…stop making promises.”

Common sense has always known that promises made far into the future will be painful in the future. So, here is the Boston Globe‘s report of runaway health care costs in Massachusetts. And we all know it’s not just Massachusetts. And in education, we now have stories that once the stimulus funds leave special ed and other programs, many schools will be stuck with promises they made based on those funds which may not be there next year, etc. etc. etc.

(future health care promises)

Where are ocmmonsense answers to stuff we all know?

Have you seen it yet? Have you read it yet? The Death and Life of the Great American School System– How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. That subtitle really got me. Here’s the link to the Washington Post piece about it. And, the Amazon link to the book. It’s on my to-do list for today!

(Diane Ravitch’s new book)

(Amazon link for Death and Life of the Great American School System)

SpedEx— Massachusetts’ new and innovative dispute resolution model is up and running! Congratulations to all who worked tirelessly to reach this day.

SpedEx is designed to resolve disputes between schools and parents after an IEP (Individualized Education Program) has been rejected or a hearing has been requested. It is a voluntary program, whereby the child will be assured a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the Least restrictive environment (LRE) in an expeditious and trust building way. The parents and school district jointly select a consultant from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education list to help them determine an appropriate program for the child.

SpedEx is here! How great is that! Let’s hope that parents take advantage of this pilot program and that they rebuild trust and work together for the child’s education.

For more information, please visit:

(SpedEx–the innovative dispute resolution model)

The move is on–as teachers are laid off, it’s last hired, first fired. There is movement to change that. The other side? Seniority rules and teachers unions, claiming it’s the only objective standard. I’m amazed that this story has gotten so far–in the Wall Street Journal. I was struck by the last line, stating that when it comes to key union contract provisions, like seniority, “the interests of teachers and children are not the same.” How sad is that. That says it all, really. Check out this story. It’ll be interesting to see if it has legs.
(Seniority rules under pressure)

By now, you’ve heard of that California law whereby a vote of 51% of parents in a school can close that school, change that school, fire staff, etc.

(Down with parents)

Jay Mathews raises some concerns about it. A thought provoking and interesting read. And frankly, I am not sure how this should be handled….

My concern is the following–one I’ve raised many times before. When are we finally going to use ‘common sense’ and create a law/policy/bully pulpit so schools and parents have to work together to improve schools. We need policies that encourage parents to parent their children, to help their children learn not just to be activists against their schools. I take my clues from President Obama’s urging parents to help their kids learn more–read to them, talk to them, put them to bed on time, feed them nutritious food, work with teachers, etc. You get the idea. Etc. Etc. Etc.

If we gave that policy a good run, and that failed, I’d be more optimistic about the California law. Without it, I see merit in Mr. Mathews’ concerns.

Your thoughts?

The column deals with controversies in Washington DC. However, if we can strip away those politics, this column makes sense beyond that city. In schools, teachers matter the most. We should focus all policies and practices on improving teaching and learning…Success breeds support. Support the teachers in classrooms. Leave them free to teach. Why is that so complicated?

(Teachers matter more than polls)

Virtual schools…

Interesting piece by Jay Mathews… Yes, virtual schools may be growing because they are cost effective, but I think there’s lots more to it.

Are people going to virtual schools also because the public schools often do not provide for their children? Consider the NCLB’s focus on closing gaps for those without basic skills– to a rather mediocre middle. Well, what about the top half? What focus is there for them? Maybe that is part of the reason.

Also, consider the student discipline issues in many schools, taking precious time away from the learning of others. Could that be a reason too?

Also, consider… well, you get the idea. There may be lots of causes, beyond the usual suspects.

In short, do virtual schools give parents the right to vote with their feet without having to move out of their houses or apartments, and without having to argue with their school districts?

(Virtual schools are growing)

See earlier blog on the fact that special education received some $12 billion in the stimulus packaged (compared to the $4+ billions in Race to the Top funds). Is that good or bad? Well, Education Week writes that this special ed money was used by many school districts to plug in holes. The article’s title says it all: “Short term choices could haunt district….”

(Short term choices)

When the funds end, the holes will still be there–maybe larger than before–and the system will still be broken. You decide if that’s good or bad.

Throwing lots of money at a system that needs a fix first is NOT good public policy.