Flypaper

I've been running a bit behind all week (we're getting ready for a MAJOR report release tomorrow...stay tuned) but this weekend's New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof deserves a comment. It reminded me of that old story of a homeless man who sat all day, every day on a wooden box and begged strangers for money. One day someone asked him if he'd ever thought to open the box and look inside. "No, why would I do that?" he responded. But later he decided to take a peek. And sure enough, the box was filled with gold. He had everything he needed all along, but had never thought to look inside.

Now back to Kristof. He asks??in his piece, "For??those who oppose education spending in the stimulus, a question: Do you really believe that slashing half a million teaching jobs would be fine for the economy, for our children and for our future?"

But he could answer his own question in the affirmative, if he'd only look inside his own column. See here:

There's a real excitement at what we are learning about K-8 education.

First, good teachers

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Hear Fordham's Checker Finn explain The Accountability Illusion.

Join Fordham's Checker Finn, Ed Sector's Tom Toch, and CCSSO's Gene Wilhoit tomorrow at 3 pm for a live online chat of Obama's education plan. The chat is sponsored by Education Week??and coincides with the release of Ed Week's latest book, The Obama Education Plan: An Education Week Guide. Tune in here and submit questions in advance here.

In the news business, reporters have a saying for a boiler plate quote an editor can remove to tighten a story. It's "throw-away" and that's exactly what the governor's response to the Fordham/Paul Hill study deserves.

Strickland's spokeswoman talked of the governor's plan having components that have been shown to help students succeed. We should hope so. But, again, there's no applicable evidence that they will for all children across an entire school district, let alone across an entire state.

The governor continues to say his top-down, one-size-fits-all requirements are best for Ohio schools. Why does he think there is one, state-mandated solution for bettering education in every school in the state, let alone the inner-city classrooms crying out for innovation and change. Top district superintendents know this and are opting out of cookie-cutter education. In Cleveland, the district has opened an office of new and innovative schools dedicated to opening new schools, including charters. Gene Harris, the savvy superintendent of the Columbus Public Schools has pledged to open new single gender schools as part of that district's reform plan. In Dayton, the top performing schools are either stand-alone charters or district schools that have many...

Randi (Weingarten) turned in a dandy (op-ed) yesterday in the Washington Post making the case for national standards in education:

Imagine the outrage if, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers had to move the ball the full 10 yards for a first down during the Super Bowl while the Arizona Cardinals had to go only seven. Imagine if this scenario were sanctioned by the National Football League. Such a system would be unfair and preposterous.

But there is little outrage over the uneven patchwork of academic standards for students in our 50 states and the District of Columbia. And the federal government has tacitly accepted this situation by giving a seal of approval to states that meet the benchmarks for improved achievement established by the federal No Child Left Behind Act -- even if their standards are lower than those of other states (which might not fare as well when measured by NCLB's yardstick).

Weingarten, president of??the American Federation of Teachers,??is joining a chorus that is now swelling with supporters of national standards and tests. Among that chorus are a number of current or former big-city superintendents, such as Joel Klein and Arne "Call me Arne"...

Amidst much of the haggling over 21st century skills, we often forget why the two sides disagree. It's not that those thought of as "against" 21st century skills don't think they're of any value. Quite to the contrary. 21st century skills--adaptability, critical thinking skills, ability to manipulate new media--are all good things for students to learn. It's just a matter of where and when and how they learn them. In terms of the wishy washy stuff like ???creativity and intellectual curiosity,??? those things have been around for at least 21 centuries. Pretty much nothing 21st century about them, in fact.??But for rest--the actual skills like computer and internet savvy--those are very important. The problem is that we only have so much time to cover necessary content and when we try to pump our 45 minute English or history class with extras, we lose the little content that's already there. That's why I was heartened by this article in today's??New York Times. Librarians, it seems, are getting a job description update. Now, reshelving books and helping students research their papers is only half the battle. The other part includes teaching students how to properly use the internet...

Did Abe Lincoln have 21st century skills? Definitely.

A lot of people have been calling Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's schools proposal????a "bold" new way to approach education in the state. He'll take us to "world class" educational status.

And now here's the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, today (Tuesday), saying, in effect, "Hey wait a minute. This isn't very bold at all." In fact, this is "same old, same old," according to a Fordham study????authored by Paul T. Hill, a University of Washington school-finance expert. What the governor really is saying is hiring more adults will somehow make for more educated young Ohioans.

According to Hill, "once one gets past the rhetoric, one finds that the main active ingredients in the governor's plan are spending increases geared toward helping schools and districts employ more administrators, teachers, and support staff." The details of the proposal read like a jobs program rather than an education plan.

And the governor's idea of top-down, state-wide requirements for improving education also won't work well in a system that needs a lot less of the way things have always been done and a lot more innovation in the classroom. That's actually what taxpayers ought to be paying for.

The bottom...

The details are starting to emerge from the stimulus bill (which the House has already approved, so you'd hope the details would be out). And here's one eye-popping number: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will have a $650 million kitty he can use to fund "innovative" states, school districts, or non-profits.

Now, we're starting to get used to some really big numbers these days (an $800 billion stimulus plan; a $2.5 trillion bank bailout; etc.). But let me put that in context. Before now, the most discretionary money enjoyed by a Secretary of Education in recent history (back in 2003) was about $30 million dollars. That came through the Fund for the Improvement of Education; half was allocated by Congress for "teacher quality initiatives" and the other half was completely open-ended.

So $650 million vs. $30 million. Do the math and you'll see that this is twenty times more discretionary??money than any education secretary has had before. Wowzers!

Have a great weekend; we'll give the final stimulus package the Reform-o-Meter treatment early next week.

I dallied yesterday in announcing the BIG NEWS: Gadfly is (and has been for almost 24 hours) out. (I hope I have not caused you undue pain and suffering in my tardiness.) In the top spot, find??Mike and Checker's advice for Arne. Want to know how to avoid accusations of cronyism? How to answer the haggling questions of state education officials wondering what's up? Look no further! Next, take a gander at the continued disturbing trend of educational elitism. No, not the Ivy League, but schools shutting out students that happen to live outside district boundaries (and charging their parents as felons, no less).

Further in, read about Catholic schools going charter in New York (on which we got an update this morning), an LA charter school reaching out to the union, how much money teachers really make (the answer: tons), and how students in Ontario are planning on saving the planet... one Valentine's day card at a time. You'll also get the scoop on the data-heavy report of the American Legislative Exchange Council and a shocking new study trying to link (though unsuccessfully, in our opinion)...

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