According to Campaign K-12, Senator Barack Obama told the Clinton Global Initiative gathering today that he would invest $2 billion to close the international "education gap" by 2015--which I think means he'd work to get all kids across the world into schools by that date. The sentiment is fine but the presidential candidate might want to pick up a copy of Clay Christensen's book before he settles on a policy. He might discover that desperately poor children, particularly those in remote rural areas, could be best served through online learning opportunities. Investing $2 billion in the infrastructure and virtual materials to make that happen might be a smarter move than building thousands of schools and hiring millions of teachers.

Rick Hess's recent piece in The American is finally online. As you might recall, this article--"After Milwaukee"--was the subject of a spirited Howard Fuller speech a few weeks ago, and is likely to put Hess in the school-choice doghouse, where he can hang out with Sol Stern.

His critique of the Milwaukee voucher program is two-fold. First, its competitive pressures haven't led to systemic improvements in the public schools, as some free-market advocates had expected. And second, it hasn't led to "innovation or excellence" in the private school market, either.

Hess, for one, isn't surprised about either development:

In the school choice debate, many reformers have gotten so invested in the language of "choice" that they seem to forget choice is only half of the market equation. Markets are about both supply and demand--and, while "choice" is concerned with emboldening consumer demand, the real action when it comes to prosperity, productivity, and progress is typically on the supply side.

Simply put, market reform is not just about choice; it is also about enabling market mechanisms to channel human energy and ingenuity into solving problems and satisfying needs. Dynamic markets require much more


GADFLY NEWS SERVICE: HUNTSALOOSA, TN. A fourth-grade class in this small town gained national attention yesterday when a group of students petitioned their teacher to postpone their spelling test scheduled for Friday in light of the financial crisis on Wall Street.

"Mrs. Smith is always talking about ???teachable moments,'" said Brandon Johnson, one of the students leading the charge. "It just seems silly to focus on something mundane like spelling when we could be learning about macro-economics instead."

The students' teacher at first dismissed the postponement out of hand, saying "fourth graders need to be able to learn to spell and learn about current events, all at the same time." But she backed down after her principal called for a meeting between the teacher, students, and their parents. This led to even greater controversy.

"We never like to see principals siding with students over teachers," said Nancy Beaker, the president of the National Education Association's local affiliate. "This is doubly unfair because Mr. Grady [the school's principal] is related to the boy who is in the middle of all of this." (They are second cousins.)

It's unclear whether the spelling test will proceed as scheduled, or...

You won't want to miss this week's Gadfly. Checker and Stafford explain why community schools (as espoused by the Broader, Bolder folks and Randi Weingarten over at the AFT) are the antithesis of David Whitman's paternalistic model. Mike has no sympathy for a schools in a struggling economy--fire bad teachers, quoth he! Then, get the deets on a strange new safe haven law in Nebraska, which is redefining "child" to be all youth up to age 19, and the new Tom Loveless study on the sad state of algebra.

When I first read this article, I was skeptical. Giving bonuses to teachers and principals at failing schools? Doesn't that undermine the whole concept of merit pay--as in, rewards for meritorious performance? But perhaps not.??

Lest we get strapped to an imaginary bar--and thereby eliminate the idea of improvement--Bloomberg and Klein just may have taken the right approach. These schools are failing, yes, and they will be closed as a result, but they're still open now. And since they're still open, they still have students, who, it must be pointed out, are not mere numbers in a statistical study. In that sense, that these teachers still have an incentive to keep working with the students they have, even if only a third of them are proficient, is a positive thing. That's not to say that strong standards are somehow less important in situations such as these. But sometimes balancing short term and long term goals require seemingly contradictory policies.

When times get rough, why do school districts cut the good stuff? It's a very good question and one we should be outraged about, explains Mike. Read the whole argument on National Review Online.

Educators, researchers, and policy types around the world admire (and envy) Finland's students, who repeatedly demonstrate remarkable academic prowess on international assessments. [Finland, in fact, won the most medals in our recent Education Olympics event .] Unfortunately, though, Finnish students are not immune to the school and university tragedies that have become all too typical in the U.S. ??Just yesterday outside Helsinki, a young college student went on a shooting rampage at his small campus, killing nine of his classmates and himself. This follows a school massacre last November, in which an 18-year-old high school student also killed nine of his classmates. Both young men posted disturbing YouTube videos alluding to their violent intentions.

Teams of psychologists and social workers have descended upon the campus. Witnesses tell stories of the gunman firing at helpless students and staff. The Finnish government questions its gun ownership laws. A community tries to deal with the shock. An all too familiar storyline for Americans.

In our zeal to discover, replicate, and bottle the magic and mystery that is the Finnish educational system, let's not forget one thing: ??Even though they are academic superstars, Finnish students are still just kids, dealing...