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The Americans didn't win a medal on the penultimate day of the 2008 Education Olympics, leaving them just one more chance for a top-three finish. A special guest joins us, sort of, to size up their chances. Full coverage at

Since the blog has taken a more serious turn as of late, I proffer you this:

"Ga. Schools superintendent to appear on ???5th grader'"

We discovered last week that not only is Debbie Phelps the principal of Windsor Mill Middle School in Maryland, but that Windsor Mill didn't make AYP last year. And only recently home from Beijing, school starts on Monday for Principal Phelps. We trust that the experience of spawning the most celebrated swimmer in history will assist her in making the transition to principal of six-hundred hormone-crazed tweens. Perhaps her recent crowning as Johnson's Baby Mom of the Olympic Games by Johnson & Johnson and subsequent TV ad (comes out on Sunday) will inspire her. It seems appropriate since the campaign, which will donate to a group of global charities in Debbie Phelps' name, chose her because "Debbie represents every mother that has helped her child to succeed." We hope that success reaches into her middle school classrooms....

Perusing last week's Education Week, I came across this article summarizing a qualitative study conducted by Public Agenda on school leadership. The study, funded by the Wallace Foundation, essentially found principals landing in one of two camps--they were either "copers" or "transformers." The copers, as the name implies, were barely keeping up with the day-to-day demands of running a school; they were in put-out-the-fire mode 24/7. But frankly, the "transformer" group was hardly that transformative. We're told they

talked about specific changes they were making now or planned to make in the near future. This year, introduce the new reading curriculum. Next year, get a teaching coach for math. Some had scanned their teacher rosters and pinpointed the teachers they wanted to move out. Maybe it couldn't be done in one fell swoop, but they had their plans.

Since when is simply having a plan, any plan, transformative? And is introducing a reading curriculum, or getting a math coach a transformative plan? (Ridding bad teachers, maybe...) But seriously, are our expectations for principals really that low? It is it too much to expect that...

Liam Julian

The New York City program that pays students for good scores on AP exams yielded "mixed results," according to the New York Times. Education Trust President Kati Haycock, commenting on the program's philosophy,??gets the article's last words:

"Frankly, rich kids get paid for high grades all the time and for high test scores by their parents," Ms. Haycock added. "So this isn't so different."

Yes it is. Rich kids, as Haycock notes,??are paid by their parents, each of whom has obviously made a personal decision that handing out money for grades or test scores is a fine idea for his particular family situation. (Lots of rich kids, it must be written, are not paid for grades--not because their parents can't swing it but because their parents??find it, for one reason or another, an unhealthful practice.) We should resist the flawed idea that because some parents have the means to do for their children X and do it, X is somehow a right to which all students are entitled and one the government should provide. (This caveat does not apply to vouchers, through which government relinquishes authority and does not assume it.)...

Earlier this month I argued that the Democratic Party was no longer a fully-owned subsidiary of the NEA and the AFT. But it looks like I was wrong.* See the Monday night prime-time lineup at their convention, to include teachers union presidents Reg Weaver and Randi Weingarten. It seems the labor bosses are still in charge, after all.

* HT to Campaign K-12.

The usually sensible Washington Post editorial board sizes up the presidential candidates' education platforms in today's lead editorial, part of its "Ideas Primary" series, but shoots and misses. It's not that its descriptions of Obama's and McCain's platforms were inaccurate; by and large, its analysis was fair. Obama wants more money and a litany of new programs; McCain seeks more parental choice, including online options, and more alternate routes to the classroom for teachers. I also have no complaint with the Post's call for national standards and tests--of course "it is madness that there are 50 different definitions of what constitutes proficiency in math and reading or of what a high school graduate should know."

Where the Post goes wrong is with its call for "something bolder."

Would either [candidate] be willing to embrace the dramatic changes needed to shake up a system that fails far too many children?.... There's a crisis in urban education. To significantly improve achievement levels among poor and minority children, scripted and predictable responses won't do.

The Post hasn't learned lesson number one of the No Child Left Behind era: what's sorely lacking in Washington isn't ambition,...

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Just weeks after the loss of one if its leading literary lights, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russia took two golds and a silver in three PIRLS reading events. Team USA, meanwhile, has two days left to secure its first medal. Can they pull it out? Stay tuned at

Sure, he was flawed, but he got a few big things right.

So writes guest blogger Richard Whitmire* in this phenomenal post that manages to leak Core Knowledge's plan to release a bona fide reading program; calls for a "gut check" for Democrats scrapping the federal Reading First program; and backs up Sol "Marshall Plan" Stern to boot.

*Whitmire also weighs in on the "paternalistic" debate. And guess what: he doesn't like the term either.

Politico is reporting that Senator McCain will announce his vice presidential pick on August 29th in Dayton, Ohio (Fordham's hometown). We can't help but wonder whether that means that McCain is going with an Ohioan. One name that's getting a lot of attention is John Kasich, the onetime presidential candidate and current commentator for Fox News. According to the website On the Issues, Kasich is a big supporter of school choice (appealing to Wall Street Journal conservatives) as well as school prayer (appealing to evangelical conservatives). He's youthful, dynamic, and the "son of a postman," as he likes to say, complementing McCain's age, experience, and wealth. Of course, he's also widely rumored to be planning a run for governor in 2010, but with Ted Strickland as popular as ever, he and the Ohio GOP might welcome this shot at the vice presidency....