December 2011 Archives

People have been asking me for analysis about the Early Learning Challenge grant announcements. The folks at Early Ed Watch already have some great analysis up here and here. I spent some time over the holidays looking at the applications and score sheets and will be posting some things I found over the next few weeks. To help folks to their own analysis, I also created this nifty spreadsheet of each state's scores on each subsection of the ELC application. This can be used to identify the states that scored the best on particular sections and shows where states gained ...


As I write this, Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius are at the White House announcing 9 state winners of the Early Learning Challenge Race to the Top program, which according to press reports include: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington. While many of the states on this list will not surprise folks who've been paying attention here, there are a few shockers--particularly the absence of Illinois, widely regarded as a front runner and in some respects model for the program, and the inclusion of California, whose budget and data-related woes led many to count it ...


I was a very naughty child. When I was inevitably caught misbehaving, I often tried to justify it by saying "So-and-so (usually my sister or a classmate) did it first!" Not surprisingly, that argument never won the day or kept me from being punished. I was reminded of this by Jay Greene's recent blog post about reports of malfeasance and fraud by operators participating in Florida's McKay Scholarship program for children with disabilities. Jay cites a series of examples of abuses in public school districts--basically a grown-up "he did it first!"--before stating that "existence of misconduct in traditional public ...


I've been writing this week about some of my concerns about the Early Learning Challenge program, many of which I laid out in this article. But there's one big concern I wasn't able to talk about due to space considerations--the fear that the Quality Rating and Improvement Systems that the program requires states to establish might not only fail to improve child learning outcomes, but actually impede the creation of high-quality programs. How's that? QRIS are designed to create a common set of quality standards across all early learning and development programs in a state, including child care, pre-k, and ...


Earlier this week, I wrote about what I believe are some significant shortcomings in the Obama administration's Early Learning Challenge program. Today, I'd like to address an objection I've heard from some early childhood advocates who admit these shortcomings but say that ELC is still a critical victory because it represents a federal investment in building state early learning systems rather than the status quo. But the more I think about this strategy, then less I get why it makes sense. In K-12 education, federal efforts to improve student achievement must work primarily by leverage changes in state policy and ...


If you want evidence of the sorry state of journalism and public discourse around education reform in the United States today, look no further than this op-ed piece by Natalie Hopkinson in Sunday's New York Times. Hopkinson, a D.C. resident, argues that the difficulties her families had faced in finding a stable and quality school in D.C. for her middle-school aged son offer an indictment of "the direction that education reform is taking in this country." Too bad the piece contains factual errors and never cites a single data point, beyond Hopkinson's own experience, to back up this ...


As states that submitted Early Learning Challenge applications await word of their success or failure later this month, I'm increasingly skeptical that this program is likely to deliver much in the way of lasting results. The reasons, which I lay out in a new piece for The New Republic, will be familiar to folks who've been reading this blog. Timing issues prevented the program from spurring the kind of state legislative changes seen with the original Race to the Top. Lack of media coverage or effective promotion by the administration means ELC hasn't sparked the kind of national debate we ...


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