Tough Times Ahead for Public Education

TULSA, OK – So you don't think the last election was a setback for teacher unions and education progressives? Think again.

So says Kimberly Anderson, Director of Governmental Relations for the National Education Association.  Earlier this month, she briefed delegates at the National Council of Urban Education Association's fall conference on the ramifications of widespread Republican victories at the polls Nov. 2.

Anderson pointed out that the GOP gained more than 60 seats in the House, helping to make up the largest freshmen class in the history of the chamber. The new mix erodes the ability to fight issues like school vouchers, she said.

“I have no confidence we are in the position to defeat a voucher vote in the House,” she said.

Forum Conveners: We Need to Define Successful Schools

TULSA, OK – Those who want to create better schools need to resist the urge to protect the status quo and instead provide a clear vision of what a good education system should look like.

That was the message from Conveners from The Forum for Education and Democracy, who headlined a keynote panel discussion at the National Council of Urban Education Association's fall conference here earlier this month.

Conveners from The Forum included Executive Director George Wood, veteran educator Deborah Meier and University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Gloria Ladson-Billings.

They were joined on the panel by Michigan State University Professor Yong Zhao, University of Colorado Professor Kevin Welner and testing expert Monty Neill.

Teachers Urged to Take Back Their Profession

TULSA, OK – Get parents on board. Withhold political contributions to politicians who would bash teachers. Expose myths. Resist bad practices.

The hundreds of teachers who gathered here for the National Council of Urban Education Association's fall conference left with a series of strategies they believe will help them reclaim public education.

But they also left with the shared belief that it will not be easy – especially after the Nov. 2 election and the simplistic propaganda of movies like “Waiting for Superman.”  

Noguera Calls on CES Delegates to be "Critical Friends"

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pedro Noguera has had plenty of access to Obama administration policy makers. In fact, he sat down with 50 people from the U.S. Department of Education, who listened to his thoughts for 90 minutes.

"Then I left and nothing changed," Noguera, a Convener with The Forum for Education and Democracy, said in an opening address last week at the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum. "I realized that the Obama administration was staying the course not just in Afghanistan, but in education."

Ted Sizer's Ideas: We Need Them Now More Than Ever

When Ted and I began our teaching careers more than fifty years ago, we were excited by the work. But even then we realized that there were problems with the way we were doing it.

Putting Money Aside, and Asking Questions That Matter

SAN FRANCISCO – Why do we require every youngster to spend 12 years in school? And why do we insist that unless students attend college, they have no future?

Those kinds of question rarely get asked in public-policy debates about education.

But Deborah Meier, a Convener with The Forum for Education and Democracy, raised them with delegates at last week's Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum. Her workshop, “Why it Matters: What We Can Do Without Money If It's Important Enough,” drew a standing-room crowd.

Meier, a veteran teacher and author, said there was a time when the majority of Americans did not graduate from high school and few attended college.

Winds of Change Offer Some Hope for Schools

SAN FRANCISCO – This month's election and the resulting power shift in Congress and state capitols across the nation could create new coalitions around education.

"There are a lot of new bedfellows,” Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond told participants in the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum last week. “There is weakening support for No Child Left Behind by Republicans and Democrats alike, and more movement by civil rights organizations around equity. A lot of these coalitions are waiting to be built.”

Darling-Hammond, a Convener with The Forum for Education and Democracy, said the likely chairman of the House Education and Labor committee will be John Kline, a Republican lawmaker from Minnesota.

Is Education Obama's Ace in the Hole?

In the backroom of Johnny's Half Shell, a Capitol Hill watering hole, former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes sounded pretty sure of himself. No Child Left Behind would be reauthorized, he vowed, and it would happen before the end of the year.

"I've talked to leaders on both sides of the aisle, and they want to do something this year," said Barnes, who co-chaired the Commission on No Child Left Behind.

Post-Election Imagining

With another election come and gone, I find myself imagining a movie about five wonderful public schools with unionized teachers serving mostly low-income African-American and Hispanic students in America's biggest cities.

But I imagine in vain.

After the Dust Clears

After the election of 2008, I thought the stars were aligning for some serious changes in the way the federal government treated public schools.
Gone were the architects of No Child Left Behind. A president who had repeatedly said we should not judge schools or children on the basis of one test was elected to office.  The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was up for reauthorization, and I was hopeful things would change.