May 2009 Archives

"Dramatic" steps are needed to overhaul struggling schools, the Secretary of Education says—but turnaround specialists are few and far between.


In case you missed it, according a survey released earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education was ranked as one of the absolute worst places to work in the federal government. (For a quick summary, check out the The Washington Post's story on the survey). To be fair, 400 Maryland Ave. wasn't dead last. That honor belonged to the Department of Transportation. But it ranked 27th out of the 30 large agencies surveyed. The survey, conducted by the Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit in Washington, used data from the Office of Personnel Management's federal human capital survey, ...


The U.S. Department of Education has been quietly, and now more openly, grousing about how slow states have been in applying for state stabilization funds under the economic stimulus package. Other folks are taking note and also questioning states' slow progress. The deadline for applying for stabilization funds is July 1. So far, 19 states have been approved. At least 30 applications have been received. (UPDATE: That 30 figure includes the 19 applications that have already been approved.) Well, late last month, the National Governors Association hosted states' stimulus czars from across the country, and I got to pose ...


Over at the School Law Blog, my colleague Erik Robelen gives a K-12 once-over on President Obama's nomination of New York federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court. Her personal and professional resume includes a lot of anecdotes that will resonate with the public. Her father, who had only a third-grade education, died young, leaving her mother—a nurse—to raise her and her brother. Sotomayor took comfort in Nancy Drew books, and the fictional amateur detective ended up inspiring the now-Supreme-Court-nominee to read and learn. She excelled in school, got college scholarships to Ivy ...


Secretary of Education Arne Duncan put out the official list of many of the folks who've gotten top positions at the U.S. Department of Education. Most of these aren't new, but the list is a good Who's Who of new political appointees. Another Gates Foundation refugee got a top job. Margot Rogers, formerly the senior counselor to Duncan, will be Arne Duncan's chief of staff. While at Gates, she managed the foundation's five-year education strategy. Juan Sepulveda will be the director of the White House Initiative on the Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. He was the Texas state director ...


Happy Friday and Almost-Memorial-Day! After you're done watching the On-Demand version of our stimulus webinar (register first here) check out these good reads: First, crack education finance researcher Marguerite Roza has a report out on the stimulus and the prospects for school reform. There's a super-helpful chart showing just how much of a difference the money will make to each state's K-12 budget that you'll definitely want to bookmark. Looks like there are a lot of places where it won't make much of a difference. One of the states that will actually be in the black after the stim, according ...


Now that voters have rejected several budget fixes, the $4 billion in state fiscal stabilization fund money headed to California is barely going to make a dent in the state's deficit.


Have a burning question about the stimulus? You're in luck — Michele and I will be doing a webinar today at 1 p.m. We'll do an overview on the different parts of the law, the guidance that's yet to come, and take your questions. You can watch it all right here on edweek.org. And it's free (although registration is required)....


Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the House education chairman urged Arne Duncan to be very picky in determining which states should get money under the Race to the Top fund.


Judy Wurtzel, who was on leave from the Aspen Institute to serve as a consultant to the Education Department, is in line to take a full-time position under Education Secretary Arne Duncan. She would be the deputy assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development. That's according to an email just sent out by the Aspen Institute. UPDATE: And the education department also confirms....


A draft bill details a federal reading effort that would target children of all ages, essentially from birth to high school. The proposal includes many of the tenets of Reading First, but also lists writing and motivation as key components of effective literacy instruction.


Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, the superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District, in California, is being nominated as the new assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, the White House just announced. (UPDATE: Pending Senate confirmation, of course.) This would make Melendez the top K-12 specialist, in charge of Title I programs and other things No-Child-Left-Behind. She'd be the highest-ranking Hispanic in the department. (UPDATE 2: Reading Alexander Russo's post on Melendez reminded me that Gabrielle Gomez, who is also at the assistant secretary level—for legislative affairs—is also Hispanic.) Though she's not a big-name superintendent like Washington's ...


The $4-plus-billion Race to the Top fund has a new master: Joanne S. Weiss, a partner and the chief operating officer at the NewSchools Venture Fund. We’ve heard that Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement today in a speech to the NewSchools Venture Fund via a video link. Weiss will be in charge of the larger, $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund, which gives grants to states. Jim Shelton will be in charge of the smaller, $635 million Invest in What Works Innovation fund, which will give grants to school districts and nonprofits that make progress ...


Of the 52 applications for the first round of state-stabilization money that need to be submitted, no fewer than 29 have yet to come in.


The House approved a school facilities bill today, but the real test for the program is in the Senate.


Michael Johnston, a charter school principal and a former education adviser for the Obama campaign, will fill the Colorado State Senate seat vacated by Peter Groff, who has a new job with the feds.


The goal is for Arne Duncan and President Obama to be able to outline their plans in early fall for overhauling federal education policy.


The U.S. Department of Education is changing its tune on whether state stabilization fund money can—and should—be used to pay for new school construction.


Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has a new teacher quality adviser ... and he's got a foot in both the merit pay and union camps. Brad Jupp is formerly a senior policy adviser to Denver-schools-superintendent-turned-U.S.-Senator Michael Bennet. In that role, he worked on school and district performance improvement and accountability, teacher effectiveness, and school choice, among other issues. But, before that, Jupp was a teacher and a union activist with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association for 19 years. He helped develop the Professional Compensation System for Teachers (ProComp), Denver's signature alternative pay program. At the department, Jupp will work ...


The U.S. Department of Education has identified four states that can expect stimulus-related audits by its Office of Inspector General: California, Illinois, New York, and Texas.


The $50 million high school initiative in Obama's budget is a "down payment" on future commitments, said a key education voice at OMB.


A quick scan of the invite list for Sen. Lieberman’s hearing suggests a lot of sympathetic voices will be testifying at Wednesday's hearing.


The education secretary seems intent on seeing 5,000 of the nation's worst schools closed and reopened within five years.


The U.S. Office of Management and Budget has declared many of these programs, such as Even Start, either ineffective or not demonstrating results.


Piche, the executive director of the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights who has represented students in desegregation cases, will be the deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Civil Rights.


School districts are upset over what they see as cuts to Title I.


Katie Couric is taking the education world's big celebrity as her date.


The White House has announced a few more education programs that it would like to see Congress scrap in the fiscal year 2010 budget, including Civic Education and the Ready to Teach Program.


President Obama's budget to be released today will propose eliminating the $66 million Even Start family literacy program.


So it looks like President Obama is going to propose extending the D.C. voucher program, just for the kids currently enrolled, in his fiscal year 2010 budget, to be released tomorrow. Politically, it's probably a smart move. The administration will avoid stories and commentaries about kids, including a couple of Sasha and Malia's classmates at Sidwell Friends School, getting booted from their desks. But it should put an interesting twist on the debate over reauthorizing the voucher program. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an Independent Democrat from Connecticut, has said he will hold hearings on whether or not to renew the ...


Politics K-12 imagines that the communication between the President and former South Carolina education chief Inez Tenenbaum regarding her nomination to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission read something like this: Dear Inez Tenenbaum, Thanks so much for serving on my education advisory team during the campaign, and especially for being an early supporter when practically everybody else thought Hillary was going to win. Sorry I selected Arne to head up the education department, and not you. His jumpshot is dramatically better than yours. But as a token of my appreciation, you get to make sure that Barbie's hair is ...


President Obama's proposed federal budget, the real one, with numbers and everything this time, is likely to come out any day now. Usually, folks in Washington are on pins-and-needles waiting for this document, which lays out how much the administration thinks should be spent on federal programs. It includes everything from a bottom-line number for the U.S. Department of Education to spending levels for programs from Title I (which got about $14 billion in fiscal year 2009) to the Javits Gifted Education program (which got just under $7.5 million). You might recall that, a couple of months ago, ...


So if you were following the behind-the-scenes drama of the creation of the stimulus bill, you may remember that a specially dedicated fund just for school facilities, a huge priority for President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress, was stripped out at the last minute to gain the support of some moderate lawmakers. Apparently, those folks were worried about creating a brand-new government program when the feds have trouble funding the ones that already exist (special education and Title I). In the end, the stimulus included some tax incentives for school construction, and it permitted districts to use a ...


Read the education secretary's ethics letter and financial disclosure—both submitted in preparation for his confirmation hearing in January.


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