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At first, I really didn’t care. I’m a pretty easy-going guy, all-in-all. Every few years, we’d get some new transfer, another geek to teach the eighth graders Algebra I, like they need that! They’d just about choke on their single-serving chocolate milk from the cafeteria when they met me.

“Fordham? Your name is Thomas B. Fordham? Like those swivel-eyed crazies with the charter schools and the horseflies?”

“D. For Dayton. (Ohio pride, buddy!) Thomas D. Fordham, no relation. But everybody just calls me Tommy D.”

And that would be that; I could get back to the business of teaching seventh-grade gym at Toledo Central Middle School (Go Jackrabbits!). But every man has his limit, and I’m finally beyond mine.

Problem is, you Fordham types don’t quit. It’s not just the charter thing, mind you, or even the bugs. I mean, enough with the “accountability” nonsense, okay? It’s not enough for you to sponsor some random schools? You’ve got to stick your noses in my school, too? And the reports? Oy. Every year, like clockwork, with those Ohio report-card analyses. (Though they’re useful for evening out the legs on my desk the sixth-grade shop class gave me last spring.)

What really got me, though, was this Senate Bill 5 shenanigan. Charter schools just mean I have a smaller fourth-period class. Not all bad. But taking away my God-given right to a fraternal union contract and then saying I can’t strike over it? Oh no, no, no. This Terri Ryan lady...

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Noting the success of last summer’s Education Reform Idol bonanza, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute proudly announces its new event series, Dancing with the School-Reform Stars. The show pairs noted reformers with famed defenders of the status quo. The first episode features Checker Finn doing the cha-cha with Randi Weingarten, Ted Mitchell dancing the tango with Diane Ravitch, and Michelle Rhee break-dancing with Dennis Van Roekel. See the season’s full line-up here.

In this analysis from the Fordham Institute, our acclaimed research team steps in to solve an age-old debate: Which education blogger is most self-absorbed and self-referential? In particular, does Andy Rotherham’s persistent disclaiming of his many influential personal connections take the cake? Or is Rick Hess’s constant citing of his own books and articles more egregious? In Eduwonk v. Rick Hess Straight Up!, researchers analyze twelve months of data—March 2011 to March 2012—and tally all the parentheticals, endnotes, and asterisks in both authors’ blog posts. In the end, our experts determined that Rick annihilated Andy, with five times more bits of shameless self-promotion than Andy over this period of time. That said, both were far surpassed by the sheer volume of irrelevant material emanating from Mike Petrilli’s Twitter feed. The authors recommend that Rick and Andy take it down a notch, and that Mike commence a twelve-step program at a professional rehabilitation facility. For the full data set and analysis, click here.

April Fools' Day is just around the corner, but don’t let it distract you from Fordham’s serious takes on education this week. Here’s a brief rundown of what our bloggers were saying:

  • “Families and schools in Wisconsin should demand integrity and accuracy from the supposedly professional head of their education department,” argued Adam Emerson on Choice Words, criticizing the spin from the chief of the Department of Public Instruction on school vouchers.
  • “The appropriate reaction of Common Core supporters to the news that nearly three-fourths of teachers claim to be at least somewhat prepared to teach the new standards should be fear,” warned Kathleen Porter-Magee on Common Core Watch. “Because these results suggest that far too many teachers plan to make few, if any, changes to their instructional and curricular programs.”
  • “Alfie Kohn isn’t evil, as some social conservatives have implied,” wrote Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. “He’s right that what passes for education in too many of our
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Guest blogger John White is Louisiana superintendent of education. This post originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the Baton Rouge Advocate.

The Advocate has recently published several letters to the editor on public education. I have to say as an educator, I'm disappointed with the prevailing tone and content of those letters opposing change.

Here are some passages that illustrate a common thread:

"We, the public school teachers of East Baton Rouge schools, can't educate children who don't want to be educated. We can't educate children whose parents don't care and are not involved."

"…the state is going to require that very poor students take the ACT… The weaker of these students are not college-bound students who have no intention to attend college, yet he has to be compared and compete."

And one writer simply stated, "Poverty is a significant factor affecting academic scores," leaving it at that—as if that absolves us of any responsibility to educate the child.

I'm so disappointed in these comments for two reasons. First, they betray a mindset that forsakes the American dream. They show a sad belief among some that poverty is destiny in America, defying our core value that any child, no matter race, class, or creed, can be the adult he or she dreams of being. Yes, poverty matters. Yes, it impacts learning. And that fact should only embolden us to do everything we can to break the cycle of poverty so another generation of children does not...

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March Madness couldn’t distract Fordham’s bloggers from the week’s important education news. A quick review:

To stay on top of all of Fordham’s commentary, subscribe to the Gadfly Daily’s combined RSS feed....

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As was widely reported (see here, here, and here) Jeb Bush endorsed Mitt Romney yesterday.

The Times called it a “coveted endorsement”—and indeed it is, no matter how much fun Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich had at poor Eric Fehrnstrom’s expense. (For the record, that same day Fehrnstrom, a longtime Romney advisor, gave a televised interview in which he said “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign…. Everything changes [when he’s running against Obama]. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”)

Shake It, Start Over
Jeb Bush, who has been a tireless education reformer since the mid-nineties, is no Etch A Sketch.
Photo by Rex Sorgatz.

Jeb Bush, who has been a tireless education reformer since the mid-nineties, is no Etch A Sketch. And by coincidence I was lucky enough to spend some time with the popular two-term Florida governor (1999—2007) just last week as part Education Next’s “Conversation” series with important education reformers (see my conversations with John White, Whitney Tilson, and Chris Cerf). You can read a summary of what he accomplished in Florida here; examples include instituting an A—F school grading system, ending social promotion, rewarding school success with both...

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Fordham’s bloggers weighed in on education stories from around the country this week; here’s a quick look at what had them buzzing:

  • California: On Common Core Watch, Kathleen wondered whether critics like California teacher of the year and education blogger Alan Lawrence Sitomer are justified in questioning CCSS architect David Coleman’s credentials because he lacks teaching experience. “Perhaps,” Kathleen suggests, “what we need right now in education is not fewer outsiders, but many, many more.”
  • Colorado: Terry Ryan profiled the trailblazing pay-for-performance teacher compensation plan pioneered by Colorado Springs’ Harrison School District 2 on the Ohio Gadfly Daily.
  • Florida: On Choice Words, Adam highlighted a promising bill in the Sunshine State that would blur the lines between home schooling and public schooling.
  • Louisiana: Board’s Eye View hosted a guest blog post from New School’s for New Orleans’ Neerav Kingsland, who explained the lessons education reformers can learn from Europe's transition away from communism.
  • Washington, D.C.: Mike argues on Flypaper that Representative George Miller’s ESEA reauthorization bills currently being considered in the nation’s capital are actually “conservative” because they would essentially keep NCLB the same.

Also, be sure to watch Kathleen’s FoxNews.com interview on the sorry state of state science standards and listen to Checker’s discussion of vocational education on yesterday’s edition of The Bill Bennett Show. You can have all of Fordham’s commentary delivered right to your inbox by subscribing...

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March (ESEA) Madness?

Mike and the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke step outside to debate the place of climate science in standards and whether John Kline’s ESEA proposals stand a chance, while Amber looks at the relative merits of a four-day school week.

Amber's Research Minute

Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week - Download the PDF

Forest above Crafnant
 Is there a racist behind every tree in the American education forest?
 
Photo by Stuart 

Is there a racist behind every tree in the American education forest? That’s the spin a lot of people have given to last week’s massive trove of federal data on school discipline and sundry other topics. “Black students face more harsh discipline” headlined the New York Times. “Minority students face harsher punishments,” quoth the Associated Press. “An educational caste system” stormed the head of the country’s largest coalition of civil-rights groups.

The federal data (from 2009-10) cover a multitude of issues but what caught most eyes was the finding that black and Latino students are suspended or expelled from school in numbers greater than their shares of the overall pupil population. “The undeniable truth,” declared Education Secretary Arne Duncan, “is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.” Declaring that the new data paint “a very disturbing picture,” Assistant Secretary (for Civil Rights) Russlynn Ali proudly informed the media that her office has “launched 14 large-scale investigations into disparate discipline rates across...

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