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Five Best Blogs: Live From The Venice (Ca.) Grind

The day's best blog posts and commentary, according to me:

Scroll down to see the full list. Get on Twitter to get the list in real time (#5bb). Try again tomorrow.   

Thompson: Ratings Underplay School, Student, Assignment

 

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Let's not get carried away by the headline of the recent NYT story, Teacher Quality Widely Diffused, Experts Say, by Fernanda Santos and Robert Gebeloff.  The biggest issue with using value-added for teacher evaluations is whether good teachers in less effective (or even dysfunctional) schools can be expected to increase test scores as much as equally good teachers in effective schools. If not, test-driven evaluations amount to collective punishment for educators who commit to battling against our toughest challenges. Even the Times article concluded that, overall, "the teacher data reports tended to be highly correlated to the schools’ grades," and that "79 percent of high-performing math teachers worked in “A” or “B” schools."  A large database published by the Tulsa Public Schools, using three years of data for all schools found the same thing.  More than 70 percent of high schools that were above average in achievement had higher than average value-addedAlmost 70 percent of lower performing schools had lower value-added.  Are we supposed to conclude that the big majority of U.S. History teachers in the top schools are great while a similar percentage of their colleagues in lower performing schools are not measuring up?-JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via

 

Video: Remember The Normal, Everyday Teachers

One of the most powerful moments for me in the soon-to-be-released feature film "Detached" (select theaters 3/16, available on demand now) is the opening, which features black and white images of real veteran New York City teachers talking about how and why they became teachers or decided to stay in the profession:

It's a vivid reminder that teachers are just normal people, not all of whom "always knew" they wanted to teach, and who decided to join the profession for a variety of different reasons.  Which is fine.  Let's not forget that making schools better at scale is going to have to involve reaching "regular old" teachers like them.  Not all the TFAers, value-added scores, charters, or or school turnarounds you can imagine will get us there without engaging and supporting the profession in a much broader way.  Early reviews here

Reform: Rhee Has Bipartisan Backers -- Still No SuperPAC

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Kudos to Joy Resmovits at the Hufington Post for digging into various filings and unearthing new (to me) information about who's been funding Michelle Rhee's supersecret StudentsFirst advocacy organization (Rhee's Backers Include Obama Bundler Billionaire, Big Romney Backer).  Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed to know that they include both Republicans and Democrats.  And, of course, the information that can be obtained via IRS records and one state's disclosure requirements.  Me, I'm still a little bit disappointed that she hasn't created a SuperPAC.  I mean, seriously -- 501c(4)s are so 2008, right?  Every dog on the street has one of those, but only the really big guys have SuperPACs.  Yes, Citizens United is a heinous ruling and someday (soon?) will be overturned, but in the meantime... Plus which, it just sounds cool when you say it out loud:  SuperPAC.  SuperPAC.  SuperPAC.  Hey, come to think of it, maybe that's what Schnur is doing with this whole America Acheives thing.  America Acheives is a very SuperPAC kind of name.  

AM News: Snobby Colleges Binge On Remediation, Study Says

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Colleges Err in Placing Many on Remedial Track, Studies Find NYT:  More than a quarter of students in remedial classes could have passed college-level courses, according to reviews of data from both urban and statewide community college systems.

House Panel Gives Partisan Approval to ESEA Bills Politics K12: On a partisan vote, the House Education and the Workforce Committee today gave its stamp of approval to GOP-backed legislation reauthorizing portions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Adelanto parent-trigger supporters claim fraud LAT: Parents seeking to improve Desert Trails Elementary say opponents altered documents in an effort to defeat the petition to force change at the campus.

Negotiators Deadlock Over TEACH Eligibility  TeacherBeat:  States must identify "high quality" programs for the purpose of TEACH, and the Education Department has also proposed making that label the top tier of a four-tiered system states would be required to use to classify their own programs under Title II of the Higher Education Act. 

Henderson calls for national standards to guide probes of cheating Washington Post: D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson called Tuesday for national standards to guide educators in investigating claims of cheating on standardized tests, contending that without them, school districts will continue to be second-guessed in their efforts to probe and punish such misconduct.

School shootings and where students got their guns Associated Press: A list of some school shootings and where authorities believe the students obtained guns.

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Five Best Blogs: No, Yours Didn't Make The Cut Again Today

The day's best blog posts and commentary, according to me:

 

Scroll down to see the full list. Get on Twitter to get the list in real time (#5bb). Try again tomorrow.    

Quotes: How Journalism Is Becoming Like TFA

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It’s becoming more like the Peace Corps or Teach for America model. Young people go into it for a while, but you want to be out of it by middle age. -- Slate's Jacob Weisberg at Columbia last week

 

Update: Published Ratings Most Recent Reform Mis-Step

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Much as I've criticized media outlets for pursuing and then publishing the NYC value-added scores, it's worth noting three larger, broader aspects to the unfortunate event:  (1) The media outlets were encouraged (some would say manipulated) into violating the privacy agreement by soon-to-be-former NYC chancellor Joel Klein; (2) New York City's political and school reform communities were at the time going through a particularly baroque (or is it rococo?) period during which Mayor Bloomberg appointed the ridiculously under-prepared Cathie Black to be Klein's replacement; and (3) Pushing for the release of the teacher ratings was just one of several short-sighted decisions made in recent months and years in New York and elsewhere.  Other obvious examples include pushing to end LIFO during a massive recession and pushing to createe more charters without addressing quality and ELL/SPED services issues.

More to read: Bad Teachers, or Bad Ratings? New Yorker, State Eyes Shielding Teachers WSJ, Mulgrew Says Mayor's Education Legacy Is 'in Shambles' NYT, The Test-Based Evaluation Genie Can't Be Stuffed Back In The Bottle Education Sector.

Bruno: "Learning Myths" Neither Real Nor Widespread

Seo-myths-mythbusterA couple of weeks ago Valerie Strauss posted "seven misconceptions about how students learn", which were originally provided by the Independent Curriculum Group (ICG).

Reading them I was struck by how little these "biggest myths" resonated with my own experience as a teacher because, almost to a one, these supposed misconceptions seemed to me to be either not very widespread or not actually wrong.  

I don't think that the Independent Curriculum Group has identified many important myths, and they may be promoting a few misconceptions of their own. Here are my very brief thoughts on all seven:

Continue reading "Bruno: "Learning Myths" Neither Real Nor Widespread " »

AM News: Obama Urges Govs To Fund Education

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Obama urges governors to boost education funding AP via Boston.com: President Barack Obama Monday urged the nation's governors to invest more state resources in education, saying a highly skilled workforce is crucial for the U.S. to remain competitive with other countries.

Regulations Would Link Teacher-Prep Quality, Aid Eligibility TeacherBeat: A set of draft federal regulations under discussion this week proposes requiring states to classify their teacher-preparation programs into four categories.

Ohio districts await Kasich's new funding formula AP via Boston.com: How much does it cost to properly educate Ohio schoolchildren? What percentage of taxpayer dollars should go into classrooms or reading help, counseling or the arts? Should struggling districts get more than comfortable ones? How much more?

Officials: Student brain dead in Ohio shooting AP:  A student wounded in an Ohio school shooting has been declared brain dead, authorities said Tuesday, the second reported fatality in an attack that began when a teenager opened fire in the cafeteria at a suburban Cleveland high school a day earlier....

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Movies: Bully Documentary Gets An "R" Rating

The MPAA's decision to give "Bully" an R rating has upset the producers behind the documentary. Via Jezebel

Thompson: New Orleans Takes a Big Step Towards Equity

Equity-Report-page-photo_sflbThe New Orleans Times Picayune's Andrew Vanacore reports that the Recovery School District's new "equity reports"  are an important step towards creating a level playing field for the competition between charters and neighborhood schools. Vanacore explains that these reports are not perfect because their numbers cannot be compared to those of neighborhood schools.  But they report the percentages of students in charter schools on special education IEPs.  Even better, they report the percentages of IEP students who have severe disabilities that require them to be in separate settings 80% of the time.  And in an effort to answer charges that charters inflate their test scores by pushing out more difficult-to-educate kids, each school's retention rate is reported.  I was a guest at two great charters, the Harriet Tubman Middle School and Sci-Academy, and I was pleased that they served their share of IEP students.  Neither had more than 1/3rd of the special education students that I had in my classes, but that is not the point.  Think of how liberating it would be if all low-income schools were like those charters where the percentage of students with learning disabilities were between 7.3% and 10%.  If the percentages of the most seriously disabled students in all schools ranged from 1.5% to 1.8%, perhaps we could have fair comparisons between charters and neighborhood schools.  In the meantime, New Orleans' efforts to achieve equity must be praised.  We should also insist that researchers across the nation follow their lead and consider the effects of intense concentrations of students who have severe emotional disabilities, as opposed to learning disabilities.-JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Events: Educate Texas

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@educatetexas #edtxLF I'm doing a journalists' panel at a conference in Austin today -- if by any chance you're here at the event outside of Austin please come up and say hello or tweet me at @alexanderrusso.  Called the Education Leadership Forum, the event's being run by the Texas High School Project -- just renamed "Educate Texas" in light of its expansion into postsecondary and advocacy areas.  They're among other things a member of the PIE Network.  Some of the most familiar names on the agenda are Vicki Phillips (Gates), Bob Wise (Alliance), and Karen Hawley Miles (ERS), Sandy Kress (Akin Gump), and Arturo Vargas (NALEO).  The journo panel includes a broad range of folks -- Alberta Williams, Bill McKenzie, and Ross Ramsey-- Vargas is moderating.  Apparently this is the 3rd of these they've done.  Though Texas is not a waiver state and stayed out of previous rounds of Race To The Top, there's lots of other action going on here: turnarounds and charters, STEM high schools, funding and equity lawsuits, among other things, as well as a new assessment and accountability system and changes to how much weigh is going to be given to end of course exams that's raising lots of concerns among suburban districts especially. There's a CMO called IDEA that's expanding into Austin.  There's KIPP and Roland Fryer messing around in Houston.  There's a newish chapter of Stand For Children that's been set up.  

Quotes: He's Referring To The NYC Department Of Education, Right?

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There's also something unsavory releasing admittedly flawed data, and then lecturing the public on its need to exercise caution. - The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

Pictures: Duncan Looks For The Easy Waiver Pass

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A trio of highlights from over the weekend include controversial remarks about the snobbery of wanting every kid to go to college from surging Rick Santorum, a Denver Post editorial noting that only 15 states are tracking how SIG money is being spent, a new paper about the coming national education system from the conspiracy-minded folks at PEPG.  

Also, EdSEc Arne ("Jeremy Who?") Duncan excelled in the NBA All-Star Weekend celebrity game.  

Most weekends I try and catch up on interesting stories on Twitter at #thisweekined and on the blog (see latest example here).

Bruno: Surprises In New Student Teacher Placement Study

ImagesAn important new study in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis provides some very strong evidence that student teachers who are trained in easier-to-staff schools are more effective and have better retention rates regardless of where they are eventually hired.

The authors emphasize that to date the question of where student teachers should be placed has actually been very controversial, with many educators criticizing "inauthentic" placements as unlikely to adequately prepare future teachers. Those criticisms now appear misguided, even if the specific advantages of "easier" student teaching placements remain unclear.

For my part, I tend to think that heavily scaffolded instruction in simpler contexts is best for my own students and I suspect that a similar sort of logic should apply to teachers-in-training. The skills required to effectively teach high-needs populations are sufficiently diverse and complex that we should be skeptical they are best mastered simultaneously rather than sequentially.

More speculatively, my own experience alternating between very different teaching placements makes me believe that there may be some benefit to teachers setting or resetting their expectations periodically since it's easy for hopes and aspirations to be gradually worn down in the day-to-day work at difficult-to-staff schools.  Easier-to-staff schools may be good environments for showing future teachers what is possible so that they when they do enter a classroom as the teacher of record they are more likely to maintain their ambition.

In any case, the Obama administration has signaled an interest in reforming the country's schools of education.  Hopefully such reforms are not exclusively test-focused and this kind of research can play a role in establishing "best practices" for teacher preparation. - PB (@MrPABruno) (Image source)

Video: "How Good Are Online Schools?" Asks PBS News

 

You probably didn't have time to watch this segment on online schooling from last week's NewsHour.  Now you can.  Transcribed version here.

AM News: NYT Reports On Political Impact Of Rating Release

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Teacher Ratings Produce a Rallying Cry for the Union NYT: A legal defeat is turning into a political victory for the United Federation of Teachers, galvanizing members and mobilizing allies on the left.

Md. expected to apply for NCLB waiver Monday Baltimore Sun: Application says schools should cut achievement gaps in half in the next six years

Advocates Have Long Wish List for House Panel on ESEA Bills Politics K12: It's official: On Tuesday, the House education committee will consider a pair of bills aimed at remaking key elements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Teachers union, community groups want elected school board Chicago Tribune: Stung by another round of school closings and turnarounds, some community leaders are looking at how Chicago can return to publicly electing its school board.

Saving Kansas City Schools Means Rescuing A City NPR: The entire public school system has flunked; the Missouri Board of Education revoked its accreditation on Jan. 1. Decades of mismanagement and declining enrollment have broad consequences. The mayor says there is nothing he's supposed to do "that isn't some way affected by or built on education."

Video Interlude: Slack Line Amazingness

Here's a demo reel from Andy Lewis, the amazing slack line performer you may remember from the Super Bowl halftime show:

Five Best Blogs: Short Weeks Always Seem The Longest

A daily roundup of all the best education blog posts and commentary I can find.  Write something interesting or unexpected and yours might make the list:

Scroll down to see the full list. Get on Twitter to get the list in real time.  

Media: NYT & WNYC Publishing Old, Inaccurate Teacher Scores

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You'd think it would be the small, scrappy, online-only publication that would do something rash and regrettable, not the venerable legacy media outlet.  But that's not how it's playing out in New York City, where everything is upside down right now.  Tiny GothamSchools has declined to publish individual teacher ratings and the massive New York Times has come up with a fancy app to celebrate their arrival.  

Click below for more about why the Times is going ahead -- and why doing so is a bad call from my perspective -- even though I don't mind tests (or like teachers) nearly as much as everyone else. 

You can be sure that the NYT's public editor is already doing warm-up exercises to get ready to write about this one. 

 

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Movies: Oscar-Nominated Memphis High School Documentary

Undefeated On Point Tom Ashbrook: "The Manassas High School Tigers were bad, so bad that other football teams paid them to come, play, and get beaten.  But a new coach breathed life and hope into this inner city team." Also reviewed in Wall Street JournalLA TimesTime 

AM News: Black Male Teachers Becoming Extinct?

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Black male teachers becoming extinct CNN: Terris King, 25, a kindergarten teacher at the Bishop John T. Walker School in Washington D.C., believes that for African-American children, having a strong role model in front of them can make a huge difference.

Online Public Schools Gain Popularity, but Quality Questions Persist PBS: Full-time public cyber schools are now an option in 30 states, allowing some 250,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade to press buttons to raise their hands and message their teachers. John Tulenko of Learning Matters Television reports from Pennsylvania where the demand for online charter schools is high.

A Cautionary Tale on SIG in Colorado Politics K12: Folks following the implementation of the School Improvement Grant program should check out this story inThe Denver Post, which took a look at a handful of SIG schools run by Global Partnership Schools.

Ed. Dept. to Closely Monitor Subgroups in NCLB Waiver States Politics K12: With 11 states now freed from some parts of the No Child Left Behind Act, and another round of states readying their waiver applications, the U.S. Department of Education has turned to perhaps the most important part of the process: holding states to their new accountability promises.

Ratings of New York City Teachers to Be Released Friday NYT: The ratings grade nearly 18,000 teachers based on how much progress their students have made on standardized tests. 

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Five Best Blogs: No One Cares About Pageviews Any More

A daily roundup of all the best education blog posts and commentary I can find.  Write something interesting or unexpected and yours might make the list:

Scroll down to see the full list. Get on Twitter to get the list in real time.  

Thompson: What To Make Of Failing Charters In Oklahoma City

AstecMegan Rolland of the Daily Oklahoman reports that the Oklahoma City School Board is confused about what it should do to meet the new accountability system prompted by the state's NCLB waiver.  Nearly a quarter of the district's schools could be subject to some sort of state intervention.  All four of my former neighborhood schools are eligible to be taken over, and now the district is planning to fight back.  Like OKC's Board Chair, however, I am struck by the appearance of four charter schools on the preliminary list, if for no other reason than they have not addressed the gap between improvements for the highest and lowest performers. One of the four is the largest alternative school that takes the city's most traumatized kids.  Another was praised not too long ago by the Wall Street Journal.  A third, an elementary school, was the lowest performing urban school in the state before a hospital transformed it.  Before it became a charter, most of my students came from the old failing school, but now its graduates go to the best magnet schools in the city not to where I used to teach.  The charter conversion has been listed as one of the nation's top 53 charter schools.  And ASTEC, which is 86% Hispanic and 93%  low income,  may be the best school I have ever seen. One subgroup did not measure up -- just one. When I worked at the Aerospace Academy, there wasn't a good teacher in the building.  All were superb.-JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.      

Quotes: Gates Weighs In (So Late!) Against Publishing VAM Ratings

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Developing a systematic way to help teachers get better is the most powerful idea in education today. The surest way to weaken it is to twist it into a capricious exercise in public shaming. - Bill Gates in the NYT

 

Movies: The Inner Lives Of Stressed-Out, Numbed-Out Teachers


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Starting tomorrow you can check out Detachment, a new education-themed movie starring Adrien Brody. 

There are some predictable swipes at NCLB, central office politics, burned out teachers, and parents demanding special education services for violent children, but the film fits pretty neatly into the troubled teacher / Half Nelson subgenre; don't go in anticipating a pretty story with lots of redeeming turns of events or satisfyingly simple resolutions. It's pretty brutal stuff, despite the cute chalkboard animations and a brooding Adrien Brody (and Lucy Liu hiding behind heavy plastic glasses).  The story is about a half-zombie substitute teacher at a constantly near-violent Queens(?) high school.   In his off time he visits his grandfather at a pretty awful nursing home and takes in an underage prostitute. There are some pretty disturbed kids and unhappy adults, and lots of violence, verbal and otherwise.

You will feel something watching this movie, which is good, but it won't be pleasant.  Featuring a cast that includes James Caan, Marsha Gay Harding, Christina Hendricks.

Parents: The Quandary Of The Liberal Homeschooler

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Being a liberal homeschooler must feel a little strange right now, what with conservative Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum touting homeschooling as a model for education while at the same time liberal-leaning education writer Dana Goldstein has been calling homeschoolers out for prioritizing short-term individual benefit over longer term collective good.  This isn't the only instance where this dynamic is happening, however. Liberal criticism of mainstream school reforms (NCLB waivers, Race to the Top) often parallels criticisms from conservative groups and candidates, while at the same time civil rights groups are working furiously behind the scenes to preserve those very same laws.  Tell that to a liberal critic of NCLB or charter schools and watch his or her head explode.

AM News: School Safety Improving (No One Notices)

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Report: Crime at US public schools on the decline AP: Violent crime at the nation's schools is declining, and students and schools are reporting less bullying and gang activity. NYT: Five Students Arrested a Day, Police Data Show

Santorum Would 'Eliminate' No Child Left Behind Act Politics K12: Santorum elaborated that not only does he not want the federal government really involved in schools, but he said that "state government should get out of the state education business" as well... Santorum said he was for "customizing education," "parental control," and "local" control.

'Why I Go to School': An Antidote For Dropping Out PBS: Every year, more than 1.3 million students drop out of high school. That’s 7,000 students a day dropping out for many reasons, most of which are largely personal and reflective of a student’s circumstances at home, school and in the community.

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Five Best Blogs: "We're Going To Honey Badger The Achievement Gap"

A daily roundup of all the best education blog posts and commentary I can find.  Write something interesting or unexpected and yours might make the list:

Scroll down to see the full list. Get on Twitter to get the list in real time.  

Memes: "What Teachers Really Do"

 

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There's an unstoppable "What I Really Do" meme going around and thanks to @mandyzatynski here's one of the teacher versions.

What my friends think I do.

What my Mom thinks I do.

What society thinks I do.

What kids think I do.

What I think I do.

What I really do.

 

 

Thompson: Charter Fines & Expulsions Create Dysfunctional System

FinesRecent coverage on excessive disciplinary actions in charter schools in the Chicago Catalyst and the Washington Post  should prompt soul searching for educators in both charter and neighborhood schools. One of the original purposes of charter schools was pushing the educational status quo to think anew. Traditionally, attendance and behavior were the third rail of school politics, and urban schools were especially loathe to address disciplinary issues. Poor secondary schools were caught in a Catch 22, where they were not allowed to enforce their codes of conduct because there was no place to put chronic offenders. But districts refused to invest in alternative schools because educators, who were continually complaining about chaos in their buildings, would supposedly kick the difficult students out.  My hope was that reality-based policies, such as allowing charters to build respectful learning cultures, could then be extended to neighborhood schools in the inner city. Boy, was I wrong!

Continue reading "Thompson: Charter Fines & Expulsions Create Dysfunctional System" »

Video: "Sh*t TFAers Say"

 

Much as I love to make fun of TFA this "internal" self-parody video includes such gems as "We're going to honey badger the achievement gap" and reveals an admirable level of self-awareness.  Perhaps they're not all robots after all.  Via @coopmike48 and @ess_dog (shaun richman)

Bruno: Teaching Content Vs. "Teaching To The Test"

Taming-the-TestThe Obama administration has been taking a lot of flak - most recently from Jon Stewart - for criticizing "teaching to the test" while simultaneously pushing policies that are arguably going to encourage exactly that sort of behavior by teachers and school officials.

I think it's fair enough to blame President Obama to the extent that his policies promote ineffective instruction.  At the same time, though, the phrase "teaching to the test" masks a lot of variability in what educators are actually doing to improve their scores, and it's not always obvious that when schools "teach to the test" they're helping themselves at all.

Continue reading "Bruno: Teaching Content Vs. "Teaching To The Test"" »

AM News: Parent Trigger Setback In California

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Campaign for Adelanto charter school falls short LA Times:  School officials in the High Desert community of Adelanto say there weren't enough signatures under the parent trigger law to mandate a charter conversion.

Santorum’s children went to a cyber charter school Washington Post:  About a decade ago, Santorum and his wife, Karen, enrolled five of their children in the Western Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. 

Supreme Court to Hear Affirmative Action Case NYT: The court’s decision in a new case has the potential to undo an accommodation on affirmative action in higher education reached by the court in 2003.

Report Scrutinizes States' Teacher-Induction Policies TeacherBeat: Even as there are more and more novice teachers in the ranks of the profession, states' teacher induction policies are generally piecemeal, contends a new report by the New Teacher Center.
Cost doesn't spell success for Colorado schools using consultants to improve achievement Denver Post: These schools are sharing $5 billion in federal tax dollars in a massive, three-year rescue effort, but no one nationally is tracking how the money is spent and no one can say whether the influx of cash will end up helping kids.
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Five Best Blogs: Back To Work!

A daily roundup of all the best education blog posts and commentary I can find.  Write something interesting or unexpected and yours might make the list:

Scroll down to see the full list. Get on Twitter to get the list in real time.  

Cartoons: What Parents *Really* Say At Teacher Conferences

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From the New Yorker:  "We think he needs more individual neglect."

Video: Homeschooling For Everyone, Says Santorum

"It's amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools. In a home school, by contrast, children interact in a rich and complex way with adults and children of other ages all the time."  Via Jezebel: Rick Santorum Wants Kids to Get the 'Broad' Home School Experience.

Reform: TFA On SNL

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Oh, god.  The black-haired lead singer of Sleigh Bells (musical guest on Saturday Night Live last weekend) is a TFA alum.  Via Eduwonk.

It sorta makes sense, though.  Alexis Krauss, South Bronx '09, talks about her teaching experience here.

Veteran musicians everywhere are grumbling about her lack of formal preparation and unwarranted success.   

Teachers: Here's TED 2012 Teacher Angie Miller

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A week from Monday in Long Beach TED 2012 kicks off, but it's not until Friday March 3 that the educators take the stage.  

Along with names you already know -- Bill Nye, Rafe Esquith, Aaron Reedy -- are Angie Miller, an 11-year middle school English Language Arts teacher (and the 2011 NH teacher of the year).  Her latest blog post is here:  Not Done Yet.

Previous TED posts:  Bill Nye, Rafe Esquith -- Aaron Reedy?,  Transformative Ideas, Or Feel-Good Insiders' Club?Beware Of Storytellers.

 

 

Thompson: Teachers' Concerns About Credit Recovery

DiplomaMillGeoff Decker's "Muted Response to Regents' Call for Credit Recovery Comments," in GothamSchools points to both an explicit and an implicit hypocrisy.  The big abuse of "Credit Recovery" is the practice of awarding credits to students regardless of whether they attended class or learned the subject matter. As education expert David Bloomfield explains, providing a "fig leaf to cover administrative embarrassment" seems to be a prime purpose.  Teachers are outraged by the damage it does to students, as well as the way it cripples efforts to improve test scores.  "If you want to hold me accountable," a teacher complained, then you cannot, “go behind my back and pass students that I fail.” The policy wonk in me prompts another objection.  The recent study by Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff, "The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers," excluded classes where more than 25% of students were on IEPs.  Ostensibly, the reason was that teachers in those classes get additional support, and thus share responsibility for outcomes.  How can a teacher be seen as solely responsible for student performance  when authority is divided between the classroom instructor and the person(s) who awards the credit?-JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.

Bruno: Good News Bad For Our Narratives

Argument-cartoonOver at The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby has been on a tear recently pointing out that pundits of all kinds seem to be stubbornly indifferent to good education news. He emphasizes the shrinking achievement gap between black students and white students on the NAEP as something you rarely see mentioned, and I'd add that to the growing pile of good-but-largely-ignored news that includes rising achievement for disadvantaged groups generally and improving school safety.  Bob thinks we can chalk up this news blackout to the fact that commentators have sorted themselves into "tribes", each of which dislikes the other too much to risk inadvertently crediting them with an accomplishment.  I think there's definitely a lot to that explanation, but that there's also a real fear on both sides of undermining their preferred narrative.  My sense is that "reformers" don't want to talk about the good news because then they'd have to acknowledge that these positive trends mostly began prior to their favorite reforms. This would undermine the narrative that the "status quo" of salary schedules and tenure is an insurmountable obstacle to progress. At the same time, I think the anti-reform crowd is reluctant to discuss the good news because it has continued in the "corporate reform" era. This, in turn, makes the repeal of NCLB-type reforms seem that much less urgent. Whatever the explanation, however, the end result seems to be that we mostly hear about how bad our educational institutions are despite the fact that these same institutions are not only improving, but are arguably the best they've ever been. - PB (@MrPABruno) (Image source)

Media: "Linsanity" Not So New To School Reform

image from farm8.staticflickr.com

Like many others I've been enjoying the harmless hullabaloo surrounding Jeremy Lin, which has (with a couple of notable exceptions) been harmless and distracting and blissfully divorced from having anything to do with education (aside from a few Daily Show jokes about Tiger Moms and the "Asian F."  And yet, I can't help but note the similarities between the media frenzy surrounding Lin and the over-exuberant treatment of any number of recent education figures (Sal Kahn, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Geoff Canada, Steve Barr, Diane Ravitch, etc.).  And I can't help but think about just how modest and preliminary Lin's accomplishments are at this point in his career.  So let's enjoy the Linsanity as long as it lasts but remember to exercise a little bit of caution and skepticism the next time a Jeremy Lin shows up in education, has some early successes, and seems poised to be the next education savior. Related: Jeremy Lin And The NBA’s Savior Myth.

AM News: Hawaii Might Have Resolved "Race" Issues

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Hawaii teachers reach tentative agreement on key Race to the Top promise AP: The union representing Hawaii's public school teachers has reached a tentative agreement on a key element of the state's Race to the Top grant that has recently been put in jeopardy because of unsatisfactory progress on promised reforms.

City, Union Spar Over Evaluations WSJ: One day after Gov. Cuomo heralded a statewide teacher-evaluation agreement, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday the city could close "a whole bunch more schools" unless it quickly reaches a final deal with its teachers union.

New Rules Planned on School Vending Machines NYT: The Obama administration, in a continuation of its efforts to curb childhood obesity, plans to set nationwide guidelines to promote healthy choices in schools.

Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal in ‘Parent-Trigger’ Film NYT: As new “parent-trigger” laws seem poised to allow parents to take over failing schools, they’re already the stuff of Hollywood drama.

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Maps: Use Of Student Data Not Really As Widespread As This

This Newsday story (State teacher evaluation plans) and map of states using or not using student performance data is interesting but misleading in that it lumps together states that are using or "planning" to use student data (dark blue), and treats states where they're considering using student data (light blue) differently from those who've decided against it (red). 

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I'm planning on giving up bagels and cream cheese, but that's no real guarantee I'll do it. I'm considering going to Spain sometime soon, but again...who knows? The overall effect is to make it seem like there's a lot more actually going on than I think there is.  via @karawebley

Turnarounds: The SIG Mystery

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The Denver Post is running a three-part series on the challenges and flaws of the federal SIG school turnaround program you might want to read. The first installment, from yesterday, explores the money being spent on consultants  and the lack of transparency.  The second, which runs today, focuses on the limited impact of SIG funding in a high poverty district near Denver.  SIG is Race To The Top's lesser-known step-sibling (even though it's sent more money to a broader set of schools than Race ever will).  It's NCLB's weak "restructuring" sanctions, pumped up steroids.  It's an easy program to beat up on -- the massive spending, the permissive (or limited) turnaround options , the lack of speed and quality of implementation. I've never quite understood how it rose to such prominence and size in the Obama administration, or how Team Duncan and the White House anticipated that school closings and restaffings of SIG would be blamed on NCLB as much as the current Administration.  

 

Hot Seat Interview: Hey, Student Teacher

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@heygirlteacher    You see them everywhere in schools, starting in January and February -- taking notes in the back of class, administering interim assessments, heading to or from the copy machine. Unsure if you're an administrator or a parent, they smile nervously when you walk by them in the hall.  Sometimes they get to teach a lesson or run part of an activity, which serves to remind anyone watching (a) how hard it is to be a good teacher or (b) how crappy the regular teacher is.  They're student teachers -- college students finishing up their education degrees with a little bit of classroom time.  

They're not all young faceless widgets, however.  Some of them stand out.  One of them -- let's call her HGT (not pictured) -- is a student teacher in a large Midwestern school district who decided one day to start a blog about being a teacher that is, for education blogs, sort of popular.  She hasn't revealed her identity to anyone outside a close circle of friends and I've agreed to help keep her secret.  On the Hot Seat (below), she talks about what it's like being a student teacher, where she came up with the idea for "Hey Girl Teacher" and how it took off, and why it's been such a big hit among young teachers and teaching candidates.  She also dishes on her ed school preparation, what she thinks about people who go the TFA route, and explains the mysterious appeal of Ryan Gosling.

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AM News: States Challenged To Implement New Teacher Eval Programs

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States Address Problems With Teacher Evaluations NYT: Officials in states like Tennessee who are testing new teacher evaluation systems required by the Obama administration are struggling with problems philosophical and logistical.

Santorum Slams Education System, Will Home-School Children At White House HuffPost: In an appearance at an Ohio Christian Alliance event Saturday, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum called the viability of the public education system into question. NYT:  Santorum Defends Remarks on Obama and Public Schools

Scarred by Cheating Scandal, Atlanta Schools Are on the Mend NYT (Winerip): Less than a year after a state report found that 178 principals and teachers had cheated on test scores, a new school superintendent, Erroll B. Davis Jr., is restoring the system.
More public schools dish up 3 meals a day AP:  Too often it is after the fact that teachers discover their students are worrying less about math and reading and more about where the next meal comes from....

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Five Best Blogs: Hey, Mr. Teacher Tumblr

A daily roundup of all the best education blog posts and commentary I can find. Write something interesting or unexpected and yours might make the list:

Reform: "Pop!" Goes The Bubble

Here's a version of the rant that I've been giving since the end of the summer, via Scholastic Administrator (which sponsors this site):

image from www.scholastic.com

"Sometime over this past summer, the school reform "bubble" popped--seemingly unable to withstand the combined weight of unrealistic claims, weak results, poor policy choices, and resistance from career educators, along with the inertia of a $600 billion a year K-12 school system.

"What happens next could be a new, more balanced effort to improve public education-or a return to trench warfare and the status quo."

Of course, some of you don't think there ever was a school reform bubble. Others think that reform popped earlier than I do -- or hasn't popped yet.  Last but not least, there are more than a few of you who think it was a bubble that needed popping.

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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.