A New York Moment

In education:

1. The city has transformed the way it buys these [trade] books, abandoning the decades-old process in which numerous vendors competed in door-to-door or bazaar-like settings, to one in which nearly all such books — literally millions of volumes — are purchased via computer from two large discount wholesalers that have promised savings of at least 30 percent.

Savings of $18 million to the city come at cost to small local companies and possibly, as these companies contend, to students. The one-year new system accounts for over 20% of complaints logged by DOE help desk. Another lesson that change vehicles, even those that seem to yield clear gains at face value, nearly always come at some cost to some group in a system of many interests.

2.The city will end the practice of paying teachers to play Scrabble, read or surf the Internet in reassignment centers nicknamed “rubber rooms” as they await disciplinary hearings.

Under the agreement with the United Federation of Teachers, most of the teachers will be given administrative or nonclassroom work while their cases are pending. Teachers accused of serious charges including violent felonies will be suspended without pay…The city has blamed union rules that make it difficult to fire teachers, but some teachers assigned to rubber rooms say they have been singled out because they ran afoul of a principal or they blew the whistle on someone who was fudging test scores.

3. The New York State Board of Regents…will vote on whether to greatly expand the role of the alternative organizations by allowing them to create their own master’s degree programs. At the extreme, the proposal could make education schools extraneous. Read the rest of this entry »


Filed under: Collective Bargaining, EDUCATION, Policies & Agendas

Jail Themes – the School to Prison Pipeline

Reports about a jail-themed playground in Bed-Stuy called to mind a public school I once encountered in New Orleans where students were outfitted in expressly prison orange uniforms.

The school to prison pipeline, which links school discipline policy and prison ranks, is of national significance but probably most telling in post-Katrina New Orleans. This report is from 2006, but describes the situation well:

…lack of resources and the failure to provide quality education, combined with overly harsh and punitive discipline policies that criminalize and exclude youth from traditional education settings – has created what many now call the School-to-Prison Pipeline…

Historical inequities, such as segregated education, concentrated poverty, and racial disparities in law enforcement, all feed the pipeline.

Other things that feed the pipeline include the entire economy of police, guards, other professions kept afloat in the prison industrial complex.

Filed under: EDUCATION, Policies & Agendas

Arguments for Evaluation

Millennium Villages Project aims to develop and bring clusters of African villages out of poverty.

Without sound evaluation, it simply cannot be known-regardless of what is observed today at MV sites-whether the money devoted to the MVs is accomplishing its goals. An intervention of this scale deserves proper evaluation, which can only make it better as it expands.

A careful evaluation of the MVs would comprise two critical elements. First, long term follow-up is essential. Second, the villages that get the intervention must be compared to villages that do not get it, in such a way that which villages do and don’t get the intervention are randomly picked from an initial group. I will show with real-world examples why these elements are “must have” rather than “nice to have.”

Examples include follow up findings that children in Africa did not learn more in schools with textbooks despite studies implying otherwise, and a 1995-2000 project in Chinese villages that yielded no long term results and ultimately no difference between aid recipient and other villages.

Scalability is incredibly difficult to gauge – the act of setting policy alone is never enough because implementation is where the real work begins.

Relative Elsewhere, an argument for randomized trials.

What is missing is the political demand for tests of what really works. Too many policies on education, welfare and criminal justice are just so much homeopathy: cute-sounding stories about what works leaning more on faith than on evidence.

Filed under: Design, Policies & Agendas