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Every time I see a “poverty and education” story I think of
the famous line from the New Testament in which Jesus says, “The poor you will
always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.” 

So, with education. Want a convenient scapegoat for our
problems? Poverty. It’s there, it’s handy. 

Want a convenient scapegoat for our
problems? Poverty. It’s there, it’s handy.

I sat through an hour meeting of our small school district’s
budget committee last week, most of it devoted to bemoaning our fate as a “poor
district” (over 60 percent of our kids qualify for free and reduced-price
lunch, the standard definition of “poor” for schools) in these recessionary
times. State aid has been nearly flat and the Governor punched through a two
percent local property tax cap. Woe is us. There goes sports. Not mentioned was
the fact that we spend over $22,000 per student! 

has been hitting the poverty gong for some time, most recently in Cleveland, where, she
says, “the level of urban decay is alarming.” I was just in Cleveland and, while I can appreciate the
sentiment, I fail to understand how she gets to the next sentence: “Yet its
municipal leaders have decided that their chief problem is bad teachers.” 


I visited a couple of successful Cleveland public schools during
my visit—successful in educating...


While ESEA
grabbed the headlines this week, Fordham bloggers offered up
commentary on all of the week’s big education stories. Here’s a recap by the

Stay on top of all of Fordham’s commentary and analysis by
subscribing to our combined

While waiting for the ESEA waiver announcement, Mike and Janie get to look at the week’s more entertaining edu-news, from trials for tardiness to a pot problem in the Rockies. Amber talks pensions and Chris wonders if “walking it off” isn’t always the best idea.

The release of The
State of State Science Standards 2012
was Fordham’s biggest news this week—Checker
and Kathleen discussed why
it matters
on Flypaper—but bloggers on the Gadfly Daily still commented on
everything from the latest education studies to the future of reading

Terry Ryan and KnowledgeWorks’ Lisa Duty celebrated Digital
Learning Day on Thursday by laying out what
it will take to make the Buckeye State a digital learning leader
in 2012 on
the Ohio Gadfly Daily. On
Flypaper, Checker reflected on Jack
Jennings’s legacy at the Center on Education Policy
and Mike wondered
whether the knowledge and skills we test are really
the ones needed for economic success

On Choice Words, Adam Emerson previewed
a forthcoming study
that pokes a hole in the claim that school vouchers and
tax credit scholarships skim only the best students from public schools. Chris
Tessone explained on Stretching the School Dollar why
MBAs won’t save district schools
, while on Common Core Watch Kathleen Porter-Magee
profiled the tension
between reading strategies
favored by the Common Core and those laid out in
the best-selling book Teach Like a

Stay on top of all of Fordham’s new content and commentary
by exploring all six of the Gadfly
Daily blogs
and subscribing to the combined
RSS feed

Mike and Rick channel the shock jock king as they discuss the implications of Fordham’s science standards report (which made an appearance on the Stern show) and the latest NCLB waiver craziness. Amber looks at the recent MDRC study and Chris learns never to call a teacher cute.
  • The AP reports that the U.S.
    Education Department scolded states
    that had applied for the first round of
    NCLB waivers for not ensuring to ED’s satisfaction that schools would be held
    accountable for student performance. As Mike
    wrote last week
    , the folks in Washington are all about flexibility—until
    it’s time to be flexible. If Duncan & Co. keep this micromanagement up,
    education may yet become a campaign issue for their boss.
  • Apparently sick of stalled negotiations with
    the union over teacher evaluations, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is
    asking Andrew Cuomo to revamp
    state law to make firing low-rated teachers easier
    . Turns out New Yorkers
    will find out whether the self-styled “lobbyist for the students” in Albany is
    serious about fixing schools sooner rather than later. And whether he can get
    anywhere with a famously union-dominated legislature.
  • Philly “Chief Recovery Officer” Thomas Knudsen, a
    newly-appointed turnaround whiz from the corporate world, was warned by the
    city controller last week that he needs to cut $400,000 from
    the district budget
    —each and every day through June. Districts in tough straits
    have turned to MBAs for help before, but it will take painful and fundamental
    changes, not just business acumen, to fix the situation in the City of
    Brotherly Love.
  • The New York Times
    feature on a
    Montana school district with a single student
    —and a budget of
  • ...
Original iPhone + iPhone 3G + iPhone 4
Federal legislation rarely gets the desired result in education. Photo by Justin Baeder.

Jack Jennings started working on federal education policy in
December 1967, about eighteen months before I did. He's never stopped—and few
have wielded greater influence. For the past seventeen years (a history that
roughly parallels Fordham's), he's led a small but influential Washington-based
ed-policy think tank called the Center on Education Policy (CEP). He's now
retiring from that role and, as he exits, the Center has brought out two
publications. One is a nicely crafted (and very flattering) profile of CEP
, as well as Jack and his work there, written by veteran ed-writer
Anne Lewis. The other is Jack's own ten-page
on recent education reforms, what has and hasn't worked, and
what, in his view, the future ought to hold, particularly at the federal level.

It's vintage Jennings, perceptive about both what has
happened and why and how it has (and hasn’t) worked, then incurably and
relentlessly over-ambitious—in a classic, big-government, big-spending, liberal
sort of way—about what federal policy should do tomorrow.

As to the past, and oversimplifying some points that he
makes more...

The Education Gadfly

Apple had Fordham’s bloggers all abuzz this week: On Common
Core Watch, Kathleen cautioned that expense and questionable durability would keep
iPads from replacing textbooks anytime soon
, while Chris countered at
Stretching the School Dollar that betting
against Steve Jobs’ company tends to be a losing proposition
. On Flypaper, Checker
used Apple’s outsourcing of iPhone production to China
to question whether America’s
economic future may depend on our schools’ ability to teach hard work and diligence

Fordham’s newest blogger, Choice Words editor Adam Emerson,
argued that participants in the current school choice debate might
benefit from a history lesson
. Terry wrote on the Ohio Gadfly Daily that Ohio
Governor John Kasich could learn
a thing or two about school funding
from Florida’s Rick Scott. On the national front,
Mike warned that while many in Washington
praise ESEA flexibility in theory, they are more
than a little uncomfortable with increased state autonomy
in education.

Explore Fordham’s blogs for more commentary and subscribe to
the combined Fordham RSS feed
to stay on top of everything....

Mike and Rick wonder what (if anything) Newt’s resurgence means for education in the 2012 election and whether the white working class would benefit from schools that sweat the small stuff. Amber delves into NCTQ’s latest teacher policy report and Chris ponders a texting-free education

Part narrative, part analysis, this seventeenth
edition of ALEC’s education-policy report card offers reformers a hearty pat on
the back—and then delivers a swift kick in the pants. Split into five chapters,
the report rehashes reform victories (in the areas of school choice and teacher quality, mainly) from the past year. As
authors Matt Ladner and Daniel Lips note, these reformy ideas have hit the
mainstream (exemplified by Obama’s embrace of charters and meaningful teacher
evaluations). But, they also remind us, saying and doing are distant cousins.
In a subsequent chapter, they showcase states’ meager academic-achievement
gains on NAEP, breaking these gains down by race and socioeconomic and disabled
status. (Florida, unsurprisingly, fares best on these
metrics.) And then comes the pain: Using a revised set of indicators (based on last year’s report-card
), Ladner and Lips rank states’ overall education-policy scores (yes,
much like our own city-based
from summer 2010) on six categories: academic standards (measured by
cut-score rigor), charter laws, homeschooling regulations, teacher-quality
policies, virtual schools, and private-school choice. The unexpected upshot:
Missouri has the strongest education-policy package out there. Florida and
Minnesota round out the top three with B-pluses, both. Indiana—even with its top-notch reform
package this year
—earns a B (as does Ohio). The average grade for the states is a
depressing C-plus. A detailed methodology is absent (how were the six