Detroit Public Schools' book depository.

The dilapidated school book depository isn't the only thing falling apart within Detroit Public Schools.

Happy New Year!. Here’s what’s happening in the dropout nation:

  1. Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter declines to run for another term, according to the Washington Post and the Denver Post. How does this affect the state’s school reform efforts — especially its petition for some of the $4.3 billion Race to the Top dollars? Depending on the strength of the other players in the state legislature — and whether Democrats fear they will lose control of two of the three branches of government — it may affect little in the short run. But don’t think the state’s teachers unions and suburban school districts — who oppose strong school reform — aren’t pleased by this event.
  2. With Ritter’s resignation, along with the decisions by U.S. Senators Bryan Dorgan and Chris Dodd to not run for re-election this year, Republicans can capture a number of seats in statehouses and in Congress. But don’t forget that in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal may step into the Democratic nomination for Senate in place of Dodd — and he’s a heavyweight. And in any case, Republicans have been as divided over school reform (if not more so) as Democrats have been. For example, many congressional Republicans — whose districts lie in suburban areas — aren’t supporting the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.
  3. Speaking of Colorado, more woeful suspension and expulsion data, courtesy of the Denver Post. Given my own reports on the subject, none of this is surprising.
  4. At, former Michigan schools superintendent Tom Watkins gives his former home state the business for poor academic performance and wasteful education spending.
  5. Speaking of the Wolverine State, I review the performance — academic and otherwise — of its largest school system in The American Spectator. Calling Detroit the nation’s worst urban school system is merely understatement.
  6. At Educated Guest, John Fensterwald observes California’s efforts to pass reforms aimed at winning Race to the Top funding. The state assembly finally managed to pass some form of the parent power provisions that can really ensure long-term change. He also notes some of the possible action at the state and federal level this year, including the proposed $23 billion in new subsidies to save teacher jobs that may be contained in the proposed second round of stimulus spending.
  7. In Cleveland, the school district’s superintendent proposes to close 18 schools deemed academically failing. Opposition? Of course. But the package, contained in 113 PowerPoint slides deserves scrutiny. It is a grab-bag which includes embracing the small high schools concept all but abandoned by the Gates Foundation and the creation of K-8 schools that harkens back to the old common school. Not much there.
  8. Contrary to popular beliefs, traditional public schools are as much a preserve of affluent, but not extraordinarily wealthy, parents as they are a waystation for the urban poor and middle class. As Greg Toppo reports, the recession is making this more common — and bringing the typical complications that comes with a system in which politics is as much a driving force as the pursuit of academic rigor.
  9. In research and reports: The Afterschool Alliance just released a compendium of its series on the use of afterschool programs for older children. Interesting read.
  10. At Flypaper, Katherine Porter-Magee tosses proverbial cold water on the theory that technology means moving away from the use of rote memorization in teaching students. Google and Wikipedia, in short, is only useful if you have a solid base of knowledge on which to use them.