Monthly Archives: January 2006

More Navel Gazing…

One more thought per this issue about off/on-the blog record stuff. Franklin Foer makes some great points in this TNR article ($) about why blogs shouldn’t replace the oft-vilified” mainstream media.” That was the attempted point below, this isn’t journalism, it’s perspective which is fine, but not a substitute.

Update: Russo responds to the post linked above but I think he misses the key point: I’m not claiming quasi-journalistic cred but rather the opposite. Likewise, it wasn’t about what should or should not go into a blog, as I said, it’s marketplace and bloggers and readers should decide for themselves. It was merely about what does and doesn’t go into this blog. Finally, he asks for some inside scoop on being a source. Well, reporters call and you talk and sometimes they use what you say in a story but more often not. It’s (a) not exactly must-see TV and (b) we work on ed policy not, say, national security so it’s not cloak and dagger stuff…Eduwonk doesn’t put a flower pot on his porch when he has a thought about NCLB…


More big girl panty action in CT: Civil Rights groups including the NAACP are intervening in the anti-NCLB lawsuit in CT — against the state. A very significant edudevelopment up there. Not good politics for the AG…a boost for Spellings’ case.

Testing The Industry

New paper on testing from Ed Sector’s Toch. Shows that the demands of NCLB and state accountability schemes are creating some quality problems in student testing. A lot of information about the current state of play in the industry that you probably haven’t seen yet and some sensible reform ideas. Ignore USA Today’s inflammatory headline the sky isn’t falling on NCLB but some things can be done better on the testing front. The political breakdown here is obvious: To oversimplify only slightly: A lot of folks on the left don’t like any testing and a lot of folks on the right like testing regardless of what it looks like. There is not much of a constituency in the political center yet for quality testing because of those dynamics. These are problems that need to be addressed or they could imperil standards based reform so Margaret Spellings needs to put on her big girl panties and deal with it.

While you’re at the Ed Sector site, also check out the new Education Sector Interview with England’s Michael Barber. He’s a key architect of the Blair reforms and all around good guy and Ed Sector’s Mead caught up with him recently in London.

Put On Your Big Girl Panties Because Margaret Spellings Talks Dirty!

That admonition about “big girl panties” is apparently a key part of U.S. Ed Secretary Margaret “Earth Mother” Spellings’ approach to management — The product placement opportunities for Victoria’s Secret are countless! That gem, plus much more, from one of the more colorful profiles of a cabinet secretary to come along in a while…Guess Joe Williams wasn’t kidding about those glasses

Would be nice, of course, if more than episodically she’d tell a lot of the NCLB whiners to put on their big girl panties and get serious about helping minority kids but that may be too much to hope for…

In any event, it’s another indication of the clear success of President Bush’s campaign to change the tone in Washington. I surely never associated Dick Riley with panties, “big girl” or otherwise.

Posted on Jan 30, 2006 @ 6:38pm

In The Edublogging Business Do Loose Lips Sink Or Raise Ships?

Over at This Week Russo raises the question of when/what to post that you glean from various conversations, in particular with the media. It’s worth reading because it raises some complicated questions about the medium.

For Eduwonk’s money though the answer is pretty straightforward and different than Russo’s. He says: “Everything’s on the record unless you tell me otherwise.” Here the policy is exactly the opposite: It’s off-the-record unless we agree otherwise. I’m not a journalist and this is a blog, not some sort of streaming real-time dissemination tool about what’s happening in the ed policy world with an obligation to relay everything that comes across the author’s desk. Consequently, I choose whether or not something rises to the level of reader interest and/or appropriateness to post it here. Put more plainly, there are plenty of things I am aware of that never make it into this blog for various reasons. While that’s not so different than how professional journalists operate, there are still some differences.

First, in order to function effectively as a professional people have to be confident that emails, phone calls, and conversations with me are strictly off-the-blog-record and that I’d never repeat or relay something without express permission. I could, for instance, discuss plans and initiatives that various organizations are launching but that would break confidences and I’m not prepared to do that. Of course, if I pick things up through the rumor mill that’s a different kettle of fish, but if a colleague asks me to review something for their organization or to bounce some ideas around then don’t expect to learn about it on this site until it’s made public.

In addition to other policy types, I talk daily with folks from the media, both reporters and editorial types. They have to be confident that I’m not going to swipe their ideas or preview their stories. I’d probably get a lot of new readers if I telegraphed a big news story that was coming in some outlet but it would be an enormous breach of faith if the reporter had contacted me about it and I then used that information public in advance of the story running. In fact, perhaps I even take this too far. For instance I waited to post about the AFT’s new blog until after Michelle Davis’ story in Ed Week had run since she called me for it and my post would reflect the same things I told her. But, I’d rather err on the side of caution.

I also review proposals and manuscripts for foundations and publishers so often I’ll know that something might be coming on a particular question but again, I can’t post that. Finally, I work with public officials and serve on a public body myself, and those folks, too, have to be able to trust that things they say will be treated with discretion. I work in the policy world, that’s what pays the bills, and the ability to work candidly and sometimes confidentially with people is key to being able to operate in that world.

On the other hand, what readers get here is a very high degree of transparency. They can be confident that if I’m writing about an organization I’ve consulted for, or serve on the board of, or that gives grants to support/or has supported my work, paid me to speak or consult, or generally where there is a real or perceived conflict of interest etc…I’ll point that out. So, while an item might not include every tidbit, readers can be confident I’m not, for instance, touting someone’s reforms or ideas while doing work for them without sharing it with readers.

The great thing about blogging is that it’s a highly democratic and market-oriented medium. If someone else wants to sail closer to the wind and, for instance, out upcoming stories in newspapers and magazines then that’s their business (and of course media outlets are always competing to be first on a story anyway so that pressure is already present to some extent in the public debate about these issues). How that would be received and what the impact would be on the writer’s ability to get such information in the future is an open question. Drudge is one example of something like that but my guess is that nothing in the eduworld would likely rise to that level and be able to survive while behaving like that.

Nonetheless I’m confident that readers of this blog know that they’re getting one take on things that is necessarily run through a few filters. And, readership is sustained and enthusiastic enough that I think this model works well and adds some value. And, there are different kinds of blogs out there so you’re going to get a little of everything and I suspect the issues I raise above are more localized to niche policy sorts of blogs though every blog makes editorial decisions of some sort or another.

I still hold out hope that Education Week will start a more “expose” oriented blog if they’re willing to take the heat. Journalists like the folks they have there can operate with a different set of rules and it might bring more stuff out into the open. In the meantime, as Don Rumsfeld might say, you’ve got to take the edublog you have not the edublog you might want!


Interesting Boston Globe story about competition among public schools. Some charter supporters will tout this as evidence that more choice is working but as I’m Rick Hess Bi**h has noted it’s pretty cosmetic stuff not the sort of substantive change that is necessary to really radically change education in under-served communities. Again calls into question the competition theory of change as leverage in isolation in a political situation.


Thanks to Ed Sector’s Kevin Carey for his post below and many thanks to Robert Gordon for pinch-hitting on Thursday and Friday. Sorry for mixing him up with his musical brethren. That’s not a problem Eduwonk has because no one confuses him with his babe-magnet celebrity surfer cousin. Now back to regular order.

Signing off

Many thanks to Eduwonk for letting me blog in this space. My mailbox today is a reminder how influential this blog has become. I’m sorry I didn’t get around to talking more about how we can identify the best and weakest teachers and what we should do when we do. I’ve co-authored a piece, out soon here, that will do that.

Looking over my posts the last two days, I wonder if I’m the has-been who never had. Hope not!

Thanks for reading.