you a school-finance junkie, an accountability
          hawk, or a teaching aficionado, Education
          ’s annual Quality Counts report—which scores states on dozens of
          indicators in six buckets and offers overall grades for each jurisdiction—will
          be of interest. Celebrating its sweet sixteen, this year’s QC offers updated
          data in every category but one. The overall rankings? Thanks to Ed Week’s
          persistent use of some silly indicators like “Chance for Success,” wealthy
          states continue to float to the top. (More
          on that here
          .) Maryland’s B-plus is enough
          for a four-peat as the nation’s lead scorer; perennial powerhouses Massachusetts, New
          York, and Virginia follow close behind. Yet some
          shake-up has occurred, with Florida and Pennsylvania dropping
          from the top ten. Ohio
          earns a C-plus across all metrics, buttressed by its A on the “standards,
          assessment, and accountability” indicator and its B-plus for equity in school
          finance. Probably most useful are the report’s state profiles, which, after
          this heavy-reform year, further explain each one’s policies along QC’s six indicators.
          (Of course, this is the only part of the online report that costs dollars to
          view.) Worth mentioning too is the host of commentary and analysis of the
          findings—including pieces by South Korea’s former education minister Byong-man
          Ahn (famous
          for pushing back against his nation’s entrenched testing culture
          ) and Sir
          Michael Barber (the theme of this year’s QC is “global competitiveness”)....


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          The podcast kicks off the new year in style, with special guest commentary from Diane Ravitch on what 2012 will bring. Amber sees charter-school closures as a glass half empty and Chris loves up some celebrations.

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          The controversial Cathedral High School touchdown Chris talks about in this week's episode.

          The Education Gadfly

          It’s been a busy day on the revamped Fordham Website. Here’s a rundown
          of what you may have missed:

          • On her new Common
            Core Watch
            blog, Kathleen Porter-Magee accepted
            Diane Ravitch’s challenge to take a standardized test and publish the results.
          • Board’s
            Eye View
            editor Peter Meyer summarized
            recent controversy around teacher evaluation and singles out D.C. as one
            city that’s getting it right.
          • Take a video tour of
            Fordham’s redesigned website and explore all the new features it has to offer.

          Be sure to check out the main page tomorrow for more commentary,
          and get all of our content delivered to you by subscribing
          to our combined RSS feed....


          Happy New Year! Regular readers of Fordham’s Flypaper blog
          will notice big changes today. Our website is the beneficiary of a major makeover
          (let us know if you like
          it), and, most importantly, we’re revamping our approach to blogging. We think
          you’ll benefit. 

          For the past four years, Flypaper has served as one of the liveliest
          and more prominent group blogs in the edusphere. And clearly, many of you like
          it. You enjoy the cacophony of voices and perspectives, on all of the major
          topics within the world of school reform. 

          But group blogs have their limits, even when they avoid
          group-think. As new content is added several times a day, important—and
          still-timely—posts get pushed down the page, and often out of sight. Readers
          with focused interests get frustrated and perhaps confused, and potential
          readers get scared away by the messiness of a lot of posts on a multitude of
          topics by all manner of authors.

          So we’ve split Flypaper into six separate blogs, all of
          which will live on the site, and all of which
          will comprise what’s now called Education
          Gadfly Daily. Here’s the new sextet:

          • Flypaper. Our flagship blog will remain, but
            will now feature content from Checker Finn and me, along with occasional
            guests. Its coverage will remain diverse—but the cacophony will ebb.
          • Ohio Gadfly Daily.
            This blog will present incisive
          • ...

          As the curtains close on 2011, take a moment to remember the year that was on Flypaper by revisiting the most-read posts:

          1.  The Obama Administration’s war on Stuyvesant and Thomas Jefferson

          Mike explained how ED’s crusade for racial diversity may have some
          unintended and unfortunate effects on America’s best magnet schools.

          2. Osama bin Laden: What our children need to know

          Checker took a moment to reflect on Osama bin Laden’s death and the lessons we should draw from the post-9/11 decade.

          3. The qualities of a good teacher: A student’s perspective

          Penelope Placide, a ninth-grade student at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School
          who worked at Fordham last spring as part of her school’s Corporate
          Work Study Program, explained what she found when she surveyed her
          classmates on what it takes to be a good teacher.

          4. K12 Inc. CEO Ron Packard responds to NYTimes’ criticism

          The final months of 2011 witnessed a flurry of scathing articles on the merits of online learning from The Nation, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and others. In this post, the head of the nation’s largest online learning company made his defense.

          5. The ends of education...


          A year ago I played prognosticator and offered “educated guesses” about what 2011 would bring. So how did I do? I report, you decide.

          1. Cathie Black will be gone by Easter.

          This was perhaps my proudest moment of the year. (I even got some shout-outs from the mainstream media.) In hindsight, though, it wasn’t really a tough call. I mean, Cathie Black? What was Mayor Bloomberg thinking?

          2. A new ESEA will be law by Thanksgiving.

          For a few fleeting moments this fall I thought I might have a chance. But alas, it wasn’t in the cards. The issue wasn’t substance—something akin to Lamar Alexander’s reauthorization package could pass both chambers of Congress by a wide margin, and the President would happily sign it. Politics were to blame, mostly on the Democratic side of the aisle. Simply put, the reformers and civil rights groups on the Left weren’t going to allow a bill to move that would step away from NCLB’s top-down accountability mandates, and the Administration’s actions on waivers took away the urgency to act.

          3. Education-establishment groups will file a slew of new funding-equity lawsuits—and charter school groups will join them.

          Half right
          I don’t see any sign of legal activity from the charter sector, but this year’s budget cutbacks have indeed led to a new round of school finance lawsuits. Several are underway in Texas, Alabama was home to...


          Coming out of a year that has left me ever less enamored of both our
          major political parties, their polarized and gridlocked behavior on
          Capitol Hill, their uninspiring candidates and ratty presidential
          campaigns, not to mention their antics in many a statehouse, I’m ready
          for a promising, credible third party. You could call me a recovering
          Democrat (adulthood to about 1980) and increasingly disaffected
          Republican (the past three decades), the latter made more painful by the
          fact that the several live Republicans who would make superb presidents
          are the ones who decided not to run.

          Until something better comes along, I’m going to fancy myself a
          member of the Green-tea Party. Here are its seven tenets, one for each
          day of the week:

          • Low taxes, efficient government, a balanced budget, a vigorous
            foreign policy (no more “leading from behind”), and a strong national
          • A full-bore, full-throated war on terrorism, terrorists, pirates and other such menaces, wherever they are.
          • Decent provision for the truly dependent—and no help at all for
            those who can and should provide for themselves, their families and
            their neighbors.
          • Decent respect for the environment—I’ve seen those glaciers melt and
            trash in the ocean—and for conservation of non-renewable resources.
          • Minimal government regulation of just about everything else.
          • That includes governments (and politicians) keeping out of adults’
            lives, bedrooms, beliefs, orientations and practices. (Children are
            another story.)
          • High education standards, plenty
          • ...