There's a growing consensus among conservative smarties that the key to the GOP's renewal is getting things done at the state level. Mort Kondracke adds his voice to this chorus in a Roll Call article today:

GOP governors [should] use their posts to show the country how conservatives can solve problems, especially the dismal state of American education and its menacing cousin, lagging American competitiveness. If one governor would fully implement a widely circulated proposal to transform U.S. education -- based on having most children graduate after 10th grade and using the savings to pay teachers like professionals -- it could serve as a model for the nation and bring the United States back to world standards.

He's right that the "Tough Choices or Tough Times" proposal to which he refers would be a good start, though there are other ideas too. But the sentiment is unassailable. GOP governors: stop complaining and start a revolution.

Photograph of Mort Kondracke from

Fordham Board member Diane Ravitch takes to the (web)pages of to discuss the Gates' small schools movement. It was a well-intentioned effort, she argues, but ultimately not the "silver bullet" the Gates Foundation had hoped. But, she concludes, kudos to Gates for realizing the error of their ways (Checker weighed in on this in last week's Gadfly).

Nina Rees and Doug Mesecar, both former leaders of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement, respond to Ted Mitchell's and Jon Schorr's Ed Week commentary in this (longish) letter to the editor. And yes, they throw down the voucher gauntlet:

Innovation and politics don't play well together. Take the District of Columbia Student Opportunity Scholarship Program as an example, since Messrs. Mitchell and Schorr forgot to mention it. If innovation should break the mold, this program truly meets the test. Some Democrats and Republicans consider empowering low-income families with the option to enroll their children in well-established private schools an innovation worth exploring; many more, however, do not.

The scholarship program is part of a unique "three sector" initiative designed and championed by local leaders


As I predicted, Arizona governor Janet Napolitano got a big bounce on the education secretary front from the news that she's not likely to get the nod for the Attorney General job. United Negro College Fund president Michael Lomax is now viewed as the most likely higher ed alternative. And New Mexico governor Bill Richardson's star is rising too (my campaigning is clearly paying off).

Other mentions today: Colin Powell (out of the "top contenders" race for the first time), Hugh Price, Caroline Kennedy, Peter McWalters, Wendy Kopp, Tim Kaine, Ted Mitchell, Linda Darling-Hammond (with her first mention today), Jim Hunt, Erskine Bowles, Jim Shelton, and Alan Bersin....

The Institute of Education Science's final Reading First evaluation report is out today, and the news is mixed. Schools receiving funds from the program saw their students' decoding skills improve, but not their comprehension skills. Not surprisingly, Margaret Spellings focused on the former, and the press focused on the latter. And in his last hurrah, IES director Russ Whitehurst, the subject of a new Education Next feature, sided with the naysayers: "It is a program that needs to be improved," he told the Washington Post. "I don't think anyone should be celebrating that the federal government has spent $6 billion on a reading program that has had no impact on reading comprehension."

Well, let's keep a few things in mind. First, children can't learn to comprehend if they don't first learn to decode, so we shouldn't minimize the real gains made there. Second, as Whitehurst has admitted before, this is a study about the impact of Reading First funds, not its instructional methods. The schools in the "control group" may not have received federal dollars for reading, but many likely borrowed Reading...

Several news outlets are reporting that President-Elect Obama is likely to nominate Eric Holder to be his Attorney General. Many speculated that the job might have gone to Arizona governor Janet Napolitano. Which now begs the question: will she get the education?? job instead? It's not a sure thing; she might also be tapped to lead the Department of Homeland Security. (And I still think Bill Richardson is going to end up at ED.) But I bet our insiders give her a bump up today.

Janet Napolitano photograph from Governor of Arizona website

It's a good question. When he made Linda Darling-Hammond (cue: Mike groaning) his lead education advisor, we thought the odds were good. Now former (only literally--he's still one of us in spirit!) Fordhamite Liam Julian speculates on National Review Online .

Chicago superintendent Arne Duncan maintains his big lead today in our education insiders poll. Former South Carolina state superintendent Inez Tenenbaum has solidified her hold on the second-place spot, a proposition that makes libertarians nervous. (Frankly, I'm not thrilled about it either.) Meanwhile, our group is warming to the prospects of Michael Lomax, the head of the United Negro College Fund. He's a higher education expert, and look--he's a fan of KIPP! But come on people, face it: it's going to be Bill Richardson, trust me.

Other folks mentioned today: Mike Easley, Freeman Hrabowski, Kathleen Sebelius, Hugh Price, Bill Richardson, Peter McWalters, Ted Mitchell, Wendy Kopp, Tim Kaine, Erskine Bowles, Jim Shelton, Alan Bersin, and Jon Schnur.