New CEA Blog

CEA has decided to concentrate our blogging efforts on a new blog, BlogCEA.orgBlogCEA offers regular updates on the latest news and information from CEA for our members, and also covers state and national education stories.  Bob Murphy will continue to write posts on education policy issues and they will now be added to BlogCEA.

Please visit BlogCEA and subscribe to keep up-to-date on news from CEA.

We will keep More Than a Score live for the forseeable future so you can check back to read through the archives at any point.  Thank you for reading!

Close 5000 Schools in Five Years …

This week President Obama proposed closing and reopening 1000 failing schools per year for the next five years. Where did this come from! Officially the notion was floated by Secretary Duncan while making opening remarks to an audience at the Brookings Institute in Washington this past Monday. But why now?

Is it puzzling that just as the secretary embarks on a “national listening tour” to seek the opinions of educators and parents regarding the impact of NCLB , we hear of yet another five year plan to deal with failing schools? Perhaps the timimg of this may have something to do with an article published in the New Yorker last week – The Instigator: A crusader’s plan to remake failing schools – a profile of Steve Barr, the founder of Green Dot Public Schools. California’s largest non-profit charter school operator Barr is described as a curmudgeon and revolutionary with a take no prisoners attitude when it comes to urban school reform. Green Dot has had some dramatic success in turning around high schools in LA. More to the point, however, according to the article back in March Barr was invited to Washington to meet with Arne Duncan. To his surprise the meeting apparently got quickly to specifics and Duncan revealed his thinking about “committing several billion dollars of the education stimulus package to a “Locke-style” takeover and transformation of the lowest performing one per cent of schools across the country, at least four thousand of them, in the next several years,” (Alain Leroy Locke High School is the school in the Watts neighborhood of LA which Barr has taken over). Duncan was so enthusiastic that Barr returned to LA with a vision for “Green Dot America” and secured a tentative green light for a partnership with AFT president Randi Weingarten. Continue reading

Yes We Can … But Will We

On several occasions I ‘ve expressed optimism that we would have the opportunity to rethink the federal role in public education through the process of reauthorization of NCLB. The election of Barak Obama added further fuel to my hopefulness. Then came the recession and I’m beginning to think all bets are off.

It is a strange time indeed. A time of dramatic contrasts. Huge and unprecedented amounts of money are promised for public education from Washington and we are grateful for it. At the same time bad things continue to happen and confusion reigns supreme. In spite of the money it appears that there will still be massive numbers of teacher layoffs. state and local officials continue to get seemingly contradictory guidance and advice as to how they can and cannot spend the stimulus money.

As we watch and listen as Secretary Duncan assembles his new team at the Department of Ed there is a sometimes alarming sense of “ad hocism” that leads some to believe that we may not have the new beginning that we had hoped for. Continue reading

No Free Lunch and Other Revelations

Last week the first round of stimulus money was released and as educators we should be grateful since a large percentage of the money is ostensibly dedicated to education. As the old saying goes,however, there is no free lunch and Secretary Duncan has begun to lay out the conditions states will have to meet in order to get the second round of payouts. The good news is that this administration is willing to spend money in return for increased quality and performance of the system. The not so good news is the echoing of the same tired rhetoric we got from the Bush folks – when Margaret Spellings says she likes most of what she hears I get very nervous. (see Erik Robelen EdWeek)

So what have we learned in the past 10 days or so about where President Obama and his Secretary of Education would like to take American public education? For one thing we learned that the president is just as prone to overstating the problems as past administrations. You recall in his speech to Congress he lamented the current “crisis” in education and set a few broad goals for the future. NYU historian, Diane Ravitch, referred to these comments as Obama’s “manufactured crisis” , based on an analysis of his comments by in which they revealed a number of inaccuracies:

* The high school dropout rate hasn’t “tripled in the past 30 years,” as Obama claimed. According to the Department of Education, it has actually declined by a third.

* Eighth-grade math scores haven’t “fallen” to ninth place compared with other countries. U.S. scores have climbed to that ranking from as low as 28th place in 1995.

* Obama also set a goal “of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world” by 2020. But in terms of bachelor’s degrees, we’re nearly there. The U.S. is already second only to Norway in the percentage of adults age 25 to 64 with a four-year degree, and trails by just 1 percentage point. Continue reading

Why We Came to the Dance …

Not Everything That Is Tested ...

Poster available here

I came across this poster today which reminded me once again why I began posting to this blog. It is difficult in the midst of this all-consuming financial crisis to remind ourselves that there continue to be larger issues yet to be resolved in the way we educate our children and the ways in which we assess the effectiveness of our teaching. The testing season is upon us once again and it comes at a time when the vast majority of school districts and classrooms are covered by a cloud of uncertainty Continue reading

President Pushes Rigorous Standards, Pay for Performance and Race to the Top

Amidst criticism that he is taking on too much too soon, President Obama delivered a speech on education today to the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He lamented that, “For decades, Washington has been trapped in the same stale debates that have paralysed progress and perpetuated our educational decline.” He chastised Democrats “who have resisted rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay” and Republicans for opposing “new investments in early childhood education, despite compelling evidence of its importance.” He called for longer school days and a longer school year through enhanced after school programs and summer programs.

The first pillar of his plan focuses on early care and education as seen in the dramatic increase in the commitment to Head Start in the Stimulus Bill. He is proposing an “Early Learning Challenge Grant” to raise not only access, but the quality of early childhood programs. Continue reading

Back Online: As Budget Woes Mount Some Signs of Hope

I’m back after a winter respite in Vermont and Rome is still burning.

Last week the Obama administration released its first budget which it clearly regards as transformative. For education there remains a host of unanswered questions mostly related to what happens two years out when the huge increases incorporated in the stimulus package disappear. The education budget contains increases in key areas that would only be transformative when coupled with the stimulus monies. As David Hoff points out on his EdWeek blog, NCLB II, “Title I would rise to $14.5 billion—a 4.3 percent jump. That would leave a steep climb for the program to receive $25 billion in fiscal 2011.” Continue reading