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...

New state????test scores from NY show gains for kids in the Big Apple!

Or do they? ????Read to the bottom of the article and you'll see that Mike P, among others, is skeptical.

Fordham trustee Diane Ravitch has continuously argued against claims of significant improvement in NYC. See her recent NYT op-ed here. Klein's team responded with this memo. ????A big part of the debate is about which test scores to use--the state's or NAEP. ????(Check out????for yourself????what????NAEP TUDA has to say about NYC????here????and here.)

Although Ravitch raises fair points about the lack of progress on NAEP, I side with the pro-Klein camp, both because the state data is rather convincing and because the systemic changes he's implemented are the best I've seen in any US city.

But if Klein's gains are real, they should be reflected in better scores on the 2009 TUDA, the results of which are due this year....

Nice editorial from the Post about the funding troubles faced by DC charters.

BTW, what's with some DC-based politicians' hostility toward education programs that are working? ????The evidence shows that both DC charters????and vouchers are succeeding. ????Why cut funding for the first and stop new enrollment for the second?

Hollywood loves to glamorize the heroic inner-city teacher, and occasionally celebrates the heroic inner-city principal . But it can't be too long until it gives Big Screen treatment to the heroic inner-city charter school network leader. Jay Mathews surely hopes the KIPP guys will inspire such a movie (he successfully sold the rights to "Stand and Deliver ," and is no doubt trying to do the same for "Work Hard, Be Nice "). But put your hands on Douglas McGray's New Yorker profile of Green Dot 's Steve Barr , and tell me it doesn't read like an inspirational, action-packed script with a likeable maverick as the lead.

For wonks, the story of Barr's takeover of LA's Locke High School won't be new. But the colorful details (especially about Barr) are priceless. There's Ted Mitchell, quoting Barr (slightly incorrectly, it turns out) calling the LA teachers union president a "pig f&#ker." There's the story of him taking a group of Latino and black kids surfing, only to discover that half of them can't swim. And there's this:

[Barr] drives a decommissioned police car, a


Late last week, the Coalition for Student Achievement released Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success. This document, developed following a convening of more than 30 K-12 national education leaders, including state and district superintendents, was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. The document provides states with five "big ideas" for investing one-time federal recovery funds that can lay "the groundwork for real student improvement for decades to come."

Using the Smart Options recommendations as benchmarks, the chart below compares the five recommendations from Smart Options to policies proposed in the pending Ohio budget bill, which was passed late last month by the state House of Representatives and incorporates billions in federal stimulus dollars:

< means Smart Options and Ohio's budget are closely aligned

> means Smart Options and Ohio's budget are partially aligned

= means Smart Options and Ohio's budget are far apart


Smart Options Recommendation

Ohio's Budget Bill


Join multistate consortia to develop common world-class

Disappointing news from the Obama administration today. While the President's budget will include funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, it will formalize the Department's recent decision to not allow any new students to join. The proposal would permit all current students to continue in their private schools until they graduate from high school and remove the congressional language requiring program reauthorization before any more money can be spent.

For supporters of this program, this is just about as unfortunate a decision as could have been expected. The only worse alternative--defunding the program immediately and forcing existing participants out of their schools--would've been cruel and political untenable.

Assuming Congress approves the President's proposal, the program won't die immediately. ????It will just wither on the vine.

Let's not forget, a Department evaluation just found that program participants are learning more.

Former NBA star Dave Bing is the new Mayor of Detroit. Bing, who billed himself as the reform candidate the Motor City needs, has been a strong support of charters for years. Maybe this bodes well for the future of bold education reform in the American city arguably most in need of it.

We just concluded our daylong conference??on "International Lessons about National Standards," centered around Bill Schmidt's excellent policy brief??of the same name. An informal show of hands at the end of the session showed a sizable majority of the 200 attendees believing that, within five years, there will be a new national test and lots of states will adopt it as their own. Put differently, they think the NGA/CCSSO-led effort to create a "Common Core" of state standards??will succeed.

Let's hope so. There are innumerable reasons that national standards and tests would be better for the country than the fifty state patchwork we have today (greater comparability of schools across state lines, the opportunity to aim much higher than most states do, the potential that it could create a national marketplace for instructional materials, professional development, and teacher preparation, and on and on).

And we learned today that the leaders of the common standards initiative are interested in getting to common tests too--and to use these standards and tests to drive instructional change at the classroom level. This is a big deal, and could even be (I hate this term) a game-changer.

But pitfalls remain,...

Amy Fagan

Our conference today--on national education standards and the lessons that might be learned from other countries--is spurring some discussion. Debra Viadero from Education Week sums up the intriguing story that MSU's Bill Schmidt told in the policy brief he co-authored (and presented). Essentially, he compared the reactions of Germany and the United States to news of their students' sagging test scores in the 1990s--Germany eventually adopted national standards; the US hasn't??????yet (though as we all heard today, renewed efforts are underway). Will the two nations' stories converge this time around? That's to be continued,??? Debra writes. Read even more about what was discussed at today's event. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development also blogged (and twittered ) about it!