Monday, December 15, 2008

More Speculation on Ed Secretary

Posted on ICE-mail by John Lawhead:

Though she was silent at the November DA while one of her supporters pleaded (in opposition to Lisa) that he'd never heard of the dude. The NEA is apparently pushing for a governor.

Reports below from the AP and NY Times and comments from George Schmidt and Susan O. on ARN.
Debate simmers over Obama's pending education pick
December 8, 2008 12:58 PM ET
Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - President-elect Barack Obama has not signaled what he will do to fix the country's failing schools, but his choice of education secretary will say a lot about the policies he may pursue.
Debate is simmering among Democrats over whom Obama should name.
Teachers' unions, an influential segment of the party base, want an advocate for their members, someone like Obama adviser Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor, or Inez Tenenbaum, the former state schools chief in South Carolina.
Reform advocates want someone like New York schools chancellor Joel Klein, who wants teachers and schools held accountable for the performance of students.
Thus far Obama has avoided taking sides, saying things that reassure the competing factions. Obama has said, for instance, that teacher pay should be tied to student achievement, which reformers like, but not solely based on test scores, which teachers like.
Unions, by the way, dislike the "reformer" label, pointing out they want reform, too. And the reform group says it cares about good teachers; it just wants bad ones out of the classroom.
"He's a wise man," said Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, chuckling. "He left himself some room to maneuver."
Bayh, a Democratic centrist who backed the No Child Left Behind law, thinks Obama will find a way to straddle the competing factions. "My strong impression of the president-elect is he is pragmatic. He won't pick an ideologue. He won't pick a side in this fight."
Even so, Bayh expects Obama to choose someone the unions can live with to carry out his education goals.
"You probably don't get there by having an overt, in-your-face fight with classroom teachers," Bayh said. "That's going to take a lot of political capital and divert energy from other things."
Can Obama make both sides happy? Not likely, said Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.
"I think it's almost an impossible pick to make and somebody not be upset," Burr said. "I'm not sure there's a candidate that bridges both divides."
One candidate might fit the bill — Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, who has spent seven years running the country's third-largest school district.
Duncan is friendly with the president-elect, playing pickup basketball as well as touring schools with the former Illinois senator and fellow Harvard alumnus. Duncan visited Washington last week, stopping for coffee with outgoing Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, but he said the visit was purely social and had nothing to do with the Obama transition.
Like Obama, Duncan has straddled both education factions, signing manifestos from each side earlier this year.
The reform group likes Duncan's work in Chicago, where he has focused on improving struggling schools, closing those that fail and getting better teachers.
And unlike Klein or Washington schools chief Michelle Rhee, Duncan has managed to avoid alienating the teachers' unions.
"Arne Duncan actually reaches out and tries to do things in a collaborative way," said Randi Weingarten, head of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers.
Weingarten also heads the New York teachers union, whose members felt demonized in their contract battles with Klein. The 3.2 million-member National Education Association shares their view.
"Joel Klein is not someone we would be happy with as secretary of education," NEA lobbyist Joel Packer said. "I don't think Obama is going to pick someone who's going to be really divisive."
Darling-Hammond, the Obama adviser who is heading his education transition team, is equally controversial. The reform group doesn't like her because of her criticism of No Child Left Behind and her early critique of Teach for America, which pairs college graduates with a school-in-need for two years, although she has since given the program credit for attracting talented teachers.
Both unions have said they like the idea of Obama choosing a governor or former governor. There are many to choose from, including former Gov. Roy Barnes of Georgia. Kansas' Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, whose name had been floated for several Cabinet posts, announced over the weekend that she had removed herself from consideration from a Cabinet job in the Obama administration, citing Kansas' budget problems that need her attention.
The names of former Mississippi Govs. Ray Mabus and Ronnie Musgrove have also surfaced; several people said Musgrove has talked to Democratic senators about the job, but he did not return a call from The Associated Press.
AFT backed Obama's rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the primary, and NEA held off on an endorsement, but in the general election both endorsed Obama and spent millions of dollars supporting him.
In the education debate, the competing sides break down over the degree to which teachers and schools should be held accountable for how kids are learning, and the role test scores should play in making that determination.
At the heart of the dispute: No Child Left Behind, the law that has grown as unpopular as George W. Bush, the lame-duck president who championed it.
The reform group agrees with the law's general principle of penalties for schools if test scores fail to improve. Although nearly everyone agrees the law has problems that need fixing.
The union coalition says test scores aren't the only measure, and that factors far beyond the classroom affect how well kids learn.
(This version CORRECTS that NEA held off on primary endorsement.)
© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

December 14, 2008
Uncertainty on Obama Education Plans
As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to announce his choice for education secretary, there is mystery not only about the person he will choose, but also about the approach to overhauling the nation’s schools that his selection will reflect.
Despite an 18-month campaign for president and many debates, there remains uncertainty about what Mr. Obama believes is the best way to improve education.
Will he side with those who want to abolish teacher tenure and otherwise curb the power of teachers’ unions? Or with those who want to rewrite the main federal law on elementary and secondary education, the No Child Left Behind Act, and who say the best strategy is to help teachers become more qualified?
The debate has sometimes been nasty.
“People are saying things now that they may regret saying in a couple of months,” said Jack Jennings, a Democrat who is president and chief executive of the Center on Education Policy in Washington. “Unfortunately, they’re all friends of mine, which makes it awkward.”
Some of the toughest criticism has been aimed at the person Mr. Obama appointed to lead his education policy working group, the most important education post of the transition: Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University.
Dr. Darling-Hammond is liked by the teachers’ unions, and partly for that reason has been portrayed as an enemy of school reform by detractors. These have included people who have urged Mr. Obama to appoint Joel I. Klein, the New York City schools chancellor, or Michelle Rhee, the schools chancellor in Washington, as education secretary. Both of them have clashed with teachers’ unions.
Editorials and opinion articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times have described the debate as pitting education reformers against those representing the educational establishment or the status quo. But who the reformers are depends on who is talking.
Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, used different terms in discussing the debate.
Dr. Fuller said it pitted “professionalization advocates such as Darling-Hammond,” who believe the policy emphasis should be on raising student achievement by helping teachers improve their instruction, against “efficiency hawks like Klein and Rhee.” The efficiency hawks, he said, emphasize standardized testing, cracking down on poor school management and purging bad teachers.
“It’s tough love without any love,” he said.
Dr. Darling-Hammond has become a controversial figure partly because of her longtime criticism of Teach for America, the nonprofit group that recruits college graduates to teach for two years in hard-to-staff schools. She says the group loses too many recruits at the end of their two-year commitments, just when they are learning to teach.
Teach for America has no official preference for or opposition to any candidate, said Kevin Huffman, a spokesman for the group.
But an organization called Leadership for Educational Equity, which was founded to help former members of the Teach for America corps become involved in politics, has photographs of Dr. Darling-Hammond, Mr. Obama and Mr. Klein alongside an article on its Web site with the headline, “Education Secretary Fight Could Affect Teach for America’s Mission.”
The article notes that Dr. Darling-Hammond “has long been a vocal critic of Teach For America,” and it urges the group’s alumni to make their views on the candidates known.
Mr. Obama has given no hint of his own leanings.
Arne Duncan, the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, may have an edge. Mr. Duncan is a longtime friend of the president-elect and has closed failing schools and improved achievement without alienating the teachers’ union. The superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Michael Bennet, who has enacted a plan to reward effective teachers with higher pay, has also attracted the transition team’s interest.
Mr. Klein and Ms. Rhee, as well as former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and several current and former governors, have also been considered, a member of the transition team said. Mr. Powell has said publicly that he is not interested.
One former Teach for America official who has been outspoken is Whitney Tilson, a New York mutual fund manager.
In a recent blog entry, Mr. Tilson said of Dr. Darling-Hammond, “She’s influential, clever and (while she does her best to hide it) an enemy of genuine reform.”
Mr. Tilson is on the board of Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee based in New York.
The group sent the Obama transition team a 43-page memorandum shortly after the election with policy advice and a “wish list” of candidates for secretary that included Mr. Duncan; Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America; and Jon Schnur, who started a nonprofit group, New Leaders for New Schools, that trains principals for urban schools, said Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform.
Mr. Williams said his group also liked Mr. Klein and Ms. Rhee. “We’d be thrilled,” he said, “if either one were named secretary.”
The two national teachers unions have also been active. The National Education Association has not formally endorsed anyone but has discussed candidates with the Obama transition team, indicating some candidates who would have the union’s support, said John Wilson, the executive director.
The American Federation of Teachers presented the Obama team with written evaluations of a string of candidates without endorsing any of them, said Randi Weingarten, the union’s president. “We have no candidate in the race,” Ms. Weingarten said. But last week she publicly praised Mr. Duncan in an interview with The Associated Press. “Arne Duncan,” she said, “actually reaches out and tries to do things in a collaborative way.”


Arne Duncan's career has been in crony capitalism, Chicago style. Since he was appointed "CEO" of Chicago's public schools by Mayor Richard M. Daley in
July 2001, he has been responsible for the greatest expansion of patronage hiring (generally, but not exclusively, at the central and "area" offices, but often
as well in the schools) on the CPS payroll since the Great Depression (when the school system was controlled by politicians, leading to its near-demise in
1945). Duncan has also presided over more "no bid" contracts from contractors (for everything from buildings and computer hardward and software to charter
schools) in the history of the City of Chicago abd its public schools.

Finally, and equally important, Arne Duncan has closed "failing schools" (dubiously defined by low test scores for one or two years, often because of
special circumstances at the schools) in Chicago's African American community.

Since Duncan became CEO, he has eliminated 2,000 black teachers from Chicago's teaching force, undoing decades of desegregation and affirmative action in the name of "school reform."

Last year (2007-2008) Duncan began a program he called "Turnaround" (based on the corporate models) that was actually reconstitution. He fired most of the teachers and principals in six public schools (four elementary schools; two high schools). At each of those six schools, the majority of the teachers and
principals were black.

Were Arne Duncan living and working in Mississippi in 1952, it would be easy for the USA to see what he is and has been up to in the service of corporate
Chicago. Because he plays ball not only with Barack Obama but with Richard M. Daley and corporate Chicago, Chicago's white blindspot has ignored the fact
that Duncan has gotten rid of more African American educators than most Mississippi and other southern governments during those dark days just before Brown v.
Board of Education in 1954.

The reason why the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) can promote Duncan's candidacy is that seven years of turmoil within Chicago's union has left the
union badly split (and weakened). Arne Duncan does not have the support of Chicago's teachers. He has the support of the president of the Chicago Teachers
Union, Marilyn Stewart, who is in the midst of a purge of her own staff and elected administration. Stewart, a lame duck officer with no more chance of
re-election than George W. Bush, is viewed by the majority of Chicago Teachers Union members as a traitor to her union and the teaching profession.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

Thank you for this analysis, George. Since Mastery Learning, Chicago offers the education model for the sheep to follow. This crony capitalism is very similar to NEA's Joel Packer, whose site banner reads that he "has all the answers," telling Philip Kovacs and me in PDK that the NEA couldn't advocate ending NCLB because they need to keep a seat at the table AND IRA lobbyist telling me that IRA's position on NCLB was "we never tell Congress anything they don't want to hear."

It doesn't have to be this way. Note the BC teachers federation, which is on the edge of leading teachers into a ethical/professional strike against standardized testing.

Susan Ohanian

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