Flypaper

We wrote yesterday in the Gadfly??that??four New York City Catholic schools will be saved by going charter. While that number has not increased, the NY Daily News reports that the church will keep open two more schools as is. Not clear which schools are which or which out of the 14 originially slated to be closed in May are still getting shut down. But the news is good (well, considering the circumstances): 6 schools (not just 4) will be saved.??

Now, from where is the boodle to do all of this going to come? Diane Ravitch suggests...

We were all sort of shocked a few weeks ago when KIPP AMP and another KIPP school in New York reached out the New York United Federation of Teachers. How could a school whose model is based on long hours and staff hiring and firing autonomy possibly consider union representation, which would, in effect, prohibit those two things? Then, just this week, another famous charter school, LA's Accelerated, announced its teachers were reaching out their local union, too. Well, it looks like KIPP's teachers may have changed their minds after all. According to yesterday's??New York Times, AMP's teachers have let the deadline pass to voluntarily recognize the union. The UFT must now file for recognition with New York State's Public Employment Relations Board. Let's hope the KIPP administration, which will be given an opportunity to respond by the PER Board, puts its foot down! Stay tuned...

Update: I misread... the teachers have (in my opinion, unfortunately) not changed their minds about unionizing. The school is simply running down the clock on recognizing them.

Update: After all of you pointed out that I had read too quickly, I became curious on what exactly KIPP could...

Democrats in Ohio have had it out for for-profit charter school operators since the state passed its first charter law in 1997. Cries of ???????corporate takeover of public schools??????? and ???????making money on the backs of our children??????? have been part of the anti-charter rhetoric used by the teacher unions and their allies from the start here.

Yet, it is important to note that in Ohio all charter schools are governed by non-profit boards who may, or may not, decide to hire for-profit operators to run their schools. This is not dissimilar to how school districts decide to purchase curricula, text books, and food services from for-profit providers like McGraw-Hill and Aramark.

Knowing the history, it is not surprising then that the Democratic governor and the House Democrats, who run that chamber for the first time in 14 years, have painted a giant bull's eye on the backs of for-profit school operators. They especially hate White Hat Management (which runs more than two dozen schools in Ohio) and its founder, and major Republican campaign contributor, David Brennan.

If successful, this would be the first time an entire segment of...

Checker and I have some, about how to implement the stimulus package,??in this week's Gadfly. Here's a snippet:

Be transparent. This is already an Obama administration mantra and for good reason. Particularly when implementing your innovation fund, there's no such thing as too much transparency. That's because discretionary federal dollars are like boiling oil, at least in education. Instead of statutory strings attached, there are non-statutory risks. Two are paramount--and have plagued previous education secretaries. First, when you give money to the QRS organization or project, you're not giving it to the XYZ group. That will anger the XYZ folks, who will complain to you, to the White House, to the Congress, and to the media. If complaining doesn't lead to their palms, too, being crossed with federal dollars, they will lambaste you, QRS, and the program itself. That's another big part of what got Reading First into deep trouble--grumps from those who did not get funded. (Read more here.) And second, you will be accused of favoritism, of giving money to your friends, admirers, and political backers. (But why would you give money to your enemies?) That's what happened when Rod Paige steered dollars toward worthy but

...

This letter to the editor is worth reading:

To the Editor:

Education Week readers should know that Massachusetts' stellar scores in science and math in both grade 4 and grade 8 on the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study are due to more than strong academic standards and content-oriented professional development ("Standards Help Minn. Vie With Top Nations," Jan. 21, 2009.) As in Minnesota, the only other U.S. state to participate in TIMSS in both 1995 and 2007, many factors have contributed to impressive gains, an indication of the latest "Massachusetts Miracle."

I was the deputy commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999 to 2003, responsible not only for assuring the academic quality of the state's math and science standards (with considerable help from mathematicians and scientists), but also for aligning the state's teacher-licensing regulations, and the revised licensure tests based on them, directly to these standards. The new licensure tests for elementary and middle school teachers, in particular, stressed content, not pedagogy, and weighted math and science more heavily than before, leading to an academically stronger teacher corps in K-8 since 2002.

But there is one more factor your

...

According to this New York Times column, the father of modern biology, who was born 200 years ago today,??would be "pleased,??but not surprised" by the developments in genetics and other fields that have furthered our understanding of evolution and natural selection. But no doubt he would be outraged to learn that only four in ten Americans believe in the theory of evolution, according to a new??Gallup Poll. The news is slightly less glum for young Americans (aged 18-34); about half of them believe in the e-word. Perhaps the other half are clustered in the 23 states that, as of 2005 at least, had squishy enough standards on evolution to earn this element a D or F from Fordham's science experts.

Get the minute-by-minute at Education Week's Politics K-12??blog. It looks like the contours of the bill are closer to the Senate version; it's not clear yet if the reform-minded??pieces of the House bill (on charters, merit pay, data systems, etc.) made it through.

After last week's bursts of Reform-o-Meter ratings, it's been all quiet on the Southwestern (Maryland Avenue) front. Expect some key announcements soon, though, about the final contours of the stimulus package (Fritz Edelstein is hearing that school construction is in but $40 billion of state aid is out) and the nomination of the deputy secretary of education.

My composite rating so far is "luke warm."

Meanwhile, what's the current temperature of Arne Duncan and company, education-reform-wise? The last time we checked, over a week ago, Team Obama had earned a cumulative rating of ???Luke Warm??? from me and an even chillier ???Neutral??? from our readers. But now, after the appointments of Carmel Martin and Russlynn Ali, and the President and First Lady's visit to a charter school, both Reform-o-Meters are up to Luke Warm. Perhaps an insider-friend of mine is right to claim that the Obama team is trying to make the education reform crowd feel good before it makes its big Linda Darling-Hammond announcement. If that's right, expect this warming trend to come to an end...

Perhaps the only thing related to K-12 education that Ohio's governor and lawmakers aren't talking about ???????fixing??????? is the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS). Odd, as few things are more outdated and in need of reform than the pension system.

We pointed out two years ago that the system is opaque, unsustainable, encourages early retirement, hinders mobility, and discourages many from entering the teaching profession. None of that has changed, and according to the system's latest annual report (which covers July 2007 through June 2008), things are only getting worse. As the economy has melted down STRS's unfunded liability has topped $18 billion (up $3.7 billion from the previous year and equal to roughly two-and-a-half times what the governor wants the state to spend on K-12 education next year). As this liability has increased, so has its amortization period, up from 26.1 years in 2007 to 41.2 years in 2008 (despite state law requiring an amortization period of no more than 30 years).

STRS attributes the dire situation to ???????investment returns being less than expected, retirees living longer and payroll growth being less than expected.??????? The pension system isn't likely to see its investments rebound...

Pages