"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fordham Fellow, AEI Adjunct Praises DFER, Duncan

The neocons over at the American Enterprise Institute - where Lynn Cheney is an education expert along with scientifically-based racism proponent Charles Murray - certainly love to attack public schools. AEI adjunct/Fordham Fellow Andy Smarick has words of criticism for Duncan and DFER: they're not doing enough to ram reform down the throats of states, districts, and teachers. The $100 billion stimulus package, Smarick claims, has "bought" 150 new charter schools via Duncan's "Race to the Top" pressure, which means each charter cost $667 million. [Check out this explanation for why conservatives have embraced charter schools and are letting go of the voucher idea] Smarick remains skeptical of DFER's early approval of Duncan, but he certainly approves of the reform proposals they are pushing. From the AEI journal/blog:

Stimulating Charter Schools — Much More Could Be Done

By Andrew Smarick

July 13, 2009, 12:14 pm

The vast majority of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) education funding was designed simply to save jobs and plug budget holes, but the generally reform-minded Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been trying to make sure that as much of the stimulus funding as possible is used for improvement and innovation (for more, see here).

He lacks sticks in this battle, but he does have one relatively small carrot. He can direct $4.35 billion to the states of his choosing. So he is telling them, “If you want this money, enact reforms; otherwise, you’ll be left out.”

So is this strategy working? Are Secretary Duncan’s threats causing states to change policies?

About a week ago, a group called Democrats for Education Reform weighed in. DFER is an exciting and increasingly important organization, pushing the Democratic Party to get serious about education reform. The group issued a press release hailing the positive influence of Duncan’s tactics, declaring it an “early policy success.” They accurately point out that some states are moving in the right direction. Connecticut, for example, made some important changes in the areas of funding and teacher quality. Overall, however, I think DFER overstates the cumulative effect and claim victory a bit too early.

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