redefinED blog stars: coming disruptions, blooming charter schools, campaign cherry picking …

Editor’s note: For those new to redefinED, “blog stars” is our occasional roundup of good stuff from other education blogs.

Jay P. Greene’s Blog: The Way of the Future: Coursera

Watch this video from start to finish from Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller as in right now:

I’m calling it- I think that we’ve passed Clayton Christensen’s inflection point where the disruptive technology (online learning) is better than the dominant technology (traditional universities).  The required mastery element that Koller describes in the video seals the deal by itself. I’m willing to bet that it is simply a matter of performing high quality evaluations and getting the results for documentation.

Second while most of the commentary on these developments naturally focuses on higher education, which is in for a major disruption, we need to start thinking about the implications of these developments for K-12. Coursera courses are available for free to anyone. K-12 students can take these courses, and other courses suited to various educational levels will certainly be developed. Full post here.

Jay Mathews’ Class Struggle: Let charters bloom. Let teachers be creative. 

Petrazzuolo says if a charter doesn’t offer innovative programs, that is one reason not to approve it. … Successful charters have exposed the weakness of that argument.

When the KIPP DC: KEY Academy began in a Southeast Washington church basement in 2001, it offered a standard curriculum of math, science, English and social studies, plus two hours a day of homework and strict discipline, very old school. Before long, despite the lack of innovation, its students were performing far above the level of their neighbors in regular D.C. public schools.

What is the secret for success? The best charters and regular schools are careful about whom they pick to supervise and teach. Most schools say they have the best principals and instructors. They say they give them strong support. The best schools actually do that. Full post here.

Alexander Russo’s This Week in Education: Misled About “New” National Money In Tennessee

To its credit, this Commercial Appeal story from over the weekend notes in the 2nd graf that national money has long been a part of state and local school board and mayoral races — in the form of national AFT and NEA contributions. Though they’re not given in the story, perhaps the most obvious examples are the Wisconsin recall effort against Scott Walker and the primary contest between Adrien Fenty and Vincent Gray.

But the rest of the story focuses narrowly on the “new” money coming in from StudentFirst and other organizations, and doesn’t seem very well contextualized at all. Read lines like this opening line  — “Tens of thousands of dollars poured in from political action committees, essentially allowing anonymous outsiders to shape education policy, long the domain of locals.” — and readers are bound to be misled.  

We’re never told if the NEA or AFT contributed to the races that are mentioned. We’re just told that the StudentFirst money is new, and that it comes from mysterious outsiders. I’m not sure how national AFT and NEA money is any less “outsider” than StudentsFirst money, or whether the union disclosure practices are all that much better than the c4 disclosures. Bottom line? If you’re going to talk about campaign contributions, you’ve got to talk about all of them. Full post here.

Flypaper: Paul Ryan and the education lobby’s suicide march to fiscal oblivion

Mitt Romney’s selection of one-time think-tanker Paul Ryan as his running mate has unleashed a torrent of “wonky mud-slinging,” says the press. It’s about time. The nation faces huge demographic and fiscal challenges—trends that will put ever-growing pressure on the public fisc in general, including the education budget. Yet rather than demonstrate the creative problem-solving skills that educators claim to be imparting to their students, their lobbyists are playing short-term politics with America’s long-term future.

The basic challenge—this is hardly news—is that America is aging and, as a result, is spending a lot of money on healthcare and retirement expenses. These expenses will go up and up in coming decades; they’re built into our demography. Unless economic growth can outpace the cost increase, however, that means less money for everything else—education included. …

Yet, unless I missed it, I don’t recall hearing the NEA or AFT or Committee on Education Funding calling for measures to slow down healthcare spending or kick-start the economy. Instead they are sticking to the same old argument, squawking about short-term cuts to the federal budget (which is a thin slice of all education spending anyway).

Just as Scott Walker’s purportedly “anti-educator” reforms freed up money in his state for more spending in the classroom, so would Paul Ryan’s “radical” reforms free up money for education nationwide. It’s too bad that the public-education lobby remains unwilling to acknowledge it. Full post here.

Avatar photo

BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at