Board's Eye View

I'll hand it to Michael Winerip. This morning he takes on one of the charter movement's fiercest competitors, Eva Moskowitz; rather, he finds a kid who he implies got dumped by one of Moskowitz's schools and through him attempts to show charters as cherry-pickers.? But he's too good a reporter and what he ends up doing is showing us why we need more choice and charters, not less and fewer.

Indeed, young Matthew Sprowl, ?disruptive and easily distracted,? seems to be the poster child for what charter critics have long said is the unfair advantage that charters have over their traditional school counterparts: charters don't have to take all kids, regular schools do. In his third week of kindergarten at Moskowitz's Harlem Success Academy 3, Matthew was suspended for three days, writes Winerip, for ?bothering other children.? The problems escalated and, with help from Harlem Success, Matthew soon found a regular public school, where he was later diagnosed as having ?attention disorder? and, over the last three years, ?has thrived.?

It's an interesting story and Winerip tells it well ? too well to make his argument against charters stick. He gives Moskowitz schools their due, pointing out...

Today's Times (unless you read it online yesterday or the day before), covers some fertile educational ground in three important arenas.

A Little Shakespeare in Welding Class, Please! The deep recession has exposed a few education ribs in the nation's torso the last couple of years. And Motoko Rich has an excellent report about the impact budget cutbacks are having on the technical and trade schools.

The administration has proposed a 20 percent reduction in its fiscal 2012 budgdet for career and technical education, to a little more than $1 billion, even as it seeks to increase overall education funding by 11 percent.

The silver lining ? and best part of the story -- is toward the end, when Rich addresses the problem, as she writes, that ?the skills that employers most frequently say are in shortest supply are critical thinking, the ability to work in teams and communication, not specialized training.? ??She cites a Pioneer Institute study pointing out that manuals for many of these trade jobs, like plumbing and auto mechanics, require Grade 14 reading level and that more technical schools are realizing that even kids destined for blue-collar and busted-knuckle jobs should...

I wanted to offer a curricular observation about Mike's Understanding upper-middle-class parents since he raised the issue of whether ?different kids need different schools.?? It's a great question and an especially loaded one in a socio-economic context because, of course, most of the modern reform movement is premised on the assumption that too many poor kids already go to different schools ? lousy ones ? and that rich kids, by definition, go to good ones.

At the extremes, I think, it's easier to see "good" and "bad" schools -- or "rich" and "poor" ones -- and make decisions about how best to educate your children.?It's tougher in the middle, where most of us live ? or think we live -- but the sociology of the thing, no matter where you are, is a huge factor; all parents have an eye on "future happiness" or "future success" for their kids and run that through their own metrics, which usually include schooling. Lavish spending masks lots of academic problems just as the lack of spending can exacerbate them.? But even in the dark cave of ?adequacy and equity,? the good school / different school shadows are dancing. ?Even the rich...

It would be ironic if America's world-wide cultural domination ? music, fashion, film, technology ? included its dumbed down school ethos. That's what it looks like is happening in South Korea, as the government there announced the country's abandonment of Saturday school. This is just after Sam Dillon reported (in the New York Times) that American schools, wracked? by budget woes, are cutting class time back even more:

After several years of state and local budget cuts, thousands of school districts across the nation are gutting summer-school programs, cramming classes into four-day weeks or lopping days off the school year, even though virtually everyone involved in education agrees that American students need more instruction time.

This could be the perfect storm for the Save Our Schools marchers, who might want to add this chant to their July 30 Washington protest repertoire: Dumber Down and Dumber Dee!? Dumber Down and Dumber Dee!

In all seriousness, I hope the folks rallying in oppressively muggy D.C.? later this month? ?for justice in education? include in their request of our education policymakers something tangible for the tens of thousands of American children not being educated by our current system....

This is getting to be an old story (see here and here), but it's an important one. Yesterday's release of a report on the three-year-old Atlanta schools test cheating scandal seems to confirm our worst fears:? it was widespread, which means it was systemic, involving 44 schools and 178 teachers. According to Kim Severson, writing in today's New York Times*, ?a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence.?**? Said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, who released the report, ?There will be consequences.?

Let's hope so. No doubt, the case will fan the flames of the high-stakes testing fires. Are we putting too much pressure on teachers to ?perform?? And their administrators? Apparently, even one-time National Superintendent of the Year Beverly Hall is implicated. (As Severson reports, she just retired and? ?left Tuesday for a Hawaiian vacation.?) How do you explain systemic cheating?

As I opined last February, ?the range and depth of the problem, especially given the improbability of a conspiracy, is troubling.? Lacking a conspiracy, we are left with an explanation of?moral and ethical breakdown of epidemic proportions. And the question: how is the...

It is hard to read the Declaration of Independence without being moved by the document's plainspoken audacity, especially recalling that it wasn't then a "document," but a rather blunt call to arms.? And while we tend to focus on the sublime words?"when in the course of human events" and "self-evident" truths?of its first and second sentences, the manifesto's list of the King's ?repeated injuries and usurpations? never ceases to amaze me.? Every year I choose a different favorite complaint. This time, in part because of the aggravations seen by some in the Common Core and the ESEA reauthorization,? it is this: "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance."

Those guys were brilliant?and brave.

The crisis now before us is that we are creating citizens who won't remember the revolutionaries and what they did, much less appreciate the reasons for the revolution. We know that only 17 percent of our eighth graders scored at or above proficient on the 2010 NAEP history test. (It is somewhat reassuring, perhaps, that 62 percent of them were able to identify the Declaration as the...

There are no knock-out punches in this fight, but David Brooks comes close with a perspective-setting essay about school reformers and their adversaries. ?Appropriately, he takes out after Diane Ravitch, the reform movement's loudest and most visible critic (see Dana Goldstein's recent profile and Liam's caveat) who, says Brooks, ?has come to adopt the party-line view of the most change-averse elements of the teachers' unions: There is no education crisis. Poverty is the real issue, not bad schools. We don't need fundamental reform; we mainly need to give teachers more money and job security.?

I wish Brooks had spent more time exploring the difficulty these change-averse educators have in trying to argue that they should be paid more for doing something they claim is impossible to do (i.e., improve schools), but I'll settle for Brooks' wonderful exposition of why testing is such a bogus issue.

The only schools that are ?distorted by testing,? Brooks argues, are bad schools,? "the schools the reformers haven't touched.?

Brooks manages to work in references to a host of change agents and academics ? Whitney Tilson, KIPP, E.D. Hirsch, Caroline Hoxby ? to make his case.? And he concludes...

After the sweetness-and-nice between New York State Education Department (NYSED) and the New York State United Teachers ?(NYSUT) to win $700 million from the federal Race to the Top fund last year (see my Education Next story), NYSUT yesterday sued the state's Board of Regents and NYSED's acting commissioner John King over the decision last May to ratchet up the importance of student test scores in a teacher's annual evaluation.

Rick Karlin of the Albany Times Union, says it's the first time in four decades that NYSUT has sued the Regents, which isn't surprising since NYSUT is used to getting its way (see this 2008 NYSUT victory pronouncement).? According to Karlin, ?NYSUT initially agreed to a plan in which improvement in state-issued tests would count for 20 percent of a teacher's evaluation. But that was later increased to 40 percent, which NYSUT contends came out of the blue.?

The union's precipitous fall from grace was made painfully apparent when even the Democratic Governor, traditionally a NYSUT ally, weighed in on the matter. In fact, Andrew Cuomo helped move the student score needle up, writing in a letter to the Regents just before their...

I stewed most of the week about how to respond to Deborah Meier's recent Bridging Differences post on ?college for all.?? She's against it, of course. She thinks the movement is another piece of the right-wing, high-stakes testing, corporate behemoth conspiracy.? And I had a high-brow response almost ready to go (see College for All, Please! Part 2, coming soon) ? until yesterday morning, when I picked up my New York Times and read (in the new ?Sunday Review? section) David Leonhardt's masterful KO of the silly notion that we shouldn't encourage kids to go to college: Even for Cashiers, College Pays Off. As Whitney Tilson would say Stop the Presses!!!? ?The graphics alone (compiled from the Center on Education and the Work Force at Georgetown) should take your breath away:

  • A dishwasher with a college degree earns 83% more than a dishwasher with no college
  • A cashier with a college degree, 56% more
  • A plumber, 39%


Writes Leonhardt:

The most unfortunate part of the case against college is that it encourages children, parents and schools to aim low.

Why should we even be arguing about this?

Leonhardt quotes...

One of the noteworthy things about Deborah Meier's post about ?college for all? is that it's titled A Return to the Past?With a Wrinkle and has a few interesting twists that have less to do with college readiness than with Meier's belief system.

And coming on the heels of Dana Goldstein's new profile of Meier's Bridging Differences partner Diane Ravitch, the essay also reveals something about how the differences between the two educators got bridged so quickly. ??In fact, it's welcome news (to me) that Ravitch has roots in the socialist movement (she worked at The New Leader and was part of the ?New York anti-Communist left,? says Goldstein, ?for decades?) because it makes her recent ?apostasy,? as Goldstein calls Ravitch's break with the reform movement, more understandable.

Meier seems to have no apostate leanings and even gently chides Ravitch for her ?overly enthusiastic endorsement of the schools of yesterday? (referring to Ravitch's small manifesto about next month's Save Our Schools march on Washington).? This may speak to Ravitch's current manic (see Goldstein re: ?late-night twittering habits and Liam's "major omission" take) school establishment advocacy, but Meier continues with the surprises, admitting that...