Amy Fagan

Will Fitzhugh, founder of The Concord Review, has an interesting column in today. He, like many others, bemoans the fact that so many students are ill-prepared and forced to take remedial college courses.

But he takes the focus off of 21st??Century Skills and instead argues for more focus on 19th??Century Skills like reading, writing and comprehension. He stresses, of course, that he LOVES his Mac, but notes that when he's assembling the Concord Review, "I still have to read and understand each essay, and to proofread eleven papers in each issue twice, line by line, and the computer is no help at all with that."

Later, he writes: "Computers can check your grammar, and take a look at your spelling, but they can't read for you and they can't think for you, and they really cannot take the tasks of academic reading and writing off the shoulders of the students in our schools."

He says those who focus too much on testing/accountability in reading/math, AND those who focus too much on 21st??Century Skills, BOTH tend to miss the boat. "Neither group gives much thought, in my view, to whether any of our high school...

Amy Fagan

Ok, this really has NOTHING to do with education, other than--please, everyone, teach your children not to be like this guy! And by ???this guy,' I mean ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. In the strange, never-ending drama that is his life, Rod now reportedly wants to participate in a reality TV show where celebs are dumped off in a Costa Rican jungle and viewers vote them off. Apparently, he'll petition the court to loosen the travel restrictions that are currently part of his bail. Um...really? There are no words...Except that, secretly, I do really want to see what his hair would look like in jungle humidity.

Howler monkey image from Flickr user Zorro D50.??

Blagojevich image from The Cleveland Plain Dealer....

While I usually report on the national Education Gadfly, don't be confused: we have a sister publication called the Ohio Education Gadfly, which chronicles and comments on issues in our home state. It's published biweekly on Wednesdays and it's definitely worth a read.

In the top spot, Terry explains why criticisms of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's education finance plan deserve some attention. Since Strickland's office has been playing games rather than responding to these valid critiques, we have to wonder if they know the plan in bunk, too. What will be the next development in this funding saga? Find out here. Then, Suzannah breaks down how online learning might be damaged by Strickland's cuts to cyber-charter school funds. Since online learning can offer more and better courses to students who otherwise would not have access to them, the damage done to these schools could have serious negative repercussions for Ohio's students.

Next, Mike Lafferty and Terry take a look at issues "on the hill"--that is, the capitol hill of Ohio's Columbus. Seems the same adviser who assessed Massachusetts' standards for 21st century skills has relocated to the mid-west. Will she try...

I've finally had a chance to read the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future's latest report. It's garnered some media attention but in case you haven't read it, here is the apocalyptic gist (and nothing sells newspapers better, right?):

The traditional teaching career is collapsing at both ends. Beginners are being driven away by antiquated preparation practices, outdated school staffing policies, and inadequate career rewards. At the end of their careers, accomplished veterans who still have much to contribute are being separated from their schools by obsolete retirement systems. In five years, two-thirds of the teachers we entrust our children to in America's classrooms could be gone.

NCTAF's solution is rather straightforward: "cross-generational teaching teams." These teams would provide space for veteran teachers at the ends of their careers to stay in the classroom part-time as mentors while providing the support and advice needed by beginner teachers that would hopefully inspire them to stay in the classroom longer. This, they argue, solves the problem of losing the expertise and experience of older teachers, takes the immediate stress off pension systems, puts less pressure (human resource and financial) on schools to...

The board of the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) of Ohio told members last month that it could not rely on a nine percent return on investment to fund future retirement benefits. The implication is that the board will continue to rely on a long-term return of eight percent.

While that eight percent might seem ridiculous given the vast losses in the stock market, it turns out that just about all public pension funds depend on that rate. It also turns out that public pensions need a rate of return that is much higher-by about one-third-than the comparable figure for private pension funds, which generally calculate growth at a long-term average rate of about six percent.

Why the difference? According to a pension-fund analyst at the Center for Retirement Growth at Boston College, public pension funds generally expect wage growth to be higher for their members than the managers of private pension funds. "The private sector has a little more expectation of trying to keep on top of costs," Jean-Pierre Aubry told The Gadfly.

Getting that higher rate of return means gambling, according to Jay Greene, the chairman of the Department of Education Reform...

NYC has been going through the tragic annual ritual of charter school lotteries, during which thousands of parents hope to beat the odds and get their kids into much-demanded, high-performing charters.

Here are a couple facts: ????

  • The????Carl C. Icahn Charter School????had spots for less than 3 percent of its 868 applicants.
  • Fifteen charter schools had space for less than 10 percent of applicants.
  • In total, there were 42,093 applications for 8,468 spots.

To paraphrase Rotherham, Remind me why we're opposed to these?

Kurt Schmoke, the former mayor of Baltimore, has been chosen to mediate contract negotiations between Michelle Rhee and the DC teachers union. Schmoke, who's been the law school dean at Howard University since 2003, had a mixed record on education (by his own account and many others) while in Baltimore. ????One interesting wrinkle: Rhee was an elementary school teacher in Baltimore during Schmoke's tenure.

As a Maryland guy, I've wondered about Schmoke's possible reemergence into public/political life. ????Maybe this is the beginning of something?

Sam Dillon from the NYT turns in an????article that speculates on the contours????of an NCLB/ESEA reauthorization. There's no new news to report, and I doubt that we'll see any real movement on legislation this year--ED is too busy with the ARRA and too short-staffed to push this hard themselves. ????Overall, the piece tries to provide a sketch of what the administration would want in a new bill by looking at the stimulus package, Duncan's comments, Obama's speeches, the positions of the NEA and AFT, etc.

Update: ????Andy Eduwonk accurately points out that there's a difference between the reform people want to get out of the ARRA and the reform the legislative language is likely to get us. ????And his final dig is brutal and funny.

Mike points out that the Obama administration isn't in full control of the fate of the D.C. voucher program, as the appropriations bill funded only current students--and, we are to assume, the program's opponents on the Hill could have cut that funding too were Duncan or Obama to fight them. To which I say: hogwash. If President Obama wanted to pick a fight with Democrats on the appropriations committee (starting with Dave Obey, presumably), he could--and my money would be on Obama. Imagine the post-partisan, reformer, "change-we-can-believe-in" bona fides he would earn by standing up for this program--he would look tough, rational, compassionate, and consistent with his campaign message all at once, while his opponents would look petty and partisan. And imagine the PR nightmare Congress would face if it actually ended the program and sent current students packing.

This is a fight Obama could win easily if he wanted to pick it. The fact is, he chose not to pick it, and he and his administration shouldn't get a pass for that.

Amy Fagan

Ok, so last week we saw a story or two out of New York describing how the teachers union gave city council members cue cards telling them what questions to ask during a hearing on charter schools. Yes, that definitely makes for an interesting discussion. But a colleague of mine here at Fordham caught something that made us chuckle a bit, with disturbed amusement. Gotham Schools's Flickr page displays some of these actual cue cards. Sadly, slide #6 uses the term "steakholders." That's right. Now granted, someone had penciled it in, and we obviously don't know who. But....if it's true, it's pretty disturbing. I mean, yes there ARE INDEED actual steakholders, as we can see here. But I don't believe that's what the cue-card author was attempting to say.

Cue cards slideshow by Gotham Schools from Flickr...