July 31, 2007

Back Next Week

Going on vacation. Check back next week.

"Persistently Dangerous"

Maryland State Board members are concerned about labeling schools as “persistently dangerous” (per No Child Left Behind) without subsequent actions to make such schools safer. See here for a quick summary of the “perverse consequences” stemming from the federal mandate.

O'Connell Gets Boost/Cash from Hastings

Former California State Board Chairman Reed Hastings is a big fan of State Superintendent Jack O’Connell. How big? “Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix and a former state board of education member, has donated $1 million to an independent expenditure committee aimed at boosting state schools superintendent Jack O'Connell's gubernatorial hopes in 2010,” reports the Capitol Weekly.

July 30, 2007

McKeon Unhappy

Ranking House Education Committee member Buck McKeon is “disappointed” with the pace of NCLB negotiations, but remains hopeful that they can come to an agreement. Still, McKeon warns that it is more important to get reauthorization right than water down the law.

Handicapping Washington State Supe Race

Here’s an early, early look at the upcoming race for Washington state superintendent where Terry Bergeson is still deciding whether to seek re-election to a fourth-term and several other potential candidates are mulling their options.

Posny Profile

Kansas Commissioner Alexa Posny is profiled in the capital city’s newspaper. The article suggests that working in Washington, DC and “dealing with vastly different opinions on how the system should work” was good training for working with the Kansas State Board of Education.

Another Vote Against Utah Governance Changes

KSL-TV is weighing in on the proposed governance changes to the Utah State Board of Education. The station’s verdict? The proposals “gained momentum earlier this summer when school board members found themselves at odds with certain lawmakers over the school voucher mess…the idea of turning the State Board of Education into a partisan body needs to be nipped in the bud. The idea of having school board members beholden to the machinations of party politics should be enough to make any sensible Utahn cringe.”

July 26, 2007

No Time for Science

The Center on Education Policy has a new report confirming the worries of many about one of the major unintended consequences of NCLB – that reading and math class time are squeezing out instruction in science, social studies, and other non-NCLB tested subjects.


Says CEP:

“A majority of the nation’s school districts report that they have increased time for reading and math in elementary schools since the No Child Left Behind Act became law in 2002, while time spent on other subjects has fallen by nearly one-third during the same time.

The report, based on a nationally representative survey of nearly 350 school districts, finds that to make room for additional curriculum and instructional time in reading and math – the two subjects tested for accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act – many districts are also spending less time in other subjects that are not the focus of federal accountability.

About 62 percent of districts reported increasing time for English language arts and/or math in elementary schools since school year 2001-02, and more than 20 percent reported increasing time for these subjects in middle school during the same time. Among the districts reporting increased time for English and math, the average increase was substantial, amounting to a 46 percent increase in English, a 37 percent increase in math, and a 42 percent increase across the two subjects combined. Meanwhile, 44 percent of districts reported cutting time from one or more other subjects or activities at the elementary level, including science, social studies, art and music, physical education, lunch and recess. On average, the cuts amounted to about 30 minutes a day.”

Freshmen NCLB memo

House Education Committee Chairman George Miller recently sent an undated and without letterhead memo to freshmen members of the Democratic caucus regarding NCLB reauthorization and the 9 key policy areas he is looking to address. The good news is that many of these areas are consistent with the priorities of NASBE and state boards of education. The bad news is that at this late date, the committee is still working toward consensus on these issues and does not appear to have working legislative language in these areas as of yet.


Of particular note is the introductory statement about the freshmen’s feedback on these changes being “key to the reauthorization process.” That’s not lip service. The support of the 42 new Dems is one of the keys to reauthorization, and Miller’s outreach to them is a smart strategy. Secondly, note that the issues of assessment and special populations (i.e., LEP and special ed students) crop up under numerous bullet points.

Slowing Down on English

The Texas State Board of Education will delay approving new English curriculum standards for six months for a more thorough review. Worse to get it wrong faster rather than right later.

Brooks New President of Maryland State Board

A press release from the Maryland State Board of Education - The Maryland State Board of Education today elected Dunbar Brooks as its next president, while Beverly Cooper was elected vice president.

Brooks replaces Dr. Edward Root, who had served as State Board president since 2003. Root retired from the position last month as his term on the Board ended.

Brooks was elected president after two terms as vice president. He is Manager of Data Development at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, a long-range regional planning organization for Greater Baltimore. He also is a guest lecturer and presenter on demographic and educational issues. As an adjunct faculty member, he teaches urban planning and computer science at two colleges.

Brooks served for 10 years on the Baltimore County Board of Education, ending his tenure on that board as its president. A native of Baltimore City currently living in Baltimore County, Brooks is a graduate of Frederick Douglass High School.

Cooper is vice president of the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation. She is a former federal manager who worked in the areas of systems and system security and was responsible for the development and dissemination of systems security policy for a cabinet-level Federal agency. Ms. Cooper is presently a member of the boards of the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, Archdiocese of Baltimore Administration, Catholic Family Foundation, Sinai Hospital, Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, and the Baltimore School for the Arts. Ms. Cooper is a native Baltimorean who continues to live in Baltimore City.

The Maryland State Board of Education is a 12-member body appointed by the Governor. Members serve a maximum of two four-year terms. A student member serves a one-year term.

Michigan Member Commentary in Free Press

Michigan State Board member Cassandra Ulbrich gets her concerns about the state's funding of higher education published in the Detroit Free Press.
Writes Ulbrich: "With decreasing confidence in the state appropriation process, universities are forced to pass their costs on to students through higher tuition rates. This year, double-digit tuition increases will combine with similar increases from last year to create the most expensive four years of a young person's life...If Michigan is going to be successful in turning its economy around, lawmakers cannot continue to cut funding to the very institutions that will drive its transformation."

July 24, 2007

The Idaho State Board of Education has created an 18-member task force with the charge of looking at the current condition of middle schools, often thought of as the neglected segment of the K-12 continuum, and how they can better prepare students for the demands of high school. The task force, headed by State Superintendent Tom Luna and an Idaho State Board of Education member, is comprised of parents, educators, and members of the business community. Commenting on the importance of middle schools, Luna said, “Middle school is where you light the fire. High school is where you launch them onto the dreams of their choice. If we mess up in middle school and don’t light that fire, in too many cases, it is too late.”

An extensive document that outlines the standards for how South Dakota students learn technology was approved by the State Board of Education this week. The new standards include testing technological proficiency for each grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade. These tests will help the State Department of Education assess whether changes need to be made to the state’s technology program. A pilot project for the coming school year will be held at 20 schools. State leaders have made technology a priority, and Governor Mike Rounds is currently working towards having laptops for all high school students. In addition to the technology standards, the Board also approved benchmarks for English language proficiency.

Home Sweet Home

A bizarre residency investigation into which of the two properties David Bradley of Texas State Board of Education lives amid charges that he does not actually reside in the district he represents on the state board. A grand jury(!) is looking into the matter.

July 23, 2007

Advice for the Texas SBOE

A rather harsh editorial from the Austin American-Statesman about the Texas State Board of Education that ends on a hopeful note for the board and its new chairman.

Great Expectations in DC

The education leadership of the Washington, DC schools appeared before a Senate committee – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, of all panels - late last week to discuss the mayor’s proposed reforms to the troubled school system. The tenor and tone of the debate can best be summed up by the title of the hearing, “Great Expectations: Assessments, Assurances, and Accountability in the Mayor’s Proposal to Reform the District of Columbia’s Public School System.” You can click here to view an archived webcast of the hearing, or to access all of the written testimony of the witnesses, which included the Mayor, the President of the new State Board of Education, the new chancellor, the state superintendent, the deputy mayor for education, and the new school facilities manager.

State Board President Robert Bobb’s comments on the state board’s new duties and responsibilities is worth highlighting at length. To wit, “The D.C. State Board of Education was established by the District of Columbia Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007. Although the members of the new Board remain the same, the objectives of this board are narrower in focus than the objectives of the previous Board of Education.

The State Board of Education looks forward to discharging our new duties and responsibilities. In our new role approving  and advising on citywide education issues, we will approve learning standards and graduation requirements; we will approve the accountability structure that will dictate how lagging and failing schools are supported and held accountable  for their performance; and we will establish the criteria for operating all types of education institutions throughout the District of Columbia, including D.C. Public Schools, charter schools, private schools, supplemental education service providers, and the education programs administered at the college and university level.”

Utah Lawmakers Seek Reimbursement for Immigrant Ed Costs

“Utah legislators frustrated by illegal immigration are finished being nice - they're sending a strongly worded letter to the feds.

Armed with a legislative audit estimating the cost of educating undocumented immigrants, members of the Education Interim Committee voted Wednesday to send the audit to Utah's congressional delegation and the U.S. departments of Immigration and Education… The audit, which was released in May, estimated Utah spends between $63 million and $98 million educating undocumented immigrants.,” reports the Deseret Morning News.

A Mad Gray Lady

The NY Times editorial board is displeased with the President’s threat to veto the bipartisan congressional bill to expand coverage and increased funding of the state children’s health insurance program.

Interim Commish in Alaska

The Alaska State Board of Education has named Barbara Thompson as Interim Commissioner of the state department of education, subject to the approval of Governor Sarah Palin. Thompson is currently Deputy Commissioner, with current Commissioner Roger Sampson leaving to become President of the Education Commission of the States on August 17. During Thompson's tenure as Interim Commissioner, the State Board will search for a permanent Commissioner.

New Chair in Texas

“Gov. Rick Perry's appointment of Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education drew mixed reactions from some members and observers of the board…One supporter called him a ‘solid conservative,’ while a critic labeled him an ‘ideologue’ with an agenda,” reports the Houston Chronicle.

New Show-Me Chair

Russell Thompson has been elected the new chairman of the Missouri State Board of Education. He’s been on the board since 1994 and served as chair previously in 2000-02, and vice-chair for the past two years. Thompson is the former superintendent of Columbia, Missouri schools.

"One of the issues that’s going to continue to be an issue for the remainder of this decade is establishing high, rigorous standards of expectations for student achievement. Testing is going to be a major issue,” he says.

July 18, 2007

President-elect Elected

Ken Willard, a member of the Kansas State Board of Education, has been voted president-elect of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). Willard will begin his term of office in January 2008 and then serve as president of the association in the following year. The membership also elected four state board of education members to the organization’s board of directors. Their two-year terms will also commence in January.


“Ken Willard is a seasoned state education policymaker with local experience and a national perspective. We appreciate the willingness and dedication of Ken and the board of directors to contribute their time and efforts to lead their national organization. These officers provide the combination of experience, wisdom, and diversity of opinion necessary to sustain and support NASBE and its broad-based membership’s work in improving each state’s public education system,” said Brenda Welburn, NASBE Executive Director.


Ken Willard is serving his second four-year term on the Kansas State Board of Education after winning re-election last November.  Willard serves on the state board’s communications committee, with past experience as the board’s Legislative Coordinator and as chair of the policy committee. Previously, he was president of the Nickerson/Hutchinson Board of Education. A former U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, he is a manager with American Family Insurance in Hutchinson, Kansas. Willard was appointed to the NASBE Board of Directors in 2005 to complete the partial term of a vacant position and was subsequently elected to a full two-year term representing the central region in 2006.


Also elected to two-year terms to the NASBE Board of Directors were:

·         Allan Taylor, Connecticut State Board of Education (Northern region);

·         Isis Castro, Virginia State Board of Education, (Southern region);

·         Clinton Waara, South Dakota State Board of Education, (Central region); 

·         Randy DeHoff, Colorado State Board of Education, (Western region); and,

·         Greg Haws, Utah State Board of Education, (Secretary-Treasurer).


July 17, 2007

Fool Me Twice

The Kentucky State Board of Education is taking the heat for Barbara Erwin’s withdrawal as Commissioner of Education on the eve of her officially taking office, but the real fall guy should be the search firm’s failure to do due diligence in vetting the finalist. Indeed, it appears that because of the firm's bungling the state board won’t take advantage of a clause in the search contract that offers them a free commissioner search from Ray & Associates if the selected finalist doesn’t actually start the job.

That Didn't Take Long

Less than a week after Michelle Rhee’s confirmation as Washington, DC schools chancellor, the Washington Post publishes its first critical editorial of anything Rhee-lated, specifically the salaries being handed out to her ($275,000) and her deputies (two over $200k and a half dozen other six figure salaries). And this doesn’t even count the $275,000/year the new school facilities manager is pulling down, or the yet-to-be finalized severance package of former superintendent Clifford Janey.

July 13, 2007

Less is More in Utah

Deseret Morning News political editor Bob Bernick, Jr. does not like the proposal to expand the Utah State Board of Education. Not one bit.

A Different Kind of Growth Model

A new education standard in Texas that will make the students sweat….literally.

Sunset for Florida Commish Candidate

Florida State Representative Joe Pickens has withdrawn from consideration as the next state commissioner of education. “His withdrawal leaves several front-runners for the position: Jim Warford, the state's former K-12 education chancellor; Cheri Yecke, Florida's current K-12 education chancellor; and Bill Moloney, the former Colorado education commissioner,” reports the Florida Times Union.

Charter Member

This makes the second story in a week – this time in Minnesota -  about charter schools using their admission and application process to weed out certain students. The first was in Massachusetts. The next story will make three…and a disturbing national trend. But the question is also raised as to whether this all is coming out because of increasing charter school hanky-panky or due to more vigilant state oversight of its charter system.

July 11, 2007

An Aside

I try to avoid links and comments to other blogs, lest I too get caught up in an online feud like the ongoing one between This Week in Education and the Eduwonk - see here for the latest salvo.
But today's Eduwonk post about "Edupolitics" compelled me to comment.
The post highlights the challenges of centrist-styled Democrats who want to champion third-way education policies, promote the party, take Republicans to task and strongly defend the No Child Left Behind Act. Thus, we get tortured have-it-every-which-way commentary such as this: "This issue is right in the groove for the party [Democratic]. Second, what about the Republicans? They are no picnic here and aside from a smattering of governors and No Child Left Behind they haven't had a creative national thought on education policy since Charlottesville. In fact, most of their creativity has been spent figuring out creative ways to try to undercut the federal role in elementary and secondary schools."
Astounding. NCLB, the signature domestic policy achievement of Republican President George W. Bush and a landmark federal education reform in its own right, is dismissed as an "aside." Moreover, NCLB by all accounts has resulted in a dramatic federal expansion (critics may say intrusion) into K-12 education. I'm not sure a single piece of legislation (the A+ Act) and its 50 some conservative cosponsors qualifies as expending all of the Republican party's "creativity" on undercutting the federal role in education.
"Aside from that, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln."

July 10, 2007

Post-Parents Involved...

In the wake of the Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1 Supreme Court decision, Richard Kahlenberg makes the case that school districts can – and should – use income levels instead of racial categories to integrate their schools. Here’s his short summary of the idea in Slate, and the larger brief here from the Century Foundation.


BTW, what is the legal shorthand by which this case will ultimately be called? “Parents Involved in Community Schools?” Too long. “Seattle?” Too general. “PICS?” Too vague. “The Seattle and Louisville school race decisions?” Hardly shorthand.

What's In a Name

Widely respected and admired ed reporter Jay Mathews gets WaPo front page space (!) today to elaborate on the school naming policies of the local metro area districts. The article is based on the piffle of a report put out by the Manhattan Institute last week. Unfortunately, the Post’s electronic version of this story does not include the list of presidents and the number of schools named after each which appeared as supporting graphic in the print edition.

Higher and Higher

If you thought college tuition was exorbitant, wait until you see how much higher education associations are charging for conferences and corporate sponsorships, as this NY Times story reveals.

DC Ready for Rhee-form

Michelle Rhee hit a home run during her confirmation hearing and the city council is poised today to confirm her as the new Washington, DC schools chancellor. But the big revelations out of the hearing were not Ms. Rhee’s leadership and vision for the troubled school district, but rather the shabby way in which her predecessor Clifford Janey was dumped (an 11:30 pm phone call and immediate closure of his email address) and her lucrative compensation package ($274,000 plus $41k in relocation costs.)

Interestingly, the salary is exactly $1,000 more than Janey’s (symbolic?) and significantly more than the superintendents in Fairfax and Montgomery Counties, both of which have nearly double the number of students as DC.

Forgettable Editorials

We hope the Washington Post editorial team remembers today’s piece when, in approximately 18 months from now, it inevitably decries the lack of clear lines of authority over the school system among the deputy mayor for education, the school chancellor, and the school facilities manager.

Freedom to Screen

A pilot program offering some Boston high schools flexibility from regulations appears to be working. The schools have boosted student performance, but questions are now being asked if the freedom to institute admission policies to screen out some students is the real reason behind the achievement increase. The Boston Globe has the story.

July 9, 2007

Texas Test Costs

Texas is making the switch from the “TAKS” to 12 end of course tests for high schoolers. The state currently spends $80 million per year on testing. The new tests are projected to cost $168 million for Pearson to develop.

Experience and Familiar Names

Former Colorado Commissioner of Education Bill Moloney is one of the six applicants for the open Florida Commissioner of Education position. Florida K-12 Chancellor (and former interim Minnesota chief) Cheryl Pierson Yecke and her predecessor Jim Warford, along with several local Florida superintendents, are also being floated as potential candidates.

State Board Members on the Move

Hawaii governor Linda Lingle has appointed former state board member Darwin Ching as the interim director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

And former Colorado state board member Jared Polis is running for the state’s 2nd congressional seat.

July 3, 2007

What's in a Name?

On the eve of our most civic of national holidays, the prodigious Jay Greene has published a new “study” entitled, “What’s in a Name? The Decline in the Civic Mission of School Names." Perhaps this is a scholarly attempt to kick start the return of presidential naming of schools, sort of like a more inclusive version of the Reagan Legacy Project. Unfortunately, it comes across as more of a slapdash and wildly off the mark lament that schools are no longer named for Presidents (or individuals, generally, for that matter.) I can’t make heads or tails of a report whose most memorable factotum is that there are twice as many schools in Florida named after manatees as there are for George Washington. Greene attaches big significance to this. I, on the other hand, can appreciate that manatees have been indigenous to Florida for 45 million years, while George Washington wasn’t.

Greene blames the trend against presidential school names on school boards unwilling to spend the political capital necessary to get the names approved. Which may be true, but not in my hometown, where there was a bruising fight and lingering resentment over naming the new high school for Bayard Rustin. I would question whether it is even wise for school boards to engage in such needless fights when there are plenty of other, larger, more meaningful battles to be fought.

But Greene then stretches the argument beyond the breaking point to assert that, “shrinking from a fight over naming schools may be symptomatic of a broader problem with civic education. To teach civics effectively, schools have to be willing to take a stand.”

I would argue the opposite. Indeed, I am doing so right now. I would suggest that contrary to Greene’s analysis, the controversy over naming schools indicates a level of broad based civic involvement that is perhaps too effective. Thus, we get schools named for inanimate objects that have never managed to offend an especially active special interest group. Rather than blaming spineless district leaders, it is entirely plausible that the dearth of presidentially-named schools is evidence of a too-civically involved constituency.

Of course, what do I know. My daughter’s elementary school in suburban Maryland is named for a deceased US Senator from Hawaii. Only in the Beltway!

For a more comprehensive and thoughtful examination of civic education in public schools, I offer you NASBE’s report on Revitalizing the Civic Mission of Schools for your Independence Day reading.

Have a happy and safe 4th. See you next week.


Posny Profile

Days after taking office as the Kansas Commissioner of Education, Alexa Posny gets a positive profile in the Wichita Eagle where she also outlines her goals. “Posny told The Eagle that her goals include early intervention for students who are falling behind; long-term planning for after students graduate; cooperating with parents, businesses and community members to build support for schools; and recruiting high-quality teachers and administrators.”

July 2, 2007

Wash Post's Julio Lugo Editorialists

The Washington Post continues its Julio Lugo-like 0-fer streak in accurately and insightfully reporting on education policy with its editorial today, “’No Child’ in the Crosshairs.”

The piece is a mish-mash of straw men, red herrings, and revisionist history – all rolled into one nonsensical editorial defending the No Child Left Behind Act.

First the straw man. The very first paragraph ends with this nugget, “With the law up for reauthorization this year, Congress should be debating how -- not whether -- to continue this landmark education initiative.” No one in Congress is seriously advocating that NCLB should not be reauthorized. Even the core group of conservatives that introduced the A+ Act did so for message and negotiating purposes. If the Post has a story about this congressional “debate” over whether to even authorize NCLB, it should publish it, and not just reference it in an editorial.

Next is the recent criticism of the law by former Bush administration education officials such as Gene Hickok, which the Post calls “attacks” on the law. Hickok has expressed regret and second thoughts about NCLB. If this constitutes an “attack” I can only imagine what the Post made of the NEA’s now-dismissed federal lawsuit against the law. Nuclear war?

But the capper has to be the Post’s assertion that standards-based reform and education accountability were invented by NCLB. Says the Post editorial in conclusion, “Consider the landscape before No Child Left Behind. No one was really focused on results, failure had no consequences, few people were talking about the achievement gap and parents had little choice if their child's schooling wasn't doing the job…To let states opt out of doing the hard, necessary work of raising standards is to turn back the clock on education reform.” Is the 15th Street crew unaware of state leadership in education reforms? Even those that have occurred in the Post’s own backyard? Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOLs)? Maryland’s “MSPAP” (Maryland School Performance Assessment Program)? Those are just two state reforms that targeted student performance, the achievement gap, and school accountability. And we haven’t even referenced North Carolina’s school improvement work, Kentucky’s landmark “CATS” reforms, or Texas’ “TAAS.”

Indeed, contrary to the Post’s editorial most states were focused on results and were implementing consequences for performance before 2001. With or without NCLB, states will continue to do the hard work of improving public education. Just as they did pre-NCLB and as they will do long after NCLB.

TEA Commissioner Nominees

Texas Governor Rick Perry has yet to name possible successors to former Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley, but the Austin American-Statesman puts forth its choice for the job: former Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff.

Newsworthiness: WaPo Style

The Washington Post publishes a front page, 2,250 word profile on the mayor’s pick to be the new DC public schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, to coincide with her appearance today before the city council’s confirmation hearing. Fenty’s Agent of Change.

Several days earlier, the inimitable Washington Post editors buried the story about its meeting with one of the best school superintendents in the country, Montgomery County’s Jerry Weast, on the back page of the Metro section. (See here and here the most recent evidence of Montgomery’s national leadership in graduation rates and AP tests passed by African-american students).

And it’s not like the Weast profile was of interest only to a limited suburban Maryland readership. Weast made news with his comments about NCLB. Indeed, the lede of the Post story (if you could find it) was as follows: “Montgomery County School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said yesterday that the federal No Child Left Behind law has created a culture that has education leaders nationwide ‘shooting way too low’ and that it has spawned a generation of statewide tests that are too easy to pass.”

Apparently, the Post attaches more significance and news print to whether the untested and unorthodox choice of a novice 37 year-old administrator raised test scores enough in her three years in a Baltimore classroom back in the 1990s to oversee DC’s public schools (enrollment 65,000), over more prominent coverage of one of the nation’s most forward-thinking, accomplished, and effective superintendents who has made Montgomery County (enrollment 139,000) one of the country’s best school districts.

English as 2nd Language

“A community activist filed a complaint Friday with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, claiming the [Utah] State Office of Education is about to shortchange children learning English as a second language…In his federal complaint, he says the state wants to give kindergarten- through third-grade teachers a shortcut to those credentials by lumping it with a reading endorsement. He fears the state's Reading for English Language Learners plan would lower the quality of education those children receive,” reports the Desert News.

A NASBE task force has been examining the issues of English proficiency and language preservation in public schools. State policy recommendations to address these educational challenges will be unveiled at NASBE’s annual conference in Philadelphia in October.

Alabama Member Running for Senate

Alabama State Board of Education member Randy McKinney has announced his candidacy for a state Senate seat he lost to Bradley Byrne in 2002 but is now open since Byrne was appointed chancellor of the state’s two-year college system. Byrne himself was a state board member before winning the Senate election.

Delaware News

The First State has gotten a $1.5 million grant from the Wallace Foundation for school leadership. Also, former state board member Nancy Doorey has resigned from the Brandywine School District.