Randi Weingarten (via Flickr) Randi Weingarten, the teachers union president, hopes to be known as an unconventional labor leader. She will be sending that signal strongly on Monday, in a speech at the National Press Club that she is hyping as a big deal — both to reporters and to D.C. education insiders. Mayor Bloomberg is introducing her speech, which is titled, "Making the Right Choices for Education and the Economy." Janet Bass, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Teachers, the national union that Weingarten recently became president of (she's holding onto her local New York City presidency too), told me that the speech will be "provocative": She’s going to be talking about provocative ways — interesting, unconventional ways — to improve schools and student achievement, and will be putting forth some recommendations that some people would not think are typical of a teachers union. Any guesses on what Weingarten will endorse? Keep in mind that in her big speech accepting the presidency of the AFT, she promoted the idea of "community schools." In case you've forgotten, below the jump is a video clip with the key description:
The Wall Street Journal reported last night that a Stanford professor, Linda Darling-Hammond, will chair Obama's transition team studying education policy. This sounds unremarkable, but just like Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein are lightning rods, so is Darling-Hammond. The main reason is that Darling-Hammond has been consistently skeptical of the nameless movement's efforts to shake up public schools. She has criticized Teach For America, the alternative certification program for teachers; criticized high-stakes testing, and criticized No Child Left Behind for narrowing the curriculum. The passions these criticisms elicit is sometimes unbelievable. About a year and a half ago, I watched a grown man clasp a grown woman by the shoulders, look her in the eye, and vow to work together to prevent Darling-Hammond from being named U.S. Education Secretary. You can find vitriol pretty easily on the Internet, too. The vitriol accelerated to another level altogether when Darling-Hammond's was the first name to emerge as education adviser to the Obama campaign. "Reformers" were placated when it turned out that Jon Schnur, the founder of an alternative principal-training program and one of their own, was Darling-Hammond's co-chair on that advisory board. It's possible that right now, the WSJ story is repeating that pattern: Maybe Obama has abandoned his Team of Rivals approach and tossed Schnur to the sidelines, but equally possible is that Schnur will once again turn up as Darling-Hammond's co-chair. Whether Schnur joins her or not, Darling-Hammond will stir up emotions. The best evidence is her Wikipedia page.
A comparison of urban districts' math score changes over time. From The Nation's Report Card. While most big-city superintendents would rather their scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress just go away, Beverly Hall of Atlanta has gone out of her way to make sure her students’ progress is judged against the national yardstick. In a recent profile of Hall, EdWeek reported: As test scores rose steadily year after year, Ms. Hall wanted to ensure that Atlanta’s progress would not be dismissed by criticism that Georgia’s performance standards and assessment, before recent changes to both, weren’t as rigorous as many other states’. The superintendent decided the city’s students would take a more rigorous national exam and publicly report the scores. Hall's colleagues feared that low scores on the national test would draw negative attention to the city's schools. But instead, Atlanta was the only district that showed significant gains in both reading and math every year.
By the end of this school year, the Department of Education will have spent more than $300 million on its accountability initiative, according to a report released today by the city's Independent Budget Office. The DOE disputes the IBO's figure, saying the report includes more initiatives than are actually part of the accountability project. It says the true figure is more like $100 million. The city's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, commissioned the report, which is bound to intensify debate about whether accountability measures should be cut during the coming budget crunch.
Now that the Democrats for Education Reform memo recommending education choices for Obama is circulating, people are asking me who DFER is and if they're important. The short answer is that they're the ones who are stoking the war inside the Democratic Party over education. But we don't yet know how influential they are, because the ultimate coup for them would be to get the names they want into the U.S. Department of Education — and to block the names that pointedly are not on their list. (A co-chair to Obama's education advisory committee, Linda Darling-Hammond, is one of those people.) We won't know whether they can do that until Obama actually makes appointments. Now for the longer answer.
Students who are still learning English need twice as much funding as other students, says a policy brief released yesterday by the New York Immigration Coalition. The brief was based on a new, as-yet-unreleased study the Coalition commissioned from research and advocacy organization Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy, Inc. (META). At present, funding for English Language Learners (ELLs) is approximately 1.5 times that of regular education students. While the brief does not say how much additional funding the state should provide per pupil, EdWeek blogger Mary Ann Zehr estimated it at about $6,500 more for each ELL student than what is spent today. Adding that much per student would be expensive. The study calculates that New York State would have to spend a total of $3.64 billion on ELLs, about 17% of total state aid to schools. This sounds like a lot given looming state budget cuts, but the brief's authors say it's reasonable.
Teachers are signing up in droves to oppose a promotion for Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. An online petition opposing Klein as Secretary of Education has collected more than 2,000 signatures since it was created Monday by a California education professor, Duane Campbell. The petition has attracted attention from dozens of Web sites, including those of Gotham Gazette and the progressive Nation magazine. Many of the petition's first signers were parents from New York City and educators from across the country, as Leonie Haimson pointed out on the NYC Education News e-mail list. But increasingly, it appears to be people identifying themselves as New York City public school teachers, both active and retired, who are signing on. (There are 80,000 teachers in the city; most, obviously, have not attached their name to the petition.) Below the jump, several teachers' recent comments:
Wendy Kopp, the hard-driving founder of Teach For America, and Arne Duncan, the superintendent of schools in Chicago, are being touted as top candidates for U.S. Education Secretary by an influential lobbying group that pushes for aggressive changes in American schools. Their names are included in a 34-page transition memo to President-elect Barack Obama prepared by the group, Democrats for Education Reform, and obtained by GothamSchools. New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has received support from DFER, which is based in Manhattan, but the group's memo specifically rules him out as a possible Education Secretary. The memo says Klein's aggressive efforts to improve public schools are admirable, but that they make him and the like-minded D.C. school chancellor, Michelle Rhee, a poor choice for Barack Obama's White House. "The need for them to occasionally 'break some china' in order to affect much-needed change puts them and other hard-charging reforms like them in an unlikely spot to be selected for a role like Secretary of Education (a role for which either would be well suited)," the memo says.