Author

Peter Meyer

    Author Bio:
    Peter Meyer is a former News Editor of Life magazine and the author of numerous nonfiction books, including the critically acclaimed The Yale Murder (Empire Books, 1982; Berkley Books, 1983) and Death of Innocence (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1985; Berkley Books, 1986). Over the course of his three-decade journalism career Meyer, who holds a masters degree in history from the University of Chicago, has touched down in cities around the globe, from Bennington to Baghdad, and has written hundreds of stories, on subjects as varied as anti-terrorist training for American ambassadors to the history of the 1040 income tax form. His work has appeared in such publications as Harper's, Vanity Fair, National Geographic, New York, Life, Time and People. Since 1991 Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next. His articles for the journal include “The Early Education of our Next President” (Fall 2008), “New York City’s Education Battles: The mayor, the schools, and the `rinky-dink candy store’” (Spring 2008), “Learning Separately: The case for single-sex schools” (Winter 2008), and “Can Catholic Schools Be Saved?” (Spring 2007). Meyer also writes and edits, mostly on education, for the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, where he is a Senior Visiting Fellow.


Articles

New York City’s Small-Schools Revolution

Breaking up large high schools improved graduation rates

Uncommon Success

A conversation with Brett Peiser

SUMMER 2014 / VOL. 14, NO. 3

Will Mayor de Blasio Turn Back the School Reform Clock?

New York City’s charters and small high schools at risk

SPRING 2014 / VOL. 14, NO. 2

Education Activist Pursues an Ambitious Agenda

A conversation with Laura Bush

Spring 2013 / Vol. 13, No. 2

Newark’s Superintendent Rolls Up Her Sleeves and Gets to Work

A conversation with Cami Anderson

Winter 2013 / Vol. 13, No. 1

Advice for Education Reformers: Be Bold!

A conversation with Jeb Bush

FALL 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 4

Taking on New Jersey

A conversation with Chris Cerf

SPRING 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 2

“Hedge-Fund Guy” Emails Support to School Reformers

A conversation with Whitney Tilson

WINTER 2012 / VOL. 12, NO. 1

The New Superintendent of Schools for New Orleans

A conversation with John White

Fall 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 4

A New Leader for New Orleans

Podcast: John White talks with Education Next about his goals for the Recovery School District.

The Christian Brothers and their Public Schools

Podcast: Peter Meyer reports from Chicago, where two public schools have been launched by a Roman Catholic religious order.

Assessing New York’s Commissioner of Education

With Steiner’s sudden resignation, will the state continue its Race to the Top?

Summer 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 3

Catholic Ethos, Public Education

How the Christian Brothers came to start two charter schools in Chicago

Spring 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 2

The Middle School Mess

If you love bungee jumping, you’re the middle school type

Winter 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 1

Can Catholic Schools Be Saved?

Lacking nuns and often students, a shrinking system looks for answers

Spring 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 2

Brighter Choices in Albany

Reformers in New York’s capital have brought high-quality charter schools to scale, giving hope to a generation of disadvantaged kids.

Fall 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 4

Learning Separately

The case for single-sex schools

Winter 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 1

New York City’s Education Battles

The mayor, the schools, and the “rinky-dink candy store”

Spring 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 2

Charter Schools in Albany

Podcast: Peter Meyer tells Education Next how the city of Albany hit the jackpot: high-quality charter schools, and lots of them.

The Early Education of Our Next President

Not much in public schools

Fall 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 4

Baby, Think It Over

Technology meets abstinence education

Fall 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 4

A Board’s Eye View

Lessons from life in public office

Spring 2004 / Vol. 4, No. 2

Blog Posts/Multimedia

Beating the Odds: Some School Boards Can Do It

A new study uses survey data from 900 school board members in 419 school districts.

03/31/2014

The Pre-K Problem: A Great Investment or Passing the Buck?

What should we be talking about when we talk about universal pre-K?

02/20/2014

Grit v. Knowledge: Round 2

Much of what we read in Adam Bryant’s “Corner Office” columns would certainly justify Paul Tough’s applause for persistence and grit. But though certainly gritty and persistent, all of the subjects of the column show signs of having a remarkable background in knowledge acquisition (e.g. professional parents, high SATs, college degrees) probably earned their success by putting their grit at the service of learning.

12/10/2013

Paul Tough’s Grit Hypothesis Doesn’t Help Poor Kids

We can only hope that policymakers, teachers, and administrators understand the limitations of the grit hypothesis so we don’t disadvantage yet another generation of hard-working, gritty, and determined poor kids by not teaching them what they need to know to succeed.

12/09/2013

The Common Core Conflation Syndrome: Standards & Curriculum

There is no Common Core curriculum, radical or otherwise.

06/17/2013

The Quixotic Quest for Good Education through Integration

While there is no secret sauce for creating schools that close the achievement gap in poor urban neighborhoods, there is certainly a great deal that a school can do short of busing in white students.

02/11/2013

“The Writing Revolution” May Just Be a Reading Revolution (with thanks to E.D. Hirsch)

A knockout story in The Atlantic by education journalist Peg Tyre describes the wonderful turnaround of a Staten Island high school that the turnarounders attribute to a writing program.

09/25/2012

The Fear Factor: Merit Pay with a Punch

The new CTU contract will not have “phony” merit pay (differentiated pay) but will have the “real” thing (school autonomy).

09/20/2012

The Strike—and the Stakes

The reason we are so transfixed by Chicago is that the deal being hammered out now will be a game-changer.

09/17/2012

Reform v. Rights: The Windy City’s Teachers Walk Out

The walk-out may tell us more about the power of politics than about the issues facing our nation’s schools.

09/11/2012

The Best Education for the Best is the Best Education for All

Shouldn’t every American citizen have a right to the best education we can deliver?

09/10/2012

Catholic v. Charters: Where’s the God Gene?

A couple of reports last week reanimated the debate about what to do with Catholic schools, which have been hemorrhaging students for the last couple of decades.

09/05/2012

The D-Word: Good News from New York, But…

Rigorous and consistent attention to academic discipline helps ensure a culture of respect where behavioral discipline is less necessary.

08/30/2012

Teacher Unions: “Pigs at the Trough” or Victims of their Own Success?

We should surely understand how far the reform movement has gone in transforming public perception of teacher unions and their role in education, but we should also appreciate how big and scary the unions still are.

08/27/2012

Profit and Loss, Public or Private: Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dee

Given that our public education system is failing too many children, why wouldn’t one consider doing something different? We should at least ask the right questions. Does the free market work? Why not run schools like a business? What’s wrong with profit?

08/16/2012

Are the Teacher Unions on the Ropes? New Jersey Scores a Big One for Tenure Reform

This week Chris Christie signed legislation that creates a new teacher-rating scheme and also streamlines the process for firing both teachers and administrators.

08/10/2012

Nothing to Lose: Turn Failing Schools Over to CMOs

It started as a fairly typical funding-equity lawsuit and ended with a startling Wall Street Journal headline, “Michigan City Outsources All of Its Schools.”

08/08/2012

Poverty and Schools: Finally, Some Lights Go On

The pendulum might be swinging, ever-so-slightly, toward the believers (in school).

08/06/2012

Social Mobility Starts and Ends in Schools

Schools can boost social mobility, but only if they value merit and knowledge

07/23/2012

The Mobility Dilemma: Have We Lost Faith in the Power of Knowledge?

The terrible consequences of family breakdown are certainly upon us, but if this recent spate of teeth-gnashing over the growing social mobility gap is any indication of where the country is, I’d say the country still doesn’t get it.

07/19/2012

The End of Governance Geography: Hess and Meeks Point the Way to the Promised Land

Of the papers presented at Fordham’s Rethinking Education Governance for the 21st Century, one that had particular resonance for me was Rick Hess and Olivia Meeks’s analysis of the school district dilemma.

07/18/2012

Five Lessons from Five Years on the School Board

At some low point in my tenure on the board of education in my small school district, a friend advised, “Don’t worry. You are like gravity. They always know that you are there.”

07/04/2012

In Search of the Elusive Reform-Minded School-Board Member

It is the existential question of school board membership: Can you suggest improvement without appearing to criticize the current administration, the current system?

07/01/2012

Teacher Evaluations in New York: A Compromise or a Cave-In?

To have gotten this far on the accountability track is good news. But we surely seem to be a long way from getting our children the kind of educational protection that even restaurant patrons receive—not a healthy illustration of our public priorities.

06/27/2012

Getting Good Ideas to the Finish Line: Choice, Political Will, and a Coxswain

The good news is that we have two trends that are gaining ground on the monster that is our education system: a renewed appreciation for content and the new market mechanisms (i.e. choice) that incentivize innovation and renewal.

04/19/2012

Big News in the Bayou State

Passing a set of historic reform bills last week, the Louisiana legislature handed Gov. Bobby Jindal and his new education chief, John White, the keys to reform city.

04/12/2012

The Fight’s On: Rhee, Klein, and Moskowitz Team Up in New York

The three have formed a group that intends to raise $10 million annually for the next five years to lobby the New York State legislature to protect the reform initiatives launched by Klein and Michael Bloomberg in New York City and promote reform throughout the state.

04/05/2012

Bush Saves Romney From Etch A Sketch Hell!

As was widely reported Jeb Bush endorsed Mitt Romney yesterday. The Times called it a “coveted endorsement”—and indeed it is, no matter how much fun Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich had at poor Eric Fehrnstrom’s expense.

03/22/2012

The Race Card: Making Sense of the Duncan Discipline Report

The big news last week was the release of data by the U.S. Department of Education showing that, as the press release stated: “Minority students across America face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous high school curricula, and are more often taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers.”

03/12/2012

Teacher Evaluation Data, Part 2: The Perfectionist Disease

In Part 1 of my New York City teacher evaluation commentary, I explained the judicial decision which determined that the public had a right to know how individual teachers were doing. Most tellingly, perhaps, was Judge Kern’s dismissal of the argument that flaws in the data mattered to her decision. Referring to a previous ruling […]

03/08/2012

Teacher Evaluation Data, Part 1: The Public’s Right to Know

It is possible that in a different era, a court might very well have concluded that releasing teachers’ names was quite insane. But while this lower court decision (there are, in New York, several higher courts) will not prove to be a major marker in educational jurisprudence, it does show how far we have come in righting a long-listing ship.

03/05/2012

The Conspiracy Theory in Search of a Conspiracy

What worries me about the reasoning of some of the anti-Common Corers is that they seem to confuse a popular national trend with nationalism

02/29/2012

Education Is No Zero-Sum Game

The point of a liberal arts education—and I include math and science in that education—is to teach some eternal verities so that, when the surface world changes, as it tends to do, we have citizens that possess the most important skill of all: the ability to adapt.

02/24/2012

The Poverty Myth Persists

Why have we given up on the idea that education can be the “great equalizer”? The answer, I believe, is that we have accepted the “materialistic fallacy.” We have taken results of our education ineptitudes—more poverty—and made them the cause of them.

02/16/2012

Education Malfeasance: The “Reading to Learn” Myth

It is a shame that in 2012 educators continue to ignore the importance of background and domain-specific knowledge as the essence of reading—and of a good education.

02/12/2012

Parent Power, Teacher Power, Local Power, and a Word from Michelle Rhee

In case you missed them, a few notable events from the last month (or so): An amazing story from Erik Robelen at Education Week begins… Overriding the governor’s veto, New Hampshire’s Republican-led legislature has enacted a new law that requires school districts to give parents the opportunity to seek alternatives to any course materials they […]

02/02/2012

Scaling Up By Scaling Down

It is not so much that “reform has to go beyond charters” as it is that real reform must embrace choice—choice at the individual level.

01/30/2012

Education Reform Comes Home: the state of the states

We shall see tomorrow night, but this is already looking to be the Year of the Education Governor. With NCLB being pummeled from left and right and Race to the Top in suspended inanimation, the feds seem unusually quiet, if not on the run.

01/23/2012

King’s Message: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

The best way to honor Martin Luther King would be to commit ourselves to delivering a rigorous, comprehensive, and, ultimately liberating education. Indeed, it would be the best way to let freedom ring for future generations.

01/16/2012

Teacher Unions, Mac the Knife, and Dollar Power

That’s the headline above Paul Peterson’s better-than-nifty essay on the Ed Next blog.

01/13/2012

What Do Education Policymakers Do About “Toxic Stress”?

My friend Robert Pondiscio and I went head-to-head in a weeklong Facebook exchange about poverty and education over the holidays. Part of the debate was spurred by a draft of his recent Core Knowledge post on “ Student Achievement, Poverty, and ‘Toxic Stress.’” It is well-worth a read. Robert keyed in on a recent study […]

01/12/2012

Will the Real Lobbyist for Students Please Stand!

The responses to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent claim that he was going to be a lobbyist for public school students because no one else was reminded me of the old television game show, “What’s My Line?” wherein a celebrity panel got to quiz three contestants and then guess which one actually performed the job they all said they performed.

01/10/2012

Teachers: can’t live with em, can’t live without ‘em

Amidst lots of recent drama about teacher evaluations came a wonderful report by Sam Dillon in the New York Times: In Washington Large Rewards In Teacher Pay.

01/06/2012

Educating the Poor in India: Lessons for America

A fascinating story in the New York Times about schooling in India has a few things to teach American educators; mainly, that the poor really do want a good education.

01/02/2012

Looking Back to Look Forward: A List of Lists

Last year I attempted to rank the top education stories of the year using Google. It was fun, but it was bit too nuanced (algorithmically speaking) to work.

12/28/2011

‘Twas the Night Before De-regulation

The controversy over the recent New York Times front-page slam of K12 Inc. was ostensibly about the company’s inability to deliver online education, but one of the more interesting parts of the ensuing debate was not about computers and education but about delivering education for profit.

12/26/2011

The Bold & the Beautiful: The Mind Trust Plan for Indianapolis

By combining mayoral authority and parental choice, the Mind Trust proposal would create a marriage made in heaven.

12/23/2011

A Christmas Carol For Our Schools

A new round of the popular education board game, Poverty Matters, began last week with a New York Times op-ed by Helen Ladd and Edward Fiske, titled, “Class Matters: Why Won’t We Admit It?”

12/20/2011

What’s Not to Like About Newt’s Education Proposal?

Newt’s never been known for soft-and-cuddly and he does make an easy target for bleeding heart liberals as he joins his Darwinian socio-economic observations with a delivery crisp enough to shatter good china. The problem is, though, that he’s mostly right.

12/05/2011

Holiday Feast: STOP THE PRESSES!!! And pass the gravy.

I must interrupt this program to urge readers to cozy up to ednext.org and be thankful for the new issue of Education Next. Cover-to-cover, it’s a blessing.

11/24/2011

How About Better Parents? Ask Clarence Lee

Reading Thomas Friedman in yesterday’s New York Times, I couldn’t help but think of the Shel Silverstein classic, “Clarence Lee from Tennessee,” a 1993 poem suggesting that kids could trade in their parents for new ones.

11/21/2011

Steve Brill’s Diane Ravitch Moment

It’s hard to tell whether Joe Nocera’s op-ed essay in the New York Times last week, “Teaching With The Enemy,” is wonderfully nuanced or just silly. That’s surely what some education observers might wonder about the notion that Randi Weingarten, former head of New York City’s teacher union and current head of the American Federation of Teachers, should be chancellor of New York City schools.

11/14/2011

The Secret to Good Parenting? Good Schools

Schools and parents have different responsibilities – and we need to appreciate the differences.

11/09/2011

More Money to the Parents; More Power to the People

University of Chicago economist John List is following more than 600 students in several Chicago schools to find out whether investing in teachers or, alternatively, in parents, leads to more gains in kids’ educational performance.

11/07/2011

What money can’t buy: Facebook happiness in Newark?

Reading the New York Times update on the progress of the $100 million Mark “Facebook” Zuckerberg donation to the Newark public schools this morning, I couldn’t help but think of the time our superintendent convened a meeting of parents to announce a $20,000 grant for a “Parent University” project. Wow!

11/04/2011

News of the world… Or, catching up on Rupert, Nick, Alexis, and the NAACP

Whatever happens with ESEA reauthorization, I am convinced that the genie of education excellence is out of the bottle; administrators, teachers, aides, security guards – they are getting with the program.

10/24/2011

A progressive school finds some accountability religion

I was prepared for a rant against all things reform when I started reading the New York Times Q & A interview with Maria Velez-Clarke, the principal of the Children’s Workshop School in Manhattan’s East Village, about the school’s C-grade from the City.

10/12/2011

Back to the Future: Re-Inventing Local Control

As much as it pains me every time I hear Checker Finn say it, school boards may indeed be irrelevant. And Checker’s new essay in National Affairs lays out a pretty persuasive case for why they will disappear; not, why they should go away, but why they will simply die on a vine that is no longer part of a healthy education system.

09/29/2011

New York Leaps into the Middle School Trap

What was so odd about Dennis Walcott’s announcement that New York City was opening 50 new middle schools is that the most recent research suggesting that a middle school grade configuration is probably not the way to go was done in his city.

09/22/2011

Teachers Breaking Out of the Box

I gave up bashing teachers years ago, when I realized that, as with soldiers in the trenches, they had their hands full just staying alive. What I never understood, however, since this wasn’t really a war, was why teachers seemed to hide behind their unions.

09/20/2011

Zen and the Art of School Board Maintenance

The problem is that local school boards can’t wait around for the folks who have caused our cancers to cure them.

09/13/2011

A Bronx Cheer for Bloomberg? A New Poll is Harsh

I felt a bit sad reading this morning’s New York Times poll report showing that New Yorkers are now broadly dissatisfied with their school system and that most say the city’s school system has stagnated or declined since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of it nine years ago.

09/07/2011

A New Leader for New Orleans

Podcast: John White talks with Education Next about his goals for the Recovery School District.

09/02/2011

More Power Politics in New York. Or, Another Hacking Victim

New Yorkers were reminded yesterday that politics can be bloody when the state’s comptroller pulled the plug on a multi-million-dollar no-bid contract to Wireless Generation to set up a data-base for New York City’s schools.

08/30/2011

The Union Wins a Big One in New York: Judge Tosses Out Most of Teacher Eval System

On Wednesday a state judge in Albany ruled that student test scores on state exams could not be used for 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation and that NYBOR’s and NYSED’s cut scores for grading teachers was unfairly slanted to favor those student scores.

08/29/2011

The End of the Era of Accountability?

My only hope is that we don’t let education policy get hijacked by the same partisan bickering that flavored the debt-ceiling standoff a couple weeks ago. Our education system lost its AAA rating several generations ago.

08/15/2011

The Information Gap – Serious Policy Implications

It would be too simplistic to say that the difference between good schools and bad is in the quality of the information the public gets about its schools. But the swing in public opinion the size of that reported by the PEPG/Ed Next survey should be a wake-up call: get the information out.

08/08/2011

Cheating in the Keystone State

Michael Winerip is on a roll. After a good piece of reporting on the Atlanta cheating scandal a couple of weeks ago, he has turned in a solid story about the testing mess rolling into Pennsylvania.

08/01/2011

The Christian Brothers and their Public Schools

Podcast: Peter Meyer reports from Chicago, where two public schools have been launched by a Roman Catholic religious order.

07/19/2011

News of the World: rocketships, suburban charters, parent triggers, cheating, merit pay — and even Winerip does good

Okay, it’s not exactly what Rupert might condone, but since he and his crew are preoccupied, I offer some education highlights from my weekend reading.

07/18/2011

Reading is NOT Fundamental: Knowledge Is

It is encouraging news that New York City’s three-year-old pilot project testing the content-rich Core Knowledge Language Arts curriculum has proved so far “a brilliant experiment in reading.”

07/18/2011

Winerip v. Moskowitz: Success Wins

I’ll hand it to Michael Winerip. This morning he takes on one of the charter movement’s fiercest competitors, Eva Moskowitz

07/11/2011

History Lesson: Where’s The Declaration?

It is hard to read the Declaration of Independence without being moved by the document’s plainspoken audacity, especially recalling that it wasn’t then a “document,” but a rather blunt call to arms.

07/05/2011

Brooks is Brilliant: An Op-Ed To Savor

There are no knock-out punches in this fight, but David Brooks comes close with a perspective-setting essay about school reformers and their adversaries.

07/01/2011

The RTTT Honeymoon is over in New York

After the sweetness-and-nice between New York State Education Department and the New York State United Teachers to win $700 million from the federal Race to the Top fund last year, NYSUT sued the state’s Board of Regents and NYSED’s acting commissioner over the decision to ratchet up the importance of student test scores in a teacher’s annual evaluation.

06/29/2011

Winerip: Another Missed Diss

The New York Times’ education columnist Michael Winerip spoiled another good story yesterday.

06/07/2011

The Newest Achievement Standard: Divine Intervention!

There has been the “silver bullet” debate, the “secret sauce” battle, the “demonize teacher” tirades, and the “cracking the code” kerfuffle over Waiting for Superman. Now, according to Diane Ravitch, it’s the miracle workers perfidy.

06/06/2011

Where’s the Tea Party When You Need It?

How we got from a state constitution requiring that the legislature “provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated” to laws taking away the right of citizens to determine what they spend for that “free” education is a long and hard legal and policy road.

06/03/2011

Memento Mori: Let Us Now Praise the Power of Memory

As educators, we need to remember that good memories are paths to good living – and our schools must do whatever they can to teach the habit of remembering.

05/30/2011

A Times Derby: Gates, Parents, Rhee, and, of course, “Beyond Tests” with Michael Winerip

The New York Times has had a veritable flock of noteworthy education stories the last several days and, at the risk of bursting readers’ 20 article bubble, I would recommend all five.

05/24/2011

Teacher Evaluations: The Alternatives to Nothing?

In a lengthy essay for the Washington Post New York State Regent Roger Tilles provides more evidence for why the Empire State has slipped so badly educationally in the last couple of decades: the tendency to fiddle while Rome burns.

05/23/2011

Field Notes: Vote Early, Vote Often

It’s school budget voting day in New York. And in my little district, with fewer than 2,000 K—12 students, voters are being asked to approve a $41,249,180 budget, which is a remarkably lean one, considering that it is just .77 more than last year’s budget.

05/18/2011

Spring Cleaning: New Evidence that Off-Cycle School Board Elections are Bad for Democracy

The well-intentioned folks who believed that separating school district elections from the hurly-burly of the hoi-polloi would result in something more dignified and professional — well, apparently, they were wrong.

05/13/2011

Squaring the Teacher Salary Circle: It Can be Done

Last week, Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari wrote an essay for the New York Times titled The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries. What is refreshing about Eggers and Calegari’s approach is that it picks up on some of the more important findings of the recent McKinsey report, but I urge them to avoid the briar patch of “low pay” unless they understand the enormous costs already absorbed by system inefficiencies.

05/08/2011

Zuckerberg 2.0: Cami Anderson and Newark

Anderson has some serious creds, having managed Joel Klein’s initiative aimed at creating schools for New York City’s most challenging students. And she gets kudos from Randi Weingarten. Still, I would advise Anderson not to pose for the cover of Time holding a broom.

05/06/2011

New Jersey Governor Visits Harvard School of Education: Sparks Don’t Fly

According to yesterday’s New York Times Chris Christie went to “the heart of liberal darkness” yesterday – and kept his cool.

05/01/2011

Poverty? Ask J-C Brizard

My argument about poverty is simple: there are too many millions of people like Brizard who “used the U.S. education system” to drag themselves out of poverty to count them as exceptions that prove some demography is destiny rule.

04/28/2011

Education Unbound*

Unfortunately, in his Limits of School Reform essay this morning, the newest op-ed columnist for the Times, Joe Nocera, shows the limits of logic in thinking about the subject.

04/26/2011

Richard Iannuzzi on How New York Won the Race to the Top

Highlights from my interview with Richard Iannuzzi, the head of the New York State United Teachers.

04/21/2011

Steiner Wins Race to the Top but Won’t be Going to the Promised Land

When David Steiner, a reformer’s reformer, announced last week that he was giving up the reins as New York state’s Commissioner of Education, the education world seemed to take a collective deep breath.

04/17/2011

Joe Williams on How New York Won the Race to the Top

The inside story of how the legislation to raise the charter cap and remove the firewall between student data and teacher evaluations came to pass.

04/15/2011

David Steiner on How New York Won the Race to the Top

An interview I did with New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner about New York’s bid to win Race to the Top funds

04/14/2011

A Plague of Violence in Chicago: What Can Schools Do?

Though violence is contagious, you don’t solve the problem with classes about it – you provide a zone of safety, a “culture of peace,” within which you then do the hard work of education.

03/25/2011

The NEA Girds for Battle

A brilliant report from Mike Antonucci at the Education Intelligence Agency (EIA) paints a dark picture of what the recent public union defeats in Wisconsin and elsewhere mean to the National Education Association.

03/24/2011

Field Notes: Budgeting while the Ship is Sinking

At Monday night’s school board budget “workshop” I felt the sinking sensation that passengers on the Titanic must have felt: it’s too late for life boats.

03/23/2011

The Digital Divide and the Knowledge Deficit

Are we letting our digital obsessions distract us from obligations to teach knowledge?

03/22/2011

School Funding: Do We Have to be as Poor as Our Neighbor?

In a provocative new school funding case, a federal court judge in Kansas City ruled against parents from the suburban Shawnee Mission school district who had wanted to increase property taxes above the state mandated limit. This is a local control debate that is sure to heat up as we stumble through the current financial crisis.

03/14/2011

Teachers and Their Bitter Harvest

“Teachers wonder, why the heapings of scorn?” is the front page headline over a Trip Gabriel story in today’s New York Times. And, indeed, teachers have been taking it on the chin of late.

03/03/2011

How the Christian Brothers Came to Start Two Charter Schools in Chicago

That’s the subtitle of my new story, about an experiment to take a successful religious school education model to the public sector. Let the walls come tumbling down!

02/25/2011

The Next Frontier (abyss?): Testing and its Kissin’ Cousin, Cheating

On Friday, at the end of a bang-up Education Writers Association conference on improving teaching quality, at the Carnegie Corporation in New York City, I was approached by a newspaper education editor who asked whether I thought charter school test results were real. “Are they cheating?” she asked, more pointedly.

02/20/2011

If it Bleeds it Leads – That’s not Denver

ED’s two-day Advancing Student Achievement through Labor Management Collaboration conference was quite a confab, one which highlighted the success of collaborations in places like Helena and New Haven as well as the pioneering union-friendly work of Green Dot, the charter management organization.

02/18/2011

You Think You’re Ready for College—Think Again

In their continuing drive to ratchet up learning standards, New York State’s education leaders are now sounding the alarm about high school diplomas. According to a new study, done for NY’s State Ed department, fewer than half the kids in the state holding a diploma are ready for college.

02/08/2011

Atlanta: Still Burning

If there’s a Pulitzer nomination for investigative reporting worth making, it’s the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the work its team of reporters has been doing on the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. In fact, scandal does not quite capture what would seem to be a systemic failure of huge proportions.

01/26/2011

Randi’s Catching a Wave

The Times had some kind words for Randi Weingarten yesterday, praising her and her union for having “wisely chosen to work with state legislatures and local school districts” in releasing “a plan for speeding up disciplinary hearings.” The Times calls this “a good starting point for more discussion.” And indeed it is. But readers should read Weingarten’s January 12 speech, “A New Path Forward: Four Approaches to Quality Teaching and Better Schools,” to get a flavor for the politics of the thing.

01/25/2011

Choice Marches On: Charters for the Middle Class?*

From the beginning, charter schools have been sold as a vehicle of choice for the poor – and they have done a remarkable job, for the most part, providing that outlet. Now, according to this morning’s New York Times, public school choice may be coming to a more affluent neighborhood near you.

01/22/2011

School Boards: Our Indicator Species

I am now in my fourth year on my school board – not counting the six months of horror I endured there at the end of the 20th century — and “endure” is certainly a wise term for the experience.

01/21/2011

Today’s Times: the Good, the Bad, and the Outrageous

It’s great to have Saturday morning education stories to mull, but the New York Times may be pushing the envelope with this line-up.

01/09/2011

Peoples’ Choice (via Google): Top 20 2010 Education Stories as of RIGHT NOW!*

Without further ado, rationalization, explanation, or caveat, here are Google’s top 20 education “stories.”

12/31/2010

Bobbing and Weaving in DC–-By Way of Detroit

In the education-reform movement there have always been two schools of thought—when there aren’t a dozen—about what makes a good reform superintendent.

12/29/2010

The Coin of the Realm: A Plea for Curriculum

As I got into this business through the curriculum reform door, opened by E.D. Hirsch, I can’t pass up an opportunity to promote the need for comprehensive and rigorous curricula.

12/23/2010

What’s a Good Teacher Worth? How about $400,000

Stanford economist Eric Hanushek “investigates the interplay between teacher effectiveness and the economic impact of higher student achievement, specifically in terms of test scores.”

12/22/2010

Tax Caps and Tidal Waves: Now? or Never?

Our public schools face a “fiscal tsunami” that will change our public education system for years to come.

12/21/2010

Pass the Anchovies: What’s with Singapore Math and Sputnik?

The wake-up call and Sputnik moment has already happened. We’ve already looked.

12/21/2010

Crossing the Hudson: Cerf to Trenton

One-time NYC deputy schools chancellor Christopher Cerf has been appointed commissioner of education for New Jersey. Not a surprising choice, given Governor Chris Christie’s determination to remake the Garden State’s schools.

12/19/2010

Ready, Aim, Fire: California’s Parent Trigger

California’s new law lets parents in failing public schools vote to turn their school over to a charter school operator. The fact that California’s teacher unions calls the law the “lynch mob provision” must mean the bill’s backers are on the right track.

12/15/2010

Grading Gotham’s Teachers — No Ruling Yet

In a case the NY Times said would “propel New York City to the center of a national debate about how student test scores should be used to evaluate teachers,” a bunch of lawyers fought it out in a NYC courtroom yesterday.

12/09/2010

Smile! You’re on Not-So-Candid Camera

Sam Dillon tackles the question of teacher evaluations in the Times today with a front-page story pegged to Bill Gates’ investment of $335 million in overhauling teacher evaluation systems.

12/04/2010

Act I Ends in NYC: Steiner can get some rest

The official announcement comes on Monday, but this being New York, word had “leaked” out on Friday. “Mayor and State Reach Deal on a Schools Chief,” was the front-page headline in the Times.

11/28/2010

‘All together now’ Meets Differentiated Instruction

It’s one thing to think about the achievement gap between races and socio-economic groups, but our relatively recent headlong rush to celebrate diversity—and integration and “mainstreaming”—has brought with it new achievement gap challenges.

11/19/2010

Competition Works!

This is the conclusion of David Figlio and Cassandra Hart in their new study of Florida’s pioneering Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) for Education Next.

11/17/2010

The End of an Era: Ravitch v. Klein

Diane Ravitch took some parting shots at Joel Klein last week with a short post on the New York Review of Books’ blog headlined “New York’s New School Czar.”

11/15/2010

End of an era in New York City

The public education world shook yesterday with the news that New York City’s Chancellor Joel Klein was resigning.

11/10/2010

To Close or Not to Close? Not a Question in Gotham

While the research jury may still be out on the turnaround versus closure question, New York City has at least come to appreciate the human dimension. Instead of just announcing a school closure, as it has done in the past, this year school officials are meeting with parents and staff “before making a final decision.”

10/29/2010

The Culture of Poverty — or the Poverty of Culture?

Bottom line: our education system has perpetuated the culture of poverty legend long enough, not by failing to integrate schools, but by failing to teach black children.

10/28/2010

Be Quiet! Sit Up! Listen! Tie Your Shoes! Character Ed Takes It on the Shins!

Why was I not surprised to read the Education Week story on a new federal study, “the largest…to date,” says Ed Week, that pooh-poohs character education? (ie. It doesn’t work.)

10/22/2010

Carroll to Charter Colleagues: Just say NO!

Thomas Carroll, one of New York’s leading charter school directors, has just sent out a memo to fellow charter network operators in the Empire State urging them NOT to participate in Race to the Top. Carroll says that the red tape that comes with the money is not worth it for charters.

10/18/2010

From “Sailing the Ocean Blue” to “I Pledge Allegiance”

I was gratified to see the new book on the Pledge of Allegiance that I co-authored with Jeffrey Owen Jones reviewed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday morning. Unfortunately, I never met Jones whose book this was — and is. A gifted television and film producer who stumbled onto the Pledge tale while teaching at the University of Rochester, Jones unfortunately died before he could finish the project. Tom Dunne, a longtime friend and publisher with St. Martin’s Press, asked me if I could help.

10/12/2010

And the Answer Is? (Shh! We Can’t Tell You!)

Though nothing that most educators didn’t know, Jennifer Medina’s front-page story in the New York Times this morning is worth reading—if you like reviewing, in slow motion, the tape of a train wreck.

10/11/2010

King of the Mountain!

David Steiner, the New York State Education Commissioner, surely knows that politics in New York state is a blood sport and that the powerful teachers union plays it well. But he also seems to be wise enough not to shout “King of the Mountain!”

09/23/2010

Just Because the Sky’s Not Falling Doesn’t Mean Your School is Good

Far be it from me to take on Nicholas Lemann – former Managing Editor of the Washington Monthly, former staff reporter for the Washington Post, staff writer for The New Yorker, author of The Big Test (about the SATs), and current dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism – but…his current “narrative of crisis” complaint in The New Yorker gets the plot wrong.

09/22/2010

“Dominick, Go Frisk ‘em”**

Catholic schools are back in the news as the New York Diocese prepares for what the Times is calling an “aggressive effort to close or consolidate elementary schools” — as many as 30 of the 216 in the system, reports the Times.

09/21/2010

Forget the iPad — Get Me a Livescribe Smart Pen

Many of us still buying print were pleasantly surprised yesterday to find the New York Times magazine devoted to education. The issue of technology is the essential question of “The Education Issue.” What will the digital revolution do to–and for–our schools?

09/20/2010

Testing Testing Testing — It’s Good For You

The New York Times’ Week in Review on Sunday followed up on its Science Times story from last Tuesday, “Forget What You Know About Studying,” with a page-one story called “Testing, The Chinese Way.”

09/13/2010

Austan Who?

The headline in the Washington Post was “Austan Goolsbee: triathlete, improv comedian, economist.” Given the state of the economy, Obama’s new Chairman of the Council on Economic Advisers might need the improv comedian talents more than anything. But what might not show up in the quick list of resume references is an interesting story Goolsbee and Jonathan Guryan (both professors of economics at the U. of Chicago) penned for Education Next in 2006: World Wide Wonder? Measuring the (non-)impact of Internet subsidies to public schools

09/12/2010

A Misplaced Race Card

My jaw did the proverbial drop when I read this opening sentence in a front page story in Sunday’s Albany Times Union: Albany’s charter schools have created a second school system that is almost entirely segregated.

09/09/2010

For Labor Day: School Should Be a Child’s First Job

The debate about poverty’s impact on education is close to ridiculous in large part because our poverty is as much intellectual as it is economic, especially when it comes to education.

09/06/2010

Field Notes: My Piece of Kafka

If I were to write an education book, it would be called, “Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry: Life on the School Board.” Of all the emotions accompanying these events — and school board meetings are more full of emotion than anything else – the feeling of not knowing whether to laugh or cry is one of the more common and consistent ones – for me.

09/02/2010

Forget STEM: “To the dreadful summit of the cliff”*

Mark Bauerlein has a wonderfully refreshing piece in the new Education Next. It is especially welcome to those beleaguered liberal arts and humanities folks among us who feel so un-21st century. But I hope that even die-hard periodic tablists among you would be impressed by Bauerlein’s subtle skewering of the current head of the National Endowment of the Arts, Rocco Landesman.

08/18/2010

Stop the Presses!*

Another front-page story in the New York Times this morning is sure to stoke the Gotham education fires. “Triumph Fades on Racial Gap in New York City Schools” makes it pretty clear that the recent goal line adjustment made by New York State’s new education Commissioner David Steiner did not affect all groups equally.

08/16/2010

The Gray Lady, Part 2: The Other Shoe Drops

What seems central to Winerip’s reportorial DNA is a sympathy for the little guy, whether the disabled kid or the handicapped school. Though I can’t claim to have studied his writings thoroughly (nor have I communicated with him), if Winerip does have political or ideological views about the education system, it would appear that he sees the thing through the prism of leaving no child or school behind – that is, before allowing any child or school to get ahead, we must pick up those behind. The market place, which allows success and failure, is a threat; the social safety net is wide and deep.

08/12/2010

Money Talks – But Does It Educate?

This is American education’s sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. Or is it $64 million? Billion? Or, how about $26 billion? That’s the number moving through the Capitol at the moment.

08/05/2010

Sexting and Other Constitutional Issues

It is hard to be a reporter in America for very long, including as one trying to fathom our richly diverse public education system, without having to deal with a Constitutional issue.

07/28/2010

Voice in the Wilderness: Save NCLB!

Despite the bashing the ten-year-old federal law has been taking–much of it deserved–on the ground, in the provinces NCLB has succeeded in beginning a much-needed change in the culture of public education: from a system focused on adults to one looking behind all the curtains to see how kids are doing. It hasn’t been a pretty launch, of course, but the ship is only barely out of port.

04/28/2010

Union Dues

The fall 2009 issue of Ed Next included an article I wrote about some remarkable charter schools in Albany. In that article, I described how the teachers union had fought hard to limit the role charters could play in Albany and elsewhere in New York. Richard Iannuzzi of the NYSUT claims that “New York’s anti-union charter spokesmen misstated” the union’s position on charter schools.

12/09/2009

The Real “Crisis” in Catholic Education?

A story in the October 12 issue of Time Magazine on the “crisis” in Catholic schools, brought me back to a question I have been asking myself for several months: what’s the connection between the health of Catholic schools and the health of the Catholic church?

10/20/2009

The List

The other day I delivered to my school board president, via email, a list. “This is what I found in my ‘followup’ folder for just the last month!” I wrote. “Obviously, we can’t get it all in at a single meeting, but can we chip away at it?”

10/09/2009

School Board as Cheerleader, Leader, and Micromanager

I recently got a wake-up call from a fellow school board member, upset about a comment I made to a reporter that turned up in a page-one story that morning. Was it a mistake? And should I have talked about it? To the press?

09/28/2009

Charter Schools in Albany

Podcast: Peter Meyer tells Education Next how the city of Albany hit the jackpot: high-quality charter schools, and lots of them.

09/04/2009
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