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What Will The Platform Say About Education?

41367764 Those of us with nothing better to do will be scrutinizing the Democratic party platform that's being developed for the upcoming Denver convention in a few weeks.  What will it include about NCLB, or performance pay, or charters, or funding?  Everyone wants to know.  As this LA Times article points out, there is lots of infighting going on about its contents -- despite the fact that few elections are won or lost based on these documents. 

Varied Responses To McCain Speech

Eep"We are gratified that Senator McCain has endorsed the principles of the Education Equality Project, joining education, civil rights, and elected officials across America who are working together to bring meaningful reform to our nation's public schools," wrote New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and Reverend Al Sharpton on Friday.  " Fixing our schools won't be easy and it will require strong national leadership—but nothing short of that will enable us to live up to our basic commitment to our children: to help them learn so they have a real shot at achieving the American dream. Education reform, like civil rights, is above partisan politics and must be embraced by all."

Not so fast, says incoming AFT president Randi Weingarten: “Sen. McCain clearly has his talking points down about education, but we’re still waiting to see any comprehensive plan...Sen. McCain’s naiveté about education reform is only as stunning as his hypocrisy. He takes a cheap shot by demonizing teachers, yet lauds the very education reforms that I collaborated on with his new best friends, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein.

Obama's Focus On Class Could Hurt Racial Deseg Efforts

From the Times (Delicate Obama Path on Class and Race Preferences):

03affirmative_600span"Some fear that Mr. Obama’s focus on the socioeconomic status of his daughters — as opposed to the diversity of experience and perspective they might bring to predominantly white campuses — may help conservatives in their battle to eliminate race from university admissions and government hiring."

Much the same could be said of Kahlenberg et al, who promote class-based deseg in the K12 system.  But they're not as likely to be the next President.  Here's another division within Democratic circles -- race vs. class-based deseg -- that Obama will have to deal with.

Dear Mr. President: How You Going To Pay For That?

Wdc_mccain_obama_080703 Kudos to the New America Funding Watch for getting into the spirit of things with this post (Let the Funding Debate Begin!) about just how much new spending the candidates are proposing -- and where it (might) come from.  Finding the money is one part of the puzzle.  Figuring out how to address political and substantive concerns is another.

A New Face Helps The McCain Campaign

Deanmillotblog I hear that the McCain education folks have reached out to none other than Marc Dean Millot, aka edbizbuzz, for education ideas and advice.  It's a good move.  Though not as widely known or accepted among the younger set of reformy Republicans, the astringent Millot has a wealth of knowledge about the school reform industry -- charters in particular -- and some sharp ideas.  Plus he knows lots of people.  He could help smarten up some of the campaign ideas.

UPDATE:  Here's Millot's blog post on the subject, ecplaining what he'll do and not do.  Kudos to him for the timely disclosure of his campaign activities.

Obama Plan: "A Christmas List Of Programs"

Voiceover from NPR reporter Larry Abramson:

"Schnur has to talk fast, because Obama is contemplating a Christmas list of programs that will reach from cradle to college"

Link: McCain, Obama Offer Dueling Education Plans

Publishing Giant Endorses Obama & Other Political News

The Greatest Scandal WSJ (editorial)
The profound failure of inner-city public schools to teach children may be the nation's greatest scandal. The differences between the two Presidential candidates on this could hardly be more stark.

Pearson2007newbluePearson want Obama win to boost education hopesThis is Money
Pearson today backed Barack Obama for the White House as it pinned its hopes on more education funding in the US.

Candidates’ K-12 Views Take Shape EdWeek
As their education plans begin to crystallize, sharper differences are emerging between John McCain and Barack Obama.

Attack ad targets Polis for 'conservative ideas' on education RealVail, CO
And Polis was critical of No Child Left Behind, suggesting several ways to improve it. “There are a number of problems with no child left behind,” Polis ...

Make The Obama Surrogates Debate Each Other

Keegan_scnur_4There will be more description and analysis as the day goes on, but for now at least here's what we've got to describe the Schnur-Keegan cage match that took place yesterday afternoon at New America:

It’s pretty rare to go to an edu-wonk event here in Washington, D.C. and talk openly about the right of poor children to sit in classrooms alongside middle class ones.  (The American Prospect)

A full room of education professionals, education association representatives, media, and other interested stakeholders turned out to hear Schnur and Graham Keegan outline their respective candidates’ education proposals. (National Indian Education< Association)

No matter who’s the next president, expect some scrutiny of schools of teacher education. (Inside Higher Education)

It was good to hear discussion about online learning and Clayton Christensen’s book, Disrupting Class, as part of the conversation. (California Dreamin’ by Rob Darrow)

It doesn't sound like we missed all that much, though perhaps there were drinks afterwards that no one is telling us about. 

Mostly this was a campaign audition for Schnur -- who, it should be noted -- conveniently waited until the Democratic primary was over to make a public decision about supporting Obama. 

Want to put on an event that would be really interesting?  Get all the Obama supporter/surrogates in a room together and start asking questions about teachers, or charters.  Make them debate each other for surrogate supremacy. Pictures via the NIEA.

You've Seen This Obama Surrogate Before

Mike_johnsont_mesa_obama2On Monday I wrote about how Obama's education surrogates would have some chances to fly or flub things up this week at NCSL and at New America (More Chances For Campaign Surrogates Flub It Up Duke It Out). 

LDH you already know.  New Leaders' Jon Schnur is debuting today.

But what about the new guy, Mike Johnston?  Here's the profile post I did about him from May when his name first surfaced.

I don't think it's such a big deal that Obama is trying out a handful of different folks.  Hell, he's apparently got 300 people working as foreign policy advisers.  But I do think it's interesting who's getting -- or not getting -- the call, and that besides LDH they tend to skew younger and less traditional.

LDH For Secretary?

Ldh First, presidential candidate Barack Obama endorses the "residency" model of teacher training, which provides a year of intense clinical experience to teaching candidates before they take over a classroom. 

Then, Obama brings on Linda Darling Hammond as a prominent advisor. 

Now there's talk -- just talk, of course -- that LDH could be in line to be an Obama pick for Education Secretary. 

My guess is that this would be fine with the teachers unions -- LDH hasn't been a sharp critic.  More centrist and reform-minded Obama supporters will be enraged, but they don't really have anywhere else to go. 

Like the bumper stickers say, "Dare to hope.  Prepare to be disappointed."

Liberal Bloggers Hate Education, Too

07communitylarge2 Check out the results of a poll of the liberal bloggers known as the netroots, who just met recently (I think that teacherken was there).  They hate education reform, too.  College affordability gets a bare mention.  Only the gap between rich and poor makes a decent showing.  And that's not exactly school reform now, is it?  As we're learning.  Details below. 

Continue reading "Liberal Bloggers Hate Education, Too" »

Former SC Clerk Heads Obama Education Work

Danielle_gray Wondering who's coordinating Obama's education work? 

Danielle Gray (pictured) is the Deputy National Policy Director for the Obama campaign, who oversees Obama's education policy work. 

Based out of Chicago, she's a Harvard law school grad (03) who's on leave from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. 

Before that, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer October term 2005.  She was a member of Obama's Senate campaign staff in 2004. 

She was voted “most likely to be a Supreme Court Justice” by her HLS classmates. Duke for undergrad. 

In addition, Obama has Heather Higginbottom as National Policy Director, and scads of education advisors -- LDH, Schnur, etc.

Any other tidbits or juicy gossip, let us know. What's her favorite drink?  What's she really think of private school vouchers?

More Chances For Campaign Surrogates Flub It Up Duke It Out

Politico_epaper Politico just did a story about how campaign surrogates often seem to flub things up and get fired from their high-prestige but often unpaid jobs (Meet the seven super surrogates). 

The flubs, if not the firings, have already taken place in education:

Think Carly Fiorina on Meet The Press saying that McCain wanted to fully fund NCLB, or Jason Kamras last week creating some confusion about where Obama stands on test-based performance pay.

There's more education surrogate action to come this week, including Keegan vs. Linda Darling Hammond at NCSL on Wednesday, and Keegan vs. Schnur at New America on Thursday.

Harlem Children's Zone For President!

Barack_obama_071708 Earlier this week in his speech before the NAACP in Cincinnati, Obama spoke about the Harlem Children's Zone:

"And that's why I'll build on the success of the Harlem Children's Zone in New York and launch an all-hands-on-deck effort to end poverty in this country - because that's how we'll put the dream that Dr. King and Roy Wilkins fought for within reach for the next generation of children."

This is the bigger, broader effort that has been profiled in the Times Magazine and is the subject of Paul Tough's forthcoming book, Whatever It Takes.

The Democrats' Pragmatic Candidate For President

New_yorker_july_21_cover The cover art may be offensive (or just dumb), but this week's New Yorker includes a long Obama profile by Ryan Lizza (Making It) that seems to confirm many of the things that I and other friendly critics have been saying for months now: 

"Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them."

Other notable tidbits:  Obama's oft-touted accomplishments as a community organizer were, by his own admission, "extraordinarily modest." Obama recently refused to support Will Burns, a former aide and protege who is headed to the state legislature. Several of his onetime supporters like Toni Preckwinkle have become disenchanted with Obama's moves to the center.

For my April article about Obama's pragmatic role on education issues in Slate, go here.

Convention Roundup

Union Chief to Propose Wider Role for Schools NYT
Randi Weingarten...wants to replace President Bush’s focus on standardized testing with a vision of public schools as community centers that help poor students succeed by offering not only solid classroom lessons but also medical and other services.

MannycellphoneUnion election to be lesson on women's achievement Chicago Tribune
Over 20 years ago Randi Weingarten quit a cushy Wall Street lawyer's job to do legal work for the New York City teachers union. Wanting to know what it was like in the classroom, she took a part-time job teaching social studies at a largely black and Latino high school in Brooklyn.

'Education starts at home' Sun Times
Barack Obama collected the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers Sunday and promised to fix "the broken promises" of the No Child Left Behind ...

Obama Courts Teachers Via Satellite NBC
The Illinois senator's language on the subject was likely to please teachers unions like AFT and NEA because he spoke about working "with" teachers to find ways to reward them rather than imposing a system "on" them.

Obama Does The AFT

Aft_crowd_captureClick here for a first-hand description of Obama's speech in front of the AFT convention in Chicago provided by contributor James Ewert, plus links to all sorts of mainstream coverage of the event.   

What jumps out at me is that, even though the AFT national had come out for Clinton long ago, the AFT endorsement was so much stronger than it was at the NEA last week.  This despite the fact that Obama's main points remained basically the same and he was basically touting charters as a key part of his reform plan. 

It's also clear that Obama has decided that there's no point getting into hot water on vouchers, which he pretty much closes the door on (again) in this speech as he did last week.  This despite his past "open-mindedness" in the past on the issue, which was so much fun for those of us who delight in his open-mindedness.

Obama Proposing Mandatory Spanish Classes, Group Says

Lg_spanish_sign That's what some English-only groups are making out of Obama's recent remarks, according to this NYT story (McCain and Obama Speak Off the Cuff):

“Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they’ll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish,” he said. “You should be thinking about how can your child become bilingual. We should have every child speaking more than one language.”

How Republicans Can Win The 'Burbs: Weighted Student Funding?

09under600 Check out this National Review article (Battle for the ’Burbs), which analyzes the problems with current Republican strategy on education and proposes a new -- but not so easy -- course of action:

"The educational arms race is central to the lives of upper-middle-class suburbanites...[But] the real educational crisis for most suburban families is a crisis of affordability, in which home prices and tax rates in above-average school districts climb as ambitious parents struggle to give their children a leg up."

The proposed solution?  Ditch vouchers, inter-district choice, or getting rid of local districts.  Forget about charterizing the nation (too slow!).  Instead, outflank those pesky liberals and push for charter-like school based budgeting (aka weighted student funding).   Right, because that's gone down so easily. 

Obama, Sharpton, & The NEA

Over at Politico, Richard Whitmire has a new column about politics and education called NEA Too Big For Its Britches:

Sharpton_obama"By dissing accountability, the NEA has drifted so far leftward that even the Rev. Al Sharpton has drawn a line in the sand...I’m just not sure the NEA has chosen the right side of history here, and I suspect Obama and Sharpton may be thinking alike."

Obama Kids Speak -- Just This Once

Not all that interested in what Jesse Jackson said about Obama? Check out this interview with all four of the Obama family members, which the campaign immediately regretted doing:

Background and fallout here.

Could Vallas Pull A Bloomberg To Win Illinois?

Arena_p2_vallasChicago Magazine says that NOLA superintendent Paul Vallas might return to Illinois politics as a Republican candidate for Governor in 2010 (Schooling Democrats).

"Less important than which party you are running in is what you are running for," Vallas, now the schools superintendent in New Orleans, told Chicago in an interview. "I've been a lifelong Democrat, but when I ran last time, it's not like I had a lot of support from establishment Democrats. I had a huge number of Republican crossover votes from the suburbs."

Vallas ran and lost narrowly in the Democratic primary shortly after leaving the helm of the Chicago schools.

He Sees Shanker, Everywhere

Get past the relentless Shankerosity of Rick Kahlenberg's latest piece in The American Prospect (How the Left Can Avoid a New Education War) and you'll see that Kahlenberg does a good job of unpacking some of the divisions within the center-left Democratic alliance that are flaring up around the Obama candidacy. 

But I'm not sure if I see anything all that new in Kahlenberg's piece (besides the Shanker stuff), or any viable political strategy that might help Obama address these internal divisions any better than he already is (ie, supporting both manifestos and being for performance pay and charters but otherwise a regular Dem).

Longtime readers will remember that I've been writing about this division for years now, going back to "PovRacers and SchoolRefs."  Amazing that the two groups putting out manifestos didn't do it on purpose and didn't even know about each other's plans. 

Obama The Lefty

2147126021471261slargeSome folks in education like Obama because he seems so reform-minded and centrist.  But not everyone would put him out there at the brave leading edge of Democratic centrism:

"Whatever disappointments one has with Obama (and there are sure to be more to come) -- he unquestionably represents a leftward shift relative to the sort of national candidates the Democratic Party has been putting forward in recent cycles." --Matt Yglesias (To The Center)

Why Obama Hasn't "Shifted" On Education, Too

Ph2008062901100 Not unexpectedly, DFER's Joe Williams wants to put as good a face as possible on Obama's weekend satellite appearance in front of the NEA conventioneers, commending the candidate for not showing up in person.  Nor did Obama pander to the crowd when he did talk to them (see previous post). 

But Obama doesn't seem to be doing so well on other fronts, including the New York Times editorial page, which took a big bite out of him for his recent flops on campaign finance, FISA, and gun control (The New and Not Improved Barack Obama).

It's hard not to think that the guy might not "redefine" his positions on education issues at some point along the way, too, given these recent changes.  That is, assuming that education issues ever seem important enough to warrant a change, which may not ever happen.  So, charters and performance pay stay -- for now.  Not because Obama's so enamored of the specific policy positions, however.

No Flip-Flop For Obama In NEA Endorsement Speech

EIA's Mike Antonucci has the Obama speech to the NEA convention (via satellite):

Among other points (and hints at where the good parts on the video are), Antonucci says that Obama "took the bull by the horns" in talking about performance pay and charter schools (here).  No flip-flop there -- in contrast to campaign spending.

Over at the USA Today politics blog, Greg Toppo reports in as well (Mostly cheers, but some boos too, when Obama addresses teachers) with some additional observations and news -- Obama's relatively low NEA endorsement vote total, for example.  I want to know about Obama's sister, a teacher.  There's a McCain update, too.

More Clinton Staff Absorbed Into Obama Campaign

Humaimage_3 The New York Observer details the inclusion of several more Clinton campaign staffers into the Obama campaign -- and their potential impact on Obama's positions (Team Obama Goes Cherry-Picking).

The moves include Clinton policy director Neera Tanden, a health care specialist, who will report to Obama policy director Heather Higginbottom. 

No word yet on the two names everyone wants to know about:  Catherine Brown, Clinton's education staffer, and personal staffer Huma Abedin (pictured).

Previous Post: 
Will Clinton Education Folks Make It To Denver?

Obama To Snub NEA Convention? [UPDATED]

There's unconfirmed Internet chatter that Obama, slated for formal endorsement at this week's NEA convention, is either not going to appear or is merely going to make a satellite appearance.  This is a far cry from his early reliance on teachers union support, especially in Illinois, and his appearance at previous conventions.  EdWeek says he's going to talk on Saturday.  The DCTA says they aren't sure.  Pro-life groups who are planning to picket him at the convention are sure hoping he shows up.  I don't really care, but thought I'd pass it on.  No word yet from the Obama campaign, though I only asked them about it five minutes ago.

UPDATE:  So much for Internet chatter.  The press folks at the NEA say Obama will address the convention. 

Bush, Romer, Spellings In Florida

2007_7youngfrankenstein It's Alive!

Last week, EDINO8 joined in with Al Sharpton and Joel Klein's education equity rollout.

This week, Margaret Spellings and former FL governor Jeb Bush endorsed EDINO8 (Presidential candidates urged to focus on schools).

Obama Woos, Then Who?s The Chicago Teachers Union

Aft_hillary_flyer Obama may not have gotten the AFT endorsement and only got official approval from the NEA very late in the game (two weeks ago or so).  But he apparently got a lot of early support from his hometown AFT affiliate, the Chicago Teachers Union, which helped propel him into office in the first place.  Now, some of the folks who helped make that happen are upset that Obama's union support is being stripped out of the Obama narrative. 

Not that such a story helps Obama much -- he's trying to win independents at the center, not rally to his base.  Most folks understand that.  But the early support from the CTU  is by most accounts what really happened, for whatever that's worth, and made a difference.  And it is a familiar tale -- not just for Obama -- in which politicians woo the folks they need at a certain point, and then move on to whomever they need next. 

[Cindy] McCain Loves For-Profit Charter Schools, Too

Fe_al_20080616whispersmccainNot to be left out of this whole education "debate," Senator McCain sent his wife Cindy to visit one of New York's first charter schools last week.

Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem school serves roughly 300 kids in K-4 -- part of Victory Schools' for-profit network of "19 public and charter schools serving approximately 7,000 children in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago."

Brave to have her visit what is obviously a front for indoctrinating little American children in the ways of Al-Quaida, I thought. Did you know?  Mrs. Mcain has a BA in education and an MA in SPED.

Recent news:  Board of Education approves new performance plan CTDN
A Post-Katrina Charter School in New Orleans Gets a Second Chance NYT

Obama Stakes Out Bold New Education Position(s)

Last week, I argued that the only really important thing about the two education position papers that were released was to wonder which one Obama would support (Which Manifesto Would Obama Have Signed?). 

16manage1600In that post, I guessed that Obama, moving as he has been to the left, would have supported the Bigger, Bolder One. Boy, was I wrong.

Now, EdWeek's Hoff does that journalist thing (making phone calls) and tells us that Obama supports both positions (2 New Coalitions Seek Influence on Campaigns).

We also learn that it was just coincidence that the highly organized education groups came out with big announcements one day apart from each other.  Go, education groups.  You make us proud to be working in the same field. 

It's a brave and visionary position for a politician to take, siding with both sides.  Few politicos do it so well as Obama.  In so doing, Obama joins just one other figure, Chicago superintendent Arne Duncan. 

Which Manifesto Would Obama Have Signed?

Ap080503036099_2Only in a really slow week could the education blogs have spent so much time debating two ultimately unimportant documents put out by different education coalitions -- or would New York Times columnist David Brooks have deigned to weigh in on the situation -- sort of.   

In his Times column (Obama, Liberalism and the Challenge of Reform), Brooks uses the dual proclamations to ask the question we've all been asking about whether Obama is a reformer or not. 

He notes the less reform-minded tone of Obama's more recent speeches, and that Obama's education plan is less extensive or detailed in the areas of accountability and teacher performance than in many other areas. 

At this point, I think it's clear that Obama isn't really running as an education reformer anymore, which will please some supporters and trouble others. 

He wasn't all that far right to start.  He moved left to beat Clinton and will be pressured to move even further left to maintain the support of teachers and win in the general election.  At that point, it'll be a mighty struggle for him to tack towards the middle again. 

Which is too bad,  because  public education still needs a big kick in the pants if it's ever going to get the love  support it wants.

No Clear Angle On School Reform

Workishell One thing seems clear.  No one's sure what angle to take on mobilizing the public for school reform.  Yesterday, we had the "better, broader, bigger" folks from EPI, focused on early childhood and out of school factors.  Before that, there was EDINO8, focused on standards and after-school and...I forget the rest. 

Today, kicking off with a press even this morning, we've got Al Sharpton and NYC's Joel Klein (among others), focused on equity and civil rights: Schools Chancellor Klein, Rev. Al Sharpton an odd pair in ... NYDN, Sharpton To Speak on Improving America's Schools Today New York Sun

Check out the details below.

UPDATE:  Maybe the confusion is understandable, given how diverse voters' education priorities are (Obama and McCain face tough task on “education reform”).

Continue reading "No Clear Angle On School Reform" »

Will Clinton Education Folks Make It To Denver?

Ukreuters Senator Clinton's official withdrawal from the race means that her education folks -- formal and informal -- have to figure out what to do next (Hillary Clinton's Staff Looking for New Jobs).  Many with Clinton ties have day jobs and can return to those (or never left them).  Others like domestic policy honcho Catherine Brown may want to explore joining the Obama effort or at least becoming part of the overall Democratic campaign push towards the general.  Denver isn't a bad place to be for the convention this summer.  And some Clinton staffers have already been brought on board (Obama taps former Clinton aide for economy team).  But it may not be so easy for Clintonistas to find a place in the Obama campaign effort, official or otherwise.  There's remnant ill will, the reality that many policy positions have been set on the education front, and the underlying sense (not just in education) that Clinton-era, Clinton-affiliated ideas are not what Obama needs right now.

Ed Publishers, Ed Policy -- But No One From HRC

The good folks at Scholastic tell me that there's a Friday event in DC where ed publishers from around the country are going to hear about ed policy. 

Kimbo2It's part of the Association of Educational Publishers Annual Summit (http://aepweb.org/summit/index.htm) and they're billing it as the "first exclusive head-to-head presentation of the education views of the presumptive presidential nominees."  The Forum will take place Friday, June 6 from 8:45– 10:30 a.m. within the Grand Ballroom at the JW Marriott (1331 Pennsylvania Avenue).

Representing the candidates are Jeanne Century, Director of Science Education, University of Chicago (Senator Obama) and Lisa Graham Keegan, former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction (Senator McCain). No one's mentioned from HRC's campaign -- I guess that mean's Andy's free that night.

Kimbo says:  "Two green peppers with one punch."

More details here.

A Somewhat Different Take On Obama & The Teachers Unions


"Barack Obama wants Western voters to believe he visited an innovative school north of Denver yesterday to highlight his commitment to educational progress. His real purpose: Winning the support of affluent unions seeking to stifle real educational reforms....If Obama really believed in educational reform, he would have cut the platitudes and made one simple pledge. “Yes, we can,” he would have said. “We can free our kids from union-controlled schools.” But Obama has no intention of taking on unions."

Obama, Education Reform And Teachers’ Unions New West

Three More Takes On Obama's Education Speech

Obama Wonks It Up in Education Speech | The Trail

"There are always good schools in every state, in every school district and at every income level...The question we have to figure out is how do we scale up?"

Obama Urges Education Reform - From The Road

Earlier in his speech, Obama referred to the ongoing teacher talks in Denver. Dozens of teachers in two different public schools called in sick in opposition to their ongoing contract negotiations.

Obama's 'Solution' For Bridging U.S. Science Gap: Eliminate SATs - InformationWeek.

The candidate didn't come right out and say he'd scrap the SATs, but it sure sounds like he's thinking along those lines: "We also need to realize that we can meet high standards without forcing teachers and students to spend most of the year preparing for a single, high-stakes test," Obama said, according to a transcript of his remarks.


Love Vs. Higginbottom -- Higginbottom Wins!


Some people are all about Obama staffer Reggie Love, the candidate's "body man" who has been getting all sorts of coverage this past week. 

Me, I'm more of a Heather Higginbottom kind of person. She probably doesn't much care to be quoted in a story about Obama's cautiousness on the policy front (On Policy, Obama Breaks Little New Ground) or want me to run this picture over and over again, but that's the price the Chicago-based Obama policy guru pays for being in the public eye (and for her boss's lofty rhetoric about transformation, etc.).

Hi, Heather! (And Danielle!)

Obama In Colorado [Updated]

At the event, Obama regurgitated the (inaccurate) slam that NCLB relies on a "a single, high-stakes test," according to this report (Obama tours Colorado school, touts education plans EdWeek) and did the whole curriculum narrowing thing, too, about which I have my doubts.

He's also proposing a national service-type thing that to my eye looks an awful lot like a federal version of TFA.  Just what schools (and school reform) doesn't need -- more FNG short-timers making everyone feel good about high-need schools (Full text of Obama's education speech). Yeah, I'm against that.

Click here to see pics of Obama at the MESA school and to read his latest on revamping high school education Obama Visits School in Thorton, Colorado.

Denver Post here: Obama praises successful Thornton school

Candidates Split Sharply On Bush's No Child Left Behind Law  Wall Street Journal ($)
Sen. Obama wants to overhaul the law, while Sen. McCain wants to extend it.

Click here if the video doesn't load.

Introducing Mike Johnston


Here's a picture and some basic info on Mike Johnston, the Denver-area principal and recently-unearthed Obama advisor whose school is being visited by the candidate as part of a big high schools speech. 

A Colo. native and Vail Mountain School grad, Johnston is Yale undergrad, TFA 97, Harvard ed school master's degree, New Leaders co-founder (not sure how long he was there), and Yale law school.  He won an international Rubik's Cube competition at the age of eight, wrote a book about his TFA experience in the Mississippi delta, and is currently training for the 170-pound division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.  (Two of those last three are made up.)

Whom the Candidates Listen to on Education US News
Obama to visit Thornton school Denver Post
Mapleton schools splinter in move for choice
Denver Post
Obama  to visit Denver school led by Vail's Johnston
Real Vail
YLS Student Authors, Part One
Yale Law School
Harvard Alumni Preparing Leaders for Urban Schools

The Obama Project

The June issue of Chicago Magazine has a feature about the swirl of Obama's past relationships and influences and how they complicate his policy positions in ways that supporters sometimes find hard to pin down:

Obama_main"Though his policies clearly tilt toward those of the Hyde Park liberals, Obama supporters find strains of the U. of C. in his thinking, notably in an openness to free-market solutions."

For many in Chicago, it's this "strain" of free-market solutions (including charter schools and performance pay) that makes Obama hard to support. Despite a small-scale and relatively careful development process in Chicago, charter schools (and the school closings that have accompanied them) seem as if not more controversial there as they are in any other part of the nation.

Obama's Chicago Posse 

Democratic Education Superdelegate Endorses Obama

Romer_broad_report_2008_2 Who's the latest Dem. superdelegate to swing Obama's way? He's this guy -- education bigwig Roy Romer, former Governor of Colorado and LAUSD superintendent, currently spearheading EDINO8 (Superdelegates Continue Heading Obama’s Way CBS News).

Does that mean that EDIN08 or the foundations that fund it support Obama?  No, of course not.  It's well-known that EDIN08 is for former Cong. Bob Barr and that the Gates and Broad Foundations are holding out for Gore. 

The Ultimate Pragmatist -- Not Just On Education

Thekids600_2                                 Barack Obama campaigning for the Illinois State Senate in 1996, a race he easily won.

Others will read it differently, but my take is that this weekend's long NYT piece on Barack Obama's political evolution (The Long Run: Pragmatic Politics, Forged on the South Side) echoes and deepens what I was trying to say in my little article about Obama's belated support for local school councils  in 1999 (Obama's lackluster record on education). The most vivid example is this quote, among several describing Obama's cautious, pragmatic, and centrist-moving political evolution:

“He has a pattern of forming relationships with various communities and as he takes his next step up, kind of distancing himself from them and then positioning himself as the bridge,” said Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American author and co-founder of the online publication Electronic Intifada, who became acquainted with Mr. Obama in Chicago.  

I'm not against Obama, or against political pragmatism.  I'm just against people thinking that Obama (or any politician) is something that he's not.  He's not the ultra-liberal reform-oriented community organizer that he once was.  And he's not particularly bold or pure in his legislative efforts. 

Pandering To Voters: Gas Tax Vs. Ending NCLB

Gas_prices Which is the bigger pander -- promising to "end" NCLB or pushing for a summer holiday from the federal gas tax?  Ending NCLB, I'd say.  They're both hugely empty promises, cynical ploys to win votes.  They're both unlikely to be done in ways that would create substantial relief for educators or motorists.  They're punch lines.  But promising to "bag" NCLB (as Bill Clinton is quoted in today's New York Times) is like calling for a complete reversal in the nation's energy policy.  The press is making a giant deal over the gas tax proposal, which is a relatively minor thing.  What about examining the realities of "ending" NCLB?  I think that it would soon be clear that there's little behind the candidates' rhetoric on this front, and no clear consensus among experts and parents that ending NCLB is the way to go. 

Art For Art's Sake: Obama Falls For Shaky Arts Arguments

27wwlnlede350661 Ann Hulbert has a nice piece in the NYT about how Obama -- and many others -- misguidedly invoke research when arguing for arts education in schools:

"An emphasis on the arts’ utility in the quest to reach math and reading benchmarks may seem politically smart, but the science it rests on turns out to be shaky....If arts education stakes its claim to students’ time and schools’ money on some unproven power to push standardized test scores upward, its position in American schools is bound to be precarious."

Sure, art is cool, and maybe there's not enough of it in schools these days.  Yeah, some kids really groove on arts education and that helps them get through the system.

But, apparently, there is no killer research out there showing that arts helps kids read and do math.  Read the rest of Hulbert's article for what happens next.

Excuse Note From Obama Doesn't Convince School Officials

Ph2008042303681Thanks to Jezebel for pointing me to news about Pennsylvania high school students who were docked for going to see Obama instead of taking a quiz on Camus' existential novel, The Stranger.  Or, as Jezebel put it, PA. Kids Punished For Choosing Obama Over Nothingness.

Kids, don't cut class to hang out around politicians! The excuse notes they write don't work. 

Blogger Summit In DC

Ed08registernow275x180 The imaginative and persistent folks at EDIN08 are having a "blogger summit" in a couple of weeks, which will gather a bunch of education bloggers, analysts, and the like to talk about education politics.  I'll be moderating a panel and listening in on everything else.  In particular, I'm looking forward to meeting Will Okun, the NYT blogger who teaches high school in Chicago, and Michele McNeil, who covers politics for EdWeek.  Hopefully, there will be many others.  See list of speakers here.

Remembering What Hillary Used To Say About NCLB

Georgebushcryingbabythumb Just another reminder that Clinton (like Obama) didn't make much fuss about NCLB until recently -- and may or may not dislike it as much as their supporters want to think: 

"When the Senate passed the legislation in 2001," says this Congressional Quarterly blog post (Another Thing Clinton Has Always Hated), "Clinton was one of its biggest boosters....Clinton was deeply involved in the debates over the bill, from start to finish..When the Senate approved the final version of the bill, Clinton praised it not only for the teachers provision, but also for its increase in federal aid to New York schools."

Reading what she said then, it's hard to imagine that she's all that against NCLB now, no matter what she says on the stump.  Not that much has changed, other than the political circumstances.  I don't think anyone but voters think that she'd undo it all that much.  Hell, she doesn't even fool the NEA.

Choosing McCain

A trio of blog posts about McCain's education platform:

HuggiesThe Link Between School Choice and Global Competition Campaign K12
John McCain delivered an important speech today on what he will do to fix the ailing economy. Although he didn't talk much the role of education, in a five-point plan he released today to accompany his speech, he identified education..

McCain's education plans Richard Whitmire
The senator's own education advisers downplay the likelihood that education will play a major role in his campaign. The war and economy will overshadow other issues, they predict. That's probably true, but education also presents an opportunity for the senator. That opportunity, however, is not risk free.

Wistful Whitmire Flypaper
USA Today’s Richard Whitmire turns in a provocative thumbsucker at Politico on John McCain, his (still to be fleshed out) education platform, and his top education aide (and former rodeo star) Lisa Graham Keegan.



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