Flypaper

Checker writes about the twenty-fifth anniversary of A Nation at Risk in the Wall Street Journal and the Gadfly. He also talked about it last week on "America's Business with Mike Hambrick," a radio show associated with the National Association of Manufacturers:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZFyg0vlTkM

The upcoming issue of Education Next (which Fordham sponsors) reveals that "Almost 96 percent of the public underestimate either per-pupil spending in their districts or teacher salaries in their states." In fact, they vastly underestimate these figures:

The average respondent surveyed in 2007 thought per-pupil spending in their district was just $4,231 dollars, even though the actual average spending per pupil among districts was $10,377 in 2005 (the most recent year for which data are available).

And:

On average, the public underestimated average teacher salaries in their own state by $14,370. The average estimate among survey respondents was $33,054, while average teacher salary nationally in 2005 was actually $47,602.

Obviously troubling, considering how frequently exaggerated claims about funding are invoked in ed policy debates.

Evidently Reverend Jeremiah Wright made some controversial statements about education and race last night. Over at The Corner, Byron York asks Checker for his take on the whole thing.

At The Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez writes that we can help save our inner cities by saving faith-based schools. She rightly praises President Bush for using the "bully pulpit" at last week's White House summit to call education "one of the greatest civil-rights challenges," and to urge Congress to help inner-city Catholic schools.

Lopez then urges John McCain to follow the President's lead and take this issue to the campaign trail, to offer "real solutions that could lift poor Americans out of a cycle of dependency." I'd love to see the candidates wrestle over Who Will Save America's Urban Catholic Schools, but I have a feeling there will be other issues on voters' minds this November. Unless Ed in '08 pulls off a miracle, that is.

Jeff Kuhner

Linda Shaw wrote an interesting piece in last week's Seattle Times. Apparently, civil disobedience against the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) is alive and well--at least, as embodied in Carl Chew, a 60-year-old science teacher who refuses to give the test to his sixth-graders at Eckstein Middle School.

Mr. Chew, a former artist who has been teaching for eight years, is opposed to high-stakes standardized testing. He claims he is taking a stand against WASL and No Child Left Behind in general.

"I did it because I think it's bad for kids," he said.

For his actions (or non-actions), Mr. Chew has been placed on leave for two weeks without pay. The WASL is given each year to students in grades 3-8 and grade 10. It covers math, reading, writing, and science. It is used to measure whether the schools in Washington state are meeting the goals established in NCLB.

Whatever one thinks of NCLB or the WASL--and I am the first to admit there are problems with both of them--Mr. Chew's supposed "civil disobedience" is not the way to fix them. In fact, it is a recipe for educational chaos and anarchy. WASL is a state-mandated exam. By refusing to give the test, Mr. Chew failed to fulfill his duties as a teacher. If he doesn't like the WASL, he can complain to his union, write an Op-Ed piece, call his local political representative, or advocate for its overhaul or termination at...

Here in D.C., the politics of education reform seem tame compared to what our Fordham team in Ohio faces, a point made clear in this Columbus Education Association interview with Governor Ted Strickland. In outlining his "6 point plan" on education, Strickland continues the attack on charter schools that began during his campaign, calling them "destructive to our students and wasteful of our tax dollars," * repeating his previous calls for "a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools," and strongly hinting that if only he had a Democratic legislature he could truly kill the state's charter (and voucher) program.

He'd also like to turn back the clock on accountability, arguing that "testing and assessment ought to be diagnostic," and "teachers must have the freedom to teach without the fear of standardized test results communicating that you're a bad teacher."

Of course he's genuflecting before the unions, so much so that this quote--which apparently addressed how teachers have influenced his life--seems like a comic Freudian slip about their role in his administration: "Teachers have incredible power and monumental influence. What's most important... is that (teachers) need to be respected by the government."

And what about the students, Governor?

We hope Democrats outside Ohio (e.g., Eduwonk) notice that he's giving the party a bad name in education.

*Correction: The CEA wrote to tell us that their interview had erroneously attributed the Governor's "destructive and wasteful" quote...

The website RateMyProfessors.com has been the subject of much criticism as it has grown in popularity. For instance, a professor from Central Michigan University ran some numbers and found that "the hotter and easier professors are, the more likely they'll get rated as a good teacher."

Inside Higher Ed reports today, however, on a couple studies that have found high correlations between RateMyProfessors.com and official university student-evaluation systems:

A new study is about to appear in the journal Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education and it will argue that there are similarities in the rankings in RateMyProfessors.com and IDEA, a student evaluation system used at about 275 colleges nationally and run by a nonprofit group affiliated with Kansas State University.

What is notable is that while RateMyProfessors.com gives power to students, IDEA gives a lot of control over the process to faculty members. Professors identify the teaching objectives that are important to the class, and those are the measures that count the most. In addition, weighting is used so that adjustments are made for factors beyond professors' control, such as class size, student work habits and so forth--all variables that RateMyProfessors doesn't really account for (or try to account for).

And at least some professors, it seems, find the reviews on RateMyProfessors.com useful for evaluating their own teaching strategies:

"I've been an instructor for 10 years. I look at it," he said, adding that he has found insights "that weren't on my

...

Left unspoken* at yesterday's White House summit on faith-based schools was whether the idea of religious charter schools has any merit. Of course, this is no surprise. There are enough opponents of charter schools, of vouchers, and of any co-mingling of church and state, that direct funding for overtly religious schools would be a combustible mix. It's controversial enough that D.C. is converting seven Catholic schools to charter status, stripping them of their "Catholicity," and besides, yesterday's conference had plenty else on the agenda. Yet given the success Catholic schools have shown in educating poor and minority students, and the likelihood that that's because of their Catholicity, it's an idea that warrants more of an airing. (Two prior Gadfly op-eds provide a bit, at least, here and here .)

I was reminded of this yesterday when I met Lawrence Weinberg, author of Religious Charter Schools: Legalities and Practicalities (2007), a book I'm now curious to read. Checker and Mike have argued that the Zelman decision paved the way for religious charters, at least insofar as the U.S. Constitution is concerned, but (at the risk of mischaracterizing his work) Weinberg replies that the legal landscape is a little more complicated than that (both because of state-level issues, like Blaine amendments prohibiting state funding of religious schools, and because Zelman is not the only relevant Supreme Court case). Of course, practically speaking, charter schools have to be approved by authorizers, most of which are districts...

Liam Julian

Ed school professor Brad Olsen writes in the San Francisco Chronicle that "we don't much hear from, or about, teachers' experiences in--and perspectives on--what's happening in schools these days." Really???Just yesterday we published in The Gadfly this item, about a teacher who thinks "unconditional love" is the solution to k-12 education's human capital problem.??Lots and lots of??newspaper articles about education feature quotes from, and the perspectives of, educators.??

Certainly education policy could learn more from the best practices of the best teachers, and certainly more avenues should be available for just that type of exchange. But instead of hearing from teachers in that way, it seems, we're always hearing from those who "represent" them--e.g., the unions and ed schools, neither of which toils on behalf of kids.

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