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School Life: Popular Kids Most Bullied, Bullying

image from static.theatlanticwire.com "High school life is less like Carrie and more like Mean Girls--the social carnage rains down upon the popular crowd far more than it does on marginalized loners. Why would a kid waste her time picking on an untouchable nerd when she could ascend the popularity ladder by taking out her slightly-cooler BFF?  Bullying peaks among students in the 98th percentile of popularity. Above that, cruelty drops off. You have to be mean to climb the social ranks in high school. But once you claw your way to the very top, you have to chill out a little bit. Get nicer." (The Most Popular Kids Are Like Benign Dictators Atlantic Wire via High School Heirarchy Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times).

Quote: Stop Talking About Education's "Egypt Moment"

Quotes2 This isn’t a revolution like Egypt’s, in which 18 days can change everything.

 -- Reform advocate Whitney Tilson

Continue reading "Quote: Stop Talking About Education's "Egypt Moment"" »

Value-Added: Premature, Inappropriate Uses Raise Red Flags

image from farm5.static.flickr.comAEI's Rick Hess goes to great lengths to parse out the debate over the LA Times' value added series and the controversial study that came out last week about its merits, but I'll boil it down for you: Value-added models don't have to be perfect to be useful but are extremely sensitive to minor variations in design and other factors.  Newspapers probably shouldn't interpret critical studies as supportive ones.  Publishing teachers' individual scores is a dumb idea. But then again you already knew all that didn't you?  Because I've been saying it for months now, and more and more folks (including Wendy Kopp) seem to agree.  Thanks, Rick.  Image via

Thompson: Investing in the Neediest Students

Five_steps_onpage Karen Baroody's Center for American Progress report says that districts should consider extra investments in schools with high concentrations of students with multiple needs - learning disabilities and conduct disorders; students on IEPs serious enough for self-contained classrooms; and English Language Learners and students who are off-track for graduation.  I would add IEP students with mental illness and who are adjudicated for serious criminal offences.  Back when 20% of our school were on IEPs, most of them were absolutely delightful kids with a reading or math disability, but those types of students  have been "creamed off" to choice schools.  As the schools'  percentages of "at-risk" populations doubled,  our IEP students remained just as lovable, but they came with multiple conditions that made them incomparably more challenging.   Acknowledging the effects of intense concentrations of students with multiple risk factors could be the first step in learning from Atul Gawande's New Yorker article on reducing health care costs, while improving outcomes, by intense investments on the neediest patients.  - JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.     

Media: Status Check On Stimulus-Funded Efforts

image from hechingerreport.org If you're seeing stories about the mixed effects of the stimulus this week, they're probably one of the 30 stories to come from this Hechinger/EWA collaboration.  There are tons of stories out there (Schools have tough time making stimulus grade STL Post Dispatch, Reaching Ohio's at-risk students are main goals of Race to the Top program CPD, Districts bracing for end of stimulus funds Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Columbus must fix 'worst' schools or lose millions Columbus Post Dispatch, School-stimulus benefit may be short-lived Boston Globe, Can a private firm and federal funds fix this public school? CT Mirror). Their main finding?  "Reporters have found that much of the stimulus money went to maintaining existing programs and staffing in schools. Also, many of the policy changes spurred by the stimulus money are already endangered by political squabbles and massive budget shortfalls."  This Michele McNeil story is a good place to start, overviewing (yes!) complexities of reform efforts in states like MA, CT, MD, and IL. Image via.

Continue reading "Media: Status Check On Stimulus-Funded Efforts" »

Denver Summit: A "Time Out" For Labor-Management

image from msnbcmedia3.msn.com Here's a quick roundup of news coverage of the Denver labor-management summit, including a couple of high-level no-shows (At School-Labor Summit, Districts Seek Accord) and (from the Post) a claim that Duncan dramatically softened his stance on seniority based layoffs at the last minute:  Arne Duncan reverses course on LIFO repeal.  Also:   On The Agenda: Improving U.S. Schools NPR, Role for Teachers Is Seen in Solving Schools’ Crises NYT,  Teachers, US education leaders attend Colo. summit AP.  Image via AP. Who did it best?  I'll leave that to you this time.  Meanwhile, things are getting pretty heated in Wisconsin (Hundreds protest Wis. plan to cut worker rights AP).

AM News: Budget Cuts And A $200M Reform Dud

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L.A. Unified OKs 'doomsday budget' LAT:  Thousands of employees would lose jobs, children would face larger classes, and magnet and preschool programs would experience sharp reductions under a worst-case $5-billion budget plan approved Tuesday by the Los Angeles Board of Education...  A 10-year lesson on how the Northwest Area Foundation blew $200 millionA jaw-dropping $200 million anti-poverty experiment launched in about a dozen communities a decade ago was called a bold innovation by some experts. Others smelled a disaster. Via EdNews.org...Flavor Flav Goes Back To High School? AP:  Now he's opened his first chicken restaurant in Iowa, rapper Flavor Flav would like to earn his high school diploma in the state and record his efforts for a new reality TV show... Image via Newseum

Books: Merrow's New Book Available Today

Picture 95 Check out PBS news correspondent John Merrow's new book, THE INFLUENCE OF TEACHERS, out today to rave reviews:

"TerrificJim Lehrer

"InvaluableMarian Wright Edelman, Children's Defense Fund

"Important and enjoyable, warm and thoughtful" Former EdSec Richard Riley

"Passionate, persuasive, and eminently readableChris Cerf 

Seems like Merrow just had a book out  a few weeks ago.  That guy is hard to keep up with.  

Video Interlude: How Do Fleas Jump?

At long last, the superslowmo answer to the debate over whether fleas jump with their knees or their feet (via The Awl).

People: A NYT Valentine For Ron Ferguson

image from graphics8.nytimes.comOn Monday the NYT's Mike Winerip profiled Harvard education guru Ron Ferguson -- apparently the first mainstream profile Ferguson's ever received -- and painted him as a sort of go-to guy on the achievement gap -- a "de facto educational social worker, meeting with students, faculty members and parents to explain what steps their schools can take to narrow the gap."  Some folks like him, others -- not mentioned in the column -- don't.  He's an economist, which is problematic to some academics.  He's focused on the achievement gap, which not everyone agrees is the right thing to focus on.  Happy Valentine's Day, Ron.  Love, Mike.  

Thompson: What Malcolm Gladwell Asked Wendy Kopp

KoppLast week in New York City, Wendy Kopp told Malcolm Gladwell that TFA is not a teaching organization but rather a leadership development organization.  That's good to know.  Then the conversation briefly turned to ways to make teaching sustainable so their elite cadre of, er, future leaders would not burn themselves out.  The discussion became weird, however, as they discussed an entrepreneurial system where successful leaders would gain full autonomy but where others would "crash and burn."   Gladwell worried whether "we" are prepared for the anxiety that would be produced by those innovations.  I waited in vain for Gladwell or Kopp to voice a concern for the students in those failed experiments.  It became clear, however, that the interview was not about poor children but about the leaders who want to help students.  I guess we need another leadership organizational institution to address the children left behind in schools where experimentation failed. - JT (@drjohnthompson)   Image via

Media: The Tightly Staged Presidential School Visit

image from i.usatoday.netIt looks casual and relaxed, but in reality it's tightly scripted and all but hermetically sealed.  Yesterday's Presidential visit to Parkville Middle School went off without a hitch, thanks to extensive advance work by White House staffers who apparently started showing up more than a week ahead of time and a nearly complete clampdown on the local press and educators involved with the school.  I'm told that local press access was limited to the Baltimore Sun; everyone else had to work off of images transmitted by White House cameras.  Only a handful of kids got to interact with the President.  The president and the vice president of the local school board were invited and then disinvited.  But who cares?  The school district did a second press event in the afternoon during which the kids got to talk about what they'd said to Obama long after he was gone.  The event went off smoothly and gave the WH media folks the pictures and sound bites they wanted: POTUS touts education and takes questions CNN, Obama meets with Parkville students Baltimore Sun. It's nothing new -- Kent Fischer described a school visit from 1996 that sounds just as tightly orchestrated, including 17 pieces of tape on the floor making different places for dignitaries to stand. Other similar events have apparently been staged with posters and equipment brought in just for the occasion. Image via

AM News: Real World Intrudes While DC Debates FY12 Budget

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Obama Budget Raises School Spending NYT:  The 2012 budget proposal includes $900 million for Race to the Top, which the administration says would be awarded this time not to states but to school districts... Obama's education budget would spare Pell grants, increase spending 11% overall WP:  President Obama wants a significant jump in education funding to pay for Pell grants for needy college students while also financing his reform agenda for elementary and secondary schools... W.Va. lawmakers approve federal funding boost AP:  Medicaid and public schools are among the potential beneficiaries of a $247 million federal funding measure approved by West Virginia's Legislature... LA school board contemplates up to 5,000 layoffs LAT:  The Los Angeles school board is set to vote on authorizing layoff warning notices for more than 5,000 employees, including 4,000 teachers, in a bid to close a $408 million budget deficit for the 2011-2012 academic year... Colorado school district has wealth, success — and an eye on vouchers LAT:  Douglas County, a swath of subdivisions just south of here that is one of the nation's wealthiest, is something of a public school paradise... Police: Ariz. student planned to shoot teacher AP:  Authorities say a student brought a gun to a Phoenix-area high school intending to shoot a teacher.

TFA20: A Premature (Or Even Unwarranted) Celebration?

Picture 92 Imagine a world in which Michelle Rhee is something of a rock star no one’s much over 45 everyone is smart and optimistic and hard working and basically competent (if not particularly wise) and thinks they’re doing a bang-up job.  That’s what it was like at this weekend’s TFA20 Summit, a slick celebration and expensive-seeming birthday party for Teach For America. No doubt TFA’s heart is in the right place and it deserves credit for lasting this long and growing as big as its gotten compared to many other rinky dink education nonprofits.  But the sense of accomplishment was, even for a revival, both immodest and premature – reminding me of the kid who expects praise for doing his homework for a few days in a row or the football player who starts celebrating before he's reached the end zone. The situation TFA faces is far from clear.  Two of its biggest champions -- Rhee and Klein -- were recently bounced from office. The exemption Congress carved out of NCLB to allow corps members to work without being deemed not highly qualified is under legal challenge in California. The coming budget crunch is setting up a generational war between veteran and newbie teachers. It's extremely possible that RTTT, SIG, and the rest of the Obama education agenda, with which TFA is closely allied, could fall flat. And yet, founder Wendy Kopp’s opening plenary caution that reformers have “not yet made a difference in the aggregate sense” largely seemed drowned out by the self-congratulation.

Continue reading "TFA20: A Premature (Or Even Unwarranted) Celebration?" »

Cartoon Interlude: "Video Games To The Rescue!"

image from 24.media.tumblr.com
Image via Juamp

AM News: It's Just A Budget PROPOSAL, People

image from webmedia.newseum.org Obama, Duncan to visit school in Baltimore Co. Baltimore Sun:  President Barack Obama will visit an eighth-grade science classroom at Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology in Baltimore County on Monday before making an announcement about investments in science and math education in his 2012 budget... Obama unveils $3.73 trillion budget for 2012 AP:  President Barack Obama is sending Congress a $3.73 trillion spending blueprint that pledges $1.1 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade through spending cuts and tax increases... School districts bracing for end of stimulus funds Pittsburgh Gazette:  For Pittsburgh Public Schools, which was already in the midst of developing and implementing a series of reforms when the economic stimulus was passed, the funding has saved about 200 teaching jobs each year.. School-stimulus benefit may be short-lived EdWeek:  In the two years since Congress made the federal government’s largest one-time investment in public schools, change has rippled through classrooms from coast to coast, as districts have expanded school days, improved teacher training, and tried to tie teacher evaluations to student performance...  Perry Fights to Cut Strings On Money  NYT/Texas Tribune:  Strings that Representative Lloyd Doggett attached to federal education money for Texas are responsible for a feud with Gov. Rick Perry and a lawsuit... City schools offer early retirement buyout to teachers Baltimore Sun:  Program will help mitigate budget shortfalls and prevent layoffs, schools CEO says... Trying to Hold Down Blue Language on a Red-Letter Day:  Middle schoolers in Alabama are pushing for a Valentine’s Day without cursing. Image via.

USDE: Duncan Goes To Denver

image from images6.cpcache.com Secretary Duncan is headed to Denver for a couple of events, including the labo-management conference some are calling collabor-palooza.  There's also a budget coming out -- though Republicans still want to talk about last (this) year's budget a little longer.  And that's about all.  See below. Image via.

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Jobs: Researcher Gets Top Education Job In Chicago

image from www.chicagodefender.comThe news is out this morning (announcement happening just about now at Fiske) that Charles Payne has been tapped for the top education job in CPS, which has gone unfilled since Barbara Eason Watkins left: U. of C. prof gets top education officer post in Chicago schools Chicago Sun-Times: Interim Chicago schools CPS taps new chief ed officer Chicago Tribune... Payne tapped as CPS' chief education officer Chicago Defender. Payne, who's written books like So Much Reform, So Little Change, has been kind enough to mention my Chicago blog in a favorable light and to write a blurb about my book as well.  It remains unclear what will happen to Payne when Chicago gets a new mayor -- and education chief -- in the next few weeks.

OHIO: Education's Own Small Facebook Revolution

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Over 165,000 folks have signed a petition to have the state reconsider the conviction of an Akron Ohio mother who faked her child's address to get them enrolled in a better school, according to Change.org (Pardon Kelley Williams-Bolar).  "That's 9,606 pages and approximately 40 pounds, delivered to Kasich's 30th-floor office and into the hands of Brad Reynolds, Gov. Kasich's Director of Constituent Affairs, earlier today." That's not the same as the nearly half million who signed the Facebook fan page that kicked off the ongoing protests in Egypt, but it's already showing some results. Kasich has agreed to investigate the case. 

Events: Five Ideas For TFA's *Next* 20 Years

image from blogs.houstonpress.comHere are five completely unsolicited ideas for TFA's next 20 years, on the occasion of its first:  (1) Tell locals to pick one or several struggling schools, stuff them with corps members and alumns over the course of two or three years, and show everyone what you can really do at the the whole school level.  Rinse, lather, repeat. (2) Stop expanding to new cities and do more in the cities you're already in.  Create two or three "superlocals" to get involved in reform, short of operating schools but well beyond the current menu of training, placement, and support. (3) Get off the charter school pipe.  Charter placements shouldn't exceed the percentage of kids being taught at charter schools in any given district. (4) Add a preservice residency year. It's the right thing to do, everybody else (BTR, AUSL, etc.) is doing it, you've got the money, and you can obviously afford to lose a few applicants without suffering too much. (5)  Take a stand against districts (or newspapers) publishing individual teachers' value-added scores, which should be used instead for evaluation, training, and support.  Wendy said she was against it in a recent interview but -- on this and so many other issues outside TFA operations -- hasn't taken a real leadership role on the issue. Now's the time.  There's only so much money, brand appeal, press, and political capital you can amass before you have to start making full use of it.  Push yourselves to make as much change as you push individual corps members.

Quote: "Rheeconsideration"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com Setting realistic goals doesn't have to mean sacrificing principles or collaborating on measures that could be harmful to public schools. 

 - TNR's Seyward Darby 



Quote: "Far Harder Than Fighting Crime"

Quotes2 More than anything else, America’s cities desperately need world-class schools that will keep parents within city borders, and that remains the great urban challenge facing 21st century America...Fixing urban school systems throughout the country has proved to be far harder than fighting crime- Economist Edward L. Glaeser in the New York Times

Thompson: What's A Turnaround Worth -- & Can We Afford It?

image from a6.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.netGreen Dot CEO Marco Petruzzi’s letter to the New York Review of Books made several good points regarding the progress achieved by Locke High School in Los Angeles. The school turnaround produced modest increases in test scores while, more importantly, increasing student retention, safety, and the school’s academic climate. He did not, however, fully address Diane Ravitch’s larger point that the Locke success says little about whether turnarounds can be achieved at scale. She cites Petruzzi’s own words that Locke received $15 million in outside funding, and when people learn of the price tag, the reaction is "You’re insane." Petruzzi is correct that the investment isn't unwarrented if the turnaround continues to succeed [and that the state reimbursement rate is one of the lowest in the nation] but that it is still more than double what other turnaround schools will receive from the federal turnaround effort over the same three year period. - JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Safety: Ten Security Cameras Per School In Chicago


image from chicagoist.comThe Chicago Tribune reports that the ACLU is freaking out over the unsupervised use of security cameras in Chicago, which is described as the most extensively monitored city in the nation (Chicago emergency officials defend city's extensive camera network).  This includes "more than 4,000 installed by Chicago Public Schools" out of a total estimated at more than 10,000.  That's roughly 10 per school -- more than enough to cover the main entrances and then some.  Mayor Daley has already rejected the organization's calls for limits on their use. Where are the rest of the cameras -- in hallways and common rooms or are they in bathrooms and classrooms too?  And who's watching them, if anyone, and how long are the recordings kept?


Rhee: Reformer's Growing Credibility Problem

Picture 89 Team Rhee's response to yesterday's charges that her claims of raising student test scores were grossly inflated wasn't particularly exonerating to me. The study doesn't focus on just Rhee's classroom, sure, but she and her teacher partner taught half the class.  It's hard to imagine how her kids could score as high as was claimed and yet the cohort totals come out so relatively low. And no, there's no conspiracy against Rhee, just a lot of angry people.  But after talking with her on the phone last night I realized that's not really the point.

Continue reading "Rhee: Reformer's Growing Credibility Problem" »

AM News: State Board Move To Slow CA "Parent Trigger"

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State Board of Education delays move to implement parent-trigger law LAT: A group will be appointed to study how to implement the measure, which lets parents petition for sweeping reforms at low-performing schools... More Students Fail Advanced Placement Tests WSJ: As record numbers of high-school students are taking and passing Advanced Placement exams, a rising percentage are scoring at the lowest level possible, according to national data on 2010 graduates released Wednesday...  Minority Students and A.P. Program, a Mixed Report Card NYT:  More than 853,000 public high school seniors in last May’s graduating class, or 28 percent of the class, took at least one A.P. exam. Some 59 percent of those who took the tests earned a grade of 3, 4 or 5, which are required for college credit... Md. ranks No. 1 in Advanced Placement scoring Baltimore Sun:  Baltimore City had the lowest scores, with an average pass rate of 3.5 percent. Even the best schools in the city had rates far below most other schools around the region..Many high schools had no students passing any AP exams... Bucks Schoolteacher Suspended Over Blog About Students CBS:  Phrases on the blog include; “Frightfully dim,” “Rat-like,” “Am concerned your kid is going to open fire on the school,” “I hate your kid,” and “Seems smarter than she actually is.”Snow days virtually eliminated with Web tools USA Today: Despite winter storms that forced schools and colleges to cancel classes, tech-savvy educators are turning to Web tools to keep students on..  More Textbooks: N.Y. High School Goes Digital AOL:  Anastacia Brie, a science teacher at New York City's Hudson High School of Learning Technologies, recently realized why she wasn't tripping over backpacks in her classroom anymore. Her students' bags no longer hold textbooks...

Media: If The Coverage Looks Sexist, Maybe It Is

image from www.observer.com Earlier this week the blog Jezebel joined the ranks of those who're wondering whether media coverage of Cathie Black is suffering from a certain amount of underlying sexism (Ballad Of The Female "Self Promoter").  

Others who've made the observation include Gloria Steinem (natch) and -- way back in November -- yours truly (Sexism Underneath The NYC Superintendent Debate).  

Hat tip to Maura at GothamSchools. Image via.

USDE: Board members Press Duncan For Solid Answers

HowtoSounds like the Q and A session got heated:  "Why do you continue to focus on incentive pay for teachers when research shows it doesn't work? How is it fair to judge a school district full of students who don't speak English well on an English-only test, for purposes of determining which schools qualify for School Improvement Grants? Why should children compete for their education?" (Education Week)  Were you there?  Was it as uncomfortable as it sounds?  Hard to imagine school board members going wild but maybe there's video you can send.  

AM News: Ed Schools Complain About US News Grading Scale

image from webmedia.newseum.org Teachers’ Colleges Upset By Plan to Grade Them NYT:  U.S. News originally told schools that if they did not voluntarily supply data and documents, the teacher quality group would seek the information under open-records laws. If that did not work, the raters planned to give the schools an F..Ohio gov orders review in mom's school choice case AP:  Ohio Gov. John Kasich (KAY'-sik) has asked the Parole Board to determine whether the felony conviction of a woman who used her father's address to enroll her children in a neighboring school district was an appropriate punishment.... Laura Bush to announce 2nd education initiative AP:  The George W. Bush Institute is planning to introduce its second big education initiative Wednesday, a program that seeks to improve graduation rates by focusing on middle schools... Can Social Networking Keep Students In School? NPR:  Some colleges and universities see half their freshmen class drop out. In an effort to help stem the tide, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is investing $2 million in a private company that creates student-only online college communities where students can get support from their peers... Rhee's firing of 75 D.C. teachers in 2008 was improper, arbitrator says WP:  An independent arbitrator has ruled that former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee improperly fired 75 new teachers still serving their probationary period in 2008, and ordered them reinstated with backpay because Rhee failed to give them a reason for their dismissal... After Earmarks Ban, Many Local Projects Are on Hold NYT:  Y.W.C.A. in Salt Lake City planned to use its $485,000 earmark to hire staff members for two new shelters for women and children.

Media: Maybe She Didn't Eat The Bee, Either

Back2SchoolSupplies-bigWant to get a sense of how several mainstream reporters and publications dealt with unverified and somewhat hard-to-believe education story they heard that we now know wasn't quite so rosy as presented (at least not at the grade level level)? Of course you do. Assembled below is a list of a dozen or so of the biggest/easiest to find mainstream media stories about Michelle Rhee from the past few years, organized into four simple categories according to how they dealt with Rhee's claim (to have increased her students' test scores dramatically during her years as a TFA classroom teacher). Though their tactics very, many of them did a pretty poor job of taking care not to pass along Rhee's unverified and - more important --unlikely -- claim.  Most did little more than covering their own behinds.

Continue reading "Media: Maybe She Didn't Eat The Bee, Either" »

Thompson: Rhee Defenders Silent On DC Funding Fiasco

image from farm4.static.flickr.com What would reformer-types like the Ed Trust say if Diane Ravitch, the NEA, or any other traditional reformers advocated spending cuts for the poorest schools in order to lavishly reward affluent schools - intentionally?  They'd be opposed, I hope. But Bill Turque of the Washington Post reports how Michelle Rhee did just that in D.C, even though she had been warned of the damage that her "reform" would cause. And no one on that side of things seems to be saying a word. -- JT (@drjohnthompson)   Photo via.

Politics: Emanuel Overstates Charter Accomplishments

ScreenHunter_11 Feb. 08 11.16The Chicago Tribune notes that three out of four citizen want an elected school board but they're probably not going to get one since none of the frontrunners supports the move (Schools will be major test for next mayor) and it's not a mayoral call anyway.  Meantime, a student-created video slamming frontrunner Rahm Emanuel for claiming that most of the best high schools in the city are charters made it to the Huffington Post (Rahm Emanuel Hit On School Policy).  And there's a hilarious and obscene fake Emanuel twitter feed that's got over 22,000 followers ( NSFW here).

MEDIA: LA Times Wins Both Acclaim & Derision

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Oh, the juicy ironies of the last few days' events:  On Friday, the LA Times won first place for its use of social science methods in the media (Poynter).  More awards could be in the works.  Then on Monday the paper crowed that its decision to publish individual teacher ratings had been vindicated (Separate study confirms many Los Angeles Times findings on teacher effectiveness).  But the authors who wrote the report complained about how the paper characterized their work (see email below) and this morning the Washington Post ran a story about the dispute (Researchers fault L.A. Times methods in analysis of Calif. teachers). 

Continue reading "MEDIA: LA Times Wins Both Acclaim & Derision" »

Video: School Reform Made The SuperBowl

I don't know how I missed this but Medialite notes that the Black Eyed Peas changed some song lyrics from "Where Is The Love" to entreat President Obama to "get these kids educated" during the halftime show on Sunday night. Is this a high point for school reform, or a low point?  I'm not sure.  

AM News: Districts Struggle To Find Turnaround Leaders

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

U.S. Plan to Replace Principals Hits Snag? NYT:  Principals of many failing schools, once expected to be removed as part of a national effort, stay because there are not enough qualified people to take over... Mo. wrestles over federal school money AP:  Just days before the current school year began, President Barack Obama signed a law providing $10 billion to help pay the salaries of staff at the nation's financially strapped public schools... On Evolution, Biology Teachers Stray From Lesson Plan NYT:  Researchers found that 28 percent of biology teachers consistently followed the National Research Council recommendations to describe the evidence for evolution...Oklahoma Legislators Push To Take Away Power From State Education Board AP:  Republican leaders in the House and Senate say they will unveil a bill Monday to strip power from the state Board of Education... Calif. Janitor Arrested For Killing Elementary School Principal Who 'Fired Him' AP:  A school janitor told investigators he went home and got a gun before returning to an elementary school and killing the principal who had fired him several hours earlier, authorities said Thursday.

Movies: Treating Violence As A Disease

Almost three years ago there was a long NYT Sunday Magazine article by Alex Kotlowitz about CeaseFire, the Chicago-based nonprofit that attempts to "interrupt" street violence (here) and treat it like a public health issue rather than law enforcement.  In the intervening years the program was exported to other places even while it's local funding was being cut (NYT).  Now there's a new documentary out about the group from Kotlowitz and Steve James (of Hoop Dreams fame) called "The Interrupters."  It premiered at Sundance and is already slated for PBS (LAT).  Theatrical release may follow, though perhaps a cut-down version (indiewire). 

Thompson: Team Obama Is Killing Science Fairs

Science Were we to harness American dynamism, creating "a Sputnik Moment," I have no doubt that we could turn around our schools.  A cornerstone of reform could be the replacement of "worksheet science" with laboratory science, which features investigation and exploration.  But, as the New York Times reports, participation in school science fairs has dropped sharply.  In Indiana, for instance, participation has declined by 15% during the last three years.  The Obama Administration should then admit to its share of the blame.  The more the Administration pushes bubble-in tests for high stakes purposes, the less time remains for teaching scientific inquiry.  Worse, the standardized testing mandates of the Obama Administration create a culture that is antithetical to science.  Instead, the article notes, the administration could help build connections among science students inside schools and research scientists in the outside world.  - JT (@drjohnthompson)   

Money: Former Teacher Gives Lawrenceville School Nearly $60M

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Slate's annual roundup of big philanthropists is out, but most of it's stuff you already know about Broad, Gates, Buffet, Soros, and Zuckerburg.  The philanthropists you probably don't already know about are Henry C. Woods Jr. and Jane C. Woods. They gave $58.5 million to the Lawrenceville School, a private high school in New Jersey where Woods graduated in 1940 and taught until 1986. In addition, the couple bequeathed $8.5 million to the North Shore Country Day School, a private school in Winnetka, Ill. Jane Woods graduated from the school in 1937. Anything else among this year's crop that I missed?

Reform: It Could Get Worse

image from www.chaos.org.ukHeading into tonight's Save Our Schools / Parents Across America shindig here in NYC I am finally realizing that one of the main things that divides the reformy types from career educators is the thought that reform could make things worse rather than better.  This possibility might seem hard to believe for reformers, many of whom can't imagine things being any worse (and many of whom, it should be said, have yet experienced few major setbacks in their own lives).  But for those with a longer perspective (historical, personal, professional) the possibility of things going from bad to worse is real; they've seen good but wrong-headed ideas take root before, sucking energy away and wasting a lot of time, and they know that there's no guarantee that the current status is a baseline below which nothing worse can happen.  It's simply where we are now.  I've been writing about the reform / education divide for four or five years now and it's only now that I'm finally getting this.  I'm sure many others figured it out long ago.  

NCLB: Wishful Thinking From The LA Times

Education reform

The LA Times offers yet another "it might happen -- oh no it probably won't" NCLB reauthorization story (Obama's education plan another test for political civility).  Like others of its kind, it begins optimistically -- a necessary condition for getting a story published -- but then undercuts itself most of the rest of the way.  The main substantive obstacles (as I see them)?  The House doesn't really want to do this (and is starting from scratch with hearings, etc.).  Obama opponents can't do anything on education without inflaming Tea Party types or hurting their chances in the 2012 presidential. 

AM News: Governors Threatening Education Cuts


Governors Determined to Cut as Deficits Loom WSJ:  Under one proposal [in Texas], state aid to public schools would drop $10 billion from current financing formulas.Iowa Gov. Branstad has proposed reducing what the state spends on preschool education to $43 million from $71 million and having parents pay on a sliding scale, depending on their income... [Also:  Cuomo Offers a Target: Superintendent Salaries NYT]... End of diversity policy leaves a Southern school district divided:  A 5-to-4 board majority in the acclaimed Raleigh, N.C.-area district has ushered in a neighborhood-based school attendance plan. Opponents have responded with anger, deriding the move as 're-segregation.'[Also:   The Scary Segregated School Trend NPR].... Rise of the charter schools Boston Globe:  Of the 20 proposals for new charter schools, 12 seek to locate in Boston. Via GothamSchools... Study finds funding gap between D.C. specialty and neighborhood schools Washington Post:  The two public high schools, 21/2 miles apart in Northwest Washington, serve vastly different student populations. And they do it with vastly different levels of financial support, according to an analysis of school spending by a District advocacy group... School put girls on wrong bus, but dad nearly winds up in handcuffs Washington Post:  A Laurel minister whose two young daughters were placed on the wrong bus and left unaccompanied at a stop on Thursday says their elementary school called the police on him after he went to the school and became agitated... Los Angeles schools suspend reality TV shoots after conflict with Jamie Oliver LAT:  "If you look at the last series [Oliver] did in Huntington, W.Va., it was full of conflict and drama, and we're not interested in that," Alaniz said.

Quote: Hating Teachers, And Being A Racist

"Want to hear that you hate teachers? Claim that those that do their jobs poorly should be dismissed, writes Conor Williams in Ending the Education War. "Want to hear that you don't care about students? Claim that poverty might be a factor worth considering for educators working with low-income students."

Media: The Village Voice Does Charter Schools

image from media.villagevoice.com This Village Voice article (Class Struggles at a Bronx Charter School) ends well but starts out pretty rough: 

"Bronx Success Academy 1 may not quiet its critics, but it's doing a good job making its kids shut up and pay attention..."

I guess that's what it takes to get our attention these days, or to get on the cover of the Voice. 


DUNCAN: Media Events For The Education Secretary

ScreenHunter_04 Feb. 04 12.15 Pretty light schedule for Duncan on the media front this week, though he starts out with the obligatory NSBA "reauthorize NCLB now" thing and ends the week with the obligatory TFA celebration appearance.

Check it out below. Have a great weekend. 


Continue reading "DUNCAN: Media Events For The Education Secretary" »

Ideas: A Preliminary List Of "Non-Reform" Education Heroes

image from dulemba.com There was lots of behind-the-scenes reaction to last week's "wrecking ball" post.  Most of the folks I sent it to seemed to think that such a thing wasn't possible given lack of money, or wise given recent inroads, or were understandably exasperated that I didn't know their heroes and accomplishments already.  But there were also some examples of new and worthy stories of a more positive version of educators responding to the reform agenda including the Save Our Schools march being planned for this summer, the ongoing work of the Broader, Bolder coalition (Elaine Weiss was at the Fordham event yesterday), a call from Pedro Noguero for President Obama to do better on education reform, and the big group of folks in California who are pushing for an end to the overuse of untrained teachers (including TFA) in high poverty schools. Even better, there were also several names of teachers and activists doing interesting-sounding things to shape reform that were probably new only to me: Renee Moore, Phil Bigler, Lori Nazareno, Anthony Cody, Anthony Mullen -- and new some places -- San Diego? Chattanooga? -- and non-charter initiatives -- International High Schools?  Cathie Bellinger at SFER wrote about how progressives should reclaim schools run progressively even if they're charters.  Sam Chaltain weighs in with a long but interesting post about the crossed-arms stance of what he calls education's Old Guard and the positive energy of Educon (Let's End the Battle of the Edu-Tribes).  To these I would add Valerie Strauss at the Post and Dana Goldstein at The Nation, and Baltimore and the Harlem Children's Zone too (fundamentally a progressive model). Who would you name as an education activist to watch in 2011 -- a progressive version of Rotherham's infamous list -- and why?

Thompson: Early Performance Pay Results Are Not Promising

Practical-span-articleLarge Houston's "reform" superintendent, Terry Grier complains that his performance pay system identified 92% of teachers as deserving bonuses, so he plans to cut it back.  After the first year of the District of Columbia's performance pay plan, 40% of the teachers who earned bonuses turned them down because they did not trust their system's IMPACT evaluation system.   The comments from teachers to Bill Turque's D.C. Schools Insider are as interesting as his post.  Previous merit pay experiments failed because they were divisive and not sustainable.  These incentive plans quick fixes look like they also will quickly need to be fixed. - JT (@drjohnthompson) 

Thompson: "Student Trigger" Raises Grades

EdtweakUnder California's new student trigger law, any student in a failing classroom will be able to remove her or his teacher by collecting signatures from 50% of the class's students.  Edtweak explains that this law was sponsored by "Student Revolution," a group of millionaires.  In two pilot studies, student grades increased dramatically. - JT (@drjohnthompson) 

Money: The Education Business Isn't That Easy

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 02 14.29 It's easy to think that there's lots of money to be made from K12 education, given the size of the market and the theoretically easy pickings.  But from the business side it's not quite so simple.   Take a look at this chart (the red line are K12 education companies) and the accompanying report from Baird (PDF) and see for yourself.  Or, just imagine for a minute what it would be like to try and sell into a highly regulated, highly decentralized world of K12 education with its 15,000 different school districts and multiple agency oversight.  I'm not saying there's no money to be made -- I've seen the dudes selling pricey tablets to confused-looking business managers -- just that it's not quite as cake as you might think it is.  


Sattler: The SIG Success Story -- So Far

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com The US Department of Education is some kinda happy about SIG. This week at the National Title I Conference in Tampa, Florida, Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana (who also kicked off the conference and spent time at a DOE booth answering questions and collecting success stories) told us that nay-sayers had predicted that only 200 schools owuld take these grants but already 730 schools have taken the plunge, and it looks like once data are compiled for the rest there may be close to 1,000.* ED officials are happy that each state has at least 5 (and as many as 198) schools with grants, 48 percent went to high schools (8.1% of which are charters), and the profile is pretty well distributed across school sizes and rural, urban and suburban locations. Nearly 30 percent chose the more rigorous options (turnaround, restart, and closure). I'm not sure how many schools close each year - at least not because of academic performance - but 3 percent closing strikes me as pretty high. ED isn't sitting back and waiting for results. The Department has just rolled out a brand-new monitoring approach in which they'll be talking with students, observing classrooms, and interviewing parents and teachers at individual schools. They're even asking interesting questions (see examples below). The process was pilot-tested in Virginia and Maryland and 13 states will participate this year. Frankly, I was waiting for a little more in-depth information about these improvement grants. What I got was the promise of four upcoming regional summits (coordinated with the comprehensive centers), "coming soon." -- -- Cheryl L. Sattler, Ph.D., is Senior Parter at Ethica, LLC, a federal education consulting firm. Her new book, Let's Talk Title I, is available from LRP Publications.

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Events: Don't Forget Tonight's Education Happy Hour

image from nwfilmforum.files.wordpress.com It's sunny but cold in NYC and that's good enough reason for any and all of you who are in NYC today to head over to Stitch and join your colleagues and antagonists for a warming beverage today at 5:30.  The details and a box for your amusing RSVP are located here.  Friend me to get on next month's invite list. Stay warm and safe, everybody. 



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