Collectively, we should be increasingly alarmed about the education portion of the ARRA. ????States have begun to file their applications for the first big batch (~$33 billion) of stabilization funds.

First, although the application requires the governor to sign assurances promising to make progress in four areas, remarkably, it requires neither a plan for accomplishing those goals nor details on how these billions of dollars will be spent. ????The states that have applied so far have obliged, including none of this relevant information in their packages.

Second, the Department sent a letter to states on April 1 saying that states don't have to demonstrate progress on the assurances to get the second batch (~$16 billion) of stabilization funds. ????They only have to have systems in place to collect data.

Third, governors lack the power to require districts to use these funds wisely. ????From the guidance released in April:

III-D-14.???? May a Governor or State education agency (SEA) limit how an LEA uses its Education Stabilization funds?

No.???? Because the amount of Education Stabilization funding that an LEA receives is determined strictly on the basis of formulae and the ARRA gives LEAs considerable


Got a really interesting note from an excellent program officer at the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. ????He sent the Department's ideas for best using ARRA funds????to a number of the most reform-minded leaders in the districts the foundation's working with. ????Not a single one of them had seen the document.

This begs the question: How many other reform-minded district employees and reform-oriented nonprofits are unaware that the US Department of Education has provided specific ideas for using nearly $100 billion to advance reform?

Expert author David Whitman alerted me to an important video on the Duncan closures-starts issue (click here then scroll to "Part 2:????Arne Duncan on the McKinsey Study"). ????In it, Duncan talks about his hopes for turning around the nation's worst schools. ????It's not full-fledged closures, but it's close; certainly closer to closures than, say, "turnaround specialists."

The very positive test results out of NYC showing significant gains for the city's traditional public schools seem to validate many of the reforms put in place during the Klein-Bloomberg era (and bolster my optimism about what's possible in traditional city school systems). They also appear to be changing the debate on mayoral control.

I'm eager to see Diane Ravitch's analysis of these scores.

Included among the test scores is even more great news for the city's charters. Notice too that these super high-achieving schools are new starts, not turnarounds (see David Brooks recent column for more on this).

So why does NY still have a charter cap? ????And for that matter, why do 26 states and DC still have caps?...

As I've alluded to a number of times, I'm convinced that turnarounds are not a scalable strategy for fixing America's struggling urban school systems. There is simply too much data from the world of education and other industries showing that the success rate of turnaround initiatives aimed at persistently failing entities is staggeringly low.

The answer is not trying endlessly to fix failing schools; it's closing them down and starting new schools. This is how other industries improve over time.

This is a big subject in the book I'm currently writing, hence my current fixation and????irascibility????on this issue. But the reason I'm belaboring this point on Flypaper is because I worry the new administration may be heading in the wrong direction.

They put $3 billion in the ARRA for the School Improvement Fund (under Title I) and they are proposing this program get another $1.5 billion in the 2010 budget. Moreover they are encouraging states to use dollars from the ARRA stabilization fund for school turnarounds.

Then today, ED released a statement that read in part:

Duncan said that if the nation's educators could turn around 1,000 schools per year


Long-time antagonists????Eva Moskowitz????(former NYC education committee chair and founder of Harlem Success Academy charter schools) and Randi Weingarten (AFT and UFT president) debated on NYC television. ????It's gripping in parts.

The Education Gadfly

National Standards in Other Nations from Education Gadfly on Vimeo .

This panel discussion on national education standards across the world was sponsored by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute at our "International Lessons About National Standards" even on Tuesday, May 5, 2009.


William Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor and Co-Director of the Education Policy Center, Michigan State University

Sigrid Bl??meke, Full Professor, Humboldt University of Berlin and National Research Coordinator, TEDS-M and MT21

John Hayton, Counsellor (Education) and Director, Australian Education International-North America, Embassy of Australia, Washington, DC (Australia)

Doo-Jung Kim, Professor of Education, Chungnam National University (Korea) and past President, Korean Society for Curriculum Studies

Moderated by: Ben Wildavsky, Senior Fellow, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation...

Yesterday I reported on the New Yorker profile of Green Dot founder Steve Barr, and speculated that it might inspire a movie version. That led one intrepid Flypaper reader to ask the obvious question: Who would play him? Here are the leading contenders; Rock the Vote below. And if you want to suggest another (or provide a rationale), leave a comment.

Let the casting begin!

The administration released its 2010 budget proposal yesterday.????Check out the specifics here.

Just a few highlights???????

First, it has slightly higher discretionary spending than the 2009 budget (but remember that the ARRA is pumping nearly $100 billion through ED on top of 2009 and 2010 funds).

Second, in non-K-12 news, it includes a small increase in the maximum Pell grant award and adds lots of new money for early childhood programs.

Third, there is a relatively small $10 million for the ???????Promise Neighborhoods??????? initiative.???? This is the administration's attempt to replicate the Harlem Children's Zone.???? This money will support planning grants for cities that want to create their own versions.????I'm VERY skeptical of this initiative because HCZ is extraordinarily expensive, its early results were very questionable (it took lots of rethinking and reworking to get it right), and such extensive wrap-around services are neither necessary nor sufficient to bring about improved student achievement.????I would prefer the feds stay out of this business.

Fourth, there's a big increase for the Teacher Incentive Fund (up to $517 million from under $100 million in 2009), which incentives states and districts to experiment with performance/merit pay.????This...

The debate over progress in NYC is a microcosm of a much bigger discussion in ed reform circles: For all of the money and effort expended, have America's schools really gotten any better?

At a recent conference, two veteran reformers suggested that, no, we've made very little progress since A Nation At Risk in 1983. Then there's news out today that Newt Gingrich said largely the same thing to the press after meeting with the President on education issues.

I wonder if this is just alarmist talk to get folks more motivated to take on change, because from where I sit, things are immeasurably better than they were 10, 20, or 30 years ago, especially for our most disadvantaged kids. We have a national consensus that the achievement gap matters, we have educational entrepreneurs starting invaluable projects, we have more and more high-performing high-poverty schools thanks to chartering, and on and on and on. ????Yes, there are still challenges and groups standing in the way of reform, but as a wise man once said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

Here's an optimistic take on this issue that I...