After five years of economic growth, the suspension rate for our high school, which served 1,098 students, was down to one per day. After five years of recession, student population was down by more than 50%, and yet we averaged an arrest at school every day. We should have heeded the wisdom of James Earl Davis and Pedro Noguera, listened to the students about their expectations and provided enough social supports. Then, the good times would have been better, and the declines would not have been so stark. It is not rational, however, for teachers - in schools that do not attempt to provide intervention systems - to anticipate the same outcomes that occur in good years will persist during hard times, and the gang wars that are made worse by economic downturns. - JT
Degreed educators don't "own" public education anymore, just like traditionally trained teachers don't own classrooms (and professional journalists don't own journalism, FWIW). Those times are gone. It's not like the old way was uniformly better than the new way, either. That's why having a nontraditional superintendent with help from career educators isn't particularly new or objectionable. GothamSchools describes how other cities have done the CEO /CAO thing (A look at three other cities). The Hechinger Report's Sarah Garland connects the curent debate to the underlying issues of experience vs. performance in the classroom (Experience necessary?). A 2001 Jay Mathews article in AASA's School Administration describes the trend's early beginnings (Chief Academic Officers).
The influential Center on American Progress thinks that the Obama team should forget the Hill and focus on things that can be done without Congressional approval, including a productivity initiative that would include a school-level achievement report and better reporting of stimulus funding uses. Plus some higher education / student aid stuff. Some good ideas in there, but none of this is going to be as much fun or grand as doing things the good old fashioned way.
A new McKinsey report on school improvement lists Long Beach, Boston, and Aspire charters as examples of sustained improvement (PDF) and attempts to synthesize the factors that shape long-term improvement within the US and among other nations.
Long Beach and Boston don['t get much attention these days, especially now since Payzant and Cohn have been gone several years. Is this a measure of lost momentum, or educational (media) faddishness?
We all knew that Duncan's mom had a lifelong commitment to education but for years now there hasn't been that much beyond a few tempting details. Now the Tribune has a profile and some great pictures to go along with them:
Man standing in front of an incomprehensibly complicated graph: "I'll pause for a moment so you can let this information sink in." Via this week's New Yorker
While discussing the plight of black males on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," James Earl Davis recalled the alarms that were sounded in 1995 about black men being excluded from the job market. But between 1997 and 2000, the black-white differiential in employment dropped from 6.5% to 4.1%, and by 1999, Ellis Cose wrote "it's the best time ever to be black in America." During the boom years of the late 1990s, I saw the effects of growing hope and broadening horizons during class discussions. By 2000, I would return from school saying, "we had another day without a fight, " and then "another week without a fight," and then "we had another week without a harsh word." In 2001, I wrote more college letters of recommendation than I did during the following decade. If we were to adopt the holistic recommendations of Davis and Pedro Noguera, and seek respectful educational relationships in schools, I believe we could see an equally dramatic turnaround in educational outcomes for black males. - JT
Should teachers grade students based on their compliance with class rules -- turning homework in on time, all the time -- or on the quality of the work that they do? That's the question in this weekend's New York Times piece claiming that "standards-based grading" is on the rise in Illinois as well as in other parts of the country (A’s for Good Behavior). What do you think? Is there too much compliance-based grading in Chicago classrooms, and are its effects nefarious, or is it OK or even a good thing to reward kids for doing what they're told as much as for mastering materials?
Poor Schools Continue To Have High Rates Of Unqualified Teachers Huffington Post: The report finds that across the nation, high-poverty secondary schools have a rate of approximately 21.9 percent of classes taught by "out-of-field" teachers, whereas low-poverty secondary schools only have 10.9 percent of classes taught by "out-of-field" teachers... NJ school district: No D-grades policy a success Boston Globe: A New Jersey school district that eliminated the "D" grade for students says the change has been a success... Official: Media exec to be NYC schools chancellor USA Today: The state's education commissioner will grant media executive Cathie Black a waiver to serve as chancellor of the nation's largest school system... Study: Punishing Parents Won't Solve Chronic Absenteeism AP: A report commissioned by the state's Office of Children and Family Services says hauling parents into family court is not the best way to combat a rising tide of kids who chronically miss school... L.A. Unified project combines preschool and apartments LA Times: It's not surprising that the Los Angeles Unified School District would build a preschool next to a new apartment building... Teacher Fights Suspension and $15,000 Fine For Allegedly Cursing In Class AP: The teacher, Carlos Garcia, declined to be interviewed. But his attorney, Sergio Villaverde, said his client didn't use the word. He also claims the court interpreter mistranslated the term during Garcia's disciplinary hearings. [See "Weekend Reading" for other stories.]
New Chairman Seeks More Power for Watchdogs NYT: Mr. Issa has already drawn up a list of big targets [including] tens of millions of dollars spent on redundant programs within federal agencies or squandered through corrupt contracting procedures... No More A’s for Good Behavior NYT: There are no national statistics about the number of schools shifting to standards-based grading. But the idea has been around for a while, and Ken O’Connor, a former Canadian high school teacher turned grading consultant. It’s an inevitable extension, he says, of standards-based learning.... Prime Number NYT: Fifty: The percentage increase, in inflation-adjusted dollars, that graduating college students in 2008 borrowed compared with their counterparts in 1996... What We Don't Know Can Hurt Us The American Prospect: These programs have no uniform way of collecting data, if they collect such information at all, and no system for sharing what they do record with grade schools to track students' progress over time... Bomb Plot Suspect Graduated From Westview High KPTV: The suspect in the attempted bombing at Pioneer Square's Christmas tree-lighting ceremony graduated from Westview High School in Beaverton in 2009. Former classmates describe Mohamed Mohamud as nice, outgoing and popular.
We still don't have a final cover for my book but there's already an Amazon pre-order page and an official publication date in April. You can check it out here if you're really that determined to avoid doing anything today. The book should actually be available well before the official date, and in fact I've gotten a couple of nice emails from ed school types interested in using the electronic version in their spring semester classes. Meantime, the very kind book cover blurbs continue to pour in with heart-warming phrases like "must-read," gritty," and even "scandalous." I'm stockpiling praise while I can, knowing that ten years of mean-spirited mocking constructive criticism of writers and pundits is bound to have its consequences.
Kelly Gallagher's Education Week Commentary, "Why I Will Not Teach to the Test," reviewed the harm done to students when teachers capitulate, and "sprint and cover" all of the material that is on the end-of-the-year standardized tests. What would happen if educators who believe that teach to the test is educational malpractice refused to comply? Teachers and principals, who do not have a moral objection to this test craze, need not be pressured to change their beliefs. Principals, who conscientiously object to the scripted instruction that results from excessive testing, should merely be asked to not punish teachers who act on their shared beliefs. Even if it was only a tenth of us who were willing to risk our careers, would they fire us all? - JT
Newsweek's Ben Adler quotes Tom Harkin saying he hopes to have a bipartisan NCLB reauthorization bill through committee by summertime, joining the happy talk that's been coming from Duncan and the White House and to a lesser extent George Miller. I still haven't heard similar words from Boehner, though -- he's really the only one who counts -- and I while I understand the need for the education team to push for its own issues within the Obama administration I worry that they're sounding desperate, making it too obvious that they want a NCLB revamp, and at the same time little bit too confident that they're going to get something it's just a question of how much. If I were a Republican strategist I'm not sure I'd respond very positively to all the NCLB happy talk.
Unique Bilingual Education Program Spreading Across New Jersey Hechinger Report: In the Garden State, Long Branch joins Elizabeth, Perth Amboy and Plainfield as one of the fewer than 400 dual-language programs nationwide, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit... Va. Attorney General: Teachers Can Take Phones, Read Texts If Students Break Rules WTOP: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says in an advisory opinion if a teacher has reasonable suspicion that a student is breaking state law or school rules with his cellphone, the teacher can confiscate it and look at stored messages... States Submit Race to Top Plans, and Work to Keep Districts on Board EdWeek: When Florida turned in its plan this week, 62 of the original 65 districts are still on board, Tom Butler, a spokesman for the the state's department of education, said in an e-mail. In Ohio, 50 of the initial 538 participating districts and schools have dropped out.
Thanks to everyone who reads this site and to all of those who've supported it.
Please tell Santa I want a the 11-inch MacBook Air or the new Kinect Xbox. Via Politico
Check out the breakdown of kids taking AP and honors courses at Evanston Township High School just outside Chicago -- supposedly one of the best schools in the nation. Then tell me that the achievement gap isn't important and that NCLB hasn't done an important duty with its subgroup reporting requirements. To its credit, ETHS is one of the most diverse schools in the state, and has been working on the achievement gap for a long time now. But schools had this data for years but never reported it until NCLB made them. Now, parents are suing to prevent elementary schools from sharing information used to track students with high schools and white parents are fighting like mad (Tribune) to prevent ETHS from getting rid of its honors English track. As it often is in education and other endeavors, it's the good of the few vs. the good of the many.
I wonder if Arne is working on a book, or thinking of writing one.
The Daily Oklahoman's depiction of my old school (Centennial High School Succeeding in a Place of Failure) and the comments following the article tell a sad but important story. Centennial has a NCLB API of 264 on a scale of 1500 - despite receiving what administrators claim is the same funding as similar schools. But Centennial isn't like other schools when you get past surface demographics. Violent, chaotic schools, with intense concentrations of intergenerational poverty and feeder schools with poor performance are different. Here and in other places, a school's percentage of minority kids and poverty rate don't do justice to the challenges being addressed. - JT
Last night's vote by the state advisory board against giving Cathie Black a pass to run the NYC public schools was a surprise to many but certainly not the first time that it's been noted that nontraditional leaders need help from educators to run big city school systems. When San Diego hired Alan Bersin to head its schools, he was paired with Tony Alvarado. When Chicago brought in Paul Vallas and Arne Duncan they both had CAOs (Cozette Buckney and Barbara Eason-Watkins) who provided valuable advice or served as window dressing, depending on who you talk to. Other nontraditional leaders -- Romer and Brewer -- have had top educators supporting them (including Ray Cortines, if I recall correctly). On the radio this morning Joel Klein noted that he was supported by several top educators during his tenure in NYC. What makes the current situation a little different is that it's New York, where everything is more important, and that the state may write the requirement into law.
From the New Yorker: Parent says to teenage child: "It's you who don't understand me -- I've been fifteen, but you have never been forty-eight."
There's nothing "petty" about a tyrant if you're the one being intimidated, as you'll see when you listen to the story of Steve Raucci, the tyrannical maintenance head in a New York district who's the subject of a recent profile on This American Life. He was a mean-spirited joker, a mischief maker, all-around jerk (though sweetly obsessed with soap opera actress Susan Lucci). And -- as many schoolpeople know -- not the only example of petty tyranny that's ever been seen in a school or district office. Bob Sutton has more about him here, including the wrap-up on how Raucci ended up in this mug shot. Thanks to LF. Who's the worst petty tyrant you've ever encountered?
Laura Pappano's Education Week Commentary explained why real turnarounds "require more labor-intensive relationship-building than advertised." And Dakarai Aarons also described the complexity of a turnaround in Kentucky which featured the "Name and Claim" process where each educator built intensive relationships with two or three struggling students. That school had not one, but three "educational recovery specialists" who worked daily with math and literacy teachers, as well as an "educational recovery leader" working with the administrative team. I just wish the articles had reported the costs of those efforts, perhaps in comparison to lighter-touch reforms, that typically fail. I also quarrel with the title, "Educators Step Up Academics," that was given to Aarons' piece. He made it clear that the school also stepped up socio-emotional interventions and relationship-building. - JT
Danziger via Slate
Two bits from articles about college debt that caught my eye - one about the overall size of the loan debt and the other about the monthly payments some (admittedly extreme) loans require: The monthly payments for just my private loans are currently $891 until Nov 2011 when they increase to $1600 per month for the following 20 years... (What $200,000 in Student Debt Looks Like)... At roughly $850 billion outstanding, student loan debt recently surpassed credit cards as the nation's largest segment of consumer debt. (Top Ramen For Life).
So what can Democrats learn from Bennet? Can they copy it? Mostly, no. - Slate's David Weigel
Atlanta Schools Chief Stepping Down AP: The superintendent of Atlanta's public schools, who was credited for improving student performance but faced calls for her ouster over a test cheating scandal, said Saturday that she will leave her job in June... NJ Lawmakers Approve Nation's Toughest Law To Fight School Bullying AP: The bill would require anti-bullying programs in public schools and language in college codes of conduct to address bullying. Schools would have to form teams to shape policies and review how bullying is handled. [Gawker: "If Governor Chris Christie doesn't sign it, we'll beat the crap out of him."] Number of Students Classified As Learning Disabled Continues to Drop EdWeek: According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in fall 2007 approximately 2.573 million youth ages 3 to 21 were classified as having specific learning disabilities, out of 6.606 million children covered by the IDEA. A specific learning disability is defined as a psychological processing disorder that impairs learning but not a student's overall cognitive ability... Statistical Models May Help Districts Stretch Their Dollars EdWeek: The systems show not only where students have the best academic performance but which districts spend the least to achieve those results... Day Of National Blogging For Real Education Reform HuffPo: The education blogosphere lit up on Monday in response to the Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform. See what HuffPost Education bloggers had to say and share your thoughts in the comments section below...
Not sure what to make of the NYT "Growing Up Wired" story from Sunday? I'm on record as being pretty skeptical about high-tech hand-wringing (The Attention-Span Debate), but if God forbid you need to know what others are saying well then here's the Atlantic Wire's helpful roundup of commentary from around the Internet (Teens Team Up With the Internet to Destroy Summer Reading).
Last week, Geoff Canada was in Chicago talking about Stand For Children's effort to get the charter caps lifted in Illinois (see here). Next week's he's doing a November 30 event in Denver with Secretary Spellings that's part of the Chamber's 12-city tour to promote Superman. I'm sure he's also networking and recruiting funders, but still I worry about Canada being used to sell agendas that aren't entirely overlapping with his core mission and hope HCZ has a very good COO and CAO who are doing good work while Canada schmoozes. (Does he?)
This video of a University of Southl Central Florida instructor explaining how he and his team discovered widespread cheating on the midterm and what they planned to do about it has gone viral over the past few days:
Now, apparently, students have responded by turning themselves in in droves: 200 students admit cheating after professor's online rant (Telegraph)
Next year's flu vaccine may be artifical (synthetic) rather than organic, according to a 60 Minutes segment on controversial scientist Craig Venter. The pilot is already in the works (here). I'm almost sure that someone will object to this being used on their kids, given how reactionary parents are about scientific experimentation etc. The fact that it's being done by a private pharmaceutical company just seals the deal.
I don't usually agree much with or find great value in what TNR's Amanda Ripley Seyward Darby has to say on education issues but I'm glad to find an exception in her recent piece about what we can expect from a Republican Congress (The New Republican Congress) in which she debunks the notion that Republicans will give Democrats and Obama a win on education and reminds all those who need reminding that there are much larger dynamics at play: "None of that trumps the rise of the Tea Parties and the bitter partisanship that has defined the president’s first two years in office—trends likely to continue for the next two years." She's not in favor of inaction, but she's realistic about its prospects -- as should we all be. [Apologies -- it's Seyward Darby, not Amanda Ripley]
There's lots of hand-wringing about kids and computers these days -- when isn't there, really? -- including a front page NYT story on Sunday (Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction) focusing on a school that's trying to limit some forms of technology like texting while encouraging others like online learning. Oh no! Kids and computers! The world will never be the same! But Virginia Heffernan offers a counter-argument in the pages of the same publication with her post about among other things how difficult it has always been to concentrate, even before computers came along (The Attention-Span Myth). Which side are you on? Team Distraction, or Team Attention?
Taking Aim At Master's Degrees AP: Every year, American schools pay more than $8.6 billion in bonuses of between $1,423 and $10,777 each year to teachers with master's degrees, even though the idea that a higher degree makes a teacher more effective has been mostly debunked.... A Dilemma for Schools Seeking to Reform NYT: Over the past decade, the elementary and high schools that make the list of the worst— those in the bottom 25 percent on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test — have changed... Recruiting the right people to teach NPR: Monroe sits at the edge of the Mississipi Delta region, a rural area with high poverty and few jobs. ULM has a federal grant to help get more qualified teachers in the area. The grant pays for a recruiter, Dewanna Greer, to hunt for talent... Las Vegas city schools suspends superintendent Teacher Magazine: The Las Vegas City Schools board has placed Superintendent Rick Romero on leave for seven days because of an unspecified violation of the district's computer-use policy... Pittsburgh Launches 1-Year Residencies as Alternative Certification Teacher Magazine: The certification program will be operated in partnership with The New Teacher Project, which currently prepares teachers for certification in five states and the District of Columbia. About 2,100 teachers have been certified by TNTP... No rush to NH charter schools Boston Globe: Figures from New Hampshire's Department of Education show that students from low-income households and Hispanics aren't showing up in the state's charter schools... 2 Moms Charged With $30K School Embezzlement AP: Two California moms have been charged with embezzling $30,000 from their kids' elementary school fund that pays for extras, such as hiring school counselors and kindergarten handwriting programs... Education Budget, Race to Top, i3 Extension Still Up in the Air EdWeek: Neither of those were funded in the regular fiscal year 2010 budget. Technically, they wouldn't get funded in a CR, unless Congress made some sort of special arrangement.
Whtiney Tilson says that DFER has hired CA State Senator (D-East LA and Senate education committee chair) Gloria Romero to lead the expansion of DFER to California. "Launched in 2007, DFER has active chapters in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Colorado, with others on the way. The organization pushes to make Democratic politicians more active participants in efforts to dramatically improve public schools for students." Add the states where Stand For Children has established outpots and you've got quite a handful of states with pro-charter PACs. How they did in 2010 and how they'll fare in 2012 I have no idea. Presser attached.
The Kindergarten Advantage Miller-McCune: The lifetime gain for a class of 20 students with an above-average teacher totals $320,000 — and that’s from a single year in a high-quality kindergarten class... Ousted Texas Textbooks Czar: I Shall Return: You haven't seen the last of Don McLeroy," he says, noting that while he'll watch to see what happens during this legislative session's redistricting process, he'll likely run for his old spot on the board in two years.center... Photoshopping Now Common in School Portraits NYT: One company estimates that by senior year "sometimes half of a class requests retouching," reports the New York Times... Special Ed Teacher Stalked, Harrassed By Right-Wing Creeps TNR: Christie recently praised O’Keefe’s secret taping of Ploshnick and others and said: "If you need an example of what I’ve been talking about for the last nine months — about how the teachers union leadership is out of touch with the people and out of control — go watch this video.’’.. Student body president in California is illegal immigrant AP: The popular student body president at California State University, Fresno has publicly revealed what he had tried to keep a secret: He's an illegal immigrant... Student-teacher sex: When is it OK? Salon: Matthew Hirschfelder, a former choir teacher at Hoquiam High School in Washington state, had sex in his office with a student days before she graduated. Then 33, he was charged with first degree sexual misconduct with a minor, even though the student was 18 at the time... If we try to engineer perfect children, will they grow up to be unbearable? Slate: Lurking somewhere behind this strange and hopeless desire to create a perfect environment lies the even stranger and more hopeless idea of creating the perfect child... A Tale Of Two White Boards TNR: For better or for worse, one of the most important communications media of the last couple years has been Glenn Beck and his chalkboard.
We're still waiting for the definitive journalistic lookback at the Klein era in New York City -- maybe a forthcoming Steve Brill article in the NYT magazine? -- but in the meantime it's worth checking out GothamSchools's look back at the past eight years of reform (Joel Klein’s bumpy learning curve) even if you don't care a whit about the self-absorbed New York City reform scene. The post includes some useful reminders, including how Klein started out as a centralizer, attempting to impose a single curriculum, and only decentralized after that failed, and that NYC had old-school "bumping" until as recently as 2005. Don't forget that Klein was on the short list for Education Secretary (or so some say). And the arc of the story -- media hype inexorably replaced by skepticism -- tells a familiar story no matter where you are in the country. What Green and Cramer leave out includes the personal and professional relationships gone awry -- with Weingarten, Ravitch, and Moscowitz, and the close relationship between NYC and Duncan reform strategies. But still a good read and I hope a taste of more to come. Breaking news is great, and the new is always news, but there's lots to be learned from the Klein experience and it remains a story that, despite all the coverage, remains curiously under-told.
Some may be trying to outsource the job or rely almost entirely on high-tech solutions but in reality it takes a village to keep a kid in school, according to EdWeek's Catherin Gewertz, who reports that successful dropout prevention efforts are "staffing-heavy," requiring social workers, smaller classes, personalized instruction, credit recovery, and social-emotional support for struggling students and returning dropouts (here). In Chicago, dropout prevention also included "reengagement specialists," "acceleration institutes," and "social-service-community partnerships." Dakarai Aarons described Baltimore's success in increasing the graduation rates of Black males and how it also requires an array of school and community efforts. Dropout prevention has to be systematic, but it also requires one-on-one work with students because, “Someone in the building has to know that student’s story.” - JT
Obama should declare himself out of the running for 2012! Congress should get rid of the US Department of Education! Get rid of all the local school boards! Let's go back to the gold standard! Fire all the teachers! Pay them all $100K! Slate's David Weigel describes how the opinion industry feeds on unlikely and even fantastical scenarios to sell conflict and fill airtime / web pages and avoid the hard real-world discussions that are usually involved in tough policy issues. "Data is unexciting, especially if it's the same data everyone else has. Discussions of fantasy scenarios that could prove your theories right? Exciting!" Of course, Slate is know for its knee-jerk counterintuitiveness, and I've been known to suggest some pretty ridiculous ideas, if only to pass the time. But that doesn't mean that pundits shouldn't be mocked for their ridiculous proposals, or that sound, sober, workable (realistic) notions should be ignored just because they're not "new" or unexpected or don't serve anyone's political or organizational agenda.
That's what Patrick Riccards thinks might be going on in this recent post (ESEA Reauth a Done Deal?), noting that Harkin runs both the authorizing and appropriations committees but has said and done very little on NCLB and RTTT beyond pro forma hearings. "We are hearing nothing coming out of the Senate," says Riccards. And indeed that seems true - notwithstanding that the top Democratic ed committee talent all went to the White House or joined Duncan's team. Is Harkin, like Obey, regretting giving Duncan and Obama a blank check on RTTT? Is he going to stand in the way as much as anyone else on revamping NCLB? There's lots more reporting to be done here, but I wouldn't be surprised.
This guy isn't going to get invited to *any* of the cool holiday parties if he keeps talking trash about reformers (for complacency) and educators (for holding onto tenure too long): "If everyone wants to throw money at you, and if their primary reason for doing so is because of your success at modifying behavior and outcomes within the current dysfunctional system, it could be tempting to fall in love with your current image," writes Chaltain, mentioning TFA, KIPP, and NLNS specifically (Education's Blockbuster Moment). But then he goes after his educator friends just as hard: "Get rid of tenure and explore new ways to reward, support, and evaluate teachers? Yes please." Choose a side, man! Otherwise my head might explode
We're going to have to get over the notion that color blindness is ideal (or even achievable) if we're going to make schools and the rest of the world really diverse, according to this recent Miller-McCune article (New Directions in Diversity). Longtime readers will find this a familiar notion following countless previous blog posts: "That Sounded Racist", Modeling Racial Tolerance Is Not Enough, Fryer To Colbert: "You're Black Now, Aren't You?", and ¡Ask a Mexican!. I have written for Miller-McCune a couple of times in the past.