Policy & Politics Blog


Through the lens of social science, eduwonkette took a serious, if sometimes irreverent, look at some of the most contentious education policy debates in this opinion blog. Find eduwonkette’s complete archives prior to Jan. 6, 2008 here. This blog is no longer being updated.

Education Opinion eduwonkette hangs up her cape
Today, dear readers, I'm hanging up my cape. I'm joining the Sociology department at NYU this fall, and have a dissertation to wrap up that needs my undivided attention.
Eduwonkette, January 26, 2009
1 min read
Education Opinion Wish #1: Taking Kids' Out of School Time Seriously
Sexy sound bite solutions dominate education policy airtime - paying kids for test scores, paying teachers for test scores, and eliminating teacher certification are some of the latest examples.
Eduwonkette, January 26, 2009
1 min read
Accountability Opinion Wish #2: The End of Proficiency Only Accountability Systems
The No Child Left Behind Act may represent the largest threshold-based government accountability system in the country. Schools are evaluated not by how much progress students make, but by their success in pushing students over the proficiency bar. By now, you're probably familiar with the discontents of this system: states can game the system by setting that proficiency bar low; some schools have triaged their students, essentially reallocating resources to the kids most likely to become proficient in the very short-term; and policymakers can misleadingly make claims about declining racial achievement gaps based on proficiency rates, even as these gaps are unchanged or growing.
Eduwonkette, January 23, 2009
2 min read
Education Opinion Wish #3: Asking More "Why?" Questions
Earlier this month, a team of researchers at MIT and Harvard released a report contrasting the impact of charter schools, “pilot” schools, and traditional public schools on student achievement. The finding of charter school effects on achievement, using a random assignment research design, fueled the rhetoric of charter school advocates, some of whom saw the findings as a license for unlimited expansion of charter schools.
skoolboy, January 22, 2009
2 min read
Education Opinion Wish #4: Better Alignment of Accountability Systems to School Outcomes
Here’s a little thought experiment: Suppose that, in addition to adequate yearly progress in literacy and mathematics, high schools had to demonstrate progress in students’ ethical behavior. Would the graduates of Far Rockaway High School in Queens in New York City be as proficient in their treatment of others as they are in math and literacy?
skoolboy, January 21, 2009
2 min read
Education Opinion Wish #5: Education Policy Based on Averages, Not Outliers
To celebrate this week’s historic inauguration, skoolboy and I are going to take a step back and make some big wishes – or at least predictions - for education policy in the next four years.
Eduwonkette, January 20, 2009
2 min read
Education Opinion The State of "State of the City" Speeches
While we await President-Elect Obama's Inauguration speech, here's a look at the rhetoric in ten mayors' "State of the City" speeches over the past year. Can you match the mayor with the quote?
skoolboy, January 16, 2009
2 min read
Federal Opinion Lies, Damned Lies, and Bush Administration Accomplishments
Yesterday, President George W. Bush, as part of his swan song, released a compendium entitled “Policies of the Bush Administration 2001-2009.” Not surprisingly, No Child Left Behind is the centerpiece of administration’s accomplishments in K-12 education, and the fact sheets detail the administration’s claims about progress.
skoolboy, January 13, 2009
1 min read
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion Professor Bonuses Based on Course Evaluations?
Forget a PhD - profs might do better with improv training and Botox (seriously, attractive professors - especially attractive men - get better evaluations!). Reported this morning in the Chronicle:To be sure, good teaching is insufficiently rewarded at most colleges and universities. But according to the Chancellor, “This is customer satisfaction....It doesn’t have to do with tenure, promotion, status. It has to do with students’ having the opportunity to recognize good teachers and reward them with some money.”
Eduwonkette, January 12, 2009
1 min read
Special Education Opinion Private Practice, Public Health, and the Autism/Vaccine Debate
"Private Practice" - the "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff starring Kate Walsh - may be one of the most poorly written, bad excuse for soft porn shows on TV. But big props to the show for last night's episode/public service announcement, which has already ignited a firestorm on the autism blogs.
Eduwonkette, January 9, 2009
1 min read
Professional Development Opinion The Skillful Publicist
When a school district makes a big to-do about the use of "evidence to make decisions about how to help students learn, where to put our resources and how to manage our staff," is it fair to criticize it for implementing unproven and experimental programs?
skoolboy, January 8, 2009
2 min read
School Choice & Charters Opinion The Boston Pilot/Charter School Study: Some Good News, and Some Cautions
When Robert Pondiscio pages, I answer. Yesterday, the Boston Foundation released a study on the efficacy of charter and pilot schools, which had the advantage of including both observational estimates of these schools effectiveness (comparing the performance of students in these schools with those in traditional public schools, net of some control variables) as well as lottery-based estimates of their effectiveness (comparing those who won lotteries with those who did not).
Eduwonkette, January 7, 2009
1 min read
School & District Management Opinion LDH, IES and the Reign of Frogs
Okay, barring the bad karma that seems to hang over the state of Illinois, Arne Duncan is now firmly ensconced as President Barack Obama’s nominee as Secretary of Education, thereby forestalling the Apocalypse predicted by the detractors of Linda Darling-Hammond. But eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, or something like that, and the fears have shifted to the future of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the federal government’s arm for education research and evaluation. Founding Director Grover “Russ” Whitehurst has moved on from his six-year term, and there are researchers lying awake at night in fear that President Obama might choose LDH, a one-time colleague of skoolboy at Teachers College, Columbia University, as his successor. I’m not entirely sure what they are afraid of, but clearly the dismantling of the research infrastructure built up over the past six years is near the top of the list.
skoolboy, January 6, 2009
3 min read
Education Opinion Cool Teachers You Should Know: Remembering Bob Kiessling
This blog has a history of profiling "cool teachers you should know," and I wanted to start off 2009 by celebrating the life and work of Bob Kiessling, a legendary New Jersey math teacher and cross country/track coach who passed away over the holiday break.
Eduwonkette, January 5, 2009
1 min read