Flypaper

It must be kiss-and-tell season, what with Scott McClellan's recent riposte to the Bush White House , and now with former education department official's Susan Neuman's revisionist history as reported by Time :*

Susan Neuman, a professor of education at the University Michigan who served as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education during George W. Bush's first term, was and still is a fervent believer in the goals of NCLB. And she says the President and then Secretary of Education Rod Paige were too. But there were others in the department, according to Neuman, who saw NCLB as a Trojan horse for the choice agenda--a way to expose the failure of public education and "blow it up a bit," she says. "There were a number of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization."

I know and like Susan (we overlapped at the Department and worked on some issues together), but what a ridiculous statement. Of course "there were a number of people pushing hard for market forces"--like, say, the President himself . What Neuman apparently failed to realize when she agreed to serve was that she'd been asked by a Republican Administration- -you know, the party in favor of vouchers and such. President Bush campaigned for school choice during his 2000 run--right out there in the open. But that doesn't mean that NCLB's focus on accountability was meant to soften up the country for vouchers. Nor is there any evidence anywhere that tough accountability leads...

Liam Julian

Sounds like D.C.'s charter schools are taking fire, too. If you can't beat ???em, sabotage ???em.

Liam Julian

It's unclear exactly what Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents Washington, D.C., in Congress, so dislikes about the Opportunity Scholarship Program that provides some 2,000 low-income students in the District an opportunity to receive their educations from private providers. She told the Washington Post, "We have to protect the children, who are the truly innocent victims here." But victims require victimizers, and Holmes Norton neglects to be specific. Are "the children" victims of too much educational choice? Are they victims of their parents' desire that they receive stronger educations? From whom or what, exactly, does Holmes Norton purport to protect D.C.'s low-income kids? Ah, but she's not really protecting kids, is she. Holmes Norton is protecting a public-school system that has itself victimized countless numbers of Washington, D.C., children. She should've told the Post: "I intend to destroy any challenge to the Washington, D.C., public-school monopoly, and the desires of low-income children and their parents, my constituents, be damned."

The New York Times had a nice piece Saturday on the Garden State's alternative certification program, the first and largest state effort of its kind. (Forty percent of New Jersey's teachers come to the classroom through this "alternative.") An idea that was once a lightening rod is no longer so:

At one time the alternate route was controversial, said Roger Leon, who took it in 1992. He is now an assistant superintendent in Newark. His superiors and fellow teachers had a dim view of teachers who had not majored in education, he said.

Mr. Leon admitted he confronted a steep learning curve. "I spent the entire weekend before school opened organizing the classroom, getting it to look just right," he said. "And then they showed up. I was like, ???Oh, my goodness.' I recall a paper airplane flying past me."

Today nontraditionally trained teachers are commonplace in Newark and in other cities. Newark hired 115 this year, as well as 37 through Teach for America, another nontraditional program.

We've long believed New Jersey's program to be a model, and wish we can say that it exemplifies the typical alternative route to teaching. Unfortunately, it does not. Other states should take a trip to the Jersey Shore this summer and find out how it's done....

The New York Times had a nice piece Saturday on the Garden State's alternative certification program, the first and largest state effort of its kind. (Forty percent of New Jersey's teachers come to the classroom through this "alternative.") An idea that was once a lightening rod is no longer so:

At one time the alternate route was controversial, said Roger Leon, who took it in 1992. He is now an assistant superintendent in Newark. His superiors and fellow teachers had a dim view of teachers who had not majored in education, he said.

Mr. Leon admitted he confronted a steep learning curve. "I spent the entire weekend before school opened organizing the classroom, getting it to look just right," he said. "And then they showed up. I was like, ???Oh, my goodness.' I recall a paper airplane flying past me."

Today nontraditionally trained teachers are commonplace in Newark and in other cities. Newark hired 115 this year, as well as 37 through Teach for America, another nontraditional program.

We've long believed New Jersey's program to be a model, and wish we can say that it exemplifies the typical alternative route to teaching. Unfortunately, it does not. Other states should take a trip to the Jersey Shore this summer and find out how it's done....

It's no secret that Senator John McCain's age will be a factor in this year's presidential race. At 72, he would be the oldest man to take the office in the nation's history.

But I can't help but wonder whether age might also be a factor when it comes time to select the next education secretary--that is, if Senator Barack Obama wins in November.* That's because the two Democrats most qualified for the position are also both in their 70's: Roy Romer (79), the chairman of Ed in '08, former Los Angeles superintendent, and former governor of Colorado; and Jim Hunt (71), the former four-term governor of North Carolina and head of the Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy.

I've mused about a Secretary Romer before, so let me ponder a Secretary Hunt. (Warning: Gush alert.) I'll be frank: he'd be incredible. I'm down in Raleigh right now for the Hunt Institute's annual governors symposium (no media allowed, which means no live-blogging for me). It's only the second chance I've had to spend time with the former governor and both times I walked away feeling the same: I'm in the presence of greatness. This is a man who knows how to lead, how to communicate in regular language, and how to get things done.

And when it comes to education policy, he gets it. He...

Liam Julian

Washington Post education reporter Jay Mathews and Checker Finn debate: "Is AP Good for Everyone?"

As the D.C. voucher program comes under attack, where is Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose initial support for the program was instrumental in its birth? Apparently too busy working on a much more pressing public-private partnership issue: the management of the Senate cafeterias.

Sadly, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program seems to be on its last legs. Non-voting D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has lobbied hard to kill the program, said, "We have to protect the children, who are the truly innocent victims here."

Victims? Of a cruel plot to give students trapped in failing schools a real shot at a decent education? How can anyone swallow this?

Several New York City high school principals are receiving performance bonuses under the terms of an old program even though their schools fared poorly under the district's new grading system. The old program uses the same tests as the new one but apparently sets lower achievement benchmarks.

The UFT is upset about this:

"It's a cockeyed situation," said teachers union president Randi Weingarten. "One set of metrics can generate a bonus and yet a separate set of metrics for the same exact school can generate an F. It just shows that using one set of data as the be-all and end-all just doesn't make [sense]."

It's cockeyed, for sure, but the real problem isn't that they're using one set of data. The problem is that the district keeps casting its accountability systems in concrete rather than soft, malleable Play-Doh. High-performing organizations are flexible enough to adapt to changing external circumstances and agile enough to carry out internal adjustments on the fly.

Public school districts will never do either of these things truly well since they're largely chained to the inertia of the political process, but some government agencies have proved that they can slim down and smarten up when finally impelled to do so by the competition. Maybe someday this will happen in the schools sector....

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