Governance

Bob Bowdon
Founder of Choice Media

Guest blogger Bob Bowdon is the founder of Choice Media, a non-profit education news service, and directed the award-winning documentary “The Cartel.” In this post, he responds to the debate touched off by Mike’s argument against school boards in Monday’s “Dealing with disingenuous teacher unions: There are no shortcuts.”

I
was intrigued to see the democracy defense offered by the
Establishment Reactionary Dynamic Duo of Ravitch & Weingarten, as
if to say it’s okay to sentence children to chronically failing and
dangerous schools, as long as unions succeed in getting the vote out on
off-peak election days.

Apart from the underpinnings of their logic, can we at least hope
that they’ll remain consistent in applying this “Democracy First”
philosophy no matter where the chips fall? Not so much.

When the elected legislature in Georgia authorized the state’s
chartering of schools, the Georgia Association of Educators union wasn’t
so happy with the voice of the people. They later filed a brief in
support of a lawsuit to strike down the law — and that suit prevailed.
Democracy be damned.

When elected leaders in Douglas County Colorado passed a voucher plan
this year, the Colorado Education Association union publicly opposed
the wishes of the local voters, with no apparent bout of misgivings over
democratic values.

When the Indiana legislature and governor passed a statewide...

Mike’s post
yesterday didn’t just ask whether unions have made local control
untenable—it also sparked some fascinating and spirited responses in the
comments section,
with Randi Weingarten, Diane Ravitch, Grant Wiggins, and many others
weighing in. Luckily, this conversation can continue in two weeks, when
the Fordham Institute and Center for American Progress team up to host “Rethinking Education Governance in the 21st Century.”
Luminaries from academia and the policy world will hash out the merits
of the various pillars of our current governance structure—from school
boards to mayoral control—and think through who should be charged with
governing our nation’s schools in the years to come. Time and space are
running low, so register now.

It’s hard to tell whether Joe Nocera’s op-ed essay in the New York Times last week, “Teaching With The Enemy,”
is wonderfully nuanced or just silly.  That’s surely what some
education observers might wonder about the notion that Randi Weingarten,
former head of New York City’s teacher union and current head of the
American Federation of Teachers, should be chancellor of New York City
schools.*  In fact, Nocera notes that he himself “nearly fell out of my
chair” when Steven Brill told him that Weingarten, who is “the enemy” of
Brill’s new book, Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools, threw him a book party.

This, of course, is vintage Weingarten, described by Nocera as
“whip-smart” and “politically savvy.”  But the larger question is what
happened to Brill, founder of American Lawyer and Court TV and a formidable presence in the New York media scene, on the way to the education repair shop?

Himself whip-smart and politically savvy, Brill made instant news when he took on the city’s teachers union in a 2009 New Yorker story
about the city’s notorious “rubber rooms,” where bad teachers went to
soak up full salaries while doing nothing.  In that story Brill
described Weingarten as such a ferocious defender of teachers that she
“would protect a dead body in the classroom.”  That was meant to suggest
that teacher unions weren’t so good for our kids....

Education Next

Hope Against HopeEver since Hurricane Katrina, the eyes of education reform proponents and opponents have been on New Orleans, site of one of the most dramatic public school overhauls in American history. Veteran journalist Sarah Carr has been there through the ups and downs, reporting on the reforms for the Times-Picayune. Now she tells the story in her book debut, Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children.

In this installment of the Education Next book club, host Mike Petrilli talks with Sarah about the successes and failures of New Orleans-style reform, and what it means for the rest of the country.

Additional installments of the Ed Next Book Club podcast can be heard here.

This piece originally appeared on the Ed Next blog.

The headline in the Daily News was a shocker: ?New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl? Tisch blasts Mayor Bloomberg's school reforms: Calls some schools `warehouses' for poor-performing students.?

It's too early to know whether Tisch's visit to Automotive High School in Brooklyn, where, says the News report, ?just 1 % of students graduated ready for college last year,? will lead to anything.

But the Times gave the story a slightly different twist: ?Regents Chief Says No to a Run for Mayor.?? Interesting.

Times reporter Fernanda Santos says that ?the buzz? about the outspoken (and rich) chancellor running for NYC mayor had been around for weeks.? The last time Tisch was asked about rumors of? an education shakeup in the Empire State, last summer, on an Albany radio show, she dropped the bomb that David Steiner was resigning as commissioner of education. (See my Ed Next story from this summer.) ?Not this time.? Tisch ?categorically denied? the rumors, says the Times.

More interesting, perhaps, is the story of Tisch's visit to Automotive High, during which she was accompanied by the state's new commissioner of education, John King. The visit actually took place a couple of weeks ago. ?And Tisch remarked:

Where do you think these kids are going? They have no education and they aren't getting one?? I'm not saying they're going to be college- and career-ready; I'm not a fool. So put a G.E.D. program in there; teach them skills.

...

 

Charter-School Management Organizations coverIf CRPE’s recent meta-analysis of charter-school
research
was an amuse-bouche, this report (from Mathematica/CRPE) on the practices
and impacts of charter-management organizations (CMOs) acts as the entrée—and perhaps
also the dessert. It exhaustively details the characteristics of forty CMOs (of
the nation’s 130, which serve 17 percent of charter-school students), noting
some interesting commonalities: Compared to their district counterparts, CMOs
typically run smaller schools (with smaller classes). They also offer more time
in learning: Forty percent of studied CMOs provided their students with more
instructional time than all of the
nation’s traditional public schools. Completing the meal, the report analyzed
student-achievement results for those CMOs with adequate data. Echoing previous
charter research, the report finds that CMO performance varies—and widely. Of
the twenty-two networks analyzed, eleven boast significantly positive impacts
in math, while ten can make that claim in reading—this compared to a representative
control group of district pupils. (Seven negatively impact their students in
math, six in reading.) Why do some CMOs do so well while others flounder?
Researchers note two reasons for success: intense teacher coaching and school-wide
behavior standards (notably those that offered consistent rewards and sanctions
and asked for parent and student contracts). Unfortunately, the authors stop
there. No after-dinner coffee or digestif. Because of promises of
confidentiality, the report names neither...

Ohio’s electorate soundly
rejected Issue 2
(the referendum on Senate Bill 5) on Tuesday. As almost
everyone knows, that statute made significant changes to collective bargaining
for public employees in the Buckeye State. The most controversial bits included
changes to binding arbitration (to give management the right to impose its last
best offer), a ban on strikes by public employees, and elimination of seniority
as the sole factor for determining who should be laid off when cutbacks are
necessary.

Though teachers and their unions were most definitely
included—both in Senate Bill 5 and in the frantic, well-funded ($30 million) effort
to persuade voters to repudiate it—education-policy watchers outside Ohio may
not appreciate the extent to which this was really a referendum on policemen,
firemen, and other “first responders” in the public sector. They and their
unions were covered by the measure, too, and played the lead role—and by far
the most visible role—in the campaign to undo it. There is, in fact, every
reason to believe that if the first responders hadn’t been involved, Senate Bill
5 would have survived Election Day.

...

On the same ballot, Ohio voters
repudiated Republican plans to restructure collective bargaining in the
Buckeye State and the big plans of

I'm not so sure Mike is right that ?we have a parenting problem, not a poverty problem,? and I'm even less sure that he is right that educators should ?start talking about the problem."

I know this may sound heretical, since anyone who has spent more than a minute in an inner city school or neighborhood (see my Ed Next story on two Chicago charters) knows the intensity of the social dysfunction ? and no school is immune to its effects. But parenting is not a problem that educators are equipped to handle ? they have a hard enough time agreeing on curriculum.? I think of a sixth-grade teacher in our small district who, on meet-the teacher-night, passed out no ?parent contracts? and no? ?student contracts? ? both were then the rage -- and gave no lectures about student behavior and the role of the parent.? He described what he was going to teach that year, what books the kids would be reading and then said to the assembled parents, ?You don't have to worry about a thing; I'll take care of your kids.? And he did.? He had the same kids from the same bad families that every other teacher had, but he didn't complain about them ? and his classroom was quiet and orderly. ?And because of that, his students will be better parents.

None of this is to say that parents don't make a difference in a student's life. Or that schools should...

Feeling worried for me after reading my post suggesting that Mark Zuckerberg hand out his $100 million to Newark parents, a friend alerted me to a study about a similarly ?crazy idea? ? by none other than University of Chicago economist John List.? (Full disclosure: I have a masters in history from UC and my son is now a student there.)

According to last February's Bloomberg news report on List's idea, it's ?one of the largest field experiments ever conducted in economics.?? List ?? with the help of fellow economists Roland Fryer of Harvard and Steven Levitt, also of the UC -- is following more than 600 students in several Chicago schools to ?find out whether investing in teachers or, alternatively, in parents, leads to more gains in kids' educational performance.? (See also here.) The experiment includes a ?parenting academy? and scholarships worth up to $7,000 a year.? (A control group of 300 kids receive nothing.) ?Local families with kids 3 to 5 years old were encouraged to enter a lottery and were randomly sorted into three groups.

Whether the List research will help in Newark, I'm not sure, but according to the Bloomberg report, ?List says that his experiments will give policy makers, executives and investors much greater certainty about why students, donors and shoppers make the decisions they do? and ?may show that the U.S. doesn't spend enough on helping parents.?

?We have too many eggs in the kid...

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