Dear Diane, Time to rest up and maybe start 2010 in a more hopeful mood. I just put down an article in The New Yorker by Atul Gawande entitled "Testing, Testing." But it's not about schooling, but medical tests. The author is a doctor at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and grew up in Athens County, Ohio (his parents were doctors, not farmers). He uses his experience and inquiring mind to think about the advantages of not having a master plan for curing our ills. He describes the history of the government's role in agricultural reforms and suggests that maybe ...

Dear Deborah, I understand why you were taken aback by that article in the "Style" section of The New York Times last week that described how charter schools have become a must-have among hedge-fund managers, billionaires, and other members of the social elite in New York City. The article bothered me, too. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it worries me. Having written the history of the New York City public schools, I was reminded of the origins of free schooling in certain northeastern cities in the early 19th Century, when wealthy men decided that it ...

Dear Diane, I know you saw this article in last Sunday's New York Times. " 'You get the religion fast.' "Mr. Petry, 38, and Mr. Greenblatt, 52, may spend their days poring over spreadsheets and overseeing trades, but their obsession—one shared with many other hedge funders—is creating charter schools, the tax-funded, independently run schools that they see as an entrepreneurial answer to the nation's education woes. Charters have attracted benefactors from many fields. But it is impossible to ignore that in New York, hedge funds are at the movement's epicenter. " "These guys get it," said Eva S. Moskowitz,...

Dear Deborah, We promised to keep a close watch on what is happening at the federal level, and now it begins to get interesting. And a bit scary, if you care about the future of public education. The U.S. Department of Education announced its plan to spend at least $3.5 billion to push local officials around the country to close failing schools and reopen them with new teachers and principals. At this time of fiscal crisis and budget cuts, districts are desperate for federal dollars. To qualify for these dollars, districts must do one of four things: 1) ...

Dear Diane, A powerful statement which ought to be sent to everyone in a position to influence policy and legislation! Thanks. I just read a letter from Steve Jubb, an Oakland-based colleague of mine: "For my part, I agree with Kenneth Bernstein's blog post some days ago. We have inherited a form of education that is sedimentary in nature. It has a 19th century structure, overlaid by 20th century aspirations about equality and opportunity, with the expectation that it should produce 21st century outcomes. It has been remarkably successful for the chaos of its design, but I believe it no ...

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