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Thompson: What Statisticians Whisper

Answers Over at the National Journal's education blog, Kati Haycock defined an effective teacher as an angel bending over a blade of grass who "whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’"  Somewhere, I imagine, there must be statisticians sitting at their desks whispering to their growth models, "be good enough, good enough."  Reformers have caused a huge mess for the Obama Administration because they raced ahead with the complex tasks of creating accurate metrics for incentives, for terminations, for developing, and administering all of the vast universe of teaching quality -- all at the same time. Identifying the most ineffective teachers would have been the proper challenge.  The task of identifying ineffective teachers, and devising efficient means of removing them, is doable, practically and politically.  Meanwhile, we need to create safeguards so the abuse of metrics does not contaminate the diverse realm of high-quality teaching.

EdSec: Why Duncan Will Make Nice With Obey

Slide_5253_72162_large For a moment last week there was a concerted attempt for everyone to make nice.  Obey proposed a funding increase for RTTT in FY2011.  The White House made a big push to show they weren't out of touch with the House, whose members are all up for re-election in November (Slate, NYT) and vice versa (Pelosi praised the White House).  But then, with the publication of the Obey interview in Fiscal Times the bonhomie seemed to disappear.  Of course, it's likely that the Obey interview was conducted earlier in the week.  The Dems seem to be aware that disharmony is a concern.  But the Obey comments are pretty harsh (and essentially accurate, far as I can see), so they'll play out over the next couple of days in the ed reform world.  What will Team Duncan do next?  Grumble a lot, I'd imagine, and then make nice.  Going to war with Obey never made any sense, and may not ever have been Duncan's true desire.  Reformy types pushed him into it, I'm guessing, and he's regretted it for weeks now.  Maybe next time he'll count his blessings and remember the Hill before he listens to them. 

Media: Three Ways NYT Gets Turnaround Story Wrong

image from graphics8.nytimes.com Today's Michael Winerip story / column on the nice principal in Vermont forced to switch jobs to make the school eligible for turnaround funding is more than a bit misleading.  First off, it suggests that the nation's failing schools are full of hard-working and effective principals like Joyce Irvine. This is unlikely to be the situation in many places - why focus on exceptional situations?  Second, the story might easily lead readers to think Irvine was laid off, only later revealing she's in the district office -- a promotion, many would call it.  Last and most obvious, the story  mischaracterizes the way schools are rated, suggesting that even the most recently arrived students' test scores count against a school.  In general, students have to attend a school for a year before their scores count against (or for) a school. 

Hill: Top Dem Regrets Giving Duncan So Much Money

Quotes2 "I trusted the secretary, so I gave him a hell of a lot more money than I should have." -- David Obey, chief education appropriator in the House of Representatives

Duncan: Think You Know Where Arne Is? You Have No Idea.

ScreenHunter_12 Jun. 10 19.16 Here's the official schedule for Duncan next week -- pretty empty, as you'll see.  But that doesn't mean he's not up to no good in between official public events.  Duncan could be sneaking off to do campaign events and those wouldn't be mentioned here.  (That is, assuming he doesn't send one of his many doubles.)  Or, Duncan could be down in his bunker playing no-limits poker with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (said to be one of his favorite activities on a hot Washington afternoon).  Bottom line:  You have no idea where Duncan really is.

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AM News: Stimulus Money Prompts Principal Removal

A Popular Principal, Wounded by Good Intentions NYT: At Wheeler Elementary in Burlington, Vt., a highly regarded principal has been removed so the district can qualify for millions in stimulus dollars...  Changes urged for Mass. schools Boston Globe:  The state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education recommended yesterday that Massachusetts replace its highly regarded academic standards for English and math with a uniform set of national standards that could lead to major changes in standardized testing...News2 Fear of `resegregation' fuels unrest in NC AP:  In the annals of desegregation, Raleigh is barely a footnote. Integration came relatively peacefully to the North Carolina capital. There was no "stand in the schoolhouse door," no need of National Guard escorts or even a federal court order... How a Fund-Raising Reward Led to a School Tragedy NYT:  Private fund-raising in public schools is a complex issue, and is part of the chain of events that led to a girl’s death... A Michigan Teen Farms Her Backyard NYT Magazine:  Fourteen-year-old Alexandra Reau runs a community-supported agriculture program... Blogging the Periodic Table: Rare earths Slate:  When it comes to the discovery of elements on the periodic table, you can divide the world into two parts—Ytterby, and everywhere else.

Thompson: Hard Truths About School Violence

1274464539663 Jack Stollmeyer, Philadelphia's school violence watchdog  has seen firsthand "the lengths to which administrators will go to cover up violence in schools."  In his EdWeek commentary, Give Us the Truth About School Violence, Stollmeyer recounts Philly's underreporting school crime by more than 100% a year, and how 70% of students who committed felonious assaults on teachers went unpunished.  The district violated federal and state law by refusing to expel kids who brought guns to school.  Stollmeyer supports increased alternative education for disruptive youths and opposes "nonsensical ideas like 'zero tolerance.'” Most important, writes Stollmeyer, "start listening to the teachers, nonteaching assistants, and school-based police officers on the front lines ... toiling in a workplace that is, too often, simply not safe."

Politics: Bad News For Edujobs (& Obama)

500x_toothbrush More bad news on the edujobs front, according to David Rogers at Politico, who reports that the Senate has little hope of adding education money to its current spending measure (Senate panel slashes Obama budget).  Meanwhile, the Obama-bashing has reached a fever pitch on the blogs (Everybody Hates Obama Daily Beast) in the polls (Obama not a great pitchman for his policies Slate) and on the Hill (House Democrats hit boiling point Washington Post).  The only silver lining in all the Obama-bashing going on right now is that it might end up being so overheated and early in the campaign season that the're time for the tide to turn / for pundits to re-evaluate the situation before anyone actually votes.  (Come to think of it, the way these things work there's probably time for that to happen several times between now and November.)  And, of course, RTTT advocates can breath a sigh of relief that their precious funding is safe -- for now.  But the long knives are out, and the perception among some will be that RTTT killed edujobs -- not a good situation in the long run. 

Quote: A "Sliver" Of Reform Money In A State Budget Crisis

Quotes2 "I cannot fathom how a sliver of reform money is seen as more important than the biggest reform to schools you can make, namely 'giving them enough teachers.'" -- Firedoglake's David Dayen

AM News: Many Teachers Making $100K In Chicago Area

$100,000 teachers Chicago Tribune: In the affluent enclaves of Highland Park and Deerfield, almost half the teachers in Township High School District 113 took home six-figure salaries -- the highest percentage in the state...News2Test Gains Renew N.C. Diversity Flap  EdWeeK: Widespread increases in Wake County's student test scores have become the latest issue in the school district's contentious school diversity fight... NJ governor seeks cap on school leaders' salaries AP:  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday proposed capping the salaries of top public school administrators and basing future raises on student achievement, a move he said was necessary to help districts lower costs and keep property tax increases in check... Alabama Teachers Org. Helps Underdog Win GOP Runoff EdWeek:  It starts with a history of bad blood between the AEA and Byrne, who got crossways with the association during his days in the state Senate and as the chancellor of the state's community college system. They sparred over tenure and charter schools... Ex-teacher in sex case married former Kentlake student Seattle Times:  A former Garfield High School teacher charged with having sex with a student last year married a man who was a student at Kentlake High School while she taught there.

Thompson: The New Generation Gap

Babyboomers Is Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post becoming the new Gerald Bracey (or William Strauss) by translating research that goes to the heart of policy debates? She explains how charter schools have had little effect on student achievement, and their policies have shown no impact on student performance.  Charters receive less per student funding, but they also have to spend less on special education.  The big difference is that traditional schools spent 18.6% of their budget on employee benefits, which is nearly twice as much as charters.  Benefit costs for older teachers are greater, so the different attitudes towards charters may not be educational as much generational and economic. Bill Strauss had a profound analysis of how those forces have fed our educational civil war.  

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Research: Facts Don't Change Anyone's Mind

936b20a93013f3968deeb8bf9308b2702f268b6b_m Don't think that more facts makes for better decisions, according to this roundup of commentary on knowledge research from The Atlantic Wire (How Facts Are Killing Politics): There are lots of obvious education-related implications of these studies, which highlight our distinct reluctance to change our minds. If facts don't change minds, then why do we insist on believing that more, better research will make a difference? Perhaps we're... unwilling to change our minds in the face of the facts.

Campaign 2010: Reformy Types Just Don't Get It

500x_6a00d8341c5dea53ef0120a5f3d380970c-800wiHey, everyone, I know there's a big recession going on but who cares about that?  Let's combine the results of highly questionable standardized tests with complicated statistical models and use the results  to determine who works and how much they make? I know, I know!  It's going to be really popular.  This is the perfect time to do this.

A year ago it seemed like education was Obama's strongest, most reliable policy issue.  That's certainly not the case right now.  And, as this NPR segment suggests, reformers' obsession with the new and uncertain idea of evaluating and paying teachers based on student achievement -- and their near-complete rule over the Duncan education department -- may play a role in dooming Democratic chances of keeping control of Congress in November. 

Others may see it differently, but for me it looks like wonks and advocates with no real idea how politics really work have pushed the Obama agenda to the right, relentlessly (naively?) hyping an agenda that's unproven, unlikely to affect fundamental changes, and -- most important of all -- increasingly unpopular.  Pushing for reform in the edujobs bill, and then whining but failing to fend off the Obey offsets, were the last straws for House and Senate members up for re-election -- and for teachers and others who are understandably worried about the economy.    

Standards: States Adapting Standards Without Notification

image from www.ascd.org Wanna know what states have adopted the Common Core Standards, and what stage they're at in the process?  ASCD has this handy dandy interactive map that tells you what's going on across the country (Status of State Adoption).  They're tracking adoptions and pending adoptions (reported but not formally announced).  As ASCD policy guru David Griffith notes, state departments of education often aren't communicating adoption of the standards to reporters, much less the public (here).

AM News: Will Education Record Save Colo's Bennet?

Colorado Dems arm-wrestle over who's the outsider AP:  Sen. Michael Bennet highlights his years as superintendent of Denver's public schools far more than his time as appointed senator...News2 Report Says Stimulus Spending Staved Off Layoffs EdWeek:  Even with the influx of federal dollars, districts' budgets were smaller last year than they were the school year before... Gov. Perry Offers Plan to Reduce Texas Dropouts EdWeek:  Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced a proposal to reduce the state's dropout rate by giving a $1,500 tax break for businesses that allow employees time to earn a high school diploma or GED... 'Common core standards': education reform that makes sense LA TImes (editorial):  The standards revolve around the fundamentals: what students should learn, and how they should learn it... Exploring The American Dream In The South Bronx NPR:  Arthur Levine has spent much of his career writing about how tough it is for poor minority kids to get into college. Rarely has this widely respected educator written more urgently than in his latest book, Unequal Fortunes. It was a journey that took him back to his childhood in the South Bronx. 

Media: New Ed Journalism Conference & Fellowship Program

ScreenHunter_36 Jun. 26 16.44 There's going to be a big education journalism conference at the end of September, courtesy of the good folks at the Columbia University J-School in collaboration with the New York Times Institute and two foundations (Spencer and Atlantic). The dates are Sept. 29 –Oct. 2, in New York City. The panelists and speakers are TBD, but the topics and format are all set.  Check out the latest information here.The event is also the kickoff for the New York Times Institute Fellowship on Education Reporting, which will include 25 journalists and will focus on urban education coverage.   Applications for the fellowship are due September 3.  Information here.

Boards: Ed Reporters Serving On School Boards

340x News from longtime Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Bowler is that he's been appointed by the governor of Maryland to the Baltimore County school board. He gets sworn in on Friday.  Bowler covered education for many years, and then worked for the USDE for a time.  He's not the only former education reporter to end up on a school board, however. Former NYT reporter/editor Gene Maeroff is apparently now serving on the Edison, NJ, school board.

Media: Spencer Fellow Gets Big Book Deal

ScreenHunter_07 May. 28 21.44 Peg Tyre, Spencer Fellow for 2009-2010, just signed a big fat book deal for a project that is (thankfully) not going to be about KIPP or TFA or the Harlem Children's Zone or Michelle Rhee or Green Dot or Race To The Top.  It's a parent-friendly book tentatively called The Good School: How To Get The Children We Love The Education They Deserve, and will be published by Holt. It follows Tyre's bestselling book from a couple of years ago, The Trouble With Boys, which spent two weeks on the NYT bestseller list and was featured in People, Redbook, USNews, Newsweek.com.  According to Tyre, the new book will be about "what education research says makes a good school and is aimed squarely at parents of prek -8th grade kids."  This isn't the first big accolade for the two year old Spencer program, run out of Columbia's j-school, which I participated in during 08-09.  Nancy Solomon, from the first year of the fellowship, recently won a Peabody for her hour-long audio documentary.  Elizabeth Green wrote a widely-read NYT Sunday Magazine story on classroom teaching techniques.  Read all about it here.

Thompson: Small Alternative Schools Boost Grad Rates In NYC

JustinThink what you want about the insufficiencies of many Gates-funded small schools and the creaming effects of charter school proliferation.  Those aren't the only kinds of small schools around.  New York City has, with extra funding and political cover, provided high quality alternative schools to struggling and credit deficient students, and -- according to a new Washington Monthly / Hechinger Report article -- they have "worked wonders with struggling students." Regular high schools had graduated 19% of overage, undercredited students, but alternative schools' graduation rates were 56%.  Ask inner city teachers how to improve the learning climate of neighborhood schools, and we will overwhelmingly agree with the report, that the solution is obvious.  We must open more alternative schools.

Campaign 2010: Facetime With Sen. Bennet (For Free!)

ScreenHunter_44 Jul. 07 17.48 On Tuesday evening I was lucky enough to get an email inviting me to participate in a phone call this evening with embattled Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, during which we will apparently all talk about education reform - for free.  Richard Barth (KIPP), Jon Schnur (NLNS), Lauren Dutton (?) are listed as participants.  This is apparently the second such event.  I do not recall being invited to participate in the first.  I am sure I won't be asked to participate in any future such events. For details -- they said I could pass it along -- click below. And if you participate on the call be sure to ask Bennet how he would have vote on the House edujobs bill and whether he thinks RTTTT is as transformative a program as Arne Duncan does -- and tell us how he responds. 

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Thompson: Making Health As Important As Achievement

Michelle-Obama-Soccer-1"We need to take this issue (childhood obesity) as seriously as improving underachieving schools, as seriously as eliminating youth violence or stopping the spread of HIV."  -  Michelle Obama NAACP Address 

EdSec: Obama Education Chief Worth Up To $3.7 Million [upd]

ScreenHunter_42 Jul. 07 17.47 Arne Duncan, the U.S. education secretary, said in his disclosure that he had assets in 2009 of between $1.58 million and $3.7 million...(Disclosures: No surprises for Obama cabinet members Tribune).  Seems like a lot to me, especially given the absence of any reported liabilities.  Does Duncan come from money, or does his wife?  Did he make and save a lot of money from his pro basketball career.  Did he get some good investment tips from the folks at Ariel Capital Management?  I'll try and find out.

UPDATE:  Thanks to a kind commenter for flagging my half-baked headline.  Still talking to the USDE about releasing the full disclosure form, though I imagine it's got to be online somewhere else already. 

AM News: Scores Fall For Washington DC K-8 Students

NAACP aims to stay in national debate Washington Post:  The organization also hopes to open up a debate on charter schools, and has invited Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Harlem Children's Zone founder Geoffrey Canada and others to discuss the issue... Turnaround Deadline Squeezes States, Districts EdWeek:  Some still await federal approval—and money—for plans to overhaul poorly performing schools starting this fall... News2 Lawsuit seeks changes in California school funding AP:  Groups representing low-income families sued the state of California Monday in the second major legal action alleging the government is failing to adequately fund public education... D.C. elementary schools lose ground on test scores; secondary gains continue Washington Post:  After two years of significant gains across the D.C. school system, elementary students lost ground in reading and math test scores this year... Nashville Schools See Racial Disparities In Suspensions NPR:  According to a Department of Education report, some 40 percent of students who received out of school suspensions are black. In Tennessee, the racial disparity in suspensions is even more profound...  Obama planning another back-to-school speech to students Dallas Morning News:  On Tuesday, representatives from the Texas Education Agency and some school districts said they were just now learning about the planned speech and that administrators will determine how to proceed in the coming weeks... On Facebook, Telling Teachers How Much They Meant NYT:  People who have been out of school for decades are expressing sentiments they dared not express in their youth.

World Cup Reform: Who's Chest-Kicking Whom?

image from www.likecool.com image from photos1.blogger.com

Seeing this crazy kung fu kick to the chest during Sunday's World Cup final (right) reminded me of Zinadine Zidane's infamous head butt against the from four long years ago and the crude use to which I put it (left).  Remember?  It seems like so long ago.  Back when I was still on blogspot and the AFT blog was my sole ally in the think tank debunking business.  Who's kicking whom in the present school reform world? I don't know -- maybe you have better ideas but I tried out a couple below. Nothing very inspired, I fear.  And no, my graphics skills haven't improved.  

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Thompson: Pawns in Their Game

Rahm David Rogers at Politico reports that the Obama Administration played to business and wealthy donors when it threatened to veto Rep. Obey’s $10 billion compromise bill to save jobs. Rahm Emanuel wants to use teachers’ unions as "a convenient foil," and to counter beliefs that the Administration is anti-business. But I thought it was all about the children? Educators on either side of the bitter civil war over "reform," who think that the substance of our positions are a factor in this debate, should read the comments following the article.

Media: Ed Writers Dominate Knight Wallace Fellowship

image from conference.journalists.org I'm only two months behind on this but maybe you missed it, too:  Three of this coming year's Knight Wallace Fellows (at Michigan) are education reporters, compared to the usual one or occasional two.  Justin Pope (AP), Nick Perry (Seattle Times), and Emily Richmond (Las Vegas Sun)  are the three.  (Richmond is the only K12 reporter of the bunch.)  This means (a) that education reporters are getting better and better, or (b) that reporters on other beats are getting worse, or (c) your local paper is losing its best reporter for a year, or (d) none of the above.  Congrats, condolences.  Read all about them and their projects here.  And don't worry -- they'll be back in June 2011. 

Funding: The Gates Foundation Boogeyman

P114BlowyGuy Nick Anderson's piece on the Gates Foundation (Gates Foundation playing pivotal role in changes for education system) chronicles all the buzz and the influence of the philanthropy's work -- a familiar story to most of us -- but does little to help me understand its impact -- what it's getting for its money, how the education landscape in its largest sense is being changed by Gates's presence.  Sure, Gates is big compared to everyone else.  Sure it's got people and grants pretty much everywhere.  But -- like charter schools, like Race to the Top, like TFA -- its impact is dwarfed by a massive public education system and prescribed by powerful political forces.  This will continue to be the case, I believe, until Gates et al develop political strategies that can unlock large pools of public dollars. If and when they do so, now that might be something to be worried about.  Until then, the lack of real world impact at a substantial scale is an issue for critics and advocates and journalists all to consider.

Food Stamps: Poverty Rises Despite Stimulus Spending

image from www.brokelyn.com You're seeing more and more people pulling out cards like this in grocery store checkout lines.  Poverty figures are already at record highs -- 38 million Americans on food stamps-- and still rising, even as the federal measure becomes more and more problematic on policy and political fronts, according to this interesting Stateline overview (More poverty by any measure).  Meanwhile, states are experimenting with their own poverty measures and calling on Washington to update and refine the current (old) poverty measure.

AM News: Duncan And Murray In Washington State

Together for Edujobs PoliticsK12:  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spent last Friday in Washington state stumping for the edujobs bill, alongside Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a key member of Congress who hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with the administration on K-12 policy issues... News2 L.A. school district replaces first principal of new downtown arts campus LA Times:  The rocky voyage of the city's flagship arts campus took a new turn Monday with the removal of the downtown high school's first and only principal... DPS works to end disparities in forced teacher placement Denver Post:  Denver Public Schools this year placed unassigned veteran teachers into jobs more equitably than in years past, district statistics show... Wyo. schools escape effects of down economy so far AP:  While most government agencies and programs struggle with budget cuts, Wyoming's public schools will face no out-of-the-ordinary changes in state funding during the coming school year... NCLB funding formula hinders schools like Harrisburg PennLive.com:  Fairfax County, with less than 6 percent student poverty, gets more Title I money per disadvantaged student than the Harrisburg City School District with a 33 percent student poverty rate... Parents sue over 8-year-old's school arrest AP:  The parents of an 8-year-old autistic girl who was arrested at her northern Idaho elementary school are suing the school district and the sheriff's department, saying the agencies violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Blogs: School Credit For A Student's Zero

ScreenHunter_11 Jun. 10 19.16 It's been hard to find much that's new or interesting on the blog front (right?), and I must admit to feeling lately like it was more useful for me to hunt out things you may not have seen already.  But I chanced a look around and found a few things of note today:  Does Sousa story prove Rhee is right? Jay Mathews:  the principal created exactly the kind of distress among many of his teachers that has led Rhee to have such a bad reputation among many veteran educators here... As I was saying about not trusting test data The Line:  Tell me how to feel about sitting in the library of my school last summer and being congratulated for my passing rates... Ravitch on teachers and her critics Valerie Strauss:  The privatization movement has driven one-time ideological foes into the same camp... How schools get credit for a TAKS zero Rick Casey:  The child needed zero correct answers for his or her teachers and administrators to get credit for his or her "improvement."... Dorm May Drop KKK Member's Name Gawker:  The University of Texas at Austin is starting to think about changing the name of a student dormitory that is named after a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan, William Stewart Simkins... The left needs a right brain EJ Dionne:  Passion may come especially hard to Democrats this year, and even in the best of times it can be difficult to muster among liberals.

Quote: "Turning Every Good Idea Into A Moral Crusade"

image from ministryoftype.co.uk "These flicks accelerate the troubling trend of turning every good idea into a moral crusade, so that retooling K-12 becomes a question of moral rectitude... They also wildly romanticize charters, charter school teachers, and the kids and families, making it harder to speak honestly or bluntly." -- AEI pundit Rick Hess on the slew of edu-documentaries coming out this year.

Thompson: Revisiting The Promise of Small Schools, Part I

Videosch New York City’s Quest to Learn is a small school designed around the ways that video games are built, and Heather Chaplin's recent report on NPR made it clear that the school is empowering kids for the 21st century. But there's more to it than that.  The story also adds support to Richard Colvin's and Tom Toch's conclusions that small schools deserve another look. 

Roundup: Weekend Reading You May Have Missed

The Medium Is the Medium NYT David Brooks:  Just having those 12 books seemed to have as much positive effect as attending summer school... Whether a Child Lights Up, or Chows Down NYT:  Some smoking opponents fear that a choice has been made — with obesity the winner, quite possibly for the wrong reasons... Southern Belle: Slate:  Constance McMillen's suit over prom is winning over the South... Sen. Bennet Boots Intern Over Fund-Raising Pitch WSJ:  "With a donation of $2,400 or more,” Garofano allegedly wrote, activists pressing for the fuel-standards bill “can schedule a one-on-one hour long meeting with the Senator.” Hosting “an event for $5,000 or more,” the email said, would offer “a better chance to lobby Michael.”... Student avatars could help improve teacher training USA Today:  That, after all, is the goal of the TeachME project: to effectively eliminate the trial-by-fire approach to classroom-management training, and replace it with something more instructive and less dangerous.

Video: HCZ Founder Highlights Charter Firing Power

"Some teachers can't teach," Canada says. "If we can't fire them, we should send them to the upper-middle-class schools!" (here)

AM News: Schools Opting For Weakest Turnaround Model (Again)

"Transformation" Most Popular School Improvement Model EdWeek:  Schools receiving millions of dollars in federal money meant to reverse years of low achievement are overwhelmingly opting for "transformation," the least disruptive of four intervention methods endorsed by the USDE... A Chosen Few Are Teaching for America NYT:  Teach for America has News2become an elite brand that will help build a résumé, and in a bad economy, it’s a two-year job guarantee with a good paycheck... Beyond the Test-Prep Bounds WSJ:  For the last 10 years, this New Jersey elementary school has stuck to a teaching system based on more visceral indicators: how a child treats peers, and aptitude in the school's garden, musical and athletic areas... Students, Meet Your New Teacher, Mr. Robot NYT:  Computer scientists are developing machines that can teach people simple skills, like household tasks and vocabulary... Educational Hope vs. Teenage Reality NYT:  Researchers measuring a home computer’s educational value to a schoolchild in a low-income household are finding that test scores tend to go down, not up... Duncan: Congress needs to act now on school money AP:  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is urging Congress to act soon to increase education funding because cash-strapped states can't wait until the fall to determine if they must lay off thousands of teachers. 

Books: Steve Brill's Big Book Project

160x120_0702_spynew Word is getting out that bigtime magazine journalist Steve Brilll is now writing an education book (which explains in part his belated interest in the backwaters of school reform). As you may recall, Brill has written a couple of much-noted education stories over the last year or so, including one in the New Yorker about rubber rooms and another more recently in the NYT Sunday Magazine about teachers unions.  (As is my wont, I seem to have panned both efforts, repeatedly: Best New Yorker Article Of 2009Steve Brill's Last StandBrill's Big Sloppy Wet Kiss For Reformy Types).  According to Brill, the book is "a narrative about the so-called education reform movement" and will describe how various stakeholders on the center and left have jousted and adjusted over the last couple of years.  There's no publication date or tentative book title, though Brill does have a publisher (Simon & Schuster).  Crossed fingers that the project is illuminating and thought-provoking.  

Schedule: Duncan Ducks Seattle Teachers Convention [upd]

Post_full_1276314520_c28c087299_b Another boring week ahead for the EdSec's media schedule, but at least he's not out in Seattle getting heckled.  Come on, Arne.  Get in there and rebound. 

Correction:  Sorry.  I'm claiming heatstroke.  He's in Seattle but doing Patty Murray events rather than at the AFT thing.  And claiming that Edujobs will be done without cutting RTTT.  Which is certainly possible, given the Senate.  

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Obama: Not A Magic President

image from www.thenation.com Ultraliberal Eric Alterman has a long analysis of the disappointments and limitations of the Obama administration you might want to check out: "What should Obama do? Should he bail out the banks? Nationalize them? Break them up? Allow Detroit to die? Invite the firing of tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of teachers, police, firefighters and emergency workers by state and local governments strapped by falling tax revenues? ... And by the way, exactly how would he accomplish these things—and simultaneously? By legislation? By executive fiat? By magic?" (Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now)

Thompson: The New Segregation

Segregation_228 David Berliner's guest post at The Answer Sheet (New Analysis of the Achievement Gap: 1/2 x 1/2 = 11/2) offers a way out of our educational "reform" wars.  Berliner cites an Australian study showing that the effects of being  poor in a poor school magnifies the effects of family poverty by 1½ standard deviations -- "a huge difference in achievement!"  He also cites a reanalysis of the Coleman Report data showing that the racial and class composition of a student’s school are 1 3/4 times more important than the student’s race or class.  Berliner says that when poor children go to poor  schools, and wealthy children go to wealthy schools, we grow closer to "an apartheid public school system."  So we can blame the family or we can blame the teacher, but the intellectually honest approach is "Let's call the whole thing off." 

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Politics: Tough Times For Team Obama

ScreenHunter_43 Mar. 05 19.40 It's stating the obvious to say that these aren't fun times for Obama's education team, slammed on the left by the teachers union (among others) and by reformy right not pushing hard enough to keep the RTTT money out of the House edujobs bill.  They've got key appropriators like David Obey irked at them, publicly so, and high-profile critics like Diane Ravitch running around the country soaking up the glory and support that used to be reserved for golden boy Arne Duncan.  They've got defectors on the House education committee too, like Rep. Chu, who are pushing back hard against some of the tougher parts of the administration's education agenda.  Meantime, the media narrative is slowly turning against them, including this week's critical-minded Claudio Sanchez segments on turnarounds at Beach HS and Annapolis. But I don't think this is just a unions vs. reform story that's going on. It's just as much about the economy and the elections. Especially on the turnaround front, school reform has gotten enmeshed with job security issues.  And House members and a third of the Senate have to get re-elected in a few months, so they have to be about their business rather than the President's - an inevitable rebalancing after months of whatever-Duncan-wants.  The reform types probably feel like they have to push as hard and fast as they can, but another way to go would be to consolidate and implement between now and 2011 so that when it comes time to figure out what to do next they can lay claim to some real-world accomplishments.

Cartoon: Parents Voting For Charter Schools

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Studying: Why Don't Teachers Require Much Of It?

There's troubling n160x120_alarm_clock526ews out about the substantial decline in the amount of time kids spend studying out of class (What happened to studying? Boston Globe):  "In survey after survey since 2000, college and high school students are alarmingly candid that they are simply not studying very much at all."  Assuming that's true, then what's the reason?  The Atlantic Wire has rounded up some possible explanations for why that may be the case (8 Theories on Why College Kids Are Studying Less). The most compelling ones to me are those that surround teachers' individual and collective reluctance/inability to make the hard, daily, collective push to make out of class studying a realistic expectation.  And, sure, of course, texting and fingernail painting. 

Campaign 2010: Edu-Politics Heating Up

Page0000001_2 Relationship Chills Between Teachers Unions, Obama NPR:  Notably absent from both national teachers unions' annual meetings this week are President Obama and his education secretary. According to the head of one of the unions, if the administration does not rethink its policies, it will be on a collision course with teachers and their unions... TFA Alumnus Bill Ferguson Running For Office Whitney Tilson:  "Most recently, he worked for Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso, executing some of that system's most comprehensive and exciting reform plans"... Senators' logic for fighting cuts to Race to Top flawed Valerie Strauss:  *Cutting the funds as Obey’s bill proposes would be “pulling the rug out from under the efforts of thousands of communities around the country working together to improve their schools.” Well, not really, no, and not actually...  A comparison of the gubernatorial candidates' education plans Las Vegas Sun:  Both candidates claim their plans represent innovation, reform and accountability — the buzzwords that parents and the wider community are eager to hear, said UNLV associate political science professor David Fott.

AM News: A Lull In The Action

Edujobs or Race to Top: What's Worth More to States? PK12:  Depending on which state you live in, the edujobs bill may not be such a good deal—especially if your state might win a Race to the Top grant... News2Seattle Superintendent Sets Ambitious Agenda EdWeek:  In her first three years in Seattle, schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson closed schools, oversaw a new student-assignment plan, added an exam and revamped the way the district funds schools. And she's just getting started... D.C. schools chancellor plans to expand use of standardized tests Washington Post:  D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee plans to significantly expand the use of standardized tests so that, eventually, every D.C. student from kindergarten through high school is regularly assessed to measure academic progress and the effectiveness of teachers...Unlocking More of Mark Twain's Unpublished Material PBS:  Mark Twain had a lot to say, and most of it was funny. Reading his novels and essays, it doesn't seem like he pulled his punches; he said what he wanted, and a lot of it was pretty radical for the times. But as it turned out, he restrained himself greatly. Spencer Michels reports on the author's long-awaited autobiography. 

Cartoon: Extreme Ways Prevent Returning Children


Quote: Obey Calls Edujobs Criticisms "A Joke"

"There is nothing wrong with providing the Secretary a modest amount of funds to promote educational change. God knows we need it. But to suggest we are being unduly harsh is a joke." - House appropriator David Obey

Video: The Breakfast Club (And 99 Other Great Movie Moments)

What's my excuse for posting this NSFW video compilation of the 100 best movie putdowns of all time?  Reason number one:  What's school all about if not insults? Reason number two:  One of the best snippets is from The Breakfast Club, which as you may recall is really just about Saturday detention. Remember, folks NSFW = volume down or headphones up.

Roundup: Twitter Wednesday

07teachers-art6-popup Links, news, commentary all in one place - because it's hot and the World Cup semifinal is on:

    Hit "refresh" to get newer items, or click here to get older items.

    Thompson: Lessons From Annapolis High School

    Turnarounds Mass Insight’s Turnaround Challenge, which Education Secretary Arne Duncan claims as his Bible, points out that rushed and "light touch" interventions can't address the complex ecologies of the toughest schools and warns that "turnaround cannot succeed and endure without broad engagement and buy-in." Listening to Claudio Sanchez's recent reports on turnarounds in Beach H.S. and Annapolis is a reminder of this wisdom - and a warning.  The successful Annapolis overhaul began in 2004, and it included extensive community partnerships such as the Community Ambassadors and the Summer Bridge Program, as well as performance pay, a 12 month school year, expansion of Advanced Placement, and an aggressive press for "readiness." Mass Insight should protect its brand and warn against quick and dirty turnarounds like the ones being rushed into place at Beach High School. Mr. Duncan, we’ve known school turnarounds, we're a friend of turnarounds. Your SIGs are not turnarounds.

    Teachers: AFT Official Slams "Mutual Consent" Hiring

    Quotes2 “At a minimum, it’s a return to the old industrial model, top-down management of schools that didn’t work then and isn’t going to work now...It’s definitely going back to yesterday.” -- Rob Weil in EdWeek



    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.