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
A few months ago contributor Sarah Reckhow wrote a post about philanthropy-funded education advocacy efforts that asked a good question: "How does the Gates Foundation plan to evaluate its large portfolio of “advocacy” grants?"
Of course, this isn't just an issue for Gates or other reform-minded funders. 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.
To get at some of the challenges advocacy evaluation involves, Reckhow recommended a 201 article in the Stanford Social Innoviation Review (The Elusive Craft of Evaluating Advocacy).
I promised myself I'd read it but -- big surprise -- never did. Then yesterday Fordham's Mike Petrilli sent over a link to a Spring 2013 SSIR article (Assessing Advocacy).
Specifically, Duncan described the trigger as "an important tool" for parent involvement -- but not the only or even the most important one.
Duncan's answer will likely disappoint trigger proponents and opponents alike.
Heading over to the Bloomberg Philanthropies-sponsored reception to start the NewSchools Venture Fund education summit, I thought there was no time like the present to update you on my progress figuring out the ins and outs of outside spending on local school board elections like that being done by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
As you may recall, Bloomberg and others have been giving funds to various local school board candidates over the past few years, either directly to the candidates or via an independent expenditure committee. The funding is intended to provide a counterbalance to union contributions, local and otherwise, and is entirely legal but raises lots of issues when it is so new and novel (for a school board race) and also when it comes from outside the city or state where the race is taking place.
My issue is not with the campaign contributions themselves, which are perfectly legal, or even with the need for a counterbalance to union power in low turnout events. The AFT spent $1M to get rid of Adrien Fenty, and the CTA spent $300K to block board members favorable to former San Diego superintendent Alan Bersin.
My question is whether the funding is worth the blowback, and whether reform advocates like Bloomberg (and DFER, and StudentsFirst) will ever figure out a way to tell their story and give their money without spending all their time defending themselves. I also want to know how much of it is out there, on both sides.
It's not just reform critics and professional opponents who are seeking to define Michelle Rhee's school reform advocacy as predominantly right-leaning and Republican -- and so far at least StudentsFirst seems to be going along with it.
There's no argument that some of the organization's biggest funders like the Walton Family Foundation have Republican roots, or that Rhee will work with Republicans to get policy priorities moved ahead.
But increasingly, mainstream media press accounts of StudentsFirst are describing StudentsFirst's political advocacy (campaign endorsements and contributions) as Republican, too.
The latest example is today's LA Times piece: "Nationwide, StudentsFirst has overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates, because they best match its policy platform."
The first part of that sentence is where I'm confused. (About the second half of the sentence, I'd observe that only Rhee's support for the trigger and vouchers -- and her willingness to work across the aisle -- mark her as anything other than a mainstream Democrat.)
The question about Rhee's endorsements and contributions first started coming up for me last Fall, when readers started noting that SF's endorsees in Florida were Republican (See Eighty Candidates Endorsed By StudentsFirst). It came up again after the general election when I was trying to tally the advocacy groups' performance (See So How'd The Advocacy Groups Do?*).
More recently, StudentsFirst keeps telling me that endorsements are one thing, campaign contributions are another. But so far, at least, they've not provided any documentation about the direct contributions and superPAC contributions in the states they're involved with. All we have are lists of endorsements, which do indeed skew Republican.
The reason I've been asking is that my own limited experience with StudentsFirst and campaign contributions is that they're mostly Democratic. This includes giving to LAUSD school board candidates, and trying to get Brian Johnson and others elected. (See CA StudentsFirst Candidate Squeaks Through*).
Is the press getting this wrong and falling for an attack that isn't accurate, or am I just working off of incomplete information?
This post is mostly just an excuse to use the Washington Post's parent trigger image (a riff on the famous "Easy" button from Staples), and to link to some recent stories on LA School Report. But it's also a chance to rebut Valerie Strauss's highly selective and inaccurate post about the parent trigger, which ignores all the career Democrats who are involved with and support the trigger and bypasses the latest events in Los Angeles where the trigger is being used in interesting new ways that don't involve lawsuits or ousting school board members.
There were lots of interesting tidbits thrown out during the Yale School of Management education summit session on mobilization, and no shortage of quips from panelists including Jeremiah Kittredge and Derrell Bradford, Kristen Wiegand, and Derwin Sisnett (moderated by Suzanne Tacheny Kubach).
Some of the topics that were touched on included the power of storytelling, the difference between mobilizing a community and engaging or organizing it for the long run, the struggle to mesh what advocates want and what low-income communities can and should do. You should really skip the rest of this post and just start listening at the 5 minute mark where the session begins (WS600022).
But the conversation at the end about the parent trigger was to me fascinating, revealing differences among organizers in terms of how they view the trigger, even as they admire its power and pull.
"The best hook anybody has found is parent trigger," said Kittredge -- even as he listed its flaws. "There's no better piece of persuasion to get people to come back out than the concept of parent trigger."
As I noted yesterday on Twitter, reform critics, union leaders, and even some mainstream journalists like to suggest that StudentsFirst and other reform advocacy groups are dripping with money for electoral politics, neglecting to mention (perhaps they don't know?) how much teachers unions and other labor groups shovel into the process each year.
Last year, for example, StudentsFirst contributed less than $2 million to California races -- a pittance compared to union and other established stakeholder contributions. If there's an 800 pound gorilla in the school reform debate, it's the veteran stakeholders not the newbies.
On a related note, EdWeek's Andrew Ujifusa has a new post up suggesting that reform critics shouldn't be overly distracted by the possibility of the testing scandal bringing Rhee down because "the momentum behind the kind of policies Rhee's group supports may have too much power, time, and cash behind them" in DC as elsewhere. This seems like a good point to reiterate, considering that so many Rhee haters are thinking she's going down immediately.
Ujifusa also notes that StudentsFirst is steadily expanding its state level operations nationally, which brings me to the news that StudentsFirst has hired a new political strategist, Fabian Nunez, to help move its agenda forward in Sacramento. Nunez (pictured) is one of the town's most influential power brokers, according to the LA Times (as well as a longtime friend to the state teachers unions). Hiring lobbyists and former elected officials to head state advocacy efforts is a tried and true approach, though it creates challenges for multi-state organizations trying to keep some sort of brand uniformity in place. Rumor is that StudentsFirst is also hiring a state director (Nunez is an outside consultant.) Click the link for an interview I did with Nunez last week -- some of what he has to say about balancing the union voice in Sacramento seems interesting.
Most education reformers and funders don't come from politics or organizing so they are loathe to set up or pay for the kinds of "rapid response" operations that professional political operatives use to help minimize the damage that constant attacks can create.
But -- like the first-term Obama administration with death panels and birthers -- they're starting to learn that there's a price to pay for letting attacks stand, no matter how extreme or ridiculous they may seem.
One small example is CT Education 180, a relatively new spinoff of ConnCAN set up to respond to attacks on elected officials and others who are getting torn down online and in the mainstream media.
Its stated mission is "setting the record straight on education reform, and exposing those who are more interested in self-preservation than doing what’s right for the more than 65,000 kids in Connecticut who are stuck in low-performing schools."
Eventually, reform advocates may have to not only create and fund rapid response operations like this, but also efforts to criticize their antagonists. But I'll save that for another post.
Right now, reformers are fighting with both hands tied behind their backs -- refusing to defend themselves vigorously or in any organized fashion, much less to attack those who are pretty much their sworn enemies at this point.
It's noble, I suppose. But even as someone with plenty of complaints about the reform agenda and implementation, it's hard to watch.
They ran campaigns about “love” (a deeply shared emotional value that connects people), not about “rights” (a policy objective that reinforced disconnection between haves and have-nots.) The policy objective of the campaign didn’t change; how they talked about it did.
-- PIE's Suzanne Tacheny Kubach on lessons from the same-sex marriage campaign.
Curious about how the parent trigger is evolving in Los Angeles and nationwide? Here's the audio from a Friday morning panel at Yale University on the parent trigger featuring Parent Trigger's Ben Austin and former state Senator Gloria Romero, who authored the controversial law, along with the Fordham Foundation's Adam Emerson and moderator Andy Rotherham.
The most interesting tidbits include Austin's description of how the 24th Street parents came up with the idea of having LAUSD and a charter school operator share control of the school -- and how the mere threat of a trigger has persuaded teachers at some schools to approach parents about making changes -- and Emerson's description of how civil rights groups in Florida have come out strongly against the trigger idea there -- a sharp contrast to their role in favor of the trigger legislation in California. [Cross-posted from LA School Report]
For what may be the first time ever -- or perhaps just the most obvious example so far -- pro-charter, pro-accountability backers in Los Angeles are not just leveling the playing field with the teachers union in terms of funding candidates and campaigns but tilting it in their favor.
Overall spending is already at $3.4 million (see here). There are some places where the spending is close to even -- such as in the race between former reform candidate Steve Zimmer, who's now being supported by the union, and newcomer Kate Anderson. But the majority of it going out from the reform side in the form of mailers and TV ads.
Whether the money advantage turns into primary day wins is another question, however. There are two key issues to keep in mind, I argue in this new post over at LA School Report (Air War Vs. Boots On the Ground).
The first is that -- just like happens online -- the union and its allies have an enormous advantage when it comes to motivated campaign volunteers to help persuade neighbors and get out the vote.
The second is that not all of the union's spending seems to be reported and accounted for. As good as the disclosure requirements are in LA, it's a self-reported system and there have been a handful of times where UTLA-PACE, the independent expenditure committee that funds the campaigns, hasn't reported things that seem like campaign activity, or has transferred funding between different IE accounts in ways that are hard to explain and may not match up as they should.
This is a story by LA School Report contributor Hillel Aron:
The Coalition for School Reform has been running TV ads and hitting voters with a blizzard of glossy flyers.
But — having closely lost 2011′s big-money campaign between Bennett Kayser and Luis Sanchez — the reform-oriented campaign committee is also taking its field organization very seriously.
“These campaigns are, in many instances, won and lost in the field,” said Sean Clegg, the Coalition’s political consultant. “And the Coalition for School Reform has put together a state-of-the-art field program that is really zeroing in on our voters with pinpoint accuracy.”
To run its 2013 field campaign, the Coalition has hired a firm called 50+1 Strategies, headed by former Obama campaign operative Adissu Demissie, who’s bringing some high-tech tools and techniques to the familiar process of walking streets, knocking on doors, and making phone calls.
“We’re really running a very data-driven, metrics-based, technologically advanced field campaign,” said Demissie, who ran Barack Obama’s 2008 “get-out-the-vote” campaign in Ohio. ”We’re trying to talk to the right people in the right way.”
Read the rest of the story here.
While as many as 8 current or recent CPS students may have been killed since the start of 2013, Chicago Public Radio is reporting that Mayor Emmanuel has reversed a longstanding practice of allowing Chicago Public Schools to tell reporters what school, if any, homicide victims come from. "For years, school officials deliberately collected and shared information about whether or not homicide victims also attended a public school in the city. But CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said they’re trying to protect parents and students privacy. She said the district’s legal team advises the district not to tell reporters whether shooting victims attend public schools in the city... It’s a practice they say they’ve followed since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office."
Also: Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis and her leadership team are facing a challenge from a slate of teachers who believe that Lewis et al did not go far enough -- or get enough -- during the past two years: “'We did our part. We spent weeks on the street, rallied and gave Lewis all the power she needed,' said Tanya Saunders-Wolffe, potential candidate for union president. 'What did we get? Firings, closings, lower pay.'" (Karen Lewis to face opposition in May CTU election Sun Times, Chicago Teachers Union members to run against CTU President Karen Lewis' leadership team Tribune). Though it may be hard to imagine a more hard-charging local union leader, remember that Lewis was lambasted for allowing SB7 to pass and has so far been unable to stop the school closing juggernaut that City Hall says is necessary because of dwindling enrollment.
You can read more about this -- and teachers' reactions -- at my Chicago blog.
Yep, that's Hollywood actress and longtime Obama supporter Eva Longoria stumping for LAUSD school board challenger Kate Anderson -- something the actress is said in the report to have decided to do with the encouragement of EdSec Arne Duncan. (No word on whether Duncan told Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst to contribute $250,000 to the reform slate of candidates.)
Maybe the President should propose a dramatic change in when kids are required to start school, setting a mandatory age of, I don't know, six. That'd be exciting, wouldn't it? And perhaps even sensible, policy-wise, if not politically viable.
Currently, there are 16 states that don't require kids to go to school until 7 or even 8 years of age. Fourteen states require school at age 7; 26 states already require it at age 6; 6 set it at 5; and 2 set it at 8, according to this Chicago Tribune story on the proposal to lower the age from 7 to 5 in Illinois.
There are obviously some costs as well as benefits to having kids start earlier, though not as much additional cost as I would have thought. Have states been raising the age to save money, I wonder? That would be just about what states do when times are tight. Then there are quality issues regarding the instruction and curriculum, space issues in some districts, and a major distinction between half-day and full-day kindergarten (which is still somewhat unusual). Image via CCFlickr
Reform advocates in LA and from around the country have already contributed $1.5M to an independent expenditure committee in support of three LAUSD School Board candidates (two challengers, one incumbent).
The so-called Coalition for School Reform has also launched the first TV ad campaign that's been aired for school board candidates in LA since 2007.
But UTLA, the teachers union, is far from giving up. UTLA-PACE has already raised roughly $667,000, and begun sending out flyers and communicating with members about the imporatance of the election. The union has also put out requests for additional resources from state and national teachers unions, which are forthcoming (amounts TBD).
On Friday, AFT President Randi Weingarten appeared at a school in LA with one of the union-backed canddiates, Steve Zimmer. Weingarten announced a $150,000 grant to UTLA to help teachers develop better school improvement plans -- an alternative to radical means like the "parent trigger." The grant comes from AFT's Innovation Fund, which is -- yes! -- backed by the Gates Foundation.
But his Friday blog post (Sure, The Reform Brand Is Tarnished. But So Is The Other Side's) concludes that “The reform ‘brand’ has become tarnished, sure, but so has the reputation and credibility of all too many reform opponents. And right now, those of us in the vast middle sort of hate you all -- both sides -- in roughly equal measure.”
Russo's entitled to his opinion, but he's not being entirely fair or accurate.
We know closings can destabilize [communities]. But it doesn’t mean every one will be a civil rights violation.
-- USDE's Civil Rights guy Seth Galanter
Last night was the first of three candidate forums being hosted by the United Way of Los Angeles (among others), this one featuring the Westside's current Board member, Steve Zimmer (center), and his challenger, parent and advocate Kate Anderson (left).
According to this account from LA School Report (which I edit), the discussion focused on core issues such as teacher evaluations (Anderson called the new agreement "too mush"), charter school oversight (Zimmer is pro-charter but has proposed a moratorium), and whether LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy is receiving the support he deserves. Both Anderson and Zimmer claim to support him.
Unlike many other big city school systems, LAUSD is still governed by an independent elected school board. Zimmer has been endorsed by the teachers union. Anderson is being supported by the Coalition for School Reform, which includes charter school supporters and allies of Mayor Villaraigosa.
Image courtesy LA School Report
For a long time, gay marriage was nearly unthinkable. Then it went down in defeat 31 times in a row -- including 2008's massive failure in California (Proposition 8). Advocates couldn't agree on what to focus on, or who should lead.
Four years later, however, gay marriage laws are being passed in bunches (Maine, Washington, Maryland, and Minnesota), the Democratic candidate for President of the United States felt it was politically advantageous to announce his support, Congress might reverse DOMA, and tthe Supreme Court might overturn the California law.
What can education advocates learn from recent successes of the gay rights campaign? Here are some of the preliminary answers I got out of this Atlantic Magazine article (Inside This Year's Epic Campaign for Gay Equality). Maybe you'll find more or different.
You need a single, dedicated national organization able to operate across multiple states and multiple election cycles (in the case of gay marriage, it was a small outfit called Freedom to Marry). You need a tireless but not ego-driven leader who's willing to herd the cats and let the issue be the star (in this case, someone you've never heard of named Evan Wolfson). And -- this may be the hardest part for reform proponents and opponents to grasp -- you need to pick an issue that unites the diverse coalition of interested parties who are prone to disagreement, research the most compelling emotional rather than intellectual appeals, and then force everyone to keep working together even when they want to spin off in different directions.
You may have seen this already but it wasn't until today when I was looking around for images of EdSec Arne Duncan at the Inauguration that I come across his twitpic from the Inauguration in which Beyonce and Jay-Z are seen trying to avoid Al Sharpton's questions about lip-synching. Anyone seen a picture of Duncan at the event? I'm still looking.
Just over a month from now -- and just a week before a key election day -- United Way Los Angeles is hosting its Education Summit 2013, which will feature three "education mayors" (Emanuel, Villaraigosa, and Booker) as well as many of those who want to replace Villaraigosa and become the next Mayor of LA.
United Way LA has been active on education issues and is hosting candidate forums for the three LAUSD board member spots that are also up for grabs on March 5. The first one is tomorrow night, featuring incumbent (and TFA alum) Steve Zimmer, who's been endorsed by the teachers union, and parent / advocate challenger Kate Anderson, who's been endorsed by the pro-charter, pro-accountability Coalition for School Reform.
"The only unpopular policy idea to help stop gun violence is the only one that's really been enacted since the Newtown school shooting," reports the Atlantic Wire.
"A majority opposes the one gun-related proposal that seems to have the most momentum — 57 percent of Americans oppose giving teachers and school officials guns in in schools."
Why, then, are politicians (and the press) pushing an unpopular idea?
"While only 23 percent of Democrats want to arm teachers, 56 percent of Republicans do."
Inauguration is fast approaching, and so folks are starting to get around to thinking about what Team Obama should and will do on education during a second term (as well as how to get Inauguration tickets and whether it's worth flying in). There's no shortage of ideas in addition to hot-button topics like school safety and immigration:
One contingent of folks think that the focus should be on promoting universal preschool, which is one of the most noncontroversial ideas out there (for now at least). I have no real objection to that priority, though I'd also love to see something on universal full-day kindergarten, which is surprisingly unusual and has the added convenience of being part of the K-12 system. Preschools aren't fully linked to the K12 system in most districts, and are funded through HHS and USDE in Washington. Seriously: universal full-day Kindergarten, NOW.
Another contingent -- among them Michelle Rhee -- think that the big push should be to refocus NCLB and its funding streams on innovation and effectiveness rather than accountability and student demographics, which are its current guiding lights. Think a one-time infusion of $3.4 billion brought on a lot of changes nationally? Imagine what $15-20 billion PER YEAR could do. Or at least so the thinking goes. (Personally I think they should just sign schools schools into a Hunger Games-like video game and fund them according to how many points/kills they rack up.)
The best idea, really -- mine -- is for Team Obama to focus some serious attention and funding on mixed-income, mixed ability schools and neighborhoods. Name Petrilli and Kahlenberg and -- I don't know -- Linda Darling-Hammond to co-head a Transitional/Diversity/Gentrification Initiative, provide some funding and support for communities going through gentrification so that the new and old communities don't tear each other apart, and do something that folks outside the ghetto (education and real-world) will care about. Incentivize charters to serve mixed-income, mixed-ability groups of students while you're at it.
This [education debate] is not an old western with white hats and black hats, it is much more like a Cormac McCarthy novel or a Quentin Tarantino film. - Colo. State Senator Michael Johnston
Here's John Podesta, chair of CAP, talking with Fordham's Checker Finn at the recent Foundation for Excellence in Education conference. Via Parent Revolution.
Former DNC spokesman and District of Columbia man about town Hari Sevugan has parted ways with StudentsFirst -- at his own behest, I'm being told but have not been able to confirm on the record one way or the other.
Sevugan was brought on board to help beef up Rhee's communications operation and to bolster its Democratic bona fides. The DREAM Act endorsement and the antibullying thing were likely Sevugan pushes. Maybe even the neutral earth tones Rhee sometimes used instead of all black outfits. Needless to say, Sevugan was loathed by his counterparts at the AFT and NEA for attempting to humanize Rhee.
Anyway, Sevugan isn't the first senior level person to leave StudentsFirst in recent months -- and the departures aren't necessarily a bad thing -- but I'll leave that to another day or to someone else who's more energetic than I am. It's job-changing time in Washington and elsewhere around the country. Cue the Mariachi music.