Flypaper

Reading this Wall Street Journal editorial about Florida Governor Charlie Crist's unwillingness to defend the state's alternative charter authorizer, which was created under Jeb Bush but recently declared unconstitutional, I couldn't help but wish Bush were still governor. As the Journal explains:

The state had 30 days to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court but let the deadline pass last week. The upshot is that only local school boards will be able to authorize charter schools, creating a fox-in-the-hen-house situation in which the same institutions that most oppose school choice will be in a position to block its expansion.

And the implications could extend beyond Florida:

School choice opponents will now chalk up a win in Florida, but the bigger fear is that they will be emboldened to challenge alternative authorizers in other states. In Ohio, nonprofits can authorize charter schools. In Indiana, so can mayors. In California, county offices of education as well as the state board of education are designated as charter authorizers. Nationwide, states are moving away from the district-only authorizer model.

We've long argued that charters need authorizers other than school districts. I hope someone will take up this fight in Florida--and...

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's announcement that he won't run for the U.S. Senate in 2010 is yesterday's news now, but it's encouraging that his public statement focuses on education:

For me, there is no greater calling than education reform. Securing our nation's economic future starts with providing a world-class education to every single American student - building a system that lessens our populace's dependence on government. Through the Foundation for Florida's Future and Foundation for Excellence in Education, I remain committed to advancing policies key to a reform agenda, including higher academic standards, greater accountability for learning and more educational choices for all families.

One of my cynical friends says Bush either has poll numbers showing he'd lose, or he's running for president in 2012. I like to think he could have a greater impact as a leading (conservative) voice for education reform outside of the Senate, especially given the need for a little more realism and humility in Washington these days.

Photograph from Wikipedia...

In last year's The Leadership Limbo, we learned that restrictive union contracts aren't always to blame when teachers who shouldn't be teaching don't exit the profession. Too often, administrators don't take the necessary steps to remove a teacher from the classroom; they look the other way to avoid conflict and hassles. Such behavior by principals and superintendents is now costing the Mount Vernon, Ohio, school district $200,000 to defend its firing of John Freshwater, a veteran teacher who, for years, used his science class to push his Christian beliefs and who used a laboratory electrical generator to mark crosses onto students' arms. Says the Columbus Dispatch:

The unfortunate experience should be a cautionary lesson to other school districts dealing with teachers whose personal beliefs get in the way of their responsibility to educate: Don't look the other way for years, even

...
The Education Gadfly

The 2008 Weblog Awards

Flypaper is a finalist in the 2008 Weblog Awards education category. Polls opened yesterday and will be open until 5pm EST on January 13, with voting allowed once every 24 hours in each category. Spread the word!

In the running for worst idea of the year, the National Head Start Association is pressing its members to lobby hard in coming days for Congress??and the Obama administration to include $4.3 billion for Head Start in the forthcoming economic stimulus package. Among other things, they want higher pay for Head Start program directors.

Head Start is, of course, an iconic program revered by many. But it's no education program. Forty years of evaluations have demonstrated that Head Start does next to nothing to prepare its young charges--needy three- and four-year-olds--to succeed in kindergarten and beyond, and that whatever gains it??yields quickly dissipate once the kids enroll in school.

The major reason it's ineffective as a pre-school program is because it has no curriculum and little cognitive content, because most of its staffers are "child care workers", not teachers, and because the National Head Start Association itself has defied every effort by policymakers to transform it into the pre-literacy program that it ought to be and that these kids truly need.

Dumping more money on it--flooding the Congress with pleas for?? that--is, to put it mildly, a genuinely ineffectual...

Like many of you, I'm still getting back into the swing of things after a nice??New Year's??break. One of the joys of this holiday season was visiting good friends and??their kids--and watching my son Nico (14 months old, adorable, brilliant, did I mention adorable?) play with them too.

And what did??I learn from spending time with little kids? Among many other things (such as, don't pick your toddler son's nose if you don't want him to pick yours), I noticed how tech-savvy they are. Not a second after I unveiled my iPhone (did I mention I have an iPhone? I'm on Facebook too!) did our 9- and 7-year-old friends attack it with knowledge and skills befitting a systems engineer. "Download Spore! Download LineRider! Can I play? Can I play?" It took me weeks before I even figured out I could download applications onto my phone. How did they know all of this?

Now, this is surely a banal observation, but hello, 21st Century Skills people, do we really think we have to teach our schoolkids how to use technology? My wife and I reminisced with friends about the computer courses we had to take back in the...

Amy Fagan

Fordham experts (and our many studies) continue to garner excellent media hits. As previously mentioned, many journalists turned to Checker and Mike for comment on the nomination of Arne Duncan to be Ed Sec. To add to that list--Checker was quoted in the Economist and Mike was quoted in the Christian Science Monitor.

In this National Review Online piece, Checker and Mike discussed the current education policy landscape, what they see as the proper federal role in education and a possible basis for compromise (as detailed in Fordham's letter to the President-elect Obama, Education Secretary-designate Duncan and the 111th Congress).

Meanwhile, a Fordham study on Catholic schools is cited in this article in The Tennessean and this article in the Las Vegas Sun.

Fordham Fellow Laura A. Bornfreund discusses school choice in this Orlando Sentinel op-ed.

And Fordham's Ohio point-man Terry Ryan discusses the problems with the current teacher pay system in this Columbus Dispatch article.

Nice work all!...

It's no secret states are struggling to make ends meet. For fiscal year 2009 alone, 31 states face a combined $30 billion deficit. Balancing budgets in 2010 and beyond will prove even trickier. Nowhere is this truer than in Ohio where Governor Strickland is predicting a $7 billion deficit over the next two years. That amounts to a whopping 25 percent of the state's discretionary spending, which includes K-12 education. No wonder, then, that Strickland is out front in seeking a $5 billion bailout from the federal government.

As a popular Democrat who worked hard to deliver his once-red state to Obama, Strickland isn't wrong to seek favors from the new administration. But despite Ohio's budget woes, it's not clear how an infusion of federal cash would improve the education sector.

President-elect Obama recently announced his intent to...

Visiting the LBJ Ranch in the Texas hill country this weekend, our ad hoc tour group included a gaggle of high-school students from??"south of Houston." They generally seemed pleasant, self-conscious, goofy and teenager-ish. They also seemed entirely ignorant of the 1960's,?? even??the basic timeline of 20th Century U.S. history. At least one??couldn't quite remember the name of the 36th President whose ranch this was. Standing in front of the Western White House (a lovely spot on the banks of the Pedernales, by the way, shaded by 400-year-old live oaks), this lad asked the National Park Service ranger, "When did he die? Was it??1993?" The ranger looked slightly puzzled, perhaps because he had already mentioned 1973 as the year of Johnson's death and because all the biographical material in the park conveyed that key fact. So the kid decided to clarify the??subject of his query: "The guy," he said, evidently either unable to call LBJ's name to mind or truly unaware of where he was and why he and his pals were taking this tour in the first place.

That was the first of a grand total of two questions posed by...

Amy Fagan

The ranks of home-schooled children seem to be growing, according to a USA Today story that examines numbers from the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). About 1.5 million kids were taught at home in 2007, up 74% from 1999 (when NCES started keeping tabs), and up 36% since 2003, according to the story. Overall the percentage of the school-age population that was home-schooled increased slightly from 2.2% in 2003 to 2.9% in 2007.

According to the piece, moral or religious reasons remain a top motivation for home-schooling, but there are also "unschoolers"--those who regard standard curriculum methods and standardized testing as counterproductive to a quality education. And the category of "other reasons" rose 12% -- from 20% in 2003 to 32% in 2007 -- and included family time and finances.

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