The Morning Read

What’s happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation: No matter where you sit, America’s public education system is a mess: Cynthia Brown of the Center for American Progress…

Dropout activist Norman Toney. Courtesy of Imageviewer

Dropout activist Norman Toney. Courtesy of Imageviewer

What’s happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation:

    1. No matter where you sit, America’s public education system is a mess: Cynthia Brown of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Arthur Rothkopf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have almost nothing in common. Except each one thinks the nation’s education system sorely needs an overhaul.
    2. 26.4 percent. Or suspending towards academic failure: With just 32 percent of the black males in the original Class of 2006 graduating from school (and a just-as-abysmal 46 percent graduation rate for the white males in that class) Milwaukee’s public school system is one of the worst place for young black men — or anyone — to get an education. One possible reason why? As reported today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Council of Great City Schools chastises the district for overuse of suspensions and other harsh forms of school discipline that often contribute to the dropout crisis. More than a quarter of all students in the district are suspended at least once during the 2007-08 school year, according to the report.
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      Who is Dropout Nation: Black Males and Academic Failure

      One could write 600 words to describe how the dropout crisis adversely affects young black males. But this map of the Dropout Nation, released last week by the Schott Foundation…

      One could write 600 words to describe how the dropout crisis adversely affects young black males. But this map of the Dropout Nation, released last week by the Schott Foundation for Public Education as part of its annual report on low dropout rates, says far more than words ever can. Click on the map, read it and weep.

      Schott Foundation's 50-state map

      Schott Foundation's 50-state map

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      The Morning Read

      What’s happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation: When civil rights groups get it wrong on education: Is access to a high-quality education a civil right? Depends on…

      What’s happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation:

      Image courtesy of C'Ville Weekly

      Image courtesy of C'Ville Weekly

        1. When civil rights groups get it wrong on education: Is access to a high-quality education a civil right? Depends on where you sit ideologically (personally, this libertarian thinks it isn’t necessarily so, but a public education system being funded with tax dollars should actually do the job and educate all students). But civil rights groups such as La Raza and the NAACP have long ago began bucking their ties to teachers’ unions and supporting the No Child Left Behind Act. Now, according to the New York Times, other groups are also doing the same, this time fighting with the NEA and AFT over a congressional bill aimed at weakening an accountability provision in the law.
        2. Diane Ravitch and James Heckmann should know better: Essentially, that’s what Ken DeRosa concludes in his latest sharp criticism of the Broader, Bolder Coalition, the strange bedfellows group of conservative and left-leaning education policy stars demanding that the the kind of standards-and-accountability embedded in the No Child Left Behind Act ought to be abandoned because it blames schools for academic failure. This isn’t the first time he has claimed that the groupĀ ignores data that may not support their position.
        3. Are teachers’ unions anti-teacher?: Larry Sands of the California Teachers Empowerment Network offers his own thoughts.
        4. Meanwhile in my birth-state: New York is once again reeling from unrestrained spending and prospects of a recession, notes the Economist. The chances for comprehensive education reform in the state — whose legislature and new governor overturned a successful effort to reform how new teachers attain tenure — is about as likely as the city handing over Liberty Island to New Jersey.
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          The Afternoon Read

          What’s going on inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Grad rate inflation: One out of every three California freshmen who made up the state’s original Class of 2007…

          "Play 01" by RiShawn Biddle

          "Play 01" by RiShawn Biddle

          What’s going on inside — and outside — the dropout nation.

            1. Grad rate inflation: One out of every three California freshmen who made up the state’s original Class of 2007 likely dropped out, according to the state Department of Education. Sure, nine percent of them are considered “completers” or having gained a GED or a certificate of completion of some kind. Either way, the reality is they are dropouts and haven’t gotten a high-quality education. Meanwhile one out of every four students in L.A. Unified’s original class of 2007 failed to graduate. Just 6.5 percent of the original class of 2007 at the Animo charter high school run by Green Dot schools — whose battles with L.A. Unified over the former’s expansion is legendary — dropped out. But for federal reporting purposes, those numbers are meaningless: Based on the federal government’s more-inflated graduation rate calculation, nearly 80 percent of the Class of 2007 graduated. How nice. The Mercury-News has more on this.
            2. And for the Hoosiers out there: Here are the graduation rate stats for Indianapolis Public Schools and the state as a whole. Yes, the numbers are les miserables.
            3. Meanwhile, Dan Weintraub explains in Education Next how the Terminator was laid low by the state’s powerful teachers’ unions. For Sherman Dorn, an apparent skeptic about the role of teachers’ unions in state policymaking, this may serve as another example of how teachers’ unions skillfully work the corridors of the nation’s statehouses.
            4. Is improving the quality of America’s teaching corps the answer to improving education? I say it’s just one of the answers, but not the only one. And Mike Petrilli over at The Education Gadfly argues why it may not be the answer at all.
            5. Intra-ed policy dust-up: EdSector’s Kevin Carey and Neil McCluskey at Cato trade shots over the latter’s most recent policy brief. Carey insists that McCluskey exemplifies that there may be a “libertarian conspiracy” to end the nation’s public education system. McCluskey accuses him of engaging in a smear campaign. I’m just going to let these guys argue among themselves.
            6. Jay Greene explains why the No Child Left Behind Act isn’t, as opponents of the law claim, an unfunded mandate. Sample quote: “I do not believe that a single tenured teacher out of the more than 3 million teachers currently working in public schools has been fired, experienced a pay-cut, or otherwise been meaningfully sanctioned because of NCLB.” Good point.
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              Collective Bargaining Myths

              Apologies to all for not having spent much time writing here. There have been plenty of writing projects on my agenda. One of them: A report co-written with the staff…

              Cartoon courtesy of the National Council on Teacher Quality

              Cartoon courtesy of the National Council on Teacher Quality

              Apologies to all for not having spent much time writing here. There have been plenty of writing projects on my agenda. One of them: A report co-written with the staff of the National Council on Teacher Quality on one of the biggest factors ultimately influencing how students learn — or fail to do so — in the nation’s public schools: Collective bargaining, or the system by which teachers unions and schools hammer out the contracts that govern classroom instruction.

              Judging from the skimpy media coverage and the loud rhetoric from school board members and union officials, the perception is that all the terms in teachers contracts — from instructional time to salary scales and dismissal policies — are hammered out by teachers union leaders and school officials in smoked-filled rooms. This isn’t necessarily so. If anything, the terms and clauses are shaped in state legislative chambers, board of education meeting and by other state bodies long before negotiations begin.

              The report I have co-authored, Invisible Ink in Collective Bargaining Agreements, offers a sobering analysis of the extent to which state policy actually dictates the conditions under which teachers will work and how will they be paid. More importantly, it shows the extent to which state law actually influences which kind of collegians are lured into the teaching profession, how they are trained and retained, and what teachers focus on in their long-term skills development:

              • More than half of all states mandate salary schedules. Eighteen of them actually tie salary increases to additional coursework, meaning that teachers must gain additional degrees or college credits in order to gain raises. Since there is little evidence that attending additional education school courses will actually result in improving student learning, this is an incentive that does little to keep children in school and on the path towards the kind of high-skilled jobs they need to fulfill their economic destinies.
              • Thirty states require teachers to gain a master’s degree in order to have their licenses renewed. As with the salary schedules, this does little to focus teachers on actually improving student learning and addressing the achievement gaps that help fuel the nation’s dropout crisis.
              • On the other hand, just 15 states offer additional pay for teachers in critical shortage areas such as math and science. There are, in essence, few incentives for either math and science collegians or mid-career professionals with such skills to move into teaching. Only 20 offer additional pay for teachers if they teach in the high-poverty schools (usually urban and rural schools) at the heart of the dropout crisis. As a result, few veteran teachers are willing to take the plunge (or return) to environments that can prove difficult for instruction.

              Invisible Ink also looks at the political reasons why states have become the driving force in shaping the teaching profession along with the level of difficulty each of the parties at the heart of the conflict over education reform face in implementing their own visions for improving schools.

              Feel free to check out the report and check out NCTQ’s collective bargaining database, an important resource on teacher issues. And I appreciate your comments.

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              One cheer for the three Rs

              Welcome American Spectator readers. As you can see, Dropout Nation is still a work in progress, but an important work nevertheless. Feel free to reach me with any questions at…

              Welcome American Spectator readers. As you can see, Dropout Nation is still a work in progress, but an important work nevertheless. Feel free to reach me with any questions at rbiddle-at-rishawnbiddle.org. This evening, I’ll be profiling what the Dropout Nation looks like, both from an economic and social perspective.

              The piece I wrote today for the Spectator points out one of the bigger challenges for school reformers, especially those interested in stemming the nation’s dropout crisis: Getting parents on board to make reforms a reality. For poor parents — as I will point out on Dropout Nation — it’s less an issue of disinterest as it is a limitation of vision. They have never seen good schools at work, never had much in the way of choice when it comes to curricula and have had terrible experiences, both with schools and with markets. So school reform is difficult for them to grasp.

              Middle-class parents, on the other hand, have not fully seen a functioning education market either, mainly because it doesn’t exist. But for them, they think of academics as a secondary factor to their other aspirations, both for themselves and their children. If the academic reforms don’t match the lifestyle and aspirational concerns of these parents, then they won’t fly.

              School reformers, both on the left and right, have a real problem on their hands. Far too many have thought about school reform in terms of civil rights and saving poor children. This is a fantastic message. But they must also deal with the concerns of the middle class, who may not think the status quo is working, but aren’t so willing to change it if doing so runs counter to their own choices. As I noted today in the Spectator, this won’t be an easy task.

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              We Need Oscar Micheauxs for School Reform

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