Take a look at this dandy from AEI's Rick Hess, in today's New York Times article about the federal stimulus package's largesse for the nation's schools:

Frederick Hess, an education policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, criticized the bill as failing to include mechanisms to encourage districts to bring school budgets in line with property tax revenues, which have plunged with the bursting of the real estate bubble.

"It's like an alcoholic at the end of the night when the bars close, and the solution is to open the bar for another hour," Mr. Hess said.

Bam! Want to hear more insightful comments like that one? Listen to the Education Gadfly Show podcast every week, hosted by yours truly and Dr. Hess.

Amy Fagan

"It's Raining Ed$." That's the headline the National Review Online's "The Corner" chose for a recent post on the economic stimulus package. The post quotes Fordham's Mike Petrilli, who manages to diss the idea that the ed money is a temporary rescue AND diss fluffy-haired Blago, all in one fell swoop. Check it out. (If you do, you'll also see a Rick Hess quote about an alcoholic in a bar!) The NRO post cites a NY Times stimulus article, the heart of which I think is probably this:

Critics and supporters alike said that by its sheer scope, the measure could profoundly change the federal government's role in education, which has traditionally been the responsibility of state and local government.

I think Mike has it exactly right when he says, "There's no doubt in my mind that the implementation of No Child Left Behind could have been much more successful had we engaged the Department's career staff earlier and in a more meaningful way."

I found this exact problem on the state level when I was doing research last year for my senior thesis. I wanted to look at the unquantifiable variables in NCLB's implementation in New Haven, CT (a typically struggling, mostly minority, high poverty urban area). I set up interviews with local and state officials and was given access, in particular, to some of the state-federal correspondence. This included publically released documents like new regulations, interpretations of the law, and similar (all of which, if you're interested, you can find online). These were understandably in dry bureaucratic monotone. But I also got to see some of the letters exchanged over Connecticut's request for waivers and in response to questions posed about different standards. I got a glimpse of some email correspondence, too, and of course I talked to lots and lots of people. The one theme running throughout all of it? Nasty...

In today's State of the State address , Ohio Governor Ted Strickland clarified his position on charter schools:

For those who may have misunderstood my position on charter schools, I want to be very clear. I support charter schools that meet the same high standards we demand of traditional public schools. Charter schools that hire quality teachers, show fiscal and academic accountability, are regulated by the Department of Education, and are not run by for-profit management services have a place in my plan.

If Strickland gets his way, for-profit operators are on their way out, regardless of how well their schools perform. Of course if "meeting[ing] the same high standards we demand of traditional schools" means adhering to the same regulations and bureaucratic demands as districts, then all charters will be packing their bags in the Buckeye State.

Yesterday I promised to rate President Obama's stimulus plan in terms of its reform-friendliness. But what a difference a day makes; now that the Senate has moved to strip the most interesting provisions from the House stimulus bill, it begs a question: which plan is Obama's? And what role is he playing in these deliberations? It's hard to know from the outside, so I'm going to make an executive decision and assume that the Obama team had more of an impact on the House bill than the Senate one, so that's what's worth evaluating with our Reform-o-Meter.

As I've explained before, it's hard to see this huge spending bill doing much to "stimulate" education reform. Budget cuts are painful, but they can force school districts (all organizations, really) to make tough decisions that they might otherwise put off but which can lead to greater effectiveness down the road. In education, that means: rethinking overly generous pension promises that we can't afford; reconsidering salary boosts for master's degrees that have no relation to improved student achievement; allowing class sizes to rise modestly; and eliminating the least...

Well, that didn't take long. I'm not referring to Republican resistance to the stimulus bill . No, I'm writing about the Democrats' intra-party squabbles on schools, the kind that exploded during the campaign and grew more vociferous in the election's aftermath but quieted down somewhat with President Obama's appointment of (consensus candidate) Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. Well, they've returned. Word is that Senate Democrats have stripped virtually all of the reform-friendly provisions out of the House stimulus bill (a bill that was not terribly reform-friendly to begin with ). The Teacher Incentive Fund (which supports merit pay programs): gone. Charter school facilities dollars: gone. Money for data infrastructure projects: gone. Language ensuring that charter schools have equitable access to the money: gone. The teachers unions firmly in control of the Democratic Party: back with a vengeance.

Photograph by yeowatzup on Flickr...

That's the rumor circulating today at a Gates Foundation regional convening I've been attending: Linda Darling-Hammond is going to be named the next Deputy Secretary of Education. Let's just say that if the news turns out to be true, you can get ready for a very chilly reading on the Obama Administration Reform-o-Meter!





It's time for schools to begin interviewing teacher candidates for next school year. The six schools we authorize in the Buckeye State are no exception, including Ohio's first KIPP school. Along with conducting interviews, KIPP school leaders also conduct classroom observations of candidates in action, evaluate the progress the candidates' students have made, and review their licensure and Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) status (as required under No Child Left Behind).

Ohio's KIPP school is facing the same dilemma we've watched other innovative schools in the Buckeye State face since at least 2002: do you hire a candidate who is a first-rate teacher and appropriately qualified, but not considered "highly qualified" under NCLB? These are often out-of-state candidates who come from innovative programs like Teach for America. If a school does hire such a teacher, you might get an extraordinary educator who will make a positive difference in the lives of students and the culture of the school. That's the ultimate upside. The downside, though, is public perception. HQT data is public and highly publicized in Ohio....

For months, pundits of all persuasions have debated whether or not President Obama will turn out to be a bona fide education reformer. But now, the wait is over! We don't have to keep speculating; with him in power and making decisions, we can start keeping track instead. And that's what you can do with our brand-new, spiffy-nifty Obama Administration Education Reform-o-Meter !

Here's how it works: Whenever Team Obama makes a major announcement???regarding policy, personnel, etc.???I'll give it a reform rating, from Ice Cold (think: Reg Weaver nominated as Deputy Secretary) to Red Hot (think: teacher tenure abolished by executive order). I'll also give the news a ranking from 1 to 10 in terms of significance. Those ratings and rankings will be fed into a gigantic super-computer (OK, crunched in an Excel spreadsheet) and will spit out an ever-evolving cumulative assessment of just how reform-minded President Obama and his team have been to date.

Now, you might say, why does Mike Petrilli get to decide Obama's Reform-o-Meter rating? Simple: because I came up with the idea. But since that's not really the spirit of Web 2.0, you...

Arne Duncan is hitting all the right notes, at least when it comes to building a strong working relationship with the Department of Education's career civil servants. That's the word from inside 400 Maryland Avenue, according to this account posted on Talking Points Memo. In his first days on the job, Secretary Duncan enjoyed lunch in the Department's cafeteria, visited every office in the agency, and told an all-staff gathering that everyone should call him "Arne." According to the anonymous Department of Education employee quoted by TPM:

I know this isn't anything earthshattering, but the change in the atmosphere at the Department over the last week has been really astounding. In the past, we all knew that the Secretary had an agenda that she was going to follow, and that we were only there to affirm that her way was best. We really feel that Arne wants to know the truth, whether it fits with his agenda or not.

To which I say: Amen. I'm ashamed of how we Bushies treated career staff, by and large, shutting them out of key meetings, treating them as if they were the enemy, assuming that they would oppose our policies...