The best of the week: from Bill Keller to Nathan Glazer

It was a busy week… We’ve got Bill Keller weighing in on teacher education, Mike Petrilli on the liberal/conservative Venn diagram, more bad news about teacher education quality, Gotham Schools going national, a bad news report on America’s adult reading proficiency, Nathan Glazer on Richard Colvin’s new book about San Diego, outbursts over Common Core, and more….  

Top Stories

“An Industry of Mediocrity”

The headline above Bill Keller’s succinct summary of the woes of American teacher preparation comes from this summer’s National Council on Teacher Quality report. The Times’ former managing editor, now a regular columnist, opens his story by quoting the aphorism that “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.  And those who can’t teach, teach teaching.” He describes schools of education as “a contented cartel,” and suggests some ways to remedy its many problems.


Excellence in Education Summit

An array of speakers, from Jeb Bush to Condoleezza Rice, Theodore Olson, Michael Gove, Arthur Brooks, and Amanda Ripley are excerpted in these fascinating video clips from the recently concluded conference sponsored by Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education


 The Charter School Fight about a Mayoral Candidate’s Views

Though the charter school industry in New York City has been one of the few unquestioned educational success stories (see this new Brookings report), mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio has run afoul of choice supporters by suggesting that their number should be capped at the current 159 and that they should be paying rent when housed in public school buildings.  In this story, Ginia Bellafante suggests that “Mr. de Blasio’s vision for charter schools – and education generally, beyond his advocacy of universal prekindergarten – is too opaque to warrant the attacks.”  See for yourself: CIEP founding director David Steiner interviewed de Blasio in August.  


Petrilli’s Bridging Differences: in Search of Common Ground

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (TBFI) turns out another sensible essay for Deborah Meier’s Bridging Differences blog. (A few weeks ago he touched off an email surge by suggesting, among other things, that the “vicious cycle” of poverty could be broken if women delayed childbirth.)  In this shot over the progressive educator’s bow, Petrilli (full disclosure: I am a policy fellow at TBFI), always civil, says that his blog conversation with Meier has been “instructive” because “it shows how deep the divides are when it comes to social policy in America.” Petrilli outlines diverging trajectories of progressive and conservative education policies and weighs in on how the two sides can meet in the middle.


STOP THE PRESSES: Gotham Schools Goes National

The popular five-year-old Gotham Schools digital newspaper, a valuable must-read for New York City educators and education policymakers, announced today that it has merged with several other education news organizations to bring its belief “in the power of excellent education reporting that lives in and holds itself accountable to a local community” to other cities. The new organization, called Chalkbeat, will have offices in Gotham, as well as Memphis, Denver, and Indianapolis.   


Another attempt to challenge affirmative action

Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and author of The Remedy: Class, Race and Affirmative Action (Basic Books, 1996), provides a useful background on the case now before the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, says Kahlenberg, is “whether voters can amend a state constitution to ban racial preferences by referendum, as Michigan voters did by 58%-42% in 2006.”  It’s complicated, but Kahlenberg argues that the decision “could move the country another step away from racial preferences in college admissions.”  


Believe It or Not: Collective Bargaining in Public

Education Intelligence Agency founder Mike Antonucci reports that Howard County Education (MD) Association and the school board have agreed to have their collective bargaining sessions “open to the public.” A problem arose, however, when the board “unanimously voted to open negotiating to the public in a closed-door session,” which “didn’t sit well with the union,” which “filed a `bad faith claim’ alleging that the board’s vote violated the contract.”  



Some Common Core Dust-ups

Rough Waters for NYS Commissioner

After being “jeered and heckled” at a public forum about the Common Core last week, New York State Commissioner of Education John King “faced a firestorm of criticism” for announcing that he would “suspend” four previously scheduled town-hall meetings. However, the Commissioner has since announced multiple new meetings, the first of which was held in Albany, NY. 

…And for the Future of Common Core in Florida

The headline on this Tampa Bay Times story was “Common Core hearings draw emotional outbursts and political jabs aimed at federal government.”  As the story described:  “There were outraged parents, tea party stalwarts and a man in a Revolutionary War uniform. “ One attendee in Davie said that Common Core was “’the same as Communism.’”  

A little fact-checking, please

This followup story by PolitiFact Florida provides a useful guide to the many myths already growing like weeds around the CCSS.  Among the ones that the paper addresses are:

  • ·         It’s a federal plot.  “Common Core refers to a set of national education standards adopted by 45 states, including Florida. They came out of years of discussion between private nonprofit groups and state education departments.”
  • ·         Teachers weren’t consulted.  “The Common Core State Standards Initiative, the official group that organizes the standards, says that’s not the case. We wanted more evidence, so we talked to teachers who actually participated in the process…. Many states assembled teams of teachers to review the new standards, including Florida
  • ·         Common Core asks that English teachers spend half their time teaching “informational texts.”  “Common Core standards do emphasize informational texts, particularly in history, social studies, science and other technical subjects…. However, the idea that English teachers must spend half their time on informational texts misreads the standards.”
  • ·         “The standards aim `to instill federally determined attitudes and mind-sets in students including political and religious beliefs.’…  We found nothing in the standards that suggested any level of government was telling students what political or religious beliefs they should personally hold.”  

A Great Report from Hechinger

This story from Columbia’s education journalism project should be on every education policymaker’s radar.  Though the headline bills it as a report about “why the Common Core deserves a loud and untidy debate,” it’s actually a great summary of essential facts about where the CCSS came from and where it might be going. 




David & Goliath in text book publishing


Russ Whitehurst takes out after Union City success story 


Nathan Glazer reviews Richard Colvin’s book on San Diego 


American adults lag well behind their counterparts in most other developed 


Arne Duncan doesn’t like the OECD study results 


Grit, optimisim, and other buzzwords that get in the way of education 


Rick Hess makes sense of DC’s teacher evaluation study 

A whole raft of comments on the DC evaluation program 


Tax credit momentum builds in NYS 


Andy Smarick:  when do we take care of our high achievers?


From Down Under: billions of dollars fail to boost teacher skills


Leave a reply

Recent Posts


Moynihan and the Modern American Family at 50

By Gerard Robinson | Senior Fellow, CUNY Institute for Education Policy “The gap between the Negro and most other groups in American society is widening. The fundamental problem, in which this is clearly the case, is that of family structure.” — Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1964) “If the misery of the poor be caused not by… Read More

Director's Perspective

An Open Letter On School Accountability

Below you will find the outline of some thoughts on educational accountability. The topic has become one of the central issues in contemporary reform efforts in American education, with particularly heated debate over efforts to measure the effectiveness of teachers through test scores as well as classroom observations. But the issue is wider than this,… Read More

Reports from the Field

Institutional Commitment to Civic Education: Public Montessori Secondary Schools

By Katie Dulaney | Lakewood Montessori School Even as we hold schools increasingly accountable for student achievement, we rarely seem to judge schools for their performance in citizenship preparation, an inauspicious “accountability gap” for a democracy. -Michael Johanek and John Puckett, “The State of Civic Education” (2005) Education leaders across the political spectrum – from… Read More