Our Reform-o-Meter is getting a workout now that the Obama Administration is announcing new Department of Education appointees daily. (Almost as frequently as it announces the tax problems of Cabinet nominees or their spouses .)

The latest is Russlynn Ali , currently the director of Education Trust-West , who was nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights . And let there be no doubt: she's a butt-kicking, take-no-prisoners, storm-the-barricades, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs reformer. As one friend asked me, ???Can we turn the dial to 11????

Now, this would be a good time to point out that ???reform??? comes in lots of shapes, sizes, and shades. If you've been reading some of the things I've been writing, like this, for example , you know that I'm not entirely enamored of Education Trust-style reform. I think the group is much more optimistic about the federal government's ability to do good in education than the evidence supports. They were responsible for some of the most problematic features of No Child Left Behind, particularly the ill considered ???highly qualified teachers??? provision. And they've been lukewarm to charter schools and the broader school...

President Barack Obama takes to the pages of the Washington Post today to defend his stimulus plan . I don't quarrel with his larger points???that the economy is tanking and now is the time for action???but I found his education passage extremely disappointing:

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries, and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

We're going to give our children ???every advantage??? by upgrading their school facilities? I can't think of a single serious, credible study that says that an upgrade of school facilities will be the cure for what ails our schools. Now, if you want to launch public works programs to infuse the economy with cash, I'm fine with rebuilding schools instead of rebuilding roads. But let's get real about the likely impact on learning: nada.

And I'm totally perplexed by the line about ???training our teachers in math and science.??? That's a fine idea, but somehow, with $140 billion...

We know you wait, every week, with bated breath for your RSS feed to tell you that the Gadfly has arrived. Well, wait no longer. In the top spot, find a thought-provoking (and chillingly true) editorial from Raegen T. Miller and Robin Chait of the Center for American Progress. Maybe it's time to scrap "last hired, first fired" provisions, they argue, since not only do they potentially lower the average quality of the teaching force but send a disturbing message to entire profession: when it comes down to the wire, seniority wins out over effectiveness. Yikes. Then get the story on Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's long-awaited (and, yet, still disappointing) education reform plan. It's got some good ideas... but plenty of bad ones too. Take "evidence-based models," for example, which Strickland thinks are the bee's knees. Newsflash, Ted, evidence-based models have been blown open as an unreliable, unscientific load of crock (to put it mildly)! Our VP of Ohio Programs and Policy, Terry Ryan, gives you the scoop.??

Further in, get the story on Minnesota Q Comp's 99 percent pay out rate (it's a MERIT pay system... you do to the math), more ...

We love the blogsophere over here at Flypaper, which is why we want to tell you about a neat new blog launched today: Mind the Gaps. It's the brainchild of ConnCAN, a Connecticut-based advocacy group, and will keep tabs on the Nutmeg State's "twin achievement gaps--between the haves and have-nots in Connecticut, and between even our high-achieving children and their peers around the globe." Since CT Gov Jodi Rell just released her new budget, there's sure to be many meaty developments right around the corner. So what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

We've pointed out some of the provisions of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's education plan that we aren't too fond of.???? But that's not to say the entire plan is without merit. There is much we actually like in the plan and his recommendations around teacher tenure and retention are especially promising.

Currently, Buckeye State teachers can be awarded tenure after their third year of teaching, which is the standard in most states. Under the governor's proposal, teachers won't be eligible for tenure until their ninth year in the classroom. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality's TR3 database, just eight states grant tenure later than the third year: Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, and South Dakota at four years and Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri at five years. The governor's tenure proposal would be a big deal in any state, but it's shocking, and impressive, coming from a Democrat in a strong union state like Ohio.

Strickland's plan would also raise the bar for dismissing teachers to bring it in-line with that of other public employees. Under current law, tenured teachers can only be dismissed for ???????gross immorality or inefficiency,??????? a hard thing to prove that...

Get out that trusty Reform-o-Meter because Team Obama is finally showing some heat. For his very first visit to a public school as President, Barack Obama chose a charter school-Capital City Public Charter School,* located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC, just a few miles due north of the White House. (Politics K-12 has great coverage here.) Granted, he went there to sell his not-so-hot stimulus package (to second-graders, no less!). And granted, as Dana Milbank of the Washington Post writes, it was "a good day to get out of the White House."

Still, these sorts of symbols and signals matter (though not too much; I rate it a 2 out of 10 in terms of significance), and charter schools are certainly in need of some immediate POTUS loving. That's because the Senate version of the stimulus bill doesn't include language guaranteeing charter schools access to the big bucks that are about to flow to other public schools. So surely the Obama folks have to know that using a charter school as a photo op and then cutting the same charter school (and its peers) out...

Suzannah Herrmann

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's bold education plan to overhaul the state's K-12 education system seems devoid of knowledge of some of the good things happening around the country, or even in Ohio. My colleague Emmy pointed this out in regard to the plan's teacher recruitment initiative (it seeks no help from Teach for America or the New Teacher Project), and it seems the governor is doing the same when it comes to revising the state's academic content standards.

The plan proposes to overhaul the current academic standards to make them "vertically articulated," "rigorous," "focused," and "coherent." The governor has thrown into the hopper just about every trendy education notion that he and his advisers have ever encountered. He yearns for standards that incorporate both solid...

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Education announced that President Barack Obama intends to nominate Carmel Martin to be Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. So, in the spirit of "personnel is policy," what does this indicate about President Obama's dedication to reform? I don't know Carmel very well, so I'm going to have to rely on secondary sources. First, let's check her background. According to the press release:

In the mid-90s, Martin was an Associate in the Education Group with Hogan & Hartson L.L.P. After her tenure there counseling school districts, colleges and universities, Martin moved to the United States Department of Justice where she focused on enforcing key provisions of Civil Rights Act. She has served as Counsel to both Senator Tom Daschle and Senator Jeff Bingaman before becoming the Associate Director for Domestic Policy at the Center for American Progress in 2004. Martin's most recent work has been with Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 2005 until December 2008. As Chief Education Advisor, she has counseled the Senator on all education issues and also led negotiations on all education legislation.

There are a few...

Amy Fagan

Seems one group of charter school students were entertained by not one, not two, but three special guests yesterday. ??President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited a group of 2nd graders at the Capital City Public Charter School in Northwest Washington, D.C.

ABC and CNN and other news outlets all reported on the special reading time--the first couple read a copy of "The Moon Over Star" to the children.

Hmmm....suppose it's not a bad sign to see charter schools making the radar screen early-on in the administration....