You might not agree with this column's political bent, but Stanley Crouch is right to blast away at anti-intellectualism in American life:

We should be ever suspicious of anyone or any group that scorns education, that pretends to believe that only the simple and the uncomplicated can express the national ethos.

In other words, being well-educated isn't a crime, even if you're running for president.


Anyone who's been following politics lately knows that Senator Barack Obama's relationship with unrepentant bomber and former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers has become a matter of debate in the 2008 campaign.

What's beyond debate, however, is Ayers's connection to Arnetha F. Ball of Stanford University; Nancy Beadie of the University of Washington; Mark Berends of Vanderbilt University; Linda L. Cook of Educational Testing Service; David J. Flinders of Indiana University; Steve A. Henry of Topeka Public Schools; Joan L. Herman of the University of California-Los Angeles; Cynthia A. Hudley of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Carol D. Lee of Northwestern University; Richard E. Mayer of the University of California - Santa Barbara; Patricia S. O'Sullivan of the University of California, San Francisco; Robert J. Stahl of Arizona State University; William G. Tierney of the University of Southern California; Linda C. Tillman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Susan B. Twombly of Kansas University.

That's because these are the members of the Association Council of the American Educational Research Association--a group that Ayers will join next year after his election in March as AERA's Vice President-Elect of...

Liam Julian

Standards and accountability hawks (Fordham??swirls among them) have never adequately explained how top-down accountability systems avoid situations such as this. After an exhaustive investigation of Tucson's schools, the Arizona Daily Star reports:

In the 2006-07 school year alone, nine in 10 students were moved to the next grade level, but data show that nearly a third of them failed basic courses in English, math, science or social studies. At least 94,000 students failed essential classes during the past six years.

Our 2007 Fordham Fellows, almost all of whom had spent time teaching, often noted that those in Washington, D.C., and state capitals who write ed policy prescriptions are sometimes blithely ambivalent about their tonics' function at the classroom level. Tucson's problem is of that indicative.

One is forced, after reducing his stock of problems, to see that without an overhaul of the teaching ranks, standards and accountability reforms simply cannot work. Policymakers can write laws and set achievement targets, but for the middle-school educator whose chief incentive is to stay out of trouble, a class, one-third of which cannot read, poses a major problem. This teacher is unconcerned about, say, the state standards but is merely...


I was especially disappointed Saturday morning when my two-year-old daughter's "sports class" was canceled because I had just read in The American (the piece doesn't seem to be online yet)* that kids who play sports fare better in life along a number of dimensions--they stay in school longer, they earn higher wages, and they are "15 percent more likely to be registered to vote, 14 percent more likely to watch the news, and 8 percent more likely to feel comfortable speaking in public."

I'm sure many athletes could attest to what they've gained from sports, which require commitment, leadership, responsibility, etc. But is it really sports that make the difference, or is it merely that the kids who gravitate toward athletics are already more likely to be successful? Interestingly, these authors report, the civic engagement results above came after researchers had controlled for "age, educational attainment, and income," and the researchers who have controlled for intelligence still find gaps in wages and educational attainment.

Why is this? The article speculates that in sports, kids experience "the positive feedback between effort and results," which "can then lead to snowballing commitments to...

The Education Gadfly









  • Phil Handy, former chairman, Florida State Board of Education;


  • Lisa Graham Keegan, former Arizona state superintendent;


  • Virginia Walden Ford, executive director, D.C. Parents for School Choice;


  • Townsend McNitt, Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of Education;


  • Frank Riggs, former member of Congress and president, Charter Schools Development Corporation;


  • Jane Swift, former governor of Massachusetts;


  • Bill Hansen, former deputy secretary of education and senior managing director, Chartwell Education Group;


  • Hannah Skandera, former California undersecretary of education;


  • Gene Hickok, former U.S. undersecretary of education and senior policy director, Dutko Worldwide;


  • Williamson Evers, Assistant Secretary of Education for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.






Their shepherd is former McCain staffer David Crane, now with Quadripoint Strategies. Now you know, too.


Photo by Flickr user soggydan....

Liam Julian

One wonders: To laugh or to cry?

Break down test-score data by the ethnicity of Asian students?

Liam Julian

From The Tallahassee Democrat: "According to the Florida Department of Education, more students statewide are writing at or above grade level." (The results are here.)

It's great that Florida continues to concentrate on improving its students' writing skills, but can FCAT writing scores really be an accurate depiction of Sunshine State youngsters' sentence-crafting abilities, especially when the data are??compared one year to the next? The larger question: Is it possible to??accurately assess??writing in a statewide,??high-stakes test?

Liam Julian

John Merrow, writing in today's Wall Street Journal, explains that "public education lives in an upside-down universe where student outcomes are not allowed to be connected to teaching." That's certainly the case in New York, where the state legislature recently passed a bill making it illegal for school districts to consider the performance of teachers' students when making tenure decisions. Merrow concludes:

Denying any connection between teaching and learning is a dangerous course for teacher unions to chart. It contradicts what experience teaches us. And it flies in the face of common sense. If unions are telling us that there's no connection between teaching and learning, why should we then support teachers, or public education?

Thankfully, the Empire State appears to be far outside the mainstream on this issue. Our recent Rick Hess/Coby Loup study of teachers union contracts found that most of the fifty largest districts in the country either had the explicit right to consider student performance in tenure decisions (that's the case for eight of them) or faced no specific restrictions against that course of action, either in their contracts or in state law...