Speaking of David Whitman's schools, I recently had the chance to visit a charter school of the kind he describes in Sweating the Small Stuff, and it was sobering. Of course it wasn't my first visit to a "paternalistic" school, but most of those have involved the guided tour - the kind where you wonder if the students and teachers really act that way when nobody is watching. In this case, I knew the founder/principal, so I had a true behind-the-scenes look, unfiltered and unvarnished. And it was eye-opening.

It was amazing how many problems my friend encountered in the hour I was there - we must have been interrupted 20 times by students needing discipline, teachers needing guidance about discipline, others needing observation while they worked with a struggling student, etc. It was a whirlwind, and it was tiring just to watch. It gave me a deeper appreciation for the special talent, constant hard work, and unwavering attention to detail that it takes to run one of these schools.

But it was also disheartening, for my friend confessed her fear that the "model" of such hard work and long hours won't be sustainable - that...

Joanne Jacobs, whose eponymous blog is among the most dominant in the edusphere, pens a flattering review of David Whitman's recent book in the current issue of City Journal.

"Nagging is love," I used to tell my daughter. "I am a much-loved child," she'd reply. And so it is: if you care about a kid, you tell her what she's doing right and what she's doing wrong. You stick with her when she makes mistakes. You honor her successes. You nag. In Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism, David Whitman finds that idea replicated in education. To give disadvantaged students a shot at college and mainstream success, he argues, schools must teach "not just how to think but how to act according to what are commonly termed traditional middle-class values."

Jay Mathews may have decided to call these "No Excuses" schools, but may I suggest "No Excuses Nags" as a slight improvement?...

Seems the Obamas finally decided where Sasha and Malia will go to school: Sidwell Friends. Since it's in Maryland, its elementary school, at least, does not participate in the DC voucher program... which means breathing room for the President-Elect on that front. But its middle and high schools do participate, and Malia at least is very close to (if not in already?) middle school. Regardless, seems like a wise choice since the school a) has dealt with first family students before and b) is similar enough to the Lab School in Chicago to provide (hopefully) a smooth mid-year transition. She might be a First Daughter, but Sasha is still very young. On another note, poor Georgetown Day School. Guess it will get its day in the sun some other day.


We've already made it quite clear how we feel about this??here and here. I will refrain from commenting further.

The Education Gadfly

Panel 2: Innovations and Promising Practices

The Education Gadfly

Panel 1: Why We Don't Have the Data We Need

I may have been the first person to predict that the ed sec job will go to Bill Richardson, but I'm no longer the only one who thinks it's a real possibility. He's moved into the bronze medal position in our daily tracking poll of Washington insiders. Still, Arne Duncan has a commanding lead, with almost a one in three chance of getting the nod.

Other folks mentioned today: Janet Napolitano (come on folks, don't you read the papers, not to mention this blog?), Colin Powell, Hugh Price, Caroline Kennedy, Tim Kaine, Peter McWalters, Erskine Bowles, Ted Michell, Linda Darling-Hammond, Jim Hunt, Jim Shelton, Alan Bersin, and (ha!) Mike Huckabee....

I'm still waiting for my invitation, but a source passed this along to me:

Please Save The Date

The Portrait Unveiling of Secretary Spellings

Date: Thursday, December 18, 2008

Time:?? 3:00 P.M. - 5:00 P.M.

Location: Lyndon B. Johnson Building, Barnard Auditorium

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20202

My my. Is this really the best use of taxpayer dollars in a time of economic crisis? The Washington Post reports that these ego-enhancers can cost the public up to $35,000. Wouldn't a snapshot do? Still, if she's going to have a portrait, and if it isn't too late, maybe the artist can add a background relevant to her time as Secretary. Here are some suggestions:

  • Rod Paige, getting pushed under a bus
  • Buster the Bunny, and his lesbian friends, "threatening" America's children
  • A piece of Ivory soap, with "NCLB" carved into it
  • Chris Doherty, getting pushed under a bus
  • Sketches of all of the tourist spots she visited on her international junkets

Got more ideas? Post ???em!

Photo of Margaret Spellings from U.S. Department of Education website...

There's a growing consensus among conservative smarties that the key to the GOP's renewal is getting things done at the state level. Mort Kondracke adds his voice to this chorus in a Roll Call article today:

GOP governors [should] use their posts to show the country how conservatives can solve problems, especially the dismal state of American education and its menacing cousin, lagging American competitiveness. If one governor would fully implement a widely circulated proposal to transform U.S. education -- based on having most children graduate after 10th grade and using the savings to pay teachers like professionals -- it could serve as a model for the nation and bring the United States back to world standards.

He's right that the "Tough Choices or Tough Times" proposal to which he refers would be a good start, though there are other ideas too. But the sentiment is unassailable. GOP governors: stop complaining and start a revolution.

Photograph of Mort Kondracke from