Category Archives: education reform

Daniel Henninger Observes Leftist Opposition To Education Reform

Late last week Daniel Henninger had a really good column in the Wall Street Journal. He was discussing President Obama’s latest faux-concern, the issue of “income inequality.” In a column which was subtitled “The left will never support the solution to income inequality,” Mr. Henninger was looking at the new mayor of New York City, progessive Leftist Bill de Blasio, and he closed his WSJ column this way:

Let’s cut to the chase: The real issue in the American version of this subject is the low incomes of the inner-city poor. And let’s put on the table one thing nearly all agree on: A successful education improves lifetime earnings. This assumes one is living in an economy with better than moribund growth, an assumption no one in the U.S. or Western Europe can make anymore.

If there is one political goal all Democratic progressives agree on it’s this: They will resist, squash and kill any attempt anywhere in the U.S. to educate those low-income or no-income inner-city kids in alternatives to the public schools run by the party’s industrial-age unions.

Reforming that public-school monopoly is the litmus test of seriousness on income inequality. That monopoly is the primary cause of America’s post-1970s social-policy failure. And that monopoly will emerge from the Obama presidency and de Blasio mayoralty intact. So will income inequality.

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Book Review – A Chance To Make History

A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for Allby Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp is a current look at a positive force for education improvement in America. Education books about various educational programs are released each year, but as numbers change, the books become outdated and less accurate, or less applicable. So, A Chance to Make History, released in 2011, and with stats reported from the latter part of 2010, is a very good current snapshot of the education system in America.

Right at the outset, I wish I had the book in electronic format so I could easily count the number of times the words “transformation” or “transformational” were used. I think this word was the right choice for the needed reforms in American education. I do think those word uses were incorrectly applied in some instances, where the words were another way or saying “better”, “different” or “changing”. What American education truly needs is Transformational Change.

Calling for such change is another way of saying that the current system is beyond being fixed by piecemeal measures, or tinkering around the edges. As was pointed out in this book, more money and more funding is not always the answer. In many cases we are simply spending more for the same, mediocre results.

What A Change to Make History clearly demonstrates is that private enterprise can achieve better results than can any level of government, such as local or federal. There are several instances where not having to deal with any government bureaucracies allowed innovators and investors the chance to get in and do the work of educating children. One great quote to illustrate this:

“Post-storm, there was no bureaucracy left, and it really was an open opportunity for people to come down and get schools open quickly, schools that could be designed to close the achievement gap right from the start.” (p. 96, in reference to post-Katrina New Orleans)

I understand that Teach for America does get some federal funding, but that most of its funding is philanthropic and received from donors. I object to the federal government being involved in education at all. If government has to be involved, I would prefer to see them solely fund organizations such as Teach For America. Get the bureaucrats who look at numbers and studies and decide the fate of students across the country that they have never seen and will never see, out of the way of state and local education authorities.

The federal government has proven it can not manage large, complex systems well. Look at the post office, which recently had to be bailed out to the tune of $11 billion. If the federal government had to go to a rational bank and apply for a loan to fund the Department of Education, and if they presented the current model for education as their business plan, they would be laughed out of the building, denied the loan, and shut down for good.

Specifically, A Chance to Make History is an enjoyable read, it is a narrative, with stories that the author comes back to time and again. It is a hopeful book, and a positive book when you see the positive results. I felt the book, at 218 pages, was a quick read, and frankly I could have kept reading. Fortunately, the book is loaded with some great footnotes for further research. Finally, this book might be seen very much as a sort of brag sheet for Teach For America. I’d advise readers to get over that fact and focus on the results oriented focus of the book instead. Whether it’s through Teach For America or similar efforts, let’s start transforming education in this country by unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit that can be found in our 310 million citizens. Let’s start at the local, community level and build up from there.

I’ll close with this quote from page 113:

“I believe part of the reason that the achievement gap has not narrowed in an aggregate sense over the past two decades, despite all the energy and resources invested in education reform, is that our policy makers and influencers have been so obsessed with finding a quick fix that we have gone lurching from one silver-bullet solution to another rather than embracing the big idea of transformative education and engaging in the very hard work of implementing it. Equally distracting, we have also spent inordinate amounts of energy blaming one group or another-“silver scapegoats,” we could call them – when there are clearly larger systemic issues at play. The fact is that our system was not initially designed with an understanding of what it would take to change the path predicted by students’ socioeconomic background.”

The time for Transformational Change in American education, is now.

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Filed under a chance to make history, education, education reform, parental choice in education, teach for america, transformational change, wendy kopp

>Transformational Change in Education Might be the Place to Start

>A great column appeared in the Houston Chronicle today.

As we are watching Professional Leftists in their true form carry out their childish acts in Wisconsin, we see some good examples of what happens when adults are in charge.

Houston has attracted entrepreneurial educators from across the globe, many, like Tarim, drawn by the University of Houston, Rice and nearby Texas A&M. Other educational entrepreneurs were not new to the country, but were new to Houston. Feinberg, Levin and Barbic were among an army of young, idealistic TFA corps members from out of state drawn to Houston to save urban schooling. Houston has the nation’s largest TFA chapter. Unlike many cities, Houston welcomed TFA rather than seeing corps members as taking jobs from locals.

So what makes Houston different? First, the Houston Federation of Teachers never had the power to keep out TFA or hamstring KIPP and other charters. But that still left a bureaucracy, which, as Jay Mathews writes, resented KIPP’s notoriety and success. Before KIPP became a charter, the Houston Independent School District central office investigated KIPP, and at one point reassigned its classrooms. Political leadership saved the day. HISD Superintendent Rod Paige publicly praised KIPP and intervened when bureaucrats attacked. Paige also had HISD serve as an incubator for YES Prep. As Barbic recalls, “A lot of superintendents would have seen that innovation and tried to kill it, but Paige did the exact opposite.” Paige’s successors have followed his lead, fashioning a public school system that can compete with the charters.

In a couple of my recent posts where I have discussed some ideas suggesting we need Transformational Change, this article highlights two sections where I think this absolutely applies.

Highlighted in yellow, entrepreneurial and entrepreneurs suggest the type of thinking and the type of people we need to transform the nations education disaster. This is the new thinking we need. This is where the new solutions that work will come from. Highlighted in orange, is the old thinking, the continual path to ruin and inefficiency. The orange highlights are the way to stop progress.

Newt Gingrich has discussed a newer model, called Entrepreneurial Public Management to replace bureaucratic public administration. A more scholarly paper on Entrepreneurial Public Management can be found at AEI. As I have been thinking about how we reform, and therefore transform the current system(s) in America, this seems like a very logical place to start. Obviously the teachers unions will be the biggest problem. Anyone who has seen the documentary Waiting For Superman knows what I’m talking about. Think about that “rubber room” in New York. And think about the all-out assault the Professional Left launched against Michelle Rhee, for the crime of, hold your breath, WANTING CHILDREN TO LEARN, gasp. Fortunately, Michelle Rhee is able to do her own thing now.

So, I see a clearer path now than I did a few days ago. I’m still working and thinking about how we get to a point of Transformational Change and what that looks like. I hope you’re working on it or thinking about it as well and I welcome your ideas and collaboration.

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Filed under education, education reform, entrepreneurs, hisd, kipp, michelle rhee, rod paige, transformational change, waiting for superman, yes prep

Messaging Memo: Reforming Education

Commit yourself to these words as you debate education reform going forward:

School Choice = Parental Choice In Education

Vouchers = Opportunity Scholarships

So, we’re going to start saying we favor Parental Choice in Education and we would give parents Opportunity Scholarships to make that happen.

Got it?



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