Charter schools face enemies from without and within, writes Chester Finn in Education Gadfly. Among his villains:

(a) too many feckless, inept authorizers (aka sponsors) that casually issue charters to groups unprepared to run successful schools, are sloppy about results-based accountability, too eager to revert to regulation as the antidote for charter ills, and clueless about what to require before renewing a school's contract; 

(b) a small but visible group of greedy charter operators more interested in making a few bucks at state expense than running good schools for needy kids; and 

(c) ill-conceived state laws that starve charters of needed resources while not freeing them from enough of the red tape that binds conventional schools. 

Re-regulation could leave charters little different from conventional public schools, warns Finn.

On a happier note, he links to a review of New York charter schools sponsored by the State University of New York:

Most of the charters are located in high need areas and serve students near the bottom of the academic barrel, many of whom make rapid progress thanks to the rigorous standards, quality teaching, innovative practices and personal attention they receive in these new schools.

Officials in school districts that have lost students to charters say they're fighting to win them back by copying charters' appealing features and practices. What accounts for such success? Careful quality control. The SUNY Trustees, who leave the day-to-day management and support of charters to the Institute (along with New York's Board of Regents and local school boards), closely scrutinize charter applicants to make sure they're focused laser-like on the bottom line: student achievement.

Victimhood is Powerful

Writing in City Journal, John McWhorter says Afro-American Studies professors such as Cornel West celebrate victimhood and demand lower standards for black academics.

Because real racist bigotry is vanishingly rare on campuses, where the race police are out in almost totalitarian force, black academics have become talented at manufacturing racist insult out of encounters innocent of racism. Nervous white administrators usually play along. 

When Yale president Richard Levin recently joshed at a dinner honoring (Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)that he was jealous of Harvard¹s Afro-American studies department, Hazel Carby, chair of Yale¹s Afro-American studies program, resigned, saying that she felt — you guessed it — disrespected. One week later, she was back on board, with Yale in the meantime elevating her program to full department status. 

Vouchers Help Black Students

Low-income black students who got privately funded vouchers to attend private schools outscored a control group in both reading and math. Heritage summarizes the results of the Harvard/Mathematica study.

Inny the Inchworm

The president's call to teach pre-reading skills to Head Start kids brings the usual warnings to this article in the Washington Post story. Experts say it's wrong to rush children into learning too soon. Here's an academic Head Start class:

The preschool children at the Rosemount Center's Head Start program in Northwest Washington each have palm-size books — made of construction paper and secured with yarn — in which they practice drawing lines and tracing the letters of their name. 

The students, ages 3 to 5, also listen to stories and learn the letters of the alphabet each morning with memory devices such as "Inny Inchworm" for the letter I.

These lessons, taught in English and Spanish, are tucked into a day that is a flurry of activity, as students have their faces painted to resemble a cat or butterfly, or as they scoop up dirt and pack it into paper cups for planting corn kernels. 

It doesn't sound all that oppressive to me.

Class and Degrees in England

"Positive discrimination" — what we'd call affirmative action — is now an issue in England (via Peter Briffa).

While 80 percent of the children of professionals earn a university degree, only 14 percent of working-class students make it that far. So some want to admit students from inner-city schools with lower grades.

Success Breeds Discontent

Blacks organized to replace an all-white school board in Mount Vernon, a heavily black district with horrible test scores near New York City. As Education Week reports, the new superintendent masterminded an incredible turnaround in elementary test scores, and is now working on middle school.

Now the superintendent, who's black, is under fire from the all-black school board. He's arrogant. Test scores aren't everything. He hasn't saved the older students yet. In short, they're about to dump him and go back to the old cronyism, only now it will be blacks instead of Italian-Americans exploiting the system and making excuses for why students aren't learning.

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer.  Now she blogs for tips at ReadJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school.  She's never gotten a dime from Enron.