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James, age 9

cartman_jamesSeemingly always the last question asked in the political arena, President Obama was queried by 9-year-old James earlier during his Elkhart, IN town hall meeting.

James asked how the President planned to help our schools.

His laundry list of solutions:

– Rebuild schools to be state-of-the-art
– Train new teachers (and re-train existing ones)
– Reform how we do business
– High standards
– Better assessment
– NCLB needs to be re-worked in a more effective way

And last, he said, was to engage parents, noting that all the money in the world wouldn’t help education in this country until parents step up to the plate.

Greening our schools, building new facilities where none are needed and bailing out the teaching industry are supposed to lead to educational success?

How much do higher standards and student achievement cost?

How about focusing on what works:

– Federal accountability
– Transparency
– Charter schools
– School choice
– Teacher quality

Got Mandate?

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Fantasy Press Conference (Shameful Redux)

microphones(In light of the impending stimulus package making the rounds on Capitol Hill, the following is a riff on remarks made by President Barack Obama following a meeting with his education economic team. The original can be read in its entirety on the official White House blog.)

One point I want to make is that all of us are going to have responsibilities to get this economy education moving again. And when I saw an article today indicating that Wall Street bankers Congress had given themselves the education system $20 billion $100 billion worth of bonuses in new spendingthe same amount of bonuses as they gave themselves in 2004 effectively doubling federal funding of education — at a time when most of these institutions were are teetering on collapse and they are asking for taxpayers to help sustain them, and when taxpayers find themselves in the difficult position that if they don’t provide help that where they don’t have any other choices for educating their children, the entire system could come down on top of our heads if the next generation – indeed, this generation – can’t compete in a global economy — that is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful.

And part of what we’re going to need is for folks on Wall Street in the education BLOB who are asking for help to show some restraint accountability and show some discipline transparency and

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Not So Fast (Part 2)

DomeNewsweek’s Jonathan Alter was ahead of the reform curve in media coverage back when it was not a popular thing to do. He’s been an avid fan of great models that provide at least some power to parents, and lots of freedom from bureaucracy. He understands the problems with unions. He even uses the language I put forth four years ago when talking about what was once called “traditional” public education and instead describes it as “conventional,” which is more to the point.

Alter’s column this week puts some heft behind the selection of Denver, CO superintendent Michael Bennet to be Ed Secretary. Could we really have another Bennett in that office? We could have a lot of fun with comparisons, but for now, we’re struck by the uncritical gaze that the otherwise keen Alter has given to both Bennet – and his interviewee of the week – Bill Gates.

Both in Alter’s estimation are reformers. He says Gates told him he believes in merit pay – and yet I’m not fully aware of any policy groups that strongly push for performance based pay changes in law which Gates is throwing money behind. The Gates Foundation is financially and morally supportive of the work of Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein and clearly Michael Bennet. But what superintendents can do is limited unless their state legislatures make it easier for them to free teachers from contract rules that limit pay and operational structures. Put in layman’s terms, it is state law that often dictates what supers do – state laws that teachers’ unions fiercely lobby for and against. We’re all for in-system reform – but one shouldn’t expect every super to be as heroic – or crazy – as reformers

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Un-Transition

(Sung to the tune of 12 Days of Christmas):
During the second week of transition, Obama gave to thee:
Four Berkeley lawyers,
Three Clinton holdovers,
Two union operatives,
and a severely status quo team for DOE.

All that talk about reform. We kept saying people are policy. A look at the latest education transition team members is telling on that score. They come from the traditional, Kozol-esque education perspective that relies on well-intentioned government programs and court decisions to force schools to do good, rather than accountability and power in the hands of educators and parents to create good. The Berkeley bent which embraces the old civil rights agenda (top down) not the new one (bottom up) is apparent in most of these, the Obama Education Transition Team members.

Joan Baratz Snowden

This former Director of Educational Issues for the AFT believes we should consider performance based pay systems but only with teacher buy-in (i.e. unions). Meanwhile, Rome is burning while Nero fiddles…

Maria Blanco

Directs with Professor Chris Edley the Berkeley based research unit that is heavily oriented toward financial and top down solutions to equity issues (i.e. desegregation) rather than power solutions (ie. choice)

Juliet Garcia

As President of the University of Texas at Brownsville, Higher Ed is her specialty, financial assistance her focus. Served on a Carnegie Foundation council that pushes the same.

Eugene Garcia

His Arizona State University Ed Dept gave us the group we affectionately call the “don’t worry be happy” education crowd; Berliner, et al who have tried to convince us we have a “manufactured crisis” in education. Tell that to the 50% of illiterate students we have.

Goodwin Liu

Another Berkeley scholar, Liu’s specialty is affirmative action; he’s for it. And he co-chairs for the

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Why A Charter School Should Not Be the Obamas' Choice

This country is great. We’ve just elected the first African-American president, who has brought tremendous pride to many communities, but especially to African-Americans. I’ve seen it myself across the color and political spectrums.

It reminds us that you can have anything you want in America – unless you’re poor, that is.

Nowhere is this more clear than when it comes to schooling your child. Much has been written about where the Obamas might send their babies to school. As they are looking at private schools, their new hometown paper, The Washington Post, is reminding them that there are other people who want such a choice, but the President-elect doesn’t support the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that allows such a choice with taxpayer dollars.

There are others who want him to go to a charter school. One of his biggest fans, Democrats for Education Reform, a group which really believes he will carry their agenda, is pleading for him to choose a charter school in D.C., one of the 62 or so high quality schools currently serving almost 30 percent of the D.C. public school population.

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