Flypaper

President Obama and Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland are pushing their school reform agendas hard. Sitting in Ohio, one can't help but compare and contrast these efforts. There are similarities but also some interesting differences. Here's what we see from the Buckeye State.

Where there is agreement: Both the governor and the president want to spend more money on public schools; both, also, want new investments in early education. These are long-standing Democratic positions so no surprises here. But--and this is new--each is seeking more seat time in schools for kids. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan could have been speaking for both Strickland and Obama when he said recently, "I fundamentally think our children are at a competitive disadvantage. The children in India and China who they are competing [with] for jobs are going to school 25, 30 percent more than we are." Gov. Strickland wants to add 20 days a year to Ohio's school calendar.

Where they disagree in kind: Both Strickland and Obama say they see quality teachers and better teaching as pivotal to improving student achievement. Here, Strickland's plan is less bold than Obama's, but controversial enough that it has garnered the ire of the ...

The Post turns in another great editorial on the DC scholarship program. Using????as the jumping-off point????a new Heritage report on the school choice decisions of members of Congress, the Post calls out Senator Durbin, Mayor Fenty, Del. Holmes Norton, and Secretary Duncan (but for some reason leaves out the president, despite his choice of a private school for his daughters). Evidently, nearly 40 percent of our federal legislators have chosen private schools for their kids.

The Post editorial board has been relentless.????Good for them.

Two of my favorite people in education reform are launching a new organization designed to tackle one of the most pressing challenges in urban schooling: the disappearance of inner-city Catholic schools. Aquinas Education Partners, named after the great Catholic saint and theologian Thomas Aquinas,* promises to bring new ideas, renewed energy, and much more to this invaluable but beleaguered sector of American K-12 education.

This effort couldn't have two better founders.????Scott Hamilton has been a top-flight education reform leader for years. He did stints at the White House and the US Department of Education and helped launch Massachusetts' highly successful charter school sector from inside the state's department of education. He was one of the first people on the scene of the Edison Project, played important board roles for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the California Charter Schools Association, and served as the managing director of the Pisces Foundation.

In this role, he helped two young teachers create the KIPP Foundation. Though school leaders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin and philanthropist Don Fisher are rightfully given great credit for KIPP's launch and development,...

Jay Greene had a lot of smart things to say in this Wall Street Journal op-ed, but I found his opening paragraph unpersuasive:

On education policy, appeasement is about as ineffective as it is in foreign affairs. Many proponents of school choice, especially Democrats, have tried to appease teachers unions by limiting their support to charter schools while opposing private school vouchers. They hope that by sacrificing vouchers, the unions will spare charter schools from political destruction.

I challenge Jay to name one person he knows who supports charter schools but opposes vouchers because he or she hopes to appease the unions. I hang out with a lot of these folks and it's clear to me that most of them oppose vouchers either because of queasiness over church/state issues or because they don't want public funds going to schools that don't face any public transparency or accountability requirements. (By the way, maybe our sliding scale??would change their minds on that point.)

But Jay is right about his larger point: charter schools are the true existential threat??to the education establishment, and the unions are acting accordingly....

Amy Fagan

Here's some late-in-the-day education news...Apparently, $4 billion in stimulus dollars has been cleared for California. The AP reports.

It's packed this week and quite a read. First up, discover Checker's thoughts on Obama as First Role Model. We know he's commander-in-chief, world leader, international negotiator... but what about First Parent? Should his recent overseas comments be parsed for their patriotism, influence on civics curricula, and example set for American parents? Checker thinks so--find out why, here. Then, Mike evaluates the recent decisions made around the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. After all the media attention this tiny voucher program has garnered, is it turning into Vietnam--small and strategically insignificant but sending both sides to the mat for fear of a spreading Voucher Curtain? And furthermore, Obama and Duncan have yet to pick a fight with Congress on education. When IES turned up positive results (with a gold-standard metric, no less) for the OSP, should that have been their cue? Find out here.

Then, fill up on news and research with stories about charter changes in RI, axing principals to save dough, and how to cure being "snake-bitten" (don't try this at home!). Next, Checker gives the 411 on the new Chubb and Moe book on technology, Amber tells...

Over at the Charter Blog, Nelson Smith provides some very interesting color????to the "A System of Schools" report I touched upon yesterday. ????His analysis is spot-on and encouraging, so much so that I may add this report to my "peruse when you need a lift" file.

Flypaper readers know we've been all over the saga of the District of Columbia's federally-funded "Opportunity Scholarship Program" in recent weeks, but I've yet to give the latest twists the proper Reform-o-Meter treatment. How to view Arne Duncan's spin of the IES evaluation report, and his decision to rescind scholarship offers to 200 students not yet in the program?

Mostly, I see this as a story of opportunities missed or squandered. That's not meant as an indictment of the Obama Administration's overall performance; with very little staff, too little time, and an enormous stimulus bill to implement, Arne Duncan and his team are doing a respectable job of keeping it all together at the Education Department. When it comes to the voucher program, however, they've made some early mistakes. The key question now is whether they will learn from them--and possibly salvage a valuable little program that is accomplishing some of their major objectives.

Their first blunder was underestimating the symbolic importance that both sides of the school choice wars assign to the D.C. program. It's a little bit like Vietnam: on the surface, it's small and strategically insignificant. But both??...

I've gotten some push-back from some friends about this post from yesterday; they think I went too soft on the newest members of the Obama Administration. (If you click on "view results" under our poll, however, you'll see that Flypaper readers are all over the map on the issue.)

Their main concern was what they considered to be my overly sunny view of John Easton's appointment as IES director. After all, there are at least a dozen brilliant, left-of-center education researchers who could have filled the role; why did Duncan have to go with a Chicago "crony"? The Chicago part might be fair, but I think my friends have a myopic view of what it takes to lead a large research organization such as the Institute of Education Sciences. Yes, being smart and well respected by the field is important. But so too is having management expertise, politically savvy, bureaucratic smarts, and a vision for how to bridge the research community and the world of educators.

To be honest, I have no idea if John Easton has all of these attributes, though his experience indicates that he might. But I bet that most of the "brilliant researchers"...

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