Flypaper

The Wall Street Journal editorialized????today on the DC Opportunity Scholarship (voucher) Program, echoing points Mike and I made late last week:???? Secretary Duncan's support, which some consider good but????insufficient and others rate as ???????warm,??????? was welcome; and President Obama's silence is conspicuous and less welcome.

This morning, the Center for Education Reform released a new charter schools report.???? You can find it here along with some supporting material, including information on state funding showing that charters receive less per student, typically much less, than traditional public schools in every state.???? (A superb Fordham study found the same thing back in 2005.)???? The CER report also has new state-level information on school closures.

Overall, it's an accessible document????????short introduction and then one-page summaries on each state (student performance, number of schools, authorizers, funding, etc.).???? They've gathered some interesting, useful information that makes this a good document to have by your desk, especially if you follow charters closely.???? To be clear, it's not a university-style scholarly study with regression models and p-values.???? But it is classic CER: one part new data and one part strong advocacy.

This weekend, the US Department of Education made more information available on stimulus funding.???? I haven't made my way through it all yet, but it's not at all what I was expecting.???? Folks had been using the term ???????guidance??????? (which has a specific meaning) for what was coming out, but that's not what we got.???? What was made available is more about logistics than content. ????So you'll find worthwhile information on when different streams of funding will be made available, what entities have to do to become eligible, etc.???? What you won't find is specific, meaty stuff on how the Department expects funds to be used.

If you're an ED insider, reporter, savvy DC operator, or anyone else for that matter, and you have more information or think I'm off base here, reach me at [email protected].

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Amy Fagan

So here's an inspirational article about a once-struggling Florida school that pulled itself up from a "D/F" rating to an "A" rating two years in a row (and they expect a third "A" this year). The article explains just how Blanton Elementary--one of the poorest schools in Pinellas Park--managed to make the shift. A large part of the piece showcases the motivation and leadership of the principal, Deborah Turner. And the piece argues that the school actually isn't alone--apparently "nearly 1 in 4 elementary schools across Florida with poverty levels above 70 percent have improved as much if not more than Blanton in the past five years," according to a St. Petersburg Times review of FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) scores. Of course it isn't easy at all--it takes time to get the right people and processes in place, says Oscar Robinson a former area superintendent who originally broke the F news to Turner. But looking at Blanton's story, it does seem to be very possible....

First, I'm thrilled to be affiliated with TBFI and have the chance to contribute to Flypaper.???? Thanks Checker, Mike, Eric, and team.???? It's been great.

Like many others, I'm waiting for ED to release its guidance on the stimulus.???? It's late already, but that's no surprise.???? One big lesson I learned during my time at ED is that official documents like this take forever to get out.???? There are countless drafts, an internal clearance process, OMB input, White House/DPC input, and on and on and on.???? Add to this that lots of senior positions at ED are still unfilled (and many of the folks in place are new to DC), and you can see that this may take a while???????

Terry Ryan has already written about the charters challenges out in Ohio, but the proposal is even worse than I expected????????less funding, more reporting, messing with facilities, and banning for-profits.???? Take a look if you're interested in charter stuff.???? And incidentally, didn't somebody recently write about being optimistic about the future of charters????? Egad.

Be sure to check out Mike's thorough treatment of the Duncan-voucher news.???? Two quick...

The New York Times reports on the state legislature's pending decision on renewing mayoral control in the Big Apple.???? Unfortunately, and maybe unsurprisingly, the debate--or at least the article--is not so much about student performance or reforming New York City Public Schools; it's about the reaction to????Joel Klein's penchant for aggressively pushing for change at the expense of political niceties.

One other reason you might consider reading the article:???? You'll want to see for yourself how the reporter makes eating pizza with Alan Alda relevant to education reform.

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The Education Gadfly

Check out our long-overdue "The Accountability Illusion" event video. You can read the full report here. Don't forget to check out our "Fix That Failing School" video game!

I've already parsed the meaning of Arne Duncan's statements about Washington's school voucher program (he doesn't think vouchers ???ultimately are the answer??? because they're not ???ambitious??? enough).

Now it's time to give them the Reform-o-Meter treatment. When the news first broke yesterday, it appeared that a ???Red Hot??? rating was in the offing. After all, here's a Democratic Secretary of Education, voicing support for a program whose future is hanging in the balance, a program coming under attack from Congressional Democrats who want to pull the plug a year from now and send all of its participants back to the public schools from where they came.

But wiser men than me pointed out that he didn't actually say he thought the program should continue indefinitely; participating students should get to stay in their schools, he argued. But he didn't voice support for allowing new children to enter the program, nor did he say that children receiving scholarships should get to receive vouchers all the way through high school graduation???just until it's time to move on to a new school.

So where does that leave us? I think Duncan deserves a solid ???Warm??? for his...

There's been a lot of chatter the past few weeks about President Obama's efforts to shift the American political center sharply to the left. Universal health care, caps on carbon emissions, and steeply progressive taxation have in recent years been considered "liberal" positions. Obama wants to redefine them as the middle of the mainstream.

So did Secretary of Education Arne Duncan just move the education policy center slightly to the right when he told the Associated Press's Libby Quaid that the 1,700 Washington, DC children participating in the city's federally-funded voucher program "need to stay in their school"? "I don't think it makes sense to take kids out of a school where they're happy and safe and satisfied and learning," he said.

Well, not so fast. As others have pointed out (here and here), Duncan didn't actually voice support for continuing the program indefinitely; rather, he would keep it on life support until all of its participants graduate from their current schools. And Duncan himself was careful to say that "I don't think vouchers ultimately are the answer."

But what's truly interesting is why Duncan doesn't think...

You don't want to miss this spectacular issue (and enjoy it too, since Gadfly's taking his spring break--woo hoo! Cancun!--next week and will return to your inboxes on March 19). First up, Checker contemplates the seven potential problems with national standards. Most troubling, he finds, is our national lack of an institutional home for these standards and the accompanying tests. The federal Department of Education is certainly not at the top of anyone's list so what's left? Find out what else he's fretting over. Next up, Mike considers the redefinition of vouchers from "radical" to "moderate." Thank you, Arne Duncan, he says. But what's to become of DC's Opportunity Scholarship Program?

Then learn about the woes of Fresno's KIPP Academy, the renaissance of New Jersey's vocational education (stem-cell labs!), the unfair condemnation of cheese sandwiches in Arizona, and the restyling of Pilates stability balls as a classroom necessity.??Then get the 411 on Robin Chait and Michelle McLaughlin's new paper on alternative certification and a math curricula study from IES. It may not end the math wars but it does seem to imply that traditional curricula still trump fuzzy...

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