Facebook is suing Teachbook, a tiny Chicago-based startup, for patent infringement or something like that. Already inclined to slam the 500M-strong social media site for all its other flaws and misdeeds, bloggers are defending Teachbook noting that "book" is pretty generic and the two logos don't resemble each other. In the short term, it's a boon to Teachbook -- publicity that they could never ever have afforded, plus that whole David V. Goliath thing. Sorry about all the blind links -- hate them -- here's one from Wired (link).
It's six (slightly NSFW) minutes out of your life, and the connection to education is tenuous at best, but you always knew you were born to run. There's the kids from Glee, Jimmy Fallon as Springsteen, Don Draper and Liz Lemon dancing and singing. Plus Betty White and Kate Gosselin.
Two notable additions to all that's already been said about the LA Times value-added series: (1) Many of the teachers who score the best on the LA Times value added ranking are -- it's revealed in the reader comments sections -- veering off the prescribed curriculum and pacing standards required by the district. Once again, curriculum standards and accountability measures lack alignment (2) Several of the schools that rate highest on value rank much lower on absolute achievement and other measures. Parents give Wilbur Elementary top ratings (a Nine on the Great School's ranking) for its robotics and Hebrew offerings and its 78% science scores, but the LATVAM prefers Esperanza Elementary (Two on that ranking) where Science scores were 16%. -- John Thompson
Thirteen thousand kids turn 18 every day and Rock The Vote is embarking on its biggest midterm voter registration campaign ever. Events and celebrity appearances this week and following Check it out here, or read thee presser below.
The National Journal is a well-known and extremely useful news outlet that's not read much outside of Washington and not available much of it to nonsubscribers. But this Medialiate update on the new National Journal notes that there's likely to be a lot more free content -- and hopefully at least some of that will be education-related. (More Eliza Krigman!) The company (which includes The Atlantic) has been on a hiring spree and there's been lots of talk about NJ reshaping itself to become a big new competitor for Politico and the Washington Post. They also might finally integrate their three separate websites and newsrooms. Back in June they sent out an email looking for "thought leaders" in education and other disciplines -- see below.
President Obama is talking about/hinting at pushing another jobs bill this fall -- which could theoretically include teachers (and theoretically though probably not pass). Here's the statement -- via Wonkbook.
The book version of Elizabeth Green's very popular May 2010 NYTSM cover story Building A Better Teacher has been bought by Norton, according to Publishers Marketplace. Green is founding co-editor of GothamSchools, member of the board of the Education Writers Association, and a Spencer Education Fellow (we're the best!). Norton publishes well-known titles like Guns, Germs, and Steel, Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis, and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm. As you may recall, Green's story focused on the work of Doug Lemov, whose book Teach Like A Champion came out at about the same time. Congrats, condolences.
The WORST Education Fails Of All Time (Huffington Post)
Tony Danza's classroom-based reality show debuts in about a month on A&E. This is not a joke. But just how much did Danza actually do as a "co-teacher" at Northeast High? Videogum would like to know (Tony Danza Is A Liar.)
Everything you ever wanted to know about Mississippi school's now-reversed affirmative action / segregation student council policy, including the student handbook, the lawsuit, and a picture of the school's leadership team (Black Principal Runs School With Segregated Class Elections)
"Blacks and whites are not engaged in some zero sum education contest."
-- TNR's Jonathan Chait on last weeks' Washington Post achievement gap story. Via Eduwonk.
The LA Times' much-debated list of teachers and schools is now finally online -- you can check it out here. Will this ultimately serve the greater good and push districts and schools to do a better job evaluating, supporting, and screening teachers? I hope so. Will it earn the LA Times some sort of notoriety and recognition on the journalism front? Probably. (That's what happened in Season Five of The Wire, as you may recall.) In the short run, however, it's going to raise a LOT of questions about the whole standardized-testing-accountability theory of action. As it should. The LA Times is linking iffy standardized tests to relatively small groups of student test-takers, ignoring in questionable test scoring and monitoring by the testing companies, and turning the results into individual ratings for teachers -- that it is making public.
An earnest and potentially inaccurate ad from Orlando Congressman Alay Grayson (D):
I'd promo this even if they didn't sponsor me: Manny Rivera and Rudy Crew talk smack in this Scholastic Administrator inviterview with Wayne D'Orio. (flash required).
Crossed fingers that there's a Stephen Colbert venture into K12 education to follow his new (made up) university:
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Stephen Colbert University - Andrew Hacker|
Stephen Colbert University (Comedy Central)
"AJ" was an 8th grader who could handle homelessness but wasn't sure he could handle New York City’s higher requirements to pass 8th grade. The minimum passing grade was raised from 65 to 70, 90% attendance was required, as well as passing end-of-year tests. AJ was allowed to make up work that was "waaay overdue," and he was passed with a grade of 65. "All year long they injected us with this hype ... and that is what it was hype," commented AJ in his wonderful public radio report on NPR (listen here). AJ first asked why his school received a grade of a "B" on the district’s report card when it only scored 49.9%. The answer from the central office was "ooooh," followed by nervous laughter. Then AJ asked his principal why he was passed on. "I don’t believe in social promotion like that, but ... what is the purpose of holding back a child?" said the principal before asking AJ if he had learned his lesson. Clearly she did not listen to the student's answer before saying that it was good that AJ had learned his lesson. Like the principal, and presumably AJ, I have mixed feelings about social promotion. But like a teenager, I am firmly opposed to the hypocrisy that accompanies it. -- John Thompson
Starting at 12 noon Eastern you should be able to click on the play button above and listen to the Month In Review roundtable conference call about the education news of the month. (And what a month it's been!) If that doesn't work, click here to go to the site page. We're scheduled to have Jay Mathews, Greg Toppo, Dorie Turner, and Beth Shuster on the line. It's raw and unrehearsed and so it should be pretty lively. If you want to comment or ask a question during the show use thisweekineducation at gmail dot com or send me something on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, or press "1" if you're a call-in listener. We'll try and save time for some interaction at the end of the show. For general comments (ie, "this show is great / sucks") use the hashtag #twie to make sure we don't miss your brilliant insights.
"Weren't we supposed to have jetpacks by the time all this primitive face-to-face learning stuff became obsolete?" -- The Future of Schools (Mother Jones)
As you may recall from last year, the Gates foundation gave 15 states extra money for consulting help -- first in secret and then publicly. The assistance wasn't always helpful. Minnesota Public Radio wondered whether McKinsey did a great job with that state's application. Illinois got help from BCG and didn't win a dime. But now Robert Manwaring has dug up the Education First link to the four states (Hire a Winning Grant Writer). Jenn Vranek, the founding partner, used to work with Achieve, and Gates, among others.
The obvious next step is to gather a list of which consulting firms worked with which states on grantwriting and presentation (Andywonk is claiming to have worked with several unspecified states on the latter). I've got an email in to the Gates folks and will let you know what they tell me if anything. I'm not a Gates Foundation conspiracy theorist, though I am bothered that they operate without much disclosure or scrutiny. Bet they tell me to ask the states individually rather than just giving me the list themselves. They know I hate to work that hard.
It's easier to get thousands of people to give $10 than to get a few to give thousands. Or at least that's the idea. Once limited to American Idol and the Haiti relief effort, mobile phone voting and donating technology is now spreading to universities and K12 school systems. Check out this brief interview I did for Scholastic Administrator with one of the pioneers behind the approach.
(1) You can Twitter or email comments or questions during the show if you are so moved. We'll read some of them on the air during the last segment (firstname.lastname@example.org, @alexanderrusso, hashtag is #twie);
(2) You can call in to listen to the show and / or make a comment or question, just like one of those USDE conference calls. The number is (323) 417-6754. There's no passcode. Just don't call in before noon since that will mess things up; and
(3) Technical problems are almost guaranteed, given my production skills and a new Internet-based format (Blog Talk Radio). I'll do my best not to do what the governor of NY did yesterday, however.
Here's the link to the show online.
Sara Mead gets some free publicity from the Washington Post here. What no one asks Mead or any of the early childhood education advocates is what to do about Head Start? It's not going away. It's not effective, according to this 2010 Impact Study from HHS (PDF via Paul Tough). But the ECE folks just pretend like it's not there. I can't blame them. It's a tough lobby to move, as I learned trying to fiddle with the renewal process a very long time ago. But it seems strange and perhaps even disingenous for folks like Mead to spend so much time talking about early childhood issues without talking about this program. Especially since any early childhood expansion will have to coordinate with Head Start.
The most interesting things about the RTTT results announced this week aren't the results themselves, but rather what the results tell us about competitive grant evaluations and about Secretary Duncan. Despite all efforts to come up with a transparent, reliable, numerical rating system, the RTTT judging results were off in at least a couple of regards (Ohio and Hawaii, for starts). To me it's a vivid reminder that judging and evaluating quality aren't particularly reliable endeavors, even when you have total control over all the pieces (the rating system, the judges, etc). Even more, the results provide a peek into the workings of the Duncan education department or the Obama White House or both. Faced with results that didn't match what they should have been, Duncan (or the White House) went with the numbers. It's a somewhat disturbing decision, a rigid over reliance on numbers and processes. Over-riding the judges' results no doubt would have hurt some feelings inside the Department among those who have shaped and become wedded to the RTTT process. But there would have been no real firestorm if Colorado and Louisiana had gotten the awards instead of Ohio and Hawaii -- at least no more of a firestorm than the current one. The RTTT program would have been strengthened rather than weakened by the inclusion of human judgement.
Paul Tough in the New York Times recently made a huge point: that the graduation rate of seniors in high-poverty schools has dropped from 86% in 2000 to 68% in 2008, as the rate in low-poverty schools remained constant at 91%. This is crucial as data-driven systems like New York City and Washington D.C. have become so skilled in fabricating distorting graduation statistics, and Texas has perfected the art of hiding the low test scores of kids they just pass on. The senior graduation rate shows the percentage of students who played by their system’s rules but who could not make it across the finish line. It means that many more poor students did not learn enough in twelve years to make it over the hump. Or to put it another way, it shows the percentage of times that adults, despite tens of billions of increased expenditures, could not help these students across the finish line. -- John Thompson
Demonstrating that his comments last week weren't the unfortunate mis-statement some of us thought or hoped they were, US education secretary Arne Duncan weighed back into the value-added debate last night in Arkansas, arguing for more data sharing with parents by districts (Washington Post). Indeed, districts should be sharing information with parents. And, it's possible that the LA Times' act of irresponsibility will help pressure districts and schools to do better. But, even more important, districts should themselves be using and acting on the outcomes that the data reveal. We already know that report cards and rankings aren't enough -- parents don't respond vigorously enough, and there aren't sufficient pressures on schools to make improvements. It can't all be on the parents to make decisions. And why isn't Duncan focusing on RTT this week?
“At some point, you have to say: Time’s up, pencils down.” - USDE spokesperson Justin Hamilton (in Politico)
It's been about a year now that I've been posting Chicago education news and commentary at ChicagoNow.com, an offshoot "hive" of blogs (think Huffington Post) published by the Chicago Tribune. My little blog -- District 299 -- got spun off this site in 2006 or so, and focuses exclusively on Chicago schools. As of this summer, the big bad ChicagoNow.com generates 500 comments a day and 15 million pageviews a month and was recently recognized for its innovative model by Mashable and Poynter along with WikiLeaks, Everyblock, Spot.us, and Fwix (it's true -- click the link) . Truth be told, most of the other blogs on ChicagoNow are lifestyle and sports blogs, or neighborhood blogs, but I've gained a lot of readers moving from the original standalone site and the period I was with Catalyst, and have learned a lot from being part of the ChicagoNow team (they've learned a lot from me, too).
Friday's noontime education roundtable is going to be exciting because (a) August has been so full of education news, (b) one of the journalists involved in making the news (LA Times education editor Beth Shuster) is going to be on the show, and (c) we're going to do the show "live" on the Internet as well as via podcast and download. That means you can listen in on your computer (or mobile device) or call in and listen in live via regular old telephone. We're still a couple of days away but here’s the link to the website where you will be able to check out the show (live or afterwards). It's something called Blog Talk Radio that was suggested to me by Scholastic's Tyler Reed (and encouraged by Bronx Teacher). All sorts of important and obscure folks use it. Here’s an explanation of the different ways (online, via phone, or by recorded podcast) you can access the show. Before or during the show you can email me at email@example.com with suggestions, comments or questions, or at @alexanderrusso on Twitter. The "official" hashtag is #twie (for "thisweekineducation")
What keeps jumping out to me is what a small game RTTT is and always has been, relatively speaking. Politically, it's not the Ground Zero mosque. Financially, it's not edujobs. It's not publishing teachers' value-added scores. It's not even No Child Left Behind, which pumps billions into schools each year and makes them do all sorts of awful things like publish subgroup achievement data and provide after school tutoring to kids that may be just as bad as what they're getting during the day. Still, as anticipated, there's a fair amount of grumbling going on since yesterday's announcement of the 10 RTTT winners. Republicans grumbling about Democratic states. Western states grumbling about an East Coast bias. East Coast grumblings about Hawaii. Stephanie Banchero at the WSJ has a roundup here. All may have good points. [corrected WSJ link - sorry]
"Everyone knows that exclusive private kindergartens in Manhattan are too expensive, too competitive, and make parents crazy. But one good WSJ story on $400 per hour kindergarten interview consultants [Prepping for the Playdate Test] really drives home the point: everyone involved here is awful." (Gawker)
More and more, it seems like the LA Times is becoming the story, not the teachers whose work was rated and whose ratings were (and apparently still will be) published. Watch senior editor Doug Smith really struggle with this extended interview about the story the paper put out, stammering and hesitating more and more as the interview proceeds.
The rankings are just one measure, Smith says. But they're important. They've been around a long time. But they could still use improvement.
Ever wondered what some of the education journalists whose stories you read all the time are really like? Tune in this Friday the 27th at noon Eastern for the "Month In Review," a live half-hour audio discussion of the month's education news. This month's all-stars include Jay Mathews (Washington Post), Dorie Turner (AP), Greg Toppo (USA Today), Beth Shuster (LAT), and -- tentatively -- Stephanie Banchero (Wall Street Journal). We'll discuss the big stories of the month, winners and losers, and what was over- and under-covered. It'll be a lively, informal conversation. And since we're doign to do this live you'll be able to ask questions or make comments during the show. Mark it down on your calendar -- I'll send out more details tomorrow.
The LA Times value-added stories combine key elements of The Wire better than David Simon could have ever imagined. The first four seasons of the show explained how the abuse of data accelerated the de-industrialization of America, helped lose the "War on Drugs," and created the illusion of educational progress where there was none. The fifth season condemned journalism for being "wounded and onanistic and self-absorbed." (Top brass ordered up big stories as if they were lottery tickets, hoping one of them would make a splash big enough to win a Pulitzer.) What's happening now with the LA Times is a real-world version of the show, a sixth season that never happened on TV. -- John Thompson
Something about the LA Times story publishing value-added ratings of teachers is deeply irksome to me and many others -- even those who aren't inclined to defend teachers or districts. Something about the story grates on us; we can't let go. So it was fascinating to look at what LAT education reporters Jason Felch and Jason Song (pictured) said they thought about their work from a screened set of reader emails they answered last week (Chat about 'Grading the teachers') on the LAT website.
What I got from reading the transcript was Song and Felch's strong sense of righteous frustration (most of it directed against the district), an unwarranted sense of having been first to shed light on something that well, everyone already knew about in general terms, and a BIG disconnect between the what they thought their story was about and what many of us who read it seemed to think was the focus. They seem confused, or perhaps want to have it both ways. Click below for my annotated comments on key moments in the transcript.
Struggling to figure out who's talking to you in the hall or the teachers' lounge? There's an interesting article in the New Yorker this week about prosopagnosia -- "the inability to recognize faces and places" especially out of context. It's apparently genetic, and others who have it include Jane Goodall and the artist Chuck Close. "Severe congenital prosopagnosia is estimated to affect two to two and a half per cent of the population—six to eight million people in the United States alone." (The science behind face blindness)
Kudos to the writes and editors of this recent LA Times story about drugs and gangs in schools (Gangs and drugs prevalent in public schools, survey finds) which notes distressing new findings and imediately raises useful questions about the survey methods and the context of the Califano-touted numbers. Demerits to this CNN story (Children return to crowded schools and fewer teachers) which -- still! -- passes along questionable, uncertain numbers and relies on advo-experts rather than giving a balanced, critical-minded story: "The number of teachers who won't have a job this school year could be as high as 135,000, experts said." Yuk.
"Raising achievement requires the patience to support teachers and schools through years of sustained, concentrated effort... It requires money...And it requires the humility to realize that, in education, things always look easier from the outside." -- LA Times editorial
UPDATE: Here's a link to a brief story about the NY situation.
UPDATE2 1037AM: Columbus Dispatch reports OH is a winner, too.
UPATE3 1049AM: McClatchey reports NC is a winner.
PS: It was Fritz (Fritzwire) Edelstein who was the source of the news that the announcement was coming this AM not Thursday for me and many others. All hail Fritz.
PBS education correspondent John Merrow picked what I'll call the wrong side of the LAT value added debate and his readers are taking him to task for it in the comments section(here).
Seventy comments and counting -- I'm jealous.
Not to worry, however. Merrow's in there fighting back.
"It was not an academic publication, it was investigative reporting done in the public interest with public records." -- LA Times reporter Jason Felch (in comments)
Can the Administration find its way past the idea that it must beat up on inner city teachers in order to help poor schools? It's not clear. Secretary Duncan commented on Michelle Rhee's teacher firings: "It’s a race to the top. I don’t think anyone’s going to fire their way to the top." And President Obama told the Urban League that anyone who wants to use Race to the Top to blame or punish teachers is missing the point. Politico reports that there's a concerted effort to step back from the cliff. It's going to take a little bit more than that, however. The President and Duncan should go further, warning explicitly that school systems that use RttT money to violate established principles of social science and the law while using test scores to fire teachers will forfeit their grants. Secretary Duncan should apologize for his statement regarding the Los Angeles Times naming names. President Obama should apologize for his mis-characterizations of the teachers at Central Falls. Obama has done many great things for education and it should not be hard to repair the damage done to his relationship with teachers. I personally would be satisfied with a couple of apologies, and a few explicit guarantees that federal funding will not be misused.
The folks at the USDE were working hard all weekend while you were napping in the hammock (or whatever you like to do). Round Two RTTT announcement is scheduled -- scheduled -- for tomorrow. Maybe before or after the walk to school thing? I'll believe it when I see it. All our problems will be solved.
Three quick things to note about the recent NYT opinion piece defending the Harlem Children's Zone expansion: This is the first time anyone's felt the HCZ effort needed such vigorous defending in print (as opposed to Jay Mathews' online column). The defense is being taken up by Paul Tough, the journalist/advocate, rather than someone else like Geoff Canada, the HCZ founder. Last but not least, Tough's best argument is an attack on the effectiveness of other, much bigger education programs like Title I and Head Start rather than a defense of the HCZ. If I understand correctly, current spending on programs of questionable effectiveness justifies ramping up spending on new programs of questionable effectiveness. (Don’t Drop Out of School Innovation)
Funny thing about the Politico story describing Democrats and teachers unions trying to get their acts together in time for the November elections is that it doesn't mention last week's hullabaloo over publicizing value-added teacher ratings in Los Angeles. As you may recall, Secretary Duncan stepped into it by endorsing the practice without consuling the White House or the political folks. The veteran AFT president Randi Weingarten held fire.
President Obama's truce with teachers Politico: “Today, our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced,” Van Roekel told thousands of attendees. As Private Tutoring Booms, Parents Look at the Returns NYT: Wealthy parents pay a lot for their children’s tutors, and they usually expect more than improved grades... L.A. unveils $578M school, costliest in USA AP: Next month's opening of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools will be auspicious for a reason other than its both storied and infamous history ... Seattle schools enact controversial policy for students' online postings Seattle PI: What Seattle school students post on public sites such as Facebook or MySpace could get them in trouble -- even if done at home on their private computers, according to a new policy... School transfers rare in Conn under 'No Child' law AP: More than 120,000 children are eligible to transfer from their struggling Connecticut schools to better schools this fall, but there's no mass exodus in the making... Ga. teachers group backs Democrat Barnes AP: Democrat Roy Barnes has won the backing of one of Georgia's largest teachers' groups in the race for governor.
It's not as good as the kid in the car asking his dad, "Is this real life?" but it's pretty cute: