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Newswire: January 8, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 1

Happy New Year! The first half of the first month of 2013 is not even finished and already the momentum — and opposition — around education reform is building. To wit:

STATE POLICY MATTERS. Kudos to StudentsFirst for their new report card, which offers some different perspective on the issues facing policymakers and parents. If Ed Reform is a College Student, this is akin to yet another professor weighing in on his competency in particular areas. But it’s the cumulative GPA that really matters in the end. CER comments today.

UNION POWER?? It’s like Randi Weingarten was suddenly Captain Renault in Casablanca: “I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling going on here!” Her line to Mayor Bloomberg’s characterization of the union being as powerful as the NRA might as well have been: “I’m shocked, shocked that anyone thinks we have as much power as the NRA!” The union was offended and tied the remark to the recent tragedies in Newton. For shame! Whether one likes it or not, the NRA is a powerful political lobby for a cause and members, and that’s what “Hizoner” was saying when the union decided to once again stand in the way of a new teacher evaluation law from being implemented. That law got the union and the Governor of NY and Bloomberg great press TWO YEARS AGO and is STILL NOT IMPLEMENTED, and is one of those laws that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attributes to Race to the Top pressure. Ah, but as we predicted, there is more to getting policy changed than getting a law passed, and like so many places, the initial oohhs and aahhs that surround the union becoming progressive turns out to be all about the talk, not the walk. Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said :”As the mayor has said before, the union is a special-interest group focused on advancing its agenda, whether it’s in the public interest or not. Their refusal to agree to a fair evaluation deal is just the latest example of this.” Ya think?

PROMISES PROMISES. Does anyone else find it odd that Sec. Duncan won’t approve California’s waiver request because it fails to promise the state will adopt a teacher evaluation component tied to test scores, while states that have been approved – or given federal monies on the condition of doing so, like NY – have yet to have more than some smoke and mirror proposals that use words like “evaluation” and “student growth” but in reality, leaves it all up to the unions to approve? At least Gov Brown isn’t gaming the system by simply promising to do something that won’t result in performance pay anyway!

OUT WITH THE OLD. The above piece on New York is an example of why real reformers not only don’t eat quiche, but they fight to keep authentic, substantive education reform in play. Oh sure, it’s much more popular to say we compromised and everyone got a win, but that doesn’t happen when kids continue to be mis-educated. Here’s what we had to say about this in the Huffington Post.

A GOV WHO GETS IT. A governor resolved to fight for reform, no holes barred; that’s Maine’s Paul LePage, a tough talking leader who was willing to take a rolled back charter law to get the reform started but got no reward from oppositional board members and the Blob, who have continued to throw obstacles in the way of new proposals. But rather than back down, the Maine Gov not only announced he’d be moving to lift the 10 in 10 years cap, but that the two new charters opening would not see their budgets reduced in their opening year. Some see that as wrong, since all districts are experiencing cuts, but then the districts actually get 30% more in costs to begin with, plus facilities support, so really, it’s still not equity, for charters, but it’s a start. The state’s charter commission is meeting today to consider additional charter applications, plus a virtual school proposal they tabled out of some kind of fear of new innovations. Let’s hope they’ve come around, and Gov, while you’re at it, you might consider real multiple authorizers not tied to the state. The commission model is not effective.

HITE’S HYPE. A big announcement, bold words, lengthy blueprint. That’s the talk in Philly where Superintendent Bill Hite is trying his best to turn around a bankrupt, failed school system. Closing failing schools is part of it, creating his own blended learning model, more accountability — these are all good things to be sure, but there’s no mention of consequences for adults who don’t reform or real expansion of school choice. See for yourself.

GEORGIA IS JUST PEACHY. According to a new report released by the state education department, fewer than 1% of teachers in the state (including typically low performers like DeKalb County) are unsatisfactory. In another Race to the Top state which promised major improvements in exchange for money, reformers may want to pause to consider whether the infusion is being used as a game changer, or simply funding the system.

PRE-K-3. AppleTree is one of those great charter schools that Washington DC leaders talked about in their Washington Post opinion piece last week, which is why anyone in town on Monday, January 14th should consider learning what AppleTree knows about educating the very young. For more info on the event click here.

LOTS MORE NEWS….Albeit without the commentary, available here every day.