Friday, December 11, 2009


We just received this observation from one of our colleagues (not to be named here):

File this under Hmmmmmm

Below, Sec. Duncan is quoted as saying

“Today, I’m calling on state lawmakers to rethink and rewrite the hundreds of pages of state code that limit the ability of school districts to succeed in promoting student learning, especially in our lowest-performing schools. I urge you to do the tough work of addressing the grossly inequitable distribution of resources that now prevails in a number of states and districts. And, I urge you to build the capacity of districts to challenge the status quo and implement far-reaching reforms to dramatically improve education…. Ultimately, when it comes to…state laws, our guiding principles should be straightforward: does a law advance student learning and do what’s right for kids?”

-- Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (12/10/09), at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Fall Forum

How can the quote above be reconciled with the lead education story of the week, Dept of Education issues highly restrictive guidance on how schools should use SIG funds to turn around low-performing schools? The four proposed turnaround approached have mixed evidence of effectiveness, at best, and are unfeasible in hundreds or thousands of districts across the country.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Changing the world, one student at a time – literally, one student at a time.

by guest blogger, Candice DePrang

The Tech Awards, given out every year to innovators using technology to benefit humanity, recently announced this year’s laureates in the categories of education, equality, environment, health, and economic development. Fifty thousand dollars are doled out to one laureate of three in each category to further the mission of the company, individual, or non – profit.

One of the education laureates, Salman Khan began what he calls the Khan Academy, a non profit organization “with the mission of providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere.” Underpinned with the belief that every student deserves excellent instruction, Khan posts videos on his website and a channel on YouTube. The digital lessons provide explanations and examples for the simple and complex math concepts, ranging from basic algebra to venture capital and capital markets. Students can pace themselves at the academy, and Khan publishes adaptive courses as well.

Perhaps Salman should apply for an i3 award, or perhaps the education community might take note of what these hundred of videos really mean – instruction matters. The quality of a teacher, and his depth of knowledge is significant in the context of a child’s understanding.

It will be interesting to see where this emphasis will surface in the ARRA money, if at all. Salman’s initiative includes innovation, technology, an aspect of professional development, and teaching excellence – his idea covers a spectrum of hot topics. How should states best use the money to ensure every child learns from an excellent teacher? In what ways could the Department demonstrate its own commitment to this mission?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Knowledge Ecosystems, a record of what works

by Augustus Mays and guest blogger, Candice DePrang

“I would hope that parents make decisions around this program because they feel that this is an educational option that their child really needs, as opposed to, ‘I have to get my child into this program because that’s the only place where they are going to get a good education,’ ” she said. “I just don’t think that’s true — we have a lot of really good schools.”

Those are the hopes of Anna Commitante, the head of gifted and talented programs for New York City’s Department of Education. During this recession, families less able to afford private schools are instead employing test prep tutors to help their students gain an edge on gifted entrance exams.

The desperation parents experience is desperation for choice, any opportunity to raise the caliber of their child’s education, knowing that education predicts life outcomes. As young minds earn entrance into top tier schools, that choice and life opportunity grows.

New York City’s Chancellor, Joel Klein, is known for his believe in this same concept, and for his drive to improve public schools at whatever cost, regardless of the initiative’s popularity. Yet, his innovations and accountability initiatives have yet to quiet parents still hungry for high quality schools across the board.

This commentary isn’t one of pointing fingers or making accusations. Certainly school success lies on the shoulders of strong leaders and teachers, with families carrying responsibility to provide emotionally healthy environments and support for children in their roles as student.

But the desperation, and fear to some extent, that drive families to gain this edge demands an answer to these questions: where are New York City’s reforms? What programs are working, and in which schools? Is their any kind of quantitative cultivation to measure the results over time? Are the testing sites ready for scale up? Why and why not?

If New York City – or any other school system – is to attain education excellence as a whole, not just in a few pockets or neighborhoods, then the external support system composed of test site locations, policy makers, product developers, and the general public must be fully invested in this local school improvement effort. The aim is to have this network of stakeholders participate in a process of sharing implementation experiences and results, designed to enrich and accelerate their school improvement efforts. This depth of understanding would build a knowledge ecosystem and would not only educate students and teachers, but also create a dynamic environment of sharing best practices, and inform policy panels on where investments – human and financial – might be better focused.

This cannot happen in a side bar on the website, or a press release for a successful one – time trial. An knowledge ecosystem in itself must be an initiative, to corral all of the reforms into one arena, and gather research on what’s working and what’s not in public schools. A parent or practioner’s access to information detailing what students are learning and how they best learn it is invaluable to more than reformers – anyone from citizen to chancellor that wants to see their neighborhood schools improve so that all children have life opportunities because they had an excellent education.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Easton and Shelton on the move

For those of you who participated in our Knowledge and Innovation summit last summer will recall the important words by both Jim Shelton and John Easton about the critical importance of repositioning the education R&D infrastructure and creating dynamic link between R&D and innovation in advancing education transformation. Well, the two seem to be working well together now. See this terrific blog discussion in the National Journal which demonstrates Shelton and Easton's combined efforts as well as the limited understanding among reformers of this knowledge-innovation dynamic. We have a long way to go but the start is promising. We said as much in our comments in Debbie Viadero's recent article on this topic>:

"For far too long R&D in education has stood on the sidelines in the innovation and improvement arena. For many reformers, research and innovation seemed to be opposing concepts. In other sectors --- like agriculture, defense, health, energy, business --- the R&D infrastructure has long served as a robust, well financed, , leading edge catalyst for innovation. But not so in education. Now the Obama administration is building on the groundbreaking work of the previous administration and pushing R&D and innovation TOGETHER to the forefront. Easton and Shelton working together can launch a new knowledge era in educational reform and transformation. Bravo"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Please don’t wa(i)ve.

by guest blogger, Candice DePrang

The wave is for pepping up a lagging baseball team, showing spirit at a large gathering. It’s not for Governors to circumvent the authority of school boards. Virginia’s newly elected Governor vowed the initiate an appeals panel for rejected charter schools. One such school, proposed by a literacy specialist and school counselor, is planning for an extended school year and the International Baccalaureate program. While the latter intimates high standards – certainly a criterion that most schools should possess – the former represents one of many reforms with a lack of evidence supporting results.

In a report published by the Laboratory for Student Success that synthesized the existing studies concerning extended school days and school years, the results proved inconclusive. “The research literature indicates that time is a necessary but insufficient condition for improving achievement. The crucial issue is how time is used, with quality of instruction being the key.”

The concern, then, rests with reform for the sake of reform. The education community compromises its integrity when it adopts an unproven innovation and then claims that this change is better, certain to improve already existing establishments.

An appeals panel in itself sounds like democracy – checks and balances, right? A charter school not accepted by the school board is entitled to know why their application did not get the green light. What’s equally as important, though, is that a school board or elected official not simply waive through charter schools – nor any other innovation – in the name of reform. School leaders must support these innovations with evidence before they label them knowledge, and begin to use them as reforms instead of waiving rigorous research in hopes of change.

Maintain High Standards, but Reallocate Resources

by Augustus Mays and guest blogger, Candice DePrang

How much of an impact does evidence make at the Department of Education?

In the context of the Department of Education and the latest i3 grants– it’s a heavy weight. Recently Aaron Pallas overviewed the increasing rigor of the four goals funded within IES, and he made clear that an idea does not stand to be scaled up if there is not an immense amount of proof behind it.

The Investing in Innovation Fund, known as i3, shares this high standard. Successful applicants would receive funds to support local efforts to start or expand research-based innovative programs that help close the achievement gap and improve outcomes for students.

Developing education innovations that work is difficult and chancy. It is quite possible that the pool of applicants meeting the requirements for Scale-Up grants (superb programs with the potential to be brought to scale) will be quite small. Thus, one could expect that the Department will allocate the majority of the grant awards to go to proposals that meet the requirements for Development (for promising but still unproven initiatives) and Validation (somewhat proven initiatives ready to grow at the State and Regional levels) grants.

In particular, the Development grant category represents a tremendous opportunity for the Department to develop new ideas based on research that could foster continuous improvement to the lowest performing schools and Districts in our public education system.

Should the Department of Education put a priority on funding proposals that meet the requirements for Development grants? Do you agree? How can the ED best use the i3 investment, knowing that very few applicants will meet the requirements for Scale-Up grants?

Match Seed Money with Seed Knowledge

by guest blogger, Candice DePrang

Austin, among many other cities across the nation, will apply for the grants. The Obama administration is looking to fund Promise Neighborhoods, based on the premise (and the success) of the Harlem Children’s Zone. One concern specific to Texas’ capital, however, is that the federal government might see other larger urban areas as more in need of the money, or perhaps smaller rural areas. The city straddles an interesting line.

As mentioned in the Statesman, Austin hosts high poverty and low graduation rates associated with explicitly urban cities – like Chicago or New York, in addition to a highly transient population usually linked to rural communities.

Still, parents, teachers, and community leaders might let the thrill of the possibility excite them. Just think what injustices could be met head on with $500,000! But before we, as Austin citizens, get ahead of ourselves, we must reign in the romance and realize…the money alone won’t “fix” anything.

The high achievement of a promise neighborhood in Austin will lie in scaling up exactly what works, not the program in general. And I wonder – do we know what works? What specific strategies are used in the HCZ to invest the families and the children served? How exactly are the services organized, and what qualifications are needed for someone to fill that administrative role? What is ineffective at the HCZ, and which parts of that program are unique to New York? Who will interpret all of the tracking to ensure that knowledge emerges from the data, not just numbers? Austin will need knowledge from that quantitative research to use and then scale up if it expects the money to make an impact.

Perhaps all of these details sound overwhelming, impossible to corral. But the success of the HCZ, and any promise neighborhood, lies in the answers. Surely our elected officials, the foundations, and non-profits involved, will use the tracking and reports to uncover exactly how the Harlem Children’s Zone serves families effectively, and use the information that emerges from that evidence as seed knowledge, so Austin doesn’t just rely on seed money.

Easy there speed-readers….

by guest blogger, Candice DePrang

UVA professor and cognitive psychology researcher Daniel Willingham took on an occasional column in the Washington Post that fact-checks educational tools for scientific validity. He didn’t know fighting off speed-readers was a part of the job.

In his most recent post, Dr. Willingham challenged the science used to support eyeQ, a product that claims to double the rate of reading in one month! Whoa! He addresses the fact that eyeQ links brain activity to efficient thinking, and corrects the company’s dichotomy of thinking; eyeQ purports that tasks are linked to one side of the brain or the other, not both.

The comments posted at the end of the article are fierce against the author. Speed-readers everywhere defended eyeQ and wrote that the software improved their speed reading ability, going so far to let Willingham know exactly why that’s important and what exactly he’s missing.

A fight about science? How could that be? It tells the truth, right? Something is either scientifically proven to work or it’s not.

A heated debate via the WaPo online tells a larger story. It’s unfolding in Congress, throughout the policy arena, and it’s arguably education’s new buzz word: data. Decision makers and educators want to know – am I making a decision, supporting and idea, or implementing an innovation that works, that’s backed up by data, and proven by science to work? Teachers are held to this standard in districts across the nation because administrators are asking for numbers, spreadsheets, and want to know a student’s growth patterns quantitatively – not qualitatively.

Numbers must not be the final or only word. As eyeQ’s CEO and other users point out, any strong curriculum that’s misused will not bear the intended results, no matter how convincing. Moreover, companies and scientists alike bend results in preference of their desired outcome.

But the big – A Administration is looking for numbers as well. The i3 Fund, and to a lesser degree the Department of Education’s other initiatives, request numerical data as part of a state’s application process.

Cheers to Dr. Willingham, willing to look critically into programs trying to hop on an evidence bandwagon that we hope becomes a constant, rather than a fad. When scientists, policy makers, and practitioners can make decisions with confidence, our students will be better served because the adults around them are paying less attention to hype, and more attention to sustain alternatives that have worked with statistical success.

“And change is essential. Put bluntly, we believe our education system needs to be reinvented.”

“We think of educational innovation not as a fad but as the prerequisite for deep, systematic change, the kind of change that is necessary—and long overdue.” This is the premise for the latest edition of Leaders and Laggards, a State-by-State Report Card on Educational Innovation written by the Center for American Progress, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute.

The most recent publication pushes for an entire overhaul of the education system, instead of promoting one the new fads that has long characterized K-12 education pedagogy and curriculum. Sound familiar? It should. Secretary Duncan has pushed for an entirely new system, instead of just “tinkering around the edges.”

Leaders and Laggards
graded a school’s innovation progress by considering the following categories: school management, finance, staffing, data, technology, pipeline to postsecondary education, and state reform environment. “More broadly, however, this effort must be complemented by giving new providers the freedom and encouragement they need to promote high-quality research and development, and to develop innovative “green shoot” reform ventures that pioneer more effective tools and strategies.”

We couldn’t agree more. Innovation stemming from research and development is the kind of purposeful improvement schools need and leaders are looking for to ensure an excellent education for every child. Critical to this research and development infrastructure, however, is the dissemination of this knowledge and information. Businesses and countries that survived the technology changes of the nineties and the struggling economy of today adapted and innovated by sharing information and democratizing decision-making.

Schools must imitate this change. Unlike businesses, the CAP report hopes that schools do not just survive, but rather undergo transformational change. But reform for reform’s sake cannot be the standard for this shift. Anchored by research, development, and dissemination of knowledge, “innovative educational practices are vital to laying the groundwork for continuous and transformational change.”

Find the report here: and more thoughts here:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Amplified Policymaking

Amplified Policymaking --- Read this spot-on issue brief by McREL and KnowledgeWorks Fdn that "examines a series of cultural shifts and how we are developing new ways of organizing, constructing, and managing knowledge. They describe a world in which we will increasingly collaborate, improvise, and work together to assemble meaning from vast arrays of data, while also creating new learning experiences combining physical and digital realities." Heavy topic, great stuff tied to many of the issues at last summer's summit in New Mexico.

Shooting the Moon

This interesting article in this month's ED Innovator speaks to the essential role of philanthropies in promoting innovation and change. It beckons back to the Mott Foundation's early involvement in a small new federal program in 1997 called 21st Century Learning Communities that eventually was parlayed into a $1 billion funding stream. Can this happen again? We think so in even bigger ways.

Tony Blair on community schools

Blair, Duncan, Hoyer, Weingarten, Rodriquez, Podesta, etc were all in one room together at this great event at Center for American Progress on community schools this past week. Tony Blair was terrific. We were particularly impressed with his comments about transformational change and the importance of structure in sustaining an innovation. The supporting cast wasn't too shabby either. Watch the webcast here

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A new era?

The Department is really trying to push the envelope for evidence-based innovation with today's release of its proposed priorities for the Investing in Innovation Fund. It is a bold step in the right direction in building from and on a knowledge base for reform. Might this be the real start of a new knowledge era in education reform?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Where's R&D for education

Check out the President's R&D and innovation speech on September 21 and the related white paper, particularly about the need to invest in R&D to spur innovation. Great stuff but the Administration's blind spot persists. No mention of R&D in education and its link to innovation.

"Quiet" Success

Quiet Success? --- See this interesting opinion piece by Ruth Marcus about the "quiet" success of Obama's ed reform efforts. Interesting indeed how an observer who is looking into the ed reform arena from the outside sees progress relative to all of the other big items on the administration's agenda. Perhaps those of us who are immersed in these efforts on a daily basis need to pay more attention to what the outsiders think.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More than Congratulations!

Congratulations, Aldine, Texas! Consistently closing the acheivement gap between low income and non-low income students, the Aldine School District won the Broad Prize, $1 million dollars in scholarships for their students. Four other districts across the states finished as finalists, and received 250,000 each in scholarships for their students who are breaking the cycle of poverty through excellence in education.

It's worth asking, now, "how exactly is Aldine acheiving these results?" A part of their success lies in their outperformance of other districts that serve similar income communities in both reading and math. What is Aldine doing in their professional development, school wide accountability for meeting behavioral and academic goals, expectations for teachers, that allows them the capacity to achieve such progress?

Surely researchers could design a study and gather evidence around the effective methods at this outstanding school to find out what is working. We know who is working, now we need to find out how exactly how they get there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Not so fast...

Our friend leading out at the Fordham Institute spoke to a cohort of educational entrepreneurs at Rice University last week, exhorting them to imagine an entirely different public education system. Chester Finn compared the current structure to the weak and short sighted Articles of Confederation. Much like the nation’s first federal documents, schools not only fall short of the infrastructure changes that are needed to make them work efficiently and effectively, but recent reforms are unlikely to make those fundamental changes.

After nearly forty years of “reform”, reformers themselves are exhausted, he argues, and their projects are splitting the system itself. Simple amendments may not work. We need a new constitution, an entirely new framework with which to think about and construct our schools.

Checker encouraged these entrepreneurs to use their imagination, statesmanship, courage, and adaptation not to reform schools, but to reinvent them. We are working in a system that’s collapsing he said. There is disagreement regarding governance and within governance. Even some of the reforms are crumbling upon themselves – for example accountability leading to a stifling curriculum and school choice not necessarily improving the choices for families at all.

Many might agree with the call for overhaul, something new. But not so fast...if the next generation of school leaders can bring to the table the elements Finn suggested, it may be wise to add one more thing to the list: research and knowledge.

The most recent analysis of higher education trends in Crossing the Finish Line adds that from the last quarter of the twentieth century through the present, graduation rates are flat. The number of students graduating from institutions of higher education is not increasing, even with incredible financial incentives o f the college graduate wage premium.

Bowen, Chingos, and McPherson point out that “the failure of educational attainment to continue to increase steadily is the result of problems at all stages of education, starting with pre-school and then moving through primary and secondary levels of education and on into college.” And, indeed, these reforms, beginning with President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and the 1965 signing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), are hardly changing the system through the grade levels. The legislation’s intent to provide federally funding to help low income students, and even the resulting education programs, such as Title I and bilingual education, are doing little to influence graduation rates.

Knowledge from research has the potential to weed out programs that don’t work, and focus funding, staff, and innovation on developing most effective early childhood curriculum for healthy kids and families to ensure American does not continue pushing students through high school, accepting them into college, and wondering why they do not graduate. Knowledge from research maximizes the reforms that Johnson began over fifty years ago, offers solutions to the real problems underlying stagnant graduation rates, and addresses Finn’s concern for incremental change that is destroying the system it intended to better.

Whether or not you agree with Checker’s ideas presented at Rice, the evident lacuna in his remarks is the lack of reference to research and development in the entrepreneurial process. While other sectors pour money into R&D efforts, resulting in innovation and focused planning, the education field does not. Education research and development must be an integral part of this reinvention or we are destined to repeat history and age old mistakes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

How Should Students be Prepared for College?

*Originally posted at the National Journal here.

Right now, we don’t know.

Little data, and therefore no significant knowledge base, exists to address the lack of college ready students. If college readiness is a public priority, the government should quickly mobilize the national research and development initiative to find research-based, innovative solutions to this pressing problem. Other sectors do it. Why not education?

To date, the issue has not been a focus of the What Works Clearinghouse or research centers. Federal and state governments have not adequately invested in research to uncover present problems of practice. In fact, only one twentieth of one percent of the federal research and development budget goes to funding education research and development.

With an agenda to change those statistics, the White House aims to focus on and strengthen high schools through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by making “progress toward college and career-ready standards and rigorous assessments that will improve both teaching and learning.”

In addition to common college and career-ready standards, the Administration plans to help America “build a new foundation strong enough to withstand future economic storms and support lasting prosperity. That means having the best-educated, highest-skilled workers in the world …and investing in research and development,” Obama said.

Federal education policy has evolved in phases over the past 15 years in concert with the implementation of the elements of standards-based reform. The focus on standards and assessments in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s spawned major attention to the alignment of standards, curriculum, and assessments in the 1990’s which has led, in part, to the current emphasis on accountability in No Child Left Behind. The next logical step in the reauthorization of NCLB is to develop standards that raise academic expectations, combined with significant investments in R&D that gathers evidence of what works to prepare high school students for college and beyond. This will put us on the right path of ensuring that high school seniors are ready for college and our nation will remain competitive on the global stage.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I was just so saddened by the passing of Ted Kennedy yesterday. I wanted to write a long statement for the media but so much has already been said in so many brilliant ways I can’t find the words except to say that his immensely powerful voice for equity and excellence in education will be sorely missed in the years ahead but his legacy will echo forever in profound ways. Rest in peace, Senator, while we continue the battle to transform education for the next generation of learning.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the Head and the Heart - Mutually Exclusive in the Context of Research?

Denis Doyle recently posted his feedback regarding the Innovation Summit in Tamaya, New Mexico, and drew a few conclusions about research. I diassembled the ideas to gain a deeper understanding, and pulled out the essence of Doyle's thinking, which you can read below. A response is on its way, but for today, find the context and conversation enclosed:

An excerpt from Doyle's latest post at

Take bilingual education – it is hard to imagine a more politically freighted issue. As a consequence there is little that research has to offer the debate. I support it for intellectual and cultural reasons, not pedagogical reasons which is why David Kearns and I argued in our book Winning the Brain Race nearly twenty years ago that every child in America (land of immigrants) should learn English and a second language. Research can help illuminate such a view, can help in deployment and implementation, can even help pedagogically, but it remains at heart an issue of what you believe.

Our conversation:
August 26, 2009

Dear Candice:
In response to your note, Q and A follows:

Q. Are you intimating that, perhaps, research is not an answer to the questions raised by education settings?
A. A partial and necessarily incomplete answer. For illumination, see Alfred North Whitehead’s famous essay The Aims of Education.

Q. Also, when you wrote "research can help illuminate such a view", did you mean that research could help the public come to the conclusion that every child should learn another language?
A. Yes, but the real argument is economic, political and cultural. See Paul Simon’s The Tongue-tied American, in which he makes the famous observation that “you can buy in any language, but sell only in your customer’s…” Or look comparatively at the Dutch, for example, 98% of whom speak English; why? They are a nation of merchants and the new lingua franca is English.

Q. You stated that research can help in "deployment and implementation", do you mean in general, or to a particular intervention, or to a child learning another language?
A. In general. And it should be in particular as well.

Q. When you wrote "it remains at heart an issue of what you believe", what do you mean?
A. The big decisions people make are normative (or ideological) rather than objective or scientific; they are informed by research, not driven by research.

Q. I would sincerely appreciate any help you could provide in breaking apart the last few thoughts of your piece, and additionally, what you believe the role of research to be in education, if any.
A. To cast light on vexing problems and to help guide right-thinking as Aristotle might have said.

I think education research should, above all, be practical and bear fruit; for example, solving the mystery of reading instruction should be within reach. So too should math and second language instruction.

A good example of education research-based practice is Rosetta Stone an IT-based language instruction program.

Finally, permit me to draw your attention to my latest book (co-authored with Stacey Childress and David Thomas, published Jul 14, 2009, by Harvard Ed Press) Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County Public Schools, available from

Finally, finally, I’d like to post this colloquy with the View Point that inspired it, unless you have an objection.

I hope this is helpful.

All the best,

Friday, August 21, 2009

Innovation based on what works? Yes, please.

by Guest Blogger, Candice DePrang

Under the leadership of State Superintendent Steve Paine, West Virginia will compete in Race to the Top, the Department of Education’s competitive grant program initiating change in some states, and rewarding change in others. At the center of this debate for change is the charter schools cap, with Duncan advocating for the development of more high quality charters around the nation.

West Virginia neither prevents the creation of nor allows for the existence of charter schools, one sign of reform states must detail in their applications for funding. Despite the federal criterion, charter school research shows varying results across the United States, and West Virginia is looking for what works – an idea lost in the debate between traditional public schools and charters.

The debate misguides participants and listeners alike: traditional public schools and charters are both failing and succeeding. Neither is not in need of improvement and innovation. And instead of stepping into that debate, Paine aims to answer the real question: what works?

So, "it has to be research-based," he said. "It has to be tried and tested." Paine intends to fund innovation zones, schools that capture the spirit of charters, to innovate and try out new ideas based on research. West Virginia is looking for new teaching methods, ways to reward educators, and is looking to unions for models to “learn from”.

Using research-based knowledge to innovate is essential to increasing student achievement and closing achievement gaps, and Paine is making it a central organizing concept for education reform.

With school boards willing to waive rules to allow for the changes, ten schools could be picked as soon as February. Just in time for the second wave of Race to the Top awards.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How Would You Assess the Early Learning Challenge Fund?

by Guest Blogger, Candice DePrang

Requiring data-driven standards simply means finding out what works through research. Currently, benchmarks like oral language and print awareness can be examined at early growth stages, and are thus appropriate. Seen as a part of the greater context of education research, the Early Learning Challenge Fund builds not only a system based on outcomes, but a culture of innovation and exploration where programs can be tried, assessed, dismissed, or reinvented based upon the very data in question.

In coordination with Race to the Top, which aims to improve student outcomes, high school graduation rates, and ensure college and career readiness, the Early Learning Challenge Fund seeks those same successes from the start. If the Department of Education wants to see Race to the Top realized, Early Learning is not simply a challenge, but a mandate. With far reaching effects from social, emotional, and language development to a reduction in crime, early learning is paramount to success at life and learning, and kindergarten is too late to play catch up.

Furthermore, one aspect of the achievement gap is a gap in expectations. Currently, urban schools are rife with low academic expectations, and as long as communities, states, and the federal government require no qualitative output, no data or evaluation, the achievement gap – the expectation gap – will persist. The demand for outcomes raises the bar for educational expectations, and in conjunction with Race to the Top along with its demand for continuous improvement and evidence based systems, the Early Learning Challenge Fund will set comprehensive expectations where previous pieces were missing.

This height in expectation and kind of innovation, spurred by knowledge developed from research, is a welcome challenge.

Our published response to the National Journal's Education Expert's Question: here

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cash for Clunkers in Education?

The Cash for Clunkers program for which the US Senate just approved another $2 billion is an easy target for skeptics. You can hear them now all over talk radio: "Oh, please, do you really think that several billions of tax payer dollars can at one and the same time quickly stimulate spending and energize a big reform agenda? Sounds like another government run boondoggle."

Well, I must admit that I was one of those skeptics at the outset. But now I am forced to also admit that I caved and actually tried to turn in my clunker (a 1987 red Chevy Cavalier convertible) for the down payment on a new Smart car. It didn't quite work because my mpg was too high but still I was swayed by the dual benefits of $ and "green" cars.

The anecdotal feedback on this program is very promising in spite of some potential unintended consequences. So is there something similar for education that could be cleverly implemented to produce the dual benefits of stimulating the economy and advancing significant reform. Might it be the Race to the Top or the Investing in Innovation funds? Or is it hidden in the School Improvement fund or Teacher Incentive Fund? I don't know but I sure look forward to conversations about this during the "Unleashing Knowledge and Innovation for the Next Generation of Learning" Summit in New Mexico this coming week. Check out here the conference's online networking platform as well as the comments about the clunker for ed idea.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Makes Teachers Better? Suprisingly...Not Professional Development.

Ineffective. That’s the word The Center for American Progress recently used to describe school districts’ use of Title II funding, which was designed to ensure that all teachers are qualified and effective. The brief states that the funds were not spurring the kind of innovation needed to attract, train, and maintain quality teachers.

The Center for American Progress recently published a brief that labeled the use of Title II funding “ineffective”, and stated that they were not spurring the kind of innovation needed to attract, train, and maintain quality teachers. While many of the allowable activities included in Title II are “worthwhile…funding is not specifically targeted to activities that are likely to yield a significant return on investment. In fact, districts use the bulk of their Title II funding to support professional development and class-size reduction, which both have questionable effects on student achievement when implemented on a large scale.”

Studies reported that only when teachers participated in an average of 50 hours of professional development did the investment increase student learning.

Class size reduction does not even have as consistently strong results in impacting student achievement as strong teachers.

So if professional development can’t help, and making class sizes smaller is convenient but not necessarily, effective, what does make teachers stronger, better, more effective? Is it possible to scale up the 50 hour professional developments to be utilized in large geographic areas?

Teach for America addresses this issue by basing teacher evaluation on observation that utilizes an incredibly detailed rubric, with multiple factors (investing students in ambitious goals, planning purposefully, executing effectively, etc), and uses the outcome to pinpoint exactly where a teacher is effective and where she can improve. This rubric is shared with the teacher within a week of the observation, and next steps are developed. Cycles of co-investigation with peer teachers and a mentor then use the evaluation to collaborate and problem solve in the areas where teachers can improve. These times are also used to share best practices and effective materials. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests it is highly effective, and certainly worth researching to find how it can quantitatively impact student achievement.

The money must be used for either programs that have been proven to work or new ideas that will be evaluated and adjusted as they are implemented. Basing education legislation on the rigorous research of professional development and other educational practices is wise policy.

Friday, July 31, 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want

From Guest Blogger Candice DePrang

President Barack Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan unveiled the guidelines for Race to the Top, a 4.3 billion dollar competitive grant program for states. The Department of Education wants to make certain that states not only create climates conducive to reform, but also craft long term plans for executing priorities highlighted by the Department. Within their plans, applicants must demonstrate a commitment to: implementing standards and assessments, improving teacher effectiveness, and achieving equity in teacher distribution, improving collection of use data, and supporting struggling schools.

Opening the process to the public, the Secretary has allowed commentators thirty days to submit feedback and suggest specific changes. The conversations stemming from this guidance, have been heated, “I can’t believe he only cited…” or “How can he expect…” The conference calls here can be heard through closed doors, and the blog responses are rife with criticism.

Arguably, the Secretary and his staff overlooked many other aspects that might reform education such as making traditional pathways to teaching and leadership more rigorous and selective, and ensuring that applications and innovation are based on research. Thus, thoughtful, specific language must be given back to the Department to refine these areas in order to maximize the effectiveness of the grants.

However, a few aspects of the Secretary’s approach stand out as novel, and should encourage, though not pacify, groups that find the guidance less than perfect.

1. The Secretary listens. His listening and learning tour illuminates incredible work in community colleges, charter schools, and other institutions around the country committed to improvement. In these forums he listens to needs, concerns, and questions, and solicits ideas. Race to the Top is a forum for those new ideas, and the guidance is open to the public, with requests from the Department for actual language alterations.

2. There is not one answer. The Department of Education’s four reform areas provide a missional focus and frame work for improvement, but improvement under the guidance is flexible, it's not the one-size-fits-all mentality. For example, administrations can retain great teachers through innovative methods, and can hire new teachers through varying avenues, as long as they do it. Additionally, there is no prescription for turning around struggling schools, only a mandate that we must try everything we know, and innovate where don't know so that the gap does not persist.

3. Collaboration is Key. Race to the Top guidance pushes states to work together to make assessments that align to national standards. Uniting a multitude of backgrounds and perspectives could produce an assessment that challenges students, engages their sense of inquiry, and provides qualitative data, too, with which to drive instruction in the classroom. Also, perhaps more significantly, states and districts must work together to craft proposals. The proposed priority for vertical alignment across P-20 also ensures that elementary, middle, high schools, and even higher-ed collaborate so students are successful at each stage.

When crafting No Child Left Behind, the previous White House staff closed the doors for commentary. Now, the Department of Education is willing to listen and change based on feedback. This is our opportunity to constructively propose ideas that we know work so national education policy takes an approach from the ground up.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Enter the Knowledge Garage

Yo, peeps. Get on over to the Knowledge Garage for some very interesting chats and readings and things connected to the Knowledge and Innovation summit in New Mexico in August. Hot stuff!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"If It's not broke don't fix it"....

....taken one step further might be, “If it works well, scale it up.” Not a bad idea for Governor Patrick to consider as his authority over public schools expands this fall.

In January of this year, a Harvard/MIT study for the Boston Foundation explored the success of “readiness schools”– a blend of union teachers and curriculum autonomy – and charter schools. The research found, that while “readiness schools” made some academic gains, there was little difference between this program and gains in traditional public schools.

The study also concluded that “the effect of a single year spent in a charter school was equivalent to half of the black-white achievement gap. Performance in English Language Arts also significantly increased for charter middle school students, though less dramatically. Charter students also showed stronger performance scores in high school, in English Language Arts, math, writing topic development, and writing composition.”

Now that Governor Patrick will seek legislative approval to take over 30 of the state’s worst schools and implement the readiness school model, it’s worth asking: why water down these charters and implement a less effective approach?

Charters are not the panacea, and simply lifting the caps won’t better serve Massachusetts students. But why not do what works?

Scaling up these highly effective schools and providing incentive to bring back the founders (they can now be found in New York, where the education climate is much more receptive to innovative school practices), is an alternative to Governor Patrick’s readiness schools, and a step towards the transformation needed to ensure every child’s access to an excellent education.

Investing in incremental change will result in incremental progress. Investing in a highly effective charter school with demonstrated strong performance will close the achievement gap.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lost in Translation

by Guest Blogger Candice DePrang

Yesterday, the Department issued draft guidance regarding waiver requests under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Guidance. This topic may not spark celebration and the document may not find itself on your bedside table. Often guidance is described as confusing, sometimes not helpful at all, like a different language…But, teachers, schools, and the research community can get excited about this:

If [State] is granted the requested waiver, [State] will implement the waiver only with respect to an LEA that provides assurances that:
(1) It will comply with all of the statutory and regulatory requirements regarding the provision of SES with respect to its regular FY 2009 Title I, Part A allocation; and
(2) It will comply with all other Title I, Part A statutory and regulatory requirements (to the extent they are not waived), including the requirements in sections 1114 and 1115 of the ESEA to have schoolwide and targeted assistance programs that “use effective methods and instructional strategies that are based on scientifically based research.”

Translation? LEAS must use strategies that work.

It’s a breath of fresh air for teachers, usually coerced into using a new frame work for this or an instructional fad to address that.

It’s encouraging for administrations, weary of consultants that present, like salespeople, the silver bullet that will strengthen their scores.

It’s support for education labs that identify issues in schools preventing students from making the greatest possible academic gains. After conducting in-depth studies, researchers then disseminate the information back to the schools with strategies proven to work. Or, they discover that some approaches are not effective, and can shift their focus.

Regardless, the meaning of the guidance is this: effective methods of teaching and learning proven by research will make their ways into classrooms that need it the most.

Now you don’t need to drag out your dictionary.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Gimme Three Steps...

….Gimme three steps, mister, gimme three steps towards the core, standards that is.

As the national debate for common standards among states heats up, one state is already taking a few steps ahead.

REL West at WestEd released a study yesterday reviewing professional teaching standards in six states according to structure, target audience, and the extent to which the standards address the needs and learning styles of students.

“The state has appointed an advisory panel… to ensure that the new standards are consistent with current research, the best understanding of effective teaching practices, and California education policies.” It’s not just a practice in self reflection or an examination of what works. It’s an in-depth investigation of varying insights and opinions involved with developing academic standards in several states.

I hope the leaders of our states will take a hint from the West Coast and look closely at current practices, with an intent to utilize the best research to draft the national standards this fall.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Forethought, The Silver Bullet

From Guest Blogger Candice DePrang

I heard it said recently, “There is no silver bullet.” And while Weldon denies that could be true for a certain program or specific initiative, he made something else very clear in his recent WaPo opinion article. He wrote,

“We must also consider how best to sustain health-care innovation that will serve tomorrow's patients.”

That’s forethought, and maybe it’s the silver bullet.

With the President’s allocation of $650M for an innovation and improvement fund in education as part of the ARRA, our nation could do just that – carefully allot stimulus funding to lay the groundwork for a permanent institute devoted to fostering innovative research that will lead to the accumulation of knowledge and what works.

“Tapping into the considerable expertise of their researchers could also dramatically increase the number and quality of studies.” This institute could promote valid research to develop innovative solutions to persistent problems of practice. It could provide leadership to the Nation, and then serve as a central location for disseminating the research so that it does impact instruction, and ultimately increase student achievement.

A well-designed knowledge and innovation institute, supported with sustainable funding and broad input, is essential for education reform, too. It’s responsibly spending the money today to build an infrastructure that strengthens our children’s future tomorrow.

That’s forethought, and maybe it’s the silver bullet.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

Guest Blogger Candice DePrang

A peer review program introduced in Toledo, Ohio in 1981 moved a little closer to home about ten years ago. Yesterday’s Washington Post article profiled the progress of Montgomery County’s Peer Assistance and Review Program, “that identifies struggling teachers and tries to help them improve.”

Peer review is just one of the many answers to poor behavior management skills and low performing students that characterize the classroom of a struggling teacher. Paramount to the transformation of peer review programs are mentors that supply their mentees with promising practices based on rigorous research. Teachers need excellent examples of these practices modeled in context, with a chance to demonstrate their improvement over time. Districts seeking to improve student outcomes by increasing teacher quality through a peer review program will realize the culture shift “from 'gotcha' to support” that currently exists in local administrations. Strengthening the culture means strengthening the teachers with evidence based research practices – not necessarily intuition or the solely stories of other classrooms– to help them establish and sustain a structure in their classroom that creates a space where students learn.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Safety Rewarded, Risk Needed

Knowledge-able Sourcerer Guest blogger Candice DePrang

Safety is rewarded. Risk is not. That is the message conveyed in an article that examined the National Institutes of Health's way of funding research.

Current studies, particularly one “asking whether people who are especially responsive to good-tasting food have the most difficulty staying on a diet,” are "likely to only produce incremental progress at best," says Dr. Robert C. Young, chancellor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and chairman of the Board of Scientific Advisors. “…[medical researchers] are timid about taking chances on ones that might not succeed. The problem, Dr. Young and others say, is that projects that could make a major difference in cancer prevention and treatment are all too often crowded out because they are too uncertain. In fact, it has become lore among cancer researchers that some game-changing discoveries involved projects deemed too unlikely to succeed and were therefore denied federal grants, forcing researchers to struggle mightily to continue.”

So, at a time when the Obama Administration seeks a significant increase in funding for education research, development, and innovation, the burden of proof is on the research community– to convince the federal government with a preponderance of evidence, that investing in educational research is worth the risk. And not just for this round of appropriations.

State and local schools systems must take advantage of this unique occasion and apply the ARRA dollars in a highly affective way. They cannot simply respond, “Thanks, but it should have been done a long time ago,” or “It’s still not enough.” This opportunity is a chance to research with risk, to go beyond that which would make only incremental advancements at best, and instead invest in issues relevant to schools – not perceived problems or safe studies, but innovative initiatives that could truly break ground and take significant steps towards closing the achievement gap.

This sounds like research institutions communicating directly with districts about prominent problems, and looks like those districts being open to interpreting that data, translating it into usable knowledge, and utilizing that knowledge to impact their schools.

Accepting these funds - $3B for school improvement, $650M for technology, $200M for teacher incentives, just to name a few – with a commitment to honest dialogue that spurs transformative research, makes it possible to catalyze actual change. This change could uncover practices that work, mandate matched or increased federal funding in the future, and shift the way education r&d is perceived…as a necessary practice, that, as in other fields, leads to more targeted and strategic work.

So long, red schoolhouse. Hello, Knowledge Garage

For those of you who hang around the US Depart of Education, you will see a change on the facade. That red schoolhouse outside of the ED's main entrances --- which served as the Bush Adminsistration's symbols for NCLB --- were torn down a couple of weeks ago. Read all about it here. The Obama administration has symbolically begun the process of putting its own brand on education reform. We think the new symbol should be a garage. Find out why here. here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mayo Clinic for Education

Last night we were watching Obama’s excellent town hall meeting at the White House (see transcript here) and was suddenly jolted by a very familiar statement that he used with regard to heath care reform “ What’s lacking is not knowledge … What’s lacking is political will”. Secretary Duncan uses that exact same line in reference to education. He probably gets it from a White House set of talking points. That’s understandable.

But the problem is that the knowledge base in education about what works is a drop of water in the ocean compared to the knowledge base in medicine. Just look at the annual federal investment of the two: about $28 billion for NIH and about $300 million for ED. Whew!

In the future perhaps Duncan might give some acknowledgment that our understanding about specific solutions in education is far from complete. In fact we need to be more like medicine in its ongoing, never ending search for remedies for persistent diseases like cancer. The Mayo Clinic to which the President alluded last night is not only an amazingly well run, data driven and cost effective operation. It is also a research institution. Education needs a bunch of Mayo Clinics!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

'Ay Mate

The Aussies came to DC a week ago to “gad” about and talk about Australia’s latest education reform plans. As Debbie V describes on her blog lots of stuff Down Under is happening just like in Up Over. But check out how they are moving forward with plans for a national curriculum. Very interesting. We might learn some good political lessons from Down Under when it comes to national standards and curriculum. I just wonder what Gillard meant when she said that "our posture is basically that this is an evidence-based process". What evidence is she referring to? Does Australia have a strong R&D sector in education that can truly inform policy and practice and stimulate innovation?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Towards a Knowledge Ecosystem

We greeted the recent news of the Harvard school of ed move to open source with great enthusiasm. Open access to its scholarly journals could help spur the development of a knowledge market in education and create new incentives for R&D and innovation in solving critical problems of practice. Bravo, Harvard!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Moving right along at the Institute of Education Sciences

In this recent blog entry about the Institute of Education Sciences research conference, Debbie Viadero rightly picks up on a new focus for federally supported education research. We say "Amen"! The comments by John Easton and Jon Baron about utilization and about the essential link fo researchers to practitioners were right on the mark. Single mindedly promoting rigor at the expense relevance and responsiveness was a significant flaw in the early years of IES. Now it is time to turn the page and get on with the research community's ultimate task: using knowledge to improve, if not transformation, education as we know it today.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A New Vision for R&D in Education

For the past two years Knowledge Alliance has been developing a vision for a new kind of R&D infrastructure in education that would serve as a leading edge catalyst for innovation and transformation. Much of our visioning has been greatly informed by the very fine work of Tony Bryk and Louis Gomez. Yesterday Bryk (now president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching) unvieled a new initiative for implementing a new kind of problem-based R&D. We think this effort (along with our own) could have transformative effects on the research enterprise and possibily on education as a whole. Kudos to Bryk, Gomez and the fine folks at Carnegie!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

High Profile Millenials?

Last week was a very big, high profile week for several millenials (who will be taking over the leadership of the country in about 18 years) named Eric, Kris, Shawn, and Mark. Who are they and what do they have in common and why should you care? Tell the Knowledge-able Sourcerer

How does funding for education R&D compare?

How does funding for ED R&D compare? Not well. Certainly it is not a pretty picture when you look at the annual funding charts by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. We have used these data many times before on the Hill and in our outreach. Take another look and cringe … and then get mad:
Agency comparisons
ARRA comparisons (hey, where is education?)
Education’s allocation

Rethinking "Rethinking Restructuring"?

“Rethinking Restructuring” See this Ed Week commentary by Jack Jennings and friends at the Center for Education Policy dispelling some school improvement myths about silver bullets and suggesting that the best strategies use “multiple, coordinated restructuring strategies over many years”. Hmmm. Makes more than a little sense.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shuttering dealerships or schools?

This past week Arne Duncan made the news by suggesting that national ed reform efforts should be strategically focused on "reconstituting" the thousand lowest performing schools in the country. A good strategy for dealing with chronically failing schools. Arne was in Detroit to discuss some of these ideas. Coincidentally at around the same Chrysler in Detroit announced it was shuttering 700 unprofitable dealerships ... immediately. A good strategy for fixing the bottom line. Is there a meaningful analogy here.


On Saturday, I was part of the "crowd" who participated in the Education Equity Project's rally on the Ellipse in DC commemorating the 55th anniversary of Brown v the Board of Education decision. With the celebrities on stage outnumbering the folks in the audience, it was a deeply disappointing display of interest in the cornerstone of American democracy---education. I don't think the threat of rain had much to do with the dismal turnout. Perhaps it was poor organization (word did not get around) or logistical snafus (late buses) that played a role. I hope that was the case. Otherwise it would be that education can't seem to attract a crowd ... certainly not like anti war demonstrations or anti abortion rallies can in DC. There were large groups of tourists milling around the Lincoln Memorial and Washington monument at the time of the EEP rally but none seemed to be interested in what was happening on the Ellipse. What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Much to like about the Prez's FY 10 budget request

Me thinks the FY 10 budget request released by the Prez last week was on the mark in many ways for education but it ain't gonna be easy to move it through Congress... Check out what Knowledge Alliance said about it here. It is indeed time to "... unleash America’s ingenuity to solve our most pressing education problems, deliver break-the-mold, research-based solutions to our schools, and
guide a new knowledge and innovation revolution in teaching and learning..."

“The Lake Wobegon Delusion”

See this excellent commentary by Gary Phillips of Knowledge Alliance member American Institutes for Research about re-introducing the idea of a voluntary national test--- an idea that he (and Mike Smith) led in the mid 1990’s when he was at US Department of Education. At that time, it caused a major partisan uproar in the Republican-controlled House of Rep. Is this now a good --- if not bi-partisan--- idea whose time has arrived?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The "next" Institute of Education Sciences

This is a must-read for all of you out there. See here what Alliance board member from AIR Mark Schneider has to say in Gadfly about what to expect next at the Institute of Education Science. Tell the Knowledgeable Sourcerer what you think about his comments about the regional labs and the national R&D centers.

The First 100 Daze

Way back in November just days after the election we went out on a limb and made 10 predictions related to education about what would happen during the first 100 days of the Obama Administration. Hmmmm....see what we said back then here . So what do you think? By our figuring we were right on on seven. Half right on two. And totally wrong on one. No bad, yes? Tell us what you think will happen in the next 100 days.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A new direction for the Institute of Education Science?

Last week at the AERA annual meeting in San Diego, the director-designate of the Institute of Education Science made his first public appearance in his new role. Here are several highlights:
• John first met Arne when Duncan returned from Australia after playing BB to work on a school project in Chicago and couldn't get data from the Chicago Schools. He ultimately got the data from John and they struck up a good working relationship.
• Easton indicated that he views his role as more of a helper to get the answer rather than always having the answer
• Easton wrote a very interesting paper on the Chicago Consortium and his theory of action. See it here
• His final quote ---”I will be reaching out to you folks to define the next generation of IES".
The tone and substance are certainly different from the previous Administration. Does all of this point to a new direction for IES and its place in the ED? Tell us what you think.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Knowledge vs Symbolism?

“What ails education reform: poor use of symbolism” --- Say what? See what our bud Andy Rotherham has to say in his monthly column in U.S. News & World Report . Seems off the mark to us. We think it is much more a poor use of knowledge than symbolism. Tell us what you think.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Straight from JYVÄSKYLÄ

Say where? Very interesting how the world is flocking to the Fennoscandian region of northern Europe to find out what’s up with the great test scores. Is the WSJ correct in this article


We reported last week that Lisa Graham Keegan (top McCain ed advisor) was working for Joel Klein and Al Sharpton on the Education Equity Project (EEP). In what she organizing a big time event on the Ellipse in May “… to say that on the 55th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education...55 years is too long to wait…” Is this a case of if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em or an example of the symmetry of the political spectrum with the extremes actually thinking alike?

Friday, March 20, 2009

A shift in philosophy at the ED?

We think that ED Daily made a very interesting observation last week about an apparent major shift in ED policy from previous administrations. “… Duncan's tenure at ED signals a philosophical break from the department's past, as Duncan has said that he believes ED's role is a clearinghouse and catalyst for good ideas -- not a developer of them, nor an oracle of knowledge. In addition, Duncan has told Congress that he will set strict goals, such as higher standards, but permit states considerable leeway in meeting them…” what do you make of this? How might it affect the rold of education's knowledge industry?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

3/3/09 & 3/14 at 1:59 pm

Say what?
You knowledge-able, math-oriented, calendarologistically-crazed readers might be able to answer these questions:
What day was celebrated on March 3, 2009?
How many times in this century will it be celebrated?
What will be celebrated at exactly 1:59 pm on March 14?
(It happens to be Einstein's birthday but that is not the answer we are looking for)

50% of the First 100

You readers with good memories might recall that just after the election we made some bold predictions about the first 100 days of the Obama Administration. Well, by our count the mid point of the first 100 days will be this week. Let’s see how we are doing. Tell us what you think.

#1 The fiscal crisis will trump everything
#2 Appropriations issues will be the Big Issue
#3 The reauthorization of ESEA will be a whisper of an issue
#4 The new Secretary of Education will be a governor
#5 The battles will be internicine rather than partisan
#6 Obama will govern from above the middle
#7 ED policy will focus primarily on college access and affordability
#8 Standards-base reform will continue but…
#9 The campaign for 2012 will begin on January 21, 2009
#10 The new puppy will be a mixed pound-puppy not named Spot

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Defining Dunkin' Duncan?

Folks out there in blogland are trying to fit the USSOE into a definable box with very mixed success. See this blog discussion. After only a month in office we think it is a little premature to try to define precisely the Secretary and the Administration on education issues. the policy conditions in Congress right now are very dynamic and unpredictable. Pragmatism for getting something done should and is trumping ideological rigidity. Our biggest concern is how to effectively focus policy attention on delivering desperately needed innovative solutions to schools and districts and on how best to mobilize the R&D infrastructure to unleash America's ingenuity on education.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

How to do it well and fast?

Administering the stimulus funds --- The Deparment of Education (ED)has big challenges to move the funding out the door swiftly while ensuring it will be used properly and effectively. We know that the ED has set up three internal “swat” teams focusing on administration, deployment, and communications. It will be a supreme test for the not-yet-completed political leadership team to work closely with key career staffers on moving this agenda forward very quickly. We will be offering some help and advice. Checker Finn and Mike Petrilli from the Fordham Institute have already done so in this smart and candid article in Gadfly.

Stimulating Dramas

We have never experienced anything like this. Just three weeks after the history making Inauguration, Congress passes very swiftly the largest spending bill ever. While the sausage factory-factor may have blurred some of the significance for some commentators inside the beltway, these twin and interrelated developments within one month were in our view astounding and made for drama upon dramas...even down to the last minute in the Senate. Check out this article about what happened late Friday night with Senator Sherrod Brown after we had gone to bed.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stimulus or Investement or both?

As we have discussed over the past three weeks, the economic stimulus package --- which was passed in the House a week ago and under consideration in the Senate (as of this writing) --- contains unprecedented increases in funding for education. The much-publicized negotiations in the Senate on Thursday and Friday took us on a roller coaster ride as we heard all sorts of rumors about the potential elimination of all ed funding in the package. Late Friday night a dramatic compromise was reached in the Senate. Education took about a 60 billion hit compared to the House version, but the funding levels are still of historic proportions. Here is the latest (and still unconfirmed) snap shot of some of the key elements.

House: $13 billion
Senate amendments: $13 billion.

Title I
House: $13 billion including $2 billion for school improvement
Senate amendments: $12.4 billion including $2 billion for school improvement

State Data Systems
House: $250 million
Senate: None.

Teacher Quality
House: $300 million,
Senate: $100 million

School Renovation
House: $20 billion, including $14 billion for K-12 and $6 billion for higher education
Senate: None

Pell Grants
House: $15.6 billion
Senate: $13.9 billion

Ed Technology
House: $1 billion
Senate: $1 billion

State Stabilization fund
House: $79 billion including $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities, $15 billion to states as bonus grants for meeting key performance measures, and $25 billion to states for which may include education.
Senate $39 billion includes $26.7 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities; $2.5 billion for incentive grants for meeting key education performance measures; and $9.5 billion to States for other needs

National Science Foundation
HOuse: $3 billion, including $2.5 billion to improve economic competitiveness. $100 million is included for the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, with $60 million for Noyce Scholarships and $40 million for Math and Science Partnerships.
Senate: $1.2 billion total including: $1 billion to help America compete globally; $150 million for scientific infrastructure; and $50 million for competitive grants to improve STEM education.

All week long there was big time controversy about whether the package should be a short term stimulus to boost consumer spending or a longer term investment for reform or both. This is indeed a big issue.

The Post made a compelling case for stimulus only, but the massive injection of funding in key ed programs is also desperately needed. What do you think?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Innovation and Rigorous Research

See this terrific article in Ed Week about bringing the "D" back in R&D and the apparent tension between research and innovation. We don't think it is an either/or proposition. In fact, if effectively positioned and funded, R&D should be a leading edge catalyst for education innovation and ultimately transformation. What say you, dear readers?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stimulating Education in the Stimulus Package

Wow! …Education and the Stimulus Package --- Lots and lots of speculation early last week about the size and shape of the economic stimulus package and then on Thursday the House Dems unveiled a $825 billion package containing $275 billion tax cuts, and $550 billion in targeted priority investments with “unprecedented accountability measures”. A key provision in the proposal is $79 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund which includes funds evenly split between Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010 (money for school years 2009-10 and 2010-11) for the following:

$13 Billion for IDEA special education
$13 billion for Title I. of which $1.2 billion is for the School Improvement grant program
$1 billion for education technology state grants
$25 million for charter school facilities
$200 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund
$250 million for statewide longitudinal data systems
$15 billion is set aside for “State Incentive Grants” for FY 2010 for states that have made significant progress in meeting the three above objectives.
$325 million for an Innovation Fund for academic achievement awards for States, local educational agencies, or schools to “… to work in partnership with the private sector and the philanthropic community; and to identify and document best practices that can be shared, and taken to scale based on demonstrated success…”
Also for the National Science Foundation $60 million for Noyce Teacher Scholarship program $40 million for Math Science Partnership.


Wow! What a week this will be in DC. The city is soooo energized. In our 33 years here, we have never seen anything quite like this. We will be out and about attending reunions, receptions and perhaps a ball…and, of course, the festivities down on the Mall and along Pennsylvania Ave on the 20th. You can follow it all via the . We will be sending out this Knowledge Alliance statement on Tuesday.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"You can't print knowledge"

“Tax Cut for Teachers” Check out this excellent article by Thomas Friedman about a new stimulus idea. Take not of the quote in the second to last paragraph “…You can print money, but you can’t print knowledge. It takes 12 years.” Love it!

Starve the Beast?

Starve the Beast --- See this big debate in the blogosphere about the how the financial crisis might stimulate a whole new era of reform in education. We heard a similar thesis during our members forum in November. What compels change and transform? And what stake does knowledge have in the change process? What do you think?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Back in Action

The new Congress (the 111th) starts off with a bang on January 6 with swearing-in ceremonies, Electoral College vote counting on Jan 8, and a very ambitious agenda before the Inauguration. While Minnesota, New York and Illinois sort out their empty-Senate-seat dilemmas, the new Congress will be moving quickly on confirmation hearings, a growing stimulus package, and FY 09 appropriations. Whew! For more 411 on the 111, go here (Yep, that’s Wikipedia--- amazingly accurate and up to date).

Education and the Stimulus Package

While specifics are slim, it looks like the much discussed economic stimulus package that will be taken up by Congress in January contains a school renovation package. But the National Governors Association is pushing hard for flexible block grants to states including a $250 billion package for education. Sounds to us like the stimulus package might become a political football full of pork. Tough stuff during a severe budgetary crisis at the state and local levels.