Here's the latest in a series of occasional case studies I've been doing the past few years, this one about an education-focused PAC called Democrats For Education Reform that was an early backer of Barack Obama and had lots of early success, but has struggled in recent years as its oponents (the teachers unions, mostly) have shifted tactics and politics have gotten more polarized. It came out late last week. Read it all here.
This picture, via Whitney Tilson, encapsulates those early days.
However, a new case study out today from AEI (written by me) tells how those early successes were blunted, then turned into liabilities during the last four years: how critics began labeling DFER as part of "corporate" reform efforts, how the teachers unions turned Common Core concerns into a rallying cry, and -- most disappointingly, perhaps -- DFER generally stood by as social justice issues (immigration, integration, police violence) grew in importance.
Meantime, DFER failed to create the Emily's List-style donor base that would broaden its support and free it up from charter advocates.
With the Democratic platform amended by reform critics and the Democratic convention coming up later this month, there's no better time to look at what DFER's done, what it's become, and where it might go next.
New DFER head Shavar Jeffries says that he's going to make DFER a deep part of the Democratic Party. But there's not much sign so far that DFER has changed, and from recent events it seems like he's got his work cut out for him.
Related posts: Meet DFER Head Shavar Jeffries.
This infographic from Vox shows that it's out with a whimper rather than a bang when it comes to focusing national attention on education, even if you combine the "schools" column with the "education" column.
This Sacramento Bee story (What’s next for Michelle Rhee, once the national face of education activism?) tells you what you already know: that Rhee has pretty much dropped off the face of the earth when it comes to education advocacy.
What's alluded later on in the piece is just how different (and perhaps much-diminished) her organization, StudentsFirst, has been operating since she stepped down, Pope Ratzinger-like, from day to day oversight.
In contrast to the Rhee era, StudentsFirst under Jim Blew is much more low key, and focused on fewer states (10 vs. 17). The organization claims to have helped enact 40 laws including "a new charter school measure in Alabama, an enhanced charter school law in Ohio and a teacher-evaluation bill in Michigan."
Back in 2012, however, StudentsFirst was involved in a host of state and local races (see below), funding both Democratic and Republican candidates.
Three years later, I've come across little if any sign of them having been involved in any of last week's big races (Philadelphia, Kentucky, St. Paul, Denver, JeffCo, Seattle, etc.). Though I haven't confirmed it independently, I'm told that StudentsFirst wasn't directly involved in any of these races.
I had the chance to chat for a few minutes yesterday afternoon with Naveed Amalfard, one of the co-founders of America's Teachers whose efforts have been written up recently in the LA Times among other places.
Describing the effort as a "a political startup," Amalfard laughs when asked and says "No, this is not a stunt." The organization is building a list of supporters, tolerating unsolicited queries like mine, and building out as much as it can given its two main heads are both still fulltime teachers.
Funders aren't disclosed, but the organization's supporters include former DNC head Howard Dean and former Green Dot head Steve Barr. The ultimate goal is to raise $1-2 million this cycle, says Amalfard. According to this recent LA Times article, they've raised much less than that so far.
The question that everyone seems to want to know, says Amafard, is which side they're on. "I get asked this all the time. We take money from all sides." But folks aren't entirely convinced, he says. They keep asking. "I know that it's literally unbelievable for some people, but we are not a proxy for anyone."
To be sure, the organization has picked three priorities (college costs, UPK, and the DREAM Act) that sidestep hot-button education reform items. "Let's solve these three issues first," he says.
Meantime, the organization is legally prohibited from contact with the Clinton campaign it supports. He doesn't know if the campaign is even aware of its existence. He just wants his candidate to make education a central part of her agenda. A voter pledge drive is coming up later this month. Their inspirations are Democratic strategists David Plouffe and David Axelrod, according to Amalfard.
Other inspirations might be Lawrence Lessig, whose recently-shuttered presidential campaign was largely a vehicle to raise issues surrounding campaign finance, and DFER, the reform-minded Democratic organization created to use campaign contributions and other forms of political advocacy to pressure candidates. (Is there a PAC associated with the Badass Teachers, or with Diane Ravitch's NEPC, or United Opt Out? )
Meantime, anyone who wants to give to the effort should go here.
Related posts: A Teacher-Led Campaign PAC.
One of the things that Michael Grunwald gives Team Duncan credit for in Politico's long feature about the not-yet-lameduck Education Secretary is seeing the anti-testing momentum building earlier than many (think 2011) and figuring out how to help his boss avoid unnecessary criticism:
“The union needed a target for its anger, and he was happy to take a bullet for the president.”
That's raised some eyebrows, including from EIA's Mike Antonucci.
Writes the observant union watchdog: "If true – and I would expect vigorous denials if anyone bothered to inquire – I might actually have to adjust my cynicism meter into the red zone. This is manipulation of the union’s most devoted activists on a grand scale."
Well, not so fast there.
What's not mentioned about the anecdote -- which I have not confirmed independently (Dorie? Justin? Massie? Daren?) is that the NEA isn't necessarily as dumb as it might look from this move. Its challenge was to express members' frustrations with the direction with the administration was taking without hurting the chances of the Democratic President they still wanted in the White House.
This strategy has been noted several times in the past -- Jonathan Chait from New York Magazine comes to mind. So however smart Duncan's staff was getting him involved in his own roasting, the union was arguably just as smart aiming its fire at Duncan not Obama.
Still reading? Here's the 13 things.
Preview the GOP Presidential Debate: What to Expect on Education PK12: Will Bush and Kasich continue to support for the common core? How will the three senators with similar education agendas differentiate themselves? Will ESEA reauthorization come up?
State budget protects districts from low-performing virtual schools Journal Sentinel: The budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker would keep low-performing virtual charter schools from hurting the report cards of hosting districts.
Teachers Demand Chris Christie Apologize For Face-Punching Comment HuffPost: Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, and Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association -- the state's largest teachers union -- have both condemned Christie's comments. See also Politico, CSM.
Ahead of state’s Common Core review, Commissioner Elia looks outside New York Chalkbeat: At least 18 states have taken steps to revise, rebrand, or review the standards since adopting them in 2010, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers. New York is set to begin its own review effort this year, prompted by state lawmakers, who ordered Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to examine the state’s reading and math standards.
Here's What Americans Want From A No Child Left Behind Overhaul HuffPost: More than half of Americans think state governments should have more power than the federal government to determine how standardized tests are used in schools. Only 21 percent of respondents said they thought the federal government should have more power than states in this arena; about a quarter said they were not sure.
High Expulsion Rates, Lower Test Scores for Oregon English-Language Learners State EdWatch: "Disciplinary actions that take students out of the classroom can make it more difficult for them to stay on track to graduate," a Regional Education Laboratory report stated.
Anxiety, frustration and incredulity follow suggestion of school sports cuts Washington Post: Some members of the school board and the county board of supervisors — which furnishes most of the school system’s budget — quickly accused the task force of histrionics, saying it was merely a tactic to anger community members in a campaign for more money. Fairfax’s budget season is often marked by tense exchanges and dire predictions as the county prides itself on having a top-tier school system.
Atlanta District Rolls Out New Grade-Changing Rules District Dossier: Superintendent Meria Carstarphen launched an investigation into grade changing after an internal investigation found that one high school principal changed more than 100 student grades from failing to passing.
Select Chicago Principals to Get More Autonomy, Less Oversight District Dossier: The Chicago school district will tap 25 high-performing school leaders who also have a strong record on school operations and community partnerships.
Three Seattle-Area Charter Schools Prepare To Open Seattle Public Radio: On a recent sunny afternoon, a work party was underway at a low-slung building just south of Seattle that will soon become Rainier Prep, a charter middle school.
I don’t regret voting for him on 2012. He made great choices for the Supreme Court. On education, however, his administration is hardly different from that of any Republican, including Romney... Their only difference was vouchers, yet even here both Obama and Duncan have done nothing and said nothing to stop the proliferation of vouchers. - Ravitch on Obama administration from earlier this month (Stop Defaming Teachers!)
"If you have to miss school, make sure you have a note." Hillary Clinton Facebook page via Jenn Bluestein.
This will soon get old, but not yet. There were some Obama examples of the "candidate excuse note" way back in 2008, longtime readers will recall -- and to be sure examples before that we don't know about because there was no Twitter.
Related posts: Excuse Note From Obama Doesn't Convince School Officials (2008); Obama Writes Excuse Note -- Again (2008); Another Obama School Excuse Note (2102).
Check out this video from yesterday's Brookings event, Getting education bills to the finish line, which among other things includes former education staffers' best guesses at the chances that Congress will act on ESEA reauthorization this year. (Or if you prefer, check out the twitterstream using the hashtag #EdBills.)
My favorite moment is when Bethany Little highlights the impact of waivers on Congressional momentum in 2011. What's yours? Featuring Chingos, DeLisle, Little, Flanagan, and West.
Next time, maybe they could include a leadership staff alumnus to give the larger, more political perspective. Committee staff are great and smart, but also sometimes in their silos.
Some Republicans are using the [Common Core] controversy as a reason to abolish the Department of Education. Some Democrats and labor unions are using it to rehabilitate teacher unions. But there's a place for coalition here, and compromise.
-- Demos senior fellow Richard Brodsky in Huffington Post (Rand Paul and Obama: Together Again on Common Core, Subsidies and Drug Laws?)
Here's a first look at Dale Rusakoff's forthcoming book about Newark, titled The Prize and scheduled for release in September.
"Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, and Cory Booker were ready to reform our failing schools," proclaims the book promo copy. "What they got instead was an education."
"Their plans soon ran into a constituency not so easily moved — Newark’s key education players, fiercely protective of their billion-dollar-per-annum system. It’s a prize that, for generations, has enriched seemingly everyone, except Newark’s students."
Rusakoff's writing on Newark has appeared in the New Yorker
"The Prize is a portrait of a titanic struggle over the future of education for the poorest kids, and a cautionary tale for those who care about the shape of America’s schools."
See more here.
Rusakoff is appearing at this week's EWA conference in Chicago. It's a big week for education book. Greg Toppo's book about learning games is out this week, as is Ken Robinson's book on schools and creativity.
Related posts: New Yorker Digs Into Newark Reform Backlash; What They're Saying About That New Yorker Article; New Yorker Reporter Talks Newark; Fact-Checking Cami Anderson; White Reporters & Students Of Color.
George Hall Elementary. 99% black. 98% student poverty. All proficient. You're not ready for this discussion until you believe in our kids.— Citizen Stewart (@citizenstewart) February 24, 2015
For the last few years, claims of success by reform supporters -- a high-poverty school where students are learning at high levels, say -- have regularly been met with detailed takedowns from the likes of Diane Ravitch or Gary Rubinstein, followed by a swarm of followups from reform critics and allies.
But over the weekend things took a somewhat different turn (at least on Sunday, when I last checked in), and it was the mostly white, mostly male reform critics like Rubinstein and Cody who were on the hotseat for expressing a "belief gap" from a handful of Chris Stewart kicked things off (and storified the exchange below).
A number of new voices showed up -- new to me, at least -- in addition to familiar names like Anthony Cody, John Thompson, and Gary Rubinstein. As you'll see, the issue of research into teacher bias came up several times, including studies like this and this. And
It wasn't pretty, or conclusive, or anything else. Both sides of this debate have long sufferered from too few black and brown voices and leaders, and still do. But it was somewhat different from the Twitter exchanges I've been following and writing about for the last few years.
As you may recall, 50CAN launched in 2010 at roughly the same time as StudentsFirst, but has followed an interesting and somewhat distinct path in the intervening five years compared to other national networks of reform-minded advocacy groups like StudentsFirst and Stand For Children and DFER that all seemed to sprout up around the same time.
Check out the organization's new state-by-state goals Policy Goals, which are largely state-developed rather than predetermined by the national or its funders, and you'll get a sense for what I mean. I'm also told that the organization doesn't pick states to go into anymore, but rather gives out planning grants to folks who think they might be interested in putting something together -- 80 in 28 states last year -- and go from there. Call it an advocacy incubator. They're also running a Policy 101 course (there's still time to sign up), and advocacy workshops.
Related posts: AEI Philanthropy/Advocacy Event (#NewEdPhil) HotSeat Interview: 50CAN Creator Marc Porter Magee; 50CAN Action Fund Focuses On RI & MN; Winn Leaving 50CAN To Head New TFA Initiative; Where The Shiny New Advocacy Groups Are* [were].
School breakfasts for low income students -- especially those proposed by unpopular district leaders and provided in student classrooms -- can be controversial, even though it's not that new. (The newer thing is school dinner.)
Just look to LA, where the Breakfast in the Classroom program was a major sticking point between former LAUSD head John Deasy and UTLA. If SEIU hadn't been strongly supportive of the program, the teachers might have forced a rollback. Last I read, participation had grown from 7 to 40 percent (see KPCC here).
Or check out NYC, where Mayor De Blasio has been moving mighty slowly with the effort, despite having promised to take quick action when he was a candidate. (See WSJ: Antipoverty Advocates Say NYC Mayor Should Have Included Free Breakfast in Budget).
One place school breakfast hasn't been especially controversial has been Chicago. Yep, Chicago, where pretty much anything and everything is disputed these days.
The program began in 2011 and the district is ahead of the rest of the state, based on SY2014 statistics from CPS. Breakfast meals were up to 26 million (or 39 percent) last year, which isn't as big as the school lunch program but it's much newer. Projected numbers are higher this year, according to CPS, which also says that the district is rated at or above the median for large urban school districts by the Great City Schools. This is Chicago's first year as part of the USDA's Community Eligibility Option by USDA, in which all schools in the district provide students with access to free breakfast and lunch.
Related posts: Antipoverty Advocates Say NYC Mayor Should Have Included Free Breakfast in Budget (WSJ); Nearly Half Of Low-Income Kids Don't Eat Breakfast (HuffPost); IL Among the Lowest Performing States For Free School Breakfast Participation (Progress IL); Dinner Is Now On The Menu At Schools With Poor Kids; Lunch, Breakfast — Now Dinner.
"A test season riff on the WWII poster "Keep Calm And Carry On" via @mikeklonsky. Is this for real, or even new? I have no idea but would love to know. There's an ACT logo and they're getting back to me about whether it's official or not. If this was done by ACT rather than bootlegged it would be all the better. Other versions of the same idea are here." (2012: "Keep Calm And Continue Testing")
Take a minute to think about how much time and attention the Colbert Report has dedicated to education-related issues during its long run, which ended last night. Colbert's guests included not only EdSecs Spellings and Duncan, but also a who's who list of mostly reform types like Joel Klein, Wendy Kopp, Charles Best, Bill Gates, Jonah Edelman's Dad, Emily Bazelon, Maurice Sendak, Geoff Canada, David Levin, Roland Fryer, Campbell Brown. Colbert also included education in numerous segments, mocking states for gaming proficiency levesl, fired Florida teachers, and simultaneously mocked and endorsed the Common Core earlier this year:
Some favorites among the (just!) 49 times that Colbert appears in the headline of a TWIE blog post include "Keep [Parental] Fear Alive," Says Colbert, his out-of-character story of being miserable in school (Colbert's "It Gets Better" Story), and a Roland Fryer interview in which Fryer pulls off a feat and gets the best of Colbert ("You're Black Now, Aren't You?"). Some of his few dud interviews related to education include one with the director of the War On Kids documentary, and his interview with Peter Edelman in which Edelman appears to walk off the stage at the end (Another Unhappy Moment For The Edelman Clan).
Need more? 21 times Stephen Colbert has dropped his act and been himself (Vox), which includes some graduation speeches, his Congressional testimony, and a few other moments, and Goodbye, Stephen Colbert (a fond farewell from the NYT).How
It is hard to realize you are wrong on something important in the middle of a busy school day. But, many, many times, settling in at home, a light went on, and I realized that I owed a student an apology.
Perhaps I’m naïve, but if President Obama would apologize for imposing the full, untested and dangerous corporate reform agenda on schools, wouldn’t teachers be as gracious as my students were when I would say, “I’m sorry?”
Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has issued a series of non-apologies, criticizing the way that testing sucks the oxygen out of schools, but he has made little effort to curtail its damage.
Why can’t Duncan and President Obama acknowledge that their policies were as insulated from education reality as those of the famously “tone-deaf” Indiana Chief for Change Tony Bennett? The IndyStar’s Tim Swarens’ reports, in I Was a (Bleep) Candidate, that the hard-charging and defeated reformer is now remorseful and contemplative. Bennett is now candid about the way his daughter, a teacher, pushed back against his attacks on her profession. He admits, "I saw anyone who disagreed with me on an issue like vouchers as a defender of the status quo."
Oops! I guess I’m still naively hoping that true believers will face up to the harm done by their self-righteousness and scorched earth politics. Tom LoBianco of the AP Press reports that Bennett now has no comment regarding the inspector general's report on his 2012 campaign activities that has been forwarded to federal prosecutors.
No surprise that President Obama is going to announce his big deportation relief plan at a Las Vegas high school, given that a whopping 18 percent of kids in Nevada schools have at least one parent without documentation. That's according to a Pew study that HuffPost's Rebecca Klein wrote about yesterday. Read all about it here. Image used with permission.
The old playbook of...'Things are fine in our schools, we just need more money' — that’s not going to work for long... People want to be inspired, motivated and excited.
-- Marshall Tuck on his close loss for California state superintendent of education (Politico)
It’s hard to believe a huge outpouring to defeat Obama – arguably the most powerful force ever to push for “education reform” – is somehow a resounding call for more education reform.
- Jeff Bryant (The Coalition For An Education Agenda Just Isn’t There, Yet)
*Originally headlined "Democratic" but that's not right -- thanks for catching the error.
Teachers Unions Say Midterm Losses Don't Reflect On Them HuffPost: Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told The Huffington Post that she sees the election results differently -- and does not understand how Democratic reformers could possibly claim they were a success. “It’s hard for me to understand … what the business types and the testing types of this education debate think they won here.”
Teachers unions defend their ground by getting Torlakson reelected LA Times: In races where education was the main issue, such as the Torlakson-Tuck contest, union-backed candidates and measures fared better, Weingarten said. Voters, she said, still side with teachers on issues such as the need to lower classes sizes, limit standardized testing and provide more funding for schools.
Torlakson victory ensures continuity in reforms EdSource Today: One immediate consequence of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s rebuff of challenger Marshall Tuck is to ensure the continuance of the cohesion in state education policy that has been forged since Gov. Jerry Brown returned to Sacramento four years ago.
Unions' Sliver Of Hope In Devastating Midterm Elections BuzzFeed: The success of progressive initiatives in typically red states is being treated by labor as a signal that what they are doing is working, even if those votes didn’t carry over into the governor and senate races.
Teachers unions spent $60 million for the midterms but still lost many elections Washington Post: The nation's major teachers unions suffered losses across the country Tuesday, despite pouring about $60 million into federal, state and local races in the midterm elections.
See more news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
This [digging in] strategy might work in the short run. But in the long run [the unions are] dooming the schools they claim to care about to mediocrity and abandonment by the middle class, and putting the union they profess to love on a path to irrelevance.
-- Whitmire and Rotherham (The Teachers Unions First Lost The Media; Have They Now Lost Everyone Else, Too?)
You might be forgiven for thinking that reform advocates (DFER, et al) outspend everyone else when it comes to campaign contributions, but this year as in other years that's generally not the case. Both sides are spending more this year than they did in 2012, but this EdWeek story/chart (image used with permission) shows the situation for 2014:
To be sure, the unions are supporting a broad set of candidates on a broader set of issues -- and trying to help the Democrats keep the Senate -- but the conventional media narrative of massive unopposed reform largesse isn't accurate. Still not enough? See also Teachers' Unions, Others Put Cash on Line in Senate Races; Education-Focused Campaign Spending Crosses Party Lines.
The newly-resurgent TIME magazine has a lengthy, delightfully wonky cover story about teacher tenure written by former Columbia J-School classmate Haley Sweetland Edwards that you might want to check out (The War on Teacher Tenure).
Some of the new story (subscription only, alas) will be extremely familiar to education insiders like you, but there are some key additional details and aspects worth noting.
For example, Edwards reminds us that the Vergara decision (being appealed) is "the first time first time, in California or anywhere else, that a court had linked the quality of a teacher, as measured by student test scores, to a pupil’s right to an education."
She also reminds us that the current crop of billionaires interested in fixing education is not the first (think Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford).
The parts that may be new to you include background details about how David Welch got involved in the issue four years ago after consulting constitutional scholar Kathleen Sullivan. Then came the hiring of the PR firm now called Rally, which launched StudentsMatter. Recruiting and vetting plaintiffs -- no easy feat, I'm told -- came next.
Edwards also notes that some DC-based education reformers aren't entirely behind the Vergara approach, citing concerns from right-leaning wonks like Petrilli and McShane that you may recall from a few weeks ago (they don't like lawsuits and are hoping for a post-Rhee time of cooperation rather than ever-increasing conflict with the teachers unions).
There aren't any left-leaning think tankers quoted in the piece, but my sense is that reform folks are sick of being beaten up, don't want to have to take more heat for another hard-charging evangelist (ie, Campbell Brown), and are worried about 2016.
Edwards' previous forays into education writing include a piece about the Colbert/Stewart divide (Pro-Reform Colbert Leapfrogs Reform Critic Stewart) and something about unions' evolving positions on Common Core (Teachers Union Pulls Full-Throated Support for Common Core).
Fordham's Mike ("Kojak") Petrilli has a new piece online this morning (Online education coverage is on the rise) over at Education Next (which I sometimes write for), taking a look at the "new breed" of education journalism out there over the past year or so.
What's new, or missing, or wrong in the Petrilli piece?
Clearly someone with access to Politico Pro, Petrilli notes that in addition to Morning Education the outlet "pumps out loads of ministories, and at least a handful of meaty ones, almost every day."
Anyone else seen these pieces, and if they're so influential why aren't they getting passed around?
Petrilli describes Chalkbeat as "a geographically based Education Week," which I'm sure will irk both EdWeek and Chalkbeat for different reasons.
The big surprise for me here is the presence of The Daily Caller, which Petrilli says gets tons of pageviews but I never see passed around. Anyone else read it?
What about RealClear Education, where there is a smattering of original writing in addition to great morning and afternoon roundups, or NPR Education, where Drummond et al have been crushing us with so many education stories we can't keep up?
What else can I add?
Check out a few more tidbits and some bottom-line observations below the fold.
Here's that NBC News segment about Newark I tweeted out yesterday, checking in on what the Zuckerberg gift has and hasn't done (Nightly News: Tracking Zuckerberg’s schools gift). The gist of the story seemed to be that the changes have been small and slow-moving but potentially transformative. Click the link if the video doesn't display properly.
From deep inside a Chicago hotel, the day after StudentsFirst announced Jim Blew as Michelle Rhee's replacement and at roughly the same time as CTU is announcing that Karen Lewis has a serious illness and her duties are being taken over by her deputy: Tweets about "#PIESummit14 "
Related posts: 5 New Orgs Bring PIE To 49 Members; Talk About "Love" (Not "Rights"); PIE Annual Summit (2013); State Advocacy Groups Talk Policy - Not Tactics (2012); Reform Celebration In Seattle (2011).
Rahm was in some ways the best organizer that the Chicago Teachers Union had. He created the conditions by which the union had no other choice. - AFT head Randi Weingarten (Are Chicago — and Rahm Emanuel — Ready for Karen Lewis?)
Mayor Agrees to Accommodate 4 Larger or New Charter Schools NYT: Under a new state law, New York City must offer free space in public buildings or or help with the cost of renting private space.
Palm Beach school leaders won't opt out of high-stakes testing Sun Sentinel: The Lee County board initially supported the anti-test stance, even though state officials said it's against the law and would affect funding, student grades, graduation and eligibility for athletics. The Lee board reversed itself earlier this month.
In-seat attendance up in D.C. schools Washington Post: DCPS in recent years has shifted away from measuring “average-daily attendance” which counts students with excused absences as attending on any given day, according to Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, a national organization that has worked with DCPS. The new “in-seat attendance” measure only counts students who are actually there, which is a more meaningful number, she said.
Playgrounds For All Children: Here's How To Find One NPR: For kids with disabilities, a simple activity like going down a slide can be a challenge. An NPR crowdsourcing project maps inclusive playgrounds — fun and safe for all — across the country.
This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain On Music. NPR: A new study suggests that learning to play a musical instrument helps improve the brain's ability to process language. That means music lessons could give kids from low-income communities a big boost.
Duncan Looks to Tennessee's Turnaround School District as Model for Country PK12: On the last stop of his back-to-school bus tour through three Southern states, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used a panel discussion Wednesday to tackle the education crisis present in so many economically devastated communities across the country.
D.C. Teacher To Apologize For Asking Students To Compare Bush To Hitler WAMU: As part of a discussion on the book "War and Peace," a sixth-grade teacher asked their students to compare and contrast President George W. Bush and German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Chicago Mayoral Race: Lewis, Fioretti Turn Up the Heat NBC Chicago:Two of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's most vocal critics are inching closer to making a decision on whether to challenge him at the ballot box this February.
UTLA tells LAUSD: 'The money is there' for 17.6 percent teacher pay raise LA Daily News: United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl on Tuesday told the Los Angeles Unified School board that it can clearly afford to give teachers a raise.
First Lady Michelle Obama Consoles Child Who Fainted ABC News: The first lady called for paramedics and said, “If anyone is starting to feel tired standing up, bend your knees! And eat your breakfast, and lunch!”
Her critics deserve shame for being so quick to paint her as the wicked witch. And the rest of us earned some shame for letting them get away with it a lot of the time. - TNTP's
Over the past five years, national K-12 advocacy organizations created 27 state affiliates, according to a May 2014 report quoted in EdWeek (Leadership, Political Winds Buffet Education Advocacy Groups).
That's up from 8 such groups created in the decade 1997-2007.
You can read the report here.
I've asked them for updated figures, since some of the affiliates have closed up shop and others have opened since then.
- NYCAN's Derrell Bradford via Facebook on NEA Common Core position(s) -- see full quote below.
They were right to focus on the Common Core curriculum. -- NYC Mayor De Blasio on Bloomberg decisions that led to NYC test score increases (WNYC Five Things You Need to Know About NYC Scores on State Tests)
The Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits broke the news on Tuesday. The Sacramento Bee followed up with a focus on Rhee's work on behalf of her husband, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who may run for higher office in two years. Beaten badly on the news, Politico published a misleadingly negative account of Rhee's accomplishments, noting her successes only in the bottom half of its story.
However, it's not really news that Rhee and her organization made crazy demands and didn't coordinate well with others or that she didn't reach her $1 billion fundraising goal. Just recently, she listed a set of states suitable for Vergara-like lawsuits without (I'm told) consulting with Campbell Brown's organization. And no doubt, Rhee et al made a bunch of mistakes. (Focusing on ending seniority in layoffs was the biggest among them, in my opinion.)
But much of the criticism now focused on Rhee is the product of anti-reform advocates gleeful at her departure and thin-skinned reformer who didn't like being elbowed aside while Rhee was on the front pages and generally failed to support or defend her against the relentless critiques of anti-reform advocates who dominate the online discourse and influence many reporters. (For a recent example of just how dominant reform critics are online, read this US News story: Common Core Opponents Hijack Supporters' Twitter Blitz.)
What happens when Democratic education advocates on opposite sides of many policy issues attend the same campaign training events? Things get awkward. That's apparently what happend at a recent New Organizing Institute event when members of the AFT and Parent Revolution both showed up and -- I'm speculating here -- didn't much want to be put at the same table brainstorming ideas together.
The NOI is a relatively new outfit, and its work was written up earlier this week in the Post (Inside the Democratic party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry):
"With the real midterms fast approaching, Democrats areager to put more people in the field who've been trained in the latest campaigning techniques... Boot campers have gone on to some of the most prominent left-leaning organizations in the country — such as AFL-CIO, Greenpeace and Planned Parenthood, not to mention the White House and political firms like Blue State Digital."
It makes sense that both groups would be there, given how hard everyone's trying to figure out/get better at campaign and mobilization work these past couple of years in particular. I've heard that similar things have happened at the Marshall Ganz boot camp, too.
Unions are important financial powerhouses in elections, but much of their spending is done in such a way that it doesn't show up on FEC reports — it involves getting out the vote or internal communication with their members rather than paid TV ads. - Vox
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.