Liam Julian

This week's Gadfly is ready to be read. In the top slot, I write about why paying students (bribing them, really--let's call it what it is) to study and attend class is a terrible idea. Some say, "Why not try it out? Why not experiment?" I say, "Schools are not Petri dishes, and experiments have consequences." Like Frankenstein's monster, or Spam.??Elsewhere in the issue, Mike??notes that??we should quit resisting online education, and we comment on Florida's voucher setback, the Republicans' NCLB??discord, and the governor of Alaska, who, we're told, has completed the Iditarod--without using dogs or a sled. She jogged.

Liam Julian

All the talk is about Sarah Palin. But this is (largely) an education-related blog, and the Republican who spoke last night most fervently about education was Mike Huckabee (scroll forward to 10:20 in the video), who elocuted about a teacher in Little Rock who, on the first day of school, removed from her classroom all the desks and then made her students guess why. "You get a desk in my classroom," Huckabee said the teacher said, "when you tell me how you earn it." (Umm, our parents pay taxes?) By day's end, news cameras were arranged outside and no student had yet correctly picked out how they could retrieve their classroom furniture. Then... through the door walked 20 veterans, each carrying a desk which he quietly restored to its original position. "You don't have to earn your desk," the teacher reportedly??told her students, "'cus these guys--they already did."??As??his four-minute story drew to a close, Huckabee??solemnly said,??"John McCain helped me have a schooldesk."

So, there. And some of you thought the Ed in '08 campaign was wasting millions of dollars. (By the way, didn't Mike once endorse Huckabee for U.S. Secretary of Education???Might the Arkansan try to...

Education Sector's Kevin Carey--a friend and occasional co-host of the Education Gadfly Show--hits the American Prospect this week with a provocative piece, "How the Dems Lost on Education." (Subscription required--how progressive is that?)

Mostly his essay is a call for Democrats to get on board the school reform train, particularly when it comes to NCLB-style accountability, charter schools, and public school choice. And he sticks it to the unions pretty good too. And for that, we reformers on the right should be glad, yes? But he also argues that the Democrats' "education policy failures" create "numerous political opportunities" for the GOP.

Well...I don't mean to be ungracious, but if we're talking about winners and losers, there's a strong case to be made that NCLB has been a boon to the left and an embarrassment to the right. What...

Last week the Democrats had some fun at the teachers unions' expense, but yesterday it was the Republicans' turn. First there was Margaret Spellings:

I do not think [John McCain's] going to be worried about the teachers' unions and the equities of grown-ups.

And then Mitt Romney:

Is a government liberal or conservative that puts the interests of the teachers union ahead of the needs of our children? It's liberal.

Let's face it: just like Republicans can never outbid Democrats when it comes to school spending, Democrats can never outdo Republicans on teachers union bashing. But it's great that they're trying!...

She wasn't forthcoming on the policy side, but she did say something, at least. Talking about her newest child, Trig, who has Down Syndrome, she opined:

And children with special needs inspire a special love.

To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters.

I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.

Nothing we didn't predict but I'm curious what policies she'd advocate.

Liam Julian

I don't know whether Ed Week can "survive the downturn in the journalism business." But I do know that it can't survive the evermore frequent downturns??of its own website, which appears to be improperly functioning, yet again.

Liam Julian

Mike, first lady Laura Bush mentioned No Child Left Behind last night at the Republican Convention--although, if memory serves, she never actually uttered the phrase "No Child Left Behind."

Mike Lach is one of the most dynamic reformers you'll ever meet, and has been working inside Chicago Public Schools for several years, helping to build its capacity around curriculum and instruction. Now he's set his sights on history and the rest of the social sciences. But he needs a hand. Here's how he states his problem:

I need to develop a K-12 social science plan for the Chicago Public Schools. I've decided that this is important because (1) social science is inherently worth knowing and (2) learning social science will help learning in other subjects (like reading).

I have the following constraints, that I suspect are true in most other districts.

- Metrics for success are hard to come by. We have no social science testing of any sort right now in Illinois, and I'm not sure that there are decent tests out there other than NAEP. Developing them will be expensive and complicated. Our kids are over tested probably, anyway.

- I don't have enough money to fund mathematics and reading, much less science and social studies. Any solution needs to developed cheaply.

- We're just taking baby-steps


The folks at Education Week deserve lots-o-kudos for their phenomenal coverage of the conventions. I have to admit that I've wondered of late whether Ed Week could survive the downturn in the journalism business. That's still an open question--and it's pretty clear from the outside that EW is increasingly dependent upon foundation grants. But with its embrace of blogging, on-the-ground reporting, and now even video, here's hoping that the answer is yes. Particularly as schools receive less attention from the media writ large, it's important to have American education's "newspaper of record" not just surviving, but thriving....

A few days ago I told Education Week that the nobody at the GOP convention was likely to mention No Child Left Behind, except for President Bush. Well, even he didn't mention his beloved law--or education at all--during his satellite address last night. Representative Mike Castle, a leading Republican moderate and passionate education reformer, explains why:

"You're not going to hear it here," Castle said. "Politically, it's not popular."

"If you look to Congress, you're going to find a lot of experienced