Saturday, July 31, 2010

Urgency, anyone?

Urgency, anyone? --- For us commuters in DC, using the Metro has been a godsend and, lately, a rather harrowing experience. Accidents and equipment failures have become the rule rather than the exception. Last week the National Transit Safety Board filed its report about a terrible accident last year and emphasized the need for a major change, if not transformation of the system. We heard the Metro commentators say the change to a safer system will take time --- years not months. How do you think it made us feel riding the Metro the next day? Probably the same way parents feel when they send their kids to schools that need to be transformed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Imprressive Research Conference but...

Connecting research, policy and practice at IES Research conference --- We hung out at the Institute of Education Sciences' annual research conference a week ago. It was a far cry from the first small gathering five years. This one was large (over 1200 grantees and others), with very high production values and important presentations and conversations. Here are five quick observations:

Easton's vision --- In his keynote speech the IES director hit all the right points in presenting his vision and soon-to-be-released proposed research priorities focusing on the interrelationships among research, policy, and practice.

Duncan gets closer --- While the Secretary has always been strong in connecting R&D, innovation and high performance for America's long term economic competitiveness, until his opening comments at this conference he has been weak in making the same connections for education. But this time he was eloquent in repeatedly characterizing research as "the compass for education reform". We thought this was a breakthrough of sorts.

Most frequently heard words --- Use, partnership, relevance, rigor, practice to research.

Least frequently heard word --- Innovation

Biggest concern --- How and how soon will IES staff begin to implement Easton's vision?

Complex Web of Ed Politics

Complex web of education politics at work--- The emergency supplemental appropriations debate in Congress last week brought to the surface in dramatic fashion last week the complexity of education politics these days. Consider these dynamics:

A guns-or-butter debate between Republicans and Democrats;
A reform vs jobs argument within the Democratic Party;
An equity vs excellence issue for reform-minded many civil rights groups;
The Obama Administration was forced into a nasty corner---having to threaten a veto of a help-the-troops bill which would save teacher jobs but upset favorite ed reform strategies. Hmmm it was not a choice that Obama wanted to have to make during an election year. This episode surely demonstrates why ed politics, and ESEA reauthorization in particular, is so tough to navigate. Great political skill and leadership are needed to get it done Where are you, Ted Kennedy?