Thursday, July 03, 2008

Spellings Tantrum (Precious); Reading Zeroed; Democrats Snicker; Dems Should Hold the Line on Something Worthwhile for a Change

Check out this delicious little diddy from none other than our Secretary of Education madam ambition in USAToday:

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings reacted angrily Tuesday to the "outrageous" cuts and called them "political theater."

Under President Clinton, she notes, Congress put more than $300 million a year into reading.
"Now we're going to turn back the clock, not only to pre-Bush but pre-Clinton (levels)," she says. "I bet it's been a long damned time since the federal government spent no money - zero - on reading."

Note the language. From a teacher, no less. Teacher-in-Chief. Ouch! Seriously though. I have to say that I am not pleased with Congress giving the bird to the White House at the expense of reading programs. Reading First is actually very popular. And based on an IES interim study with major caveats, the biggest of which is that Reading First schools look a lot like non Reading First schools in the districts where RF is implemented, you have to wonder if the Hill is just ignoring the waving flags of the research community. Word on the street (see Ed Daily) is that the finished study, with evidence to the contrary of the interim report, is just lying around in IES someplace.

Honestly, I got to give it to the Dems for eliciting a precious response from Spellings. RF is a pretty important policy to draw the line on, however. How about bring some troops home instead. What about FISA? Misguided = Everyone.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Spellings' ECS Speech: More Broken Analogies for NCLB

Tuesday morning in Austin, TX at the annual ECS meeting, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings revealed the states that had been approved for a differentiated accountability pilot. Her speech is notable for a variety of arguments and symbolism. Many are designed to further education as a civil right to keep the few remaining supporters of a botched law close. The text from her speech follows.

For this post I am going to harp on one failed analogy from Spelling's speech in this excerpt:

Which brings me to my next point, using data to support innovation for greater student gains.

Customization has already improved every other aspect of our lives. We have computers built to order...eyeglasses in an hour...and most web sites know what I want before I do. Yet while other fields rocket ahead, our education system is trapped in the industrial age. If Rip Van Winkle woke up today, classrooms would be the only thing he'd recognize. The term "24/7" has no relevance in education because we're still clinging to an outdated notion of 6 hours a day, 180 days a year.

Spellings thinks that the fields that produce Lens Crafters, Dell, and whatever web site she visits that "knows" what she wants before she does (I've never been to any site like that) "have rocketed ahead" of education. That's pretty incredible given how commoditized and old those technologies are. More so incredible, given that her analogies are purely consumeristic. The consumerism that she admires is in most ways antithetical to the hard work, concentration, deep learning, and subject mastery those original inventions/innovations required. Well then, you might say, her analogies are proper; she's talking about the hard work it takes to innovate. Right?

Wrong... she's not talking about the hard work it takes to innovate. She's talking about making education more customizable, and she makes this argument by suggesting kids should have access to education that more closely resembles a one-hour wait for glasses/a ten minute wait for a new Dell/ a 10 millisecond wait for a new pair of Nike Air Force Ones. And who is to say that education isn't already highly customized? Last time I checked school standards and curricula were jammed packed with choices. Many would argue that's part of the problem.

This speech is definitely not "99.9 percent pure or something."

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

St. Louis Gets State's First Unionized Charter, Gets Branded Self Interested

The Construction Careers Center in St. Louis will become Missouri’s first unionized charter school says the St. Louis American. The school will be unionized by AFT. The 32 charter school employees who will be represented by AFT St. Louis are the teachers, teacher assistants and secretarial-clerical staff.

This is great news, becasue it's an opportunity to work together to keep learning conditions strong and focus on instructional leadership right? Maybe...

Mike Meehan, a social studies teacher in the school gets the first quote in the article. It starts off right, but digresses into the usual grievances that no one outside of school staff wants to hear about, becasue most people aren't represented by unions and don't get the same benefits.

First the good part from Mike: "We’re thrilled that we are now represented by a union. This will be good for teachers and other staff, and good for students.”

Now the bad part from Mike, paraphrased by the reporter who clearly is looking to reduce the usefulness of a union into a list of self-interested bullet points: "[Mike] said the employees are concerned about such issues as the need for a salary schedule that includes extra pay for extra work, job security, an enforced discipline policy, and smaller class sizes."

Detractors love this kind of stuff.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Price is Wrong Keillor

Here's an evangelical rant if I ever saw one.

Keillor presumes that NCLB is mostly about the children, and by lambasting NCLB's detractors as aged and unsympathetic meddlers he fails to recognize that the impetus behind the law was also a variety of aged meddling.

Friday, January 18, 2008

WAPO reports 7500 students on the bubble to get weekend test prep

Cream-skimming at its most unadulterated. Rothstein should be pretty incensed by this.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Can Statistical Error Explain the World?

An email I sent to a colleague the other day, relevant to Andy's article in PDK, at least peripherally in using statistical error to explain away the differences in how certain folks operate in the world. Also, nice shout out to Kinder and Iyengar. Those guys bring me back to UVA Politics.

"OK, let me try this again. I'm trying to understand how confidence intervals (CI) can be explained in regards to AYP, particularly in light of something like growth models and ED's decision to not allow states to use CI when reporting growth under the Growth Model pilot.
The way I understand it.

When states don't use confidence intervals they increase the chance of making a Type II error. In the case of NCLB this gets operationalized as identifying subgroups as having met proficiency when they actually have not met proficiency. A Type I error in the context of NCLB would be the inverse: identifying a subgroup as proficient when they actually are not proficient. In statistics we are usually more concerned about making a Type II error because erring on the side of caution is good for a lot of things--like keeping people alive in medical trials.

But with regards to schools and calculating AYP, ED seems more concerned (based upon their general indifference to confidence intervals) about making a Type I error, or identifying a subgroup as having met proficiency when the subgroup in fact has not met proficiency.
Maybe it's not possible to talk about confidence intervals in this way--the unit of analysis being subgroups."

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Slowly going the way...

Stick around long enough and the worst reforms get sidelined. As with the gradual passing of un-Intelligent Design, so goes abstinence only sex education. My home state of Virginia is the most recent "drop-out" of the federal abstinence-only monies offered to states who take up the ideological cause that has largely been rebuffed by research and wholly rebuffed by common sense. Read about it here in Sunday's WAPO.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Science Monday: It Sounds Like Another World

The Cassini-Huygens Saturn probe delivered some truly spectacular images of the Saturn heavens. But this is on a whole other level. This is what a traveler on board Huygens would have heard during while falling towards the largest moon in Saturn's orbit.

Creative writing prompt: Write in stream of consciousness as if you were actually falling alongside Huygens on descent to Titan.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Swan Song for 2007 ESEA in the House?

So long as we have a President named Bush we can scapegoat the h-e- double hockey sticks out of him. He deserves it for hundreds of poor policy decisions alone, not to mention the very serious lack of bi-partisan effort (if you've got a National Journal account you can read this, if you don't, don't sweat it, in a nutshell Bush has one of the worst records of Bi-partisan accord of any president ever).

This is all introduction for short notice on a day-old press release from House Education and Labor Committee Chair George Miller. Miller, in what would appear to be the House's official swan song for reauthorization of ESEA in 2007, has publicly blamed the President. Is this entirely fair? Probably not. Am I suprising myself by writing that? Probably.

There are a lot of education groups, partisans, think tanks, membership organizations, and members of congress, not to mention TEACHERS who think that the reauthorization bill that landed late August from Miller and McKeon just isn't good enough--that it's too much in the vernacular of the publicly unpopular No Child version of the 1965 legislation, originally a funding vehicle designed to ameliorate conditions in schools for poor and minority students. The Senate gave up on it's 2007 reuathorization last week.

Point is Miller took it on the right, the left, up the gut, and on the chin this Fall. He's lucky, and maybe we're all a little lucky, for once, to have someone worth blaming to blame it all on. We must reauthorize the most important federal piece of legislation for schools, students, teachers, and for the future of this great country on the back of fair and flexible methods for schools and the resources and quality education for all students. We have our work cut out for sure.

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Finally Grades Everyone Understands: NYC Schools Edition

Do unto your parents as you do unto your teachers. Parents in New York ponder the at once perspicuous and obscure grades their children's schools received. Under a new grading system each New York public school received a letter grade A-F. Grades are sent home for the public's viewing pleasure. The NYTimes describes the gamut of reactions from parents, everything from rallies in support of failing or underachieving schools--a chicken-soup approach--to feelings of doom from receiving an A--is there really no place left to go but down? Wanna bumble with the bee, huh.... "The Day After School Grades Come In, Parents Are Buzzing." Buzzzzz

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Catch All the Lesson Plans: Pokemon and Science

Can Pokemon get kids excited about learning science? You better believe it can. Sets of lesson plans from the NIA (National Institute of Aerospace) integrate Nintendo's wildly popular characters (over 165 million games sold) with relevant lessons for students in grades 3-8. Tite!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Klein, Weingarten, and the Door Shut on Individual Merit Pay. Huzuh??

If you've been following the incentive pay goings-on in New York City you'll know that the AFT's Randi Weingarten and NYC's Joel Klein and M. Bloomberg have reached an historic agreement regarding incentive pay for teachers. But depending on who you read or who you talk to the two groups are trumpeting different triumphs.

Klein for his part is touting the proposal's benefit for individual students, not to mention channeling the late Albert Shanker and hometown hero on 555 NJ Ave. Weingarten is clear about her position on merit pay. In a UFT press release she states, "School-wide bonuses properly refocus the misguided debate over individual merit pay."

But the terms of the agreement--largely a compromise to recoup significant back pay for retirees--are still somewhat about individual merit pay. Not all teachers are guaranteed merit pay, even under the whole school model as it is currently designed. UFT's press release states "Options include giving all staff the same amount or varying amounts based on their role in the school's improvement, but every UFT staff member is presumed to receive some bonus." I don't know about you but presumed doesn't instill a lot of confidence in me. And when the first teacher that gets a $1 bonus udner the incentive play plan writes a letter to the NYTimes we'll see if the spirit of togetherness rings true.

Weingarten is even quoted in the NYTimes, “This shuts the door on the individual merit pay plans that I abhor.”

It's AFT policy that they support collectively bargained incentive pay agreements--the organization gets misquoted a lot on this and often lumped in with the NEA who do not share the same view on incentive pay. AFT prefers using the method folks in NY are about to establish--whole school improvement equals bonus pay. Afterall it doesn't take the world's best argument to understand that learning, and thusly measurements of learning are not stochastic. Any number of teachers and factors over several years contributes to the development of child.

To Ms. Weingarten. I'm not so sure this does shut the door. I guess we'll see it play out in the details.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Progressive Pay in a Time Where We Must Be Bold

Eduwonk posts that Charlie Barone has turned in a history/stakes piece on No Child Left Behind that we should check out (pdf). I admit I liked it. It was nothing new, but Barone's clear prose makes the history of our moment at once more provocative and delicate. Where I didn't like it is at the end when he likened the famously, (and improperly) lumped teachers unions to a hypertensive, ready-to-burst apologist for the status quo--apoplectic is his word. AFT is clear when it comes to local unions who want to implement alternate pay structures--it supports them and helps them.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

More on Comps. from Kate Walsh

Kate Walsh of the NCTQ has a well written analysis on comparability out right now in this week's Gadfly. Kate waxes sympathetic to the teacher quality issue (it's in the name, dur) but recognizes that comparability isn't the fix. Making school districts reallocate teachers as a condition of receiving Title I money has its absurdities. The Title II stuff about Premium Pay is a better option for hard-to-staff schools. Now if Miller and McKeon could only let the districts and teachers decide for themselves, rather than applying the steam iron of the federal govt. we'd have something. Premium pay will go over well with a lot of teachers--put some trust in that Committee.

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Comparable? EdWeek Wants to Give It a Go

Reading Bess Keller's article in EdWeek, "Proposed NCLB Rule on 'Salary Comparability' Draws Scrutiny," I can't help notice that she seems to think that the monies for Title II comparability could be used for a myriad of activities other than teacher salaries. The draft is pretty clear that state and local monies will have to be used to get Title I and non Title I schools to within 2 percentage points of parity regarding average salaries. There is no evidence to back her claims up as far as I can tell. The section in question follows:

"The draft provision is explicit that involuntary transfers of teachers would not be required to even out what is spent per school. In fact, the money would get added at a low-spending school would not have to be spent on salaries at all.

Possible uses of such a windfall for a school might be beefing up professional development or lowering class sizes with an eye to making the school a better place to work, supporters of the idea said. Or the money might provide bonuses to teachers who came or stayed."

I thought for a hot second that Premium Pay in Title II draft might resolve her argument, but that money is federal money that supplements not supplants local and state monies. I’m not sure what her argument is actually. Equity in teacher pay is a condition of receiving Title I monies—sure that money doesn’t have to be spent on teacher salaries because the salaries would already be comparable.

With this new type of comparability, the type that ED Trust has thrown their back and butt into, we seem to be moving away from the issue of highly qualified teachers and into the realm of more senior teachers—these are not the same thing.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

TFA - What's it all About (the look my friend is famous edition)

Thanks to Michael Salmonowicz, an intensely passionate, hyper bright, and all around genuine guy, for getting me back on blogger for a post. He has a new article on EdWeek that deserves props. His insight on TFA is pointed and should help keep a lively debate about social justice and education alive and well. Go check him out here.

Thanks to J. Stroup for the heads-up on this good work.

Look for a future post on ESEA reauthorization. I've been digging in the trenches with ed labor folks... making stories to tell grandkids about--well maybe not that great, but it's a start.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Big Ups to My Main Man Ben Stein

Ben Stein comes through in the clutch with some great advice for college students--undergrads and grads alike imo. Having started a new job, yesterday in fact, I can tell you that habits of work demand practice.
College, says Stein, is about practice for the real thing. But it's about a lot else too. Friends, fraternity, professors, and loves all come to mind. Stein errs a bit when he suggests enlightened people such as some of your professors will be judgemental when it comes to your dress. This is not a universal truth--but Stein is wealthy and dresses the part so he suggests we should too. Anyhow, to young people off to college show Stein some respect.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Work that Vo2 Max Out for a Better Brain

A fit person's hippocampus, researchers say, can swell with nearly twice as much blood than a non-fit person. Continuing the anemic once-a-week, or sadly, once-every-two-weeks posting schedule focused on topics ancillary to education, I bring you the NYT writeup of a Columbia University study about regenerating our brains.

Check it out. It's encouraging stuff and has tons of application for kids and education. *Think evidence shows that fit kids integrate new neurons better than non-fit kids. Aging people show affects too in memory and in cognition.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Eponymous Return: Leg. Edition

I’ve been looking a lot at graduation rates recently. I still think the holy grail of graduation documents is the NGA’s Graduation Counts. All 50 guvna’s signed the compact, some have since backed out and many have not moved to implement the compact yet. I’ve also been poking around in Bobby Scott’s Every Student Counts Act H.R.2955. There is some good stuff in there, but I have some issues as well. Some thoughts on this graduation bill:

· HR.2955 buries students who graduate with alternative degrees in an optional “additional indicator” metric. It’s good for rigor of course. And states should have as their main goal high school graduation, not GEDs. Something makes me a little unsettled about it though.
· Only 1 percent of students can qualify for IEP defined diploma—that’s too few.
· High schools would be required to use grad rates as their additional indicator under NCLB. What about other indicators that would be potentially supplanted? Or is Graduation as "good" of an indicator as there is? My guess is that grad rates are as good of an indicator for NCLB purposes as we’ve got.
· Arbitrary growth for graduation rates improvement (2-3 percent). This is going to be a problem. We’ll be right back in the business of arguing over baselines, and cut scores, and benchmarks. And we’ll be arguing arbitrarily. Can’t wait for that.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

On Wealth and Taxes and Giving Back

From the New York Times, an intriguing story on wealth in America--wealth whose parallel is a century old. Not since the Gilded Age has American wealth concentrated like it has in the top 1 percent of income earners. Robert L. Crandall, former president, CEO, and chairman of American Airlines speaks about the unique possibilities for wealth in the United States. He cogently aggresses a U.S. tax code blind to the protections the U.S. affords large businesses--and subsequently the American uber-rich. Louis Uchitelle writes for NYT:
"The nation’s corporate chiefs would be living far less affluent lives, Mr. Crandall said, if fate had put them in, say, Uzbekistan instead of the United States, 'where they are the beneficiaries of a market system that rewards a few people in extraordinary ways and leaves others behind.'

'The way our society equalizes incomes,' he argued, 'is through much higher taxes than we have today. There is no other way.'"

We write too many passes in this country largely because we think: "It could be me. It could be me that is rich and wants to avoid paying heavy taxes." Crandall nicely points out an overlooked logic. We have a lot of work to do, it begins by recognizing the cagey in the time-tested American epigram "equal opportunity."

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Correspondent Inference Theory: A Little Clarity

Providing a little clarity, something I think I had more of closer to 9-11 and the run-up to the Iraq disaster, is an article by Bruce Schneier in Wired. He comments expertly on Max Abrams paper, Why Terrorism Does Not Work. We could all stand to relearn that while some actions can only be understood as nonsensical, all actions are precipitated by demands. Learn about correspondent inference theory.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I Know you are but what am I? China and the US Ban on Their Seafood

Here's an observation regarding a quote pulled from a CNN Money article "China Slams US Over Seafood Ban." China's nanny nanny poo poo in response for the US blocking imports of seafood because of evidence of tainted goods:
"In one apparent response in Beijing, Chinese officials announced the seizure of substandard food shipments at its ports.

In the past week, China seized two fruit shipments from the United States and warned it would apply greater scrutiny to U.S. cargoes, even as it tightens monitoring of manufacturers at home."

What does this have to do with education? Not much, but it does remind me of the type of school-yard antics and jejune tit-for-tat I'd expect from children, not countries. What if we started teaching our kids that the more they learn about the world, the more they will realize that not that much changes from school.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Segregation Marches On: Supreme Court Decides in Favor of Status Quo

PARENTS INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS v. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 ET AL. has been decided. I'll need to get to the bottom of it all but the Supreme Court has made a landmark decision. AP suggests Justice Kennedy's dissent may leave the door cracked for more elaborate methodologies for achieving diversity. Otherwise, it looks like a setback for Civil Rights. Strict scrutiny may have been applied (we'll here lots of those arguments), but there are real world consequences that legal scrutiny could give a rats ass about. Judicial hardlining isn't always humane or in our best interests. It is our Court and we need them to make tough decisions, but we also need them to make conscionable decisions and not act like robots. Look for fewer creative challenges to promoting diversity as school systems will want to avoid press, time, money, and being labeled obstructionist.

My response to a strict scrutiny friend who believes the Court did right: "The only question that matters for much is what the real world fallout will be. Will schools actually trouble themselves with creative ways to engineer diversity, or will they go with the flow and embrace schools as mirror reflections of segregated communites?"

I like Hillary Clinton's response to the Court's ruling; it shows concern for actual effects of law: "These decisions take away the right of local communities to ensure that all students benefit from racially diverse classrooms. Recent evidence shows that integrated schools promote minority academic achievement and can help close the achievement gap."

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nasty Race Cards in DC Suggested in Nasty USA Today Editorial

“But if she fails, Rhee almost certainly will be viewed through the prism of the fractured relations between blacks and Koreans.”

Above is the ultimate line in a USA Today piece by DeWayne Wickham. Wickham’s op-ed title “A chance to mend fences for new D.C. schools chief” suggests it’s D.C.’s fences in disrepair, but the closer, the SHOCKING closer, suggests newly appointed DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s successes or failures are indeed an indication of America’s Black on Korean and Korean on Black hatred. That’s quite a burden! Maybe the most unfair burden I’ve read in an opinion or otherwise in a long time. To suggest that Michelle Rhee is somehow responsible for or a product of race relations is unconscionably unfair. Wickham’s very public race card play here is a sign of far we have to go to be better to one another. I’m ashamed.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bloodlust for changes to NCLB; But a Major Break, I don't Think So

When an article title reads “Ex-Aides Break With Bush on 'No Child': Conservatives Giving Vent to Doubts; Support for Opt-Out Proposals Grows” I expect a story about once-smitten twice-bitten loyalists sounding an alarm on the federal role in education. Instead we get treated to a few salty lines from two, count em, two ex-aides willing to go on record. These aides don’t scream defiance. They’d rather tweak or consider something else than the current law prescribes. The Bush admin itself wants changes. Changes like superseding union contracts in low performing schools and converting schools designated failing under NCLB into charters. We all want changes. I’ve been to several events this summer primed with reauthorization bloodlust.

The Post presents a creative angle but doesn’t deliver. And the tidbit about 9-11, the president’s sweeping mandate to do whatever and whenever, and NCLB passage is an interesting bit, but smacks of historical revisionism. Who knows, might make a worthy chapter in a book one day, but right now, knowing what I know about the education players at the time, I'm not buying it.

I didn’t know that Spellings was pushing for private school vouchers to be included in the renewal of No Child Left Behind. The Post reports that Katherine McLane, a department spokeswoman, said so.

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