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May 21, 2007

1)  NEA Execs Tell All in EIA Video Intercept! Where else can you find the executive officers of the National Education Association (and special surprise guest) discussing the union and each other? Yes, only in the EIA Video Intercept for June 2007. Catch it on the EIA home page at or on Google Video or YouTube.

2)  Mom Beats Rap in School Choice Black Market Case. Jeanine Echols wanted her three children to attend the Marietta, Georgia, public schools. But she didn't live in Marietta and (evidently) didn't want to pay the annual tuition of $2,125 per child. So she used various ruses to make district officials believe she resided in Marietta.

What made Echols unique among the thousands of parents throughout America who defy the law in an effort to get their kids into better schools is that she was prosecuted on 16 felony counts of swearing to false documents and faced up to 80 years in prison. She was arrested in May 2005 and, after a two-year court battle, she was acquitted on all counts by a Cobb County jury last week.

The University City School District calls similar attempts by Missouri parents "educational larceny." District officials recently decided not to accept students seeking to transfer from the St. Louis Public Schools, which is about to lose its accreditation. They claimed their decision was "developed through studies of comparative achievement and other factors."

Comparative achievement? I thought traditional schools didn't cherry-pick.

3)  No Mystery in NAEP History Scores. The worst thing about standardized tests is not their effect on children, teachers or schools, but the way politicians, policymakers and pundits reverse field depending on who's in power and what the scores are.

The New York Times headline reads, "Students Gain Only Marginally on Test of U.S. History." Normally Democrats will tout test score gains, and Republicans will minimize them as inadequate. In this case, the Bush administration is promoting the gains as evidence of the positive effect of the No Child Left Behind Act's focus on reading, while opponents blame the small size of the increases on NCLB's narrowing of the curriculum.

What's strange is that they're both right.

If history and social studies are being crowded out by a greater emphasis on reading and math, then the only explanation for a statistically significant increase in history test scores must be due to increased reading comprehension. But if the gains were marginal, it must mean that while students understand more of the history they are reading, they aren't reading enough of it because of the all the time spent on reading and math.

So we can argue all day about the relative merits and pitfalls of NCLB, but this is the real dilemma. We're faced with a Hobson's choice: a generation of kids with (perhaps) adequate reading skills but inadequate knowledge of other subjects, or a generation of kids with broad exposure to all academic subjects, but with insufficient basic skills to make sense of them.

Neither is acceptable. So what to do next? Sounds like a pretty good question to ask the two dozen or so dwarves running for President a year early.

4)  Union Discord in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs Education Association President Irma Valerio and board member Tom Watson resigned their positions in what Valerio called "hopes that the focus of our organization can once again be on our members instead of personal agendas."

In her resignation statement, Valerio referred to a "divided" CSEA board, but did not mention a school district investigation into the misuse of public funds by union members, including Valerio. The investigation concerns improper reimbursement of teacher training funds and an allegation of forgery.

Valerio told the Colorado Springs Gazette her resignation was not connected to the investigation, and that "personal things" had divided the CSEA board, prompting her decision.

5)  Stick 'Em Up. In what will undoubtedly put a crimp in the union's recruiting efforts, the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) executive board approved a new policy:

"Any time an employee is using an ISEA-owned vehicle for business-related activity, the employee is strictly forbidden to knowingly place, carry, or transport any type of dangerous weapon, or any firearm rifle, shotgun, pistol, or revolver, whether loaded or unloaded, in such vehicle."

6)  From the Oldest Profession to the Second Oldest? The Oregon Senate passed a bill that would allow those convicted of misdemeanor prostitution to become teachers in the state's public school system. The "Second Chance Act" passed by a margin of 20-7 after an amendment was added to place a five-year waiting period between the conviction and the application for a teaching license. The bill has been assigned to the Oregon House Education Committee, where it is expected to meet some opposition.

In a completely unrelated story, three Oregon teachers were arrested in a police sting for having sex in broad daylight in a public park.

7)  Disappearing Edu-Blogs? I don't want to suggest a trend, but the "hiatus-ing" of the Los Angeles Times education blog, School Me!, following so soon on the heels of the departure of Joe Williams from The Chalkboard, and the loss of interest in edu-blogging at places like the Miami Herald, make me wonder if this is normal, or if there is something unique to education causing it.

There are always broad issues to debate, discuss and report in education, but is it more difficult to maintain a news-driven blog on the issue than it is for other topics? It seems you don't get too many watercooler stories in education, and that's the kind of buzz needed to sustain newspapers and blogs.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Thoughts?

8)  Stewart Re-Elected President of Chicago Teachers Union. Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart won re-election handily over challenger Deborah Lynch in a contest defined by differences over the current contract.

Last week, Alexander Russo's District 299 blog performed a great service by opening a forum to both sides, resulting in 200 comments on the candidates and the union. Chicago joins New York City and Detroit as large AFT urban locals with small, but significant and vocal, minorities who question the union's direction.

9)  Scheduling Note. The next EIA Communiqué will appear on Tuesday, May 29.

10)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from May 14-21:

*  The March of Time. NEA bemoans the "decline of U.S. educational standards"… sixty years ago.

*  School Doesn't Have to Be a Drag. It can be a musical.

*  Just for Fun: Friday Classics. "Who says I'm fair?"

11)  Quote of the Week. "Being suspended with pay is not a vacation." – Dena Rosenkrantz, staff attorney for the Virginia Education Association, discussing the case of local affiliate president Joyce Tyree, who was suspended with pay for brandishing a butcher knife in class last March. (May 17 Culpepper Star Exponent)


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