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
on the Ed Next blog.

Peterson, director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at
Harvard and Executive Editor of Education
(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

…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
) 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
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...

Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit cover
Building off their May 2011 conference of the same name,
this volume, edited by American Enterprise Institute scholars Rick Hess and
Andrew Kelly, offers a one-stop-shop for expert views on the federal role in
education over the past fifty years. The book (which includes a chapter from
our own Chester Finn) tackles topics ranging from federal efforts at promoting
equity to the courts’ role in education. While the tome doesn't much aim to
resolve the debate about the federal role, it does inject this timely issue
with a healthy dose of perspective, offering a nuanced picture of the feds'
capabilities. Particularly relevant, the chapter on the feds’ role in research
(which has emerged
as a hot topic in recent months
)—written by Jane Hannaway and Mark
Schneider—offers a keen take on how the feds have tried to balance rigor,
relevance, and politics as they pursue education research. Similarly compelling
is the chapter on Uncle Sam’s investment in innovation, where discussions of
RTTT and i3 feature prominently. Despite the book’s historic...

Welcome to Board’s Eye View. The blog name comes from my
location at ground zero of educational governance: member of the board of
education. Though I know that some see such boards as a shredded remnant of the
19th century, they remain, 14,000-plus strong, the default governance clutch of
the 21st century American public school engine. Love ‘em or leave ‘em—they are
in the driver’s seat. Endangered species or albatross, to change metaphors,
school boards pose the central question for America’s education future: Do “the
people” dictate education policy? And if so, how?

I first ran for school board in the late 1990s. It was a treat, since I had
not run for anything since high school.  Some of the old political instincts returned and I won. But I
soon learned that it was more like high school than anything I’d seen in the
adult world and I resigned after just six months, head spinning. (I recounted my
experience for Education
(called “A Board’s Eye View”) in 2005.)  

Seven years later, when I noticed that there were no official candidates on
the school...

A fascinating story in the New York Times about schooling in India has a few things to teach American educators; mainly, that the poor really do want a good education. (I have had extended discussions with colleagues about the question of educating the poor (see here, here, and here) and Kathleen Porter Magee’s The “Poverty Matters” Trap is a must-read for anyone investigating the subject.)

As it turns out, public schools in India, like many in the U.S., are apparently lousy – “in many states,” write Vikas Bajaj and Jim Yardley about India, “government education is in severe disarray, with teachers often failing to show up.” But unlike the U.S., where charter schools and vouchers have begun to offer alternatives, In India the poor have turned to a network of private schools to educate their children. It is much as James Tooley described it in a 2005 story in Education Next (and his subsequent book, The Beautiful Tree), recounting amazing stories from around the world:

[T]he poor have found remarkably innovative ways of helping themselves, educationally, and in some of the most destitute places on earth have managed to nurture a


The controversy over the recent New York Times front-page slam of K12 Inc. was ostensibly about the company’s inability to deliver online education (see CEO Ron Packard’s reply here), but one of the more interesting parts of the ensuing debate was not about computers and education but about delivering education for profit – which is what Packard’s company does. (Full disclosure: I have done some editing work for K12.)

This morning Walt Gardner, who writes the Reality Check blog for Education Week, penned a letter to the Times editor that seems to sum up the anti-profit school of thought pretty well:

Agora Cyber Charter School [the K12 school that was the Times’ whipping post] serves as an instructive case study of what happens when schools are run like businesses. The profit motive always assures that the education of students takes a back seat to the enrichment of investors.

Nevertheless, free market advocates have managed to exploit the frustration and anger felt by taxpayers over the glacial progress of traditional public schools to advance their agenda. In the end, it will become clear that it’s impossible to provide a quality education and show a profit at

Ray Pinney
Member outreach coordinator, New Jersey School Boards Association

Guest blogger Ray Pinney is member outreach coordinator for the New Jersey School Boards Association. In this post, which originally appeared on the NJSBA BoardBlog, he reflects on Fordham and CAP’s Rethinking Education Governance conference and what governance reform means for the Garden State.

After I graduated from college, I took the summer off and backpacked
through Europe because I figured that it might be the last time I could
travel without time constraints (of course, I was right about this).
 Not being able to speak the native languages provided some funny and
not-so-funny incidents. In any case, I am sure most of you have been in
a situation where the discussion is hampered by the two people not
speaking the same language. It can be frustrating at times and shows
how simple things can become so complicated.

A few weeks ago, I described an education reform program I attended,  Rethinking Education Governance for the Twenty-First Century,
which was sponsored by the Fordham Institute.  The presenters were for
the most part academics with impressive credentials. For those who
have been part of public education for...