Lots of people are weighing in on the implications of Tuesday’s election results.
- Eduwonk Rotherham has a good piece in Time magazine lamenting Tony Bennett’s loss (my thoughts on that here), celebrating the wins for charter schools, and noting the continued strength of teachers unions when they are tested.
- Mike comes to many of the same conclusions. Tom Luna’s losses get his attention, as do a number of results from the Midwest.
- Stergios also highlights the charter wins and the fallout from Bennett’s undoing (particularly regarding Common Core) and adds accountability and ESEA reauthorization to the list of affected subjects.
- Naturally, the prolific Rick Hess has a series of posts on the subject, declaring the night a split decision for reformers. He emphasizes the union wins and the subtle split in the reform community between conservatives and progressives. See here for his take on Bennett’s loss and its implications for Common Core.
- The WSJ’s Stephanie Branchero also concludes that voters are divided. Branchero discusses Luna’s losses, the charter win in WA, and CA’s decision to spend more on schools.
- Politics K-12 is already looking ahead, surfacing the five big issues facing Secretary Duncan during the second term.
One final thought from yours truly: Lots of reformers, especially those in the ed-tech camp, continue to think that Common Core is just about the best thing produced in eons. So there’s a good deal of cheerleading going on, and
I first met Indiana’s state superintendent Tony Bennett by phone in mid-2009. I had written something for Flypaper about reports of his frustration with Race to the Top. So and he (and his then-chief of staff and now state representative Todd Huston) called me, out of the blue, to discuss it.
Tony Bennett lost his re-election bid yesterday.
Photo by Joe Portnoy.
I walked away from that call very impressed by Dr. Bennett. He was not only passionate about meaningful reform; he was also clear-thinking and strategic. As I got to know him in the years since, my admiration for him only grew.
Hence my enormous disappointment at the news that he lost his bid for re-election last night.
During his tenure, Tony pushed through a nation-leading reform agenda. Under his watch, Indiana made huge progress on teacher evaluations, accountability, choice, and much more. Last year, TBFI recognized Bennett for these remarkable accomplishments.
I also got to see him in action through our joint work on the PARCC governing board. In a room full of star state chiefs, Tony always stood out as among the smartest and most innovative and decent people around. He could identify emerging problems and articulate potential solutions as well
In a rational world, Tony Bennett, Indiana’s State Superintendent, would be cruising to reelection this fall, with strong support from the Tea Party and other conservatives serving as the wind at his back. Instead he’s bogged down in a two-front war—against his teacher-union-backed opponent, on the one side, and critics of the Common Core State Standards initiative on the other.
Tony Bennett at the Fordham Institute's "Education Reform Idol" competition.
Photo by Joe Portnoy.
It’s no surprise that the teacher union would like to be rid of him. But his critics on the right seem to have forgotten that, along with Governor Mitch Daniels, he pushed through the most aggressive school-reform agenda in a generation. Statewide school vouchers. Severe limits on collective bargaining. Rigorous teacher evaluations. Tenure reform. You name it, he and Governor Daniels did it. (With the help of Republican legislators, of course.) Once upon a time, education reformers might point to Massachusetts or Florida as the “most reformed” state in the land. Today it’s Indiana—a distinction that we at the Fordham Institute recognized last year by naming the state “Education Reform Idol.”
Yet not a week goes by without an article or op-ed by a conservative critic nipping at Bennett’s
A huge part of my educational worldview is “sector agnosticism,” my disinterest in who runs schools as long as those schools are high performing. My new book is built around this philosophy; it argues for a new urban school system that assesses each school based on its performance and then applies strategies to schools based on their performance not on their operators.
Private schools should be part of the urban school system of the future.
Unlike so many others studying urban education, I believe that private schools should be part of this urban school system of the future. Per my axiom above, I don’t much care if an urban school is run by a private or religious organization if it gets great results for underserved kids and adheres to basic democratic, pluralistic principles.
But in the past when the state attempts to fold private schools into the mix via scholarship or tax-credit programs, public accountability is always the major stumbling block. Will participating private schools test students and report results? Will they test just the scholarship kids or all of their students? What test will they use? Will low-performance disqualify a private school from participation?
It has appeared for years that public debate and public policy would be unable to solve this problem. But we may have had a breakthrough.
As Ed Week’s Eric Robelen reports in this fascinating article, more and more private schools are choosing
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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