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The Education Gadfly

Well, I think it's safe to say that our new study, The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011, has folks talking. Just wanted to highlight some of the press attention it has received so far ? The Economist, NPR (blog), United Press International, USA Today (blog), Education Week, The Washington Post (blog).

It has received attention in multiple states across the country, but it has really kicked up some dust in Texas. Here's some of the coverage ? The Houston Chronicle here and here, The Austin-American Statesman, The Dallas Morning News (editorial).

Fordham's Mike Petrilli and Kathleen Porter-Magee did a radio tour yesterday, talking to stations across the country. Here's a snippet of Mike talking to a DC-area station.

--Amy Fagan...

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Amy Fagan

Remember -- there's a?great education event in Atlanta on Monday, February 21 (Presidents' Day). A panel of experts -- moderated by Fordham Institute President Chester Finn -- will discuss??Education Leadership for the 21st Century?.??(As you may know, Atlanta has been having some problems with education leadership lately.)?

If you won't be in the Atlanta area on Monday, no worries....the event?will be WEBCAST live.

Here are the panelists:??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.

The event is being sponsored by the Arthur M. Blank Foundation and the Atlanta Business Chronicle. (The Chronicle writes more about it here.)

--Amy Fagan

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Loyal Flypaper readers?and even all you folks out there who stumbled onto our blog on this lazy Friday before a long weekend?have we got a treat for you! This week's Education Gadfly has it all.

First, Checker and Kathleen offer a sobering look at America's U.S. history standards, based off our recent publication: The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011. Expert reviewers assessed each state's (and D.C.'s) U.S. history standards and found the majority to be mediocre-to-awful. Collectively, the nation's standards earn a D. Read more to find out why this is so important, and what can be done to remedy the situation.

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Click to listen to commentary on Fordham's latest report from the Education Gadfly Show podcast

Mike then weighs in on the dueling education budgets proposed by President Obama and the House GOP, and what both mean for education in the real world. Per the President's budget, Mike asks if the President isn't playing politics, more than thinking about the needs of America's students.

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Click to listen to commentary on the proposed education budgets from the Education Gadfly Show podcast
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Liam Julian

Michael Winerip writes, ?There is no more pressing topic in education today than closing the achievement gap . . .? I just do not believe that. And continuing to?obsess over?the achievement gap is diversionary and harmful.

?Liam Julian, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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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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