I've already parsed the meaning of Arne Duncan's statements about Washington's school voucher program (he doesn't think vouchers ???ultimately are the answer??? because they're not ???ambitious??? enough).

Now it's time to give them the Reform-o-Meter treatment. When the news first broke yesterday, it appeared that a ???Red Hot??? rating was in the offing. After all, here's a Democratic Secretary of Education, voicing support for a program whose future is hanging in the balance, a program coming under attack from Congressional Democrats who want to pull the plug a year from now and send all of its participants back to the public schools from where they came.

But wiser men than me pointed out that he didn't actually say he thought the program should continue indefinitely; participating students should get to stay in their schools, he argued. But he didn't voice support for allowing new children to enter the program, nor did he say that children receiving scholarships should get to receive vouchers all the way through high school graduation???just until it's time to move on to a new school.

So where does that leave us? I think Duncan deserves a solid ???Warm??? for his...

There's been a lot of chatter the past few weeks about President Obama's efforts to shift the American political center sharply to the left. Universal health care, caps on carbon emissions, and steeply progressive taxation have in recent years been considered "liberal" positions. Obama wants to redefine them as the middle of the mainstream.

So did Secretary of Education Arne Duncan just move the education policy center slightly to the right when he told the Associated Press's Libby Quaid that the 1,700 Washington, DC children participating in the city's federally-funded voucher program "need to stay in their school"? "I don't think it makes sense to take kids out of a school where they're happy and safe and satisfied and learning," he said.

Well, not so fast. As others have pointed out (here and here), Duncan didn't actually voice support for continuing the program indefinitely; rather, he would keep it on life support until all of its participants graduate from their current schools. And Duncan himself was careful to say that "I don't think vouchers ultimately are the answer."

But what's truly interesting is why Duncan doesn't think...

You don't want to miss this spectacular issue (and enjoy it too, since Gadfly's taking his spring break--woo hoo! Cancun!--next week and will return to your inboxes on March 19). First up, Checker contemplates the seven potential problems with national standards. Most troubling, he finds, is our national lack of an institutional home for these standards and the accompanying tests. The federal Department of Education is certainly not at the top of anyone's list so what's left? Find out what else he's fretting over. Next up, Mike considers the redefinition of vouchers from "radical" to "moderate." Thank you, Arne Duncan, he says. But what's to become of DC's Opportunity Scholarship Program?

Then learn about the woes of Fresno's KIPP Academy, the renaissance of New Jersey's vocational education (stem-cell labs!), the unfair condemnation of cheese sandwiches in Arizona, and the restyling of Pilates stability balls as a classroom necessity.??Then get the 411 on Robin Chait and Michelle McLaughlin's new paper on alternative certification and a math curricula study from IES. It may not end the math wars but it does seem to imply that traditional curricula still trump fuzzy...

I spent a chunk of my education reform career happily toiling in the charter school fields. Studies like this and this and stuff like this and this make it seem like charters are here to stay????????some might even say they're the wave of the future ????????but there were times not that long ago when the future of chartering was in serious doubt. (Well, now that I think of it, Fordham's Ohio outpost would say those times haven't left us.) But in general, I'm pretty sanguine about what lies ahead for chartering.

I was reminded of this today when I had occasion to refer to one of my very favorite annual reports. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' yearly ???????charter market share??????? update, put together by Todd Ziebarth (who is as knowledgeable and level-headed as anyone in this business), shows which cities/districts have the highest percentage of public school kids in charters. It's only a couple pages long, and, in addition to the raw numbers, it has interesting analysis.

Do yourself a favor. Just print this thing out and put...

At the??National Assessment Governing Board's??20th anniversary event today at the National Press Club, Secretary Duncan is talking with passion about nearly all the important reforms--but he's also horrified by the prospect of class sizes growing if any teachers get laid off due to the recession. His "end goal," he says, is higher high school and college graduation rates.

Amy Fagan

Education Secretary Arne Duncan made some waves today. In this Associated Press story he said poor children receiving vouchers to attend private schools in the District of Columbia should not be pulled out of school. Duncan opposes vouchers but said that D.C. is a special case. Could a battle be brewing between the Department of Education and Congressional Democrats, who are trying to end the federal voucher program in DC?

Charter schools in Ohio are under serious threat. The governor has presented a state budget that would cut funding for charter schools to the point that most schools would have to close, while all would face increased regulation.

Fighting to protect decent charter schools and the space for them to operate has been a tough road to hoe in the Buckeye State. The fact is that charters in Ohio have always faced tenacious opposition from teacher unions and others. And, far too often this opposition has been emboldened by, various scandals, and greedy operators. Consider the contrast between the following stories from today.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that the Columbus City Schools superintendent Gene Harris has delayed taking a raise for the fourth time as superintendent citing the bad economy and the district's upcoming labor-contract negotiations. Harris, the Dispatch reports, earns a base salary of $172,000. While at the helm of the 52,000-student district (Ohio's largest) Harris has seen the district's academic performance steadily improve. In fact, for six straight years the district has made academic gains and the district has maintained a rating of ???????Continuous Improvement??????? ???????? the equivalent of a C on the...

I'm still making my way through the pile of reports that I put off reading for the last year and a half, and I'm finding some very interesting stuff. If you are interested in higher education accessibility issues????????a topic I touched on briefly yesterday--check out two things.

The first is a slide presentation from the Century Foundation. Figures 6 and 8 are very instructive.

The second is a great report from the Education Trust. Table 1 is really amazing.

Did you know that the highest-performing low-income students are as likely to go to college as the lowest-performing high-income students???

With less than $50 billion of discretionary spending, the US Department of Education's 2010 budget seems downright quaint compared to the money it's getting through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Even though the 2010 budget is mere pocket change compared to the figures being thrown around in DC nowadays, it's still worth a perusal. Three things jumped out at me.

First, evidently there's going to be more money to help turn around failing schools ???????with strong supports, not just sanctions.??????? This is interesting for a bunch of reasons. A) In general, turnarounds don't work, B) It's unfair to suggest that the No Child Left Behind act or the Bush administration only sanctioned failing schools, and most importantly C) Will shutting down bad schools count as turning them around? Because there's this little initiative taking place in some Midwestern city that's partially built around closing scores of persistently low-performing schools???????

Second, there's a little bit of tough talk: ???????The Budget supports additional investments in State and local efforts???????to implement systems that reward strong teacher performance and help less effective teachers improve or, if they do...

Interesting article in the New York Times about the proliferation of charter schools in Harlem. This borough has a substantial and growing share of NYC's charters. But what's with the headline? The article certainly shows the ???????more choices in Harlem,??????? but where's the ???????stir concern for public schools???????? The whole article is about the benefits of choice, not a developing war between the two sectors. Either an entire section was cut out of the article before it went to print or the editors are trying to stir a controversy that doesn't exist.