The Education Gladfly
Pump up the Volume, Number One Spot
April 1, 2012
Opinion + Analysis
Quadruple stop the presses!!
That’s what he said
By Whitney Tilson
How I learned to stop worrying and love the Common Core
Putting the “high” in high school
Tebow mania’s Frankenstein
Making a clean sweep from the status quo
Mopping up the competition
I know you are, but what am I?
Revisiting Teacher Value-Added: The Benefits Last a Lifetime
Onto a world filled with marathon-running vegans
The American Way: Education and the Key to International Competitiveness
If we have to crawl then so does everyone else
By Pierce Preshure
They'll Swallow More Learning if You Sugar-coat It
Mary Poppins was onto something
By Jester Slim
Letter to the Editor
I’m coming for you, Fordham
By Tommy D. Fordham
Dancing with the School-Reform Stars
April 1, 2012
Noting the success of last summer’s Education Reform Idol bonanza, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute proudly announces its new event series, Dancing with the School-Reform Stars. The show pairs noted reformers with famed defenders of the status quo.
Whitney Tilson / April 1, 2012
Is it really egotistical to do a STOP THE PRESSES for one of my own articles ;-)? This is one of my best emails in a long time, so read all the way through. If only things would slow down a little in the ed reform fight, I could relax some more here! I feel like I’m in quicksand, struggling to get my emails out. I want to clean out my ed reform outbox so I can relax this weekend!
I love lamp.
Photo by slgckgc.
Another day, another email exchange with my new pen pal, Gary Rubenstein. Other than catching up with all of my friends (and making new ones), I went to a lunch with my favorite senator, Colorado’s Michael Bennet, on Monday. It reminds me of a conversation I had with Mitt Romney earlier this year. Five years ago (and prior), we reformers were stuck on our own 5 yard line and were getting manhandled. If we're going to use a lamp analogy, let's talk about a lamp with issues, one in which a bad bulb will flicker very faintly and
Nostra-dum-us / April 1, 2012
Color us embarrassed. Turns out the haters (and I guess the Mayans) were right. Though this isn’t time for “I told you so.” The Common Core standards and assessments truly have brought on the End of Days. Of course, every human still standing—or, rather, crouching, huddled and scared in their makeshift bomb shelters with nothing but Spam, bottled water, and dial-up Internet to sustain them—already knows this. But we do feel a tad responsible for the whole “annihilation-of-Earth” thing. So, for posterity—and to clear the air (sorry, bad pun, I know the air is filled with Uranium-238)—I offer here a recount of just how we got so horrifically off track. Really, we were just trying to ensure that American kids knew how to read and write.
Oops. Our bad.
It was two weeks ago that The Demise began—and it wasn’t all Fordham’s fault. On that fateful Sunday, the town of Tainted Springs, South Carolina (population: 3), officially banned the Common Core standards. Mayor Leda Price (also the town’s bartender and part-time animal-control officer) was obviously convinced by Hoover scholar Bill Evers, who had been enjoying himself in her pub the previous evening. Within hours, all hell had broken loose.
Emboldened by the Tainted Springs precedent, the South Carolina legislature backed away from the Palmetto State’s commitment
April 1, 2012
The phrase “gateway drug” took on new meaning last week, as California became the first state to officially apply for a waiver from the federal mandate that school grounds all be “safe and drug free” zones. After further investigation, the Gladfly discovered that hundreds of school districts across the state are keen to open in-school cannabis dispensaries as a fundraising strategy. One So-Cal principal, who helped draft the state’s waiver application, agreed to talk with us so long as we didn’t use his “government name” in our publication. “Listen, man, we’re just livin’ here. L-i-v-i-n’. No need to ask so many questions.” He hopes to reverse his school’s shrinking budget by making a nostalgia-infused pitch to medicinal-marijuana cardholders throughout the state: “It’ll be just like high school again. But legal. And you won’t have to play dodgeball in gym class or dissect worms. Ya brah, get at this.” Thus far, the U.S. Department of Education has only released a short statement in response:
Leave it to California…Whatever our final decision, remember that we certainly have the ability to award such a waiver should we choose to and we definitely don’t need Congress’s permission. Nah nah nah nah nah nah.
April 1, 2012
Thanks to the now-famous “Tebow law,” homeschoolers across the land are donning decades-old football gear, tattered pinnies, and spittle-laden mouthguards with the rest of their agemates as they try out for public-school-sports teams (in those locales where they haven’t been eliminated due to budget cuts). But, USA Twoaday reports, home-school advocates are pushing for access to more than just the playing field. Some parents, thrilled at finally having some time away from their children, are asking to park their brats in detention, study hall, and in-school suspension. Others are demanding access to school lunches, nurses, and showers. One D.C.-area parent who homeschools her eight children said, “To be honest, I was sick of hearing Jimmy (or was it Janie?) crying when I put him (or her) in timeout and whining about my cooking.” The kids also seem to favor these changes. Little Jimmy (or was it Janie?) told the Gladfly, “I’m stoked to be able to start getting Valentine's Day cards from people with different last names.” The youngster added, with a tear in his (or was it her?) eye, “and maybe one day a locker of my very own.”
“Suspension rates for homeschoolers on the rise,” by Greg Tapped-Out, USA Twoaday, March 31, 2012.
April 1, 2012
After an abrupt and somewhat mysterious trip to Cyprus, Newt Gingrich has officially exited the 2012 presidential election. How come? Certainly not to spend more time with his famil(ies). Rather, it’s to focus energies on his latest venture, the “Reinvigoration of American Culture” public-charter school, set to open in New Orleans nine months after election day. The RAC school will engage in daily classroom prayer (nondenominational, of course—until those hippie liberals get out of the White House) to teach children a moral code. It will also utilize a unique school-work program that requires students to serve as the building’s janitors, cafeteria workers, hall monitors, and PE teachers (because, really, what skill that an eighth grader lacks does it take to lead a game of badminton?). The promised benefits of Newt’s new venture are threefold: Teach these lazy kids some freakin’ work ethic, stockpile some conservative bona-fides, and test-drive his education agenda on real-live lab rats—er, scholars. But a word of caution, Newt. Just opening a charter school won’t make you a shoe-in for the White House in 2016. Michele Bachmann can tell you a little something about that.
“Gingrich puts his money where his mouth is,” by Same Dylan, Newark Times, March 29, 2012.
April 1, 2012
Unfettered by karmic pronouncements, Rick Santorum has already begun designing lesson plans for homeschooling his kids in the White House. According to documents uncovered by the Twenty-first Century Democrats PAC, these plans include an Ayn Rand read-along, an uncritical analysis of the Federalist Papers, and Econ 101 via Hayek.
It was revealed during a friendly Saturday-evening game of Trivial Pursuit with Jeb Bush that Bob Wise is, in fact, the IBM supercomputer, Watson. He (or is it “it”?) was uncovered after correctly answering fifteen questions in a row, and then botching the wedge question, “What does the acronym NGA stand for?” with the non sequitur: “sand castles.” Upon further questioning he started smoking out of one ear.
Not wanting to anger, annoy, or antagonize members of “nontraditional” families, parents in PC County, Vermont are petitioning to ban use of the words “picket fence,” “mothers and fathers,” “straight,” and “marriage” in the district’s classrooms. They are to be replaced with “home-area accoutrements,” “guardians,” “linear,” and “coupling.” (“Traditional” is out, too, replaced by “archaic”.)
Not to be one-upped by reform-minded state chiefs, Dennis Walcott, John Deasy, Jean-Claude Brizard, and John Covington have teamed up to form Superintendents for Superiority. From the new organization’s press release: “You think the Chiefs are the only ones who can be alliterative? Think again.” Coming soon: Principals for Proficiency, Teachers for Terrificness,
Va-va-vam / April 1, 2012
Harvard University’s Raj Chetty—fresh on the heels of his much-lauded report on teacher value-added measures (VAM)—has unveiled a meatier, more rigorous longitudinal look at VAM. This new study tracks students to age thirty-five and yields some interesting findings. High teacher value-added scores are linked, for example, to students landing college girlfriends/boyfriends by the end of freshman year (and good ones too—athletes, cheerleaders, and the like, not pimply social rejects); being able to do highly advanced yoga poses by the age of twenty-five; moving out of their parents’ basement before thirty; becoming vegans after having children; and running at least one marathon before they hit their mid-life crises. Chetty also evaluated the long-term effects of low-value-added teachers: Their graduates have been shown to hum along loudly—and off-key—to songs later in life. Those taught by teachers in the bottom quartile for two or more years will grow up to be “that guy,” according to Chetty. They stand on the left side of the escalator, tailgate, read US Weekly, watch Toddlers and Tiaras, and like clowns. Teachers matter-doubters: Convinced yet?
Raj Chetty, Revisiting Teacher Value-Added: The Benefits Last a Lifetime (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, March 2012) .
Pierce Preshure / April 1, 2012
The Common Core. Rigorous teacher evaluations. Empowered principals. Career ladders. Each may be the key to curing what ails America’s education system and restoring America’s economic supremacy. Or not. Unfortunately, the U.S. of A. can’t wait around to see if a few uncertain reforms will keep us internationally competitive. Luckily, Marc Tucker explains in his latest book, we don’t need to. Let’s be honest: No one knows how to get a bunch of Jersey Shore-addicted slackers from Secaucus to outscore the superstars of Shanghai. Thing is, while we may not know how to fix a school system, we sure know how to break one—and that may just be the key to staying one step ahead. While the Finns (no relation to Chester) have turned their academic prowess into a genuine economic driver (books about their education system just passed reindeer meat as Helsinki’s biggest export), Tucker explains that the U.S. can regain its economic dominance by sending its dysfunction abroad. As such, he recommends a few key “reforms”: Airlift Wii consoles preinstalled with Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto to Singapore, promote project-based learning in Hong Kong and “twenty-first century skills” (whatever that means) in Shanghai, advocate for cushy teacher contracts in Japan, and screen Hot Tub Time Machine in Finland. As Tucker’s treatise concludes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, and you can’t join ‘em, make ‘em just as bad as you.”
Jester Slim / April 1, 2012
Following the lead of the Council on Foreign Relations, a task force convened by the National Fructose Association and the American Academy of Confectioners and co-chaired by Rosanne Barr and Willy Wonka has issued a path-breaking report on American education—recommending use of some bold (and necessary) change-agents. The panel laid out a savory strategy of rewards-based learning: U.S. schools should serve more sweets both during lunch and at snack time. Students who score above average on exams should be rewarded with Snickers bars (or M&Ms for those sad-sacks with peanut allergies). Earning an A makes your candy bar king-sized. They observed that sugary foods boost energy levels as well as kids’ motivation to learn. During a press call held on the date of report release, the task force brushed off questions about Type 2 diabetes as “fabrications and scaremongering from the same people who brought us Obamacare.” Insinuations that this program of “treat giving” closely resembled tactics for training puppies were also poo-pooed.
Peter Griffin, Eric Cartman, Yogi Bear, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus, They'll Swallow More Learning if You Sugar-coat It (Topeka, KS: National Fructose Association; McAllen, TX: American Academy of Confectioners, April 2012).
Tommy D. Fordham / April 1, 2012
At first, I really didn’t care. I’m a pretty easy-going guy, all-in-all. Every few years, we’d get some new transfer, another geek to teach the eighth graders Algebra I, like they need that! They’d just about choke on their single-serving chocolate milk from the cafeteria when they met me.
“Fordham? Your name is Thomas B. Fordham? Like those swivel-eyed crazies with the charter schools and the horseflies?”
“D. For Dayton. (Ohio pride, buddy!) Thomas D. Fordham, no relation. But everybody just calls me Tommy D.”
And that would be that; I could get back to the business of teaching seventh-grade gym at Toledo Central Middle School (Go Jackrabbits!). But every man has his limit, and I’m finally beyond mine.
Problem is, you Fordham types don’t quit. It’s not just the charter thing, mind you, or even the bugs. I mean, enough with the “accountability” nonsense, okay? It’s not enough for you to sponsor some random schools? You’ve got to stick your noses in my school, too? And the reports? Oy. Every year, like clockwork, with those Ohio report-card analyses. (Though they’re useful for evening out the legs on my desk the sixth-grade shop class gave me last spring.)
What really got me, though, was this Senate Bill 5 shenanigan. Charter schools just mean I have a smaller fourth-period class. Not all bad. But taking away my God-given right to a fraternal union contract and then saying I can’t strike over it? Oh no, no,