Laura Pohl

Today's Friday, which means there's a pretty good chance your child is being taught by a substitute teacher. According to this new study by the Center for American Progress, public school teachers are more likely to be absent on Mondays and Fridays, and on any given day one in 20 teachers is out. Their absences add up to $4 billion a year in substitute teacher payments and associated administrative costs. USA Today's Greg Toppo reports that study author Raegan Miller suggests paying teachers for unused sick leave. Read more of the study here and read Greg's report here.

If you think that parsing Obama's portfolio policy is difficult, what to make of the conflicting signals over Teach For America? On the one hand, Barack Obama has praised Michelle Rhee, the poster-child for Teach For America's impact on American education. Several of his advisors are drawn from the group's alumni and friends. And as I mentioned last week, as far as I can tell, almost 100 percent of the TFAers I know are pulling for Obama to win.

So why on earth is the campaign allowing Linda Darling-Hammond to play surrogate for the Senator and say nasty things about TFA in high-profile events? See for yourself; check out Vaishali Honawar's Teacher Beat post about Tuesday night's Education Week debate and scroll down to the YouTube clip about TFA. You'll hear Lisa Graham Keegan of the McCain campaign promoting the program and LDH attacking it, arguing that it's not the way to "build the profession."

Believe me, we had plenty of policy disagreements within the Bush Administration too (see here, for example). And when they weren't resolved, they festered, and policymaking suffered. Someone--probably Barack Obama himself--is going to have...

Not everyone votes their pocketbook, but if they did, these education leaders would be pulling the lever for John McCain. That's because each one makes $250,000 or more per year:

Joel Klein, New York City Chancellor???????????????????????????????? $250,000 (as of 2005)

John Wilson, NEA Executive Director?????????????????????????????? $258,000 (as of 2005)

Michelle Rhee, D.C. Schools Chancellor???????????????????????? $275,000 (as of 2007)

Alberto Cavalho, Miami-Dade Superintendent???? $275,000 (as of 2008)

Jack Dale, Fairfax Co. (VA) Superintendent???????????? $280,000 (as of 2007)

Arlene Ackerman, Philadelphia Superintendent?? $325,000 (as of 2008)

Randi Weingarten, President, AFT and UFT?????????????? $600,000* $350,000** (as of 2008)

* Update (3:37 p.m.): I just heard from "Janet" in the AFT's press operation, accusing me of "making up" this figure. Not true! If you follow the link, it goes to??Mike Antonucci's??Education Intelligence Agency, where he reports that Randi planned to draw??salaries from both the AFT and UFT. Janet insists otherwise and is working on getting me documentation. She thinks Randi's true salary is in the $350,000 range.??I will make that change when I get confirmation. ??

** Confirmation received. Readers will note that I've now received blog-related calls from both Randi...

Amy Fagan

That's one heck of a tough question that the next president - whether McCain or Obama - will eventually have to answer. Fordham's Mike Petrilli is trying to help out with a few suggestions. In an op-ed in the Washington Times today he tells leaders to "turn NCLB on its head." He suggests they loosen parts of the law that are excessively tight and tighten parts that are way too loose. Sound like a bad prom dress from the 80s? Not exactly. He lays out a very interesting solution. Mike writes:

Right now, NCLB micromanages the formula and timelines by which schools are labeled and sanctioned, yet it allows states total discretion over the academic standards and tests used to judge schools (and kids) in the first place. These should be flipped. Provide incentives for states to sign up for rigorous nationwide (not federal) standards and tests. Make the results of this testing publicly available, sliced every which way by school and group. But then allow states and districts (or private entities, such as to devise their own school labels and ratings - and let them decide what to do with schools that need help....

That's right, the Gadfly is on top of its game this week. First you'll find Mike responding to the newly minted "Portfoliogate." Does Obama support portfolios as an alternate form of testing or is his still amorphous position on education in general the lesson of the day? Then you'll find a heap of Recommended Readings and Short Reviews (Gadfly was a bit of a bookworm this week--kind of like Rick Hess, who we learned via??the podcast??apparently lives under a rock, eschewing news sources in favor of their heavier leather-bound brethren). So what was on our reading list? Well the new report from AIR caught our attention, as well as the recent report on Australia from OECD. We also bemoaned the sad decision of some districts to move polling places out of schools and expressed our doubt, again, about??the first results of student pay programs. And last but certainly not least, don't miss the plethora of announcements, which are certainly worth a gander! Watch out, in particular, for our newest report... "A Byte at the Apple:??Rethinking Education Data for the Post-NCLB Era."

We know you were waiting with bated breath. All this...

If Barack Obama is a socialist* does that make Robert Samuelson a radical? Writing in today's Washington Post , he calls on young voters to ???get mad??? at their politicians for selling out their interests to the old.

You're being played for chumps. Barack Obama and John McCain want your votes, but they're ignoring your interests. You face a heavily mortgaged future. You'll pay Social Security and Medicare for aging baby boomers. The needed federal tax increase might total 50 percent over the next 25 years. Pension and health costs for state and local workers have doubtlessly been underestimated. There's the expense of decaying infrastructure -- roads, bridges, water pipes. All this will squeeze other crucial government services: education, defense, police.

I tend to think that Samuelson is right, and that within ten or fifteen years we're going to see the era of ever-increasing education budgets come to an end, as revenue is diverted to entitlements and more and more instructional funds are diverted to...

I was thrilled to hear that Barack Obama doesn't want to dump standardized tests and replace them with portfolios. A campaign spokesperson emailed Education Week's Michele McNeil this note last night, in response to my posts: "Senator Obama has said he supports testing but wants to make sure our tests are better and smarter. He does not support replacing the current structure of NCLB with portfolios and to suggest otherwise is a willful misreading of his comprehensive agenda on education." Alexander Russo* quotes Obama himself from his speech in Colorado in May: "This doesn't mean that we won't have a standardized test, I believe children should master that skill as well and that should be part of the assessments and tools that we use to make sure our children are learning. It...

An update to the sushi robot story: USA Today's Greg Toppo has determined that it was bought with federal free-lunch funds--though not a federal earmark. That's too bad, because I'm getting tired of hearing John McCain talk about an ???overhead projector??? when he could be talking about a sushi robot.

Right: A sushi robot, but not THE sushi robot recently discovered in a Los Angeles school. Photograph from AUTEC-USA website.

My post about Obama surrogate Melody Barnes's embrace of student portfolios is causing concern within the edusphere. Eduflack notes that ???Retreads of failed experiments are certainly not innovations in education improvement.??? Robert Pondiscio at the Core Knowledge Blog pleads ???Say it ain't so, O,??? and argues that ???portfolios were found to be completely unreliable??as large-scale accountability measures years ago.???

But Michele McNeil, a bona fide reporter, insists on Education Week's Campaign K-12 blog that this position is neither new nor newsworthy.

We've heard Obama's many advisers talk about portfolios before, and in August, Obama himself at a campaign event in Virginia said: "We should come up with teachers, what are the best ways to assess performance. You know, peer review, portfolios, or a mix of things that help us evaluate. And are we measuring progress during the course of a year." In November during one of his first big education policy speeches in New Hampshire, he held up one school district's use of "digital portfolios" as a model of how to reform assessments. And here, the American...

I had the honor of appearing on the Diane Rehm Show this morning, along with D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, Lisa Graham Keegan of the McCain campaign, Melody Barnes of the Obama campaign, Greg Toppo of USA Today, and Rick Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation. We discussed the candidates' education proposals, and all went according to plan until about halfway through the segment when Melody said that Obama wanted to look at different kinds of student assessments, including portfolios.

Portfolios? As Greg and I said on the air, this was news. We're not aware of the Obama camp ever saying before that portfolios might be part of the mix. I'm pretty sure I could hear Kati Haycock screaming from a few miles away. (And I bet that George Miller, the chairman of the House Education Committee, won't be so happy with this development either.) After all, several states experimented with using portfolios as large-scale assessments back in the 90s, and they were found to be completely unreliable, as their grading relies on subjective judgments to a large degree. If you think "adequate yearly progress" is complicated and leads to insane results, wait till you introduce portfolios. With...