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.
Still not rolling along with the work mode? Me, neither. Here's the Biden interview by a 5th grade Florida student named Damon Weaver that's going around. Check out the great microphone work and the smooth voiceovers:
Best line: "Senator Biden is now my homeboy." Kudos to Damon and his teachers.
Here's an image from an ad that the National
Association Alliance of Public Charter Schools is running in 5 states including Ohio:
More and more education outfits are getting into the the political game, it seems -- not just EDIN08 and DFER and the unions. That's good thing, I'd argue, for people who want education taken seriously.
While there's no dispute that the topic of portfolio assessment came up on NPR this morning during a discussion about Obama's education platform, Fordham's Mike Petrilli seems to be the only one who thinks that the Obama campaign revealed any big change of its position on NCLB accountability (ie, the desire to "dump") standardized testing.
Observers suggest that there was no explicit connection made between portfolios and getting rid of standardized assessments. EdWeek's Michele McNeil says the same, and has a rough transcript here. And the campaign says there's no there there, calling Petrilli's remarks "an enormous distortion." Here's Obama talking about testing in Thornton, CO a couple of months ago, from the campaign:
“This doesn’t mean that we won’t have a standardized test, I believe children should master that skill as well and that should be part of the assessments and tools that we use to make sure our children are learning. It just can’t dominate the curriculum to the extent where we are pushing aside those things that will actually allow children to improve and will accurately assess the quality of teaching that is taking place in the classroom. This is not an either/or proposition, it is a both/and proposition, and that’s what we will be working on by fixing NCLB.”
No big deal. We all get things wrong sometimes. (I posted the fake Palin SAT scores a couple of weeks ago.) But it's too bad if Petrilli can't say so. Being in DC too long has that effect on people.
Who cares whether Obama did any good on the board of the Annenberg Challenge, or protected local control of Chicago schools? Illinois schools are among the most inequitably funded districts in the nation, as this CBS News segment shows. Where was Obama?
The funding issue has been highlighted this year by a group of South Side ministers who have conducted high-visibility events -- sending Chicago children to suburban schools to see if they could enroll there (they couldn't), and protesting a Chicago Cubs baseball game (a sacrilege if there ever was one).
From a blog post (Quixotic Signage of the Day) written just before last night's debate:
"Behind Matthews’s head, a large sign, its black background and its orange and white lettering standing out among the sea of Obamian Red and Blue, is being propped up by an unknown advocate. The sign advertises Ed in ‘08, an attempt to make education reform a key issue in the presidential campaign. I’ve written about their efforts before, on Campaign Desk, and must sadly acknowledge that, however worthy their cause, and however noble their efforts toward achieving it, that cause has now been completely trumped by the economy."
Give EDIN08 credit for sticking through it to the end. Maybe they can get Joe the Plumber to do some PSAs for them.
First, Rhee reveals that she is against vouchers as a large-scale policy lever, but OK with it as an individual decision.
Holy nuance! Reminds me of how hard a time people had when Obama wanted to leave the door open on vouchers last summer.
And -- news to me -- it's now revealed that Rhee's critical of Obama's education positions, though she's a longtime Democrat: (Obama & McCain Fight Over A Woman Fast Company).
What could be next? Maybe Rhee will tell us what she really thinks Kopp, or Schnur, or Klein.
Meantime, Rhee is not exactly doing anything to keep herself out of the story. The Obama folks must be pissed!
Last night's debate ended with some generally uninformative discussion of education issues, until Senator McCain started claiming that DC chancellor Michelle Rhee supported vouchers.
Obama, who had first mentioned the DC success story, corrected McCain, saying she supported charters not vouchers. But McCain persisted. (Transcript here, see video too at the 1:24 mark.)
What's the scoop? Well, it turns out McCain wasn't as wrong on the subject as you might have thought:
"While Chancellor Rhee hasn’t taken a formal position on vouchers, she disagrees with the notion that vouchers are the remedy for repairing the city’s school system."
Rhee “Hasn’t Taken a Formal Position on Vouchers” City Paper (DC)
Make of that what you will.
Just how thin is this Ayers-Obama-Annenberg Challenge story? Nine months ago when I was looking around for something to write about Obama's education record in Chicago, I considered writing about the Annenberg Challenge. Not because of the Ayers angle, but rather because Obama had claimed to have led the Challenge, which seemed like a wild overstatement to me (and a strange claim given the CAC's lack of obvious results).
So I talked to the folks who'd been involved -- now-familiar names like Ken Rolling, Anne Hallett, etc. -- but there just wasn't enough real evidence of Obama's influence on the Challenge to warrant much of a story. So instead I focused on Obama's record supporting local school control, where at least there was some consensus that Obama had been involved, if only minimally. (You can read that article from Slate here.) Even there, Obama's footprint was hard to detect.
Others have pointed out how skimpy the Obama-Ayers connection is. What gets lost in that story is that the Obama's involvement in Annenberg was so thin, too.
Now we know at least part of the answer to that question.
UPDATE: Alas, too good to be true. Check out the back story here.
Check out CQ's guesses at who the candidates might pick for Education Secretary, including longtime Democrat Paul Vallas as an "unorthodox" McCain pick (and no Jon Schnur for Obama): The Cabinet.
Sure, McCain's reckless. But I'm not sure he'd be that reckless. And Vallas, well, Vallas wanted to be EdSec eight years ago, it's true. But he's the kind of guy who wants to be everything.
This might make you embarrassed to support Obama:
Teacher suspended for students' Obama chants Kansas City Star
A teacher at a Kansas City charter school was suspended Monday after video of his public school students chanting in praise of Barack Obama became a national sensation on YouTub. Via Ednews.org.
A Florida middle school teacher has gotten himself in hot water for using a racial epithet directed at Barack Obama.
What he wrote on the board? "CHANGE: Come Help A [Expletive] Get Elected."
Here, Chicago lawyer Thomas Geogehan makes the case for one or more legal decisions against locally-funded education (Back to School, Back to Court).
There's no argument from me that local funding is unfair and inefficient -- or that local control is a sentimental leftover from a previous era.
That such cases could prevail in court -- or would get shaped and implemented in any useful way -- those are other questions.
There's not much news in the new NY Times article on the Obama-Ayers relationship. The piece debunks the notion that Ayers got Obama appointed to be the head of Annenberg Challenge board. It notes that Obama listed an Ayers book (on parenting) as something he'd read. But the connection is still being used by the McCain campaign (see ad below), and the Obama campaign has, according to the Times, made things worse by down-playing the amount of contact that Obama and Ayers had.
"Of 653 questions asked at the 30 debates, only 20 questions addressed education," according to a letter sent Monday (PDF) by EDIN08 top brass (including JC Watts). "Yet voters repeatedly rank education as one of their highest concerns, and for good reason. "
FactCheck's list of Whoppers of 2008 (so far) includes this item about Obama that I haven't seen much about in the press or on other blogs:
"Obama has misrepresented some of McCain's votes on school funding as votes for cutting education spending. In fact, of the five votes the Obama ad lists, one was for an increase in school funding (just a smaller one than Democrats wanted) and four others were against increases and not for spending cuts."
Sure, the Obama claim isn't as bad (or incindiery) as some of those made by McCain (ie, sex ed for kindergartners), and sure, some Obama supporters are urging him to mix it up with McCain rather than gently let accusations go unanswered.
But this longstanding line of argument comes up with NCLB funding, too, and is pretty pathetic and unfair.
A piece in today's Wall Street Journal digs deep into the history of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge to try and figure out how close was the association between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, and indeed unearths some new documentation that no one else has gotten to (ie, minutes and records from CAC board meetings).
But the paper's findings don't seem to me to be so startling or upsetting as the paper would make it seem (Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism on Schools). We already know that Obama and Ayers overlapped working on the project. We already know what the CAC did: hand money out to community and education groups.
Sure, the Obama campaign may have downplayed the association. Shame on them. But nothing "radical" came of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The Challenge gave money to education and community groups but failed to transform CPS in any wide or lasting way. For my 2001 chapter on how the Challenge evolved in Chicago, click here: From Frontline Leader to Rearguard Action (Fordham Foundation).
Jon Schnur, one of the cofounders of New Leaders for New Schools, is taking a leave of absence from the organization to work on the Obama campaign between now and election day, according to an email from Schnur that someone passed on to me over the weekend (thanks!).
Even before this, Schnur had been actively involved in setting up events during the Denver contention and developing Obama's education speech earlier this month. In the email, Schnur says he's going to co-chair the Obama education policy committee. No word yet on who the other co-chair is, or Schnur's plans for after the election. It is not uncommon for those involved in campaigns to take these kinds of leaves of absence.
New Leaders currently has 550 residents in 9 different cities. Click below to read the entire email.
It feels to me like there's at least a little bit of wishful thinking in Bruce Fuller's post about Barack Obama in the New York Times (Right About Education). In particular, Fuller seems to think that Obama would abandon much of the accountability and testing regimen of NCLB in favor of new programs, controlled charter school expansion, and early childhood education. Obama has become notoriously hard to read on issues that divide his supporters -- his campaign famously announced that Obama approves of both the Broader Bolder agenda AND the Education Equity Project. But I don't think dismantling the "top-down" standards and accountability system is what Obama wants to do -- or what's going to happen. For starters, neither charter accountability, nor performance pay work without them.