March 2008 Archives

The exchange between me and The Quick and the Ed's Kevin Carey of EdSector over the somewhat arcane issues around the Secretary of Education's authority to conduct the differentiated accountability program under NCLB Section 9401, and whether or not a Secretary would use that authority only where he or she has some kind of consensus.

From "Industry Fragmentation (I): A Function of Emergence or Structure?" School Improvement Industry Week, April 4, 2005.

I agree with much of The Quick and the Ed's Kevin Carey's critique of the Department of Education’s pilot project on differentiated accountability, but unfortunately Carey’s premise that the pilot “is not, in the strictest sense of the word, legal,” under NCLB is, well, flat wrong.

It's worth remembering that the waiver provision of NCLB I that gave Secretary Spellings the legal authority to offer this pilot - Sec. 9401, could just as easily be used by a future (Democratic) Secretary to kill SES outright.

We need to change federal public education policy from campaign spoils to professional service.

As long as SES is in NCLB, solid evidence of program effectiveness will only become more important to SES providers - but every provider should watch the rising standard of efficacy.

From Monday's issue of K-12Leads and Youth Service Markets Report.

Absent intervention, markets are like Hobbes’ state of nature - life is nasty, brutish and short. If student performance does not matter, providers can't be expected to deliver it. If dominant players can use their market power to squelch competition, they will. In SES, this Administration didn’t channel competitive impulses towards ends that profit society.

SES providers are working to lower public expectations. From the Education Industry Association' s website: “No one should expect 30 to 40 hours of after-school tutoring during the course of a school year – the equivalent of one week of classes – to magically boost student scores on standardized state tests.”

The time line is not exactly encouraging for small organizations.

Expect the RtI approach, and its products, services and programs to serve many students not covered by IDEA.

To review The Equity Project Charter School's assertion that it "has created a sustainable... financial model that allows the school to compensate its teachers (at $125,000/yr) without relying on outside private funding," I have asked for their business plan. I have yet to hear back. What's the principled case for nonprofit financial secrecy?

A committee of educators in Connecticut have given me some reason to be hopeful about program evaluation through Response to Intervention policies, as I despair of Scientifically Based Research.

If you want to see your policy views in print, you have several options. To stay in the public eye you need to buy your own printing press, hire a good communications director, and publish, publish, publish. It also helps if you can find others who will repeat and reinforce your message in their own writing. You decide if that's happening here.

Fordham alleges that Success for All co-founder Bob "Slavin demanded that Reading First's budget be substantially cut--which (House Appropriations committee chair and education subcommittee chair Congressman David) Obey did." Fordham President Chester Finn asked for a full disclosure of the relationship between the two men. Slavin replies. Fordham's Stern responds..

Expect to see more gatekeeping to market entry.

Where parties appear to be independent, but are in fact closely related and share interests, but this is not disclosed, the effect on readers is misleading per se. NYT Magazine editor Paul Tough provides edbizbuzz with a case study of the problem.

The reason why small and medium size providers don’t spend much money on research is that the entrenched opposition in the education community doesn’t really care. Their hostility is ideologically based not performance related.

If one goal of NCLB is to encourage new investment in new firms with new effective school improvement programs, the implementation of the law’s SBR and RB provisions could hardly be less helpful. No investor can look at this history and feel any confidence in the government’s interest in investors concerns, real choice or what works.

edbizbuzz readers should listen to this hearing to appreciate that politicians are quite familiar with the class of problem school improvement providers are bringing to the table. The industry’s task is to frame the problem like Green Technology or space transportation, instead of having to explain when it will stop "taking money from the mouths of babes."

Whether you choose to take on one of these management contracts, or provide k-12 services to the system, this is a must read for those interested in juvenile justice education.

When the same people and entities appear as organizers, moderators, speakers, discussants and panelists in a series of conferences on roughly the same topic, that pattern has meaning. Either no one else has anything to say that is worthy of attention, or this group has decided what is important to say and who is important to hear.


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