Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Middle Schoolers: High Hopes, Few Clues, Not Much Help

One of the things I want to do with this blog is to share the latest research on our schools and how we might change them for the better.

Some of the studies give us hope while others make us even more determined to make education a national priority in the coming presidential election.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fight China Trade Imbalance … with Education!

Two days ago, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a fascinating piece from China where he is visiting his wife’s ancestral home town. It’s hard not to quote the entire thing for you.

His main point is this: China has a huge and growing trade surplus with the U.S. He implies this is because China spends more “building human capital” – he means educating its kids – than we do. The solution: We should “raise our own education standards to meet the competition” – not create trade barriers.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Others Thinking About National Standards

In addition to parades, picnics and lots of car racing, this long Memorial Day weekend brought two new thoughtful pieces about the need for national standards.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

An Argument for Pooling Resources

Long ago, I learned that what one person cannot do alone, regardless of effort, many people together can do with ease. The same applies to states.

A newspaper in Delaware – the News Journal – reported recently that the state has to scrap plans to improve its testing system because it would be too expensive. The new system would have helped teachers give more feedback to help struggling students.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Taking Lessons from Africa

I suspect, like a lot of you, it takes me more than a day or two to get through the Sunday New York Times. So let me point out a new (to me) piece from last Sunday’s edition.

The headline is "Africa’s Storied Colleges, Jammed and Crumbling".

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What We Want CAN Be Done

A couple days ago, I introduced you to Lauren Resnick, a professional education researcher; today I want to tell you about a professional observer named Karin Chenoweth. I call her a professional observer because she used to be a columnist for the Washington Post.

Karin has written a new book called "It's Being Done" that speaks to what we think of as the three pillars of the ED in 08 campaign: American standards, effective teachers in every classroom and time and resources for learning.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Do-Overs Cost a Lot of Money

When my kids were growing up, they played games that they invented, as all kids do. These sibling rivalries could get very competitive, and the loser would often call for a do-over – a second chance to get it right. Those do-overs didn’t cost anything, except perhaps a little sibling ribbing.

When we talk about do-evers in our schools, however, that gets into real dollars very, very quickly.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Are ‘Basic’ Skills Enough for Today’s World?

I want to introduce you to Lauren Resnick, a very bright woman and a clear thinker about America’s schools. Lauren is the director and senior scientist of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

Over the years, she has given me a lot of very thoughtful advice about standards in education. I really look to her for expertise and inspiration on that topic.


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Friday, May 18, 2007

Candidates’ Focus on College Access Misses the Point

I’ve noticed in recent days a few presidential candidates talking a bit about education. For the most part, they are calling for programs to make it easier for students to get into college.

Now that’s good. Everyone who wants to go to college should have an equal shot at it. No question about that.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

High School Graduates Not Ready for the Work Force

On Tuesday, I pointed out the ACT results showing that only one-fourth of our high school students who take “college prep” courses actually end up ready for college.

What about our youngsters who don’t go to college? Who graduate from high school and head right into the work force?

I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but a huge number of them aren’t ready either. (Remember, we’re talking about graduates here. Not dropouts.)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

History Test Results Prove the Value of Good Measurement

The newspapers this morning were full of stories about the latest results of the national NAEP tests in U.S. history and civics. (You can read about it in The New York Times and Washington Post, or just go straight to the reports at the Department of Education Web site.)

To me, this is a great reminder of the value of good measurement. We go to a doctor to find out the state of our bodily health, and we want an accurate answer.  We take our car to the garage and we want to know its true condition – is it safe?

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Broken Promises

Today the ACT released a study showing that only a quarter of students who take “college prep” courses actually end up ready for college.

Mike Cohen sums up the problem for the New York Times – “Course titles don’t matter nearly as much as what is taught and how it is taught.”  A lot of students take courses called “algebra” that look more like arithmetic.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Time for Learning – It Takes Leadership

Yesterday I talked about an elementary school in California where teachers have gone to great lengths to give students more time for learning.  I applauded them, but said it was a shame they had to make so many sacrifices to do it.

That’s why I think we need strong leadership to help schools do what’s right.  Let me swing over to the other side of the country to give an example.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Time and Support for Learning – A California Example

You may have seen that piece on NBC Nightly News last week about the teachers in San Diego, who – on their own – decided their students needed more time for learning. They made a way to use their planning time for more instruction – and they believe it is paying off in better student performance.

This theme – more time and resources for learning will produce more learning – is one of the three issues we are highlighting with the ED in 08 campaign.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Do You Know the Dropout Rate in Your School District?

On Tuesday, I mentioned that this national summit on dropouts was planning to show off a new tool that would allow you to find the dropout rate for any school district in the country.

They did that, and my staff experimented with it yesterday and gave it a real “thumbs up”. (It’s from EPE Research Center and

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Education -- A New Definition of Freedom

I delivered the closing remarks yesterday at a truly remarkable national summit in Washington on our “dropout epidemic” in America.

They tell me they are going to put a video of the whole speech up on the ED in 08 Web site. If they do that, I encourage you to take the few minutes to watch it. It was only 10 or 12 minutes long, and I tried to summarize what the whole ED in 08 campaign is about.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Checking In from the Dropout Summit

I have to be brief. I’m in Washington, DC, at the all-day “National Summit on America’s Silent Dropout Epidemic.”

It’s been a fascinating event so far, with Tim Russert, governors, students and teachers making presentations on this really serious problem that we have in our schools. I can see this starting a conversation about the dropout crisis, and ED in 08 will be part of that conversation.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Laura Bush and Me on Dropouts

Tomorrow First Lady Laura Bush and I will be give keynote remarks at a national summit on high school dropouts.

Mrs. Bush will probably get the headlines, and that’s okay with me because it means we’ll get more people to pay attention to this problem.

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Setting the Record Straight on Testing

There was an op-ed in the Washington Post on Thursday that took a swipe at our sponsors and left the mistaken impression that American students do just fine when they are compared with students in other countries.

The writer implied that there’s nothing to be worried about because students in other countries would perform poorly on the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress. It seemed to me he was making a big leap since students in any other countries haven’t taken the NAEP tests.

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Kind Words from Gov. Schwarzenegger

Last Friday, Governor Schwarzenegger said some really kind things about ED in 08 at a conference of education writers.

To start out with, he called ED in 08 “a brilliant idea.” (I’m biased, I know, but I agree.)

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Friday, May 4, 2007

A Little Attention Goes a Long Way

Did you catch the coverage of our ED in 08 forum with students on MTV last night? You really should check it out. The students are wonderful.

I wanted to share a story from one of those teen-agers, a young fellow by the name of Aaron Sanchez. The L.A. Daily News quoted him really well

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

See Our Student Forum on MTV Tonight

We have really good news from MTV, our partner in the L.A. event!

Starting tonight, MTV News will broadcast a news package on our forum. Originally, the plan was to just put the video on the MTV Web site.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Listening to Students in L.A.

We took a lot of pictures of our outing at Grant High School in Van Nuys, California, yesterday.

With me were California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and MTV Correspondent SuChin Pak – and, of course, a great bunch of L.A. high school students.

You can see even more pictures from the California event and our launch in Columbia, S.C., last week on the ED in 08 Flickr page.

LA 5/2/07 #3

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Report from Our LA Meeting with Students

I’m sorting out my thoughts on the run so forgive me if I seem disjointed today.

A group of us from ED in 08 met with a wonderful group of students at Grant High School in Van Nuys yesterday afternoon. This was a good group of students. These were leaders whose families are involved in their education. I was impressed that they feel badly for their fellow students whose families are not as involved.

We asked what they worry about and what they hope for from their education.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Why Education Now? Just One Example

Presidential candidates have a laundry list of issues they can focus on – and in doing so get the rest of us to pay some attention to as well.

Let me tell you a quick story that I think illustrates why the candidates should make our schools the top issues of their campaigns.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Talking to Students about Their Schools via MTV

I’m getting on a plane in a few hours to fly out to Los Angeles for one of the most fun things a person involved in education can do – I will be participating in a roundtable discussion with a group of high school students in the LA Unified School District, the district I led until last fall.

We adults often prescribe solutions to problems with education without asking students what they think. I spent a fair amount of time talking to students when I was superintendent, and I’m looking forward to doing it again. I expect they will have some tough questions.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ask the Candidates Your Education Question

I submitted my question for the California presidential debate yesterday. Here it is:

"Every year more than 1 million students drop out of high school.  Research shows that high academic standards and high levels of support for students can cut dropout rates.  As President, how would you work with other leaders to provide those things?"

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Monday, April 30, 2007

ED in 08 Off to California for Next Debate

We are taking ED in 08 out on the road again this week with a trip to Los Angeles for the first debate with the Republican presidential candidates.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Scenes from ED in 08 Launch

Hey, I know we’re late getting these pictures up from our launch last week, but they just came back from the lab. (I’m kidding. We’ve been swamped, and something had to give.)

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Friday, April 27, 2007

It’s Not About Specifics … Yet

We are starting to get comments – and I have to tell you, it makes me excited to write something and have people add their thoughts to it. That’s a big, big part of what we are trying to do with ED in 08 … create a conversation.

But we’ve had a few folks suggest that we not being specific enough on our three issues.  Or that we aren’t saying enough about vouchers or charters or this or that.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Why involve the presidential candidates in Education?

I know some people are wondering why ED in 08 is trying to involve presidential candidates in what is traditionally a local issue.

That’s a fair question.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Great Launch … But Let’s Be Clear About ED in 08

We had a really great time this afternoon in Columbia, SC, at the national launch of the ED in 08 campaign.

More than 100 folks from Hopkins Elementary School – students, teachers and parents – showed up and wore ED in 08 T-shirts. It was gratifying to see these young people, because they are what this campaign is really all about. (I’ll post some pictures shortly.)

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Monday, April 23, 2007

My Name is Roy Romer

My name is Roy Romer and I’m writing this blog because I’m worried—I mean really worried—that we’re not preparing our students for the lives they will lead and the world they are going to live in. I’m worried about the future of my own grandchildren and every youngster in this country.

My concern is that we are not doing for our students what we ought to do, which is give them the skills for college, for jobs, and for life. I’m talking about the real world and the demands they will face after high school. And believe me, those demands are getting tougher.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

States Work Together on Common Algebra Test (Indiana Editorial)

Some states are already taking the issue of standards into their own hands and creating multi-state compacts. Here’s one:

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Monday, April 23, 2007

South Carolina: Getting High-Quality Teachers into High-Need Schools

This story out of Charleston, S.C., illustrates one of the issues that we think needs serious thought and discussion:

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