Teacher Transfers, Education Funders, Standardistas, and Video Games (Best of the Week)

Should Teachers Only Work Where They Want To?

One of the top issues these days seems to be what to do about schools that have high teacher turnover rates and disproportionately fewer fully-qualified teachers. One of the most controversial approaches -- way more than combat pay -- is limiting transfers out of high-need school or into top performing schools. Everyone hates it, which sort of makes you think.... Baltimore County union: New rule holds teachers "hostage"
The Sun (Baltimore).

There's also a big conference on collective bargaining in mid-May that might include a balanced look at what aspects of bargaining agreements help and hinder students' learning: May 16-17 Research Conference on Teacher Collective Bargaining

Does Traditional Education Philanthropy Help?
Two or three good articles about education philanthropy this week, which is rarely covered but usually pretty fascinating:
Researchers Ask Tough Questions Of K-12 Charities EW, Philanthropists bring in new strategies to change schools USAT
, Casting a Broad Net of Influence Substance Magazine.

Standardistas vs. Everyone Else
We already know that standards and accountability people (policymakers, think tankers) usually don't get along with teachers and many principals. All the more interesting to read about whether the standardistas are in touch with what real people (parents, taxpayers) want out of their schools: Fulfilling the promise of the standards movement MCREL via PEN.

Video Games Teach Adults
Could Civilization III, and other complex multi player video games like it, teach us better how to engage children in learning? Let the Games Begin Edutopia

Lots of NCLB Commentary, But Little Action (NCLB News)

Lots of Commentary:

It took a while, but last week's contextless coverage of the NEA lawsuit and the backlash from the states about NCLB was followed by some commentary, pro and con, that put the events in political and educational context:

NEA picks wrong fight on Bush education funding USA Today
Some Students Left Behind WSJ
States, not children, left behind
Daily Eastern News
Suit against No Child Left Behind about education, politics
USA Today
NCLB opinions No.2 Pencil
Leave No Blame Behind Chicago Tribune Clarence Page
Spellings Test Washington Post
Race: A taboo word in Utah schools
Rash Actions Not Needed on No Child Left Behind
Pro-kid, pro-teacher
Joanne Jacobs
In the Midst of the All the Howling About Testing Jenny D
Does the NEA
Believe Its Own NCLB Legal Argument? EIA
Critics leave behind no alternative for education reform Baltimore Sun
No Alternative to Learning: Spellings right to crack down on Texas
Dallas Morning News
Spellings should cool the insults Hartford Courant
Don't punish California for setting the bar high
San Jose Mercury News

Little Action:

Some, but not much, action on the lawsuit and the statehouse revolts in CT, TX, and elsewhere:

Failing schools face varied demands Arizona Republic
Horne asks feds to ease academic rules for state AZ Central.com
Sen. Reid Supports Lawsuit Challenging NCLB
Study says Massachusetts not doing enough for struggling schools Boston Globe
Cities Riled by Bush Plan to Weigh School Progress

Union, States Wage Frontal Attack on NCLB
Maine could join NCLB lawsuit
The Boston Globe
New Mexico won't join lawsuit suing feds over No Child
Deal on special-ed testing grows near
Education Department Fines Texas for Missing NCLB Transfer Deadline

Late test results prompt TEA fine Houston Chronicle
NCLB faces legal, legislative challenges Education Week

What Next?
Looking towards the future:

Tutoring Aid Is of Concern at Hearing NYT
Forum on ideas to improve SES provisions CEP

Up or Down for Pilot Schools and Privatization in Boston and Philadelphia (Urban Education)


Test of wills on pilot schools Boston Globe
Snuffing pilot schools Boston Globe
Boston school officials oppose union's discovery schools plan
Boston Globe


Outsourcing Teach and Learn
Teachers get short time to make big decision Inquirer

Schools' $80 million bet Inquirer
Changes for school managers Inquirer

Temple loses ties to two city schools Inquirer


Riordan to Quit Post in Education Los Angeles Times
L.A. Unified to Consider Mandatory College Track LAT
School Boundaries Often Lines in the Sand Los Angeles Times
This King/Drew, a Magnet School, Is a Robust Success LAT


Detroit Schools has new interim chief Detroit Free Press
'Skill gap' between races stagnant Chicago Sun-Time
Students at The Met learn through real-world experiences NPR

The Best Education Blogs (Media Coverage)

Here are my highly biased reviews of a few of what I consider to be the best education blogs out there, in no particular order or system. (To see the criteria I used, sort of, check last week’s postings). More will come, and I'm hoping others will post their own critiques of what I say here or about other sites.

For whatever it's worth, these are some of my favorites -- the ones I get the most/most interesting links from, the ones that seem the most knowledgeable, the ones who say or suggest something I haven't heard of or thought about before.

As many will note, from this first groups there are not most of them that are actually, technically, blogs, in that some don't provide commentary and others represent institutions not individuals. Hmm. Maybe that says something about the state of education blogging, or at least about what I think of it. A good blog can help enormously just by filtering and finding information. Two cents is not always required, or desired. I much prefer blogging that focuses on a single issue or aspect and digs deep. My usual thought is that if you don't have something REALLY NEW to say about it, just give us the link and let us read.

And, having run out of useful things to say, here they are:

Education News: Every morning well before the Texas dawn, Jimmy Kilpatrick gets up and scours the papers for education stories so we don’t have to. Working out of the back of his antique shop, and with only occasional asides getting in the way, Jimmy gives us an amazing set of links to work off of each day. The essays and commentary at the end are sometimes too wild for me to slog through, there’s no XML that I can find to make for easy reading, and who knows what the DeToqueville Institute is really up to – world domination, I’m sure. I wish Jimmy linked to my commentaries once in a while. I wish Jimmy organized his links by topic rather than by publication, but then what would I have left to do each Friday morning?

Eduwonk: By far the fanciest quasi-blog out there, Andrew Rotherham’s prolific and savvy alter ego Eduwonk (easily confused with the real person) has high-end blurbs from columnists and DC insider publications in the margins. But that’s not all. The site also features some of the best political commentary in the edusphere, a fair number of finds that no one else has, and – this is key – a wicked sometimes even shocking sense of humor. There are some flaws, of course. The linking style is annoying to read because it makes you click the link or at least hover over it before you know where you’re going. Sometimes Eduwonk tries to be everywhere and always on. Like most blogs, it's predictable on some issues (charters, NCLB). And the overlap with the Bulletin is getting annoying (time to dump the Bulletin). Don't hate Eduwonk cuz it's so good.

Education Intelligence Agency: Mike Antonucci’s stuff offers some of the best – only? – consistent reporting on teachers unions that’s out there, with insightful if not necessarily sympathetic analysis and a good dose of humor. How he gets his stuff, I have no idea. He must be on every union president’s “do not let this man enter” list in the country. Great stuff, about an important and under-covered part of the education system. He knows what he's talking about, he doesn't try and cover everything that's going on in education. We learn from the depth of his work, but it's not inaccessible stuff. What an education blog should be.

PEN NewsBlast: Well before blogs were all the rage, PEN communications guru Howie Schaffer built this newsletter/website into one of the most widely-distributed things out there. Sometimes the story recaps are too vanilla (and too long for my ADD tastes), and, given its home at the Public Education Network, the NewsBlast isn’t going to include much that doesn’t promote public education. But there are usually some thoughtful entries each week. I am a big admirer and frequent thief of the Blast.

This Week In Education: Parasitic, predictable, self-promoting, and utterly humorless, TWIE is nonetheless an easy-to-read, well-organized, and at times even insightful blog, with special sections on Chicago public schools and regular criticism about coverage of education by the MSM and the edusphere. Original reporting? Not so much. Original ideas? Here and there. The week’s best links and commentary? Almost always.

CUNY On The Rise, Haitian Hullabaloo (New York City)

Transfer Opportunities vs. Real Transfers (Chicago IL)

No More Papers, Becoming Bilingual (Teaching and Leading)

Printer Cartidges and Cell Phone Towers (School Life)


Big Kids vs. Little Kids (National News)

I wish someone would explain to me once and for all why high schools, not preschools, are the focus of so much political and philanthropic attention in Washington.

Back in the old days, everyone always wanted to focus on younger kids, because there was supposed to be more bang for the buck there. That's why Title I money used to all go to elementary schools, why elementary schools used to spend their Title I money on the little kids, and why Head Start, Even Start, etc. all got created.

My how times have changed. So far this year the high schools have gotten a national summit, a prominent place in the Bush agenda, and big philanthropic support.

For preschools, not much is going on in Washington -- even though Head Start is up for reauthorization. Even though report after report comes out saying that full-day kindergarten and universal preschool are probably pretty good things, and many states are trying to get there.

Is it that early childhood education is foreign to many educators, and run by HHS not USDE? Is there a stigma attached to early childhood education, which is seen as "softer" than K-12 education? Is the ECE/Head Start lobby still really that strong, and that opposed? Or is this just policy churn -- educators needing to do something "new" for a while?

I have no clue.

Flurry of Activity Taking Place on Prekindergarten Front EdWeek
Ride the preschool wave USA Today
Performance-driven practices in urban schools NewsSchool.org
Not much learning at Learning Centers JoanneJacobs
The Parent Gap PDF PPI

Naive Responses to NEA and Utah Defiance(NCLB News)

Thus far, at least, responses to this week's NEA's lawsuit against NCLB and Utah's legislative action have fallen into predictable categories: opponents of NCLB like them and think that they're going to topple the law; proponents of NCLB take issue and take it out on the NEA and Utah; and education reporters and editors love the drama and don't much care whether anything actually comes of it:

NEA Files 'No Child Left Behind' Lawsuit EdWeek
First national suit over education law CNN
NEA, 9 school districts challenge NCLB WashTimes
NEA, States Challenge 'No Child' Program WashPost
NEA, school districts sue over 'No Child' law USAT

'No Child' Law Gets Utah Snub Los Angeles Times
Utah Lawmakers Pass Bill Flouting NCLB EdWeek
No Child Left Behind Under Fire in Utah NPR
Utah bucks feds on schools The Salt Lake Tribune
Spellings warns Utah over federal act WashTimes
States hit back on school reform law CSM

Taking these actions so literally (and generally failing to examine their legal viability and functional impact), what few have done -- yet? -- is to unearth these actions as political and media strategies, examine their real-world impact, if any, and to dissect what might be gained -- or lost.

There are, however, a handful of interesting and perhaps surprising responses, including from civil rights and minority advocates:

Stand Firm for Educational Fairness New York Times
Civil Rights Advocate Bill Taylor On NEA Lawsuit Eduwonk
The Most Important Civil Rights Battle Since 'Brown' NYT
Another Newspaper Columnist for NCLB By Jenny D.
Bad Strategery? Eduwonk
RFK Rolls Over in His Grave By Jenny D.

Defying No Child law could cost Utah Salt Lake Tribune
Utah educators get reminder on diversity SLCTrib
Opinion: If states win, kids may lose USAT
Opinion: Schools are states' domain USAT
Opting out of NCLB would be a Utah travesty SLC Trib

Meanwhile, back in the real world:

Feds hint UPASS might pass muster STLTrib
Study faults state efforts to fix ailing schools Boston Globe
Questions Linger Over NCLB Policy Shifts EW
NCLB Transfer Policy Seen as Flawed EW
Keep the choice provision strong Gadfly
How To Make A School Choice WashPost via Assorted Stuff
Critics Question Use of Offshore Tutoring EW

Why Some Schools Make It (Urban Education)

Turning around schools:

Two schools in Milwaukee JoanneJacobs
School is taking long look at self Arizona Republic
District targets 11 schools for special help Philadelphia Inquirer
Lilburn Middle tries to fix itself Atlanta J-C
Searching for Stability Atlanta J-C
10 Seattle schools targeted for closure The Seattle Times
Five Vie for Urban Prize EW
10 groups submit bids to manage 3 HISD schools HChron

Best of the Rest:

Tough lesson about surveillance cameras St. Petersburg Times
Teachers and students click on feedback method PhilaInquirer
At this school, it's vo-tech with accent on technology PhilaInquirer
Spanish Classes for Native Speakers Grow SF Chronicle
Charter school CEO quits over union furor via EIA
Amato fell out of favor hard, fast New Orleans Times-Picayune
Small-Schools ‘Friction Points’ EW
Schools: How big is too big? Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Some high schools get high grades Houston Chronicle
Fresh start Joanne Jacobs

Guardian Angels and Untouchables (Teaching and Leading)

Two interesting looks at what it really takes to make it as a teacher -- finding guardian angels and keeping clear of untouchables:

My Three Career Guardian Angels Education Week
The Untouchables Teacher Magazine


Homegrown Teacher Magazine
Recruiting and retaining quality teachers in Phila via PEN
Cultivating teachers early SECTQ
A D.C. Teacher's Day in the Rose Garden WashPost
Teacher of the Year: 'Let Teachers Teach' USA Today
Study stirs teaching controversy USA Today
‘Fast Track’ Teacher-Certification Efforts Examined EW
'Combat pay' instead of teacher merit pay Sacramento Bee
Bull in a China Shop? Doyle Report Via PPI
Quantity of certified teachers a problem Houston Chronicle
Principals lay off problem teachers Chicago Tribune


Principal Preparation Education Week
Keep the Ed.D. Degree for Professional Programs EW

Best of the Rest

Beyond 'Karma, Cows and Caste' Washington Post
New tactics to relieve test stress CNN
Costly lesson Forbes via the Gadfly
Looking For Answers Assorted Stuff
Raising the bar Education Week
Directionless Dictates Education Week
Motivational nudity JoanneJacobs.com

Sex, Subway Ads, and an $8M Overpayment (New York City)

A "Green" City -- Even Without Any Recycling or a Smoking Ban (Chicago IL)

Bullies, Unpopped Popcorn, Drug Use, and Where Sagging Pants Didn't Come From (School Life)


Best and Worst of Education Blogs (Media Coverage)

There's lots to love and hate about the fast-growing world of education blogs, electronic newsletters, and the like. Herewith some of the most obvious compliments and complaints, to which I hope many will add their own much better observations:

The good ones...

Find some news or source that others may not have seen.

Provide a reality check on pronouncements from on high.
Come from a variety of perspectives, ideological and functional.
Are written by knowledgeable people.
Are fun and fast, or insightful and deep.
Try to add some humor.

The bad ones...

All link to the same 10 links as everyone else.
Contain posts that don’t really add much.
Tend to focus on “lite” topics like red ink and dress codes.
Are pompous and full of themselves (mine especially).

Really just don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
Lack any real reporting (personal recollections don't count).
Are wildly over-inclusive and indiscriminate about what they post.

Are institutional or ideological outlets, not really blogs.
Have "cute" names like college singing groups.
Don’t offer RSS syndication so you actually have to visit the site.
Are organized chronologically or by publication.
All use the same Blogger template as I do (or I use theirs).
Don't hardly ever challenge (or praise) each other.

Next week:

The 10 best and worst education blogs out there.


The "New" NCLB

Sorting Out the Fallout

It’s been over a week now since Secretary Spellings rolled out a slightly kinder, slightly gentler version of No Child Left Behind.

And, as was already pretty clear right off the bat, the response so far has been largely predictable, underwhelming, and -- in the case of the spat between Spellings and Connecticut -- counter-productive.

Even more significantly, however, the loud debate between the states and the feds about the "new" NCLB obscures what is -- and isn't -- being done to improve classroom instruction and student achievement at the local level.

Perhaps most damaging of all, however, the Thursday announcement highlighted the dirty little secret behind No Child Left Behind, which is that so many states are already operating under different ground rules, thanks to waves of modifications and waivers. Under the new plan, the differences from state to state could become even greater.

A Muddled Announcement

First, the Education Department rolled out a new plan that was so vague and confusing that no one could really say how it would affect the status quo, if at all: There will be a commission to study growth models (which some states love and the Achievement Alliance
hates). Some states might get to monkey around with the choice and tutoring requirements. Some states would get additional leeway in how they measure special education students and rate schools under the law.

But which states it would be and exactly how much leeway they would get, no one can say.

“Regrettable” or “Un-American”?

For those who missed it, during the now-infamous PBS interview last week Spellings first cited the state's a large achievement gap and castigated the state for belatedly trying to find a "loophole to get out of the law as opposed to attending to the needs of those kid."

Then, the coup de gras:

"And you know, I think it's un-American -- I would call it -- for us to take the attitude that African-American children in Connecticut living in inner cities are not going to be able to compete, are not going to be prepared to compete in this world and are not going to be educated to high levels."

Maybe she should have stuck with the more diplomatic "regrettable" she started out with.

Things went downhill quickly after that.

"Are we back in the McCarthy era?" Ms. Sternberg asked in an interview, according to the New York Times. "Are we un-American because we're asking for a waiver?"

State superintendent Sternberg is currently demanding an apology from the Secretary, or at least a face to face meeting:
Connecticut schools chief demands apology from Spellings Newsday, Sternberg to meet with nation's schools chief over No Child flap Newsday.

Little Relief for Squeaky-Wheel States

But even before the insults and slights began, CT AG Blumenthal had already dismissed the Spellings announcement as “verbiage” that did nothing to address the state’s concerns. And indeed, it doesn’t.

In fact, the "new" NCLB does little to address the concerns and complaints of the most vocal states, such as Utah, Texas, Virginia, and Connecticut:
Va. Is Denied Waiver From 'No Child' Law Washington Post Utah officials appear to dig in on No Child rules Salt Lake Tribune Lawmakers will discuss Utah's 'No Child' stand Salt Lake Tribune No White Child Left Behind Salt Lake City Weekly Official Warns Texas on School Testing" Dallas Morning News

Interesting Reactions

There have been a couple of surprises –mildly encouraging words from the presidents of the NEA and AFT, quoted in this UPI article:
Analysis: New NCLB policy has foes Washington Times.

Some thoughtful and balanced commentary in this week's Baltimore Sun: Mandates and mutinies, Worth defending (though the latter piece overstates the weight of the recent NCSL report criticizing NCLB, which is not "the consensus of the legislatures of 50 states.")

There's even a cautious blessing from Checker Finn, who says we should "...praise the Secretary and her team for being willing to learn from experience instead of stubbornly clinging to NCLB rigidities..." (though he mistakenly blames Florida's problems with NCLB on the law rather than on the unyielding plan that the state has insisted on keeping intact for nearly two years).
Flexibility and NCLB The Gadfly.

The Unfiled Lawsuit

It is well worth noting that some of this hooplah may well get sorted out when Spellings meets with officials from Connecticut and Utah.

Indeed, Governor Rell is already riding to the rescue in Connecticut:
Rell Aides Set for Talks on Federal School Bill NYT.

And Spellings is already set to meet with officials from Utah -- though apparently not until after the legislature has done whatever it's going to do next week. In
Education chief won't visit before NCLB vote Salt Lake City Tribune, Senator Hatch caused the delay. In Spellings cancels trip amid attack on NCLB Washington Times, it’s Spellings who pulls the plug.

Given three years of states almost doing something about NCLB (remember Vermont, and California, and all the rest), it seems likely that things will get worked out or dealt with on symbolic levels (resolutions passed, speeches made). Remember that even Connecticut hasn't actually filed its lawsuit, and no other states have joined in despite an open invitation. This could blow up, as advertised, or it could all blow over.

Left Behind: Improving Schools

Regardless of those specific state outcomes, however, what’s largely been left out is that most of the things being discussed by the Secretary and debated by the states have little to do with improving classroom instruction or raising student achievement. Are the teachers qualified and effective? Is the curriculum challenging for all students? Are specific students or subject areas being addressed?

Instead, the discussion is almost entirely about the law’s school rating system -- that is, what “grade” the law gives schools (and districts) and how it’s calculated. Connecticut doesn’t want to test annually. Texas wants to exempt 10 percent of its disabled students. Utah doesn’t want to measure subgroups.

One obvious but largely unspoken reason is that that the other parts of the law -- actual sanctions and school improvements requirements -- are turning out to be so weak as to not warrant much attention or concern. Roughly 11 percent of the students who are supposed to get tutoring after school are receiving it, according to the Center on Education Policy report. Roughly 1 percent of the students who are eligible to transfer to a better school have actually transferred. The unequal distribution of highly qualified teachers is one of the most widely ignored aspects of the law, according to Education Week. And only a tiny percentage of the lowest-performing schools, those in “corrective action” or “restructuring” status, are being actively revamped as required by the law.

Only the Sacramento Bee seems to address this issue directly, reporting that just one of the eight area schools in the lowest categories is taking substantial steps towards changing things: Districts find wiggle room in federal law Sacramento Bee. “Schools in Sacramento and across the nation are discovering a novel way out of the restructuring requirement,” says the Bee. “They’re ignoring it.”

Much the same is true around the country, where there are roughly 1100 schools that are supposed to be restructuring. Information about the number of restructured schools in each state was released and then withdrawn supposedly because of sloppy press coverage that unfairly compared states to other states: ECS Removes Data on School Improvement Education Week, though I think you can still get a PDF version of the list here: Schools Status in School Improvement Categories SCSDE.

Not everyone is avoiding the real issues of school improvement. In San Diego and Oakland, schools are being converted to charters, and in Sacramento some schools are being broken up into smaller learning communities.

There are lots of reasons few schools are being restructured, however.

First off, there’s lots of wiggle room in the law, which allows districts to convert schools to charter status, restaff the school, arrange for outside management, provide for a state takeover, or undertake other major restructuring steps. There's also very little scrutiny or oversight from most states. (In fact, Michigan is the only state that requires districts to submit restructuring plans for approval, according to the Bee.) In addition, restaffing or converting schools is politically unpopular and logistically difficult given the relative weakness of the NCLB requirements.

Most fundamentally, restructuring -- essentially turning around a sick school -- is an uncertain remedy.

“Reforms such as restaffing, closing and taking over low-performing schools may not always deliver better results for students than more low-key solutions,” says Greg Toppos in the USAT about research unveiled at this week’s AERA converence in Montreal:
States plug away with NCLB.

Indeed, as an
ASCD report highlighted by the PEN NewsBlast shows this week, state takeovers don’t always – don’t often? – work.

What does always work? Nobody knows. It's likely nothing works all the time. But that doesn't mean that states -- and the USDE -- shouldn't be focused on it.

Increasingly Different Versions of NCLB

Last but not least, there is the danger that the new NCLB will, in the name of flexibility (or politics), lead to increasingly different version of NCLB being implemented in various states. There are already clear differences between state plans. As I and others pointed out last week, if the differences grow too large, or are motivated for questionable reasons, the USDE will undermine its own efforts, and eventually the law itself.

Best of the Rest

"Inserting" Teachers into High-Need Schools TLN
A Front Lines Perspective on Teacher Retention in High-Need Schools
Poll Finds Support for Changes in Teacher Pay EW

Walk-Throughs Are On the Move Education World
Middle School Goes Out of Fashion Wall Street Journal

Plans Target Troubled L.A. SchoolsLos Angeles Times
Master brings hope to city school Providence Journal
Charter Schools Pinching Public School Budgets Lawrence World Journal

A Roshanda by Any Other Name Slate

Generous Curve? Inside Higher Ed
I'm Rick Hess, Bit*h! Eduwonk
Homeschooling Facts Reason
The Carnival Of Education: Week 10

Kindergarten or 'kindergrind'? San Diego Union-Tribune
Kids may get a break with return of recess Miami Herald

More and More, Kids Say The Foulest Things Washington Post
"What's a fight" to schools?Denver Post
States grapple with growing teen meth use Boston.com
Teen learning to parallel park kills mother Newsday
Parents snoop on teen drivers DetNews.com

‘Today’ show visits classroom supply group Portland Tribune

Chicago Roundup (Chicago IL)

Critical Looks at Renaissance 2010
Catalyst and the Trib take a hard look at Ren-10.


1,116 city teachers flunk out Chicago Sun-Times
Top teachers for tough jobs Chicago Tribune
City schools brace for cuts Chicago Tribune
Catholic schools in race for lives Chicago Tribune
Archdiocese reconsidering closure of 5 Catholic schools Chicago Sun-Times
Illinois Lawsuit Protests No Child Left Behind Act KSDK
Panel aims to shield school funding Chicago Tribune
Chicago Magazine Does Education Teach and Learn
Seeing red over school funding Chicago Tribune
Early Childhood Update Ounce of Prevention

Plus, the much-beloved ISAT writing test has apparently been restored by the Senate for next year, thanks in large part to the Chicago Area Writing Project.

New York City Roundup (NYC)


Critical Looks at Renaissance 2010 (Chicago IL)

Two worthwhile articles out during the last few days about Renaissance 2010, Chicagos' 100 small schools initiative: 2010 school reform off to wobbly start Chicago Tribune, and Renaissance Watch: Backers fall short with money, disclosure Catalyst.

The main point of both articles is that things aren't looking great for the Mayor's education initiative. Non-disclosure agreements, shady finances, and retroactive accounting schemes, plus not so hidden preferences for charter schools (and against LSCs) are part of both stories, though Catalyst probably has more of the nitty gritty news.

In particular, the Catalyst piece fleshes out just how little money has been raised, just who's gotten what, and just where NSC is expecting to get half of its money: from out of town.

The Tribune piece covers more ground in that it rehashes some of the fall’s events like the departure of Greg Richmond, and the trend over the last 15 years towards increased mayoral and business involvement in school reform.

The Tribune piece may go overboard when it credits Renaissance 2010 for setting off “a power struggle not seen since the mayor took control of the city's beleaguered public school system in the mid-1990s.”

Sure, there’s been a power struggle, but it’s mostly been between the business and the CPS folks, with the funders and charter school operators in there somewhere. Teachers and parents and community groups may still protest, but at this point it’s without much hope of substantially changing the outcome.

If Renaissance 2010 goes down, or meets its goals only in the most superficial sense -- taking credit for 18 new schools next year when maybe only half of those are really Renaissance schools --- it won't be because teachers and parents beat it back. It will be because it imploded under the weight of different agendas and visions that can't be contained under a single effort.


Not the Response the USDE Had Hoped For (NCLB News)

Last week's announcement by Secretary Spellings was supposed to herald a kinder, gentler NCLB that would soothe states and educators and mute criticism that the Department was being obstinate.

So far, at least, it doesn't seem to be turning out that way.

Right off the bat, unanswered questions about such basic things as which states would get the flexibility and how progress would be measured took much of the luster off of the announcement and yielded iffy headlines like: Rules Loosened for No Child Left Behind Law Los Angeles Times.

Into that void stepped NCLB critics, who had a field day taking potshots at the law and claiming credit for having caused the Administration to take pause: Critics Prompt Changes in 'No Child Left Behind' Policy NPR.

It didn't help things much that few of the critics' fundamental concerns were clearly addressed by the Secretary's announcement, and didn't change things a bit for states like Texas that are on the verge of breaking with Washington over the law: Texas to get tough lesson on No Child law Chicago Tribune.

Then, Thursday night on the PBS NewsHour, Secretary Spellings inflamed passions even more when she pretty much called the state of Connecticut "un-American" for not wanting to comply with NCLB. You can read the transcript here. State called 'un-American' Connecticut Post.

It's not clear why the Department insisted on making the announcement of the 3 percent rule a quid pro quo. Perhaps there was some problem with giving everyone the same flexibility, but in the short term at least it might well have worked better to have rolled out a simpler, more straightforward scheme and let the press cover that.

Not being able to say which states would benefit gave reporters little else to do than cover reactions and past criticisms -- and that misleading 30 state statistic that appeared in almost every story. (Thirty states are not on the verge of withdrawing from NCLB.)

The tit-for-tat format of the new NCLB setup also reminded everyone that there are already essentially 50 different versions of NCLB being implemented, not only because state tests and proficiency levels are so different but also because each state's approved plan and modifications contains a different set of agreements about how AYP will be calculated, among other things.

Thus far, at least, the Administration has avoided establishing a critical mass of politically motivated concessions to states, but saying we're going to treat some states differently than others raises obvious concerns (and likely scrutiny) that the Department has thus far muted.


States Slow to Fund, Best Ed Schools, and More (National News)

States Making Progress Get More Flexibility? (NCLB News)

Big News -- Uncertain Impact:

Everyone's writing about Secretary Spellings' announcement yesterday:

Facing Protests, U.S. Offers Flexibility on Rules NYT
Ed. Dept. vows aid to states, with a catch SPI/AP
'No Child' shifts for group of students Philadelphia Inquirer
Spellings: Flexibility on 'No Child Left Behind' NPR (audio)
Critics Prompt Changes in 'No Child Left Behind' PolicyNPR (audio)

But no one really knows how many states would qualify for the special education testing flexibility, or how uniformly that standard would be applied – an issue raised by CEP’s Patty Sullivan in the Wednesday AP story: U.S. to change No Child Left Behind law (AP).

Clearly, Secty Spellings wants to focus the USDE more on measuring states’ academic progress than on bureaucratic compliance. That seems to be main thrust of her WSJ opinion piece: Reading, 'Riting, Reform (WSJ viaSusan Ohanian).

Hotspots Still Hot:

Another objective has to be making things at least slightly easier for states, several of which have been fomenting at the mouth for weeks and months -- though not nearly the 30 states that some of the papers have been citing -- and many of which are facing AYP requirements that rise steeply this spring.

However, the announcement doesn't seem to change anything with the handful of states that are on the warpath against NCLB:

Connecticut seemed undaunted and unmollified, aiming to continue with its lawsuit despite the announcement: Connecticut to challenge No Child Left Behind law in court USA Today, Connecticut to challenge No Child Left Behind education law Newsday, Connecticut Prepares to Sue US Over Bush Education Law New York Times, State To Sue Over `No Child' Law Hartford Courant.

Perhaps as a sign of solidarity with his home state, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, second in command among Democrats to Ted Kennedy, re-introduced a NCLB revisions bill: Dodd seeks greater flexibility in federal education law Newsday, Dodd Wants Ed Law Reform Hartford Courant.

The changes also might not help in Texas, according to the Chronicle: Easier test may be allowed for more disabled students Houston Chronicle, No Child update may not help state Houston Chronicle, Worst-case projection puts 1,200 schools under par Houston Chronicle.

Nor did tensions seem to be easing in Utah: Utah will press its NCLB challenge Salt Lake Tribune, Utah educators may win leeway on NCLB rules Deseret News, Utah presses federal fight Deseret News, Tensions increase in standoff over No Child Left Behind Salt Lake Tribune, Another NCLB problem Salt Lake Tribune

Cautious Responses

Lacking solid information, many seem to be turning the announcement into an opportunity to comment on the first three years of the law, pro or con.

On Capitol Hill, the announcement won a cautious approval from Messrs. Boehner and Miller, who head the House education committee:

“Today, the Secretary unveiled an approach that, if carried out fairly and without favoritism, could help iron out some of the difficulties in implementing the law,” announced Miller and Boehner.

However, the Committee’s main concern seems to be the vastly different deals that states have cut, which threaten to stretch the law out of shape:

“If the law is implemented with too much variety from state to state, the progress we are making on boosting achievement and improving accountability will be cut short.”

No surprise that there was no reprieve from FairTest's Monty Neill:

"All students – not just those with disabilities -- need high quality assessments that meet their individual needs and learning styles...NCLB’s unreasonable expectations have led to scapegoating disabled students for depressing average test scores.”

The Gadfly sounded its own set of concerns:

"If the Department can come up with a reasonable, objective measure of "progress towards proficiency," it might make sense to cut some slack for states that are truly making significant progress. But if the entire process degenerates into backroom negotiating where states that whine the loudest get breaks-always a possibility-this move could sound the death knell of NCLB."

Concerns About Watering Down NCLB:

Ironically, the Spellings announcement comes on the heels of several news stories and editorials suggesting support for NCLB and opposition to states withdrawing from it.

On Tuesday, the NYT editorial page came out in favor of the underlying requirements of the law, and against rebels like Utah. “If any state needs federal prodding to achieve better results, Utah does” Fixing No Child Left Behind.

Connecticut’s effort to sue over NCLB has also run into some negative coverage: State's Federal Lawsuit Criticized, The Hartford Courant, Group urges state to close gap in test scores Connecticut Post

In Utah, a couple of pieces in the Salt Lake Tribune also raised the achievement gap issue:
Utah ignores Latino education gap that law would expose Salt Lake Tribune, Minorities question Utah's NCLB answer Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's NCLB challenge begins to fuel dissent

And in Florida, a state that had been struggling mightily with the inconsistencies between NCLB and the state’s A+ accountability system, the state department of education finally applied for modifications to its plan that would ease some of the tensions: Florida proposes changes to way feds grade state schools Sun-Sentinel.com, Schools seek revision to federal grading plan Orlando Sentinel.

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