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We're three days in to the 2008 Education Olympics, and the Finns are firing on all cylinders. Also making some noise today are Estonia, Macao, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The Americans, meanwhile, seem to be stuck in neutral. Follow the action at

Australian Education Minister Julia Gillard is taking a lesson from the Big Apple. Having visited with the New York Chancellor of Schools Joel Klein, Gillard wants to start ranking Australia's schools on an A-F scale. The Aussie unions, of course, have already slammed the idea as "divisive". Seems unions will be unions, no matter what time zone they're in.

My gambit this morning didn't work to spark a full-fledged office debate, but I did entice Amber to respond to my prompt about whether the "end of black politics" is good for school reform. And I'm glad she did, because her post is characteristically thoughtful and illuminating. Amber, we miss your blogging! (Yes, we all have day jobs, and in Amber's case a pipeline full of interesting research studies in need of tending.)

My answer to this question is unequivocal: yes, it's great for school reform that the old-line civil rights groups are losing their monopoly as spokespeople for the "black community" and that new leaders such as Cory Booker are rising to power and influence. Partly that's because the Bookers of the world tend to be much more open to school choice and other promising reforms (though there are always exceptions; see Deval Patrick for instance). But mostly that's because the traditional civil rights groups have been in bed with the teachers unions forever, muting their advocacy for change.

And maybe it's the rise of a new generation of leadership that is forcing the civil rights community to start to break...

Take a look at the text of an invitation that landed in my inbox a few hours ago, and tell me this isn't new and different:


On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, many of the nation's top progressive education reform groups will be convening a forum in Denver to highlight the growing consensus for a bold new direction in federal education policy--and to spotlight the exciting work of a new generation of reformers who are already making change happen on the ground across America.

We invite you to join us for this important discussion and hear the Challenge for Change we will be issuing to the Democratic Party leadership to push for a truly innovative, 21st century education agenda.

So who are "the nation's top progressive education reform groups" that are convening this forum? Have a gander:

Democrats for Education Reform; The Education Equality Project; Daniels Fund; Piton Foundation; Center for African American Policy at the University of Denver; New Schools Venture Fund; Education Reform Now; Education Trust; Ed In '08; Progressive Policy Institute; School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado; National Association of Charter School Authorizers;


I'm curious what my colleagues think; check out Matt Bai's New York Times Magazine piece on the inter-generational battle going on within the black political elite. This is the heart of his argument:

In this way, post-Black Power politicians like [Philadelphia Mayor Michael] Nutter and [Newark Mayor Cory] Booker embody the principal duality of modern black America. On one hand, they are the most visible examples of the highly educated, entrepreneurial and growing black middle class that cultural markers like "The Cosby Show" first introduced to white Americans in the 1980s. According to an analysis by Pew's Economic Mobility Project, almost 37 percent of black families fell into one of the three top income quintiles in 2005, compared with 23 percent in 1973. At the same time, though, these black leaders are constantly confronted in their own cities and districts by blighted neighborhoods that are predominately black, places where poverty collects like standing water, breeding a host of social contagions.

That both of these trend lines can exist at once poses some difficult questions for black leaders and institutions. Back in the heyday of the civil rights movement, the evils and objectives were relatively

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The first medals were awarded today, with Nordic countries--Norway, Finland, and Iceland--stealing the show. The United States--winner so far of 9 golds, 3 silvers, and 2 bronzes in the athletic competitions--has yet to take home a medal in the Education Olympics. Find more coverage at

Mike links to this fascinating article by Matt Bai in yesterday's NYT and asks us to consider whether the ???end of black politics??? is good for education reform.?? Obviously, one must first agree with Bai's primary assumption that ???old black politics???--the civil rights kind--is essentially on its way out. He says Obama and other new-generation black leaders aren't comfortable categorizing their politics by race. Cory Booker for instance, mayor of Newark, seems to breathe a sigh of relief at the exodus of the old guard. He says the Obama campaign ???is giving African-Americans like myself the courage to?? be themselves.???

Bai contends that the inequities in today's society aren't as blatant as the legal barriers that once existed in the civil rights movement--they are subtler now. He mentions inferior schools as an example of this subtler inequality. If Bai is right about the curtain call for black politics, I think it's good for education reform. It's absolutely true that urban schools have less able teachers and notoriously low expectations for students. But to insinuate that this phenomenon originates from the same hate-filled intentions of the 50's and 60's (the water hose footage will...

That's how American teens are feeling, according to the latest State of our Nation's Youth survey by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. Consider this, from coverage in Education Daily:

Nearly 80 percent of teens said increased pressure to earn good grades "creates a problem" for them, and one in five students spends at least 10 hours a week on homework.

And some of these kids are doing drugs as a result, or so it seems.