The insatiable Sol Stern is back with another broadside on the Bloomberg/Klein administration. This time he takes the Gotham group to task for poor decisions and faulty leadership on reading.

New York City's 2002 shift to mayoral control of the schools created a unique opportunity.... Introducing his education-reform plan... Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that schools in the past had enjoyed too much autonomy, with "a baffling profusion of approaches to teaching the three Rs throughout the city." Now, there would be "one, unified, focused, streamlined chain of command [and] the Chancellor's office will dictate the curriculum and pedagogical methods." The mayor promised that reading instruction in the early grades would "employ strategies proven to work," including "a daily focus on phonics."

But in a tragically mistaken policy decision, Klein went in the opposite direction on reading, franchising out most instructional decisions to a group of progressive educators who regarded it as a crime to teach children how to read through scripted phonics programs. Under the influence of his deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, Diana Lam, Klein chose an approach called Balanced Literacy for the system's core reading program starting in September 2003. The city's version of

Liam Julian

What a refreshing Gadfly is on offer this lovely August week. We begin with an essay from Checker and Marci, who write about David Whitman's forthcoming book (to be released tomorrow, in fact), Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism. (Psst.... Did he say paternalism? Indeed he did.) Then we progress to a short bit by me that attends to several findings from the new Education Next-Harvard survey??of adults' attitudes about education. And then we really get into it, with five recommended readings that merrily skip among characters??such as??Al Sharpton and Gloria Estefan.

And what about that podcast? Stafford makes her sparkling debut this week. And steady cast members Mike, Rick, and Amber turn in yet another brilliant and incisive performance....

The education blogosphere is up in arms about America's poor performance at the Education Olympics. Matthew Tabor can't believe "we're losing to a bunch of friggin' Finns." The Core Knowledge Blog calls it "a national embarrassment." Meanwhile, BoardBuzz reminds us that international comparisons are "more than a horse race" (and skoolboy gives us another close look at said horse race).

Michael Phelps might have taken a day off, but we're here 24-7. (Well, except for weekends, to be honest.)...

Gadfly Studios

Oh world, beware ye Finland's wrath!

For fearless are their bosoms when

A PISA test stands in their path

In reading, science, or in math.

Though sharpened are their Number Twos,

Still sharper are their well-trained minds;

Their foes they flummox and confuse

As Ed Olympics gold accrues!

More at

Education Week offers a pair of articles about the presidential campaigns' advisors this week. First, Alyson Klein ponders whether said advisors "send signals on the policy directions their candidates would pursue if elected to the White House." (I say yes; Eduwonk Andy says no.)

Then David Hoff takes a look at the role of Teach For American alumni on Senator Obama's campaign, including Michael Johnston, star of a recent reporter roundtable at Fordham.

Both are worth checking out.

I'm not just following the Education Olympics coverage; I'm also addicted to the regular Olympics as well. And during last night's broadcast I heard for the first time that Michael Phelps's mother is a middle school principal. (It appears that I'm the last to know.)

So what do we know about the school? It's Windsor Mill Middle School in Baltimore County, Maryland--the district's newest middle school (so new that hasn't found it yet) and one of its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) academies. And, according to its report card on the Maryland Department of Education website, it didn't make Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind. Its African-American, low-income, and special education students all failed to meet targets in reading and math, as did its students overall. (It appears to be a predominantly African-American school.)

If Debbie Phelps can raise the most decorated gold medal athlete in Olympic history, surely she can turn around Windsor Mill Middle School, too....

That's how the message board outside Washington, D.C.'s Garrison Elementary School currently reads. (I just passed it on my way to work.) To which I say to Garrison's leaders: can't you act just a little less surprised? (And congratulations.)

Photo by Flickr user flappingwings.