Meet the Department of Education's new chief lobbyist, Micah Lasher. At the Post's Daily Politics blog, Liz Benjamin reports that Lasher, a 27-year-old political whiz kid fresh off a stint in Rep. Jerry Nadler's office, is now the DOE's executive director of public affairs. That's the position held by Terence Tolbert until his sudden death at the beginning of November while he was on leave working for the Obama campaign in Nevada. Lasher has already updated his Facebook profile (above) to reflect his new job. As the DOE's top lobbyist, Lasher is now responsible for pushing the DOE's agenda in Albany. At the top of that agenda, of course, is convincing lawmakers to preserve mayoral control before the 2002 law giving control of the city schools to the mayor expires at the end of June. Lasher will also have to work some magic if the city's schools are to escape relatively unscathed in this year's budget fight. (Fortunately, he has experience working magic; he published a book on the subject when he was just 14.)
Here's another set of folks not being swept along by the rising tide of transparency: Schools that want to admit children according to their own preferences, not the Department of Education's rules. DOE policy prohibits elementary schools from giving preference in kindergarten admissions to children attending the schools' own pre-K programs. But some schools are hoping to escape having to follow the rules simply by not being forthcoming about how they admit their students, according to a report posted today on the Times' City Room blog. Elissa Gootman writes: But one official at a popular elementary school that picks students by lottery said the school intended to give priority to this year’s prekindergartners anyway, insisting that the school not be named so it might “fly under the radar” and avoid City Hall’s attention. I'm also hearing that some non-lottery schools are considering quietly exploiting a loophole in new DOE rules about kindergarten admissions as they register next fall's kindergarten classes.
The charter school teacher who goes by Mildly Melancholy first got our attention here when she was unceremoniously fired, in the middle of the school year, after struggling for months with what sounds like precious little support from administrators and fellow staff. Since then, she's inspired a great debate in the comments section here about what it means to be a teacher, how to measure teacher quality, and whether urban teachers are asked to do too much. And now, she's emerged from a period of quiet on the subject of herself to respond to this raging debate. The long response she's posted is worth a read, especially her disclosure that she's the third teacher in the grade she taught to be dismissed from this particular school. (Maybe she's not the one to blame here.) Here are some other highlights from the robust conversation Mildly Melancholy started.
The panel where Linda Darling-Hammond spoke yesterday. Linda Darling-Hammond may be feared and loathed by the younger reform set, but among the people who sat with me last night on the Upper East Side to watch her talk, she is such a star! Before the start of the panel, put on by Bank Street College of Education, all I could hear was the simultaneous sound of my Blackberry buzzing with eager e-mails about her and audience members asking their neighbors, "Has Linda arrived yet?" She finally did, apparently via the very last available train to New York from Washington, D.C., where she had been for Barack Obama's inauguration. At the panel, she quickly made it clear how dramatically accountability regimes would change if she is given a major role in the Obama administration. (Of course, that's a big if: Though Darling-Hammond chaired the education policy team for Obama's transition, it's looking like those who have the ear of new Education Secretary Arne Duncan come from a different set. She didn't comment on this yesterday.) Darling-Hammond laid out a dramatic picture of how she hopes Obama will change American schools, one that (for the most part) differed substantially from the vision currently in vogue, the "idealocrat" program Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has pushed. Darling-Hammond's big idea is to move America away from a factory model of education, where teachers are seen as trade workers, and toward a model that treats teachers as just as important as doctors or lawyers. The change, as she sees it, requires that teachers are given better and more extensive training, and that the federal government change the way it evaluates their work, moving from No Child Left Behind's standardized test-based system into one based on sensitive open-ended assessments that schools might create themselves. She hinted that the last part might be the biggest challenge — to "get the measuring right."