LA Confidential

Kevin Huffman turns in a great column on Race to the Top.  He’s right to single out Louisiana.  Their application* (and a few others) combine ambitious ideas, real plans for implementation, and an integrated strategy.

Also in theWaPo today, Kevin alludes to the “controversy” over Secretary Duncan’s remarks about New Orleans schools and Katrina.  But to have a controversy don’t you have to have some credible people really upset?   In this case everyone the Wash Post talked to (or at least cited) supported Duncan’s take, which isn’t surprising since it’s a pretty common sentiment in the city.   Duncan isn’t offering any sort of cost-benefit argument, you’re hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate the horror of the storm and its aftermath.   The point is that one outcome is an intense focus on improving the city’s previously catastrophically bad schools. 

*Disc-Like Kevin I worked as a  thought partner with a number of states, including Louisiana, to help them prepare their applications but have no stake in any particular outcome.

33 Responses to “LA Confidential”

  1. john thompson Says:

    What qualifications does Huffman have for helping states devise their educational plans?

    I don’t mean the politics of writing the RttT proposals. That’s self explanatory. As a commenter wrote “Headhunters profit from turnover.”

    And here’s an example from an RttT proposal.

    “Human Capital projects include the expansion of teachers trained by alternative licensure programs such as The New Teacher Project and Teach for America, specifically $30.6 million within the Achievement School District; … The total budget for Human Capital projects is approximately $61.3 million?”

    But presumably all of the states Huffman advised have histories. Presumably, any SUCCESSFUL reform must grow organically from that states history. How knowledgeable was Huffman of those states’ histories and what different stakeholders actually needed?

    Tell me again, how many years did Huffman teach? Has he ever been in a NEIGHBORHOOD school as a teacher or an administrator? I’m sure Huffman is fully aware for the failures of Human Relations departments, but has he ever successfully tackled the problems as they actually exist in actual systems? Or has he played by the rules of charters?

    I mean that not to attack charters but to ask how Huffman views problems that he has not experienced directly.

    For instance, he advocates RttT solutions that are not research based. That’s OK. But I’m curious how he got to such confidence that his intuitions are valid enough to drive reforms in multiple states?

    And speaking of valid, just between us Eduwonk readers, how has he addressed the legal issues related to the validity of VAMs for termination. Does he really want to win those cases in court? Or does he “win” by losing? Is he seeking headlines about lawsuits costing millions that provide political leverage for changes in the laws?

  2. Stiles Says:

    For all of the promise that RttT offers, there is no question that the enterprise, and ed reform at the national policy level, is at some risk of a “Best and the Brightest” syndrome. Policy wonks need to self-monitor against hubris lest we go down the path of Kennedy and Johnson’s foreign policy elite who implemented, in Halberstam’s words, “brilliant policies that defied common sense.”

    There is much to be done, so we need bright reformers and experienced reformers (and hopefully bright, experienced reformers) collaborating to improve public education. I’m excited by RttT, but I’m noticing plenty of 30,000 foot thinking and Rtt$ in the frenzy.

  3. PhillipMarlowe Says:

    What qualifications does Kevin have, asks John Thompson?
    Well, he got into trouble with the Feds for sloppy book-keeping and record keeping at TFA.

    This hasn’t appeared at eduwonk, but 2012 presidential aspirant Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’s plan to retain all 3rd graders reading below grade level is running into a wall:
    Is writing on the wall for reading proposal?
    Senate panel says state can’t afford Daniels’ plan for 3rd-graders

    http://www.indystar.com/article/20100127/NEWS04/1270378/1013

  4. Chris Smyr Says:

    Has Huffman not been a teacher long enough to allow for the possibility that he is qualified to assist in writing education proposals? Is Rotherham similarly unqualified to do such?

  5. Linda/Retired Teacher Says:

    Oh, I think Rotherman is eminently qualified to write education proposals and get heaps of money for doing so. I’ll bet he is also poised to make a lot more. Education might not be our country’s forte, but we’re still Number One in business acumen and there’s lots of money to be had if one can gain control of school tax money. As to actually helping children achieve, he couldn’t possibly have a positive impact because of his consistently negative views about teachers. “When the largest stakeholders in any endeavor are seen as the opposition, you will fail.”

    However, the American people are not stupid, and so I predict the states will say anything necessary to get the money and then use it to prevent lay-offs of teachers and to hire highly qualified, fully credentialed teachers. Hopefully there will soon be laws preventing charter school managers from making unseemly profits. I am presently doing my part to make certain this happens in my state.

    One thing we all know: the TEACHER is the key to improved learning in the schools. Research tells us that nothing else AT THE SCHOOL LEVEL is that significant. Everything we do must be aimed at uplifting the profession so we can attract and retain highly qualified people to teaching. Bashing teachers is the absolute worst thing we can do.

  6. alexander Says:

    wow, andy —

    disclosing after the fact that you’ve been working for an unnamed number of states on their RTTT applications.

    …states that you’re likely to be hitting up for consulting work in the future…

    i know you think your readers don’t care but i have to say that your standards for timely and complete disclosure are really low.

    then again, you’re also defending the secret judges for RTTT applications, so it’s not exactly a surprise.

    / alexander

  7. Chris Smyr Says:

    Linda’s trolling again: where has Rotherham ever expressed “his consistently negative views about teachers”? Please no more of your long-winded viewpoints. Evidence first.

    Alexander: what exactly is grinding your gears here? And why do you think you are entitled to knowing upfront any and all collaborations Rotherham is involved in?

  8. Edharris Says:

    Chris is into . Evidence first now?
    Months ago he was typing that if Miss Rhee (and another teacher) stated that she took her students from the 13th percentile to the 90th percentile, we should accept it at face value.
    Now evidence.
    Science must be connecting.

  9. Chris Smyr Says:

    I’m into not spreading libel about people, especially on their own blog. I think it’s batshit crazy that this really has to be said. If one wants to accuse someone of hating teachers, one better have some evidence for the claim, and not be using it as a cowardly way to talk down to your opposition.

    And if you, Ed, want to get into it again on how dim you and your arguments sounded in that past thread, be my guest, but do it in that particular thread:

    http://www.eduwonk.com/2009/10/more-dc-3.html#comments

    Or perhaps you would like to bewilder sane readers further by likening me to a creationist again?

  10. ClassroomDiva Says:

    I’ll be your thought partner, Eduwonk.

  11. Edharris Says:

    Linda:evidence
    high school science student: evidence
    Michelle Rhee: no evidence
    Some call that a double standard.

  12. Chris Smyr Says:

    These are subpar attempts at trolling, Ed.

  13. Linda/Retired Teacher Says:

    Wow, the power of the pen!

    Ed Harris, Phillip Marlowe and John Thompson, let’s try to write every day. Our words are reaching their mark.

    Thank you for your service to children and your support of teachers. People like you make a positive difference and will continue to do so.

  14. john thompson Says:

    I’d just mentioned in the Washington Post how much I enjoyed Ed Harris and efavorite (who I’ve recently seen on these blogs also). I feel the same about Phillip Marlowe and you.

    I’ll be cutting back again when the snow clears. I was really ready to get back in class today but Oklahoma doesn’t respond well to winter. But the waether gave me a chance to research and write up a new post on yesterday’s ESEA at TWIE.

  15. Edharris Says:

    John and Linda,
    Thank you.

  16. steve f. Says:

    Hey Chris,

    Here’s at least one example of Andy’s “consistently negative view of teachers” – http://www.eduwonk.com/2009/12/the-mess-in-motown.html

  17. Chris Smyr Says:

    Are you guys done patting each other on the back yet for spreading libel in the name of “teacher rights”? Let’s remember that Linda’s claims are *NOT* validated by anything Eduwonk has posted, but instead of retracting them, she encourages trolls like Ed Harris to keep… not responding to a laundry list of points I’ve given him to respond to months ago? Or perhaps to keep calling his opponent a creationist? I don’t know.

    Linda also mentions the “power of the pen!” I don’t really know why. Does it make you feel powerful to troll education blogs and make outrageous, disingenuous claims about your opponents? Do you really think you’re giving teachers a good name by the debate tactics you are employing?

    Steve: thanks for the link, now would you like to try and justify your claim that this is an example of such negative views?

    People, unions are not teachers. You can criticize actions taken by unions and still support teachers. Eduwonk opined on the contract as better than nothing, but not nearly enough. In what world must you exist for that to mean he hates teachers??

  18. Edharris Says:

    “guys’ “spreading libel”
    “… not responding to a laundry list of points I’ve given him to respond to months ago?”

    Since this seems to be very difficult for you, let’s be clear here:
    In your view, Michelle Rhee can claim she took her students from the 13th percentile to the 90th percentile.
    She does not need to provide any EVIDENCE (and so what if the other tales she tells doesn’t hold up under examination, eg that she received “acclaim” from the Hartford Courant, Wall Street Journal et. al.)
    Nor does her success need to be replicated. The fact that no one else has done the same in the past 15 years is irrelevant.

    However, Linda needs to provide EVIDENCE that Rotherham is negative about teachers.

    And your science students need to provide EVIDENCE and repetition of results.

    Why the double standard, Chris?
    Is it because Miss Rhee was a TFA at the time and her results are phony, so must be TFA and you?
    Or is it because Miss Rhee is a “reformer” and thus given a pass on everything?
    The ends justify the means and all that.

    .
    If I was into name-calling like you, Chris, I’d say you are becoming unhinged and a crank.
    But I’m not into name calling.

  19. Chris Smyr Says:

    I’ve addressed *ALL* of those points about Rhee in the other thread. I’ll be helpful and, again, redirect you there, although I don’t expect any answers:

    http://www.eduwonk.com/2009/10/more-dc-3.html#comments

    If Linda wants to attack her opponents with unfounded tripe, so be it, but if I were Eduwonk I’d quickly ban her from posting here, since the trolling is poisoning the thoughtful discussion that could be happening on this blog. Instead, we get to hear how she thinks Rotherham is in it just for the money and hates teachers, and possibly even students. In fact, I heard he likes to burn schools down in his free time (when he’s not fishing).

  20. steve f. Says:

    The quote below from Andy’s Detroit Op-Ed seems to conflate unions and teachers – so, Chris would it be necessary for Andy to point out in the piece that he is for the teachers, but against the union and not merely lumping them in the same boat through his use of language?

    “Perhaps most illustrative of the overall problem, the Detroit Federation of Teachers PowerPoint presentation on the new contract touts, “work day (is) reduced by three minutes” for elementary school teachers. The district is failing catastrophically in a state that overall has little margin for error in transforming itself for a post-industrial economy. Yet its teachers, who seek to be respected as professionals, are concerned about a couple of minutes in the workday?”

    And beyond that the Detroit Op-Ed makes no mention of the fact that in the contract the teachers gave up $500 a month for the next 20 months in order to pay down the Detroit Schools deficit – http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2009/12/andy-rottenham-screwge-of-year.html

  21. Chris Smyr Says:

    So from that quote, does one infer that:

    1) Rotherham is criticizing the union for pushing forward with a 3 minute decrease in the workday when countless other needed changes were omitted, or

    2) Rotherham is criticizing teachers for being teachers

    That the union pushed for this contract, and was backed by a subset of teachers who voted in favor of the proposed contract, does not imply that by Rotherham’s op-ed he hates teachers, or even hates those teachers. It means he disagrees with them. Surely disagreement is possible without negativity or hatred being inferred?

  22. steve f. Says:

    One last time, we can re-word this anyway you like: “consistently negative views” = consistently ‘disagreeing’ views – By definition a ‘disagreeing’ view is a negative view.

    Chris, you were the only one to use the word “hate” here in this forum.

  23. Linda/Retired Teacher Says:

    Thank you, Steve. Of course, I never used the word “hate.”

  24. Chris Smyr Says:

    I resent that I have to actually show you the comments, when you could simply look for them yourself to double check if what you’re saying is true:

    Linda said: “If you read this blog regularly, you will get a feel for the contempt that many “reformers” have for our teachers.”

    I said: “It seems in poor form to continually castigate Eduwonk for something (”contempt for teachers”) you honestly must know isn’t true.”

    Linda replied: “I honestly DO believe it’s true and I want others to know about it. That’s why I comment. I believe a negative attitude towards teachers hurts education more than any other factor”

    Are we now going to redefine ‘contempt’?

    Other claims made by Linda include:

    “I suspect ( that is, it is my opinion) that his eyes are on the money and not the kids.”

    “Many times his comments have an anti-teacher bias to them. ”

    “As to actually helping children achieve, he couldn’t possibly have a positive impact because of his consistently negative views about teachers.”

    Again, all of these claims/opinions are unfounded. The example you raised, Steve, is NOT an example of negative views toward teachers. It is a negative view toward the contract itself. Rotherham has not shown any disdain for teachers by strongly disagreeing with contracts formed with a subset of teacher’s consent. Disagreement doesn’t imply negativity toward an opponent. Certainly disagreement doesn’t imply that he has contempt for teachers, or that he doesn’t care about the kids as much as the money.

  25. edlharris Says:

    Thank you Chris,
    I like this question to you that you have not directly answered:

    Mrs. Rhee’s “success” story is NOT told to the TFA trainees.
    Why not?

    And the comments concerned Miss Rhee and her truthfulness.
    Just last week she gave us another example of her truthfulness:

    “I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn’t we take those things into consideration?”

    When pressed, she admitted that there was only one teacher who was “accused” of having sex.

  26. Chris Smyr Says:

    I hadn’t addressed it because it was (and still is) such a dumb question and has absolutely zero bearing on what was being discussed in that thread. I’m going to let you focus on the salient points of that discussion before we start shooting the breeze about stories we heard while on the job.

  27. steve f. Says:

    How is this comment not disdainful of teachers:

    “Yet its teachers, who seek to be respected as professionals, are concerned about a couple of minutes in the workday?”

    It seems to me Linda is making the nuanced point that the language in which one uses to frame an issue matters. Eduwonk presents things, as you’ve noted for me, with what Linda calls an “anti-teacher bias to them.” This comment does not refer to direct statements – rather the manner (what’s covered and not covered on this blog) and the language used to present issues. The bias is apparent if you want to see it, otherwise you can deny it all the same for not being literal enough. Needless to say, it is effective in framing the issue of “reform”.

    Lastly, Chris, “contempt” and “hate” are not the same thing. Sorry to “redefine”, but in framing issues – words, definitions matter!

    “Contempt” – lack of respect or reverence for something; disdain

    “Hate” – to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest

    If you want to define further – what’s the definition of “reform”?

  28. Chris Smyr Says:

    Steve,

    1) Linda had never actually responded to the example you’re giving. All of her unfounded claims were directed at Eduwonk for outside blog posts that didn’t jive with her own perspective.

    2) For the last time, one can disagree with teachers and not have to be disdainful of teachers! Why is this so hard to understand? AGAIN, he is opining on the dumb decisions that were made by the union and voted on by its teachers, which held certain priorities (3 minutes in a day) over others (actual reform that would help students succeed). Why does that mean to you that he is showing disdain for all teachers, or even THOSE teachers, by disagreeing with the actions taken there?

    3) You’re *REALLY* going to go down the road of semantics, and defend her because she didn’t say he hates teachers, but that he holds contempt for teachers? Really?? Because “to dislike intensely” is critically different than showing “open dislike” for something? Even though the difference doesn’t matter one iota and the claim is still just as disingenuous, still just as invalid, and meant to attack Eduwonk’s character instead of to respond to his arguments?

  29. Jesse Says:

    For all those criticizing Chris: If I come out in favor of tort reform and suggest that trial lawyers are blocking needed reform by using their political clout, am I being “anti-lawyer” or “showing contempt for lawyers?” Or am I merely making a point that I think those particular lawyers and their organizations are doing something that is harmful to society?

  30. Smell of Fear Says:

    >Is it because Miss Rhee was a TFA at the time and her results are phony, so >must be TFA and you?

    Ah, the truth comes out! Hear the footsteps of the young guns, do ya, EdHarris?

    Don’t hate, appreciate:

    http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858495241/

  31. Edharris Says:

    Smell of Fear,
    No Velvet Underground or Husker Du?

  32. hypnoseuddannelse Says:

    I like the article and can use this in Denmark.
    Thanks
    Mads

  33. Smell of Fear Says:

    Nah, Ed, had to keep it current and hipster — just like those rat TFA’ers!

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