Archive for August, 2008


Daily Howler

Is there any other subject where so many know-nothings pose as experts? Yesterday, George F. Will displayed his vast brilliance about the state of elementary ed. In the following part of his column, Will is discussing Benjamin Chavis, who runs a well-known public charter school in Oakland:

WILL (8/21/08): He and other practitioners of the new paternalism—once upon a time, schooling was understood as democracy’s permissible, indeed obligatory, paternalism—are proving that cultural pessimists are mistaken: We know how to close the achievement gap that often separates minorities from whites before kindergarten and widens through high school. A growing cohort of people possess the pedagogic skills to make “no excuses” schools flourish.

That highlighted statement is simply astounding. And trust us: Will knows as much about this subject as you know about the space shuttle program. We know how to close the achievement gap! It’s amazingly easy to say—and many hustlers now constantly say it. For all we know, Will may be channeling Wendy Kopp, well-known biggest hack in the land.

Sorry, but no—we don’t “know how to close the achievement gap” at this time. When people parade about saying we do, they commit an unfortunate act. But then, every dumb-ass on earth seems to say this now—often on the flimsiest “evidence.” In large part, Will seems to be basing his uplifting claim on the high test scores at Chavis’ school (the misleadingly-named American Indian Public Charter School, which kids of all races and ethnicities). Many kids have achieved great success at the school. But does that mean we know how to achieve such success as a general matter? Will seems willing to say it does. But right at the start of his column, this “know-nothing know-it-all” dumbly describes one part of this school’s success:

WILL: Seated at a solitary desk in the hall outside a classroom, the slender 13-year-old boy with a smile like a sunrise earnestly does remedial algebra, assisted by a paid tutor. She, too, is 13. Both wear the uniform—white polo shirt, khaki slacks—of a school that has not yet admitted the boy. It will, because he refuses to go away.

The son of Indian immigrants from Mexico, the boy decided he is going to be a doctor, heard about the American Indian Public Charter School here and started showing up. Ben Chavis, AIPCS’s benevolent dictator, told the boy that although he was doing well at school, he was not up to the rigors of AIPCS, which is decorated with photographs of the many students it has sent to the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. So the boy asked, what must I do?

We often deride “slow-learner” students. But could anyone show less capacity for learning than George F. Will, right in this piece?

Why does Chavis’ school send so many students to Hopkins? Duh. In part, because it picks and chooses the kids who attend! The 13-year-old whom Will describes is already “doing well at school,” we seem to be told. Not only that: He’s so motivated that he’s paying another student to tutor him—and he’s already purchased the uniform of a school which won’t let him in! We’ll applaud that student, just as Will does. But if Will would only submit to paid tutoring, even if he could probably see that public schools, as a general matter, don’t select their students this way. The average school must accept all the kids who arrive—not just the brightest, most determined students, the ones who “refuse to go away.”

Friends, for just $5 a month, you can provides books and equipment for Will. Won’t you consider making that small donation to give him the help he deserves?

This Ben Chavis?

Getting to Medicare for All

d-day has a nice post describing the inside/outside strategy. It’s nice to see d-day open to the possibility that HR 676 is very doable.

KIPP, charter school or child abuse?

KIPP kids back in class

LYNN – It is the first day of school, but the newest members of the KIPP Academy Lynn Charter School aren’t seated at their desks. In fact, the 96 fifth graders at the top of the school’s lengthy waiting list don’t even have desks yet – because they haven’t earned them.

This is life at the city’s charter school, where discipline, character development and motivation take a front seat in the learning process. It is a place where there is a strong possibility that fifth graders will struggle, cry, and even ponder quitting in their first year, before finally finding direction.

KIPP seems to be about learned helplessness.

NYC Public School Parent exposes KIPP hype

At Some KIPP Schools, KIPPster-ettes Outnumber KIPPsters

many KIPP schools have non-trivial gender imbalances and lose boys at a faster rate than they lose girls. Certainly I’m not the first to point this out, as the San Francisco Schools blog reported a year ago that African-American boys leave Bay Area KIPP schools at alarming rates , a finding that Ed Week followed up on in this article on KIPP attrition.

Stupidity under color of education

Detention Slip

The Texas Caucus

Not since Harry Byrd Sr. have I heard of such things occurring in the Democratic party.

Teacher pay for performance

Dubious origins, dubious results.

Michelle Rhee’s potty mouth


She seems to be overly defensive, sometimes without reason. Rhee told Fast Company magazine, “I’m not going to sit on public TV and take a beating I don’t deserve [from the City Council]. I don’t take that crap.”

Even when she drops the potty mouth and attempts to engage the other side in cooperative dialogue, Rhee still seems flippant and impatient.

From now on this blog will refer to her as Chancellor Potty Mouth.