Heresy Watch

by Robert Pondiscio
February 18th, 2009

Things We Dare Not Say Dept.:  A survey of principals across Minnesota shows 97% think it is not possible for the state’s schools to meet the goals of universal proficiency set out under No Child Left Behind. The survey was released Tuesday by the St. Paul-based think tank Minnesota 2020 and the state’s principal associations.

According to the survey, 97 percent of responding principals say that the law’s main goal, to have every student proficient on math and reading tests by 2014, is unattainable. More than 70 percent of the principals say their schools spend more time and resources on test preparation in the law’s wake, and 40 percent say they have taken away class time from arts and other subjects.

Remember the recent comments from Palo Alto schools Superintendent Kevin Skelly who said educators are “deluding themselves” if they think the achievement gap can be completely closed?  The scales have fallen from his eyes. “During the past week I have thought about my comments and had a chance to discuss them with staff and parents,” Skelly said last week. “Their comments have caused me to change my thinking on this.”

When Patty Fisher of the San Jose Mercury News asked him what exactly he had changed his thinking about, Skelly took a pass.  “I want to move beyond my comments in the newspaper,” he said. ”There was a sense that I was giving up on kids and saying kids couldn’t achieve, and I could see why they took it that way.”  So does he really believe that any child — let alone every child — has “limitless” potential, Fisher wanted to know.

“The less I say at this point, the better,” says Skelly.

“The Most Powerful Ed Secretary Ever”

by Robert Pondiscio
February 18th, 2009

The ed world continues its efforts to simply wrap its collective mind around the just-passed stimulus bill and the gaudy sums it contains for education.  “Public schools will get an unprecedented amount of money,” the AP notes, double the education budget under George W. Bush.  “With those dollars, Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan want schools to do better.”  The stimulus bill contains $5 billion to reward states, districts and schools for setting high standards and narrowing the achievement gap.   

With a wave of President Obama’s pen, Arne Duncan becomes the most powerful education secretary in history. The New York Times focuses on the power and unprecedented latitude given to Duncan: 

“There’s going to be this extraordinary influx of resources,” he said in an interview. “So people say, ‘You’re going to be the most powerful secretary ever,’ but I have no interest in that. Power has never motivated me. What I love is opportunity, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something special, to drive change, to make our schools better.”

Mr. Duncan intends to reward school districts, charter schools and nonprofit organizations that had demonstrated success at raising student achievement, notes the Times.  “Programs that tie teacher pay to classroom performance will most likely receive money, as will other approaches intended to raise teacher quality, including training efforts that pair novice instructors with veteran mentors, and afterschool and weekend tutoring programs.”

Sara Mead has an analysis of what the bill means to early childhood ed.  Meanwhile the American Library Association has put up this site to help libraries learn more about the stimulus package.

Update:  At EdWeek’s Politics K-12 blog, the dynamic duo, Michele McNeil and Alyson Klein, are compiling a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the stimulus and promising to get answers to all, bless them.  Links to their email addresses are under their pictures on their blog.