McCain claimed so last night, Obama disagreed, and now Fast Company's blog gets to the bottom of it (taking the analysis a step further than Marc Fisher in the Washington Post ).

(HT to the Corner .)

As Campaign K-12 reports, last night's presidential debate was a bonanza for education. The candidates mentioned the word 21 times--which would look particularly impressive were it not for Joe the Plumber's 26 citations. (Maybe four years from now Joe the Teacher will break through.)

The folks at Ed in '08 are no doubt hung over this morning from a raucous night of partying. (I know what that's like.) For not only did Bob Schieffer target the last question of the last debate to the education issue, he teed it up in a manner that must have made Eli Broad smile.

The question is this: the U.S. spends more per capita than any other country on education. Yet, by every international measurement, in math and science competence, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, we trail most of the countries of the world.

The implications of this are clearly obvious. Some even say it poses a threat to our national security.

Do you feel that way and what do you intend to do about it?

The discussion that ensued may not move the dial on the percentage of Americans who consider education their topic election issue,... stupendous. I know we say this every week, but that's because we tend to routinely out-do ourselves. This week is no exception. First up, you'll find Checker's thoughts on who should replace Russ Whitehurst at IES and??Mark Schneider at NCES. It seems the administration exodus has begun. Then, Barbara Davidson from StandardsWork writes a thoughtful piece in the guest editorial spot. Her recommendation? Bring social studies back into the curricular picture. Later on, you'll find the next episode in the Nebraska safe-haven law saga, insanity in Mexico, and an insightful review of??Douglas J. Besharov and Douglas M. Call's piece in Wilson Quarterly. What else? A look at how NCLB is unfairly penalizing schools for special education students and a stellar podcast, where Rick tells us he wants to retire and move to South Dakota. Why? To raise rutabagas. All this... and more....

According to Joel Klein, former Wall Street execs have another option: the classroom. Guess, we'll have to wait and see math teacher alternative certification programs are overwhelmed with??Gordon Gekkos.

...I will. It's a safe bet that education won't be a big part of tonight's presidential debate, so if you need to ponder what an McCain or Obama administration should or could do, two NY Times blog entries from earlier this week have some interesting thoughts.

Lance Izumi charges that Obama's wish-list of education programs makes him seem "oblivious to the fiscal reality he faces," and argues for McCain's "alternative view of the way Washington should finance education":

According to his campaign Web site, Mr. McCain believes: "Funding cannot be effectively apportioned in Washington, but it shouldn't be a state-level official or district bureaucrat either. The money must be controlled by the leader we hold accountable: the school principal with a single criterion to raise student achievement."

On the other hand, Bruce Fuller has a radical suggestion for a future President Obama:

If Mr. Obama is serious about public investment for innovation--focusing on inventive teachers and schools that truly boost student performance--he must cut ineffective, yet politically entrenched programs. Take, for example, Washington's Title I compensatory education program, which channels $14 billion each year to schools that serve students from poor families.

President Bush

Amy Fagan

Wide-ranging presentations and lively discussion today at the AEI/Fordham conference on judicial involvement in education!

During this afternoon's panel on discipline, special education and district management, Richard Arum of NY University told us that school discipline litigation has been increasing over time and that 11 percent of teachers, 55 percent of administrators and 73 percent of administrators with 15 years of experience have been threatened with lawsuits. About 14 percent of administrators have actually faced one, he said. Samuel Bagenstos of the Washington University School of Law took issue with the notion that litigation is exploding however--noting that there's actually "shockingly little" litigation surrounding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Meanwhile, Fordham's Mike Petrilli, who was moderating the panel, wondered aloud whether schools can fix discipline problems without court involvement. Alan Bersin, California State Board of Education member and former California Education Secretary, told us that court decisions actually leave educators with a lot of flexibility in this area but school leaders remain cautious.

Earlier in the day, other distinguished panelists discussed No Child Left Behind, school funding and school desegregation issues. All of their papers are available here, along with more information about the daylong...

This deserves the Ig-Nobel prize. Will these 3247 misguided folks, mostly academics (of course!), also sign the "support Osama Bin Laden" statement? How about Aldrich Ames? Maybe Charles Manson? The Benedict Arnold Memorial Support Group?

Update: Ayers has popped up on our radar before. (See here and here too.)

Update 2: Fordham Board Member Diane Ravitch takes Deborah Meier to task for signing the Ayers petition. Deborah responds.

Conventional wisdom in Washington, circa 2001, was that states and schools were not to be trusted. Give them an inch, they'll take a mile--that was the sentiment when it came to devising NCLB's accountability system. We all knew that devious states would try to game the system and make schools look better than they really were, and that schools themselves would find loopholes and abuse them. So NCLB's crafters tried to preempt any shenanigans with a web of rules that would snare nefarious attempts to maintain the "soft bigotry of low expectations."

Worried that schools would keep poor performers home on test day? Require that 95 percent of all students (and all students in each subgroup) take the test. Concerned that schools would push poor performers into the "special education" category? Require children with disabilities to take the test too, and even mandate that their scores be evaluated as a separate subgroup under the law. Nervous that schools would obsess only about test score results and nothing else? Require states to add another indicator--typically attendance--to their accountability metrics.

Now, this attitude wasn't entirely out of line. We've seen plenty of shenanigans despite the best efforts of the Potomac...

I admire Stafford's passion, in joining Mike's anti-Ed-in-???08 crusade, but I think she puts way too much stock in the Washington Post-ABC News poll as a measure of education's importance in the campaign. The poll's question is just too simplistic, in asking only about one's "most important issue in your choice for president." Education is almost never going to be that for many voters--heck, even I probably would answer "foreign policy," or "the economy," and I work at an education policy think tank. I'd be a lot more interested in a poll that could tell us what the voters list as their top 3 or 5 issues. (And in fairness to Ed in '08, Obama did mention education as being his 3rd highest priority during the last debate.)

And given that other issues with only 1% support include immigration, taxes, the environment, and the deficit, education doesn't seem to fare so badly after all. Even the Iraq war only gets 6%, while Iran and global warming get less than 1%. So while there are plenty of reasons to pan Ed in '08, I don't think this poll tells us anything useful about education's relevance--all we...