Everything you've ever thought (or hated) about school reform is in the new The Nation, which includes articles by the usual suspects on the left (Noguera, LDH, Ravitch, Kirp) and a couple of welcome additions (GothamSchools co-founder Phillissa Cramer and Susan Eaton). Most are free, though a couple are behind a paywall. The real question is whether any of them tell you things you didn't already know or expect.
This may be my last month in our school, so perhaps I saw too much symbolism in the death of my VCR and my fruitless search for another one. I would not mourn the loss of a reliable old tool if I saw students being exposed to PBS.org and NPR.org via digital technology. But I blame the almost complete disappearance of VCRs from our school on the stigmatization of teachers who use video by true believers in top down curriculum alignment. No longer is C-SPAN available in our classrooms. No longer do teachers spark a class discussion with satire from Jon Stewart or "The Simpsons." This was the first year that I did not show Tavis Smiley’s "State of Black America" to my seniors, and I missed the subsequent discussions so much that it hurt. Maybe I am reading to much into this technological change, and Larry Cuban is a more reliable source.
Krigman also notes that the Harkin provision could be restored in conference, and that the measure was under attack from reformy types who wanted it to be, well, reformy.
I'd quarrel with the tone of Eric Hanushek's criticism of efforts to save teachers' jobs ("Cry Wolf!") but not the substance of his recommendations. We need teacher evaluations based on "direct evidence about teacher effectiveness," so districts could fire the weakest instructors. That should rule out test score growth for evaluations (at least in the hands of management) because the results of primitive growth models say little about whether an individual teacher is effective. Either peer review, or "the Grand Bargain" of submitting test score data to a team of teachers and administrators, would meet the goal of removing the bottom 8 to 10%. Typically, it is management that balks at these common sense methods of upgrading teacher quality because they do not want to share control. And that his why Hanushek's next best scenario makes sense. If districts do not value the wisdom of veteran teachers, they should offer severance packages to higher paid educators. I would be reluctant, however, to support his proposal to buy out teachers when there actually is direct evidence of their ineffectiveness.
Oops! EdSec Duncan came out in favor the edujobs spending but the White House left it out of its priorities list, according to this Politico story I got off Wonkbook (here). Sounds like one hand didn't know what the other was doing, or maybe that the complicated reform/jobs dance finally caught up with them. It's hard to keep things straight when the things you're for change from week to week. [Speaking of which, the EdSec is not unconcerned about the Texas textbooks thing. He was never not concerned. Not never unconcerned. Etc. ]
Got a great idea to fix education and make some money along the way? Sure you do. And there's an Education Innovators Showcase next month that you should probably be a part of. "The Showcase will provide a select group of ten early-stage companies, poised to make their mark in the education sector, the rare opportunity to present their companies to the Summit attendees, which will include venture capitalists and influential leaders in the education industry." It's all part of the Venture Capital in Education Summit 2010, sponsored by BerkeryNoyes, Startl, and Scholastic. It's guaranteed to make NSVF look like AERA.
Prospects for school funding help wilt in U.S. Senate Reuters: Senator Tom Harkin said on Tuesday he would drop plans to attach a $23 billion public education fund to a supplemental defense spending bill, bowing to Republican opposition and procedural complications... Virginia may pass on U.S. education grant contest Richmond Times Dispatch: A major factor in the state's deliberation on whether to reapply for grant money is the Obama administration's push for states to adopt common national standards in reading and math... Board Approves Reinstating Teachers NYT: The board of the Central Falls School District approved an agreement on Tuesday to allow teachers at a troubled high school to keep their jobs after all of them were fired... Deal reached to end Hawaii school furloughs AP: Gov. Linda Lingle and the state's political leaders ended the state's infamous school furloughs Tuesday, grabbing hold of a serendipitous deal that involves a $10 million bank loan and forces no one to give ground... Virginia to Expand Post-High School Tracking EdWeek: The state's massive data system would link to college and workforce data through a $17.5 million federal stimulus grant...
Unless he also was misquoted by Steve Brill, Dan Goldhaber said "The effect of increases in teacher quality swamps the impact of any other educational investment, such as reductions in class size." Goldhaber has a case regarding class size, but does he really have evidence to refute James Heckman, Russ Whitehurst, and Dan Willingham that high-quality pre-school, health and nutrition, intensive diagnostic assessment for reading comprehension, and/or an effective and engaging curriculum would be more cost-effective? When writing for RAND, Goldhaber compared teacher effects to other "school-related factors," which are much smaller than outside-of-school factors, and that are measured because they are currently in existence. That's a long way from the grandiose words in Brill's opinion piece.
Nearly a week after the article was posted online, the AFT came out with talking points knocking it down but forgot to send them to you. (Problem solved -- here they are: Brill Talking Points). Therein the claim is made that writer Steven Brill made up a quote from Weingarten, which Eduwonk surmises is this one:
“Deliberately or not, President Obama, whom I supported, has shifted the focus from resources and innovation and collaboration to blaming it all on dedicated teachers."
Brill denies any such thing in a note to Eduwonk, claiming that he wouldn't have bothered to make up such a mundane remark.
If I were going to “fabricate” a quote, why would I pick one that is so unsurprising?
Hmmm. You'd be surprised how mundane the things journalists fabricate can be. And the quote obviously didn't seem mundane to the AFT, whose trying to stay on the Administration's good side while they get this $23B bailout thing worked out. I wonder how the Times magazine is feeling about having published Brill's article - excited about all the attention or unsure whether they've (again) jumped into a story with a writer who's new to education and, well, gotten used.
"Whatever Texas decides, I do not think there will be large ripple effects around the country. Textbook companies today have a real ability to customize textbooks." -- Arne Duncan on CNN
Arne Duncan on Teacher Evaluations and Saving Jobs in a Recession NPR: Duncan says he worries about summer school disappearing, teachers being laid off and school days being cut and that there's a lot of work to be done... U.S. schools chief: We're in 'educational emergency' CNN: Soledad O'Brien talked with the top school official in the nation, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, about the ties between the economy and schools, the state of education and options for the classroom... Visits to NY and Boston Underscore Why We Cannot Afford Teacher Layoffs ED.gov: Two days in two cities and five school visits provided Secretary of Education Arne Duncan opportunities to meet students, teachers, administrators, and community leaders and have engaging conversations about the importance of saving teacher jobs and quality public schools, including charter schools.
If only she'd addressed the First Lady in Spanish then we would have been talking about this all the way to Memorial Day. But alas. Here's the video of that little girl asking Michelle Obama about immigration: "My mom said Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn't have papers," said the 2nd grader at a Silver Springs elementary school. Then: "My mom doesn't have papers." Here's an article about the fallout (Comments revive debate over mixed-status families).
It wasn't just a mad house-buying spree we were going through over the last decade, according to this eye-opening EdWeek article from Stephen Sawchuk. It was a mad teacher-hiring spree, too.
Six million Americans are already out of work. Layoff notices will outnumber actual layoffs by 100 to 1 when all is said and done. Meanwhile, increases in the size of the teaching force more than doubled increases in student enrollment. And the US Department of Education and the teachers unions (and bend-over-backwards education writers) all say that there's some sort of teacherpocalypse already upon us.
It's impressive, and shameless, and it's sort of working. Reformy types are whining about lack of strings attached to the Harkin jobs bill but are being told to shut up and go play in their little RTTT and i3 sandboxes. They can bask in all the glowy New York Times press coverage they want, as long as the teachers get their $23 billion. Long live the teaching bubble. May it never pop. Because teachers unions aren't on their last legs. They're the industry that's still too big to fail.
"I suppose this kind of tabloidy mashup of salacious trivia with serious reporting might be a model for the future." -- Mother Jones's Kevin Drum on the Huffington Post's 5th anniversary
In Detroit Schools, State Takeover Leads to Leadership Dispute PBS: A report on the progress of Detroit's public school system, following last year's tumultuous takeover by the state of Michigan, following allegations of corruption, a $316 million hole in its budget and tumbling enrollment... A Rougher Road to Tenure NYT: Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. signed a law on Thursday that will make it more difficult for teachers to get tenure and will require that at least half of their annual evaluation be determined by the academic growth of their students... Report: D.C. schools make most significant reading gains among urban systems Washington Post: A federal study of trends in 11 major urban school systems shows that only one has made significant gains in reading achievement since 2007 in fourth and eighth grades: D.C. Public Schools.
At the Shanker Institute, Ernest Green of the Little Rock Nine condemned the top-down teaching of history that has been made worse by NCLB-type accountability. Green cited the preoccupation with the single hero of Rosa Parks in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the neglect of the 11/2 year bottom-up process where an alternative transportation system was designed and operated. Similarly, we ignore the foundations of the movement laid by Parks, Martin Luther King, and others at the Highlander Folk School. When a hero of the civil rights movement speaks, those of us who see education as the civil rights movement of the 21st century must listen.
Joy Hakim then explained the professional risks that often are required of teachers resisting the educational malpractice that can be dictated in the name of "accountability." She recounted the story of teachers who won the right to teach the full richness and drama of America’s history because, it turned out, the superintendent had read Hakim’s work. Teachers take minimal risks, however, when compared to the danger faced by Eleanor Roosevelt when she traveled to the Highlander School, at night with a loaded pistol on her seat, after the Tennessee Klan placed a $25,000 bounty on her.
Not to be outdone by Ezra Klein's snazzy "wonkbook," the education team at the Post has put together a new(ish) Education Report with stories and blog entries (five of each) and started emailing it out to folks who sign up. (Take a look at a sample below.) They've even got an advertiser to help pay for the thing. So far, it's weekly, a sort of "best of." But it could go more frequently in the fall. It started in January, I'm told, as part of an effort to get the best of the Post's education coverage to readers. Long live email. Do you get it? Do you like it? What do you think?
“Now it’s the committee’s turn."
- House education committee chairman George Miller at NSVF conference last week.
Senate to consider $23 billion for schools Reuters: The top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee slammed the education fund, calling it a "$23 billion bailout for state governments" that a country with a deficit of more than $1 trillion cannot afford... Prince William County schools approve bonus plan for instructors at poor schools Washington Post: The Prince William County School Board approved a new compensation plan Wednesday night that would provide bonuses to teachers and principals who help high-poverty schools succeed... Obama Blasts Republicans for Not Supporting Economic Recovery Plans CBS News: President Obama dropped in on the rust belt to trumpet administration recovery efforts and blast Republicans for sitting on the sidelines... Charter Effort Gets a Boost WSJ: The U.S. Secretary of Education gave a symbolic boost to efforts to raise the state's charter-school cap during a visit to New York City on Tuesday to stump for a $23 billion federal bill to save teacher jobs... What does Mark Souder's resignation mean for abstinence education? Washington Post: Souder was a warrior for abstinence-only sex education and a critic of other forms of sex education, and he repeatedly intervened to make sure abstinence advocates were represented -- even to the inclusion of other experts -- on panels about sexual health...Students escape bus that ignited on LA freeway AP: Motorists jumped from vehicles to kick open doors and help about two dozen third-graders out of a blazing school bus that had stalled on a busy freeway Wednesday near Universal Studios Hollywood, authorities and witnesses said.... SAT prep company stops claiming 255-point boost AP: The Princeton Review company no longer claims that its "Ultimate Classroom" SAT test-preparation course can boost SAT scores by 255 points.
"Same building. Same community. Sometimes even the same parents ..." writes Steve Brill, implying that charter schools face the same challenges as neighborhood schools.
Like the "self-righteous reformers" he praises, Brill does not know that it is politics that determines whether schools can enforce their attendance, behavioral, and academic standards. When one school is empowered, neighboring schools are further damaged as the most challenging students are dumped on them, often creating an extreme critical mass of suffering children and perpetuating the blame game.
Brill does not even know enough about public education to ask why more of that testing is supposedly necessary to remove ineffective teachers or to consider the better alternatives for improving teacher quality.
The Chicago News Cooperative produces a regular stream of reported education stories, has a bigtime outlet for much of its work, and -- this is key, folks -- a paying customer. As such, it might be a useful model for nonprofit ednews outlets struggling to figure out how to make things work in the new era. Set up by former Chicago Tribune folks, the Coop has assigned Crystal Yednak to the education beat and its work is included in the Midwest edition of the New York Times. Here are some of her recent stories: Seeking to Assure Students' Safety Outside School, Educators and Parents Await News on Cuts, City Schools' New Criteria for Diversity Raise Fears. It's not perfect, but these are the three elements -- output, readers, and cash coming in -- that so many other outfits seem to lack. Catalyst Chicago, the Philly Notebook, and the Hechinger Report all seem to have more editors than they do writers, don't have access to a big enough distribution network (ie, a local paper or popular website, and rely on foundation dollars for almost all that they do. Imagine how powerful it would be if they changed that up a bit.
Union boss Randi Weingarten forces Education czar Arne Duncan to add third stop on visit to NYC NY Post: His choreographed visit comes as the battle over charter schools heats up ahead of the June 1 deadline for New York to apply for "Race for the Top" money... R.I. teachers subdued after agreement AP: The president of the teachers union said collective bargaining had worked. The school superintendent lauded a new era of collaboration for a failing high school singled out by President Obama. But the bottom line of a labor agreement approved yesterday showed another, hard-edged result... Tensions grow as Boston prepares for teacher contract talks Boston Globe: Boston parents, students, community activists, and civic groups have launched lobbying campaigns to press for changes to the teachers union contract, in what observers say could be the most acrimonious bargaining climate in a decade... Student Accused of Faking His Way Into Harvard AP: A Delaware man has been charged with faking his way into Harvard and duping the university out of $45,000 in financial aid, grants and scholarships... School Buses Now Take Wireless Internet For A Ride NPR: The Vail School District in southern Arizona last year installed a wireless router above the front windshield in buses for students who have long commutes. After hearing about the program, about 25 U.S. school districts have also signed up for the service. But one concern for administrators is making sure every student has a laptop.
I got my start in education as a hiking counselor for inner city children where I gained the insights that can only be learned in the middle of the night with tent mates or sharing the challenges of nature. I’ll never forget the thrill of guiding children on a fossil hunt, and the cry of joy of a little girl "I just found a dinosaur nose! It still has blood on it!"
After crack and gangs hit my neighborhood, I became an inner city high school teacher .. and completely fell in love with the job. When a kid transferred into my class from the deep South he asked whether I had Black kids. "You’re always talking about ‘ma kids’" said the student as he mocked my Okie accent. From all over the room came laughter and the reply, "D.T. has hundreds of Black kids!" Then the class clown added, "Yeah, D.T. is a playa!"
"For- profit schools are tapping shelters and halfway houses for new students, loading them with debt and leaving taxpayers on the hook," according to this disturbing story from Bloomberg Businessweek's Daniel Golden (The Homeless at College).
What's the nonprofit/ K12 version of this, I wonder? Bilking the public by signing homeless kids up for expensive online programs? Enrolling kids in community college to take noncredit remedial coursework? There's gotta be something. [Update: National Journal is debating for profit EMOs this week - how timely!]