Additional Topics

Here’s a quick look back, by the numbers, at the week’s commentary on the Gadfly
Daily blogs:

  • 9: From
    ages zero to eighteen, Americans spend only 9 percent of their lives in
    classrooms, making it more likely that their innovativeness is developed
    outside the classroom, Mike observed
    on Flypaper
    .
  • 134: Adam
    writes on Choice Words
    that the Georgia House is right to challenge 134
    years of the status quo by trying to amend the state constitution to reinstate
    the state’s charter authorizing commission.
  • 1,050:
    A bill pending in the Ohio General Assembly would redefine the school year
    from 182 days to 1,050 hours of instruction in grades 7-12. Emmy writes on
    the Ohio Gadfly Daily that the proposal could increase
    flexibility and autonomy in the Buckeye State
    —if only it didn’t also
    require five-day weeks and longer summers.
  • 75,000:
    The United Federation of Teachers, which represents 75,000 of New York
    City’s educators, negotiated a deal to include “third-party, independent validation
    of teacher ratings”—a deal that is unlikely
    to do much more than sew seeds of dissent
    , writes Peter on Board’s Eye
    View.
  • 1,000,000:
    New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris Cerf’s decision to award $1
    million in funding to districts based on the high performance of
    special education students is admirably ambitious, argued Chris Tessone on
    Stretching the School Dollar, but the Garden
  • ...
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Youth Choir
American innovation doesn't start in the classroom.
 Photo by Dave Parker.

A few weeks ago, a couple of Japanese scholars dropped by
the Fordham Institute offices for a visit. This happens every so
often—delegations of foreigners make the Washington ed-policy circuit, seeking
a better understanding of America’s schools. As with most Asian visitors I
meet, these gentlemen were curious about how we manage to produce so many
innovative leaders. They want a Bill Gates, a Steve Jobs, or a Mark Zuckerberg
of their own.

To which I replied: “You’re looking in the wrong place. It
has nothing to do with our schools.”

This isn’t meant as a knock on our school system. But from
ages zero to eighteen, our young people spend about 9 percent of their lives in
class. Isn’t it likely that the other 91 percent contributes more to such
attributes as their creativity or willingness to question authority?

I asked my visitors what Japanese adolescents do when they
aren’t in school?

“They attend cram school,” was the answer. Uh huh.

American kids, on the other hand, are engaged in all manner
of extra-curricular activities: Sports, music, theater, student council,
cheerleading, volunteering, church activities, and on and on.* If you are
looking for sources of...

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From Lin-sanity to charter school discipline, Mike and Rick take on political correctness in this week’s podcast. Amber breaks down the recent Brown Center report and Chris defends Michael Jackson’s dance moves.

As Bill
Gates opined
in this morning’s New
York Times
, education discourse is better off—and comity about needed
reforms somewhat more likely—without teachers’ test scores plastered on
front-pages, where legitimate caveats about margins of error and sample sizes
are likely to get swept aside. As Eduwonk notes, parents still deserve to know whether
their children’s teachers (and others in their school) measure up; but they
should get that information from the principal, not the morning paper.

The Chicago Board of Education backed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest
move to shape up the Windy City’s schools
yesterday, approving closures,
teacher firings, or management changes at seventeen underachieving public schools.
Gladfly is thrilled that, from Chicago to Cleveland to Providence, a growing
number of big-city Democratic mayors are realizing that standing up to teacher
unions isn’t just sound policy—it can be a politically smart decision.

Tucked away in President Obama’s budget
is a proposal to cut NAEP funding and shift from a "Nation's report
card" to a system that benchmarks studentsagainst the PISA. While putting the performance
of American students in international perspective
provides some useful insights,
tying our understanding of student achievement to a fatally flawed test like
the PISA is a big
step backwards
. Besides, we already know how to compare NAEP results with
those of other countries.

The
New York Times reports...

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Here’s your weekly look around at all the great commentary
on the Gadfly Daily’s blogs:

  • Terry Ryan broke
    down the flaws
    in Diane Ravitch’s criticism of the Cleveland mayor’s
    education reform plan on the Ohio Gadfly Daily, and a Chicago charter school
    network under fire for fining its students isn’t
    all that out of the ordinary
    , argued Adam Emerson on the Choice Words blog.
  • On the Common Core Watch blog, Kathleen Porter-Magee
    observed that the advice on Common Core implementation just
    keeps getting worse
    , while Peter Meyer pointed out on Board's Eye View that the “poverty myth”
    in education just
    won’t go away
    .

To have all the content from the Fordham Institute’s blogs
delivered right to your inbox, simply subscribe to the combined RSS feed....

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Mike sat down with Fordham’s new school choice czar, Adam Emerson, to question just how flexible ESEA flexibility turned out to be and to ponder Obama’s abandonment of the D.C. voucher program. Amber looks at a new study on how much value principals add while Chris learns that they sometimes need to bob and weave when handing out teacher evaluations.

The Accountability Plateau cover

This new book from libertarian scholar Charles Murray, which
has already
sent
the chattering class into
overdrive
, frames—and decries—how our society has strayed from the traditional
American values of religiosity, honesty, marriage, and industriousness. Part
one of his analysis explains the formation of a new filtered upper class, an
educated and wealthy elite, severely cut off from others in society, both
geographically and culturally. Murray’s
data-filled tables and graphs show that this new class is likelier to be
married and regularly attend religious services, and is less apt to have
children out of wedlock. Part two maps the “new lower class”—the growing
American counterculture comprised of those who eschew the four cultural norms
that Murray sees as defining the “American way of life”—which then perpetuates
the income-linked
achievement gap
. (To ground this analysis in class, not race, he deals
specifically in this book with the country’s white population and its cultural
breakdown.) Part three explains why this rift matters: Murray’s main concern is that these two
worlds lack an arena for interaction. His arguments—notably that graduates from
elite schools tend to marry one another, make more money, live in “SuperZips”
(zip codes saturated with elite residents), and afford their children better
opportunities—have implicit ramifications for education. What’s unclear is
whether Murray
...

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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! 

Diane
Ravitch
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.” 

Huh?

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

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While ESEA
waivers
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
numbers:

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

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