Deputy Secretary Tony Miller got a rowdy but appreciative reception at the Education Industry Association last night. Education service providers asked Tony why education is the only department that shuns private sector involvement (e.g., Energy investments). The answers–you can work for districts and it’s historical–didn’t satisfy the frustrated audience. The CEO of a large tutoring network pointed out that there were dozens of organizations in the audience that routinely close two year achievement gaps and were prepared to serve every struggling low income student in America with proven solutions. He told the Deputy Secretary that, like charters, not to confuse the average with proven potential (e.g., Raymond study of average charter performance vs Hoxby study of CMOs). Tony hung tough and stayed long with the sincere thanks of the education entrepreneurs in the audience.
A panel of former state superintendents was a real highlight of the EIA conference. Tom Horne, now with Dutko, gave a lot of credit to Gov. Bush for progress in FL, but we know he was a great partner in one of the two states to make the most policy progress in the last 10 years (LA is the other one). Moderator Gene Hickok, also with Dutko, has his hands full, and Lisa Keegan, former chief in AZ, was in rare form. They were generally optimistic about the push for ‘restarts’, skeptical of district-led ‘transformations’, enthusiastic about progress on data, and guarded about national standards.
It’s time to remind dog-with-bone (aka esteemed colleague Rick Hess) that RttT has already been the most successful grant program in history given the policy shifts and promises made by 40 states–before a dime was spent. Mr. Scrutiny has been over the top warning of “Ill-conceived or inept efforts, even when well-intended, can distort promising initiatives, poison public opinion, and unwind years of smart, determined effort.” Lots of ways this could play out less than perfect, but it’s the best thing that’s happened to edreform since the shotgun marriage of Achieve and NGA yielded a 17 state algebra test pilot and a 35 state grad-rate compact in 2004 (with 10x the potential impact).
In the last 36 hours, I visited College Board, EdSector, and two entrepreneurs working on college access. A few days ago, I saw folks from DFER, EdTrust, TFA, and TNTP. The amount of talent in DC is really remarkable. There are so many smart people attempting to do important work. It’s a shame that they revolve around a dysfunctional congress. There’s no way ESEA happens this year; it’s time to focus on getting as much out of RttT and i3 as we can–it will help change the landscape and perhaps the dialog (if it doesn’t, we’ll hear from Rick).