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Welcome aboard

rollercoasterDear Michelle,

Welcome to the other side. We need your help. And we need new champions. Learning to tell the difference is an art, though, not a science.

This is the place where – in order to make good calls that benefit reform – you have to distinguish incessantly between what someone says they believe and what they truly will do. We at CER do not spend money on politics, but we do spend our time and energy on educating and activating people to do the right thing. Oh sure, reform is very much in vogue right now, and hundreds of people will crowd a ballroom to hear someone speak. They will applaud and nod approvingly at every word said in defense of students, and in support of a fight to change the status quo for good. Then they will go back to their states and communities and say things like the following, which we’ve heard for 17 years, as if a 45 were scratched so it keeps repeating…

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Not So Fast (Part 2)

DomeNewsweek’s Jonathan Alter was ahead of the reform curve in media coverage back when it was not a popular thing to do. He’s been an avid fan of great models that provide at least some power to parents, and lots of freedom from bureaucracy. He understands the problems with unions. He even uses the language I put forth four years ago when talking about what was once called “traditional” public education and instead describes it as “conventional,” which is more to the point.

Alter’s column this week puts some heft behind the selection of Denver, CO superintendent Michael Bennet to be Ed Secretary. Could we really have another Bennett in that office? We could have a lot of fun with comparisons, but for now, we’re struck by the uncritical gaze that the otherwise keen Alter has given to both Bennet – and his interviewee of the week – Bill Gates.

Both in Alter’s estimation are reformers. He says Gates told him he believes in merit pay – and yet I’m not fully aware of any policy groups that strongly push for performance based pay changes in law which Gates is throwing money behind. The Gates Foundation is financially and morally supportive of the work of Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein and clearly Michael Bennet. But what superintendents can do is limited unless their state legislatures make it easier for them to free teachers from contract rules that limit pay and operational structures. Put in layman’s terms, it is state law that often dictates what supers do – state laws that teachers’ unions fiercely lobby for and against. We’re all for in-system reform – but one shouldn’t expect every super to be as heroic – or crazy – as reformers

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Not your average cover girl

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee seems to be dominating the media these days, and she’s making headlines again this week, gracing the cover of TIME Magazine.

While there’s nothing glamorous about firing nearly 300 teachers and principals, Rhee has made more changes within DCPS in one year than most could even dream about over several decades. She’s not your typical cover girl, as TIME points out. She’s been called a “nightmare” but Chancellor Rhee seems okay with that. “Have I rubbed people the wrong way? Definitely. If I changed my style, I might make people a little more comfortable… but I think there’s real danger in acting in a way that makes adults feel better.”

A piece in today’s Washington Post shows that this new style can work, but with folks like AFT boss Randi Weingarten highly critical of this new trend, it is unlikely to catch on without bold leadership from our elected officials.

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Why A Charter School Should Not Be the Obamas' Choice

This country is great. We’ve just elected the first African-American president, who has brought tremendous pride to many communities, but especially to African-Americans. I’ve seen it myself across the color and political spectrums.

It reminds us that you can have anything you want in America – unless you’re poor, that is.

Nowhere is this more clear than when it comes to schooling your child. Much has been written about where the Obamas might send their babies to school. As they are looking at private schools, their new hometown paper, The Washington Post, is reminding them that there are other people who want such a choice, but the President-elect doesn’t support the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that allows such a choice with taxpayer dollars.

There are others who want him to go to a charter school. One of his biggest fans, Democrats for Education Reform, a group which really believes he will carry their agenda, is pleading for him to choose a charter school in D.C., one of the 62 or so high quality schools currently serving almost 30 percent of the D.C. public school population.

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