During my time at the Alliance, I got to know and greatly respect the work of ConnCAN, a nonprofit education research and advocacy organization in Connecticut. Led by Alex Johnston and Marc Porter Magee, the group was doing interesting analysis, getting great press, and, when necessary, taking on tough political fights to improve the achievement of under-served kids.

The excellent work continues with ConnCAN's "Success Stories." ????They've put together????3-minute videos on the state's 15 top "gap-busting" charters, magnets, and traditional public schools. Not only are the videos refreshing and encouraging, but you also get the clear sense of why the schools are succeeding. ????They share a set of critical characteristics that lead to improved student learning. ????It's fascinating to watch a couple videos and see how the same words and themes keep coming up:????high expectations, family, use of data, achievement, excellence, behavior, community, team, leadership, hard work.

Let me end with three quick points before sending you off to watch a couple of these clips before starting your day. ????

First, it can be done. ????There are plenty of great schools for low-income kids. ????No more excuses....

Lynne Munson of Common Core offers the inside scoop on the Partnership for 21st Century Skills's pep rally held at the NEA yesterday. (Typically we would rely upon news??bulletins from Education Week, but its reporter Steve Sawchuck was disinvited.) Lynne reports that:

Paige Kuni explained that in the "search, cut, and paste environment" students live in today, they only need to know "enough of the most crucial information." She didn't say who decides when enough is enough or what P21 considers crucial. Is it enough earth science to know that the earth is round? Enough literature to have heard of Shakespeare? Enough history to know that we once fought a civil war because the North and South disagreed about something?

But even more telling was what wasn't said:

In their remarks, none of the panelists mentioned science, geography, foreign languages, history, literature, art, civics-the list goes on and on.

It's pretty clear that in this "search, cut, and paste environment," the P21 crowd would cut content, and paste in fuzzy skills in their place. It's time to hit "escape."... here.??First up, take a closer look at our new voucher and accountability paper. Checker and Christina explain how Fordham would marry the two: a sliding scale. In other words, more public dollars=more public accountability. Then Mike contemplates the pension reform??happening in New Mexico. Further in, find out how E.D. Hirsch would change testing, why we're optimistic about??vouchers, the quick and sloppy disbursement of stimulus dollars, and misbehaving employees in New York City's DOE. Next, dig into the new RAND charter study, the??relationship of research and practice (maybe we can learn a thing or two from Japan), and the how-tos of single-sex education. Finally, don't forget the podcast, wherein Rick and Mike debate whether talking in paragraphs is really the same thing as substantive thought. (Did you hear that, Barack?) They also discuss (obviously) less weighty issues such as whether or not students should be forced to check one box when identifying their race and if Jay Mathews' recent declaration that America just won't buy into vouchers has any merit.

Don't forget two terrific upcoming Fordham events. On April 9 we'll host Marguerite Roza as she...

I just caught a bit of the President's "virtual town hall" on TV, and it happened to be his answer to an education question. ????He provided a solid and sympathetic description of charter schools and noted that many are accomplishing great things. ????He also said that some aren't doing so well and that they should be closed. ????But he added an interesting aside: low-performing traditional public schools should be closed too. ????I like that.

On teacher pay, rather than defending the merits of performance-based compensation systems, he explained why teachers shouldn't be evaluated based solely on a single "high stakes" test at the end of the year (and added a quick swipe at NCLB for evaluating schools that way). ????He wants to work with teachers to develop alternative ways to evaluate performance. ????He said that he talked to Bill Gates yesterday about ways technology can be used to help teachers learn effective methods. ????Sounds like what these folks are up to .

Finally, on the subject of removing low-performing teachers, the president tried to get a teacher in the audience to admit that...

The NYT reports on a new study finding that if a school is within a block of a fast-food restaurant, its students are more likely to be obese. ????I've been fascinated by obesity studies since I read that 100 years ago the wealthiest quartile in America was the heaviest but today the poorest quartile is. ????Lots of factors play into this beyond personal behavior (exercise and diet), from education to the availability of fresh food and grocery stores to culture and geography. ????The CDC has a great map showing obesity by state and changes over time, and Surgeon General Sanjay Gupta has been looking into this issue for CNN (the "fattest cities" map is striking).

Lots of potential implications for schools and even more for public policy in general.

The trusty Reform-o-Meter has become a little rusty lately; that's because there hasn't been a lot of action at the U.S. Department of Education worth rating. This is particularly true since we still don't know who the picks for Deputy Secretary, Undersecretary, or Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education will be.

Still, Secretary Duncan has made a couple of selections lately that together are worthy of comment: Jo Anderson to be his Senior Advisor and ??Gabriella Gomez to be his Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs. What do they have in common? They both used to work at a major teachers union.

Let's tackle Anderson first. Here's a summary of his bio from the Department's press release:

Anderson currently serves as the Executive Director of the Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA). Before assuming that post in 2005, he held a variety of other positions with IEA-NEA, working on a range of issues from school restructuring to professional development. In 1995, Anderson founded the Center for Educational Innovation (CEI) to facilitate school restructuring and reform efforts throughout Illinois. He also held posts with the Industrial Areas Foundation and the National Consumers Union and was a


During last night's prime-time press conference, President Obama was asked about shared sacrifices during these tough times. The president noted that these are indeed difficult times for many Americans. Unemployment in the United States is approaching 10 percent and many of us are looking at 401(k) values that have shrunk by half in the past year. But, one group that is certainly not being asked to sacrifice is the Buckeye State's public school teachers.

First, they've gotten language into the current state budget proposal that would make it illegal for a school district to lay off teachers for "financial reasons." As personnel costs, particularly teacher salaries, make up about 70 percent or more of district expenses, this provision basically removes the ability of a local board and superintendent to manage a district's finances. If a local levy fails or state funding to schools is reduced, this provision would protect teacher jobs above all else. So, in a city like Dayton where unemployment is 12.3 percent, the taxpayers would be on the hook for paying all teachers in the district whether they can afford them or not.

Second, under Ohio's constitution the taxpayers are on the hook...

The best and brightest among educational entrepreneurs are often called rock stars. Though I can hardly imagine two things more different than, say, a ???????no excuses??????? charter school and backstage at a Led Zeppelin gig, the honorific is pretty fitting????????these are highly talented, driven, and popular people who have a certain cool about them.

In the world of music, every generation or so, lightning strikes, and someone can lay claim to ???????double rock star??????? billing, having been part of two major acts????????like Clapton (the Yardbirds and Cream) or Dave Grohl (Nirvana and Foo Fighters).

This brings me to Norman Atkins, founder of Uncommon Schools, one of the nation's highest performing charter school networks. At an AEI event yesterday and then over dinner, Atkins described his latest venture: launching and leading Teacher U, a joint project with Hunter College that may completely change our understanding of how to prepare urban educators.

The best principals and teachers from Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First and leading professors from Hunter will serve as instructors. Their students will be currently serving teachers who will learn the tactical...

Washington's "Opportunity Scholarship Program" has gotten a lot of attention lately, what with Democrats in Congress moving to kill it and the Obama Administration seeking a way to lessen the blow to participating students. But there is life beyond the Beltway, and that's where debates over vouchers tend to be more nuanced and perhaps even more consequential.

Take Wisconsin and our home state of Ohio, for example, which together provide vouchers for more than 30,000 students (compared to 1,700 in D.C.). In both states, Democratic governors are pushing new policies that would up the ante on "accountability" for private schools participating in the voucher programs. In Ohio, for example, Governor Strickland would require that every student in a participating private school sit for the state test, even if just a single student receives a publicly-funded voucher. (As Emmy reports, 94 of the program's 279 participating private schools enroll ten voucher-bearing students or fewer.)

Readers who follow Fordham's work know that we're not adverse to accountability. Far from it. We've led the charge for greater transparency and accountability in the charter school movement, and we've been open to more of...

There was a time when I was generally skeptical, even hostile, towards the views of Charles Murray, at least as they pertained to education. But I found plenty to like about Real Education, and now he's given a very strong speech at the American Enterprise Institute (which he turned into an article for the Washington Post yesterday) which I think deserves to be taken seriously. So is he becoming more convincing or am I becoming more easily convinced?

Take a look at this long passage from both the speech and the article:

Two premises about human beings are at the heart of the social democratic agenda: what I label "the equality premise" and "the New Man premise." The equality premise says that, in a fair society, different groups of people -- men and women, blacks and whites, straights and gays -- will naturally have the same distributions of outcomes in life -- the same mean income, the same mean educational attainment, the same proportions who become janitors and who become CEOs. When that doesn't happen, it is because of bad human behavior and an unfair society. Much of the Democratic Party's proposed domestic legislation assumes