Catching up from the holidays

The NYT turns in a piece about TFA, recruiting, and today’s underwhelming job market. This quote from a recent recruit will certainly stir the passions: “It wasn’t until I was desperate that I said ‘I’ll check this out.’” My Bellwether colleague Andy Eduwonk weighs in thoughtfully here. The bigger question, I think, is this: Given the great need for drastic change in our urban school systems, are TFA and the other ed-reform human-capital providers sustaining or disrupting the establishment?

I argue in the Urban School System of the Future that we need to replace big-city districts because they will never produce the results we need. This tragic piece about the mess in Detroit gives another reason for replacement: Many of these districts (possibly including Philadelphia) are on the brink of dissolution due to financial and other pressures. We need to have a Plan B should these systems break down; better yet, we should carefully choreograph their exit so we get ahead of these impending crashes.

MOOCs are all the rage now in higher education (check out this WJS piece). They seem to have countless benefits. The problem is that the technology has gotten far ahead of policy and practice. These upsides and downsides are coming to K–12. Get up to speed with this great column by Checker Finn.

Education-reform commissions like this one in NY seem to come and go, and with few deviations, they typically amount to little (I unfortunately once lived the rule instead of the exception). In this case, the parts about educator effectiveness may be too politically difficult and the rest may be too expensive. We shall see.

Ed Week writes up a new DoED resource on assessing the value of tech-related resources. Irrespective of the report’s content, this is an interesting and probably wise approach for the feds to take. Uncle Sam can’t create a universe of resources and can’t direct the future path of this burgeoning industry—but he can help the field think about what has merit and what does not.

Take a look at Checker’s very smart piece on the establishment-friendly superintendent in Montgomery County, MD, and the bigger and supremely challenging question of which reforms ought to touch our self-satisfied suburban districts.

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