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New Year: Out With 2014, In With 2015

ScreenHunter_01 Dec. 16 09.33Tweeting will be light all week, but be sure not to miss it.  You can read it all right here, or on Facebook (Alexander Russo), or directly on Twitter (@alexanderrusso). :

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, gets the email, and follows Twitter.

Holiday Season 2014: Follow The News Here, On Facebook, Or Twitter

Greetings from Boston. I'll be sharing education news and views intermittently over the next three days, then shutting down for the rest of the week. You can read it all right here, or on Facebook (Alexander Russo), or directly on Twitter (@alexanderrusso). 

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, gets the email, and follows Twitter.

Quotes: Rules Protecting Police Echo Rules Protecting Teachers, Says Biddle

Quotes2The protection of corrupt cops by state laws governing use of force and cultism among their colleagues is similar to how teachers accused and convicted of child abuse (along with the merely incompetent) are enabled by tenure and teacher dismissal laws as well as by the thin chalk line of silence and support from fellow instructors.

- Dropout Nation's RiShawn Biddle in RealClear Education (From Ferguson to New York City, Education Reformers Have No Right to Claim Silence)

Thompson: Reject Cuomo's Common Core Duplicity

Early in my career, a lower level administrator tried to renege on a compromise deal. The top central office administrator only had one question:

Did you shake hands on it?

In other words, a deal is a deal. After he made it clear that the agreement would be honored, we had a constructive discussion on the issues in dispute. Back then, it was understood:

If you want to help kids, your word must be your bond.

I want to emphasize that the great majority of reformers, as individuals, are honest and almost every one who I know is sincere. But, they refuse to express public outrage over the situational ethics of their leaders. Convinced of their righteousness, too many top corporate reformers will say and do anything to achieve their objectives. 

The Chalkbeat's Geoff Decker, in Cuomo Flip-Flops on Evaluation "Safety Net" as He Criticizes City's Results, reports that the governor may "not hold up his end of a much-touted bargain with the state teachers union" to keep the use of Common Core-aligned student test scores from hurting individual teachers' evaluations.

As novelists explain, the super rich and powerful are different. I believe Cuomo is dead wrong on the substance of the education policy issue, but that's not the point.  I was socialized into the faith that a person who wants to promote economic justice and advance civil rights must always be true to his or her word. Yes, the elites might feel free to say one thing and do another, but if progressives do not act with integrity, our power to do good would dissolve.

Continue reading "Thompson: Reject Cuomo's Common Core Duplicity" »

Morning Video: How The Colbert Report Made School Reform Cool

Take a minute to think about how much time and attention the Colbert Report has dedicated to education-related issues during its long run, which ended last night.  Colbert's guests included not only EdSecs Spellings and Duncan, but also a who's who list of mostly reform types like Joel Klein, Wendy Kopp, Charles Best, Bill Gates, Jonah Edelman's Dad, Emily Bazelon, Maurice Sendak, Geoff Canada, David Levin, Roland Fryer, Campbell Brown. Colbert also included education in numerous segments, mocking states for gaming proficiency levesl, fired Florida teachers, and simultaneously mocked and endorsed the Common Core earlier this year:

Some favorites among the (just!) 49 times that Colbert appears in the headline of a TWIE blog post include "Keep [Parental] Fear Alive," Says Colbert, his out-of-character story of being miserable in school (Colbert's "It Gets Better" Story), and a Roland Fryer interview in which Fryer pulls off a feat and gets the best of Colbert ("You're Black Now, Aren't You?"). Some of his few dud interviews related to education include one with the director of the War On Kids documentary, and his interview with Peter Edelman in which Edelman appears to walk off the stage at the end (Another Unhappy Moment For The Edelman Clan). 

Need more? 21 times Stephen Colbert has dropped his act and been himself (Vox), which includes some graduation speeches, his Congressional testimony, and a few other moments, and Goodbye, Stephen Colbert (a fond farewell from the NYT).How 

AM News: NYC Gives Success Charter Schools More Space To Expand

Success Charter Schools Secure More City Space WNYC: The Department of Education agreed on Thursday to give more space to the city's largest charter school network, Success Academy. The backroom deal came a day after Success founder Eva Moskowitz released a letter from anxious parents and just hours before she was scheduled to stage a press conference outside City Hall. See also ChalkbeatNY.

Details On The Administration's New College Ratings System NPR: Today the Education Department released long-awaited details on a plan to hold colleges accountable for their performance on several key indicators, and officials said they'll be seeking public comment on the proposals through February. Washington Post,  NYT, NPR again.

Common Core, Non-Common Core States Face Similar Challenges, GAO Says PK12: For instance, states in both camps are giving teachers professional development to implement the standards, but they're worried the training isn't high-quality. And all states with new standards are developing new instructional materials that are supposed to match them—but that can be time- consuming, and there isn't always as much alignment as states were hoping for. It can also be pretty tricky to communicate with parents and the public about the standards, states told the GAO, which is considered Congress' investigative arm.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: NYC Gives Success Charter Schools More Space To Expand" »

Journalism: Have You Seen Media Matters' New(ish) Education Page?

Maybe everyone else already knew this but image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comI hadn't noticed until recently that for the last year or so the longstanding liberal watchdog Media Matters for America (MMFA) has had an education-focused page tracking cable news coverage of school-related issues, run by Hilary Tone.

Most of the posts are focused on conservative cable news shows, which Media Matters tracks closely and I don't usually pay much attention to. They also cover right-leaning online outlets like the Daily Caller and the Washington Beacon (a Petrilli favorite, if I remember correctly). 

Some recent posts: North Carolina Newspapers Mostly Silent As ALEC And Koch Brothers Rewrite HistorySchool Athletic Officials Debunk Horror Stories About Transgender Student AthletesHow Conservative Media's Attacks On Michelle Obama's Anti-Obesity Efforts May Lead To A Government ShutdownFox Takes Premature Victory Lap On AP History Controversy In Colorado.

If you think that the liberal-leaning media are doing a hatchet job on schools and school improvement efforts, you may have forgotten how the right-leaning outlets roll. 

But sometimes -- as with the recent piece on cable news' shows education guests -- they include mainstream and left-leaning outlets like CNN and MSNBC, which I noted recently (Too Few Educators On Cable News- And Too Few Education Segments, Too). The site also addressed on the TIME/Vergara cover, albeit focusing on coverage from the conservative and labor perspectives rather than the mainstream (What Conservative Media Miss In Coverage Of Controversial Time Teacher Story). 

Anyway, now you know. RSS Feed is here. MMFA is on Twitter @MMFA. Tone can be found at @htonetastic.

Related posts: Too Few Educators On Cable News -- And Too Few Education Segments, TooCritical Roundup Of MSNBC's "Mixed" ReportingWhat's Wrong With Chris Hayes?New Cable Channel [Pivot] To Feature Do-Gooder ContentRhee & Weingarten Together On Morning News Show. Image used with permission.

Campaign 2016: Bush Gets Demerits From PolitiFact For Dropout Claims

Education types are all excited about the increasing possibility that Jeb Bush will run for President (though Vox's sober take on the role his education positions will take seems most accurate).

Meantime, Politifact notes some issues with  recent comments Bush has made about schools (Jeb Bush on the Truth-O-Meter). Bush's October fundraising letter contains some information about kids dropping out that Politifact deems mostly false.  "There is more than one way to measure dropout frequency, but whichever one you use, Bush’s number was off."  

Not everyone's so sure that PolitiFact has it right, however. Among them are Sherman Dorn, no particular fan of Bush's, who says on Facebook that Bush is closer to the right number than it may seem.

According to Politifact, Bush did somewhat better comparing US achievement to other countries.  

 

Quotes: NY Teacher Evaluation Results "Don't Reflect Reality," Says Cuomo

Quotes2It is incredible to believe [teachers' high scores are] an accurate reflection of the state of education in New York. I think we have to go back to work on the teacher evaluation process. - NY Governor Andrew Cuomo in Capital New York (Cuomo: High teacher scores 'not real')

Morning Video: Duncan Wasn't The Only One At Last Weekend's Protests

EdSec Arne Duncan may have marched for #blacklivesmatter last weekend, and his communications team may have posted a somber picture of him doing so, but AFT head Randi Weingarten gave a fiery speech to the crowd.  Uploaded by AFT. Not in the mood? Morning Joe has a segment about a school taking a blind kid's cane away as punishment, replacing it with a swimming pool "noodle."

AM News: Wisconsin Gov. Walker Backs Off Call For Common Core Repeal

Walker says he wants schools to have Common Core choice AP: Gov. Scott Walker is backing off his call for the Legislature to repeal Common Core academic standards, saying he simply wants to insure there is no mandate they be used.

Cuomo: High teacher scores 'not real' Capital New York: Teachers’ high scores under the state’s mandatory performance rating system show that it is “an evaluation system in name” and “doesn’t reflect reality,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday at a Capitol press conference.

Cuomo: 'Safety net' won't fix teacher rating system Capital New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested he won't sign a "safety net" bill that would shield educators from consequences of the rough rollout of the Common Core standards in New York, citing new teacher-evaluation data released on Tuesday.

GOP gives feds' college rating plan an F Politico: The goal is to yank funds from schools that fail to meet on federal requirements.

Mayor De Blasio's Charter School Dilemma WNYC: The state-mandated deadline for the city to respond is the end of December. The city has repeatedly declined to tell WNYC how many charters are seeking space in public school buildings but at least two others were rejected this fall.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Wisconsin Gov. Walker Backs Off Call For Common Core Repeal" »

Journalism: New York Magazine Duped By Stuyvesant HS Student Scam

There are lots of ways for education reports to get fleeced by sources or to neglect to check things out thoroughly, but New York Magazine found a pretty obvious wayof embarassing itself when it posted a story about a NYC high school student who'd supposedly made millions trading before turning 18 (Mohammed Islam, Stock Trader).  

The problem was that the student hasn't made anywhere near $72 million in the original story headline and the Chase bank statement that he provided to NY Magazine fact-checkers was fake.

After lots of questions about the story, editor Adam Moss wrote about the story and concluded with the obvious: "We were duped. Our fact-checking process was obviously inadequate; we take full responsibility and we should have known better." 

For further readin, see also an interview in the New York Observer and coverage of the mis-steps in the Washington Post.

Quotes: "Backwater" Issues Like Common Core Won't Sink Bush Chances

Quotes2The back-burner nature of education issues is particularly true for Republican voters. In 2012, 84 percent of people who voted for Obama said education was "very" important to their vote. Just 52 percent of Romney voters said the same. -- Vox's Libby Nelson (Common Core won't sink Jeb Bush's presidential run)

Charts: Dismal Poll Results For Charters, Vouchers, & Ending Teacher Tenure

image from s3.amazonaws.com

Private school vouchers and charter school expansion don't fare nearly as well with the public as various changes to improving classroom teaching -- but not ending teacher tenure -- according to this chart from last week's Third Way report (What Americans Want from Democrats on Education). Of course, the results might have been different if the language had been "streamlining" tenure or something else less absolute. Image used with permission.  

AM News: Jeb Bush Takes Another Step Towards Presidential Campaign

Jeb Bush's Entry Into Presidential Contest Would Put K-12 Front and Center PK12: Bush doesn't see eye-to-eye with many of the more conservative members of his party on what's arguably the biggest K-12 political issue of the day, the common core standards. See also Politico, FiveThirtyEight, Vox.

New York City Teachers Score Highly Under New Evaluation System NYT: The system was created to make it easier to identify which teachers performed the best so their methods could be replicated, and which performed the worst, so they could be fired. See also WNYC, ChalkbeatNY.

NY State Official Raises Alarm on Charter Schools — And Gets Ignored ProPublica: Pete Grannis, New York State's First Deputy Comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story last week.The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent – especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.

Pakistan School: Devastation Where 148 Were Slain AP: Pakistan is mourning as the nation prepares for mass funerals for 141 people, most of them children, killed in a Taliban attack on a military-run school in the country's northwest. A three-day official mourning period started Wednesday, a day after seven Taliban gunmen, explosives strapped to their bodies, stormed the army public school in the city of Peshawar. 

More news below (and throughtout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Jeb Bush Takes Another Step Towards Presidential Campaign " »

Charts: "Modernizing" Teaching Outpolls Poverty-Focused Agenda

image from s3.amazonaws.comAccording to last week's Third Way report (What Americans Want from Democrats on Education), modernizing the teaching profession outpolls a poverty-focused agenda not only among the general public but also among teachers, Democrats, and Millennials.  Liberals see the two options as roughly equal in importance. Image used with permission.

Thompson: Duncan & Other Reformers Should Apologize (Like Tony Bennett)

Mike Kline FlickrIt is hard to realize you are wrong on something important in the middle of a busy school day. But, many, many times, settling in at home, a light went on, and I realized that I owed a student an apology. 

Perhaps I’m naïve, but if President Obama would apologize for imposing the full, untested and dangerous corporate reform agenda on schools, wouldn’t teachers be as gracious as my students were when I would say, “I’m sorry?” 

Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has issued a series of non-apologies, criticizing the way that testing sucks the oxygen out of schools, but he has made little effort to curtail its damage.  

Why can’t Duncan and President Obama acknowledge that their policies were as insulated from education reality as those of the famously “tone-deaf” Indiana Chief for Change Tony Bennett?  The IndyStar’s Tim Swarens’ reports, in I Was a (Bleep) Candidate, that the hard-charging and defeated reformer is now remorseful and contemplative. Bennett is now candid about the way his daughter, a teacher, pushed back against his attacks on her profession. He admits, "I saw anyone who disagreed with me on an issue like vouchers as a defender of the status quo." 

Oops! I guess I’m still naively hoping that true believers will face up to the harm done by their self-righteousness and scorched earth politics. Tom LoBianco of the AP Press reports that Bennett now has no comment regarding the inspector general's report on his 2012 campaign activities that has been forwarded to federal prosecutors.

Continue reading "Thompson: Duncan & Other Reformers Should Apologize (Like Tony Bennett)" »

Quotes: Departing NY Superintendent Reflects On Polarized Education Debate

Quotes2I have gotten to see how hard it is in the current political climate to break through the tendency to polarize issues and how difficult it sometimes can be to get at nuance and to have conversations that are informed by nuance. - John King (Capital NY John King reflects on contentious tenure)

Morning Video: Complicated Politics Surrounding Renewed Push For Early Childhood Education

This NBC Nightly News segment describes how quality early childhood education can be enormously beneficial, childcare costs as much or more than private college in many places, and President Obama rolled out a pared-down early childhood education expansion last week. But National Journal notes that the politics of early education are not nearly as straightforward as they may seem. 

AM News: NY Regents Refuse Charter Renewals; LA Supe Seeks Testing Relief

Regents refuse to approve city’s latest charter school renewals ChalkbeatNY: The renewals are typically considered rubber-stamp votes by the time they make it to the Regents agenda. This time, state officials said they wouldn’t approve the extensions until representatives from the city’s charter-school office came to Albany and explained their reasoning.

LAUSD superintendent seeks state testing relief KPCC: Under Cortines' request, scores would still be delivered to students, parents and schools, but would not be counted toward schools' Academic Performance Index, the measure by which California schools' determine improvement on tests.

Taliban Storm Pakistani School AP: Taliban storm Pakistani school, kill 126, mostly children, teenagers, in worst attack in years. Police officer Javed Khan says the gunmen entered the school on Tuesday morning. He says army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and exchanged fire with the gunmen.

How ‘Christmas’ should teachers get? A guide for navigating the ‘December Dilemma’ PBS NewsHour: It’s called “the December Dilemma.” As the winter holidays approach, schools are aware that the issue of separating church and state is not just something students encounter in social studies classes, but a real and present concern for teachers and administrators. Is it OK to decorate the school and the classroom for Christmas? What kinds of concerts and plays are constitutional in a public school?

In Mississippi, Education Money Gap Grows To $1.5B AP: School leaders say they can't afford new books or a reading coach to help raise the district's "D" academic rating. There's a leaky roof and crumbling ceiling tiles, no marching band and no advanced placement classes. To save money, the number of teachers and their assistants were reduced and administrators took pay cuts.

As Lottery Opens, Bowser Remains Mum On Tweaks To New School Boundaries WAMU: The District's citywide school lottery opened to students today, incorporating new school boundaries and feeder patterns adopted by Mayor Vincent Gray. But Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser again said she would tweak those changes, though remained quiet on the details.

Stuyvesant High School Student Now Says He Didn't Make $72 Million on Stocks NYT: After widespread publicity that Mohammed Islam had earned $72 million in the stock market, the story of a 17-year-old Stuyvesant High School senior started to unravel on Monday.

City Agrees to Stop Schools from Using 911 for Discipline WNYC: New York City public schools can no longer send disruptive students to emergency rooms without first giving families or trained.

Quotes: It Isn't Always The Best Nonprofits That Get The Big Money

Quotes2For every organization like Teach for America that catches fire and goes national, there are myriad smaller initiatives that struggle in the trenches for years, never quite breaking into the big time—and maybe missing their moments to do so. - Inside Philanthropy (After Years in the Trenches, Is This Ed Group Going to Break Out?)

Media: Missing Context From ProPublica Charter School "Sweeps" Story

In a recent series of pieces, ProPublica has described how charter schools in some states are being run by for-profit entities rather than the non-profits who are given the charter approval, creating unintended financial incentives.  This is certainly an alarming and potentially problematic trend, but the ProPublica piece doesn't tell us how widespread it is, creating the impression that it might be happening in many places -- or not. I haven't gotten any response from ProPublica about the missing piece of context, but a NACSA staffer tells me that there's no national data but that these situations aren't rare. "This is an issue that needs more study and consideration." 

Related posts: Putting Testing Flaws In ContextCan Education Coverage Find Its Balance, Please?Education Reporting Frequently Lacks Balance, Context, Multiple SourcesProPublica Hires Another Reporter To Cover Education; Meet ProPublica's Education Reporter.

Morning Listen: On Freakonomics, Housing Project Program Helps Kids Turn Around

"A program run out of a Toronto housing project has had great success in turning around kids who were headed for trouble." (How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps)

AM News: Duncan, Educators, Students Attend Weekend Civil Rights Protests

Arne Duncan Joins Al Sharpton's Civil Rights March PK12: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is among thousands of demonstrators who participated in a march through Washington, D.C. Saturday to focus attention on recent law enforcement actions that led to the deaths of unarmed African-American men, according to a tweet sent from his official account. See also here.

Teachers Protest Grand Jury Decisions At Police Precinct HuffPost: A.J. Hudson, an 8th grade biology teacher at KIPP Amp Middle School in Brooklyn, told The Huffington Post that the grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for killing black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and in Staten Island, New York, have been “upsetting everyone” at his school. 

Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan Decries School Funding "Injustices" in Philly and Nation District Dossier: In a column printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer Friday, the Education Secretary says the nation should be embarrassed that the quality of children's public education is largely dependent on where they live and their parents' incomes.

Big Drop In Students Being Held Back, But Why? NPR: The number of students being held back has been cut nearly in half, and researchers have no idea why.

Two Years Later, Still Learning From Sandy Hook NPR: A new report on the 2012 Newtown school shootings says that school administrators failed Adam Lanza despite their best efforts. The authors say the district had a lack of special education expertise. 

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Duncan, Educators, Students Attend Weekend Civil Rights Protests" »

Maps: The More (Charter Authorizers) The Merrier?

image from www.qualitycharters.orgHere's a map from the new NACSA @qualitycharters report on state charter authorizers showing how many authorizers each state has.  The more the merrier, in general, though obviously that's not always the case since Ohio has lots and Arizona has few. Read the report here

Charts: Student Retention Rate Drops (Was Never That High)

Screen shot 2014-12-12 at 10.49.50 AMStudent retention has never been all that high, nationally. A new AERA study shows that, after peaking at 2.9 percent in 2005, overall retention rates for grades 1 through 9 declined to 1.5 percent in 2009-10 (Patterns and Trends in Grade Retention Rates in the United States, 1995–2010).

 

Update: USDE Alt Cert Report Now Over A Year Late

Way back in 2012, Congress called on the USDE to issue a report on the number and distribution of alternative certification teachers in US classrooms as a condition of extending the provision that makes alt cert teachers highly qualified under NCLB.  

The HQT waiver is good through 2016, which is why there wasn't any need for a rider in the 2015 spending bill currently under consideration.  (The union waiver, known as HOUSSE, is permanent and doesnt't require updating.)

But the report was supposed to come out in December 2013 -- a year ago.  But it hasn't been heard of.

Related posts: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" About Highly Qualified Teachers"Technical Amendments" In The Fiscal Cliff Deal?Alt Cert: TFA "Interns" Allowed To Keep Teaching ELLs (For Now)Budget Deal Gives TFA Another Two Years.

Continue reading "Update: USDE Alt Cert Report Now Over A Year Late" »

Morning Audio: "Freakonomics" Covers Teaching Debate

"Is the problem here that our students aren’t getting very bright simply because … our teachers aren’t very bright? That’s the question we ask in our latest Freakonomics Radio episode. It’s called “Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?” The conversation features Kline, Levin, Goldstein, and Freidman. Transcript here. Other Freakonomics podcasts of interest: How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps. Other Freakonomics writing about education here.

AM News: Funding Increase For School Broadband, Plus Retention Decline

F.C.C. Increases Money for E-Rate Program for Internet in Schools and Libraries NYT: The move will increase money for schools and libraries to connect to the Internet. See also KPCCEdSource TodayNYT

Student retention rates declining in U.S. EdSource Today: The often controversial practice of holding struggling students back a grade appears to be losing favor, according to a national study of retention rates released Thursday. Overall retention rates for grades 1 through 9 declined by almost half between 2004-05 and 2009-10.

Common Core repeal maneuver fails in Ohio House AP: State Rep. John Adams, a Republican from Sidney in western Ohio, attempted during an Ohio House floor session on Wednesday to add the repeal language into legislation dealing with high school world history courses.

John King Jr., New York State’s Education Chief, to Leave Many Policy Wars Behind NYT: Whoever replaces Dr. King will have to juggle issues like the Common Core standards, teacher evaluation and training, and charter schools. See also ChalkbeatNY

New Math Standards a Hurdle for Some Students and Teachers in Texas Texas Tribune: Three months into the school year, the transition has proved challenging. As parents and educators question whether the rigor of the new curriculum is developmentally appropriate, school officials are reporting that they lack the resources to help teachers learn the new material.

Mayoral candidate Garcia releases education plan WBEZ: Parts of the plan are strikingly similar to a policy paper put out by the Chicago Teachers Union two and a half years ago. So much so, that whole sentences in the summary are pulled word for word from that paper. But Garcia said he got input from several groups, not just the CTU.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Funding Increase For School Broadband, Plus Retention Decline" »

People: Wong Takes Over As Editor Of Atlantic Education Page

Alia wong the atlanticMeet Alia Wong, The Atlantic Education page's new editor.  Most recently at the Honolulu Civil Beat, Wong's byline has been appearing at The Atlantic since November.

Wong replaces founding editor Emily Barkhorn and a few folks who filled in since Barkhorn left. She's doing some of her own writing (The Cutthroat World of Elite Public SchoolsWhen Lifting a School Cellphone Ban Is a Win for Poor Students) as well as working with outside contributors. She's already an EWA award winner for her writing. 

I've asked her if there are going to be any big changes and will let you know what she says. You might be able to reach her at @aliaemily. Image via Twitter.

Related posts: Atlantic Adding New Education PageFirst Look At The Atlantic's Education PageAFT Sponsors Atlantic Magazine Education Event The Atlantic's "Best Cities" Includes Education.

Charts: Decline In Black-White Segregation (Sorta)

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comBlack-white segregation is declining, notes the New Republic notes (Black-White Segregation Is Steadily Declining) but adults and school-age children are affected differently (see chart above) and schools remain something of a segregation holdout.

Quotes: Jindal Touts Defeat Of Common Core Supporter Landrieu

Quotes2Mary Landrieu supported Common Core and was soundly defeated — the voters have spoken... We hope Secretary Duncan is coming to Louisiana to see how real education reform is benefitting kids and families in the real world, and we hope he wants to work with us. - LA Governor Bobby Jindal in Politico (Jindal blasts Duncan ahead of NOLA visit)

Media: Why's "Serial" Getting So Much More Pushback Than "Harper High"?

In case you hadn't heard, This American Life spinoff "Serial" is a big hit.  Focusing on the murder of a high school student in Maryland, it's a true-crime "whodunit?" with lots of excellent school-related characters and tidbits. One California teacher has replaced Shakespeare with the series.

But it's increasingly facing a major backlash, focused in part on the fact that the reporting team behind the piece is all white and the main characters are minorities: "What happens when a white journalist stomps around in a cold case involving people from two distinctly separate immigrant communities? Does she get it right?" (Success And 'Serial' Backlash - DiggSerial' & White Reporter Privilege - The AwlThe Complicated Ethics Of 'Serial,' - ThinkProgress).

I'll leave the merits and details of the pushback to others -- Conor F. at The Atlantic has a long piece defending the show -- to point out that a very similarly popular show by This American Life last year focusing on Harper High school in Chicago generated little such concern despite many similarities.

White reporters? Check. Set in and around a high school? Check. Minority community? Check. Widespread acclaim? Check.

According to some critics, Serial and TAL have a lot in common:  "Ethnic naïveté and cultural clumsiness are hardly unique to Serial. They’re woven into the fabric of its parent show, This American Life, which over its 20-year history has essentially made a cottage industry out of white-privileged cultural tourism," writes Quartz's Jeff Yang.

But Harper High didn't generate nearly as much criticism as Serial has. The two-part Harper High show (Episodes 487 and 488) won widespread accolades and to my knowledge just a smidgen of criticism. "In the end, I believe that [TAL's] 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."

I can think of lots of possible reasons for the disparity -- though none is entirely satisfying. Perhaps "Harper High" is simply better than Serial, more careful to protect against stereotypes and white privilege. Perhaps we're more sensitive to cultural stereotyping when immigrants (Korean- and Pakistani-American) are involved than African-Americans. Or, it could be that the criticism results from the multi-week format. Perhaps we're more sensitive to cultural stereotyping in 2014 than we were in 2013?

Related posts: Scripps Honors This American Life's "Harper High";  What Happens When Harper's SIG Ends?Chicago Teacher Critiques "This American Life"

Thompson: With King Appointment, Obama Administration Kicks Teachers In The Teeth

I guess I'll never learn. After President Obama's wonderful appearance on the Colbert Report, I reverted back to the dream that the real Barack Obama would emerge. At this point in the second term, there doesn't seem to be a reason to keep up the teacher-bashing and union-bashing of the last six years.

The appointment of the divisive New York Education Commissioner John King to the USDOE can only be seen as a gratuitous attack on teachers. The title of Chalkbeat's recount of King's career, by Geoff Decker, Patrick Wall, and Sarah Darville, says it all: After a Turbulent Career, State Education Commissioner John King Stepping Down for a Federal Job Offer

Surely, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan doesn't think there is a constructive education rationale for the appointment. He must be sending a message to reformers who revel in bitter political in-fighting. During the last two years, Duncan seems to be saying, he will be loyal to corporate reformers. Educators and schools won't be getting any relief from this devastating turmoil.  

I have continually wondered whether we educators would be offered an olive branch. If it happened, I'd be thrilled to respond in kind. But, the administration continues to make its point; it is joined at the hip with the Billionaires' Boys' Club. This appointment is rubbing salt in our wounds.

We cannot allow Democrats to question our stick-to-it-ness. We can't endure another term with a Secretary of Education who will keep up this assault on our profession and our students. Now, more than ever, is time to release our anger. We can't just take these insults anymore.-JT(drjohnthompson)

Morning Video: Project-Based Schools Competing With Charters In Philadelphia

Here's a two-parter from Learning Matters/PBS NewsHour last week that you may not have seen. Part 1 above, focusing on Science Leadership Academy and other project-based schools. Part 2 here.

AM News: Storms, Spending Bill Secrets, & Departure Of NY Superintendent

Storm warning prompts school closures EdSource Today: More than half a dozen school districts across California will close Thursday in anticipation of a major storm that is damaging the state’s collective calm.

New York State Education Commissioner to Leave for Federal Post NYT: John B. King Jr. said he would take the No. 2 job at the United States Education Department. See also WNYC, ChalkbeatNY.

From Potatoes To Salty Fries In School: Congress Tweaks Food Rules NPR: The giant federal spending bill that's expected to go to a vote Thursday will give schools some flexibility in implementing nutrition standards. Also a winner: the potato lobby. See also PBS.

Spending Bill Would Fund Preschool Grants, But Not Race to Top PK12: A few education programs would take a notable whack, including Race to the Top, one of the Obama administration's signature competitive grants, which appropriators sought to scrap completely.

Obama’s Race to the Top loses all funding in 2015 omnibus spending bill Washington Post: President Obama and firstlLady Michelle Obama both would see key initiatives whacked if the $1.01 trillion spending bill unveiled by congressional leaders this week passes without changes in these areas.

Leading Public Education Organizations Lack Diversity at Top, Report Finds District Dossier: The report does not name which groups participated in the survey but does highlight a few education nonprofits that have made building diverse leadership teams a top priority. TNTP and College Track are two that are featured.

Texas to Close 14 Charter School Operators Texas Tribune: Texas will shut down 14 charter school operators that failed to meet heightened financial and academic performance rules this year, state education officials announced Tuesday. 

Schools’ Discipline for Girls Differs by Race and Hue NYT: For graffiti on a Georgia school’s walls, two girls were suspended. Then one of them ended up in the criminal justice system.

Joel Klein, Controversial as Chancellor of NYC Department of Education, Offers Lessons on Fixing Education WNYC: Klein writes about his eight-year mission of improvement: demanding accountability, eliminating political favoritism, and battling a powerful teachers union that seemed determined to protect a status quo that didn’t work for kids.

More news and commentary throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.

Thompson: Teaching Students Kale-Thusiasm

NPR’s Cory Turner, in Why These Kids Love Kale, reports on “kale-thusiasm.” It prompts one girl doing jumping jacks and cheering for kale, while others “shake their jazz hands.” As another student proclaims, "That kale is the bomb." 

This kale-thusiasm is a product of “FoodPrints,” a part of the curriculum in five Washington D.C. schools. Students help tend their school’s garden, and it becomes the focal point for hands-on instruction. When Turner visited, elementary students were learning about decomposition and bacteria. The lesson includes a worm bin and “a writhing handful of worms from their dark clutch of compost." 

I have long been as supportive of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” and her focus on healthy school food as I have been opposed to her husband’s test-driven education policy. I’m not surprised, however, that the First Lady’s efforts have faced pushback.  To be successfully implemented, physical education and improved nutrition need to be integrated into the teaching and learning process. They can’t just be one more thing on schools' impossibly long “to do” lists, especially at a time of test-driven accountability. 

I’ve experienced the joy of working with children as they learn from “worm dookie!” Locally, the Putnam City Elementary School embraces project based learning and field trips. The Daily Oklahoman’s Matt Patterson describes how high school students and cafeteria workers help provide holistic lessons about nutrition. But, Paterson concludes with pre-kindergarten students helping to prepare, not kale, but ambrosia!-JT (drjohnthompson)!

Quotes: Former NYC Mayor Blames Unions For Violence Against Black Males

Quotes2Maybe all these left-wing politicians who want to blame police, maybe there’s some blame here that has to go to the teachers union, for refusing to have schools where teachers are paid for performance, for fighting charter schools, for fighting vouchers so that we can drastically and dramatically improve education. - Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (Giuliani Says Teachers Unions Are To Blame For Violence In Black Communities in HuffPost). See also Valerie Strauss.

Media: CJR Chides Journos For Falling For "All-Powerful TX School Board" Myth

There are lots of myths in education and education reporting, and the Columbia Journalism Review highlights one of them in its latest post (The Texas school board isn't as powerful as you think), calling out Reuters, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Vice, and the Brownsville Herald (and praising the AP and the Houston Chronicle). 

"The Texas-textbook story is not the same as it was when the board approved materials in 2002. Reporters should not be telling it as if it is."

In a lengthy post, CJR points out that the familiar narrative of an all-powerful school board setting the textbook agenda for the nation is outdated and inaccurate "As far back as 2010, professionals in the textbook industry were already telling the Texas Tribune that the story about the state school board’s influence was “an urban myth.” But it's fun and easy to retell, focusing as it does on Texas, religion, and dysfunctional education bureaucracy. So folks jump on it, whether they know better or not.

What's CJR get wrong or leave out? What other myths are still getting passed along by education reporters and media outlets?  Vox's Libby Anderson recently highlighted 5 things about standardized testing that you don't always find in testing stories. I'm sure there are others out there.

Related posts: Why Journos Overstate Federal InfluencePlease Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos6 Key Critiques Of Media Coverage Of EducationHow Reporters Got Sucked Into Value-Added DebacleResearcher Fails To Disclose Union Funding; Journos Fail To Ask.

 

AM News: Universal Preschool Day At The White House

The White House Wants You To Know That Preschool Is Really Good For The Economy HuffPost: The president is set to announce which states and communities are receiving some $750 million in federal grants for the expansion and improvement of early childhood education programs. He's also expected to say that corporate, philanthropic and nonprofit leaders have committed over $330 million in support of the cause. 

Obama announcing $1B for early childhood education AP: The president will join a daylong summit convening at the White House on Wednesday to announce the investment in early learning programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers — especially those in lower-income communities. Nationwide, 28 percent of America's 4-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded preschool program last year.

Why math might be the secret to school success NPR: Little children are big news this week, as the White House holds a summit on early childhood education on Wednesday. Since last year, more than 30 states have expanded access to preschool. But there's still a lack of evidence about exactly what kinds of interventions are most effective in those crucial early years. See also ABC News, The Hill

A Battle Expected Over School Spending In Montgomery County WAMU: A budget battle is brewing between the Montgomery County school system and the county council.

On Verge Of Being Closed, D.C. Charter School Fights Back WAMU: A D.C. public charter school on the verge of being closed is asking for more time to prove that it can effectively educate its students — a request that's rarely granted in the fast-churning world of charter schools.

Losing students, neighborhood high schools caught in downward spiral Catalyst:  As schools lose students, they receive less money and must cut back the very features that could help attract and keep students-- counselors, honors classes, elective courses and extracurricular programs--and become shells of what they once were. 

State’s first charter school in disarray Seattle Times: Since it opened in September, the state’s first charter school has lost its special-education coordinator, principal, board president and half the rest of its board. By Wednesday, it must prove to a state board that it can solve problems in four major areas.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Universal Preschool Day At The White House" »

Journalism: So Long, NYT Labor Reporter Steven Greenhouse

He didn't cover teachers unions all that frequently. I didn't always admire his work when he did (and as I recall from a series of angry emails he didn't much care for my constructive criticism, either).

But I certainly appreciated that Greenhouse was out there doing what so few others do in education or mainstream journalism in general, and wish there were more folks out there doing the same.

In his exit interview with Gawker (A Q&A With Steven Greenhouse) Greenhouse includes some interesting tidbits about an uptick in labor coverage since 2010 and the potential impact of worker advocacy groups like Domestic Workers United, Make the Road in New York, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, and the Workers Defense Project in Texas. (Are any of these groups operating in the education arena?)

In Politico (Steven Greenhouse takes N.Y. Times buyout), it's noted that there's now just one other national reporter focused on labor -- at the WSJ. (What about BuzzFeed's Jacob Fischler?)

Related posts: Media: We Need More Teacher Union Coverage -- Right?;  Reporters Should Identify Union EmployeesCharts: Teachers = Teamsters?

Thompson: Common Core's Potential

The story line of NPR’s four stories on Common Core was entirely predictable. The excellence of reporting was equally predictable, as well as the great teaching it showcased. Even so, it left me more saddened than ever about the Common Core fiasco. 

Emily Hanford, in Common Core Reading: "The New Colussus," began the series with a teacher, Linnea Wolters, assuming that her students would not be able to handle the complexity of a sonnet. She keeps an open mind, teaches the lesson with fidelity and is pleasantly surprised, “Wolters was amazed. She'd rarely seen her kids so excited about learning. And she had no idea they could succeed with such a challenging text. She couldn't wait to tell her colleagues about what had happened.” 

This is consistent with my experience. Low-skilled students despise the “dummying down” of instruction. They want the respect that is demonstrated when they are taught for mastery of challenging materials and concepts. Moreover, many or most teachers welcome assistance in helping students “dig deep.”

Then, Corey Turner explains, we must wrestle with the question of how do we teach complex reading in a way that “doesn't just lead to tears and frustration?” He summarizes the findings of cognitive scientist Dan Willingham who explains why background knowledge is more important than a child's reading skills. "Kids who, on standard reading tests, show themselves to be poor readers, when you give them a text that's on a topic they happen to know a whole lot about, they suddenly look like terrific readers." 

The NPR reporter concludes that although some Common Core architects may deny it, background knowledge “is just too important to ignore” when teaching reading. “The trick is, don't overdo it.” 

Continue reading "Thompson: Common Core's Potential" »

Quotes: Success Of Pro-Common Core Politicians Suggests 2015 Progress

Quotes2There were probably at least 10 states last spring that had tough fights, and you’ll have tough fights again, with the biggest ones in the most conservative states and mostly in the south. But politicians respond to voters, and pro-Common Core politicians won midterm elections across party lines...At least two-thirds of states will stick with Common Core. That’s pretty remarkable for a country that’s been allergic to common standards. - Fordham's Mike Petrilli (Will Common Core Survive Past 2016? RealClear Education)

Morning Video: Success Academy's Eva Moscowitz At AEI

Live-watch Rick Hess interview Moskovitz, whose charter network now includes 9,ooo students in 32 schools across NYC. Video not working? Link is here. Let us know if she or he say something newsworthy!

AM News: Handicapping The 2015 Common Core Debate

Will Common Core Survive Past 2016? RealClear Education: While most of those efforts have failed, some states are making changes, and about half have renamed the standards – to reflect state independence and to appease political critics. 

White House Focuses on Computer Science in Schools AP: The school districts encompassing New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas, Houston and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are committing to offer the course in high school or middle school. While some large districts already have computer electives at limited campuses, all are now pledging to make computer science a standard offering district-wide.

Obama shout-out for Sherman Oaks students part of global event to help promote computer skills LA Times: Hundreds of Los Angeles Unified students participated Monday in a global event aimed at promoting computer skills, listening to speeches by industry leaders and receiving a video shout-out from President Barack Obama.

Louisiana Supreme Court will not rehear Katrina teachers' layoff case NOLA.com: About 7,500 New Orleans school employees who lost their jobs after Hurricane Katrina appear to have exhausted their options in Louisiana courts. The state Supreme Court decided Monday to reject the plaintiffs' request for a rehearing. 

At age 16, accomplished — and homeless Washington Post: Youth outreach coordinator for the gubernatorial run of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D). She is home-schooling her way through her junior year of high school and taking classes at the University of Maryland under a concurrent enrollment program for exceptional students.

Kate Visits NYC Kids; Prince William Joins Obama ABC News: Kate tours child development center with NYC's first lady as Prince William meets with Obama.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Handicapping The 2015 Common Core Debate" »

5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: The Myth Of The All-Powerful Texas School Board

Total cost of big 5 education ideas would be $130B/yrx20 but would generate $225T/80y, says Forbes ow.ly/FymGt 

Why reporters are still writing as if TX school board is all-powerful - CJR ow.ly/FyZk6

Forbes ed roundtable features @arneduncan@HendersonKaya @rweingarten and ... Andrew Cuomo? ow.ly/FyldN

Why Progressives Have Ignored Deaths Like Eric Garner's For Years ow.ly/Fz4g2

Departing NYT labor scribe @greenhousenytdescribes potential impact of non-union worker advocacy groups ow.ly/Fzble 

As if NY doesn't already have enough education coverage, Politico adds morning ed email "Capital Education" ow.ly/FyxrT

 

Charts: Common Core Implementation By The Numbers

image from s3.amazonaws.comIf you read the news too much or live in New York or Chicago you might be excused for thinking that Common Core was universally controversial and that the pushback was widespread. Here's a somewhat different way to look at Common Core, rather than focusing on the handful of controversial states and media coverage of conflicts, via centrist DC think tank Third Way.  Caveats: It's undated, and focuses on the standards not the assessments or their uses.

Quotes: Common Core Critics Lack Viable Alternatives

Quotes2My challenge to [Common Core critics] is, if you have a better idea, come forward. Don't talk about scrapping the whole effort...The debate has been hijacked by issues that are, at best, peripheral. - Former US Rep. Harold Ford in National Journal (Did Obama Screw Up Common Core?)

AM News: Mississippi Educators Question Common Core U-Turn

Educators question future progress if Mississippi backs away from Common Core Hechinger Report: Educators across Mississippi say the already-lagging state will “move backwards” if Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves throw out the Common Core academic standards and create new ones.

Military-Style Technology Finds Way Into School District Safety Measures NYT: Many experts say limited resources may be better spent on mental health services and training for teachers and students on what to do if their peers talk about bringing a gun to school.

LAUSD students hope for iPads, prepare for disappointment KPCC: It's been a roller coaster ride for Los Angeles Unified School District students who were promised iPads that would usher in a new chapter in how they'll learn and take tests in the digital age.

FBI at the door is just the latest bad news for L.A. school district LA Times: With three weeks left in December, I'm hesitant to jump the gun and suggest that we've seen the last of this year's troubles for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Nine-Year-Old’s Arrest Prompts Call for Change by Federal Judge WSJ: The increased involvement of police at schools has led to an increase in schoolchildren arrests, phenomena that make for shocking headlines (8-year-old arrested in school bomb threat) and have led to a new, funny-if-it-weren’t-true formulation: the school-to-prison pipeline.

CTU President Karen Lewis trying 'to resume some of her duties' Chicago Sun-Times: Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said Thursday, in her first interview since being hospitalized for a brain tumor that halted her plans to run for mayor, that she's eager to campaign for mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: Mississippi Educators Question Common Core U-Turn" »

Site Schedule: Go Ahead, Start December Without Me

Sennhs1957Welcome back. I had a great time in Boston with my family this past weekend. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving break, too.

I'm going to be traveling again this first week of December, so you can wait until I'm back on Monday or check out the competition (Politico, RealClear, etc.) for a few days (which will tide you over but leave you with a nagging feeling of not being entirely satisfied).

I'll be back at it again on December 8th. I won't really be on email all the time but I can be reached at thisweekineducation@gmail.com if there's a problem that needs immediate attention.  Image of Senn high school in Chicago, where my dad went, circa 1957.

Thanks! / Alexander 

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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.