Amy Fagan

Let's face it--the college application process is competitive. From extracurricular activities and volunteer work to AP courses and SAT scores, students have a lot to think about as they try to convince college admissions officers to say "yes." Now, there's a new wrinkle. It seems some schools will leave it up to??students to report their own high school grades. According to the Star Ledger and the Record, thousands of students applying this fall to Rutgers University will submit their grades online in an effort to reduce costs and streamline the admissions process. It seems like a lot of trust and responsibility to place in the applicants. But apparently, Rutgers handled transcripts from a whopping 43,000 applicants last year and the new process will allow applicants to find out whether they were admitted a month sooner than in past years. States like Pennsylvania and Indiana have already moved to such systems. Check out the stories here and here.

Education??may not??be making the national political scene (whatever??Palin's personal opinions) but it's far from off the states' radar, reports the National Conference of State Legislatures. In fact, fifteen states have dozens of referendums, constitutional amendments or citizen initiatives dealing with education on the November ballot. The topics range from upping funding sources with more slot machines to scrapping education staples affirmative action and bilingual education. But before we call up the Gates Foundation and tell them to reconsider Ed in '08, consider this. It takes months for these kinds of proposals to make it onto the ballot. And the economy is still a hard act to upstage at this point, despite the lure of more casinos. EdWeek has the??whole list of??topics.

I just heaved a big sigh reading Jay Mathews headline today: "Merit Pay Could Ruin Teacher Teamwork." As a former evaluator of a Teacher Incentive Fund state program, I spent quite a bit of time researching PBPs, including how these programs affect educators in urban school districts. One of the biggest problems, as I see it, is not that these programs "ruin teacher teamwork," but that their payout structure cannot be accurately and succinctly explained to teachers and administrators. And if you don't do that well, confusion breeds mistrust, and the take-away message is typically Mathew's headline.

Take, for instance, the Teacher Advancement Program or TAP. It's one of the more popular PBPs. It's primarily a data-driven professional development program. Research on TAP is still somewhat premature, but promising. However, try to explain the TAP payout plan to teachers and you'll encounter many a blank stare. That's because the TAP payout, for tested areas that is, comprises three separate elements: school wide performance (20%), classroom-level performance (30%), and demonstration of skills, knowledge, and responsibilities (50%). Regarding the first, there are typically five levels of school-wide performance, each based on the number of standard errors above or...

What can it be called other than an October surprise? As last night's vice presidential debate was nearing its close, none other than Governor Sarah Palin steered an unrelated question??to education--and even managed to mention No Child Left Behind in the process. And boy, did she have a lot to say, even though much of is was, how to put this, a little off message (from the perspective of both the McCain campaign and the newly defunded Ed in '08 effort):

You mentioned education and I'm glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? I say, too, with education, America needs to be putting a lot more focus on that and our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding that they are deserving. Teachers needed to be paid more. I come from a house full of school teachers. My grandma was, my dad who is in the audience today, he's a schoolteacher, had been for many years. My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here's


UCLA professor Bill Ouchi argues in today's New York Post??for giving principals autonomy--a point about which we surely agree--based on his forthcoming research that, when given control, principals can get great results by manipulating the school variable that (he finds) matters most: "Total Student Loads," roughly described as "the number of students [teachers] must get to know each term."

Count Stafford??and Jay Mathews??as skeptical that, in teaching, quantity might matter more than quality.

So the Washington Post reports . (Thanks to Fordham Fellow Ben Hoffman for the HT . Don't forget to check out the Fellows'??blog !)??The National Council on??Teacher Quality??rightly points out that Deborah Gist deserves credit too. Background on "Plan B" here .

"Pupils 'distressed over spelling'"

Whitminster Endowed Church of England Primary, near Stroud, no longer gives children spelling lists for homework.

Parents found out about the plan in a letter, saying many pupils found the activity "unnecessarily distressing".

To:?????????????????????? Andrew Rotherham, Jonathan Schnur, Michael Johnston,

???????????????????????????????? Robert Gordon

From:?????????????? Mike Petrilli

Re:????????????????????????David Axelrod's statements about Reading First

Good morning, gentlemen. As key advisors to Senator Barack Obama, as well as bona fide education reformers, I urge you to correct the statements made by campaign manager David Axelrod on Sunday's Meet the Press, which were highlighted in yesterday's Education Daily.

Although David Axelrod, an advisor for Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, did not specifically name the Reading First program when asked Sunday on Meet the Press about programs Obama would cut in light of the economic crisis, [Richard Long of the International Reading Association] said Axelrod alluded to it.

"We're going to have to look at the budget, and Sen. Obama said he's going to go through it line by line, and he's going to get rid of things that don't work," Axelrod said on the TV show. "We have, for example, a reading program that was installed by the Bush administration that turned out to be a big boondoggle. It's not helping any kids learn. We ought to say, ???That doesn't work, let's get rid of it.'"

While taking a ...

Whew, it's quite an issue this week, folks. Announcing the release of our Red Tape Report pilot study on--you guessed it--red tape, Amber explains??the study's framework and invites your feedback (email all comments to [email protected]). Then Stafford investigates the GPA and some worrisome recent conversations on its calculation; perchance it's time for a standard GPA metric? What would such a metric look like? These questions and more... Further in, ??you'll find Massachusetts ratcheting up its graduation standards and a look at the much hallowed, but perhaps biased, NACAC study on standardized tests for college admission. Add to all this a rather stupendous podcast, and the flatscreen TVs (and on-site dry cleaning) of the LAUSD headquarters, and you may have your socks blown right off! It's all??here....