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Liam Julian

About this and this (the possibility that New York's principals would be disallowed from considering student test scores when evaluating whether teachers should receive tenure), the New York Times thinks:

It is an absurd ban that does a disservice to the state's millions of public school students. The State Legislature should remove this language from the budget.

Who's to blame?

Nobody in Albany would say who is behind this language. The driving force, however, is the powerful teachers' union that gives lots of money and time to state campaigns.

Surprisingly that wasn't one of Angelina Jolie's suggestions when she spoke yesterday at a Council on Foreign Relations panel about the impact of??the war??on Iraq's children. Find out what she did recommend here.

Liam Julian

Seems that not a few people want to punch Britain's Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, in the face.

One would think this topic wouldn't deserve treatment from the Associated Press's national desk???or be picked up in 200 media outlets worldwide (so far). We've known forever that textbooks tend to be sloppy, riddled with errors, and generally banal. And when textbooks are "found" to have a liberal-leaning bias, the "news" is only reported by outlets like the Washington Times. But alas, the American government??textbook in question in today's articles is written by two well-known conservatives (oh, the horror!), James Wilson and John Dilulio. (The fact that these two even got a contract to write a textbook probably should have been news.)

What were their sins? Among other things, they wrote that "science doesn't know how bad the greenhouse effect is" and global warming is "enmeshed in scientific uncertainty." I might quibble with those statements a bit (I am??Leafy Mike after all), but they aren't as out of line as the anti-American screeds that pass for curricular materials in many a U.S. classroom. But alas, conservatism is under fire from all corners right now, so we shouldn't be surprised when the MSM wants to pile it on....

Liam Julian

Trot on over to Eduwonk, where guest blogger J.B. Schramm, Founder and CEO of College Summit, is turning in some substantive posts. He ends each day by pasting excerpts of student admission essays:??

While the importance of research, policy and debate within the education community cannot be overstated, it is also valuable to be reminded of "what it's all about." During our week here, we'd like to conclude each day with an excerpt from a student's college admission essay that he or she developed at one of College Summit's annual summer workshops.

One is immediately struck,??upon reading??these essays (or at least the two so far posted), that the writing is all about suffering???about feeling lost, about feeling burdened, about feeling like an outcast, etc. Quite frankly, the pieces??resemble the weepy and gaggingly emotive memoirs (some true, others not) that clog bookstore shelves.

It can be supposed that College Summit's essay workshops encourage such outpourings???"Write about what stirs you. Admissions committees want to know how you feel."???and pushes students to include as many mentions as possible of themselves as underprivileged and of a different race or culture. But if the goal is to integrate??these young adults into a university setting, does this approach make sense? Might it not simply reinforce the separations College Summit endeavors to degrade?

Update: I should note that universities of course??ask for this type of essay and certainly look favorably upon those??submissions that??fit the mold, so College Summit??doesn't deserve all the...

Liam Julian

Mike is probably correct that the Wilson and Dilulio textbook is receiving scrutiny and press attention because its authors are conservatives. And no doubt lots of left-leaning texts escape similar inspection. But one wonders how Fordham can defend literature that goes against the scientific consensus on climate change while pillorying literature that goes against the scientific consensus on evolution.

Liam Julian

Per my earlier post, here's yet another example, from economist Steven Levitt, of statistics being incorrectly interpreted. One could unearth scads of such instances. But Levitt's story involves medicine, and we seem to hear evermore frequently (from writers such as Jerome Groopman and Atul Gawande) that the medical field, long steeped in data, nonetheless still struggles to correctly use the stats it has. The construction of education policies atop data-based foundations is, comparatively, a new idea; ed reformers would be wise to learn from the experience of confused doctors and approach studies and reports with greater humility and skepticism.

Liam Julian

Coby's post is thought-provoking. At what point does despair negate the effect of incentives?

A small problem with Coby's analysis, though, is that schools cannot, on their own, buff out the dents. KIPP and its ilk work for lots of reasons, but it's safe to say that they wouldn't be nearly so successful without committed parents and students and staffs--advantages that most urban schools don't have.

What's more, when schools try to buff out the dents--try to do more than they're capable of doing, more than they're designed to do--they risk ignoring their most basic function, which is to teach kids.

Periodically, a new album from DBLF Studios, features 119 songs, one for each of the elements on the periodic table, as well as a bonus track called "DBLFesium." And yes, each song is actually about the element it's named after. For instance, here's a sampling of the lyrics from track no. 16, "Sulphur":

The lake of fire, yep that's me

I'm what gives the yellow to your pee

As an explosive I'm no conservative

I'm wine and fruit's preservative

Metastable but I rapidly crystallize

I give the colors to Jupiter's skies

Naturally found in volcanic eruptions

Stable in polymer chain constructions

Listen to samples, read the lyrics, and order the CD/MP3s here.

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