If reformers will hang in long enough, says Laura Pappano, their turnaround efforts might do more than just produce a bump in test scores, but her new book Inside School Turnarounds does not offer much hope for dramatic transformations across the board. Pappano documents a lot of hard work by dedicated reformers but this "so-called once-in-a-lifetime" infusion of cash into school reform does not look to me like a prudent investment. The top experts cited by Pappano sound the most pessimistic. Andrew Calkins, an author of "The Turnaround Challenge," says he had wanted an influx of federal money four or five years down the road, after a proper foundation had been laid. Scott Given, a turnaround directer, thinks "unfortunately, a lot of efforts will fall flat, and within five years the idea of school turnaround will have fizzled." - JT (@drjohnthompson)
Don't forget. The "First Thursdays" Education Happy Hour is taking place this Thursday in NYC -- say you're coming or send your heartfelt regrets here. As always, it's open to educators, advocates, researchers, and reformers without regard to ideology or accent. If you care about or work in schools, you're welcome to be there. The location is still TBD but it'll probably be at Stitch NYC again. Off the record, just for fun, it's guaranteed to take the edge off the winter cold.
All eyes are on the situation in Copley Township, which raises issues of race, choice, and -- most important -- inequalities among local school districts that have yet to be addressed effectively at the state or national levels: Duncan: ‘Morally unacceptable’ that Ohio woman couldn’t find a good school for her son Yahoo News: "Where children have one option and that option isn't a good one, that's just absolutely morally unacceptable," Duncan said... Mother Jailed For School Fraud Flares Controversy NPR: Host Michel Martin talks with Brian Poe, superintendent of Copley-Fairlawn School District, about the matter...
Chicago Votes To Give Nearly Half A Million Chicago Students Free Breakfast Tribune: Chicago's school board on Wednesday adopted a sweeping new program to offer free breakfasts in the classrooms of Chicago Public Schools' 410,000 students, expanding a federally funded initiative aimed at giving kids from low-income families a healthier start to their day... Memphis to Vote on Transferring School System to County AP: Memphis voters will decide whether to merge their schools with those of the more prosperous Shelby County school system, which has been maneuvering to freeze out the city schools... Producer, stadium developers donate to group backing Villaraigosa's school board candidates LAT: Developers seeking city approval to build a football stadium downtown as well as Democratic financier and producer Stephen Bing were among the major contributors to a committee set up to support Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's favored candidates for the Los Angeles Board of Education, new filings show...Texas may eliminate steroid testing program AP: When Texas began testing tens of thousands of high school athletes for steroids, the goal was to stop teens from taking dangerous performance-enhancing drugs. The death of a 17-year-old baseball player in a Dallas suburb had drawn national attention to the hazard... Mass. dropout reform plan eyes paid parent leave AP: A new proposal targeting Massachusetts' high school dropout rate would track students as early as third grade for warning signs and would require businesses to give parents up to 24 hours a year in paid leave for student academic needs... Board member won't resign after pregnancy remark AP: A member of the Oklahoma state education board said Friday he would not resign amid criticism he was insensitive to a pregnant woman the panel hired to represent the state's 660,000 public school children at the Capitol...
Progressives might be feeling pretty good right now about the defeat or delay of various attacks (Waiting For Superman, the anti-strike legislation in Illinois, the parent trigger in Compton) and the emergence of several champions (Ravitch, Strauss).
But in my mind at least progressives are still spending so much time tearing down any and all possible examples of progress, a tactic that while useful may have reached its limits. There's always something wrong, or not good enough, or an extenuating circumstance or special treatment that can be used to explain things away. Where's the money coming from? What about the teacher turnover rate?
As you'll see below, I think it's time for a more positive, hopeful narrative, with a new set of examples and heroes illustrating an alternative path to success. But I'm not sure anyone's working on that.
It's always at least mildly interesting to see where EdSec Duncan is heading with his media trips, and this week is no different. He starts off the week in ATL, then Norcross, then back to DC for the rest of the week. There's a HGSE event on Wednesday (how did they get him to do that?) and then he shuts it down media-wise for the rest of the week.
That's glum USDE spinmeister Peter Cunningham, sitting between Diane Ravitch and the local teachers union president at Wednesday's Boca Raton Beat Down, looking like he needs a Red Bull or something. Then again, at least he's not snowed in.
Used to be that NCLB got blamed for everything that's wrong with education -- including problems that existed long before the law came along. Now it's teachers unions who are to blame, at least according to the Economist in a recent article about income inequality's causes and remedies: "Rules and institutions are often rigged in ways that limit competition and favour insiders at the expense both of growth and equality. The rules can be blatantly unfair: witness China’s limits to migration, which keep the poor in the countryside. Or they can involve more subtle distortions: look at the way that powerful teachers’ unions have stopped poorer Americans getting a good education..." (The rich and the rest )
Here's some more about Bruce Randolph, the school success story highlighted in the State of the union: NPR's Larry Abramson reports that the school graduated 97% of its 75 seniors, but the school's four year graduation rate is unknown. EdNewsColorado notes that only 13% of their high school students scored proficient in Math. (In Reading, the subject where the school tested the highest, 43% of high school students were proficient.) The Rocky Mountain News contrasts Randolph, which was allowed to hold back students who did not meet grade level standards, with other neighborhood schools that were not granted that power. JT (@drjohnthompson)
We can pretend all we want that great teachers can overcome the effects of poverty, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, bad eyesight, a lack of early exposure to books. But pretending won’t make it so. -- Valerie Strauss in the Washington post
How are kids in schools like salmon passed along from one agency to another? They're passed along from Head Start (HHS) to Title I (USDE). (Or, as one respondent put it: "They are HHS' until they hit kindergarten, then they play with ED for a decade or two, then they become Labor's responsibility,") Some other examples include a kid going from a regular school (USDE) to a DOD or BIA school, or a class using curricula developed by the USDE, NSF, or NEH. How is education dis-coordinated or conflicted among different offices and agencies? There are two sets of school rating systems in operation: AYP ratings (NCLB) vs. Persistently Low Achieving Schools (SIG / RTTT). There are three offices within USDE in charge of research and development (the main one plus school improvement and the office of innovation). USDE runs special education but HHS runs Medicaid reimbursement. USDE handles civil rights complaints but DOJ runs district level desegregation programs. Ed schools train teachers (under HEA) while districts hire and develop them (under ESEA). They're fed by the USDA while the USDE tries to improve school lunch quality. Got more, or better? Previous post: The Kids Are The Salmon
Senators pledge to work jointly on education AP: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators pledged Wednesday to work together to revamp the federal No Child Left Behind education law.... Boehner hopes to revive DC school voucher program AP: GOP House Speaker John Boehner and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman introduced legislation Wednesday to revive a school voucher program for District of Columbia students nearly two years after Congress began phasing it out... A Closer Look At Denver School Praised By Obama NPR: Bruce Randolph was Denver's first "innovation" school. It was taken over by its principal and teachers a few years ago. But a more complete picture of the school is a little less glowing than the president let on... Obama seeks to make No Child Left Behind more flexible WP: It remains unclear how the government would force improvement of low-performing schools while getting out of the way of those that excel... Minn. Senate committee approves teacher pay freeze AP: Minnesota school employees would have their wages frozen under a proposal that advanced through the state Senate Education Committee on Tuesday... Nevada governor suggests school funding cuts AP: Gov. His ambitious and conservative plan revealed Monday during his State of the State speech proposes rolling back education spending to 2007 levels, giving unproven educators the boot and eliminating statutory mandates requiring smaller class sizes and other programs... Struggling Belmont High to be restructured LAT: Most employees will have to reapply for their jobs and agree to a curriculum in which the school's nearly 1,300 students will be taught in English, Spanish and Mandarin.
Don't listen to anything I say because I'm just selling a book but it occurs to me once again the day after the Oscar nominations were announced that Waiting For Superman might have done so much better Oscar- and other-wise if it had included examples of successful or improving neighborhood schools like Locke high school, the subject of my upcoming book, which Guggenheim covered in production but left out for the editing process. The Locke turnaround isn't complete and hasn't been perfect -- anyone who reads the book will see that fixing a school is a messy and uncomfortable business and Green Dot makes its share of mistakes -- but still: Locke remained an open enrollment neighborhood school throughout the transition, kept roughly a quarter of the tenured teachers from the old school (the rest were re-assigned to other district schools), and its teachers worked under a union contract that played an important role at some key moments. Including Locke wouldn't have saved Superman or changed the minds of Green Dot's most fervent critics but it might have opened some eyes and made people think. I'd still love to see the footage that was shot but ended up on the cutting room floor.
The goal of President Obama's State of the Union address was to produce headlines like the one on Yahoo's search engine which declared "Tone of Speeches Spotlights Divide." The President's words did not need to hit a home run. As President Obama maintains a steady and dignified course, the Right is likely to melt down. The President did not backtrack on his flawed "reform" agenda, but neither did he further inflame the educational civil war within his own party. Traditional reformers should take a page from the President, and let the obvious differences between teachers and the Rhee/Bush/Christie/Klein/Tea Party school of "reform" make our case for us. If we keep our eyes on the prize of incremental improvement in schools, the tantrums thrown by the accountability hawks will discredit them.- JT (@drjohnthompson)
An Ohio district pursued felony charges against a mother who falsified her children's address in order to be able to send them to a better school than the one in Akron they would otherwise attend.
The district [Copley Township] hired a private investigator to determine if the children actually lived in the district, and apparently catches 15-20 such cases a year -- usually without going to court.
The mother is a teaching assistant. She is almost done with her 10-day sentence, and it remains unclear if she'll be able to keep her job. The children's father lives in Copley Township.
Oops! The folks at Politico interviewed DPC chief Melody Barnes about the SOTU and initially identified her as a charter school board member, then corrected the post to say that she's no longer in that position. They also report that NCLB was enacted in 2001 not 2002. But mostly they dutifully pass along the White House hopefulness about revamping NCLB. That's how it works. You get an interview if you do what they want you to do. Politico will put up pretty much anything that the White House tells them to, but it's not the only outfit who will post something that's being shopped around.
Shifting from punishment of noncompliance to reward of compliance is an important tactical shift for the federal government. But make no mistake, both are top down efforts by Washington to dictate state and local action. -- Russ Whitehurst
Here's a mini-roundup of education coverage of the President's speech last night: Obama issues call for education reform AP: President Barack Obama is asking Congress to extend a $10,000 college tax credit and pay for thousands of new science and math teachers as part of a broad rewrite of the nation's education system.... Obama Sells Education Reform As A No-Brainer Huffington Post: So far, Obama has followed through on 11 of his 48 education promises and made progress on 24, according to PolitiFact... Cut Waste or Invest? Try Both NYT: President Obama wants to ensure investments that help the economy. The G.O.P. wants the government not to waste money. Education offers a chance for both sides...
Check out the lineup for today's education summit in Boca Raton being hosted this afternoon by state Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach (and streamed live): Peter Cunningham, Diane Ravitch, Mona David, president of the New York Charter Parents Association; Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association; Bob Schaeffer, director of Fair Test; Robert Dow, president of the Palm Beach County teachers union; and Yong Zhao, professor at the University of Oregon. Michelle Rhee has tentatively agreed to attend. (Hot-button education issues will dominate summit Sun Sentinel) Be sure to tell us who wins.
Student Test Scores Show U.S. Science Deficiency WSJ: Results from a national exam revealed that fewer than one-third of elementary- and high-school students have a solid grasp of science... Few Students Show Proficiency in Science, Tests Show NYT: Only one or two out of 100 displayed a mastery of science on nationwide tests, the Department of Education said... Required high school test on government may be eliminated Washington Post: An American government exam taken by all high school students in Maryland would be eliminated next year under the proposed state budget, a surprising shift in policy that comes just three years after the test was made a graduation requirement... Troubled school systems getting high marks from many voters Boston Globe: Nearly half of voters in 11 Massachusetts cities give their public schools a grade of A or B and just 12 percent rate their schools D or F, according to poll results released yesterday... TN teachers' collective bargaining rights targeted Associated Press: Tennessee school districts would no longer have to engage in negotiations with teachers' unions under a bill introduced by House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart... Education reform group backs Gist in open letter Providence Journal: A new education reform advocacy group sent Governor Chafee an open letter Tuesday, asking him to support Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist and keep the state's chief education policy board focused on the aggressive reforms Gist has pushed for the past year and a half.
Reformers are moping and education types are gloating that Waiting For Superman didn't get an Oscar nomination when they were announced earlier today. Such a thing would have given the movie another push in terms of viewership and influence, and was widely considered to be one of the goals of the movie's producers, Participant Media, and its director, Davis Guggenheim.
My sense is that the movie failed to win a nod not because of its substance (generally pro-charter, anti-union) but for artistic/ creative reasons most notable among them attempt to make Guggenheim the protagonist of the film rather than keeping the kids who are being accepted or rejected front and center.
Others will say it was the substance, or the Ravitch effect, or any other number of other things. Let the exulting / complaining begin!
They say that cops are strict about enforcing the code of silence, but what about teachers? There's a fascinating story in the AJC about how whistleblowers in the classroom have been treated in their buildings and by the system that explains in part why so few teachers report testing problems. "Not one educator confessed during the school district’s initial inquiry into widespread cheating on the 2009 CRTC. Now, under threat of criminal prosecution if they lie to state agents investigating the cheating scandal, numerous Atlanta educators have acknowledged witnessing or participating in irregularities." (Whistle-blowing teachers targeted) I know, I know. it's all NCLB's fault. Teachers, administrators and districts are helpless pawns.
If Republicans and Democrats can sit together during the State of the Union then teachers unions and districts can attend a post-Valentines Day conference in December, right? The USDE announced the list of 150 districts from 40 states who won the lottery to participate in the Denver labor-management conference next month along with the folks who applied but didn't make it. There's also a list of presenters that includes lots of familiar names like New Haven, Baltimore, Denver, Hillsborough, Montgomery, County, etc. Notably missing from the list -- giant districts like NYC, Chicago, and LA (though DC is included and is a presenter). Providence is going but it looks like Central Falls didn't apply (as we were hearing). Reactions?
State of the Union Edu-Cheat Sheet - Politics K-12 EdWeek: President Barack Obama is expected to talk a lot about K-12 policy, call on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and link his education agenda to the nation's economic future (possibly using the words "Sputnik" moment.)... Film focuses on stressed-out students Boston Globe: Molly O’Rourke-Friel is a senior at the prestigious Bromfield School, a public school for grades 6-12 that is known for high academic standards... Wyoming teacher evaluation bills would put cameras in classrooms: Two bills filed this week in the Wyoming Legislature would require videotaped class periods to be part of every teacher's evaluation... Tiered RI diploma plan discriminatory, critics say Associated Press: A coalition of groups including the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and disability and minority advocates joined yesterday to object to a plan to institute a tiered high school diploma system in the state, saying it would create a “caste system’’ in public schools... Spike Lee, U.S. ed secretary visit Morehouse to promote teaching career AJC: Spike Lee, U.S. ed secretary visit Morehouse to promote teaching careers * ShareThis * Print * E-mail By Laura Diamond The Atlanta Journal-Constitution U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and film director Spike Lee will hold a meeting Jan. 31 at Morehouse College to encourage more minorities to pursue teaching careers.
The Washington Post tells us that remote-c0ntrol drones, once limited to far-off battlefields, have already made their way into the arsenals of several domestic agencies including local police departments. District-based safety folks love new technology as much as anyone else, so I'm guessing it only takes three years before someone buys one of these unarmed thing for use in some real or imagined crisis situation.
For long than I care to admit I've been having to tell annoyed readers that there was no easy solution to the fact that using my official blog address ("thisweekineducation.com") would effectively hold their browser address window hostage, hiding individual blog post links and outbound links alike. The only workaround was to tell people to bookmark the real address where the blog content is hosted (here). It was very annoying, to say the least. However it turns out that the solution was much easier than I had thought -- a simple domain name process called "unmasking" that should allow you to see the "real" web addresses for my posts and for the publications and newspapers that I'm always telling you to go check out. Check it out. Let me know if there are other hindrances to your complete and utter pleasure reading this site -- it's supposed to be easy and fun, after all. Apologies and thanks to everyone who's endured this for too long, and thanks for the repeated reminders to take care of it.
It's no consolation for Bears fans but the reason Hu Jintao went to Chicago rather than any other city was America’s largest Chinese-language education program created seemingly almost by chance by a Chicago educator I've never heard of named Robert Davis (now at the College Board) whose program was expanded after a chance 2004 meeting with mayor Richard M. Daley after which Chicago boosted its spending to the point that CPS now employs 58 full-time Chinese-language teachers who teach 12,000 students. Take that, Green Bay.
Questions about the success of the NYC public schools under Joel Klein keep mounting. As reported in the NYT, a 2009 audit showed that Chancellor Joel Klein had created what one critic called the "Enron of Education." The transcripts of 25% of the audited student records were altered as the system inflated its graduation rate by playing games with "credit recovery," and "discharge rates." Now the New York Times describes how these tricks inflated the report card of the highest ranked school in the district. Teachers were given a quota of assigning no more than five "Ds" and no "Fs." A student was promoted after missing more than 100 days of school. Another student, who missed 98 days, earned credits for cooking, yoga, and independent study, even though the school does not offer a cooking class. Credit was awarded for classes that the school does not offer, in the name of a gym teacher who does not work at the school. Students could earn credit by just copying handouts from the teacher because "tasting success motivates."- JT (@drjohnthompson)
TPM has the list of proposed Republican spending cuts, which include 68 education programs that are duplicative or whatever (Republican Spending Cut Proposals), but don't be fooled by what the advocates and journo-bots tell you. These programs are not going to get cut, just like the Obama health care plan is not going to get repealed. Proposals and projections are not reality, folks. Rinse and repeat.
LA judge limits seniority-based teacher layoffs AP: A judge on Friday approved a sweeping overhaul of how teachers are laid off in what education reformers hail as a landmark decision to keep more effective instructors in the classroom, but unions denounce as a step toward dismantling tenure policies... Judge OKs settlement that limits use of seniority in L.A. teacher layoffs LAT: In a case that pits the constitutional rights of students against the job protections of teachers, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge approved a groundbreaking settlement Friday that limits the effect of layoffs on the district's most vulnerable students... More below.
City Pages tells the story of the now lowly and totally old-fashioned game called Oregon Trail, created by a history teacher for his classroom in 1971 and originally played on a teletype (ask your parents). Since then it's sold 65 million copies The challenges are still the same, however. (How much to pay for your oxen team. Where to ford a river. The value of a spare axle.) The Atlantic Wire rounds up some commentary on the game's legacy and educational value (Is Oregon Trail the Greatest Video Game of All Time?) including from the New Yorker (Master Of Play) and Certification Map (Top Seven Educational Games) and Chicago Tribune (Best Sports Videogame). I haven't read the whole thing but it opens with three Carleton students finishing up a teacher prep program and finding out that teaching's not as easy as it looks.
Not much going on in the Secretary's media schedule this week, though it's always possible he'll pick his nose on camera during the State of the Union or do a conference call with reporters to play up the president's ideas on Tuesday or Wednesday. Behind the scenes, they're probably debriefing about what they got from Chairman Kline last week, and what the President's budget is going to include or not. The White House and OMB can be pretty tough to deal with right around now.
I'm not sure I'm down for all five parts, but Kicked Out of Kindergarten (GQ) starts off engagingly enough in a "hippy charter school" (yes there are such things) where they're trying to get the kids ready for the hippy version of Christmas. Via GothamSchools.
Yesterday I joked about the coming Tea Party / liberal surge of antipathy towards what I'm calling "Obamaschool" only to find out that there's already a "Save Our Schols" event planned for July that includes much of what I described (minus Palin or Ron Paul, so far at least). But Yahoo! News also tells me that there's also the possibility of some sort of national strike happening before then (National strike ‘not off the table’ if states reverse teacher tenure). Also news to me, and unconfirmed etc. Strike or march, what's your preference?
A 15-year old Miami-Dade student explained to the New York Times that "for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated." But without warning, the district dumped 7,000 students into online learning classes in an effort to meet classroom size mandates. Florida has no legal limit to the number of kids crammed into those teacher-less classes. Used properly, "blended learning," or integrating tutorials into classroom instruction, can work well. When schools do not consider the students' maturity levels before forcing them into huge computer labs, however, the result is "almost criminal." Jeb Bush, and other promoters of cheap solutions, still claim that virtual education is designed to help students, but as schools across the nation expand digital learning programs in transparent efforts to just warehouse students, those arguments become laughable. - JT (@drjohnthompson)
This AP story (Charter schools expand with public, private money) is best understood as a courtesy to the charter school folks who are having a big annual conference this week, or a "beat sweetener" (a story written to curry favor with powerful sources) or ... a mistaken reaction to a press release? Because charter schools aren't in great shape, no matter what the charter folks say. They've lost a lot of their national expansion funding; there's increasing awareness that the quality isn't uniformly any better than anyone else's; they're involved in less than 5 percent of the turnarounds going on nationally. There have been a couple of recent meltdowns (LA's ICEF schools, for example). Enthusiasm for expansion has waned in the aftermath of RTTT. But you won't get wind of any of that from this story.
The media shouldn't focus on shaming individual teachers, because there are bigger fish to fry...They should focus on shaming the entrenched bodies, structures, and policies that allow poor teaching to continue unchecked, fail to reward good teaching, and don't provide enough support for teachers who want to improve their skills. -- TNR's Seyward Darby on NPR
Duncan Criticizes Wake County Over Diversity Policy EdWeek: Duncan calls equity and diversity "core values." He also noted that the school board's actions have prompted an investigation by the education department's office of civil rights... NY school bus, plow collide; 22 kids, driver hurt AP: A school bus carrying fifth- and sixth-graders slammed into the back of a town snowplow on a central New York road, injuring 22 children and the bus driver, authorities said Thursday... Harvard on schedule to reject 33,000 this year Slate" The dramatic increase in applications doesn't reflect an increase in the number of college-bound seniors, just their competitiveness... Parents angry over lockdowns at LAUSD schools LA Times: The Los Angeles school district's police chief acknowledged, as officials coped with complaints from parents frustrated once more with the district's handling of an emergency situation... When Almost Every Teacher Gets an ‘A’ NYT: For the 2009-10 school year, just 40 out of 1,924 teachers — or 2 percent — reviewed by the San Francisco Unified School District received below-satisfactory performance reviews, district records show...
"Remember, it's not enough to say what's great about mac 'n' cheese. We've got to go negative on tuna noodle casserole." (From this week's New Yorker)
The head of the Central Falls teachers' union is skipping the upcoming national conference on labor-management cooperation because she says the district is "not willing to establish real collaboration," according to the Boston Globe (Teachers union chief in RI sees little progress), and at this point I'm not sure I blame her. It won't be long before disgruntled teachers (who want dignity and autonomy and to see some research before they accept their marching orders) partner with right wing Ron Paul types who want Obama and Duncan to back off from meddling in personnel decisions, local practices, and all the rest. Then they'll organize a big protest on the Mall, a crazy anti-government, anti-reformy cry of anger against ObamaSchool. Sara Palin and Diane Ravitch will keynote.