Flypaper

Sad news: the 'Fly is flying home for the holidays--and will remain out of your inboxes for two whole weeks! It's tough, we know, but that's why we made this week's edition such a humdinger. First up, Mike and Checker introduce Fordham's Open Letter to the President-Elect, Secretary-Designate, and Members of the 111th Congress. This op-ed is chock full of great ideas for the incoming administration. But if you want the whole kahuna, you should read the Open Letter itself! Then, you'll learn of the WaPo's despicable treatment of Tom Nida, Malcolm Gladwell's quarterback problem, and a very silly British teacher who tried to quiet down her 1st grade class by telling them Santa didn't exist (brilliant!).

Next up, we're pleased to welcome Rick Hess, the one and only, back to the podcast. Unfortunately, not much has changed since he left to go do "research" in Hawaii; he still doesn't read the news, doesn't watch TV, and doesn't listen to the radio. But, dear reader, don't let that deter you. You should stay informed... by listening to the podcast, of course, which gives you the 411 on education news...

In light of this morning's release of Fordham's open letter, this article from Tuesday's NY Times seemed all the more appropriate. It's about early childhood education, which President-elect Obama brought up many times during the campaign (more times, say, than NCLB), and which was a highlight of his Duncan announcement speech in Chicago. In fact, during that speech (during which, of course, NCLB was, again, not mentioned), Obama repledged $10 billion to early childhood programs. This part was particularly telling:??

And the $10 billion Mr. Obama has pledged for early childhood education would amount to the largest new federal initiative for young children since Head Start began in 1965. Now, Head Start is a $7 billion federal program serving about 900,000 preschoolers.

???People are absolutely ecstatic,??? said Cornelia Grumman, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, an advocacy group. ???Some people seem to think the Great Society is upon us again.?????

Let's just hope this isn't the first leak of Obama's education platform. As the Notorious B.I.G. wisely once said, (when it comes to education policies and the federal government) "It's like the more money we come across, the more problems we see."...

The Education Gadfly

What's the future for education reform now that Arne Duncan's been named education secretary? You can listen to Mike opining on this topic during last night's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (which also featured Andy Rotherham from Ed Sector) or listen to Checker and Michele Norris talking about the same issue on NPR's All Things Considered.

A colleague writes in to say:

The Duncan appointment is good news, however, I'm still hearing that LDH may get Institute for Education Sciences Commissioner.?? That is almost at the level of a classical tragedy--the??Roman sack of Carthage, the burning of the library at Alexandria.

She would destroy everything Russ Whitehurst built.?? It's like having a creationist head the National Science Foundation.

This is non-partisan position. ??We just want a well-respected researcher heading IES who will push rigorous, scientifically-based research on what works.??????

Every serious education researcher to whom I've spoken is aghast at the idea of her taking over the agency.??

That's the headline of a thoughtful letter in today's Washington Post, coming to the defense of Tom Nida, who's under fire from some who question whether his day job at United Bank conflicts with his role as chair of the D.C. Public Charter School Board. I came to his defense here, but today's letter-writer puts it best:

No one works harder than Thomas A. Nida to improve the educational outcomes of D.C. students. He is a tireless advocate for change in what is acknowledged to be a broken public school system. As thanks for his selfless service, The Post found it appropriate to pillory him on the front page... The implied message is that if you do business in the District, don't even think about volunteering in public affairs. Lord knows, if the District were to actually benefit from some of your volunteer work, your business might benefit as well, and that would constitute a conflict of interest! By this logic, only retirees, government employees and journalists would be qualified to serve on public boards.

This article has done enormous damage to the effort to engage volunteers from the business

...

We are seeking a staff assistant for our D.C. office--if you want to join our terrific team, please read the job description and apply now!

As a thinker tanker, I have to assume that this line in President-Elect Obama's speech yesterday was aimed at people like me:

When??Arne speaks to educators across America, it won't be from up in some ivory tower,* but from the lessons he's learned during his years changing our schools, from the bottom up.

But I take solace in knowing that Linda Darling-Hammond lives in an Ivory Tower too. So for today I'm going to take this as another promising sign that she's heading back to Palo Alto.

* By the way, wasn't it the Bush Administration that was famous for anti-intellectualism? This is the kind of rhetoric typically associated with the right. Interesting.

Amy Fagan

Arne Duncan isn't the only one who has had a busy week! Fordham's Checker and Mike have been quoted in numerous articles over the past few days, giving their views on Obama's pick for education secretary. Those have included pieces in The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Chronicle of Higher Ed, National Review Online, and more......!!...

The main media "narrative" of today's ed-sec pick is that Arne Duncan was the "compromise" candidate that both reformers and the teachers union camp within the Democratic Party could abide. Fair enough. Everyone sees something in Arne Duncan that they can claim as their own.

But as I mentioned earlier, "compromise" isn't quite the right concept , and it's not likely to be President-Elect Obama's strategy over the next four years. Compromise implies give and take, everyone getting less than what they wanted. What we'll see instead, I suspect, is a strategy of addition, not subtraction. The unions and their allies will get programs they like. And the reformers will get programs they like. And Obama will try like the dickens to avoid the contentious issues that truly divide them.

Consider today's press conference (here's the transcript ). The President-Elect surely pleased reformers with his mention of charter schools and his enthusiasm for closing down failing schools. But he also please the teachers unions with his call to hold "governments" accountable and his praise for Chicago's work boosting the number of Nationally Board-Certified teachers.

What he didn't do was mention the No Child Left Behind...

We've already weighed in on what president-Elect Obama's selection of Arne Duncan as the next U.S. Secretary of Education may mean for education policy. But it has another meaning to those of us at Flypaper: the end of our pick-the-next-education-secretary daily tracking poll. Yes, I think I'm going to cry.

Our six-week-long experiment proved successful, as Arne Duncan led his competitors from the very first day and never looked back. (Though, to be fair, it was quite a contest the first week, when Jim Hunt and Colin Powell were still in the running. But once they took themselves out of contention, Duncan dunked the rest of the field.)

So which of our Washington Insiders got it right from the very start? It sure wasn't me; I didn't get on board until a few weeks ago, when my first two picks (Hunt and Bill Richardson) decided they had other plans. Nope, the insider's insider was Bethany Little, Vice President for Policy and Federal Advocacy at the Alliance for Excellent Education. Way back on November 10th??she gave Duncan a 70 percent chance of becoming secretary, and she never lost...

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