After Board’s Eye View bid adieu last week, rumors have been swirling about who might be buzzing around Fordham’s blogs next. Well, the wait is almost over: On Monday, Gadfly’s latest blogger will debut (again?). A few hints about the mystery man's identity:
- He’s a self-described sucker for charter schools, scatter plots, Google docs, and good Race to the Top analysis
- No one does the education news roundup better
- Who introduced the “nuclear option” to federal-education policy?
Give up? Come back Monday to find out.
Michael Harrington could easily have been describing McDowell County, West Virginia when he wrote in The Other America that “everything that turns the landscape into an idyll for an urban traveler conspires to hold the people down. They suffer terribly at the hands of beauty.” Home to breathtaking views of the Appalachians, this sparsely spread community near the Kentucky and Virginia borders contains some of the worst public schools in the nation and is plagued by drug abuse and chronic unemployment. According to the Register-Herald of Berkley, West Virginia, “72 percent of students live in a household without gainful employment and 46 percent of McDowell County students do not live with their biological parents.” The poverty rate for students is 49 percentand McDowell has the highest instance on prescription drug overdoses in the nation.
Think Harlem Children's Zone for an entire rural county.
Attempting to change the social and educational dynamics behind these statistics, organizations including the American Federation of Teachers, Alliance for Excellent Education, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Verizon, and the United Mine Works have begun an ambitious five-year plan to write “a new chapter” for this community: Reconnect McDowell. What makes this reform initiative so unique is the full-spectrum approach these organizations are taking to change the education, economic, and social realities facing McDowell’s impoverished students and residents—think Harlem Children’s Zone for an entire rural county.
Just as in Harlem, school reform will be a major
It’s been called “one of the most brazen cheating scandals in the nation.”
The Crescendo charter-school network in southern California combined strict academics with arts and music, and its schools’ past test scores were impressive—but, apparently, tainted. According to a recent Los Angeles Times report that cited two separate investigations, principals of the Los Angeles-area schools—following orders from the founder and CEO—gave copies of upcoming state tests to teachers to study, and perhaps also to students to practice and prep using actual questions from the test itself.
Cheating scandals won't stop until we learn something from them.
Photo by Casey Serin
The investigations blamed John Allen, Crescendo’s founder and CEO. According to the L.A. Times, “Allen’s biggest fixation was test scores.” Sources noted that he was driven by a desire to be “better, better, better, best.” At one point, he reportedly told the staff at one school, “You better score a 900 this year” (out of 1,000 points possible on California’s Academic Performance Index). Apparently, there were threats to principals and teachers if they didn’t “get with the program.”
As word leaked and an investigation began, Crescendo’s teachers were allegedly told to deny having seen
Results from the umpty-fourth Phi Delta Kappan (PDK)/Gallup survey of Americans regarding public education released today, and they include some important revelations.
- Support for the Common Core academic standards is strong and opposition weak (50 percent believe the standards will improve the quality of education; 8 percent hold they will decrease it).
- The public divides right down the middle (a 52-48 split) over including students’ academic results in teacher evaluations.
- For the first time, support for charter schools declined a bit since the previous survey (70 percent in favor in 2011, 66 percent this year), and it’s more partisan than before, with Republicans in favor at the 80 percent level, Democrats at 54.
- At the same time, support for vouchers is rising, with 44 percent now positive even though the PDK/Gallup folks relentlessly phrase their voucher question in the most off-putting way possible: Do you “favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?”
- Almost two thirds say they’d be willing to pay higher taxes to improve urban public schools. And a plurality (for the first time) says that “lack of financial support” is the biggest problem facing public schools. Yet when it comes to Uncle Sam solving that problem, a whopping majority (60 percent) says that balancing the federal budget is more urgent than improving the education system.
- But not for illegal immigrants! Almost three in five Americans oppose providing them
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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