Rick Hess and Paul Peterson's annual look at state proficiency standards is out in the latest issue of Education Next, and the news resembles what Fordham's Proficiency Illusion report found last fall: a "walk to the middle." Standards are slipping, particularly in eighth grade.

Their analysis considers the percentage of students passing state tests and compares that to the percentage of a state's students passing the National Assessment of Educational Progress. From the press release:

Only three states--South Carolina, Massachusetts and Missouri--established world-class standards in math and reading for their students, earning each an "A". Every other state set a lower proficiency standard--some far short of the NAEP standard. Georgia, for instance, declared 88 percent of 8th graders proficient in reading, even though just 26 percent scored at or above the proficiency level on the NAEP. Georgia joined Oklahoma and Tennessee at the bottom of the class, each earning an "F" for their state standards.

You know where this is going... is it so wrong to dream about national standards?...

Liam Julian

We know that the best schools "sweat the small stuff"; they do not overlook untucked shirts, they do not permit poor posture, they do not deign to??hold different students??to different standards of discipline.

Instead of following that model, schools in Anne Arundel County are taking the opposite approach--i.e., "training staff in how to work with people of different backgrounds...."??Consider these??alarming sentences:

Teachers and administrators may misinterpret the body language and occasional confrontational behavior that some African-Americans learn in their neighborhoods and use at school as a way of standing up for themselves, veteran educators say. They will often back down if they're made to feel safe.

Ella White Campbell reinforced such sentiments by telling the Baltimore Sun, "Being rude means one thing to you and another thing to me."

Of course, being rude generally means one thing to employers, which is that he who is rude is not hired. Anne Arundel County wants to lower its rates of suspension of black pupils--rates that, according to the NAACP, indicate "discriminatory treatment." The true discrimination, the soft-bigotry of low-expectations bit, is Anne Arundel's new position of pretending that black children should be held to different standards of discipline...

Liam Julian

So reports Ron Matus in the St. Petersburg Times.


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?