Over the past few months, federal policymakers have grappled with both education and taxes. Americans want both improved education and tax relief, but some say these dual priorities are in conflict. That need not be so, according to the Cato Institute. In a new report analyzing the effect of education tax credits, Cato researchers Darcy Ann Olsen, Carrie Lips and Dan Lips bring good news to those who'd like to have our cake and eat it too. The study assesses the fiscal impact of a two-pronged education tax credit on state and federal budgets. The plan would contain a "parental choice credit," which would offer a dollar-for-dollar reduction in federal income tax liability of up to $500 per child for money spent on tuition. It would also include a "scholarship credit," which would provide an additional $500 tax credit for donations to a nonprofit scholarship clearinghouse for low-income children. Cato researchers conclude that the plan would cost $9.2 billion in federal revenues but would save $14 billion in state education spending. Most importantly, it would allow 2 million new students to attend private schools. The report's conclusions flow from a (less than universally accepted) theory that students who transfer to private schools decrease state education expenses and that tax credits (and scholarships) will increase the number of students who transfer. The report also estimates the 'savings' for individual states; of course, savings are largest in states where demand for private schooling is greatest and where public-school per-pupil expenditures are highest....

by Jack Bowsher

This new book by Jack E. Bowsher, who for many years ran IBM's education programs, is a worthy contribution to the standards-based reform movement. In 350 pages, it offers a sweeping rationale for reform-of both school quality and costs-and insists that this cannot be done piecemeal but must be "systemic." The author reviews why past "quick fixes" haven't worked, even as they boosted costs. Then he offers his version of "systemic" reform. Perhaps his most important contributions are the introduction of classroom-level "learning systems" and his suggestions for major management (and "change-management") innovations in schools and school systems. He ends-inevitably but less interestingly-with a ringing call for dynamic leadership! This one is probably worthy of a place on your shelf. The ISBN is 0834219042. It's published by Aspen Publishers, Inc., 200 Orchard Ridge Drive, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. The website is www.aspenpublishers.com.

In "No Vouchers for You," Sam MacDonald explores the growing political divide between black elites and typical black voters over vouchers. Exhibit A is a new study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies that examines divisions between young and old generations within the African-American community and finds, among other things, that "a large majority (69 percent) of black elected officials oppose vouchers, while a large majority (60 percent) of the black public support vouchers." The political fallout from this division is unclear. Will young black choice supporters turn to the Republican party? Maybe not, if the Bush administration's refusal to go to the mat for vouchers is any indication of what the party stands for.

"No Vouchers for You," by Sam MacDonald, Reason Online, June 15, 2001

Diverging Generations: The Transformation of African American Policy Views, by David A. Bositis, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

Diallo Dphrepaulezz's new report for the Pacific Research Institute tells the story of San Francisco's Edison Charter Academy, which made sizable gains in test scores after being taken over by Edison Schools, but which was nonetheless notified by the San Francisco Board of Education in March 2001 that its charter was about to be revoked. In one school year, the Academy's test scores rose faster than those at every school in the district but two. African American students' scores rose 25% over the previous year, and Latino students' scores rose 15%. Why would a school like this lose its charter? Many charges were leveled at the school by opponents, including allegations that the school had a very high teacher turnover rate, and that it had encouraged low-income and African American students to leave. Dphrepaulezz debunks each claim, then goes on to describe a "grassroots movement mounted by parents in an attempt to save their charter school" which was outgunned by a bureaucracy that seemed to fear looking bad by comparison and so went to great lengths to destroy the school. Copies of the briefing may be obtained by calling (415) 989-0833 or by surfing to www.pacificresearch.org and clicking on Publications.

As a footnote, on Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that as a result of an intricate backroom deal, the Board of Education has decided not to renew the Edison Charter Academy's contract, but it will not officially revoke the charter, which would have precluded Edison Schools from asking...

While public discussion of the education bill has focused on such hot-button issues as vouchers, much of the real drama in Washington-"what everybody was E-mailing and voice-mailing everybody else about"-is the "adequate yearly progress" or A.Y.P. formula, writes Nicholas Lemann in a narrative account of the progress of Bush's ambitious education plan through the Congressional gantlet. (Lemann's piece appears in this week's New Yorker.)

As if Lemann were a fly on our wall, a group of us inside-the-beltway types got together the other day to parse some of the perplexing dilemmas that will face Senate and House conferees when they turn to the A.Y.P., testing, and accountability sections of the pending E.S.E.A. bills. The deeper we went, the more alarmed we became at just how knotty some of these issues are. This section of the legislation simply doesn't lend itself to "splitting the difference" or melding rival versions. To have any realistic hope of ending up with something in this area that can actually be implemented without causing untold mischief, the conference committee must, in essence, start afresh. Here are some unsolicited precepts to guide that difficult process.

First, the gold standard for analyzing student achievement is value-added analysis that employs annual test scores for individual students, with results aggregated for schools, districts, states and other relevant institutional units-and whatever demographic groupings need their academic progress tracked.

Second, we must understand the key distinction between value-added and achievement-level analysis, also sometimes known as "standards-based" analysis. In the latter case, states...

Patrick Welsh, a veteran Alexandria, Virginia high school English teacher who often writes for the Outlook section of the Washington Post, describes what a new superintendent faces in Alexandria: "constant negotiations with and back-biting from a crowd of self-appointed community experts who think they know best how to run a school system." No superintendent can survive the minefield of aggressive, well-educated parents together with a divided school board that has strong opinions on everything, Welsh writes, which means that the district will likely face a never-ending stream of superintendents who come in lauded and depart vilified.

"They'll love the new superintendent-until the discord begins," by Patrick Welsh, Washington Post, June 17, 2001

This provocative book by John Abbott and Terry Ryan argues that our education problem isn't something that can be solved by altering schools but, rather, must be tackled by entire communities. They don't, in fact, believe that today's schools are the right focus for tomorrow's education. They seek "dynamic learning" as a "way of life," something that becomes the community's preoccupation an integral part of its culture, assuming many institutional and interpersonal forms. This is not the usual romanticism about "deschooling society," however. It's a fairly tough-minded analysis (informed by research into cognitive psychology and human development) of central assumptions about education and how these might be rebuilt from scratch. You will find it farsighted. You may or may not find it actionable. 212 pages. The ISBN is 0871205130. It's published in the U.S. by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1703 N. Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311. The phone is (800) 933-2723 or (703) 578-9600. The fax is (703) 575-5400 and the website is www.ascd.org.

The May issue of Catalyst, Voices of Chicago's School Reform, contains four articles that examine the district's attempt to use Advanced Placement courses and International Baccalaureate programs to boost student achievement in the Windy City's high schools. http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/05-01/0501toc.htm

The May/June 2001 edition of Catalyst for Cleveland Schools is out and it focuses on the effectiveness of mayors in reforming education, with a close look at four cities - Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, and Detroit. In Cleveland, Mayor Michael R. White has distinguished himself by having a lot of power but rarely showing it, more often allowing school chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett to lead. Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley, on the other hand, makes a point of being in control (as was manifest in his recent dismissal of school chief Paul Vallas). In Boston, Thomas Menino asked to be held responsible for the schools: "If I fail to bring about these specific reforms by the year 2001," he said a few years ago, "then judge me harshly." Of these four cities, in fact, only Detroit has a mayor who has displayed scant interest in becoming involved in education. There, Dennis Archer has ceded much of his power to school superintendent Kenneth Burnley. Other topics covered in this issue of Catalyst include initiatives to help Cleveland's worst-performing schools; the effects of restructuring a school on student behavior; and the debate over Maryland's attempt to sanction (and in some case outsource the management of) poorly performing public schools. Copies can be obtained on the web at http://www.catalyst-cleveland.org or by calling (216) 623-6320.

Raymond Domanico has written a 26-page report comparing the academic performance of New York City's Catholic elementary schools with the city's public schools. (This study is under the auspices of New York University's Program on Education and Civil Society.) The Catholic schools, which have an enrollment equal to about 14 percent of the public school system, are on average half the size of public schools but have larger average class sizes. Domanico concludes that taking race and family income into account, students attending the Catholic schools reach higher levels of achievement than their public school peers-a gap that is much more pronounced at grade 8 than at grade 4-and that Catholic schools are more successful in breaking links between race or family income and student achievement. In fact, Domanico notes that, on some indicators, the performance of poor and minority youngsters in Catholic schools equals or exceeds that of public school students who are less poor and more white or Asian. He believes that school size is part of the explanation. To obtain a copy of the report, contact the Program on Education and Civil Society, New York University, 269 Mercer St., Room 207, New York, NY 10003; tel: 212-998-7503 or download a copy from the Heartland Institute's "PolicyBot" in three separate parts by surfing to http://www.heartland.org/PDF/21653e.pdf, http://www.heartland.org/PDF/21654s.pdf, and http://www.heartland.org/PDF/21654t.pdf....