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Advocacy: Bloomberg Won't Say Much About Contributions

image from mayorschallenge.bloomberg.orgHeading over to the Bloomberg Philanthropies-sponsored reception to start the NewSchools Venture Fund education summit, I thought there was no time like the present to update you on my progress figuring out the ins and outs of outside spending on local school board elections like that being done by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

As you may recall, Bloomberg and others have been giving funds to various local school board candidates over the past few years, either directly to the candidates or via an independent expenditure committee.  The funding is intended to provide a counterbalance to union contributions, local and otherwise, and is entirely legal but raises lots of issues when it is so new and novel (for a school board race) and also when it comes from outside the city or state where the race is taking place.

My issue is not with the campaign contributions themselves, which are perfectly legal, or even with the need for a counterbalance to union power in low turnout events.  The AFT spent $1M to get rid of Adrien Fenty, and the CTA spent $300K to block board members favorable to former San Diego superintendent Alan Bersin.

My question is whether the funding is worth the blowback, and whether reform advocates like Bloomberg (and DFER, and StudentsFirst) will ever figure out a way to tell their story and give their money without spending all their time defending themselves.  I also want to know how much of it is out there, on both sides.

Continue reading "Advocacy: Bloomberg Won't Say Much About Contributions" »

StudentsFirst: Mismatched Donors, Endorsements, and Contributions?

Michelle rhee book coverIt's not just reform critics and professional opponents who are seeking to define Michelle Rhee's school reform advocacy as predominantly right-leaning and Republican -- and so far at least StudentsFirst seems to be going along with it.

There's no argument that some of the organization's biggest funders like the Walton Family Foundation have Republican roots, or that Rhee will work with Republicans to get policy priorities moved ahead.

But increasingly, mainstream media press accounts of StudentsFirst are describing StudentsFirst's political advocacy (campaign endorsements and contributions) as Republican, too.

The latest example is today's LA Times piece:  "Nationwide, StudentsFirst has overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates, because they best match its policy platform."

The first part of that sentence is where I'm confused.  (About the second half of the sentence, I'd observe that only Rhee's support for the trigger and vouchers -- and her willingness to work across the aisle -- mark her as anything other than a mainstream Democrat.)

The question about Rhee's endorsements and contributions first started coming up for me last Fall, when readers started noting that SF's endorsees in Florida were Republican (See  Eighty Candidates Endorsed By StudentsFirst). It came up again after the general election when I was trying to tally the advocacy groups' performance (See So How'd The Advocacy Groups Do?*).

More recently, StudentsFirst keeps telling me that endorsements are one thing, campaign contributions are another.  But so far, at least, they've not provided any documentation about the direct contributions and superPAC contributions in the states they're involved with. All we have are lists of endorsements, which do indeed skew Republican.

The reason I've been asking is that my own limited experience with StudentsFirst and campaign contributions is that they're mostly Democratic.  This includes giving to LAUSD school board candidates, and trying to get Brian Johnson and others elected. (See CA StudentsFirst Candidate Squeaks Through*). 

Is the press getting this wrong and falling for an attack that isn't accurate, or am I just working off of incomplete information?

Bruno: Job Search Showdown - myEdmatch Vs. EdJoin

5585670827_a15ec1de16There's been some buzz recently about myEdmatch.com, the new job listing site that promises to better match teachers to schools based on their stated philosophies of education. Prospective teachers sign up, fill out a survey about their educational beliefs, and then, hopefully, find a similarly-aligned school.

Since I'm on the job market myself I signed up for myEdmatch as soon as the site came online at the end of February.

So far I've been underwhelmed.

Continue reading "Bruno: Job Search Showdown - myEdmatch Vs. EdJoin" »

Events: Livestreaming the NewSchools Venture Summit

There's lots that's familiar about this year's NewSchools Venture Summit taking place tomorrow in Burlingame, California -- but at least one major change: livestreaming!

 

Watch live streaming video from newschools at livestream.com

That's right-- this somewhat expensive,  invitation-only event is going to be putting some of its main speakers and panels out onto the Internet where everybody can see them. Now if NewSchools would only dig up and send me the videotape of the heated 2008 exchanges between Randi Weingarten and Michelle Rhee, I'd be content.

Previous posts: New And Notable At NewSchools 2012Microblogging The NSVF Summit;  Fashion Hits & Misses At The NSVF SummitEdupreneurs Invade DCMy NewSchools Venture Fund Summit List

Morning Video: Preschool Funding Decline = $75B Obama UPK Plan?

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Study finds steep drop in funding for preschools despite push for increased early education programs. NBC News' Danielle Leigh reports. (NBC News Funding for preschools fall)

AM News: "The Common Core Is In Trouble," Says National Teachers Union Head

Common Core Backlash Is Serious, Says AFT President, Randi Weingarten WashingtonPost:  On Tuesday, the head of the American Federation of Teachers and a strong supporter of the Common Core standards will warn that the new approach is being poorly implemented and requires a “mid-course correction” or the effort will fall apart. “The Common Core is in trouble,” said Randi Weingarten, the union president who is slated to speak Tuesday in New York about the issue. “There is a serious backlash in lots of different ways, on the right and on the left.”

AMNews

No Child Left Behind District Waivers Derided By Civil Rights, Disabilities Groups HuffPost: In a letter these groups wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan -- and forwarded to The Huffington Post Monday morning -- they argue that the price of giving school districts that kind of flexibility is too high, espeically when it comes to student achievement. "We're asking you to hold the line now," the groups wrote. "Moving away from a system of statewide accountability ... will result in different expectations for students from one district to the next. 

Arne Duncan Makes Pitch to Expand Early-Childhood Education PoliticsK12: The details of the administration's early-childhood education expansion are largely in its most recent budget request to Congress. But Duncan reiterated some of them anyway, noting that the program would call for a state match of roughly 10 percent in the first year, eventually increasing to 75 percent.

Schools Evaluate Whether to Privatize Support Services EdWeek: School districts face constant pressure to provide reliable support services in areas like transportation, student meals, and janitorial work — and do it as cheaply as possible. That leaves them with a decision to make: Should they use their own employees to perform those duties, or hire outside contractors who may be able to do the job for less?

Battle Brews Over California's Planned Student-Funding Overhaul WSJ: A battle is heating up in California over Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to boost funding for all schools, but funnel more money to districts where many students are poor and struggle with English and less to wealthier districts.Since Mr. Brown, a Democrat, unveiled the "weighted funding" plan in January, school chiefs in poorer areas have pushed hard for the state legislature to pass it.

Afternoon Video: "Welcome to Nerdprom"

They're calling the Correspondents' Dinner "Nerdprom" and featuring House of Cards in the promo. What more do you need?

Bruno: How Good Are The Next Generation Science Standards?

5703402489_41ea0d46e0Last week I wrote an essay for EdSource arguing that California should not adopt the Next Generation Science Standards.

One real limitation of the piece is that I'm only familiar with California's existing science content standards. This means that I don't know whether the final draft of the NGSS represents a likely improvement for other states that might not have already have standards as good as California's.

My sense is that the NGSS may, in fact, be an improvement for a significant number of states. For example, while a 2012 review of state standards by the Fordham Foundation resulted in an 'A' rating for California, fully three-quarters of states earned a 'C' or lower. Ten states received an 'F'.

Existing state standards may be especially weak on controversial subjects. A 2005 review by Editorial Projects in Education found that many state standards neglected important aspects of evolutionary theory. In 2009 a study by the National Center for Science Education gave half of all state standards a grade of 'C' or lower for their treatment of evolution.

So while the NGSS are not great, they are arguably pretty good - especially on politically contentious issues like evolution and climate change - and that may be enough to justify replacing existing standards for many states.

I'd be curious to hear from science teachers outside of California on this. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Weekend Reading: Stuff You Missed (Or Wish You Had)

Here are some posts I came across over the weekend you might have missed: 

Teenage sleep patterns: Why school should start later. - Slate Magazine ow.ly/kvsC7

Dan Koretz, Reporters Roundtable on High Stakes Testing (Audio) ow.ly/kvs1t

No Rich Child Left Behind - NYTimes.com ow.ly/kvkhP

"President Obama has a big problem in his second term in terms of education policy: his first term." ow.ly/kvikx

Predictions of the end of the reform era remind me of Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring ow.ly/kt541

Can Co-ops Save Unions? - In These Times ow.ly/kvsyS

Michelle Rhee Discusses Possible Test Score Tampering (Audio) ow.ly/kvs3x

Doctoral degrees: The disposable academic | The Economist ow.ly/kvFiB Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time

Paying for a special-needs child - Apr. 22, 2013 ow.ly/kvsAC

 

Morning Video: Ohio Teacher Accidentally Outed, Fired

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

NBC News: "Carla Hale, the longtime teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus Ohio says she was fired from her job after her lesbian partner’s name was listed in her mother's newspaper obituary."

AM News: 30 Years After Monumental "A Nation at Risk" Report, Educators Debate the State of Schools

30 Years On, Educators Still Divided On Scathing Schools Report NPR: But Ron Wolk, who had just started the publication Education Week, says the report had a fatal flaw: It pretty much ignored the plight of poor, minority kids. "It kind of viewed the students of America as middle-class white kids who would really do well if they just tried harder and if we raised standards ... There was no recognition that there was a terrible inequity out there," he says.

AMNewsPreschool Funding Reached 'State Of Emergency' In 2012: NIEER Report HuffPo: Funding per student for state pre-school programs has reached its lowest point in a decade, according to "The State of Preschool 2012," the annual yearbook released by Rutgers University's National Institute for Early Education Research. "The 2011-2012 school year was the worst in a decade for progress in access to high-quality pre-K for America’s children," the authors wrote.

GOP Dictates New Landscape For Education In Alabama AP: Self-declared education reformers have had considerable success across the country over the past few decades, from charter school expansion and private school tuition vouchers to new limits on teachers' job protections. But perhaps nowhere have the triumphs marked a bigger political upheaval than in Alabama, where the new Republican supermajority is dominating the state teachers' organization that was long the epicenter of power.

Lowering Standards to Earn a Diploma in Texas Could Raise Voters’ Ire TexasTribune: Behind the scenes at the Capitol, different factions from the business community are busy lobbying on this, with one saying the marketplace demands skilled laborers who don’t necessarily want or need four-year college degrees. Another camp, veterans of No Child Left Behind, the state’s sweeping education reforms in 1980s and other fights, is trying to hold the line on standards and accountability.

In Rural Georgia, Students Step Up Offer Integrated Prom NYT: The rural county in central Georgia is one of the last pockets in the country with racially segregated proms. “These are people I see in class every day,” said Ms. Rucker, a senior, who hid in a parked car outside the prom. “What’s wrong with dancing with me, just because I have more pigment?” But this weekend, after decades of separate proms for white students and black students, Wilcox County will have its first integrated prom.

Buffalo schools heed call to curb suspensions WSJ: The upstate New York district's new code of conduct, taking effect for its 34,000 students next school year, shifts away from punitive suspensions in favor of intervention and prevention strategies like conflict resolution, counseling referrals and restorative justice — which involves bringing conflicting parties together to repair damage.

Afternoon Video: Kids Rap About Test-Taking & Capitalism

Don't like test prep even if it's fun?  Maybe you'll like that the rap includes an anti-capitalism section. D.C. teacher excites students for CAS with music video Washington Post 

Update: Chicago "Clout List" Revealed

CPS secret clout list

After a FOIA and a year's delay, Chicago Public Radio has unearthed the infamous "clout list" from the Arne Duncan era in Chicago -- highly redacted but revealing the process through which VIPs sought to get their own or their friends' kids into selective schools.

Thompson: Why Did Another Oklahoma City Principal Resign?

TardyFor the second time this year, the resignation of a principal of a troubled Oklahoma City secondary school hit the newspaper. The Daily Oklahoman's Jaclyn Cosgrove, in Oklahoma City Principal Resigns After Large-Scale Tardiness Effort, describes it as a result of three days of "hall sweeps" at a middle school in order to get students to class on time and of the arrests that followed.

 According to the police report, 100 to 200 kids (or up to 1/5th of the student body) were late to class every day.  Four tardy students were suspended and told to not return to school without a parent, but they came back the next day. They were charged with trespassing, which could result in a fine as large as $1000.  One student explained that he was too scared to tell his parents and he didn't believe he would actually be arrested.

I do not know the principal and even if I did, I would be like the OKCPS central office and not comment about an individual in a controversy like this. In my twenty-plus years of experience with the OKCPS, this type of sad story is the inevitable result of the inability of neighborhood schools to enforce their tardy and attendance policies.  When schools are not allowed to address one or two dozen chronic "hallwalkers" during the first semester, by April we often see one or two hundred who are either tardy or who do not attempt to attend class.

Jefferson Middle School received a grade of "D" in the controversial new state report card.  Last year, it received an "F" for the growth in student performance and and an "F" for growth for the bottom quartile.  Jefferson received an "A" for attendance. Those metrics may or may not say something about the school.  But, clearly they say that the administrators are under severe stress.  And, this is the height of the high-stakes testing that will determine the school's fate.

Also, in my experience, the overuse of criminal penalties becomes worse every spring, when decent and caring principals are overwhelmed with stress.  Our inability to enforce school rules makes everyone frustrated. But, that is no excuse for criminalizing the conduct of a boy who said his guardian told him to go to school because he would send his case worker to clear up the situation.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Morning Video: Bush Education Accomplishments, Revisited

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The newly-opened Bush Library includes a section on education, and NBC's Chuck Todd interviewed former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings about the Bush education legacy.  

AM News: Less than Half of 12th Graders 'Proficient' in Economics, According to National Assessment

National Assessment Of Educational Progress In Economics Finds Less Than Half Of 12th Graders 'Proficient' HuffPost: Fewer than half of high school seniors are proficient in economics, according to the results of the 2012 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam released Wednesday. This statistic is causing alarm among educators and advocates, especially in an era marked by economic crisis.

AMNews

At Chicago school closing hearings, crowds fade ChicagoTribune: After months of jampacked hearings over Chicago's decision to shut down scores of schools, the final round of public meetings — the ones mandated by state law — has often been sparsely attended and overcast by an air of futility. Community leaders say some people are simply burned out, while others feel their efforts are pointless after Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration decided to shut down 54 schools after months of protest and public engagement. 

Fixing the 'Opportunity Gap' to Close the Achievement Gap PoliticsK12: Thirty years after the release of the seminal A Nation at Risk report ushered in an era of academic standards and standardized tests to measure how students were mastering those, "Closing the Opportunity Gap," argues that until federal and state governments, as well as local school districts, devote as much time and attention to making investments in broad access to quality preschool, health care, good teachers, and rich curricula as they have to driving up test scores and graduation rates, the academic gaps between upper and middle-class kids and their low-income peers will never disappear.

Bill Would Ensure Free Breakfast for Texas' Poorest Students TexasTribune: The Texas Education Agency estimates that 89 percent of the students in the school's district are from low-income households. But every morning, all of the school’s 927 students can count on a federally subsidized breakfast. Offering free breakfasts to all interested students in low-income areas, not just to those who qualify under federal guidelines, is a program that some state legislators are trying to expand to schools in poor neighborhoods across Texas.

Mexican Teacher Protests Turn Up Heat on President NYT: One of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s signature efforts to shake up the country — a broad plan to overhaul the education system — has run into violent protests that underscore how difficult it may be to carry out, particularly in some volatile states with poor academic performance.

Afternoon Video: Marathon Victim's Charter School Visit

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In this segment from last week, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell visits Neighborhood House Charter School in Boston, the school 8 year-old Martin Richard attended before he was killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. Somehow I didn't know what school the boy attended until I came across this blog post about the memorial services this week.

Diversity: School Integration's Nagging NIMBY Problem

image from upload.wikimedia.orgWeeks later and I'm still thinking about this NYT Magazine article about the surprising integration of schools in leafy Greenwich, Connecticut.  But not in a good way.

One of the key things that the wonks and idealists who favor socioeconomically integrated schools consistely leave out in their discussions of the benefits and policy tools available is the simple, consistent, but extremely powerful factor of resistance from middle- and upper-class families who are already in place at schools they like.  

It seems to me that it's much easier -- though still quite difficult -- to persuade parents with other options to consider a new school (with a new program or in a gentrifying neighborhood) for their children than it is to persuade them to tolerate the arrival of growing numbers of low-income, minority kids in a school their children already attend.  

Given that the number of gentrifying neighborhoods is quite limited, and their "gentrifying" status is temporary, the real challenge for pro-diversity advocates and policymakers is to figure out how to persuade kids, teachers, and parents at medium-to-good schools that the arrival of a new set of kids -- and the reduced spaces for siblings and friends -- is somehow worth it, even if it's of no direct or immediate benefit to them. 

Of course, this was one of the main issues that integrationists of a previous era had to deal with, and was perhaps one of the main stumbling blocks to previous efforts.  What I don't know is whether anyone in the current era has figured out an approach or workaround for this underlying issue.   

Image via Wikemedia Commons

Update: Report Says Duncan "Clouted" Prominent Republican's Daughter

image from farm5.staticflickr.comAccording to unnamed sources and an IG report that no one's seen, presumptive Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner moved into the city from the suburbs and then"clouted" his daughter into one of Chicago's most selective high schools -- and former Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan helped.  

This according to a new story from Crain's Chicago Business reporter Greg Hinz (read it here), which picks up on a long-running problem in Chicago under Mayor Daley and an issue that's simmered for years.

Duncan says he doesn't recall being asked to intervene, and I'm told that his former communications deputy, Peter Cunningham, says the same.  

After Duncan left, the admissions system for selective schools in Chicago was amended to prevent (or at least limit) the system that had allowed principals to bypass normal procedures for a small percentage of students.

Previous posts:  Chicago "Clout" Story Goes National, Heads Duncan's WayDuncan Kept VIP ListMagnet Admissions Scandal Brewing In ChicagoHas Duncan Been Subpoenaed?

Image via CCFlickr

Media: Chicago Teacher Critiques "This American Life"

image from farm5.staticflickr.comI was somewhat surprised at the lack of pushback against the big This American Life episodes about school violence earlier this year, so you can imagine my interest in coming across this letter written by a disappointed Chicago high school teacher named DJ Cashmere (@cashmeredaniel) to This American Life's Ira Glass about the coverage of Harper High School in two recent shows:

"While I understand that you were interested in investigating the impact of violence on Harper, I was still stunned that education and learning were completely absent from a two-hour broadcast about a school. In the end, I believe that your coverage served to excuse many of the most harmful practices in our schools today and perpetuate some of the most harmful myths about urban education."

Read the letter and let us know if you think it's a fair critique. Did the show convey an imbalance of compassion over a critical eye?  Did the show convey the belief that gangs were inevitable?  

Image CCFlickr

Campaign 2013: Undaunted Bloomberg Gives More to LA Board Race

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given another$350,000 to the Coalition for School Reform, an independent expenditure (IE) group in Los Angeles supporting Antonio Sanchez for School Board in the East Valley District 6 LAUSD School Board race that will be decided May 21.

Lavorgna

“For years, the funding in these sorts of races was only on one side with the union,” said Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna (pictured on the left). Mayor Bloomberg is “committed to providing a counterbalance.”

During the primary, Bloomberg gave $1 million to the Coalition, which supported three candidates: Monica Garcia, Kate Anderson and Sanchez. According to the LA Times, this was the largest campaign contribution in School Board history.

Anderson lost narrowly to incumbent Steve Zimmer; some blamed a backlash to big out-of-state donations from non-Democrats such as Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch.

When asked if Bloomberg had any second thoughts about giving to the Coalition after the primary results, LaVorgna replied simply: “No.”

The Coalition, whose chief fundraiser is LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, recently got checks for $250,000 from Eli Broad, and $100,000 from Michelle Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst.

So far, the Coalition has spent roughly $130,000 in support of Sanchez in the May 21 general election. SEIU local 99 and the Los Angeles Federation of Labor are also running IEs for Sanchez. His opponent, teacher Monica Ratliff, currently enjoys no IE support.

Cross-posted from LA School Report. Image via LinkedIn

Morning Video: A "Whole New Planet" for Math & Science

Watch Creating a New Planet for Math and Science: Super STEM on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Creating a Whole New Planet for Math and Science via PBSNewsHour

AM News: Immigration Bill Would Help DREAMERs & Boost STEM

Immigration Bill Would Help DREAMERs, Boost STEM PoliticsK12: "This version of the DREAM act is one of the most generous and inclusive to date," said James Ferg-Cadima, a regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Washington. And he said the measure is particularly promising because "it's housed within this larger package of reform." And buried deep within the measure are ways to generate new resources to bolster science, technology, engineering, and math (aka STEM) education.

AMNews

Obama Proposal on Student Loans Draws Fire EdWeek: The Obama administration has found itself at odds with a key voting block—college students and their advocates—as well as many of its Democratic allies in Congress, because of an important, if technical, budget proposal that could have significant implications for college access. In a move intended to stave off a doubling of interest rates on federally backed Stafford Loans over the summer, the administration is seeking to shift those interest rates from the current predictable, fixed-rate system to a market-based rate at the time of the loan.

CPS protests: Students reject tests, charter school backers want equal funding Sun-Times: Students and parents said they weren’t concerned about students boycotting the test because there is a makeup day in May. Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, meanwhile, issued a statement Wednesday, saying, “The only place that students should be during the school day is in the classroom with their teachers getting the education they need to be successful in life. Today’s PSAE is one of the most critical exams our students will take. Every adult should support and encourage our students to make sure they are in school.”

Boston Area Teacher Helps Kids Cope with Bombings WSJ: At the Fletcher Maynard Academy in Cambridge, Mass., teacher Tonya Leonard is using a technique called "Social Stories" developed for autistic students to help her second graders process the Boston bombings.In the featured Video Ms. Leonard reads a portion of the story. 

Incredible Harlem Teens Produce Documentary on Gun Violence  HuffPost: For many inner-city teens, these words hit close to home -- and they can be heard in the trailer for "Triggering Wounds: A Story of Guns and Violence in Harlem," a documentary produced by an incredible group of high school students. The film, which shines a light on gun violence, is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this week.

Afternoon Video: 11 Year-Old "Maker" Stars At White House

A Science Star Already, Tinkering With the Idea of Growing Up NYT via GothamSchools (she was at the White House earlier this week)

Blogging: How Twitter Has Helped & Hurt

image from farm4.staticflickr.comEven before the misinformation and hacking of the last few days, there's lots of chatter in recent weeks and months about how Twitter is broken -- no longer as useful or fun as it used to be. (Here's one of several examples, via Ezra Klein The problem with Twitter.)

My experience has been pretty mixed.Sometime last week, my main Twitter feed (alexanderrusso) reached 10,000 Twitter followers -- the product of more than 17,000 tweets over the past two or three years.  People used to ask about pageviews but now ask about Twitter followers.  I'm happy and proud to be reaching a bunch of folks (in theory, at least).

I started out just Tweeting out blog posts - and that's still roughly half of what you see coming out from my Twitter feed.  Then I started interacting on Twitter, retweeting things that seemed interesting and writing a few "original" messages out to friends and enemies.   Most recently, I started sending out "Five Best Blogs" via Twitter, since there seemed no point in collecting the best posts I found until the end of the day (and I turned out to be too lazy to copy and paste them back into a blog post when Happy Hour was so close at hand).  Most recently, I've been tweeting out things I find over the weekend, since I apparently don't have anything else to do.

The upside of the tool has been reaching and engaging with a broader audience who prefers short bursts of text vs. slightly longer blog posts.   The downside is having folks I don't follow or don't think offer much useful information tweeting at me all day -- their messages showing up in Hootsuite as "mentions" when in reality they're just trying to get my attention and bait me into responding to them.

This used to happen in comments, of course, but seems to have gotten worse in recent years -- partly for reasons having nothing to do with Twitter (the debate has become more polarized.) Speaking of comments, twitter has also lowered comments posted directly on the blog, since readers now want and expect their responses be out in the world (viewable via Twitter, Facebook, etc.)  My efforts to install social commenting have thus far been incomplete.

For whatever reasons, what happens less and less is me finding (or even looking for) good commentary or links on Twitter.  There are only so many columns you can set up on Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, and only so much time to follow along and hope not to have missed something good that came through five minutes earlier.  And of course there are so many more folks on Twitter, so much more blathering.  I like the equalizing/democratizing effect, and the theoretical access to new ideas and perspectives, but it's become a very noisy cafeteria.  Image via CCFlickr.

Thompson: False Positives & Value-Added Evaluation

AlgorithmDaniel Goldhaber and Susanna Loeb's What Do We Know About the Tradeoffs Associated with Teacher Missclassification in High Stakes Personnel Decisions?, posted in the Carnegie Knowledge Network, argues that value-added evaluations could result in roughly 25% of teachers labeled as ineffective being wrongly placed in that category.  These mistakes are called false positives.

Then, they estimate that 25% of those who not are classified as being ineffective should have be in that category. These mistakes are false negatives.

Are false positives equally destructive?  Are there ways to work around the mistakes these systems are going to make?  Or should we be focused on much simpler, more concrete measures of teacher performance such as attendance, timeliness, and active participation in the classroom?

Continue reading "Thompson: False Positives & Value-Added Evaluation" »

Magazines: Child Care Has It Worse

image from www.newrepublic.comThere's been lots of discussion online this past week about Jonathan Cohn's New Republic article on the chaotic and low-quality system we have for childcare in America, titled The Hell of American Day Care.

Though obviously the kids are younger and only 40 percent of them are involved, anyone taking a few minutes to read it will see a lot of similarities to K-12 education: huge variations in quality and cost depending on location and family income, low pay and limited screening for effectiveness, lack of data about program quality, political obstacles to expansion (conservatives, usually, though I'm sure some of today's reform critics would find things to object to in a national childcare program), a patchwork of state and local programs with very little national oversight, the slow pace of change:

"The United States has always been profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of supporting child care outside the home, for reasons that inevitably trace back to beliefs over the proper role of women and mothers. At no point has a well-organized public day care system ever been considered the social ideal."

Interestingly, the DoD has developed one of the few high quality childcare systems -- nearly all of its programs meet NAEYC standards, compared to 10 percent in the private sector. Head Start is narrowly targeted on the poor -- more on that elsewhere.  A broader plan passed Congress but was vetoed by President Nixon. Image via TNR.

Morning Video: Teachers Honored At White House

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AM News: Newtown, CT Votes Down Funding for Additional School Security

Newtown Budget Including Funding For Additional School Security Rejected By Residents AP: Newtown residents have rejected a budget that included money for extra school security in the wake of the December school shootings.Voters turned down the $72 million school budget by 482 votes and rejected the $39 million town government budget by 62 votes Tuesday. Nearly 4,500 residents voted on the plans, which would have increased spending by 4.7 percent next fiscal year.

AMNews

National Teacher of the Year Noted for Robotics, Resourcefulness EdWeek: On Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama presented Jeffrey Charbonneau of Zillah, Wash., with the 63rd National Teacher of the Year award in a cozy Rose Garden ceremony at the White House. The 12-year veteran science teacher was selected from among the 2013 state teachers of the year by a panel of representatives from 15 education organizations.

Harper High in Chicago boasts two Gates Millennium Scholars, despite school’s struggle with violence WBEZ: Deonte Tanner (left) and Brittney Knight are Harper High School’s first ever Gates Millennium Scholars. Harper principal Leonetta Sanders hopes having two students win the prestigious scholarship will help improve the school’s image. One thousand needy minority students are receiving the scholarship across the country this week; 54,000 applied.

San Antonio Sets Sights on Preschool Leadership EdWeek: The city partnered with seven of the 15 local school districts within its borders to launch the “Pre-K 4 SA” program since the November election that authorized a tax increase for preschool programs. Mayor Castro aims to deliver what he deems are gold-standard academics to 22,400 children over eight years in addition to intensive professional development for staff members and extensive parental supports. 

New blended learning certificate program for K-12 teacher HechingerReport:  The “Online Professional Learning Experience” will be conducted on a “challenge cycle” model. Teachers will design a lesson using technology, put it into practice, and then share and reflect with the group. There will be plenty of opportunities for collaboration and community-building.

TV: "TED Talks Education" On PBS Next Month

ScreenHunter_02 Apr. 23 11.09

A couple of weeks from now will be the broadcast premier for the PBS "TED Talks Education" which is slated to include talks from familiar names (Bill Gates, Geoffrey Canada) and new ones -- to me, at least (Angela Duckworth , Ramsay Musallam, and Pearl Arrendondo, among others).

Parent Trigger: An "Easy" Button For Parents & Kids


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This post is mostly just an excuse to use the Washington Post's parent trigger image (a riff on the famous "Easy" button from Staples), and to link to some recent stories on LA School Report.  But it's also a chance to rebut Valerie Strauss's highly selective and inaccurate post about the parent trigger, which ignores all the career Democrats who are involved with and support the trigger and bypasses the latest events in Los Angeles where the trigger is being used in interesting new ways that don't involve lawsuits or ousting school board members. 

Continue reading "Parent Trigger: An "Easy" Button For Parents & Kids" »

Morning Video: White House Science Fair 2013

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AM News: Chicago Students Boycott State Test Held on ACT Date

Chicago Public School Students Plan to Boycott State Test WBEZ91.5: They said it’s unfair to judge whether their schools are good or not based on one test. (Chicago Public Schools uses a complicated formula to judge performance, but more than half of the possible points are based on parts of the PSAE) Two student-led groups, Voices of Youth in Chicago Education and Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools, called on their classmates to walk out of the second day of testing for the Prairie State Achievement Exam, or PSAE, Wednesday. Students take the ACT during the first day and many don’t want to jeopardize their chances at college.

AMNewsNew STAAR test standards guarantee some Texas special education students will fail DallasNews: Spring is the stressful STAAR testing season across Texas, but special education teachers and students carry extra challenges and responsibilities. This year, for the first time, students who are able to complete only the simplest tasks on the test will no longer pass. State officials say the standard is a way to challenge a population that was too often warehoused. Many teachers say the rule unfairly stigmatizes some students while penalizing schools, school districts and individual teachers.

House GOP Lawmakers Want More Information on NCLB Waivers  PoliticsK12: So far, 34 states and the District of Columbia have been approved for flexibility from provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, with only a smattering of formal oversight from Congress (mostly in the form of this bipartisan hearing in the Senate education committee and this letter from House Democrats). Now Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee—who haven't yet held a waiver hearing—have some questions about waiver implementation, many of which pinpoint the political and policy challenges inherent in the waivers.

A Presidential Pat for Young Scientists NYT: Praising the work of young scientists and inventors at the third White House Science FairPresident Obama on Monday announced a broad plan to create and expand federal and private-sector initiatives designed to encourage children to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

American Teens Doing Better On Science Tests Than Public Realizes: Pew Research Center Survey AP: American teenagers aren't doing as poorly on international science tests as adults think. Despite the misconception, people don't think the subject should get greater emphasis in schools, a survey released Monday found. More Americans than not wrongly think that U.S. 15-year-olds rank near the bottom on international science tests, according to a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll. U.S. students actually rank in the middle among developed countries.

Bruno: New Teachers Still Get Tougher Assignments

7755828208_f05a363314Being a new teacher is likely to be challenging no matter where - or who - you teach and teachers typically get better with experience. It probably doesn't make sense, then, to systematically assign newer teachers to lower-achieving students.

Plenty of research has already indicated that lower-achieving schools tend to employ newer and less-qualified teachers. A new study in the journal Sociology of Education, however, suggests that the same pattern persists even within individual schools.

The authors find that teachers with less experience tend to be assigned to classes with lower-skilled students than their more-experienced colleagues at the same site.  This tendency turns out to be stronger in schools where more of the teachers are veterans, suggesting that the formal and informal power teachers accrue as they remain at a site allows them to secure easier teaching assignments.

Continue reading "Bruno: New Teachers Still Get Tougher Assignments" »

Thompson: The Creators of "Michelle Rhee"

MerrowJohn Merrow’s recent blog post, Who Created “Michelle Rhee?", distinguishes between the flesh and blood person named Michelle Rhee and the "Michelle Rhee" phenomenon. 

Merrow says that the force that Rhee symbolizes was created by herself, the mass media, some corporate reformers and, above all, “U,” or union militancy.

After citing “Michelle Rhee” as a reaction to union intransigence, Merrow describes the union as a reaction to administrative policies that infantilized teaching.  

Merrow then concludes, “‘They,’ we and U created the social phenomenon that is ‘Michelle Rhee.’” It would have ruined his alliteration, but Merrow should replace the U, for unions, with T, for teachers. We Ts are the U.

Merrow criticized a 17-year-old statement by a Philaldelphia union leader who said that teachers should not be evaluated on student performance because there are too many variables that can't be parsed. I agree. I suspect that most teachers and most Americans agree.

Merrow says that those words are burned into his memory, and he repeated them in his The Influence of Teachers.  A few pages later, however, he acknowledged the dangers of allowing administrators to conduct evaluations using test score growth and he copped to the charge of being inconsistent. 

In this case, context is crucial.  At the time, Philadelphia schools were run by David Hornbeck who was as much of an ideologue as "Michelle Rhee."  This non-educator also came to the job with flavor of the month theories, as well as the belief, "You are either against the children or for them."

Merrow should rewatch his previous documentary and, with the benefit of hindsight, see if he can deny that the union leader was right.-JT (@drjohnthmpson) Image via.    

Weekend Reading: Best Articles & Sites You Might Have Missed

Were Dzhokhar and Tamerlan like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris? - Slate Magazine ow.ly/kg1CF

Exams Aren't the Enemy: How Tests Can Help Low-Income Students - @TalmadgeNardi - The Atlantic ow.ly/kfmbI

Videotaped evaluation of teachers nationwide? That'll be $5B, says @anya1anya in Forbes ow.ly/kg0jp

UPenn's Andy Porter: we don't really know if there's more or less cheating going on - American public media bit.ly/ZG5cpe

"Right now, states like New York and Illinois are in a period of education policy idealism..." says @DanaGoldstein ow.ly/kfUyB ??

Eli Broad has given $25K to UTLA-endorsed mayoral candidate SuperPAC: ethics.lacity.org/PDF/Election/2…via @hillelaron @LASchoolReport

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Best Articles & Sites You Might Have Missed" »

Morning Video: Finland Uber Alles

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This 2010 video of Finnish education minister Pasi Sahlberg comes courtesy of Chicago's Mike Klonsky.

AM News: Boston Students Return to School Today after Marathon Tragedy

Boston Marathon bombings cast shadow over schools as they reopen BostonGlobe: When public schools reopen Monday for the first time since the Boston Marathon bombings, Cambridge will be grappling with dual sorrows. Several teachers in the district were injured in the blasts, according to school officials, and both suspected bombers — Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who died Friday after a shootout with police, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who was hospitalized after his capture — graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. “I think the overwhelming feeling is just of confusion,” said Samuel Gebru, 21, a 2009 graduate who is trying to organize a rally with other alumni and students to support the community. “We are surprised. We are hurt.”

AMNews

Louisiana recalls student data stored with nonprofit inBloom NewsStar: Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent John White says he is withdrawing Louisiana student information from a non-profit database, just two days after he assured Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members that the data was safe and could not be distributed without DOE approval. “I’m confused,” BESE member Lottie Beebe said early Friday after reading an email from White about the change. “The other day (he said) it was the best thing since mom’s apple pie!"

Language Programs Flower in Utah NYT: For generations, Mormon missionaries from Utah have crisscrossed the globe and returned home speaking Tagalog and Xhosa. Now, with hopes of preparing students for a competitive world economy, the state is building one of the largest and most ambitious school-language programs in the nation.

GOP Senator: No More Federal Money for Common Core PoliticsK12: Congress wouldn't pump another penny into encouraging states to adopt the common core standards, or overseeing their implementation, at least if Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has his way. Grassley wrote a letter April 18 to Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who also hails from the Hawkeye State, asking him to include language in the bill that funds the U.S. Department of Education prohibiting the education secretary from using any of the money in the measure to oversee state implementation of the standards. 

In D.C., Art Program Turns Boys' Lives Into 'Masterpieces' NPR: Life Pieces to Masterpieces is an arts program that's not entirely about the art. It's an after-school program based in a struggling neighborhood in Washington, D.C., that teaches black boys and young men what they call "the four C's": "Connect, create, contribute, celebrate." From ages 3-25, they learn to express themselves by conceiving their paintings together. And those paintings will often reflect what's going on in their lives.

Afternoon Video: Common Core Will Help Top Districts, Says NY Supe

 

"State Education Commissioner John King said even the high-achieving school districts of the Lower Hudson Valley will gain from the new Common Core learning standards and the tougher, revamped state tests that debuted this week."

Audio: How Organizers See The Parent Trigger

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There were lots of interesting tidbits thrown out during the Yale School of Management education summit session on mobilization, and no shortage of quips from panelists including Jeremiah Kittredge and Derrell Bradford, Kristen Wiegand, and Derwin Sisnett (moderated by Suzanne Tacheny Kubach).

Some of the topics that were touched on included the power of storytelling, the difference between mobilizing a community and engaging or organizing it for the long run, the struggle to mesh what advocates want and what low-income communities can and should do. You should really skip the rest of this post and just start listening at the 5 minute mark where the session begins (WS600022).

But the conversation at the end about the parent trigger was to me fascinating, revealing differences among organizers in terms of how they view the trigger, even as they admire its power and pull.

"The best hook anybody has found is parent trigger," said Kittredge -- even as he listed its flaws. "There's no better piece of persuasion to get people to come back out than the concept of parent trigger."  

Continue reading "Audio: How Organizers See The Parent Trigger" »

AM News: Common Core Testing Complaints

News

Common Core Testing Spurs Outrage and Protest Among Parents NYT: As New York this week became one of the first states to unveil a set of exams grounded in new curricular standards, education leaders are finding that rallying the public behind tougher tests may be more difficult than they expected.

Steve Jobs’ Widow Makes Public Push for U.S. Immigration Reform Bloomberg: Jobs first met students who could qualify for the Dream Act through College Track, a nonprofit group she cofounded to help underserved high-school students get into and through college. It wasn’t until they began to apply for college and financial aid that some realized they didn’t have Social Security numbers.

Randi Weingarten’s Pension Veto WSJ: Her attempted ambush coincides with a new report that her union sent to pension trustees this week called “Ranking Asset Managers.” Ms. Weingarten isn’t interested in how they rank by return on investment.

 

Art: Shepard Fairy Asks Kids To Imagine "Life Without Limits"

Shepard Fairey (famous for his Obama "hope" poster) is doing an LA education arts initiative calling on students to submit ideas as a starting point for the visuals he's going to create:

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Be warned, however. The LA Times story (Shepard Fairey taps LAUSD students for ideas) notes that Fairy attended public schools but sends his own children to private ones.  

Movements: Lessons From Earth Day 1970

image from www.newyorker.comLet's begin by stipulating that any comparisons between the environmental movement and the current school reform movements are ridiculous in the extreme. The environment and public education are totally different, and the issues, histories, and evolution of the movements to improve them are far-fetched, not worth your time. 

Then, let's talk about Nick Lemann's latest New Yorker article, What Happened to the Environmental Movement? 

Loosely built around a review of a recent book and several reports about the history of the environmental movement, the gist of Lemann's piece is that the environmental movement had its biggest successes (Earth Day, the Clean Water Act, etc.) long ago in the 1970s when it was still highly decentralized and community-specific.  

Lemann describes that period as "educational, school-based, widely distributed, locally controlled, and mass-participatory."

The movement's worst failures (most notably 2010's cap and trade debacle) take place when the movement has gone mainstream, according to Lemann:  "Even as the environmental movement has become an established presence in Washington, it has become less able to win legislative victories."

There's been lots of direct mail and social media outreach, too, of course -- but the enviro groups of today treat the public as a kind of background chorus rather than as real leaders, and thus lacks the "ability to generate thousands of events that people actually attend—the kind of activity that creates pressure on legislators."  

There's lots more -- Theda Skocpol, the issue of federated structures and concrete individual benefits vs. broad based social goods. Image via New Yorker. 

Thompson: Michelle Rhee Must Obey the Rule of Law

Michelle_Rhee_at_NOAA_(cropped)John Merrow's recent post, Michelle Rhee's Reign of Error, revealed the confidential "smoking gun" memo warning Michelle Rhee of the extent of the cheating that may have occurred in Washington D.C. schools.

But let's not forget that  this is only her most public scandal, and it is not the only case where Rhee's words could come back to haunt her. 

PRWeb links to another: Federal Judge Orders Michelle Rhee Suit to Go Forward, Will Broaden to Concealment and Fraud Claims describes the case which could be another double-barreled shotgun blast at the embattled "reformer."  A 53-year-old teacher, who worked for DCPS for 28 years, was terminated in 2009 due to “budgetary constraints” under a RIF (Reduction in Force).

Federal Judge Rudolph Contreras will allow the teacher to broaden the scope of Rhee’s alleged actions into possible civil fraud and concealment claims. This is based on testimony by the district's former Chief Finance Officer who, in 2009, appeared to admit that he willfully concealed the true accounting figures indicating that the DCPS had no budgetary shortfall. The judge could find that this was done with Rhee's knowledge and as a pretext for the RIF and the mass firings to take place. In that case, PRWeb reports, Rhee’s ideological experiment "may quickly unravel."

I have long been shocked by the cavalier way that "reformers" have brushed off Rhee's situational ethics. They ignore her statement to John Merrow, “If there are rules standing in the way of that, I will question those rules. I will bend those rules.”

Rhee et. al may resent the way that our constitutional democracy complicates school "reform," but sometimes the "rules" they don't like have the force of law. PBS's Merrow exemplifies one foundation for our democracy - a vibrant press.  Rhee never understood another foundation - our nation is based on "the rule of law," not "the rule of man."-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via

Morning Video: Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

Watch The Central Park Five on PBS. See more from Central Park Five.

PBS broadcast the Ken Burns documentary about the Central Park jogger and the desperate but tragically flawed attempts by the authorities and the mainstream media to find her assailants.

AM News: Michelle Rhee Fends Off D.C. Cheating Accusations from 2008

Education advocate Michelle Rhee fends off accusations LATimes: Michelle Rhee, head of an influential education advocacy group that backs using student test scores to evaluate teachers, this week fended off accusations that she failed to pursue evidence of cheating when she ran the District of Columbia school system. In an internal memo, a district consultant warned that about 190 teachers at 70 schools — more than half the system's campuses — may have cheated in 2008 by erasing wrong answers on student testing sheets and filling in correct ones. 

AMNews

Senators to Arne Duncan: Stop Flat-Funding Key K-12 Programs PoliticsK12: U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who oversees the panel that deals with K-12 spending, has already made it clear he's none too happy with the administration's decision to ask for level funding for formula programs, while seeking big increases for competitive grants. He reiterated that today when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before the Senate subcommittee that oversees spending for the U.S. Department of Education.

How Parents Are Explaining The Boston Tragedy To Children HuffPost: In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, parents in Boston and across the country are struggling to explain the senselessness of the attack to their children. Around Boston in particular, parents are put in a unique situation, since there is a school break this week. During school-day crises, teachers can be first responders, and they are often taught how to break potentially traumatizing news to children.

Philadelphia district to launch online school Notebook: The Philadelphia School District plans to launch its own online school this summer, part of an effort to reclaim thousands of students and millions of dollars now going to independently operated cyber charters. The proposed Philadelphia Virtual Academy would offer students a combination of "anytime learning" in their homes and in-person support from teachers and other staff at "learning centers" around the city. District officials hope to immediately enroll as many as 1,000 students in grades 6 through 12.

More Than 50 Years Of Putting Kids' Creativity To The Test NPR: Janet Stanford is the artistic director of Imagination Stage, a professional children's theater company and arts center in Bethesda, Md. She says when she first heard about the Torrance Test, she was skeptical. "Initially I thought, as many people do, 'Well, creativity is not something you can measure. It's this sort of wonderful gift and let's not question it too carefully.' "

Some Mississippi districts have critical teacher needs HechingerReport: In Mississippi, attracting top-performing teachers to the neediest schools is an ongoing challenge. Nearly one-third of all districts in the state have been identified as critical needs districts, meaning they have extensive teacher shortages. Those shortages are often exacerbated in rural settings that lack housing, restaurants and other amenities that would make them attractive places for individuals without family connections.

Bruno: Teaching English Learners Is Hard For *Everybody* (Not Just TfA)

6249474726_a3e35028dbOver at his blog Anthony Cody highlights the battle brewing in California over whether "intern" teachers - including most Teach for America teachers - can be certified to teach English learners.

Almost one quarter of California's students are English learners, so losing that certification would seriously impact TfA's ability to staff schools in the state.

The crux of the issue for Cody is that it's doubtful that "Teach for America's five week summer training adequately prepare[s] its interns for the challenges" they will face in the classroom in general and as teachers of English learners in particular.

I agree with him that TfA's preparation regimen is probably inadequate. I've known and worked with some extremely impressive TfA corps members, but they all struggled significantly and had major complaints about their training.

 As is so often the case, however, it's worth asking, "Compared to what?"

Cody makes much of the relative brevity of TfA training, but the existing evidence does not suggest that in general Teach for America teachers are significantly less effective than other teachers. Some studies suggest they may be more effective.

If there is research about the effectiveness of TfA teachers on English learners in particular I'm not aware of it, but I think it's also possible to make too much of additional certification requirements imposed on traditional training programs by the state.

It's true, as Cody points out, that California has for years "required attending a special course" on teaching English learners, but it's an open question whether that coursework is valuable in the field.

Indeed, I earned my EL certification through the aforementioned coursework requirement, but found it to be mostly useless as a new teacher. While ostensibly about teaching English learners effectively, the class was in fact mostly about issues of "social justice"; teaching was discussed only occasionally and English learners as such almost never.

There is undoubtedly variation between credentialing programs, and some may adequately prepare their teachers for the challenges of teaching English learners.

I'm agnostic, however, on whether requiring intern teachers to jump through these particular regulatory hoops will do much to improve their EL instruction. After all, when it comes to teaching English learners traditional certification is often pretty inadequate, too. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Quotes: What "No Confidence" Really Means In LA

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comThey have no confidence that Deasy would put teacher interests above students. They have no confidence that he won't figure out who the non-performing teachers are by evaluating the success of their students - and fire them. And they have no confidence that Deasy won't give raises to excellent teachers, which might hurt the feelings of mediocre teachers. -- LA Daily News editorial (Deasy should be thrilled with union's no confidence vote)

Morning Video: Chicago Union Head Launches Campaign Against Mayor

 

Union heads are often at odds with district administrators and mayors, but in Chicago the union head has just announced a campaign to register 100,000 new voters and run primary candidates against Mayor Emanuel and other city officials.  Here's the announcement.  

AM News: Florida Union Sues State Over 'Value-Added' Evaluations

Teacher Unions Sue Florida Over 'Value-Added' Teacher Evaluations NBCFlorida: The complaint challenges the Student Success Act passed in 2011. The current teacher evaluation system, partly based on scores from the high-stakes Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, violates teachers' constitutional rights of due process and equal protection of laws. "None of the plaintiffs teaches math or reading in the grades that the FCAT is given," said Andy Ford, the Florida Education Association president. "This lawsuit highlights the absurdity of the current evaluation system."

AMNews

High School Redesign Gets Presidential Lift EdWeek: A flurry of good news appeared on the high school front this winter. Graduation rates were at their highest mark in nearly 40 years, record numbers of students were taking and passing Advanced Placement exams, and more high schools than ever were offering college credit through dual-enrollment programs. On top of all that, President Barack Obama applauded high school redesign efforts in his State of the Union address and encouraged districts to look to successful models for inspiration. Last week, he followed up with a request in his fiscal 2014 budget proposal for a new, $300 million competitive-grant program.

Nearly $500 million From Race to Top To Fund Early Learning, District Ideas PoliticsK12: About $370 million, will go to early-learning initiatives, including to six states that only received 50 percent of their awards the first time around. The remaining funds will go for new states that pitch early-learning improvement ideas. (Preschool is top priority for President Obama.) But there are some things that aren't clear, including exactly how much will go for early learning in new states. Also unknown is whether the department will conduct an entirely new Race to the Top district competition, or make awards to districts that came close, but did not win, last year.

NYC ‘Cheating teacher’ claims up NewYorkPost: A first-ever breakdown of probes conducted by the Office of Special Investigations, the Department of Education’s internal investigative arm, shows that 221 cases of cheating were reported to the agency last year — up from 128 allegations reported in 2009. Overall since that year, the internal unit has received at least 623 reports of cheating and opened probes on 449 of them, but has substantiated wrongdoing in just 67 of those cases.

Creative Classes: An Artful Approach To Improving Performance NPR: The Turnaround Arts Initiative, spearheaded by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, is using an intensive arts curriculum to try and improve eight low-performing schools. They're located in Denver; New Orleans; Des Moines, Iowa; and on a reservation in Montana, among other places, and they all serve students from poor families. Some were considered to be the lowest-performing schools in their states.

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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.