January 2011 Archives

Atul Gawande's latest New Yorker article on efforts to rein in health care costs by better serving the highest-cost/highest-need patients is great reading. But this paragraph near the end particularly jumped out at me: Yet the stakes in health-care hot-spotting are enormous, and go far beyond health care. A recent report on more than a decade of education-reform spending in Massachusetts detailed a story found in every state. Massachusetts sent nearly a billion dollars to school districts to finance smaller class sizes and better teachers' pay, yet every dollar ended up being diverted to covering rising health-care costs. For ...

Despite all the hype leading up to it, there was, as my colleague Andrew Rotherham notes, not a lot of substance on K-12 education in tonight's State of the Union Address. Most of what was there was not new (see below) or feel-goody: calls for parental responsibility, calls to respect teachers, calls on young people to become teachers. Not only was there not much of a push on ESEA reauthorization, but the dynamic in the room also didn't seem particularly promising there: Sure, there was some clapping for the President's call to "replace No Child Left Behind with a law ...

Some parts of tonight's State of the Union Address sounded awfully familiar to me: On increasing rates of postsecondary attainment: 2011: Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree...... If we take these steps – if we raise expectations for every child, and give them ...

Interesting WaPo piece by Richard Whitmire (who has a book coming out on Michelle Rhee) on the desire for "Michelle Lite" reformers who will implement the kind of reforms--teacher evaluation and pay incentives, closing underenrolled and underperforming schools--Rhee did in D.C., but in a nice, kind, touchy-feely way that doesn't p*#s people off. Richard's right in a big picture sense: You can't do things like firing ineffective teachers or closing down schools without upsetting stakeholders, so wanting leaders who will do what needs to be done without provoking political and public angst is like wanting to have your ...

Tuesday's State of the Union address has launched a fun game in D.C. education policy and media circles. It goes like this: some folks are reporting breathlessly that the President is going to make education a key theme of the speech, launching a big push to reauthorize ESEA. Then others respond: "that's all well and good, but really, nothing's gonna come of it." Really, it's a very fun game, at least by the standards of what passes for fun in D.C. these days ;) But we've been down this road before, when President Obama made education a key theme ...

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a holiday that always makes me a little bit uncomfortable. Not because I have anything but the utmost respect for King and work challenging racial and economic injustice. But because I respect him too much to be comfortable with much of how we "honor" his legacy this day. Too often the Martin Luther King, Jr., who is lionized in our public discourse is sanitized, soft, and fuzzy, a secularized saint rather than a real man whose battle for racial and economic justice was, while nonviolent, still deeply disruptive to existing privileges and power structures ...

Two very different sets of state rankings are out this week. The big one is Ed Week's (do I really need to disclose that they're hosting my blog?) annual Quality Counts report, which includes the usual state-by-state highlights and rankings, as well as special reports honing in on how the education impacts of state budget crunches. Rick Hess should be especially pleased that one of these stories looks at the need to and challenges of reigning in growth in personnel costs, and another looks at achieving efficiencies in special education. There's also good news around increased coordination and better transitions ...

Judging from my RSS and twitter feeds today, everyone can't stop talking about Amy Chua's WSJ essay this weekend on "Chinese mothers"--and it's a doozy of the genre, ripe with anecdotes and thin on data, primarily fixated on the concerns and experience of educated professionals, and seemingly designed to prey on parental guilt and feelings of inadequacy (which, give Chua credit, is at least consistent with the broader theme of the piece). This drives me a little nuts. Not the article, so much as the conversation about it. For starters, Chua's trafficking in a view of American parenting that ...

Tom Vander Ark's recent post about the idea of using "merit badges" to create a more customized educational experience is well-worth checking out. Vander Ark is focusing on K-12 education, but the needs in higher education seem even greater, given the diversity of needs and skill levels with which people come to the higher ed system. Conversations about increasing postsecondary attainment to restore and maintain our global lead here ought to acknowledge that this probably can't be done just by pushing more people through an existing system that has a really crappy track record serving low-income, minority, and non-traditional students. ...

The Post's Conor Williams has a good piece looking in further detail at the school reform situation in D.C. and why the election of Vincent Gray as Mayor is not the catastrophe for D.C. ed reform many national voices assumed it was. Williams particularly highlights Gray's selection of Hosanna Mahaley as State Superintendent (the person who runs the office that carries out state-level education functions for D.C.), a role some folks expect to become more important under Gray and given D.C.'s Race to the Top win; DeShawn Wright as Deputy Mayor for Education; and decision ...

Last night the D.C. Democratic State Committee selected Sekou Biddle as interim At-Large Council Member, filling the vacancy created by former At-Large Member Kwame Brown's election as Council Chair in November. Biddle will fill the seat until an April special election, which folks who know D.C. politics better than I say he now has a good shot at winning. Brown has already endorsed Biddle for the seat, and Mayor Vincent Gray has kinda-sorta-indicated support without actually giving an endorsement. (If you, like me, find this process utterly confusing and ugly, blame D.C.'s Congressional overlords for the ...

I've spent this week on the blog arguing that we should regard publicly funded pre-k as a structural arrangement, rather than a specific instructional intervention. This has implications for how we think about pre-k research, but it also has broader implications for how policy debates address pre-k. Current policy debates frequently address pre-k as a specific intervention or program. We ask whether or not pre-k "works." We talk about "state pre-k programs" and "the federal Head Start program." Conversations about pre-k as an intervention or program can have a kind of "just add water" feel: If we can just convince ...

So the CW in Washington these days is that early ed issues are "out" (in the words of eduflack Patrick Riccards) and that, with early ed advocates having lost key battles in 2010, and the incoming Tea Party Congress no fan of guv'mint-funded early childhood programs, nobody should expect much action on early ed in 2011. Not so fast! Says my former New America colleague Lisa Guernsey, who proffers up a list of 6 "hot spots" for federal action on early childhood this year. Some of these are areas where early childhood supporters will be on the defense (ie, maintaining ...

Yesterday, I explained that I don't think it makes sense to think and talk about the evidence on pre-k in the same way that we think and talk about the evidence on specific instructional and pedagogical innovations. Instead, I'd suggest that the body of evidence for pre-k is more comparable to the body of evidence on charter schools. In both areas, we have a strong body of evidence that specific models--such as the High/Scope Perry Preschool and the KIPP network of charter schools--"work." But we also have evidence showing that the broader range of early childhood or charter ...

Readers interested in either the i3 grant program or in literacy instruction should check out Nick Anderson's Washington Post article from the weekend on Success for All, as well as this excellent and interesting follow-up blog post that reminds me why I so like Jay Mathews. I think that the awarding of major i3 "scale-up" grants to two long-running literacy interventions--Success for All and Reading Recovery--that had previously been largely shut out of the federal Reading First program remains one of the most interesting and overlooked stories of 2010. (overlooked largely, I'd guess, because too few folks in the education ...

As I wrote yesterday, whether we think about preschool as a specific intervention or a structural arrangement has significant implications for how we think and talk about pre-k research--as well as pre-kindergarten more generally. Universal pre-k advocates, by and large, talk about pre-kindergarten as if it were a specific type of instructional intervention. For example, Pre-K Now's Marci Young recently wrote: There's an education reform strategy that has 50 years of solid research behind it, with proven results that demonstrate how to improve student achievement...It's an investment proven to yield up to $7 for every public dollar invested, paying ...

Recent blog posts on pre-kindergarten by Kevin Carey and myself have generated some questions and comment from individuals who believe Kevin and I are challenging or attempting to dismiss the evidence on the effectiveness of pre-kindergarten programs. Not at all--the body of evidence demonstrating that children can benefit from high-quality pre-kindergarten programs is one of the most robust in education policy. But I do think the feedback I've received, as well as some of the arguments put forward by prominent pre-k advocates, do raise some important issues about how it's appropriate to think about certain types of evidence in education ...


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