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News: Concerns Grow About Test Manipulation In ATL

Georgia investigates abnormal test scores:  An analysis finds many wrong answers appear to have been erased and corrected before the standardized tests were submitted. Some fear that schools may have altered answers to avoid sanctions. LA Times.6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wi

K.C. District Ponders Closing Half of Its Schools:  Under the plan district Superintendent John Covington proposed to the school board Saturday, 29 to 31 of the district's 60 schools would be shuttered, eliminating as many as 285 teaching positions. EdWeek.

Biden says stimulus good for Michigan, rest of US:  The year-old federal Recovery Act that has pumped billions in stimulus dollars into economically devastated states such as Michigan is working well, Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday, disputing Republican claims that it has failed. AP.

Groups: You Could Do Worse Than Emulate BPE

PJ-AR535_ACHES_G_20090914142857 My recollections are vague and my information is dated, but back in its heyday, you couldn't get through a week without hearing about the close partnership between Boston Public Schools and the Boston Plan for Excellence.  For better or worse, Boston superintendent Tom Payzant and BPE ED Ellen Guiney were the prototype for the inside-outside partnership. BPE did research, piloted programs for the district, and supervised the implementation of citywide efforts.  Not a bad role to play.  Now comes news that BPE is reorganizing and restaffing for another big push, hiring Jill Conrad, to be Senior Director of Strategic Relations. Conrad was a member of the Denver school board. 

Blog Roundup: Shoveling Out

Why Bayh Matters TAPPED:  In the long term, of course, Democrats could use fewer "centrists" in the Bayh mold, simply because they stand for nothing...But the 112th Congress will be a more challenging one for the Democrats without their man from Indiana.

Learning the Lessons of Business Claus Von Zastrow:  I'm not worried by the business speak per se. I'm more concerned about what happens when we draw the wrong lessons from business.Leonardo-dicaprio-esquire-cover-march-2010-02

Engaging Elephants in Education Reform Quick and Ed:  Lasting change won’t occur unless the rider knows how to engage the elephant. The rider can’t just rely on finding the smartest best path. It also must appeal to the elephant’s motivations.

Cash Incentives for AP Scores Yield Long-Term Benefits EdNExt Blog:  What would happen to students after they had enrolled in college? A follow-up study now available in the NBER Working Paper series puts these concerns to rest.

Schools and Competition Matthew Yglesias:  I think the buyer needs to beware when he hears libertarian touting school choice concepts. 

How Numbers Deceive Us All The Daily Riff:  Once a number is used to judge outcomes, people will adjust their behavior to maximize that particular number.

Bunkum Awards EdNotes Online:  The Bunkum Awards help to highlight nonsensical, confusing, and disingenuous reports produced by education think tanks.

Sometimes Bigger IS Better Mimi:  JUMBO POST IT NOTES!!!  JUMBO, people!  They are roughly 12 inches x 12 inches - so smaller than your sticky chart paper but bigger OH SO MUCH BIGGER than a regular Post It.

Hundreds Volunteer To Shovel in  Effort to Reopen D.C. Schools Slate: "Conceding that they had reached their snow-clearing limits Monday, local officials made a remarkable appeal to residents to spend the federal holiday shoveling sidewalks and school bus stops so that hundreds of schools could reopen Tuesday."

Thompson: "But I Was Doing My Work Too"

Digitalnation Douglass Rushkoff’s brilliant "Digital Nation" (PBS Frontline) showcased a middle school in the Bronx which solved its violence, chaos, and attendance problems by going digital.

Math scores increased by 40% and reading increased by 30%, and Rushkoff concluded that the digital revolution was "clearly a net gain" in that previously troubled school. Even so, The students admitted to their shortened attention span, playing with My Space and games "and at the same time doing our work."

An assistant principal monitored the students as they were "goofing off," checking hair and doing makeup, photographing each other, and arguing back "but I was doing my work too."

Even if I didn’t hate that phrase more than anything else in the world (supplanting my old nemesis, the word "whatever") I would still have been horrified by the video of MIT students, the evidence of the decline of their scholarship, and their disrespect for learning. A student who had just read "Romeo and Juliet" in five minutes commented that "if there was 27 hours in the day I’d read ‘Hamlet.’"

Continue reading "Thompson: "But I Was Doing My Work Too" " »

TV: Duncan Appearance On Home Makeover Show

Extreme-makeover Fans of Extreme Home Makeover already know that EdSec Arne Duncan was on the show this past Sunday.  Politico has some of the details, including the tidbit that Duncan isn't very good with a hammer (Secretaries appear on ABC's 'Extreme Makeover').  Feel free to add your own jokes here. 

News: LA Union Leaders Negotiating To Save Jobs

Two unions say they are willing to negotiate a cut in the L.A. Unified school year LA Times: Leaders of both the teachers and administrators unions said they are fully aware of the financial crisis and are willing to negotiate.6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wi

Homeless in high school Boston Globe:  After her sister kicked her out, Barbara Hollis started bouncing from one friend’s house to another’s, sleeping on couches and keeping her possessions in trash bags. Couch surfing was terrible, she thought as she wandered through a neighborhood where many of her high school classmates lived.

RI education officials to push charter schools Boston Globe:  Rhode Island education officials are pushing an expansion of charter schools as a way to boost innovation and quality.

Student Suspended for Facebook Page Can Sue NYT:  Katherine Evans did not like her English teacher. She created a Facebook page to say so. Now the matter is in court.

Blog Roundup: Interim Assessments Not So Easy

One year later Knowledge Alliance: While much of the funding has yet to reach its intended beneficiaries, we think the impact at the state and federal level has been profound.

Apples and Oranges Learning First Alliance:  The clip uses a split screen to compare a teacher's morning to that of a real estate broker. The teacher packs in several hectic hours before the broker even emerges from his bedroom.340x_custom_1265826383621_74657965_8dfe903130

Edmodo Adds Capabilities With Fusion Merger Tom Vander Ark:  I’m intrigued by the viral potential of free lightweight teacher tools as a new and important entry point. 

Transparency for What? TAPPED:  Not all data improves policy.

Just One Person Undermines The Struggle” Larry Ferlazzo:  How do you avoid just teaching the “cult of personality” or the “cult of the hero” in your class?

Unemployment By Education Matthew Yglesias:  If someone you know is considering dropping out of high school, you ought to do everything possible to convince him or her to reconsider. .

Snow Storms Blow Away School Days Dakarai Aarons District Dossier:  Snowstorms have blown across the nation, closing schools for multiple days and disrupting school calendars.

Trade School: Will Barter for Skills GOOD Blog:  From now until the first of March, OurGoods, an online barter network, is running a pop-up storefront on the Lower East Side of Manhattan called Trade School, where entry into classes is based not on money or talent, but on meeting the needs of a particular teacher.

Assessing interim assessments Knowledge Alliance:  The Center for Policy Research in Education released this revealing study suggesting that use does not follow the rhetoric when it comes to interim assessments as a tool for informing instructional change.

USDE: FOIA Backlog, SuperSecret™ RTTT Judging

Tracker-transparency-020810The USDE looks like it comes in about average on ProPublica's Transparency Tracker, which monitors Cabinet agencies' performance implementing transparency directives coming from the White House.  The Department has an "open government" page, as required, indicating all sorts of things that have been posted online. 

There's still that bothersome backlog of FOIA requests, as documented in the USDE's report on reducing the backlog.  And we still want to know the identities, selection process, and judging by Duncan's SuperSecret™ RTTT judges.

Thompson: Correcting TNTP's "Widget Effect" Stats

Factcheck The New Teacher Project has finally corrected apologized reconciled its ubiquitous report's criticism of the American Federation of Teachers' Toledo Plan, admitting that crucial figures were off by 200%, if you accept the TNTP's definition, and off by 530% if you accept the AFT's terminology. 

Even when drafting "The Widget Effect," the TNTP should have known that one of the strengths of Toledo's peer review and mentoring program is that it removes ineffective teachers through resignations and other means, thus avoiding litigation.  So it came as a shock when the TNTP claimed that the Toledo Plan only removed .7% of probationary teachers over a five year period.  In fact, 12.9% of teachers in the plan were removed from the classroom in 2009, and over the last five years 8.5% of interns were non-renewed, terminated, or resigned. 

Read below for more about how the Toledo Plan compares to other districts' removal rates and the dispute about the numbers used in The Widget Effect.

Continue reading "Thompson: Correcting TNTP's "Widget Effect" Stats" »

Quote: Community Colleges Save Lives

"I can't think of a more efficient, hopeful or egalitarian machine, with the possible exception of the bicycle."

-- Kay Ryan, reigning US Poet Laureate, via Kottke

News: Money Vs. Reform

Outlook grim for cash-strapped schools:  The nation’s public schools are falling under severe financial stress as states slash education spending and drain federal stimulus money that staved off deep classroom cuts and widespread job losses. AP.

Louisiana educators to be tested in Race to the Top:  On the right, some worry that winners could wind up with unprecedented federal intrusion into their local schools. On the left, some fear that the program overemphasizes charter schools and could upend teacher union contracts. Times Picayune / Sara Carr.6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wi

Two unions say they are willing to negotiate a cut in the L.A. Unified school year:  Other labor chiefs don't like Cortines' proposal to trim six days to help balance a projected $640-million shortfall.LA Times / Jason Song.

Student Failure Could Cost Jobs: Houston Independent School District trustees approved a plan to allow the termination of teachers whose students consistently fail to improve on standardized tests. AP.

New safety rules for school lunches due by July:  By July, the Department of Agriculture will have launched its most sweeping safety reforms in a decade for the food it buys for school lunch ...USA Today / Elizabeth Weise.

English programs may get flexibility:  State mandates on how school districts teach English-language learners keep local officials from adopting systems that can most effectively address the needs of their students, a state lawmaker says. Arizona Republic/ Griselda Nevarez.

For more news see previous post (below).

Weekend Reading: Kindergarten Sexual Harrassment [upd]

Sexual harassment settlement for Brockton boy costs city $180K:  It began with a 6-year-old city boy touching a girl in his class, and it ended up costing the city $50,000 in legal fees – plus thousands more in city insurance payouts totaling nearly a quarter-million dollars The Enterprise.

Is There an Upside to Poverty?: Director Renzo Martens's fascinating and controversial documentary Enjoy Poverty "investigates the emotional and economic value of Africa's fastest-growing and most lucrative export-product." Freakonomics Blog (Also: The Truth About College Plagiarism)Books

Beyond Budget Brainwashing:  Short of eliminating every department in the non-defense discretionary budget (Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, to name just a few), [Pelosi] knows there’s not enough money in that budget category to dent the deficit. In These Times

Proposed autism diagnosis changes anger "Aspies":  People with Asperger's syndrom see proposal to lump the conditions under one diagnosis as attack on their identit. Salon

Make It Work:  A spending freeze as an unemployment fix? The only way to solve the jobs problem is to throw money at it. Here are four creative programs that would help the economy now. American Prospect.

How to save the cruelest kindergarten Valentine's Day:  There are few things more humbling than finding out what your kindergarten teacher really thinks of you. Salon

UPDATE:  Experts Say Schools Need to Screen for Cheating:  Because parents, students and administrators all like to see higher scores, said Gregory J. Cizek, a testing expert at the University of North Carolina, “There’s really no incentive to vigorously pursue cheaters.” NYT

Duncan: A Poison Valentine For Teach For America

340x_custom_1265833401052_vday It's seemed to me for a while now that Teach For America was, for all its apparent success, no longer being treated like the transformative, go-to solution that it once might have seemed.  The latest example is TFA's exclusion from the President's budget request, about which TFA is complaining publicly.  Earlier data points include the spread of other, better alternative programs, the rise of beefier residency-based programs, and the growing imbalance between TFA's amazing recruiting operation and its good but not amazing impact on schools and school systems.  

Media: HCZ Hype Questions Slowly Reaching Mainstream

CityLimits_March2010 Everything seems new to EWA's Linda Perlstein, who only recently deigned to read things not published in major newspapers.  But I still want to welcome her to the small but merry band of HCZ skeptics who have for several years now been wondering out loud here in the shadowy world of the undernews whether HCZ was as big, bold, new, or effective as was being claimed (in, er, major newspapers and mainstream broadcast outlets), to commend readers to her blog entry about the topic Hope or Hype in Harlem?,  and to tell everyone to check out the new City Limits article by the same name by Helen Zelon: Hope or Hype In Harlem?.  There's also a local NPR segment featuring Zelon and Paul Tough, the former NYT Magazine editor who wrote the book on HCZ (Assessing Harlem Children's Zone).

There's still a major media examination of HCZ to be done -- Washington Post?  LA Times? -- but when it happens the fancy journalist types shouldn't think that they "discovered" these concerns. 

Previous posts: How HCZ Hypnotized Anderson Cooper, The "Harlem Children's Zone" Juggernaut, Updated Hype Warning Levels. Obama Hypes Harlem Children's Zone On MTV, When School Reformers Meet The Real World, Paul Tough On The HotSeat.

Quote: Care Needed In Firing Probationary Teachers

Quotes2 "The effectiveness won't be determined by the amount of blood spilled but by the quality of the decisions being made."

-- CA State Board of Ed President Ted Mitchell in the LA Times

Magazines: Textbook Adoption In Texas

"Following the appeals from the public, the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years."

How Christian Were the Founders?
New York Times Sunday Magazine

News: Haitian Students & Schoolbus WiFi

Haitian Children Begin Enrolling in U.S. Schools: Nearly 1,000 youngsters who survived Haiti's catastrophic earthquake have enrolled in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area's public schools, joining the largest concentration of Haitians in the United States. EdWeek.6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wi

In National First, Kentucky Adopts Common Standards:Three state education panels approve the move, even before the final version of the English/language arts and math standards is finished. EdWeek.

Wi-Fi Turns Arizona Bus Ride Into a Rolling Study Hall:  The company marketing the router, Autonet Mobile, says it has sold them to schools or districts in Florida, Missouri and Washington, D.C.NYT.

Gov pitches expanding sales tax, cutting biz taxes: Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Thursday unveiled a budget proposal that included extending the tax to services while eliminating a business tax surcharge over the next two years. Associated Press.

$1M bond set for Tenn. teacher accused in shooting: A Tennessee elementary school teacher accused of shooting and wounding the principal and assistant principal at his school is being held on a $1 million bond.... AP

Video: "To Be Or Not To Be...That Is The Question... Yeah."

This video of Brian Cox teaching a cute little boy some Shakespeare has been going around the Internetz not just because the kid learns the soliloquy but also because he interjects some of his own delightful meaning into the process.

It's been a long day, you deserve a little break.

Blog Roundup: A Climate Of False Crisis?

A Climate of False Crisis:  If "elitism" is wrong for charters, why is it okay for public schools?... By Deborah Meier.Retro_great_teachers_inspire_greeting_cards-p137872526848721955q0yk_400

Some say learning styles are myth, others say they're magic:  If you are in a mischievous mood and want to get a rise out of your favorite teachers or principals, send them a copy of "Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence." By Jay Mathews

For Some Jobs, Asperger's Syndrome Can Be An Asset:  Aspiritech, a nonprofit in the suburbs of Chicago, is trying to help improve the job outlook for people with Asperger's and high-functioning autism. NPR 

Incentivize This: I’ll give you the link, but I’m not going to summarize it for you or comment on it.  Unless someone makes it worth my while. By Robert Pondiscio

Snapshot:  Summing up my class in 10 words or less: Sammy: A puzzle!  Wait…50 pieces!?! That's TOO much work. By Edna Lee

Account. Ability.: There's nothing I hate more than a semantic argument between educators. Nancy Flanagan

Can somebody tell me?. Why has Arne Duncan made Newt Gingrich his front man on school reform and put him on a national speaking tour? Mike Klonsky.

RTTT: Time To Tell Us Who The Judges Are

ScreenHunter_12 Jan. 24 10.01 The last line of Cheryl Sattler's guest commentary (below) reveals that the USDE quietly posted the state RTTT narratives on its site earlier this month, after having said that they weren't going to do such a thing.  I guess the fact that most of the states had been shamed into posting theirs already -- thanks to many of you -- made that easier to do.  But somehow the Department never got around to notifying the world that they changed their minds.  Not that I'm complaining.  At this rate, we should know the identities of the RTTT judges within a couple more weeks.  (In fact, I'm sort of disappointed and perplexed that none of the names has already come out unofficially.  I mean, all it takes is a little pillow talk or a casual comment at the gym for word to get out.)

Sattler: Slowing Down School Improvement?

ScreenHunter_58 Feb. 11 10.14 Somewhere beneath all that snow in Washington, D.C., is a stack of state applications for the new School Improvement Fund - that $3.545 billion slated to transform the nation's lowest-performing schools. Applications were due Feb. 8, and won't be posted until they've been approved.

I've been looking at the numbers to see what such transformation might mean.

Continue reading "Sattler: Slowing Down School Improvement?" »

Crib Sheets: Palin Wasn't Cheating -- But You Were

Blog_Palin_Hand_Notes Ever write something on your hand to pass a quiz?  I sure did.  Now's the time to come clean.  Last weekend, Sarah Palin did what kids have been doing for years to help remember things (and occasionally to cheat on vocab quizzes):  she wrote some key phrases on her hand.  The Internet has been exploding about this in the days since then.  (No, I don't think she was really doing anything wrong.)  But I tried this method to cheat on a vocabulary quiz in 5th grade.  The effort wasn't much better concealed than Palin's.  Mrs. Cholden pulled me aside, told me I didn't need to do things like that, and I never did again. Did you ever try and cheat as a kid -- and what happened when you got caught?

Thompson; Too Good to be True?

Brookings My big complaint regarding the new Brookings proposal for open enrollment choice is that it seems too good to be true. When you include the 24% of parents who choose residential neighborhoods for the school, the majority of students now exercise choice. The Brookings study seems to be a simple way of extending that liberating power for all. Since "70 percent to 80 percent of the variance in student achievement between schools can be accounted for by the average socioeconomic status," and since "students from low-income backgrounds benefit from their parents’ decision to send them to higher performing schools," why not choose democracy?

Continue reading "Thompson; Too Good to be True?" »

News: Asperger's Change Will Affect Schools, Parents

Removal Of Asperger's To Change Special Ed Access Placing kids on the autism spectrum will change how they access special education services in public schools. But parents and educators are split over whether it will help kids or not. NPR6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wi

Expansion of A.P. Tests Also Brings More Failures A report from the College Board indicates that high school students took 2.3 million Advanced Placement exams last year, passing 57 percent of them. NYT

Concerns Raised About Impact of Stimulus on Equity Short-term aid may have long-term consequences for funds targeting students with disabilities and other disadvantages, researchers say. EdWeek

Districts Consider Ending Salary Perk for Teachers Houston-area school districts spend tens of millions of dollars a year on teachers with advanced degrees that studies show don't produce better student achievement. EdWeek

Teacher accused of shooting 2 principals at school  An elementary school teacher is accused of shooting and wounding the principal and assistant principal at his school Wednesday about an hour after the children were dismissed because of snow. AP

Video: "Scholar Ladies"

Thanks to a fellow Jezebel fan for sending me this link to "Scholar Ladies," one school's amusing reinterpretation of of Beyonce's "Single Ladies."

Justin Timberlake's SNL version is still my favorite, but this one isn't half bad.

Blogs: More Things To Include In NCLB

An Education Jezebel
Three little girls are seen February 8, 2010 at a make-shift school set up by the Israeli organisation PRODEV Foundation in Port-Au-Prince.

Should We Teach Feminism In School? Jezebel
Today Ileana Jiménez, who blogs as Feminist Teacher, reprinted a letter from one of her students, asking Obama to add feminism to America's K-12 curriculum. Is it a good idea? One thing's for sure: the kid writes a hell of a letter.

Are College Admissions Tougher On Asians? Atlantic Wire
Would Yale be willing to make 50 percent of its freshman class Asian? Probably not.

A Teacher's Guide to Generation X Parents Edutopia
How to work with well-meaning but demanding moms and dads.

It’s All About Schools NYT (Friedman)
For every Predator missile we fire at an Al Qaeda target here, we should help Yemen build 50 new modern schools that teach science and math and critical thinking — to boys and girls.

Why Don't Kids Like School? The Daily Riff
Willingham has a lot to offer, and there is much to find useful in Why Don't Students Like School? But his rhetoric often clouds or contradicts his findings, and educators reading this book for wisdom would be well advised to do so very carefully.

Science Proves You Can Be Bored to Death Gawker
The more bored you are, the more likely you are to die early, a study says. It may be because boredom causes you to stop exercising and eat donuts. Or it may just be that it sucks to be bored.

Are Charter Schools A Civil Rights Failure? National Journal
Sandy Kress, Kevin Carey, Eliza Krigman, Steve Peha, Justin C. Cohen, Sandy Kress, Kevin Carey, Tom Vander Ark, Lisa Graham Keegan, Greg Richmond, Nelson Smith, Eliza Krigman

Student Loans: Government Spinoff Fights Government

 Sallie Mae pushing back tooth and nail over the proposed direct lending law (here) is somewhat akin to having your kid use the smarts (and the laptop) you gave her to recruit your parents and siblings and friends into a campaign to give her a higher allowance.

ScreenHunter_54 Feb. 08 18.10The lending industry has a couple of good points -- lower rates and more repayment help would have been good additions.  But the rhetoric -- calling direct lending a government takover, a job killer, etc. -- is getting pretty pointed (and ridiculous).  Sallie Mae is a government spinoff working in a highly regulated and subsidized environment. 

This isn't just a Dems. vs. Republicans thing.  It's a money thing.  And, I'd argue, a good preview of some of the types of things that will happen when it comes time to do tough things in K12 (like rewriting the funding formulas and strengthening the comparability / supplementation provisions). 

Schools: Half Of the Calories, Little Or No Daily Exercise


"Children consume as many as half of their daily calories at school, according to a 2009 report by the Institute of Medicine...Only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools offer daily physical education, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

ABC News Kids' Q & A on Childhood Obesity

News: LA Unified Shedding Lots Of Probie Teachers

6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wiL.A. Unified plans to fire more non-tenured teachers than usual LAT:  Those targeted represent nearly 6% of all probationary instructors in the nation's second-largest school district. A Times report last year found that fewer than 2% of such teachers were let go.

States Rethink Policies on National-Board Teachers EdWeek:  Both the economy and a push to measure teacher effectiveness in new ways have led states to revamp funding for the certification.

SD Senate committee approves change in school aid AP: A plan aimed at increasing state funding to school districts once the economy recovers won approval Tuesday from a South Dakota Senate committee.

Michelle Obama: Team Effort Needed to Halt Childhood Obesity PBS:  In an interview with Jim Lehrer, First Lady Michelle Obama said it's critically important for the future of the country to bring childhood obesity under control and encourage more physical fitness.

Childhood Obesity Battle Is Taken Up by First Lady NYT:  The initiative led by Michelle Obama is intended to revamp the way American youngsters eat and play. 

Blogs: It's Not An Education Problem, Says Rhee

Ending Poverty through Education Michelle RheeRosaparks-thumb-440x568
The obstacle is not one of knowledge but of social and political will, with education as the lynchpin.

Struggles at School of the Future Phila Notebook
I think this story has important lessons for “turnaround,” even though SOF is a start-up school. Microsoft is not a “school manager,” but instead a partner in an effort to create an engaging and progressive curriculum that takes advantage of the latest technology.

DPS tackling forced placement of teachers EdNews Colorado
Boasberg, in an email to principals Friday afternoon, said “it is our intention” not to place any unassigned teachers at year’s end into schools now on probation under the district’s school rating system.

More time in school not for all kids Denver Post (editorial)

Many high school students are completing college level classes — AP, IB, and dual-credit — as early as their junior year. These students challenge the need for a longer school day, not to mention the necessity of senior year.

The Little Picture: Rosa Parks via The American Prospect

Obama: No More Complaints About Snow Closures

image from www.chicagonow.comLast year, Obama mocked DC area schools for closing down so quickly when it snowed, pointing out that Chicago schools hardly ever closed and raising questions about the flintiness of the people of the Mid-Atlantic states.  This year, with the snowstorm they're calling "Snowmageddon," there's been no such criticism coming from the White House.  The Washington Post has the whole delicious story here

Quotes: Philanthropist Crushes Lagging Grantees

“For me there has been no downside.  “But I think if you’re not on your game, Eli will crush you.”

-  Harvard professor Roland Fryer on powerful philanthropist Eli Broad in the New York Times.

Rigor: Building Up To Advanced Placement

Ap2x-large The big question for me from Greg Toppo's AP story last week (Failure rate for AP tests climbing) isn't so much why AP test taking is going up or why passage rates are going down (especially in the South) but rather the possibility that AP is losing its "oomph" as a standards-raiser over time.  The big push to get more kids into AP classes and taking AP tests was supposed to increase rigor and achievement by exposing kids to challenging material and, over time, creating a pipeline of courses that would prepare kids to do well in the classes and on the tests.  Everyone knew the first few years of a new AP program at a school would be rough in terms of enrollment and pass rates. But it's been ten years now of growth, and if the pass rates remain low over time, then I guess I start to wonder whether any of the other pieces are being put into place. 

Media: What's Up With "The Daily Riff"?

ScreenHunter_55 Feb. 09 11.26 It's a newish education blog called The Daily Riff that's got great graphics and seems sort of fun if not entirely original or different.  They say their goal is to be "provocateur, muse, catalyst and game changer." The company is based on South Carolina.  It's Editor In Chief C.J. Westerberg isn't giving interviews (to me, at least).  The about page says the site was founded by "social entrepreneurs, parents and citizens, and former NYC media executives" but gives no names.  Is there a slant, or a game plan, a business model?  I can't tell.  Maybe your eyes and ears are keener than mine.  I'm obviously very curious.  

Movies: Valentine's Flowers For Teachers Everywhere

You're Jennifer Garner, a teacher.  Ashton Kutcher is your boyfriend, bringing a bouquet of flowers to class because, well, it's Valentine's Day.  Or maybe he's just delivering the flowers, but he's cute and complicated.  I don't know.  It's a movie (here).

Thompson: Shared, Inclusive Leadership and Collective Efficacy

Autonomyshared Both the Chicago School Consortium’s and the recent American Institutes of Research assessments of school turnarounds in Chicago should prompt a rethinking of "reformers" assumptions regarding the best methods for helping our most disadvantaged students. Organizing Schools for Improvement, by Byrk et.al, identified five ingredients for success that could be linked to improvement on its own, but which were up to ten times more effective in combination with other essential supports. It offers a "counter-narrative" to Secretary Duncan’s more draconian approaches. The most effective leadership is "inclusive of others," the recommended learning climate is "safe, welcoming, stimulating," and the professional development is collaborative.

Similarly, the four-pronged Strategic Learning Initiative's (SLI) "Focus Instruction Process" relies on "shared leadership" and parent engagement, as well as professional development and continuous improvement.

Continue reading "Thompson: Shared, Inclusive Leadership and Collective Efficacy" »

News: Kansas Considers District Consolidation

Merged districts could save Kan. millions AP:  Consolidating public school districts in Kansas could save millions of taxpayer dollars, although not enough to solve the state's budget crisis this year, according to a new report released Monday.6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wi

Education chief: Don't teach to test News Observer:   Public schools in the United States need to try to spark creative thinking in children and move away from curriculums that just teach to standardized tests, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told nearly 200 people gathered Monday at the Emerging Issues Forum at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Judging process will be open, but judges are secret Washington Post:  Their written comments, without names, will be published alongside applications in a process the Education Department is seeking to make as transparent as possible.

Attorney: Ala. school shooting likely gang-related AP:  A lawyer for a ninth-grader charged with shooting a fellow student to death at their Alabama school says the violence was likely related to gang activity....

Reform: Parent "Trigger" Moving East

ScreenHunter_12 Jan. 24 10.01 Like a big midwinter storm heading West to East across the country, the so-called parent "trigger" is moving from California to Connecticut. Popularized in Los Angeles by a group called Parent Revolution, the trigger concept -- essentially a parent referendum that sets off a turnaround effort -- went statewide in California in December.  Last month the pointy-headed wonks at National Journal debated the concept (most seemed opposed, as you'd expect). Now it's being introduced by several minority legislators in Connecticut on Thursday, according to the attached press release sent to me this afternoon.  Who knows?  It could be coming to your state next. Now watch the other education blogs play catchup.

Continue reading "Reform: Parent "Trigger" Moving East" »

Advocacy: More About Mapping & Schools

ScreenHunter_50 Feb. 04 14.35 The Healthy City Project focuses on LA County (expanding statewide next month) and has already done some fascinating work on education issues include one effort involving inequitable access to Early Education resources that led to $20M allocated to 32 high need zipcodes and over 1900 new licensed seats established, according to John Kim, the co-director. 

The project has also worked to show how pass rates on state exit exams are lower in some high schools with especially high percentages of emergency certified teachers.

Check it out, says Kim.  "The site offers interactive access to intense amounts of education data that allow users to make their own case for change."

Previous Post: Media: GIS Mapping For Better Schools

Thompson: Chance for Success

The_Snake_PitWhat would you say about a state whose schools earned Education Week Quality Counts grades of A for Standards, A for Accountability, B+ for Teacher Accountability and Quality, B- for Assessments, B- for Equity, and B- for Incentives and Allocations of teachers?  You might think that a teacher/blogger, even if he serves in one of the most troubled schools in the state, is exaggerating about that state's legacy of violence, corruption, generational poverty, and anti-intellectualism. 

But Oklahoma also earned a D for K-12 Achievement, an D- for College Readiness, and and F for Spending.  Also, Oklahoma students come in 43rd in their Chance for Success, and they are ranked 45th in that measure as calculated by Education Next.  

Oklahoma is representative of the nation's bottom quintile of states stretching from Nevada to South Carolina, and it confirms Gene Bottoms' quip "if accountability and testing was the key, the South would have the best schools in the world."

Continue reading "Thompson: Chance for Success" »

News: What Next?

Stimulus Money Gone, Many Schools Face Budget Gaps NYT:  The stimulus helped forestall drastic cuts at public schools, but many are now approaching what officials call a “funding cliff."

Schools Stuck at Bottom Target of $3 Billion Push EdWeek:  The infusion of federal stimulus money is intended to supercharge efforts to overhaul the worst-performing Title I schools.6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wi

For Students at Risk, Early College Proves a Draw NYT:  Until recently, most programs like this were aimed at affluent, overachieving students — a way to keep them challenged and give them a head start on college work. But the goal is quite different at SandHoke, which enrolls only students whose parents do not have college degrees.

A Federal Effort to Push Junk Food Out of Schools NYT:  The Obama administration will begin a drive this week to expel Pepsi, French fries and Snickers bars from the nation’s schools in hopes of reducing the number of children who get fat during their school years.

Bloomberg.com: News:  The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest after New York, plans to sell as much as $1.75 billion of bonds in mid-February to fund a school construction program called the largest in the U.S.

On College Campuses, a Shortage of Men NYT:  Women have represented about 57 percent of enrollments at American colleges since at least 2000, according to a recent report by the American Council on Education.

Twitter Friday / Work Update

500x_custom_1265051317345_bugle_megaphone_01Wow.  What a crazy week.  I'm glad it's almost over.  I turned in a reshaped (ripped up) version of my book proposal, which is still looking for a good home, and took on a new assignment to do a little feature story about the turnaround craze.  Monday I start in with a new writing coach /editor (yes, there's such a thing) who's going to help me (a) churn out pages and (b) make my scenes and characters as vivid and engaging as "The Wire."  Or something like that.

Anyway, I'm posting on Twitter today and over the weekend, so look up and you'll see my latest posts and links to check out.  (Hit "refresh" on your browser if you don't see anything new.)  Meantime, congrats to everyone who applied for the Spencer. 

Media: How To Write A Sure-Fire Education Story

Custom_1263502413244_magnetic-poetry1 "Dust off an anecdotal lede (best if in a classroom), tuck in a summary nut graph, widen to include some national and regional statistics, throw in a couple of expert voices, add an educator and a parent or student to contrast the experts and show you I’ve talked to local people, then circle back to my anecdote, tie it all together and end with a silver-bullet quote.  All in 10 inches or less, guaranteed to run unless we get more obits than budgeted or another 10 inches of snow."

-- Cathy Grimes, education team leader, The Daily Press, Newport News, Va. (Twitter.com/cathgrimes)

Books: "Whatever It Takes" Principal Signs New Deal

Steve_perry_cnn-thumb-292x219-28160Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, just got a new book deal. 

Here's the blurb about the deal announced earlier this week:  "High-school-principal-turned-media-phenomenon Steve Perry’s PUSH HAS COME TO SHOVE, in which the educator and CNN commentator reveals the “whatever it takes” secrets of the inner-city high school he founded and runs, now being seen as a template for how America can reinvent its schools, sold to Rick Horgan at Crown, by Bonnie Solow at Solow Literary Enterprises (world)"

I never heard of him but that means nothing.  He's been featured on CNN and came out strong last year for Obama sending his kids to a DC public school. His previous book, Man Up, came out in 2007.

Duncan: Race Review, SC Flip-Flop, Union Opposition

RTTT grant competition has 'a very high bar, Duncan says' NOLA.com
He said he will only get a sense of what was in the applications once they've been analyzed by "people a lot smarter than me" who will present him rank-ordered results.

Geithner+Duncan+Announce+Partnership+Promote+pDdGX5LfWGClGovernor flies to DC to support S.C. bid for $300 million The State
Sanford, who spent much of last year fighting parts of the Obama administration's stimulus plan, now wants S.C. to have a piece of $4 billion in "Race to the Top" education money.

Education secretary says Bobb is a 'breath of fresh air' Detroit News
Last year, after heated negotiations, Bobb and the Detroit Federation of Teachers agreed to sweeping contract changes that, among other things, will set aside $10,000 of teachers' paychecks to a fund that will pay them a lump sum when they leave the district, a move aimed at encouraging retirements.

Unions balk at school aid program Boston Globe
Although many school districts in Massachusetts have rushed to take part in a federal program that offers new funds in exchange for cooperation on educational reforms, a number of others will have to sit on the sidelines because their teacher unions opted out.

News: Hill Pushback Imperils Lending Proposal

6a00e54f8c25c988340120a7f7436e970b-200wiLobbying Imperils Overhaul of Student Loans NYT
A bill championed by President Obama that was once thought to be an easy sell in Congress has turned into a difficult vote thanks to a major lobbying campaign by the country's largest student lenders and the prospect of a Republican filibuster.

Leader of nation's biggest campus taking on tenure AP
The leader of the country's largest university thinks it's time to re-examine how professors are awarded tenure, a type of job-for-life protection virtually unknown outside academia.

Wash. Standardized Testing is Going Digital EdWeek
Statewide about 25 percent of schools will participate in the pilot program. The rest of the students will take the paper-and-pencil test.

Proposed Hebrew-language school dealt a setback LA Times
A proposal to open the first Hebrew-language charter school in the state was handed a major setback when school trustees in the Santa Clarita Valley deadlocked over the project's approval -- blocking its progress.

Television: Don Draper, High School Drama Teacher

Jonnwenn2602392__oPt "Before he was a Mad man stealing the hearts of women viewers everywhere, he was just Mr. Jon Hamm of St. Louis teaching drama at John Burroughs High School.

"He was a heartthrob! All the girls would sign up for his class…for a good reason! In addition to being really handsome, he was an excellent teacher. He taught me drama work, mostly improvisation, which I did a lot of in college and in New York."

Raise Your Hand If Mr. Hamm Taught You How To Project!.
Perez Hilton

NPR: Veteran Reporters Talk Race, Edu-Blogosphere

Kudos to NPR's Larry Ambramson for giving an on air shout-out to the existence edu-blogosophere during a half-hour discussion with Claudio Sanchez and Neil Conan about the pros and cons of the latest NCLB reform proposals.  Thanks, Larry, for acknowledging our existence!

ScreenHunter_48 Feb. 04 08.18

Substantively, the best parts of the conversations were the sections where Abramson talks about the potential downsides of a competition-based grants process (the rich get richer) and at the end where Sanchez talks about the more fundamental problems with the American education system that are ignored by RTTT and pretty much everything else that's being talked about (inequitable funding of schools, poverty). 

Advanced Placement: Participation Rising, Pass Rates Falling

The number of students taking Advanced Placement tests hit a record high last year, but the portion who fail the exams — particularly in the South — is rising as well, a USA TODAY analysis finds. (Failure rate for AP tests climbing)

Millot: Arrogance and Idiocy in Massachusetts Chartering Policy

6a00e54f8c25c988340120a6d7122c970b-150wi Setting aside the question of legality, the political appointees running Massachusetts public education would probably not recommend their approach to the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School (GCACS) application as a case study in good policy making. Just about everyone but the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and the majority of Board members who voted to approve the problematic school probably would suggest it as a lesson in improper political influence.

TWIE readers who have been following this series (starting here) will not be surprised that I see three parties who failed completely to meet their public obligations, and whose gross errors bring a more general problem in chartering into stark relief.

Continue reading "Millot: Arrogance and Idiocy in Massachusetts Chartering Policy" »



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