My recent post on special education (SPED) had one education scholar emailing me to point out that a perverse financial incentive exists to place students in special education. I agree with that, though it doesn't discredit the influence that special education advocacy and parental groups have exerted on the issue (which others like Wade Horn and Douglas Tynan have also acknowledged).

But I'm also intrigued by some other factors that may be influencing the rise in SPED costs. I'm referring to research in Massachusetts a few years ago which found that cost increases in that state were less a factor of district policy or practice (e.g., inaccurate over identification of SPED students) and more a case of increasing numbers of students with significant special needs requiring more costly service. Specifically, researchers found several major underlying causes of rising SPED costs. One was changes in medical practice that now enable increasing survival rates for premature babies (many, unfortunately, with lifelong developmental and neurological problems); deinstitutionalization (more SPED children once served by state facilities are now served by school systems); and social/economic factors (more children exposed to child abuse, neglect, drug use, and dysfunctional...

Liam Julian

Mike and I can disagree all day, during normal business hours, about the level of transparency we should demand from voucher schools. But in the NOLA case, the issue is "contentious" and might stall the $10 million proposal (although the city's Catholic schools will accept standardized testing--they're desperate).


It's entirely appropriate that the Louisiana Senate would require schools participating in a possible New Orleans voucher program to "administer state tests to voucher students." That's hardly out of line for other voucher programs. Milwaukee's requires schools to test all students (not just those in the program); D.C.'s requires all voucher recipients to participate in an annual evaluation--i.e., testing. (Though, regrettably, the D.C. results aren't broken out by school.)

These are public dollars. The more transparency, the better.

Liam Julian

Worth keeping an eye on this, especially because "the Senate plan would require schools to administer state tests to voucher students."

Liam Julian

The problem here elicited is a problem--at??least because it engenders a lot of boring writing--and I'm convinced that it's getting worse. (No, I don't have data to support that.) Today's k-12 system generally ignores writing and today's colleges demand lousy writing, so there you go.

Liam Julian

John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation, writes in National Review a solid, sweeping article about higher education. It's currently available only to subscribers (they, and hackers, may read it here). Some good parts:

No one disputes that a four-year degree is a ticket to lucrative professions requiring advanced academic training, such as medicine, law, or academia itself. But most undergraduates are not training for these professions, and, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, more and more college graduates go into jobs that do not require diplomas. George Leef, vice president for research of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, notes that a quarter of travel agents and retail-sales supervisors, a third of flight attendants, and nearly half of aerobics instructors have bachelor's degrees. That's fine - if they wanted to study Goethe or geology for personal edification, and were willing to spend four years and a lot of money doing so. But it's pointless if the idea was to boost their careers.

Using 2000 data on test scores and coursework, education researchers Jay Greene of the University of Arkansas and Greg Forster of the Friedman Foundation estimated that the number of high-school students prepared to

Liam Julian

Boys are being left behind, the Economist tells us.


Or at least compassionate conservatism, of which NCLB is a cornerstone. So implieth Michael Gerson in this morning's Washington Post.

Gadfly Studios

Mike and Liam discuss Mike's controversial Gadfly article on the burdensome health care costs associated with teacher obesity.



The pressure high school students face to get into top colleges has intensified to the point that it's susceptible to some hilarious satirizing.