Bloggin’ with Ed in 08

Most folks who read the education blogs know that today was Ed in 08’s big education blogger’s summit.  The crowd seemed to be an interesting mix of both bloggers and ed policy folks (particularly those with education orgs that either deal with the tech issue or have a strong online presence).  At first blush, the cynic in me says the primary focus of the summit was to get Ed in 08’s name in a significant number of blogs all at the same time.  But after a few hours of reflection, I can also see some real benefits.

What has stuck most with Eduflack is the opening speech by Ed in 08 head Roy Romer.  Forget debate questions or campaign commercials or grassroots organizing or even a movie about two million minutes.  The most intriguing — and most valuable — contribution that Ed in 08 is now making is Romer’s continued push for national standards.  This is the third time I’ve heard Romer touting the Ed in 08 line.  Each time, after delivering the stump speech, he focuses on the long-term value of national standards and his dream of locking up a dozen or so well-meaning governors, have them identify standards that tie to international assessments, and then send us on our way to better performance.  I thought it was a good idea when I first heard him lay it out last fall at Jobs for the Future’s conference.  And it is even a better idea today.

So why does the issue of national standards fail to gain the attention it deserves?  It should be a campaign issue, it’s not.  It should be a national policy discussion, it’s not.  It should be a primary goal of the education blob and those in the blob’s shadow, it’s not. 

It’s as if we seem to think our traditional of local education control means we can’t have national standards.  Such thinking is just lazy.  Groups like NGA and CCSSO have had the courage to talk about a common set of U.S. learning standards.  More need to follow that lead. 

If it is the only thing that Romer and company do from this point forward with Gates’ and Broad’s money, it will be well worth it.  National standards deserve a national debate.  We should all be for high expectations, global competition, and improved skills.  A national dialogue provides us the rhetoric to discuss such goals.  And Eduflack is ready to sign up as a town crier on the issue today.

What else came out of the blogger summit?  I personally loved Romer’s stat that the average American student is a year or a year and a half behind their international peers in math instruction.  We hate to hear it, but we know it is true.  And I am still scratching my head on having Newt Gingrich as the keynoter for an ed event focused on national policies.  It was only a decade ago that Gingrich and his team was calling for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education.

Alexander Russo tried to push his panel on the issue of merit pay, but few wanted to bite.  It was good to hear the AFT say that merit pay is a local issue, to be embraced in local CBAs.  Let’s just hope the locals know that.

The hot issues seem to be preK and assessments (high-stakes, differentiated, multiples, take your pick and political line).  No buzz at all for high school reform, despite the ducats coming from Gates.  And with all our lip service to the P-16 education continuum, higher ed is still the gawky girl at the ed dance, with no one paying her much attention either.

And big surprise, few seem to see a future for NCLB.  Some, like Ed Trust’s Amy Wilkins, want to see the law strengthened and more strongly enforced.  But the majority seemed to lean toward “improving” by weakening and adding Elasticman-level flexibility.

More later this week on the notion of changing the structure of the school day.  It is an intriguing issue that could have some legs.

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