It's hard not to be shaken by the financial news emanating from Wall Street these days. I can't help but wish I'd studied more economics in college (or that I'd sold our house and started renting a few years ago). But I also can't help but wish that dysfunctional urban school systems could experience some of the "market discipline" that Lehman Brothers is enjoying right now.

Take Detroit Public Schools, perhaps America's worst school system. While the ship is sinking, school board members and the superintendent are squabbling over "rudeness." Is there any reason to believe that the current governance arrangement, political dynamic, and leadership are conducive to the systemic transformation needed to save Motown's children from a life of despair?

What's needed is a fresh start, a do-over, a man-made hurricane that can provide the clean slate for Detroit (and other cities with failed systems) that Katrina provided New Orleans. Simply put, Detroit Public Schools should be declared bankrupt. The state should take it into receivership, declare all of its contracts (including collective bargaining agreements) void. It should slice through any red tape that would keep Detroit from creating a world-class system, including Michigan's inane cap...

Amy Fagan

The accolades keep comin'! We see that George Will has written yet??ANOTHER column??citing David Whitman's new book (published by Fordham) "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism".??Will focuses his praise this time on Cristo Rey Jesuit High School--one of the six highly effective, "no excuse" schools Whitman profiles in his book.

CRJHS's unique work-study program sends students one day a week to clerical jobs in downtown Chicago law firms, banks and other businesses--exposing many of them to an entirely new world. "Before going to work, many of the school's 14-year-old ninth-graders, like their parents, have never been downtown," Will writes. In the end, he argues that CRJHS's traits--including the work-study program and its zero tolerance of disorder (from gang symbols down to chewing gum)--are possible "because [they are] not shackled by bureaucracy or unions, as public schools are."

You can find Will's first column highlighting Whitman's book??here.


I just got off the phone with a reporter wanting names of the primary contenders for the Secretary of Education spot if either Barack Obama or John McCain wins in November. Here are my thoughts:

John McCain

--??Lisa Graham Keegan has to be considered the front-runner, if only because she's McCain's most trusted and visible education advisor (and has been for years). Plus she was a great state superintendent in Arizona, is telegenic, loves school choice and accountability, and is loved in return by the conservative/libertarian base. The only problem: her tenure at the Education Leaders Council ended in a mess, which might make Senate confirmation challenging.

-- Tim Pawlenty is a real contender too. Passed over for the V.P. slot, he's still got one of the highest profiles on education of any GOP governor, in part because he chairs the Education Commission of the States . He also pushed a major merit pay program in Minnesota and is good on choice and accountability. Surely he'll get a job in a McCain Administration; the only question is whether this will be the one.

-- I still think Mike Huckabee could...

The Jay Mathews contest to name the high-flying schools in David Whitman's book has come to a close. The winner? No excuses schools-a "golden oldie," as Mathews says, since that term's been around for a decade. But he's right, it's pretty good, if not as accurate as "paternalistic." Read more here.

The Washington-area media is abuzz about the news that the University of Louisville is investigating the PhD awarded to Prince George's County superintendent John Deasy. The Washington Post reports:

Deasy, leader of the 130,000-student system since 2006, was awarded a doctorate of philosophy in education in May 2004 after completing nine credit hours of work at the university -- equivalent to one semester -- in addition to 77 credit hours he earned from other schools. Deasy also wrote a 184-page dissertation. ??

This is an outgrowth of a federal investigation of Deasy's doctoral advisor Robert Felner, who is being questioned about "alleged misappropriation" of a large federal grant.

Deasy's response was pitch perfect:

If the university made errors in the awarding of the degree, I do hope they rescind it. My responsibility is to do everything I was advised and told to do. If I was advised wrong and given wrong information, the university needs to take responsibility for that. I certainly would not want anything unearned.

I've only met Superintendent Deasy once, but have been impressed with his tenacious work reforming Prince George's County schools. By all appearances he...

Liam Julian

Remember when Ed in '08 hired Kanye West to say that education needs to be a top priority? Now the group can put this line into their "Future of America" ad (which we parodied): "I will smash your camera."

Liam Julian

This week's Gadfly is up. In the editorial slot, on this day of reflection, we present excerpts from our 2003 report, Terrorists, Despots, and Democracy: What Our Children Need to Know. You'll find offerings from Richard Rodriguez and William J. Bennett, among others. (It's certainly worth glancing back at the full report, too.) Also in today's Gadfly, Stafford dissects the Democratic and Republican education platforms, and we've got analysis of the education-related speech Barack Obama gave on Tuesday and a cautionary tale from Australia.

Liam takes to the pages of the Washington Times to explain why paying children cash to behave in school is nothing more than bribery. In a vegetable inspired analogy, he explains:

What sort of unintended consequences might this experiment yield? Here's but one: Think of the parents who, rather than exert strong discipline over their vegetable-averse child, pay him $100 each month to choke down his brussel sprouts. It's a safe bet that they will create a rules-shirking monster and one who will learn nothing important and enduring about nutrition, behavior, obedience, personal responsibility, or authority.

Similar monsters are birthed through an educating strategy that pays pupils to do that which is legitimately expected of them.

Indeed, continues Liam, the message behind a "pay-as-you-go" plan such as this one is even worse than turning our children into brussel sprouts eating monsters. Such a plan actually promotes the deleterious and false message that there are students who are so hopeless they will only attend school when being paid to do so. Read the whole editorial here ....