Flypaper

That's what I would have titled this new National Review Online piece penned by me, Checker, and Rick Hess. (Amy gives a nice summary below.) Yes, we're ready for the hate mail.

Amy Fagan

The Obama economic stimulus plan comes under a bit of fire in this bold op-ed by Checker, Mike and Rick (Hess), posted on National Review Online. They wonder whether such a package will be good for education reform and they suspect the answer will be "no." A state budget bailout (which almost surely will be part of the above-mentioned plan) may very well end up hurting school reform efforts, they write. Since states spend one-third to one-half of their funds on education, a federal infusion of cash to the states would probably translate into a lot of money for public school classrooms. This seems to be a good thing, of course. But, they point out, this kind of a bailout may very well spare administrators from making the difficult (and overdue) choices about how to make school systems more efficient and effective. Tough times often serve as a means to force leaders to identify priorities and trim fat. A federal bailout of school-system budgets would remove that opportunity, they write, and everyone will miss the chance to create leaner, more efficient schools....

It was quite a dry spell, wasn't it? Hopefully the holidays distracted you in your Gadfly-less state of depression. We're back and better than ever for 2009.

In the top spot, find Mike, Checker, and Rick's recommendations for an educated-related bailout. In short, there shouldn't be one. Why? Because it will simply encourage the bad habits to which education leaders are prone when it comes to spending big bucks. Next, read up on the curricular mush being advocated in the UK, the apparent death knell for cursive handwriting, and why 21st century skills are another "doomed pedagogical fad." Then, get the scoop on a new Aspen Institute report on Singapore, the 13th annual Quality Counts??with its special section on ELL students, and last month's NGA, Achieve, and CCSSO's Benchmarking for Success. Happy reading!...

As President-elect Obama and the new Congress work out the details on the final amount of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, there is sure to be much lobbying from teacher unions and other school establishment groups for their share of the $70 to $100 billion likely to go towards public education. Mike, Checker, and Rick Hess have offered great insights into this "pigs at the trough" situation in their NRO piece today. Here's a plea from a piglet in Ohio:

However many billions are tossed at school construction and renovations, please make certain that charter schools get equal access to these dollars. Ohio has been in the midst of a multi-billion dollar public school construction program over the last decade, paid for largely by money from the Master Tobacco Settlement of late 1990s....

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...

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