I didn't expect my call for Michigan to declare Detroit Public Schools bankrupt to lead to action so quickly. But it doesn't sound like the state is willing to go far enough. While it's true that Michigan took over DPS not so long ago, the state wasn't willing to make the dramatic moves necessary to changing the dynamics on the ground. Now is its chance to get it right with a true fresh start.

National Review Online must have been a fan of Fordham's Education Olympics, for this week it has articles by not one, but two of its stars, Roy Romer and our own Mike Petrilli. Romer offers??the sensible and familiar argument that too many large school systems are in crisis and that "we cannot continue to just do more of the same." What we need, he argues, are "exacting standards," "quality teachers" in every classroom, pay-for-performance plans, and more pay for "those who teach in under-performing, at-risk schools."

I'm sure Mike would agree with those prescriptions, but today he's in no mood??for mere incremental reforms, worthy as they might be. In districts like Detroit, whose mammoth failures mirror those of Wall Street, he writes that

States have a long history of coming to the rescue of huge urban districts, long after they have demonstrated an utter inability to get results or balance their books... What's needed is a fresh start, a do-over, a clean slate for Detroit. Simply put, the state should declare Detroit Public Schools bankrupt. Michigan should take it into receivership and void or renegotiate all of its contracts (including its collective-bargaining agreement with the


Mike shares his pearls of wisdom on a September 9th NCLB NBC special.

So says Checker Finn in today's Columbus Dispatch. For some good advice about education in Ohio, and beyond, see here??and here.

Amy Fagan

On Wed. September 3, Fordham hosted a lively panel discussion of the David Whitman's new book, "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism." On hand were Jay Mathews of The Washington Post, and Charles Adams, head of school at the SEED School in D.C. For your viewing pleasure, we've posted a video of their discussion online.

"Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism" book talk from Education Gadfly on Vimeo....

I've been musing for days (here and here ) about who should be the next Secretary of Education. And then along comes David Brooks (writing about Sarah Palin ) and crystallizes it all for me:

It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events - the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

How is prudence acquired? Through experience. The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can't, what has worked and what hasn't.

So what kind of experience matters most for potential education secretaries? It strikes me that there are two big parts...

There's a lot of political lip-service of late given to ridding schools of bad teachers. But be aware if you're looking to do so in Dallas. A 30-year veteran teacher was fired due in part to low ratings on the "Classroom Effectiveness Index," a value-added evaluation instrument. All of this started back in August when a handful of teachers were let go at the veteran teacher's school. DISD spokesman John Dahlander explained,

If their TAKS rates are low, and they are not even reaching the levels that other teachers are reaching, then they may be recommended for termination. That falls into a small subset of teachers, but it does happen.

Apparently not, John. Seems there's a huge difference between recommending termination and said termination actually happening. The ??teacher petitioned the Texas Education Agency Commissioner to be reinstated and, low and behold, she's back (with back pay). The Commissioner found (a la Broader and Bolder) that the school environment and student discipline problems were to blame for the teacher's firing, not the teacher's performance. Ugh.

According to 2003-2004 NCES data, only 1.9 percent of our nation's public school teachers with more than 3 years of experience...

It's stories like these that just make you shake your head . Sorry Springfield, no new school options for you until your district schools completely tank.