Mike Umphrey, an AP English Teacher in Polson, Montana, (and a loyal Flypaper reader!) offers??a great response to my post from a few days ago:

My main reaction tends to be "Bah, humbug."

I don't believe there is much of a conservative case to be made for any centralized DC-based education initiative. Cities and towns are perfectly capable of running schools.

However, as a classroom teacher I could certainly use access to excellent materials available free online. I would like to be able to send my writing students who have trouble with something such as parallel structure to a flash based tutorial, with a built-in assessment that could be configured to report to a data base so I could track individual progress. I could use dozens of such mini-lessons. I'm creating them myself, but good grief. Why are such things locked up in proprietary sites or available in low-quality and fragmented ways due to efforts of people such as myself, in a multi-billion-dollar publicly funded public service?

Most materials available free are not high quality. Most materials available from proprietary operators could also be improved. And in my field-the humanities-most materials have a strong liberal bias.

The Education Gadfly

An interview with Steve Farkas, President of the Farkas Duffett Research Group . Fordham commissioned the FDR Group to research and write its latest report "Growing Pains in the Advanced Placement Program: Do Tough Trade-Offs Lie Ahead?"

Growing Pains in the Advanced Placement Program from Education Gadfly on Vimeo .

President Barack Obama's "first 100 days" come to an end today, as you may have noticed from the barrage of fawning press coverage (not all of it on the editorial pages). I agree with the majority of the country that the President is doing many things right, but when it comes to the one issue that I know a fair amount about, I worry that he's doing many things wrong.

It shouldn't surprise us that President Obama is "straddling the Democratic divide" on education. During his campaign he was careful to placate both the teachers unions and the reformers within his party, and that's the way he's governing too. But what the reformers may not want to admit is that they have gotten a raw deal so far.

Consider our Reform-o-Meter. It may not be a scientific instrument for gauging the reform-mindedness of the new Administration, but I'd argue that it's a reasonable indicator. And the cumulative rating for Team Obama to date is: "Neutral." How uninspiring. How not "bold."

But it gets worse. So far I've rated 17 actions of the Administration....

Certain segments of the edu-sphere like to call those of us at Fordham silly (though, I'll admit, colorful) names, like "wing-nuts on crack ." These bloggers tend to represent teachers unions. (Yes, Fred, I'm talking about you.) So they might be struggling with the cognitive dissonance caused by American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten's testimony before Congress this morning, which quoted a recent Fordham study:

A report issued earlier this year by the Fordham Institute detailed the variability of NCLB's system of accountability, while also reinforcing the argument for common state standards. The Fordham report concluded that "Schools that make AYP in one state fail to make AYP in another. Those that are considered failures in one part of the country are deemed to be doing fine in another. Although schools are being told that they need to improve student achievement in order to make AYP under the law, the truth is that many would fare better if they were just allowed to move across state lines."

Perhaps Fordham is actually a well-respected education policy think tank? Or maybe Randi's gone to the dark side....

Fordham's latest report is out this morning; it focuses on the dramatic expansion of the Advancement Placement program in recent years. In 2002-2003, 1 million students participated in AP by taking at least one exam. Five years later, nearly 1.6 million did???a 50+ percent increase.

But is growth all good? Might there be a downside? Are ill prepared students eroding the quality of the program? Perhaps harming the best and brightest? To find out, we commissioned the Farkas Duffett Research Group to survey AP teachers in public high schools across the country.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the AP program remains very popular with its teachers. But there are signs that the move toward ???open door??? access to AP is starting to cause concern. Read the report to learn more. Also check out this video with Steve Farkas, the report's primary author, and this New York Times article.

One of the survey??questions :

Has the quality of your AP students in terms of their aptitude and capacity to do the work...


Amy Fagan

Read more about our new Advanced Placement Program report in this piece in the New York Times. The author, Jacques Steinberg, also has started a lively discussion on the NYT college admission blog, The Choice. Readers are welcomed to join in and share their thoughts!

And???..our AP report is being highlighted by Education Week as well. Check out the story here.

Yesterday in the Ohio Senate Education Committee, school funding expert and Buckeye (OSU class of '66 and '72) Paul Hill offered testimony about how Ohio can go about reforming its system of school funding while at the same time raising student performance. Dr. Hill's comments were in stark contrast to the presentation last week in the Ohio House by Allen Odden and Lawrence Picus in support of Governor Ted Strickland's proposed ???????evidence-based??????? funding model (which actually differs pretty significantly from what Odden and Picus are selling). While the governor is attempting to provide all the answers (with spending restrictions and top-down mandates on things like staffing levels, class sizes, and new operating rules for schools), Hill admits that we don't always know the answers when it comes to how to best educate our students. Further, the answers are different for every child. And that's okay. Hill (based on five years of solid research) argues funding systems shouldn't seek to mandate how schools educate children.???? Instead, they should be flexible, promote innovation, and reward success through a system of continuous improvement:

This gets me to my


Maybe the Obama administration has brought bipartisanship to Washington...just not the kind they had in mind. In this letter, a bipartisan group of US Senators chastises Secretary Duncan for denying DC scholarships to new students and urges ED to reconsider.

While these elected officials are trying convincing arguments, it looks like the DC advocates are finally bringing the scorching iron. Though I'm personally fond of the city's leading voucher advocates and know that they care deeply about the program and the children it serves, their save-the-program tactics have come up short. Instead of launching massive protests and organizing sit-ins over the last several months, they decided to lobby "behind the scenes," hoping persuasion and reason would turn the tide. It didn't work; the opponents remained opposed and those on the fence stayed there.

But the charm offensive may have come to an end. Next Wednesday, they are holding a????rally????on Freedom Plaza. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a more aggressive strategy.

A????couple years ago, I learned the hard way that behind the scenes lobbying when coming from a position of weakness is a recipe for failure. ????Because we didn't go...

NAEP long-term trend scores were released yesterday, and the results are quite positive.

The report shows reading and math comparisons for 9-, 13-, and 17-year old going back to the 1970s. That's historically interesting but for those primarily concerned about current public policy, the comparisons between 2004 and 2008 are most noteworthy. Overall scores in both subjects are up with nearly all gains reaching statistical significance (save 17-year old math scores). In many cases, all-time highs were hit.

The disaggregated data had some very encouraging news as well. ????Low-performing students made significant gains.

In a number of cases racial achievement gaps got smaller (though not reaching statistical significance). In most cases when gaps didn't close, it was the result of both White and minority students making gains.

In total, the improvement among 9- and 13-year olds is pretty strong and convincing; gains among 17-year olds less so. ????My former ED boss, Margaret Spellings touted the influence of NCLB, saying, "Accountability is working. Where we've paid attention, grades 3 through 8, we are getting the best results. Where we have paid less attention, high school, we're not."

Some of my Fordham colleagues will likely disagree,...

The Education Gadfly

Great Debate: What Should Republicans Seek in Education? , taped Monday, April 27, 2009, at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Video from Education Gadfly on Vimeo .