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If I had a hammer

hammer

(a folk song for DC school choice)

If I had a hammer

I’d hammer in the morning

I’d hammer in the evening

All over this land

I’d hammer out danger

I’d hammer out a warning

I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters

All over this land

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No Admission

no_entranceBad news Fridays are becoming a theme for Sec. Arne Duncan and his public affairs team. News of an April 6th letter to parents serving notice on the potential for their children’s participation in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program for the upcoming school year wasn’t made public until the Washington Post brought the situation to light in a Saturday editorial on the 11th.This letter signaled a surprise move by the Administration to deny any new scholarships for the upcoming year, even though the program is scheduled to continue at least through 2010.

The Department’s sympathy note contained three interesting tidbits:

1) It was dated April 6 – three days after a government evaluation of D.C. OSP showcased the effectiveness of the program. Knowing that no government agency could approve even a small letter without an amazing amount of revision and drafting, the DOE must have chosen not to reveal this (none too small) bit of information in their burial of the report.

2) Further, one sentence in the letter reads: “Enrollment for DCPS begins on April 1, 2009.” First of all, does this hint at the fact that the letter may have been in early drafts prior to April? How long has this plan been in motion? Secondly, this information can’t be helpful to parents. It’s like receiving a 30-day notice after you’ve been evicted – more than a little too late.

3) Co-signed by Jim Shelton (formerly program director of the Education Division at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and East Coast partner of the NewSchools Venture Fund), it is the only official notice we’ve seen of the fact that Duncan has filled the post of Assistant Deputy Secretary for OII. (Thanks for

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Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

wizardofozI have many colleagues who insist that deep down, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a real education reformer, and is a reflection of an administration that is reform-minded on critical education issues.  Because he hired this or that person, because he talks about charter schools, and because he told the press he thought that children currently in the DC scholarship program should be allowed to finish even if it is discontinued.  There are some who believe he’s “one of us.”

The Denver Post today, like Toto in The Wizard of Oz, pulls back the curtain on the image of Duncan as reformer to reveal some hard truths behind the talking points.  Like many of us, they wanted to know why a Congressionally mandated report on the DC voucher program – providing evidence of success – was released on a Friday, after Congress recessed, and as millions of Americans were leaving for their spring breaks.  Duncan denied knowing about the findings, though senior department officials have had a chance to review them since November.  Even if they deliberately kept it from the Secretary, it still begs the question as to why, knowing the Congress was moving to kill it, did he not ask where the study results were?  As the Denver Post columnist argues, Duncan discards the program as being too small to care about.  He dances around his opposition by advocating that kids already in the program continue — without demanding legislation that would allow that to happen, by the way.  Thus my colleagues’ “hopes” that he’ll come around, that reason will prevail.  They are so blinded by their dreams for this Administration that they find it impossible to believe its people could oppose something so good.

But

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If a tree falls in the forest…

treeThe IES impact evaluation of the 3rd year of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was quietly released today.

A Friday.

And Congress is on a two-week holiday.

Think it made a big splash?

Hiding in the bland research language are some nice findings:

  • Opportunity Scholars are outpacing their former public school classmates on reading tests by a gap of more than 3 months of learning time. While their math scores are not rising at a similar rate, they average the same or slightly better than their counterparts.
  • As in previous impact studies, families report that participating in the program has had a positive impact on their students, stressing safety as a primary area of satisfaction.

Bottom line (yet again): kids are learning, achieving, and thriving in safer school environments – all for a laughably smaller amount than it would cost to educate them in D.C.’s public school system.

The report will be required weekend reading for many and a more detailed analysis will come to light.

While it’s nice that Congress will have this data when re-authorization hearings convene, it would have been nicer if they had actually been around to receive the report.

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Please read that last bit back to me…

court-reporterThe education chatterers are all a twitter this evening over Sec. Arne Duncan’s “support” for a “continuation” of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Wonk #1: Tee-hee. Is the Obama Administration really going to go up against Congress on D.C. OSP?

Wonk #2: Ooooh. Is Duncan all about the choice now?

Wonk #3: I’ve got 10 bucks on Obama/Duncan. They’ve given everything but the kitchen sink to Pelosi and her Congress. It’s payback time!

Hold on a second everyone. Take a deep breath. Let it out. Read the story again.

Nowhere in Libby Quaid’s piece is a there call for continuation of the scholarship program. Let’s take a look:

Duncan opposes vouchers, he said in an interview with The Associated Press. But he said Washington is a special case, and kids already in private schools on the public dime should be allowed to continue.

“I don’t think it makes sense to take kids out of a school where they’re happy and safe and satisfied and learning,” Duncan told said. “I think those kids need to stay in their school.”

Allowing existing kids to remain in the program is not a continuation of it, merely a longer phase out – a kinder, gentler demise, if you will. In this scenario, when the youngest current OSP scholar has graduated, there will be no more.

There is no silver lining in the words of Sec. Duncan. Unfortunately, even voucher supporters in Congress have been duped:

When asked about Duncan’s remarks, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said the education secretary was “exactly right.”

“Senators should listen to him by voting this week to continue funding vouchers for DC schoolchildren,” Alexander said.

Too bad that’s not what Duncan said. It would have been nice if he had…

(Maria Glod and Bill Turque

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Opportunity Knocks

It looks like Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), a longtime proponent of D.C. voting rights, would like to hinge his support of District residents winning a voice in Congress on further renewal of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher system allowing more than 1,700 D.C. children to attend schools of their choosing after having been failed by those to which they are traditionally assigned.

Perhaps the Senator read this.

Or, he could have watched this:

(h/t to Flypaper)

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