Congressman Castle??just said??that national standards and assessments are "worthy of discussion." This is big news; few Republicans have been so open about considering supporting national standards. He worries that too many state standards are "dumbed down" and that encourages schools to "coast along."

He addressed other ideas for NCLB reauthorization, including implementing a growth model, allowing computer-adaptive assessments, ensuring standardized graduation rates, encouraging merit pay and charter schools, supporting Teach For America and other routes to alternative certification, funding education research, and especially promoting parental involvement. "If there's one thing I could do, it would be to uplift our culture" to focus more on education.

Senator Alexander is up and is arguing that the GOP should follow President Lincoln's lead. He provided opportunities through laws such as the one creating Land-Grant Colleges and Universities. That "Lincoln Approach" was later followed by the GI Bill, Pell Grants, etc. That contrasts with the FDR "Command and Control" approach, which is dominant in k-12 education policy today.

The federal government should be involved in education, but??Senator Alexander is??in favor of the Lincoln opportunity model, not the Rooseveltian command and control model. It's virtually impossible for lawmakers and regulators to make schools better.

What can feds do to confer opportunities on parents? Pell grants for kids: $500 to spend after school. A federal tax system favoring parents raising children. Pre-natal care. Nurse visits in homes. Home schooling. Help adults learn English. Work-site day care. Higher standards and data collection. Pay good teachers more by expanding the Teacher Incentive Fund. Encourage charter schools. Teach For America. Award peer-reviewed competitive research grants to ed schools. UTEACH. Summer academies for teachers of history and sciences. Train school leaders.

Republicans should create proposals and policies that create opportunities for students, parents, teachers, etc. But we should stay away from "command...

In just a few minutes, the DC policy scene will be gathering here at Fordham for our third "Great Debate" on pressing education issues of the day. (See my live-blogging of the last one here.)

Today's debate will focus on the future of the Republican Party as it pertains to federal education policy. Squaring off will be Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who also serves as the third-ranking Republican in the Senate. (Of course, he was also the secretary of education and even made the cover of TIME.) And Senator Jim DeMint of South Caroline, described by National Journal as the most conservative member of the Senate. And finally Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware, who also served as a two-term governor of??his state.

The focus of the debate (we hope!) will be Fordham's "Open Letter" to the new Administration and Congress, released in December, and more specifically its call for policymakers to embrace "Reform Realism."

In a nutshell, Reform Realism seeks to advance education reform but with realistic expectations about what Uncle Sam can accomplish from Washington. It contrasts with the "extend NCLB" camp within the GOP,...

Amy Fagan

President Obama visited the SEED School of Washington DC this week, to sign the National Service Act. He heaped praise on the urban public boarding school. "This school is a true success story, a place where for four of the last five years, every graduate from the SEED School was admitted to college. Every graduate,??? he said (as quoted in the Post story)

Indeed, the school, which opened in 2001, grew out of a very rough history ??? in 1992 a 5-year-old girl was shot and killed on what is now the school campus. Over the last several years, it has received many accolades for its success (Oprah is a big fan).

Now, we don't know exactly how President Obama first heard about it, but perhaps he has been reading David Whitman's book, Sweating the Small Stuff. In the book, Whitman highlights DC's SEED School as one of several extremely successful inner-city schools that he says possess ???paternalistic??? qualities ??? they emphasize developing moral character, maintaining order and safety, providing a rigorous curriculum. Whitman writes that SEED actually goes above and beyond ??? as a boarding school, the...

Yesterday on a mid-afternoon run to CVS, I walked past a bus on the corner of 16th and K streets. Guess what was on the side? An advertisement for the now defunct DC Opportunity Scholarship program. How depressing.

Education is full of irony. For example, in Ohio - as in other states - charter schools were born in the late 1990s out of lawmakers' exasperation with failed district schools that were constantly seeking more funding through adequacy lawsuits in the state courts.

Fast forward to 2009, and Ohioans are still debating school funding and charter schools. The Ohio House released its version of the state biennial budget this week and during a press conference leadership claimed that the budget would finally make Ohio's school funding system "constitutional." Deep in this 3,679-page budget document, Democratic lawmakers propose the creation of four classes of charter school funding. All of these levels of funding, by the way, are less than what traditional district schools would receive--some charters would simply be shorted less than others.

The proposed categories are:

1) District-sponsored brick-and-mortar charter schools. These schools, regardless of their state academic rating, receive the base charter funding plus the "Ohio educational challenge factor." This factor is an index ranging from 0.75 to 1.65 that is intended to adjust funding for each school to account for student and community property wealth and socioeconomic factors. Charter schools that...

I fancy myself forward-thinking, even revolutionary, when it comes to envisioning the urban school district of the future. But after an hour-long conversation with a truly exceptional group from the NYC Department of Education's portfolio and charter school teams, I felt downright humdrum.

What they are implementing-not just thinking about, not just talking about, but actually implementing-via closures, charters, and new start-ups is (next to the charterization of New Orleans' system) the most exciting development in the affairs of traditional districts in eons.

This team is ably led by the very impressive Michael Thomas Duffy who accomplished great things for charterdom while in Boston. In addition to helping bring great new schools online for the nation's largest school district, Duffy will also be called on to play an important role in this tricky effort.

After this meeting, I'm more bullish than ever about what Joel Klein is accomplishing. I've long believed that the only way to fix urban public education is to completely replace the traditional district model. But if it's possible-if-to transition that failed model into something much better, NYC may be providing the blueprint.


We DC-based policy types are susceptible to getting dangerously far removed from the quotidian thrills and struggles of real schools. So I visited four schools earlier this week while in NYC. It was a complete delight. If you find yourself suffering from policy- or research-induced edu-malaise, here's a highlight from each school.

At the Cornelia Connelly Center, an all-girls Catholic middle school on the Lower East Side serving a 100 percent minority and 90 percent free and reduced-price eligible student body, my two "student ambassador" tour guides were pulled out of their mandatory Latin class where they were, at the moment, learning the roots of the word "intractable." "I like Latin," one of the young ladies told me, "it helps me understand English better, too." Walking past a picture of the president hanging next the history classroom, the other young woman said, "We were allowed to watch the inauguration in school. Some students got pretty emotional. It showed what we could become."

At the remarkable Harlem Success Academy charter school (run by the remarkable Eva Moskowitz), the school's powerful culture was evident everywhere, from the founders' vision to the teachers'...

The Education Gadfly

In honor of Earth Day, we'd like to offer up and oldie but a goodie: last year's Fordham Earth Day video. Enjoy!

It's well-documented that school funding, generally speaking, is too opaque. District budgets mask differences in teacher pay from school to school, just as they often fail to show differences in how other centrally-controlled resources are deployed in schools. These accounting shortcuts (or cover-ups) mask deep inequities in funding between schools, often at the expense of those with poor and at-risk students.

Greater transparency and clarity in district- and school-level budgets would help, so I whole-heartedly agree with the New York Times editorial board that Secretary Duncan should push for this in return for the $13 billion in Title I stimulus funding:

Arne Duncan, the education secretary, will need to make sure that states and localities clearly understand what he means when he asks them to report per-pupil expenditures school by school.

To the extent possible, the new reporting standard should take into account extra programs that are sometimes parceled out to affluent schools but not to poor ones ??? from administrative budgets that are billed to, say, the school district's headquarters.

Most important, the local districts should not be allowed to persist with sloppy bookkeeping that masks teacher salary differences in high poverty