The New York Times continues to provide a generous medley of education reporting, including, of course, from their controversial "On Education" columnist Michael Winerip.? Alas, Winerip is not among the three recent stories I want to highlight here:
Troubled Schools Mimicking Charters This is an intriguing piece by Sam Dillon, about school reform in Houston, but I stopped short when I got to this line:
In the first experiment of its kind in the country, the Houston public schools are testing whether techniques proven successful in high-performing urban charters can also help raise achievement in regular public schools.
First of its kind?? I ran this by my friend Hal Kwalwasser, who has just finished a book (for which I provided some editing advice), describing improvement strategies in many traditional school districts.?? Writes Hal in an email:
There are lots of districts around the country that are doing the things that Houston is now about to do. Nothing new here?.? The big question is not that Houston is trying them out now, but why hundreds if not thousands of districts have not done the same thing - and not done it many years ago.
Time to Revive Home Ec This is a gem of an essay, written by Michigan State historian Helen Zoe Veit.
Reviving [Home Economics] and its original premises ? that producing good, nutritious food is profoundly important, that it takes study and practice, and that it can and should be taught through
News of the World: rocketships, suburban charters, parent triggers, cheating, merit pay -- and even Winerip does good
Okay, it's not exactly what Rupert might condone, but since he and his crew are preoccupied and because our News Nuggets shop has plenty to do, I offer some education highlights from my weekend reading:
Charter Fights Move to the Suburbs Winnie Hu had a front-page story in the Sunday New York Times documenting a small trend in the charter movement to open more of the independent public schools in suburbs: about one in five of the nation's 5,000 charters are now in the ?burbs.? Not surprisingly, the story raises some existential questions about public education. ?Mike calls attention to the article in his Myth of the ?good? school post this morning, pointing out that ?One person's `good school' is another person's `bad fit.'? ?But there is also a ?financial question here, which is whether we can afford a good school, or even a good fit, for everyone. Is the computer the answer? Just as we citizens and taxpayers pool our resources to build common roads and ?provide for the common defense,? our ?public school system? has traditionally supposed that we get better education by having common schools. Traditionally, that has meant a central location. But if we don't need bricks and mortar to educate, do we still need a there there?
Rocketship Takes Off One of the newest charter success stories, Palo-Alto-based Rocketship Education may provide some answers.? According to Vauhini Vara of the Wall Street Journal, the
I'll hand it to Michael Winerip. This morning he takes on one of the charter movement's fiercest competitors, Eva Moskowitz; rather, he finds a kid who he implies got dumped by one of Moskowitz's schools and through him attempts to show charters as cherry-pickers.? But he's too good a reporter and what he ends up doing is showing us why we need more choice and charters, not less and fewer.
Indeed, young Matthew Sprowl, ?disruptive and easily distracted,? seems to be the poster child for what charter critics have long said is the unfair advantage that charters have over their traditional school counterparts: charters don't have to take all kids, regular schools do. In his third week of kindergarten at Moskowitz's Harlem Success Academy 3, Matthew was suspended for three days, writes Winerip, for ?bothering other children.? The problems escalated and, with help from Harlem Success, Matthew soon found a regular public school, where he was later diagnosed as having ?attention disorder? and, over the last three years, ?has thrived.?
It's an interesting story and Winerip tells it well ? too well to make his argument against charters stick. He gives Moskowitz schools their due, pointing out that her ?students earn top honors.? ?Typically, that's the setup for the skimming trap. ?It didn't work -- Success 3 just has too many Special Ed and English Language Learners to make the charge stick.? Winerip makes another mistake (for his argument's point of
Today's Times (unless you read it online yesterday or the day before), covers some fertile educational ground in three important arenas.
A Little Shakespeare in Welding Class, Please! The deep recession has exposed a few education ribs in the nation's torso the last couple of years. And Motoko Rich has an excellent report about the impact budget cutbacks are having on the technical and trade schools.
The administration has proposed a 20 percent reduction in its fiscal 2012 budgdet for career and technical education, to a little more than $1 billion, even as it seeks to increase overall education funding by 11 percent.
The silver lining ? and best part of the story -- is toward the end, when Rich addresses the problem, as she writes, that ?the skills that employers most frequently say are in shortest supply are critical thinking, the ability to work in teams and communication, not specialized training.? ??She cites a Pioneer Institute study pointing out that manuals for many of these trade jobs, like plumbing and auto mechanics, require Grade 14 reading level and that more technical schools are realizing that even kids destined for blue-collar and busted-knuckle jobs should know how to read and write.
On the Avenue Seeing Benno Schmidt with hard-hat in hand does not mean that the former president of Yale is opening a trade school ? especially when he's standing next to education entrepreneur Chris Whittle and media executive
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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