Flypaper

Jay Greene says we are "obsessed with the latest policy fashions" and switching our "policy focus so that it is in line with the current administration and congressional majority."

For what do we deserve such harsh criticism? Did we repudiate our previous concerns about the education stimulus? Start celebrating the virtues of "extended learning time"? Decide to push for greater federal education spending for as far as the eye can see?

Nope, we've organized a debate for August on the topic, "With charter schools ascendant, is there still a future for school vouchers?"

We haven't prejudged the outcome; Jay, you shouldn't either!

Details below; come see for yourself. Speakers to be announced soon.

Save the Date!

Please join the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for a panel discussion that will seek to answer the question:

With charter schools ascendant, is there still a future for vouchers?

* * *

Wednesday, August 19

4:00 PM-5:30 PM

Thomas B. Fordham Institute

1016 16th Street NW, 7th Floor

Washington, DC 20036

Please contact Amy Fagan at [email protected] or 202-223-5452....

 
 
Will Compernolle

Quotable

"It's ironic as hell that a budget that gives less funding to schools than the last seven budgets is being cast as a constitutional funding bill. That's funny. That's just funny." --Bill Seitz, Ohio State Senator

Bucyrus Telegraph Forum: Schools face big changes - eventually

Notable

18 : The number of charter schools featured in U.S. News's list of the top 100 high schools in America.

Kansas City infoZine: Poor Economy, Poor Student Achievement Threaten Charter Schools

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Ohio's legislature agreed this week to a $50.5 billion biennial state budget and Governor Strickland is expected to sign the bill by week's end.???? When it comes to education policy, there is a lot to dislike about this bill, from the adoption of an "evidence-based" model of school funding to the mucking up of the state's academic content standards with so-called 21st Century skills.???? But when it comes to teacher tenure and retention policies, the Buckeye State's leaders got something right.

The bill moves teacher tenure decisions from the third year of teaching to the seventh.???? According to the National Council on Teacher Quality's TR3 database, when this bill becomes law Ohio will have the longest time before tenure of any tenure-granting state. ????The budget also raises the bar for dismissing teachers to bring it in-line with that of other public employees. Currently, tenured teachers can only be let go for "gross immorality or inefficiency," a hard thing to prove that results in either costly, drawn-out litigation or teachers remaining in the classroom who just shouldn't be there. The budget bill will allow districts to fire teachers for "just cause," the...

 
 

The federal stimulus legislation is pumping lots of money into the nation's public education system, but what about private schools, particularly the invaluable subset of inner-city faith-based, including Catholic, schools?

I discuss the issue here. In short, the $650 million Innovation Fund (aka "What Works Fund") has some interesting potential. The question is: Will the Department allow these schools to complete?

I sure hope so.

 
 
The Education Gadfly

Editor's Note: This week we launch the first in a biweekly series highlighting education reformers. Every two weeks we'll pose the same questions to people working to bring about meaningful education reform--most of them from outside the Beltway. We kick off our feature with Alex Johnston, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN).

Alex Johnston is Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN). As ConnCAN's first employee, Alex launched what is now regarded as one of the nation's leading state-level education reform organizations. In the five years since, he has led ConnCAN's effort to advocate for state policies that will ensure every Connecticut child has access to a great public school. So far in 2009 ConnCAN has achieved two major legislative victories through its ???Mind the Gaps' campaign: overhauling the state's teacher certification rules and opening up stores of longitudinal student achievement data to the public. Legislative leaders and the governor have expressed support for the campaign's third goal???securing funding for the expansion of high-performing public charter schools???but the outcome still hangs in the balance pending final budget negotiations to close an $8 billion state budget deficit.

Alex previously...
 
 

When we decided to give the Obama Administration Reform-o-Meter an extended vacation, we never thought it would leave a hole that would be filled by the AFT! But take a look at this passage from this AP story:

During her speech, Weingarten showed members her new "collaboration meter," saying a series of questions would decide where it moves from "'Kumbaya' hot to I-never-want-to-speak-to-you-again cold."

Former??Fordham staffer and Flypaper contributor Liam Julian, who brought this development to my attention,??made this valid point:

I'm surprised they've dubbed it the "collaboration meter." Collaboration, to me, has a dirty connotation, bringing to mind French Nazis. You'd think the AFT would have picked something more, you know, AFT-ish: "Helping Children Meter" or "Flowers, Sunshine, and Great Schools Meter" or whatnot.)

As for me, I'm going to bask in the glow of "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Just be forewarned, AFT staffers: Keeping a meter up to date is a lot of work!...

 
 

Brand-new test score results for the District of Columbia Public Schools show big gains. The Post reports:

The biggest gains in the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System exams were in the elementary grades, where almost half of the students tested were deemed proficient: 48.6 percent in math (up from 40.5 percent in 2008) and 49.4 percent in reading (up from 45.6 percent in 2008). In 2007, fewer than a third of elementary students were considered proficient in either category.

Those are promising trends though, as with all state tests, there's plenty of reason to wonder if the gains reflect real improvements in achievement, or just growing familiarity with the test. As Bill Turque of the Post writes in a huge understatement, "the District will learn more about where students stand relative to their peers in other cities this fall when it receives math test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress." Indeed.

Rhee's response as reported by the Post was appropriate and somewhat measured: ""We're thrilled at the progress we've made this year,"??but "we still have an incredibly long way to go."

But I...

 
 
Amy Fagan

Checker's book, Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut, is reviewed in this Washington Times piece. Writer Martin Morse Wooster says Checker "asks several hard questions that ought to be answered before a national preschool subsidy is created." Among those, Checker wonders "if we can't establish good standards for Head Start after 40 years, why should we assume that a similar national preschool project will have firm, unyielding standards?" Checker argues that proponents of the national preschool program underestimate its cost, and he favors "a more limited program specifically targeted to the children of low-income families most at risk of falling behind," Wooster writes. All in all, Wooster calls the book "essential reading for anyone concerned about this substantial expansion of the federal role in education." He concludes:

In "Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut," Mr. Finn asks us what's the right thing to do about preschool—help 4-year-olds who are poor and struggling or satisfy the insatiable public education establishment's unlimited cravings for tax dollars?

Check out the full review!...

 
 

As Andy reported last Friday, the DC Council has sent a letter to Secretary Duncan urging him to reconsider the fate of the DC Opportunity Scholarship program. What's interesting is that the issue is picking up additional hints of the long running "taxation without representation" debate that has surrounded DC's disenfranchised state. Currently, the District has no voting representation in Congress, only a (non-voting) delegate to the House of Representatives. The Wall Street Journal explains:

The D.C. Council's letter shows that support for these vouchers is real at the local level and that the opposition exists mainly at the level of the national Democratic Party. Mr. Durbin has suggested that he included the D.C. Council provision in deference to local control. "The government of Washington, D.C., should decide whether they want it in their school district," he said in March. Well now we know where D.C. stands.

We'll have to wait and see if the voucher program becomes the headline issue for DC Votes activists. It seems perfectly suited to the job.

On a more historical note, DC rights issues could change District education in some surprising ways. (Read more about the movement ...

 
 
Alex Klein

Quotable

"We need kids to be more risk-taking, more entrepreneurial. More than ever, we need the right brain to mix with the left." --Patrick Bassett, President, National Association of Independent Schools

USA Today: No right brain left behind: Must kids prep for 'risk-taking'?

Notable

$100,948 : The amount of money the Klein Independent School District in Texas has collected over the last two years from cell phone confiscation fines. They charge $15 per confiscation.

ABC News: Students Hit With $15 Fine For Using Cell Phones in School

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