There's a new book about Michelle Rhee in the works, set to be written by former USA editorial writer and longtime journalist Richard Whitmire. From the agent: "Michelle Rhee, DC’s Chancellor of Education, is arguably the most famous Korean-American in the country, and quite possibly its most influential reformer...The Bee Eater is part biography, part prescription for success, and part examination of our educational system. It will chronicle Rhee’s rise from a Midwestern Korean household to Cornell University, a meteoric career in education reform, and her controversial, widely-observed time in DC." I think Rhee wrote the foreword to Whitmire's book about boys in schools. Jossey-Bass will publish the book, slated for 2011 publication. The bee eating reference is explained here.
I and others have long believed that the achievement gap is largely a function of a gap in time on task. So I was initially annoyed by Noguera’s repetition in this Education Researcher article (PDF) article of the same old studies from a generation ago placing so much blame for classroom disruptions on teachers’ misperceptions. But Noguera et al also cited newer, more balanced research in their writing, which asks if "the achievement gap and the discipline gap" are "two sides of the same coin?" Maybe we are all saying the same thing, and I’m like most teachers in being sensitive on this issue.
Schools are so convenient. I'd forgotten that this (in)famous 1996 Times magazine cover story started out with a schoolhouse anecdote: "AS THEY PUT ON PLASTIC GLOVES FOR THEIR first litter hunt, the
third graders knew what to expect. They knew their garbage. It was part
of their science curriculum at Bridges Elementary, a public school on
West 17th Street in Manhattan. They had learned the Three R's -- Reduce,
Reuse, Recycle -- and discussed how to stop their parents from using
paper plates. For Earth Day they had read a Scholastic science
publication, "Inside the World of Trash." For homework, they had kept
garbage diaries and drawn color-coded charts of their families' trash.
So they were primed for the field experiment on this May afternoon." (Recycling
of the Year, HS English teacher Sarah Brown Wessling, honored by Pres.
Barack Obama (VIDEO) - Johnston High School English teacher,
Sarah Brown Wessling of Johnston, Iowa, was honored by President Barack
Obama with the Teacher of the Year Award at the White House on Thursday,
April 29, 2010."
April 30, 2010 | Posted At: 09:00 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Daily News
Teacher In, First Out? NYT: Similar legislation in California,
where thousands of young teachers have received letters saying they
could be out of work, moved forward last week, backed by Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger. Arizona abolished seniority rules last year, and this
month its Legislature banned the use of seniority if teachers are
rehired... Is Teacher Tenure Still Necessary? NPR: The debate
over whether it's time to do away with
tenure is playing out in several states... Denver school district bans work travel to Arizona AP: The head of Denver's public schools announced a ban
Thursday on employees taking district-sponsored work trips to Arizona,
saying the community was "outraged" by the state's new immigration law... Education stocks drop on comments by DOE official AP: Shares of for-profit schools fell Thursday following a
report that a Department of Education official criticized oversight of
the industry in a speech Wednesday to state regulators... Panel Finds No Favorite in Teacher-Prep Pathways EdWeek: A national commission says teachers from alternative
programs appear no worse—or better—than those from traditional college
If Secretary Duncan wants moderates in teachers unions to persuade the rank-in-file to make compromises on seniority and using student growth data in evaluations, he should embrace Governor Crist’s veto of Florida’s "reform" legislation. The concessions that Duncan seeks are possible only when built on the rock of tenure.
Conservatives in the education providers complex who oppose unions may hope that teachers will follow telephone operators into oblivion as we become clerks monitoring the data systems that they peddle. But progressives would be horrified if their alma mater ended tenure, thus driving the First Amendment from their beloved college campus. Liberals who would never allow their own kids to be subjected to non-stop test prep may not understand that tenure is the only protection for poor kids from the educational malpractice "reform" de jour. Without tenure, in large parts of the country who would teach Evolution or a multicultural view of history that challenges the Texas standards?
April 29, 2010 | Posted At: 10:48 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Media Watch
Nice to see Las Vegas' Emily Richmond get some Linda Perlstein love (An education reporter who always delivers) but too bad that the article Perlstein links to is one of those highly speculative "Teacherpocalypse" stories (‘Almost
catastrophic’ budget cuts on horizon) going around right now. I'm also a Richmond fan, and am glad that she notes in her story that the funding forecasts are preliminary. But she and her editors (and Perlstein) should do a better job of noting that these stories are fed to reporters by agencies seeking to influence state legislators with doomsday scenarios, and that actual layoffs are months away and usually end up being much smaller than predicted.
The myth of Arne Duncan's Chicago 'miracle' continues to implode, along with the myth that vouchers are done as a policy remedy: Parents of 22,000 kids attending Chicago's worst schools might get vouchers to attend private or parochial schools -- "creating in one motion a program as large as Milwaukee's - which took
more than 20 years to become the nation's largest," according to State News Service's Jim Broadway. Ditto for kids attending overcrowded schools. And -- this is particularly unusual -- the Board of Education and City Hall are apparently down with that (according to this Tribune editorial Chicago
vouchers), along with Democratic lawmakers who would usually go along with the teachers union and oppose. Effectiveness be damned. Then again, they're talking about bringing in the National Guard, too.
April 29, 2010 | Posted At: 09:02 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Daily News
RI teachers union sues after mass firings Washington Post: A Rhode Island teachers union has
sued a troubled school district that fired all its high school teachers
and staff... D.C. teacher contract undercut by doubts on private
funding Washington Post: The District's chief financial officer has rejected an
unusual plan to fund a portion of pay raises for teachers with private
foundation money, saying conditions attached to the donations are
unacceptable, a top District official with knowledge of the issue said
Wednesday... Race to Top Round Two Heating Up EdWeek: States and teachers' unions clash over policy changes
aimed at securing some of the $3.4 billion in stimulus grants still
left... Reading with Tim O'Brien PBS: A book about war that has
stood the test of time. ..What Congress Didn't Say About Standards Politics K12: A hearing by the Senate education committee is notable
for not talking about the proposal to tie Title I aid
to states' adoption of college- and career-ready standards.
The recent Pew study on cell phones found that students condemn "arbitrary enforcement or a lack of clarity around school rules for mobile phones." Pew also found that "in-class texting varies little with regard to the aggressiveness of a school’s regulation" of phones.
Indeed, there's no easy way to enforce the rules. "If you get caught using your phone you can pull out a fake phone, turn it on and give it to them," said one student. I’ve fallen for that one. And in retrospect, perhaps I should have adopted the typical strategy of
confiscating phones seen in class and then returning them at the end of
the period so the next teacher could repeat the process. Instead I fought the
losing battle of enforcing the school's rule that parents must retrieve
But all is not lost. Parents who limit their children’s text messaging, get positive results. Schools could get similar benefits if they established credible consequences for inappropriate texting, just as they taught proper use and etiquette for cell phones. Then, teachers could incorporate appropriate texting into classroom instruction. Otherwise, I suspect our laissez faire attitude
towards teens and phones will be seen as one of the great betrayals of
this young generation by the
adults who should have taken charge of this powerful and potentially
Defining low performing schools "entirely differently from how the ESEA
does" is the mismatch between ARRA and RTTT that is going to have the most practical effect on how school reform works going forward. But it's not the only example. Russ Whitehurst flags several this excellent Ed Week commentary (Did Congress Authorize Race to the Top?). The unprecedented latitude Congress gave -- and Duncan took -- is one of the main reasons that I've been so critical and cautious about NCLB reauthorization prospects. Congressional approval for things like charter cap removal (and performance pay, and prescriptive turnaround choices) would be extremely hard to come by. RTTT is the product of a seemingly unique situation. I don't think that the USDE is going to get the same carte blanche from Congress next time around. The big challenge for them is to figure out how to back up the RTTT truck to get back to something that could make it through reauthorization without undercutting themselves and the states that have already moved forward on RTTT.
April 28, 2010 | Posted At: 08:37 AM | Author: Alexander Russo
it to The Wire's David Simon to work some scathing dialogue about school reform into his new HBO series,
Treme, set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Here's a snippet from a father-daughter scene from the second episode:
Where'm I gonna to go to school?
Tulane's working on something for faculty kids. Lusher.
Lusher's not a high school Daddy.
They're adding high school.
Plus it's public.
Not anymore, it's charter.
Where are they going to put the high school?
They're taking over Forshey Fortier.
What about the Forshey Fortier kids? Where are they going to go?
Somewhere else, I guess.
That's not fair. Probably not. That's where we're at now.You want to go to
school in New Orleans? So this is how it works. It's a zero-sum
Somebody wins. Somebody loses.
April 27, 2010 | Posted At: 09:00 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Daily News
Vermont will not seek federal education grant AP: Vermont will not seek millions of dollars in a federal
grant program aimed at improving failing schools, joining a handful of
states in dropping out of the "Race to the Top" program despite strapped
budgets... Political war continues to rage in Capistrano Unified
School District LA Times: Teachers’ strike over a 10% pay cut is just the latest
dust-up. Now there’s another school board recall effort — the third in
five years...Angst as teachers reapply for jobs Boston Globe: Anxiety rippled through seven “underperforming’’ Boston
schools yesterday, as more than 350 teachers and staff members faced a
deadline to reapply for their jobs as part of an overhaul by
Superintendent Carol R. Johnson...Johnson to lead two national education panels Sacto Press: The
Duncan panel is one of two education panels to which Johnson was
recently appointed: He will also lead a U.S. Conference of Mayors task
force on K-12 public schools...Duncan:
Detroit Schools at 'bottom of the barrel'. Newsday: U.S.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has voiced concern about the very high
dropout rates in the Detroit school district, but says it shouldn't
count on the federal government to step in and save it.
What do you get when you combine the District of Columbia's IMPACT evaluation system with the side letter of the proposed contract negotiated by the WTU? If implemented in good faith, you could get the Delaware RttT's teacher evaluation system. Since teacher evaluation is not negotiable in D.C., the union made the best of the situation by winning an independent evaluation and internal review of the problems with the district's system. And it did so without giving up tenure. The WTU maintained "just cause" as the standard for disciplining permanent employees. The union even got Michelle Rhee to agree to the unusual provision that the standard for removing probationary teachers must be "not arbitrary and capricious." (Typically, those teachers are "at will" employees.) We should also remember that the key to performance pay is not the extra money, but the collaboration that it can foster. The proposed contract thus includes comprehensive mentoring and induction programs, as a system for building a team approach to increasing student performance. Equally important, it includes provisions for enforcing the disciplinary code of conduct, and providing supports for disruptive students.
Only one of the state teachers of the year deigned to respond to my questions about the TOY experience: New Jersey's Maryann Woods-Murphy. Maybe my suggestion that they heckle Arne Duncan had something to do with it. Or maybe they had better things to do. In any case, if you want to know what at least one of the state teachers of they year thinks about merit pay, RTTT, and who's going to be named national teacher of the year, read on. An edited version of our email exchange is below.
What NPR didn't say, however, was that the incident was a stunt, and that the professor did the same thing with a defunct cell phone five years before. Now, what were you supposed to be doing right now?
States Clash in Race to Top Wall Street Journal: Since
the first winners were picked, spats have erupted from Florida to Ohio,
Indiana, Minnesota and Colorado over demands that unions agree to
proposals on merit pay and teacher evaluation to strengthen the state's
chances of winning federal money... Teachers Next To Go NPR: After cutting their budgets to
the bone and exhausting millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds,
school districts have resorted to staff cuts to balance their budgets.
New Jersey, California and Illinois are among the hardest-hit states... For School Company, Issues of Money and Control NYT: School boards and regulators are questioning how public
money is spent by a commercial manager of charters.[Read below for more headlines]
"’To my surprise, incentive programs that rewarded process seemed to be more effective than those that rewarded outcomes,’" said Roland Fryer, regarding his latest experiment. Fryer belatedly recognized something that had long been the centerpiece of educational wisdom. Teachers have long been taught to concentrate on their students’ "observable behaviors." We have always been taught to jealously guard time on "task on task." Teachers have always urged kids to focus on what they can control, and not get carried away with the issues of others. "Sweat the details," we have hoped, and learning will follow.
Fryer also concluded "it might be less effective to give teachers incentive pay (test scores of their students) relative to inputs (staying after school to tutor students).
Nothing much to get excited about in Duncan's weekly media schedule for next week, though there's always hope that the teachers of the year will get brave and and heckle him. One year not too long ago the teachers got together and weighed in with policy recommendations, which was pretty cool. But mostly they just act meek and obedient, which is a shame. Maybe a couple will Twitter heckle him during the event, at least?
Last week's rerun of "The Office" showed lamebrain boss Michael Scott visiting the kids to whom he'd unwisely promised college tuition if they graduated and -- almost as good -- made fun of the goofy chants and songs that teachers get kids to do and put on YouTube. Here's a snippet:
Want more? The episode doesn't seem to be online anymore but here's a fake interview with Scott about how he came up with the idea of sponsoring the kids, and here's a recap from Wikipedia.
School leaders seeking to replicate the District of Columbia's innovative contract need to take a few simple steps. Firstly, amend the Constitution so that Congress can prohibit collective bargaining on teacher evaluation. Go on an "unauthorized hiring spree," adding 900 teachers in advance of terminating 266 others, due to a supposedly "unforeseen" financial deficit of $150 million. Then seek a judicial venue which will permit the firings to stand, despite a seemingly false rationale, because reversing the improper actions would cause further harm. (This is doubly important when the district's leader persists in making contradictory statements, even under oath, regarding the reasons for the terminations.) Discover a $34 million dollar surplus that allows generous pay increases. When that surplus is shown to be nonexistent, discover another $29 million pot of money. Above all, find enough billionaires to fund $64.5 million in ongoing expenses. Repeat the process every few years, always seeking new private funders.
April 22, 2010 | Posted At: 12:03 PM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Media Watch
Kudos to Reason for coming up with a name for the saturation coverage of possible job cuts in education: Teacherpocalypse 2010. Most of the numbers you're seeing in the paper are speculative, possible cuts, not actual job cuts. The numbers are being put out there to pressure for more money. Some teachers have lost their jobs, no doubt, but the actual job losses are unknown and probably small in proportion to the 6 million Americans who are already out of work. Let's have some perspective, and some transparency from the media about where the numbers are coming from.
April 22, 2010 | Posted At: 10:03 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Daily News
US News: Congress and the White House are ignoring a problem that could dwarf the big bank bailouts...
Schools strain to hit target for budget cuts Boston Globe: Weymouth
school officials are spending the week figuring out how to cut $4
million from their budget to meet the mayor’s targeted $51.5 million
spending level for next fiscal year...Manager to move ahead with Detroit school closings AP: The
emergency financial manager for Detroit's public schools is expected to
follow a judge's order and meet with the district's Board of Education
before moving forward with plans to close or consolidate 42 schools
this year... 'Show some guts!' protesters tell Ill. lawmakers AP: Crying
"Raise our taxes!" and "Show some guts!", thousands of people rallied
at the state Capitol on Wednesday to protest lawmakers' inaction on a
tax hike to fix a $13 billion deficit.
April 21, 2010 | Posted At: 07:05 PM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: On Maryland Avenue
Barbara Eason-Watkins, the longtime chief academic officer who Arne Duncan wanted to be his replacement, has announced her long- anticipated departure. Where is BEW going? Once the top academic official for the nation's third-largest district, she's going to head the tiny Michigan City Indiana school system. She is among the last of the Duncan-era team to leave. Several (Cunningham, Whalen, Easton, Lach) joined Duncan in Washington. Others (Becerra, Vaughn) found work in other urban districts like Portland and Denver. One (Scott) committed suicide. Another (Pickens), Duncan's right hand man, kept a list of VIP admissions requests and recently resigned from the Board.
Its people, not policies, that teach kids. Nowhere is this clearer than at LA's Markham Middle School: "After 11 years of continuous, often overlapping reforms, (and) the expenditure of over $3 million dollars in extra funds," writes Robert Manwaring, "Markham Middle School is still, educationally speaking, a wreck. Sixteen percent of teachers are working under an emergency credential, 30 percent of classes in core academic subjects are taught by teachers who are not "highly qualified" under NCLB. After a turnaround partnership fired all of Markham staff, "almost half of the new hires were first- and second-year teachers, and many of them were under-qualified." I don't doubt Manwaring's indictment of the Los Angeles Schools System's policies, but we should keep our eye on the real problem with ambitions to scale up turnarounds. "The school has had difficulty finding candidates that will work in this potentially dangerous environment. ... By March 2010 over halfway through the year, 20 percent of the classes were taught by long-term substitutes."
April 21, 2010 | Posted At: 10:37 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Daily News
School Districts Warn of Even Deeper Teacher Cuts NYT: Hundreds of thousands of teachers around the country are being told that their jobs may be eliminated in June... Education Department Rescinds 2005 Title IX Change NPR: Under
the policy, schools could show they were in compliance with the law's
guarantee of equal sports opportunities for girls merely through
surveys that gauged interest and ability. They'll now have to prove
compliance using other factors... Students seek a say on homework assignments Boston Globe: Sometimes,
they say, the homework doesn’t appear to have anything to do with
what’s being taught in class. Other times, teachers hardly check to see
if students completed the assignments or had difficulty with it... Regents Approve New Route to Master’s in Teaching NYT: The
New York State Board of Regents voted to approve a pilot program that
would allow educational groups like Teach for America to create their
own master’s programs... Teen Texting Soars; Will Social Skills Suffer? NPR: The
number of teenagers who say they text-message daily has shot up to 54
percent from 38 percent in just the past 18 months, a new report finds.
The typical American teenager sends 50 texts a day. Teachers worry the
texting trend will hurt their students' interpersonal communication
skills... New Community College Standards Could Hike Graduation Rates NewsHour: Community
colleges are playing an increasing role in the country's higher
educational system, but a high percentage of their students never
finish their coursework. Jeffrey Brown talks to experts about a new
national accountability standard aimed at bolstering graduation rates.
The PBS show NOW is ending (here) but is trying to make good use of its long run and trove of videos and other content by creating a new, expanded version of NOW Classroom. The idea is to "transform the show's website from an inevitable ghost ship of a
former program into a rich resource fully directed toward teachers." Seems like a decent enough idea, though I have no real idea. Check it out. Let us know what you think.
This recent article in the Chronicle (Outsourced Grading Comes to College) describes how some college professors have turned to outsourced grading as a solution to the chronic problem of grading papers.
How long until this comes to K12 (if it hasn't already)? Is it any worse than the alternatives, which include assigning less, not grading everything students write, or burning out? Are you really as good a paper grader as you think, anyway?
April 20, 2010 | Posted At: 09:51 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Daily News
If school reform in Oklahoma City succeeds, it will be a legacy of the cooperation that grew in response to the Murrah Building bombing. Our union president, for instance, was with his students on a field trip to the nearby hospital when the casualities flowed in, and he vowed to never again push away from the bargaining table. At our best, a bipartisan educational reform coalition continued the community spirit and it is exemplified by the nation's seventh Educare. Hard times, however, still damage our most vulnerable. We have worked collaboratively to turnaround our city's Central Falls. It even required new legislation authorizing the position of a full-time substitute. And now, the nation's worst act of domestic terrorism since 1921 in Tulsa is a part of our curriculum.
April 19, 2010 | Posted At: 10:53 AM | Author: Alexander Russo
In this email, Linda Darling-Hammond decries this recent New York Times' article as riddled with errors and describes the ins and outs of her involvement with the elementary school and the high school. I meant to contact her earlier in the week, and will now see what the Times reporter Carol Pogash has to say. Meantime, read the email below. Picture unrelated.
Add National Prayer Day Ruling To Reading List NPR: Because her legal opinion is likely to be a subject of discussion for a
while, it's well worth taking some time to read U.S. District Judge
Barbara Crabb's controversial decision Thursday that holds that it is
unconstitutional for the president to proclaim, under Congress'
direction, a National Day of Prayer.
Outsourced Grading Comes to College Teaching Chronicle: The
graders working for EduMetry are concentrated in India, Singapore, and Malaysia, along with some in
the United States and elsewhere. They do their work online and
communicate with professors via e-mail.
Judge To Mississippi County: Stop Segregating Schools NPR: The order issued today by the court requires the district to modify its
transfer policy to permit students to transfer to a school outside
their residential zone only if the student can demonstrate a compelling
justification for the transfer.
Rise of the Female Nerds The American Prospect: Glee
is one of a handful of television shows offering unabashedly smart,
awkward ... well, nerdy, female characters. Will Hollywood take to the
New York City has abandoned a pilot project to pay parents for things like going to the dentist ($100) or holding down a full-time job ($150 per month). Children were rewarded for attending school regularly ($25 to $50 per month) or passing a high school Regents exam ($600). The reason? It didn't work for most families. Only "high school students who met basic proficiency standards before high school tended to increase their attendance, receive more class credits and perform better on standardized tests; more families went to the dentist for regular checkups."
As with NCLB, the incentives program helped those who were on the bubble. We must throw out the conceit that all poor children of color and
their families are the same, and that the same simple incentives and
disincentives will work for all.
April 16, 2010 | Posted At: 01:24 PM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: NCLB News
Here's a pretty heated email Sandy Kress sent out this morning about the East Palo Alto charter school whose charter school was denied an extension, and standards recanter Diane Ravitch:
"Linda Darling Hammond and Diane Ravitch have built their careers recently beating up on standards based reform, Teach for America, charter schools, choice, and NCLB, among other initiatives that reformers have put in place over the last 15 years. They've distorted data to attempt to show that these reforms do not work, even when objective data show otherwise.
"Now the results are in on THEIR approach. I won't attempt to explain or manipulate the data. Look for yourself. Linda Darling Hammond had all the money in the world and the Stanford faculty, all the advantages and more than the typical charter school would have. Look at the chart of student results from her school and similarly situated schools in California, and judge for yourself."
I get his point, though I'm not sure I think of LDH as such a standards opponent as Ravitch has become, or that one school's fate makes or breaks an entire educational approach. Kress is not quite done, though: "Here are the questions students in Linda's school couldn't answer.
I guess they'll do better on more "authentic" questions." (PDF here)
Yay! Boo! Charters! Linda Darling-Hammond! The Internets are burning up over news that a California charter affiliated with Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond has been denied an extension. The New York Times has it here. Hammond was the victim of a whisper campaign during the decisionmaking process surrounding the selection of the Obama education secretary and alienated lefties by participating in a charter school effort rather than toeing the "public" school line.
Beaverton (OR) school district has put Jason Levin, one of its middle school teachers teachers, on leave for an online anti-Tea Party effort called "Crash the Tea Party" that may have involved school equipment and time.
A fun list of bad (brilliant?) metaphors and other attempts at creative use of language, supposedly taken off of high school essays but also some of them intentional (as in part of bad writing contests). Via Daily Dish. My favorite? "Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do." What's yours?