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Well Worth Reading… [Updated]

Over at the Gotham Gazette, there is a rather interesting and thoughtful discussion of large schools and small schools, featuring New York Times education writer Samuel G. Freedman and Jessica Siegel, the New York City English high school teacher who was the main protagonist in Freedman’s award winning book Small Victories.

Freedman, who says he is not a “doctrinaire opponent” of small schools, makes some of the same criticisms the UFT and Edwize [see here and here] have made of the DOE’s implementation of the small schools initiative.

There was an earlier generation of small schools that were created with a lot more deliberation, they were opened a lot more gradually, they had a much more thought-through pedagogical center or core academic area. It’s not surprising that they have been successful.

The problem is that you have this tail of this big grant from the Gates Foundation wagging this policy dog at the Department of Ed. Because Gates has a big priority to start small schools, the Department of Education is jumpstarting 50 a year, year after year. It’s just impossible to have quality opening up schools in that kind of frenetic way.

Siegel has many valuable things to say about education generally from the perspective of a classroom teacher, including the paramount importance of small classes.

In Saturday’s New York Times, Steven Greenhouse has a good piece on the business offensive against ‘card check’ union recognition, now that they have figured out that it does not provide them the opportunities to deny the right to organize and bargain collectively they enjoy under labor law and a NLRB with an overwhelming anti-worker bias.

And this post at the Daily Kos, Reflections on a Four Year Strike, is a heart rending story of a coal mine company’s campaign to bust a union, and the four year strike that followed, from the point of view of a daughter of a leading union miner.



And here’s one that just came in which will put quite a few noses out of joint in the highly politicized and deeply ideological world of private ‘think tanks’ which publish reports on educational policy issues. The Educational Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University has inaugurated a Think Tank Review Project which will review, from the viewpoint of the quality of social science, such reports. The first three reports are out, a University of Illinois Professor Christopher Lubienski review of a Cato Institue report on vouchers in Washington D.C. schools; a University of Colorado Professor Ed Wiley review of a Manhattan Institute report on Florida’s program to end social promotion; and a University of Vermont Adjunct Professor William Mathis review of a Wisconsin Policy Research Institute report on the achievement gap in Wisconsin’s high schools. Read the reviews: the examples of poor social science they expose are quite revealing.

Look for some push back on this issue. Outfits like the Cato Institute and the Manhattan Institute have a greal deal invested in having the conclusions of their reports taken at face value, and they will not go down without a fight.