Why Stanford failed

A Model School Flops, my column on the closure of a charter school run by Stanford’s School of Education, is up at Pajamas Media.

I think Stanford education professors, led by Linda Darling-Hammond, showed courage in starting a school to educate the neediest students. They wanted to try their ideas in the real world.  As Whitney Tilson says, all education schools should do this. But . . . Well, read the PJ column.

And, thanks to Instapundit for the link.

Unsafe for learning

I’ve got a column up at Pajamas Media on bringing order and safety to chaotic, dangerous schools.

Pacific Research’s Not As Safe As You Think finds it’s very easy to avoid reporting any school as “persistently dangerous.”  The legal requirement is useless.

Resistance (to reform) is futile

Resistance to education reform is futile, says Democrats for Education Reform.

Those who resist the school reform movement are going to find they are on the wrong side of history. They may affect the pace of reform, but not its inexorable direction. They must decide whether they will participate, or continue to be further marginalized.

Via This Week in Education.

School choice is gaining ground, argues Greg Forster on Pajamas Media.

The bottom line is that the D.C. and Milwaukee programs are in trouble because they’re legacy programs; they’re the old model of school choice, designed as charity programs that only serve the most disadvantaged. As a result, it’s hard to mobilize political support for them. The constituencies that benefit most are the least powerful.

Georgia, with its more broad-based programs, is pointing the way forward. School choice that serves all students, not just some, is where the movement is headed — precisely because it’s the only model where the political math adds up.

The unions are getting desperate, Forster writes.

The truth about college

Tell the Truth About Colleges, writes Thomas Toch of Education Sector in The Atlantic.  The truth is that some college students aren’t getting much of an education.

Only about half of all college entrants earn degrees within six years. And many who do aren’t learning much: one study indicates, for instance, that only 38 percent of graduating college students can successfully compare the viewpoints of two newspaper editorials.

Tuition keeps going up, but there’s no evidence students are learning more.

We need to shed more light on how well colleges are educating their students—to help prospective students make better decisions, and to exert pressure on the whole system to provide better value for money.

Toch wants the Obama administration to offer stimulus dollars in exchange for colleges agreeing to release results of surveys of student learning.

For many non-technical students, the first two years in college repeat the last two years of a good high school, writes Abraham Miller, a retired political science professor, on Pajamas Media.  Well-prepared students could complete college in a year or two, he estimates.


Early in my teaching career, I had a student from one of the state’s best high schools. She was bright, but hardly exceptional. I found she was taking more than a full class load and holding down a full-time job. I was amazed. She told me that her classes at a suburban high school were more demanding than their repetition at the university. She chose classes where attendance wasn’t mandatory. Was she recycling her high school term papers? Of course; so was everyone else from her class.

Engineering programs require hard work, he writes. Talented and motivated students will get a real education.

But if your kid is rather average, had trouble in high school, has no real interests, and is touring schools because “they’re scenic,” maybe you should consider what you really are buying for that tuition money.

. . . I would suggest that you keep your child at home and send her to a good community college, where she will spend the two years of high school repetition acquiring the skills she needs. And if she doesn’t, the financial burden will not keep you in a permanent state of indentured servitude.

Miller wants national examinations that would let self-educated people qualify for a degree — or show whether college attendees actually have a college education. Not going to happen, of course.

Why public school teachers burn out

Public school teachers burn out because of poor working conditions, writes Greg Forster of the Friedman Foundation on Pajamas Media.  He used federal data to compare public and private teachers.

Public school teachers have lower job satisfaction, less autonomy, less influence over school policy, less ability to keep order, less support from administrators and peers, and less safety.

“Public schools get nearly $11,000 per student and private schools charge an average tuition of only $6,600,” Forster writes. Yet public school teachers are less likely to say they have the instructional materials they need to be effective.

Administrators don’t provide as much support or leadership as in private schools, according to teachers. The sense of community is weaker.

Public school teachers are much less likely to strongly agree that there is a great deal of cooperation between staff members (41 percent v. 60 percent), that their colleagues share their values and understanding of the core mission of the school (38 percent v. 63 percent), and that their fellow teachers consistently enforce school rules (29 percent v. 42 percent).

Private schools can get away with paying less money to teachers because the working conditions are better.

In The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness, The New Teacher Project asks: If teachers are so important, why do we treat them like widgets? Good question.

Down in the bookstore ghetto

When Andrew Klavan went looking for a new copy of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, he couldn’t find it in the literature section. It was in the Bookstore Ghetto, he writes on Pajamas Media.

When I asked a salesgirl for help, she took me—but of course!—to the “African-American Section,” because Ellison and the protagonist of his novel are black.

What a great idea! Putting all the novels about black people in a single section! Why didn’t I think of that? But wait—wait—how many of the characters have to be black before the novel does go into that section? Does just one black character make the whole novel black or is there a special section for mulatto novels with characters of both colors? And if all the novels about black people are in the black section, does that make the Literature section the white section? Why don’t we call it that then? I’m confused.

And hey, what about The Adventures of Augie March—do I find that in the Jewish section? No, don’t be an idiot. Important novels about Jews trying to find their place in America go in the Literature section, of course.

In the new cop series, Southland, a rookie cop tells a black girl that he liked the book she’s reading, Toni Morrison’s Beloved. She asks in surprise why he read it, and he says he took a black studies course. White people can’t read Beloved as American literature or just because a friend recommended it?

Bailout billions won’t stimulate learning

The stimulus bill may include $70 billion to $100 billion for K-12 schools. “For comparison, after the radical expansion of federal education spending that came with No Child Left Behind, the feds now spend about $40 billion per year on K-12 education,” writes Greg Forster of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice on Pajamas Media. But it won’t improve education.

There have been literally hundreds of empirical studies examining whether educational outcomes are related to spending increases. This body of evidence has consistently found that spending more money bears no relationship with the results we get from schools. In fact, the total amount we spend per student has more than doubled in the past 40 years, after accounting for inflation, while educational outcomes are flat over the same period.

It won’t even stimulate the economy.

To spend money stimulating the economy, government has to get the money first, removing it from the economy through taxes and/or borrowing. And when you remove money from the economy, you lose the multiplier effects from whatever people would have done with that money if the government hadn’t taken it.

But aren’t we borrowing it all from the Chinese?