Jay Greene takes the measure of the auto industry's bailout bill in Congress and finds it wanting:

It's now becoming clear that rather than moving K-12 public education to look more like a competitive market, we are moving the competitive market to look more like K-12 public education.

(That's not meant as a compliment.)

Perhaps the news that yet another governor has taken herself out of contention led our Washington Insiders to put even more of their chips on Chicago superintendent Arne Duncan in the race for the education secretary job. He now has a 50-50 shot at taking the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, according to our experts. Most candidates in two-way races would like odds like those; how remarkable that Duncan has them in a wide-open field.

Joel Klein and Linda Darling-Hammond keep getting mentions too, but I doubt few people seriously believe that President-Elect Obama will go for either of these contenders, considering how polarizing they both are. Otherwise our Big Board shows a smattering of former Southern governors that few people in the real world have ever heard of.

Mr. Duncan, pack your bags...

This Washington Post analysis is a nice cut on the school comparison genre. It looks at elementary schools in the Washington, DC area and ranks them on the percentage of students reaching the "advanced" level on state tests. It doesn't help policymakers know which schools are closing the achievement gap or otherwise serving poor students well, but it does give upper middle class parents a sense of where to buy a home if they want Junior to be surrounded by high-scoring peers. (And I say upper-middle class for a reason; what I know of the neighborhoods surrounding most of these schools is that they are EXPENSIVE, even amidst the housing crisis.)

It's heartening to notice, by the way, that these schools have made impressive gains in boosting students to the advanced level, even if No Child Left Behind's incentives don't give them any reason to do so.

Advanced Scores on the Maryland School Assessment

More D.C. Area Scores: D.C. | Virginia |

Rank Elementary school School system Percent rated advanced in 2008 Advanced percentage

I've been quite transparent about my interest in seeing the education secretary job filled by a sitting or former governor. I think governors tend to make great cabinet secretaries, in part because they understand politics, in part because they are seen as equals by the big egos on Capitol Hill, and in part because they appreciate the limits of federal involvement in education. That's why I liked Jim Hunt, and then Bill Richardson, for the job.

But Hunt took himself out of contention. So did Tim Kaine. Richardson went to Commerce. Napolitano took Homeland Security. And now Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius has taken herself out of contention, too.

Sure, there are a handful of gubernatorial contenders left, but none are perfect. Former Georgia governor Roy Barnes staked his political future on a big fight with the teachers unions on tenure (and lost, poor guy)--so he's appealing. But his work on the NCLB Commission left us wondering if he wanted to be Minister of Education and had missed the key lessons of the NCLB era. (See: hubris...

The news media is clearly anticipating the announcement of an education secretary pick soon, because the k-12 issue hasn't gotten this much attention since George Bush and Ted Kennedy teamed up to pass the No Child Left Behind Act. First David Brooks and the Washington Post editorial board made the Democratic Party's education schism official, and then The New Republic turned up the temperature on Linda Darling-Hammond. And now Newsweek's Jonathan Alter is telling us to buckle our seatbelts because Bill Gates is becoming an education reformer full time. All in the span of a few days!

There's plenty to like about Alter's piece; I love the quote by House education committee chairman George Miller that "the debate is between incrementalists and disrupters, and I'm with the disrupters." (Alter must have sat in on an editorial board meeting with his Post colleagues because they used that terminology too.)

But Mr. Alter, you ought to be ashamed about this line: "We know by now what works for at-risk kids. The challenge is trying to replicate it." Sure, this is true in the simplest sense. KIPP works. Achievement First works. Cristo Rey works....

Amy Fagan

Apparently there's a book being released next year about giftedness and recently interviewed the author of the book's foreword-- Carol S. Dweck, Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Dweck tells us:

The essence of this book is that giftedness and talent are much more multi-faceted than we ever realized. They can grow in different children in different ways, under different circumstances, and at different ages. Talent is not simply something that a child is born with and that blossoms naturally throughout life.

This is crucial because it changes the whole enterprise. The enterprise used to be one of measuring and identifying giftedness--deciding who was gifted and who was not. Now, the enterprise is one of fostering giftedness and talent-creating the conditions in which it will flourish for as many children as possible.

Ah yes--nature vs. nurture. The debate continues. Still, I found what Dweck had to say quite interesting. Essentially, she said there are ways that a child who's gifted early-on may lose that edge. A child may initially find work extremely easy, fail to develop good work habits and stumble later on when work...

Amy Fagan

As many Americans face increasingly tight financial times--and some even unemployment--I found this story by Yoav Gonen, New York Post, to be EXTREMELY interesting. Crazy, to be perfectly honest.

Apparently a group of public-school principals are earning six-figure salaries to oversee rooms of teachers who are awaiting disciplinary hearings on charges ranging from habitual lateness to striking a student. Hmm...That essentially amounts to keeping watch on the detention room!!! One teacher quoted in the article summed it up well:

"I wish I had that job," said a teacher recently released from a Manhattan room. "[They're] basically earning a principal's salary for doing nothing."

I'm not a teacher but Ashley Heard is. She was whipped into action (translation: letter to the editor of WaPo) this weekend after hearing about a shooting at Anacostia Senior High School. That said, don't listen to me, listen to her:

Parents: Demand that your children learn. Ask to see their homework, and if they have none, call their teachers to ask why. Find out what your child's teacher is teaching, how she teaches it and how you can help. Make your child's teacher accountable to you. Once, when I gave a student an F, his mother saw his progress report, called and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to inform her when her child did not progress adequately in class. From then on, I spoke with that mother at least once a week. Her son never failed again.??

Teachers: Teach your students. If you are unwilling to do the job for which you are being paid, then get out. Our kids' welfare is more important than your right to tenure.

Hard to argue with that....

The Education Gadfly

All of the votes aren't in yet for today's pick-the-next-education-secretary-daily-tracking-poll, but two new names have surfaced. Both are governors - Washington's Christine "Chris" Gregoire and Massachusetts's Deval Patrick. How seriously are they being considered for the job? Check back this afternoon for the results of our poll.

Christine Gregoire picture from Governor Christine Gregoire website
The Education Gadfly

Ray Mabus has picked up quite a head of steam over the past week or so, putting him fairly high up on the rungs of the ladder in our latest education secretary poll. But, some are certain it's Sebelius, who has risen to the number two spot, knocking Klein out of his armchair.

It looks like our blog post earlier piqued some additional interest in Gov. Deval Patrick, as he joined household names on the big board just before the polls closed.

Lots of new names have been added to the list today at the close of our fourth week holding the poll. Perhaps the insiders are getting antsy and are looking to mix things up. Or maybe they just don't want to be blindsided by an unexpected (maverick?) pick. Another new name today is former journalist and current Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson.