Friday, March 4, 2011

Duncan's Croissants

I'm really pissed at my friend Arne Duncan. He never even thought to invite me to his Breakfast With Bloggers over at the DOE. He knows how much I love those croissants and coffee, ordered up fresh from the department commissary. I guess he's not quite ready to reach across the other aisle. That's OK, Arne. I'm patient.

Or maybe the breakfast was one of those Race-To-The-Top-type deals where you have to submit your blog posts in advance. Then Arne could look you right in the eyes, like he did with Arizona's Sen. McCain and Gov. Brewer, and determine who was most deserving of this meal on the taxpayer's dime. (Oops, put your guns away, T-baggers. I may be wrong about that. He probably paid for the croissants with private foundation dollars.)

Anyway, I'm not really grousing or complaining (I got my own coffee & muffins Letizia's in Logan Square). I also got a full report on the eat-in this morning from Edweek's Michelle McNeil and from my favorite teacher/union-bashing blogger, Rick Hess, who probably had only a short cab ride over from his AEI think-tank office. You can read both of their accounts for yourself, but here are my highlights.

From McNeil:
First off, the department released two guides for states: one on "smart ideas to increase productivity and student achievement" and another on flexibility states have in using existing federal dollars. [But, adds Michelle] there's a footnote the Education Department has inserted saying it doesn't guarantee the "accuracy, timeliness or, completeness" of the ideas in this document, nor does the department pass judgment on their "importance or success." So, I'm wondering how useful these "smart ideas" really are?
ME: You know, Michelle, I've been wondering the same thing.

From Hess:
Duncan firmly pushed back against reflexive small-class mania. He suggested that it doesn't make sense to insist that a great teacher can only teach 22 kids--even if she feels like she can handle 29 and would gladly carry the larger load if she'd be compensated accordingly. He said, "Class size has been a sacred cow and I think we need to take it on. Give me and my wife a choice of putting our kids with a great teacher of 28 or a mediocre teacher of 23, and I know what I'd choose every time."

ME: Isn't it great that Arne is sticking it to all those maniacs who listen to those lazy teachers and who believe all that class-size  research and stuff. They are making such a big deal over a measly 60 of the nation's poorest kids being packed into Detroit classrooms. Surely there are great teachers over there in Michigan (who haven't already been riffed) who will gladly race to the few remaining inner-city Detroit schools to shoulder such a burden.

As for Arne himself, I feel badly for him and his wife, sitting there hoping against hope for a chance for their kids to have a great teacher and a 28-student classroom. The Duncan's don't send their kids to inner-city schools where many class sizes have swelled to 40 or more as a result of the economic crisis and mass teacher firings. To avoid D.C. schools (even when Michelle Rhee was  running them), the Duncans moved across the river to suburban Arlington, where schools and class sizes remain relatively small.

PLEASE SOMEONE. ANYONE. Help the Duncan's find a school with 28 per class and a great teacher for their poor kids.


  1. Arne invites Bloggers Who Agree With Him to breakfast, a.k.a. preaching to--then feeding--the choir. And look! It worked! Hess is Exhibit A.

    "Yeah, as I was saying to Arne over scrambled eggs, it's really great when your ideas get some traction..."

  2. Well said, Mike!

    When I read about this coffee klatsch I thought, yeh, Arne, I'd be happy to teach a class of 28, too. In California, you are lucky to teach a class of 32.

    By the way, this entire notion of paying "good" teachers more for taking on more students and calling it merit pay is complete nonsense. It is downsizing, plain and simple.


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