Friday, July 29, 2005

Education and the Latino Vote in New York

The Daily News reports that Democratic mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer is losing some of his support among Latino voters in New York City. Ferrer would capture 54 percent of the Latino vote in a race against Bloomberg (who is polling around 27 percent), but this number is way down from the 82 percent Ferrer won in a 2001 run-off with Mark Green. Ferrer's campaign is having its problems in general (as are the other 3 Democrats), but the real story here may be the political impact of Bloomberg's focus on education as a central issue of his reelection campaign. As Hispanic Federation President Lillian Rodríguez-López said in the article,

the poll found Latinos interested in "education, education, education ... Schools and education were the top issue in deciding, followed by economy and jobs,"

Spanish Teacher Exchange

Here is an interesting article from the New Mexican about a teacher exchange program in Santa Fe that brings teachers from Spain to New Mexico to teach bilingual classes. The program, which places Spanish teachers in 35 other states as well, has been going on since 1997. But this is the first year that teachers from Mexico are joining up.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

"Schools that Rock"

This is awesome!

(Mom, are you reading this? This has David written all over it ...)

The New Southerners

The LA Times has a fascinating article about the booming immigrant population in the U.S. South. Six Southern states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama) have seen their Latino population increase rapidly - in some states the Latino population has quadrupled - since 1990 due to the demand for manufacturing jobs according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Most of the newcomers are young, foreign-born (from Latin America) male immigrants that do not speak English well. Many immigrants are undocumented. But not all of the new immigrants are single young men. The number of Latino children enrolled in school is expected to grow by 210 percent between 2001 and 2008. As this great Edweek series from a couple of months ago demonstrates, the influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants to regions like the Midwest and South causes communities to deal with many new issues, particularly when it comes to education. But as this quote from the LA Times article rightly states, it is essential that communities succeed:
However, education could be the key to bringing the new residents into the mainstream, Guillory said. "We are changing from a muscle economy to a mind economy. We've got to do a better job and close the education gap between the native-born whites and Latinos."
So while the immigrant population in the U.S. South needs better access to education, some lawmakers there are busy shutting the door to higher education. According to this AP article, the North Carolina state legislature killed a bill that would have allowed undocumented immigrants that went to high school in the state to pay in-state tuition at universities (which 9 states currently allow).

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A contract is nigh ...

... and so may be an endorsement.

Revolving door

Former Pennsylvania Education Secretary, Heritage good old boy, and ED Undersecretary (and, apparently, revolutionary) Eugene Hickock is now revolving into the lobbying world. Unsurprisingly, he will be working on behalf of for-profit education. Bets on how long it takes before he revolves back into public service?

The cost on students of healthy teachers

A short but important story in EdWeek about this study on the cost of health insurance in schools. EdWeek reports that:
In the districts that responded, the average annual cost of health care was reported to be $895 per student, out of total per-pupil spending from all sources of $9,400. About two-thirds of the officials surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that medical insurance costs had “negatively affected” spending on academics.
EdWeek makes the connection, as do I, to the problem that health care presents in all sectors. Companies like Wal-Mart have come up with ingenious methods for shunting the cost of health care onto other companies or the government. As public entities, schools cannot do that. One more argument against privatization of schools -- privatize schools and health care is going to be one of the first things to go. Your labor force will then become (even more than they already are) a group of people who either have a well-endowed spouse, have few other options, or will leave as soon as they get a better opportunity.

Skipping Summer School

The Daily News reports today that 30 percent of kids in New York City invited to summer school this summer are not going, up from 27 percent last summer.

Update: Newsday article on summer school attendance

Immigrant Scholarships in Boston

According to the Boston Globe, a group of Boston colleges are thinking about providing scholarships for undocumented immigrants in the city's public schools. The aid, which will be gathered through private donations, will be around $5,000 each year per student. The colleges are taking action after Gov. Romney has vowed to veto a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants that attended public schools in Massachusetts for 3 years to pay in-state tuition (he vetoed a similar bill last year).

The decision by the group of Boston colleges shows that the problem of undocumented immigrant access to college just isn't going to disappear by not allowing these students to pay in-state tuition. Colleges want smart immigrant kids to go to their schools, and it looks like some are willing to make it happen even if politicians like Romney try to stand in the way.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Maranto Rant

A not-particularly-enlightening op-ed on NCLB by charter advocate/researcher Bob Maranto appeared in today's Hartford Courant. He provides a simplistic analysis of why educators hate the law. His second and third reasons are that teachers don't want to be held accountable for their work, he says, and they don't really believe poor and minority students can learn.

First of all, I haven't done the kind of extensive survey of educators that Maranto describes in his column, but I would be willing to bet that if he'd surveyed teachers and principals instead of just education officials, he'd get a pretty high approval rate for NCLB. Based on my informal discussions with teachers, no one is opposed to shining the light on schools that do not adequately serve poor and minority students.

But Maranto's primary reason that educators hate NCLB is that they don't understand the law. That I can believe. Most people in the U.S. don't understand the law -- they simply associate it with a Republican administration that they either respect or despise.

And maybe I don't really understand NCLB! Maranto says:
For example, NCLB does NOT require all students to achieve at high levels - as one local school superintendent who had never read the law told me. NCLB merely requires that all groups show substantial progress before the law expires in 2008.
I know NCLB doesn't require that all students achieve at high levels -- it just requires that they achieve proficiency. But is it true that the law only requires subgroups to show "progress?" If that were true, do you think there would be the uproar we've seen so far?

Am I missing something here?

Get off your ath, let's do some Math

this article scares me. what am i getting myself into? it comes at a time when i'm getting letters from citibank letting me know exactly how much i'm going to owe in loans once i get my rewarding-yet-not-in-a-monetary-way first teaching job in two years. remind me why i didn't major in math or science?

meanwhile, Q-Comp, another pay-for-performance system, is getting some media attention.

The "Year of the Child" in New Mexico

According to this article in the Albuquerque Tribune, Governor Bill Richardson has a plan for all of New Mexico's extra money (around $1 billion over the next 5 years due to higher oil and gas prices) - he's going to spend on the state's kids.
They [Richardson and Lt. Governor Diane Denish] envision every kid under 5 in the state having health insurance and every kid getting all their vaccines. Physical education classes every day and less junk food in schools. More eye and ear exams. Healthy breakfasts before class. Permanent preschool available for every 4-year-old. More early reading and math programs. More child care and a pay raise for teachers.

Richardson, who is up for reelection next year and is rumored to be a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, is calling the plan the "Year of the Child". It sounds great.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Going to college in Texas

According to Inside Higher Ed, new data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board shows that the number of undocumented immigrants attending college in Texas (one of the small number of states that allows immigrant students to pay in-state tuition regardless of legal status) has gone up significantly since 2001. Undocumented immigrants are now 10 times more likely to attend college in Texas than they were before the state began to offer in-state tuition rates to immigrant students.

These statistics, which are important in the growing nation-wide debate over college for undocumented immigrants, will undoubtably be used by both pro and anti-immigrant groups. It is probably impossible to allay the concerns of people who argue that giving undocumented immigrants access to college rewards illegal behavior by their parents, but the article makes it pretty clear that fears about undocumented immigrants taking up spots at competitive universities are unfounded - most of the students benefiting from Texas' law are attending community colleges, and undocumented students still make up a very small percentage of all students in the state.

More data is needed to see exactly how the state's investment in immigrant youth is paying off, but at least we know now that a lot of undocumented immigrants can take advantage of this policy, which likely means they will be able get better jobs, earn more money and contribute to their communities (and the state's tax base).

The view from the center

The economist's weekly U.S. report takes the opportunity to pat Bush on the back for last week's positive NAEP results.

The column highlights Bush's stance as a "new kind of conservative" when it comes to education:
From the Goldwater revolution onwards, American conservatives defined themselves by their hostility to government. They were particularly keen on closing down the Department of Education. But Mr Bush argued that active government was quite compatible with conservative principles, provided that it was active government guided by sensible values and disciplined by internal and external competition.
Meanwhile, Senator Clinton is busy positioning herself as a new kind of Democrat (or rather, "reinforcing" that position). And when it comes to education, that position doesn't end up looking much different from Bush's.

Friday, July 22, 2005

School of professionals

NY Daily News reports that the UFT charter school has cleared its final hurdle, and is set to open in the fall. To me, the best graf comes at the end:
"There is a sense of professionalism here that we as teachers don't feel in the Department of Education," said Lisa Olesak, who will teach kindergarten.
I have said this many times before, but I think this is the key to the union-charter partnership. The AFT's motto is "A Union of Professionals." Charter schools work best when teachers feel ownership of the school. Everyone wants teachers to be seen, and see themselves, as "professionals" rather than skilled workers. (Though this gets into the commodification of intellectual work, but we can talk about that in another post.) Charters provide a way to achieve this. It's brilliant, I love it.

Update: Eduwonk (actually, the guy who wrote the Daily News article) makes a good point about the UFT charter school and the Fordham Foundation charter schools.

Immigrant students saved from deportation

The Arizona Daily Star reports that the deportation case against 4 Latino students from Arizona was thrown out after a judge ruled that border agents near Buffalo questioned the students based on their race. The border agents also made some racially offensive comments to the students, who were in Buffalo to take part in a high school science fair competition.

It's really sad that stuff like this continues to happen. While these kids are undocumented, they came to the country with their parents when they were small children and went to school most of their lives in the United States. This is another instance of how the power of fear of the unknown (in this case, immigrants from Latin America) can translate into racist and often counterproductive actions. Why should these students (3 of them are now in college in the U.S.) be deported because of their parents' actions?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cutting after-school programs

Four after-school programs in lower Manhattan will be closed this fall, the Daily News reports today. According to the article, the city cut its funding to the non-profit Chinese-American Planning Council, which ran the programs in 4 primary schools. About 400 kids will lose out next year. Here would be a good time for the community education councils to stand up and prevent this from happening.

Community Education Councils

The Gotham Gazette has a closer look at the first year of community education councils in New York City, which replaced the 32 community school boards last fall. Each council has 9 parents (elected from school parent associations), 2 members appointed by the borough president and one high school senior.

As to be expected, the community education councils did not run particularly smoothly their first year. One of the biggest problems mentioned in the article was the high number of unfilled seats on the councils, which probably stems from the lack of parent participation in general. In the section of Queens where I work, most of the middle and high schools get a very low parent turnout at PTA meetings and even parent-teacher conferences (the primary schools do a little better), so it must be hard for these education councils to function.

Another problem with these councils is the fact that they really don't have any power - all the successes from the article have to do with publicizing issues or forcing a hearing. Joel Klein even took away their power over school choice in their region during the year. Publicizing complaints can be an effective way to make changes, but there should be a way for these councils to have more of a direct impact on schools. It seems to me that the councils could be a powerful tool for generating parent involvement and fostering community relations in diverse communities that outside of schools have few ways to interact. But it won't happen until parents feel like they can make a difference through the education councils.

A message to everyone reading Harry Potter on the subway with the book jacket removed:

You're not fooling anybody.

Update: Can reading Harry Potter on the subway help in case of a terrorist attack?

Crazy for Kickball

Here is a fun article about the kickball craze (among adults) that is sweeping Syracuse and the nation. I had no idea that 17,000 people play organized kickball. And its all happening while recess in school is being cut left and right.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Thoughts on Value-Added Assessment

Just "got back from" the "webinar" on performance-based pay, jointly put on by the Office of Innovation and Improvement and the Kennedy School's Government Innovators Network. Each of the presenters talked about tying teacher pay into growth in student test scores, or "value-added."

Value-added has gotten a lot of attention since I was working here way back in 2001:
  • Joel Klein recently announced plans to track student achievement in New York City as growth over time (though no mention of plans to tie these results into teacher pay).
  • Spellings is mulling tying AYP into growth, rather than expecting all students to hit a particular cut score by 2014.
  • Pennsylvania will be moving into full implementation of the Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System in the 2005-06 school year.
Based on what I heard today, it seems like the idea has undergone a lot of thought, and a lot of potential snags seem to have been smoothed out. Would it succeed in attracting better candidates to teaching positions? I don't know, but I hope that once I'm certified I'll be able to teach in a school that uses something like the TAP program.

Update: Missouri will be implementing a student identification number system -- something Ted Hershberg mentioned today as a prerequisite for any kind of value-added mechanism to work. And it's not just them -- according to a woman quoted in the article, "All states in the country are in the process of putting in place a student identification system."

School spending in New York

According to this report from the Independent Budget Office, education spending per student in New York City has risen 24 percent in the last 15 years (1989-2004). Total school spending has gone up 43 percent during this time period. Some other interesting tidbits: student-teacher ratios have declined every year since 1996, and Bloomberg has increased funding for education by 3.5 percent, down from the average increase of 6.3 percent from 1998-2001.

Update: NY Daily News write-up here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

See you on the Web

Thanks Eduwonk (or his stand-in of the week) for posting info on this Webinar! I am so there (and by "there" i mean "here"). Pros: Ted Hershberg is a former employer and prof. I spent one long, hot summer in college doing a lot of research on value-added schemes. Cons: Nina Rees.

Hillary and the Latino vote

Several stories today discuss Hillary Clinton's speech at the National Council of La Raza conference in Philadelphia. The Washington Post describes her campaign-like speech that got a great response from the crowd, the NY Daily News has her squaring off with Ed. Secretary Margaret Spelling over the achievement gap among Latino high school students (they both agreed that younger students are doing better and that the dropout rate needs to be addressed urgently), and the Philadelphia Inquirer has her slamming Bush (though not by name) for not doing enough for Latino families.

I posted a while back about Hillary's turn to the right on immigration - she made some rather big waves when she said she was "adamantly against illegal immigrants" - (while it is always important to remember that Latino issues are not necessarily about immigration, her comments at the NCLR conference show how the issues are really intertwined). But Hillary's recent speech, and a little more research, show that her stance on immigration is much more complex.

She is a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act (a stance she reiterated in her speech in Philly), the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill and AgJobs, a great bill for farm workers that was killed by Republican leadership earlier this year. She also called for the federal government to reimburse hospitals for providing free care to immigrants in the speech. But she didn't take a stand on the REAL ID Act (an anti-immigrant bill that will dramatically overhaul the country's driver's license system and which is now receiving a barrage of criticism from more than a few governors). Hillary seems to be staking out a middle ground on immigration by supporting sensible, moderate immigration reform (if you can call being adamantly against illegal immigrants as somewhere in the middle) while calling for an increased government role in protecting Latinos.

Santorum not out of tight spot yet

Will he or won't he be able to simultaneously homeschool his kids and send them to public school? The saga continues.

Education politics in Rochester

With all the attention the N.Y.C. mayoral race is getting, I have not heard much about the race that is on in Rochester, where apparently education is becoming an issue. This candidate (though apparently not the favorite to win) is proposing measures to give more mayoral control over schools, much like the system that exists in New York City.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Town + Gown = Frown

Looks like NYU is not just having union woes.

Relationships between universities and the surrounding communities (too-cutely known as "Town/Gown" relations) are often frosty because universities are rich and powerful, and the neighborhoods are frequently poor and politically underrepresented. But with NYU, it's a different story:
"If I lived in the Village and saw this monster eating up the neighborhood, I'd be a little alarmed myself," [NYU faculty member Barry] Lewis said. "Most activists I know just loathe NYU because NYU is gradually snipping away at the historic ambience of the Village -- the town houses, the historic sites where people famously lived or hung out. A lot of that landscape is being covered by their campus."

DREAMing in Philadelphia

Today's Inquirer has a good summary of the DREAM Act and also mentions something I hadn't thought too much about - private universities giving bright immigrant students (who also happen to be undocumented) scholarships that would permit them to afford college. In the case mentioned in the article, an immigrant student was given a full ride by a Catholic school in PA.

Of course, this doesn't solve the larger problem - the fact that after college these kids will still be undocumented and won't be able to find work. It just shows that no matter how many states and communities pass reasonable immigration reforms that reward immigrant students for their hard work, without federal immigration reform (the DREAM Act), not much is really going to change for undocumented kids.

Ah, Santorum

I can't remember ever agreeing with this Philly Inquirer columnist while I was living in that city (I think he once suggested that all Philadelphia Catholic schools convert to charter schools), but how can you disagree with the one-liner at the end of this column:
Judging from his recent comments, I'd say that Rick Santorum has one of the finest minds of the 13th century.

School of Dog

Nothing to do with schools, blogs, or New York, but this is just so funny. Particularly:
Do you know the history of crate training? ’Cause I do. Don’t talk about things you don’t understand. Like saying dogs are wild. Dogs are wild—that is glib. Dogs are . . . I’ve done the research; there are crates that they put us in to quote unquote train us. They throw rattlesnakes at us. Electric-shock tags! I’m not making this up. This is . . . it’s history. Crate training just masks the problem. These dogs, they become zombies. You can totally handle disobedience naturally by saying “No!” and “Bad dog!” It works. Look at the facts. Shock tags?! I am disgusted.

UFT charter clears another hurdle

Thanks, Education Wonks, for linking to this article and this Education Wonks post in this comment to this School of Blog post.

Here's the NY Daily News write-up, and there's another editorial in the NY Post shaming Republican politicians Randy Daniels and Ed Cox for not standing up against the union's attempt to harm kids for their own monetary benefit.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ferrer promises to lower city's drop-out rate

The New York Times and Newsday both have stories today about Democratic mayoral hopeful Fernando Ferrer's hot-off-the-press education plan. Ferrer accused Bloomberg of ignoring a drop-out crisis - saying only 38 percent of public school students are graduating on time - and brought forth a myriad of proposals to do something about it. Among them were: smaller class size, more after school programs, raising teacher's salaries and providing students with laptops. The DOE says the graduation rate is above 50 percent and that it is the highest it has been since the 1980s. But I can't imagine anyone arguing that there isn't a lot of work to be done, including Bloomberg.

More interestingly, Ferrer said he would pay for all this with the billions of dollars owed to New York City from the state government (the result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit). It would be great if he could figure out a way to actually get the money.

SUNY to give final vote on UFT charter today

I have no other news than that, but I will keep you posted. And there is an ugly editorial in the NY Post which I will not link to.

Overstating graduation rates

Newsday reports today that a number of school districts in Long Island are graduating fewer students than previous figures indicated. A new State Department of Ed. survey (which calculates graduation rates differently this year - for instance, students who graduated in the summer after their senior year are not included in the new graduation figures, and students that transferred in their junior or senior year are now included in the data) shows some pretty big drops in some districts from 2003 to 2004, although Long Island is still well above the state average. It's hard to say what the outcome of the statistical change will be - it will probably upset a lot of school districts by lowering graduation rates, but it could also identify areas where students need more help.

DREAMing of becoming a lawyer?

The New York Sun has a nice article today about Kamal Essaheb, an undocumented law student at Fordham University who is inspiring support for the DREAM Act, which the school of bloggers support and have blogged about many times. Here is an excerpt:

Mr. Essaheb's immigration saga began two years ago when he urged his father and brothers to register with the Department of Homeland Security. They were among the 83,000 immigrants from Muslim countries and North Korea who
complied with the Special Registration anti-terrorism program after the September 11, 2001, attacks. All the Essaheb men were found not to have legal status, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not pursue his father's case. Mr. Essaheb and his twin younger brothers, however, were among the 13,000 men placed in deportation hearings.

At an immigration rally last week, his first, Mr. Essaheb, dressed smartly in a jacket and a tie, looked in wonder as fellow students, religious leaders, and advocates marched around him shouting"Education, not deportation" and hoisting "Don't deport our friend Kamal!" banners. A representative of the Mayor's Office of ImmigrantAffairs slipped him contact information and told him to get in touch with her if he had any questions. A Chinese reporter approached him and asked
for a card. "I don't have a business card," Mr. Essahebsaid. "I'm still a student."

The Moroccan, who did not disclose to many of his closest friends until recently that he is an illegal immigrant, said he has been touched by the
overwhelming response, but not fully surprised."

A lot of folks assume immigration court makes sense and if someone is being deported he must be a criminal, terrorist, drug dealer," he said over the din of the marchers. "When they see it's essentially an American kid, they want to help as much as they can."

For Mr. Essaheb, discovering he was an undocumented immigrant meant he could not receive the financial assistance necessary to pursue his dream to study engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Instead, he attended Queens College. New York is one of nine states that have enacted legislation to allow certain long-term unauthorized immigrant students to become eligible for in-state tuition.

Mr. Essaheb was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper and graduated with a degree in economics. His trek through immigration court, however, motivated him to shift his career track to law, and he entered Fordham Law School as part of the Stein Scholars Program inPublic Interest Law and Ethics.

At last week's rally, a Fordham professor, Jennifer Gordon, noted the tremendous contribution immigrant students make to the City Universityof New York system. In one of her classes, she said, the 55 students could trace their heritage to 45 different countries."We say we are the country of immigrants, and we say we are proud of that heritage," Ms. Gordon said, "but what kind of country ofimmigrants is going to deport its best and the brightest?"

Mr. Essaheb's case was granted administrative closure earlier this month, meaning the government is reconsidering if it will pursue his case. Even if he
is not deported, however, he will not be able to work legally as a lawyer when
he graduates.

Kamal's story makes a pretty clear case for passing the DREAM Act - here is a bright student who has followed all the rules (he registered with the Dept. of Homeland Security) and got ahead, but can't work because of his immigration status.

In related news, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff appears to be endorsing a guestworker program as part of comprehensive immigration reform. While I don't think Bush's pro-business guestworker proposal is the perfect solution, something like it would be a step in the right direction. More importantly, it's good that people outwardly concerned about security issues aren't portraying all immigrants as terrorists, and realize that a solution can be reached without draconian border policies.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Class and Schools (And NAEP)

Interview with education policy researcher and Class and Schools author Richard Rothstein from the Harvard Family Research Project. Doesn't really say much that isn't in the book, but if you don't have time to read the book, (and you really should read the book,) it has a good summary. Key passage re: NCLB:
Currently, our national education policy expects something we cannot possibly achieve if schools alone are seen as responsible for student achievement. Our national goal is that all social-class differences in education outcomes will disappear by the year 2014. However, when 2014 arrives and gaps have not disappeared, we will judge that schools have failed. Policies will follow from that judgment. But most of these policies will not work, because we will have made an incorrect diagnosis of the problem and therefore formulated an incorrect or incomplete treatment as a solution.
Still, it looks like achievement gaps (at least race-based ones) are steadily closing, according to the newest NAEP data released just today. Political analysis from Eduwonk here.

P.S., why doesn't NAEP disaggregate data by class? I guess it's because they rely on data that students report themselves. Parents' highest level of education is probably as close as they can get, and if you look at those trendlines the gaps between "less than high school" and "graduated from college" really have not closed at all since 1978.

Want some coffee with that?

Details are still a little sketchy, but apparently a school board member and a teacher's assistant got into it late Wednesday night in the Hempstead school district offices (in Long Island), with the school board member claiming the teacher's assistant hit him with a coffee cup. She says she was tackled by the guy while she was removing some personal items from the office, the night after schools Superintendent Susan Johnson was fired (replaced with Nathaniel Clay, who was fired from the same job last year). It's crazy out in Long Island. But who says summer isn't exciting?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More on Arizona For-Profiteers

This EdWeek article (via eduwonk) clears up questions raised in a previous post:
Arizona, which experts describe as having the nation’s least-restrictive charter law, appears to be the only state in which for-profit companies hold the charters for schools.
In other words, there are no other for-profit schools receiving federal funds, because in no other state do for-profits hold the actual charter to the school (they just serve, for instance, a management role). EdWeek reports that the House has voted to overturn the Education Department's decision to withhold federal Title I and IDEA funds from for-profit charter schools. But unless I am wrong, and I am never wrong, providing those funds to a for-profit entity is against the law.

Does anyone know any more about this than I do?

NYU: Union busting under "the cloak of July"

Apparently, wrath was unleashed at a "town hall meeting" on grad student unions at NYU yesterday (which I would have attended, had it not been smack in the middle of the day).

Charters and Unions, revisited (and not for the last time!)

this piece on charters and vouchers in today's nytimes is not the most enlightening thing you will ever read on the subject, but it does end in a thought-provoking way with a quote from the very colorful Tom Mooney of the Ohio Federation of Teachers:
In states like Ohio that permit private companies to govern whole chains of charter schools, the unions have fought them bitterly.

"Charters and vouchers are equal on our agenda," said Tom Mooney, the president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. "We consider charters more insidious right now, because they've grown larger, but vouchers could grow, too."
Why is the UFT in New York City embracing charters (to some extent) while the OFT sees them as equally evil as vouchers? Maybe it's a public/private thing. It would be hard to call charter schools in NYC an effort at privatization when the schools are so obviously public -- they look like public schools, feel like public schools, and many are even housed inside public schools. In Ohio, however, where you have big companies like White Hat Management that exist to profit off of these schools, charters feel like much more of a threat.

Or maybe it isn't a public/private thing, but an impact thing. New York State is not the kind of stronghold for for-profit management companies that Ohio is, but you still have very vocal protesters in Albany, where the charter schools have simply drawn a very significant number of students away from non-charter public schools.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Get Physical! (But keep drinking Coke ....)

Coca-Cola, long criticized for enticing schools into selling their products in schools through lucrative "pouring rights," will now be promoting exercise in schools, NYT says.

The school of bloggers were having this debate last night: would companies like Coca-Cola do things like this if they weren't seeing dips in profits (or at least waning public confidence in the company)?

Personally I think that companies are able to "control" what people think and how people shop only as long as the public has confidence in them. That is why they work so hard to give people warm, positive associations with their brand name. Look at this quote from the Coke executive:
"This program is about education, not selling product," Ms. White said. "It would be disingenuous to sell product through a program like this."
I think that once the public decided that selling high-calorie drinks in schools is harmful to kids, there was some sort of power shift. Now schools know that Coke needs them as much as they need Coke.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Dawn breaks over marblehead

Or, as they used to say in Hebrew, "finally the coin drops into the pay telephone." According to this AP story, Spellings is hinting that maybe "Adequate Yearly Progress" isn't really a measure of "progress," and that maybe all students achieving proficiency by 2012 isn't really the most realistic goal. I can hear the collective "DUH" that must have been running through the brains of the AFT gathering where she gave this talk -- people like Bella Rosenberg in the President's office have been saying this for a long, long time.

Another "DUH" moment in a great op-ed in today's New York Times. Normally I wouldn't find myself in such agreement with someone whose professional alliances include Checker Finn and Nina Rees, but he is right in this case. And he is saying what, again, people like Bella Rosenberg have been saying for a long, long time: it's the suburban schools that are going to be the downfall of NCLB.

Update: This article in the Atlanta Journal shows why keeping the disaggregation of scores is so, so important. The school in the article, Riverwood, is very similar to the high school I went to in suburban Atlanta. My school provided an excellent education -- to primarily white, upper-income, honors and magnet students. The article gives us a hint to why suburban parents could weaken NCLB to the point of irrelevance:
A school's reputation can affect property values and spur education-minded families to enroll their kids in private schools or move to other districts.

new york is so cool

from the New York Sun:

'Fast Food Nation' To Become Textbook at Health High School

A public school in Manhattan, the High School for Health Professions and Human Services, plans to purchase more than 1,000 copies of "Fast Food Nation," an expose of America's fast-food industry, by muckraker Eric Schlosser.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education, Margie Feinberg, said the book would be used in addition to more conventional textbooks to enhance the school's health-oriented curriculum. The high school, which has an enrollment of 1,559 students, will probably be using Mr. Schlosser's text in multiple grades.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Undocumented immigrants get tuition break in Kansas

In a potentially precedent-setting case, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging a Kansas law (passed in 2004 by the state legislature) that allows undocumented immigrants who went to high-school in Kansas to pay in-state tuition at state universities on Tuesday. According to this Kansas City Star article, the lawsuit (brought by a group of out-of-state students and financed by the friendly folks at FAIR) was seen as a test case since at least 7 other states have similar laws. The growing movement among states to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition shows that the pressure is mounting for sensible immigration reform (at least when it comes to denying smart kids the opportunity to succeed), and it is not limited to liberals in blue states.

Crazy cap action in Ohio

100 new charter schools were set to open this fall in Ohio, but as of last week when the new budget was passed, only 30 will be allowed to open, according to this AP story.

What is odd to me is the way they are choosing these 30 schools: by lottery. Lotteries are okay for choosing students, but wouldn't you want to pick the 30 strongest candidates out of 100 schools? Or at least the 30 schools most prepared to open in September?

Charters in Ohio are getting a lot of attention these days, probably primarily because they have been so popular and therefore are making a serious dent in non-charter public school enrollment.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

More on Business and charter schools

The school of bloggers have just acquired The Emancipatory Promise of Charter Schools, whose foreword relates back to yesterday's musings about Business and charter schools.

The foreword was written by Herbert Gintis, co-author of the very important Schooling in Capitalist America, which set out to show that “education plays a major role in hiding or justifying the exploitative nature of the U.S. economy.” In tEPoCS, Gintis starts to sound like the staunchest conservative voucher proponents (or maybe they sound like him?):
The bottom line is that defenders of the monopoly public school system are simply throwing up smokescreens to hide the simple fact that teachers are loathe to submit themselves to the United States labor market -- a market that most Americans are obliged to live with and that has turned out to strongly benefit consumers.
And then he says something, in an effort to defend the non-stellar average test scores of charters relative to non-charter public schools, that completely threw me for a loop:
Indeed, my work with Samuel Bowles has shown that test scores are not the major way schools affect the future wages and life chances of their students. It is likely that such factors as good citizenship, ability to take orders and complete tasks, and having a long time horizon are what schools really pass on to their charges in addition to cognitive skills.
What?? Isn't this the same guy who argued that schools perpetuate class systems in the U.S. because Business compels them to turn out good workers (who can "take orders and complete tasks") at the expense of really developing their brains?

Gintis, you confuse me. I will post more once I finish the book.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Santorum on public schools

"By asking the right question, we can see that when it comes to socialization, mass education is really the aberration, not homeschooling. Never before in human history have a majority of children spent at least half their waking hours in the presence of 25 to 35 unrelated children of exactly the same age (and usually the same socio-economic status), with only one adult to keep order and provide basic mentoring. Never before and never again after their years of mass education will any person live and work in such a radically narrow, age-segregated environment. It’s amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools." (It Takes a Family, 386)
(Via CapitolBuzz Via Andrew Sullivan Via thebellman )

Going to college? DREAM on

Here is another great article about our failing (and increasingly ridiculous) immigration system, this time from the Boston Globe. A 18-year undocumented immigrant from Massachusetts was awarded a four-year scholarship at any state university because of her high test scores, but this was later rescinded once state officials found out about her immigration status. As the author of the article so rightly says,

"So much for celebrating the building blocks for success and the American dream. Romney says, tough luck if you are smart, hardworking, and the child of illegal immigrants."

It's beyond me why anyone wants to keep smart, high-achieving kids like this one out of college. Does anybody really think that denying in-state tuition and scholarships to undocumented immigrants will make any potential immigrants think twice about coming here to work? Or are policies like these motivated by fear? Despite the increasingly widespread movement in favor of the DREAM Act and state laws (see this previous post) to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, it seems like the power of fear is growing.

It's interesting that Mass. Gov. Romney is bashing undocumented immigrants now - this article in the Economist shows how his campaign to end gay marriage in Massachusetts is closely linked to his anticipated run for the presidency in 2008. Here in New York, presumed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has gone to the right on immigration, claiming that she is "adamantly against illegal immigrants." It's unfortunate that the way to get ahead in politics (particularly in the red states) is to blame immigrants for our problems. It will be interesting to see if an increased Latino turnout in places like the Southwest will prove Hillary wrong.

we made it to the Carnival!

thanks to the education wonks for linking to us in today's carnival of education! the carnival is basically a potluck smorgasbord of the week's edu-blog postings, and takes place each week at a different site.

Conn. Business -- Fomenting class conflict?

An article in the New Haven Register (via CSLC) discusses CT business involvement in promoting legislation good for charter schools this year.

Business involvement in school reform has always fascinated me. In college I wrote a term paper about PA business leaders' involvement in getting the state's charter law passed. My belief was that business leaders are attracted to charter schools because they try to mimic business practices and values, because they are traditionally affiliated with anti-union forces, and because they can instill these values into their future work force.

But when I interviewed Bob O'Donnell, who now runs the PA Charter School Resource Center but who was Speaker of the House in PA at the time the charter law was coming into being, he quickly relieved me of the idea that Business would support initiatives like charter schools out of a desire to create a pliant future work force, because charters put power into the hands of parents (particularly poor and minority parents) -- basically, they rock the boat, something Business never wants to happen. He also scoffed at the idea that Business is really that organized and has that much foresight that they would lobby for education policies that would help indoctrinate the kind of workers they're going to want in 15, 20 years.

I still don't have it all figured out. But if New Haven business leaders were as influential in the CT legislature on behalf of charters as this article suggests, then maybe O'Donnell's theory needs some revisiting.

Report cards officially become a campaign issue

Yesterday, Democratic frontrunner Fernando Ferrer criticized Mayor Bloomberg for failing to provide sufficient translation services to parents. Here is an excerpt from the New York Sun article:

The leading Democratic mayoral candidate, Fernando Ferrer, said yesterday that Mayor Bloomberg has not done enough with regard to translation and interpretation services to help immigrant parents become more involved in their children's education."
Translation is an integral part of a public school education," Mr. Ferrer said after marching, flanked by 20 Hispanic parents, to P.S.116 in Bushwick, Brooklyn. "Bloomberg still won't take responsibility for parents who desperately need translation services so that they can play an active role in their children's education."
Mr. Ferrer said Mr. Bloomberg's new Translation and Interpretation Services Unit, created last September, was "understaffed and underfunded." Mr. Ferrer then repeated his statement in Spanish.
According to a report referred to by Mr. Ferrer and released yesterday by the nonprofit group Make the Road by Walking, 25% of all New York City parents are excluded from their children's education by language barriers. If elected mayor, Mr. Ferrer said, he would "first try to keep the promise Mike Bloomberg made - to spend $10 million on translation and interpretation services."
According to Mr. Bloomberg's campaign spokesman, Stuart Loeser, the mayor has already invested that $10 million, with the allocation of the last $7.5 million announced last month. "We're already hard at work on this," Mr. Loeser said.

It's good that Ferrer is raising this issue - I think that Bloomberg is on the right track with the recent increase in funds for the centralized translation office, but much more needs to be done so non-English speaking parents can feel comfortable at school and begin participating in their child's education. Although I don't see how spending a few million more dollars (which seems to be what Ferrer is suggesting) more will do the trick - there needs to be a firm commitment to provide these services in all schools (many schools in Western Queens aren't getting any help at this point), which is what the Education Equity Act would do. Still, I think that NYC Educator's comment on a previous post that this issue will go away after the election is probably correct. Unless of course Bloomberg or Ferrer (more likely) are elected because of a high Latino or immigrant turnout. But even then it will still be an uphill battle.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A good bill thwarted by a very bad law

As relayed by the Boston Globe, a recent report points out a barrier to affordable housing that had not occurred to me before. The expert they interviewed explains it well:
''The fear is that if they build affordable housing and children live in that housing, the cost of schooling those kids in those homes would outweigh the amount of money in property tax brought in from those homes," said Barry Bluestone, director of the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University and a coauthor of the study. ''There would be more costs over and above what is generated in revenue. Which means they would have to raise money in some other ways, or spend less per child. No municipality wants to do that."
The inadequate supply of affordable housing is a notorious glitch in the housing market, and governments typically have to provide incentives to developers to build it -- something Boston is particularly good at, despite the barrier presented by the cost of education.

Bottom line: One more reason local funding of schools is a bad, bad idea.

What would Uncle Milton think?

I'm late in discovering this story and haven't had time to read other blog posts about it, so sorry in advance. But i had to say something about the expansion of the voucher program in Ohio.

The governor has led the drive for an expansion of the voucher program to give a voucher to students in districts classified as being in Academic Watch and Academic Emergency. This is nonsensical, because you are making the consequence of an accountability system be transferring students to schools that are unaccountable.

However, and let this not be construed as a flagging of my opposition to vouchers, this particular program does have a couple of interesting twists:
  • Volunteer service option: The amount of each voucher is small, from $4,000 to $5,000 depending on the child's grade. Usually the argument goes that this will force low-income parents into sending their children to parochial schools, many of which have just as many problems as many public schools. Under this law, however, schools are required to offer parents the option of paying the difference between the voucher and tuition through volunteer service.
  • Assessment: Schools will be required to administer state achievement tests to voucher students.
Why the compromise? I think what is emerging is proof of something Eduwonk mentioned in this (excellent) post, that "Vouchers are the stalking horse for charters." Meaning, that it's the charter model that is making the most sense to the public and to legislators.

Still DREAMing

A quick update on Marie Gonzalez, the undocumented immigrant from Jefferson City, Missouri featured in a Washington Post article last week (blogged about at Eduwonk and on this site also). Marie, a honors student in high school, was facing deportation (the orders were for today, July 5) along with her parents. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Marie was granted a stay of deportation for one year on July 1st. Great news! Unfortunately, her parents are still scheduled to be deported, although MO Senator Jim Talent is apparently on the case.

The Post story, and some well-timed protests in NYC, LA and Jeff City, seem to have generated a lot of attention about Marie's situation in particular and on the 65,000 undocumented immigrants that could be helped by the DREAM Act, which potentially could put young immigrants like Marie on a path towards citizenship (and allow them to attend college). Still no word on when the Bush administration will begin supporting sensible immigration reforms that would help families like Marie's.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Can't read your child's report card?

A lot of parents in New York can't, because the Dept. of Ed is still sending report cards home only in English. Even though only one in four parents in NYC is not proficient in English, and even though Joel Klein and Bloomberg keep talking about how important parent participation is, there is no word on the status of the Education Equity Act (past blogs about the Act here and here). Bloomberg has increased funding for a central translation unit by $5 million, but although it is a positive step, more needs to be done (although on a positive note, NCLB transfer forms are being sent out this summer in Spanish and English). The City Council's inaction on this issue isn't stopping some parents from protesting, according to the New York Sun:

A group of 40 Latino parents from Brooklyn and Queens held a protest yesterday in front of City Hall, calling on Mayor Bloomberg to support Intro. 464, the Education Equity Act, and demanding legislative action to defend the rights of immigrant parents before the beginning of thenext school year in September. The protesters delivered a letter to the schools chancellor, Joel Klein, with copies of their children's report cards printed only in English. More than 25% of all New York City parents cannot read or speak English.
"We have made a priority of translating report cards into other languages and expect to provide them during the next school year," a spokesperson for the Education Department, Michele McManus Higgins,said. According to Ms. Higgins, last month the city agency announced a comprehensive expansion of translation and interpretation services, including $7.5 million in additional support to provide increased translation and interpretation services for regional offices and schools across the city.

New school funding system in Missouri

According to this Kansas City Star article, Missouri just passed a law that guarantees that $6,117 in state and local funds will spent on each student in the state. School districts with low tax rates (I'm guessing mostly rural districts) will be required to raise them to meet minimum state levels. Gov. Matt Blunt (R) says that education spending will be increased by $800 million over the next 7 years. Critics, including the National Education Association, argued that the state had not identified where the increase in funding is going to come from (it's definitely not coming from taxes under Blunt, who hates raising taxes so much that he is trying to gut Medicaid in Missouri) and that the impact of some districts was not considered.

It's obviously hard to know what the impact of this law will be, but the goal to make education spending more equitable is certainly a step in the right direction. And while I'm skeptical of anything Blunt does, shifting the burden of funding from localities to the state is probably a good thing.