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The Education Gadfly

Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) kicks off its annual summit today out in San Francisco. Over the course of its two days, attendees will talk shop about education-finance reform, revamping the teaching profession, and more.

They'll also be greeted by the smiling face of Fordham's own Checker Finn as they walk in the door: The United Educators of San Francisco (UESF)?which has organized a protest of the event?has made Checker one of its ?public (education) enemies,? an esteemed designation that he holds with FEE head honcho Jeb Bush and NewsCorps CEO Rupert Murdoch, who is giving the closing address to the summit. All three are featured front-and-center on the UESF's protest flyer.

We take it as a compliment that the folks at UESF find Checker to be as influential in the policy sphere as Jeb Bush and as well-connected as Rupert Murdoch. ?But we wonder why they didn't single out Sal Khan (guru behind the Khan Academy videos) or Melinda Gates, both of whom are giving keynote speeches during the summit, along with Murdoch. Maybe Checker is just more photogenic.

?The Education Gadfly


I've been traveling a bunch the past few weeks, making it harder to blog. (Though there's always time to tweet!) So I'm a little late to the party on the recent report from Complete College America, Time is the Enemy. As the press and many pundits have relayed, CCA finds the college completion rate to be shockingly low, especially for poor and minority students. For example, less than half of Pell-eligible students pursuing a four-year degree graduate within six years. For part-time Pell students, it's more like 17 percent. The numbers are similar for African-American and Hispanic students. [quote]

From a reformer's perspective, the reaction to these dispiriting results is obvious: improve academic preparation in the k-12 system in order to reduce enrollment in remedial classes; reduce the amount of time it takes to get a college degree; encourage transferability of credits; etc. And these are all worth doing.

But I can't help but wonder: with so many kids dropping out of college--and especially so many poor kids--should we reconsider our assumption that higher education is the ticket to the middle class? Isn't it possible that lots of these kids would be better off pursuing the trades or (dare I say) the military? If you could figure out a way to do a rigorous study, I'd bet a lot of money that the military has a much better retention rate than higher education for similar young adults--and a much better track record at propelling its "graduates"...


Do you have a voracious appetite for education policy news and views? Do you need to stay abreast of the latest school reform debates? Do you want to have access to breaking news, as soon as it's reported? Are you always looking for new ways to waste time? Then Twitter is for you!

In all seriousness, if you're reading Flypaper, you must be something of a wonk, and you would probably get a lot out of following the ed policy debate on Twitter, too. And thanks to Education Next, getting started is a breeze.

Here's the deal: In the current issue is an article by moi about Twitter's impact on the education war of ideas. Included is a list of the most influential Tweeters in education--both the media/policy types and educators themselves. Ed Next just updated these lists as of the end of August (the rankings change fast); you can go here and click a few buttons and sign up to follow all of these folks at the same time.

Let me cut the suspense and list the top-10 (well, 12), at least for the media and policy crowd:

  1. Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch) with a Klout score of 73
  2. Education Week (@EducationWeek); Klout = 73
  3. Leonie Haimson (@LeonieHaimson); Klout = 70
  4. U.S. Dept. of Education (@UsEdGov); Klout = 66
  5. Justin Hamilton (@EdPressSec); Klout = 66
  6. Arne Duncan (@ArneDuncan); Klout = 64
  7. Huffington Post Education (@huffpostedu); Klout = 63
  8. Randy Page (@rpagesc); Klout
  9. ...

Last year, Kansas City Superintendent John Covington made headlines when he stabilized the hemorrhaging Kansas City School District (which had lost 75 percent of its students in the past four decades) by shutting half of the district's schools, selling the central office building, and axing close to a quarter of the administrative staff. And he did all of this with the backing of the school board and community leaders. So imagine their surprise (and ire) when Covington, who has been at the helm of KC schools for about two years, abruptly resigned last week?only to take the wheel of Michigan's nascent state-run ?reform school district,? the Education Achievement System (EAS). Finger-pointing and fist-shaking aside, there are a few big takeaways to be drawn from Covington's departure?and his arrival in Motown.

First: KC should have seen this coming?and should have planned for it. The lifespan of an urban supe is akin to that of an American Newt (which, for the non-zoologists out there is about three years). And it's even shorter for those, like Covington, who are brought in as transformational leaders. Dynamic leadership can jumpstart a district's success, but it needs to be buttressed by a smart?and painstakingly articulated?transition plan. The Center for Reinventing Public Education made this point (though they were speaking specifically to charter schools) back in December in their report ?You're Leaving? Sustainability and Succession in Charter Schools.?

Second: When it comes to high-quality district leaders, the educational landscape is reasonably...