Just in case anyone's feeling a momentary lack of urgency (or has delusions of immortality), it's worth remembering that 1990s education all-star Gaynor McCown died nearly a decade ago, at 45 -- and that she's probably not as well-remembered as she should be.
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.
Here's a #TBT picture from a January 2007 New America event in DC. Can you name these current and former educationistas without cheating (by looking here)? I know that two of them are still in the game, but I'm not sure about the others.
Got any TBT education pictures or blog posts you think folks would enjoy seeing? Send them to me at @alexanderrusso or AlexanderRusso@gmail.com.
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
Storm warning prompts school closures EdSource Today: More than half a dozen school districts across California will close Thursday in anticipation of a major storm that is damaging the state’s collective calm.
New York State Education Commissioner to Leave for Federal Post NYT: John B. King Jr. said he would take the No. 2 job at the United States Education Department. See also WNYC, ChalkbeatNY.
From Potatoes To Salty Fries In School: Congress Tweaks Food Rules NPR: The giant federal spending bill that's expected to go to a vote Thursday will give schools some flexibility in implementing nutrition standards. Also a winner: the potato lobby. See also PBS.
Spending Bill Would Fund Preschool Grants, But Not Race to Top PK12: A few education programs would take a notable whack, including Race to the Top, one of the Obama administration's signature competitive grants, which appropriators sought to scrap completely.
Obama’s Race to the Top loses all funding in 2015 omnibus spending bill Washington Post: President Obama and firstlLady Michelle Obama both would see key initiatives whacked if the $1.01 trillion spending bill unveiled by congressional leaders this week passes without changes in these areas.
Leading Public Education Organizations Lack Diversity at Top, Report Finds District Dossier: The report does not name which groups participated in the survey but does highlight a few education nonprofits that have made building diverse leadership teams a top priority. TNTP and College Track are two that are featured.
Texas to Close 14 Charter School Operators Texas Tribune: Texas will shut down 14 charter school operators that failed to meet heightened financial and academic performance rules this year, state education officials announced Tuesday.
Schools’ Discipline for Girls Differs by Race and Hue NYT: For graffiti on a Georgia school’s walls, two girls were suspended. Then one of them ended up in the criminal justice system.
Joel Klein, Controversial as Chancellor of NYC Department of Education, Offers Lessons on Fixing Education WNYC: Klein writes about his eight-year mission of improvement: demanding accountability, eliminating political favoritism, and battling a powerful teachers union that seemed determined to protect a status quo that didn’t work for kids.
More news and commentary throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.
While Emanuel is a supporter of charter schools who's generally seen as being a reform-friendly, reformers don't hurry to claim Chicago as a hotbed of change, which could blunt the election's symbolic weight. - Vox's Libby Nelson (What the Chicago mayor's race says about the future of education politics).
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.
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").
Only the old-timers will recognize either the French soccer player head-butting his Italian opponent in the 2006 World Cup or the relationship to the AFT and Education Sector that I was trying to establish in this blog post from July 2006 (before you were probably born).
The caption was this: "Unable to restrain himself against the steady stream of insults and elbows,
Zidane AFT John turns and viciouslyhead-butts Materazzi the Ed Sector. Was it justified? Public opinion is sharply divided."
Truth be told, I remember the image but don't remember the circumstances. AFT John is long gone, as is the AFT blog that used to be so much fun/frustration (there's not even a cached copy of it that I can find).
Rotherham is still around, but long gone from Education Sector and public spats with the AFT that have or haven't served him well.
Catherine Brown has been named to head the education policy team at the Democratic think tank Center on American Progress.
At CAP, Brown will report to Carmel Martin, who held the job until she was promoted to head of domestic policy.
Martin's previous job was as head of policy and planning at the USDE.
That's the job Brown's husband Robert Gordon has been named to take.
To recap: Brown replaces Martin. Brown's husband replaces Martin.
Plus: Does this mean Clinton's looking left for education advice in 2016?
Previous posts: Policy Wonk Named OMB Education PAD; Flashback To 2005 (How Much Has Changed?); On The Move: Miller Staffer Heads ...; NYT Covers Wedding of NYC DOE & DFER Couple; Power Couples: Emily & David Sirota.
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.
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)
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.
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.
As you may have read (Politico had it first that I saw) earlier this week, Chicago Teachers Union invited firebrand Reverend Jeremiah Wright to speak at an MLK-related breakfast Wednesday morning, and from what I've seen since then Wright didn't disappoint. Watch video above (via HuffPost) or click below for other news coverage.
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
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.
March on Washington Inspires Educators, 50 Years Later PoliticsK12: Teachers are infusing the lessons of the civil-rights movement into their classrooms as thousands descend on Washington for a celebration that culminates with a speech by President Obama.
China Weighs Ban On Homework; Teachers, Students Argue Against NPR: Hoping to make education less stressful, China's Ministry of Education is considering new rules that include a ban on written homework. But teachers, and even some students, are against the idea.
Success of Online Courses Weighed NYT: San Jose State University announced results Wednesday in its pilot partnership with Udacity, a for-profit provider of online courses, to offer introductory classes online for credit.
Minnesota test-results takeaway: 'Our kids did not get dumber overnight' MinnPost: Today your local newspaper doubtless carries the hotly anticipated results of the 2013 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs), the standardized tests used to determine the number of students who are proficient at math, reading and science.Some schools drop out of new healthy federal lunch program AP: The transition towards healthier school lunches isn't sitting easy with some schools. Superintendents and parents say kids don't like the new menus and aren't full enough, causing the cafeterias to lose money.
I don't think there are a lot of things I would have done differently, other than maybe put the budget caps on earlier, which meant Delaware and Tennessee got more money than maybe one would have liked to have seen. - Joanne Weiss, soon-departing Chief of Staff to EdSec Duncan (in EdWeek)
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 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.
Four years ago:
*President Obama was talking education in his Inaugural Address, noted EdWeek
*Chairman Miller was the only one who thought his education remarks were good.
*Arne Duncan was the easily-confirmed appointee to be Education Secretary... obviously less fiery that New York City's Joel Klein (who clearly wanted the job but was thrown under the bus by the reform community he'd helped lead to prominence) but still much more reformy than progressives' pick, Linda Darling-Hammond.
*To little effect, Chicago news outlets tried to give a reality check on Duncan's actual accomplishments. Then again, Duncan did sign his kids up for public school, shaming his boss (not for the first time).
*NCLB was just seven years old.
*Eduwonkette was penning her last blog posts.
*Park Slope's John Jay HS still had poor minority kids.
*There was still such a thing as winter, and snow days.
*The education provisions in the Stimulus were being gushed over in the media and examined by DFER's Charlie Barone and AEI's Rick Hess. Little did we know at the time how misguided the charter school cap removal, among other aspects, would seem just a few months later. Little did the 12 states that eventually won what would become Race to the Top would appreciate the money and regret the promises they made to get it.
*The Obamas had chosen Sidwell Friends for their daughters but were going to make a socioeconomically diverse charter school, Capital City, the first school they visited as President and First Lady.
What else was there? I'm sure I'm leaving good stuff out.
The real lesson of the Newtown tragedy for educators, foundations, and reform groups is how clearly it highlights the importance of single-issue advocacy efforts conducted at the national level:
As many have noted, the NRA has for decades blocked gun control measures, becoming one of the most effective single issue advocacy operations in the country (along with the anti-tax folks, perhaps, and AARP).
NYC Mayor Bloomberg's "Demand A Plan" initiative, including 34 shooting victims sending videos to the Obama White House over this past weekend, has already arguably had an impact on the Administration's decision to move forward (however tentatively).
In this National Journal article, Adam Cohen discusses the possibility of a "parent lobby" that would, like the NRA or AARP or anyone else, focus on child safety and welfare issues. (The chart shows just how cheap it is to have an impact.)
And what about in education? The teachers unions and education associations are well-established. The Children's Defense Fund and NAACP used to perform some of these functions on behalf of poor children and families. Short-run efforts such as Ed in '08 and that College Board thing this summer revealed the power and challenges. While powerul at the policy level, state-level advocacy networks are limited politically when things get big and struggle with command and coordination issues among different states.
Twenty-odd years into school reform (and at least five into my blathering about the need for such a thing) there's still no national education reform advocacy group or PAC.
I know this makes me a sentimental geek, and I have issues with at least some of the policies they all pursued, but I thought it was great to see the last four education secretaries together onstage earlier this week at Education Nation. (Riley's chair should have been a little higher than the others' given he served two terms, no?) Courtesy NBC News.
I'm away until Thursday -- feel free to post news links and comments for your fellow readers in my absence -- but will leave you with a couple of things to read and lots of opportunities to comment. First and foremost, you should check out Paul Tough's NYT Sunday Magazine look at Roseland and at young Barack Obama's notion that he could do more to alleviate poverty as a politician than as a community organizer -- which at least so far hasn't happened. Also not to be missed -- and directly related -- is a recent Atlantic Cities blog post about why the Harlem Children's Zone, Geoff Canada's much-vaunted effort to provide wraparound services (including education), hasn't been replicated. Tough wrote about the Harlem Children's Zone in several magazine articles and his 2008 book, Whatever It Takes. One way to read Tough's new piece is as a disappointed followup to all the hullabaloo surrounding the HCZ in 2008 and 2009. Tough went on tour encouraging communities to try and replicate the HCA. The Obama administration -- and the school reform community -- invited Canada to all its conferences but supported expansion of the initiative only minimally.
The Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits updates us on the latest stunt from the College Board's "Don't Forget Ed" initiative [see the giant pile of cash they dumped on Wall Street this morning, courtesy of the College Board] and is kind enough to include a quote from me about how hard it is to get the public's attention about education issues if they don't involve local schools.
No doubt, DFE has a tough challenge in front of it, and may not get as much attention for its events as time goes on. As you may recall, the first stunt was a set of empty chairs on the mall, which did well, I thought, and the second was a PSA with a young woman speaking to an empty DNC/RNC convention hall (Nassau Coliseum, I think).
However, I don't think these kinds of efforts are hopeless, however, Click below for a few of the advantages DFE has over EDIN08, and some of the lessons I wish it had learned.
The world was abuzz last week about the news that @Kombiz (Lavasany) was back at the AFT (if by AFT you mean UFT). Kombiz came to "fame" in 2008, as an online comms guru for the DNC. Before that, according to EdNotes, he helped set up the UFT blog, EdWize. From 2009 until now he worked for New Partners. I first came across him working on education issues last year when someone who worked for him, Asher Huey, was bashing Rhee on Twitter. Or something along those lines. Huey's New Partners email doesn't work anymore and his Huffington Post bio says he's now at the AFT. So maybe they're reunited. As of last Monday the 23rd, Kombiz's official title was Manager, AFT’s Research and Strategic Initiatives Department, replacing Gene Bruskin (who?). Bio here.
Old-fashioned journalists no longer have a monopoly in writing the "first draft of history." Alexander Russo's The Successful Failure of ED in '08, published by the American Enterprise Institute, has laid the foundation for the political history of this pivotal development in education advocacy, and it foreshadows the history of education policy during the Obama years which, hopefully, is still a work in progress. Even the political history of the 2008 campaign cannot be completed, however, until we learn whether the politician who was most influenced by ED in '08 was helped or will be defeated for reelection, in part, due to his support for the campaign's "reforms."
My favorite response to the piece so far has been Craig Jerald's observation that he proposed something like the empty chairs on the Mall that was done last week by the College Board's "Don't Forget Ed" campaign (" This reminded me of a stunt I pitched while I was with ED in 08 but couldn't get permission to do.") Seems like that was par for the course. He's at @breakthecurve.
Andy Rotherham admonished that the lack of education debate this time around doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the absence of a campaign to promote education issues. ("Someone needs explanation of correlation & causation.")
Education researcher Kevin Kosar said he'd liked the way the piece showed that "Big money does not equal policy efficacy." (@kevinkosar)
Mike Klonsky called me the "new favorite of AEI. Extreme right-wing group with racist history." @mikeklonsky)
Thanks for the feedback, critical and otherwise. Keep it coming here or on Twitter. (Haven't read it yet? It's 18 pages here.)
Lots of people have asked when the next installment is going to appear, and I'm happy to say that there are at least a couple more in the works -- one about some important and generally misunderstood dynamics that took shape during the NCLB debate and continue to the present, and the other about some new variations on reform that reform refugees and others are trying around the country.
On January 15, 2012, veteran education researcher Craig Jerald was feeling a little frustrated by the lack of discussion about education in the Republican primary debates. So he logged into his Twitter account to vent to his four hundred–plus followers:
“Presidential debate moderators have mostly ignored education. Anyone miss ED in ’08 now???”
ED in ’08 (Education in 2008) was an effort to make education a big part of the 2008 presidential campaign—to make the candidates take education seriously and talk about it during debates and on the campaign stump. Four years later, most others remembered it as a costly failure, if they remembered it at all. It didn’t take long for longtime thinktanker Andy (“Eduwonk”) Rotherham to respond to Jerald’s tweet:
“OK, but what’s a good price per question? Those were expensive.”
The largest single-issue advocacy campaign in the history of education reform, ED in '08 was shuttered after just sixteen months and written off by outside observers and the funders themselves. Rotherham was referring to the mere twenty education-related questions that moderators had asked the candidates in 2007 and 2008.
Heading into the 2012 campaign season, no one gave any serious thought to repeating the experiment. And yet, education advocacy organizations very much like ED in ’08 have proliferated in the years following the 2008 elections, as has philanthropic support for political advocacy. The Obama administration’s education priorities have resembled those pushed by ED in ’08 in several key regards. And, as Jerald noted, the 2012 campaign has been thus far devoid of much substantive discussion about education reform.
“At the time, it seemed irrelevant. Though in retrospect it may have set the groundwork. Little did we know.”
That's the opening to my new report on ED in '08, just out from AEI (here).
Over all, I find Joanne Barkan’s latest Dissent piece (Hired Guns) to be an overly familiar, frustratingly misleading read -- much less original and interesting than the previous stories she's put out.
Her main premise, that school reformers have gone political, is nothing new at this point. The same is true for most of her main points: Jonah Edelman at Aspen, again? Michelle Rhee being aggressive, again? The unproven nature of RTTT reforms, again? The lack of accountability for nonprofit foundations, again? The fall 2011 Denver school board election, again? Reformers are many of them white and well-educated and arrogant, again? These are all things you’ve read here and elsewhere (ad neauseam) going back months if not years.
Most troubling of all is that in her new piece Barkan (pictured) presents a misleading, misguided, and perhaps even hypocritical vision of how education and democracy are supposed to work. I don't think it's fair to reformers (not that they need me to defend them) or particularly helpful to those who are critical of reform efforts.
Resistance to federal power is now a progressive rallying cry in education. -- Robert Gordon, Class Struggle, The New Republic, 2005
Four years ago, EdWeek estimated that just 3 percent of the primary debates addressed issues of education. (Was it the number of questions or the amount of time? I don't remember & can't find the link.)
All is not lost, however.
First of all, who knows what kind of crazy stuff would have come out if the Republican candidates had talked more about education?
Also, there's still the general election ahead of us.
Predicted debate questions: college for everyone, homeschooling, NCLB waivers, teaching to the test, parent trigger.
It's not easy to get anything that feels like a complete picture of the current advo-political landscape these days, in education or more broadly. The rules have changed, the organizations are new and named confusingly, and the money is pouring in from everywhere (much of it undisclosed). But some things are becoming clearer. Lots of left-leaning publications are seeking to bring to light the growth and spread of conservative, big-business, and Tea Party money in the American political system -- just as they should be doing (see Mother Jones here). And lots of center- and right-leaning publications understandably like to share details about labor spending (especially when it doesn't seem to have helped). Philanthrogeeks like Lucy Bernholz, who pointed me to the Mother Jones story in a recent blog post, go a little bit farther and describe the connections between political advocacy and social advocacy in an age in which some nonprofits are focusing on political advocacy to help their causes or being created solely for advocacy purposes. In this new world Bernholz describes, foundations and people with lots of money are being asked to choose between three basic options: funding programs and services (so '90s!), funding issue-based advocacy efforts (so 2008!), and partisan/ideological initiatives paid for through traditional channels like the DNC and RNC or new SuperPACs like Priorities USA on the left or American Crossroads on the right (so 2010!). Nonprofit development directors who once had only to compete with each other for money now have to compete with advocacy efforts and political SuperPACs. She calls it the new social economy.
Three education-related 9/11 moments, and an update: In Farenheit 9/11, Michael Moore showed us the video of the event during which the Commander In Chief seemed stunned and uncertain as the Twin Towers were being attacked. The New Yorker then told us about the story (The Pet Goat) that students were reading. A SF blogger named Peter Smith had discovered the story was actually a reading exercise in a Direct Instruction textbook (text here). Now there's a pretty fascinating AP story about what happened that day in that school and what's happened to the educators and students -- now high school seniors --since then.
Ever write something on your hand to pass a quiz? I sure did. Now's the time to come clean. Last weekend, Sarah Palin did what kids have been doing for years to help remember things (and occasionally to cheat on vocab quizzes): she wrote some key phrases on her hand. The Internet has been exploding about this in the days since then. (No, I don't think she was really doing anything wrong.) But I tried this method to cheat on a vocabulary quiz in 5th grade. The effort wasn't much better concealed than Palin's. Mrs. Cholden pulled me aside, told me I didn't need to do things like that, and I never did again. Did you ever try and cheat as a kid -- and what happened when you got caught?
Who was the American president at the start of the Korean War?
A. John Kennedy
B. Franklin Roosevelt
C. Dwight Eisenhower
D. Harry Truman
As American high school students bubble in these rote answers, Canadians are asked,
A feature common to the Korean War and the Vietnam War was that in both conflicts:
a) Soviet soldiers and equipment were tested against American soldiers and equipment
b) the United States became militarily involved because of a foreign policy of containment
c) the final result was a stalemate; neither side gained or lost significant territory
d) communist forces successfully unified a divided nation.
While American high school students name the two main gases of the atmosphere, Australians "design a drug that will be effective against a virus" and "outline how your drug would prevent continuation of the cycle of reproduction ..."
Tom Vander Ark recognizes ½ of the problem, "in addition to devaluing science, we’ve made it boring. ... And rather than expanding multiple choice testing about science, we need to get more kids doing science ... Every student in grades 6-12 should be involved in a science-related project and demonstration every year. ... This is a culture problem first and foremost. ... The most important long term issue for the US is education for innovation. We need a STEM culture."
Before quoting Rumi, Vander Ark asserts "‘it doesn’t really matter what the teacher talks about
I must admit being surprised to read in this Chicago Magazine article that Bill Ayers, who seemed to have gone totally silent during the run-up to the November election, never stopped arguing education (What Bill Ayers Wants).
Apparently it all went down under all of our noses -- in the comments section of Eduwonkette. But the mainstream media never picked up on it. (Or maybe I missed that, too.)
Or just watch the original video: Kids Rapping About The Election also via Videogum.
Barack Obama's election as President has made a lot of people understandably very happy. A change of parties in control of the executive branch. A new generation of leadership in the White House. The first African-American president-elect. Lots of new opportunities for work. If my meds didn't prevent me from experiencing strong emotions, I'd be happy too.
But there's a reason that -- did you notice? -- Obama was hopeful but not exhultant last night during his acceptance speech.
In education, for example, no one has presented a realistic path by which education issues become any more of a priority (or a reality) than they were 24 hours ago. Don't let anyone tell you they have, or dangle shiny plans in front of you without explaining how they get enacted. With the campaign done, it's clear that much of what was promised cannot and will not happen anytime soon. The economy is such a mess and foreign relations needs immediate attention.
So let's not beat our heads against the wall about that, or pretend things are going to happen when they're not. Instead, how about focusing on smaller, lower-cost things that could still have a tremendous impact on improving schools: viral philanthropy like Nothing But Nets, better research so we know what we're doing before we jump into things (again), open-source alternatives to costly software applications, community engagement efforts (parents union, anyone?).
I think there's lots of good things to be done in education during the next four years. Just probably not many of the things that people are talking about now.
Obama at Shoesmith Elementary in Chicago.
Do you like it as much as I do that voting often takes place in schools? I think it legitimizes schools and is great people watching, too. (It's almost as fun as report card pickup day.) Lots of folks who go in have never been inside the school -- except maybe the previous year. Sure, it's a lost instructional day, etc. But still. I'd rather them use schools for voting places than not use them. What do you think?
Some thoughts (and questions) about who might be Obama's pick education secretary if he by any chance manages to win:
That Boren thing in Politico was wack. So much for the quasi-mainstream media getting things right. I mean, I had to look it up to make sure that guy wasn't a Republican.
Folks on the center/right who are freaking out about Darling-Hammond may only have themselves to blame, given that she's not an established political operative has less in common with Obama ideologically than many other candidates, and has no real inside track. Self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone?
Why is it that so many education blogs go strangely silent when there's a really hot education story out there? Two main reasons: They don't want to admit how little they actually know. They don't want to risk their precious access by revealing what little they know. So much for transparency (or journalism, for that matter).
Whitney Tilson for Education Secretary!
You heard it here first.
Last time around for the Democrats, I'm told, there wasn't all that much intrigue about Dick Riley because he and Clinton had such a long and close working relationship as Southern Governors. Someone who is a real journalist should look that up and school us on the history. (Not it.)
Most people who want jobs in the Obama administration will get staff jobs, which are nothing to sneeze at. I think a great wheeler-dealer like Jon Schnur would make a great Chief of Staff to the Secty, for example. Amy Wilkins would make a great Assistant Secty for Congressional Affairs (though Kennedy and Miller might veto her). USA Today's Richard Whitmire has already endorsed Andy Rotherham for the newly-proposed Office of Innovative Entrepreneurship.
The movement to support Arne Duncan has got to be nothing more than an "anything but Linda" strategy. Ducan''s not taken very seriously, I don't get the sense. Daley would be pissed. Obama doesn't owe Duncan in any way (though Obama does owe some of his Chicago backer$). The only way Duncan gets the job is as a neutral candidate everyone can live with publicly.
Speaking of last time, is there ANYONE involved in the current campaign's internal debates about education who has been through a transition before? I hope so. Besides Podesta, however, I'm not sure there is. Scary.
Maybe Margaret Spellings should stay on, given the crisis that's going on in America right now? That's what Bloomberg is suggesting. (Then again, some knucklehead in this Inside Higher Ed story thinks Riley should come back.)
Could Joel Klein abandon Bloomberg and go for the EdSec job? He's got both DC and big-city experience, is a former Clinton appointee, and can work with Randi a lot better than many reformistas can. The NY media would have a field day, what with Bloomberg's attempt to stay in power.
How amazing that the Podesta's Center for American Progress -- originally thought of as a home for Clinton -- has become Obama central. Then again, there are lots of folks who were for Clinton who've switched over now (Bersin, Rotherham).
Hard to imagine some fancy higher ed spot wouldn't tempt Michael Dannenberg to come back to DC from his Brooklyn aerie. Come back, Michael! Come back!
Roland Fryer for head of IES.
Kudos to Inside Higher Ed for making calls and getting on the the record responses about this whole thing. [How come the Chronicle and EdWeek can't do this?] Lots of ridiculous recommendations and predictions in there, though.
"For Obama and McCain, charter schools are not just schools of choice. They are their choice of schools."-- paraphrasing of James Merriman, NYC Center for Charter School Excellence.
Think you can do better? Go for it. For inspiration, check out Slate's winning antimetabole reader submissions.
Maybe all this worry about Duncan and Darling-Hammond was nothing more than speculative froth. But David Boren as Obama's Education Secretary? Really? That's what Politico thinks, at least (Dems sketch Obama staff, Cabinet). The site names Boren, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean (R), who was chairman of the 9/11 commission, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) as top contenders.
Kean we've heard about before. Miller is an obvious consideration though it's hard to imagine he wouldn't want to continue expanding his empire in the next Congress. The surprise name is Boren, who is more of a foreign policy guy than anything else. He is currently president of Oklahoma University and maybe that's close enough. (Quick -- what's his position on charters and TFA?)
Not to be forgotten, site favorite Heather Higginbottom gets named by Politico as a likely part of the White House DPC team (the job Spellings used to have), and CAP civil rights wonk Cassandra Butts is penciled in as as staff secretary.