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....

It is only once in a rare blue moon that we get news like this. The irony is almost palpable. Detractors jump up and down with glee. Latent metaphors abound. It's simply... beautiful.

What has me roaring with laughter before lunch?

The funders of Ed in '08, also known as Strong American Schools, are cuttin' the dough. Oh yes, that's right, the Gates and Broad Foundations have decided Ed in '08 is kaput!

But with Nov. 4 looming, education appears to have relatively low visibility. And the Gates and Broad family foundations have stopped contributing to the [Ed in ???08] campaign after putting in a total of about $24 million.

I hate to say "we told you so," (actually, I have no problem saying this at all) but really, we did. And if killing the initiative wasn't enough, the excuses are PRICELESS.

"If we spend less than the maximum, it is because it is a reflection of the strategies we are executing," said Marie Groark, senior program officer with the Gates Foundation. She acknowledged that it's a tough environment for the issue to gain traction. "We are aware that there are significant competing priorities on


Economist Roland Fryer's Educational Innovation Laboratory is off to the races, thanks to the Broad Foundation, experimenting with new ways of incentivizing kids to learn in three big cities (New York , Chicago, Washington ). In D.C., the plan involves paying students in fifteen middle schools up to $1500 a year if they (a) attend, (b) behave and (c) get good grades.

I'm a longtime believer in giving young people real-world incentives to study hard and do well in school, though I've long supposed that means doing a better job of hinging promotion, graduation, college admission and jobs on school success. I don't have any big problem with more immediate and kid-like rewards, either, such as taking students with perfect attendance records to a theme park at the end of the year or giving pizzas to those who read more books .

Paying them cold cash to do the right thing gives me pause, however. It's fundamentally??amoral. It creates??weird and perverse incentives for pupils and teachers alike. It could get very expensive, using serious money that might otherwise go into better teachers, better textbooks, longer times, more instructional technology, etc. (Chicago has about 125,000 students...

Check it out.

*??And maybe even a religion.