Grading Education

by Harry on November 18, 2008

Richard Rothstein’s new book Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right
just got added to my short list of books about education that everyone should read. I presume that EPI has put it in the hands of everyone in Congress, but it might be worth, after reading it yourself, passing it on to a local school board member. Whereas a lot of criticism of NCLB amounts to little more than an unbalanced rant and I would say that most criticism is unconstructive, Grading Education offers a comprehensive, compelling, and constructive critique. It’s comprehensive in that it places NCLB within a (very interesting) discussion of the history of evaluation of schools, and constructive, not in the sense that it suggests a way to fix NCLB (that, the authors say, is impossible) but rather by offering a sensible alternative framework for “getting accountability right”. The authors believe (rightly) that accountability is important, and (again rightly) that the particular method of democratic accountability through locally elected school boards simply doesn’t work. (They do not ask whether NCLB, with all its flaws, when superimposed on a system of local democratic control is superior to local democratic control on its own, which I suspect it might be, but their aim is to influence future policy). The book ought to have a lot of influence over the debates around the re-authorisation, revision, or tacit abandonment of NCLB which, presumably, we’ll start to have at some point.

I hesitate to say too much about it, for fear of releasing you from the obligation of reading it. But the basic argument is as follows.

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Book cover

by Henry Farrell on November 18, 2008

My first book is coming out with Cambridge next year, _The Political Economy of Trust: Interests, Institutions and Inter-Firm Cooperation_, and the publisher is asking me whether I want to suggest a cover image. My first thought – to do a Wordle of the text – apparently isn’t going to work – and my visual imagination and knowledge of the visual arts leaves a fair amount to be desired. So I thought that I would throw it open to CT readers, who might have some ideas of where to go for good images (or even some proposed images of their own). The themes of the book include trust and distrust, the mechanical engineering industries in Germany and Italy and the Sicilian Mafia. Possibilities might include classical art, cartoons, political images related to the above. Ideally, nothing with expensive rights of reproduction, since I think that I have to cough up the fees myself, but any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated (and reciprocated with the admittedly modest reward of acknowledgment in the book’s introduction).

Furious agreement, parts II and III

by John Q on November 18, 2008

It’s an analysis familiar to most on the Left. Support for laissez-faire is a hypocritical pretence, typified by Republicans who denounce a universal health care scheme as “socialist” while backing huge handouts for wealthy sugar producers.

For cultural and historical reasons, the United States has never had a proper socialist party of any significance[1]. Instead

the socialism we do have is the surreptitious socialism of the strong, e.g. sugar producers represented by their Washington hirelings.

In America, socialism is un-American. Instead, Americans merely do rent-seeking — bending government for the benefit of private factions.

As I say, familiar stuff. But it’s mildly surprising to see it coming from George Will.

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