Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What Arne Duncan means for educational policy--the view from Chicago

President-elect Obama's choice of Arne (pronounced "arnie") Duncan for education secretary startled me a bit, because I expected Obama to name either an accomplished academic to the post (like Linda Darling-Hammond), or someone with broader experience in the trenches of education, that is, involving more than being a capital-fund-supported educational "reformer" or CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. Duncan has never taught in a K-12 school--other than tutoring...attended the U of C Lab Schools and Harvard (and so has no experience being a student in a public school)...and lacks an advanced degree (even a master's degree) in education. Plus, while some credit Duncan with righting a sinking ship in Chicago during the last seven years, I think in fact any "improvement" in Chicago Public Schools has been primarily in terms of the public perception of the schools and some tinkering around the edges of accountability and choice.

So what are Duncan's qualifications to be education secretary?

1. Duncan is a consummate diplomat. Since the primary job of the education secretary is to "sell" federal programs to the public at large and other constituencies such as teachers unions, this is the primary reason he was chosen. He's well-spoken without coming across as aloof. He sounds like a regular guy, even though he's a Hyde Parker through and through, son of two well-respected University of Chicago academics. (I think perhaps Duncan's basketball career has given him a visceral connection to people who lack an academic bent: "I've been fortunate to go to some of the top schools in America...but I can tell you, without a doubt, that some of the best lessons I've learned in life are from playing basketball on Chicago's inner-city playgrounds. There's nothing like it", Chicago Tribune, July 11, 2001.) Like Obama, he has a huge natural smile that disarms his critics. I've heard Duncan speak in public a number of times, and while he advocates reforms (mostly along the very moderate lines of improved teacher training, replacing enormous failing high schools with small schools, more charter schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and using better data for decision-making), he NEVER says anything particularly upsetting or polarizing (in contrast, say, to Paul Vallas). Duncan is also not adverse to defending his boss (Richard Daley, for example), and he does so in a masterfully tactful manner that leaves even critics of that boss nodding their heads at Duncan's defense.

2. Duncan is smart. He listens. As mentioned above, he pays attention to data. Educationally-oriented academics (such as Tim Knowles, director of the Urban Education Initiative of the University of Chicago (and my former boss) love him. Duncan is persuadable. He doesn't think he knows it all, and is willing to let smart, dedicated professionals do their jobs within broad policy constraints. He's an excellent executive.

3. Duncan is a pragmatist. One thing about Barack Obama that strikes me--especially in terms of educational policy but perhaps more generally--is that he seeks pragmatic solutions to policy problems, while adhering generally to the consequentialist belief that the best policy is that policy that benefits the most people. ("Arne has always seen education as a civil rights issue." — Phyllis Lockett, CEO of the Renaissance Schools Fund, a non-profit that works with Chicago schools, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 16, 2008.) Duncan shares this pragmatism. Neither man, despite being Hyde Parkers, U of Cers (in some sense), and Democrats, is an idealogue. They will not pursue policies (such as the Bush program of "evidence-based" programs) that are merely screens for tactics in the culture wars.

4. Duncan is not only pragmatic, but he is also independent. He is not beholden to any political or entrenched interest. He's not "pro-union"; nor is he "anti-union." He's not for privatization of public schools, but he's not opposed to outsourcing when it improves results. He's also not opposed to closing underperforming schools. (When he first started doing this in Chicago, he raised a tremendous outcry of opposition from teachers, students, and community organizers. He learned from this experience and changed his tactics. Now, you hear almost no sustained opposition to this policy.) While he's surely a Democrat, and likely a liberal in his personal political views, he exudes a kind of beneficent concern for all stakeholders that will play very well in Washington policy circles.

5. He plays basketball....very well, and Obama likes to play with him.

6. His kids go to the same public school as my son does and daughter did. It's pretty much the best urban neighborhood school in the country. Will this continue? Hmmm......

So what are the implications?

1. NCLB will be drastically restructured to focus on supports for improvement rather than negative consequences for failure.

2. Opponents of charter schools have lost a huge battle. Their expansion will continue dramatically.

3. Urban school districts will receive special attention from Washington.

4. Washington will now begin to push a longer school day and longer school year, and the public will be gently pressured to force the unions to accept this without getting higher pay.

5. Funding for educational research will no longer be tied to ideological criteria such as "evidence-based" practices. Rather, research will be judged in terms of its likely benefit to generalized issues of educational practice.

6. The bowling alley in the White House will be replaced with a Basketball Court.

7. Barbara Eason-Watkins, who has been the quiet but effective and resolute Chief Education Officer of the Chicago Public Schools for the past 6 years, will become Chicago Schools Chief. Barbara (who was also my boss for about 3 months before she took her current position) is smart, friendly, tireless, effective, and has deep experience at all levels of the system. Expect Eason-Watkins to make news within the next few years, most likely by saying things that no white man could say in that position. She may shake things up a bit in Chicago (which would be quite welcome).



While I was startled that Obama made this pick, I think it was a good one. Duncan will do Obama's bidding without even having to be told what that is. He will be well-liked by pretty much everyone. And he will work to generally increase federal involvement where such involvement can make a difference, and will advocate strongly for "investment" in education in a way that will be convincing to most Americans.

(Direct quotes above are from http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1867011,00.html)

29 comments:

Craig A. Cunningham said...

I was asked privately:

How does a guy go from Harvard to playing hoops overseas, to coming back to Chicago to run a big education thing, and then become the Chicago schools chief??

I replied:

Connections. That's what you get when you go to the U of Chicago Lab Schools, and Harvard, and then work for John Rogers, a "player" in the Chicago scene. And don't forget he worked for Paul Vallas as his chief of staff before being named to Vallas's post.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

I received another private message from an advocate for early childhood education. She said that Arne has done good things for early childhood education in Chicago, and she expects him to continue with that in Washington. I agree, if only because Barack Obama KNOWS (and said so in his campaign) that improving early childhood education for economically disadvantaged kids is the key to improving education generally. So Duncan will be given a green light to make big investments in this area.

Nick Burbules said...

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/12/17/america/educate.php

After years of what they call backhanded treatment by the Bush administration, whose focus has been on the testing of older children, many advocates are atremble with anticipation over Obama's espousal of early childhood education.

In the presidential debates, he twice described it as among his highest priorities, and his choice for secretary of education, Arne Duncan, the Chicago schools superintendent, is a strong advocate for it.

In addition, the $10 billion that Obama has pledged for early childhood education would amount to the largest new federal initiative for young children since Head Start began in 1965.

philip said...

yes this is a great and informative post, thanks Craig!

if Duncan believes "improving early childhood education for economically
disadvantaged kids is the key to improving education generally," that is great.

however, if that means more testing for younger children, that's no good at all...if that means developing a more humanizing curriculum (such as the one employed at Sidwell) then I am all for it.

importantly, i would support, as Aaron has discussed on this blog, investing in basic dental and medical care for all children.

MNelson said...

Thanks, Craig,
Having watched Chicago schools from afar for almost 20 years, from my position at NLU Florida, I was worried when I first saw this appointment because most of what I remember hearing about Arne Duncan was during the years when he worked for Paul Vallas or shortly after taking over in his current role.

Your opinions go along way to allay the worst of my fears. Duncan sounds better than I remember from the early days and you've explained both why my impressions were so negative and why they are largely from those early days in his position.

I'll postpone judgment to see what Duncan actually does, but I'm largely relieved to read your take on things.

Marie Nelson

Kathryn M. Benson said...

Well, it sounds good that the new guy -- fellow basketball player -- known entity -- member of the "in" crowd (how high school is that?) -- is interested and will support early childhood education. I have read the posts and can't get a handle on his take on the importance of early childhood education that is appropriate for, uh, let's say -- young children. Obviously he is a player -- and that may mean he will do what is politically expedient, rather than what is in the best interests of children. I said "may" mean -- let's just see if there is any notion of acknowledging the importance of culturally responsive teaching and age and developmentally appropriate curriculum and pedagogy, reaching out to disenfranchised parents and community folks, meeting medical and dental needs, acknowledging the strengths of cultural differences, etc. There will surely need to be a big turn around for support of these and other concerns and needs. I don't read anything that makes me think the structural weaknesses of NCLB will be addressed, other than providing more support for failing schools -- which would be a type of improvement. Thanks for the postings; I was waiting to see what you guys were thinking about the appointee. Thanks, Craig and others

Jim Horn said...

I hate to interrupt the third chorus of Kumbaya, but there are a few of us who are not nearly so elated about the appointment of Arne Duncan. Anyone interested can tab through some of these:

http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/search?q=arne+duncan

Happy Holiday,
Jim

Craig A. Cunningham said...

I highly recommend reading Jim's highly polemical post over at Schools Matter (URL above), in which he quotes the usual suspects in making a backhanded argument that Duncan is against progressive education.

Go read it now, then come back here.

A couple of points:

1. yes, of course CPS's charter schools are segregated (that is, mostly all black or Latino). That's because most of Chicago's neighborhoods are segregated. (http://www.luc.edu/curl/cfm40/data/minisynthesis.pdf.) Only 8.3% of CPS students are white (http://webprod.isbe.net/ereportcard/publicsite/getReport.aspx?year=2008&code=150162990_e.pdf) and they are concentrated in a very few pretty good schools near Hyde Park and on the north side. Where are the white children supposed to come from to "desegregate" either the CPS neighborhood schools or the charter schools.

2. Duncan's support of military academies in the high schools isn't support for the "militarization" of high schools. It's support for a set of charter schools that have proven highly popular (and "effective" in some senses), not support for militarization of high schools. As I mentioned, Duncan is a pragmatist; he's not going to exclude military academies simply because they are affiliated with the military.

3. Yes, Linda Darling-Hammond is a more "progressive" educator than Duncan. (Duncan is not an educator...he's an administrator.) But Darling-Hammond has lately had the luxury of a country-club professorship at Stanford and isn't really accountable for anything other than the force of her ideas; she has the luxury to speak about education as if money, personnel, facilities, transportation, poverty, and huge size weren't the issues they remain in CPS. (Don't get me wrong...I love her...and I think Arne will rely on her for advice and counter-advice, as he should.)

4. To critique Duncan for supporting accountability by lumping in all that other anti-progressive crap that goes on to meet NCLB standards ("the perceived urgency for social control and a population suited to mindless labor helped form a bipartisan coalition aimed at replacing city schools with small manageable work camps based on stringent behavior modification, scripted instruction, and cognitive decapitation") is simply sloppy. Duncan doesn't support that stuff, but as CEO of CPS, his job #1 was to improve test scores--that's what he was hired by Daley to do--and as a pragmatist he allowed multiple means to be employed toward that end. The sad truth is that some of these approaches "work" in that limited sense (Kipp Schools, take note).

5. I'm guessing that Linda Darling-Hammond wasn't chosen because Obama's financial backers can't understand how what she supports fits into the actual management of education in the US. I'd rather have Linda as head of OER, frankly.

6. It's great to have the left-wing to keep the left-of-center pragmatists honest. I think that's what Jim's post is meant to do....not to suggest that Obama would have been wiser to have appointed someone like Alfie Kohn, Peter McClaren, Henry Giroux, or William Ayers as education secretary. Or, um, maybe it was to suggest that?

Jim, do you have a few names of people--that is, those who might actually be appointed by Obama--that you WOULD be happy to support as education secretary?

NAGC said...

Here is what the National Association for Gifted Children had to say about Secretary-designate Duncan:

Gifted education is falling by the wayside right now and our best students are failing to meet their potential because their needs are not being met. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are especially at risk. They are often not recognized and not given the education they need and deserve.

Duncan is a great pick for Secretary of Education because he knows what a challenging urban school system looks and feels like. Hopefully he will begin to look at the gifted ed as a necessity.

Jim Horn said...

Parrot learning began in Chicago in 1999 under Paul Vallas, Arne's boss at the time. It continues today under Duncan. See the NYTimes for little history:
'teachers in Chicago Schools Follow Script From Day 001.

I supported Darling-Hammond (see Nov. 5 post, http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/2008/11/darling-hammond-for-secretary-of-ed.html).

Although any of the other possibilities you named, Craig, would be preferable to Duncan.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

I concede that Arne has not done enough to discourage CPS schools from adopting what Jim refers to as "parrot learning." Truth is, as near as I can tell, it's a "popular" method among those who think that standardized tests are all that matters for poor kids. Given the mandates of NCLB, and the ways that "school quality" gets popularly assessed in Chicago (and elsewhere), my sense is that what would be required to eliminate "parrot learning" would be a dramatic change in the assessments or a willingness to give teachers the authority to craft their own assessments for accountability purposes. Neither of these, in my opinion, have been possible in CPS (or elsewhere in major urban educational system), and holding Arne responsible for that is a stretch.

Now, again, I believe that Arne is primarily an administrator, not an educator. I am not certain that what is needed as education secretary is an educator, given that the department of education doesn't "educate," it administers. Of course, if an educator who had substantial administrative experience were available....I don't think any of the names mentioned so far (including Darling-Hammond) meet that criterion.

Jim Horn said...

Craig,
I didn't have time yesterday to properly respond, so here goes. By the way, I posted this with links over at SM. Happy Holiday:
___________
A fellow teacher educator over at Education Policy Blog had some comments on one of my Arne posts yesterday, but he took his remarks back over there, where they could be enjoyed by an audience more likely, perhaps, to offer moral support for his snippy remarks. Below I have given good buddy, Craig, center stage for his comments here. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing the stage to offer my comments on his comments.

Craig's initial remark was in reference to George Schmidt's contention in yesterday's post that the Chicago charterizers under Duncan are making segregation worse in Chicago.

1. yes, of course CPS's charter schools are segregated (that is, mostly all black or Latino). That's because most of Chicago's neighborhoods are segregated. (http://www.luc.edu/curl/cfm40/data/minisynthesis.pdf.) Only 8.3% of CPS students are white (http://webprod.isbe.net/ereportcard/publicsite/getReport.aspx?year=2008&code=150162990_e.pdf) and they are concentrated in a very few pretty good schools near Hyde Park and on the north side. Where are the white children supposed to come from to "desegregate" either the CPS neighborhood schools or the charter schools.

There is an interesting phenomenon going around, Craig, called socioeconomic school integration. Having had Bush's SCOTUS to eviscerate the Brown Decision in 2007, this kind of conscious integration effort shows some promising social and academic results, particularly in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. But, then, you would have to sell that notion to the ethnically-diverse and economically-similar parents of the leafy suburbs who would rather keep Hyde Park just as it is. That, or send their children to a school like Sidwell.

By the way, Craig, there is an interesting study just out from the University of Minnesota that looks at a 15 year history of charters in Minnesota. Among their conclusions: charter schools exacerbate segregation, both economic and racial, while driving down performance in charters as well as public schools:

After two decades of experience, most charter schools in the Twin Cities still underperform comparable traditional public schools and intensify racial and economic segregation in the Twin Cities schools. This is the conclusion of a new report issued today by the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Entitled “Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in Twin Cities,” the new study evaluates the record of charter schools in terms of academic achievement, racial and economic segregation, and their competitive impact on traditional public schools. The study finds that rather than encouraging a race to the top, charter school competition in fact promotes a race to the bottom in the traditional public school system.

Craig's second point was again in response to Schmidt's remarks on the miltarization of Chicago Schools under Duncan.

2. Duncan's support of military academies in the high schools isn't support for the "militarization" of high schools. It's support for a set of charter schools that have proven highly popular (and "effective" in some senses), not support for militarization of high schools. As I mentioned, Duncan is a pragmatist; he's not going to exclude military academies simply because they are affiliated with the military.

It might not bother you, Craig, that ten percent of Chicago school students, and the vast majority of them poor, wear a military garb to school every day. In fact, some would say that the military offers them the only reasonable chance to have a job when they leave school. Who needs a draft, right, when we have all this human capital ready to be turned in boots on the ground for the next oil war. For a little reading, Craig, on the connection between the the corporate schooling and militarization of society, you might dip into Pauline Lipman's book, High Stakes Education: Inequality, Globalization and Urban School Reform, which uses the Chicago Schools as a case study to examine globalizatio, education, and the corporate state.

And here's a clip from some other academic boots on the ground in Chicago, from January, 2208, a piece by Quinn, Meiners, and Ayers:

. . . .Today, Chicago has the most militarized public school system in the nation, with Cadet Corps for students in middle-school, over 10,000 students participating in JROTC programs, over 1,000 students enrolled in one of the five, soon-to-be six autonomous military high schools, and hundreds more attending one of the nine military high schools that are called “schools within a school.” Chicago now has a Marine Military Academy, a Naval Academy, and three army high schools. When an air force high school opens next year, Chicago will be the only city in the nation to have academies representing all branches of the military. And Chicago is not the only city moving in this direction: the public school systems of other urban centers with largely Black and immigrant low income students , including Philadelphia, Atlanta and Oakland, are being similarly re-formed—and deformed— through partnerships with the Department of the Defense. . . .

Craig, cont'd:

3. Yes, Linda Darling-Hammond is a more "progressive" educator than Duncan. (Duncan is not an educator...he's an administrator.) But Darling-Hammond has lately had the luxury of a country-club professorship at Stanford and isn't really accountable for anything other than the force of her ideas; she has the luxury to speak about education as if money, personnel, facilities, transportation, poverty, and huge size weren't the issues they remain in CPS. (Don't get me wrong...I love her...and I think Arne will rely on her for advice and counter-advice, as he should.)

Duncan is a lawyer trained by Paul Vallas in how to create a corporate welfare charter school system for the poor at a 20% savings (no unions) that functions at the behest of a CEO, once known as the school principal, who reports to another CEO, once known as the superintendent, who reports to another CEO, once known as the mayor. Now if you like this kind of business model for society that makes everyone accountable except the CEOs, Arne is your guy, no doubt about it.

But to marginalize Darling-Hammond's huge body of research, scholarship, and service as the product of a "country club professorship," her work that is usable on a daily basis to teachers and people like you, Craig, who teach future teachers, well, that is simply a cheap insult by someone, I would imagine, with his meek liberal dander up. The value of the work that Darling-Hammond has done with NCTAF, alone, will eclipse anything that Arne Duncan may ever hope to do in education as the non-educator he is.

Go Craig:

4. To critique Duncan for supporting accountability by lumping in all that other anti-progressive crap that goes on to meet NCLB standards ("the perceived urgency for social control and a population suited to mindless labor helped form a bipartisan coalition aimed at replacing city schools with small manageable work camps based on stringent behavior modification, scripted instruction, and cognitive decapitation") is simply sloppy. Duncan doesn't support that stuff, but as CEO of CPS, his job #1 was to improve test scores--that's what he was hired by Daley to do--and as a pragmatist he allowed multiple means to be employed toward that end. The sad truth is that some of these approaches "work" in that limited sense (Kipp Schools, take note).

Mutliple means? To raise test scores? Is there some confusion with multiple measures here? The fact is, Craig, that your denial of Duncan's support for all the "anti-progressive crap" is the real crap here. There is good reason that Margaret Spellings describes Arne Duncan day before yesterday as "a visionary leader and fellow reformer." There is good reason, too, that Duncan is described recently by another phony miracle worker, Rod Paige, as the "budding hero of the education business." This guy is just what he appears to be to those who are willing to see him without the benefit of their Obama-tinted glasses.

By the way, Craig, I suggest you do a little more reading on KIPP than what you find in the Chicago Tribune or the Washington Post. KIPP is the Hampton Institute of the 21st Century, where children are brainwashed daily to internalize the mantra, Work Hard, Be Nice, while their capacity to become autonomous and healthy educated adult citizens is squelched. A clip below is from my recent commentary on a new study of KIPP in California, a study that shows that the big gains in test scores at KIPP are clearly linked to extremely high attrition rates. In short, school scores soar as low performers are dumped, which, of course, feeds the corporate school to corporate prison pipeline:

Student attrition, then, is a real problem, to say the least--but one that does nothing to dampen the heat of enthusiasm among those looking for a rigorous solution to the achievement burden. The idea of "scaling up" a system that leaves over half the students to give up may be an laudable model for folks like Don Fisher who "thinks that education is a business" and that a school is "not much different from a Gap store," but such a system would throw gasoline on the failure fire that is already consuming poor communities where hope has already been airlifted out. Consider this non-shocking, though certainly troubling, finding from the Report:

Together, the four schools began with a combined total of 312 fifth graders in 2003-04, and ended with 173 eighth graders in 2006-07 (see Exhibit 2-3). The number of eighth graders includes new students who entered KIPP after fifth grade (p.12).

That amounts to a 55% attrition rate, even when adding all the new enrollees during the three years. Imagine what the attrition rate might be if the "researchers" took a measure of the beginners vs. completers without the new recruits.

I thought he had just a couple of points!

5. I'm guessing that Linda Darling-Hammond wasn't chosen because Obama's financial backers can't understand how what she supports fits into the actual management of education in the US. I'd rather have Linda as head of OER, frankly.

Craig, this says a whole bunch about how you view the shaping of education policy in America. Outside of Illinois, is public policy openly dictated by the ignorance of "financial backers?" I thought that Obama represented a break from government by those who can afford to buy it. As for the "actual management of education," the federal government does not have, yet, a Mayor Daley who appoints a Board of Education to place his dictates behind the fig leaf of democratic participation. But you are correct: Obama's financial backers will never understand schools designed for children.

Now for the real snippy part:

6. It's great to have the left-wing to keep the left-of-center pragmatists honest. I think that's what Jim's post is meant to do....not to suggest that Obama would have been wiser to have appointed someone like Alfie Kohn, Peter McClaren, Henry Giroux, or William Ayers as education secretary. Or, um, maybe it was to suggest that?

It's a very common ploy among some pundits to attempt to marginalize those with whom they would otherwise engage in dialogue. As I said before, however, I would gladly take any of the names you sarcastically include as a superior choice to Arne Duncan. And if your position, Craig, represents "left of center," then I am Che Guevera.

Finally:

Jim, do you have a few names of people--that is, those who might actually be appointed by Obama--that you WOULD be happy to support as education secretary?

A couple of other guys (I don't know about the quality of their basketball game) who would have been great choices:

Doug Christensen, Former Nebraska State Superintendent
Peter McWalters, Former Commissioner for Rhode Island Schools

Both were recently canned for not supporting the blowing up of public education.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

Quick response to Jim (more later):

Your argument is with the corporatization of American public education, not with Arne Duncan. Does Arne represent this corporatization? No, I don't think so. I think he does represent what would have been called "administrative progressives" by Herbert Kleibard, rather than the "developmental progressives" represented by Linda Darling-Hammond. Support for Arne is NOT the same as support for Kipp (I didn't praise Kipp, btw...I used them as an example of parrot learning for raising test scores). Nor is it the same as support for an economic system that consigns compliant, poor, minority children to a future in the military. Arne is a humanist; he's intelligent; and he is anti-racist. He's also no Margaret Spellings. (I actually liked Rod Paige, relatively.)

No doubt, you and I are on different places in the spectrum. I support Obama (financially as well as politically); I think he represents the potential for true change in policies (not revolution, though); and I think Arne is a fantastic choice to implement Obama's policies.

Your argument is with Obama, and the majority of Americans who support him--not with Arne Duncan.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

I wrote that very fast and didn't think completely about it, and I find that I "let slip" a major concession to Jim....that Arne is an "administrative progressive" in the Kleibard sense.

I think a good argument can be made that the administrative progressives opened the door to the corporatization of American public education. And so, is Arne a supporter of such corporatization? Maybe so, in a non-opposition-is-the-same-as-support sense.

john.duffy said...

So much to respond to. No doubt Arnie represents a centrist spin on Education, but one that has been almost exclusively run from the vision of local, regional and multi-national corporations. This is very different I think than the corporatization that Craig refers to.

It may be time to talk to teachers and communities who have been the focus of CPS structural reforms, like the next twenty communities who will have their local schools closed early next year

A significant part of Progressives have always been near centrist leaning corporate visions of reform--see Kliebard for much of this tension and results.

Arnie has been lock step on high stakes testing as the sine qua non for working with bottom line focused "reformers" sponsored by the Commercial Club of Chicago and member individuals and groups. Spend some time with teachers from city schools and see what they think about what testing is doing to their careers, morale, and students. Also see Lipman's High Stakes Education focused on Chicago.

This is not to say no good has come
out of corporate supported initiatives (AUSAL, NBC, New Leaders etc.) They want a school system that functions in their interest too. The point is that their vision is not that all different from the attack on public education launched by conservatives 25 years ago.

There is good reason to hope for changes in NCLB that reduce or eliminate its worse features, given Barack's ability to see the complexity of the crisis that persists. However, I think we are more likely to see a softening of the edges, rather than the large change Craig believes is coming. Let us not forget that the neo-liberalism of the Clinton era education "reforms" moved us toward the Bush solutions which have played so well among Chicago's business elites, Republicans and Democrats.

Maybe, we will be redirected, just like in the "war on terrorism" to an educational Afghanistan where the real war should be fought--a further intensification on inadequate teachers being the root of our public failures. Better, harder working teachers, especially those without reform focused democratic unions, will get the job done in the way Secretary Duncan has done in Chicago charters and reconstituted schools? Do we now have the Chicago miracle to replace Bush's Texas Miracle. Isn't it time for a critical radical analysis of the Duncan miracle before it becomes the formula for the rest of the nation? Let us join those who have and continue to expose and challenge what the Tribune, New York Times and PBS somehow miss.

philip said...

Giroux and Saltman:

http://www.truthout.org/121708R

"Barack Obama's selection of Arne Duncan for secretary of education does not bode well either for the political direction of his administration nor for the future of public education.

Obama's call for change falls flat with this appointment, not only because Duncan largely defines schools within a market-based and penal model of pedagogy, but also because he does not have the slightest understanding of schools as something other than adjuncts of the corporation at best or the prison at worse.

The first casualty in this scenario is a language of social and political responsibility capable of defending those vital institutions that expand the rights, public goods and services central to a meaningful democracy.

This is especially true with respect to the issue of public schooling and the ensuing debate over the purpose of education, the role of teachers as critical intellectuals, the politics of the curriculum and the centrality of pedagogy as a moral and political practice."

I apologize if this is a duplicate; I'm having web issues...

Jim Horn said...

Craig said:
Your argument is with Obama, and the majority of Americans who support him--not with Arne Duncan.


I heartily suggest, Craig, that you focus on clarifying your own positions, rather than making stuff up about mine. We have just come through 8 years of political hell, during which time public criticism of the ruling party was treated like a crime or a betrayal. Your silly-assed summation about my motivation represents just more the same, albeit in a kinder and gentler way.

Nancy Flanagan said...

Hate to interrupt the Clash of the Leftwing Titans, but wanted to remind everyone that frightened rabbits on the right are not done with their orchestrated campaign to malign Linda Darling-Hammond, positioning her as poster child for The Resistance to All Things Progressive. Imagine-- even Diane Ravitch wrote a column labeling the excoriation of LDH "shocking:"

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2008/12/who_are_the_real_reformers.html

[Craig] I'm guessing that Linda Darling-Hammond wasn't chosen because Obama's financial backers can't understand how what she supports fits into the actual management of education in the US. I'd rather have Linda as head of OER, frankly.

[Nancy] Well, me too. Your points about the Secretary being a public point person--an administrator-- are spot-on. I would have preferred someone else (Pedro Noguera? Doug Christensen would have been an interesting choice) but, as Ken Bernstein said, it could be much worse and there are some reasons to hope that the great policy ship will begin turning.

In the meantime, while everyone's attention is focused on Duncan, there are other highly influential positions in the Department, at the sausage-making level. Mike Petrilli (former sausage maker) knows this and is continuing to lobby hard to keep her out of any position:

http://www.edexcellence.net/flypaper/index.php/2008/12/the-lurking-danger-of-linda-darling-hammond/

Brief quote:

"I’m still hearing that LDH may get Institute for Education Sciences Commissioner. That is almost at the level of a classical tragedy —the Roman sack of Carthage, the burning of the library at Alexandria. She would destroy everything Russ Whitehurst built. It’s like having a creationist head the National Science Foundation."

OK. Resume squabbling.

Nancy Flanagan said...

Wish there was a preview and edit function on the comments.

What I meant to say in paragraph one was "The Resistance to All Things Reform."

For some reason, my fingers typed "progressive" instead of "reform." Perhaps my fingers know something.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

Jim:

I'm not quite sure why I'm silly-assed, for saying that since Arne and Obama seem to have the same educational agenda (evinced by Obama's hearty support of Arne's record), and YOU are saying that Arne is pro-corporatization, parrot learning, and militarization, that your argument isn't with Obama.

Frankly, my sense of your position is that it is ideological, not pragmatic, and that you want the secretary of education to pursue an ideological agenda. I'm not saying I disagree with that agenda (in fact, I don't), but I AM saying that Obama's choice of Duncan is a decision to step away from using the Department as a tool in the culture wars, and I'm fine with that.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

Nancy:

Your comment made me notice that I'd originally wrote that Linda Darling-Hammond would be great for "OER." You wrote, more accurately in terms of the current situation, "Institute for Education Sciences." (http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ies/index.html)

I should have written "OERI," for "Office of Educational Research and Improvement," which was the name of this branch of the U.S. Department of Education until November 5, 2002, when "President Bush signed into law the Education Sciences Reform Act, which produced a new organization, the Institute of Education Sciences." (http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/index.html) At that web page, it also says that "Information on OERI will be temporarily available in this archive, but please observe caution--as with all archived material, this content is considered out-of-date. For up-to-date information on the Institute and its programs, please visit "http://www.ed.gov/offices/IES/".)

"The mission of IES is to provide rigorous evidence on which to ground education practice and policy." (http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ies/index.html) As those of us who observe educational policy know, "rigorous evidence on which to ground education practice and policy" is code for a strategy in the culture wars--which is to sideline educational "research" that isn't based on "randomized controlled trials" (http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/evidence_based/evidence_based.asp). See that last URL for a chart that is supposed to help us distinguish "rigorous evidence" from that which is allegedly not rigorous.

I don't have time now to analyze this fully, but this IES regime, while it seems "scientific," is actually a political tool for supporting certain types of educational approaches over others. The National Research Council critiqued this stance (see http://ed.stanford.edu/suse/news-bureau/educator/fall2004/pages/Brouhaha.html), arguing that qualitative research including ethnography and case studies are just as "scientific" as randomized controlled trials. One of the participants in that research, educational philosopher Denis Phillips, said:

"Based on this narrow definition, eminent researchers such as Newton, Galileo, Einstein, and Darwin would never have qualified for federal funding.”

So I believe that one very symbolic gesture from the Obama administration would be to quickly change the name of IES back to the "Office for Educational Research and Improvement," making it plain from the outset that this administration will consider ALL evidence in making policy decisions.

Nancy Flanagan said...

Craig,

Bingo. I especially liked Petrilli's comparison of an LDH-run research program to the sack of Carthage or Sherman's march through Georgia or whatever. Completely overlooking the gutting of ERIC, dismissal of the Teacher in Residence, etc. eight years ago, of course.

A broader conception of useful research to inform policy decisions? There's a concept. Beats the NothingWorks Clearinghouse. Or providing fat contracts for your buddies' highly scientific reading programs.

john.duffy said...

Craig and others on the culture wars from the Dept. of Education-- We may gain territory on the battle over good research if that is what you mean by culture wars. I'm afraid our problems with past, present and future Dept. of Education leaders, however, is that they are in the hands of corporate puppets (yes, I am very ideological, but committed to winning reformist victories where we can get them). The primary trouble on the ground where teachers and students come together is with the class wars the that have only aggravated under both conservative and neo-liberal approaches that still largely fail to make public education work for children of all Americans.

john.duffy said...

Craig and others on the culture wars from the Dept. of Education-- We may gain territory on the battle over good research if that is what you mean by culture wars. I'm afraid our problems with past, present and future Dept. of Education leaders, however, is that they are in the hands of corporate puppets (yes, I am very ideological, but committed to winning reformist victories where we can get them). The primary trouble on the ground where teachers and students come together is with the class wars the that have only aggravated under both conservative and neo-liberal approaches that still largely fail to make public education work for children of all Americans.

Character Education said...

is it possible that Obama will restrict the schools for the funds which they asked from the parents. Do he have any kind of policy that support the schools, and forbidding them to take funds from parents.

Complicity Theory said...

Implication #4 struck me. What's with that? I thought americans area already over school and under educated? I'm told we have 190 days of school, and it generally goes from 9-3:30... and your is 175 to 185? LOL. Because I heard of so many folks starting in mid august, I 'assumed' that the over all year was longer.

What I liked was his proposal for a queer high school. I worked with the triangle program (http://schools.tdsb.on.ca/triangle/) which is canada's only LGBTQ classroom, and it has run for over a decade wonderfully. Would be nice if the US had more (there are/were some, but I was told they were attached to non-educational institutions).

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Peace said...

Pardon the interruption ! It appears we have a skunk on the loose ! Algonquian orgin and omnivorous black and white !Oppose Abolishment Statute and Pray Declaratory Relief per DC Rhee's proposed contractual agreement."End the mandates on NCLB and it's not working." Hillary Clinton ! 1. Alleged discriminatory intent effects created to be determined.2.Alleged principle from Patterson just resigned to oppose unethical practices. Smells like a skunk sprayed the terms of agreement per proposed contractual agreement. Good Luck Mr. Duncan !

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