"You know, it's tough to ask a teacher who's making $30,000 or $35,000 a year to tighten her belt when people who are making much more than her are living pretty high on the hog." --Senator Barack Obama, October 7th presidential debate

As soon as I heard Senator Obama make this statement last night, I thought to myself, "Are there really that many teachers who only make $30,000 per year?" Sure, there are places in America where starting salaries are still around the $30K mark, but he couldn't mean for us to feel bad for a 22-year-old who's making $31K per year and has to "tighten her belt" by drinking cheap beer instead of micro-brews. His "I empathize with the middle class" statement must have been meant to invoke a teacher with a family, maybe a mortgage payment--you know, real responsibilities. Which implies not rookies but those with, say, at least five years of experience.

How much are those teachers making? I dipped into the National Council on Teacher Quality's nifty collective-bargaining database for the nation's largest 100 school districts to find out. Here are a few interesting tidbits. First,...

Amy Fagan

Seems the election is really heating up. Check out this story about a Kansas City charter school teacher who was suspended Monday after a video of his students chanting pro-Obama cheers in fatigues became a sensation on YouTube.

Mark Walsh over at EdWeek reports on four cases related to education coming before the Supreme Court in the next few months. Stay tuned.

That's about the extent of my Latin, unfortunately, despite my taking it from 7th-9th grades. But it has served me well in mastering a host of living languages, including English. The New York Times??reports that Latin has become popular again, with the advent of Harry Potter's spells (which are in usually Latin) and pedagogical shifts. No more will students be submitted to dry and tedious line-by-line translation; Latin classes now study Roman culture and habits.??Since Latin is central to Western grammar, syntax and vocabulary, there's much to love about putting Latin back into the curriculum--including the feasts of??Mediterranean fare.

Over the weekend, Peggy Noonan wrote a characteristically compelling article about current events that, among other points, decried President Bush's lack of political capital to deal with the current financial crisis.

We've never seen a presidential meltdown like this. George W. Bush's weakness is not all lame-duckship. In the last year of his presidency Ronald Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow and helped change the world. In the penultimate year of his presidency, Bill Clinton sent U.S. troops, successfully, into Kosovo.

After the first bailout failed, Mr. Bush spoke like a man who was a mere commentator, not the leader in a crisis.

She continues:

We witness here a great political lesson. When you are president, it matters--it really matters--that a majority of the people support and respect you. When you squander that affection, you lose more than mere popularity. You lose the ability to lead when your country is in crisis. This is a terrible loss, and a dangerous one, for the whole world is watching.

Young aides to Reagan used to grouse, late in his second term, that he had high popularity levels, that popularity was capital, and that he should spend


A new poll finds that 60% of Americans think a depression is "likely." I'm not one of them, though I do think we're looking at a long-lasting recession. Will this be a disaster for public education? It's true that it will put strains on our system, with needy children coming to school even needier; state revenues, and thus education funding, tightening; and the flow of philanthropic dollars slowing. This last phenomenon may be particularly troublesome for the school reform movement, which has been catalyzed by private support. Had we faced a severe recession in the 1990s, there might not have been a charter school movement.

But there is a silver lining: teaching and other education jobs will suddenly look a lot more attractive to lots more people. Folks who went into the classroom during the tech boom of the late 90s might have felt like martyrs, while their friends from college went on to make zillions of dollars. Now I suspect "safety and security" won't be values relegated to the over-50 set. This means we might have an opportunity to attract higher quality people into teaching than we otherwise would, and we should capitalize on that by giving...

Those were the words that caught my attention as I walked through the Takoma Park Street Festival yesterday, blue skies beaming, my son Nico strapped to my chest, my wife Meghan at my side, rays of sun bouncing off approximately 517 "Obama for President" buttons (not to mention a "Farmer for Obama," button, a "Labor for Obama," button, and a "McCan't" button). So of course I turned around to find out what that was all about.

"Help Barack Obama become the next president," the man said, as he handed me a florescent-green flyer. And lo and behold, here's what it said:


Congresswoman Donna Edwards,

Obama Education Advisor Jon Schnur

Tom Perez & Jamie Raskin

Takoma Park & Silver Spring for OBAMA

Food & Beverage Provided

Music by the Bush Doctrinaires and Minor Thoughts

The flyer also listed the event's sponsors; among a few dozen were the names "Alice Johnson Cain"--one of Chairman George Miller's top education staffers--and "Dianne Piche"--of the Citizens Commission on Civil Rights.

So what? Other than having fun as a bit of a spy--I'm pretty sure I'm the only "former Bush...

Amy Fagan

Let's face it--the college application process is competitive. From extracurricular activities and volunteer work to AP courses and SAT scores, students have a lot to think about as they try to convince college admissions officers to say "yes." Now, there's a new wrinkle. It seems some schools will leave it up to??students to report their own high school grades. According to the Star Ledger and the Record, thousands of students applying this fall to Rutgers University will submit their grades online in an effort to reduce costs and streamline the admissions process. It seems like a lot of trust and responsibility to place in the applicants. But apparently, Rutgers handled transcripts from a whopping 43,000 applicants last year and the new process will allow applicants to find out whether they were admitted a month sooner than in past years. States like Pennsylvania and Indiana have already moved to such systems. Check out the stories here and here.

Education??may not??be making the national political scene (whatever??Palin's personal opinions) but it's far from off the states' radar, reports the National Conference of State Legislatures. In fact, fifteen states have dozens of referendums, constitutional amendments or citizen initiatives dealing with education on the November ballot. The topics range from upping funding sources with more slot machines to scrapping education staples affirmative action and bilingual education. But before we call up the Gates Foundation and tell them to reconsider Ed in '08, consider this. It takes months for these kinds of proposals to make it onto the ballot. And the economy is still a hard act to upstage at this point, despite the lure of more casinos. EdWeek has the??whole list of??topics.

I just heaved a big sigh reading Jay Mathews headline today: "Merit Pay Could Ruin Teacher Teamwork." As a former evaluator of a Teacher Incentive Fund state program, I spent quite a bit of time researching PBPs, including how these programs affect educators in urban school districts. One of the biggest problems, as I see it, is not that these programs "ruin teacher teamwork," but that their payout structure cannot be accurately and succinctly explained to teachers and administrators. And if you don't do that well, confusion breeds mistrust, and the take-away message is typically Mathew's headline.

Take, for instance, the Teacher Advancement Program or TAP. It's one of the more popular PBPs. It's primarily a data-driven professional development program. Research on TAP is still somewhat premature, but promising. However, try to explain the TAP payout plan to teachers and you'll encounter many a blank stare. That's because the TAP payout, for tested areas that is, comprises three separate elements: school wide performance (20%), classroom-level performance (30%), and demonstration of skills, knowledge, and responsibilities (50%). Regarding the first, there are typically five levels of school-wide performance, each based on the number of standard errors above or...