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...

Yesterday, Barack Obama said that "those of us who manage the public's dollars our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between and people and their government." So maybe he'd like a great new proposal from the Oklahoma Business & Education Coalition, floated last week: to create an independent agency to manage the state's testing and accountability program. This makes a ton of sense, and not just in Oklahoma, because right now these functions are buried within departments of education, where they can be subject to political manipulation, particularly in states where the agencies are run by elected officials or gubernatorial appointees. Would anyone trust results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress if it was managed directly by the U.S. Department of Education? Still, not surprisingly, Oklahoma's (elected) state superintendent, Sandy Garrett, dismissed the idea as merely adding "more bureaucracy." Which brings to mind another Obama quote from yesterday: "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply."...

For a day of celebration and catharsis, President Barack Obama's inaugural address struck tones both somber and sober. But his message was powerful: regarding the economy and our state of politics, we all got ourselves into this mess, and now we're all responsible for getting ourselves out. Or, as George Will put it, "Americans do not just have a problem, they are a problem." No more finger-pointing, Obama seemed to imply. As Michael Jackson once sang, "if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change."

If taken seriously, this idea of "be the change" could transform the education policy debate. Because the most important unsaid assumption of all of us in the "conversation," whether on the right, left, or center, is that many parents will be irresponsible in the raising of their children--and that there's nothing that policymakers can do about it. And thus schools--or schools plus other social service agencies--will need to remediate.

But maybe it's time to challenge that assumption. Perhaps we'll never reach "100 percent parental responsibility," just like we'll never reach "100 percent proficiency"...

Mike wonders what President Obama's call for a new "era of responsibility" will mean for education, but I'm more curious about the impact of his call for Americans to "set aside childish things." As any parent will tell you, "childish" behavior is marked by self-centeredness and a singular focus on the id. That type of behavior, by grown men and women, regularly hampers education in the Buckeye State and will make tough here Obama's aim of "transform(ing) our schools."

In Cleveland, a district budget deficit means teacher layoffs. Because of last-hired, first-fired rules, up to 30 percent of the teachers recruited to the district's ten single-gender and specialty academies could lose their jobs. These "new and innovative schools" were made possible by millions of dollars of local philanthropy and are at the heart of the district's effort to build a portfolio of high quality schools of choice. Still, union president David Quolke offers no apologies for protecting senior teachers.

To paraphrase President Obama, Quolke, the teachers union, and district administrators need to grow up. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer editorial board agrees:

...Quolke ought to consider the students and