Education Gadfly Weekly
Volume 8, Number 30
August 7, 2008
Opinion + Analysis
Conversing with Ted Strickland
Forgetful in Boston
Can you get it in HD?
Rick Hess: Olympian
This week, Mike and Rick talk teachers, Crew, and food theft. Amber tells us about where stand charter schools in 2008, and Education News of the Weird is fighting against the power.
Terry Ryan / August 7, 2008
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is in the midst of a 12-city "Conversation on Education" that he says will inform his long-awaited education plan, currently expected in early 2009. I attended his invitation-only event in Dayton, and the governor came across as charming, caring, even grandfatherly. He was patient with everyone and showed a real sense of humor. His political talents are tremendous; he clearly likes working a crowd and the Dayton bunch obviously liked him. No wonder his name has been tossed around as a serious veep candidate (a job he says he doesn't want).
He's an obvious up-and-comer in the Democratic party and he currently presides over an important swing state. What he thinks and does about education in that state could be a portent of things to come far beyond its borders--besides being super-important to Buckeyes.
To date, however, it's impossible to determine what Strickland's own specific plans for K-12 education will look like (and by the time he unveils them he'll be halfway through his gubernatorial term). While in Dayton, he emphasized that he was not presenting any ideas of his own or of his administration. He insisted that he wanted to hear the ideas of others, and to share ideas that others had previously voiced to him.
This obviously makes it hard to pin down what he believes or where he is headed--and indeed it's possible that he doesn't yet know. What's unfortunately clear, however, is that many of
August 7, 2008
In 2006, we wailed when the Florida Supreme Court, on which sit perhaps some of the most left-leaning people in Tallahassee, summoned up dubious reasoning to strike down the state's Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provided vouchers to students to escape their failing schools for better educational opportunities. Now a pair of proposed constitutional amendments could restore educational choice to the Sunshine State. Amendments 7 and 9, if passed, would do several things: repeal the state constitution's noxious Blaine Amendment, which prohibits government aid from going to religious institutions; make public schools the primary way, but not only way, that Florida's students can be educated (thus overturning the Court's 2006 Opportunity Scholarship decision); and require school districts to spend 65 percent of their budgets in the classroom. (The last of these, in our view, is a dumb idea but voters seem to adore it.) Florida's NEA affiliate attempted to keep both measures off November's ballot by claiming that the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which sponsored them, had no right to do so. Tuesday, a judge disagreed--so it appears that Floridians will have the opportunity to vote on them in November. Past statewide voucher referenda in other states have generally failed, but the 65 percent solution is popular, and its inclusion might just make Florida's vote more competitive. We watch with interest and hope.
"Fla. Judge Rejects Challenge to Voucher Amendments," by Bill Kaczor, Associated Press,
August 7, 2008
A Boston Globe op-ed tells us that, long before he was governor of Massachusetts, the young Deval Patrick "earned a scholarship from A Better Chance, an organization that provides educational opportunities to young people of color." That scholarship transported him from Chicago's South Side to Boston's Milton Academy and eventually through the fabled iron gates of Harvard Yard. But despite the incalculable benefits Patrick received from such promising educational options, his newish Readiness Project (a ten-year plan for improving public education in the Bay State) does not provide for others the opportunities that he himself enjoyed. Authors Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass note that the Readiness Project is "silent on charters" and that Patrick's administration "has even floated the possibility of freezing them" in certain districts. What a missed opportunity. Patrick would do well to amend his education plan--using his own experiences as a guide.
"Ready for more educational choices," by Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass, Boston Globe, August 5, 2008
August 7, 2008
Survivor and The Real World attract millions of viewers, but the reality TV cognoscenti know where to find the most delicious fare: the televised actions of elected political bodies (see here and here). In Miami-Dade County, for instance, the school board's proceedings have, since February, garnered up to 28,500 viewers at any given hour. Angry teachers, arguments over the ever-slimming budget, and political rivalries among the nine board members have produced a level of drama that few scripted shows can rival. In one recent episode, an attempt to oust Superintendent Rudy Crew intensified the action. (Crew held onto his job, but just barely--the board voted on Monday 5-4 against terminating him.) Mario Artecona, executive director of the Miami Business Forum said, "The meetings are like a train wreck. You know it's going to be a mess, but you can't look away." Justin Koren, a teacher, compared the proceedings to "a soap opera on steroids." Too bad this isn't a soap opera, though. It's the unfortunate reality of how one big, urban district enrolling some 400,000 children is presently governed.
"School drama: Board meeting spats lure viewers," by Kathleen McGrory, Miami Herald, August 3, 2008
"Legal grounds for firing Crew weak, Dade School Board told," by Kathleen McGrory and Laura Isensee, Miami Herald, August 4, 2008
"Dade schools superintendent hangs on by one vote," by Kathleen McGrory, Laura Isensee, and Jennifer Lebovich, Miami Herald,
August 7, 2008
Ocean's 11 has come to Fairfax County, Virginia. Its school district estimates that during the 2007-2008 school year, $1.2 million of cafeteria food was pilfered from under the watchful eyes of the lunch ladies. This brazenness is epidemic, apparently: Penny McConnell, the district's director of food and nutrition services, conducted an anonymous survey of 10,000 pupils and found that nearly 9 percent "said they had taken food without paying." Fairfax, facing a big budget crunch and rising food prices, has decided to install in certain cafeterias surveillance cameras to deter the temptable and nab the undeterrable. This is more promising than the district's previous approach (signs in the hallways inform about pocketing hot pockets, "It's stealing and it hurts everyone," which of course it doesn't), and we wish Fairfax luck. Perhaps, though, this is yet another reason for schools to jettison unhealthful fries and pizzas in favor of vegetables and fruits. What 15-year-old would risk suspension for zucchini sticks?
"Fairfax Fed Up With Lunch-Line Thieves," by Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post, August 4, 2008
August 7, 2008
It was Al Gore who once told an audience, by way of a mistranslation rich with Freudian undertones, "that we can be E Pluribus Unum--out of one, many." Not quite. Achieve has more success with the concept in this fine new report which depicts how several states (it evaluated English standards in twelve, math in sixteen) have successfully created a "common core of standards in English and mathematics." As the authors write: "This report demonstrates that state education policymakers--focusing on their own goals, working with their own constituents and on their own timetables--will put in place rigorous, competitive standards that prepare all students for college and careers." (To be sure, those states had plenty of help from Achieve and its American Diploma Project.) What's really important here is the evidence that similar if not identical multi-state standards are attainable in these United States--and Achieve wants many more of them. Sans federal interference. Sounds right to us. Read Achieve's analysis here.