Big Hat, No Cattle.


Deputy Chancellor for Organizational Strategy, Human Capital, and External Affairs for the New York City Department of Education

In a long post over at Eduwonk, guestblogger Chris Cerf, who must have one of the longer titles for an education bureaucrat, writes about merit pay.

I write this as our own state legislature is three months late in passing a budget and even if a budget gets passed anytime soon, it will still leave Illinois second only to Mississippi in state funding support for education. I am also writing this as contract talks between our brothers and sisters in the Chicago Federation and the CPS are getting hotter, with more frequent talk of a strike, and with CPS boss Arne Duncan trying to push in the media for no more than a 3% raise.

And here is Chris Cerf making a long argument for merit pay.

After having been part of more than half a dozen contract negotiations, and as one of the few people (I say modestly) that can actually explain a teacher salary schedule (I will admit that I cannot say the same for school budgets. I challenge anyone to explain what they say.) I, along with a growing number of teacher union folks, have no problem with taking a new look at the way we compensate teachers. I mean, I found it when I got here. I’m not wedded to it.

But you read the Cerf post. Tell me if I’m wrong. It starts out as a general argument for better compensation for teachers.

It argues that quality teachers are the most important factor in student success. It points out that only 4 in ten teachers are in the classroom ten years after they enter the profession.

But then Cerf switches direction.

Merit pay, in itself, won’t solve our retention challenges. But it’s a very good start.

A guy with that long title in front of his name. In the face of a general failure to adequately fund public schools, Cerf thinks we should start with the discussion of merit pay. How about “school funding, a good place to start?”

It was Randy Newman who wrote the song: Big Hat, No Cattle.

Tested again.


Linda Perlstein.

I posted a review of Linda Perlstein’s book Tested a week or so ago from Daily Kos.

Today there is an interview in USA Today (Short. After all. It’s USA Today) with Perlstein, a former Washington Post reporter.

Q: In one memorable scene, a district supervisor watches kindergartners in gym class waft a parachute into the air and scamper beneath it. She says of the teacher, “I can’t see his goal.” It seems absurd, but does she have a point?

A: No. The silliest thing I have seen in my decade of education reporting is the insistence that every “learning outcome” be posted — the more jargon, the better. Do 5-year-olds need to know that they are tossing balls onto a parachute and running underneath to “demonstrate ways to send and project an object using a variety of body parts and implements” and “move safely in personal and general space”? Can’t they just think they’re having fun?

Check the date. Charters and Unions.


Don’t forget. If you live or are visiting the Chicago area on Wednesday, August 15th, plan on attending the discussion between Green Dot’s Steve Barr, the CTU’s Marilyn Stewart and my IEA’s Executive Director, Jo Anderson. Small Talk blogger, Small Schools Worshop Director and older brother, Mike Klonsky will moderate. The time is 6:30 – 8:30 pm. The place is National-Louis University’s downtown campus, 122 S. Michigan Avenue, 2nd floor Atrium.

The event is free of charge and open to the public.

Three over coffee.


1) In a slam at NCLB, the National Council of State Legislatures sharply opposed any attempt by the feds to impose national standards on states and local schools. Edweek reported:

Much of the group’s opposition to national standards is rooted in its dislike for the NCLB act, which is up for reauthorization before Congress.

2) The Sun-Times reports that the three percent raise that CPS has offered non-certified staff won’t be enough to settle the teachers’ contract according to CTU president Marilyn Stewart. A joint promise not to negotiate in the press was broken last week by CPS chief Arne Duncan.

3) San Francisco’s school board, parents and communities are talking about how to pursue desegregation and social justice in the face of the Supreme Court’s decision, writes Eric Mar, SF School Board Commissioner.



Call your state senator and rep now.

Left to their own abilities the state’s political leadership has screwed up the budget.

Here’s IEA President Swanson’s take:

Some of the details of this proposed budget:

  • $308.8 million to increase the foundation level by $400 to $5,734.
  • $185.5 million to fully fund mandated categoricals.
  • A two percent increase for Illinois’ public colleges and universities.
  • $10 million for a block grant program for private schools.

After analyzing this proposal, IEA Government Relations and governance have determined that the organization must oppose this “no-solution” budget.

It is imperative that you and all your colleagues, friends and neighbors immediately contact every member of the Illinois House and Senate and urge them to reject this budget plan.

Here is A+ Illinois’ statement:

A+ Illinois today announced its opposition to the General Assembly’s proposed operating budget. The budget provides approximately $575 million for education, and does not include any new revenue sources. The proposal will not fully fund the current foundation level—the minimum funding amount recommended by the state’s Education Funding Advisory Board—or address schools’ other urgent funding needs.

“This budget does not address the core problems plaguing Illinois’ education system,” said A+ Illinois Campaign Manager Mary Ellen Guest. “The gap in funding and student achievement between wealthy and poor communities will continue to grow, local property owners will continue to pay the bulk of school funding costs, and Illinois will continue to rank near-last in the nation in our support for schools.”

Sliming the “vile” NEA.

Responding to the Washington Post’s editorial on NCLB, The Daily Howler nails it:

It’s the law! In mainstream “journalism,” you’re not allowed to write three grafs without sliming the vile NEA!

The Daily Howler goes on:

“There is no question that No Child Left Behind has brought accountability to America’s classrooms,” the editors say. Note: By “accountability,” they pretty much mean “testing.” Here’s what the editors actually mean: There is no question that No Child Left Behind has brought testing to America’s classrooms.

Washington Post editorializes against NEA on NCLB.

While some opponents of NCLB trash the NEA for not being tough enough, the Washington Post praises Democrat George Miller for not caving to NEA pressure.

It is encouraging that Mr. Miller wants to toughen state standards, focus more attention on high schools, improve the quality of tests and pay more to teachers more who perform better. That he is willing to take on the issue of teacher pay is especially important, given the opposition and clout of the National Education Association.

Checker Finn. Michael Petrilli. Don Imus. Separated at birth?


Fordham’s “Checker” Finn.

Fordham’s Gadfly blog is is written by Michael Petrilli. Some posts are anonymous. But it seems Petrilli is responsible for the blog. His boss is right-winger “Checker” Finn.

Here’s my question. What is the difference between what Don Imus said on MSNBC about African-American women and the Gadfly saying that because the black woman who represents DC in Congress has the nerve to disagree with the white folks at Fordham, black people don’t deserve the right to vote?

Where’s the outrage? Why do people who describe themselves as progressive, like Diane Ravitch, continue to sit on Fordham’s Board of Trustees?