Amy Fagan

According to the New York Times coverage of Arne Duncan's Senate confirmation hearing this morning, the education secretary-designate told Senators he'd work for "real and meaningful change" in the nation's schools, but he didn't shed much more light on how exactly that would be done, or how he'd handle the No Child Left Behind law.

When Duncan did mention NCLB, seems (to me) he walked a middle line.

According to the NYT blog post:

"I have seen the law's power and its limitations," Mr. Duncan said, but he provided no examples of concrete changes he will seek. "I agree with the president-elect that we should neither bury NCLB nor praise it without reservation."

Duncan pledged to do "anything that works" to raise academic achievement in public schools, according to the NYT, and said the new administration plans to expand early childhood programs, foster the opening of more charter schools, improve teacher training and recruitment, and increase access to college for low-income students.

The Senate seems ready to give quick approval to his nomination, according to the NYT post. You can watch Duncan's Senate confirmation hearing here and read the transcript here....

Amy Fagan

Check out these two articles that each quote our own Mike Petrilli. A Christian Science Monitor piece dissects the Bush legacy on domestic policy issues, including education. Mike jumps in to discuss NCLB. And a story in USA Today talks about how some hard-pressed school systems really want a piece of the federal bailout package. Why are schools hurting in the first place? Well, Mike says one reason might be that long-term teacher contracts have locked many districts into automatic raises and growing pension expenditures without the flexibility to cut costs. Hmmm....He also manages to deftly weave chickens into his quote.

While the Buckeye State's K-12 education establishment is hoping for a federal bailout to keep it afloat, Ohio's state colleges and universities are busy taking real steps to cut costs. Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut recently announced the University System of Ohio Virtualization Program. Through a three-year cooperative purchasing agreement with VMware, Inc. to "virtualize" software and technology support services, colleges and universities in the state will save an estimated $130 million. And the move is good for the environment, too. The agreement is expected to result in eliminating 25,000 computers from college campuses, reducing the University System's CO2 emissions by 111,000 tons, which the Board of Regents says is equivalent to removing 37,500 cars from Ohio's highways or planting 500,000 trees....

The Education Gadfly

Checker appeared on NBC Nightly News Jan. 9 to share his thoughts on education reform and President-elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus package.

Should the federal government bail-out state education budgets? Or would budget cuts be good for schools? The debate goes on. Consider these comments from AEI's Rick Hess, in response to Andy Rotherham's rebuttal to our National Review piece:

I totally concede Andy's point!?? These kinds of cuts can absolutely lead to stupid changes (remember what "Chainsaw" Al Dunlop used to do in his corporate restructurings, for instance) or the ways that school systems do last hired/first fired, "shutting down the Washington Monument," and thermostat adjustment.??The Detroit auto industry has been teaching this lesson for 3 decades.

The reality, however, is that you almost never get smart restructuring without an external shock, such as an eroding market share and/or tough market conditions. I'd say, instead, that we were arguing that the economic crisis could provide a necessary but not sufficient condition. You're right that sufficiency would be a product of the tactics, smarts, and organizational strategies wielded by states and districts--and that past practice offers little cause for optimism. In fact, the only scenario that offers me less cause for optimism is to presume that the fiscal crisis has been alleviated since then we'd get the


Spellings offered this advice to Duncan in this morning's Washington Post:??

To:??Arne Duncan, education secretary-designate

From:??Margaret Spellings, education secretary

Re: Advice

Congratulations. I don't want to hurt you, but I think you're a great choice. You're the right guy at the right time. I look forward to working with you and know you to be compatible, tough-minded and someone who does what's right on behalf of kids. You'll need those characteristics as secretary.

Stay strong. Don't let anything deter you from your mission of ensuring a quality education for every single child in America.

Love or hate it, No Child Left Behind has changed the conversation about education forever. It's about the needs of kids and it's right and righteous.

Guard against anybody who wants to walk away from our need to serve all children. We can't go back to the days of not caring enough to find out how our schools are performing. High standards and accountability for results are here to stay.

Finally, treat education reform as the bipartisan issue it should be. . . . You have a tremendous number of friends and allies on both


When U.S. Senator George Voinovich retires at the end of his current term in 2010 it will signal the end of progressive Republican education reform in Ohio. Voinovich announced today that he will not seek reelection to a third term as Ohio's senior Senator. His public service goes back to 1967 when he was elected to the Ohio House.

Voinovich's stellar reputation as a school reformer comes honestly. He got a cold bath in bleak urban public school performance while mayor of Cleveland for 10 years. As mayor and then as Ohio's governor for eight years he argued change was needed, especially for children trapped in dysfunctional school systems like his hometown's. The Cleveland Public Schools were declared bankrupt by the state auditor's office in 1996 and the district had a dismal 34 percent...

The Education Gadfly

....just a sec....we haven't actually won the 2008 Weblog Awards yet! But you can help us get there by voting for Flypaper in the Best Education Blog category. Voting ends Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 5pm. You can vote once every 24 hours so vote often and spread the word. We'll be sure to thank you in our acceptance speech if we win!

Yesterday's Education Daily carried the headline, "Experts: Uniform standards could gain ground in 2009." Consider this quote from uber-pundit Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy: "Two years ago, I wouldn't have given nation??al standards much of a chance at all, but I think the atmosphere is changing. Teachers, administrators and legislators are thinking about it, as long as the federal govern??ment doesn't dictate the standards."

Perhaps achieving national standards and tests isn't such an impossible dream, after all.