Flypaper

Ohio's governor is being assailed, and rightly so, for his education plan, with its preference for creating adult jobs over ensuring that students learn. If he's interested in ideas that are a bit more imaginative and reform-minded, he might look to Philadelphia.

There, Sup. Arlene Ackerman has unveiled a five year plan, which the Philadelphia Inquirer says??includes weighted student funding, closing down failing schools, recruiting to run new schools "organizations with proven track records... such as the Knowledge is Power Program," and importantly, emphases on accountability and on students over jobs. Writes the Inquirer:

Accountability has been a theme of Ackerman's superintendency. Too often, student progress is measured and adults are not held to performance goals, she said.

"If it doesn't work, don't keep it up," Ackerman said. "We shouldn't be spending money to make people feel good."

She acknowledged she had laid out a lofty vision. "We won't be able to do all of this, but we will do it one step at a time," she said.

It sounds like accomplishing even part of it would place Philadelphia on a faster track to success than the Buckeye State, if Strickland's ideas...

The Gadfly is out, folks, and it's great! First up, Checker, Mike, and Amber explain why Fordham's latest report, The Accountability Illusion, is so ground breaking. Not only does our current system of patchwork AYP definitions give the damaging and false illusion of a nationwide standard but it's demoralizing for teachers, students, and parents to boot. Case and point: how would you feel if your school's future was based on a set of arcane state rules about what demonstrates annual "progress" and not on what's really going on in your school? Not so hot. Then read up on Randi Weingarten's (pleasantly surprising) treatise for national standards (good timing Randi!), problems with New York City's conversion of Catholic schools to charter (darn state laws!), the case of the reading test typo (it's called proofreading, guys!), and the new lows of British vocational education (A-levels in fake tanning!). Up next, you'll find reviews of three heavy-hitting reports: Achieve's fourth annual Expectations Gap, Paul Peterson and Matthew Chingos' latest on for-profit management in Philadelphia, and a stellar new Mathematica study on alternative teacher certification.

Then, two of our readers debate...

Take away all the jargon, emotion, envy, confusion, and embarrassment
and much of the No Child Left Behind debate comes down to this: Which
schools are good, which are bad, and does NCLB do a decent job of
telling the difference?

The short answer, provided by a major new study from Fordham and the Kingsbury Center at the Northwest Evaluation Association, is no, not by a mile.

The analysis is complex and the report is long but its premise is
simple: Take a set of real schools, pretend that we can drag them across
the map and drop them down in various states, and see how many would
make "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) in each place. If the U.S. had
something akin to a shared notion of what it means to be a good or bad
school, we wouldn't see a whole lot of variation.

Yet we found nearly the opposite. In a few of the 28 states we studied (e.g, Wisconsin, Arizona), almost all of the elementary schools in our sample made AYP, while in other jurisdictions (e.g., Massachusetts, Nevada), almost none
did. Putting it bluntly, most of the...

Democrats for Education Reform appears to be playing a big role staffing the Obama Administration because another one of its picks is getting a key job. Roberto Rodriguez, a longtime staffer??for Senator Ted Kennedy, will be working on education policy issues from the White House Domestic Policy Council. We'll give Roberto the Reform-o-Meter treatment later this week.

I've been running a bit behind all week (we're getting ready for a MAJOR report release tomorrow...stay tuned) but this weekend's New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof deserves a comment. It reminded me of that old story of a homeless man who sat all day, every day on a wooden box and begged strangers for money. One day someone asked him if he'd ever thought to open the box and look inside. "No, why would I do that?" he responded. But later he decided to take a peek. And sure enough, the box was filled with gold. He had everything he needed all along, but had never thought to look inside.

Now back to Kristof. He asks??in his piece, "For??those who oppose education spending in the stimulus, a question: Do you really believe that slashing half a million teaching jobs would be fine for the economy, for our children and for our future?"

But he could answer his own question in the affirmative, if he'd only look inside his own column. See here:

There's a real excitement at what we are learning about K-8 education.

First, good teachers

...

Hear Fordham's Checker Finn explain The Accountability Illusion.

Join Fordham's Checker Finn, Ed Sector's Tom Toch, and CCSSO's Gene Wilhoit tomorrow at 3 pm for a live online chat of Obama's education plan. The chat is sponsored by Education Week??and coincides with the release of Ed Week's latest book, The Obama Education Plan: An Education Week Guide. Tune in here and submit questions in advance here.

In the news business, reporters have a saying for a boiler plate quote an editor can remove to tighten a story. It's "throw-away" and that's exactly what the governor's response to the Fordham/Paul Hill study deserves.

Strickland's spokeswoman talked of the governor's plan having components that have been shown to help students succeed. We should hope so. But, again, there's no applicable evidence that they will for all children across an entire school district, let alone across an entire state.

The governor continues to say his top-down, one-size-fits-all requirements are best for Ohio schools. Why does he think there is one, state-mandated solution for bettering education in every school in the state, let alone the inner-city classrooms crying out for innovation and change. Top district superintendents know this and are opting out of cookie-cutter education. In Cleveland, the district has opened an office of new and innovative schools dedicated to opening new schools, including charters. Gene Harris, the savvy superintendent of the Columbus Public Schools has pledged to open new single gender schools as part of that district's reform plan. In Dayton, the top performing schools are either stand-alone charters or district schools that have many...

Randi (Weingarten) turned in a dandy (op-ed) yesterday in the Washington Post making the case for national standards in education:

Imagine the outrage if, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers had to move the ball the full 10 yards for a first down during the Super Bowl while the Arizona Cardinals had to go only seven. Imagine if this scenario were sanctioned by the National Football League. Such a system would be unfair and preposterous.

But there is little outrage over the uneven patchwork of academic standards for students in our 50 states and the District of Columbia. And the federal government has tacitly accepted this situation by giving a seal of approval to states that meet the benchmarks for improved achievement established by the federal No Child Left Behind Act -- even if their standards are lower than those of other states (which might not fare as well when measured by NCLB's yardstick).

Weingarten, president of??the American Federation of Teachers,??is joining a chorus that is now swelling with supporters of national standards and tests. Among that chorus are a number of current or former big-city superintendents, such as Joel Klein and Arne "Call me Arne"...

Amidst much of the haggling over 21st century skills, we often forget why the two sides disagree. It's not that those thought of as "against" 21st century skills don't think they're of any value. Quite to the contrary. 21st century skills--adaptability, critical thinking skills, ability to manipulate new media--are all good things for students to learn. It's just a matter of where and when and how they learn them. In terms of the wishy washy stuff like ???creativity and intellectual curiosity,??? those things have been around for at least 21 centuries. Pretty much nothing 21st century about them, in fact.??But for rest--the actual skills like computer and internet savvy--those are very important. The problem is that we only have so much time to cover necessary content and when we try to pump our 45 minute English or history class with extras, we lose the little content that's already there. That's why I was heartened by this article in today's??New York Times. Librarians, it seems, are getting a job description update. Now, reshelving books and helping students research their papers is only half the battle. The other part includes teaching students how to properly use the internet...

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