Flypaper

It was a rough weekend for education reform in Ohio's dailies. First, the Cincinnati Enquirer beats up on the state's voucher program (I take plenty of issue with the reporter's use of data to inform the article but will save that for another day). Then the Columbus Dispatch reports that most Ohio schools "overhauled" under No Child Left Behind failed to make significant improvements in their new iterations. The Dispatch analysis is correct--most of these schools aren't doing any better now than they were before. The question is, why?

The head of the state education department's school-improvement office said there is no single answer to how to fix failing schools and pointed to the state's work to help districts better pinpoint what is wrong in the first place and how to prioritize what to fix. The principal of...

How to encourage parents to take their responsibilities seriously has been a major theme this week. Now Bill Jackson and Leanna Landsmann of GreatSchools.net have a fantastic piece in Education Week offering their own (sound) ideas about President Obama can do so:

First, work with states to develop national K-12 education standards that define what it takes for young adults to be successful....National standards--focused on what matters most--will be a powerful rallying cry that everyone can get behind, including parents.

Second, leverage new technologies to show parents how their children are progressing....New Web- and cellphone-based technologies have the power to keep parents updated on progress daily and draw them into deeper involvement and support--and at a very low cost.

Third, use the presidential bully pulpit to make it cool to do well in school....

Fourth, be "parent in chief." Attending a parent-teacher conference the day after he was elected... sent a splendid message: We may have been up all night, but this is important....

The other day, Checker explained how charter school opponents are using the current budget-cutting environment as an excuse to clobber charter schools and to keep new ones from opening. ???We can't afford them,??? goes the argument. While that threat is real (and really despicable), I wondered to myself: might there not be a silver lining in this economic crisis? Here's my line of thinking: Out of the 4,000-odd charter schools in the country, quite a few are tiny little mom-and-pop operations that are financially and academically marginal. If tight budgets pushed them over the edge and forced them to close, that wouldn't be such an awful thing. Even if we ended up with fewer charter schools, the ones that remained would be, on average, stronger. No one sheds tears for Circuit City or Linens-n-Things because we still have Best Buy and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Likewise for mediocre charter schools that disappear.

I tried this argument out on some of the smartest thinkers in the charter movement to find out what they thought of it. And the conclusion: not much. Here's a sample of their feedback.

Todd Ziebarth,...

Amy Fagan

Clearly President Barack Obama has a lot on his plate right now. But he should take heart ??? some are saying he may have already boosted test scores! According to this fascinating article in the New York Times this morning, there's new research (yet to be peer-reviewed) showing that ???a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama's nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.??? The researchers call it an Obama effect.

To conduct their study, they administered a test four times during the presidential campaign to groups of people, both black and white, ranging in age from 18-63. When it was initially administered, whites on average answered about 12 out of 20 questions correctly and blacks on average answered about 8.5 correctly. But on tests given right after Obama accepted the nomination, and after he won the presidential election, black performance improved and the performance gap essentially evaporated.

(The study was led by researchers from Vanderbilt University, San Diego State University and Northwestern, and has been submitted for review to The Journal of Experimental Social...

Earlier this month, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and MIT released a study that reports students in Boston charter schools outperform their peers in traditional Boston district schools. My first thought after reading the study: kudos to these schools for prevailing despite caps and the ongoing fight for respect and operational freedoms. My second thought: why hasn't Ohio had an analysis like this one?

Eleven years into our charter program, the Buckeye State still has not seen an in-depth study of charter school performance, despite a legislative mandate for the state to conduct one. (The closest we've come is a 2006 report by Fordham, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and a series of reports by the now-defunct Legislative Office of Education Oversight.) Part of the problem is that...

My post from yesterday about President Obama's call for a "New Era of Responsibility" sought ideas from readers about how policymakers and schools could encourage parents to do their jobs better. (I offered some of my own ideas in today's Education Gadfly.) And Flypaper readers did not disappoint. Here are some comments I found particularly insightful.

Joanne Jacobs writes:

Poorly educated parents can't help their kids write a research essay or solve an algebra problem, but they should be able to set a time for homework or reading, enforce a bedtime, limit TV on school nights, teach manners and self-control to their children. Most can read aloud to young children or listen to them read.

I think most parents would pay attention to parenting advice from the school if it were offered in a clear manner. I envision a DVD sent home with examples of how to read aloud with a child, perhaps how to discuss a TV show with a child.

As more parents become "wired," schools should be able to improve communications dramatically. If Jayden is late for school, send a Tweet or text message to Mom's

...

Mike may be right about the many ways Karl Rove gets it wrong, but he avoids the really important question: is Rove correct in his main (education) point, that "Mr. Bush was right to pass No Child Left Behind"? I say yes - it's better that we have NCLB than a continuation of the ESEA circa 2000. NCLB, for all its flaws, has helped cement in place a culture of high expectations and accountability (even if sloppily done), something we should be grateful for - and something Bush got right.

Many conservative commentators blame the dismal state of the Republican Party on the talk-show crowd: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and the other blowhards who play on people's fears for a living. I wouldn't argue that point, but the moment I viewed the GOP (and the conservative cause) as entering a tailspin was when the Wall Street Journal decided to give Karl Rove his own column. To be sure, Rove is a very good, if not necessarily "good," political mastermind. But a public intellectual? Not only are his op-eds predictable (and thus boring), they are full of spin.

Consider today's, "Bush Was Right When it Mattered Most," which makes the following bold (and false) statements about education:

Mr. Bush was right to pass No Child Left Behind (NCLB), requiring states to set up tough accountability systems that measure every child's progress at school. As a result, reading and math scores have risen more in the last five years since NCLB than in the prior 28 years.

I spot four errors (you might say lies) in those two sentences alone:

1. The law surely doesn't require states to set up "tough" accountability...

It's here and it's hot. In the top spot, you'll find Mike's ideas on how we should couple responsibility with accountability. Although the government can do very little to influence the raising of children in the privacy of our nation's homes, he argues, there is one thing it can do: be a bully pulpit for taking responsibility for our children. And maybe recruiting Bill Cosby as spokesman. Then, take a peek at how Catholic schools' recent renaissance may be too little too late, why Duncan's Chicago exit breeds hope for his Washington entrance, and why Bush may get the last laugh on education after all. Checker then reviews two new books--one by James Tooley, he of Third World private school research, and the other by Alex Standish on cleaning up geography curricula--and Amber takes a look at a new sensible overview of alternative teacher preparation. Don't forget the podcast, wherein Mike and Rick discuss the inauguration (of course), the stimulus plan, and accusations that charters cost more than traditional schools (they don't). Finally, Charles Miller, grandfather of Texas education reform, responds to Robin Lake's editorial on the partisanship of Bush's...

Suzannah Herrmann

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is expected to unveil his much-anticipated education plan during his State-of-the-State address next week. People and organizations (Fordham included ) have been offering him advice since his 2006 campaign when he hung his gubernatorial success on "fixing" school funding in the Buckeye State. Not wanting to be left out, the Ohio Grantmakers Forum weighed in this week with Beyond Tinkering: Creating Real Opportunities for Today's Learners and for Generations of Ohioans to Come , a follow-up to the group's 2006 report, Education for Ohio's Future .

Beyond Tinkering is the result of six months of hard work by 43 people from 33 different organizations across the Buckeye State. It is considered a "consensus document," but its contributors certainly don't agree on all of its 11 action...

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