For months, pundits of all persuasions have debated whether or not President Obama will turn out to be a bona fide education reformer. But now, the wait is over! We don't have to keep speculating; with him in power and making decisions, we can start keeping track instead. And that's what you can do with our brand-new, spiffy-nifty Obama Administration Education Reform-o-Meter !

Here's how it works: Whenever Team Obama makes a major announcement???regarding policy, personnel, etc.???I'll give it a reform rating, from Ice Cold (think: Reg Weaver nominated as Deputy Secretary) to Red Hot (think: teacher tenure abolished by executive order). I'll also give the news a ranking from 1 to 10 in terms of significance. Those ratings and rankings will be fed into a gigantic super-computer (OK, crunched in an Excel spreadsheet) and will spit out an ever-evolving cumulative assessment of just how reform-minded President Obama and his team have been to date.

Now, you might say, why does Mike Petrilli get to decide Obama's Reform-o-Meter rating? Simple: because I came up with the idea. But since that's not really the spirit of Web 2.0, you...

Arne Duncan is hitting all the right notes, at least when it comes to building a strong working relationship with the Department of Education's career civil servants. That's the word from inside 400 Maryland Avenue, according to this account posted on Talking Points Memo. In his first days on the job, Secretary Duncan enjoyed lunch in the Department's cafeteria, visited every office in the agency, and told an all-staff gathering that everyone should call him "Arne." According to the anonymous Department of Education employee quoted by TPM:

I know this isn't anything earthshattering, but the change in the atmosphere at the Department over the last week has been really astounding. In the past, we all knew that the Secretary had an agenda that she was going to follow, and that we were only there to affirm that her way was best. We really feel that Arne wants to know the truth, whether it fits with his agenda or not.

To which I say: Amen. I'm ashamed of how we Bushies treated career staff, by and large, shutting them out of key meetings, treating them as if they were the enemy, assuming that they would oppose our policies...

It was a rough weekend for education reform in Ohio's dailies. First, the Cincinnati Enquirer beats up on the state's voucher program (I take plenty of issue with the reporter's use of data to inform the article but will save that for another day). Then the Columbus Dispatch reports that most Ohio schools "overhauled" under No Child Left Behind failed to make significant improvements in their new iterations. The Dispatch analysis is correct--most of these schools aren't doing any better now than they were before. The question is, why?

The head of the state education department's school-improvement office said there is no single answer to how to fix failing schools and pointed to the state's work to help districts better pinpoint what is wrong in the first place and how to prioritize what to fix. The principal of...

How to encourage parents to take their responsibilities seriously has been a major theme this week. Now Bill Jackson and Leanna Landsmann of have a fantastic piece in Education Week offering their own (sound) ideas about President Obama can do so:

First, work with states to develop national K-12 education standards that define what it takes for young adults to be successful....National standards--focused on what matters most--will be a powerful rallying cry that everyone can get behind, including parents.

Second, leverage new technologies to show parents how their children are progressing....New Web- and cellphone-based technologies have the power to keep parents updated on progress daily and draw them into deeper involvement and support--and at a very low cost.

Third, use the presidential bully pulpit to make it cool to do well in school....

Fourth, be "parent in chief." Attending a parent-teacher conference the day after he was elected... sent a splendid message: We may have been up all night, but this is important....

The other day, Checker explained how charter school opponents are using the current budget-cutting environment as an excuse to clobber charter schools and to keep new ones from opening. ???We can't afford them,??? goes the argument. While that threat is real (and really despicable), I wondered to myself: might there not be a silver lining in this economic crisis? Here's my line of thinking: Out of the 4,000-odd charter schools in the country, quite a few are tiny little mom-and-pop operations that are financially and academically marginal. If tight budgets pushed them over the edge and forced them to close, that wouldn't be such an awful thing. Even if we ended up with fewer charter schools, the ones that remained would be, on average, stronger. No one sheds tears for Circuit City or Linens-n-Things because we still have Best Buy and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Likewise for mediocre charter schools that disappear.

I tried this argument out on some of the smartest thinkers in the charter movement to find out what they thought of it. And the conclusion: not much. Here's a sample of their feedback.

Todd Ziebarth,...

Amy Fagan

Clearly President Barack Obama has a lot on his plate right now. But he should take heart ??? some are saying he may have already boosted test scores! According to this fascinating article in the New York Times this morning, there's new research (yet to be peer-reviewed) showing that ???a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama's nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.??? The researchers call it an Obama effect.

To conduct their study, they administered a test four times during the presidential campaign to groups of people, both black and white, ranging in age from 18-63. When it was initially administered, whites on average answered about 12 out of 20 questions correctly and blacks on average answered about 8.5 correctly. But on tests given right after Obama accepted the nomination, and after he won the presidential election, black performance improved and the performance gap essentially evaporated.

(The study was led by researchers from Vanderbilt University, San Diego State University and Northwestern, and has been submitted for review to The Journal of Experimental Social...

Earlier this month, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and MIT released a study that reports students in Boston charter schools outperform their peers in traditional Boston district schools. My first thought after reading the study: kudos to these schools for prevailing despite caps and the ongoing fight for respect and operational freedoms. My second thought: why hasn't Ohio had an analysis like this one?

Eleven years into our charter program, the Buckeye State still has not seen an in-depth study of charter school performance, despite a legislative mandate for the state to conduct one. (The closest we've come is a 2006 report by Fordham, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and a series of reports by the now-defunct Legislative Office of Education Oversight.) Part of the problem is that...

My post from yesterday about President Obama's call for a "New Era of Responsibility" sought ideas from readers about how policymakers and schools could encourage parents to do their jobs better. (I offered some of my own ideas in today's Education Gadfly.) And Flypaper readers did not disappoint. Here are some comments I found particularly insightful.

Joanne Jacobs writes:

Poorly educated parents can't help their kids write a research essay or solve an algebra problem, but they should be able to set a time for homework or reading, enforce a bedtime, limit TV on school nights, teach manners and self-control to their children. Most can read aloud to young children or listen to them read.

I think most parents would pay attention to parenting advice from the school if it were offered in a clear manner. I envision a DVD sent home with examples of how to read aloud with a child, perhaps how to discuss a TV show with a child.

As more parents become "wired," schools should be able to improve communications dramatically. If Jayden is late for school, send a Tweet or text message to Mom's


Mike may be right about the many ways Karl Rove gets it wrong, but he avoids the really important question: is Rove correct in his main (education) point, that "Mr. Bush was right to pass No Child Left Behind"? I say yes - it's better that we have NCLB than a continuation of the ESEA circa 2000. NCLB, for all its flaws, has helped cement in place a culture of high expectations and accountability (even if sloppily done), something we should be grateful for - and something Bush got right.

Many conservative commentators blame the dismal state of the Republican Party on the talk-show crowd: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and the other blowhards who play on people's fears for a living. I wouldn't argue that point, but the moment I viewed the GOP (and the conservative cause) as entering a tailspin was when the Wall Street Journal decided to give Karl Rove his own column. To be sure, Rove is a very good, if not necessarily "good," political mastermind. But a public intellectual? Not only are his op-eds predictable (and thus boring), they are full of spin.

Consider today's, "Bush Was Right When it Mattered Most," which makes the following bold (and false) statements about education:

Mr. Bush was right to pass No Child Left Behind (NCLB), requiring states to set up tough accountability systems that measure every child's progress at school. As a result, reading and math scores have risen more in the last five years since NCLB than in the prior 28 years.

I spot four errors (you might say lies) in those two sentences alone:

1. The law surely doesn't require states to set up "tough" accountability...