Here to help ease you through the end of a long Thursday is a late-night medley of rap hits from Sugar Hill Gang to Jay-Z, all in four minutes. Call it an education of sorts. Not bad for two white boys doing it live on TV - esp. the parts where they do Beyonce and Missy Elliot. One more reason to hate (crush on) Justin:
Long time ago, states listed schools they would turn around if they got funding, and we all saw those lists. More recently, states got money and figured out who was actually ready to do something and began sending it to districts to SIG their worst schools (which would be "rescued" or ruined, depending on who you talked to). Now, theoretically, there's lots of SIGging going on all around this great country of ours.
But where, exactly, is it taking place?
Here's a completely unverified and only partial list of where the SIGs are, thanks to the helpful folks on the EWA listserve. Corrections and additions are most welcome. For New Jersey (here). For CAhere [schools listed with 0 aren't getting funding this year]. Ohio is here. South Carolina is here. Georgia is here and here (two rounds). Delaware's is here (PDF). There are 14 in Connecticut (here). There's a lot of information on the MD state Department of Education website: www.mde.k12.ms.us. [Look on the main page under "hot topics."] The following are Mississippi school districts that will receive a share of $33 million in federal School Improvement Grants: Hazlehurst High: $3.75 million Wingfield High: $5.2 million Hazlehurst Middle School: $4.1 million North Panola High: $2.6 million Gentry High School (Indianola school district): $3.5 million W.A. Higgins Middle School (Clarksdale school district): $3.75 million Amanda Elzy High School (Leflore County school district): $4.79 million Leflore County High School: $5.25 million. Oklahoma's is here (all but one of Tier 1s were funded). Texas is here.
I am not a charter opponent but here's a chart that represents visually the relationship between action taken by charter school advocates to improve public education for everyone against big talk about how much impact they have or they're going to have (one reason among several that most of the major national foundations have now pulled out of funding charter expansions in favor of other things). Toles (edited) via Ezra Klein
The latest issue of American Educator is out, including a buncha new stories. Only someone who hates teachers wouldn't check it out: Beyond One-Size-Fits-All College Dreams: The vast majority of high school students plan to attend college—and believe that a bachelor's degree all but guarantees them a high-paying job. Sparks Fade, Knowledge Stays: Her mother's advice on finding a life partner comes to the author's mind when reviewing a major meta-analysis on developing literacy. While mom said to avoid the "flashy types" and pick someone with "staying power," the experts who wrote this report focused on only the most obvious components of developing early literacy. An Artful Summer: Just as the economic downturn and narrowing of the curriculum have prompted school districts to cut art classes, a nonprofit organization in Baltimore gives disadvantaged youth the opportunity to create art, earn a stipend, and learn valuable job skills.The Professional EducatorThe new secretary-treasurer of the Texas AFT and former president of Education Austin reflects on what he has learned in more than 20 years of union leadership. Chief among those lessons is how locals in states without collective bargaining can work with their school districts to do what's best for their members and the children they serve.
The outrage by the political interest groups known as "reformers" against the voters of Washington D.C. betrays the fatal flaw of their theories. They remind me of the pilgrim who trekked for years to the Himalayas to ask a wise man the secret of the universe. "All is water? What does that mean?" "All is not water?" the holy man replied. Classroom instruction is leadership and leadership is politics. The politics of leading a school is politics. The politics of discipline and evaluations are politics. The politics of setting standards, devising tests, and interpreting their results are politics. The politics of school turnarounds requires the politics of inclusion. So-called "reformers," who want their foot soldiers to all be on the same page, need to find another line of work. The politics of education requires "happy warriors" who enjoy the clash of opinions and the diversity of our schools. -JT
"According to Ralph Opacic, founder and director of the Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana, Calif., "Glee" may soon render [the traditional] brand of show choir obsolete. His choir program at Los Alamitos High School was so successful that he landed a government grant to open OCHSA as a branch of Los Alamitos in 1987. The school became an accredited charter school in 2000 and relocated to Santa Ana. Now in it's 24th year, the school has a student body of over 1,300 and ranks consistently among the top public high schools in the nation." (How "Glee" is changing high school choir)
Here's a second study suggesting that the approach doesn't have any big effects on student achievement. This one is about Chicago's TAP program -- the program that was adopted a few years ago in the Windy City, expanded, then .... changed and expanded again with more recent USDE TIF money:
"Compared with a group of matched comparison schools, students at the 16 Teacher Advancement Program schools did not have significantly higher scores on state reading or mathematics tests. The authors reported no significant effect on teacher retention at either the school or district level. The WWC has reservations about these findings because the groups of students, teachers, and schools compared in the analysis may have differed from each other in ways not controlled for in the analysis."
Here's what I'm wondering: why do teachers have unions? No, seriously. In Florida, which is a right-to-work state, unions nonetheless have a lot of power (even in districts with few teachers as members). I don't know the history of the labor movement, so that's why I'm asking. Teachers are professionals - they don't face huge dangers of dismemberment or being buried alive like miners. So unions aren't there for worker safety. There's enough demand for teachers that wages are reasonable. I don't really buy the protection from being fired by unfair principals - there are way too many private sector workers who can be fired any minute and they're mostly not unionized. Are there other parallel professions where there are unions? Are nurses the closest example? The unions are relevant right now not just because of the current debate about their role but also, more immediately, because of Race to the Top. As the 90 day clock ticks down, several of the large union locals are refusing to talk to districts about RTTT. What happens to a state that received an award, if unions don't sign on? And if unions have that much bargaining power, why wouldn't reforms be watered down, as some have accused? - Cheryl Sattler Ethica LLC
September 29, 2010 | Posted At: 02:58 PM | Author: Alexander Russo
A pretty awesome takedown of parents' media-boosted fears, parental self-obsession, and political haymaking over Obama's interest in education issues, culminating the Colbert's proposal that schools should be required to get permission slips for anything parents might disagree with:
Here are three good reads to help fill the enormous gap between the surface hullaballoo about the nation's education crisis generated by WFS and Education Nation and the angry mob of teachers and educators who are seething against what some are calling the "war on teachers" -- Dana Goldstein's piece in The Nation about the successes of union-management collaboration (here), Jonathan Gyurko's piece on what Guggenheim left out of his piece (here), and Nick Lemann's New Yorker commentary about the overheated crisis rhetoric surrounding so-called reform (here). I'm hoping that there will be more about this in the mainstream sometime soon -- sketching out not only the controversies surrounding Guggenheim's proposed solutions but also the practical and political limits of going to war against traditional schools as we now now them. You'd think that the resounding defeat of Fenty and Rhee would have made this clear, but perhaps there wasn't enough time for it to sink into the journalistic consciousness enough before the WFS media juggernaut came through.
Tom Kane of the Gates Foundation told Rick Hess that the Vanderbilt merit pay study did an excellent job of explaining why incentives did not improve student performance. Kane said the purpose of merit pay is not encouraging teachers to work harder, but to recruit and keep teaching talent. But above all, teachers want to teach successfully. While effective reforms will help retain the best educators, why would ineffective programs be attractive to them? Worse, an effective performance pay system could encourage an exodus of top teachers from high-needs schools to the suburbs where it is easier to increase test scores. The best way to entice great talent to the inner city would be to replace the indignity of high-stakes testing with proven support systems, so that teams of teachers could be effective. Kane seems to believe the old dictum, "we lose money on everything we sell but make it up on volume." He must think that urban teachers would be flattered by dumping of another expensive program on us. - JT
This request for advice from a teacher is a little bit old but interesting nonetheless: "I am applying to schools in the district I attended as a child and was disturbed to find that my former bullying teacher still works in the same school! I'm horrified that such a cruel woman could continue to teach. I do not want to end up working with this woman, though I need the job. But I know an outright accusation won't win me any favors. What should I do?" (Slate Magazine.)
A timely book about how numbers impress us, even when they're imaginary, made-up, or manipulated to deceive, including some interesting new variants (Proofiness):
“Potemkin numbers” are phony statistics based on erroneous or nonexistent calculations. “Disestimation” involves ascribing too much meaning to a measurement, relative to the uncertainties and errors inherent in it. “Apple polishing” is using an average when a set of numbers contains extreme outliers.
September 29, 2010 | Posted At: 10:09 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Media Watch
Congrats to Emily Alpert and everyone else at Voice of San Diego for being nominated as a finalist for this year's Online Journalism awards in the category of topical reporting/blogging: Building a Community around Education Coverage (1, 2) You can see the full list below.
Charter-haters will make this sound like yet another example of how reliably awful charters are but I'm not sure that's really the case during a recession that's affecting everyone, public and private and in between. Or maybe I'm just a little worn out of the "edu-rage" as Dan Brown calls it. Los Angeles based charter network ICEF grew too fast and cut spending too slowly, according to this LA Times article, and was rescued in the nick of time by a group of local philanthropists and do-gooders. Its head, Mike Piscal, was recently featured in a glowing New York Daily News column by his former colleague Caitlin Flanagan. But apparently 11 new schools in three years was too much, and so the CMO is under a sort of friendly receivership while it regroups.
September 28, 2010 | Posted At: 01:47 PM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Media Watch
I must admit having given up wading through all the Waiting For Superman / Education Nation stuff over the last couple of days. Far as I can tell, the benefits of all this coverage and commentary (a temporary uptick in public concerns about education) have been matched or perhaps even outweighed by the internal strife that's been generated among various stakeholders and kind of reformers. Waiting For Supermen in particular has prompted the release of a lot of pent-up anger among educators who voted for Obama but have been sorely disappointed at his reforms. They're mad at Race To The Top, and at Michelle Rhee-style reformers, and then WFS comes along and gives them a heaping dose of the same stuff and it's in their homes on Oprah and Today and in the newsweeklies. Unfortunately, the movie perpetuates some inaccurate and outdated notions about what works (ie, charters) and how reforms take hold (without teachers). But now I'm repeating myself (Reform: Union-Bashing Is So 2007) and none of us needs any more of that.
I guess I'm not the only one to note the President's striking absence from the DC education debate and mayoral campaign in recent weeks:
"He's intervened in a New York Islamic center dispute, in a Boston cop dispute. It'd be nice to intervene for kids in D.C., for which the federal government has some responsibility. And I think this is where Barack Obama could use his influence in a very healthy way, and we're waiting." -- Wall Street Journal columnist Bill McGurn
At Dove Academy, the McCharter school near my house, teachers' starting pay is down to $27,300 per year. The deprofessionalization of charter school teachers puts downward pressure on the wages of all. And it is not just the quality of life of educators that is damaged by divide and conquer campaigns by true believers in Market values, as is demonstated by the Gulen chain of charters. (hat tip to Sharon Higgins.) The union-busting campaigns of the last forty years that have driven down the real wages of most Americans, we should remember, also started with worker-bashing propaganda. - JT
"When we talk about teachers, and we try to lay all the blame on them and we say, ‘why can’t that teacher get that kid’s score up,’ watch Jersey Shore. Watch it. And tell me what teacher could possibly have reached anyone of them, to get any one of their scores up, in any subject." (Lawrence O’Donnell Has The Last Word On Snooki And Education)
Amir Abo-Shaeeer, director of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy in California, is one of the MaCarthur Foundation "genius" grantees for this year - the first educator that I can recall since the founder of Posse won a few years ago.
The foundation also recognized David Simon, creator of "The Wire" (also known as the best show in the history of television). Link
Today's best blog posts and commentaries, according to me: Better Never Than Late EIA: Add Wisconsin, Idaho and Montana to the list of states that aren’t really sure what to do with the money. As of September 10, not a single state had distributed the federal funds to school districts for expenditures... Obama is wrong about D.C. schools Jay Mathews: President Obama told NBC interviewer Matt Lauer on Monday that there was not a public school in Washington that matched the education his daughters are getting at Sidwell Friends, a private school... Where's Winerip? Gadfly: The controversial New York Times education reporter – see here – has not been seen in print since August 2... How States and Schools Spent Stimulus Funds Whiteboard Advisors: Even with Recovery Act Funds, an Estimated One-Third of LEAs Experienced Funding Cuts in School Year 2009-2010 and More Anticipated Cuts in 2010-2011... NBC's Teacher Town Hall - reaction/reflection Teacher Ken: Despite an imbalance in the teachers on stage and who were given access to the microphone, got some major pushback from teachers and a few principals... A teacher is found dead; report carefully Linda Perlstein: I am not saying an incident like this isn’t worth looking into, but journalists reporting on newsworthy deaths should refrain from DIY diagnoses and be mindful of the complexity of mental health issues.
Word is getting out that there are at least a couple of little-known lists in Chicago where teachers are rated "Do Not Hire" or "not recommended" -- one of them created by using NBC teachers recruited by the district to rate their colleagues' online applications. The accuracy of the lists is being questioned by some highly rated teachers who seem to have been put on the list by mistake -- as is the appropriateness of the district's use of online applications as material for ratings and the use of NBC teachers as evaluators. Check the whole mess out at my Chicago blog here. The Reader and WBEZ (the local NPR affiliate) are leading the charge.
September 27, 2010 | Posted At: 11:21 AM | Author: john thompson
In the monthly Education Roundtable on Friday, Valerie Strauss, Larry Abrahamson, Howard Blume, and Alexander Russo discussed the misuse of the word "reform." The word wrongly implies that new policies are effective and represent an improvement over "the status quo." Steve Brill's term "so-called reformers" is accurate, as is Alexander's term "accountability hawks," but my favorite is his "reformy types." The press could distinguish between "data-driven reformers" versus "traditional reformers" but that would require a background knowledge of the long history of education reform. As "reformers" mourn the defeat of Mayor Fenty, it is becoming clear that their real issues are not about education but about control. As much as they love standardized testing, their true desire is the untrammeled power to run schools. I would borrow from Larry Cuban and distinguish between the "business model" reformers versus "collaborative reformers." - JT
Sad news in any case. A local TV station is linking a teacher's suicide to his poor rating in the LA Times' value added series. (Missing South Gate teacher found dead ABC7) Via @avalonsensei. UPDATE: Still no direct link but the paper has issued a condolence statement here.
"I'll be blunt with you: The answer is no right now." -- President Obama this morning in response to audience question about whether the DC public schools could match his daughters' private school (and implicitly whether he'd consider sending them to a district school).
September 27, 2010 | Posted At: 08:48 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Daily News
No effective change to for-profit college rules The Hill: "We're not postponing anything," Arne Duncan, secretary of the Education Department, told Bloomberg Television on Friday. "We're going to implement in July of 2012, just like we always said we were going to do... Rhee: D.C. education reform can survive without me Washington Post: Duncan tends to the big-picture talking points: Investment in the status quo is over, education is the path to a stronger economy, etc. Rhee and Weingarten, who clearly can't stand each other, ping back and forth about the best way to remove ineffective teachers... Is $100M Gift Enough To Save Newark Schools? NPR: They've been under state control for 15 years, and millions of public and private dollars have already been poured into them. Yet student test scores and graduation rates remain low. What can Zuckerberg's gift do to change that?... Bedbugs Finding a Way Into New York’s Schools NYT: New York City had 1,019 confirmed cases of bedbugs in the 2009-10 school year, according to Education Department records.
Our man Arne is doing a slew of media events Sunday and Monday, culminating in a "major announcement" at the NBC Education Nation event on Monday.
Interesting that he wasn't out there very much last week during all the Oprah, Waiting For Superman, and DC hullabaloo. I guess he doesn't want to overexpose himself or something, for fear of the media breaking out of its dutiful role of being told what to do and say and being spun.
Who's that on the far right, by the way? Sort of looks like the English guy from Inception but I'm guessing that's not right.
Check out some of the good stuff from Yglesias, Klonsky, Fertig, Ayers (Rick) and Yglesias (again) that I didn't get to this week: Booker to Gain Control Over Newark Public Schools Yglesias: I’d kind of assumed Booker was likely to run against Chris Christie in 2013 which would seem to be made more difficult by the two of them collaborating on a high-profile initiative... What if Your Kid's Teacher Is Creationist? Atlantic Wire: Laden writes a "template" letter for his readers to use to demand that science teachers cease teaching creationism or intelligent design... An Inconvenient Superman Rick Ayers: It is so sad to see hundreds of families lined up at these essentially private schools with a public charter cover, praying to get in. Who wouldn't want to get in?... The Ethics of Private School Yglesias: It’s impossible for me to imagine the $35,000 annual tuition at my former private school meeting any kind of reasonable cost-benefit test unless you’re just showing off. (Not that I’m not grateful to my family for everything they’ve done for me…love you guys!)... Improving Teacher Quality By Paying Teachers More Yglesias: Yes, reduce barriers to getting rid of teachers who do much worse than average. But also offer the best performers substantially more money than teachers currently get... Duncan's for mayoral control only if he can control the mayor Mike Klonsky: Never before in history had an education secretary been so personally involved in trying to shape the outcome of a local mayor's race... 'Waiting for Superman': If Only... Beth Fertig WNYC: Unions, anti-poverty advocates, and others traditionally aligned with the status quo, or public school establishment, also like to consider themselves reformers. And some of them genuinely do seem more flexible than how they’re portrayed in “Superman.”
Mike Petrilli was referring to the firing of educators when he told the Wall Street Journal that "school reform is not political suicide," but it will take "a lot of political capital to make it happen." That should lead to the conclusion that collaboration, with a coalition of reformers and not just data-driven "reformers," is required to share in the sacrifice. Teachers’ unions are willing to expend political capital to help fire ineffective teachers but it has to be done with us, not to us. There are educational, as well as political reasons, why collaboration is essential to sustainable reform. Few non-teachers have a clue how to design, much less run, a fair system for evaluating educational effectiveness and, alone, teachers could not do it either. The same applies to all aspects of reform. As Valerie Strauss explains "there are complexities to fixing schools, that there is no one right way but plenty of wrong ways." - JT
September 24, 2010 | Posted At: 11:43 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Media Watch , Site News
Listen below to a fascinating just-completed discussion among education journalists Howard Blume, Larry Ambramson, and Valerie Strauss debating what were the month's biggest new stories (and why). I'll be tweeting about the best parts at @alexanderrusso using the hashtag #twie
A weeek later and still no one wants to talk about poverty on Capitol Hill (Poverty figures sidetracked by political concerns or on the campaign trail (except Stephen Colbert, who wants to "legalize" it so that the rich feel better about taking care of poor peoples' money).
September 24, 2010 | Posted At: 09:45 AM | Author: Alexander Russo
The worst flaw of "Waiting For Superman" is its outdated view of school reform, says The Nation's Dana Goldstein (Grading 'Waiting for Superman') -- not just the glaring absence of "noncharter" success stories or the exclusion of promising union-district partnerships (or the hypocrisy or the omission of failing charters).
The Obama administration and even Bill Gates have gotten the union partnership memo -- who forgot to send it to Guggenheim?
September 24, 2010 | Posted At: 08:25 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Media Watch
The Washington Post's coverage of the Rhee-Fenty-Gray love triangle is reaching new, Harlequin Romance levels with its latest updates, including descriptions of "a drawn and shaken-looking" Rhee and reporters who "barreled into the elevator" with the schools chief Gray and Rhee finally meet).
True, Rhee looks unhappy doing the event (nice handbag, though!), and indeed, the press looks and sounds massive and papparazzi-like. But still.
Tune in tomorrow at noon Eastern to hear NPR's Larry Abramson, the WSJ's Stephanie Banchero, the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss, and the LA Times' Howard Blume discuss the big education stories of the month, the month's winners and losers, and more. It's all happening here: Month In Review - Education News September 2010 on Blogtalk Radio. You'll be able to listen in live online or check it out afterwards as a podcast or download. You can Tweet us or email in questions or comments, or even call in and ask your question live (323) 417-6754). In the meantime, beat them all to the punch and share your own views on the topic here or on Twitter (I'm at @alexanderrusso).
After enduring the knownothingism of Davis Guggenheim's opinions on NPR, listeners were rewarded with Melissa Block's excellent interview with Steven Farr, author of Teaching as Leadership. Farr's research shows that there is no one style or personality that makes a great teacher. Great teachers set ambitious goals. Their discipline procedures are inextricably conected with those classroom goals and they teach students to monitor themselves. Farr worries about the "burnout factor," and he knows that 3 million teachers can not be expected to copy the "most heroic" of instructors. Farr says that great teachers show what is necessary to change children's life paths, but we need systemic change to make it easier to do what it takes in a sustainable way. - JT
"Glee" is fine and all but you really should be watching "Community" (or "The Big C") if you're into education-themed TV shows. It's witty and absurd and stretches the sitcom genre as much or more than Buffy or The Simpsons -- plus it's about community colleges.
In this episode -- just watch the first few minutes -- it's revealed that Senor Chang isn't really qualified to be a Spanish teacher and the study group will have to take two semesters over again unless they pass a tough new final.
September 23, 2010 | Posted At: 10:01 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Think Tank Mafia
The Nieman Lab's writeup of the LA Times' value-added series (aka #latvam) presents the stories as an example of successful new media journalism, emphasizing the intense amount of reader interest (150K uniques, 1.4M pageviews) and the care and concern taken by the paper in its methods, etc. "All in all, it’s one of those great journalism moments at the intersection of important news and reader interest." But things get interesting the further you go. First, Hechinger's Richard Colvin distances himself from the LAT's decision to publish individual names -- the whole story, basically. "Colvin wanted to be clear that he was not involved in the decision to run individual names of teachers on the Times’ site, just in analzying [sic] the testing data." Then, commenters started tearing the Nieman post apart for being credulous and, well, too easy on the LA Times. One former LA Times reporter wrote in about the ratings for a school where she volunteers: "A teacher who himself does not speak English properly, never mind teach it, is ranked as “most effective." Then Nieman's own Josh Benton jumped in to defend the use of value-added -- though he's a member of the Hechinger advisory board.
September 23, 2010 | Posted At: 09:18 AM | Author: Alexander Russo
Has this been in the works for a while or is it just some big media stunt to dampen worries about Facebook and the new movie about it coming out this weekend?
"The public school system in New Jersey's largest city is poised to receive $100 million from the founder of Facebook," according to this post (Newark, NJ, schools to receive Facebook donation). "Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg are expected to announce the donation Friday on Oprah Winfrey's Chicago-based syndicated television show. Several media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Newark's The Star-Ledger reported the donation Wednesday night. They say Booker will gain some control over the troubled school system, which is run by the state and has some of its lowest test scores and poorest graduation rates. Christie opted last month not to rehire Newark's schools superintendent. A search for a successor is under way. Facebook is based in Palo Alto, Calif."
September 23, 2010 | Posted At: 09:00 AM | Author: Alexander Russo | Category: Daily News
We're heading for the last Friday in September and that means it's time for the "Month In Review" roundtable of education journalists gabbing about September's big stories, winners and losers, and things of that nature. You can check it out here. This month's guests include Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post, Howard Blume from the LA Times, Stephanie Banchero from the Wall Street Journal, and -- crossed fingers -- someone from AP or the NYT. We're on at 12 noon eastern at BlogTalk Radio, just like last month. You can listen in live online or check it out afterwards as a podcast or download. You can Tweet us or email in questions or comments, or even call in and ask your question live.