It's National Charter Schools Week, and the Alliance has all kinds of activities planned and news to share. Here are a couple highlights:

Lots of information and resources can be found here.

I'm reminded again and again of America's need for an independent education-achievement "audit agency" to sort out the claims and counterclaims about student performance and school achievement and when it has risen and when it has flat-lined or fallen--and why.

In today's Washington Post, former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, relentlessly defending the No Child Left Behind act over the implementation of which she long presided, tries to attribute NAEP gains since 1999 to the impact of NCLB. She doesn't exactly remind us that NCLB was proposed in January 2001, signed into law in January 2002, and the first school year on which it could conceivably have had an influence would be 2002-3. The most recent (long-term)??NAEP results come from spring 2008, meaning that five years is the longest period for which any student gains could even be ASSOCIATED with NCLB, much less attributed to NCLB. (Because this was no random experiment, any gains could equally have been caused by global warming or whatever.) Unfortunately, the long-term-trend??NAEP wasn't administered in 2003, however (or 2002 for that matter), so one faces a challenge in deciding what to use as the baseline. The assessment was given in 1999, then...

Ohio's governor and House of Representatives are supporting a state budget bill that would add billions of dollars in state spending on public education over the next decade and would mandate more decisions about public education at the state level. Yet a new Fordham Institute & Catalyst Ohio survey released today, Checked Out: Ohioans' Views on Education 2009, indicates that 74 percent of Ohioans believe that if the Buckeye State decided to spend more money on the public schools, the money would not get to the classrooms and improve education and instead "would get lost along the way." Further, just 3 percent of Ohioans want the governor making "decisions about how to spend tax money allocated to Ohio's public schools" and a meager 4 percent trust the state legislature with the task. Read our take on the survey's results in today's special edition of the Ohio Education Gadfly.

Interesting column by the Post's Colbert King on a speech given by the President of Morehouse College, namely about ???????a critical ingredient that bonds Morehouse men: a fundamental discontent about mediocrity.???????????????King's summary of the speech makes it sound like the principal of????a high-performing, high-poverty charter would've been equally comfortable giving it.

Jay Mathews reports on a sparsely attended but potentially portentous press conference.???? Apparently, Broad and Gates are giving the AFT $2.8 million to launch "innovative programs."

Jack Kemp, former congressman, cabinet secretary, and VP nominee????????and one of my favorite politicos of all time????????passed away on Saturday.???? Kemp had a stellar professional football career and then turned his preternatural energy and good humor toward public service.???? He understood civil rights and social justice issues as well as anyone on the Republican side of the aisle and fought for them vigorously.???? But unlike many with these leanings, he believed that conservative policies were likelier to bring about dignity, freedom, and prosperity than well-intentioned but hulking and expensive government programs.

Accordingly, this self-styled ???????bleeding-heart conservative??????? fought for empowerment zones in urban neighborhoods and school choice for disadvantaged boys and girls.???? On this second point, Kemp was particularly important to conservatism.???? Though many on the right, from Friedman on, saw a choice and competition-based system as an economically sensible way to delivery public education, Kemp realized that the true virtue of school vouchers lie in their ability to empower low-income families and enable disadvantaged kids to access schools that were otherwise out of reach.

Mike recently lamented the state of the Republican Party's thinking on education reform issues.???? The GOP could do...

Supreme Court Justice David Souter is heading back to New Hampshire.???? Though K-12 education doesn't get too much play at the Court, there have been some interesting cases of late.???? Of course, the most important and controversial education issues potentially coming its way relate to choice.???? Souter was in the liberal minority in Zelman (he voted against the constitutionality of Cleveland's scholarship program).???? President Obama says he wants to choose someone with ???????empathy??????? to fill the spot. ????Let's hope that includes empathy for low-income kids assigned to failing schools.

According to Gotham Schools, ED Senior Advisor Jon Schnur will NOT be joining the Obama administration despite his leading education role during the campaign, transition, and early days of the Duncan regime.

This is a blow. ????Jon's a real-deal reformer, and the Department is already under-staffed at the top.

I just don't get it.

Pedro Noguera attacks David Whitman's book, published by Fordham last year, in this post on Gotham Schools:

I reject the notion that there's one way to educate poor kids or the idea put forward by David Whitman that you must treat their culture as a problem. I also reject the idea that schools should focus narrowly on achievement and ignore the other needs - social, emotional, etc. PS 28 does it all with a high-need population and even though children do not walk the halls in silence they still receive a good education.??

Whitman responds:

Philissa Cramer and Pedro Noguera roundly misconstrue the message of my book, Sweating the Small Stuff. I never suggest or argue that KIPP and other secondary schools that I describe as examples of the "new paternalism" are imposing alien values on disadvantaged students.... On p.35, I address the question head-on of whether the new paternalist schools impose alien "middle-class" values on their students. Here is what I wrote: "Paternalistic programs, including paternalistic schools, survive only because they typically enforce values that ???clients already believe,' [Lawrence] Mead [the editor of??a 1997 Brookings

Amy Fagan

Arne Duncan spoke to a packed room last night at the Education Writers Association conference, and got some chuckles by promising not to use his three favorite words during the speech: extraordinary, dramatic and incent.

He spoke a lot about truth and transparency in education and said he feels an "urgency" to improve the system - using both carrots and, when needed, sticks. Some interesting tidbits:

  • He gave journalists props for pushing the country to talk about uncomfortable topics like performance gaps and teacher quality. Our friend Elizabeth Green from Gotham Schools asked him to expound on the teacher quality portion of that. He said teaching is a very private profession and there's a need to "de-privatize" it; open it up so that teachers freely discuss their strengths and weaknesses and learn from those who are more successful.
  • He said the name No Child Left Behind is "toxic" and we should change it. He talked about aspects of the NCLB law that he likes (the focus on disaggregating data), and those he definitely does not (it's overly prescriptive; too "loose" on the goals and too "tight" on how you get there).
  • He complained about state test
  • ...
Laura Pohl

Our Advanced Placement report has garnered quite a bit of national attention in the past two days as it addresses the question of whether the program's expansion is affecting its quality. This column by the Washignton Post's Jay Mathews is the latest news report to feature the study, which the Farkas Duffett Research Group conducted on behalf of Fordham. Mathews, who admits he is particularly obsessed with reporting about the AP program, writes:

This week the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute has released a random survey by the Farkas Duffett Research Group of 1,024 AP teachers which provides the most hopeful news I have seen in a long time on the future of the program, and its accessibility to the middle-of-the-pack high school students I think need it most. Fordham has become a national leader in assessing AP and the similar International Baccalaureate program. It broke new ground two years ago with a study confirming the high standards of rigor and content in both AP and IB exams, based on analysis by professionals in the subjects being tested. The latest study, ???????Growing Pains in the Advanced Placement Program: Do Tough Trade-Offs Lie Ahead????????, takes us into