Merry Christmas!

Eduflack just wanted to take a moment to wish a very happy holiday to all those who read this blog, follow the Twitter feed, or generally are committed to education and improving learning outcomes for all kids.

Bringing back an old Eduflack tradition, here are holiday wishes coming from the edu-kiddos!


It’s All About the States, Bout the States, No Federal

For years now, Eduflack has written about the balance of edu-power between the Federal government and the states. While major statement pieces like NCLB or Race to the Top signal the Feds in the driver’s seat, the real action (or inaction) on school improvement continues to happen at the state level.

And as Congress continues to show less and less interest in funding those big signature pieces, that power will likely continue to shift to the states, with governors and state legislatures determining what is best for their states and their students. The Feds provide the guidance and broad strokes, but it falls to states and locals to decide what to do, how to do it, and ultimately how to determine if it works.

Over at The Hill, my colleague Arthur Levine (former president of Teachers College, Columbia University) has a commentary on this specific topic. In his piece, Levine focuses on how states can and should be beacons for innovation and school improvement. And he looks at places like Tennessee, as well as states like Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio (all states that have adopted the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program) as examples of the power of state transformation in education.

As Levine writes:

States are already doing much to strengthen education. Simply put, they need the encouragement, policy framework, and flexibility to explore new avenues that will work best for their schools, their students, and their communities.

As the 114th Congress looks to chart the course for the next phase of our shared educational journey, policymakers in Washington must give states the tools they need and the right incentives to help them think outside the box, and then hold them accountable for results.

Give it a read. With a new Congress coming to Washington, and new leadership more in tune with the power of states than the growing power of the Feds, it could be a glimpse into the edu-future.

Excellent Teachers? Focus on Excellent Teacher Ed

Over at Education World this week, I have a piece that looks at some recent Politico analysis following the U.S. Department of Education’s call for equitable distribution of excellent teachers in our public schools. It should come as no surprise, the current data regarding teacher quality is disturbing to say the least.

How do we begin to address the problem? One way is to strengthen our teacher preparation efforts. And that can be done by looking at the lessons learned by a number of programs currently engaged in transforming teacher education to meet the challenges and rise to the opportunities.

Give the piece a read. The reccs on how to address state-based improvement to teacher education is well worth the time.

Teaching the Teachers: Improving Ed Schools

In recent weeks, the topic of teacher education has been picking up steam. After spending years (or decades) focused on how to improve student achievement, many are now starting to see that real improvement can’t happen until we fundamentally address how prospective educators are prepared and supported for their roles as teachers of record.

This week, Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk offers up a terrific collection of stories examining the issues, including:

States Slow to Close Faltering Teacher Ed. Programs, which looks at how our national quest for improved education and improved educational outcomes hasn’t quite reached those overseeing our ed schools;

Disparate Teacher-Prep Curricula Complicate Accountability Efforts, which demonstrates the continued challenges in demanding effective teacher ed efforts; and

N.Y. College’s Experiences Shows Conflicts Around Ed. School Closures, which shows how all of these policy debates play out, or fail to, in the real world.

All three pieces are worth the read, particularly the examination of Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Anyone who has been in higher ed knows that the tale told by Sawchuk there is similar to many others around the nation.

In his States Slow piece, Sawchuk quotes Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and President Emeritus of Teachers College Columbia University, on the current state of the American ed school. Levine rightly notes: “I haven’t visited a state where the political leaders are enthusiastic about the quality of ed. schools. They have the capacity to do a reauthorization of their existing programs, and they haven’t done it.”

We all seem to be good at pointing out the problems. It’s what we do with the capacity (and power) to improve that is the ultimate measure. This series from Sawchuk may very well serve as the canary in the coal mine, with meaningful “reform” coming to teacher education in the near future.

So Student Journalists Shall Lead Us

Earlier this fall, I wrote on the brave stance the student journalists of the Playwickian took to stand up for journalistic ethics and protect their beliefs on what was right, as both students and as human beings.

I had never met these kids. I had never read their newspaper. But I was taken by their crusade and their commitment. I believed in them. So I supported them, both on the pages of Eduflack and financially.

That support was rewarded this week, as I received a letter from the staff of the Playwickian. These terrific journalists wrote (in a handwritten note):

When we began this conversation about our mascot, we were unaware of the difference we could make. But our stance has strengthened as we have overcome every roadblock our administration & community have made.

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of a “Redskin” mascot, you have to applaud these Pennsylvania student journalists for reminding us the role of a free press, the responsibility of a media watchdog, and the impact the media can play as a moral compass. These journalists remind us of what our nation sought when we established a free press and of what we hope from a 21st century media. If each of these editors has a byline in a decade, the media will be in a good place.

Check out their full letter below.




The Courage to Listen

As we continue to debate the future of public education, this is an important lesson to consider. Too often, education reformers seek to show they are the smartest people in the room, the folks with all of the answers. We can forget the value of a diversity of opinion and of experience.

It isn’t just what we know or think, it is about those that are affected and those who have come before is. Winston Churchill has it right.