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USDE: Illinois Could Lose $1.2B In Funding Over Chicago Refusal

Image 1Here's the letter from the USDE to Illinois about Chicago's refusal to administer the Common Core assessment this spring, dug up just yesterday by Crain's Chicago's Greg Hinz.

According to Hinz, "Politically, the problem is that, given national wrangling over school standards, Duncan cannot be seen as being easy on Chicago, said one source close to the center of the flap. That doesn't mean Illinois would lose all of the money, but a sizable hit is likely." 

I'm not sure that's how it's going to happen but it' certainly interesting to see what the USDE is saying and how ISBE is playing things.

There was a Board meeting for CPS yesterday but I haven't seen any indication that the district is backing off its decision not to give the tests.

There's a mayoral election in a few weeks, which is likely heading for a runoff, according to the latest polls.  Yes, a runoff for Rahm. Chicago schools are in an estimated $1 billion hole, budget-wise -- not counting pension obligations. 

Full letter below, via Crain's. 

Continue reading "USDE: Illinois Could Lose $1.2B In Funding Over Chicago Refusal" »

AM News: Spending On K-12 Education Dropped - Again

Nation’s per-pupil K-12 funding fell for second consecutive year in 2012 Washington Post: After more than a decade of increases in per-pupil funding for K-12 public schools, the nation’s per-pupil spending dropped in 2012 for the second year in a row, according to data released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics. See also HuffPost: Here Are The States That Spend The Most On Public School Students.

Number of US children living on food stamps nearly doubles since 2007 The Guardian: Census bureau finds about 16 million – or one in five – US children lived in families that received food stamps in 2014.

Obama's Budget Would Undo Broad, Automatic Cuts Made In 2013 NPR: The across-the-board spending cuts made in 2013, known as the sequester, reduced defense and domestic budgets by hundreds of millions each. Republicans are expected to fiercely defend that plan. See also Politico's: How Democrats killed Obamas college savings plan.

MoCo Schools Superintendent Could Be Let Go This Year WAMU: The county board of education is unlikely to renew Starr's contract, which is up in June, according to the Washington Post. See also Washington Post: Montgomery schools chief may face uphill battle on board.

Gov. Cuomo’s big fix for evaluations bucks national trend ChalkbeatNY: In Washington, D.C., state test scores dropped from 50 to 35 percent of evaluations two years ago. In Wisconsin, teachers have been given broad discretion in choosing how student performance was factored into their evaluations.

Teachers ask high court to hear union dues case EdSource Today: Attorneys for teachers who are challenging the right of the California Teachers Association to force them to pay union dues petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to hear their case this year. There’s a good chance that it will

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Spending On K-12 Education Dropped - Again" »

Journalism: Washington Post Doubles Down In National Coverage

Some of you have noticed Emma Brown's byline on national education stories coming out of the Washington Post recently, and indeed the former DC Public Schools reporter is joining Lyndsey Layton covering the big beat starting this month. The move was in fact announced on the Washington Post site way back January 9 (Staff News: Education Coverage).

As you may already know, Brown covered the DC Public Schools from 2011 until recently when she went on maternity leave. Her old beat will be covered by Michael Alison Chandler, who's been filling in since the summer. Layton has been covering the national beat since 2011.

Brown joining Layton will be good news to those who want more education coverage from the Post (and don't want it handled by blogger Valerie Strauss) and less appealing to those who have had issues with Layton's coverage (of poverty statistics, foundation influence, etc.) and were hoping she was moving on to something else. On the whole, it seems like a positive move to me.

The Post announcement also tells us that a new blog is coming (has arrived?), though alas from my point of view it's going to focus on higher education. It is called Grade Point.

Related posts: Student Poverty Deepening & Spreading Nationally;  About That Front-Page Washington Post Story; Strauss Mangles Duncan Staff Moves; What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common CoreControversial Washington Post Blogger Tells AllFact-Checking Cami Anderson (X2).

Campaign 2015: LA School Board Candidate Won't Attend United Way Debates

Screenshot 2015-01-28 12.48.02
Pay no attention to the mis-captioned candidate pictures (the names for Rodriguez and Thomas were switched but have now been fixed) or or the hipster spelling of "yamaka" (I blame Hillel) or even the sloppy screenshot job of the original version of the captions (courtesy: me).

The real news is that incumbent LAUSD District 5 member (and charter target) Bennett Kayser announced that he was pulling out of two United Way-sponsored debates against challengers Thomas and Rodriguez. Why?  No one knows exactly. But it may well be that United Way LA “isn't exactly neutral” as it has been in the past, says LA Weekly's Hillel Aron. Yep, that's right.  United Way.

In LA and a few other places, United Way organizations aren't just gathering donations and providing services.  They're joining or leading coalitions, conducting parent information initiatives, and -- unavoidably -- taking sides.  

As one Kayser supporter put it (in the LA Weekly article), “Anybody who thinks the United Way [LA] has run even-handed candidate forums should look into buying land in Florida." 

Related posts:  "Education Mayors" Headline West Coast SummitLetter Opposing Publication Of Value-Added ScoresSchool Board Candidates Debate DeasyLos Angeles School Board Candidate Forum

 

Quotes: Parents Should "Protect Your Children" From Common Core Exams

Quotes2Moms and dads, you have the inherent right and responsibility to protect your children. You can choose to refuse the top-down Common Core racket of costly standardized tests of dubious academic value, reliability, and validity. - National Review's Michelle Malkin (Choose to Refuse on PARCC/SBAC Testing)

AM News: More Districts Taking Curriculum Purchase Decisions From States

States Are Losing Power Over Classroom Materials, and Districts Are Gaining It State EdWatch: The number of states that exert direct control over districts' choice of instructional materials through state funding has dipped from roughly 25 to 18 in recent years.

White House Won't Seek To End 529 College Tax Break NPR: All 50 states and the District of Columbia sponsor 529 plans. Critics had called the proposal to limit them a tax hike on the middle class. See also WSJNYT.

Senate Ed. Panel Unlikely to Require Teacher Evaluations in NCLB Overhaul PK12: The lack of teacher-evaluation language in the reauthorization will likely stop in its tracks the Obama administration's efforts to push states to adopt evaluation systems based in part on student test scores and performance-based compensation systems, both of which were at the heart of U.S. Department of Education's NCLB waivers.

As numbers of homeless kids rise, resources fall short Marketplace: The number of students experiencing homelessness in the U.S. has increased 85 percent since before the recession, according to Department of Education data. But the resources available to help them have remained flat.

States Move to Make Citizenship Exams a Classroom Aid NYT: Arizona became the first state to require its high school students to pass the test that is given to immigrants who want to become United States citizens.

Football As A Tool In The Hands Of A Master Craftsman NPR: Our 50 Great Teachers series profiles a football coach who's made academics ... and a sense of family ... part of his winning strategy.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: More Districts Taking Curriculum Purchase Decisions From States" »

ICYMI: Illinois School Bans Devices Teens Use To Chronicle Lives

Bo0NeUZIEAEmkUeIn what may be the first such instance in the nation, LaVerne Middle School in Evanston, IL has banned students from bringing so-called "selfie sticks" to school with them.

The devices are usually three to five feet long, with a handle at one end and a clip or other attachment to hold a cameraphone or GoPro (video camera).

"They're like half-size fishing rods," said Laverne AP Joe Schmesterhaus.

Their basic function is to help users take better "sellfies," extending the length between the camera lens and the person taking the picture. Some telescope for greater ease and portability. 

The issue began as a mere distraction this fall when some students started using the sticks to take pictures or video of themselves going to and from school, walking to class, and having lunch, then uploading the images to Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media platforms.  

It got much worse following the Winter Break, when many more students received or purchased the selfie sticks as gifts, and began jostling and rough-housing with them in the halls and in class. Some of the younger teachers also began bringing them to class.

The last straw, according to school board member Mary Lee Smiley, was a lunchtime melee the Tuesday after MLK Day Weekend when several students fought using the sticks as weapons, while others documented the event on their own devices.

"Schools always look bad when they ban things," said Smiley. "With any luck this is just a short-term solution until we figure out something more constructive." 

Related posts:  School Drones"Trigger Lock" Legislation Gaining PopularityObama's SuperSecret Special Ed Diversion Program"Classroom Intervention" Premiers This Fall Indiana School District Agrees To House Gitmo Detainees.

Quotes: Vast Majority Of Testing Required By Teachers, Schools, & Districts

Quotes2Let’s be clear: 90% or more of the “testing” that occurs in schools is under the control of the teacher and the school district.  -- NH State Deputy Commissioner Paul Leather in testimony before Senate HELP Committe (as prepared)

Thompson: What Happens When Research Gets To The Schoolhouse

Jack Schneider begins his excellent From the Ivory Tower to the Schoolhouse with the observation that academic research usually has a short-lived impact on the classroom. No matter how brilliant the scholar, research findings are "like names written on a steam-covered window, they fade from view."

From the Ivory Tower to the Schoolhouse takes a "glass half-full" approach. It acknowledges that the "avalanche of disparate research" on education has usually not been intended for use by classroom educators." But, "Some of it is."

Schneider does not despair. He provides hope that, someday, we can create a "research-to-practice superhighway (rather than relying on a series of detours and back alleys)" in seeking the path toward school improvement. Probably the best we can do today is carve out a "research-to-practice pathway."

The education historian describes four successes in implementing ideas from the Ivory Tower, Benjamin  Bloom's Taxonomy, Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, William Kirkpatrick's The Project Method, and Direct Instruction.  These three progressive concepts, and the final behaviorist approach, took root in public school classrooms, even though they did so "without altering the nature of the teaching profession." In contrast to similar concepts that failed to influence schooling, these successes shared four characteristics: Perceived Significance and Philosophical Compatibility with teachers' world views, Occupational Realism and Transportability to actual classrooms.

These concepts may not have transformed instruction, but they show that teachers can, and will, change and become active agents in their professional development. Moreover, they stand as a reminder that teachers can be as willing to be challenged by new ideas as other professionals.

Continue reading "Thompson: What Happens When Research Gets To The Schoolhouse" »

Think Tanks: UPenn Ranks Urban Institute, RAND, Brookings, Cato, NIEPR, CEPR*

Screen shot 2015-01-25 at 1.46.43 PM
So apparently UPenn has been ranking think tanks for a while now, and added a special category for education-focused think tanks in 2012. The latest rankings put the Urban Institute at the top and put Cato and Heritage above AEI so make of that what you will. via Think Tank Watch. 

*Corrected: It's not NIEER, it's NIEPR who came in 5th. Sorry about that!

Pop Culture: Boston Trounces Seattle (In Super Bowl Of Education)

image from edublog.scholastic.com"Which has more teachers? Which has a bigger budget? Who has more Twitter followers?" via Scholastic (The Super Bowl of EDU: Seattle vs. Boston) What about NAEP TUDA scores? Next year (maybe) PARCC and SBAC scores.

Morning Audio: The Force Field Of Expectations & The Half-Second Too Soon Rescue

20150122_specials_invisibiliabatman

This recent episode of NPR's new show "Invisibilia" focuses on the "force field" that parent and adult expectations -- however well-intended -- can have on lowering kids' abilities and performance in school and for years later. On a literal level, the show is about rats, blind kids and echo-location. On a symbolic level, it's about how many of us intervene a half-second too early and interrupt an uncomfortable but important learning moment. Don't worry, it's not all symbolic. There's some Carol Dweck in there, too -- and a snippet from a song my dad wrote at the 2:30 mark. Download and transcript here.

AM News: Digging Out From Under All The Blizzard Hype

Snow Day: Blizzard Shutters Schools Across Region WNYC: Snow days for the New York City public school system do not come easily, but with forecasts predicting two feet of snow and wind gusts up to 65 miles per hour, yes: school's canceled.

For Students (and Some Adults), School Cancellation in New York Comes as Welcome News NYT: Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that city schools would be closed on Tuesday because of the snowstorm, giving some students a reprieve from pending exams.

Hidden Day Care Records And Other State Secrets Seattle Public Radio: State inspection reports of day care providers are public record, but accessing them is still a problem for many parents. Washington state posts records online, but more than a dozen states don’t.

Obama Takes Heat For Proposing To End College Savings Break NPR: President Obama has proposed changing the tax treatment of college savings accounts known as 529 plans. Some are calling this a tax increase on the middle class. See also MMFA: What Media Miss On The Tax Breaks In Obama's Free Community College Plan 

Competency-Based Degree Programs On The Rise NPR: A new report says 52 colleges offer, or plan to offer, some credits based on learning, not just seat time.

Investigation into Md. ‘free-range parenting’ case unresolved after meeting Washington Post: The neglect investigation that started after a Silver Spring couple allowed their children to walk home a mile from a park could continue for another couple of weeks, despite the parents’ hopes that authorities would drop the case at a meeting Monday.

Yale police aim gun at NYT columnist’s son, turn spotlight on racial profiling on campus PBS: The debate over racial profiling — already a hot topic on many college campuses — gained renewed attention this weekend when Yale University police briefly detained a black male student Saturday evening.

Student 'Body Slams' Teacher Who Took Cell Phone (VIDEO) HuffPost: In the video, the 16-year-old suspect goes ballistic when his teacher confiscates his phone. The student appears to wrap his arms around the teacher and knocks him into an empty desk. The student then wrestles with the teacher before slamming him to the floor.

Quotes: Rethinking The Neighborhood School Ideal

Quotes2The neighborhood school might still be the best choice if this were a perfect world with ways to teach well each child wherever she or he might be. We don’t have that. -- Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews (The decline of neighborhood schools causes discomfort. Should it?)

Lunchtime Video: Testing Town Hall

In case you missed it (like I did), here's video of a 90-minute town hall on testing that  took place in Milwaukee in October at the Great City Schools' annual conference. I came across it trying to track down the details behind the overtesting numbers that are being used in the current testing/streamlining debate. Link is here.

Charts: Dinner Is Now On The Menu At Schools With Poor Kids

Screen shot 2015-01-25 at 10.35.58 AMFollowing up on Christine Armario's January 15 AP story about the growth of schools offering after-school meals as well as breakfast and lunch, here's a chart and file from the USDA showing which states are serving how many of these kinds of meals.  

The program started in 2010 and served 104 million meals last year - much smaller than the breakfast and lunch programs. 

They call them after-school meals or suppers (which seems quaint, no?).

All states now participate, according to USDA - though as you can see the participation levels vary widely.

I'd love to know how it's worked at some schools to have that available -- for the kids, teachers, and parents. Has it made a difference?

Here's the full list of states (PDF). At Risk Suppers FY2014

 

 

AM News: Thirty States Plus DC To Give Common Core Assessment This Spring

What happens when the Common Core becomes less ... common? Washington Post: Now only 12 states plus the District plan to give the PARCC exam to students, according to the Council of State School Officers, an organization of state education chiefs. Smarter Balanced has seen less attrition, but just 18 states plan to give that test this spring. 

Kasich Calls Out Conservatives Who Oppose Common Core HuffPost: Kasich dismissed criticisms of the standards from those like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who argue that the guidelines will lead the federal government to have more control of the education system in the United States.

Mississippi House passes bill that keeps Common Core but changes name Hechinger Report: Mississippi legislators passed with wide support a bill Thursday that proponents say will give the state more control over public education standards but even they admit it would have no effect on what schools currently teach.

It’s Cuomo Versus The Teachers Union WNYC: In his State of the State address, the Governor proposed big education changes this week - and took aim at the teachers union. See also WNYC.

Biden touts community college proposal, healthcare during L.A. visit LA Times: Vice President Joe Biden visited several Los Angeles sites on Friday to tout and gather support for two of the White House's signature initiatives: a plan to make the first two years of community college free and the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Once Had Universal Child Care, But Rebuilding It Won't Be Easy NPR: In his State of the Union address, President Obama referenced a little-remembered, WWII-era federal child care program, holding it up as an example he hopes to emulate with expanded federal subsidies.

To Improve School Discipline, Change Teacher Behavior Slate: Various programs have cropped up to support the effort. A local partnership called All-In! places therapists and special-education specialists in elementary classrooms, helping teachers identify and address trauma-induced behavior and emotional problems that they might otherwise dismiss as mere misbehavior. Seneca Family of Agencies, a California child welfare organization, is expanding the approach to five Oakland and two San Francisco schools using a $3 million grant from a U.S. Department of Education innovation fund.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Thirty States Plus DC To Give Common Core Assessment This Spring" »

Afternoon Video: PBS NewsHour Covers "The Test"

Here's last night's PBS NewHour segment featuring Anya Kamenetz's new book, The Test. (Is it a high of 113 tests K-12, or is 113 the average?) Not loading properly, or want to read the transcript? Click here.

Thompson: EdReform's White Collar Assault on Blue Collar Schools

The Center for Reinventing Education's Steven Hodas, in Clash of Cultures: Blue Collar, White Collar, and Reform, explains that we who oppose school reform are "correct to have sniffed a corporatist agenda ... but they [we] have fundamentally misconstrued the motive. It’s less about extracting profits than it is about advancing a cultural hegemony."
 
I agree, and I also agree that educators value "personal relationships gained through immersion and tenure in the workplace." We who oppose corporate reformers are acutely aware of chain of command and workplace rules, and we value "the knowing of the 'how', the 'who,' and the limits of getting things done." And, of course, we highly value the principle of "getting along."
 
Yes, we are rooted in blue collar cultures. That's one of the best things about a teaching profession which serves all types of people in our diverse democracy.
 
I won't speak for the NYCDOE where Hodas worked, but I agree with him that corporate reformers "saw themselves as missionary and insurgent," and they treated educators - who have the knowledge about the way that schools actually function - as "aboriginal cultures of practice" to be dismantled. Worse, they set out to salt the ground to prevent us from reestablishing ourselves.
 
Yes! Hodas is correct that the corporate reformers' "white-collar notions about work and value" are "expressed in endless wonky tweaking of measurements, incentives, and management structures that feel increasingly disconnected from the lived experience of students, parents, and teachers."

Continue reading "Thompson: EdReform's White Collar Assault on Blue Collar Schools" »

Visuals: Don't Miss Out On NPR's Ed-Related Illustrations

image from 41.media.tumblr.comWhatever you may think of NPR's education coverage, you gotta love the art that's been on the site these past few weeks and months. Most if not all of it's done by LA Johnson (@theLAJohnson), who kindly gave me permission to post this recent image. See more of her great work here & here.  Any other favorites of her work? Let usknowin comments or tweet them at me and I'll share them out. 

Journalism: How That Atlantic Magazine Story Went (So) Wrong

Here's the beginning of my writeup of the events leading to and following the online publication of TheAtlantic.com's CUNY story, published in its entirety over at Medium:

Both online and in print, The Atlantic has become known for running extremely strong education-focused features. One such example is Nikole Hannah-Jones’ look at school resegregation, which is a 2015 ASME finalist.

That’s why it was so startling to watch last week as the reporters and editors who had produced a long piece on the City University of New York (CUNY) made not one but two rounds of major corrections to the story published at TheAtlantic.com.

How did it happen? It’s not entirely clear yet.

But the events raise familiar concerns about the adequacy of fact-checking procedures, best practices for indicating changes and corrections to readers, and the perception of influence of outside funders in today’s media environment.

It’s also just the latest in a worrisome series of errors, omissions, and other kinds of flubs for education-related news stories in the past year or so.

As you'll see, The Atlantic, CUNY, and The Nation's Investigative Fund all talked to me about what did -- and didn't -- happen.  The reporters and editors -- LynNell Hancock, Meredith Kolodor, and Jennie Rothenberg Gritz -- have thus far declined. I can't get a response from the main character, Kenneth Rosario, to ask him about his side of things, though by now I hope he knows I'd love to talk.

Quotes: Why Schools Aren't Using Simple "Nudges" To Help Students Learn

Quotes2Why aren’t schools, districts and states rushing to set up these measures? Maybe because the programs have no natural constituency. They are not labor- or capital-intensive, so they don’t create lots of jobs or lucrative contracts. They don’t create a big, expensive initiative that a politician can point to in a stump speech. They just do their job, effectively and cheaply. - UMichigan economist  Susan Dynarski, in the NYT (The Power of a Simple Nudge)

Events: All The Cool (NPR) Kids Are (Were) At #NPREdSummit

Following up on something that I recall was done last year, the folks at NPR's education team are hosting a conference with lots of local public radio station folks.

Not invited? Me, neither, but you can follow along sort of via Twitter #npredsummit. Those in attendance include Anya Kamenetz (fresh off her Morning Edition appearance) @anya1anya. Mallory Falk @malloryfalk. Claudio Sanchez @CsanchezClaudio. Cory Turner  @NPRCoryTurner. Also: WNYC's Patricia Willens @pwillens . APM's Emily Hanford ‏@ehanford .  Illustrator LA Johnson  ‏@theLAJohnson (love her stuff!).

 

Morning Video: Everybody Hates Pearson - But It's Not Going Away Anytime Soon

 

Here's a three-minute video explainer to go along with the Fortune magazine story that came out yesterday. Video not loading properly (#thankstypepad)? Click here.

Quotes: Show Taxpayers [Test] Results If You Want More Of Their Money

Quotes2Taxpayers provide about $600 billion each year to fund public education in America. They have a right to know if the system is working. And if we want the public to spend more money on education, we need to show them [test] results.

-- Ed Post's Peter Cunningham (Fewer, Better, Fairer Tests)

Journalism: Ten Large (& A Bowler Hat!) For High-Quality Reporting

image from www.edwingouldfoundation.org

The Edwin Gould Foundation has announced a new (to me) journalism prize to "the authors / producers / originators of works of journalism that help to further the national conversation about low-income college completion."

First prize: $10,000 and a bowler hat Two Honorable Mention Awards: $2,500 and a bowler hat.

Sounds pretty good to me, though I rarely write about what happens to kids after high school.

Read all about it here: The Eddie. Then send them your stuff and cross your fingers.  Image used courtesy EGF.

 

Morning Video: Let's Talk About Why Schools Are So Segregated (Again)

 

Here's an April 2014 C-SPAN interview with ProPublica's Nikole Hannah-Jones about how schools in Tuscaloosa Alabama and many other places have resegregated since coming out from under court supervision. (Washington Journal School Desegregation)

AM News: After Obama Push, Google Relents On Student Data Privacy Pledge

After Initially Holding Out, Google Signs Student-Data-Privacy Pledge EdWeek: Any possibility that the pledge might have slipped from the public's attention vanished last week, when President Barack Obama publicly lauded the effort and urged more companies to get on board.

State Of The Union Doesn't Mention No Child Left Behind Rewrite Efforts HuffPost: Obama mentioned few specifics about K-12 education, one of his administration's top priorities during his first term. Notably, the president mentioned not one word directly about one of his education secretary's priorities for 2015: rewriting the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act, the Bush-era school accountability law. Obama also failed to mention the words teacher and testing. See also PK12, Washington PostPBS NewsHour.

Who sat in the First Lady's State of the Union box? Vox: Malik Bryant (Chicago, IL) Thirteen-year-old Malik Bryant sent a letter to Santa over the holidays, but rather than request the usual gifts, Malik wrote: "All I ask for is for safety I just wanna be safe." The President wrote back to Malik, encouraging him and underscoring that Malik's "security is a priority for me in everything I do as president." Malik lives with his mother Keturah and his two sisters in a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. He is in seventh grade, and his favorite subject is math.

Cuomo’s Education Agenda Sets Battle Lines With Teachers’ Unions NYT: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to seek changes to teacher evaluations and charter school limits, reforms that, uncharacteristically for a Democrat, will put him in conflict with the unions. See also ChalkbeatNY, WNYC.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: After Obama Push, Google Relents On Student Data Privacy Pledge" »

Quotes: Don't Hate The [School Board] Players, Hate The Game

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comWe propose that state laws be amended so that local boards have only two powers: to approve an annual slate of schools to operate in their locality, and to employ a CEO... Individual schools, not the local board, would employ teachers, rent or buy facilities and technology, and decide how to deliver instruction.  - Paul Hill in Crosscut (Want to fix the school board? Change the job, not the people)

Related posts:  "First, Kill All The School Boards"First, Kill All The [Elected] School BoardsFirst, Kill All The Policy WonksPointy Headed Pundits Can't Make Local Control Go Away$100 Billion (A Year) To Get Rid Of School Boards.

Thompson: Misgivings About NYC's New Cell Phone Policy

Like most teachers who I know, I have strong opinions about cell phones in school – I’m agin em.

But, I support Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina, so why should I intrude into New York City’s cell phone debate? Edu-politics is the art of the possible and cell phones aren’t going away. At some point we will have to find a way to incorporate those hand-held computers into the learning process. So, I had decided to bite my tongue and hope for the best.

Then, I stumbled across TechCrunch and Joe Mathewson’s prediction for 2015, “Teachers will embrace student’s Smartphone addiction.” Such candor cannot be allowed to go to waste. Regardless of where we come down on cell phones in school, we should face the fact that we are welcoming a dominating compulsion into our classrooms.

NY Chalkbeat’s Brian Charles, in Educators Remain Cautious as City Prepares to Lift Cell Phone Ban, quotes a principal who asks, “How do we enforce the use of cell phones in class, if we have 500-plus kids with cell phones who are taking calls or text during class time?” The principal then makes the point that too few non-educators fully understand, “We have laid a whole new burden on teachers who have to make sure children get the instruction they need.”

I must emphasize that NYC is not only opening the door to an incredibly disruptive device. It is inviting teenagers to bring patterns of behavior, that often could be described as addictions, into classrooms. When teachers, alone, cannot manage the cell phone challenge, they are likely to be scapegoated.

I would never bet against technology. The reason why digital technologies have failed to improve teaching and learning, I believe, is that we have not laid the foundation for the new types of learning. We must all take responsibility for helping students develop a learning culture and the self-control necessary to successfully engage in blended learning. New York City is dumping a massive and complex challenge on teachers and principals, while it is not likely to accept any responsibility for the epidemic of distraction and disorder that probably will result.

On the other hand, school improvement is a team effort. I'm not going to second guess teammates like de Blasio and Farina and I will hope for the best.  -JT (@drjohnthompson)    

 

 

 

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.