The “Duncan Rules.”

ap_arne_duncan_081216_mainUSDE boss Arne Duncan has issued his rules to states  for getting a share of the piddly $3.5 billion in school improvement grant money.

1. Fire the principal and half the staff, or

2. Close the school and give it to a private management company, or

3. Close the school and send the students to another school, or

4. Create a school based on Duncan’s specific definition of a “transformational model.”

 What some might argue is an overly prescriptive federal government, top-down directive is in the USDE press release found here.

What child gets left behind if we’re racing to the top?

17bolt4_190It is a most impressive thing. Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter shattered the men’s 100 meter record by the biggest margin in over thirty years. I love a race where great athletes train for years and choose to devote their lives to competitive athletics. It is a thrill to watch.

It has little to do with creating places where children learn and teachers teach. Education is not a race.

Is there anything in the world more cyncial than the names the wonkers, policy groups and government department heads come up with when they’re about to screw the people?

A perfectly reasonable phrase like “leaving no child behind,” gets adopted by the Bushies, the most reactionary bunch in the history of the country. They used the phrase to name a government program that beat up on poor kids, poor school districts and punished those who had no resources. Meanwhile they provided no resources themselves.

To replace that, the new bunch have come up with Race to the Top. What is more offensive to a teacher in a classroom of kids with different skills, abilities, backgrounds and interests than talking about teaching as a race?

A race is something you choose to enter. A race has winners and losers. A race has a beginning and an end.

Who comes up with this stuff? What does it have to do with kids, teaching and learning?

Arne’s stick.

arne_duncan-reform-250x403In These Times’ Michelle Chen wonders if the Arne’s Race to the Top will leave teachers at the starting line.

As the Obama administration funnels stimulus money into public schools, states will compete for a $4.3 billion fund known as Race to the Top. But the strings attached to the money reflect a vision for school reform that many activists fear will drive the corporatization of education and the marginalization of organized labor.

The other question is that given the financial crises that most states are facing, what exactly can $4 billion buy?

Race to the Top? Fiddling while Rome burns.

fallofrome-1At the NEA convention in San Diego I had a depressing conversation with a group of teachers from LA. Union leaders in their buildings, their job this summer was to make sure that as the district pink-slipped teachers with up to 25 years seniority, the district adminstrators were following contractual procedures. One delegate told me she was expecting to have class sizes at her South Central high school of between 35 and 45 students.

Race to the top. What, Arne? Are you effen kidding me?


The recession is forcing districts to lay off teachers even as the economic stimulus pumps billions of dollars into schools. As a result, classrooms across the country will be more crowded when school starts in the fall.

Patti Hathorn, a fifth-grade teacher in rural Pinson, Ala., is expecting 29 or 30 students, making it the biggest class she’s taught. Many of her students at Kermit Johnson Elementary are learning English or are in special education.

“You may have a child that needs you, that needs that adult figure, to spend the extra five minutes with them. If you have five or six extra kids, that five minutes is gone,” Hathorn said.

It’s the same story in small communities such as Pinson and Wapakoneta, Ohio, and urban areas including Los Angeles and Broward County, Fla. In many places, classes will have well over 30 kids.

Is there enough gas for this race to the top?

outofgasThere is plenty of evidence to justify opposing doing individual teacher evaluations based on test scores.

In the words of President Obama (speaking on a different topic, of course), it is stupid.

The Duncan story this morning is that the USDE is considering withholding “race to the top” funds from states that have laws prohibiting linking teacher evaluation to tests of student perfomance.

This would be worthy of outrage if it weren’t for the fact that the amount of money, given the economic crises states are facing, is so pathetically small. We’re talking about a pool of  $ 4 billion dollars. If they handed that total amount over just to Illinois, it would barely make a difference in a state that is over $9 billion in debt.

WSJ joins piling on Duncan.

OB-EB981_oj_1ch_D_20090717201859Saturday, the Wall Street Journal ran with a story titled, Second City Ruse.

It is a rehash of the complaints of their pals in the Civic Committee who published a report several weeks ago attacking CPS test scores.

No need to defend Duncan on this stuff. He made his deal with the devils in the Civic Committee and he has earned what ever attacks he receives.

The WSJ, to their credit, is more honest about the real agenda here.

Similar results have been observed from Los Angeles to Houston to Harlem. The same kids with the same backgrounds tend to do better in charter schools, though they typically receive less per-pupil funding than traditional public schools. In May, the state legislature voted to increase the cap on Chicago charter schools to 70 from 30, though Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has yet to sign the bill.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley deserves credit for hiring Mr. Duncan, a charter proponent. But in deference to teachers unions that oppose school choice, Mr. Daley stayed mostly silent during the debate over the charter cap. That’s regrettable, because it’s becoming clear that Chicago’s claim of reform success among noncharter schools is phony.

Washington DC is a long way from Montebello.


This past week USDE EdSec Arne Duncan appointed Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

Melendez was superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District east of LA. She grew up in Montebello, a suburb east of LA. I knew Montebello well. When my family moved to LA when I was 9 we lived on Pomona Boulevard, the line that separated Montebello from Monterey Park.

Melendez is a fellow ed blogger.

Arne Duncan says I’m not nearly as fat as I used to be.

Saying teacher unions aren’t to blame for ALL the problems in education, USDE chief Arne Duncan said unions ought to be “called out” when they oppose lifting the caps on charter schools.

Arne thinks teacher unions shouldn’t be blamed for everything. Thanks Arne.


Arne Duncan weighs in on unions and charter schools. From his speech at the Education Writers Association:

“Twenty-six states cap the number of charters and 10 other states have no charters. The President has called on every state to lift charter caps. And where unions are behind these efforts to impede charters we should certainly call them out but we shouldn’t demonize unions or blame them for all of the problems in education.”

Well, as long as we’re calling people out for being out of step with the President’s position, let’s call out Duncan.

In a story in this mornings Tribune Duncan is called out for blocking the release of information about the goings on at the CPS. As the EdSec of an Obama administration that announced its commitment to transparency, the Trib reports:

With a nod from the mayor, Chicago’s police chief defied federal judges who demanded a list of officers repeatedly accused of misconduct.

Daley’s schools superintendent, now the nation’s top education official, refused parents’ requests for the documents behind a controversial decision to relocate their children’s gifted program.

And later in the Trib article:

Duncan, who since moved to Washington as President Barack Obama’s education secretary, relied on an exemption in the records law for preliminary drafts and opinions. Even after the decision to move the school, the city wouldn’t release some of the underlying records.

“This exemption protects the decision-making process by allowing the free flow of information among the decision-makers and the individuals who advise them.”

By hiding his decisions behind closed doors, Duncan is protecting the process. Oh, I bet he is.

The Time Magazine interview with The Apostle.


It is hard to know where to begin with the nonsense EdSec Arne Duncan spouts in his Time interview. Not since Michelle Rhee appeared on Time’s cover as the witch of education has there been so much junk spread about teaching, unions and schools on the pages of a major magazine (although other than while waiting for a doctor’s appointment or getting a hair cut, does anybody really read Time anymore?).

It took Leo Casey at EdWize to simply Google Albert Einstein to make a liar out of Time’s interviewer and Duncan. Has Time cut back on its fact checkers? Will Duncan say anything to please the education Republicrats?