Israel's education system faces some familiar-sounding problems:

The Dovrat recommendations included giving school principals the right to sack poor teachers and reward the better ones with higher pay, which they currently lack. But such moves have been blocked by Israel's two teachers' unions, one of which has paralysed secondary schools with a series of long strikes over the past few years. At the end of last year it settled for a wage rise in return for token increases in flexibility, but other reforms remain blocked.

That's from The Economist's special report on Israel in its sixtieth year. Israel ranked 39th out of 57 OECD countries in the 2006 PISA rankings and had the biggest gap between high- and low-achieving students.

And this isn't helping things, says one commentator.

As the world awaits the education X PRIZE, the folks at PETA prove that the X PRIZE Foundation isn't the only group that can offer rewards for innovative solutions to pressing problems.

Harvard economist Gregory Mankiw makes the case in Sunday's New York Times that the technological progress of the last few decades has eclipsed the country's pace of educational advancement, thus driving up wages for skilled workers relative to the unskilled.

At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen highlights the following passage from Peter Moskos's Cop in the Hood: My Year Spent Policing Baltimore's Eastern District:

An innovative analysis by Eric Cadora highlights "million-dollar blocks"--individual city blocks where more than one million dollars per block per year are spent to incarcerate individuals from that block. Some blocks cost over five million dollars per year.... A million dollars, coincidentally, is roughly what it would cost to pay for one patrol officer, twenty-four hours a day, every day for one year.

I suspect someone could produce an equally alarming study of million-dollar blocks in the context of K-12 public schooling. The raw per-pupil spending figures in several major cities with troubled school districts--$13,446 in D.C., $14,961 in N.Y.C., $21,295 in Newark, to name a few--are already stunning enough.

Flypaper is no longer the newest blog in the edu-neighborhood. We send our greetings to, a direct link to one of the most fertile minds in education reform. His inaugural articles argue that if you stand at a state capitol building and throw a rock, you're likely to hit the teachers' union headquarters--and a male teacher who's sexually abusing his students.

Liam Julian

People wonder: How did Flypaper emerge? What evil genius spawned it?

Coby answers the questions.

Do you remember the Postcards from Buster controversy of 2005? A popular PBS children's television show--funded in part by a "Ready to Learn" grant from the U.S. Department of Education--was preparing to air a segment in which a (cartoon) bunny visits a (real) married lesbian couple in Vermont. The career staff at the Department caught wind of this, passed the news up the chain of command (a chain that yes, included me), a big internal debate ensued about what to do, urgent phone calls were placed, and eventually (and, in my view, quite regrettably), Margaret Spellings, in her first official act as Secretary of Education, sent a letter to the head of PBS saying that "many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode." (The letter itself was overkill; the Secretary's office had already learned that PBS was pulling the show. Nor was it necessary to use the "life-styles" code word. But Spellings and her inner circle apparently saw an opportunity to score points with the religious right.)

The whole ugly affair (and my bit part in it ) convinced me that it was time to leave government service for the greener pastures of the Fordham Institute (a decision I have regretted not one day).

OK, enough about me. The point is... this riveting story is now being turned into a play, Dusty and the Big Bad World ! So I learned from...

Or is there another reason his House Education and Labor Committee cancelled an Earth Day event on environmental education scheduled for today?*

* I know, the answer is surely yes.

Liam Julian

States are forced to decide whether graduation confers on those who achieve it validation of knowledge or participation. If a state decides the latter, its diplomas will mean nothing to employers, who require knowledgeable workforces rather than just compliant ones. But when it determines that only after students pass exit exams will they receive high-school diplomas it also, essentially, determines that lots of students won't receive high-school diplomas.

Maryland makes a commendable attempt to reconcile the two options by offering alternative routes to graduation. The Bridge Plan that it has devised, however, is off to an unpromising start.

Update: Oregon, too,??will now have to wrestle with these issues.

Liam Julian

Much??recent reporting about the state of k-12 Catholic schools has??offered dreary conclusions. Here's a bit of good news.

Update: Just noticed that the Washington Post reported on this school (and Fordham's Catholic Schools report) yesterday.