"300,000 teacher layoffs would increase the national student-teacher ratio in public schools from 15.3 to 1, to 16.6 to 1 – roughly where it was in 1997... 100,000 teacher layoffs would increase it to 15.6 to 1 – the 2005 level.
Here's Angelina Jolie at her son Maddox's school fair, via PopSugar.
"The most disturbing example of Campbell's Law (on why high stakes corrupt data) was reported in the New York Times ... 'An overwhelming majority of cardiologists in New York say that, in certain instances, they do not operate on patients who might benefit from heart surgery, because they are worried about hurting their rankings on physician scorecards issued by the state.'" - Daniel Koretz, who added that 79% of those cardiologists' own decisions had been influenced by by the knowledge that mortality statistics would be made public.
I asked FairTest's Bob Schaeffer what percentage of tests he thought qualified as high stakes in the sense that they directly affected students' or teachers' lives. My guess was 10 percent. He came up with an interesting back of the envelope calculation of 30-50 percent (see below). It's an interesting rundown, though I think that overstates the case by quite a lot. For me, the problem isn't that there are too many high stakes tests but rather that there are too many low-quality / low rigor tests that are too easy for most kids and schools to pass, and then too little done for the relatively few kids and schools that can't pass muster. Many if not most tests are not high stakes in the way people might think.
“I wanted to stay, selfishly, for me. That would not have been the best decision for everyone else concerned. It wouldn’t have been the best for the younger teachers who got pink-slipped, it wouldn’t have been good for my family, financially.” Teachers torn as retirement looms (MLive.com)
A newish blog called The Educated Guess has joined a crowded field of nonprofit funded education news blogs, according to this roundup that notes that education coverage is following the path of foundation-funded health care reform sites which have long been around. Written by a former San Jose Mercury News journalist named John Fensterwald, Educated Guess is funded by the Hewlett Foundation and housed at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Is it any good? No idea. Will it last? Who knows. But maybe you do. I won't bore you with my thoughts about the nonprofit model.
"As always when we talk with journalists about this controversial issue, I was careful to note that there is no way to be certain that the actual volume of cheating cases has grown rather than the percentage that has been reported," writes FairTest's Bob Schaeffer in an email today. "The language I typically use is 'We can't be sure what portion of 'the iceberg' we are looking at.'"
"However, based on the number of cases that have been investigated, confirmed, and covered in the media, there has been an "explosion" in the past several years, at least a tripling and probably much more in the annual rate. Based on the anecdotal material FairTest has collected, Gabriel's story was consistent with the available evidence."
So: more coverage, but not necessarily more actual cheating. And no real case for causality, either, since so many of the tests kids take have little or no effect on their lives (or, I would argue, the lives and careers of most teachers and educators).
Despite what you may have heard, there are lots of other things that schools can (and are) doing to save money besides laying teachers off:
Four day weeks are the least common strategy from the look of it. Some are raising revenue from new, private sources, as this WSJ article describes.
Meet Karen Lewis, the feisty science teacher who just won the race to head the Chicago Teachers Union.Lewis defeated Marilyn Stewart, who ran the union during most of the Duncan era and infamously (to many of her members) allowed the Board to implement a performance pay pilot program that was recently found not to have worked. Read below for coverage of Lewis' win and what it might or might not mean for the Windy City.
When I began teaching at an alternative school for felons, the mental health counselors said that I would be witnessing the results of child abuse and kidnapping cases that make the headlines and then are forgotten. Now I see the same stories as I review my "Inactive Rolls" at the end of the year. Every year I see on the Inactive list a full case load for a mental health professional, as well as a load for one or more teachers. Some Inactive students are deceased, while others transferred to better schools. My Inactive Roll averages around 75, and most of the kids end up on the streets. Four years ago when our school became The Wire, it topped 150. I wish that decision-makers, who follow the conventional wisdom and starve alternative services for fear of warehousing troubled kids, could know the horrific stories of my most vulnerable students. Why do liberals want the cut these types of schools? And if we need a data-driven rationale for alternative slots, we could always say that they are needed to boost the graduation rate.
First Lady Michelle Obama sits with class valedictorian Jordan Smiley during the Anacostia Senior High School commencement ceremony at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C. June 11, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton) ("The President of the United States of America believes in you.")
What would the education equivalent be? I'm not sure. Most of the obvious contenders have already been done: Subbing for a year. Taking a high school math class. Eating the lunchroom food every day. Wearing the school uniform.
Some possibilities: Infecting yourself with Swine flu. Getting hired to work at a turnaround school. Getting picked to read RTTT applications. Working at a teachers' union local.
In the middle of a critical look at merit pay, Mother Jones' Jessica Calefati makes the following understandable but inaccurate connection between Race to the Top funding and states trying to maintain education funding and save jobs: "To get some of the money—which states need desperately to fill gaping holes in their education budgets and save hundreds of thousands of teachers from scheduled layoffs—applicants must play by Duncan's rules." RTTT isn't big enough to do any such thing, and hundreds of thousands of teachers are going to be laid off anytime soon.
It's the current fashion among so-called reformers to say we shouldn't define poverty as the problem because society doesn't have answers for problems of that magnitude and because the War on Poverty was criticized as social engineering. So the Duncan Administration mandates the turnaround of 10% of low-performing schools, dictating untested strategies (and that is not social engineering)?
But think of the advantage of defining the 17% of schools with poverty rates above 76% as the problem. Read the following as a Rorschach Test. "The reading achievement gap between eighth-grade students in low-poverty vs. high-poverty schools was 34 points." If the enemy is "the achievement gap," then coercive federal micromanaging may or may not make sense, but if the opponent is poverty, we don't need to single out villains.We can continue the "reform" strategy of fighting a two front war against "the status quo" and against educational failure. But the claim that that is a more manageable crusade is an insult to our intelligence. Or we can return to the maxim of "You are not the problem; I am not the problem; the problem is the problem." We only have about 720 or so high-poverty schools with more than 1000 students, and ameliorating the effects of poverty in those schools is a solvable problem.
A former teacher reflects on his first time catching a student cheating -- and goes back and interviews her about what happened years later (Cheater Cheater).
All these years later, the event seems to have affected the teacher as much as the student.
Anyone else notice that there are no real numbers in Trip Gabriel's cheating story in the NYT today -- that he can't say whether cheating is up or not, blames the "trend" on NCLB and merit pay without any real evidence of a connection, and that one of his main experts is a notorious anti-testing advocate? It's a familiar refrain -- accountability causes cheating -- usually used to suggest that accountability is the culprit (not the cheaters). But it's pretty weak journalism. Under Pressure, Educators Tamper With Test Scores). Come on, Trip. We need you to do better than this.
He helped broker the decision to hire the basketball team's new coach (Duncan put in good word for Thibodeau). His alma mater, the University of Chicago Lab School, sees a boom in popularity and needs to expand (Lab School seeks expansion). Next thing you know someone will give him credit for the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup, or Lebron James coming to Chicago.
Here are some completely speculative but reasonable interpretations of Joanne Weiss's sudden move from RTTT guru to chief of staff for Duncan (EdWeek): Captain jumping ship from dead-end job (there will be no RTTT round three). First of many shakeups within USDE to come (as second half of Obama administration approaches). Sucks to be Margot Rogers (who's being replaced by Weiss as chief of staff). Clearing out the job for Hess (or Ravitch).
UPDATE/CORRECTION: Off with my head! I have it from several folks that Rogers (pictured) is leaving of her own volition rather than as the result of being overworked by Duncan or as part of a nefarious plot to move her out and make Rick Hess the head of RTTT. Next time I'll be clearer about what I know and what I'm guessing, and remember to tag things like this under Made Up News.
Steve Poizner lost the Republican primary to Meg Whitman last night, setting up a general election between Whitman and Jerry Brown. Earlier this spring, This American Life did a segment about Poizner that focused on his attempt to portray a school where he taught government class one semester as tougher and more dysfunctional than it really seems to have been. In the segment, host Ira Glass confronts Poizner about his version of what happened, and the impact of the book on the school in question. That's not why he lost the election, but it's as good a reason as any to revisit the TAL segment and remember that politicians can stumble on their education claims as well as their claims of military or other glory. Here's the background. Here's a transcript of the story (PDF).
Education Reform Takes Center Stage in Fight for Suburban State Senate Seat PubliCola: It’s a Republican candidate for the state Senate, investor and consultant Gregg Bennett, who’s running on Democratic President Barack Obama’s education reform platform in the 48th Legislative District (Bellevue, Redmond) this year... Global firm to pay Montgomery, Md., schools millions for elementary curriculum Washington Post: Montgomery County Public Schools could soon become a global brand..Pa. district teachers set to strike for 2nd time Boston Globe: Teachers in the McGuffey School District in southwestern Pennsylvania plan to strike for the second time this school year because the school board has rejected their latest contract proposal... Fla. District Puts 1,305 on Layoff List EdWeek: The Broward school district delivered pink slips to 568 teachers and 737 noninstructional employees in an effort to close a $130 million budget shortfall... For-Profit Colleges Fight Limits On Student Loans NPR: For-profit colleges are lobbying to kill new regulations designed to hold down student debt loads... CBS's Bob Schieffer replacing Helen Thomas as Whitman High graduation speaker Washington Post: Walt Whitman High School has chosen veteran CBS journalist Bob Schieffer to replace Helen Thomas as its commencement speaker next week after the longtime White House correspondent-columnist bowed out of the engagement amid controversy over inflammatory comments she made about Israel and Palestine... Durbin wans DC probe on misuse of federal money BND.com: The district also spent that at least $200,000 on airline tickets and hotels, as well as $10,000 for original artwork, including $4,000 for a "historical quilt."
Talk about bad advance work. Don't they know to make them chug Red Bull before they go onstage? Let's all hope that the Race To the Top Commencement Challenge isn't a harbinger of how things are going to go for RTTT over all. [*Not to worry -- the kid (aka "the guy sleeping behind obama at kalamazoo graduation") got lots of friends on the Facebook page named after him.]
You think for-profit "corporate" journalism is flawed when it comes to covering education issues? I'd agree. But perhaps tax status isn't the real issue. As the Community Media Cooperative's Curtis Black documents in a new Huffington Post column (here), nonprofit (foundation-funded) journalism has challenges, too -- perhaps nowhere as much as in its coverage of controversial education issues like school turnarounds and performance pay. The backstory here is that Chicago News Cooperative, which provides coverage for the Midwest edition of the New York Times has experienced some struggles disclosing its conflicts and reporting Chicago news in a balanced way for the New York Times. This problem has been widely discussed in Chicago and was written up in the Columbia Journalism review (here). A large part of the debate has to do with CNC/NYT's coverage of school turnarounds, and the role CNC board member Mike Koldyke plays. It's not just a Chicago issue, given that the Times has contracted out with other nonprofit outfits to provide content in other parts of the country.
The latest issue of Atlantic magazine includes a(nother) praise-filled profile of School of One (The Littlest Schoolhouse) plus some (more) commentary from David Brooks on teachers and political power (Teachers Are Fair Game).
From Brooks: "The battle is not over, not by a long shot. Although the environment for change is more fertile now than ever before, we have yet to see what it can yield. An education reformer sent me an e-mail a few months ago saying he had never been so optimistic about the state of education reform—and yet never so pessimistic about the government’s ability to solve fundamental problems."
First, the NY Post told of an “outraged Brooklyn teacher” who turned whistle blower after being hired to score open-ended student responses on the New York state math test (NY passes students who get wrong answers on tests). That teacher was aghast to discover students were being given credit for partial or incorrect answers. In other words, wrong answers were being credited for being sorta’ right. Those scores were recorded and counted towards the students’ final test results.
Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported on the failures of NCS Pearson to both administer the state’s FCAT test and to return the scores on time (Glitches delay FCAT scores). The story also revealed that NCS Pearson changed a decades long policy of having two scorers read each student essay and instead are having just one temporary employee read them, eliminating any scoring oversight from the process.
The last time anyone saw 7 year-old Kyron Horman, he was walking down the hall of his Portland, Oregon elementary school to a classroom 150 feet away. Four days later, nobody knows where he's gone, or why. (Oregon Second-Grader Vanishes After Stepmother Drops Him Off At School)
Obama Gives Students a Principle to Guide Them NYT: Speaking at Kalamazoo Central High School, President Obama offered a theme of personal responsibility... Harry Reid lays out huge Senate agenda Politico: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) laid out an daunting summer agenda for the Senate on Monday afternoon... Pushing a Liberal Agenda, With Democrats as Target NYT: Liberals say the president has prematurely encouraged the Democratic deficit hawks in Congress by his own anti-deficit rhetoric... 32 Detroit schools expected to close this year AP: The financial manager for Detroit's public schools says he will close 32 schools this year as part of his plan to address declining enrollment and reduce the district's deficit... The gowns are green — at least philosophically LA Times: Animo Venice Charter High School is among a number of campuses that are adopting environmentally friendly graduation garb made from either renewable wood fibers or recycled plastic bottles.
I'm pretty sure that perfection lies somewhere between a blog post and a Twitter update, and have been experimenting with this Tumblr called Hot For Education for a little while now trying to get a feel for a platform that's lighter and more interactive than a blog entry with static comments but longer (and more flexible) than a Twitter update. Some recent posts:
The Psychic Substitute: I've been sent to cover a grade 6 class for the last session. I decide to have fun because I came in and played strict teacher... Student Exam Answers: There are days where I wish I was a bad student and came up with stuff like this on tests... TV: Laura Linney plays teacher with a mouthy student (Gabby (Precious) Sidube) who’s got The Big C in this new show from Showtime... Dance Contracts: ”Bodily fluids” reported after dances led one PA high school to make students sign a contract to attend dances... Celebrity Dyslexia: Orlando Bloom reveals early learning difficulties in school, replaces Tom Cruise as most famous actor / dyslexic... 3rd Grade Google Doodler Wins $25K For School: A Missouri third-grader’s doodle topped 33,000 entries in this year’s Google Doodle contest... The Dirty Yearbook: K.C. Salter, an English teacher at Knightstown High School in Indiana, was fired for trying to add a “pregnant girls” section to the school’s yearbook.
The topic is different, obviously, and so's the length and look. But the real difference is that comments and shares are so much easier than with a regular blog, in which comments are hidden and interactivity is limited. I'm not sure I've got it yet, but am curious about other education-related Tumblr experiments. Are there any out there I should know about or learn from?
I feel so bad for our school’s top young teachers who threw everything they had into raising scores, and now they are so deflated as they search for clues how their students did on the End of Instruction tests. My real evaluation always comes later while reflecting on last conversations with students. When I belatedly learn of the family crisis that disrupted a student’s education, I’m accountable for whether I could have asked one more question and made a timely intervention. Was I correct in drawing a line in the sand with this guy, regardless of whether I did it skillfully or not. Did I give that girl too much space? Have I been reading body language as well as I thought? In recent years, as my class load has become increasingly impossible, the number of end of the year celebrations has continued to rise, as have the number of "Ineffective" grades that I give myself. Where I’m different than the young teachers is that I don’t beat myself up over defeats.
"Like many observers with a newfound interest in education, Brill espouses the ideas that public schools are hopelessly broken and that alternatives to public schools are silver bullets." -- AFT president Randi Weingarten in the NYT
With long-term unemployment nearing 50 percent and 6 million Americans already out of work, it's hard to think of teacher layoffs as any kind of epidemic, but that's what The New Republic's Seyward Darby seems to think (The Layoff Epidemic). Then again, what do journalists know about epidemics? They all went along with the swin flu epidemic story, which turns out to have been fed to them by the pharmaceutical industry.