1. He's widely (and fairly) seen as the "consensus candidate," bridging the divides between two camps within the Democratic Party (the reformers and the establishment). But he's not so much a compromise as a canvas upon which people of various persuasions can paint their hopes and dreams (much like his boss). To the reformers, he's a crusader for charter schools and merit pay. To the unions he's a conciliator and peacemaker. To NCLB supporters he's an accountability hawk. To NCLB detractors he's a "flexibility" proponent. Which of these things is he really? Time will tell.

2. The era of gubernatorial leadership in education is officially over. It feels like a long time since we had a former governor as education secretary. Lamar Alexander and Richard Riley epitomized the role of the states as leaders in education reform. But now, with Arne Duncan replicating Rod Paige's ascension, the mantle has passed to the big cities.

3. Unfortunately, Duncan doesn't know, from personal experience, what good state policy looks like. Illinois is, for the most part, a big mess on the policy front, with its vague, low standards, lackluster accountability system, and tiny charter school movement. Here's hoping that Duncan...

Sometimes the conventional wisdom is right; President-Elect Barack Obama has selected Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan as his secretary of education.?? Here's what our president, Chester E. Finn, Jr., has to say about it:

"Arne Duncan is a terrific pick, and not just because he's close to the President-elect and speaks Chicago-ese. He's a proven and committed and inventive education reformer, not tethered to the public-school establishment and its infinite interest groups, nor bedazzled by blandishments and commands from Washington. He's earned his spurs in a huge and challenging school district, is a force for positive change nationally, has navigated Chicago politics, has stood up to Margaret Spellings, and manages, with all that, to be a thoughtful, affable and likeable guy. If he's also allowed to pick his own team, education (and the Education Department) will be in good hands during a very challenging time. (If he's undercut by goofuses, ed school ideologues and union goons forced upon him by the Office of Presidential Personnel, however, he'll have to waste far too much time on internal battles as the fledgling Obama administration figures out which side of the Great Democratic Education Schism it is really on.)"

We'll have...

In our first installment of "Questions for Linda Darling-Hammond," we asked about a chapter she wrote in an anti-NCLB book. In the second installment we asked about key parts of her 1996 manifesto, What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future. Today we're going to turn to a different medium: a webcast. In particular, LDH's October 21st??Education Week debate with Lisa Graham Keegan.

As Ed Week's Vaishali Honawar reported, the Teach For America program was a point of contention, with Keegan promoting it and Darling-Hammond attacking it.

Darling-Hammond raised concerns about the retention rates of TFA teachers and reeled off statistics citing that 49 percent of teachers who come in without training leave teaching within three years, while only 19 percent that come fully trained through teacher programs do so.

Darling-Hammond also said that TFA and its ilk were not the way to "build the profession." So let's get started.

1. Dr. Darling-Hammond: It's true that most (though certainly not all) TFA teachers leave the classroom after two or three years. Still, most TFA alumni??remain involved in education in some way. Many of the best charter schools in the country...

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...