It is that time of the year again. Most of the year, Eduflack can be critical, cynical, and downright combustible about what is happening in the education community. We spend a great deal of time talking, but little time delivering. We get caught up on the 20 percent or so of improvements we don’t agree on, thus neglecting the 80 percent that could make real change now. And we regularly fall into a cult of personality, rather than focusing on the substance of both character and ideas.
But Christmas is a special time of year, that time when we all get a blank slate and we all look forward to a new year with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment. As for Eduflack, I don’t believe in naughty lists (personally, I’m worried about what all of my general agitation would mean for such databases). And with two little kiddos at home who are the absolute loves of my life and motivations for getting up each morning, I’m all for being generous and giving gifts for both a great 2009 and the hopes of an even better 2010. So without further ado, let’s check out what’s under the ol’ Eduflack tree this holiday season.
To NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, a return to the spotlight. In 2008, Chancellor Klein was the king of the ed reform kingdom. Scores were up in NYC. The city was coming off the Broad Prize, and Klein was on the short list for U.S. Secretary of Education. But a funny thing happened in 2009. The good chancellor seemed to take a public back seat, dealing with collective bargaining agreements, a city council that was trying to take away mayoral control, and other such operational issues. He even seemed to take a back seat with the Education Equality Project, letting Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich play center stage for much of 2009. But 2010 is Klein’s year again. With states and districts desperate to demonstrate sustained student gains on assessments and a closing of the achievement gap, there is no better model than the revolution that has happened in NYC over the last decade. And the NYC experience is one that can serve as a research-based model for many urbans looking to secure i3 grants in the coming year. Klein has always been a force, but with all of the elements coming together, 2010 can very well be the year of Klein.
To Detroit’s de facto public schools chief Robert Bobb, a wide berth. By now, most of us have written off Detroit Public Schools, believing there is no hope for America’s most struggling urban district, whether it declares bankruptcy or not. But for those not paying attention, Bobb is really trying to do God’s work up in the Motor City. With a new mayor and a renewed sense of purpose, Bobb and his team and rebuilding the DPS infrastructure while taking on instructional reforms designed to improving student learning and close the dreaded achievement gap. Bobb has thrown a lot against the wall in the past year. Here’s hoping the city (and the nation) the time to see what sticks and build on what works. Improvement is possible in Detroit, with the right time and support.
To EdSec Arne Duncan, a continued bounce in his step. Without question, the past 12 months have been the year of Arne. He started off strong, and quickly built a cult of personality around the nation. (Some may even call it idol worship.) He’s won friends where previous secretaries could only find enemies. He’s talked, passionately, about issues that were taboo to previous federal education bosses. And he has emerged as one of the leading voices for the administration, even on issues like economic stimulus and other issues not previously in the EdSec’s purview. For the coming year, Duncan needs to keep pushing through, talking the tough talk, while walking the tough walk. Many expect to see real results when it comes to Race to the Top and i3, so he has to be ready to talk about where we are (with details) and where we are going. More importantly, though, he needs to keep that bounce and forward motion even after we discover that ESEA reauthorization is a gift most likely received in 2011. Just keep driving to the basket, Mr. Secretary.
To House Education Chairman George Miller (CA), incremental success. For a good portion of 2009, we assumed that Chairman Miller would successfully lead ESEA reauthorization in the first half of 2010. Now, we know such thoughts are only for the most optimistic of optimists. Eduflack realizes that healthcare reform has taken a lot out of your committee, but now is the time for you to move forward and make crystal clear to all involved that you are the educational top dog on Capitol Hill. Through the House Education and Labor Committee, let’s get your Graduation for All Act of 2010 passed into law as quickly as possible. And while we’re at it, let’s make sure that Congress (both your House and the Senate) make Senator Patty Murray’s LEARN Act (focusing on reading) the law of the land before school’s out for summer. Instead of looking for that four-bagger to win the game with one swing right now, let’s play a little small ball and move some very real education improvements now, improvements that can help many, many kids right now.
To Senator Mike Enzi (WY), ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, an itch to fight for the home team. In 2009, we spent a lot of time focusing on education reform issues that seemed custom tailored for urban areas. RttT has turned into a focus on turning around low performing urban districts. Despite the extra points for rural districts, most also see i3 as a reward for the Council of Great City Schools sect. And even the most recent NAEP TUDA puts our gaze on what’s happening in the cities. It falls to Senator Enzi (and to a lesser degree Rep. John Kline of Minnesota) to make sure that the voice of rural districts and the needs or rural students are heard in these school improvement discussions. There are too many students attending small districts and rural schools for us to neglect them. If we are going to improve achievement for all American students, we need to give rural schools the same attention we give urbans. And we can’t forget that closing the achievement gap is about closing the gaps between white and black and closing the gaps between rich and poor.
Fortunately, Eduflack is feeling generous this season. There are also gifts under the Eduflack tree for those who have done good work in 2009, those good little boys and girls like EdTrust’s Kati Haycock, EEP’s Ellen Winn, AFT’s Randi Weingarten, Rethink Learning Now’s Sam Chaltain, Stanford’s Linda Darling-Hammond, and the Alliance’s Bob Wise. And special stockings for the EdWeek bloggers who keep us fed on a daily basis. Keep it up!
We also have those policy gifts that all get to enjoy for the coming year, those issues that can truly lift all boats. We have STEM education, one of the few topics that can help all states and localities maximize the opportunities under Race to the Top and effectively link education reform to economic recovery. Chicago’s Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), which may likely be the posterchild for effective i3 spending and the model for how we can really get an effective teacher quality and incentive program. For scientifically based education, which is back with a vengeance as ED talks over and over again about evidence and innovation. Effective teacher professional development, with more and more people realizing that improved student achievement and test scores requires a better equipped, better supported teacher force. The rediscovery of data, both the continued exploration of good data versus bad and, more importantly, how we can effectively use data to improve our schools. And
, of course, common core standards, which is hoping to work through a rough past few months to deliver every U.S. school child, regardless of zip code, one common yardstick to determine if we are prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the future … or not.
And with that, I’ll put my edufinger to the nose attached to my broad face and little round belly, and wish a Happy Eduholidays to all!