I don't know much about some of the suggestions made in this Miller-McCune article -- the benefits of de-worming kids, for example isn't anything I could speak to with any knowledge-- but I like the somewhat fresh look it takes at one of education's most highly-touted reforms: the One Laptop initiative.
...in baseball, that is. Over the weekend, the Little League team from Chula Vista, CA beat the team from Taiwan in the Little League World Series.
A summer of verbal give and take in the blogosphere could not keep me in shape for the big league trash talking of the urban classroom. I picked up some tricks from the back-to-school convocation, however. The keynote speaker, Jack Berckemeyer, said that we should randomly dub a student as "Sparkie" and rather than yell at a student who is disrupting class, we should yell at a student who is not in class. Then, when students do not listen, the teacher should just express their frustrations to the chalkboard. "Chalkboard, I went into the classroom to talk to students, but I see that you are the only person who will really listen ..."
Sometimes I warned the designated "Sparkie" and the rest of the class of the reason why I would engage in those antics. Other times I just started to converse with my new, inanimate best friend. I loved shouting at last year's student "Caitlin, what am I, a potted plant? Just because you don’t listen the to plays that your coach calls ..." And now, the students have a standard comeback, "D.T., talk to the chalkboard."
When I was defeated in one round of trash-talking, the student’s closing reply was "D.T. I have not begun to rag on you. When I do, I’ll be looking at your sneakers." This was the student who had complained, "D.T. if you make me write so much, I’m going to have a cardeo-viscectomy." - John Thompson
The best of the day's education blog posts and commentaries, all in one place:
The New York Times Works For Arne Duncan Now TFT
I think every teacher should make a commitment to never again buy the New York Times (we don't anyway; can't afford it).
NCLB on crack in Massachusetts Mike Klonsky
A 17-year-old statewide test used to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law will be replaced with a broader approach to judging how well Wisconsin students are performing.
Defining NCLB’s Value
Mike Petrilli and Tom Loveless take to the pages of the NY Times to argue, yet again, that No Child Left Behind has been harmful to gifted students.
A Glut of Substitute Teachers in Texas
Here's a fascinating story out of Texas about districts gradually getting choosier in who they will accept as substitute teachers.
Read What You Love
Motoko Rich reports on a new approach to teaching reading: letting kids read books they actually want to read, rather than having them all read the same book. This strikes me as an excellent idea.
Back to daily morning news roundups, not that there's a ton going on the Monday before Labor Day:
“Extreme Makeover: Home
Edition” City paper
U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will be visiting The Fishing School this afternoon from 3 to 6 p.m., according to an announcement sent out this morning.
Using Tests Smartly NYT
This possibility could occur, but with wise guidelines from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, this need not occur.
'No Rules Broken' in Fenty Twins Out-of-Boundary Enrollment Wash Post
Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said Friday that D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty did not bypass any rules or policies by enrolling his twin sons in an elementary school outside of his Crestwood neighborhood.
The Future of Reading: Students Get New Assignment: Pick Books You Like NYT
The experimental approach is part of a movement to revolutionize the way literature is taught in U.S. schools.
FAA called after father flies teen to school
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a helicopter ride that a central Florida father arranged for his teenager's first day of school....
Perhaps the hypothesis that drives teachers the craziest is the notion that improved instruction and classroom management can solve the completely different problems of truancy and discipline. With their characteristic balance and thoroughness the Chicago School Consortium sorts through these issues in evaluating the Instructional Development System (IDS) in 14 high schools. (Kudos to Catherine Gewertz for supplying the link) The Consortium writes, "One underlying assumption of the IDS strategy is that if students are engaged with their courses they will come to class. That assumption may be flawed, however. As one principal said during our site visit: "Attendance is bigger than the curriculum. There are lots of things that keep kids out of school…. Good curriculum helps, buts it’s not the end all be all. Kids come with a lot of other baggage."
At first, nearly 3/4ths of teachers supported the IDS’s effort to improve "rigor and relevance," raising academic standards while seeking improved instruction. The IDS produced mixed results, slightly reducing the failure rate to around 25% and slightly increasing Grade Point Averages, while not improving attendance or test results. But students not only lacked prerequisite academic skills, but they also lacked the soft skills for the group learning methods of IDS.
Perhaps we need to take both a two-by-four and a scalpel to research on school turnarounds, and its inability to determine which are the preferred strategies. Robert Balfanz (my favorite turnaround expert) is correct that "we have more knowledge than we actually apply." But I have more knowledge about diet than I actually apply.
Two great Education Week articles by Catherine Gewertz and Debra Viadero explain the complexity of Secretary Duncan’s challenge of turning around the nation’s failing schools. "You need to have an accurate diagnosis of why each of those 5,000 schools are failing," explained one specialist, "Sometimes you need a two-by-four to get change. Other times you need a scalpel." And William Guenther, the director of Mass Insight (my other favorite source of turnaround wisdom), explains "states will have lots of money they have to spend quickly. Providers could just hang out their shingles ... and call themselves turnaround partners."
"Expert opinion is nearly unanimous ... on the importance of achieving an early quick victory." Sometimes the early "win" could just be a repainting of the building, but more often (at least in older grades) educators need a success with the most intractable problems presented by the most challenging students. Common sense and common humanity would argue for a "win win" victory as with Balfanz’ pilot program in Philadelphia where young people from City News act as mentors and thus helped reduce by 40% the number of students with behavioral problems. But common sense and human experience says that the Chicago turnaround strategy will be adopted more frequently. Chicago turnaround high schools often used higher academic and behavioral standards to push out troubled students. We need to see the student featured in the Chicago Tribune article who is no longer is afraid to attend school, but "creaming" is not the answer. Harper High School transferred more than 50 students with disciplinary problems to other schools. Their logic - and I'm not making this up - was that a change in scenery could do them good. Of course, this argues for another Mass Insight recommendation - that we need "clusters" of turnaround schools where schools are giving each other support and not dumping their problems on each other. - John Thompson
The week starts with a swine flu event (Rhee, Sebelius), then a nod to STEM and an MLK event, blah blah...
Things heat up a couple days later with a visit to Las Vegas with Harry Reid and then a St. Louis, Mo appearance with Randi Weingarten, who's doing a back to school tour around the country.
Two "Read to the Top" events in a week? Oh, well, it's August I guess. Not much else to do.
Remember: I'm mostly on Twitter again this week. For all the latest ee rolling Twitter updates posted a few posts down, or come into the Twitterverse and find me at alexanderrusso.
"Science and politics are both dynamic systems," so I'll stick with President Obama regardless - and besides, education is not a make or break issue. The Adminstration's Race to the Top, however, embodies politicized "science."
The Science for Policy Project issues level-headed recommendations that federal agencies promulgate rules that would sanction scientists (and social scientists?) "who run afoul of federal, university or journal requirements" regarding conflict of interest. The Bipartisan Policy Center also embraces peer review as "the primary guarantor of integrity in the scientific system." The Project is particularly timely in reminding the education community of the quaint institution of the literature review.
Former Superintendent Duncan was in frequent contact with the Chicago School Consortium which exemplifies the greatness produced by education scholarship. But when was the last time a think tank advocating data-driven "reform" issued research that "strives to develop a sense of the entire body of relevant literature; evaluates the methods that were used in studies; digs, when necessary, beyond the published material, to get a better sense of methods and data?" ... "Or, put another way, a good literature review is an exercise in comparing studies, looking first at the thrust of a body of literature and how broadly and well founded its conclusions are."
I'm officially away from the blog for this week but as usual probably won't be able to stay away from it for very long. Your best bet is to find rolling updates here (hit "refresh" if you don't see anything new):
Sara Fine wrote a wonderful piece explaining why she left her D.C. charter classroom after four years. Her decision was based on more than "burnout," more than being cursed out by Shawna (a 10th grader who could barely read), and more than the increasing micromanagement of teachers.
Fine cites Neil Howe’s and William Strauss’ characterization of her generation as "engaged," "upbeat" and "achievement-oriented," and a "hero generation." Members of Fine’s Millennial Generation "are not used to feeling consistently defeated and systemically undervalued." But according to Howe and Strauss (which Fine did not mention) the Baby Boomers were the last generation to have had personal experiences in public schools that were unambiguously good. Boomers must recognize that the mantle is being passed to new generations, but Boomers must be the protectors of the liberal arts, and traditional democratic and educational values in this era of "reform."
Seriously, Sara Fine sounds like a great teacher, and she explains her exit from the classroom after four years.
"When people ask, I tend to cite the usual suspect -- 'burnout,' Fine explains,"... I describe what it was like to teach students such as Shawna, a 10th-grader who could barely read and had resolved that the best way to deal with me was to curse me out under her breath. I describe spending weeks revising a curriculum proposal with my fellow teachers, only to find out that the administration had made a unilateral decision without looking at it. I describe how it became impossible to imagine keeping it up and still having energy for, say, a family."
Moreover, "more and more major decisions were made behind closed doors, and more and more teachers felt micromanaged rather than supported." This at a D.C. charter school where only 71% of students are economically disadvantaged, but only 50 of its 2005 freshmen class of 130 graduated on time.
Florida elementary school student Damon Weaver finally got his interview with President Obama:
The Washington Post speculates that a Kentucky experiment could reverberate throughout the nation. Junk food in school vending machines has always been the third rail of educational politics, almost as sacrosanct as serving french fries in the lunch line. Proceeds from Cheetos and Twinkies typically fund sports programs. This "status quo" persists at a time when childhood obesity has more than doubled and 1/5th of the increase in children’s body mass is attributable to junk foods in schools.
When Kentucky schools cracked down on empty calories from vending machines, however, revenue increased in their lunch lines. Even when Kentucky or California schools improved the nutritional quality of school lunches, better food was more profitable. Of course, it is absurd to worry about pennies lost or gained when discussing the future health of our citizens. But this year, under the leadership of Michelle Obama and with less resistance from the food corporations, we may see a real change. - John Thompson
Update. Sixth Grade Reporter Damon Weaver and President Obama weigh in on school lunch menus.
Mr. WEAVER: I suggest that we have French fries and mangoes every day for lunch.
President BARACK OBAMA: See, you know, and if you were planning the lunch program, it'd probably taste good to you, but it might not make you big and strong like you need to be
What a crazy August it's been for Whitney Tilson, the pro-charter moneyman who sends out the occasional email. First he went a little over the top slamming Diane Ravitch for her opinion piece questioning charter schools. He apologized. Now he's reviewing Crazy Like a Fox -- Ben Chavis' story of "No Excuses"-style school leadership. See effusive and lengthy email below, including excerpts appendices and more. No word yet on whether any apologies will be forthcoming.
I'm not going to shut down the blog this summer like I usually do around now, but I am going to post most of what I have to say via Twitter over the next couple of weeks. Not to worry, though. You can read all those updates here --just hit "reload" to get new content.
Each bullet is a Twitter post. Links are shortened for space reasons -- that's why they look so strange. Posts that start with "@" are me responding to someone else on Twitter -- you can click those to find out what's going on. Posts that start with or include RT are other peoples' posts that I'm passing along, with or without comment.
And kids with disabilities -- no surprise -- receive a disproportionate share of the physical punishment.
Getting rid of these policies is not, however, a condition of receiving RttT funding.
You can read the article here.
On one hand, "reformers" seek to fix and speed up the assembly line that is public education by raising standards so that all graduates meet world class standards. But as Robert Balfanz has shown, troubled students who fall off the assembly line can not be expected to take advantage of the wide array of programs funded by NCLB and put themselves back on the conveyor belt. For that to happen, caring adults must guide, motivate, reassure, and sometimes give a loving kick in the pants to students who do not know how to read for comprehension or to be students. That may not require more hours of traditional classroom instruction, but it does require more hours in community schools where their socio-emotional needs are addressed and students can be integrated into a broader community full of opportunities, ideas, and relationships.
The conventional wisdom under NCLB is that with continuous assessment, accountability, and high expectations, our most vulnerable students will fly up and soar back onto the conveyor belt. Rather than use the miracles of the digital age to find lost students, to communicate with them, and to diagnose their learning problems, "reforms" concentrate on data-driven tools for shaming educators. Predictably, educators respond with Cover Your Rear End policies. By now, many have lost sight of the law's original, albeit unfocused, goal. Is the purpose of educational reform the dramatic improvement of a k-12 system that is "good nuff" but flawed, destroying unions so that market-driven solutions can take over another part of the public sector, or helping our most vulnerable children? Regardless, the message we adults have sent to many of those childen roughly translates into "go to Hell and bake bagels." - John Thompson
I came across this image randomly via Kottke.org -- it's from a photo series in the Morning News about masculinity -- and realized that I wasn't entirely sure what kind of teacher this guy was. High school? College? Public? Private? Take a look and let us know what you think. Maybe it's obvious and I'm just not paying close enough attention.
Rightly or wrongly, "reformers" want the nation’s entire k-12 school system to step up its game, and that could help explain where they went wrong. The conveyor belt that we call public education has many flaws, but it does a pretty good job of educating students who had the foresight to select effective parents, who learn to read for comprehension, and who develop the soft skills required by a student. Even in 23 struggling middle schools in Philadelphia, when a student attends class at a rate of 95% or above, puts out above average effort, and does not become a discipline problem, there is a 77% chance of closing the achievement gap.
Convinced that our whole educational system is collapsing, "reformers" set out to fix and speed up the entire conveyor belt while also addressing the very different problem of children who have fallen off the assembly line. By conflating the two distinctly different goals, NCLB supporters produced unintended consequences which have damaged both sets of students.
Robert Balfanz showed that schools where "tens" of students needed remediation, the after-school tutoring financed by NCLB could be successful. When hundreds of students need remediation, however, those schools are overwhelmed. Educators in those schools resemble the Lucy skit where she struggled to keep up with the speeding assembly line. A comedian can eat the chocolates that fall off the line. Teachers who are pressured to cover all of the standards in time for the tests can not go that far - literally. But there is an old saying, "feed the teachers or they will eat the kids." - John Thompson
"The Matthew Effect" is based on the passage "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath" In other words, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Among educators, the concept explains why students who start out with literacy advantages tend to thrive. Weaker readers decline and after 4th grade as few as 13% of interventions are successful.
The Matthew Effect, however, pervades all aspects of schooling. Parenting is the key to socio-emotional soft skills that drive educational success. The neighborhood is the prime indicator of economic success. "Skills beget skills and motivation begets motivation," explains James Heckmen. And as illustrated by the concept of "degrees of separation," being isolated from a broader functional community undermines motivation. Combine enough isolated and traumatized kids in a high-poverty neighborhood school and a "tipping point" is crossed where disorder grows rampant. The dysfunctional learning culture drives away the best teachers, as magnet schools cream away the most motivated of the students. Worse, rich states and school systems that invest more per capita, are rewarded disproportionately through federal funds. And even worse, data-driven accountability has often damaged the schools it was designed to assist by encouraging excessive test prep and narrowing the curriculum.
The Pew Charitable Trust studied black children in the top 60% of income who lived in high poverty neighborhoods as opposed to low poverty neighborhoods in the 1980s and determined that poverty in the neighborhood increased downward mobility by 52%. Neighborhood poverty explains between 1/4th and 1/3rd of the downward mobility gap between blacks and whites.
While 59% of whites from the bottom two quintiles were upwardly mobile, only 25% of the black counterparts were. When the poverty rate of black children’s neighborhoods dropped by 10% in the 1980s, their family income was nearly $7,000 greater in 2005.The implication, of course, is that we must reduce concentrations of poverty in neighborhoods as well as schools. But "even today 30% of black children experience a level of neighborhood poverty - a rate of 30% or more - unknown among white children. - John Thompson
Plus -- just a few moments ago on Morning Edition -- NPR's Claudio Sanchez explores the ins and outs of stimulus funding.
Schools Glad To Have Stimulus Cash, But Delays & Rules Frustrate NPR
Much of the federal money intended for schools is still sitting in state coffers- despite long lists of unmet needs in many school districts.
Budget cuts put new textbook purchases on hold
he state and many California school districts look to save money by postponing approvals of updated books. Some fear the moves may put students at a disadvantage.
NAEP Panels Propose More ELL, Spec. Ed. Inclusion EdWeek
The plan’s goal is to check disparities among states in the rate of English-learners’ and special education students’ participation.
Virtual School Hopes to Offer Welcoming Community for Gays
The first online school for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students might open next year.
In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History NYT
In Arizona, teachers are being encouraged to create lessons that incorporate materials they find online.
Conversely, the leaked, confidential NEA report on six reforms shows that the union's teachers, staff, and researchers are saying the same things in private as they report publicly. The Denver ProComp two-tiered contract caused divisiveness, but the plan’s emphasis on professional development has improved cohesiveness. In private, teachers revealed themselves as less concerned about what was in reforms for themselves, and more preoccupied about their students. A typical comment was, "I would say fewer than 20 percent [of the district’s teachers] understand ProComp, because teachers are more involved in teaching their students than in [determining] their salaries. The problems occurred, for instance, when a teacher has to "jump through hoops to get a raise. It takes my focus away from the kids."
The opening monologue from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
Courtesy of Gawker.
Just your typical Friday morning news roundup.
Furloughs alter teachers' schedules, paychecks Atalanta Journal Constitution
The teacher furloughs — believed to be a first for Georgia — are altering the schedules and paychecks of the majority of the state’s 120,000 school teachers.
Ohio high school tightens computer security after cheating scandal Cleveland.com
a 17-year-old boy got access to a computer file containing world studies tests when he figured out that some teachers hadn't changed a generic password -- the word "admin" -- when they received classroom computers two years ago.
Want a Rich, Happy Country? Start Young Newsweek
The trend's most prominent spokesperson is probably Shakira, the Colombian pop singer who is also a founder of a group known as ALAS.
Government to advise schools on what to do when swine flu strikes AP
“We hope no schools have to close, but realistically, some schools will close this fall,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said this week during a forum with administration officials that was broadcast online.
Beach school board member resigns LA Times
A Long Beach school board member who is being sought by authorities and has not attended a board meeting in three months has resigned, district officials said Thursday.
Notebooks, rulers, pencils, backpacks, protractors, ... and Ritalin.
To me, it's more objectionable that President Obama gets to send his kids anywhere he wants than the particularity that he's chosen to send them to progressive-minded Sidwell Friends. But to others, like this EdWeek commentator, the pedagogical differences between Sidwell and more structured schools that might receive Title I funding is galling in the extreme (Obama’s School Choice). What do you think?
Not so much big news today, though the DC test scores issue is always interesting:
Deal in School Plot AP
A South Carolina teenager admitted to plotting to blow up his high school, and prosecutors agreed to ask for a 10-year prison sentence.
D.C. Public Schools Surpass Charters In Test Scores
Recent test scores of public school children in the nation's capital notably surpassed their charter school counterparts, adding yet another layer to the national debate on the value of charter schools vs. public schools.
Broward School Board rehires 119 laid-off teachers to new jobs Miami Herald
Many spots opened because some teachers decided to resign or retire and others failed to renew their certification.
Some measures won't help prevent flu pandemic: report Boston Globe
Closing schools, stopping large gatherings and other such measures are unlikely to do much to prevent the spread of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, a team of experts predicted on Wednesday.
Depression Seen in Children as Young as 3 NYT
Previous research suggested that depression affects about 2 percent of U.S. preschoolers, or roughly 160,000 youngsters, at one time or another. But it was unclear whether depression in preschoolers could be chronic, as it can be in older children and adults.
Here, the book gets the Malcolm Gladwell treatment in the New Yorker (Atticus Finch and Southern liberalism), including some questioning of just how much of a radical Atticus Finch (and the real-life person the character was based on) really were:
“Big Jim did not seek a fundamental shift of political power or a revolution in social mores,” Sims says. Folsom operated out of a sense of noblesse oblige: privileged whites, he believed, ought to “adopt a more humanitarian attitude” toward blacks"
I'm not actually all that offended or in disagreement, but schools chief Ron Huberman yesterday had to defend his choice of Jeremih, a Chicago singer who's current hit, "Birthday Sex" is about just that, as the school district's choice for getting the word out about the importance of going back to school.
“He had 70 million hits on his MySpace page. For us to be naïve and believe that this is not what our students are listening to would be not living in the world where our students are,” Huberman said.
Eventually people besides me are going to have to start asking Secretary Duncan about this clout scandal that's unfolding in Chicago. And, eventually, Duncan is probably going to have to say something about the situation.
The latest news is that Board President Michael Scott (I know!) has admitted being subpoenaed and will only attest that he never made calls to get connected kids into elite schools. As to whether others may have done so, he is quoted as saying "That's a different question."
That's him in the background of this recent picture with Arne and current Chicago schools chief Ron Huberman. Click to enlarge. Though there are mysteriously few pictures in Google Images of the two of them together, Scott and Arne worked together for years.
My assumption is that Duncan has already been subpoenaed. Hell, he might have been back in Chicago last week to testify in front of the grand jury. But we'll never know what's going on until more reporters (and members of the public) start asking.
It's got good stuff, it's presented clearly. Lots of people read it.
It also makes the ASCD money, which makes it especially admirable.
There's a super-secret RSS feed, too.
I have never been so proud of Oklahoma. We just opened the nation’s sixth Educare community center. As I pulled into the parking lot to hear Nobel laureate James Heckman, a local NPR report set the stage. A Department of Environmental Quality official broke down crying as he recounted an anecdote about his late mentor (an urban planner who we all admired) and the long line of children with asthma in a school clinic.
After Heckman explained high-quality preschool is 40% more cost effective than investing in adolescents, and that the key to educational success is socio-emotional, our Schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett and Mental Health Director Teri White did not miss a beat. Oklahoma is near the top in grandparents raising children and in families lacking health care, as well as #1 in incarcerating women. Oklahoma City's school system has fewer than 40,000 students and the city has more than 5,000 children being raised by grandparents. Think of the "great toxic stress" of Oklahoma's 3,500 school kids with their mom in prison, said the education leader. "It’s the trauma!" which keeps children from learning, explained the mental health director. When 1/4th of our state’s citizens have a mental health or addiction illness, we must abandon the blame game and focus on TREATMENT.
Lotsa news today -- including some surprises:
State Legislatures Wrestle With Charter Laws
Even with the extra attention from Washington, the outcomes have proved decidedly mixed.
In Program Giving Cash, More Pass A.P. Tests NYT
A program that rewards students at 31 New York City schools for passing scores on Advanced Placement exams has reported higher pass rates.
Dropout rate declines almost 17% in L.A. schools
Officials credit teams that identify and help at-risk students and the conversion of larger high schools into clusters of smaller academies.
Palm Beach County school district concedes major failings Palm Beach Post
The district is asking the Gates Foundation for $120 million and pledging to put up nearly another $210 million to create a comprehensive teacher effectiveness system. Palm Beach County was one of 10 districts nationwide invited to apply and will learn if it got the grant by the end of September.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Nailed 'Em - War on Birth Control|
NPR's Morning Edition is the first national news outlet to run a story about the federal investigation of clout in the Chicago public school system (Elite Chicago Public Schools Admissions Probed).
Meantime, a local TV news station in Chicago aired footage of the mayor being asked Arne Duncan's possible role in the mess. "You don't know, it all depends -- you have to find out," says Daley. Watch video below.
On Saturday, Duncan's spokespeople said that they didn't have anything to say about this:"Feds Start Investigation Of Chicago Schools
Nobel Prize winner James Heckman is rightly heralded for inspiring the best of President Obama’s educational reforms, especially high-quality preschool. He also points the way out of the cycle of blame and shame worsened by NCLB. Investing in early childhood, Heckman argues, is both fair and economically efficient. There is no downside, and the benefits are greater than any other investment.
About the only drawback of Heckman’s approach is that it requires us to address the uncomfortable truth about poverty and educational under-performance, which is "the real resource scarcity is parenting." The key is not intellectual or instructional but socio-emotional. Our children need to be taught the "soft skills" required in school and outside life. "Skills beget skill. Motivation begets motivation."
I had been wrestling with a hunch that we would be better off with the old system of the Office of Health, Education, and Welfare, but I couldn’t figure out the logistics or how to articulate the idea in a constructive manner. But Heckman phrased it just right. We need a Department of Human Capital. - John Thompson