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March 31, 2015 7 min read
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| NEWS | Inside School Research

Brookings Asks Whitehurst to Leave Brown Center Post

Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, a former head of federal education research, has been asked to step down as the director of the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy.

While he’s still on the masthead, Whitehurst confirmed that Darrell M. West, Brookings’ vice president and director of governance studies, asked him to leave the directorship earlier this year. While Whitehurst is still a senior fellow, it is unclear whether he will ultimately stay with Brookings.

“I did not step down voluntarily,” he said. “From my perspective, the Brown Center was doing extraordinarily well.” Brookings spokeswoman Christine Jacobs declined comment on Whitehurst’s exit. But Tom Loveless, Brown’s retired founding director, said, “I think Russ was a great director. He built upon the center’s reputation for being a go-to place for solid empirical research, and education is still a place where you don’t find a lot of solid empirical research.”

Whitehurst took the reins of the Brown Center in 2010, after leaving the federal Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education, an agency he led during the George W. Bush administration. During his tenure at Brown, the center expanded rapidly and took a quantitative approach to examining education policies—most recently with a detailed look at how advocacy groups influence education law.

“I’m proud of the niche we’ve filled, being quantitative social scientists but on a time frame that was relevant to policymakers,” Whitehurst said, noting the center’s recent work on hot education topics, such as early-childhood education and teacher evaluation. “Unlike most policy shops who just have analysis, we had numbers, and unlike most academics who have numbers four years later, we had numbers within the month.”

“It’s a damn shame to see him step down,” Chester E. Finn Jr. of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concluded in the Flypaper blog after he spotted Brookings’ want ad. “Maybe he was exhausted. Or maybe the Brookings leadership has lost its marbles.”

–Sarah D. Sparks

| NEWS | State EdWatch

Common Core and White Privilege: The Claim With a Long Internet Life

As recent polling about misperceptions surrounding the Common Core State Standards has revealed, there’s a lot of heated rhetoric in the discussion about the standards.

An example of the extent to which debate about them has become part of the country’s broader political debate is how remarks by one of the common core’s authors, David Pook, have been interpreted, and spread, and then spread again around the Internet.

Last year, at an event hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Pook, a teacher at the private Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H., discussed his motivations for helping to write the common core’s English/language arts standards. “The reason why I helped write the standards and the reason why I am here today is that, as a white male in society, I’m given a lot of privilege that I didn’t earn. I think it’s really important that all kids get an equal opportunity to learn how to read. And I think I had decided advantages as a result of who I was.”

A video of the discussion shows that after the first sentence, there were several negative exclamations from the audience. Pook went on to stress the importance of creating equal opportunities for all students.

The video was posted on YouTube on May 22, 2014, by Campus Reform, an organization that says it exposes “bias and abuse” in U.S. higher education. As of March 20, it had been viewed roughly 278,000 times.

Fox News picked up the video and used the headline: “WATCH: Teacher says he helped write Common Core to End White Privilege.”

The Blaze, the website run by Glenn Beck (an outspoken common-core opponent), also picked up the story, as did CNS News, the Daily Caller, and The Washington Times. All of them reference the claim that Pook said he wrote the standards to “end white privilege.”

The story has enjoyed a resurgence since the start of March at right-leaning news sites such as the American Thinker, Wizbang, Liberty News, and Conservative Tribune.

“It was certainly frustrating to [Pook] that his remarks were taken out of context,” said Susan Grodman, the director of enrollment at Derryfield School. “The core of his comments were, we are trying to make education accessible and good for everybody.”

–Andrew Ujifusa

| NEWS | Politics K-12

Kline Voicing Hope for Action on ESEA After Easter Recess

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn, Chairman of the House education committee, and his staff have been spending a lot of time educating members about what his No Child Left Behind Act rewrite bill would—and wouldn’t—do, and they hope that with the air cleared, leadership will reschedule the bill for a vote in the coming weeks.

“My firm hope is that when we get back from the Easter break we will be able to pick it back up,” Kline said March 24 to a group of state schools chiefs during the Council for Chief State School Officer’s annual legislative conference.

Nearly a month has passed since House leaders pulled Kline’s proposal to overhaul the federal K-12 law from the floor as Republican support for the measure waned amid a separate debate over how to fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also talked at length about the anti-Common Core State Standards blog post by a conservative blogger that was filled with “a lot of misinformation” that played a role in diminishing Republican support for the bill.

“The entire leadership team was diverted from a really excellent piece of legislation,” Kline said. “All the debate was complete. So now it’s sitting there.”

On the Senate side, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.—the chairman and ranking member of the education committee, respectively—were still negotiating last week on an NCLB law overhaul. But Alexander made it pretty clear in his talk to the state chiefs that Murray, a former preschool teacher, won’t be getting her wish to see the federal K-12 law expanded to include early education, at least not without a big fight.

His beef with the idea? The federal government already spends about $22 billion annually on various early-education programs, but the money is stuck in unworkable silos, and often ineffective. “In order to deal with early-childhood education, we’re going to have to deal with the fragmented $22 billion already being spent,” he said.

–Lauren Camera

| NEWS | State EdWatch

In a Course Reverse, Virginia Scraps A-F for Grading Schools

In a reverse of course, Virginia has scrapped the A-F school accountability system approved by lawmakers in 2013 but never truly implemented. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, signed the bill March 19.

The new law requires the state school board to overhaul the state’s School Performance Report Card. Factors that the state board can consider in this redesign include student performance on state assessments, student growth indicators, school safety, and total cost and funding per pupil.

Two years ago, then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, signed the original law after a visit to Virginia by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who instituted the nation’s first A-F report card for schools during his time leading the Sunshine State. The Foundation for Excellence in Education, a K-12 policy group founded by Bush, has lobbied for states to adopt A-F grading systems for schools.

–Andrew Ujifusa

| NEWS | Politics K-12

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz Slams Common Core at Campaign Launch

U.S. Sen.-turned-presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s emerging education platform could be described, in a nutshell, as Not Jeb Bush. (He’s the only other Republican, who has, so far, made it clear publicly that he’s seriously pursuing the nomination.)

Cruz announced last week that he’s planning to make a White House run in 2016, while Bush said earlier this year that he’s forming an exploratory committee.

First and foremost, Cruz, who hasn’t introduced any education bills since coming to Congress in 2013, is no fan of the common-core standards. In fact, in announcing his candidacy at Liberty College in Virginia March 23, Cruz said: “Imagine repealing every word of common core.” Bush, on the other hand, has vehemently defended the standards even amidst GOP backlash.

And as a Senate candidate, Cruz said he’d like to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education. That’s several leaps beyond where Bush would go, though the former Florida governor has made it clear he’d like to put states in the driver’s seat on accountability.

–Alyson Klein

A version of this article appeared in the April 01, 2015 edition of Education Week as Blogs


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