In today's speech??(see here, too), Barack Obama said:

For decades, [Washington's] been stuck in the same tired debates over education that have crippled our progress and left schools and parents to fend for themselves. It's been Democrat versus Republican, vouchers versus the status quo, more money versus more reform.?? There's partisanship and there's bickering, but there's no understanding that both sides have good ideas that we'll need to implement if we hope to make the changes our children need.?? And we've fallen further and further behind as a result. ?? ??

If we're going to make a real and lasting difference for our future, we have to be willing to move beyond the old arguments of left and right and take meaningful, practical steps to build an education system worthy of our children and our future.??

Those lines might have made sense a decade ago, but is he forgetting No Child Left Behind? There's plenty to criticize about the law, but there's little doubt that it was a bipartisan effort that moved "beyond the old arguments of left and right." Where are the props for George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy?...

The Obama campaign has released a new advertisement??that hits John McCain on education:

"When they grow up, will the economy be strong enough?" asks the announcer in the 30-second spot, titled ???What Kind.'

"Barack Obama understands what it takes to make America No. 1 in education again. John McCain doesn't understand.

"John McCain voted to cut education funding. Against accountability standards. He even proposed abolishing the Department of Education. And John McCain's economic plan gives two hundred billion more to special interests while taking money away from public schools.

"We can't afford more of the same," the announcer continues, as the screen fades to the traditional closing image of McCain and President Bush together.

The funding line is pretty typical election-year stuff. Democrats want lots more money for the schools; Republicans don't. (Though the GOP certainly went on a spending spree in the early years of the Bush Administration.) As for voting to abolish the Department of Education, well, that's true enough, if ancient history now. (It's kinda like saying that many Democrats voted against welfare reform. They did, but they've mostly moved past it.)

But saying that McCain voted "against accountability standards": I've not a...

My doubts were unfounded. Kathy Cox, the state superintendent of Georgia, is officially smarter than a fifth grader and is $1 million richer to prove it. The money will go to three special needs schools in her home state.

Did you routinely win the estimate-the-weight-of-a-pumpkin contests at the state fair? Always know how to sneak on an already too crowded train? You may be stupendous at math! Or so a new study from Johns Hopkins, which as found a link between number sense--the ability for humans to estimate numbers--and math ability, concludes. Don't run out and spend all your money on those jelly bean jar raffle tickets to practice, though, since researchers have not yet figured out if number sense can be learned.

Joanne Jacobs??takes aim at the disparities between charter and traditional public school performance standards. She writes,

Ohio is closing two chronically low-performing charter schools. That's good. But the perform-or-else rule applies only to charters. Fourteen district-run schools would be closed if the same standards were applied. All will remain in business.

Liam Julian

Paul Tough's New York Times article, which Mike referenced, is really something. It's fascinating to watch stale education ideas rejuvenated, and to hear their proponents tout their supposed freshness. But what's even more fascinating is to watch education reformers who are unable to build a rickshaw??try to design a??Ferrari. We have such a difficult time replicating high-quality charter schools. The answer, apparently: Replicate the Harlem Children's Zone, a 97-block neighborhood in which social and educational services are integrated and which has an annual budget of $58 million.

Liam Julian

It's "Education Week" over at National Review Online. Mike and Amber get in on the fun.

Thanks for all of you who wrote in with ideas for Mike Lach about how he can reinvigorate Chicago's social sciences curriculum. Many pointed to Core Knowledge--at least for grades K-8--and others highlighted the problems with Illinois's social studies standards. But none went into as much depth as Mia Munn from Chatham County, North Carolina, who wrote:


Why reinvent the wheel? Use what already exists:

For K-8, use the Core Knowledge curriculum. There are specific standards for each grade level for US History, World History and Geography. There is a set of textbooks available (from Pearson Learning) but the curriculum can be taught without the textbooks. There are several sets on lesson plans available from the Core Knowledge Teacher Handbooks, the Baltimore Curriculum Project),??Colorado teachers,??and from the national Core Knowledge conventions over the past decade. There is an anthology of African-American literature and culture (Grace Abounding) to be used as a supplement in grades 4-10, as well as other teacher, student, and classroom materials. I believe Core Knowledge also has standardized tests.

For high school, Illinois requires a year of US History and a year of US government. Also offer a standard World History course


I failed to fulfill my promise to write a post about Michelle Rhee's appearance before our reporter roundtable on Friday, and now the Washington Post's Bill Turque has gone ahead and written a fully credentialed newspaper article about it, so the pressure is off. His piece explains Rhee's back-up plan in case her teacher pay-for-performance proposal gets voted down by the teachers union:

In recent weeks, Rhee has moved to defuse expectations surrounding the contract and novel pay package. Asked earlier this year by Fast Company magazine what happens if she fails to get the labor deal she wants, Rhee replied, "Then I'm screwed." But at Friday's roundtable, she suggested that "Plan B" could have a national impact as far-reaching as the pay plan because it would show other cities a path to reform that does not require winning over unions and spending millions more on raises.


"The contract is the way that I would prefer to go," Rhee said. "But if we can't get to agreement on the contract, there's another very clear way that we can get there. . . . The bottom line is we are going to bring


There's sure to be lots of buzz about this Paul Tough article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine, which, among other things, aptly describes the great schism within the Democratic Party over education, with unions on one side and reformers on the other. A Democratic-reformer-friend I saw the other day said that this fight is for real, it's getting nasty, and if Barack Obama wins in November it's still not clear which side will prevail.

But let me officially lodge a complaint with the editors of the magazine, who put this teaser on its cover:

Counterintuitive Campaign Issues: Republicans Need to Take Income Inequality Seriously, By David Frum; Democrats Need to Move School Reform Out of the Schools; By Paul Tough

I'm sorry, but since when did arguing that "schools alone" can't close the achievement gap-that we need to...