It's well known that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will be questioned about her ruling in Ricci vs. DeStafano whereby she upheld New Haven, Connecticut's decision to invalidate the results of a firefighter promotion test because no African-Americans qualified for advancement. (That case is now under Supreme Court review, and most analysts expect it to be overturned.) As the Washington Post reported:

The promotion results produced a heated debate in the city, and government lawyers warned the independent civil service board that if it certified the test results, minority firefighters might have a good case for claiming discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Federal guidelines presume discrimination when a test has such a disparate impact on minorities.

In a short statement dismissing the case, Sotomayor in effect agreed with the government lawyers that the city had reason to worry about such a discrimination suit if they used the test as intended.

With that in mind, consider this article from Boston from a few weeks ago, "Ex-teachers sue over licensing exam: Say test is biased against minorities." (Thanks...

To universal preschool, that is. In yesterday's New York Post, he writes:

Most parents are delighted to share their childcare expenses with taxpayers. Yet there's shockingly little evidence that this costly dash to universalize the preschool experience will do much good for American education, particularly the kids who most need help preparing for kindergarten. It's more like a new middle-class entitlement -- and an expansion of the public-school empire.

If you want to hear more, chime in, or push back, sign up to attend Thursday's event, here at Fordham, about Checker's new book, Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut. You'll even get a free copy of the book!...

Amy Fagan

This LA Times piece tells the story of American Indian Public Charter (and its two sibling schools) in the "hardscrabble flats of Oakland;" schools that are--according to the story's provocative title--"spitting in the eye of mainstream education." At the "small, no frills independent public schools," it explains, students, nearly all of them poor, wear uniforms and are subject to order and discipline similar to that of a military school. Liberal orthodoxy is openly mocked and underperforming teachers are fired, the article says.

On a scale of one to 1,000 on California's "Academic Performance Index," which is used as a measuring tool for schools, American Indian Public Charter School scores 967, according to the piece, when the statewide average is below 750 and about 650 for schools with mostly low-income students.

The story goes into a lot more detail, so check it out. And if you'd like to dig even deeper to find out more about this school, check out David Whitman's book "Sweating the Small Stuff." Whitman dedicated nearly 30 pages to American Indian Public Charter as one of 6 highly-effective "paternalistic" schools he examined. It's definitely an interesting read!...

During his speech Friday at the National Press Club,????Secretary Duncan again talked passionately about the opportunity for reform and improvement. Content-wise, it was largely his standard speech--the assurances from the ARRA with some additions here and there. Importantly, he again????put the spotlight on the nation's worst schools, talking about the need to address the lowest performing one percent each year.

He said there should be no more tinkering; we need a "dramatic overhaul." He accurately pointed out that these schools have in many cases been failing for years, even decades, and that the students deserve better. ????This was good stuff. ????Kudos to the secretary.

Unfortunately, he also made the following claim, which is misleading at best:

???????I want to ask the country to think very differently about those schools at the bottom...We know what works...What we have????lacked is the political will to do the right thing.???????

The truth is that we do not know how to turn around the nation's worst schools. Good, smart people have been trying for decades, and our success rate is extraordinarily small. He went on to say that there are too few states, districts, and nonprofits trying to turn around these...

New type of charter on the way in RI.

SC stimulus battle heads to federal court.

TN Dems block charter expansion despite Duncan threat.

Another attempt at charters in ME.

Why PA hasn't applied for SFSF dollars.

My take on what's left out of commencement addresses.

According to Ed Week, 46 states have agreed to work together to create common standards in math and ELA.

Prince Harry visits the Harlem Children's Zone charter school.

Brock, Marshal, and Tucker recommend 10 steps for better schools in a Post op-ed.

Checker's Gadfly piece this week deserves attention (though I don't agree with his take on the superstar issue, which I've argued against).

Arne Duncan was at the National Press Club (and on C-SPAN ) this morning, being his usual amiable, cheerful, and optimistic self. As someone who's been called those names too, I've got nothing against any of that. But to my ears he also sounded a bit naive when it??came to his expectations that the education stimulus will transform the nation's schools.

He's obviously perplexed that so few states have applied for the stimulus dollars, though he insists that all states will meet the coming deadline. Yet if he thinks that concerns about educational improvement are driving this process, well, I've got several million??Smartboards I'd be happy to sell you.

Here's the problem: There remains massive confusion at the state and local level about how these dollars can be spent. That's because the law itself is vague and in some respects contradictory. It's also because many politicians at the state level??want to??use the funds for politically expedient (but still understandable) purposes, like filling budget holes. With legislative sessions just wrapping up, there's still a lot of horse-trading and commotion going on.

But there's something more fundamental at play too. Simply put,...

Amy Fagan

The Washington Post's Jay Mathews dedicates his column today to discussing Checker's new book "Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut," in which Checker takes strong issue with the idea of universal preschool. Mathews says that leaders of the movement to expand preschool are "not going to like" the book, but that "its clarity and depth are hard to resist." He reviews a few of Checker's main points, disagreeing with him a bit at times. But Mathews concludes:

I haven't seen enough preschools, good or bad, to decide if Finn is right. But his analysis is a good starting place. There has been much written about the benefits of universal preschool. This report will inspire much more, both positive and negative, and help those of us overwhelmed by conflicting data to figure out the essentials, and see the weaknesses on both sides of the debate.

And if you're interested in reading more about this debate, Checker wrote an op-ed that ran in the Post?? earlier this month....