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Charters are on her mind -- and in more ways than one.

The dropout nation in the news today:

  1. For the past three decades, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers has regarded the charter school movement as the worst of the elements in the overall school reform movement. From efforts to restrict establishment of charters in statehouses and school boards to efforts to use preliminary National Assessment of Educational Progress results to sway federal education policy, the nation’s two primary teachers unions have failed miserably in attempts to stall the growth of charters. But over the past couple of years, the NEA and AFT have focused on organizing teaching staffs within these schools. Why? Read more in my latest Labor Watch report and drop by Dropout Nation for more commentary on the strategies and the likelihood of success in their organizing efforts.
  2. As I noted last week in The American Spectator, the closing of Catholic schools in Baltimore should prompt alarm among school reformers interested in expanding the availability of high-quality educational options for the most-under-served children. This doesn’t just apply in Baltimore. As the New York Post reports today, parents and children attending two New York Archdiocese schools slated for closure are none too happy about this prospect. Certainly the traditional model of financing and operating Catholic schools is uneconomic; some closing may need to happen. But figuring out ways to support these choices should figure into the minds of all reformers.
  3. This week’s Headshaker comes courtesy of Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams, who echoes complaints from Diane Ravitch and others that teacher quality reform efforts (along with the outlier that is the firing of 93 teachers at the high school in Central Falls, R.I.) are signs that reformers are becoming bloodthirsty and overly blame-gaming. Her position: Parents and children need to take responsibility for their own academic failures. The fact that children already bear the brunt of poor academic instruction in the long run through poverty, chronic unemployment and incarceration fails to figure into her thinking. So does the reality that teachers have long been insulated from performance management thanks to a lack of strong human capital management by districts, bans on the use of student test scores in evaluating teacher performance and state laws that make teacher dismissals expensive, cumbersome and difficult to undertake. And the fact that teachers are protected by unions that use their war chests and lobbying heft to influence education policy also doesn’t figure into her discussion. Oh, and she uses too many anecdotes instead of facts.
  4. In Detroit, several foundations are looking to launch 70 new charter schools, according to the Detroit Free Press. If these charters do the job, this could mean more opportunities for high-quality education for the Motor City’s poorly-served children. It also comes for Detroit Public Schools at the least-opportune time: It is attempting to bolster its declining enrollment. (HT for the latter link to Steve Moore, who Dropout Nation readers should also follow on Twitter, along with yours truly.)

Check out today’s Dropout Nation report on the U.S. Department of Education’s renewed civil rights enforcement efforts and what this could mean for school equity/advocacy tort lawyers, states and districts. Also listen to today’s Dropout Nation Podcast on what President Obama and Arne Duncan should do in expanding Race to the Top.

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