May 2010

State of play: teacher unions and school reform

It’s well known that labor unions in general tend to support Democrats. It’s also well known that teachers unions, whose memberships make up one in four union members, are particularly supportive of Democrats.  About one in 10 delegates to the Democratic Convention in 2008 were teacher union members. Democrats, of course, tend to favor more […]


Unraveling the ban on “ethnic studies”

It’s been interesting watching the reaction to Arizona’s new ban on teaching ethnic studies, which comes after  the state signed the toughest bill on immigration into law. With widespread protests over the immigration law ongoing, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer still managed to sign the ban into law last week. Human rights experts have opposed the bill, which […]

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Pulling out all stops to win Race to the Top, Round Two

At 11:30 am this past Monday, I was slated to meet with John King, deputy commissioner of education for New York State, in midtown Manhattan. At 10:40 am, his secretary called and canceled. Something important had unexpectedly come up, she said. That “something” turned out to be a major agreement between the New York Department […]

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Two worlds of education reform and improvement

Last week I was at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). There I heard lots of talk bemoaning  social inequities and how they doom poor and minority kids to bleak futures. For many, the prescription seemed to be: fix society. This week, I’m at the annual “summit” of the NewSchools Venture Fund. […]


Should principals be trained like MBAs?

Teachers may be having a rough time lately, but it can’t be easy to be a principal in tough economic times either. With looming budget cuts and layoffs, school principals are having to make difficult decisions. They are also expected to be visionary instructional leaders as well, in the midst of a push for tougher graduation standards.  […]


Michigan to drop Algebra II requirement?

The Detroit Free Press had a short but interesting story on Friday about the state’s intention to drop Algebra II as a high school graduation requirement. Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, has supported such a requirement in the past. Some state legislators and educators fear it drives up the dropout rate, however, and thus they’d like […]


Feds not a “silent partner” on education

The New York Times offered up a helpful primer this week on how Secretary of Education Arne Duncan thinks about the federal role in public education.  Here’s an excerpt: “In a speech last October, Mr. Duncan outlined his view of the proper federal role in education. He quoted President Lyndon B. Johnson, who funneled large […]

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Adolescent pain, social media and — what about academics?

The danger of middle school and high school students spending too much time on Facebook and other social media is getting an inordinate amount of attention lately, in part because several high-profile cases that reportedly involved cyberbullying ended in teen suicides.  Last month, a school principal in Ridgewood, New Jersey made headlines and earned himself […]

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U cant spel? Who cares!

Every now and then I am reminded that standardized spelling is a relatively recent phenomenon. We tend to take it for granted now, but the world was not always so. In fact, William Shakespeare himself is rumored to have spelled his last name numerous ways, as did others during his lifetime. “Shakespeare” was the most common […]

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College, Inc. — a television documentary about for-profit colleges

In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Goldie Blumenstyk provides a balanced and in-depth look at the TV documentary College, Inc., which aired last night on PBS. Those who missed it on Tuesday can watch it online here. The for-profit college industry, at $18 billion annually, is garnering lots of media attention, not least because of its size […]

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