The Gadfly briefly addressed this issue a few weeks ago and the editors at Newsday have taken it up in another form on their blog, Viewsday (ha ha...). New York State has been engaged in a heated debate over special education, specifically whether more or all students should be mainstreamed. More recently, and this is what the Newsday editors were really concerned with, the discussion has turned to what to call diplomas granted under Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Should they really be called a "diploma" if they're not worth the same as a regular high school degree? This may not be a matter of semantics.

Employers and universities should know what kind of course work stands behind that piece of paper. While NCLB has attempted to address the state-to-state and school-to-school discrepancies, we're a long way from national standards. Labeling IEP degrees "IEP certificates" rather than "IEP diplomas" could have a few benefits; I'll focus on two. First, many too many students wind up in special education because teachers want them out of their mainstream classrooms for reasons other than their physical or learning disability. Perhaps they're disruptive, have social adjustment issues, or are bringing issues...

I have to admit that I had been hoping for a while someone would do this. A new advocacy group founded this past spring, Strong Schools DC , has fomented a grassroots revolution and the D.C. teachers union is up in arms, reports the Washington Post . Strong Schools is relying on the common sense of teachers to get Michelle Rhee's new merit green-red funding scheme passed. Instead of pressuring the union, which as much as we'd like hell to freeze over, is probably never going to support the abolition of tenure, Strong Schools is recruiting teachers to spread their message. It's subversive and I like it.

The premise is simple: if you reward teachers for good work, as Rhee's green track does, they'll support you. It's called self-interest and it has our favorite anti-reformer Randi Weingarten off balance. Apparently she's "never seen anything like this"--that's a shocker. Treating teachers like a herd of sheep, who can't be fired, who have no incentive to improve achievement except for their own conscience, and who are afraid to be evaluated is never going to recruit the talent and hard work needed in the...

The NCLB conversation has gone digital--at NewTalk.Org, a fancy shmancy blog that allows big thinkers to "talk" via posting for a set time period. This week, it features some big names in the education world; our very own Checker Finn is participating, along with good friends Rick Hess, Diane Ravitch, and Philip Howard. PBS's John Merrow moderates. The "conversation" runs until August 7th.

Liam Julian

From time to time, while digging up material for forthcoming Fordham reports, op-eds, or blog posts, I stumble upon an unrelated article that catches my interest and causes me to pause and read. Here's one such, written by Checker, entitled "An Open Letter to Lawrence H. Summers." It was published six years ago. Checker writes:

It's up to you. If you want to, you can lead Harvard out of its moral quagmire and clarify its murky standards, while demonstrating serious leadership for a nationwide higher education community that hasn't had any in years.

Alas, it wasn't to be.

Liam Julian
Liam Julian

Andrew Ferguson reviews in today's Wall Street Journal a book that goes behind the scenes at Harvard Business School--and seemingly reveals what one might expect to find behind the scenes at Harvard Business School. And USA Today's peerless education reporter, Greg Toppo, talks with journalist Donna Foote about her new book, Relentless Pursuit,??which follows??four members of Teach For America who worked at Los Angeles's Locke High School.

Liam Julian

Kevin Carey's latest post is about affirmative action, and most of it is sensible. I'm unsure if what you'll read here are positions that Carey has previously espoused on this topic, and I'm not going to traipse off on some fishing expedition to find out. Suffice it to say that Carey, who is a good sport for joining our podcast last week (and who has, a little Gadfly told me, even befriended ["friended," as the kids say] Thomas B. Fordham through facebook), is at least this morning on the blog-related up-and-up. But wee problems remain. He writes:

I'm in favor of racial preferences in college admissions as long as the goal is to help minority students who come from substandard K-12 schools and have to live with legacy of historical racism along with discrimination that still exists today. But somehow affirmative action has gotten turned around so that the primary justification is now that it's good for white people. [emphasis mine]

Now, look. Affirmative action hasn't just somehow changed, somehow morphed, into a policy by which privileged whites can expiate past wrongs and rid themselves of guilt. Nor has affirmative action been somehow warped such that now??its justification...

While the Washington Post's editorial page is spot-on about education reform issues, some of its reporters can't help but beat the "pity the poor little hard-working suburban over-achieving children" line. I suppose it's possible that American kids could be pressed to work too hard, but it strikes me that we're a long, long way from that being a widespread epidemic. Just ask our Education Olympics competitors.

Photo by Flickr user onurkafali.

Liam Julian

Teacher quality in Texas is "inequitable" (poorly??constructed headline, Houston Chronicle).??Mike says: Who cares?