Governance

Sal Khan at Web 2.0 Summit
 

The front page of Sunday’s New York Times featured a pair of articles, each of which was
informative and alarming in its way but which, taken together, produced (in my
head at least) a winter storm—as did Tuesday evening’s State
of the Union message
by President Obama.

The longer, more informative, and more alarming, of the articles
was an extensive account of why Apple’s iPhones are now
made in China rather than the U.S.
The short version is that “the
flexibility, diligence, and industrial skills of foreign workers have so
outpaced their American counterparts that ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ is no longer a
viable option for most Apple products.”

Flexibility, diligence, and industrial skills. Hold that
thought.

Simply
put, although the President spoke of restoring millions of manufacturing jobs
to U.S. shores, it’s hard to picture Apple (or similar firms)...

While the arguments about silver bullets and secret sauces for successful schools continue, I confess fealty to Justice Potter Stewart’s observation about the definition of pornography: “I know it when I see it.”

In fact, I would wager (although I’m no Mitt Romney) that I could walk into any school in America and within 30 minutes, without looking at any data, tell you whether the students in that school are performing well – or poorly. And I’m a novice.

There is no secret sauce except what hardworking teachers, administrators, and students create.

During the last month I have been visiting high performing high schools in Ohio – high performing poor students—for an upcoming “needles in a haystack” report for Fordham’s Ohio team* (see 2010’s Needles report for a taste of what’s to come) and can confirm Justice Stewart’s aphorism. Success is in the air, the hallways, the offices, the gyms, the cafeterias. It’s on the walls—and probably in the water.  There is no secret sauce except what hardworking teachers, administrators, and students create.

It was thus not surprising to see Roland Fryer’s latest study of charter schools conclude that the key ingredients of success were “increased time, better...

'Twas the day before the State of the Union, and all through the House, not an educator was stirring, not even a teacher union louse...

We shall see tomorrow night, but this is already looking to be the Year of the Education Governor. With NCLB being pummeled from left and right
and Race to the Top in suspended inanimation, the feds seem unusually quiet, if
not on the run.

In an essay this morning in The
Hill,
Juan
Williams
, who is hosting a new video documentary about how Chicago mayor
Rahm Emanuel is “risking his political life by fighting the city’s teachers’
union to improve schools,” says “there is little urgency [about education
reform] in the halls of Congress.”

And New York Times education columnist Michael
Winerip
, also this morning, calls attention to the incredibly difficult
work of figuring out how to evaluate the 175,000 teachers in New York State,
79 percent of the state's total teacher population, who will be subject to the new RTTT-driven
rules. He points out that the state education department, its budget slashed by
40 percent in the last...

It was a bit like watching tag-team wrestling. The governor of
the nation’s third-largest state public education system and the mayor of the
nation’s largest single school district taking turns body-slamming teacher
unions; governance at its rawest.

First, on January 4 Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a bold State
of the State address
, promised to be the state’s lobbyist for students and “wage
a campaign to put students first and to remind us that the purpose of public
education is to help children grow, not to grow the public education bureaucracy.” 

Then, the next week, Michael Bloomberg delivered an equally
hard-hitting State
of the City address
, his penultimate as mayor of New York City, most of it devoted to
education. He proved, as Crain’s
Business Review
put it, that he was “not resigned to the malaise of a
lame-duck term or the limitations of a constrained budget” and “made clear his
frustrations with the city's teachers' union, which has long resisted reform.”

Indeed, the Bloomberg speech made it clear that Gotham’s three-term mayor was intent on making the
remaking of the city’s...

Is it time for Ohio to consider new forms of governance and management for its most troubled schools and districts, and, if so, what might alternatives look like? The question of what to do with long-suffering public schools has driven many of the country’s most significant education reforms. Both the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top competition addressed failing schools and sought to force dramatic changes within them. States have also taken up the challenge. According to the Education Commission of the States there are at least 29 states that permit state takeovers of school districts for academic bankruptcy, fiscal mismanagement, and other problems, while at least 23 states provide for takeovers of school buildings.

But, despite both federal and state legislation and millions of dollars in things like “school improvement grants” there are still far too many schools that seem impervious to improvement efforts. Consider Cleveland where there are 15 elementary schools that have been rated Academic Emergency (F) by the state for at least the last four consecutive years. Collectively, these schools serve about 6,000 children and in 2010-11 they met a total of just eight state performance indicators out of a possible 225....

In this post, originally published on our new Ohio Gadfly Daily blog, Terry Ryan explains the implications of Fordham's latest publication, The Louisiana Recovery School District: Lessons for the Buckeye State.

Is it time for Ohio to consider new forms of governance and management for its most troubled schools and districts, and, if so, what might alternatives look like? The question of what to do with long-suffering public schools has driven many of the country’s most significant education reforms. Both the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top competition addressed failing schools and sought to force dramatic changes within them. States have also taken up the challenge. According to the Education Commission of the States there are at least 29 states that permit state takeovers of school districts for academic bankruptcy, fiscal mismanagement, and other problems, while at least 23 states provide for takeovers of school buildings.

But, despite both federal and state legislation and millions of dollars in things like “school improvement grants” there are still far too many schools that seem impervious to improvement efforts. Consider Cleveland where there are 15 elementary schools that have been rated Academic Emergency (F) by the state...

That’s the headline above Paul Peterson’s better-than-nifty
essay
on the Ed Next blog.

Peterson, director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at
Harvard and Executive Editor of Education
Next
(of which I am a contributing editor), uses the Mac the Knife
reference to suggest that loyalties can be bought “for a pittance.” In this
case, it’s the National Education Association (NEA), which can, Peterson
argues,

…collect multi-millions of dollars through a check-off system
that generates revenues directly from teacher paychecks (unless a teacher
specifically objects),” and, a la the
villain of Mac the Knife, “invest in the work of less-advantaged non-profits
that ostensibly have entirely different agendas. Even a little bit of money can
produce a valuable ally somewhere down the line.

It’s a short essay, but is packed with evidence (from the Education Intelligence
Agency
) of NEA’s multi-tentacled reach, from a $250,000 grant to the Great
Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (“which has migrated to the
University of Colorado at Boulder, which received another quarter million in
direct funding,” says Peterson) to $100,000 for Media Matters,...

The responses to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent
claim
that he was going to be a lobbyist for public school students because
no one else was reminded me of the old television game show, “What’s My Line?” wherein
a celebrity panel got to quiz three contestants and then guess which one actually
performed the job they all said they performed. In the aftermath of Cuomo's State of the State address, lots folks came clamoring
with their student lobbyist creds. “A-hem,” wrote commenter SLBYRNES on BuffaloNews.Com:

Apparently, the Governor hasn't noticed the work of Citizen
Action and the Alliance
for Quality Education on behalf of children and the community's schools for
well over a decade. Or the District Parent Coordinating Councils, PTAs, etc….  Part of the reason we struggle so hard for
school improvement may be that he hasn't "heard" clearly or loudly
enough about, or from, us. See you next week, Sir. Oh, and we'll be looking for
that 4% and the CFE [Campaign for Education Equity] funding we fought for 12
years, were awarded, and the state reneged on...just saying.

...

Having proved himself the “steamroller” governor that his defrocked
predecessor Eliot Spitzer had promised to be, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
strode into a packed Empire State Plaza auditorium in Albany on Wednesday for
his second State of the State address to rousing applause and, perhaps taking a
page from Fordham’s Rethinking
Education Governance
initiative (which Board's Eye View will be doing a
lot of thinking about), proposed a “reimagining” of state government that
was credible.

His hour-long speech may have been short on specifics, but it was long on
principals that promise to make a difference and masterful in its rhetorical
and political flourishes. Much of the applause came from a state legislature
that the gifted politician – who grew up in
politics and was a senior aide to his popular two-term governor father, Mario, before he turned 30 – rescued from laughingstock status – he got
the dysfunctional body to close a $10 billion budget gap and deliver it on
time, pass a same-sex marriage law, and new ethics laws, and in the process
earned a national reputation and whispers about a 2016 ...



chocolate-covered face photo

Couldn't swear off chocolate--but maybe
this implementation thing will stick.
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

Forget swearing off sweets or hitting the gym; the New
Year’s resolution trending among education policymakers seems to be “getting
tough on implementation.” First, Arne Duncan ruined Hawaii’s holidays with a
stern Christmas card: The state is now on “high-risk status,” with access to
its remaining Race to the Top grant money severely limited until it stops dawdling
and starts implementing promised reforms. This from a federal education
department that has so far accommodated slow-moving states and approved dozens
of RTTT-application amendments. Perhaps energized (or concerned) by Duncan’s
newfound nerve, New York’s state commissioner of education, John King, is also
hopping on the “hard on implementation” wagon. This week, the Empire State’s commish announced that he’s withholding $60 million from Gotham’s SIG funding
after negotiations
broke down between the district and the union
over—what else?—teacher evaluations. (He’s cutting...

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