Liam Julian

The Economist has an article about the challenges confronting South Dakota's rural schools and school districts.

In many of these cases, virtual education could be a solution. Education Sector's Bill Tucker recently wrote about virtual education, albeit as a catalyst for high-school reform, in The Gadfly.

Are you a teacher looking for field trip ideas, now that testing season is over? Do you live in the greater Washington, D.C., area? Would you like to totally gross out your students? This oughta do the trick.*

*Moms, and Dads, you can get in on the act too... don't miss Sunday's special event.

Not so many moons ago, Boston University's college of education was the brightest spot in the dim universe of U.S. ed schools, full of heterodox thinkers on important issues (e.g., Charles Glenn, David Steiner, Kevin Ryan, Steve Tigner). Some of those thinkers are still there, but the school's leadership--recently in Glenn's able hands on an "acting" basis--is about to be turned over to a far more orthodox sort.

Last month B.U. announced the appointment of Dr. Hardin Coleman, a psychologist specializing in counseling, currently at the University of Wisconsin, a well-known warehouse of conventional thinking. Coleman's main stated interests are topics like "identity formation" among "culturally diverse" adolescents. He is reportedly hostile to charter schools and high-stakes accountability and just about everything else worth being in favor of nowadays--and just about everything that Massachusetts is celebrated for doing well.

As B.U. heads back into the ed school sheep pen, let's at least note that it wasn't always there and didn't have to return.

The White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools, underway at this moment, has about 300 attendees, all of whom already agree with each other about nearly all the issues on the table. No bad thing to rally the troops or (changing metaphors) preach to the choir. But I didn't spot anyone there whose mind needed to, or was likely to be, changed by the proceedings. Hence the main value of this event beyond the Ronald Reagan Building amphitheater (normally occupied by the satirical Capitol Steps) depends on whether word of it percolates out and anybody pays heed.

Four more takeaways, two of them admittedly churlish:

    • The President gave a good talk, peppered with positive examples from the world of Catholic schools (never mind the ecumenical audience and many flavors of faith-based schools) and from the recent Fordham Institute report on same. He called on states to repeal their Blaine Amendments. He was in excellent humor and form but also showed faint signs of final-year-in-office enervation.
    • Though the Fordham Report and its case studies permeate this event, it is never named, quoted from or referenced. Even session moderator Scott Hamilton, who edited it and has a Fordham tie, is identified on the program by another part of his work life. We don't need to ask why the systematic shunning. It's payback for Mike's and my occasional truth-tellings about the Secretary of Education (here, for instance).
    • The social science evidence offered (mainly by Cal
    • ...
    Gadfly Studios

    Mike and Christina discuss Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings's latest round of changes to No Child Left Behind.


    This Saturday A Nation at Risk turns twenty-five.

    As with most birthdays after one's twenty-first, the occasion is bittersweet. As Fordham president Checker Finn reflects in today's Education Gadfly, the lessons of A Nation at Risk, despite the report's landmark status for sounding "an overdue and much-needed alarum," still struggle to be heard over the din of misguided deniers. That's a shame, he says, for the "biggest single reason, I believe, that America's education reform efforts of the past quarter century have yielded such meager returns is that we haven't given them our all."

    Indeed, the country's general failure to absorb A Nation at Risk has been the source of many a frustration for Checker:

    A Nation at Risk

    Whitney Tilson, who blogs on education here , reflects level-headedly in today's New York Daily News on the struggles facing the UFT's charter school . The last paragraph offers a tidy summary of the lessons the UFT, and especially current-UFT-boss and AFT-president-to-be Randi Weingarten, can take away from the experience:

    Through its own hard experience with its charter school, the UFT is learning there's a reason why nearly all organizations, both for profit and nonprofit, have managers and employees that are not equals: because the interests of employees are not the same as the interests of the organization. The job of management is to represent the latter, and it needs a significant amount of flexibility in doing so.

    Nearly everyone has applauded the UFT for having the chutzpah to stake a claim in the school choice movement, and rightly so. But they've yet to prove that this bold experiment is intended as a true learning experience and not just an effort to co-opt the choice movement and recast it using their own mold. Let's hope that in the months and years ahead they're willing to engage in the kind of serious reflection present in Tilson's op-ed.

    (Also, see Eduwonk's take on the school's troubles.)...

    This Wired Magazine article sheds some light, however obliquely, on why it's so difficult to replicate successful school models in different places.

    Gadfly Studios

    Marvin's and Mike's mothers coordinated on the phone last night before laying out their sons' outfits. (Click the photo for a bigger version.)

    Separated at birth?

    Anticipating tomorrow's White House summit on inner-city children and faith-based schools, former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett turns in a solid defense (and cites Fordham's latest report) of Catholic schools over at National Review Online.