Holiday feast: STOP THE PRESSES!!! And pass the gravy.

Though I would much prefer to write about “democracy,” which is the
hot topic these days, or even mention our pilgrims progress, those
pioneers who survived rough winters and stopped to appreciate their
bounty, I must interrupt this program to urge Flypaper fans to cozy up to ednext.org and be thankful for the new issue of Education Next.  Cover-to-cover, it’s a blessing.

Okay, I’m a dying breed. I carried the print version of the Winter
2012 issue around most of the last several days – scribbling in the
margins, spilling coffee on the pictures, throwing pages on the
passenger seat, breaking the binding back and perching the salt shaker
on it at breakfast – I guarantee you this is a  Thanksgiving feast. 
Even online! (Full disclosure, I am a contributing editor at the
magazine, have a story in the issue (see below), and am biased.)

But I guarantee you, you won’t leave this issue hungry:

Play Ball!
This June Kronholz cover story takes us curriculum afficianados to a
new playing field. “There’s not a straight line between the crochet club
and the Ivy League,” writes Kronholz, “[b]ut a growing body of research
says there is a link between afterschool activities and graduating from
high school, going to college and becoming a responsible citizen.”

This story sets us on a trajectory of common sense that is much
needed in our polarized and partisan education policy world. I hesitate
to use the word, but organic comes to mind. The whole child; more reason to move NCLB – and the reform movement – off its parochial ELA and math dime. A must read.

Do We Play Ball with the Unions?
Marc Tucker is president of the National Center on Education and the
Economy and here presents a compelling case for changing our approach to
education labor and management relations: let’s collaborate, the way
the Canadians and the Finns do it.  It’s enticing.

Thus three “social partners” – government, labor, and management – would frame social policy together, as equals.

Unfortunately, with all due respect to our social democratic
neighbors to the north and east, that’s not how the world works in a
free, heterogenius society, where government must celebrate,
accommodate, and channel individuals.  This is one of the more
persuasive arguments for collaboration – and the denial of nature! — and
should be read.

Unions schmunions. What about the kids? This forum feature
is a feast for our education gladiators: Spartacus Jay Greene v.
Vercingetorix Richard Kahlenberg.  It is not a contest for the faint of
heart.  But it’s worth pointing out that Kahlenberg does a lot of
dancing around the central question – do teacher unions really help
kids? – while Jay has to admit that “it is very hard to produce rigorous
research on the effect of teachers unions on education.”  Bring on the
lions.

Studying “teacher moves”
This is perhaps the best story in the issue – and that’s because author
Michael Goldstein, founder of MATCH Charter School and MATCH Teacher
Residency, is such a voice of reason.

Teachers don’t trust research, and understandably so. 
There’s a lot of shoddy research that supports fads. Experienced
teachers remember that `this year’s method’ directly contradicts the
approach from three years ago.

Goldstein is here arguing that the Gates-sponsored project to study
“teacher moves” – what a teacher does in a classroom – will provide “a
massive uptick in our knowledge of teacher moves” and that such
research  might actually be useful to teachers. “Until that [research]
exists,” he says, “I’ll see you at the 5th-grade dance.” Go granny, go granny, go.

Our Best are Mediocre
This little feature report, from Jay Greene and Josh McGee, should
scare the pants off our country’s remaining education system boosters:

Even the most elite suburban school districts often
produce results that are mediocre when compaired with those of our
international peers.

So much for blaming poor, inner-city blacks for our dismal
international test results. (And read the comments on this one.) Even
American kids born on third base, conclude Greene and McGee, can’t hit
home runs.  Take Beverly Hills, with a median family income of $102,611
and 85.1 percent white: math achievement of its average student puts the
district at the 53rd percentile relative to our
industrialized nation students. Take that, you smug middle class
parents.  But here’s a chance to see where your district stands compared
to the World (at www.globalreportcard.org) .

This problem is reiterated by Sa Bui, Steven Craig, and Scott
Imberman in a closely argued research report in the same issue, titled Poor Results for High Achievers.
The research suggests that “students who are placed in
higher-achieveing groups” don’t do all that well and, in fact, “can
suffer psychological harm.”

What the best dressed countries can teach us
This story by Carlos Astra-Anadon and Paul Peterson recaps the
highlights of a unique conference sponsored by Harvard’s Program on
Education Policy and Governance: “Learning from the Inernational
Experience.”  By sampling views of educators from different education
success countries – such as Jari Lavonen of Finland and Gwan-Jo Kim of
Korea – and different fields – e.g. Susan Patrick of the International
Association for K—12 Online Learning and Shantanu Prakash of Educomp
Solutions – we get great insight into what works and what doesn’t from those who know.

Chris Cerf of New Jersey and Gerard Robinson of Florida were also
there, talking about what is working in America.  It’s a roundtable of
some intelligence and might convince you, conclude Lastra-Anadon and
Peterson, that American “popular culture shows little appreciation for
the educated citizen,” that “a decentralized government arrangement with
multiple veto points precludes rapid innovation,” and that “education
policitics [in the United States] is marked by antipathy between
teachers unions and school reformers.” But there’s more.

Parent Power.
This story is called “Not Your Mother’s PTA” – and that is a perfectly
apt way of describing the difference between the old-fashioned bake-sale
parents and the radicalized mamas and papas of our reform era.  Go
Parents!

Desert: Le Whitney Tilson
I was honored to meet this crusader for education excellence. And I
hope this story conveys some of the nuance – and passion — that makes
him one of the most insightful and incisive education reform
provocateurs of our day.  Why does he care?

I believe very deeply in the promise of this country,
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But there is nothing more
fundamental about what America stands for than equality of opportunity.
That it doesn’t matter who your parents are or what color your skin is
or what neighborhood you were born in—every kid in this country should
get a fair shot at the American dream. And there’s nothing more
important to that than getting a decent education.… The outrage comes
from the fact that we have a public education system in this country
that systematically delivers a massively inferior education to
low-income and minority kids. The kids that most need a good education,
to escape the disadvantages of the life they were born into, are
systematically given a lousy education. That violates every sense of
fairness, every belief I have about this country and thus the outrage.

Bon appétit. And be thankful.

More By Author

Related Articles