In his first major postelection remarks, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that he will use his second term to continue to leverage education improvement at the state and local levels, with a new emphasis on principal preparation and evaluation.
And, he made clear that if Congress isn't serious about reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, of which the No Child Left Behind Act is the current version, then his department won't devote a lot of energy to it.
Duncan said, repeatedly, that he did not want reauthorization to happen through a bad bill. "We will lead, we will help, we will push, but Congress has to want to do it," said Duncan, who says he plans on staying in the Obama cabinet for the "long haul.
Duncan said there would continue to be a focus on revamping the teaching profession, including improving principal preparation programs—an area he didn't think got enough attention during his first term. Later, in an interview, he said that renewed focus could come via Title II grants, which are used for professional-development-type activities, federal School Improvement Grant dollars, and other programs.
Also mentioned in this article were the SIG grants and I found another article on that topic, also from Education Week.
Two-thirds of chronically underperforming schools that tapped into a big new infusion of cash under the federal School Improvement Grant program made gains in math or reading, but another third saw student achievement decline in their first academic year, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Education.
Upon releasing portions of the analysis late last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cautioned against reading too much into the data, which only covers the changes in student achievement from the 2009-10 to the 2010-11 school year. That represents the first year of the new version of the program, which, in addition to the infusion of federal stimulus money, calls for schools to use one of four controversial school improvement models. SIG grants cover three academic years.
While the analysis paints a broad-strokes portrait of overall student achievement, it leaves unanswered some major questions. For one thing, the data isn't broken out by which schools used which of the four improvement models, so it's tough to say which model is most effective.
The data also doesn't include graduation rates, or any information on discipline and school climate—two important indicators of school turnaround. Duncan said in an interview he was particularly interested in seeing that data. And it doesn't include a breakdown of which states made the best use of the program—states took radically different approaches to distributing the funds, as this report by the Center for American Progress.
The SIG program is on shaky footing on Capitol Hill. Some Senate Democrats have supported allowing states to come up with their own turnaround remedies. And House Republicans have tried more than once to eliminate the program. It's unclear how—or whether—the department's analysis will impact those discussions, particularly as some lawmakers look to trim spending in the wake of discussions over the looming fiscal cliff.
As you may recall, Teach for America is not an organization dedicated to creating a better teaching corps. Indeed, they say this themselves - they are not there to find more teachers. They are there to create "leaders" who they say understand public education. And, they want to get those leaders into high education roles and elected roles.
The first article comes from The American Prospect. It's called "Teach for America's Deep Bench" and it's about the political revolution of ed reform. The article details TFA's LEE or Leadership for Educational Equity group that is a 501(c)4 of TFA to aid in that revolution.
It hopes to have 250 of its members in elected office, 300 in policy or advocacy leadership roles, and 1,000 “in ‘active’ pipelines for public leadership.” If all goes as planned, LEE could shift control over American education reform to a specific group of spritely college grads-turned-politicians with a very specific politics.
LEE functions in part as a network for TFA alumni. In the restricted section of its website, to which I gained access through an existing member, you can find job postings ranging from government relations at the National Education Association to Web Editor for the Heritage Foundation.
Besides running two six-month fellowships pairing members with public officials, it offers a variety of webinars and tool-kits on organizing, advocacy, and elections. In a PowerPoint entitled “What School Boards Can Do,” you meet two reformers, one of whom is pushing for “data-driven, outcomes-focused” superintendents, the other “driving debate on pay-for-performance.” In another presentation, charter operator Future is Now advises on getting elected to office. “New unionism,” in its rendering, means “enabling unions to play a critical role in the development and implementation of new efforts aimed at meeting students’ needs/achievement.”
That new unionism? That would be what our own Teachers United is about and yes, it was started by a TFAer.
It is astonishing how young many of these people are who are running for public office and winning.
Soon after uprooting a 27-year incumbent to become Maryland’s youngest ever elected state senator, Bill Ferguson, who is 29 years old and worked as a TFA teacher in Baltimore, introduced a package of bills last year that included a Maryland version of parent trigger.
Steve Zimmer, who was elected to the LA school board with the help of TFA alumni and is still a proud alum, now feels a cold shoulder from the group—possibly, he suggests, because of his stances on charter schools and unions that buck “TFA orthodoxy.” “There are many ways we can get to transformation in public education,” he says. “Either TFA is going to welcome those multiple pathways or it will run the risk of creating the resistance in the political arena that there once was at the school site.”
Which brings us to a school board race in Minneapolis that could foretell what is to come in Seattle next November. This story comes from the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. A TFA alum, Josh Reimnitz, won a seat on the Minneapolis school board. He spent about $37k, which mostly from TFAers and from out-of-state donors.
With reported spending of more than $37,000, Reimnitz set a campaign spending record and exceeded the combined spending of all candidates who filed for four board seats this year.
Reimnitz's campaign budget still pales in comparison to places like Denver, where school board candidates typically spend more than $100,000. In Minnesota, however, spending in school campaigns typically is funded through donations from people with a deep interest in school issues, and money accumulated through voluntary contributions from members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and allied unions.
"My fear is that what has now happened is that we have seen the nationalizing of Minneapolis school board elections," said state Rep. Jim Davnie, a former teacher who supported Reimnitz's union-backed opponent, Patty Wycoff.
Twelve of 15 TFAers who ran for school boards across the country won those seats.
Mr. Reimnitz is 26 years old, lived in Minneapolis for two years, has no children and moved into the district that he ran for just weeks before filing his campaign papers.