If someone knocks on your door and says, ‘I’m Mark, I’m from the state Democratic Party,’ you take the literature and shut the door. “If you say, ‘Hi, I’m Karen, I’m a third-grade teacher at Hillsmere Elementary and I’m here to tell you what’s at stake for public education,’ that gets a very different reaction from the voter. - Karen White, political director for the National Education Association in today's Politico story (
The Minnesota Star Tribune posted the story last week that SF was pulling out of the state (StudentsFirst pulls up stakes), and reported that the group was getting out of FLA, too.
EdWeek added to the story (StudentsFirst Powers Down Five State Affiliates) by listing the 5 states that were being shuttered (Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Maine, and Minnesota), explaining the the reasons for closing up shop differ by state, and noting that Travis Pillow at RedefinED got to the FLA part of story first.
Politico led with the story in its morning roundup today (Rhee’s group retrenches) but provided little by way of new information and (old habits die hard) failed to credit EdWeek or the Minnesota Star Tribune or anyone else for unearthing the news.
Sure, it's embarrassing having other folks break a story that probably should be yours. But it only makes it worse when they pretend you dug it up themselves or assume their readers don't know/don't care where the story idea came from. Plus, it makes their hard-working counterparts really hate them.
Previous posts: StudentsFirst 14-State 2012 Candidate Spending; StudentsFirst 2012 Spending On Local Board Races; NEA & State Political Spending 5X Higher Than StudentsFirst; Why's Politico So Stingy With Crediting Others?
Earlier today, Politico reported that StudentsFirst has raised a whopping $62 million in campaign contributions in the past two years. However, EdWeek reports that national and state teachers unions spent a combined $191 million in 2012 alone (see chart alone). However imperfect, the comparison serves as a useful reminder that reform money, however new and on the rise it may be currently, remains substantially less than teacher union money.
Correction: The initial headline said StudentsFirst spent "462M" since I neglected to hit the shift button at the right moment.
Former New Yotk Times Magazine reporter Matt Bai has a fascinating and highly controversial (5,000-comment) story you might want to read about how the ultra-liberal Democracy Alliance ended up naming NEA executive director John Stocks (pictured) as board chairman (Rich Democrats go from challenging the status quo to embracing it).
"So you're a liberal member of the 1 percent, and you've decided to wrest control of the Democratic agenda from change-averse insiders. You want to free the capital from the grip of powerful interest groups...Where do you turn for leadership and innovation? To the teachers union, of course!"
Originally conceived as a venture fund for progressive think tanks and thinkers (CAP, MMA), the liberal group has funneled $500 million + to liberal groups over the past decade, according to Bai. But it didn't stay innovative very long, in terms of its backers and who got funding. Silicon Valley and Wall Street funders faded away. Think tanks like the New Democrat Network and Third Way were cut off.
Now Stocks is at the helm, a move that "tells you something about the direction of Democratic politics right now," according to Bai, because of Stocks' role as the power behind the throne at the NEA (top of Bai's list of "political powerhouses that have been intransigent and blindly doctrinaire in the face of change").
Basically, schools were protected by the Stimulus (including Race to the Top) during the early years of the Great Recession, but since then state and local funding hasn't (yet) rebounded and federal funding has fallen. Class sizes haven't taken a giant hit but -- see here for lots more charts -- it still isn't pretty. Changes in Per Student Funding 07-12 Via Vox (anyone seen Libby Nelson recently, BTW?)
There's a long piece about the Common Core in the Washington Post you should probably read -- but be forewarned that the view of events and the causal chain that's cobbled together in the piece isn't entirely accurate or fairly contextualized (and differs from other accounts of what happened and why).
Basically, the Post's piece makes the claim that Bill Gates was behind the Common Core's rapid spread over the past few years. Indeed, the headline claims that Gates "pulled off" the Common Core, like it was a heist or a grift.
"The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments to make systemic and costly changes." Both left and right -- Diane Ravitch and NRO's Stanley Kurtz -- are already calling for Congressional hearings.
Gates' support is clear, and no doubt played a role. There are some fascinating tidbits about that process in the piece. But let's be clear: the idea for common national standards and tests goes back a long long way before Gates (and David Coleman), the spread of the Common Core in recent years wasn't merely a function of Gates' enthusiasm and largess, and the myth of the all-powerful billionaire is just that.
"The DFER PAC donated $43,000 to parties, committees, and federal candidates in the 2008 cycle and $17,500 in 2012. And reform-friendly Students First gave just $10,000 in 2012—to a single congressional candidate. The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers combined to give over $5.5 million in 2008 and nearly $20 million in 2012." - Conor Williams in TNR (Hillary Clinton's Education Policy: Other Implications for 2016)
Politics K-12 founder Michele McNeil announced earlier this week that she was leaving for a College Board policy position, but she agreed to sit down and answer some hard questions for us before she walked out the door.
When it first appeared in 2007, I considered the site -- then called Campaign K-12 -- as a straight-laced newcomer, a bland version of what I and others were already doing. In fact, I'd been hosted by EdWeek for a year or so before moving to Scholastic. But over the years I've come to enjoy and appreciate the site's prolific and detailed coverage, occasional snark, and generous credit-sharing.
In any case, check out McNeil's answers below to find out where the idea for the site came from, what it's biggest and most controversial items have been, what McNeil wished she'd known from the start (good advice!), and what advice she'd give those of us still blogging.
It's no big surprise to find out that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) doesn't actually support private school vouchers, an issue that came up last week in a blog post I wrote.
Here's an MTA voter education form stating that “Warren opposes private school voucher proposals and similar proposals that take money away from public schools.” and a MassTeacher update indicating that "This was confirmed with the candidate and her campaign back during the nomination process.”
Both of these are courtesy Senator Warren's press office, which also notes that the proposal comes from Warren's 2003 book not her new memoir.
But that still leaves the underlying (and quite revolutionary in some circles) notion of universal public school choice. Does Warren's support include choice for schools within local districts, or inter-district transfers (as proposed, however weakly, in the NCLB law that Ted Kennedy and George Miller co-sponsored)?
Vox's Libby Nelson wrote that "Warren's views aren't entirely out of step with the education reform wing of the Democratic party." But of course, Warren isn't generally considered a reformer.
US News had the story in 2012 (Elizabeth Warren's Quiet Support for Public School Vouchers), and it comes up again in the latest New Yorker as part of a review of her new book (Reading Elizabeth Warren).
Warren doesn't just support vouchers in special circumstances, like special education placements or DCPS. She wants to give them to everyone, everwhere.
As quoted in the New Yorker piece, Warren has written that
“An all-voucher system would be a shock to the educational system, but the shakeout might be just what the system needs.”
According to Warren, those "public" schools in expensive enclaves aren't really all that public as their defenders like to make them sound:
"Schools in middle-class neighborhoods may be labeled 'public,' but parents have paid for tuition by purchasing a $175,000 home within a carefully selected school district."
Interestingly, Warren's argument is at least partly based on the high housing costs associated with the current zip code-based system of allocating scarce quality schooling. High housing costs, plus burdens on working Americans (mothers in particular) have been a scourge for decades, according to Warren. Breaking the link between housing and school quality would relieve pressure on families that have moved to expensive places just for the schools.
Warren's ideas have been debated on Diane Ravitch's site in recent days -- they're New Yorker readers too, it seems :-) -- though not surprisingly the idea is being met with shock and disappointment. And the New Yorker writer, Jill Lepore, calls Warren's proposal reckless.
*Correctification: Though she uses the term "voucher," which is commonly used to denote programs that include private and parochial schools, Warren is primarily focused on eliminating the link between neighborhoods and public school assignment. The 2012 US News article cited above calls Warren's proposal "public school vouchers." The original 2007 proposal excerpted by AFT Kombiz uses the same language (though it doesn't specificaly exclude private schools as I read it). "The public-versus-private competition misses the central point," writes Warren. "The problem is not vouchers; the problem is parental choice."
However, there's a wild article in the Washington Post about how Google has gone "all in" with its lobbying efforts -- including funding think tanks and policy shops that cover education isssues.
So maybe there's room for a little more scrutiny and skepticism across the board?
Google's current lobbying and policy development effort "includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects." There are fellows, 100 lobbyists, 140 funded nonprofits, university-sponsored events, and $900K in campaign donations in 2012 alone (second only to Microsoft among edtech companies).
As you can see from the chart at left (via WP), Google funded Brookings, Aspen, Heritage, New America, AEI, and PPI in 2010 (pictured) along with lots of other legal and edtech outfits The company added more funding for outside groups during the following four years such as the CAP Action Fund, People for the American Way, and ALEC.
How much of Google's efforts are directly focused on education isn't immediately clear. But even if there aren't any direct edpolicy grants going out from Google there's enough overlap between tech and education these days to warrant some attention from folks interested in K12 education issues.
Previous posts: Jobs Vs. Gates - Who's Done More For Education?; Google & Microsoft Duking It Out Over Schools; Google Glass Teaching; Google Launches Play For Education; The Missing Steve Jobs / Apple Philanthropy.
In case you missed it (or wondered where I was getting those maps), here's last week's Slate/Center for Public Integrity article about the rise of school reform campaign funding efforts -- and how they compare to long-running union and public employee spending.
The arrival of groups like StudentsFirst may be new and troubling to some -- especially those who've had the campaign and politics field all to themselves in the past -- but it's not necessarily something bad for schools or kids.
"In the old days, it was all the service-provider organizations—so all the unions—or the consumers,” the article quotes Brown University professor Kenneth Wong as saying. "We are seeing the broadening in terms of the type of actors who get involved in campaign issues in education.”
And nobody should be too worried about the unions being outspent, according to the article: "The NEA’s outside spending in 2012 state races was at least $6.4 million, more than double the amount spent by StudentsFirst in the states examined by the Center for Public Integrity." [NEA spending was actually $15.7M in 2012 if you count state and local affiliates, according to the CPI.]
Here's another Center on Public Integrity map you might like, showing that top spending groups like the NEA dominate outside spending and plop their contributions all across the nation (in NEA's case, CA, AZ, NM, WI, MI, ME, etc.) This is not state and local money, but rather money doled out from Washington. Click the link to get the interactive version, which allows you to hover over a state and see more dteails (Puppet states: where the money went)
"StudentsFirst is a rising power in state political spending, but it didn’t come close to matching the National Education Association’s influence in 2012," notes Center for Public Integrity. "That year, the National Education Association and its local and state affiliates accounted for roughly $15.7 million in independent spending, nearly five times what relative newcomer StudentsFirst spent." (Where education titans spent)
The teachers union has its own squad of in-house lobbyists, along with an outside firm, Strook, Strook & Lavin... [and] its own political action committee, UFT Cope, which in the last two years spent $1,721,960. -- NY Daily News reporter Ben Chapman (Parents and children get caught between charter school feud) h/t EW
According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, unions have spent a combined $1.7 billion on state politics since 2000. - David Sirota in PandoDaily.
The folks at Jacobin (and Kickstarter supporters) have helped put out a new book called Class Action that will be of great interest to many who've followed the Chicago Public Schools saga over the past two or three years.
"Our project with the Chicago Teachers Union’s CORE Caucus and other allies ran long — the final supplement is 118 pages, more than the 50 we had budgeted for. But it was so fantastically designed by Remeike Forbes, and the photography by Katrina Ohstrom and written contributions by CTU President Karen Lewis, economist Dean Baker, Jacobin editors Megan Erickson and Shawn Gude, Joanne Barkan, Lois Weiner, and many others were so strong, we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut it down more or reduce our planned run.
"The booklet will be distributed to educators and school support staff in Chicago, New York, Portland, Newark, Washington DC, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in March to help support rank-and-file activity."
It's been an interesting week in Chicago, what with Neil Steinberg's "pull no punches" profile of Mayor Rahm and Tribune columnist Eric Zorn's turnabout call for CTU head Karen Lewis to run for mayor (rather than resign).
Take a look and let us know what you think of the book -- a quick scan reveals that it's beautifully designed and photo illustrated. Might be a good read whether you're inclined to sympathize or criticize.
So was the Senate HELP Commmittee, way back in 2011-2012.
That's right. There was language in the bipartisan Harkin ESEA bill calling for the creation of a national commission that would have, among other things, been charged with "determining the frequency, length, and scheduling of such tests and assessments, and measuring, in hours and days, the student and teacher time spent on testing."
The Senate language was proposed by Senators Alexander and Bennet.
Indeed, Bennet introduced standalone legislation last year. Colorado has been working on auditing and coordinating tests for several years, according to this 2011 Durango Herald opinion piece. Alexander is listed as a co-sponsor.
Since then, the noise surrounding test proliferation and/or test uses has risen exponentially -- warranted or not, we don't really know. Chicago and DC have already initiated testing audit/streamlining procedures.
The TeachPlus report that came out the other day indicated that there were large variations around the country, and that official and classroom views of the testing burden are very different. However, the report was limited to a small set of districts. [See here for some updated information on why its Chicago numbers were initially wrong.]
I proposed something along the same lines in my latest Scholastic Administrator column: "Secretary Duncan has at least one thing he could do with his remaining time in office that could be both effective at preserving his initiatives and popular with educators and parents. He could begin to address concerns over test proliferation... Serving as a watchdog against overtesting, he would also effectively be protecting the Common Core assessments during a very vulnerable time."
Hardcore testing opponents would not be appeased, of course -- look no further than the reactions to the New York State attempts to compromise on Common Core implementation for evidence of that. But, depending on the results such an audit provided, everyone else might be reassured and glad to know how different states and districts compare.
No word back yet about whether the USDE had taken a position on the language or not -- or what they think of the idea now.
Much has been made of the fact that states were "forced" to adopt Common Core for financial and other reasons, but if that was the case then why would 17 of them have adopted Common Core but not the Medicaid expansion offered under the Affordable Care Act? EdWeek's Andrew Ujifusa delves into the apparent paradox.
The nation's largest teachers union comes in 4th on this CPI listing of top Super PAC donors, with $5.6 million in contributions, right after the DGA, Mike Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer:
Think about this next time you hear or read someone like Diane Ravitch talking about corporate involvement in education -- or -- even more important! -- are about to say or write something about school reform involvement in electoral politics. via I Love Charts.
There are lots of lessons reformers might glean from the NYT Sunday Magazine preview of season two of House of Cards -- greatest among them the dangers of imagining they're working in a "West Wing" world where good ideas, research results, and smarts prevail when the reality is much more "House Of Cards" (in which idealism and book smarts matter less than street savvy and knowing how to work the media).
Of particular note, the article focuses on the young(ish) show-runner, who worked on the Howard Dean campaign and watched as it responded to the press frenzy surrounding the "Dean Scream" by taking the higher ground rather than responding vigorously -- and in the end let Dean's opponents (and the media) define him and derail his campaign.
To be sure, both shows are exaggerated, fictionalized versions of reality. But there are real-world historical lessons to be gleaned from the show and article.
For reform opponents, the dangers illustrated by the show are the ever-present possibility of public revulsion and political excommunication that would likely follow revelation of cut-throat tactics no matter how worthwhile or well-intended the aims.
Organizing is about more than having a good idea. It's about knowing how to pull the levers of power: by having strength in numbers at a board meeting, by having a clear, consistent "ask," and by being prepared to respond to any and all objections. – Paraphrase of LEE's Joy Silvern in EdWeek (Teach For America Spinoff Helps Alumni Gain Influence)
You'd think from the way it sounds online these days that teaching is the worst profession ever and that teachers were leaving in droves, but this new chart from CAP suggests that's not the case:
Sure, an awful economy gets some of the credit for folks staying in the classroom even if they'd rather be doing something else. But reform critics and gullible and/or sympathetic reporters might have contributed to the apparently false impression of droves of departures more than has happened in reality. Teachers surveyed by CAP don't indicate any widespread or massive unhappiness with their treatment or with Obama era reform efforts.
Some fascinating reads from over the long MLK weekend, including a bunch of stuff about politics, advocacy, and over-reaching, a smattering of pieces about parenting and teaching, and the usual edtech trends and troubles:
How Organized Minorities Defeat Disorganized Majorities - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society http://ht.ly/sLTTt
Extreme voices: Interest groups and the misrepresentation of issue publics - Harvard Shorenstein Center http://ht.ly/sKTyF
What If These TED Talks Were Horribly, Unspeakably Wrong? The Awl http://ht.ly/sIq3h [incl Gladwell, Mitra]
Why Adolescence Is More Brutal for Parents Than Teenagers -- New York Magazine http://ht.ly/sIpm0
More items below and via @alexanderrusso
Those engaged in reform don’t see countering misinformation as a core part of their mission. Reformers have been under the mistaken impression that the facts—both about the need for and the direction of change—will, by themselves, carry the day. They won’t. -- TNTP's Dan Weisberg (The Facts Need a Champion)
You're going to see lots of articles and blog posts in coming days about the relationship between Hillary Clinton, the teachers unions, and the implications of that relationiship for the direction of school reform heading into the 2014 and 2016 political caimpaigns.
For example, Tina Flournoy, currently Bill Clinton's chief of staff, is named #28 in Politico's recent rundown of Hillary Clinton's 50 influentials, where she's described as "A former teachers union official and campaign adviser to Clinton in 2008, she’s now Bill Clinton’s personal chief of staff and Hillary’s main point of contact in his office." Her AFT-related experience is listed here, along with DNC and Gore campaign stints.
Remember also that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio worked on Clinton's 2008 campaign, and that Bill Clinton swore de Blasio in.
While you're thinking about it check out Politico's snapshot of the debate among Clinton supporters about whether she should run and if so who should be in charge (Hillary Clinton's shadow campaign). There's nothing specifically education-related but it's a good reminder that professional politicians aren't fixed in their beliefs, allies, or behaviors.
Last but not least, in case I don't get back to it, check out a recent Molly Ball article on conflicts within the Democratic party between progressives who want to be as powerful as the Tea Party but haven't shown they can get progressives elected and centrists (The Battle Within the Democratic Party).
If Clinton runs, does that pull Democrats and reform to the left, symbolically or otherwise -- through the primaries at least? If she wins, does she roll back many of Obama's initiatives or govern from the middle like Obama has?
Image via Harvard's Institute of Politics.
The 50-state strategy [to ensure equitable distribution of effective teachers] should have been started 12 years ago. [The new waiver renewal guidance is] disappointing, and it sends a message that it's not at the top of their agenda. -- EdTrust's Kate Tromble in EdWeek (Civil Rights Groups Wary on Waiver-Renewal Guidelines
One reason the suburbs are complacent is that politicians, notable amongst them Duncan and the President, spent a lot of time telling suburban voters there that any law that said 40 percent of the nation’s schools needed improvement was obviously flawed. - Andy "Eduwonk" Rotherham on Common Core pushback
The national education story of the week isn't the shutdown or the charter protests in NYC or anything else going on out East but rather the drama surrounding the much-delayed, much-weakened California law to speed the removal of sexual predators in the classroom that now awaits Governor Brown's decision.
As EdSource Today explains, many administrator and advocacy groups are against the final version that was passed by the legislature, however teachers unions support it and it's being championed by a legislator who was among those who scuttled last year's much stronger version of the legislation.
Now that I've got your attention, here are some other recent stories about the drama: Will Sexual Predator Teachers Hide Under California BillAB 375? (LA Weekly); California school bills show teacherunion power (Sacto Bee); Bill to streamline teacher dismissals heads to governor; critics call it flawed (SJ Mercury News).
How about someone asking Randi Weingarten, Dennis Van Roekel, or Arne Duncan what their positions are on the legislation -- or whether they're going to intervene (as they seem willing to do in many other state and local issues)? How about StudentsFirst, Stand for Children (happy birthday, Jonah!) and DFER getting more active on the issue and letting lawmakers including Brown know that they're being watched.
One of the more damaging aspects of NCLB was that it set impossible targets, contributing to panic and hurried implementation of seemingly quicker and easier policies. Teachers were essentially deputized as the agents for overcoming the legacies of generational poverty. NCLB thus failed and undermined more promising methods of improving schools.
Elaine Weiss, of the Broader, Bolder Approach, shows how Race to the Top committed the same mistake. Her new report (Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Education Improvement) recounts the “unrealistic and impossible” promises made by states to win federal grants.
Weiss draws on studies by the U.S. Department of Education, the Center for American Progress, numerous journalism sources, an email survey of the experiences of district superintendents from the RTTT states, and over two dozen interviews with state and community education leaders to explain why the rush to reform now threatens early education, college readiness standards, and sustainable efforts to improve teacher quality.
Not surprisingly, the USDOE and NCLB co-author Charlie Barone complain about Weiss’ study. But, if it was as biased as Barone implies, would Weiss have buried her lede? The real meat of her report is found in the appendices.
Going to the PIE Policy Summit in Boston later this month? Me, too -- finally. Not invited? Too bad, it's invite-only and I had to bother them for months to get invited. Not already registered? Tough luck. It's sold out.
Then again, the event is off the record so it's not like I can tweet out whatever juicy tidbits I find without specific approval. All the more reason to come up and say hello if you're there. I'm hoping to learn a lot.
Here's NJ ed reformer Derrell Bradford, from last month, talking about education and music (apparently). He really should be talking about education and fashion, but that's ok -- maybe next time.
Interesting that KIPP invited him -- and that his scheduling team decided he should go. KIPP schools are called Team in New Jersey, FYI. See lots of other videos from the conference here. Via Whitney Tilson.
Doing publicity for his new film, Elsyium, actor and celebrity school reform critic Matt Damon revealed to the Guardian that he couldn't find a public school that was progressive enough in LA and was sending his kids to private school.
"Sending our kids in my family to private school was a big, big, big deal. And it was a giant family discussion. But it was a circular conversation, really, because ultimately we don't have a choice. I mean, I pay for a private education and I'm trying to get the one that most matches the public education that I had, but that kind of progressive education no longer exists in the public system. It's unfair." Damon has campaigned against teachers' pay being pegged to children's test results: "So we agitate about those things, and try to change them, and try to change the policy, but you know, it's a tough one."
Conservatives outlets like Brietbart.com picked up the tidbit and slammed Damon for hypocrisy. Damon defenders defended Damon, or said it didn't matter, etc. Image via Breitbart.
Back in the day, labor PACs spent more than corporate groups and nearly as much as trade groups, notes The Atlantic's David Graham. (And they still spend a lot of money.) It's just that trade and especially corporate PACs have risen sharply. Via The Atlantic.
Here's a Washington Monthly map of how states are treating undocumented kids once they graduate from high school -- regardless of what the Obama administration has to say.
How Congress Works, care of Jimmy Kimmel, starts at about the 3 minute mark.
The curious thing about Jeff Guo's recent New Republic article about StudentsFirst's efforts in Tennessee Michelle Rhee in Tennessee) is that @_jeffguo starts out blaming StudentsFirst for botching things in Tennessee but later on admitting that it was infighting among legislators that led to the dismal results.
These things happen all the time -- screaming headlines and bold claims in the first few paragraphs of a story that never quite backs up what it (or its editors) promise.
Let's see if I back up my claims against the piece, or suffer the same humiliating dropoff in the last few sentences.
See also Byron Tau's POLITICO piece (Michelle Rhee’s group tripled its budget) for more numbers and perspectives, based on 990 forms and other disclosure documents, and Joy Resmovits' Huffington Post article (Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst Missed Its Fundraising Goal, Tax Documents Reveal).
But no one seemed to know about its candidate contributions, which are an even more powerful indication of the organization's focus (and the state of education reform).
Now, thanks to a source inside StudentsFirst, I can share some interesting (if self-reported) information about the organization's 2012 election cycle contributions, which balance out pretty evenly for 2012 at 42 percent Democratic / 58 percent Republican.
Click below to see the documents and some preliminary observations.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan works to sell Obama administration’s preschool initiative Washington Post: He is reaching out to Republican governors, hoping they will help him persuade GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill to embrace the “Preschool for All” initiative. But it’s a tall order for many Republican governors who are cool to the notion of new taxes.
Senate Committee Passes Democratic NCLB Renewal Bill EdWeek: On a completely predictable party-line vote, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill to reauthorize the long-stalled renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Senate committee approves bill updating federal education law Washington Post: On a party line vote, a Senate committee approved a bill Wednesday to update the country’s main federal education law by erasing some of its most punitive aspects.
No Child Left Behind Bill Passes Senate Committee, But No End In Sight For Recasting Bush Law Huffington Post: Harkin says he intends to bring his bill to the Senate floor sometime this year -- hopefully by the fall -- and would allow amendments to be made during that process. But even if the overhaul makes it through the floor vote, it is unlikely to be signed into law because the predominant legislative vision in the House varies significantly.
States Seek Flexibility During Common-Test Transition EdWeek: A flurry of education groups are staking out positions on the role tests should play in evaluating teachers and labeling schools.
Ratliff went from having come in ten points behind Sanchez in the primary (34-44) to beating Sanchez by four points in the runoff (52-48). The Coalition and the SEIU spent over $2 million to elect Sanchez. Ratliff, meanwhile, spent roughly $50,000 and had no special interest support.
Many of these are covered in Valerie Strauss's latest piece (The billionaires lose one), and I hope they'll be remembered the next time there's a race like this. Money and political pedigree are no guarantee of victory. Sometimes at least the underdog wins.
But there are other less obvious lessons and considerations:
Sanchez was recruited and selected by Mayor Villaraigosa in what seems like a sentimental move more than a clear-eyed decision about who would stand the best chances of winning the seat.[Rumors are that Ratliff was recruited to run by the UTLA from her spot as a House of Representatives delegate have never been confirmed.] There were other candidates that could have been chosen, none of them perfect but in hindsight Sanchez seems extremely weak.
The reform community in LA has been personality-based, an ad hoc set of individuals who come together for a brief period of time and then go back to their day jobs in between elections. There's an independent expenditure committee, the Coalition for School Reform, that appears every couple of years as a collection point for contributions, but there's no nonprofit c(3) or c(4) organization laying foundations and building relationships in between elections along the lines that UTLA and many other operations have.
Last but not least, the union's decision to endorse all the candidates from the start (rather than have to go through the process of re-endorsing candidates along the way) seemed to most of the world like a big win for Sanchez, who was also getting massive outside support from the Villaraigosa camp, but also prevented Sanchez from attacking Ratliff for her union affiliations. UTLA couldn’t spend any real money on Ratliff, but it also meant that the Coalition couldn’t attack Ratliff for being beholden to the union.
“We took away from the Coaltion the one thing they desperately needed — a negative message,” said Brent Smiley, a Ratliff supporter. “We didn’t let them hit the teachers union. They had absolutely nothing negative to say.”
Tidbits: Going negative is not a prerequisite for winning. Field work and turnout are key, as are absentee (vote by mail) ballots. Internal polling isn't reliable. (The Coalition's polling had Sanchez ahead by 20 points, leading them to pull back on spending the more than $750,000 they had in reserve.) Refrigerator magnets.
As you may recall, the question keeps coming up if and how funders are going to assess the impact of their advocacy efforts, whether they be grants to nonprofits or direct contributions to campaigns or PACs:
"Teachers unions (AFT, NEA) and nonprofits on the other side (Broader/Bolder Alliance, Shanker Institute, and the new Ravitch thing) are actively engaged in advocacy as well, and have to figure out if their spending is making a difference, too." (What About The Impact?)
As with teachers and schools, poor evaluations can lead to poor understanding, however. It's not so easy to get it right. Michigan State professor and TWIE contributor Sarah Reckhow took a stern look at several recent recommendations for advocacy evaluation (A Misleading Approach to Assessing Advocacy)
This newest report, called a Media Measurement Framework, is funded by Gates and Knight and produced by the SF-based LFA Group: Learning for Action, who tells us that the Knight Foundation is in the process of creating an online, interactive version of this framework. This static version will become a collection of online resources.
No word yet on whether the framework is any good or if any advocacy grantees are using it yet. That's where you come in.
Previous posts: A Misleading Approach to Assessing Advocacy [Reckhow]; So How'd The Advocacy Groups Do?; Gates Shifts Strategy & Schools Get Smaller Share [Reckhow]; EdWeek's Balanced View Of Reform Advocacy