The New Republic's Seyward Darby, she who penned this dynamite (as in explosive and as in very good) article about Linda Darling-Hammond, is reporting that a source is telling her it's down to Arne Duncan, Michael Bennet or Jon Schnur for education secretary. And even better, we might get two of the three!

As leaders of large school systems, both Duncan and Bennet have battled with unions on several issues. Yet Duncan was praised recently by Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, and Bennet has received support for the secretary nomination from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. The source says Schnur, who previously advised Al Gore and former education secretary Richard Riley, has the most Beltway experience of the three, which might also make him a strong pick for a deputy role.

Jay Greene just made our day. In his post on the best of 2008, he points to the growing cadre of reformers within the Democratic Party--as well as some defection on the right.

The Democratic supporters of reform largely (but not exclusively) consist of urban minority leaders, including Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Adrian Fenty, Cory Booker, Kevin Chavous, Al Sharpton, and Marion Barry.?? Go ahead and make all the Sharpton and Barry jokes you like, but this (mostly) minority defection of urban Democrats from union orthodoxy is like a political earthquake that will have important implications for future reform politics.

It's true that some conservatives have begun backtracking on reform ideas, including Sol Stern, Diane Ravitch, and depending on the day of the week, Checker Finn and Mike Petrilli.?? But if the reform movement has traded some conservatives for the new generation of minority Democratic leadership, I think we've come out ahead.

Hey, I'm thrilled that Democrats are increasingly on board the school reform bus. But I'm just as glad to be seen as part of a forum of free thinkers. When reform ideas turn out not to work, "backtracking"...

On Sunday the Washington Post launched a major series of articles about D.C. charter schools; a second installment appeared today and a third is coming. Unfortunately, it started with a regrettable front-page story examining the banking industry's involvement with D.C. charters and focusing on United Bank's Tom Nida, who chairs the D.C. Public Charter School Board. It's unfortunate because I've gotten to know Tom a bit over the years, and he's a decent person who works hard for D.C.'s schools --whereas here we read that he does so for personal gain. (The headline: "Public Role, Private Gain: Board Chairman, a Banker, Took Actions That Stood to Benefit His Employer and Customers")

The paper offers a detailed history of his work chairing the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which approves school expansion plans, renews school charters, etc., and his role as a lender, as United Bank lends money to some DC charter schools and to the landlords of others. They report that Tom recused himself from many charter votes where United Bank business was involved, and that at United he avoided direct work on loans involving D.C. charters. His sin, it appears, may have been not making more public...

Today marks the start of the sixth week of Fordham's pick-the-next-secretary-of-education daily tracking poll. It appears that President-Elect Obama is going to name every position down to national dog-catcher before he announces his selection to lead the Department of Education. Patience is a virtue and Obama is giving us a chance to practice it.

Not much changed over the weekend; it still looks like a two-way race between Arne Duncan and Michael Bennet, with Duncan still in the driver's seat. (Hedge fund guy/school reformer Whitney Tilson sent an email over the weekend saying he's heard it's Duncan.)

The announcement is expected this week...stay tuned.

I LOVE this idea. Putting ads on the outside of school buses is a no-brainer. Municipal bus systems have been doing this for years, and since the advertising is targeting to people outside the vehicles--not kiddies on the inside--how can anyone complain?

Though I'll admit that I'm not terribly concerned about advertising inside buses either. In Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live, the local school district was experimenting with BusRadio, a service that pipes in pop hits to the tykes, in exchange for big bucks for schools. (And yes, there's advertising too, pre-screened to ensure that it's age-appropriate.) But alas, the Consumers Union and the National PTA complained, and the service was promptly cancelled. (This is the same debate communities have been having about Channel One, the classroom TV equivalent, for decades.)

I know, I know, I'm not going to be crazy about advertisers going after my son either (at 14 months, he's watched almost no TV so far, partly for this reason). But done right it's fairly innocuous. And this argument, aired in the Montgomery County bus debate, just makes me laugh: "Detractors argue students could...

Amy Fagan

In tight financial times, it seems that people come up with all sorts of ideas for raising money. Apparently some New Jersey leaders want to allow school districts to raise money by selling ads on the sides of the buses they rent or own, according to a report in the Press of Atlantic City. State legislators have introduced at least three bills since January that would allow school districts to raise money by selling ads on the sides of their buses, according to the story. Supporters said it would simply be a way for schools to raise cash without having to drain taxpayers' wallets. The idea initially surprised me, but according to the story, apparently at least a dozen other states allow some form of advertising on buses. What do you think?

Photograph by kevindooley from Flickr

Yesterday we launched our new feature, Questions for Linda Darling-Hammond. The idea is to pose queries that she might face at a Senate confirmation hearing, in order to flesh out whether she is a reformer or not.

Today we turn to statements from the 1996 report, What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future, which??Darling-Hammond wrote as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future.

1. Dr. Darling Hammond: In What Matters Most, you expressed concern that ???well-prepared urban teachers and teachers of color are in short supply.??? A recent Education Next article found that states with ???genuine??? alternative certification programs have a greater representation of minority teachers in their classrooms. Twelve years later, have you come to believe that these streamlined routes to the classroom are worth supporting?

2. Dr. Darling Hammond: In the same report, you wrote that ???literally hundreds of studies confirm that the best teachers know their subjects deeply, understand how people learn, and have mastered a range of teaching methods.??? Can you point to a single rigorous study???one that would meet our panel's rigorous definition as ???scientific??????that indicates that the best teachers...

What a confluence of events when Alfie Kohn, Matthew Yglesias, and Rick Hess take up that question all on the same day.

Alfie Kohn gets it started with an article in the Nation that's (another!) defense of Linda Darling-Hammond, but also goes after "reformers" writ large:

For Republicans education "reform" typically includes support for vouchers and other forms of privatization. But groups with names like Democrats for Education Reform--along with many mainstream publications--are disconcertingly allied with conservatives in just about every other respect.

Yglesias, writing on his blog, disagrees:

I would... deny that this is a "conservative" agenda in any particular way. I think there are two aspects of education policy debates that have substantial linkage with the basic left-right ideological conflict. One concerns levels of spending. The right generally wants to spend less on social services (such as education) and the left generally wants to spend more. Another concerns centralization. The left generally supports federal action, national standards, and a strong center to prevent slippage whereas the right tends to favor decentralization as a means of weakening state capabilities. Nothing on Kohn's list is relevant to the issue of spending, where


In a letter to the New York Times, LDH takes issue with David Brooks' (and others') depiction of her as a non-reformer:

Since I entered teaching, I have fought to change the status quo that routinely delivers dysfunctional schools and low-quality teaching to students of color in low-income communities. I have challenged inequalities in financing. I have helped develop new school models through both district-led innovations and charters. And I have worked to create higher standards for both students and teachers, along with assessments that measure critical thinking and performance.

I sought to amend and reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act to incorporate these kinds of assessments, while preserving its commitment to closing the achievement gap and ensuring quality teachers. I have also fought to overhaul teacher education programs and close weak ones.

As director of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, I was an early advocate for cultivating and rewarding excellent teachers while dismissing those who, with mentoring, do not meet standards.

Real reform will require all of these things, plus the kind of unifying vision Barack Obama has demonstrated - moving beyond the polarizing debates that prevent


A new value-added study in Louisiana has found that teachers certified under non-traditional programs, The New Teacher Project's training program in particular, are more likely to be effective. The New York Times editorial board thinks this is great news--and perhaps a model for other states.

A taste from TNTP's press release:

The state-sponsored study, led by researcher Dr. George Noell of Louisiana State University, uses a "value-added" model to measure the effect that teachers from the state's preparation programs have on student achievement. ??The study examined seven programs, including both university-based certification pathways and alternate routes to teacher certification such as TNTP's program.?? Each was given a performance rating based on an "effect estimate" of the teachers they produce.

TNTP's Louisiana Practitioner Teacher Program earned especially strong results in the preparation of effective math teachers, with a mathematics effect estimate of 3.1.????This effect estimate is greater than the average degree to which poor students typically fall further behind each year in achievement. "In the year that new TNTP teachers teach poor students, they, on average, help those students close the math academic gap with more economically advantaged students," said Dr. Noell. This is