Diane Ravitch, an historian of education, is carefully deconstructing the "21st Century Skills" movement by demonstrating that its key ideas are direct descendants of loopy nostrums from the past 100 years. "The cause that animated schools of education throughout the 20th century??was the search for the one discovery that would unshackle schools from teaching content," she said.

She's recounting the "life adjustment movement," the "outcomes-based education movement," "SCANS,"??and on and on. They were all precursors to "21st Century Skills."

Schools of education "have paid precious little attention to the disciplinary knowledge that young people need to make sense of??the world," Ravitch said.

"We have ignored what matters most. One cannot think critically unless one has quite a lot of knowledge to think about."

"The educated person learns not only from his or?? her own experience, but from the hard-earned experience of others. We do not restart the world anew in each generation."

And now, over to Don Hirsch.

Greetings from Fordham's 7th Floor conference room, which is jam-packed with a standing-room-only crowd to hear a debate about the "21st Century Skills" movement, staged by Common Core. Here's the line-up:


Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education, New York University

E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Founder and Chairman, Core Knowledge Foundation

Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia

Ken Kay, President, Partnership for 21st Century Skills


Antonia Cortese, Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers

Imagine, you have been laid off and you can't find another job earning anywhere close to what you were making. Your savings have been decimated by the disaster on Wall Street. You may be renting now that you lost your home. Maybe your pension is a lot less, too.

That's an all-too-familiar scenario already. Then you tune into the nightly news and there is your state's governor very patiently explaining why taxes are going to have to go up--a lot--so that taxpayers can guarantee the pensions for tens of thousands of teachers in your state. That's right, teacher pension plans are losing tens of billions (for all state pensions, it's even more). If the public teacher funds go broke, taxpayers are on the hook to make up the difference to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.????

That prospect looks increasingly likely in the coming years and it was the focus of a recent conference at Vanderbilt University. That conference, in turn, was sparked by a 2007 Fordham Institute report outlining the dangers faced by the state teacher pension fund in Ohio. The unfunded liability of the Ohio pension fund was nearly $20...


Eduwonk may have a (nationally-known) ???rename NCLB??? contest, but we've got something even more interactive: the Fix that Failing School video game! This is particularly cathartic (or, alternatively, maddening) for principals of schools ???in need of improvement??? under No Child Left Behind. Don't worry about boosting those test scores--just put the whole school on a flatbed trailer and move it to Wisconsin! And presto, you're A-OK! (Of course, you'll still have six more weeks of winter.)...

Do you wait anxiously for another Obama Reform-o-meter???Do you refresh the Flypaper homepage repeatedly or check your RSS feed hourly wanting to see how the Administration is doing? Well your prayers are answered: Obama Reform-o-meters 24-7. If you would direct your attention to the right hand sidebar, you'll notice two mini Reform-o-meters. Don't worry, we'll still be posting regular Reform-o-meter ratings of noteworthy decisions, events, or new appointees but now you can come back to the Flypaper homepage day or night to check how the Administration is doing. Here's how they work:

The top one is the most recent reading (in this case, the stimulus). Click on it and you'll be directed back to Mike's analysis of why said policy decision scored the way it did. It will be updated anytime the Administration does something worth rating.

The bottom one documents the cumulative reform rankings--i.e. the Administration's average reform-ness. This will be updated each morning. We don't anticipate seeing a lot of movement on this front but you can rest assured it will always be up to date.

With the stroke of a pen on Tuesday, President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan became the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I'm no economist but I certainly buy the president's basic argument about the need for such a stimulus. Even from the inside-the-beltway bubble, where we Washingtonians are sheltered from the worst of the downturn's ravages, one can sense that we're in free fall. That's why I reluctantly came to concede that now isn't the best time to lay off hundreds of thousands of teachers or education bureaucrats, at least for the economy's sake, since we need these people spending money, making their mortgage payments, and serving as a bulwark to the private sector's collapse.??

But on this blog, we don't evaluate economic policy, we evaluate education policy. And I don't have an Economic-Stimulus-o-Meter at my disposal, I have an Education Reform-o-Meter. So setting aside whatever virtues the stimulus bill might have for the economy, how is it likely to impact the cause of education reform?

Let's start with its many downsides. First, the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which includes at least $40 billion for education (k-12 and higher ed), is designed simply to plug...

As first reported by Politics K-12 yesterday, Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond has decided to return to Palo Alto rather than seek a top position in the Obama Administration. (Seyward Darby of The New Republic provides some back story here.)

Flypaper readers know that I'm not a fan of Darling-Hammond's views on education, but that's besides the point now. A note circulating around Washington yesterday indicated that her decision was in large part related to a major health challenge that a close family member of hers is facing. She will be in our thoughts and prayers.

As for my prediction that she was going to be nominated to be Deputy Secretary of Education, well, as I've said before, maybe I should stick to commentary and analysis and leave the reporting to reporters. At least, for as long as there are still reporters left....

While you're waiting for the Gadfly to appear in your inboxes (who isn't, honestly?) next Thursday (February 26), you could attend this neat event at AEI: Jim Cibulka, recently elected president of NCATE, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, will speak about the future of education schools. This is sure to be a fascinating speech since scads of research have appeared in recent months (see here, here, and here for starters) on alternative certification and its differences (or lack thereof) from traditional teacher training. NCATE and Cibulka himself are sure to play an important role in the ongoing conversation. The venerable Rick Hess will introduce Mr. Cibulka and a wine and cheese reception will follow. Registration starts at 3:45 pm and Senor Hess takes the podium at 4. Find out more and RSVP here....

This just in, from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's office:

"The Accountability Illusion highlights that we have some important problems to fix in the No Child Left behind law," said U.S. Secretary??of Education Arne Duncan. "Our kids need high, consistent standards that reflect college-readiness and career readiness with flexibility at the state and local level on how to achieve those standards."

I spent the morning doing a "radio tour" of talk shows around the country, explaining our new Accountability Illusion report. A common question is why it matters that states are implementing NCLB so differently. After all, states had very different accountability systems before NCLB. That's true, but we think it's a problem, for three reasons.

First, it surely demoralizes educators to know that their very own schools, deemed "in need of improvement" under NCLB, would be considered acceptable, even praiseworthy, if located elsewhere. (Play our "Fix that Failing School" video game to get a sense of just how capricious the system can be.)

Second, what drives the state-to-state variation in Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results isn't a principled difference about what it means to be a good school. Rather, we witness state education departments going through subtle machinations to create outcomes that they judge sensible, or at least politically saleable.

Third, variable and discrepant school ratings were one thing when states set the penalties (if any) for schools that didn't make the grade as defined by the states. But NCLB created the trappings of a national accountability system. Now every state...