With both David Brooks of the New York Times and the Washington Post's editorial page saying that Democrats are split over education, there's no denying it. Brooks says:

As in many other areas, the biggest education debates are happening within the Democratic Party. On the one hand, there are the reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, who support merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards. On the other hand, there are the teachers' unions and the members of the Ed School establishment, who emphasize greater funding, smaller class sizes and superficial reforms.

In the Post's words:

The different education factions of the party -- those pushing for radical restructuring and those more wedded to the status quo -- were each convinced during the campaign that Mr. Obama shared their particular viewpoints. So it is not clear whether Mr. Obama is leaning toward the "disrupters," House education committee chairman George Miller's approving description of the reformers, or the "incrementalists" who are allied with teachers unions.

The Post urges the President-Elect not to pick Linda Darling-Hammond; Brooks is hoping for the selection of Arne Duncan or Joel...

Well, Mike ain't gonna be getting a Christmas card from Linda this year. In an article published today in the New Republic, Mike is clear: when it comes to secretary picks, LDH is the "worst case scenario" (of course, Flypaper readers will know that that particular sentiment is old news). The article, which outlines Darling-Hammond's history in the education community, is certainly right about one thing: her appointment as secretary, deputy secretary, or really any position in the department or administration at all is going to cause a huge uproar. (If her position as transition team education advisor hasn't done that already.)

Apparently Darling-Hammond doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. She thinks that her "personal opinions" don't matter because she's just there to "implement" Obama's education platform. Well, that's all warm and fuzzy (or as Mike would say--and did--"The ideas associated with Darling-Hammond are ones that educators love because they're warm and fuzzy,") but it still begs the question: what is Obama's education platform? He certainly did a bang up job playing both sides against the middle during the campaign. And now we're left wondering where he stands--and when...

David Brooks has been weighing in on the education secretary debate for a few weeks now. Today's??latest installment, however, I think was his best. He brought up the usual names for the top spot--Joel Klein, Arne Duncan, and Linda Darling-Hammond--but he also had an interesting insight that merits more attention:

The candidates before Obama apparently include: Joel Klein, the highly successful New York chancellor who has, nonetheless, been blackballed by the unions; Arne Duncan, the reforming Chicago head who is less controversial; Darling-Hammond herself; and some former governor to be named later, with Darling-Hammond as the deputy secretary.

In some sense, the final option would be the biggest setback for reform. Education is one of those areas where implementation and the details are more important than grand pronouncements. If the deputies and assistants in the secretary's office are not true reformers, nothing will get done. (my emphasis)

So what does this mean? There are many theories about the bully-pulpit skills of Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings. Mike, in fact, wrote a few weeks ago??(actually in response to another Brooks column) that the perfect education secretary would have a strong grasp of education, policy, and management....

The Education Gadfly

Kathleen Sebelius almost beat out Joel Klein in our poll today, falling short of Klein's 9.7% of the vote, with just 9.5%. Not too much else has changed, so we are sitting tight. What might start to change insider opinion is a new story released by the Associated Press about Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who says he doesn't want the job. He said he intends to finish his term in office, ending in January of 2010. Should we believe it? After all, he has been amenable to serving with Obama before.

Dan Lips of The Heritage Foundation argues that there's much more to the conservative education agenda than just choice--that "the pundits who are pushing for the Republican Party to develop new ideas should appreciate the scope and success of conservative reforms in education." He makes a decent case, pointing to a variety of reforms in Florida (under Jeb Bush) and a couple in Tennessee.

Of course we've said for years that choice and accountability go hand-in-hand, but also that such reforms to the structure of schooling have to be accompanied by changes in how schools and districts actually operate--e.g., in their curricular, hiring, and staffing practices. But it's great to see these views echoed by Heritage--I guess there's nothing better than a Democratic administration to bring some realism to the right.

The former IBM CEO gets no support for his proposal to eliminate the nation's 15,000 school boards from Fordham trustee Diane Ravitch in this piece.

I can see why a former CEO would like to get rid of school boards, but that would be like saying that corporations should not have a board of directors, an audit committee or any other oversight. That would leave executives free to make decisions without having to be burdened with questions, discussions or conflicts.

Certainly, decisions about education could be quickly made and imposed if there were no local school boards. And we would surely have a more efficient--if less democratic--government if there were only an executive branch, with no Congress and no Supreme Court. In political science classes, we call that dictatorship or autocracy.

Wham! No doubt, Ravitch has a certain autocrat in mind. Then she really gives it to the Wall Street crowd (in no less!):

Given the current woeful state of America's businesses and our financial system, it would seem that our business leaders should be a bit more reticent in trying to impose their model on


A few weeks ago, when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released its new strategic plan for giving in k-12 education, our own Checker Finn expressed concern that charter schools and other forms of parental choice were missing from the menu. But in a speech at George Washington University yesterday, Mr. Gates himself cleared up any confusion by endorsing these innovative options repeatedly:

In schools across the country, we're seeing results that smash old prejudices about what poor students can achieve. High Tech High School in San Diego, Green Dot Schools in Los Angeles, Aspire High Schools in California, KIPP schools that have spread across the country, and YES College Preparatory Schools in Houston. These schools are doing work that should be talked about everywhere....

These are not isolated examples. There are public schools and charter schools serving some of the most disadvantaged students in the country, and yet they are recruiting great teachers, making the curriculum more rigorous, using data to see what works, and graduating students ready for college.

Gates Foundation staff: got the message?

Bill Gates picture from Microsoft

Heart graphic...

Forms of weighted school funding (WSF) are gaining traction in Ohio at the state and district levels. Emmy Partin nicely summarizes the State Board's upcoming vote on a version of WSF, which she notes includes "weights for students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, limited English proficient students, and gifted students." Unfortunately, the plan is flawed. Emmy writes:

The [recommendation of the school-funding subcommittee] ultimately falls short of a true WSF plan, however. The subcommittee report continues central office control over real spending decisions and does not empower school leaders closest to the children. Nor do the recommendations call for funding to follow the child from school to school. Unfortunately, as written, the recommendations are a missed opportunity and may simply result in funding the education status quo to the tune of $1 billion more per year (see here).

Developments in Cincinnati look more promising, as the CPS board and interim superintendent plan to restore WSF in 2009-10. (Under former superintendent Steven Adamowski, Cincinnati began WSF in 1999, only to discontinue it in pieces over recent years, well after his departure.) Reports the Cincinnati Enquirer:

With student-based budgeting, the money follows

Amy Fagan

David Whitman, author of "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism," wrote a piece for the Huffington Post Wednesday. In it, he broke down the looming battle that Barack Obama will face in the education realm. The Left is essentially divided into two camps - those who support school reform (including the emphasis on accountability and tracking in No Child Left Behind ) as the best means to close the achievement gap; and those, including unions, who ??favor more out-of-school interventions (like adding health clinics or expanded preschool programs) along with dismantling much of NCLB. Obama, Whitman wrote, so far has managed "to keep a foot in both camps," but soon will have to "pick and choose among his priorities." Welcome to the presidency!

Whitman noted that the six inner-city secondary schools he profiled in his book were all extremely successful in closing the achievement gap ??-- because they consistently puts the needs of the kids first. By contrast, he argued, "the nation's dysfunctional inner-city high schools are designed to serve the interest of adults."

Whitman wrote:

It's often said that radical school reform is impossible without the involvement of the

Amy Fagan

The buzz about who'll be the next education secretary seems to be picking up a bit. The AP reports that Virginia Governor Tim Kaine says he doesn't want the job. Apparently, he mentioned it during his monthly radio show this morning, restating his intent to remain in Virginia through the end of his term in January 2010....