Laura Pohl

The Los Angeles Times reports that several charter schools in California are outperforming traditional public schools in the state when it comes to serving children in poverty. Ben Chavis, the head of American Indian Public Charter said it's easier to teach poor students because they are more motivated than affluent students. "It's the opposite of what everybody says," he said. "It's easier to do it with the poor kids and the minority kids because they have nothing, so they should be the highest." Read more here.

It's Day Two of Fordham's pick-the-next-secretary-of-education daily tracking poll (results from day one are here), and Chicago superintendent Arne Duncan and former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt have established themselves as the early favorites. Colin Powell is still in the hunt (no pun intended), though perhaps our insiders are wondering about the likelihood that he'd say yes were President-Elect Obama to offer him the job. Meanwhile, Freeman Hrabowski, the one higher education expert listed yesterday, has apparently fallen out of contention. Keep your eyes on Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who pops up on the radar screen for the first time today.

Other mentions (in this order): Beverly Hall, Erskine Bowles, Caroline Kennedy, Chris Edley, Paul Vallas, Bob Wise, Roy Barnes, and Roy Romer. No longer named by anyone: Andy Rotherham, Kati Haycock, Norm Francis, and Michael Bennet, plus, as mentioned above, Freeman Hrabowski.

Today we live in a different country than we did even 10 days ago. Back then we were partaken with partisanship and infected with invectiveness. Now we watch with awe as the sitting president and the president-elect prepare for yet another peaceful, democratic transition of power. We strain to get a glimpse of the new First Family. We wonder where the girls will go to school. It's as if the mass catharsis of last Tuesday night's river of choked-up tears washed away all of the ugliness of the long election season.

So it is in that spirit that I respond to Leo Casey's post from a fortnight ago, when he accused me of taking up the "politics of resentment and fear" by pursuing "???divide and conquer' strategies designed to set working people against each other."

With pages right out of a Depression era playbook, he proclaims that public school teachers and retirees - not Wall Street financiers and the corporate benefactors of his rightwing political friends - enjoy unearned and undeserved privilege. Our sinecures? Nothing more than our health care insurance and our pensions. Father Coughlin and Huey Long meet the


Columnist Richard Cohen caught my eye today by endorsing Al Gore for secretary of state, but much of his column is spent suggesting Joel Klein for secretary of education: to Gore at State, nothing would show how much the Obama administration will break from the past than by elevating the secretary of education to the inner Cabinet. My choice: Joel Klein , New York City's schools chancellor.

Many people lament all the energy that is not being drilled for offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge . But far fewer people get as exercised over the brainpower that is not being tapped in this country on account of an inexcusably awful education system. Klein would change that by, among other things, altering the way teachers are compensated. Good teachers would earn more than average teachers and teachers who want to teach in the toughest, meanest and most desperate schools would earn most of all.

Teachers unions -- another Democratic Party interest group -- hate merit pay, so here's another opportunity for Obama to prove his mettle. The object is to reverse the current situation, in which


"Michelle Obama visits Washington private schools "

The soon-to-be first lady toured Georgetown Day School in the morning and Sidwell Friends School, which Chelsea Clinton attended, in the afternoon. In between, she spent about two hours visiting the residential portion of the White House with first lady Laura Bush. Their husbands met privately in the Oval Office.

The mom-in-chief better put her foot down about this . Reuters reports that Sasha and Malia Obama have been invited by Billy Ray Cyrus to guest star on his daughter's hit TV show, "Hannah Montana ." Unfortunately, we all know that Miley "stuck in school's so lame " Cyrus is no role model when it comes to education.

On a more serious note, if we give a 15-year-old celebrity a hard time for some ordinary school-centered angst, what's going to happen to the first daughters? I predict an unfortunate but serious case of growing up too fast. Let's hope there are no bedsheets and cameras involved .

Guest Blogger

Fall intern Molly Kennedy offers up this reading:

Nancy Mitchell writes in the Rocky Mountain News about the excitement Barack Obama's education plans have generated , particularly in the choice sector and for those who think "outside the K-12 box." Education officials in the Denver area cite Obama's comments on education as examples of his openness to "a new generation of education reformers," and as reason to be excited for his election. In Dayton, Ohio, for example, he said that "charter schools that are successful will get the support they need to grow, charters that aren't will get shut down...I want experimentation, but I also want accountability."

Also, check out how Obama's election has been received by many students and schools across the country here , here , and here - just a glimpse....

Guest Blogger

Out there in the world of big media, the speculation is centering on who will land the big jobs at State, Defense, and the Treasury. Here in EducationLand, we are poring over our own choices. Thus far, the speculation centers on a few big-city superintendents,??governors, and even Colin Powell.

Here is my pick: Former Governor James Hunt of North Carolina. Over the past few years, I have gotten to know Governor Hunt as a member of the board of his Institute for Educational Leadership. He never ceases to amaze me with his deep understanding of education issues, his passion for children, and his zeal for improving education.

When he first called to invite me to join his board, I was adamant that I didn't have time to join anything new. I wanted to focus on my writing, not travel to board meetings in North Carolina. I said no. I said no very firmly. About 15 minutes later, I had agreed to be a member


This Jay Mathews article and this Valerie Strauss post both indicate that the Georgetown Day School is the leading contender for the Malia and Sasha Sweepstakes , with the Maret School close behind.

I'm pulling for GDS for one simple reason: it participates in the D.C. voucher program , unlike Maret. And its selection by the Obamas, I believe, will ensure the future livelihood of said program. It's one thing for Candidate Obama to oppose publicly funded vouchers on principle. It's quite another thing for a President Obama to eliminate an existing program and kick his daughters' classmates out of their beloved school. I disagree with Checker on this one: this pick will have major policy ramifications.

Not on Iraq, but on No Child Left Behind .

The Obama administration can get off to a good start by revising NCLB. First, it should eliminate the goal of universal proficiency by 2014, because it is unattainable. Period. No state or nation has ever achieved 100% proficiency. Second, it should recognize that the federal government is best at providing accurate information, such as what children in each grade need to know to be abreast of international standards (that is known as the curriculum) and whether our children are meeting those standards (that is, testing); third, the administration should expect states and districts to fashion appropriate reforms and remedies in their schools.

One thing we have learned since the passage of NCLB nearly seven years ago is that Congress is not the right place to decide how to fix our schools.