So says Jay Mathews in his Washington Post column today--at least when it comes to education policy.

If you like the education policies (JUST the education policies) of the current president, you will like the education policies of his successor, no matter which man is chosen. If you don't, you won't.

How can that be? Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) seem to be very different people, with contrasting views of President Bush. But if you examine carefully what they say they want to do about schools, it is just more of the same.

Mathews rightly points out that surrogates to the candidates chat about a lot of the same ideas, from charter schools to non-traditional routes to the classroom to accountability. And both candidates have been careful to avoid talk of ???scrapping??? No Child Left Behind. And he's not the first to notice that there's a ???Washington Consensus??? in education that's long-standing and hard...

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Fall Intern Molly Kennedy offers up this reading:

In New York City the programs for gifted children have been in the middle of a tug-of-war between multiple parties, with critics labeling them ???bastions of white privilege??? but proponents seeing them as a reason to stay in the city's public school system. This year, the number of children entering these programs has dropped by half -- despite Mayor Bloomber's 2005 State of the City promise to ???maintain all of the city's existing gifted programs while creating more in ???historically underserved districts.'" Read more here. ...

Ted Mitchell and Jonathan Schorr of the NewSchools Venture Fund take to the pages of Education Week to praise Sara Mead's and Andy Rotherham's new blueprint for promoting education innovation via the federal government. Now, I could lambaste Ted and Jon* for holding the same utopian views as Sara and Andy when it comes to Uncle Sam's ability to do right in education. But I'm just not in the mood today. Instead, let us celebrate the fact that Democrats are debating how to improve U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement , not how to eliminate it. Because when we created our little office six years ago, we worried a lot about whether another Administration would eventually try to kill it. If Team Obama wants to make it better, I'm ready to declare victory!

* But I can't help but make the ???Petrilli argument ??? one more time, with respect to the ???political futility??? of trying to harpoon the Historic Whaling Program . Don't get me wrong, this initiative is a boondoggle, through and through. (???Whales: The...

You gotta love California. Seems the Golden State, worried that their wee toddlers' arms are too short for proper tree-huggery, will inculcate them with the prerequisite environmentalism another way: through their stomachs. That's the story coming out of San Diego's Neighborhood House Association (NHA) Head Start program, where their 3 and 4 year olds will be fed "organic and nutrient-dense" delicacies to satisfy that noon-time hunger. What's on the menu? No breaded frozen fish sticks or cinnamon muffins for sure. These tots will get "fresh salmon, shrimp, homemade hummus, healthy whole grain bagels and rolls, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables."

Sounds delicious... for children old enough to eat with proper utensils. I'm all for kicking processed, breaded, fried, and canned foods to the curb. But fresh salmon? And hummus? For three year olds? It's a bit ambitious (I've yet to meet a three year old who'll eat mashed chick peas), but I'll give 'em points for effort since school food is??notoriously disgusting.

With California's budget woes in mind, the plan has bottom line benefits too: NHA Director of Nutrition Services Kristine Smith, RD explains: "We balanced our new menu with...

This week, we start off with a double header on the education system's economic woes--and what to do about them. First Checker explains why districts have so much trouble cutting the fat. Enlightening, surely, but not too surprising. What is surprising, though, is that he used this argument back in 2003, the last time our education system was facing a budget crunch (if you don't believe me, go read it yourself!). Seems somethings never change. Then guest editorialist, and political director for ConnCAN,??Marc Porter Magee gives us six suggestions for what states can do to trim their budgets. Instead of bemoaning the sad state of bugetary affairs, he argues, we should take advantage of the recession-caused political will to start cutting where cutting is needed. Further in, you'll hear about the Bush Administrations last NCLB gasp--new regulations, specifically, and most problematically, upping graduating rate reporting requirements--and an Ed Trust study that tries the same argument without any more success. You'll also find out about the proposed??gay high school in Chicago and subsequent uproar. Reviewed this week is a new book edited by Rick Hess (who reveals on the podcast that...

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(A guest post from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's Ohio Education Gadfly)

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's office recently shared his "Roadmap for Academic Reforms," which appears to be the forerunner or prelude to the governor's long-awaited plan for renewing and strengthening K-12 education in Ohio. The present document, regrettably, is not only devoid of specifics but also brimming with catchy buzz phrases and trendy eduspeak nostrums. As a public service to readers, Gadfly has provided the following translation:

Exciting 21st Century Learning Environments:

Governor's proposal: Our schools must become collaborative continuous learning organizations that build a culture of strong relationships, professionalism, collaboration, and common purpose for all students.

Gadfly translates: Our schools will be leaderless, directionless centers of feel-goodism.

Governor's proposal: Our schools must become a place where everyone feels safe, not just through metal detectors, but through high expectations, strong discipline, positive behavior interventions, a nurturing attention to the needs of each person, and a collective sense of responsibility by parents, educators, and community for our students to be competitive in the 21st century.

Gadfly translates: Our schools will not have the intestinal fortitude to rid...

Former Ed Truster Kevin Carey loves Education Trust's trusty new report on graduation rates (timed to coincide with the new NCLB regulations--see, Democrats and Republicans are already working together in Washington!). Said report explores No Child Left Behind's requirement that high schools reach certain graduation rate benchmarks in order to make "adequate yearly progress," and bashes (the many) states that set these grad rate targets low or expect too leisurely a pace of progress. Carey implies that this shows states are gaming the system "in an utterly fraudulent, cynical way."

Well, that may well be true (we've not been shy about blasting states for their low expectations), but Carey leaves out a major factor: the definition of a high school "graduate" is malleable, so aiming to get everyone over that bar might result in the bar itself being lowered. This is not a hypothetical situation; it's exactly the dynamic with NCLB's requirement that 100 percent of students be "proficient" in reading and math by 2014. While this provision hasn't caused a "race to the bottom," it has led to a "walk to the middle" in an environment that discourages...

There's been a lot of debate recently about the degree to which the feds can coerce states or school districts to do things they don't want to do (see here, here, and here, for example). Now there's some new empirical evidence that addresses the question. "Paying for Progress: Conditional Grants and the Desegregation of Southern Schools," written by Fordham Scholar Nora Gordon and her colleagues Elizabeth Cascio, Ethan Lewis, and Sarah Reber, goes back to the desegregation battles of the 1960s and finds, in essence, that the threat of withdrawing federal largesse can motivate districts to change policies. In this case, the more Title I aid a Southern school district received from Uncle Sam, the more likely it was to play ball. But there are some important caveats: first, the amount of desegregation experienced even in these districts was modest. And second, it took a lot of money to get districts to act--on average, $1,000 per pupil, which was 60% of the total per-pupil costs at the time.

What's the take-away for the current conversation around federal education policy? I think it's true that big-time formula funds such as...