William Ayers may be getting a lot of attention these days, but the real education radical to keep your eye on is D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee . As Clay Risen writes in The Atlantic , she is ???the most controversial figure in American public education.??? She's shaking up her district's central office bureaucracy, going to war with the teachers union, and pushing her staff to--this is crazy--be responsive to the concerns of parents. So, as I told the Washington Post the other day, the fact that Barack Obama calls her ???wonderful??? just might indicate that his instincts are reform-minded, after all.

Last Thursday, the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program unveiled a new paper by Sara Mead and Andrew Rotherham, Changing the Game: The Federal Role in Supporting 21st Century Educational Innovation . I was asked to respond to it, surely because of my role helping to create the Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement , which Mead and Rotherham want to rename the Office of Educational Entrepreneurship and Innovation. (Now that's progress!)

As I said at the release, the paper is at once both underwhelming and incredibly audacious. First the underwhelming part: strip away the lofty rhetoric, the (annoying) "game-changing" language, and the Brookings panache, and what Mead and Rotherham are proposing is to steer federal funds to organizations they like. (This through a new program, the "Grow What Works" fund, which would allocate dollars for the "scaling up" of reform organizations such as KIPP or Teach For America.) Or, put less generously, it's pork for their friends. At least that's how the media and critics will depict it, I would guess. That's what happened to those of us in the Bush Administration when we used the "Secretary's Discretionary Fund"...

Martin West and Ludger Woessmann have published a fascinating study in the winter edition of Education Next. Its conclusion--that there is a positive correlation between the prevalence of private schools and high test scores--is something that is widely argued but not so widely proven. West and Woessmann compared PISA scores from 2003 with the number of private schools in 29 countries to find that,

a 10 percent increase in enrollment in private schools improves PISA math test scores by more than 9 percent of a standard deviation, nearly equal to a half of a year's worth of learning. For science and reading, a 10 percent increase in private school enrollment generates an improvement of more than 5 percent of a standard deviation--more than one-fifth of a grade-level. And in educational spending, a 10 percent increase in the private school enrollment leads to a $3,209 reduction in spending per student--on average, more than 5 percent of the total education spending per student through age 15 for OECD countries.

The part, however, that caught my eye was how they controlled for the causes of private school proliferation. They recognized that a country with a high average income or commitment to...

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the cram industry in India and asked a simple question: what will it take to get American students to start respecting education again? These Indian students choose to go to these military style cram schools, which cost an exorbitant amount of money (to the tune of $1,500) for many Indian families, with the understanding that getting into and graduating from an Indian Institute of Technology (there are seven) is the ticket to financial and intellectual success. Interestingly, our close friend Diane Ravitch commented on my post and said that these cram schools have nothing to do with NCLB testing. She's right, of course, although that was not my point in that post. Today, Forbes published Diane's??stupendous critique of pay-as-you-go programs for students (i.e. paying students to show up, behave and get good grades)--and she starts her piece by talking about cram schools (I'd like to think I inspired her, but probably not :)). She takes my question and goes further:

Interesting, isn't it, that while students in other countries are paying $1,500 a year for the chance to learn more, many American students will be paid that same amount just to do


Sol Stern describes Bill Ayers thusly: "[A]s one of the leaders of a movement for bringing social-justice teaching into our public school classrooms, Mr. Ayers is not a school reformer. He is a school destroyer." Hard to argue with that. Stern, who is writing a book on Ayers and his history in the legacy of public school education, specifically his influence on social-justice teaching, recounts the history of Ayers' involvement in Chicago politics and Chicago schools in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. He's "not just a guy in the neighborhood," asserts Stern; Ayers "still hopes for a revolutionary upheaval that will finally bring down American capitalism and imperialism, but this time around Mr. Ayers sows the seeds of resistance and rebellion in America's future teachers." In short, Ayers uses his position as a professor of education at the University of Illinois to inculcate his students with the notion that they are revolutionaries sent to the schools to brainwash students. This is destructive, indeed.??

Stern's conclusion?

If Barack Obama wins on Nov. 4, the "guy in the neighborhood" is not likely to get an invitation to the Lincoln bedroom. But with the Democrats controlling all three branches of government, there's


McCain claimed so last night, Obama disagreed, and now Fast Company's blog gets to the bottom of it (taking the analysis a step further than Marc Fisher in the Washington Post ).

(HT to the Corner .)

As Campaign K-12 reports, last night's presidential debate was a bonanza for education. The candidates mentioned the word 21 times--which would look particularly impressive were it not for Joe the Plumber's 26 citations. (Maybe four years from now Joe the Teacher will break through.)

The folks at Ed in '08 are no doubt hung over this morning from a raucous night of partying. (I know what that's like.) For not only did Bob Schieffer target the last question of the last debate to the education issue, he teed it up in a manner that must have made Eli Broad smile.

The question is this: the U.S. spends more per capita than any other country on education. Yet, by every international measurement, in math and science competence, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, we trail most of the countries of the world.

The implications of this are clearly obvious. Some even say it poses a threat to our national security.

Do you feel that way and what do you intend to do about it?

The discussion that ensued may not move the dial on the percentage of Americans who consider education their topic election issue,... stupendous. I know we say this every week, but that's because we tend to routinely out-do ourselves. This week is no exception. First up, you'll find Checker's thoughts on who should replace Russ Whitehurst at IES and??Mark Schneider at NCES. It seems the administration exodus has begun. Then, Barbara Davidson from StandardsWork writes a thoughtful piece in the guest editorial spot. Her recommendation? Bring social studies back into the curricular picture. Later on, you'll find the next episode in the Nebraska safe-haven law saga, insanity in Mexico, and an insightful review of??Douglas J. Besharov and Douglas M. Call's piece in Wilson Quarterly. What else? A look at how NCLB is unfairly penalizing schools for special education students and a stellar podcast, where Rick tells us he wants to retire and move to South Dakota. Why? To raise rutabagas. All this... and more....

According to Joel Klein, former Wall Street execs have another option: the classroom. Guess, we'll have to wait and see math teacher alternative certification programs are overwhelmed with??Gordon Gekkos.

...I will. It's a safe bet that education won't be a big part of tonight's presidential debate, so if you need to ponder what an McCain or Obama administration should or could do, two NY Times blog entries from earlier this week have some interesting thoughts.

Lance Izumi charges that Obama's wish-list of education programs makes him seem "oblivious to the fiscal reality he faces," and argues for McCain's "alternative view of the way Washington should finance education":

According to his campaign Web site, Mr. McCain believes: "Funding cannot be effectively apportioned in Washington, but it shouldn't be a state-level official or district bureaucrat either. The money must be controlled by the leader we hold accountable: the school principal with a single criterion to raise student achievement."

On the other hand, Bruce Fuller has a radical suggestion for a future President Obama:

If Mr. Obama is serious about public investment for innovation--focusing on inventive teachers and schools that truly boost student performance--he must cut ineffective, yet politically entrenched programs. Take, for example, Washington's Title I compensatory education program, which channels $14 billion each year to schools that serve students from poor families.

President Bush