A couple of education items:
First, at TPM, they’re having a book club on Amanda Ripley’s book, The Smartest Kids in the World. I read the first chapter there and, unless she makes arguments elsewhere in the book, it’s quite weak. Her argument, which is that poverty alone doesn’t explain why our scores on a critical thinking test are lower than other countries, treats children in the US as one undifferentiated mass, when it’s clear that there are two American educational systems, one for inner-city kids and one for the rest of them, which have two different outcomes. She also slings around a lot of terms without defining them (e.g., “poverty”). If anyone has read the whole thing, is the rest of the book this bad?
Second, those of you interested in charter schools might be interested find [pdf] from one of our local reporters (whose blog is down at the moment). It’s a state audit of a local charter school that found that only one of the service contracts at the school had competitive bidding, including the lease of the school building, and that a number of the contracts were with companies that had various relationships with school board members and their friends. Since this is a charter school, there are no state laws enforcing competitive bids, and the response from the school is a couple of short paragraphs saying that they’ll take the audit under consideration. The reason that the lease wasn’t bid competitively, they said, was due to a “sense of urgency”.
I understand that urban schools are a mess. I don’t see how shoveling a bunch of money to (at best) some well-intentioned but naive parents, or (at worst) a bunch of grifters, is going to provide a workable alternative.