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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Arne Duncan's Unlearned Lessons: Review of "How Schools Work" by Arne Duncan - As reviewed by Frederick M. Hess

Arne Duncan's Unlearned Lessons: Review of "How Schools Work" by Arne Duncan - Education Next : Education Next
Arne Duncan’s Unlearned Lessons
A window into why the left-right school-reform coalition unraveled

How Schools Work:
An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation’s Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education
by Arne Duncan
Simon & Schuster, 2018, $26.99; 256 pages.
As reviewed by Frederick M. Hess
When Arne Duncan was named the ninth U.S. secretary of education in early 2009, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) had shown a decade of substantial growth, efforts to launch the Common Core and reform teacher evaluation were getting under way with ample support and little opposition, and education seemed a bipartisan bright spot in an increasingly polarized political climate.
Seven years later, when Duncan stepped down, NAEP scores had stagnated, the Common Core was a poisoned brand, research on new teacher-evaluation systems painted a picture of failure, and it was hard to find anyone who would still argue that education reform was a bipartisan cause. It would be ludicrous to say any of this was Duncan’s “fault,” but it’s fair to say that his self-certitude, expansive view of his office’s role, and impatience with his critics helped bring the great school-reform crackup to pass.
Now, Duncan has written a book about his years in education. It could have been a meditation on why things went awry, what he’s learned, and how all this should inform school improvement in the years ahead. That would have been a book well worth reading. Or Duncan might have really taken on the skeptics, answering their strongest criticisms and explaining why the path he chose was the best way forward. Instead, Duncan has opted to pen a breezy exercise in straw men and self-congratulation, while taking credit for “chang[ing] the education landscape in America.” The narrative follows Duncan from his time as a Chicago schools central-office staffer, to his tenure as superintendent in Chicago, to his service in Washington during the early years of President Barack Obama’s first term (skipping the second half of Duncan’s time in Washington), before closing with his thoughts on gun violence and an eight-point education agenda.

Throughout, Duncan comes across as a nice, extraordinarily confident guy who really likes basketball and has no doubts about how to fix schools or second thoughts about his time in Washington. And readers will be enamored with his mother and role model, Sue Duncan, who is omnipresent in Duncan’s tale. Indeed, the book exudes an earnest Leave It to Beaver charm, including Duncan’s repeated insistence that employees should just “call me Arne.” He shares touching profiles of schools and educators and moving accounts of his experiences with the families of students killed by gun violence. He shows admirable verve in describing his success working with a Chicago school system lawyer to find a contractual workaround to make an afterschool program logistically feasible, and his later willingness, as superintendent, to give “Freakonomics” researcher Steven Levitt access to the city’s test data in order to flag teacher cheating.

For all that, much of the volume reads more like campaign literature than the exercise in straight talk that he promises. Duncan calls for doubling or tripling the amount America spends on education, avers that “the vast majority of teachers are heroes who are defying the odds,” and courageously insists that—no what matter what others say—“[w]e must believe in free, high-quality public education.”

When it comes to more substantive questions, Duncan suffers from the tendency to divide the world into those who are “for the kids” and those who are not. He writes that, as a young Chicago Public Schools official, “I didn’t feel beholden to the office I worked for but instead to kids first.” When he agreed to serve as secretary of education, he reports, President-elect Obama told him, “Just do what you think is right for kids and let me worry about the politics.” Duncan relates a personal call with new Ohio governor John Kasich, during which Duncan tells Kasich, “I’m here for you, to help your kids. . . . [B]elieve me when I say that I have zero interest in politics.”
In Duncan’s telling, he has spent a career facing off against those who didn’t share his commitment to the kids, battling the “vested interests that are resistant to change and absolutely beholden to the status quo.” While he Continue reading: Arne Duncan's Unlearned Lessons: Review of "How Schools Work" by Arne Duncan - Education Next : Education Next

Another Ugly Charter School: American Leadership Academy founder nets millions on deals with school

American Leadership Academy founder nets millions on deals with school

Arizona charter school founder makes millions building his own schools

When Glenn Way moved to the East Valley at the end of the Great Recession, he might have been looking for a fresh start.
The charter school operator was deep in debt to the IRS, had sought bankruptcy protection, and recently resigned from the Utah Legislature after his wife filed a protective order against him, public records show.
Arizona offered other opportunities for someone in his line of work:A more lightly regulated charter school industry that's well-funded. 
At his American Leadership Academy, which he launched in June 2009, he promised students would find"the best educational experience ... in a moral and wholesome environment."
Thanks partly to Arizona's favorable charter school laws and lucrative no-bid contracts with ALA, Way would find new wealth.
The schools, which have made patriotism central to their brand, including white, or blue student apparel, have been a hit in the conservative East Valley. American Leadership — which bears the same name as a charter school Way and his wife, Shelina, operated in Spanish Fork, Utah — has over nine years grown to a dozen campuses with 8,354 students in Florence, Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek and San Tan Valley.
Way's own development and finance companies bought the land and then built most of the school buildings. Then, they sold or leased them to American Leadership Academy, where Way, until last year, was board chairman.
An Arizona Republic review of property records shows that during ALA's nine-year expansion, businesses owned by or tied to Way made about $37 million on real estate deals associated with the schools— funded largely by the Arizona tax dollars allocated Continue reading: American Leadership Academy founder nets millions on deals with school

DeLauro, Weingarten vow ongoing fight for unions - New Haven Register

DeLauro, Weingarten vow ongoing fight for unions - New Haven Register

DeLauro, Weingarten vow ongoing fight for unions

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten speaks during a press conference in New Haven Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, is at right. Photo: Brian Zahn / Hearst Connecticut Media

NEW HAVEN — U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, said Tuesday that the country’s labor movement must emerge stronger after last month’s Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which allows public sector employees not to pay fees to the unions that serve them.
DeLauro was joined by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and local and state union officials at the AFT Local 933 headquarters on Chapel Street to announce a need for stronger legislation to protect unions, taking the health of unions out of the hands of the courts.
The Janus decision “tips the balance against state and municipal workers,” DeLauro said. “It’s not just union workers or public sector workers who suffer. Every working person suffers.”
Supporters of the ruling, however, have said it’s a positive one for workers.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, for instance, the endorsed Republican candidate for governor, told Hearst Connecticut Media last week the ruling is a victory for people across Connecticut.
But Weingarten pointed to President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court Monday as evidence that the judiciary is and will remain hostile toward working class people.
“This is the day after President Trump nominated a judge for justice who actually does not believe the president’s executive powers should be checked,” she said. “The rule of law is really at risk and the judge who is soon to be retired (Justice Anthony Kennedy) put us on that path.”
Weingarten said the Janus ruling overturns 41 years of precedent and attempts to strip working people of their voice. She said the First Amendment was “weaponized” against the rights granted to states in the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.
Several of the speakers at the press conference said the court case decision was backed by million-dollar campaigns from Continue reading, watch video: DeLauro, Weingarten vow ongoing fight for unions - New Haven Register