Flypaper

Liam Julian

In Australia's state of Victoria, teachers are about to receive a mammoth pay raise. But Kevin Donnelly, the Australian-education guru, doesn't like it. He sees lots of other problems that need remedying.

Instead of a blanket pay increase, a real education revolution would focus on raising standards and improving learning outcomes by identifying the best way to deal with underperforming teachers and to attract and reward successful teachers.

??Donnelly also notes:

It makes sense that, instead of imposing on schools teachers who may not agree with the school's educational philosophy, the power to hire, fire and reward staff should be at the local level, allowing those most affected by decisions to have a say.

Sounds familiar.

According to David Brooks, among others, yesterday's victory in North Carolina and near-tie in Indiana means Senator Barack Obama is almost assured the Democratic nomination. Now it's time for the general election pivot, Brooks argues:

Obama has a much more liberal profile than he did several weeks ago. Moderate, independent voters are now less sure that Obama shares their values. Hillary Clinton voters are much, much more hostile toward him. His supporters look more and more like the McGovern-Dukakis constituency, and the walls between that constituency and the rest of the country are higher than they were weeks ago.

Obama is going to have to work hard to tear down those walls over the coming months. He is going to have to work hard first to win over the Clinton voters, who are more economically populist and socially conservative than his supporters. He is also going to have to work hard to win over suburban independents, who are less economically populist than his current supporters. He's going to have to break conspicuously with orthodox liberalism to re-establish that values connection with people in Ohio and Missouri.

This will require a pivot, or at least a rediscovery of some themes that have faded into the background as the contest for partisans has grown more intense.

Can some new (or newly rediscovered) education policies and rhetoric help? Maybe. He should surely continue to channel Bill Cosby and talk about the need for parents to take responsibility for...

The ranks of American education's "newspaper of record" are growing ever thinner. Last month came news that Lynn Olson is heading to the Gates Foundation; now we hear that Bess Keller, the paper's "teacher quality" beat reporter, is heading to the estimable National Council on Teacher Quality. It's a great fit and exciting news for Keller and NCTQ--and another ominous development for Education Week.

There's more on the Absent Teacher Reserve and rubber room controversies in New York City. In today's Daily News, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and union head Randi Weingarten blame each other for the impasses, which will lead to budget cuts next year.

Klein:

"Those are dollars we could give to schools to deal with issues," Klein said, a week before he expects to tell schools how much they'll lose next year.

Asked if the idle teachers were connected to the cuts, Klein said, "Of course, and I would tell [teachers union President] Randi [Weingarten], instead of making this a PR campaign, we get serious about addressing it."

Weingarten:

"The chancellor should stop his grandstanding," Weingarten said in a statement. "The chancellor's ideology of simply wanting to fire people at whim--regardless of fairness, reasons for displacement or statutory/contractual obligations--have gotten him into this mess. To pretend the union hasn't tried to offer solutions is just wrong."

First, with regard to the "grandstanding" line, I'm reminded of that scene from The Godfather, Part II, where Michael sagely reminds Senator Geary that they're both part of the same hypocrisy. Weingarten could use a similar reminder.

More absurd, however, are Weingarten's continued attempts to attach the stigma of "ideology" to a proposal that seeks to impose at least the rudiments of an accountability system on New York's schools. Does she really believe that Joel Klein's proposal to shut down the money-sucking rubber rooms is part of...

Jeff Kuhner

Have you noticed kids no longer bike to school?

One of the reasons is that schools no longer encourage biking. Take the case of Bridgewater-Raritan High School in New Jersey. Students there banded together and managed to raise $2,000 to purchase a new bike rack at the school. But school officials denied their request. Katherine Dransfield, one of the students seeking to organize a school bike club, explained that "Essentially, what they told us was that they didn't want to promote biking as a way to get to school."

The school officials should be ashamed of themselves. Biking has numerous benefits. It promotes public health and exercise (and our students, many of whom are struggling with obesity, could certainly use it), reduces traffic congestion, and helps the environment by reducing pollution.

In fact, some here at Fordham regularly bike to work during the spring and summer. Mike Petrilli, our esteemed Vice-President for National Policy, is an avid biker. He's also our resident greenie and political squish, who champions organic food, energy conservation, and combating global warming. I, on the other hand, being a hard-boiled conservative, don't share Mike's--how shall I say it--romantic views. I'm all for steaks and gas-guzzling cars. I do, however, commute to work on the train and subway everyday. So, I can't be that much of a reactionary.

Regardless of our ideological differences, there is one undeniable fact: Mike is considerably slimmer and fitter than I am. A major reason for...

From the Boston Globe:

Enrollment in the Dorchester Catholic schools, which had been falling for years, is now rising as a result of a decision by affluent Catholic business leaders to invest tens of millions of dollars refurbishing the schools, the Archdiocese of Boston said yesterday.

A group of businesspeople, led by retired adman Jack Connors Jr., has raised $25 million toward the $67 million they are pledging to spend to consolidate, renovate, upgrade, and, in one instance, rebuild aging parish school buildings in Dorchester and Mattapan.

On the one hand, there's a question of whether this is really a viable model for saving Catholic schools. Surely raising funds on this scale is not easy, especially in other cities with much smaller Catholic populations than Boston.

On the other hand, maybe it shows how far a serious, concerted effort like the Boston Archdiocese's 2010 Initiative can go.

A group based in Dallas wanted to give schools in the state of Washington $13.2 million to strengthen their AP courses, but the plan fell through because state collective bargaining laws require that teacher pay be negotiated between unions and school districts.

Here's more evidence that collective bargaining agreements need to be much more flexible.

Sunday's Daily News revisits New York City's ridiculous "rubber room" policy, which was also featured a year ago in a Village Voice article. A taste:

The roughly 700 workers accused of various wrongdoings collect their full salaries for spending seven hours a day in low-ceilinged, over-heated rooms, playing cards, doing puzzles, reading magazines and sleeping.

All this at a cost of at least $65 million a year. Add that to the millions wasted on the Absent Teacher Reserve, which has recently dominated headlines in New York, and blatantly pandering union labor policies are costing the district upwards of a hundred mil a year.

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee will fire somewhere between 24 and 30 principals at the end of the school year, in large part because under the rules of NCLB she's required to restructure 27 chronically-failing schools.

The head of the principals association, meanwhile, evidently finds it inconceivable that replacing a school's leader could help improve its performance:

Frances M. Plummer, executive director of the D.C. Association of Elementary School Principals, called the firings "wholesale and heartless" and said Rhee was damaging the school system.

"To cut people loose at this juncture does not benefit children," she said. "If you are about the children, you should be about the teachers and administrators, too."

Is there, in Plummer's mind, a juncture at which such firings would be appropriate, I wonder? At least this nonsense was buried at the bottom of the article.

After months of jockeying with control-freak governor Ted Strickland, Ohio state education superintendent Susan Tave Zelman is on her way out, perhaps to the University of Oregon as ed school dean.

She toughed it out for a while but the handwriting went onto the wall for her once key members of the state board of education decided that placating the governor was more important than retaining Dr. Z, as she is known at the Ohio Department of Education. It must also be said that she didn't try very hard to placate him herself, seeming more determined to demonstrate independence than to make nice with Bob Taft's successor and his agenda. She can, in truth, be ornery, strong-willed, and mercurial, in addition to very bright, boundlessly energetic, and quite creative. But there was no way that a principled educator with her track record could have accommodated the Strickland education agenda, such as it is. Much of it, alas, simply involves seizing control of the system and reorganizing the deck chairs rather than repositioning the ship.

But he's recommended some repositioning, too, in ways that Dr. Z could not (and should not be expected to) stomach, much less preside over. Ohio's standards and accountability system leaves much to be desired--but the Governor's goal is to weaken it, not strengthen it. The state's charter-school and voucher programs also have their flaws--but the Governor's goal is to eliminate them, not fix them. Indeed, the only way Zelman could in conscience...

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