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Trends: Skip TFA, Go Straight Into Policymaking

Blumenfeld andrew

In a previous era, someone like Andrew J. Blumenfeld, 20, would have finished his college education and applied to Teach for America.

Instead, the Princeton junior ran for and won a seat on his local school board back home in Southern California. He campaigned on a pro-reform platform and called on the district to provide better AP courses for students pursuing rigorous studies.

Board members like Blumenfeld could become increasingly common in the next wave of school reform efforts, which are focusing much more on leadership and advocacy than on classroom- or school-level changes.

Blumenfeld is cofounder of a group called Students for Education Reform, which has 71 chapters and a national office in New York City.

Clearly, there are lots of Blumenfelds out there.

Read the interview here:  An Interview with Andrew J. Blumenfeld

Thompson: Petrilli Gets It Half-Right

AlfieIn "Alfie Kohn's message: Half-crazy, half-true," Fordham's Mike Petrilli does something that "reformers" may see as crazy in his half-true critique of testing opponent Alfie Kohn. Petrilli concedes that "many American schools are “mindless, soul-killing” institutions, especially the schools serving our most disadvantaged communities," and "it’s probably true that test-based accountability has made the situation worse, at least in many locales."  Petrilli acknowledges that, "even the most hawkish reformer must blush at depictions of the endless test prep and shamefully narrowed curriculum" that Kohn lambasts. Like Petrilli, I think E.D. Hirsch's arguments for Core Knowledge are more persuasive than Kohn's progressive ideals.  Unlike Petrilli, I think Kohn makes a better case than true believers in testing who are doubling down on the bubble-in route to "reform." As he substantially agrees with Kohn's indictments of standardized testing, Petrilli labels Kohn as a demagogue, and he concludes with a flourish, "Education reform shall not be crucified on a cross of 'no.'" No!!!  When you are stuck deep in a ditch, it is crazy to keep on digging.  Yes!!! If Petrilli wants to meet teachers half way, we can agree, for instance, that "test-based value-added scores do, in fact, provide valuable information about the things most people care most about."  We can then agree on something that Petrilli has often affirmed -applying stakes to those metrics is crazy.-JT (@drjohnthompson)image via.

Quotes: The Naiveté Defense

Quotes2That naiveté, I think, worked to our advantage-- DCPS official Jason Kamras in Hechinger Report interview. 

Shenanigans: District Staff Hold Speaker Spots In Chicago

It's controversial but common practice in Washington for lobbyists to hire college kids or homeless folks to stand in line for them in order to get spots in hearings and markups, but now that practice has seemed to spread all the way out to the Chicago Board of Education.  

image from www.chicagonow.comThe monthly events, which are held during the week downtown, already require speakers to get up and arrive at the crack of dawn in order to wait in line and sign in for a 2 minute spot.  Even then, not all speakers get their chance.  This week, according to parents who were there to debate the longer school day and year that's been proposed, school district employees showed up at the crack of dawn to hold spaces for parents who would speak in favor of the school board's position.   The district admits that staff were there to help parents with the process, but vehemently denies that they were holding spaces (much less cutting).   "A few members of the FACE team were downstairs answering questions from parents who were waiting in line. There were many parents in line today who were participating for the first time in the board process and were unfamiliar with how it worked."

Yes, this is the same district where protesters were allegedly paid to show up at by community groups with city contracts, and where the district was just this week forced to pay teachers back pay for a longer day forced down the throats of 13 schools in September. 

Video: Latino Anger At Metal Detectors At Tucson Board Meetings

This picture of little boy in Batman t-shirt getting screened has gone viral, according to CNN. Last spring, students disrupted a board meeting by handcuffing themselves to board members' chairs.

AM News: Ed Schools Face Lawsuits Over Info. Refusals

News imageEducation Colleges Cry Foul on Ratings WSJ: A nonprofit advocacy group is pushing colleges of education to participate in an effort to rate their teacher-preparation programs, but many of the schools are balking, arguing the project is flawed.

Donors to Romney super PAC have ties to for-profit colleges USAT: The donations come as the industry grapples with unprecedented federal scrutiny from Washington.

Large federal grants yielding mostly small changes in struggling Washington schools Seattle Times: Eighteen low-performing Washington state schools that have received more than $40 million in School Improvement Grant money have mostly used the money for incremental changes, according to a new study.

Ten Arrested As Oakland School Board Meeting Erupts Into Chaos AP via HuffPost: Oakland's school board is planning to resume a meeting cut short by a raucous sit-in opposing the district's plan to close five schools.

L.A. schools to notify parents when teachers are removed Los Angeles Times: They'll be told within 72 hours if an instructor is pulled because of sexual-misconduct allegations.Parents will be notified within 72 hours when a teacher is removed from a classroom because of sexual-misconduct allegations, Los Angeles school officials announced Thursday.

In Bullying Programs, A Call For Bystanders To Act NPR: A growing number of anti-bullying programs have emerged in recent years, and the focus of many has shifted from stopping bullies to encouraging bystanders to act. But in an industry where anyone can peddle virtually any kind of program, initiatives vary in their quality and effectiveness.

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Images: Baseball Cards...For Teachers

image from www.scholastic.com
Scholastic Administrator has this image accompanying my latest screed against public rating for teachers but you might like the image even if you don't like what I have to say.  

Ideas: Please Stop Talking About Banning Private School

It's become somewhat popular among reformy types over the past couple of years to float the idea of "banning" private school and making everyone go to a public school.  (Counter-reformers have their favorite stories, too, but we'll save those for another time.) 

Picture 44Warren Buffet, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Steve Barr, and most recentlyJason Kamras are those I've seen or read deliver a version of the same story (often without attributing it to Buffet, whom I understand to be its originator).  Some propose banning homeschooling, too.  Others point out that we'd have to assign kids randomly rather than by neighborhood.

I'm not sure anyone's decided what would happen to charter schools under this scenario, but it doesn't matter.  Things would get better, fast, is the point.  And indeed they might.  So too if we eliminated local school districts (as Matt Miller proposed a few years ago) or lowered any number of other structural obstacles to a better-run, more rational school system.  

But none of these things is going to happen any time soon, and I for one have gotten annoyed at this particular "thought experiment," which seems desperate and misleading.  It's desperate because its fanciful nature suggests that reformers are out of ideas; even their magic bullets are made up, now (though to be fair, I'm suspicious about the existence of "Finland," too).  It's misleading because it fails to acknowledge that, by focusing almost exclusively on the poorest neighborhoods and the lowest-performing teachers and schools, reformers have contributed to the lack of engagement among middle-class and wealthy families whose interests are going to be needed to make education better at scale. 

Anyway, please stop. Thanks.  

Books: Coming Titles From Tough, Hess, & Goldstein

image from 3.bp.blogspot.comLooking for something new to read in the category of book-length nonfiction?  You don't have too long to wait.  How Children Succeed, Paul Tough's followup to Whatever It Takes is coming out this September.  Rick Hess book, Cage-Busting Leadership, is also out later this year. Dana Goldstein has a contract to produce her first book, The War On Teaching, though I don't think it's slated to be out this year.  

Quotes: Lawmakers Can't Resist 100 Percent Promises

Quotes2Hawaii aims to have 100 percent proficiency and erase the achievement gap by 2018... Tennessee aims to have 100 percent proficiency in reading and math on state assessments by 2014. - CAP Report On Race Implementation (What Have We Learned from the States So Far?)

Video: John White, Digger Phelps, & Arne Duncan

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Warning: This feel-good segment from MSNBC yesterday morning starts with an Arne Duncan clip in which he makes me nervous talking about post-Katrina New Orleans and includes Digger Phelps, John ("Superintendent") White, plus a couple of shout-outs for Steve Barr and Future Is Now Schools. Link is here.

AM News: Duncan Defends Waivers, Competitive Grants

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Duncan Defends Waivers, Competitive Grants to Congress Politics K12: The clash between the Obama administration, which loves its signature Race to the Top and other grant programs, and folks in Congress who want to see a bigger investment in funding for special education and disadvantaged students, is clearly not going away anytime soon.

Two states, two different paths on charter schools Stateline: Legislators in Georgia want to the state to be able to create new charter schools without local approval, while legislators in New Jersey would like to slow down the process by requiring local consent.

Leftover snow days mean some students can plow into summer USA Today:  At least nine of the snowiest U.S. cities had less than 60% of their average snowfall this year, so many schools will cut the year short.

Start-Ups Try to Crack Education Market WSJ: Education, long a favorite cause among Bay Area philanthropists, is also starting to attract technologists who want to make money in it. That's generating a boom in start-ups trying to make education more efficient.

Could You Pass The 8th Grade By Today's Testing Standards? HuffPost: As Texas students started taking a new state-mandated test this week, districts across the state have gradually signed on to a resolution that says high-stakes standardized tests are "strangling our public schools."

Bullying Study Shows Some Kids At High Risk For Abuse HuffPost: Kids with autism spectrum disorders are three times as likely as their non-affected siblings to experience bullying, a new national survey finds.

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Charts: 18 States & DC Leave Door Open To Shared Ratings

Picture 41

While opinion seems to be trending against the usefulness of the release of value-added scores to the public lately (or as in the case of Cuomo is most likely being used for bargaining purposes), EdWeek notes that laws in 18 states plus DC currently leave the door open to some sort of release (tan and green), and that a couple (FL and MI) are focused on parental access to teacher rating/eval information. 

Audio: Turnaround Czar Talks Transformation, MOUs

At this past weekend's SIG conference in Chicago, Jason Snyder talked about where the SIG program is and where it heads next, mentioned that MOUs between districts and unions seem to be a interesting way to get dramatic improvements done, and generally made the whole program seem like an earnest and generally well-run endeavor.  Then again, I was barely awake since it was 9 am.  Here's some audio for you to pore over, courtesy of the good folks at EWA: 

Snyder Knowles MP3

There's also a PowerPoint presentation that I'll try and get and post here, too. Note that my audio edit is very rough -- that's EWA head Caroline Hendrie speaking at the start, and the second voice is UofC's Tim Knowles (wearing a black turtleneck, bien sur).  Snyder doesn't always talk into the microphone so you'll have to deal with that.  

 

Media: Nonprofit News Outlet Focuses On NOLA Charters

image from thelensnola.orgI had the chance to meet Jessica Williams, education reporter for The Lens a few days ago.  It's a nonprofit investigative online news site, with funding from Knight and other foundations.  Education-wise, its focus has been 45 charter networks, which dominate New Orleans (see here).  Williams says the site spends a lot of time covering charter board meetings (yes, charters have boards -- one in Chicago just voted to oust its executive director).  The goal is to dive deeper and cover more than traditional news outlets can.  Watch out, mainstream newspapers and media outlets.  The nonprofits are coming (and going).  @thelensNOLA 

Thompson: Texas Testing Backlash

Mmw_testinglearning_articleThe Houston Chronicle's Monica Rhor writes in "School Officials: High Stakes Tests Failing Students" that a "mounting chorus of school administrators, educators and parents is speaking out against a system in which they say testing has eclipsed teaching." At least 40 school boards across Texas have gone on record against the bubble-in craze and even state Education Commissioner Robert Scott condemns the testing culture as "the heart of the vampire." Rhor writes, "what began as a way to measure student learning, administrators and school trustees say, has ballooned into a 'drill-and-kill' cycle of test preparation, district benchmark assessments and practice exams that leaves little time for classroom instruction." And this public backlash is taking place before the new STAAR testing regime takes full effect and increases the stakes and the costs of  testing, during a time of budgetary cutbacks. We in Oklahoma City have fond memories of Guy Sconzo, who is now superintendent of the Humble ISD.  I was pleased to see Sconzo go on record against the 45 days of the school year that are interrupted by standardized tests, and four-hour-long, high-stakes exams that 3rd graders must take. "It's a single-moment-in-time assessment that does not come close to measuring all that Texas students are expected to learn," Sconzo said.-JT (@drjohnthompson)image via.

Supreme Court: Of Broccoli And Federal Education Mandates

image from www.bloomberg.comThis week's Supreme Court deliberations on the health care mandate is as good a chance as any to remind everyone that there are education implications embedded in the debate over whether Congress has the right to enforce things like health insurance mandates over states and individuals.  There was a long New Yorker article making the link to education last summer (here).  Justice Thomas in particular has made commerc clause arguments" By Thomas’s reading, Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act, to say nothing of Medicare and Medicaid, might all be unconstitutional," wrote Jeffrey Toobin. Challenges to federal education laws might follow (if Tea Party lawmakers don't repeal them first).

AM News: SAT Anti-Cheating Measures Adopted

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After Cheating Scandal, SAT and ACT Will Tighten Security NYT: Stung by cases of cheating among Long Island high school students, the college entrance exams will now require students to upload photos when they register.

Tighter security for SAT, ACT in wake of cheating USA Today: A host of new security measures were announced Tuesday in the aftermath of a major cheating scandal on Long Island.

College Tests Get New ID Standards WSJ: The organizations behind the SAT and ACT college-entrance exams said Tuesday they are imposing stricter security measures for test-takers nationwide in response to a cheating scandal that erupted in New York.

Cuomo Backs Release of Teacher Evaluations WSJ: Weighing in on the fight over releasing teachers’ evaluations to the public, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he’s inclined to preserve open access for parents but willing to explore of shielding the records in some way.

What's Up In Congress? Politics K12: Chief state school officers from all over the country came up to Washington this week to hear lawmakers explain why one of their top federal priorities —an honest-to-goodness reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as opposed to just waivers from the U.S. Department of Education—won't get done this year.

Got an Innovative Idea? Third Round of i3 Contest Starts Now Politics K12: The U.S. Department of Education is now accepting applications for a third round of the Investing in Innovationcontest.

Feds Want 'Clear, Compelling' Race to Top Progress in Hawaii Politics K12: What happens in Hawaii this week will help determine whether the state gets to keep its $75 million Race to the Top grant.

Ryan Budget Slashes Pell Grants HuffPost: More than 1 million students would lose Pell grants entirely over the next 10 years under Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, according to an analysis that the national reform organization Education Trust provided to The Huffington Post.

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Video: We're All Atlanta Now, Says AJC

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Hey, at least they're not publishing teachers' value-added ratings.  Meantime, a couple of folks have pointed out that charter schools seem to appear on the suspicious scores lists at a disproportionate rate (cheaters!) and that states having been trying to implement proactive measures like erasure rate analysis and test score increase flagging but most haven't yet got their new systems online.

Bruno: Looking For VAM Alternatives

BubbleThe recent outrage over the publication of individual teacher value-added scores was, in my view, totally justified since that sort of data dump obscures more than it illuminates for the public, and at substantial cost to the teachers involved.

What I didn't hear much of  in the hubbub, however, were recommendations for a positive agenda to avoid similar sorts of fiascoes in the future. If, like many commentators seem to do, you take it for granted that the publication of VAM scores was primarily an act of intentional malice toward teachers, then it's admittedly hard to see a way to avoid similar battles in the future. My own sense, though, is that VAM scores are being published in large part because there is a very real hunger for objective measures of teacher quality and nobody else is doing a very good job of satisfying that demand.

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AM News: Chiefs Chafe At District Waivers

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State Chiefs to Duncan: Don't 'Undermine' Us With District Waivers Politics K12: During an hour-long Q-and-A session in Washington Monday at a legislative conference of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Duncan mostly danced around the issue of district-level waivers.
Florida and Hawaii Get Dinged Again for Race to Top Woes Politics K12: Along the Race to the Top timeline, we are halfway to the finish line. 
Ed. Dept. to Split Race to Top Money Between Districts, Early Ed. Politics K12: A new $550 million pot of money for another Race to the Top contest will have to be split between two education-policy worlds: early education and district-level reform. 
California Urged To Address Teacher-Layoff Policies Teacher Beat: An analysis from California's Legislative Analyst's Office urges the state to consider revamping its teacher-layoff policies, including reducing the emphasis on seniority.
Despite more college grads, U.S. workforce needs even more USA Today: The number of adult Americans who have earned college degrees has been increasing, but not fast enough to keep up with workforce demands.
School districts woo superintendents in their own fashion Baltimore Sun: Searching for a new school superintendent in Maryland sometimes takes the skills of a CIA agent, including clandestine meetings and flights to faraway places.
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Video Interlude: School Bans Hugging Just To Amuse You

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Why do schools do this kind of thing, and why does the media (NBC News in this case) make such a big deal of it? Slow news cycle ahead of the Supreme Court deliberations on healthcare, I guess.

Thompson: Schools And Racial Profiling

MartinWhat does the killing of Trayvon Martin have to do with the Department of Education's data collection which shows that black students are 3-1/2 times more likely to be suspended than white students?  Personal and institutional racism persist, as does bigotry born of a lack of communication. 

One thing that the latest tragedy and the "school to prison pipeline" have in common, however, is that solutions to both can be found in the classroom.I would like to join with Jose Vilson, whose "Trayvon Martin and the Implication for Teacher Perceptions of Students," in the Huffington Post, affirms that, "Teachers can play a critical role in the move towards racial consciousness and, yes, harmony."  Vilson explains why teachers must listen to our students, and why we must find time in class for conversations that address our cultural perceptions and misperceptions.

The following is an example of one such conversation that I was privileged to witness.  Pat McGuigan, who was then the editor-in-chief of the conservative Daily Oklahoman, as well as a former author for the Heritage Foundation, visited our class, and he went head-to-head with Lakisha (as I will call her). 

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Bruno: More "Divide And Conquer," Please

Rman868lRick Hess had a great post last week pointing out that even if you think your debate opponents are wrong about an issue, that doesn't necessarily mean they're being unreasonable. He defends the strategic value of respecting your opponents' points of view because "[e]mpathy is ultimately the difference between cage-busters who implode amidst endless battles and those who, studying their Sun-Tzu, operate with determination and deliberation."

Hess illustrates the idea by describing why veteran teachers drive union opposition to compensation and seniority reform when those things might be to the benefit of less-veteran members. As it happens, that's the sort of difficulty Sun-Tzu addressed directly in The Art of War: "If [your enemy's] forces are united, separate them." And this raises the question - at least in my mind - of why reformers haven't adopted a divide-and-conquer strategy more frequently.

The overall merits of the particular reform aside, if it's true that younger teachers would be more open to, say, seniority reform, why not appeal directly to them and appease many of the veterans by exempting them and giving them some additional carrot? Not only would this be the Sun-Tzu-approved method, it's exactly the tactic politicians take all the time when attempting "reforms" of social security, Medicare, etc. It's not usually the most efficient thing to do in policy terms, but it seems to be effective and acceptable politics.

Indeed, my general sense is that reformers have had some of their biggest successes implementing their agenda when they manage to carve up the potential opposition this way: think about Michelle Rhee's negotiations with the DC teachers union in 2010. So why don't we see more divide-and-conquer strategies in the education reform wars? - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Research: FLA & Hawaii Not Meeting Race Expectations

Picture 34There's a new report from CAP about state implementation of Race To The Top coming out today.  The delays and overpromising we already know about, though there are new and updated details in the state reports.  

The big headline is that two states -- Hawaii and Florida -- were found not to be meeting expectations.  Not New York.

Click below for the talking points.

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Quotes: Duncan Revises Views On Publishing Value-Added

Quotes2There's not much of an upside there, and there's a tremendous downside for teachers. - Arne Duncan in EdWeek

AM News: Evidence Of Cheating, Questions About Findings

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Suspicious school test scores across the nation Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Suspicious test scores in roughly 200 school districts resemble those that entangled Atlanta in the biggest cheating scandal in American history, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows. AP:  Some Question Analysis

Arne Duncan: Newspapers Shouldn't Publish Teacher Ratings Teacher Beat: Publishing teachers' ratings in the newspaper in the way The New York Times and other outlets have done recently is not a good use of performance data, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an interview yesterday.

N.J. middle school: No hugging, please USA Today: A New Jersey middle school principal told his 900 students they were in a "no hugging school" following some "unsuitable" incidents.

A Teacher's Ultimatum Drives Student's Success NPR: In high school, Raul Bravo asked himself whether it was worth getting a diploma. Friends were making fast money drug dealing, and four years seemed like a long time. But then his automotive teacher told him he had a decision to make.

Districts Moving Against 'Pink Slime' NYT: Parents are pressing school districts around the country to stop serving the products now -- and some school districts are responding, The New York Times reported this weekend.

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Events: Live, From Chicago

Another day, another conference.  Today I'm at #ewaSIG, the EWA session on the $5 billion school improvement program.  Listen in here, however, note that with rare exceptions, all the really important stuff doesn't get tweeted. 

Audio: "Hallelujah The Saviors Are Here"

image from www.wbez.orgClick here for a performance from Louder Than A Bomb 2012, an annual teen poetry slam competition, which expresses frustration at educators coming into communities to teach but not becoming part of the communities (or staying):  "Hallelujah the Saviors are Here"

Want more?  There's a treasure trove of them at Chicago Public Radio from this year and previous years. 

Events: Live, From New Haven

It's the Yale School of Management education summit (#yaleELC) and you can watch (and respond to) the tweets as they fly by:

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Ideas: Stalemated School Debate (You're *Not* Winning)

MetronomeThere's no shortage of polarizing figures in education today -- Michelle Rhee, Diane Ravitch, etc. And perhaps it will always be this way (fun!). Education is a polarizing issue, after all, and neither side is willing to tolerate much independence from its champions (seelout!).  

But still I'm curious about those who are at least attempting to hold the middle ground.  NYU's Pedro Noguero took on at least some of this role, at least until he resigned from the charter authorizing committee last month. The Harlem Children's Zone's Geoff Canada could have been in this middle space, given his media presence and his commitment to social services, but seemed to have been co-opted by the charter school hedge fund crowd.  Linda Darling-Hammond has maintained ties with the Obama adminstration and with traditional educators.   

But really there's no one I can think of who's acceptable to both sides.  And the absence of a unifying figure -- and some sort of a joint rallying cry -- is a  problem that most of those currently engaged in battle don't seem to appreciate.  This is in large part because both sides of the fight seem to think that they're winning.

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Thompson: The Teacher Accountability Pipe Dream

SmokingStanford's Larry Cuban continues to present a historical view that illustrates the flaws inherent in data-driven "reform." In "The Puzzle of Student Responsibility for Learning," Cuban writes "For more than a quarter-century, federal and state policymakers, major donors, and business leaders have built a reform-driven political machine that places responsibility for student learning squarely on teachers." Cuban notes that in all other helping professions, we assume a "two-way street." For instance, doctors and therapists share responsibility with their patients and clients for their outcomes; the failure of a patient to quit smoking is not dumped entirely at the door of his health care provider. In education, however, the idea that teachers are completely accountable for whether their students learn is the "super-glue that holds disparate reform-minded groups together." It would be nice if we could magically create an accountability system that could identify the value-added of all professionals who work with human beings and our foibles. It would be the cheapest way to fix our medical systems, social safety nets, and our educational systems. Only with teachers, however, do we pretend that such a pipe dream is possible."-JT (@drjohnthompson)image via.

AM News: Duncan Blasts Ryan Budget Plan

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Duncan Blasts Ryan Budget Plan Politics K12: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned lawmakers today of potentially dire ramifications if the budget blueprint put forth earlier this week by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., were to become law.

Lawsuit targets bogus online GED tests TODAY:  The GED Testing Service has filed a lawsuit against what it says is a network of 13 websites that allegedly used the GED trademark to offer fake tests and diplomas.  

Learning Disabilities and the Arts PBS: It's minutes before the curtain is set to rise for this year's production of the Black History Month play at Henderson Inclusion Elementary School on a late February morning. Students are excitedly tending to last-minute costume fixes and teachers are busy issuing their last tidbits of advice. But there's one teacher here who's clearly in charge: the play's director, Darlene Jones-Inge.

Teachers union head visits RI to protest layoffs AP via Boston.com: The leader of the American Federation of Teachers called on Gov. Lincoln Chafee and state lawmakers to boost funding for education in Rhode Island, saying Thursday that teachers and schools already have sacrificed all they can.

Gov. Matt Mead signs bill advancing education reform efforts; school boards group approves AP via StateLine: Gov. Matt Mead signed into law a bill advancing Wyoming's effort to help make its public school students better prepared for college and careers.

Quinn's Quest for 'Kindergarten for All' NYT: Thousands of children each year don’t enroll in kindergarten — and too often those are poor or disabled kids who need it most. Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, is trying to change that.

Video: Interview With EdSector's Richard Lee Colvin

Here's Education Sector's Richard Lee Colvin from a little earlier this month, talking about school reform politics, teachers unions, and education journalism:

Campaign 2010: Too Much Credit For "Stand IL"?

Picture 35Today's Chicago news is dominated with wrapup stories about the Illinois primaries -- many of them focused on the role Stand For Children IL may have played in the races where it placed bets.  The organization gave $150,000 to 14 folks -- a couple of them runing against union-approved candidates -- and when all of its candidates won Stand sent out a press release ("This is a strong testament to the will of Illinois voters to keep children at the center of our education decisions in Springfield.") and appeared in local media (Stand for Children-endorsed candidates sweep elections WBEZ, Follow the money to see who makes the winners Sun Times).  Sure it's important to rally the base and take credit where due, but I'm curious curious that Stand is making their role so public given what happened last year, and dismayed that the media seems to be presuming that Stand caused these victories to happen in any measurable way.  Stand opponents are making the same mistake (Grass roots’ effort comes up just a little short against Big Money and the Machine Fred Klonsky).  The Chicago teachers union complained about the campaign donations as if it wasn't doing just the same thing.  Sure, a little money goes a long way in an obscure state legislative race, but there are other donors and dynamics going on.  Many of the candidates Stand supported were also EIA and IFT endorsed.  Has Stand learned its lesson?  Has the media?  It wasn't all a loss, however.  A Chicago Sun Times columnist named Mark Brown noted that at least one of Stand's candidates was being run as part of infighting among Illinois Democrats including Mike Madigan (via Mike Klonsky).

AM News: "Reformey" Governor Endorses Romney

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Former Gov. Jeb Bush Endorses Mitt Romney for President Politics K12: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the godfather of the reformey-minded Chiefs For Change and an education force in statehouses around the country, has endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president.

Seattle School Board votes to keep Teach For America partnership Seattle Times:   The Seattle School Board reached decisions Wednesday night on two of the most controversial proposals it has considered this year, voting to continue the district's partnership with Teach for America and to set specific guidelines for how far board members can go in overseeing district operations. via @gothamschools

Teacher Turnover Affects All Students' Achievement, Study Indicates Teacher Beat: When teachers leave schools, overall morale appears to suffer enough that student achievement declines—both for those taught by the departed teachers and by students whose teachers stayed put, concludes a study recently presented at a conference held by the Center for Longitudinal Data in Education Research.

Engaging Students With Learning Disabilities Early On PBS: Students with learning disabilities are twice as likely as their peers to drop out of high school, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Betty Ann Bowser visited an elementary school that practices early intervention -- engaging students with technology and art to improve their chances of earning a diploma.

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Thompson: Address Behavior To Retain Teachers

Student_disciplineOn the heels of the MET Life survey on the rise of teacher dissatisfication, Scholastic and the Gates Foundation have published "Primary Sources 2012."  It found less teacher dissatisfaction, while also reporting that teachers have little confidence in some of policies that are most favored by reformers, such as Common Core standards, pay for performance, and expanding the school day and year.  Moreover, much of the evidence in "Primary Sources" on the causes of teacher dissatisfaction is consistent with that of the MET Life surveys over the last three decades. In 2011, 62% of teachers reported that student behavior problems have increased.  Regarding policies that would help retain teachers, 53% of teachers say it is "absolutely important"  that more help be provided for dealing with misbehavior, while another 38% think it would be "very important." Among teachers who are dissatisfied, 84% want more support regarding behavioral problems. These results are also consistent with the MET "The American Teacher" survey of students which asked whether their school was "too noisy for students to be able to concentrate." Ten percent of students said that such a statement "very much describes my school," while 48% say it is "somewhat descriptive." "-JT (@drjohnthompson)image via.  

Charts: Stacking Dropouts Next To The Empire State Building

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7,000 dropouts a day.  Via I Love Charts

 

Update: Back To Locke High School

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It's been a long time since Locke High School has been in the news (see this June 2011 LA Times piece) but it still seems relevant to me.  Before the parent trigger, there was the teacher trigger that was used to wrest Locke away from LAUSD and UTLA.  Before SIG, there was NCLB restructuring that allowed Green Dot to restaff the school. Before newTLA and the Gates charter-district collaboration initiative, there was AMU, the union of charter teachers (the topic of a WSJ opinion piece just this week).  And before Michelle Rhee and Jonah Edelman and Ben Austin, there was Steve Barr (who's opening a new school in New Orleans next year.) 

In any case, I had  an hour to walk around the campus a couple of weeks ago before heading to the airport but that was enough time to get a quick sense of things and I thought some of you might be interested.  

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Events: Reporters To Ponder SIG Impact In Chicago

There's been lots of conversation this week about SIG -- a pair of CEP reports, a USDE update, and a CAP report on some states restricting SIG dollars to districts.  So it's good timing that some of the nation's top education reporters are gathering from around the country in Chicago this weekend to talk and learn about the impact (or lack thereof) of the Obama administration's SIG initiative. It's a EWA event.  Folks from NAPCS, CREO, CRPE are going to be there, as well as from AFT and NEA and teachers including Anthony Cody and Xian Barrett.  The hashtag is #ewasig.  

Video: Condoleeza Rice & Joel Klein Talk Education

Watch or listen to this PBS NewsHour segment on the Council of Foreign Relations report on education issues. Anyone know who actually wrote the report? These things are usually ghosted by someone.

AM News: Some States Limit SIG Funding

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States Differ in Doling Out Turnaround Funds, Study Finds Politics K12: States have gone a bunch of different directions in giving districts money through the federal School Improvement Grant program, the largest national effort yet to turn around the nation's lowest-performing schools, according to a report released today by the Center for American Progress.

Condoleezza Rice: Education Could Be 'Greatest National Security Challenge' PBS: A new Council on Foreign Relations report spelled out the need for more science, history and foreign languages in U.S. schools -- and linked education to national security interests. Jeffrey Brown discusses the report with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

Voters like Conn. schools despite planned overhaul AP via Boston.com: The vast majority of voters, from the cities to rural towns, give high marks to Connecticut's public schools and teachers, even though Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the General Assembly are currently considering a major overhaul of the system.

Kline Wants More Aid for Special Ed., Less for Obama Priorities Politics K12: U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, wants to see Congress put more money into state grants for special education. 

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Quotes: TFA Founder Under Fire For Value-Added Views

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Either her message has gotten lost or she seems to have lost some urgency over ensuring we’re making sure every year for every kid counts (because we know the consequences of the alternative for too many are dire). 

 - Unnamed TFA alumni responding to Wendy Kopp oped last week  plus Kopp response via Whitney Tilson (see below) 

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Politics: Reform Politicians Act Tough, Cut Generous Deals

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Rahm Emanuel's complaints about the generous teachers contract he inherited from Daley and Duncan has been picked up by Politico (Rahm vs. Arne) and reminds me that this is at least the second instance where a supposedly hard-charging reform mayor (Daley) with mayoral control over the schools (since 1995) settled for a ho-hum teachers contract in order to win labor peace.  The other example in New York City, where Mayor Bloomberg cut a relatively generous deal with the UFT in order to win a third term.  (You could argue that a third example would be Barack Obama, who's administration has pushed a lot of reformy initiatives even as they've been pushing billions out the door to keep teachers at work via the stimulus and "edujobs."  Even the DCSP deal cut by Michelle Rhee included generous raises.) I feel like a lot of folks, reformers and otherwise, don't really understand this dynamic.  Many reform supporters seem to think that their leaders are really giving it to the teachers, when they're not.  Many reform critics seem to think that reformers are shafting teachers, when they're not.  

Bruno: Preschool and the Importance of Policy

Preschool_logoA new article from the research journal Psychological Science finds that "preschool attendance may help to reduce achievement gaps" because preschool environments tend to be educationally richer than home environments, particularly for poorer children and children of color. Moreover, since the children who would benefit most are least likely to be enrolled, "the equalizing effects of preschools at the population level may not be fully realized". (Notably, the study finds that the results are similar whether or not Head Start programs are included in the analysis.)

Besides implying that we should probably be investing more heavily in early childhood education, this is a helpful reminder that it's possible to make too much of the distinction between "in-school" and "out-of-school" factors contributing to student achievement.  That distinction makes sense only if we take for granted that kids are in school at certain times and not in school at other times.  

The fact of the matter, however, is that whether a child is in school at a given time is to some extent a question of public policy or, if she is fortunate, family preference. And this is not only true at the preschool level; inequitable access to after-school and summer educational opportunities similarly blurs the in-school/out-of-school distinction.

Still, it is not uncommon to hear people insist that economic outcomes for adults depend primarily on hard work and other personal virtues. Such claims should not be sustainable in light of research indicating that a child's academic success may depend in part on educational decisions made when she is at the age of 4. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Thompson: Draw a Line in the Sand with Chronically Absent Students

Teacher-bashing-rotherhamWould anyone in his right mind have supported NCLB without its provision allowing the exclusion of chronically absent students from school level accountability reports?  If schools had not been allowed to exclude the test scores of students who missed 20% or more of class while trying to meet their growth targets, would there be a single high-poverty school in America that had not been labeled as a failure? Of course, some supported NCLB because it would produce an endless series of headlines about failing schools ...

Unless the point of data-driven evaluations is teacher-bashing, it is hard to see a rational reason why "reformers" would not exclude chronically absent students from the data used to evaluate teachers.  Would they hold a teacher accountable for a student who attended for one week, or one month, or even one day?  The Wall Street Journal's Lisa Fleisher, in an article with the revealing title of, "Teacher Ratings Face New Union Obstructions," reports Adam Urbanski, the Rochester Teachers Association president, plans to "draw a line in the sand on the issue of chronically absent students."  We should all support Urbanski's realism and his courage to say, "The state has said such students' scores can't be excluded from evaluations," but, "I say, 'Keep your money.'"-JT (@drjohnthompson)image via.

AM News: Romney Slams "Federal" Unions

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Romney Launches Attack On Teachers Unions HuffPost: Mitt Romney has pledged to push back against teachers unions as president.

A School Improvement Grant Report Card from CEP Politics K12: Two years into the implementation of the federal School Improvement Grant program, state officials are generally optimistic about its potential, but have a lot of ideas for perfecting it.

Early SIG Data Looks Promising, Duncan Says Politics K12: So can the biggest federal investment—and tightest federal strings ever—actually make a difference for the nation's lowest-performing schools?

Education Department Pursues NCLB Waivers for Districts Politics K12: The U.S. Department of Education, which is in the middle of granting waivers to states from many of the core tenets of the No Child Left Behind Act, already is thinking ahead to how it can offer the same flexibility to school districts in states that choose not to seek a waiver.

Panel Says Schools’ Failings Could Threaten Economy and National Security  AP via NYT: A report cites critical shortages in foreign-language speakers and a growing lack of expertise in science, defense and aerospace as baby boomers retire. ALSO Policy Leaders: National Security, Prosperity At Risk By Way Of Current School System HuffPost

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Thompson: TFA Should Break From "Reformers" - But Will It?

Education1The contemporary school "reform" movement has always been divided among itself, but now is the time for the teachers who have supported the accountability hawks to make a decision.  The data-driven reform movement has always attracted dedicated young educators, whether they serve in Teach for America or charter schools, who have recoiled at the educational "status quo" and took direct action against the legacy of generational poverty.  The problem is that these teachers have been used in the "bait" part of a corporate "bait and switch." TFA and others have become the face of a teacher-bashing campaign by the Michelle Rhee/Mike Bloomberg axis of  "reform" which seeks to blow up the "status quo."  Destroy today's teaching profession, education schools, and governance, they assume, and something "transformative" will rise from the ashes.  Former TFA member Gary Rubenstein  explains in his blog that teachers on the ground understand the folly destroying schools in order to save them, and says it's time "for TFA to disassociate themselves with the corporate reform movement."  It would "take a lot of guts," Rubenstein writes, but "They would be smart, though, to do this as soon as possible.  The foundation of the corporate reform movement is already beginning to crumble.  TFA does not need to go down with that ship but, sadly, they probably will."-JT (@drjohnthompson)image via.

Reform: How & Why Popular Movements Can Fail

Over the weekend the Kony2012 guy had some sort of breakdown -- I'll let you find the video on your own -- and meantime lots of folks have been pondering the pros and cons of mass-marketed reform appeals. Here's one take from Rebbeca Hamilton (author of Fighting For Darfur) via Felix Salmon:

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"To build a mass movement quickly, it helps to have an over-simplified, emotive narrative with a single demand. It also helps to tells people that by doing easy tasks – sharing a link on Facebook, buying a bracelet — they can save lives. Central to the formula is that the agency of local actors gets downplayed to hype up the importance of action by outsiders. But all those ingredients inevitably lead to eventual failure when the simple solutions can’t fix the complex reality. The movement walks away, disillusioned. And in the meantime untold resources have been expended on solutions that have been out of step with what local activists need."

School reform hasn't had a viral hit like Kony 2012, of course -- not that it hasn't tried -- but there are lots of other similarities, and, alas, lots of other similar drawbacks.  

Related post: What Should Educators Think About "KONY2012"

Bruno: Teacher Dissatisfaction Is Mostly About The Economy

ChickenrazorThe most recent MetLife Survey of the American Teacher has been much-discussed in education circles, but I think commentators are trying too hard to fit the results into their preferred education reform narratives.  

The survey itself indicates strongly that the faltering economy is the biggest culprit behind the decline in teacher morale, but everybody seems to be downplaying that explanation while pointing the finger elsewhere: at bad teachers, at "reform", or at their least favorite policy makers. 

Read on for my take on Hess, Ravitch, Cody, and what it all means.

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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.