We still think Arne Duncan is the likely pick for education secretary, but what if, for whatever reason (say, the stench of scandal emanating from the Windy City), Team Obama decides to go in another direction? Could Michael Bennet, the Denver superintendent, be the go-to guy? According to this Denver Post article, he's well-liked by reformers and the teachers union (or at least his local teachers union) and politically savvy. He's non-traditional (he used to work in business) and he recently got a nod from Jonathan Alter at Newsweek. (Maybe Alter is friends with his brother James, who edits the Atlantic. It's a small world.) Of course, as the Post points out, he has yet to be mentioned prominently in Flypaper's pick-the-next-education-secretary-daily-tracking-poll. Maybe that will change today!

Photograph of Michael Bennet from The Denver Forum...
Laura Pohl

Mike was on the air again yesterday! NPR's All Things Considered interviewed him for a story on the Trends in??International Mathematics and Science Study results. You can listen to the whole report here; Mike's quote begins at 1:27.

The Education Gadfly

Poor Arne Duncan! First the Illinois Governor goes down in flames. Then Oprah admits she's once again struggling with weight! All in one day! Will bad news from his home turf never cease? Let's hope the Sears Tower, the Cubs and deep dish pizza all steer clear of scandal in coming days.......

Updated Dec. 10, 2008: How could we have forgotten? The Cubs's parent company , Tribune, is in bankruptcy though the Cubs are not part of the Ch. 11 filing.

Guest Blogger

From guest blogger Diane Ravitch, a Fordham board member and research professor at NYU:

I respectfully disagree with the Fordham view on the TIMSS results, especially the conclusion that the small gains posted by 8th grade students in math are "noteworthy."??The gains registered over the past four years are actually small, only four points.

The gains posted by 8th graders are certainly not a vindication??of No Child Left Behind's testing regime. Eighth-graders registered a 12-point gain in math from 1995-2003, before the imposition of NCLB testing. They posted a 4-point gain from 2003-2007. The students who were tested by TIMSS in 2007 had been subject to NCLB annual tests in every year from third grade onward, yet their scores did not show a dramatic improvement. If anything, the gains were no greater (and possibly smaller) than those registered pre-NCLB.

Also, I would point out that Minnesota showed dramatic gains on TIMMS not because of "new, more rigorous??standards," but because of that state's decision to??implement a coherent grade-by-grade curriculum in mathematics. William Schmidt took the lead in developing that curriculum??and deserves to bask in glory for what he has done for the children of Minnesota. That...

The Education Gadfly

Arne Duncan still dominates the field in our pick-the-next-education-secretary poll. Our ten Washington insiders are sticking with the likely nominee, but some voters are looking for the unexpected choice. If not the basketball extraordinaire from Chicago, who might it be? Well, we haven't seen the likes of Graham Spanier or Roy Barnes on the Big Board in quite some time, so maybe some of our insiders have inside information. Spanier is the President at Penn State and Barnes is the former governor of Georgia. Caroline Kennedy, Jon Schnur, Michael Bennet, and Ted Mitchell are still mentioned, but haven't garnered enough support to make it to the top few. Stay posted as the week goes on. We hope this week (5) is the last one.

The Trends in??International Mathematics and Science Study results are out. Here's Fordham's official take:

The latest results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) include a few good pieces of news for the U.S. economy. (And these days, we'll take any good economic news we can get.) American students have made steady gains in mathematics performance over the past decade. This progress was especially noteworthy at the eighth grade level, where the U.S. made gains since 1995 that were at least as strong as all of our major economic competitors. (The news was not as good in fourth grade, where several countries, including England and Hong Kong, made dramatic gains far outpacing ours.) Considering that researchers have found a strong correlation between performance on international exams such as TIMSS and long-term economic growth, this progress bodes well for the American economy. (Of course, we still have a long way to go before we close the gap with top-scoring countries.)

However, the story on science is much more discouraging. American students actually lost ground in fourth grade science, seeing their scores slip three points over the past decade while seven countries (including Singapore, Hong Kong,...

Here's the official Education Week take on Margaret Spellings's legacy. And here's the unofficial, unauthorized version, thanks to former deputy secretary (and a star at Thursday's ???Great Debate???) Gene Hickok.

The 2007 results of the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study are to be released officially this morning (and I haven't managed to get my hands on a copy, darn it!), but some of the news is already starting to leak out:

  • ??? According to this Michigan State press release, the United States "saw a small increase in fourth-grade math scores from 1995 to 2007 - remaining in the middle of the pack among the 16 countries that participated both years." (This article from Australia pegs that increase at "11 points over the past four years," compared to a 17 point gain for Australia. The land down under is already in a tizzy about falling in rankings compared to other countries (not including
  • ...

She's been in DC but a few weeks and already the pull of New York is calling her home--as a New York State Senator? Current president of the American Federation of Teachers and New York's local United Federation of Teachers, Weingarten has expressed her interest in Hillary Clinton's soon-to-be-vacated Big Apple Senate seat. Apparently she told Governor Paterson, "You know me well enough to know if you want me." Well, we've always said she's a consumate politician so maybe this is her true calling. Now, the question is who will replace her at the AFT? She's no Al Shanker but we could certainly do worse when it comes to reform-ish minded union leaders (ever think you see those two words in the same sentence--or in reference to Weingarten?). Stay tuned.

(Apparently, Fran Drescher of the 1990s sitcom The Nanny is also interested in the position. The New York Daily News reasons that though her voice "could strip the rust off an engine block," it "might come in handy during a Senate filibuster.")

Randi Weingarten picture from United Federation of Teachers website...

Jay Greene takes the measure of the auto industry's bailout bill in Congress and finds it wanting:

It's now becoming clear that rather than moving K-12 public education to look more like a competitive market, we are moving the competitive market to look more like K-12 public education.

(That's not meant as a compliment.)