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Morning Shots

President Clinton and Charter Schools: A History Lesson

History is an important aspect of life to understand. Knowing what transpired and why, who was involved and why they did what they did, drives us to emulate that which is good, and, hopefully, learn from mistakes. That’s why I ask my colleagues to appreciate, as well as tolerate, my concern over a public tribute to former President Bill Clinton, who today received the first-ever lifetime achievement award from the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.

Look, it’s great that a prominent, centrist Democrat supports charters and that he knew as president that it was important to endorse the concept. But, it doesn’t change the fact that two states had already enacted charter school legislation before he even stepped into the Oval Office. In 1991, Minnesota’s Gov. Arne Carlson became the first to sign charters into law and then in 1992 California Gov. Pete Wilson followed suit. (more…)

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Putting the Ill in Illinois

Illinois’ education blob is giving themselves a pat on the back. Their “collaboration” helped pass a bill, almost unanimously, that institutes some form of teacher evaluations based on “multiple measures” yet to be defined, and changes tenure rules, slightly. There are longer school days, strike rules requiring 75 percent of teachers to agree, but not much more. There’s not much here that helps students immediately, or parents, but makes it look like it does. Indeed, the back patting seems to be more about how it was done, not what was done.

Says the press propaganda:

“Unlike our neighbors in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states, stakeholders here worked together to craft an aggressive bill that makes our state the leader in education reform. At a time when many teachers understandably feel under attack, this bill celebrates effective teachers, recognizes their accomplishments and helps keep them in classrooms.”

We’re so glad that no one had to flee a state to keep from voting on major changes to education. Maybe that’s because there was nothing really to flee about, no controversy, no major changes. Time will tell, but a rose by any other name is not a rose. And this bill is not reform.

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Creative Non-Compliance

I usually like this term. It means we might as well bend some rules, if the need justifies it, and normally, this term is associated with good deeds. But, Secretary Arne Duncan’s attempt to start creatively non-complying with NCLB may not be about good deeds, as much as he suggests it is. Throughout the weekend, news reports screamed that Duncan will be granting waivers to a law carefully and painfully put in place to guard against the kind of data abuses and lack of transparency that plagued the nation prior to NCLB’s enactment.

Sure, NCLB is not perfect, and Congress and the past president made lots of mistakes. But the fact is that without NCLB, we simply don’t have a clue how schools or students are performing. We can argue some bars are lower and some higher, that some schools that get labeled do so unfairly. For the most part, however, it works. It shines sun on the dirty little secret of even the best schools that neglect their neediest students. And it captured our attention and put the establishment on the defensive. Most important, it gave parents a tool to use as a lever for change. (more…)

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