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AM News: Will The SuperCommittee Cut Education?


Who in education is donating to the supercommittee? Politics K-12: Not surprisingly, the nation's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, cracks the list of the top 50 donors.

State appeals No Child Left Behind AJC:  In August, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said states would be allowed starting this month to apply for a waiver from many of No Child Left Behind's requirements, provided other reform efforts are pursued. 

Public schools face the rising costs of serving lunch NYT: As schools serve more fresh produce and less whole milk in lunchrooms, they also may be forced to raise prices.

Parents fight over pleding allegience in schools NPR: In Brookline, Mass., residents disagree over whether the Pledge of Allegiance should be announced over the intercom in the schools. 

Video: Inside the wired classroom MSNBC:  From tablets in high school to electronic whiteboards and rotating walls in college, we look at how technology is remaking the classroom. 


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Ideas: What Reformers Can Learn From Netflix

image from www.blogworld.com Pretty much no one is paying attention to the Duncan/Hastings digital learning initiative (new WSJ editorial here). Pretty much everyone is bashing Netflix for the announcement that it's going to spin its signature DVD mailing operation off into a separate company in order to focus on its fast-growing Internet streaming operation.  Indeed the price hike from a couple of months ago and the name of the new/old DVD mailing company (Qwikster) are obvious problems.  I can't defend that.  But Netflix founder (and school reform supporter) Reed Hastings deserves credit for doing two things that almost no education reform leaders seem willing to do: (1) apologize for making mistakes, and (2) demonstrate a clear willingness to change course/evolve.  Read the email sent to Netflix customers below and then tell me why Netflix can spin off its highly successful red envelope business model in order to prepare for the future but Teach For America, or New Leaders for New Schools, or other big-name school reform service providers can't?    

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Five Best Blogs: Don't Hate The Reformer; Hate The Reform

Blog_robby_robot Why education reform keeps failing David Cohen: Niche “reforms” like this could not do enough by themselves to offer real improvement, even if they were accurate and reliable, which they are not. 

Merit Pay Loses Luster Huffington Post: Two competing pressures--decreased finances and rising policy interest--have left the future of performance-based teacher compensation uncertain. 

"Fundamentally Devoid of Value Judgement?" Tom Hoffman: Is this how David Levin actually thinks? As you can see above, the strengths and virtues chosen certainly reflect value judgements.

Concerns and Recommendations on USDOE Waiver Process DFER:  Some states [such as California and Mississippi] should be ineligible for goal-lowering waivers prima facie. 

How to Stop the Drop in Verbal Scores ED Hirsch (NYT): Attention to these structural issues has led to improvements in the best public schools, charter and noncharter. But it is not enough. 

School district uses Race to the Top money for public relations The Answer Sheet: A school district that is a finalist for the soon-to-be announced $1 million 2011 Broad Prize for Urban Education is embarking on a public relations effort to end public opposition to its school reform program, which includes a slew of new standardized tests.

Two easy steps to catch cheating schools LAT (editorial): California should analyze the multiple-choice test forms to see if they have unusual numbers of erasures. And it should flag schools where the improvement in test scores seems too good to be true.

Pearson Sends Education Commissioners on Free Trips Winerip (NYT):  The Knowledge Network, a division of The New York Times Company that provides courses and education services, has also sponsored some events for the state school officers’ group. 

Capitol Hill: Who's Pushing What In Online Publishing

image from firststreet.cqpress.com An interesting look at legislation, lobbying, and two online /ebook companies, AAP and ACS, from First Street Research Group (the folks from CQ Press, which includes Congressional Quarterly).

Data visualizations like this, plus looks at lobbying and legislative pushes, can make reporters and the public more aware of how things really work and what's really happening. 

Too many stories come out of press releases and other invitational kinds of communications with journalists. (There should be a disclosure required for stories generated from such sources.)

Update: StoryCorps Teachers Starts Today

Old-books Today is the launch date for the StoryCorps National Teachers Initiative I told you about a few weeks ago. There's a White House event today to kick things off.  One of the first examples is this one, in which a neuroseurgeon recalls the influence of his middle school science teacher. See the press release below. See?  Arne Duncan and the Gates Foundation don't hate teachers, after all.  Or at least they don't want you to know.  And NPR loves teachers long time (but you knew that already). 

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AM News: What Next For Obama Jobs / Education Plan?


Education impact of jobs bill under debate EdWeek: Educators and analysts are taking a hard look at whether the $55 billion K-12 portion of President Barack Obama’s nearly $450 billion jobs plan will provide the jolt to schools still feeling the pinch of a sputtering economy that the administration hopes.

Shrinking Budgets Put School Support On The Block NPR:  Across the country, a group of education administrators, known as regional superintendents, are seeing their budgets shrink. 

Deion Sanders to open charter school Washington Post: Renowned athlete Deion Sanders has persuaded the Texas State board of Education to allow him to open a charter school — even though some members expressed concerns about just how academically rigorous the school would be.

Some districts rethink last-minute teacher hiring EdWeek: Late hiring of teachers is still a perennial headache for some school systems—even in tight budget times

For charter schools, managing mission is crucial EdWeek: Little has been done on bringing the disparate pieces of charter school management together into a coherent strategic framework. 

Rahm Emanuel Angers Teachers Union Over Longer School Day NYT: Mayor Rahm Emanuel has encouraged teachers to buck their own union by offering bonuses to work longer hours.


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Weekend Reading: Time To Put Away Those Flip-Flops

Links to magazines and sites I don't check during the week, plus whatever else I come across along the way:

Video: Dan Rather Examines Test Scoring Industry

Here's a preview of the Tuesday night Dan Rather show about the test scoring industry. As you may recall from Todd Farley's tell-all, Making the Grades, it's not a pretty sight even before you get to issues of cheating. 

Events: What Al Gore Teaches Us About Education Reform

image from wp.climatereality.com Going to see Al Gore talk during the last hour of what was called the Climate Reality Project last night reminded me of two education-related issues familiar to readers of this blog:  The first is  just how overwhelmingly sad and scary it is to be shown information about the current state of the earth and all that's going wrong with it right now.  This is of course a reaction that many have to the debate over education policy as well, and a deep problem for those who want to create change.  How do you engage and motivate people to take action without overwhelming them?  Education may break the hearts of those of us who are called to it, but for most it's too messy and seemingly unsolvable to consider for more than a few minutes without discomfort.  The second idea is that idea that opponents of linking gas and oil to global warming, like those opposed to linking cigarettes to cancer, don't really have to win the debate to win the war.  They just have to create enough confusion and doubt that the debate doesn't turn entirely against them.  This too is happening in education, where there's disagreement not only about remedies but about just how deep the problemis.  Of course, many of those expressing doubts about how serious the education problem is don't consider themselves deniers and would bristle at the notion that they might be passing along information and ideas from industry stakeholders or ideologues who don't have children's best interests at heart -- and some reformers wildly overstate or misrepresent the problem. 

Charts: Denying Poverty Versus Ignoring It

Picture 37
Conservatives are raising questions about what the new poverty rates really mean.  Reformers just ignore the issue.  The folks at CAP note  that appliances are increasingly inexpensive while food, healthcare, and housing have all risen.  Having a TV or game system or refrigerator doesn't mean you're not poor.  

Thompson: Reviewing Tavis Smiley's "Too Important To Fail"

Tavis It took three viewings of much of Tavis Smiley's PBS report, "Too Important to Fail," in order to fully appreciate it.  I encourage you to take at least one look.  In the report, Smiley synthesizes the best of all types of reforms in overcoming the challenges faced by black males, celebrating the best of the new generation of accountability hawks, and showing why we need schools like Chicago's Urban Prep Academy and Philadelphia's Promise Academy.  He also addresses issues like emotional trauma and peer influences in poor schools, the need for preschool and reading for comprehension by 3rd grade, the over-reliance on standardized testing, and green education, as well as needing kids themselves to grasp the importance of education.  And his full-throated call for Black History to be returned to the inner city classroom was wonderful!  Although Smiley does not criticize any educators' solutions, he does not pull any punches in analyzing the magnitude of our problems. It took me awhile to watch the report without trying to read between the lines in order to place Smiley's arguments within the context of our educational civil war, but then it struck me.  If educators and wonks could see "To Important to Fail" for what it is, a balanced account of solutions that we can not allow to fail, it could be the model for the transformational change that our democracy needs.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via. 

AM News: Republican Candidates Differ Over Immigrant Tuition

News2White House details plans for more digital learning USA Today: The White House will unveil plans Friday for a research center that aims to bring more digital learning into the nation's classrooms. 

Huntsman: Don't punish children of illegal immigrants USA Today: GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman said today he's with his rival Rick Perry when it comes to providing in-state tuition to some children.

L.A. Times wins press award for controversial teacher grading HuffPost: The Los Angeles Times won the Associated Press Media Editors First Amendment Sweepstakes Award on Thursday for "Grading the Teachers," a groundbreaking analysis of public school test scores that showed good teachers make a measurable difference in the classroom but often go unrecognized and unrewarded.

New York’s Race to the Top setbacks more extreme than most Gothamist: Tisch called the legal decision “a setback in the court system.” And the city Department of Education’s second-in-command, Shael Polakow-Suransky, said, “I’m confident we’re going to get to an agreement around this in the coming period, because we have to.” 

Newark Is Betting on a Wave of New Principals NYT:  Cami Anderson, the new schools superintendent, has recruited 17 new principals to run nearly a quarter of the city’s schools, part of an ambitious plan to rebuild the troubled district.


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Chart: Another State Making Tests More Rigorous

image from cmsimg.freep.com Michigan is making new standards that are tougher in reading, math, science and social studies.

This goes against the Duncan-promoted notion that states have all been racing to the bottom to avoid looking bad on state tests.

(That's what Illinois did while Duncan was in Chicago, but by no means is it what everyone did.)

Via Eduwonk.

Update: The End Of Awkward Facebook Friending

image from cdn.theatlanticwire.com Don't want to be Facebook friends with someone but want to know what they're up to?  No problem.  Now you can subscribe to their wall rather than friending them (assuming they've enabled the new feature). No awkward request or approval required. 

Friend me, follow me, it doesn't really matter.  There's also adaily email you can sign up for, which is a good option. My blog posts and Twitter updates all go to my Facebook profile, and soon my Facebook updates will show up on Twitter, too.  (Starting next week there's supposed to be a new feature that finally sends FB updates to Twitter). 

Don't forget my Tumblr, however -- a silly side project called (yes) "Hot For Education."

Magazines: What I Learned From Failing To Read This Article

ScreenHunter_18 Sep. 15 09.31

You better start reading now if you want to have any chance of finishing Paul Tough's new Times Magazine education story (What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?) by Sunday, when it officially comes out in print. It's nine pages long online (roughly 6,800 words). 

Far as I can tell from watching the pages spitting out of my printer (sorry, forest!) it's a meditation on the importance of character traits like grit and curiosity, and resilience using a fancy private school (Riverdale Country Something) and a no-frills charter network (KIPP) to illustrate the universal desirability of these traits.  Oh, and KIPP outcomes aren't as good as some expected or wanted. 

As you may recall, Tough wrote the 2008 book about the successes and failures of the Harlem Children's Zone -- though few at the time (including him) paid much attention weaknesses in the HCZ model and outcomes that have since become clearer.  He also wrote a challenge to reformers this past summer calling on them to stop overpromising, ignoring poverty, and making excuses.

Failure is a powerful teacher, no doubt, and KIPP has set the standard among reformers in admitting to it.  How can schools encourage kids to explore its lessons when so many of the adults involved in education don't seem to be able to confront failure themselves?  That being said, I failed to read this article before bed last night.  

AM News: Bachmann's School Bullying Problem


SAT scores for class of 2011 decline in every aspect L.A. Times: The high school graduating class of 2011 lost ground on every measure of the SAT exam, with reading scores nationally the lowest on record, prompting concern about whether students are being adequately prepared for college, officials said Wednesday.

GOP Senators introduce own ESEA bills Politics K-12: A group of key U.S. Senate Republicans—led by Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, a former U.S. Secretary of Education—are going their own way on reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Teachers put to test WSJ: As millions of teachers head back to school, many will be facing a new kind of report card that judges them based on how much they help students improve on standardized tests.

Pipeline Into Parternships offers minority students a chance USA Today: The KIPP charter schools took responsibility for picking 17 members of the freshman class at Southern Vermont College.

Bachmann's District and School District Probed for Bullying Overlap EdWeek: In a front page story this week, the New York Times noted the crossover between the school district and Ms. Bachmann's congressional district and that she "has in the past expressed skepticism about antibullying programs." 


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Cartoon: Imagining Rick Perry As A Schoolboy

image from 4.images.theweek.comVia The Week

Quote: Already Counting SIG Out

Quotes2 I’d hate for people to say, ‘Look at what education did — they threw all of this money at these schools and only three out of 400 did better.’ - Unnamed Title I administrator on SIG (from T1L)

Five Best Blogs: Get Started On That Times Mag Article Now


A Stunning Retreat on Two Decades of Education Reform DFER: just this morning, members of the House Education Committee heard testimony today from several witnesses who noted what an important role ESEA played in their states and districts. 

Ten Questions Parents Should Frantically Ask About Schooling TA: What If My Child's Charter School Is a Cult??? What If We're Raising a Generation of Horrible Robot Narcs??????

Public education's biggest problem gets worse TAS: For too long, school reform efforts have focused almost exclusively on “bad teachers."

iPads Aren't For Kids, But This Tablet Is AW:  For $100 you get an educational babysitter that your kids will like. They won't even know what they're missing. 

The Flipped Class = flipped homework TDR: Been thinking about the flipped class and its relationship to solving homework issues -  - after all, flipping a class is also flipping homework.  I know, "no kidding, Sherlock" you may be thinking. 

Nine pages of new Paul Tough here.


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Get Started On That Times Mag Article Now" »

Thompson: What Teach For America Could Have Been

TfaMike Goldstein's recent post in Starting an Ed School explains why inexperienced instructors tend to be more successful at teaching rules and concepts from Algebra and Geometry than improving reading comprehension or writing skills.  In fact, studies show that TFA Corps members and no-excuses charter schools consistently produce gains in mathematics that are two to three times as large as gains in ELA.   Now think of how the education reform wars might have been different if a non-teacher from Princeton had started "Teach Math for America" instead of Teach For America.
Who would have complained if TFA members demonstrated what they knew best, and helped educators work on one of their biggest weaknesses, as opposed to jumping the conclusion that the newcomers knew enough to blow up "the status quo"? Then, we might have come together to tackle the most important, and the toughest, challenge with poor children lacking background information - teaching reading comprehension so they can "read to learn."- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Update: Did Wireless Generation Ever Give NJ's Money Back?

110919_cartoon_092_a16141_465 Remember when the states were going crazy applying for Race To The Top funding?  Remember how the Gates Foundation offered 15 special states outside consulting help, and then had to open it up to any state when I and others embarrassed them about it?  Remember how New Jersey messed up its application and Governor Christie fired the state chief for the botched job?  Sure you do.  But it wasn't Parthenon, McKinsey, Education First, BCG, or any of the other name-brand consultants who messed up New Jersey's application (leaving out basic financial information).  It was Wireless Generation, the folks known for their ed tech solution and more recently for their unfortunate affiliation with Rupert Murdoch. I didn't even know they did that kind of work. They got a cool half a million from New Jersey, some or all of which may have been Gates money (and some of which may have been returned at the state's request).  I am perhaps the last person in the world to know this part of the story, which broke a year ago.  Or maybe you are.  Anyway. Amazeballs.

AM News: Reform, Meet Reality. Reality, Reform.


Race to Top winners feel heat on teacher evaluations EdWeek: Winners of the federal Race to the Top competition are facing difficult questions about how to make good on their ambitious promises to link teacher evaluation with student performance.

New Haven's School Effort Hits Hurdles WSJ: As the overhaul heads into its third year, New Haven is finding that system-wide reform presents challenges that test even the most lofty rhetoric.

Big States Don’t Check for Cheating ProPublica: California conducted erasure analysis on tests for several years but ended the program in 2009. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, officials screened for suspicious levels of erasures, only to let results gather dust for years.

In Ohio, Obama emphasizes school upgrades as part of jobs proposal NYT: In a spirited visit to a high school in Columbus, President Obama promoted the idea of school modernization leading to lower unemployment.

House approves a bill supporting expansion of charters NYT: A new law tweaks an existing federal grant program that provides startup money for new charter schools and adds some quality control provisions.

Duncan talks back-to-school bus tour NPR: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan just returned from a three-day bus tour of schools in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and other cities that are struggling economically.


Continue reading "AM News: Reform, Meet Reality. Reality, Reform." »

Five Best Blogs: Pay No Attention To The Poverty Rate

Picture 32 Our Nation's Poor Live Like Kings Atlantic Wire:  There's a growing consensus in the right-leaning blogosphere this afternoon following the morning's Census report of record high U.S. poverty: American poor people aren't like other kinds of poor people.

McGraw-Hill splitting education and financial units Reform Reform: On the education side, we’ve seen its main competitor, Pearson, in the education news a lot recently. Perhaps McGraw is feeling to stuffed up. ALSO: To Lift Stock, McGraw-Hill Will Split in Two NYT

Where Does Obama's Jobs Plan Leave the Teacher Quality Debate? Dana Goldstein:  By choosing to focus right now on saving teaching jobs--instead of on the more controversial agenda of allowing class sizes to grow while investing in technology--this Democratic president is signaling exactly how "reformy" he is willing to be. [love it!]

Can you name successful parent coup? Jay Mathews:  “If we put 10 hot-shot education reporters together in a room and asked this question I think the answer would be zero: ‘In the past 10 years of school reform, can you list any schools where a parent revolution took place?’”

The Blitz Is Coming Michael Goldstein:  Effective teachers, likewise, deter lots of small potatoes misbehavior by establishing early in the school year that they can handle the blitz. That doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to achieve their academic goals.


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Quote: How Higher Ed Is Like K-12 Education

Quotes2 The way higher education works in America is to deliver the most resources to the people who need the least help. -- Matthew Yglesias

Chart: Middle-Income Schools Left Behind

Picture 36 Everyone claims to want a diverse student body, economically and racially, but there is a special hell for schools that aren't high-poverty but aren't high-acheiving yet, either.  They don't have the poverty money from the state or feds, or the track record of accomplishments that attracts parents, donors, and all the rest.  They just sit there, sliding a bit or improving here and there as the neighborhood around them changes. They're not as good as the parents think, or as they used to be relative to their counterparts.  Some of the hardest of these to watch are the schools in gentrifying neighborhoods, where poverty funding is on the decline and student demographics are changing as resources are dwindling.  It can and does get very ugly, which is why I've only half jokingly called for a School Gentrification Czar in Chicago to help with the difficult transition.  WSJ story from yesterday is here.

Thompson: The "Big Deal" in Chicago

Rahm The only things I know about the Chicago Teachers Union are what I read in the newspaper, so my first impressions of that local are not good.  On the merits of extending the school day, however, the CTU has the better arguments.  CTU President Karen Lewis says that the district should use this year to plan for a better school day.  As she told NBC Chicago, "Quality is infinitely more important [than quantity]."  The Chicago Sun's Rosalind Rossi reported that Lewis told Mayor Rahm Emanuel that adding ninety minutes to the school day without planning would just be warehousing and baby sitting.  And on the biggest issue, the divide and conquer tactic of seeking individual school waivers, the mayor is clearly wrong. Catalyst presents the case that he is violating the law.  In addition to offering $150,000 to schools where teachers agree to work longer hours for almost no increase in pay, it  has even been charged that some teachers were warned of possible layoffs or school closures if they did not go along. One principal allegedly offered teachers “comp time” and iPads to approve a longer day.  According to the Huffington Post, when Emanuel split a fourth Chicago elementary school from the union, the school's principal said that her teachers were already working until 5:00 every evening so it was "no big deal."  No big deal!?!?  All unions are founded on the principle of, "in union there is strength."  Obtaining waivers from the overall collective bargaining agreement, if  not done in good faith, is an existential threat.  I want unions to take risks in order to advance the welfare of students, but the integrity of the process must be preserved. If we allow teachers to be bought off, one school at a time, the union is just club, not negotiating entity.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Testing: Using Unmonitored Results To Rate Teachers

07teachers-art4-popup More than half of the states are already/ on their way to using student test scores for teacher ratings, says the WSJ (Teachers Are Evaluated by New Formulas), but at the same time USA Today notes that fewer than half of the states routinely examine suspicious test scores (Few states examine test erasures). This seems like a mismatch, doesn't it?  Even if you're comfortable with the value-added rating schemes that are being used to do the ratings, you might be worried about putting unmonitored test results to this new purpose.  I say that as someone who's not particularly worried about cheating being widespread.  Meantime, some states like NY are moving to change that (Regents Approve Measures to Curb Educators’ Cheating NYT).

AM News: Obama Pushes Jobs Bill, Perry Defends Tuition


 School Buses Stop At Hotels As Fire-Ravaged Texas Town Goes Back To School AP:  School buses stopped Monday at hotels including the Super8, Best Western and Holiday Inn Express to pick up students. Desk clerks said most of the people in the hotels were people displaced by the fires. 

Obama to make sales pitch for school facilities program Politics K-12: Obama's first stop in selling the nearly $450 billion to jump-start the economy? A visit scheduled today at a high school in Columbus, Ohio, to push one piece of the jobs plan.

Perry defends HPV shots, illegal-immigrants' in-state tuition Politics K-12:  They also hammered him on Texas' decision to grant in-state tuition rates to certain illegal immigrants working toward citizenship.

Comcast Offers A Digital Lifeline To The Disconnected NPR:  Stipulated by its merger with NBCUniversal, the effort is meant to help children access resources they need for school. But families need more than cheap Internet access to bridge the digital divide, experts say. 


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Quote: Rhee Endorses Obama Jobs Proposoal

Quotes2 Crumbling and inadequate school facilities are a reality for far too many of our students, and represent an unacceptable injustice. - Michelle Rhee, head of StudentsFirst

Five Best Blogs: Nadal Doesn't Stand A Chance

Tumblr_lrb230rCJv1qzr04eo1_500 The bait and switch of school "reform" Salon: What [reformers] are really doing is making sure America doesn't talk about the macroeconomic policies that make Wall Streeters so much money, and impoverish so many others in the process.

Taking Failing Schools to Court EdNext: Some legal academics have predicted that Reed will have sweeping, national effects. But others expect Reed’s influence to be narrower. 

Obama's School Jobs Plan: Good Enough, or Too Much? Sean Cavanaugh (EdWeek): One of the intriguing aspects of Obama's proposal is that much of the jobs-saving money would presumably flow to states that have been making major cuts  to school funding—reductions that, in turn, have almost certainly resulted in layoffs.

Judging schools by advanced scores Jay Mathews: A habit I share with many education writers is presenting school test results one way: the percentage of students who score proficient or above. 

“Teachers Don’t Do It For The Money” So… Eduwonk: In the era of public sector belt-tightening and Tea Party demands for austerity singling out one sector and saying they don’t care about the money (and often in the same breath saying they should be paid more)  doesn’t seem like a particularly smart strategy.


Continue reading "Five Best Blogs: Nadal Doesn't Stand A Chance" »

Thompson: Ending the Educational Civil War

Classwar Historian Larry Cuban explains that the “current dogfight between reformers vs. anti-reformers” is unfair to both groups.  Cuban notes that earlier generations of reformers both inside and outside districts were just as upset over “the lousy schooling that poor and minority children and youth were receiving” as today’s data-driven crowd.  These members of the “status quo” adopted many reforms that are advocated by today’s accountability hawks “well before many in the current generation of reformers could vote.”   He asserts that some in the two reform camps “collaborate on the sly.” Cuban says the first step in figuring out ways of helping teachers and students is, “turning down the noise, ending the barking at one another." Cuban also mentions Steve Brill's accounts of divisions within the reform camp.  I can not tell if Cuban agrees, but here is Brill's distinction that I hope will point towards a realignment.  Brill contrasts the reform camp, exemplified by Jon Schnur who trained administrators for charter schools and who had battled with unions, with Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee who sought to destroy their foes.  "No excuses" reform leaders, who face the actual challenge of educating poor children, seem to be better candidates for quietly collaborating with unionized teachers than high-profile administrators who are a couple of decades removed from the inner city classroom.  Personally, I would love to see an end to our educational civil war, and I hope that a first step will be taken by actual educators, who will distance themselves from the extremees of "reformers" who see poor schools from 30,000 feet.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.     


Update: A School-By-School Campaign To Lengthen Day

image from www.completeculinarysolutions.com To get around union resistance to a proposal that would have extended the school day this year (or halfway through it, at least), Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his schools chief JC Brizard have gone on a school-by-school campaign to encourage teachers to waive the contract schedule and agree to a longer day right now.  So far teachers at about five schools have said yes, and the union says about 30 schools have had votes where the teachers have said now.  

During a visit through town on Friday, EdSec Duncan didn't seem to have any objections with the idea of a longer day or the process being used to acheive it.  Others aren't so sure.  Does this school by school campaign constitute union-busting (violating the exclusive bargaining rights of the union) -- Wisconsin all over again, except this time Democrats on Democrats?  Is it difficult but necessary way to get more class time for kids who need it -- even if there are almost 500 schools in Chicago and the school year has already started and it's not clear that there's $72 million around to pay for the additional time if everyone said yes?  Is this just a political stunt designed to make the union look bad and soften them up for the contract negotiations to come? 

As in many districts, teachers can waive contract provisions on a school by school basis though usually the waivers are not as controversial.  One way or the other, the school days is likely to be lengthened next year, when a new law and a new contract will be in place.  Read a roundup of recent coverage below.

Continue reading "Update: A School-By-School Campaign To Lengthen Day" »

Chart: Getting Kids Seated / Tracking Locational Impact

image from flowingdata.comHere's a chart Classroom seating habits via FlowingData presenting an interesting visualization of seating habits of students (graduate students in this case).  Check it out, tell us what you're favorite/best seating setup is.  Airlines keep trying new seating schemes to make getting onto planes easier and faster but what about educators tracking how students enter classes and where they sit and how much time that takes and whether there are any academic effects? Has anyone ever actually studied GPA or passing rates based on seating arrangements?  We're getting to the point that someone could create a scary warning system that helps educators keep certain kids away from certain parts of the classroom or signals when a kid changes his seating habits. There's been an ad hoc one for years, of course, but it relies on teacher expertise and communication among teachers that can't always be assumed.  

AM News: Dems Pushing For Obama Jobs / Education Bill


Middle-Class schools miss the mark WSJ: Middle-class public schools educate the majority of U.S. students but pay lower teacher salaries, have larger class sizes and spend less per pupil than low-income and wealthy schools, according to a report to be issued Monday.

Key House Democrat Wants Hearings on Obama Jobs Plan Right Away EdWeek: But Kline and other committee Republicans are clearly skeptical about the plan, which they essentially argue is throwing good money after bad (aka the stimulus). 

Race to Top Runners-Up: Favorites and Underdogs EdWeek: In addition to Colorado and Louisiana, it seems sensible to add Illinois to the favorites category.

Study: Minorities underrepresented in STEM jobs Washington Post: Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks have over the past decade been underrepresented in U.S. jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in large part because of a lack of equality in educational opportunity, according to a new report being released today.


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Weekend Reading: "I Survived The First Week" Edition

Like last weekend, I'm tweeting out this weekend's roundup of magazines and other sites I don't check every day, so you can catch it on twitter (@alexanderrusso) or here (though it's not that pretty): Hit refresh to get the latest. Send me a tweet or write a comment if there's something good I missed.

Update: The Pet Goat, The 7 Minutes, The Kids Grown Up

Three education-related 9/11 moments, and an update:  In Farenheit 9/11, Michael Moore showed us the video of the event during which the Commander In Chief seemed stunned and uncertain as the Twin Towers were being attacked.  The New Yorker then told us about the story (The Pet Goat) that students were reading.  A SF blogger named Peter Smith had discovered the story was actually a reading exercise in a Direct Instruction textbook (text here).  Now there's a pretty fascinating AP story about what happened that day in that school and what's happened to the educators and students -- now high school seniors --since then.

Quote: "The Best Bomb Thrower In Politics"

Quotes2[Rhee] knew what she was doing when she hired the best bomb-thrower in politics - Unnamed union advocate on Michelle Rhee's hiring of former DNC staffer Hari Sevugan (in the HuffPost)

Five Best Blogs: Jobs Bill Roundup

Obama-supermanObama Yells at Richmond Students Atlantic Wire: President Barack Obama hit the road on Friday to drum up support for the American Jobs act, which he announced in a speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, and he really put his back into it.

That's Really All He's Got Rick Hess:  When I heard the makeup of the President's double-secret, anxiously awaited plan to create millions of jobs and make America happy again, I unaccountably found myself flashing on the scene in "Knocked Up" where Seth Rogen meets Katherine Heigl.

Is Obama’s call to modernize schools really necessary?  The Answer Sheet: There are clear correlations between the quality of school facilities and student and teacher attendance, teacher retention and recruitment, child and teacher health, and the quality of curriculum.

Kline's irrelevant critique Reform Reform: Yes, having the federal government invest in school construction does add a layer of red tape, compared to situations when states and districts spend their own money. Yes, it will cost a bit more than otherwise. But yes, it also has the potential also create good jobs providing a good service to the many schools that are in major need of repairs.

Obama calls for more school stimulus Fordham:  Having a nice building is not likely to jump start any child’s education, and project labor requirements in many locales may blunt the job creation impact of the program as well.
Back To The Future! Andywonk:  We’re talking about school construction again? Really? I’m getting that mid-1900s vibe…E-Rate anyone?  When I heard the President mention wiring schools for the Internet I threw on some Pearl Jam!

Cartoon: The Classroom iPhone Patdown

The teacher pat-down by The Week


Books: Good Reads For Ed Policy Types

Here's a picture of the books Mike Golstein and his teachers are reading for pleasure:

image from www.startinganedschool.org
I might add Relentless Pursuit to that list, or Entre Les Murs (The Class), but generally it seems like a pretty good list in the category of good reformy reads / good reading (which is a compliment coming from some people and a bit of an insult coming from others).  Not that I liked / agreed with (or have read) all of them. Your suggestions? Always appreciated.  One obvious question:  Was Death and LIfe a good read, or just an important book?

EdSec: Duncan's Questionable Comments On Chicago

Finishing up his Great Lakes bus tour in Chicago today, Arne Duncan has weighed into the issue of whether Chicago's school day should be longer with typical abandon and pleasant obliviousness: image from a4.l3-images.myspacecdn.com 

Duncan: CPS deserves ‘a badge of shame’ for short school day  Sun Times: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday that Chicago Public Schools deserve the “badge of shame’’ for having such a short school day, and he wished he could have lengthened it while he was Schools CEO here.

Duncan backs longer Chicago school day Tribune: Count U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan among the biggest cheerleaders for lengthening the school day in Chicago. 

Duncan says he wished he could have lengthened it while he was in charge (2001-2009), but didn't really make that much of an effort.  Then, it was preferable to have labor peace and so the day stayed short and the raises kept coming.  Now, the school day and the teachers unions are the lightning rod for a tremendous amount of criticism. No doubt, the school day should be longer.  But Duncan's statements on the matter do raise issues of hypocrisy.  The claim that the city couldn't afford it seems pretty ludicrous, given the boom times and the raises that were being given out.  Duncan should admit that he didn't try hard enough, or, perhaps preferably, refrain from this kind of sanctimony. 

AM News: Obama Proposal Includes $60B For Education


Obama calls for $60 billion to save teacher jobs, fix schools Politics K-12: President Barack Obama called for $30 billion in new money to stave off teacher layoffs—and $30 billion more to revamp facilities at the nation's K-12 schools and community colleges.
Obama says his plan would put teachers to work AP:  President Barack Obama says his new jobs plan would put thousands of teachers in every state back to work, and repair and modernize tens of thousands of schools.

Duncan supports longer Chicago school day Chicago Tribune: The former Chicago schools chief called Chicago's short school day a "disgrace" and said he wished he had had the groundswell of public support to extend the school day while he was in charge.

Detroit Schools Praised Despite Persistent Woes WSJ:  Detroit still has dozens of substandard schools, sliding enrollment and a $327 million budget deficit that widened after the state took over the district in 2009 and put it under the control of an emergency financial manager.

N.Y. urged to change standardized test protocol NYT: Citing heightened concerns about educators’ cheating that have emerged after recent scandals in Atlanta and Philadelphia, a New York State panel has recommend an overhaul in how the state administers and grades its standardized tests.

Teachers bring 9/11 events to classroom Baltimore Sun: The 10th anniversary presents a challenge to teachers. Textbooks may not include detailed descriptions of such a recent event. And the violent nature of the attacks is difficult to present to young students.

Quote: Plan Would Save 200K Ed Jobs, Says Duncan

Quotes2 This will be huge. Everywhere we go, we hear about ... how big the need is. - EdSec Duncan 

Thompson: Listening To The "Leaders Of A Beautiful Struggle"

Urbanite Michael Corbin of the Baltimore Urbanite reports on the emergence of "Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle" (LBS).  The LBS prepared a 46-page position paper that called for the reinvigoration of vocational education programs and a curriculum explicitly focused on community building.  They proposed a curriculum that is centered on the cultural resources of the kids in public schools. LBS leaders told district CEO Andreas Alonso that that they had firsthand experience with the flaws of  education reform.  Alonso replied that the young leaders weren't seeing the big picture.  Wrong answer!  The system's leader did not need to agree with these young people, but he should not have squandered the opportunity to listen to reflective citizens who have "lived education reform."  Administrators in central offices, especially, need to remain in touch with the feelings of students.  As one LBS leader explained her experience,  "Reform meant calling some schools failures. What they were really doing is calling kids who lived there failures."- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Five Best Blogs: Teaching, Cheating, Shocking, Remembering

The_MidwestWhat’s Really Wrong With Teaching to The Test? Freakonomics (Peg Tyre):  If teachers at a school are encouraged to “teach to the test,” they can probably show you test scores that are going up, but that means they are focusing instruction in the most basic part of the material.

The Scope of the Atlanta Cheating Scandal Ta Nehisi Coates (Atlantic):  If your kid has the basics, if you have other concerns about their development, and if you believe they need something more direct and tailor-made, the draw of public school weakens.

The "Shock Doctrine" comes to your neighborhood classroom Salon: "Let's hope the fiscal crisis doesn't get better too soon. It'll slow down reform." -- Tom Watkins, a consultant, summarizes the corporate education reform movement's current strategy to the Sunday New York Times.

Remembering Vito PerroneDeborah Meier:  I met Vito in 1973 when the North Dakota Study Group came into being to strategize about early-childhood testing.
Which School Reforms Will Work Best? NYT (Walt Gardner):  It’s understandable why many teachers, caught between the new demands of the reform movement and the sharp budget cuts that Mr. Fager notes, are not returning to school with enthusiasm.

The speed and density of language TIME via Kottke:  Mandarin, which topped the density list at .94, was the spoken slowpoke at 5.18 syllables per second. Spanish, with a low-density .63, rips along at a syllable-per-second velocity of 7.82.


Debate: How The Education Debate Is Different (So Far)

Samsungseriesseven27 Godwin's Law states that whoever compares his or her opponent / opponent's actions to Hitler (or Nazis) loses -- it's automatic disqualification.  Or at least, that's one of several versions of the law and the corollaries that have arisen since the law was first developed.  Alas, teacher blogger Gary Rubenstein got caught up in his analysis of how reformers overstate the research teacher effectiveness and went down the Hitler / Nazi road.  But this is still education so it went no further than that.  Rubenstein email apology, and Michelle Rhee's response, are below, via Whitney Tilson.

Continue reading "Debate: How The Education Debate Is Different (So Far)" »

Media: Life On A Country Singer's Former Tour Bus

image from www.richestlists.com By now I'm guessing that the initial novelty of being on the Duncan education bus has worn off for many of the reporters who were invited to ride along with the Education Secretary -- the WSJ's Stephanie Banchero, the NYT's Alan Schwarz, the Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton, and AP's Kimberly Hefling (there may be others). Now the stories will start to trickle out -- pretty much guaranteed by the embedding arrangement and all the time spent out of the office. HuffED's Joy Resmovits seems to have beaten everyone to the punch with a bus-based story (Duncan Hops On A Bus To Address Rust Belt School Districts).  Though Alan Schwarz has been doing some fun tweeting about things like Duncan's bus being previously used by country singer Toby Keith (here).  Just trying to keep himself amused, I get the sense.  UPDATE:  Here's Schwarz's stream of updates over the last couple of days, which somehow didn't show up in my search. CORRECTION:  Banchero is not, was not on the bus.

Chart: Waning Public Confidence In Public Schools

image from pre.cloudfront.goodinc.com

"Just 34 percent of Americans say they have faith in the public school system, an all-time low. Many of them say budget troubles are to blame, but they also think better teachers would fix the problem." (GOOD)

AM News: Schools Likely To Be In Obama Speech


NEA has high hopes for Obama's speech Politics K-12: President Obama spoke today with Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the nation's largest teachers union, and told him that school modernization and jobs (although not necessarilyeducation jobs) will be highlights of the speech.

GOP candidates talk education during debate Politics K-12: Gov. Perry defended his record while Newt Gingrich praised Race to the Top.

Duncan rides the 'Magic School Bus' HuffPost: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan kicked off his three-day Great Lakes bus tour in Pittsburgh, a city he calls a national model for school reform.

Ed. Depts. releases rules for  Race to the Top, round 3 Politics K-12: Sstates will have to show they are committed to education redesign by making progress on data systems, standards and assesments, turning around low-performing schools, and boosting teacher quality. 

Sailor in custody over alleged bomb threat at Calif. school USA Today: An AWOL Navy medic is in custody after officials found a note indicating he may have planted a bomb at a nearby Southern California high school.


Continue reading "AM News: Schools Likely To Be In Obama Speech" »

Quote: Rick Perry Defends Texas Schools

Quotes2 I think the reductions that we made were thoughtful reductions, and the fact of the matter is, Texas has made great progress in the 10 years that I've been governor, from the standpoint of our graduation rates now are up to 84 percent, higher than they've been during any period of time before that. - Texas Governor Rick Perry in last night's Republican presidential debate




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.