What a confluence of events when Alfie Kohn, Matthew Yglesias, and Rick Hess take up that question all on the same day.

Alfie Kohn gets it started with an article in the Nation that's (another!) defense of Linda Darling-Hammond, but also goes after "reformers" writ large:

For Republicans education "reform" typically includes support for vouchers and other forms of privatization. But groups with names like Democrats for Education Reform--along with many mainstream publications--are disconcertingly allied with conservatives in just about every other respect.

Yglesias, writing on his blog, disagrees:

I would... deny that this is a "conservative" agenda in any particular way. I think there are two aspects of education policy debates that have substantial linkage with the basic left-right ideological conflict. One concerns levels of spending. The right generally wants to spend less on social services (such as education) and the left generally wants to spend more. Another concerns centralization. The left generally supports federal action, national standards, and a strong center to prevent slippage whereas the right tends to favor decentralization as a means of weakening state capabilities. Nothing on Kohn's list is relevant to the issue of spending, where


In a letter to the New York Times, LDH takes issue with David Brooks' (and others') depiction of her as a non-reformer:

Since I entered teaching, I have fought to change the status quo that routinely delivers dysfunctional schools and low-quality teaching to students of color in low-income communities. I have challenged inequalities in financing. I have helped develop new school models through both district-led innovations and charters. And I have worked to create higher standards for both students and teachers, along with assessments that measure critical thinking and performance.

I sought to amend and reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act to incorporate these kinds of assessments, while preserving its commitment to closing the achievement gap and ensuring quality teachers. I have also fought to overhaul teacher education programs and close weak ones.

As director of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, I was an early advocate for cultivating and rewarding excellent teachers while dismissing those who, with mentoring, do not meet standards.

Real reform will require all of these things, plus the kind of unifying vision Barack Obama has demonstrated - moving beyond the polarizing debates that prevent


A new value-added study in Louisiana has found that teachers certified under non-traditional programs, The New Teacher Project's training program in particular, are more likely to be effective. The New York Times editorial board thinks this is great news--and perhaps a model for other states.

A taste from TNTP's press release:

The state-sponsored study, led by researcher Dr. George Noell of Louisiana State University, uses a "value-added" model to measure the effect that teachers from the state's preparation programs have on student achievement. ??The study examined seven programs, including both university-based certification pathways and alternate routes to teacher certification such as TNTP's program.?? Each was given a performance rating based on an "effect estimate" of the teachers they produce.

TNTP's Louisiana Practitioner Teacher Program earned especially strong results in the preparation of effective math teachers, with a mathematics effect estimate of 3.1.????This effect estimate is greater than the average degree to which poor students typically fall further behind each year in achievement. "In the year that new TNTP teachers teach poor students, they, on average, help those students close the math academic gap with more economically advantaged students," said Dr. Noell. This is

Laura Pohl

The Great Education Debate - Resolved: America Needs a 'Broader, Bolder' Education Reform Strategy. Held at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on Thursday, December 11, 2008. The debate panelists were:

For the positive

Peter Edelman, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center and former Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Marshall "Mike" Smith, Senior Advisor, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and former Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education

For the negative

Douglas Besharov, Joseph J. and Violet Jacobs Scholar in Social Welfare Studies, American Enterprise Institute and former Director, U.S. Center on Child Abuse and Neglect

Eugene Hickok, Senior Policy Director, Dutko Worldwide and former Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education...

Kevin Carey spent a whole week writing about the Finns, and never once mentioned Checker Finn. Kevin, what's up with that?

Neither team. By audience applause, and Checker's verdict, it's declared a tie.

Peter Edelman urges us to fight poverty. We're a wealthy nation, after all. Doug Besharov points out that the best way to fight poverty is through better education. And we ought to learn what works best under what conditions. So if there's not enough money for everything, let's spend money wisely, do solid research,??and learn something from it.

And that's a wrap.

Joel Packer of the NEA wants to know if we should expand the idea of accountability under NCLB. For example, should schools and social services agencies be held accountable for making sure kids get their asthma medicine?

Gene Hickok came back with a smack. "It shouldn't take an act of Congress to make sure schools are dealing with their own problems....that's not self-governance, folks."

Mike Smith and Peter Edelman have announced that they are going to be the next education secretary. (They plan to job-share.)

Mike Smith just mentioned that his wife is the principal of a high-poverty charter school. Peter Edelman already mentioned that his son* works on charter school issues for Arne Duncan. Is it just me or is working in a charter school the new badge of a true progressive? Hooray for charter schools!

* Said son previously worked at the SEED charter school, a public boarding school in Washington, DC.