Sunday, March 12, 2006

Weekly Reader

One of my great blogging frustrations is not being able to devote more space and time to education issues. I attempted to do education every Monday, but that fell victim to breaking news and my generally frontloaded week. Beyond that, so much flies at me in various e-newsletters, it’s hard to pick.

So I’ve decided to try and post a weekly roundup over the weekend. As you can see, I’ve named it after the school-based kids’ newsweekly from my childhood. (My daughter’s school doesn’t do Weekly Reader, but apparently it’s still around.) Though Friday was Weekly Reader day when I was a boy, here it will best serve as an interest piece to bridge the weekends. I’ll try to get it up Saturday night or earlier, though this one going up late Sunday isn’t a promising start.

In addition to being an outlet for the myriad developments of the week, this format allows minimal commenting by me. As such it works well with my new gig as a community organizer for education advocacy. I keep saying that the opinions expressed here are mine and not those of the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign, but some of you may forget.

We start this week in Cleveland where community leaders are collaborating on an effort toward fully funded universal pre-school. Few people on either side of the education debate argue with the research on high-quality pre-school. One longitudinal study found each dollar invested in quality pre-school coupled with services to at-risk families saves seven over the life of the child. Ted Strickland has universal pre-school on his platform. At a time when liberals supposedly have no ideas, this is one we should be rallying around.

Tom Mooney, the President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers gave what could go down as a ground-shifting speech ($$) this week about how traditional public schools should respond to charter schools. He advocates that traditional schools become, well, less traditional, at least in terms of organization and administration. Most impressively, he argues that teachers and their unions need to be flexible in allowing schools to reorganize and reform.

A stance like that lends Mooney credibility when he attacks failing charter schools as OFT did this week with a blistering report on White Hat Management. I haven’t read more than the summary yet. No real surprises, though WHM’s profitability is pretty impressive: One Life Skills center made $1.2 million in profit on $4.6 million in fees. Brennan’s response?

"I’d ask the other question: Why do we keep giving money to (public) schools
that can’t turn a profit? Why do we keep giving money to schools that are
running at a loss? Why don’t we fund more schools that are operating at a
profit?"
I try to keep things here high-tone and all, but that’s just a dickheaded statement. If a privately operated public works company was making crumbling road and failing bridges, I don’t think the defense would be “But just look at our balance sheet!” Yet somehow that’s an actual argument in education policy.

A survey sponsored by Superintendents in Butler County offers a fascinating window into the mind of the average voter considering school funding reform. The survey specifically considered the state laws that restrict growth of local property tax, leading ultimately to the phantom revenue problem. How many people are willing to change the law to allow growth in revenue? Survey says: 57%. A hopeful sign. Read the Cincy Enquirer story or the complete survey results.

The big national news this week was the release of a survey of high schools dropouts as part of a report on dropouts sponsored by the Gates Foundation. The bullet points:

-6 of 10 students dropped out earning a C+ or better.
-8 of 10 wish they had gotten their diploma.
-Dropouts most frequently cite boredom with classes as the reason for dropping out.

The most successful dropout prevention/remediation programs combine challenging academics with intense instruction in small classes. Though the pro-charter Fordham Foundation lauds the approach, they ignore the fact that it’s pretty much the dead opposite of Life Skills’ DIY pedagogy.

That'll do for an inagural issue. I'll try to work on things through the week from here on and hopefully give a broader survey.

1 comments:

CampaignAddict said...

I remember with joy Friday afternoon reading classes in grade school when we got our weekly reader. Brought back some fond memories for me there, Pho.
But education, on all levels, should be a huge part of the democratic platform. Free pre-schooling is just a start. We also need to reinvigorate pell grants and stafford loans for college students. And Moony's speech makes an amazing statement in that teachers need to look to themselves to create the change cause right now no one in power is doing much about it.