The Education Gadfly The Education Gladfly A fresh flava from your peeps at the Thomas B. Fordham In$titute
Volume 867-5309, (Love Potion) Number 9. April 1, 2011.

In This Edition

New from Fordham: How to Free Yourself from the Shackles of Teacher-Bashing and Get More Out of Life

Spiritual Guide cover

In this inspiring motivational book, patterned after some of the more celebrated works of Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra, Fordham’s Chester E. Finn, Jr. walks hand-in-hand with America’s teachers down the path to self-discovery and self-actualization (reuniting with Diane Ravitch along the way). Through the book’s pages, emotionally-abused teachers will confront our nation’s long history of teacher bashing and overcome bullies who assert that collective-bargaining rights “should not be sacred” and that “ineffective teachers should be let go.” Come step with Fordham and the universe and let us heal your karmic soul.

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What We Say, Goes

Let us explain...
Keeping the “classy” in “classified”
Unresearched musings | The entire Fordham team

Can't erase the past
The real PISA results are in
Loose Analysis

Teachers who get picked last in gym class
Don’t let them teach your kids math
Blues Analysis

Gimme more, more, more!
GOP govs get greedy
Scrooge Analysis

User-fee frenzy
A boon for the coin-op industry
Ruse Analysis

Review This

Ravitching: Loving Myself as an Immortal
Oprah didn’t see this one coming
Book Preview | Diane Ravitch

The Porcupine Eater: Bees Won't Cut It in My Town
Think Michelle Rhee is tough? Try Vince Gray
Snort Review | Beik D. NotFried

The Final and Absolutely Definitive Study on Merit Pay
A cupcake a day…
Retort Review | Beau Nuss

From The Interweb

Leaving a scorched earth of nicknames behind
Making it rain Rick Hess
Education Gladfly Show Podcast | Hosts: Rick Hess, and a little Mike Petrilli for good measure

I totally won that Twitter war
Mike throws down
Phlypaper's Phinest | April 1, 2011 | Mike “The Cannoli” Petrilli

Fordham Danctitute
Fordham gets Glee-ful
Gladfly Studios | April 1, 2011

Extras! Extras! Read All About It!

A new addition to the 'stans
And another breakthrough for online education
Pithily Remarked

East vs. West parenting showdown
Gadfly has $20 on the mama grizzly
Hey! Listen Up!

OOPS joins education reform
Finally a chance for drug-addicted celebrities to help the little people
Hey! Listen Up!

Amber Winkler's The State of State Playground Standards 2011
And one standards report to rule them all
Fordham Featured Publication

What We Say, Goes

Unresearched musings: Let us explain...
By The entire Fordham team

An open letter to Gladfly readers from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute:

We at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Education Gladfly offer our sincerest apology to our cherished readers and innumerable followers. We’re painfully aware that the press attention Fordham has received this week, in consequence of the 1,000-plus leaked inter-office emails and financial records, has cast our organization in what some might view as a negative light. Many of you are likely surprised, confused, and possibly even offended by what you’ve read. This letter is meant to clear the air and set the record straight.

To begin, allegations that Fordham has hawked its mission to the Gates Foundation are, frankly, hurtful. Those budget line items, carelessly titled “selling ourselves to the highest bidder,” refer to some extracurricular fundraising undertaken by Fordham blogger and former staffer Liam Julian. Gladfly readers will also note that this source of revenue was taken off the books as of our October 2008 board meeting. (It never amounted to much scratch, anyway.) 

Second, any references to making teacher-union members “drink our Kool-Aid” in no way allude to cults, comets, or brainwashing those with differing opinions. Rather, they referred to a serious policy forum to which we invited participants from across the ideological and political spectrum; at said forum, we challenged all to a few fraternity-style drinking games as a good-faith gesture. When some attendees declined to participate in the merriment, we harassed, lightly threatened, and mildly hazed them. But trust us, we would never attempt anything as base and horrific as brainwashing. We just wanted them to have more fun—and to see how right we are.

Next, we will not be responding to any more inquiries about “the ferret incident.” That was a personal matter between one of our staff members and his Scandinavian neighbor.

Similarly, the statement that Arne Duncan is a “short little dweeb without an athletic bone in his body” should be taken light-heartedly. Fordham Staff Assistant Chris Irvine was simply cajoling the good secretary into accepting a friendly game of pick-up basketball. (Unless you’re too much of a weenie, Mr. Secretary.)

As for the rumors of strong-arm tactics by Fordham to swing the vote on Ohio’s collective-bargaining legislation, they’re nothing short of ludicrous. It was complete happenstance that Fordham’s Checker Finn met with Cleveland mob bosses in a shady alleyway behind a bowling alley last week. Good Samaritan that he is, Finn was just offering advice on area charter schools. Wiseguys have kids, too, you know.

Most importantly, Fordham does not believe that we as an organization have “won education reform”—at least not yet. That statement, erroneously attributed to Fordham, was actually made by a staffer at AEI’s education shop during a late-night bender involving hallucinogenic toads, generously gifted to the rival organization by Finn, who acquired them from members of the Ovimbundu tribe during a recent National Geographic trip to rediscover the source of the River Nile.

As for the $200,000 in expenses that we recorded in our books as “Education Reform: Mission Accomplished Party”—those are just supplies that we have purchased in advance of a party that we expect to hold in the future, probably sometime in the next two to three years.

Mission Accomplished Party budgetDespite the somewhat unpleasant events of this past week, dear readers, we can only hope that your trust in and loyalty to the Education Gladfly has not been shaken, but rather stirred. Know that we are committed to identifying the source of the leaked documents, and to suing the pants off the guilty party or parties. We do have it on good authority that it was probably a terrorist, maybe Chechen, or possibly a former intern (some of whom are also terrorists). Do keep in mind that if you keep reading our leaked memos, scrutinizing them, and emailing them to your friends and the New York Times, the terrorists win. We know you don’t want that, do you?


The staff of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute


Loose Analysis: Can't erase the past


Photo by Jeff Wees

A dark shadow has been cast over the widely-acclaimed prowess of Finland, Singapore, and Shanghai on recent international tests. Careful investigative reporting has found evidence of widespread cheating in all three locales, with teachers and government workers erasing and replacing students’ incorrect answers on PISA and TIMSS test papers. (In Shanghai, we learn, uncooperative teachers simply went missing.) Thus far, however, reactions to the news have been mixed. Finnish Minister of Education Henna Virkkunen asked unapologetically, “What did you expect us to do? We’ve got to protect our children from the emotional blow of bad test scores. They’re fragile creatures, you know, and we have fewer than a million of them.” OECD Directorate for Education head Andreas Schleicher released a statement embracing cheating as a “twenty-first century skill” and promising that this important capability will be assessed by PISA in the future. And U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tweeted “How do you like me now, Singapore!?”

Unlike Charlie Sheen, Finland and Singapore are NOT winning,” by Greg Bottomo, U-S-A! U-S-A! Today, March 29, 2011.


Blues Analysis: Teachers who get picked last in gym class

After the raging success of its teacher-value-added articles, the La-La Limes went fishing for another prime-time exposé. And they landed themselves a keeper. This week, the paper released data on LAUSD teachers’ weights and body mass indices (BMI). As it turns out, it’s not just the wheels on the (school) bus that are round, round, round. “The public has a right to know,” read the Times article, “especially as taxpayers are footing the hefty healthcare bills.” Going further, the Times found a strong negative correlation between teachers’ BMI and student test scores in fifth- and sixth-grade mathematics, demonstrating, statistically, that bigger isn’t always better. The findings provoked a predictable response from the city’s famously militant teacher union. According to UTLA President A.J. Duffy, this is “just another egregious example of the lack of district support for teachers. If the district had agreed to pay for lipo during the latest round of collective bargaining, LAUSD wouldn’t be in this pickle. Er, éclair.”

Hey chubby, get out of the classroom,” by Richard Simmons, La-La Limes, March 30, 2011.


Scrooge Analysis: Gimme more, more, more!

GOP governors like Scott Walker, Mitch Daniels, and Chris Christie have tasted the ambrosia of winning and the nectar of power. And they want more, lots more. Since these state leaders clinched roll-backs to collective-bargaining rights, they have become markedly more ambitious, almost manically so. Yesterday, Governor Walker signed HB123 into law, obliging all Wisconsin teachers to wear state-sanctioned uniforms. Two days prior, Governor Daniels autographed a piece of legislation limiting teachers’ time in the faculty lounge to fifteen minutes every six hours. As for Christie, his latest budget proposes using teachers’ lunch money to fill the state’s $10 billion budget shortfall. Asked by a reporter why he’s such a big fat meanie, Christie replied, “Joel Klein made me do it.”

Give a governor an inch…,” by The Associated Steam Press, New Jersey Diamond-Ledger, April 1, 2011.


Ruse Analysis: User-fee frenzy


Photo by Steven Depolo

For some districts in Ohio, stretching the school dollar is no longer necessary. Neither are layoffs and other expense reductions. Thanks to a neo-Marxist initiative by Governor John Kasich (meant to reallocate the financial burden of schools to those who most benefit from them), entrepreneurial districts now charge students for sundry perks, such as lockers and bathroom usage, and also provide various “upgrades”—all for the right price. At Lincoln Penny School near Toledo, for example, 90 percent of students now store their books in coin-operated lockers; some students pay a premium above the fifty-cent basic-access fee for an air-conditioned version; and a few even drop $200 per month to rent walk-in lockers, each equipped with an Xbox Kinect and shower. Access to school restrooms requires a Sacagawea dollar; for five of the same you get a private stall. When asked why the school is nickel-and-diming its pupils, Penny’s principal replied, “Well, let’s be frank about this. We’re not nickel-and-diming them. We’re quarter-and-dollaring them. Education is expensive, and someone’s got to pay for their lifestyle.” Buckeye native John Boehner teared up when discussing Kasich’s bold new plan: “I’m just so happy that children today will have the same shot at the American Dream as I had.” And Akron industrialist David Brennan—who won the bid to manufacture and lease out the new-fangled lockers, first to districts and charters, and then to private schools—expressed pride in the ambitious initiative. “My only goal in life,” he said, “is to ensure that every Ohio child gets a top-notch education.”

Schools finally stop being a total drain on the taxpayer,” by Tommy Aught, Cleveland Wheeler Dealer, April 1, 2011.


Review This

Book Preview: Ravitching: Loving Myself as an Immortal
By Diane Ravitch

Longtime Fordham friend and acclaimed education historian Diane Ravitch, author of last year’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has agreed to showcase here a brief excerpt from her next best seller, Ravitching: Loving Myself as an Immortal, to be published by the L. Ron Hubbard Press in September.

In the fall of 2010, I decided to completely revamp my home-entertainment system. Best Buy was refusing to special order VHS tapes for me anymore, and I was starting to understand the benefits of surround sound and a speaker set. As part of that transition, I went through all of my old videos, boxing them up for storage and making room for the newer DVDs (of course, I couldn’t just get rid of them!). When I came across my old favorite, Risky Business, I had to pop it in the player and relive the joys. Watching the familiar plot unfold, however, I was struck by how unactualized Tom Cruise was in that movie. As I watched him slide across the screen, I wondered what had changed so much for Cruise in the past thirty years. What was the turning point in his life? And, more importantly, how could I have a similar conversion experience?

Then I got it: Scientology. That was—that is—the missing piece in my life, the truth I needed to see the world more broadly and understand the issues in our education system more deeply. In this book, I describe my path to discovering Scientology and making it part of me and me of it. And although I was not able to produce a silver bullet in The Death and Life of the Great American School System, I am confident that now, dear reader, I can offer you education-reform salvation.

Diane Ravitch, Ravitching: Loving Myself as an Immortal (Galactic Confederacy: L. Ron Hubbard Press, 2011).


Snort Review: The Porcupine Eater: Bees Won't Cut It in My Town
By Beik D. NotFried

While most politicians wait to finish their political careers before writing memoirs, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is bucking the trend with the release of his new book: The Porcupine Eater. The volume, which chronicles the mayor’s story from cradle to city hall, provides a compelling narrative of the man behind the mustache and his commitment to, well, whatever Adrian Fenty didn’t support. To understand the book’s somewhat peculiar title, we turn to the foreword by AFT president Randi Weingarten. There we learn that she had recounted the now-famous Michelle Rhee bee-eating incident to Gray while the two were attending a function at the National Zoo. The mayor became enraged by the tale, yelling “She thinks that’s tough?!?” before ripping off his shirt outside the porcupine exhibit, hurdling the fence, and capturing one of the critters barehanded … “He had this crazy look in his eyes as he devoured it whole,” recalls Weingarten. “With needles still protruding from his lips, he let out a roar of victory and screamed, ‘how’s that for tough!?!’ Right then and there, I knew this man had what it takes to lead the nation’s capital.”

Vincent Gray, The Porcupine Eater: Bees Won’t Cut It in My Town (Washington, AC/DC: Quill Pig Press, 2011).


Retort Review: The Final and Absolutely Definitive Study on Merit Pay
By Beau Nuss

This rigorous empirical study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, tracks a teacher-bonus pilot program conducted by Albuquerque charter schools between 2005 and 2010. Every year, each participating teacher was offered a unique reward, to be collected if he/she was able to raise student achievement in his/her respective subject by at least two full grade levels. Potential bonuses ranged from $250,000 in cold, hard cash at the high end to dollar-store trinkets at the low end. The findings offer sweeping implications for teacher compensation: Controlling for race and class, teachers who were offered a week’s supply of chocolate-frosted cupcakes were most likely to meet the desired student-achievement goal. (Those offered vanilla-frosted goodies only moved their students 0.4 grade levels.) The report concludes with recommendations for districts seeking to implement effective, lasting, and relatively affordable merit-pay systems. Forget the big-buck bonuses. Just never skimp on the butter and always use unsweetened cocoa powder from Cote d’Ivoire for the frosting. Thank goodness that debate has been settled.

Linda Oh My Darlin’-Hammond, “The Final and Absolutely Definitive Study on Merit Pay” (Music City, TN: Vanderbuilt/Randy Publications, March 2011).


From The Interweb

The Education Gladfly Show Podcast: Leaving a scorched earth of nicknames behind

From the vault: The best of the podcast bloopers.

The Education Gadfly
Click to listen to the podcast on our website. You can also download the podcast here or subscribe on iTunes here.


Phlypaper's Phinest: I totally won that Twitter war
By Mike Petrilli

Gladfly’s avid readers may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging as much lately. That’s because I’ve found a new love: tweeting—or as I like to say, “wasting untold hours while still ‘working.’” A few of my tweets have produced nifty little debates with ed reformers, politicians, union leaders, teachers, parents, students—really any creatures with opposable thumbs. Below is a recent debate I had with an eleven-year-old fifth grader, BieberFan6598. Check out how I adeptly make the case for increasing class sizes!

BieberFan6598 4 new kids joined class today. ms roberts says its cuz school has $$ problems. lame!!!

MichaelPetrilli Not lame! Smart budgeting will help your school be more efficient. Mad props to your principal

BieberFan6598 nah, ur trippin. just like yo mama. yo mama’s so stupid she sold her car to pay for gas money

MichaelPetrilli Oh yeah? Bring it. Yo mama’s so dumb that oxford had to change the definition of dumb. It now reads: dumb(n) - yo mama

BieberFan6598 whatever. yo mama’s so fat that she took geometry in high school just cause she heard there was gonna be some pi

MichaelPetrilli Weak. The integral of yo mama is fat plus a constant, where the constant is equal to more fat

BieberFan6598 well yo mama is so old that that when she was in school there was no history class

MichaelPetrilli That’s low, @BieberFan6598

BieberFan6598 ya, you got me, that was harsh. gotta bounce anyway, glee’s about 2 start. but maybe ur right, bigger classes arent a bad thing. ttyl

MichaelPetrilli Glad you’ve come around; thanks for the lively discourse!

The Education Gadfly
Click to read the rest on Phlypaper.


Gladfly Studios: Fordham Danctitute

Click to play video

Follow a typical, Glee-ful day at Fordham.


Extras! Extras! Read All About It!

Pithily Remarked: A new addition to the 'stans

  • Flush with enthusiasm over the Common Core standards initiative, the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers have announced a plan to develop national standards for everything else in schools, from principals’ desk specs to cafeteria menus. Infuriated by this move, Texas, Alaska, Virginia, and Montana have declared that they will secede from the union to form their own, standards-less country: TexaPalinistan.
  • Teacher of the year LeToya James is “taking her talents to South Beach.” This week, she signed a record-breaking six-year, $42 million contract with Miami Central Senior High School, plus an extra $8 million in options and a “no trade” clause. To further sweeten the deal, James has been offered $2 million in bonus incentives if she brings the National Spelling Bee title back to Miami-Dade.
  • In an attempt to “teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair,” the U.S. Department of Education donated 5 million vuvuzela horns to school science fairs, to be blown as the prizes are announced.
  • Inspired by a recent tweet by Fordham VP Mike Petrilli, CATO education watcher Neal McCluskey has released a 750-page tome entitled Disproving Every Atom of Mike’s 140 Characters. It works well as a doorstop, anyway.
  • Teach for America has partnered with the University of Phoenix to increase teacher retention. All TFA corps members who stay in the classroom a third year will now receive law degrees from U of P. Tom Vander Ark heralded this as a breakthrough for online learning.
  • In response to the budget crisis, Rhode Island Governor Linc Chafee has announced that he will close all Ocean State public schools—for as long as it takes. A survey of students from Lil Rhodey found they plan to spend 90 percent of their waking hours on Facebook. Tom Vander Ark heralded this as a breakthrough for online learning.


Hey! Listen Up!: East vs. West parenting showdown

PISA and TIMSS scores only show us so much. To know, once and for all, which culture raises the most globally competitive children, come to Fordham on Friday April 1 from 3:30 to 5:00PM. We’ll pit a Bengal “tiger mom” in a caged ring against a “mama grizzly” bear to see, once and for all, which culture wins out. Register here. This event is cosponsored by the WWE and UFC.


Hey! Listen Up!: OOPS joins education reform

The Opportunities Over Probation Scholarship (OOPS), which links woebegone celebrities with education-reform groups to help improve their image, has officially launched. Their slogan, “Hey! It worked for Mark Zuckerberg!” To date, OOPS has contracted with Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan, and Gary Busey.


Fordham Featured Publication: Amber Winkler's The State of State Playground Standards 2011

State of State Playground Standards cover

Sure, reading and math are important. But a student’s real joie de vivre, joie d’apprendre, doesn’t come from baloney like “spelling” and “arithmetic.” As everyone knows, it comes from the playground. To assess how well schools are responding to this all-important need, Fordham has undertaken a rigorous review of each of the fifty states’ playground standards. Hippie-land California scored the highest. “That state totally had the coolest, by far,” said Amber Winkler, Fordham’s research director. “Cali’s jungle gyms were strong in both of our evaluation categories—‘primary colors and size,’ and ‘climbing opportunities and swing capacity.’” Read more here.


The Education Gladfly is published at random, whenever Checker’s horse beats Daniela’s at the track, by those on the staff of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute who actually are quasi-literate. Thus, it’s really only written by our interns. Thanks, guys. Someday, someone might actually pay you for your services. Have something to say? That’s great for you. Tell your dog. He’s the only one who cares.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a Macau-based corporation with outsourced project headquarters in Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia. We write a lot, most of it junk. We generate weekly letters to Ohio legislators asking them to take us seriously. And we often prank call the provost at Fordham University, asking what we did to deserve such scorn.

Cover-image photos (unwittingly) courtesy of “Emergency Brake” and Diane Turner.

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