Flypaper

I just caught a bit of the President's "virtual town hall" on TV, and it happened to be his answer to an education question. ????He provided a solid and sympathetic description of charter schools and noted that many are accomplishing great things. ????He also said that some aren't doing so well and that they should be closed. ????But he added an interesting aside: low-performing traditional public schools should be closed too. ????I like that.

On teacher pay, rather than defending the merits of performance-based compensation systems, he explained why teachers shouldn't be evaluated based solely on a single "high stakes" test at the end of the year (and added a quick swipe at NCLB for evaluating schools that way). ????He wants to work with teachers to develop alternative ways to evaluate performance. ????He said that he talked to Bill Gates yesterday about ways technology can be used to help teachers learn effective methods. ????Sounds like what these folks are up to .

Finally, on the subject of removing low-performing teachers, the president tried to get a teacher in the audience to admit that...

The NYT reports on a new study finding that if a school is within a block of a fast-food restaurant, its students are more likely to be obese. ????I've been fascinated by obesity studies since I read that 100 years ago the wealthiest quartile in America was the heaviest but today the poorest quartile is. ????Lots of factors play into this beyond personal behavior (exercise and diet), from education to the availability of fresh food and grocery stores to culture and geography. ????The CDC has a great map showing obesity by state and changes over time, and Surgeon General Sanjay Gupta has been looking into this issue for CNN (the "fattest cities" map is striking).

Lots of potential implications for schools and even more for public policy in general.

The trusty Reform-o-Meter has become a little rusty lately; that's because there hasn't been a lot of action at the U.S. Department of Education worth rating. This is particularly true since we still don't know who the picks for Deputy Secretary, Undersecretary, or Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education will be.

Still, Secretary Duncan has made a couple of selections lately that together are worthy of comment: Jo Anderson to be his Senior Advisor and ??Gabriella Gomez to be his Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs. What do they have in common? They both used to work at a major teachers union.

Let's tackle Anderson first. Here's a summary of his bio from the Department's press release:

Anderson currently serves as the Executive Director of the Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA). Before assuming that post in 2005, he held a variety of other positions with IEA-NEA, working on a range of issues from school restructuring to professional development. In 1995, Anderson founded the Center for Educational Innovation (CEI) to facilitate school restructuring and reform efforts throughout Illinois. He also held posts with the Industrial Areas Foundation and the National Consumers Union and was a

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During last night's prime-time press conference, President Obama was asked about shared sacrifices during these tough times. The president noted that these are indeed difficult times for many Americans. Unemployment in the United States is approaching 10 percent and many of us are looking at 401(k) values that have shrunk by half in the past year. But, one group that is certainly not being asked to sacrifice is the Buckeye State's public school teachers.

First, they've gotten language into the current state budget proposal that would make it illegal for a school district to lay off teachers for "financial reasons." As personnel costs, particularly teacher salaries, make up about 70 percent or more of district expenses, this provision basically removes the ability of a local board and superintendent to manage a district's finances. If a local levy fails or state funding to schools is reduced, this provision would protect teacher jobs above all else. So, in a city like Dayton where unemployment is 12.3 percent, the taxpayers would be on the hook for paying all teachers in the district whether they can afford them or not.

Second, under Ohio's constitution the taxpayers are on the hook...

The best and brightest among educational entrepreneurs are often called rock stars. Though I can hardly imagine two things more different than, say, a ???????no excuses??????? charter school and backstage at a Led Zeppelin gig, the honorific is pretty fitting????????these are highly talented, driven, and popular people who have a certain cool about them.

In the world of music, every generation or so, lightning strikes, and someone can lay claim to ???????double rock star??????? billing, having been part of two major acts????????like Clapton (the Yardbirds and Cream) or Dave Grohl (Nirvana and Foo Fighters).

This brings me to Norman Atkins, founder of Uncommon Schools, one of the nation's highest performing charter school networks. At an AEI event yesterday and then over dinner, Atkins described his latest venture: launching and leading Teacher U, a joint project with Hunter College that may completely change our understanding of how to prepare urban educators.

The best principals and teachers from Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First and leading professors from Hunter will serve as instructors. Their students will be currently serving teachers who will learn the tactical...

Washington's "Opportunity Scholarship Program" has gotten a lot of attention lately, what with Democrats in Congress moving to kill it and the Obama Administration seeking a way to lessen the blow to participating students. But there is life beyond the Beltway, and that's where debates over vouchers tend to be more nuanced and perhaps even more consequential.

Take Wisconsin and our home state of Ohio, for example, which together provide vouchers for more than 30,000 students (compared to 1,700 in D.C.). In both states, Democratic governors are pushing new policies that would up the ante on "accountability" for private schools participating in the voucher programs. In Ohio, for example, Governor Strickland would require that every student in a participating private school sit for the state test, even if just a single student receives a publicly-funded voucher. (As Emmy reports, 94 of the program's 279 participating private schools enroll ten voucher-bearing students or fewer.)

Readers who follow Fordham's work know that we're not adverse to accountability. Far from it. We've led the charge for greater transparency and accountability in the charter school movement, and we've been open to more of...

There was a time when I was generally skeptical, even hostile, towards the views of Charles Murray, at least as they pertained to education. But I found plenty to like about Real Education, and now he's given a very strong speech at the American Enterprise Institute (which he turned into an article for the Washington Post yesterday) which I think deserves to be taken seriously. So is he becoming more convincing or am I becoming more easily convinced?

Take a look at this long passage from both the speech and the article:

Two premises about human beings are at the heart of the social democratic agenda: what I label "the equality premise" and "the New Man premise." The equality premise says that, in a fair society, different groups of people -- men and women, blacks and whites, straights and gays -- will naturally have the same distributions of outcomes in life -- the same mean income, the same mean educational attainment, the same proportions who become janitors and who become CEOs. When that doesn't happen, it is because of bad human behavior and an unfair society. Much of the Democratic Party's proposed domestic legislation assumes

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This weekend's Washington Post offered an anecdotal look at DC's Capital Gains Program, aka Washington's own pay kids for performance system. The program has its logistical issues, but one of great significance has cropped up: theft. Apparently some students at one DC middle school have made a habit of stealing checks from backpacks and lockers. Capital Gains partners with SunTrust Bank, which puts on money management classes for students. But where's the accompanying ethics curriculum? The pay for performance experiment intends to teach students the value of working hard. But do these programs do enough to close the door on the other options, like, say, stealing from someone who worked just a bit harder? Students might not be gaining an appreciation of learning for learning's sake, but they could be learning larger life lessons about good citizenship. I suspect that KIPP schools that employ a reward structure don't have issues with theft. After all, the schools promote a general honor code and high standard of good behavior. KIPP strives to produce students who are both good learners and productive members of society. Public schools are often a far cry from KIPP, but if they're already paying students...

The Ohio Academy of Science has provided a little reality check to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's evidence-based education proposals and found them lacking--actually, way lacking. The governor has been working on his education reforms for at least a year and has gone out of his way to tout the "evidence." Now, we learn from a real, scientific organization that real, scientifically valid evidence is practically nonexistent in the plan.

Although this news from the Academy is not good for Ohioans, especially the youngest Buckeyes, it's good to know we can all stop wasting time looking. A lot of people have been searching for the governor's evidence for weeks and coming up empty handed. University of Washington education finance expert Paul T. Hill found little merit in the governor's assurances.

According to Academy Chief Executive Officer Lynn Elfner, who reviewed the bibliography of Strickland's evidence for his massive school reform plan (four Fordham reports are cited), "most references are to political action or opinion reports; only a few articles appear to be from primary, peer-reviewed, refereed journals that the Academy would consider fundamental to understanding how children learn and how we should organize learning environments...

As I continue to make my way through the gigantic stack of articles and reports I should've read over the last year and a half or so, I keep finding interesting and timely stuff. ????Given the critical role being played by high-quality charter networks in our cities and the stimulus plan's $650 million fund for scaling up what works, two articles from the 2008 summer edition of Education Next deserve particular attention.

"Brand-Name Charters" takes a look at the growth of "franchising" great schools and how it relates to similar practices outside of education. ????It includes a good discussion of the history, challenges, and successes of well-known nonprofit charter management organizations ("CMOs") like KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First, and their for-profit cousins, education management organizations ("EMOs", which are different than this). ????There's been entirely too little written about this phenomenon, which I consider among the three most important education reform developments of the last 20 years, so this is a worthwhile and much-needed contribution.

"Scaling Up in Chile" is an excellent companion piece. ????It discusses similar developments that have taken place since Chile overhauled its public education system in the early 1980s. ????Today,...

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