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Morning Shots

On Governors, Education and Leadership – For a Change

How is it that governors – who have nearly ultimate power to change education laws for the better – spend most of the education space in their State of the State addresses year after year touting money as their "unique" answer to improving education in their state?

A review of Education Week’s digest of these traditional speeches shows that, regardless of party or state, almost all the nation’s chief executives punt to business-as-usual when talking about this most fundamental of issues.

The notable exception this year seems to be Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who announced he would seek to implement many of the recommendations of his Committee on Education Excellence, including the novel ideas of allowing non-traditional entities to enter the teacher-preparation market and pursuing new routes to earning a teacher credential. These recommendations won him the headline from Ed Week that the Gov "backs off planned ‘year of education’" – "back off," I suppose, because he didn’t offer the proverbial chicken in every education pot. Thus, the establishment believes, he has backed off his dedication to schools.

It all depends on how you look it.

Now the Gubernator, who has never been one to take the establishment too seriously, could be like his New Jersey colleague Jon Corzine, whose entire education focus is on money, despite his state, already among the top education spenders in the nation at $12,252 per student, being home to some of the most pathetic school systems in the world. Or he could be like the purportedly progressive Tim Kaine of Virginia, who rededicated himself to statewide pre-school, but who presides over one of the weakest charter states in the nation, ignoring for the second year now a reform that is much in-demand and, even more importantly, needed in the state. Or he could be

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Traditional Math Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry (Barry Garelick)

Last year at a meeting of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (a Presidential appointed panel charged with drafting recommendations on how best to prepare students for algebra), a woman named Sherry Fraser read a statement into the public record which began as follows:

"How many of you remember your high school algebra? Close your eyes and imagine your algebra class. Do you see students sitting in rows, listening to a teacher at the front of the room, writing on the chalkboard and demonstrating how to solve problems? Do you remember how boring and mindless it was? Research has shown this type of instruction to be largely ineffective." (Fraser, 2006).

Such statement falls in the category of "Traditional math doesn’t work" or "The old way of teaching math was a mass failure," heard early and often at school board meetings or other forums. I am always puzzled by these statements but Sherry’s was particularly vexing given that 1) I was not bored in my algebra classes, and 2) Sherry, like me, ended up majoring in math. So I contacted Sherry and asked what the research was that showed such methods to be "largely ineffective". Sherry is co-director of a high school math text/curricula called IMP, developed in the early 90’s through grants from the NSF, totaling $11.6 million, to San Francisco State University. She replied to me in an email that she is a "firm believer in people doing their own research" and added that I wouldn’t have any trouble finding sources to confirm her statements. I have assumed she is just trying to be helpful by having me discover the answer myself, rather than just tell me the answer to my question. I have been a good student; here’s what my research shows:

From the 1940’s to the

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Going Broke for "Free" Public Schools

Families in California and across the country are struggling to pay for homes near what they think are “good” public schools. Many of these “house-poor” families, who spend more than 35 percent of their incomes on housing, are getting a lot less than they bargained for.

Their ranks have quadrupled in just one generation, and home prices for families with school-age children are also growing three times faster than other families. The problem is especially acute in the Golden State, whose cities litter the top-100 list of highest housing foreclosure rates. With seven high-foreclosure cities each on the list, Florida, New York, and Texas are a distant second to California’s dirty dozen, which includes top-ranked Stockton, Sacramento (#5), San Diego (#23), Los Angeles/Long Beach (#29), Orange (#45), and San Francisco (#78).

What drives many families to stretch their budgets to the breaking point is desperation to get their children into decent schools. Authors of The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi explain that “when a family buys a house, it buys much more than shelter from the rain. It also buys a public-school system.”

Countless California families are moving to affluent suburbs so their children can attend public schools touted as outstanding by district superintendents, real-estate agents, local and state departments of education. But just how good are those schools? As a new PRI book puts it: Not as Good as You Think: Why the Middle Class Needs School Choice.

Many parents and their elected officials will be shocked to learn that there are hundreds of affluent, underperforming public schools throughout the Golden State in areas with median home prices exceeding $1 million.

In fact, at more than one in 10 affluent California public schools, a majority of students in at least one grade score

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