Amy Fagan

Oklahoma is trying an education venture some say will help kids stay in school and do better: removing one or perhaps two critical grades and creating separate schools for them. Ninth-graders in Coweta this year are the first to occupy a campus that's just for freshmen and Cache Public Schools plans something similar. Sand Springs Public Schools in Tulsa County placed prekindergarten, sixth-grade and ninth-grade students all in their own buildings, with the aim of focusing on the years that are the "biggest hurdles in the schooling process," said Superintendent Lloyd Snow. ??Supporters say such setups can help ease difficult transition periods, cut down on discipline problems and prevent kids from falling through the cracks or dropping out. Seems like it could be a worthy endeavor, though supporters didn't offer any hard evidence (at least in the article) of their claims. Coweta Superintendent Jeff Holmes said he expects to see results this year. You can check it out for yourself here.

Mike may catch the attention of governors and superintendents, but school boards are deaf. John Deasy, Superintedent of Prince George's County, is set to resign. We hope his replacement is as reform-minded and result-oriented.

Update: I am not implying that the school board forced Deasy out (they did not) only to joke that Mike, who has caught the eye of district officials in the past (see above examples), was shockingly not consulted!

Update 2: Seems I'm not the only one who thought Deasy's departure looked a little fishy.

This blog has seen various commentary on why Michelle Rhee's plan, "Capital Gains," to pay students for good behavior and good grades was a bad idea (try here to see the ongoing conversation). Liam, in particular, was vehemently opposed to it in its New York City and Washington DC manifestations. Well it didn't work (or had "mixed results," ahem-hem) in NY and it doesn't appear to have worked in DC, either. When will Fryer, the plan's mastermind, give it a rest?

Today's Washington Post reports that behavior has improved but grades have not. The program has now completed a two week test run (where it appears no money was rewarded, only the points system was implmented to demonstrate how the system would work) and started officially (in all its glitzy, perverse incentivizing glory) yesterday. I enjoyed, in particular, this tidbit:

Betts and his staff did a two-week trial run this month to give teachers practice with the scoring system and to give students an idea of what would be expected to earn points. He said that the sixth- and seventh-graders were "right into it" and that attendance and punctuality ticked up. Grades did not.


Looks like Catholic schools are taking on a new role in urban France.

(We've written on the importance of Catholic schools in the US, too.)

Guest Blogger

A post from guest blogger and Fordham writer and researcher Emmy Partin .

Common sense prevailed today in the Buckeye State with a court ruling that dismisses the latest legal shenanigan of charter-school foes here. Last September, then-state Attorney General Marc Dann sued to close a handful of charter schools on the grounds that their poor academic performance and overall mismanagement put them out of compliance with the state's charitable trust laws.?? Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Michael Tucker disagrees:

"This court concludes... that New Choices [charter school] is a political subdivision. Given this conclusion, there is simply no charitable trust role for the Attorney General either by statute or at common law."

As we noted when the case was first announced, Dann's lawsuits were never about rescuing kids from bad schools. They were political maneuvering, pure and simple.?? E-mails revealed that the legal strategy was offered to him by his cronies at the Ohio Education Association.??And the OEA, in return for Dann's filing the suits, agreed to drop its own lawsuit against the state for allegedly failing to monitor charter schools properly.??With today's ruling and the fact that...

Alyson Klein at Education Week 's Campaign K-12 picks up on my "scalpel " post to dig into the likely candidates for Barack Obama's knife, were he to win the presidency. ??After referring to "my" list of federal education programs that don't work (actually, it's the Administration's list, based on a systematic review of their evidence of effectiveness or lack thereof), she writes:

But many of the programs on this list are absolutely, never ever going to be on the chopping block during an Obama administration and not just because Congress isn't likely to go along with the cuts, but because Obama himself has championed them.

She mentions the Teacher Quality Enhancement grants, Even Start, and the Parent Information Resource Centers. And surely Klein is right--Obama is unlikely to kill any of these. Which is a real shame, coming from a candidate who argues that budgeting should be based on our "values." Yes, we value teacher quality, and an even playing field, and parental involvement. But we should also value results, and these programs haven't achieved them, over many many years. So which matters more? A program's intentions, or its outcomes? Senator Obama?...

Check out the latest battle over school choice in the comments section here .

Kids have too much homework these days. High school students are taking too many advanced classes. And all children are way too overscheduled. These sentiments may sound right to upper-middle-class parents, whose stressed-out children attend the nation's elite public and private school. But they just aren't true for American kids as a whole. As reported by the Washington Post over the weekend, a new study busts the third in this trilogy of misconceptions. It turns out that busy children do very well in school and in life. It's the kids without structured activities who suffer the most.

This shouldn't really surprise us. Children with no access to sports or drama or boy scouts or church youth group or 4-H or any of the plethora of extra-curriculars offered by American society come from families either lacking money or social capital or both. (OK, perhaps some parents opt for a structure-free childhood for their kids on principle, but I doubt their numbers are large. I too believe in time for free play, but my son already attends three structured activities a week and he's not even a year yet.)

And it just might...

In the debate Friday night, Barack Obama responded to John McCain's idea of freezing federal spending by arguing that "the problem with a spending freeze is you're using a hatchet where you need a scalpel." Then, on Face the Nation (pdf) on Sunday, he furthered his case: "The president has to make choices, and those choices mean that when you deal with a budget you don't take an axe to it, you use a scalpel. There are programs in our government that do not work..."

Yes, there are. And for the better part of seven years, the Bush Administration has been tallying them and calling on Congress to eliminate them. Here's the list of the Department of Education's ineffective programs , for example.


Program (2008 BA in millions)

Academies for American History and Civics


Advanced Credentialing


I don't always agree with Jay Mathews, but he has written an excellent column this morning. The crux of his argument is particularly well put:

This is a difficult choice and a hard time for D.C. teachers. They are fine people who have chosen a tough profession and put their hearts into their work. Many fear being judged by principals who, unlike Hayes, were not skillful teachers themselves and have little clue as to what helps kids learn and what doesn't. But I don't see any way the city's children are going to get the instruction they deserve -- the imaginative, fun-loving, firm teaching found at schools like KEY -- unless principals are given the power to hire and fire teachers based on demonstrated skill and improved learning in class.

Rhee is likely to pick a few principals who fail, much as Hayes erred in hiring the two teachers. But the great virtue of the approach used at KEY and similar charter schools, the approach Rhee wants to adopt, is that achievement results -- not friendships, not union rules, not inertia -- would determine which principals and which teachers keep their jobs . If Hayes and other KIPP principals