Flypaper

Laura Pohl

Students at Dayton View Academy walk silently through the school halls.

One thing that sets apart Fordham from other education think tanks is our sponsorship of charter schools in Ohio . This week I've had the opportunity to tour two of these schools in Dayton, Dayton View Academy and Dayton Academy , as well as two charters sponsored by other institutions. Talking with the students, teachers and administrators and seeing them in action has been a good reminder that beyond all the education policy talk in Washington, there are real people living, learning and trying to make a difference. Here are photographs of a few of the students I met.

(To learn more about Dayton and its education challenges, I recommend reading this interesting Dayton Daily News opinion piece by Terry Ryan, Fordham's vice president for Ohio programs and policy.)

Dayton Academy students Chloe Tate (left) and RaeAunna Curlett (right) demonstrate how to use EdPAD portable computers.

Lunchtime at Dayton Academy

Listening to the...

Last week's Fordham Institute and Catalyst Ohio report, Checked Out: Ohioans' Views on Education 2009, still has people talking in the Buckeye State.???? On Sunday, Fordham's own Terry Ryan discussed the survey findings on the Ohio News Network's statewide public affairs program, Capitol Square.???? Yesterday, the Columbus Dispatch editorial board questioned components of Governor Strickland's education reform plan in light of the survey:

...no one should be surprised that Ohioans have relatively little faith in the state government to fix education. Asked which entities they would trust to decide how to spend tax money for schools, 47 percent said they would trust their local school districts most. Another 22 percent would trust individual schools most. Only 17 percent said the State Board of Education. The least faith was placed in the governor, at 3 percent, and lawmakers, 4 percent.

Many education reformers argue, and respondents to the Fordham survey seem to agree, that improvement is more likely if states set performance standards and give school districts and principals plenty of latitude in deciding how to achieve them.

How unfortunate, then, that Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed education plan is heavily prescriptive, setting detailed formulas that mandate precisely how

...

Collectively, we should be increasingly alarmed about the education portion of the ARRA. ????States have begun to file their applications for the first big batch (~$33 billion) of stabilization funds.

First, although the application requires the governor to sign assurances promising to make progress in four areas, remarkably, it requires neither a plan for accomplishing those goals nor details on how these billions of dollars will be spent. ????The states that have applied so far have obliged, including none of this relevant information in their packages.

Second, the Department sent a letter to states on April 1 saying that states don't have to demonstrate progress on the assurances to get the second batch (~$16 billion) of stabilization funds. ????They only have to have systems in place to collect data.

Third, governors lack the power to require districts to use these funds wisely. ????From the guidance released in April:

III-D-14.???? May a Governor or State education agency (SEA) limit how an LEA uses its Education Stabilization funds?

No.???? Because the amount of Education Stabilization funding that an LEA receives is determined strictly on the basis of formulae and the ARRA gives LEAs considerable

...

Got a really interesting note from an excellent program officer at the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. ????He sent the Department's ideas for best using ARRA funds????to a number of the most reform-minded leaders in the districts the foundation's working with. ????Not a single one of them had seen the document.

This begs the question: How many other reform-minded district employees and reform-oriented nonprofits are unaware that the US Department of Education has provided specific ideas for using nearly $100 billion to advance reform?

Expert author David Whitman alerted me to an important video on the Duncan closures-starts issue (click here then scroll to "Part 2:????Arne Duncan on the McKinsey Study"). ????In it, Duncan talks about his hopes for turning around the nation's worst schools. ????It's not full-fledged closures, but it's close; certainly closer to closures than, say, "turnaround specialists."

The very positive test results out of NYC showing significant gains for the city's traditional public schools seem to validate many of the reforms put in place during the Klein-Bloomberg era (and bolster my optimism about what's possible in traditional city school systems). They also appear to be changing the debate on mayoral control.

I'm eager to see Diane Ravitch's analysis of these scores.

Included among the test scores is even more great news for the city's charters. Notice too that these super high-achieving schools are new starts, not turnarounds (see David Brooks recent column for more on this).

So why does NY still have a charter cap? ????And for that matter, why do 26 states and DC still have caps?...

As I've alluded to a number of times, I'm convinced that turnarounds are not a scalable strategy for fixing America's struggling urban school systems. There is simply too much data from the world of education and other industries showing that the success rate of turnaround initiatives aimed at persistently failing entities is staggeringly low.

The answer is not trying endlessly to fix failing schools; it's closing them down and starting new schools. This is how other industries improve over time.

This is a big subject in the book I'm currently writing, hence my current fixation and????irascibility????on this issue. But the reason I'm belaboring this point on Flypaper is because I worry the new administration may be heading in the wrong direction.

They put $3 billion in the ARRA for the School Improvement Fund (under Title I) and they are proposing this program get another $1.5 billion in the 2010 budget. Moreover they are encouraging states to use dollars from the ARRA stabilization fund for school turnarounds.

Then today, ED released a statement that read in part:

Duncan said that if the nation's educators could turn around 1,000 schools per year

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Long-time antagonists????Eva Moskowitz????(former NYC education committee chair and founder of Harlem Success Academy charter schools) and Randi Weingarten (AFT and UFT president) debated on NYC television. ????It's gripping in parts.

The Education Gadfly

National Standards in Other Nations from Education Gadfly on Vimeo .

This panel discussion on national education standards across the world was sponsored by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute at our "International Lessons About National Standards" even on Tuesday, May 5, 2009.

Panelists:

William Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor and Co-Director of the Education Policy Center, Michigan State University

Sigrid Bl??meke, Full Professor, Humboldt University of Berlin and National Research Coordinator, TEDS-M and MT21

John Hayton, Counsellor (Education) and Director, Australian Education International-North America, Embassy of Australia, Washington, DC (Australia)

Doo-Jung Kim, Professor of Education, Chungnam National University (Korea) and past President, Korean Society for Curriculum Studies

Moderated by: Ben Wildavsky, Senior Fellow, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation...

Yesterday I reported on the New Yorker profile of Green Dot founder Steve Barr, and speculated that it might inspire a movie version. That led one intrepid Flypaper reader to ask the obvious question: Who would play him? Here are the leading contenders; Rock the Vote below. And if you want to suggest another (or provide a rationale), leave a comment.

Let the casting begin!

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