Despite the federal shutdown, the education world keeps spinning, thus reminding us of one advantage of a decentralized public education system: the feds can’t shut it down (though Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had to cancel an appearance at a NYC event). This week, most of the important education stories are outside of Washington. Read More…
What New Yorkers Want: More Charters
In a poll of 700 likely New York City voters, the New York Times and Sienna College found that Democratic candidate for mayor Bill de Blasio leads Republican candidate Joseph Lhota 68 percent to 19 percent, and that education is the second most important issue to voters (27 percent), just after jobs and unemployment (30 percent). However, de Blasio may have a problem with charter schools, about the expansion of which he is cautious, and some of which he has proposed to charge for rent: the same poll shows that a full 56 percent of voters want to create still more charters, but only 34 percent oppose them.
A National Education Summit: School Reform on NBC
NBC is hosting its fourth annual Education Nation conference October 6 – 8, promising a “thoughtful, well-informed dialogue with policymakers, thought-leaders, educators, parents and the public” on how to best improve education in the United States and the world.
Education Next will be covering the event live via Twitter.
Highlights include panels with Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, Jon Schnur (Executive Chairman, America Achieves), Paul Pastorek (Former Louisiana State Superintendent of Education and Member Emeritus, Chiefs for Change); Joshua Starr (Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools); Dennis M. Walcott (Chancellor, New York City Department of Education); Randi Weingarten (President, American Federation of Teachers), David Coleman (President and CEO, College Board); Caroline Hoxby (Scott and Donya Bommer Professor in Economics, Stanford University); Joel Klein (CEO, Amplify); Joel Rose (Co-Founder and CEO, New Classrooms Innovation Partners); Diane Tavenner (Founder and CEO, Summit Public Schools); Governor Steve Beshear (D-KY); Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA); Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA); Governor Mike Pence (R-IN); Dennis Van Roekel (President, National Education Association); Eric Cantor (Majority Leader, United States House of Representatives); former Florida Governor Jeb Bush; Grover “Russ” Whitehurst (Director of The Brown Center on Education Policy, The Brookings Institution). US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has withdrawn due to the partial Government shutdown.
Complete schedule here.
E.D. Hirsch Gets (Some of) His Due
The maestro of “core curriculum” and “background knowledge” receives a hearty pat on the back with this New York Times story. “A generation after he was squarely pummeled as elitist, antiquated and narrow-minded, the education theorist E. D. Hirsch Jr. is being dragged back into the ring at the age of 85 — this time for a chance at redemption,” writes reporter Al Baker. The redemption that Hirsch, author of the 1987 bestseller Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, is now enjoying includes invitations to speak in Spain, Britain and China; a prestigious education honor (the James Bryant Conant Award); and hundreds of schools in 25 states’ adoption of his Core Knowledge Foundation curriculum. The New York City Department of Education recommends Core Knowledge for teachers to use in their classrooms.
Diane Ravitch’s bestseller, Reviews – and a Rebuke from Sol Stern
The person who encouraged Hirsch to publish his radical analysis of America’s public education system back in the early 80’s is herself on the bestseller list, although no longer aligned with him. Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, landed on the New York Times list, #10, this week (just above Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World), but the honor comes with some criticism. Jessica Levin says that Ravitch indicts “education reform and those who support it with sweeping simplicity.”
Andrew Delbanco is less critical in his New York Review of Books essay, which includes commentary on Michelle Rhee’s new memoir, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First, though he finds it “striking” that Ravitch dissents from the common notion voiced in the 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk,” that American schools are in trouble. He quotes the one-time reformer as writing “The public schools are working very well for most students.”
That issue was raised by Stephanie Simon on Politico, in a story called “Do American Schools Really Stink?” She pits Ravitch’s “working very well” view with that of Paul Peterson, who runs Harvard’s Program on Education Governance and edits Education Next (where this writer is a Contributing Editor). Peterson and education economist Eric Hanushek recently published a new book, Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School, which argues that, compared to other countries, our school system is in grim shape.
Finally, another one-time Ravitch ally (see my 2008 Education Next story on New York City schools), Sol Stern, contributing editor of City Journal and the author of Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice (2004), weighs in with a lengthy assessment of Ravitch’s hugely controversial change of heart. Titled “The Closing of Diane Ravitch’s Mind,” Stern writes a detailed chronology of her “amazing life change for a 73-year-old historian, whose previous career had been spent writing scholarly books” and who “reinvented herself as a vehement political activist.” Ravitch, on her blog, accuses her critics (without naming names), of misogyny: “When men speak plainly and mince no words, they are direct and forceful. When women speak plainly and mince no words, they are abrasive, harsh, and just plain–well–rude.”
And speaking of grim: this year’s SAT’s are not pretty
Money isn’t everything
So says the editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The $220 million deficit that the City of Brotherly Love’s schools face is no chump change. The Inquirer sees a “silver lining” in the debacle — “the activism it has generated for the proper education of the city’s children” – but warns against “being lured into believing that the inadequate funding being provided not only to this city’s schools, but to districts across the state, is their only problem.”
And who’s Andres Alonso?
If the New York Post has it right, he’s mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio’s choice for Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.
Mesopotamia too hard? Let’s stop underestimating our kids
This is the response E.D. Hirsch and Lisa Hansel gave to Diane Ravitch, who called the Core Knowledge curriculum being adopted by New York State “a circus trick” for introducing first graders to units about ancient Egypt.
Social studies framework without social studies
Chester Finn, Jr., President of the Thomas Fordham Institute, has a low opinion of the new social studies standards released by the National Social Studies Council. Writes Finn, “Nowhere in its 108 pages will you find Abraham Lincoln, the Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King (or Martin Luther), a map of the United States, or the concept of supply and demand. You won’t find anything that you might think children should actually learn about history, geography, civics or economics.”
Speaking of Books: Bill Ayer’s “Public Enemy” is Out
Toddlers need words too
Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham offers a persuasive and well-documented essay about why we need to speak frequently and directly to young children: “Three studies published in the last couple of years build a convincing case that parents should, indeed, talk [directly] to their children. Talking in the presence of their children (but to others) does not confer the same vocabulary benefit.”
The Abolition of the Playground
“The playground used to be a place defined by free play within a basic set of rules,” argues Jeffrey Tucker of the Foundation for Economic Education. “Now the regulatory State intrudes even there. The result is less space for discovery and innovation.”
Lifelines for poor children
Nobel Laureate in Economics James Heckman argues that’s “What’s missing in the current debate over economic inequality is enough serious discussion about investing in effective early childhood development from birth to age 5.”