News and notes

The Washington Post made a big splash this weekend with a long, thorough piece on Common Core adoption and implementation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Post calls the embrace of Common Core “one of the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history” and attributes it to the philanthropy of the world’s wealthiest person. Perhaps this is the beginning of a trend—the media covering private giving to schools. The New York Times recently reported on the K–12 giving of the Walton Family Foundation.

Something big is afoot in the nation’s teacher unions. In state and local elections, members are choosing increasingly militant leaders. This might be what unions need to regain strength, or it could further isolate them. Either way, the path ahead is going to be bumpy for all involved. This piece, despite the crude analysis of the reform community, explains what’s happening and why.

I’ve spilled lots of ink trying to raise the alarm about Detroit’s schools. But a picture’s worth a thousand words, so take a quick spin through this tragic photo collection on the abandonment of the Motor City.

State takeovers of failing districts can pit two principles against each other—the need to intervene aggressively when low-income kids are being poorly served and the right of communities to shape the contours of their local schools. This short piece about Newark and Paterson, New Jersey—under state control for two decades apiece—describes the uncomfortable balance.

In my view, the education-reform community has spent too little energy trying to help rural schools. There are millions of low-income kids far outside of big cities, and unfortunately we’ve yet to develop policies and programs to address these needs. If you need convincing, just take a quick look at this map of the most “persistently poor” U.S. counties. They’re mostly in Appalachia, the Deep South, the Mississippi Delta, and Indian reservations. This is why we at Bellwether think the ROCI initiative is so important.

There’s a very good Politico article today on the role of education in the race for Washington, D.C., mayor. This story has implications for lots of cities and lots of state policymakers, as D.C. has mayoral control of the district and a large and growing charter sector. (For those really interested in the mayoral control-city politics angle, this article on Rahm Emmanuel and Chicago schools might be of interest.)