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Helpling with homework and attending the PTA is no longer the only part parents must play in their children's academic lives. They must also help in shaping their curricula -- and must have the tools and support to do so. (Photo courtesy of needsfoundation.org)

What’s happening today in the dropout nation:

  1. The Dallas Morning News takes a look at the school district’s dropout factories — many of which are home to largely black and Latino students — and dissects why turning around their performance is so difficult. One reason that can easily be mentioned: The lack of community leadership, especially from black and Latino leaders. EducationNews’ Jimmy Kilpatrick (hat tip to him) rightly asks this question of the city’s (and the nation’s) black political leaders (and it goes for Latino and white leaders as well): “Where is the… outrage?
  2. Speaking of the lack of leadership on school reform among the nation’s black politicians, Jennifer Medina profiles New York State Sen.  Bill Perkins, who has proven to be the biggest foe against the expansion (and existence) of charter schools in Empire Land. Sadly, he ignores the benefits charters are bringing to students who live in his Harlem-centered district. Lovely. As Harlem Children’s Zone boss Geoffrey Canada points out, Perkins’ problem seems to be that most of the operators of charters are from outside the community. Well, Mr. Perkins, how about demanding more from the black leaders and middle class residents in your own community instead of piling on people who are willing to help children who aren’t their own by birth. Really. When you ask that question and demand more, then come back with your criticisms. Or as Twitter participant Clifton Whitley writes: “why doesn’t he protest failing public schools?”
  3. Another area in which “leaders” are failing to take the lead: Saving the urban private and parochial schools — including Catholic schools — that have served many a poor urban child well over the past few decades. I look further at the need for school reformers — especially centrist Democrats — to embrace vouchers alongside charter schools in order to expand choice and high quality instruction for the poorest children in my latest report for The American Spectator. Also, check out my report from December about the efforts by the Archdiocese of Washington to maintain its mission of educating poor and middle class families, Catholic and (more often) non-Catholic alike.
  4. Michael Shaughnessy interviews Rick Hess about the fostering “greenfield” approaches to education reform that move away from traditional school district systems and the underlying infrastructure (teachers unions, best practices) that come with it. Interesting read.
  5. The Journal: Technological Horizons in Education reviews the Obama administration’s plans for the use of technology in education.We know what Tom Vander Ark thinks. I’m still thinking this through: The report is correct in arguing that American public education is in need of an overhaul to fit the needs of the 21st century. I’m all for expanded use of technology in schools in innovative ways, but I also think that technology is no more a lone silver bullet that charters, vouchers or shutting down poor performing schools. Ultimately, it comes down to great teaching and active engagement of children in learning. What are your thoughts?
  6. In Kentucky, the state lower house passed a bill that would require students to stay in school until age 18. This is all well and good. Perhaps the legislature will also get around to passing a law allowing for the authorization of charter schools, which could help improve the quality of education for students.
  7. Off the beaten track: Math can be found in interesting places. Even in one of my five all-time favorite books (along with Anne of Windy Poplars, Parliament of Whores, A Tale of a Tub, and Homicide: Life in the Killing Streets), Alice in Wonderland, according to the New York Times.

Check out the Dropout Nation Podcast this evening; it will be on the next steps President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan should take with Race to the Top and school reform. Also, read the report this week on the alarming dropout and lack of on-track graduation among male students in Chicago’s public schools (and elsewhere).

And now, for your Sunday pleasure, one of my favorite songs, Come Fly With Me in live form by Sinatra himself: