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Quotes: "No More Excuses" (Obama's NAACP Speech 2009)

Quotes2We've got to say to our children, 'Yes, if you're African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher, yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. But that's not a reason to get bad grades, that's not a reason to cut class, that's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands -- you cannot forget that.'

- President Obama speaking to the NAACP via ABC News (President Obama to NAACP: "No Excuses")


Update: Whatever Happened To "Democrats For Education Reform"?

image from pbs.twimg.com
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

Morning Video: Posse Foundation Tackles Veteran College Students

From PBS NewsHour: "The nonprofit Posse Foundation aims to alter this dynamic, sending veterans to elite schools that otherwise would have been off-limits." (When veterans enroll at elite schools, they’re not just students)

#TBT: What TFA Looked Like Five Years Ago

Here are some pictures I took from some of the #TFA20 receptions 5 years ago. Or take a look at the official TFA20 photo album (remember Flickr?).

EdSec: Six Years Ago, Duncan's Biggest Gaffe (& Perhaps A Turning Point)

Six years ago yesterday, Arne Duncan made what is arguably the biggest gaffe of his entire tenure, talking about Hurricane Katrina. It was a big one, no doubt, and might have represented something of a turning point in media coverage of Duncan and educators' perceptions of him. But it was also one of very few mistakes like these that I can recall him making. The only other that comes to mind is the time he came out in favor of same-sex marriage before President Obama. 



Campaign 2016: Obama Education Focus Declines Over Time

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.

Campaign 2016: Standalone Education PACs - Is It Time?

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 10.09.30 AM
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.

Update: New Voices Challenging Reform Critics' "Belief Gap" On Social Media

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.

Related posts: Reform Opponents Are Winning Online (For Now)Shame On Reform Allies Who Let Rhee Critics "Get Away With It"Who Influences Education Coverage Better -- Reform Critics Or Funders?

Continue reading "Update: New Voices Challenging Reform Critics' "Belief Gap" On Social Media" »

Advocacy: 50CAN Does Reformy Things (Somewhat) Differently

2015 Policy Goals   50CANAs 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 (HotSeat Interview: 50CAN Creator Marc Porter Magee50CAN Action Fund Focuses On RI & MNWinn Leaving 50CAN To Head New TFA InitiativeWhere The Shiny New Advocacy Groups Are* [were].



Morning Video: How The Colbert Report Made School Reform Cool

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 

Events: Reform Advocates Meet In Chicago

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:

Related posts: 5 New Orgs Bring PIE To 49 MembersTalk About "Love" (Not "Rights")PIE Annual Summit (2013)State Advocacy Groups Talk Policy - Not Tactics (2012); Reform Celebration In Seattle (2011).

Quotes: Blame/Credit Chicago Mayor For Mobilizing Teachers, Says Weingarten

Quotes2Rahm 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?)

Numbers: 27 State New Ed Reform Groups In 5 Years

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.

Roundup: Rhee Departure Leaves Movement Without Ravitch-Like Figure

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.) 

Continue reading "Roundup: Rhee Departure Leaves Movement Without Ravitch-Like Figure" »

Campaigns: Parent Revolution & The AFT Walk Into The Same Organizing Event

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. 

Related posts:  NYC Parent Organizing Group Expands To BostonCommunity Organizing & School Reform;  The Left's Getting Itself Organized, Too.




Campaigns: Those Union Spending Numbers Are Only Half The Story

Quotes2Unions 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

Quotes: Rhee Cites DC Precedent For Union-Approved Tenure/Seniority Changes

Ultimately [in DC], we signed a contract with the union that addressed a lot of these issues, and the American Federation of Teachers signed off on it. So we have a precedent to be able to do this. (In D.C.) we are now retaining the most highly effective teachers at much higher rates.

- Michelle Rhee in NPR (Teacher Tenure Challenges)


Quotes: That Campaign Field Worker Might Well Be A Teacher

Quotes2If 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 (Unions put teachers on streets — for votes)

Campaign 2016: Vergara Is Distracting You From NEA's Political Strength

image from www.educationnews.orgFormer 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").

Continue reading "Campaign 2016: Vergara Is Distracting You From NEA's Political Strength" »

Update: The Story Behind 2010's "Waiting For 'Superman'"

Superman-shieldSome tidbits from my latest oeuvre (How 'Waiting for Superman' (almost) changed the world), which is out today:
- the hit-and-miss history of "message" movies (and why they're still so irresistable);
- Guggenheim's ill-fated (half-assed?) efforts to include a LAUSD magnet lottery in the movie;
- the "two-story" format that helped (or hindered) the movie's message (plus Guggenheim as narrator);
- conflicting accounts over whether the film-makers knew ahead of time that they were making such a pro-charter, anti-union film;
- the film-makers' refusal to reveal the whereabouts of the kids they profiled (though some updates are known); and 
- new efforts to quantify the impact of movie-based advocacy (and ongoing efforts to measure Superman's impact).
Participant's latest education-themed documentary, "Ivory Tower," premiers on Friday.

Media: What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common Core (Plus Reactions Roundup)

 Yau Hoong Tang FlickrThere'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. 

Continue reading "Media: What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common Core (Plus Reactions Roundup)" »

Quotes: Union Resources & Organizing Will Dominate 2016 Campaign

Quotes2"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)

Research: New App Tries To Evaluate Impact Of Ed-Themed Movies

Advocacy campaigns can be extremely powerful -- but even the best-designed efforts can also be sadly ineffective, or at least appear to be so.  Measuring their impact is hair-pullingly difficult.

That's why one of the most interesting outfits I learned when re-examing the impact of the 2010 film Waiting For Superman -- in-depth report coming soon from AEI! -- is the NYC-based Harmony Institute.  

The outfit did a preliminary investigation of the impact of WFS that was funded by the Ford Foundation (but never released in full), and is now demo-ing a product called ImpactSpace, which is a web application for "visualizing the social impact of documentary films." The app now includes 250 films across 24 social issues (including education). Check it out -- and let us know what you think.

Previous posts: A Misleading Approach to Assessing Advocacy [Reckhow]; More Ways To Measure AdvocacyAdvocacy Costs Lots, But What About Its Impact?Impact Of Advocacy Funding On Services.

Media: Recollections, Controversy, & Advice From Departing PK-12 Blogger

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.

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

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.

Continue reading "Media: Recollections, Controversy, & Advice From Departing PK-12 Blogger" »

AM News: White House Takes "Race To The Top" Victory Lap


Obama officials tout Race to the Top, saying it has unleashed ‘enormous positive change’ Washington Post: In a conference call with reporters to mark the fourth anniversary of the creation of Race to the Top, the White House’s Domestic Policy Council director, Cecilia Muñoz, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan rattled off examples of what they said was proof that the $4 billion competitive grant was driving “dramatic change.” See also PK12, USA Today, Hechinger.

Arne Duncan heads to New Zealand, Hawaii with gaggle of staffers  Washington Post: My Post colleague Lyndsey Layton asked the Education Department about Secretary Arne Duncan's trip this week to New Zealand and Hawaii — which will round out his visits to all 50 states during his tenure. 

In an about-face, Indiana decides to drop Common Core PBS: While Indiana was one of the first states to adopt the standards in 2010 — which set out guidelines for the topics and skills students should study at each grade level — opposition to the guidelines has been building since Pence took office in 2012. Last year, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature put the standards roll-out on hold and work began on drawing up Indiana’s own standards.

Hearing Weighs How Congress Should Improve Teacher Preparation PK12: One of the big questions facing lawmakers: Should the federal government call for colleges of education to track their graduates into the classroom? And, if so, what exactly should that look like?  Already, states are required to identify teacher prep programs that aren't up to snuff and help them improve. But states aren't exactly knocking themselves out to fulfill that requirement, noted Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee, at Tuesday's hearing. As of 2013, nearly half the states and the District of Columbia hadn't pointed to a single low-performing program, he said. 

School-Finance Overhaul in Kansas Could End Early-Education Push StateWatch: A plan to boost school funding in Kansas in the wake of a court ruling could mean Gov. Sam Brownback's plan to increase pre-K spending won't succeed.

The Writing's On The Wall For Cursive — Unless Lawmakers Can Save It NPR: The Common Core State Standards have ended lessons in cursive writing, but lawmakers in some states are trying to change that. Blake Farmer of WPLN reports on an effort in Tennessee to revive cursive.

Video: Teacher brings Elvis inspiration into classroom TODAY: TODAY’s Bob Dotson travels to Sand Springs, Okla., to tell the American Story of a teacher who’s using his talents (including impersonating the King of Rock ’n’Roll) to inspire students, reminding them to keep their promises. 

More news throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.

Politics: Reformers' Spending Represents "Broadening" Of Political Advocacy

Endlisnis via FlickrIn case you missed it (or wondered where I was getting those maps), here's last week's Slate/Center for Public Integrity article about the rise of school reform campaign funding efforts -- and how they compare to long-running union and public employee spending.

The arrival of groups like StudentsFirst may be new and troubling to some -- especially those who've had the campaign and politics field all to themselves in the past -- but it's not necessarily something bad for schools or kids.

"In the old days, it was all the service-provider organizations—so all the unions—or the consumers,” the article quotes Brown University professor Kenneth Wong as saying. "We are seeing the broadening in terms of the type of actors who get involved in campaign issues in education.”

And nobody should be too worried about the unions being outspent, according to the article: "The NEA’s outside spending in 2012 state races was at least $6.4 million, more than double the amount spent by StudentsFirst in the states examined by the Center for Public Integrity."  [NEA spending was actually $15.7M in 2012 if you count state and local affiliates, according to the CPI.]

Maps: Nationial NEA Money Doled Out Across The Nation

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 1.10.11 PMHere'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)

Numbers: Unions Have Spent $1.7 Billion On State Politics

101103_PRESS_numbersQTNAccording 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.

Books: New Book Chronicles Chicago Union Successes

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 20 09.47The folks at Jacobin (and Kickstarter supporters) have helped put out a new book called Class Action that will be of great interest to many who've followed the Chicago Public Schools saga over the past two or three years.

"Our project with the Chicago Teachers Union’s CORE Caucus and other allies ran long — the final supplement is 118 pages, more than the 50 we had budgeted for. But it was so fantastically designed by Remeike Forbes, and the photography by Katrina Ohstrom and written contributions by CTU President Karen Lewis, economist Dean Baker, Jacobin editors Megan Erickson and Shawn Gude, Joanne Barkan, Lois Weiner, and many others were so strong, we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut it down more or reduce our planned run.

"The booklet will be distributed to educators and school support staff in Chicago, New York, Portland, Newark, Washington DC, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in March to help support rank-and-file activity."

It's been an interesting week in Chicago, what with Neil Steinberg's "pull no punches" profile of Mayor Rahm and Tribune columnist Eric Zorn's turnabout call for CTU head Karen Lewis to run for mayor (rather than resign). 

Take a look and let us know what you think of the book -- a quick scan reveals that it's beautifully designed and photo illustrated.  Might be a good read whether you're inclined to sympathize or criticize.

TV Shows: Thinking "West Wing" In A "House Of Cards" World

Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 1.03.12 PMThere 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.

Sound familiar? 

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.   

 Previous posts:  House Of Cards Revisits 2000's ESEA Authorization EdWeek's Take On "House Of Cards"

People: Former AFT Director Named Among Clinton Insiders

image from www.iop.harvard.edu

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.

Quotes: Civil Rights Groups "Disappointed" On Teacher Equity

Quotes2The 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

Events: PIE Annual Summit (Boston September 19-20)

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. 

Screen shot 2013-09-05 at 1.31.20 PM

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.

Previous posts about PIE:  Talk About "Love" (Not "Rights")State Advocacy Groups Talk Policy - Not Tactics Reform Celebration In SeattleHow Organizers See The Parent TriggerEducate Texas

Reform: Debate Erupts Over Matt Damon Sending Kids to Private School

Doing publicity for his new film, Elsyium, actor and celebrity school reform critic Matt Damon revealed to the Guardian that he couldn't find a public school that was progressive enough in LA and was sending his kids to private school.  

image from cdn.breitbart.com

"Sending our kids in my family to private school was a big, big, big deal. And it was a giant family discussion. But it was a circular conversation, really, because ultimately we don't have a choice. I mean, I pay for a private education and I'm trying to get the one that most matches the public education that I had, but that kind of progressive education no longer exists in the public system. It's unfair." Damon has campaigned against teachers' pay being pegged to children's test results: "So we agitate about those things, and try to change them, and try to change the policy, but you know, it's a tough one."

Conservatives outlets like Brietbart.com picked up the tidbit and slammed Damon for hypocrisy.  Damon defenders defended Damon, or said it didn't matter, etc.  Image via Breitbart.

Quotes: "More Money [to DE & TN] Than Maybe One Would Have Liked"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comI 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)

Advocacy: Rabble Rousers, Revisited

Screen shot 2013-06-22 at 3.11.21 PM Six years after it was first published and four years since it was updated, Rabble Rousers is still in circulation -- though not necessarily easy to find. 
That's pretty good for an online publication, most of which disappear as soon as they're published.
There's no section on evaluating advocacy efforts, which is my current obsession.   But it's still full of interesting ideas for anyone involved in ed advocacy -- on the reform side or not.
Here you go.
Read it?  Liked it?  Let us know what you learned (or thought was wrong).

Advocacy: Bloomberg Won't Say Much About Contributions

image from mayorschallenge.bloomberg.orgHeading over to the Bloomberg Philanthropies-sponsored reception to start the NewSchools Venture Fund education summit, I thought there was no time like the present to update you on my progress figuring out the ins and outs of outside spending on local school board elections like that being done by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

As you may recall, Bloomberg and others have been giving funds to various local school board candidates over the past few years, either directly to the candidates or via an independent expenditure committee.  The funding is intended to provide a counterbalance to union contributions, local and otherwise, and is entirely legal but raises lots of issues when it is so new and novel (for a school board race) and also when it comes from outside the city or state where the race is taking place.

My issue is not with the campaign contributions themselves, which are perfectly legal, or even with the need for a counterbalance to union power in low turnout events.  The AFT spent $1M to get rid of Adrien Fenty, and the CTA spent $300K to block board members favorable to former San Diego superintendent Alan Bersin.

My question is whether the funding is worth the blowback, and whether reform advocates like Bloomberg (and DFER, and StudentsFirst) will ever figure out a way to tell their story and give their money without spending all their time defending themselves.  I also want to know how much of it is out there, on both sides.

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StudentsFirst: Mismatched Donors, Endorsements, and Contributions?

Michelle rhee book coverIt's not just reform critics and professional opponents who are seeking to define Michelle Rhee's school reform advocacy as predominantly right-leaning and Republican -- and so far at least StudentsFirst seems to be going along with it.

There's no argument that some of the organization's biggest funders like the Walton Family Foundation have Republican roots, or that Rhee will work with Republicans to get policy priorities moved ahead.

But increasingly, mainstream media press accounts of StudentsFirst are describing StudentsFirst's political advocacy (campaign endorsements and contributions) as Republican, too.

The latest example is today's LA Times piece:  "Nationwide, StudentsFirst has overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates, because they best match its policy platform."

The first part of that sentence is where I'm confused.  (About the second half of the sentence, I'd observe that only Rhee's support for the trigger and vouchers -- and her willingness to work across the aisle -- mark her as anything other than a mainstream Democrat.)

The question about Rhee's endorsements and contributions first started coming up for me last Fall, when readers started noting that SF's endorsees in Florida were Republican (See  Eighty Candidates Endorsed By StudentsFirst). It came up again after the general election when I was trying to tally the advocacy groups' performance (See So How'd The Advocacy Groups Do?*).

More recently, StudentsFirst keeps telling me that endorsements are one thing, campaign contributions are another.  But so far, at least, they've not provided any documentation about the direct contributions and superPAC contributions in the states they're involved with. All we have are lists of endorsements, which do indeed skew Republican.

The reason I've been asking is that my own limited experience with StudentsFirst and campaign contributions is that they're mostly Democratic.  This includes giving to LAUSD school board candidates, and trying to get Brian Johnson and others elected. (See CA StudentsFirst Candidate Squeaks Through*). 

Is the press getting this wrong and falling for an attack that isn't accurate, or am I just working off of incomplete information?

Parent Trigger: An "Easy" Button For Parents & Kids


This post is mostly just an excuse to use the Washington Post's parent trigger image (a riff on the famous "Easy" button from Staples), and to link to some recent stories on LA School Report.  But it's also a chance to rebut Valerie Strauss's highly selective and inaccurate post about the parent trigger, which ignores all the career Democrats who are involved with and support the trigger and bypasses the latest events in Los Angeles where the trigger is being used in interesting new ways that don't involve lawsuits or ousting school board members. 

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Audio: How Organizers See The Parent Trigger

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 4.19.59 PM

There were lots of interesting tidbits thrown out during the Yale School of Management education summit session on mobilization, and no shortage of quips from panelists including Jeremiah Kittredge and Derrell Bradford, Kristen Wiegand, and Derwin Sisnett (moderated by Suzanne Tacheny Kubach).

Some of the topics that were touched on included the power of storytelling, the difference between mobilizing a community and engaging or organizing it for the long run, the struggle to mesh what advocates want and what low-income communities can and should do. You should really skip the rest of this post and just start listening at the 5 minute mark where the session begins (WS600022).

But the conversation at the end about the parent trigger was to me fascinating, revealing differences among organizers in terms of how they view the trigger, even as they admire its power and pull.

"The best hook anybody has found is parent trigger," said Kittredge -- even as he listed its flaws. "There's no better piece of persuasion to get people to come back out than the concept of parent trigger."  

Continue reading "Audio: How Organizers See The Parent Trigger" »

Audio: Parent Trigger Ups & Downs

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]

Rebuttal: Stop Comparing Same-Sex Marriage & School Reform!

It's hard for me not to think education when the topic of same-sex marriage comes up.  I mean, Secretary Duncan practically made President Obama revise his position on the issue, and thereby won the 2012 campaign (right?).  What more do you need?

It's a connection I've been making on and off since last year:  More Lessons From The 2012 Gay Equality CampaignLearning From The Gay Rights ...How Vouchers Are Like Same-Sex MarriageIn Defense Of Arne ("Same-Sex") DuncanDuncan Gets Ambushed

However, the connections only go so far, according to Fordham's Mike Petrilli, who in this new post (What can education reformers learn from the gay rights movement?) says it's understandable that folks like me (are there others?) want to make the connection but that school reform is more comparable to health care reform than a social/rights issue that doesn't cost money or have as many immediate programmatic concerns. (I'm paraphrasing.)

Petrilli's right that the same-sex/school reform comparison is a stretch -- that is sort of the point -- and education and health care are more readily conceived and compared in relation to each other. However, I'm not sure that this is always or necessarily the case.  

If and when the current programmatic, policy-focused attempts to improve public education have run their course for good or ill, I can imagine a return to a more rights-focused approach to school reform, centered around parental rights or the right to equal treatment.

School integration was to my simplistic understanding fueled by a focus on student rights.   The private school voucher issue is already discussed in terms of rights and equity.  Law enforcement actions against parents seeking better education for their children brings up some of the same issues.  

Related posts: Same-Sex Marriage Cases Hold Implications for Schools EdWeek

Los Angeles: Reformers Try To Match Union "Ground Game"

This is a story by LA School Report contributor Hillel Aron:

image from laschoolreport.com

The Coalition for School Reform has been running TV ads and hitting voters with a blizzard of glossy flyers.  

But — having closely lost 2011′s big-money campaign between Bennett Kayser and Luis Sanchez — the reform-oriented campaign committee is also taking its field organization very seriously.

Field organizing — also sometimes called a campaign “ground game” — is the mundane but essential process of finding, creating, and then motivating supporters to vote for a candidate on election day.

“These campaigns are, in many instances, won and lost in the field,” said Sean Clegg, the Coalition’s political consultant. “And the Coalition for School Reform has put together a state-of-the-art field program that is really zeroing in on our voters with pinpoint accuracy.”

To run its 2013 field campaign, the Coalition has hired a firm called 50+1 Strategies, headed by former Obama campaign operative Adissu Demissie, who’s bringing some high-tech tools and techniques to the familiar process of walking streets, knocking on doors, and making phone calls.

“We’re really running a very data-driven, metrics-based, technologically advanced field campaign,” said Demissie, who ran Barack Obama’s 2008 “get-out-the-vote” campaign in Ohio. ”We’re trying to talk to the right people in the right way.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Update: More Lessons From The 2012 Gay Equality Campaign

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.

image from farm7.staticflickr.com

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.   

Previous posts:   Learning From The Gay Rights Movement How Vouchers Are Like Same-Sex Marriage, Image via FlickerCC.

People: Meet Bradley Tusk, Reform Strategist

He's not the head of a reform organization, or an elected figure, or a foundation officer. He's not even really an education guy, and actually sort of looks like one of my favorite MMA fighters. But folks in and around the education world often mention Bradley Tusk (top left) for the work he does helping reform groups get their message out. Somehow, I've never done a post about him.

image from www.washingtoncitypaper.com

A former campaign manager for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Tusk has been mentioned in several past education news pieces, including this one from the NYT in 2010, this one from New York Magazine in 2011, this Washington DC City Paper sidebar [from which this image is taken] and a slew of mentions at GothamSchools. Before founding Tusk Strategies, he also did stints working for Chuck Schumer and Rod Blagojevich.  

According to his website (Education Reform), Tusk has had enormous successes working on "some of the most innovative and successful education reform initiatives across the country," including ERN (aka DFER), NBC News (aka Education Nation), StudentsFirst (aka Michelle Rhee), the Partnership for Education in Newark (aka Zuckerland), and Success Charter Network (aka Eva Moskowitz).

Whether he does a good job or not is up for debate, as with most things.  I get the sense that he's expensive, and not truly an education specialist.  No problem with that -- there are lots of non-education conultants and strategists opererating in EducationLand™ -- including on the left, where folks like Kombiz Lavasany work for AFT.  That can be a good thing, given the quality dropoff or lack of quality alternatives.  There isn't really any political shop that specializes in education exclusively that I can think of -- at least not yet.

Campaign 2012: CA Democratic Party Attacks Pro-Reform Democrat

Last week I told you about the substantive differences between pro-reform Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom and pro-teacher Betsy Butler (Showdown In Santa Monica). Over the weekend, I found out that it wasn't just the teachers unions fighting to protect Butler, the incumbent.  The California Democratic Party joined in paying for negative flyers against Bloom.    Yep, the California Democrats, who are closely allied with the teachers unions. 

2012-11-09_1729Endorsements between Democratic candidates are pretty common.  We know from recent news accounts that teachers unions sometimes fund anti-charter candidates even if they're Tea Party Republicans.  Still, this kind of friendly fire isn't common, according to FireDogLake writer David Dayen, who has been carefully following these races:  “As far as I know, the negative attacks against non-endorsed Democrats didn’t happen beyond the Bloom-Butler race.” Read all about it here: Dems. Joined Attack On Bloom

I've asked StudentsFirst and DFER whether they were involved in helping Bloom fend off Butler, and asked CalDems whether there were other examples where they felt it necessary to go beyond endorsing one candidate over another.   

Morning Video: PBS "Frontline" Segment On Campaign Finance

Watch Big Sky, Big Money on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Pictures: Four Secretaries Of Education

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.

Campaign 2012: Naming The New Nat'l Ed Reform Super PAC*

What to name an ed reform super PAC?: 


2pac for urban youth







PAC to Class

PAC-ked Classrooms

Pick your favorite or suggest your own idea. Thanks to Ken Libby@kenmlibby, Stephen Sawchuk @TeacherBeat, Rachael Brown @rachaelbrown, Jacob W @skepticspol, Alpa @teawithsoccer, and others for their contributions. The good ones are theirs, the bad ones are mine.  *Reposted from after hours last night, in case you missed it.

Update: Varied Responses To "The Successful Failure Of ED In '08"

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.  



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.