After sitting idle for a week, our Obama Administration Reform-o-Meter is about to get a workout. That's because things are finally happening over at 400 Maryland Avenue. Wednesday brought news about Title I regs, some important details about the stimulus package, and the name of the next Under Secretary of Education. I'm playing a bit of catch-up; we'll start today with the regs. (I've already said a bit about them here and here.)

The main thing to know is that Arne Duncan plans to overturn very few of the regulations implemented by Margaret Spellings on her way out of office. (In terms of importance, these are key provisions, and foreshadow the Administration's thinking on NCLB reauthorization, so I'll rank it a six of out ten.) This shouldn't be a huge surprise; as I wrote last fall, these regulations already reflected the left-of-center school reform consensus, particularly on graduation rates. Critics of Duncan will say that this action shows him to be Spellings reincarnated (and thus a "conservative"); a better interpretation is to say that Spellings would have been comfortable working for Obama. But I digress.

As for the changes, some are...

While the name "No Child Left Behind" might be history, the law's animating principles are here to stay. So it appears from Secretary Arne Duncan's recent policy letter. Note this passage:

I am writing with regard to the Title I regulations that were issued by my predecessor in October 2008... I have heard various comments on these regulations from a number of interested parties - some supporting the regulations and others urging me to repeal them. I have carefully reviewed each of the October 2008 Title I regulations with these comments in mind. I am also mindful of the fact that it is important to balance the need to plan for the reauthorization of the ESEA with the need to review existing regulations. On the whole, these regulations support the educational goals for which I will advocate as Secretary: greater transparency, particularly for parents; flexibility in return for accountability; improved assessment and data systems to better track the growth of students and improve instruction; and increased focus on high school graduation. I have decided to propose changes in a few of the regulations, while leaving the majority of these regulations in effect. (Boldface added.)

For the better...

The third-year evaluation on the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program reports that students who received vouchers outperformed their non-voucher peers in reading. There was no difference in math.

Of course, there will be lots and lots written and said about this over the next several days, and of course this all will have a bearing on the reauthrorization of the program (which, I'm strongly in favor of).

Though this evaluation is invaluable (not to mention required under federal law), it has the effect, in my opinion, of distracting us from the more important discussion. ????Here's my take:

While I emphatically believe in school choice--meaning the right of low-income children to access safe and high-performing schools when the public schools assigned to them are dangerous and of poor quality--not every non-assigned school is stellar.

There is wide variation in the quality of traditional public schools. ????There is wide variation in the quality of charters. ????There is wide variation in the quality of private schools. ????The evaluation findings simply suggest that the quality distribution of private schools is shifted a bit to the right of the traditional public school sector.

But we shouldn't care much about the...

This time I'm not making an April Fool's Day joke. If you give Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's new??letter about the Title I regs* a good look, you'll notice a subtle linguistic shift:

I support the core principles of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), including closing achievement gaps and demanding accountability for ensuring that all students achieve to high standards. But the law can be improved.

Note that he avoided calling it the "No Child Left Behind act." Say goodbye, NCLB.

* Yes, I'll put it through the reform-o-meter soon.

Much has been much written about the challenges of understanding Ohio Gov. Strickland's school-funding plan. For example, the Akron Beacon Journal asked, why some "wealthy districts receive more state money than much poorer ones? How were the costs calculated for components of the key funding factor, the Instructional Quality Index?" (see here and here). If, however, the numbers are a mystery for traditional school district officials they are--stealing a line from Winston Churchill--"a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" for charter schools.

The accompanying graph shows a sample of charter schools in Dayton and how their funding would improve, or suffer in 2010 under the governor's Evidence Based Model of school funding. The numbers were shared in mid-March through a simulation provided by the Ohio Department of Education. The X axis shows student enrollment in each school while the Y axis shows the revenue gain/loss in thousands of dollars for each school in the scatter plot.

What one sees here is that there are some winners, and some big time losers. Why are there such extreme differences in funding? There is no clear answer. In looking at...

Confirming Mike's post from last night, Kerri Briggs is the new state chief for Washington, DC.

Kerri and I worked together at the Department, and she's a great choice for this position. As Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Kerri oversaw the work-horse office of the Department. In addition to working closely with state departments of education every day on accountability issues, Kerri's shop was also in charge of lots of important policy matters, like the NCLB regs, the differentiated accountability pilot, the growth models program and more. She also held various other positions in ED over the years, so she's very well-suited for this new job. I wish her well.

But given the importance of the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, it's more than a little curious that the current administration still hasn't picked someone for this post. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they certainly have been busy, and let's assume that they've identified someone and they're just waiting for the vetting process to play out.????

But if they haven't made a choice yet, here's my two cents: With NCLB/ESEA reauthorization looming, OESE's????broad scope of...

The Education Gadfly

Also, don't forget to check out this week's news-filled issue of the Education Gladfly!

Top Nine Ways to Spend Stimulus Dollars from Education Gadfly on Vimeo.

Watch out Massachusetts; your little neighbor to the south is poised to become the next big school reform powerhouse. The Ocean State already benefits from forward-thinking governor Don Carcieri and entrepreneur-turned-school-reformer Angus Davis. Well, they've been looking for a butt-kicking state superintendent to round out the trio and have found her: Deborah Gist, who is currently the District of Columbia's "state superintendent."

The main thing to know is that Gist has been quietly revamping D.C.'s teacher certification and evaluation system to focus on crazy notions like quality, performance, and effectiveness. No doubt she'll bring this thinking to Rhode Island, where the outgoing state superintendent has laid down an ultimatum around these issues, at least for the city of Providence.

So will DC be left in the lurch? Not necessarily; I'm hearing that Kerri Briggs, formerly an Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education under Margaret Spellings, will be taking Gist's place.

Photograph from DC State Superintendent website...

It's been rumored before, but I'm hearing that it's a done deal: John Easton, currently head of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, will lead the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. He's still going through the vetting process, but unless he's failed to pay a whole lot of taxes, he should be moving into Russ Whitehurst's old office soon. I don't know much about Easton, but the Consortium enjoys a strong reputation for policy research. That research, it should be noted, is typically of the non-random-assignment variety, as much policy research has to be. (It's hard to randomly select kids or schools to be subject to accountability, for example.) So perhaps this will reflect a shift at IES, away from uber-scientific studies of discreet classroom interventions, and towards more interest in studying systemic reform.

Photo from National High School Center website...

We got a bit ahead of schedule this week so we thought we'd publish a day early. You know what they say about that early worm... or early bird? Whatever. Anyway, the Gladfly is up. In the top spot find a guest editorial from John J. Johnson, superintendent of the Orange River Regional School District in Pitchfork, TN. He explains how he'd use the stimulus dollars that are surely flowing toward his district. Seat back TVs on school buses? A Broadway show for the school musical? Wii Fit gym classes? Check, check, and check. Get even more ideas from this professional development video. Then, learn about the DC Chancellor's makeover (she loves to bake--and kittens--apparently), new NIPP charter schools, innovative ways to cut class sizes--literally, and the latest antics of the P-22 movement.

Next up is a quartet of edifying expositions of notable studies. First, take a gander at the new stimulus regs (bedtime reading, really), Sarah Palin's new geography textbook (finally, someone sets the record straight on whose Diomede is whose), the latest education manifesto (a whole new take on "realism"), and a...