It's week three of Fordham's name-the-next-education-secretary daily tracking poll, and Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan has moved into a commanding lead, with better odds of getting the job than the next five candidates combined. (At least that's according to our ten Washington insiders .) I've decided to be happy about it. While he's not the perfect choice--I really think a governor is better suited to move an agenda on Capitol Hill--he no doubt has reform instincts and a pretty good track record in Chicago. (His NAEP scores are at least as impressive at Joel Klein's, if not more so. What he seems to be lacking is a large press office to promote them nationally.) And being a close personal friend of the President's will surely help him get attention for the education issue.

Meanwhile, lurking in today's results is the specter of Linda Darling-Hammond, who makes the big board for the first time today. And keep your eyes on Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, a rising talent who is expected to get a chair at the Cabinet table. Will it be this one?

Other folks mentioned today: Tim Kaine, Hugh Price,...

Melody Barnes, whose comment on the Diane Rehm show sparked much speculation about Team Obama's position on testing and portfolios, is going to direct the Domestic Policy Council. Portfoliogate aside, I hear she's very good and has the right instincts on education. And let's all be thankful that this key job didn't go to Linda Darling-Hammond. (On the other hand, that means that LDH is still in the running (!!!) for education secretary.)

Oh sure, the economy is imploding and the President-Elect is considering a stimulus at least as large as what America's spends on schools in an entire year, but what we education wonks can't help but wonder is which way Obama will go on??k-12 policy. Maria Glod of the Washington Post tees up the issue, and Terry Moe hits it long in the Wall Street Journal.

Photograph by dalbera from Flickr

And so are the folks leading the Washington, DC and New Orleans school systems (hint: Michelle Rhee and Paul Vallas), said the former head of IBM in a recent CEO forum sponsored by the Wall Street Journal. Said forum also featured...Joel Klein. And James Comer. It's an interesting read; I wonder if any CEOs actually attended the session.

I'm glad we have Flypaper to vent our internal disagreements, as I take umbrage with Ben's Gadfly discussion of Weighted Student Funding. In his review of an AIR report examining WSF in San Francisco and Oakland, Ben is far too dismissive of WSF as a reform (it "adjusts the inputs in a field where outcomes are what really matter"). Of course that's true at an abstract level, but it's a big oversimplification.

First, rearranging school funding so that the poorest schools are funded on par with wealthier schools may indeed be an adjustment of inputs, but it's an important one. The Education Trust, Marguerite Roza, and others have long documented the startling funding disparities that exist among districts, and among schools within districts. If we want great results from schools with underprivileged students, step one involves leveling the playing fields on which they compete.

But second, a more importantly, WSF is intended to change the way schools work, so they can produce great outcomes. It is meant to give principals greater autonomy, so they can tailor their school's offerings to meet the needs of their particular students. It is meant to give...

Arne Duncan's lead is bigger than ever in the quest to replace Margaret Spellings. One friend of mine urges me to just accept that he's the guy. Well, that's probably true. Meanwhile, United Negro College Fund president Michael Lomax is working his way up the ladder, and now appears to be the pick as the Arne-alternative. And what about Bill Richardson, whom I've been promoting all week? First, the Washington Post's "in the loop" reporter Al Kamen wrote this morning that Obama might find a spot for him at Interior, Commerce, or as ambassador to China. Then Alyson Klein at Education Week ridiculed my speculation since Richardson was well-known as an NCLB-hater on the campaign trail. (See, I'm terrible at placing bets because I always gamble on the horse I want to win, rather than the horse most likely to win. And a pro-accountability, anti-NCLB governor sounds good to me!) And now, The Fix is saying that Richardson is being "seriously considered" for Commerce. Well, Bill, it was fun while it lasted. And look--Geoffrey Canada, he of Harlem Children's Zone fame--makes an appearance for the first time.


Speaking of David Whitman's schools, I recently had the chance to visit a charter school of the kind he describes in Sweating the Small Stuff, and it was sobering. Of course it wasn't my first visit to a "paternalistic" school, but most of those have involved the guided tour - the kind where you wonder if the students and teachers really act that way when nobody is watching. In this case, I knew the founder/principal, so I had a true behind-the-scenes look, unfiltered and unvarnished. And it was eye-opening.

It was amazing how many problems my friend encountered in the hour I was there - we must have been interrupted 20 times by students needing discipline, teachers needing guidance about discipline, others needing observation while they worked with a struggling student, etc. It was a whirlwind, and it was tiring just to watch. It gave me a deeper appreciation for the special talent, constant hard work, and unwavering attention to detail that it takes to run one of these schools.

But it was also disheartening, for my friend confessed her fear that the "model" of such hard work and long hours won't be sustainable - that...

Joanne Jacobs, whose eponymous blog is among the most dominant in the edusphere, pens a flattering review of David Whitman's recent book in the current issue of City Journal.

"Nagging is love," I used to tell my daughter. "I am a much-loved child," she'd reply. And so it is: if you care about a kid, you tell her what she's doing right and what she's doing wrong. You stick with her when she makes mistakes. You honor her successes. You nag. In Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism, David Whitman finds that idea replicated in education. To give disadvantaged students a shot at college and mainstream success, he argues, schools must teach "not just how to think but how to act according to what are commonly termed traditional middle-class values."

Jay Mathews may have decided to call these "No Excuses" schools, but may I suggest "No Excuses Nags" as a slight improvement?...

Seems the Obamas finally decided where Sasha and Malia will go to school: Sidwell Friends. Since it's in Maryland, its elementary school, at least, does not participate in the DC voucher program... which means breathing room for the President-Elect on that front. But its middle and high schools do participate, and Malia at least is very close to (if not in already?) middle school. Regardless, seems like a wise choice since the school a) has dealt with first family students before and b) is similar enough to the Lab School in Chicago to provide (hopefully) a smooth mid-year transition. She might be a First Daughter, but Sasha is still very young. On another note, poor Georgetown Day School. Guess it will get its day in the sun some other day.


We've already made it quite clear how we feel about this??here and here. I will refrain from commenting further.