New type of charter on the way in RI.

SC stimulus battle heads to federal court.

TN Dems block charter expansion despite Duncan threat.

Another attempt at charters in ME.

Why PA hasn't applied for SFSF dollars.

My take on what's left out of commencement addresses.

According to Ed Week, 46 states have agreed to work together to create common standards in math and ELA.

Prince Harry visits the Harlem Children's Zone charter school.

Brock, Marshal, and Tucker recommend 10 steps for better schools in a Post op-ed.

Checker's Gadfly piece this week deserves attention (though I don't agree with his take on the superstar issue, which I've argued against).

Arne Duncan was at the National Press Club (and on C-SPAN ) this morning, being his usual amiable, cheerful, and optimistic self. As someone who's been called those names too, I've got nothing against any of that. But to my ears he also sounded a bit naive when it??came to his expectations that the education stimulus will transform the nation's schools.

He's obviously perplexed that so few states have applied for the stimulus dollars, though he insists that all states will meet the coming deadline. Yet if he thinks that concerns about educational improvement are driving this process, well, I've got several million??Smartboards I'd be happy to sell you.

Here's the problem: There remains massive confusion at the state and local level about how these dollars can be spent. That's because the law itself is vague and in some respects contradictory. It's also because many politicians at the state level??want to??use the funds for politically expedient (but still understandable) purposes, like filling budget holes. With legislative sessions just wrapping up, there's still a lot of horse-trading and commotion going on.

But there's something more fundamental at play too. Simply put,...

Amy Fagan

The Washington Post's Jay Mathews dedicates his column today to discussing Checker's new book "Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut," in which Checker takes strong issue with the idea of universal preschool. Mathews says that leaders of the movement to expand preschool are "not going to like" the book, but that "its clarity and depth are hard to resist." He reviews a few of Checker's main points, disagreeing with him a bit at times. But Mathews concludes:

I haven't seen enough preschools, good or bad, to decide if Finn is right. But his analysis is a good starting place. There has been much written about the benefits of universal preschool. This report will inspire much more, both positive and negative, and help those of us overwhelmed by conflicting data to figure out the essentials, and see the weaknesses on both sides of the debate.

And if you're interested in reading more about this debate, Checker wrote an op-ed that ran in the Post?? earlier this month....

A few months ago, we reported that the NJ Supreme Court refused to kill off the half-dead and long-damaging Abbott v. Burke. Corzine, backed by the New Jersey legislature, had come up with a new funding formula that would no longer favor the 31 poor districts ("Abbott" districts) singled out by the case. (For reference, the 2008-2009 NJ budget allocated $4.1 billion to the 31, while the remaining 616 districts only got $7.8 billion for the whole lot of them.)??Yesterday, a NJ Superior Court judge in Hackensack upheld the new formula as constitutional, calling it a "thoughtful, progressive attempt to assist at-risk children throughout the state of New Jersey, and not only those who by happenstance reside in Abbott districts." Hallelujah and Amen!

These kinds of allegations really get under my skin. Why do all politicians who have anything remotely to do with public schools have to send their kids to public school? Isn't the reason that we all work so hard to reform the public school system because we think it doesn't quite work right? I think you'd be hard pressed to find a parent who'd run any kind of risk with their child's education if they could afford not to. That's not being a hypocrite. That's being a good parent.

It came to our attention that many of our loyal readers never received their Gadflies yesterday. We are so sorry to have deprived you of your weekly Thursday reading material! Don't worry, we think we've solved the problem (hopefully to never happen again) and, more importantly, we've also resent this week's issue, which should be arriving in your inboxes momentarily, if you haven't gotten it already.

And what an issue it is. First up, Checker takes a look at new numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When there are 3.4 million people in one profession (in this case, teachers), how can we expect them to all be super duper rock stars at their jobs or that we'd have enough money to pay them rock star salaries? Checker ponders. Then, read up on Joel Klein's Leadership Academy woes, charter schools in CA outsourcing their special education, Baltimore's plea for more more more TFA teachers, and how the Massachusetts Teacher Association believes basket weaving, balloon animal-making, and tie-dying are legitimate professional development courses (no really, we're not kidding). Further in, you'll find four terrific short reviews--Ed Next, NCES, CRPE, and Philanthropy...

To his great credit, Secretary Duncan has spent the last several months imploring the education world to spend stimulus money on reform-oriented projects. He has been explicit that states and districts should not use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to merely protect jobs. This $100 billion investment must generate meaningful change in the lives of students, he has emphasized, not sustain the status quo.

This week, however, the Vice President's office released a self-congratulatory report highlighting 100 projects that have been funded via the ARRA. Three of them are in the K-12 world (numbers????37, 38, and 45). Every single one touts job protection; not a one references reform.

"For the Alachua County School District, the budget????stabilization portion of the stimulus will be $9.1 million for school years 2009-10 and 2010-11.????Keith Birkett, assistant superintendent for planning and budget, said all that money will be spent????on teachers."

"Recovery Act funds are saving 139 teaching jobs in Seminole County,????Florida."

"Colquitt County School Board [Georgia] approved Monday new instructional positions that will be funded through the recently enacted federal stimulus program. The grants are expected to fund 12 positions within the school system."

Did ED not get to read the report before it...