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...

Ok, Eric caught me. I used the Washington Post-ABC News poll just to poke fun at??Ed in '08 again. With our current situation, someone would have to be off their rocker to list education as their top priority over the gazillion other things that are plaguing this country and the world. HOWEVER, that's not really the point. Ed in '08 has demonstrated a type of hubris that is yet unparalleled in my recent memory. Not only did they think that they could singlehandedly make education into a top priority by throwing money around and producing unsubstantive and not-that-funny TV ads, but they decided that their three education "pillars" (if you can call them that) were their sole intellectual property as if no one else had possibly thought of these three things before. Here they are in all their simplistic glory:

1. creating clear learning standards,

2. improving teaching,

3. and giving adequate time and support for student learning.??

Are you trying to tell me that Ed in '08 is the sole proprietor of the idea of "improving teaching"? Is that a joke?

But back to the Washington Post-ABC News poll. Eric is right that...

Richard Whitmire, who wrote this USA Today editorial in support of single sex schools, wants those of us at Fordham to send a video crew to the Excellence Charter School in New York City to capture and disseminate its effective practices nationwide. (Richard must have been impressed by these videos .) Furthermore, he bemoans the lack of a major federal evaluation to explore the rapid growth of single sex schools and learn from the best of them. On that front, I have a suggestion for Doug Mesecar and Kelly Scott, now the top political appointees in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement (where I once hung my hat): reallocate dollars from the Women's Educational Equity Act to support exactly the sort of study Richard is describing. That's how we funded these evaluations of single sex schools several years ago, and it still makes me chuckle when I think about how mad that must have made the American Association of University Women....

Sam Dillon has a great article in today's New York Times which illustrates the wide variation in the number of schools making "adequate yearly progress" under No Child Left Behind. He writes,

A state-by-state analysis by The New York Times found that in the 40 states reporting on their compliance so far this year, on average, 4 in 10 schools fell short of the law's testing targets, up from about 3 in 10 last year. Few schools missed targets in states with easy exams, like Wisconsin and Mississippi, but states with tough tests had a harder time. In Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Mexico, which have stringent exams, 60 to 70 percent of schools missed testing goals. And in South Carolina, which has what may be the nation's most rigorous tests, 83 percent of schools missed targets.

In December, Fordham and the Northwest Evaluation Association will release a new study--a follow-up to last year's Proficiency Illusion--which will dig into this state-by-state variation and show that the tests alone are not to blame....

Let's assume for a moment that the current trajectory of the presidential election remains the same and Obama wins by a significant margin, maybe even a landslide. Surely he will have a mandate for "change." And on a few issues that he put at the center of his campaign--Iraq, the financial meltdown, energy, health care--he'll have a mandate for specific legislative action. But what about education?

While he hasn't ignored the issue as McCain (mostly) has, it's been at best a second tier subject for his campaign. Let's look at what Obama has told the American people about education. During his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, he said:

America, now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy.

You know, Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance.

I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers,


Two weeks ago, I had a bit of fun at Ed in 08's expense. One of our readers accused me of unfairly picking on the poor initiative (get it?). Well, we could feel sorry for Ed in 08??? or I could point you to the latest findings of the Washington Post-ABC News poll and we can continue our joviality. Question six asked, ???What is the single most important issue in your choice for president???? Take a wild guess how many people picked education. Take a guess, seriously.

1%. Yes, that's right, 1% of people think education is the single most important issue in their choice for president. What's more, that's down one percent from August when education was the most important issue for??? wait for it??? 2% of survey responders. Wow. (I know there is a margin of error here and losing one percentage point is not statistically significant, but still, a decrease is a decrease.) Predictably, it's behind the economy, health care, Iraq, terrorism, and energy. But it's also behind "morals/family values," "abortion," and "ethics/honesty/corruption in government." Wow, great job Stronger Schools. Education is not even as important as governmental corruption. Of course it...