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...

Liam Julian

I'm told that Michelle Rhee, who moments ago wrapped up a "Reporter Roundtable" here at the Fordham offices (I knew I noticed a soft glow emanating from our conference room), defended her plan to pay students for right behavior by pulling out the KIPP Card. KIPP schools--where the hallways are always awash in soft glows--bestow upon their pupils KIPP Dollars, which can be spent on items, such as pencils and pens, on offer at the school store. Why, Rhee wondered, is her plan to pay D.C. students in cash any different from KIPP's program? I'm so glad she asked.

First, let's make the obvious distinction between KIPP dollars and American dollars, the former being valid tender only at KIPP-operated enterprises that stock wholesome inventory and the latter easily traded for 64-ounce buckets of cola and pornographic magazines. To be clear: There is a not insignificant difference between rewarding 12-year-olds with school supplies and cutting them each month a $100 check (as Rhee's plan would do), which they can spend on whatever savory or unsavory products or activities they please.

Second, Rhee's plan is bribery and KIPP's is not. To be clear: Rhee's plan is engineered such that...

Liam Julian

Seems that Miami's superintendent, Rudy Crew, who starred on the cover of our Leadership Limbo report (though I've long suspected that Crew, second from left, is actually flouting limbo rules and bolstering himself with Arne Duncan-obscured hands), won't be hanging around South Florida much longer.

I just noticed that four of the five contenders for this year's Broad Prize for Urban Education are from either Texas or Florida. While the award goes to school districts, I think this is another indication that state context matters. And what do these two have in common, besides a "former Governor Bush"? First, a longstanding testing-and-accountability system. Second, a robust alternative certification sector. And third, weaker teachers unions than you'll find in most locales. These things matter....

As Liam mentioned , we just finished our latest "reporter roundtable" here at Fordham, this time with District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. (More on that in a bit.) One topic of conversation was whether she would try to convince the Obama or Palin families to send their children to DCPS. She said she'd make a persuasive case for her system, but she would never tell any parent where to send their kids to school.

The Obama Family So where would the Obamas or Palins go if they attended their "neighborhood" school? See for yourself; if you go here and type in "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW," you'll learn that the Obama girls would go to Stevens Elementary School at 21st and K Streets, about five blocks from the...

It's no surprise that McCain failed to utter the four dirty words ???No Child Left Behind??? last night, but it's also interesting that he didn't mention ???accountability??? or ???standards??? or ???excellence.??? He didn't fail to mention ???failing,??? failed??? or ???fails,??? however???he used each one within his three-paragraph section on education.

We're thrilled to introduce the second cohort of Fordham Fellows and the reborn Fordham Fellows blog to the edusphere. As you may recall, even before there was Flypaper there was the Fordham Fellows blog, which had a good run from September to December of 2007. We've retooled the Fellows program for this year, and it will stretch all the way through May. Our Fellows--Laura Bornfreund, Catherine Cullen, Ben Hoffman, Nora Kern, and David Powell--are a talented crew, and will be learning the ropes of education policy in their positions at Common Core, Education Sector, Fordham, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the National Council on Teacher Quality, respectively.

Their first assignment was to read the "broader/bolder" and "education equity" manifestos to start wrestling with the big debates in education. And they have some fair insights and good questions, like this one:

What is it about the Broader, Bolder Approach that makes Checker Finn "convinced that many of [the signatories] are trying to change the subject, diverting attention...while letting schools and educators off the hook"? What's


Perhaps we can shed light on Rhee's obvious confusion of KIPP and American dollars with the following factoid, also revealed this morning at the Reporter Roundtable: Michelle Rhee pays her children to do their chores . It seems, then, that her insistance on paying children to do the tasks they should be doing already (making their bed, doing their homework, showing up to school) started at home. Not only does this transferance of her own parenting techniques onto the school system contradict her zealous outburst in support of parental choice (especially in regards to the choices made by the Obama or Palin families come January) but I fear that she suffers from an overactive optimism about the application of economies of scale.

Nothing new to report from the RNC:

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm President, they will.

Liam Julian

This week's Gadfly is ready to be read. In the top slot, I write about why paying students (bribing them, really--let's call it what it is) to study and attend class is a terrible idea. Some say, "Why not try it out? Why not experiment?" I say, "Schools are not Petri dishes, and experiments have consequences." Like Frankenstein's monster, or Spam.??Elsewhere in the issue, Mike??notes that??we should quit resisting online education, and we comment on Florida's voucher setback, the Republicans' NCLB??discord, and the governor of Alaska, who, we're told, has completed the Iditarod--without using dogs or a sled. She jogged.