Flypaper

I've gotten a lot of feedback about my post yesterday regarding Achieve and its efforts (along with the NGA, CCSSO, etc.) to move states toward "common" standards. Many reformers in Massachusetts were glad that I expressed exasperation with the nomination of Governor Deval Patrick to Achieve's board, as they worry that he's determined to water down the Bay State's excellent academic standards. But many supporters of Achieve, and of standards-based reform in general, thought I unfairly maligned the organization, particularly with the over-the-top title for my post. Upon reflection, I agree, and regret the tone I took.

Here's what I should have??said, but didn't: For over??a decade, Achieve has been a stalwart supporter of standards, academic rigor, and higher expectations. Its leadership team, and especially its president, Mike Cohen, have been quite savvy about moving states incrementally toward more responsible positions on these issues. They understand the big debates swirling in education (around 21st Century Skills, etc.) as well as anyone, and have never indicated an inclination to back down from serious reform.

That's why I've been??experiencing "confusion," as I wrote.??Achieve has done such great work that I couldn't understand why it would let itself be...

Let me start by saying how glad I am that Andy Smarick is guest-blogging on Flypaper. I've known Andy for many years and think he's one of the smartest thinkers in education (see this great Education Next piece by him, for instance), and also among the world's nicest guys.

Now that I've said that, let me eviscerate his most recent post. Well, not eviscerate, but raise some concerns. Andy critiques a paper by Steve Wilson that we excerpted in Gadfly last fall. Andy writes,

Wilson found that the vast majority of teachers in the best urban charters are graduates of the nation's most elite colleges. ??He concludes that if we want to scale up these great charters we have two options: Either recruit a much higher percentage of graduates of these colleges into the charter world or make the job of teaching in a ???no excuses??? charter easier.

Personally, I found this conclusion extraordinarily frustrating, bordering on elitist. I don't know Mr. Wilson personally, but he cares about low-income students and has a very good reputation and an impressive and laudable background, so I don't want to be too critical. But I have to

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I'm delighted to report that our debate was so powerful and compelling that the AEI staff, after reading our comments, arranged an event to dive deeper into these very matters!

(Just kidding, though we shouldn't underestimate the far-reaching powers of this blog!)

Two responses to Mike. First, I stand by my contention that Wilson could have challenged these charters on their recruiting practices. Yes, Mike is right that Wilson was reporting on what they do. I don't fault Wilson at all for giving us the lay of the land????????as a matter of fact, his findings are very interesting and important. But he could've followed that by saying, ???????this is a suboptimal strategy for the following reasons,??????? instead of assuming that their practices are correct and then lamenting where that leaves us.

Second, I acknowledge Mike's second point. Based on the numbers, even if my strategy were employed and proved to be successful, we would still have too few teachers to staff all urban schools. But I didn't mean to suggest that my strategy was the full solution. I was suggesting that the universe of potentially great ???????no excuses??????? teachers extends beyond ivy-covered walls and that the...

I just had a chance to tackle Steven Wilson's ???????Success at Scale in Charter Schooling,??????? an AEI Working Paper that generated a good bit of buzz late last year. ????Wilson found that the vast majority of teachers in the best urban charters are graduates of the nation's most elite colleges. ????He concludes that if we want to scale up these great charters we have two options: Either recruit a much higher percentage of graduates of these colleges into the charter world or make the job of teaching in a ???????no excuses??????? charter easier.

Personally, I found this conclusion extraordinarily frustrating, bordering on elitist. I don't know Mr. Wilson personally, but he cares about low-income students and has a very good reputation and an impressive and laudable background, so I don't want to be too critical. But I have to point out that there is another option: ????Realize that there are very talented people who didn't graduate from the nation's elite universities!

First, America's elite colleges do not accurately reflect America. ????Students from privileged backgrounds are drastically overrepresented at these schools. As this invaluable paper found, fully 74 percent of students at the nation's most selective colleges...

I can't even begin to explain the confusion, disappointment, and exasperation I feel about Achieve right now, the organization that's purportedly??all about pushing states to raise standards. First there was the announcement last week that the National Education Association was joining the "common state standards" movement led by Achieve, the??National Governors Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It's fine that the NEA wants to be involved,??but in its release, the organization depicted the initiative as working toward "21st Century Skills."??Was this just spin, or is this effort really about pushing skills over content? There are worrying signs that it's the latter.

Then there's today's announcement that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is joining Achieve's board. This is the same Governor Patrick who has declared war on the Bay State's academic standards and rigorous accountability system. (See this great Education Next article for background.) And sure enough, there he is, in Achieve's release, talking about the 21st Century:

In Massachusetts, our students have achieved at the highest levels, but we still have a persistent achievement gap. We must continue to reform our education system so that every student

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Word came late last week that Chicago lawyer Charlie Rose (no, not that Charlie Rose) is being nominated to be the U.S. Department of Education's General Counsel. Here's the meat of his bio as released by the White House:

Charlie Rose is a founding partner and corporate secretary of Franczek, Radelet & Rose in Chicago where he specializes in representing school districts, municipalities and other public organizations in labor relations, collective bargaining and education law. He has served as the lead negotiator on collective bargaining agreements for many organizations including Chicago Public Schools, the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and the Illinois State Board of Education. Rose is a member of the National Council of School Attorneys and was elected a Fellow of the College of Labor & Employment Lawyers in 2008. He is a founding member of the Board of Directors of Advance Illinois and also serves on the Chicago Advisory Board of Facing History and Ourselves. Additionally, he was one of the first members of the Advisory Board of the National College of Education at National-Louis University.

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If President Obama was miffed when his daughters' school closed because of "what, a little bit of ice" earlier this winter, I wonder how he feels about Sidwell being shut down for Washington's six inches of snow today. (Maybe a little better--it really IS coming down around here. I just walked by the White House and took in the view. I hope the Obamas are enjoying it; it's gorgeous. But I digress.)

It's one thing for the Obama girls to miss a few days of school because of inclement weather, but some of their classmates are going to miss school every single day, at least if David Obey and other House Democrats have their way. This morning the Washington Post editorial page relays the story of Deborah Parker, whose two children also attend Sidwell Friends thanks to a voucher from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

"The mere thought of returning to public school frightens me," Ms. Parker told us as she related the opportunities -- such as a trip to China for her son -- made possible by the program. Tell

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Laura Pohl

Girl Scouts badges are so 20th century. Moms as troop leaders for teenagers? Also pass????. But educating young women and providing the public with yummy cookies? Well, those Do-Si-Dos and Samoas will never go out of fashion. So says the 97-year-old Girl Scouts of the USA as it freshens its image to counter an 8% slip in membership over the past 10 years. "We took a step back and asked, 'What do girls need from us right now?' " said Eileen Doyle, the Girl Scouts' senior vice president of program development. "There is consistency in our goals throughout our history, but we can maintain that while being fun, edgy and challenging for modern-day girls." Read the full Washington Post article here.

Photograph from Girl Scouts website

If the state of Ohio were a charter school, it could see its public funding frozen and lose its authority to open new offices and agencies. According to the Columbus Dispatch:

State Auditor Mary Taylor says she can't conduct the annual State of Ohio audit for the 2008 fiscal year because Gov. Ted Strickland's administration has failed to provide the necessary financial records.

The delay raises questions about Ohio's financial condition, Taylor said. Had the situation involved an entity smaller than state government, Taylor said she would have declared the state books unauditable.

???????Unauditable??????? is a big deal here in the Buckeye State, especially for charter schools. Provisions in Governor Ted Strickland's first biennial budget, enacted in 2007, raised the stakes for unauditable charters so that the state can immediately cut off their funding and a school's authorizer loses the ability to open additional schools until the school in question's books are in order. Strickland's pending budget proposal would seek to make that law permanent. Charter supporters haven't fought the provision except to point out that unauditable school districts don't face similar sanctions and that the law still doesn't solve the financial woes of struggling charters....

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