As test-driven reformers face defeat at the hands of a grassroots Opt Out movement, they return to their tried and true tactic of challenging the integrity of their opponents. New York Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia exemplifies this scorched earth tactic by asserting that teachers who support test boycotts are unethical. But, as Mother Jones's Kristina Rizga explains in Sorry, I'm Not Taking This Test, testing has inflicted the most damage on the poor children of color who, theoretically, were supposed to be helped by it.
Besides, isn't it unethical for educators to pressure students and patrons to do something that they believe is wrong?
Rizga describes a student, Kiana Hernandez, who on her own volition chose to follow in the path of Mahatma Gandhi and refuse to take the standardized test. In a seeming violation of ethics "one teacher told her: 'Please take [the test]. My paycheck depends on it.'"
Just as bad, an obviously decent and conscientious teacher advised her, "You should wait until you are done with high school before you try to change the world."
At this point, I must stop and say forcefully that the criticism I make of these teachers' words is rhetorical. Good, ethical people can utter some terrible statements when under duress. As horrible as those teachers' words were, I don't blame them. They were spoken in fear. And, they were a predictable result of reward- and punishment-driven reform. They merely reconfirm the truism, "Feed the teachers or they will eat the students."
There is one overwhelmingly important issue today. Now that it is obvious that punitive and competition-driven reform (once known quaintly as "choice") has failed to improve the educations of poor children of color, why must stakes be attached to tests? If charters and reformers are about competition to help education outcomes - not to defeat neighborhood schools, why do they still need high-stakes test scores to be used as the ammunition that fuels this battle?
I don’t care if you are in Teach For America, were in Teach for America, like or don’t like Teach for America. I don’t care if you’re a pin-covered-lanyard-wearing unionista or if you delete every union email on sight. I don’t care if you teach in a charter or did or will teach in a charter, or if you send your kids to private school or public school. I don’t care if you’re traditionally licensed or alternatively licensed or unlicensed, and I don’t care if you are a normal person or someone who teaches Kindergarten. If you care about kids I am with you.
According to ProPublica, "only two states require background checks for parents who choose to homeschool, and just 10 require parents to have a high school degree. Fewer than half require any kind of evaluation or testing of homeschooled children." (Homeschooling Regulations by State) Image used with permission.
Check out this segment from The Seventy Four, featuring New Orleans kids' escape from Katrina and eventual return. Click here for 2 other segments. Are there any other attempts to tell the story on video?
Charter School Scored Own State Exams Chalkbeat: The New York City charter school that made the largest gains on state English tests also made an unprecedented decision to grade its own students’ exams.
New Invention Targets School Germs NBC News: An East Texas man has designed special silver-based germ-killing strips, which can be attached to door handles and other high traffic areas and surfaces. KETK's Cara Prichard reports.
Deal between IPS and its union means big pay raises for teachers ChalkbeatIN: Every Indianapolis Public Schools teacher will make at least $40,000 — a 12 percent jump for those at the bottom of the scale — if the teachers and school board both vote to approve a contract to which the district and its union have tentatively agreed.
"The [$31M] total represented an extra $705 per student — far more than any other school district in the country," notes this Washington Post story (D.C. schools attracted record amounts of philanthropy). Other districts with substantial private funding include(d) Nwark, Oakland, Seattle, & Boston. Image used with permission. Latest figures included are for 2010, and are presented on a per-pupil basis.
I've always been confused by the seemingly absurd dichotomy. Brilliant computer geeks and digital geniuses create such potentially liberating technologies. But, they also became a driving force in corporate school reform and its efforts to turn schools back to the early 20th century.
Gosh, as Greg Toppo explains in The Game Believes in You, computer games were pioneered by a small group of mostly unconnected, visionaries, In the earliest days of the 1960s computer breakthroughs, some inventors were even influenced by LSD. So, why did such creative people commit to turning schools into a sped up Model T assembly line?
It would be too much to ask of Toppo, or any other single writer, to definitively answer this question but his excellent book helps us understand why so many architects of 21st century technological miracles helped impose test, sort, reward, and punish, bubble-in malpractice on our schools.
Toppo chose to study computer gaming after his still dynamic young daughter became disenchanted with reading, and after he tired of reporting on school reform wars. The fundamental problem predates corporate school reform; for instance, 1/3rd of high school graduates never go on to read another book for the rest of their lives. And, as teacher and reading expert Kelly Gallagher says, the problem is both under- and over-teaching of reading. But, full-blown "readicide" has been made far worse by the test prep which was caused by output-driven, competition-driven reform.
At exactly the same time that schools have taken the questionable path of implementing more high-stakes standardized tests keyed to the abilities of some imaginary bell-curved students, games have gone the opposite route, embedding sophisticated assessment into gameplay ... becoming complex learning tools that promise to deflate the tired 'teach to the test' narrative that weighs down so many great teachers and schools.
The Game Believes in You does a great job explaining the cognitive science behind computer games (and in doing so he may foreshadow an explanation why corporate school reformers became so obsessed with competition that they helped impose nonstop worksheet-driven, basic skills instruction on so many schools.)
Dyett hunger-strikers vow to continue fight Chicago Sun-Times: Randi Weingarten, president of the Washington D.C.-based American Federation of Teachers — which boasts 1.6 million members — joined the hunger strikers Wednesday at a news conference outside of Dyett. See also Washington Post.
State removes 15 years of test results before releasing new scores EdSource Today: Earlier this month, as the department got ready to send parents the initial student scores on the new tests sometime over the next few weeks, department officials deleted old test results going back more than 15 years from the most accessible part of the department’s website, impeding the public’s ability to make those comparisons.
Embattled Albuquerque Schools Chief to Learn Fate AP: The embattled superintendent of New Mexico's largest school district is expected to learn Thursday if he'll stay on the job or be forced out just two months into his position. Board members are scheduled to vote on whether Luis Valentino will remain the head of Albuquerque Public Schools after he hired an administrator who faces child sex abuse charges.
New Orleans' Teaching Force Today: Whiter, Less Experienced, Higher Turnover Teacher Beat: The city's teaching force is now 49 percent black, compared to 71 percent black in 2005. About 60 percent of teachers in 2005 were trained in New Orleans colleges; in 2014, fewer than 40 percent were. Teacher experience levels dropped notably since 2003; the percentage of teachers with five or fewer years of experience increased from 33 percent to 54 percent over that time period.
There Are Kids Fighting Fires In Washington State Seattle Public Radio: Until a teen escaped last week, assaulted a supervisor and then shot himself, there were 20 youth working on the fire line at the Chelan Complex Fire in central Washington. Another crew of 10 made sandwiches and meals in Okanogan County.
'George' Wants You To Know: She's Really Melissa NPR: George is a transgender fourth-grader. She's the heroine of a new book intended for readers in grades 3 to 7 and published by Scholastic, one of the largest children's publishing companies in the world.
Toni Morrison rightly compares Ta-Nehisi Coates to James Baldwin. I hope teachers and education policy makers will read Coates Between the World and Me, and consider its obvious implications for school improvement. I do not want to drag his beautiful book, a touching letter to his son, into our vicious school reform wars. Instead, I will review some of the key parts of Coates’s wisdom that can inform our practice and education policy, and mostly leave our education civil war to another day.
I would think that teachers would be thrilled to have a politically conscious student like Coates. Surely most of us would welcome the creative insubordination of a high school student who would quote Nas and challenge us with the idea “schools where I learned they should be burned, it is poison.” After all, teachers and education policy-makers should all wrestle with Coates’s indictment of schools for “drugging us with false morality.”
At times, however, class discussions involving Coates could easily become uncomfortable. He “was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests.” Moreover, “if the streets shackled my right leg, the schools shackled my left. Fail to comprehend the streets and you gave up on your body now. But fail to comprehend the schools and you gave up your body later.” If that doesn’t hit too close to home, Coates adds that he resented school more than the streets.
Schools are supposed to be a “means of escape from death and penal warehousing.” But, too often, educators don’t understand what it takes for poor children of color to avail themselves of that escape hatch. For instance, he recalls that “each day, fully one-third of my brain was concerned with who I was walking to school with, our precise number, the manner of our walk, the number of times I smiled, who or what I smiled at, who offered a pound and who did not.”
Coates knew he was being robbed of that third of his consciousness, and that education should enrich his entire mind. But, he felt that school “had no time for the childhoods of black boys and girls.” Coates found himself “unfit for the schools, and in good measure wanting to be unfit for them.”
If people like their local schools, regardless of what they think about schools nationally, they’re not going to be very likely to vote based on that issue...They’re not going to vote for someone just because that candidate is going to fix a problem with someone else’s schools.
HBO's John Oliver picked up where others left off, pointing out how unprotected workers (ie, teachers, principals, parents, administrators) are against discrimination based on sexual preference in 31 states.
Latinos struggle to close gap with whites in California ACT scores LAT: Across the country, the class of 2015 stagnated, with 40% of the 1.9 million test takers showing what the organization calls "strong readiness," according to results released Wednesday. In California, 30% of the class of 2015 took the test. California students overall outperformed their peers nationally. While 28% of students across the country met all four ACT targets, intended to represent college success, 37% of California's test takers did so.
Parents' Teacher Tenure Challenge Heads Back to Court WNYC: Judge Philip Minardo appeared to listen with skepticism. Referring to the legislature's changes, which took effect in April, he asked the defendants, "Did they really do something or are they just massaging this?"
Teacher ranks shrink, skew white and less experienced in report Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Over a five-year period that included the near-elimination of collective bargaining in Wisconsin’s public schools, the teacher workforce in metro Milwaukee is smaller, less experienced and still largely white, according to a new report.
Newark Schools See Red Ink WSJ: Cerf disclosed the budget gap in his first appearance before the Newark Schools Advisory Board. His predecessor, Cami Anderson, stopped attending the group’s monthly meetings about a year and a half ago. Facing critics demanding her ouster, she said the often raucous board meetings had devolved into personal attacks.
The Tulsa Public Schools has reduced the time that teachers and students must spend on testing by 54%, or by more than 72 hours. The Tulsa World’s Nour Habib, in Tulsa Public Schools Says District-Mandated Testing Time to be Reduced by 54%, reports that, “The decision to reduce district-mandated tests is based on recommendations from a task force of teachers that was put together last year to study the issue of overtesting in the district. Teacher representatives from all grades were selected based on recommendations by principals and from the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association.”
Habib also quotes Shawna Mott-Wright, vice president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association who says, “We are just ecstatic, over the moon. … We really appreciate all of the work that the testing task force did, and we super appreciate and are very grateful for Dr. [Deborah] Gist listening.”
The reduction of testing is doubly important because it follows the testing cutbacks initiated by the state. The Oklahoma Department of Education was limited by law from making major reductions, but State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has been clear in explaining why we must "push the reset button" on testing.
Fundamentally, the reconsideration of testing was prompted by a grassroots Opt Out movement of parents, as well as the superintendents of the state’s major school systems. The Tulsa task force was formed after two elementary school teachers made national headlines for refusing to administer “high-stakes student surveys and tests.” Sadly, those two heroes, Nikki Jones and Karen Hendren, are no longer with the TPS. Even more disappointing is the way that Jones tried to remain with the system but every time she would hear that the principal would like to hire her, but that “they had to ‘represent the district.’”
So, the cutback will not in itself stop the cycle of test, sort, reward, and punish. Tulsa doesn’t seem to have much to show from its multimillion dollar Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grant, and as long as it takes the foundation’s money, it will be pressured to continue to impose bubble-in accountability. And, Tulsa has seen 20% of its teachers "exit" in the last 14 months.
Did Obama come through for New Orleans schools after Katrina? Hechinger Report: Overall, though, test scores, per pupil spending, and state rankings have all surpassed pre-Katrina levels. The Obama administration has doled out billions of dollars in federal funding to rebuild and repair Gulf coast schools... We rate Obama’s efforts in education as a Promise Kept.
Here's the first of a weeklong series "Rethinking College" that the PBS NewsHour is running, this one focusing on why first generation and low-income students tend to drop out even when tuition has been taken care of. Transcript is here.
Bernie Sanders Will Meet DeRay Mckesson & Other Black Lives Matter Activists Bustle: Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson tweeted at Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday, telling him that his racial justice platform had "promise" and asking whether he would be available to discuss it in more detail. In a brief reply just two hours later, Sanders agreed to meet with Mckesson and other civil rights activists.
Machinists Union Members Outraged Over Hillary Clinton EndorsementIn These Times: The IAM's justification of their endorsement this early in the presidential race mirrors the remarks made by AFT president Randi Weingarten shortly after her union's endorsement. “If you want to shape something, you get in before the primaries,” she said.
States Gaining a Say on School Accountability EdWeek: Whether a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act makes it over the finish line this year, the federally driven accountability system at the heart of the law seems destined to go the way of the Blockbuster video.
L.A. Unified looks for smoother tech operations this school year LA Times: Getting students into the right classroom on the first day of school is a modest goal. But it's a huge improvement over last year, when thousands of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District were left without class assignments and teachers couldn't even take roll. Officials this week are trying to right two major technology debacles: a malfunctioning records system and a now-abandoned plan to provide iPads to all students. As schools opened Tuesday, officials are hopeful that they've turned the corner on their technology fiascoes. See also KPCC LA.
Five digital games finding a place in the classroom Miami Herald: The game's widespread popularity and success with K-12 students is described in “The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter,” a recent book on digital games by USA Today national education reporter Greg Toppo.
John Merrow, in Deciphering Schooling in New Orleans, Post-Katrina, writes that he hasn’t seen enough people take the middle ground when discussing the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans's school reform. He also remembers the city's schools as so bad, pre-Katrini, that one had to "steal electricity from other buildings and utility poles because its own wiring was inadequate—probably rotted through. And the schools, many of them, were violent and dangerous places."
I mostly see middle ground in reports on the New Orleans competition-driven reforms, with NPR Marketplace's series on the debate being the latest example. In fact, most of the panelists in the Education Research Alliance conference, where Douglas Harris released research on the test-driven, choice-driven outcomes, were squarely in the middle ground of the discussions. Harris's conclusions were seen as too rosy by many (or most?) of those moderate experts.
But, advocates for the New Orleans model of reform had to be upset by these findings and discussions. Harris, and others who are impressed by much of the New Orleans's outcomes, have hardly found evidence in support of other school systems trying to replicate its market-driven, outcomes-driven approach.
I wish we could focus on what actually worked in New Orleans and what didn't work, what methods could be improved and what should be rejected, and discuss lessons for systemic improvements of schools and systems. Such a conversation must wait, however, until we educators who oppose corporate reform beat back the well-funded campaign to impose test, sort, reward, and punish across urban America. As long as teacher-bashing organizations like The 74 seek to break our unions and destroy the due process rights of educators, we must concentrate on exposing the falsehoods intertwined in the reformers' spin about the supposed glories of New Orlean's charters.
Teachers have other things to do rather than criticize reforms that help students. For instance, we welcome the extra counselors who helped raise graduation rates across the nation, and that are the likely reason why New Orleans's graduation rates and college-going rates increased. Educators oppose the hastily implemented silver bullets that have backfired, damaged public schools, undermined our profession and, above all, hurt a lot of students.
"All four of these states [Missouri, West Virginia, Oregon and Washington] did better than that field test on the English exam and all but West Virginia and Missouri’s eighth graders improved on the math exam... The drops in their scores from old state exams were much smaller than the 30-plus percentage points declines in New York and Kentucky." (The surprising initial results from a new Common Core exam). Used with permission.
Earlier this week over at The Grade, I shared out an amazing set of graphics showing the dramatic impact of one Florida County's abandonment of integration efforts.
All by itself, the slides told a powerful, clear story about the resegregation of some racially isolated schools and the academic consequences that followed. My favorite -- the red lines showing a cluster of schools becoming more racially isolated over time -- is above.
Now there's a beautifully-rendered 5,200-word feature story to go along with the graphics, all from the Tampa Bay Times, including both the sad challenges that these schools and students have experienced and recent attempts to make things better.
The August show, featuring Craig Robinson (from The Office) features wacky characters but maybe not the most uplifting of themes. Check out the promo above. Or if you want a more optimistic version of the same kind of story -- now streaming on Netflix, etc. -- watch the promo for "Teacher of The Year." Trailer and review are both here.
A look back in time at Washington's education lawsuit AP: The Washington Supreme Court has been involved in state education spending for many years. The 2012 McCleary decision started the newest round of discussion, but the debate in Washington goes back nearly 30 years. Here are highlights....
Mass. Schools Get $14 Million To Extend Learning Time Boston Learning Lab: Schools in 11 Massachusetts school districts will receive $14 million in state grants to extend the time of the school day this year. In 2006, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to develop a specific grant program for extended days.
Causes, potential consequences of testing opt-out movement AP: New York is facing a growing rebellion against Common Core-aligned standardized tests. About 20 percent of the state's third- through eighth-graders refused to take the tests this spring, up from 5 percent a year earlier. As state education officials consider the possibility of sanctions against districts with large numbers of students opting out, they also promise a plan to boost participation.
More student diversity, less integration as school restarts KPCC LA: The percentage of white students is expected to continue to decline at least through 2024 with increasing enrollments of Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and students of two or more races. But then consider this: despite 60 years of Supreme Court mandated desegregation in schools as established in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, a lack of classroom integration remains pervasive.
Detroit Union Head Ousted After Internal Trial District Dossier: DFT President Steve Conn was booted from his position Aug. 12 after the union found him guilty of failing to follow procedures for meetings, among other infractions.
August 13, 2015 | Posted At: 04:48 PM | Author: john thompson
The explanation of why bees are disappearing is complex. The question why teachers are leaving the profession is not.
Teaching is a tough job, especially in the inner city. But, especially in high-challenge classrooms, it would be hard to find a more wonderful career. If teaching in urban schools is the calling for you, only a fiasco as bad as the contemporary school reform movement could drive the joy out the job.
The latest discussion about the disappearance of teachers was prompted by the New York Times Motoko Rich. Rich, in Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional), explains that California has to fill 21,500 teaching slots, and the state is issuing fewer than 15,000 new teaching credentials a year. She also reported on efforts in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Louisville, Ky.; Nashville; Oklahoma City; and Providence, R.I. to staff their classrooms. NPR's Diane Rehm adds that enrollment in teacher preparation programs across the U.S. fell by around 30% between 2010 and 2014.
I can't imagine what teachers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg feel when recalling their district's past integration efforts, and the loss of the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of a real civil rights movement - where school desegregation promised kids and adults such rewarding and life-changing opportunities. Seeing their system move from a pioneer in social justice to being a showcase for "reform" must have been devastating.
But, I can comment on Oklahoma City where recruiters have traveled to Puerto Rico and Spain to fill classrooms. When I entered the inner city neighborhood school classroom in 1993, my John Marshall High School had more great teachers than I could have imagined. I had never encountered such teaching excellence. The faculty had stuck out the violence of 1970's bussing and the 1980's crack and gangs epidemic. But, soon, the reform mantra would be that these awesome educators' "low expectations" and their "excuses" were to blame for the low performance of high-challenge students. So, teachers were told to all "get on the same page" in teaching the same tested material at the same rate, or get out of the inner city.
Our school went through bouts of dysfunction when violence and disruptive behavior spun out of control, and we had funerals for far too many students, but we also produced an astounding amount of academic, artistic, musical, and athletic excellence. It was test-driven, competition-driven reform, not the failures of our school's educators and students, that eventually transformed us into the lowest-performing high school in the state.
It was not just NCLB and Arne Duncan's accountability-driven reforms that sucked the oxygen out of our school improvement efforts and drove out our best teachers. Top-down reform robbed us of our professional autonomy. Eventually, those of us who stood and fought for our kids' right to engaging instruction found ourselves losing battle after battle and most tearfully left for easier schools where they had more freedom to teach in a holistic manner.
"Only 13 states have laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in K-12 schools, while Wisconsin protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. So in a great majority of states, LGBTQ students have no explicit legal protections."
Good news, all of you concerned with crushing student loan debt (your own or the issue): According to this review in The Atlantic, Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Purity, features a main character who's faced with large loans and no obvious way to pay them off:
"Her mother broke off contact with her family before Pip was born, and Pip hasn’t been able to persuade her to reveal the truth about her past or the identity of Pip’s father. She’s burdened with $130,000 in student loans, lives in a squatter house in Oakland, and works for a company that fleeces energy consumers with misleading environmental rhetoric. Like her Dickensian original, she has the idea that if she were to discover her own backstory, something wonderful might happen—maybe even the zeroing-out of those student loans."
Author Franzen isn't particularly interested in education, but he and his work have come up several times here over the years. His 2010 book, Freedom, raised some issues related to Education, Parenting. There was the amazing speech he delivered at Kenyon in 2011 (Of Songbirds And Public Education) -- which prompted me to write perhaps the most sincere and least prickly thing I've ever published (Education Will Break Your Heart).
Brown signs bills letting nannies' kids go to local schools AP: The Democratic governor signed without comment SB 200 by Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara, which permits the children of live-in workers such as nannies and maids to attend school in the districts where their parents work at least three days per week. An additional new law requires that schools have a set policy for investigating students' residency before hiring a private investigator to look into residency. It also prohibits students from being photographed or recorded by investigators and mandates an appeals process. See also District Dossier.
Charters transform New Orleans schools, and teachers Marketplace APM: One dominant symbol back then was a flag that read, "Class of 2014," the far off year these kids were expected to launch into college. To accomplish this with so many students so behind in their studies required teachers who could handle some very long school days. Bethaney, now 19, remembers teachers being at her charter deep into the evening. See also Part 2.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
They come in and they are working so hard, but it's all so rough. There's no way you can prepare anybody for it, you just have to live it... They found a way to get rid of the union... They got rid of such a huge part of the black middle class, those female teachers, head of households, well-educated people.
There is much to like about the low-budget mockumentary called "Teacher of The Year (TOTY)" now available for streaming on Netflix and other VOD services.
First and foremost, TOTY isn't really about education politics or specific approaches to improving schools. This is nothing like Waiting For Superman, Standardized, Bad Teacher, Won't Back Down, Race to Nowhere, and all the others you may have seen or heard about recently.
Yes, it's set at a charter school, at which there is -- atypically - both union representation of the teachers and some form of tenure that allows veterans to speak their minds. But the charter status of the school and the union representation are mostly plot vehicles, not central aspects of the story. There's no Common Core, or standardized testing. Heaven.
The plot centers around two main dramas. First is the decision that the aforementioned Teacher of the Year must make about what to do with his future. Like some real-life state teachers of the year (see here and here), he is frustrated with his work environment and is being tempted to do something else that's much more lucrative and perhaps less stressful. The second plot element is an accusation leveled against one of the other teachers by a student, which could result in the teacher being fired despite his long-standing reputation for being committed to the school and to his students.
But mostly @TOTYmovie is a comedy -- a conglomeration of all the schools you've ever been in before, full of eccentric characters and a mix of high and low humor. There's the handsomely bland vest-wearing protagonist, Mitch Carter, who breaks up fights, shares his lunch with a hungry student and helps him understand what Shakespeare is all about. There's the perfectly awful Principal Ronald Douche, played by Keegan Michael Key (of Key & Peele), who wants to be superintendent but might not listen to his teachers enough. There's a robotics teacher who thinks that HE should have been Teacher of the Year (and might be right). There are two deliciously horrible guidance counselors (played by the comic Sklar brothers). The assistant principal is a hapless disciplinarian handing out detention slips to bemused students.
The comparisons to TV comedies The Office or Parks & Recreation are understandable. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer called it a "sweet, gonzo comedy.")
The filmmakers -- Lainie Strouse (the producer) and writer/director Jason Strouse (who's also the principal of an orthodox Jewish school in LA) -- say that their goal was to make something like Spinal Tap or Best In Show -- set in a high school. Another comparison that they like is Ferris Bueller's Day Off (from the point of view of teachers). Excited about the film's success at 18 festivals over the past year and now online on Netflix and Amazon, the gist of what they had to say during a phone interview last week is that they wanted to make a film about the what it's like teaching in a real school, to tell the story in a silly but realistic way, and to focus on the teachers' perspective rather than the kids'.
They won't say what school the film was shot at, though part of the deal was giving students jobs as PAs and walk-ons. They told me shooting was done in just 11 days spread out over six months -- and that much of the film was captured in the last few days. The shooting schedule was so fragmented that some of the actors didn't even know that they were in the same film together.
As for their concerns about education, the filmmakers' only "issues" are that teachers don't make much as other college graduates and sometimes leave for more lucrative careers, and that school and district bureaucracies are a cumbersome bother. The rules and norms of schools breed frustration and tamp down innovation, they feel -- which is why so many people they know used to be teachers but aren't any more (and why highly-qualified non-teachers can't easily become second-career teachers).
Maybe that's the real appeal of TOTY, which is that it's neither glorifying nor tearing teachers down, and raising issues that span charter and district environments alike rather than divide them.
It could be something about your school (Straightoutta Central High. #Straightoutta District 732) , or your hometown, or where you work now. Mine's a long-ago picture of the nine Russo brothers #straightoutta Chicago.
Or have some fun at someone else's expense (#straightoutta Brooklyn Heights, Lab School come to mind).
Then tag me @alexanderrusso and I'll pass it along.
From last night's PBS NewsHour: "Since 1988, American schools have grown more segregated. Jeffrey Brown talks to New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones -- who recently wrote about school segregation in Ferguson, Missouri -- and Sheryll Cashin of Georgetown University Law Center."
Hillary Clinton’s student debt video misses the biggest problem with paying for college Vox: The people featured — who have unusually high levels of debt, sky-high interest rates, or both — are outliers, and they're not necessarily the people Clinton's plan would do the most to help. The video includes four young adults who mention specific numbers in connection with their own student debt. Their stories are scary. But, thankfully, they're not typical.
Some Districts Battle Shortage of Teachers as School Begins AP: Many schools — particularly in places with growing populations and difficult working conditions — are having an especially tough time getting enough teachers to fill all their jobs. Remote areas, and high-poverty districts like Detroit with uncertain budgets and difficult working conditions, also have trouble.
For second year in a row, test scores soar at low-income Arlington school Washington Post: Some grades at Carlin Springs Elementary saw double-digit increases in their state test passage rates for the second year in a row, following a deliberate effort to prepare disadvantaged students for the exams and to closely track student performance on practice tests throughout the year. The repeat success suggests that the school’s efforts might be paying off, boosting scores among groups of students whose success has proved elusive on standardized tests.
Education nerd? Journalism geek? Come help with This Week In Education and/or The Grade this fall.
TWIE is my long-running blog about national education trends, politics, advocacy, and funding. The Grade is my relatively new blog taking a close look at how mainstream news reports on what's going on in schools.
Past contributors have done all sorts of things including interviewing education leaders, editing the morning news, doing field reports (from events, conferences, schools), writing thoughtful essays, and helping out with the podcast (which may yet return -- just you wait). Several have gone on to fame and fortune. (Well, fame at least.)
All you need is some time, some interest, and a willingness to be thoughtful and reflective in what you write. Grad students, newly-minted grads, teachers or parents or freelancers with time to burn the midnight oil are all welcome.
Send your information (including a couple things you've written) and a description of what you'd like to do to email@example.com. Don't send links, however -- put it all in the body of the email and let me scroll. Bylines, experience, and (a small amount of) pay are all available.
In the second This American Life report on segregation, The Problem We All Live With - Part Two, Chana Joffe-Walt reports that the Hartford, CT school system sought to convince white families it’s in their self-interest to go to integrated schools. Joffe-Walt concludes that “the results have been impressive. It used to be that 11% of Hartford students were in integrated schools. Now it’s nearly half.”
As is the norm with This American Life, the report is nuanced in explaining how tricky the issue is, and every twist of the plot was enlightening. Hartford demonstrates great marketing skills and savvy and persuades enough white parents to participate. It is unclear whether it will be able to continue to increase white participation rates enough to meet the policy’s metrics and thus survive. (This weird numbers game is worthy of Catch 22, but Hartford is not alone; Sarah Garland [whose work was cited by This American Life] documented a similarly bizarre situation that hindered a successful desegregation effort in Louisville, Ky.)
Also, at a key point in Joffe-Walt's report, where we are reminded that not all poor children are being admitted to integrated magnet schools, we are implicitly reminded of the need to do a much better job of improving the toughest schools that serve entire neighborhoods with intense concentrations of generational poverty and where so many children endure extreme trauma. And, that makes the lost opportunities of 2009, when Arne Duncan took over as US Secretary of Education, feel even more like a betrayal. Duncan’s test, sort, reward, and punish policies provided two types of opportunity costs. They shifted attention away from research-based, holistic methods for improving instruction in troubled schools and they were a lost opportunity for encouraging voluntary integration efforts.
At the end of The Problem We All Live With - Part Two, it was explained how the election of President Barack Obama could have assisted in promoting desegregation, and his Race to the Top could have been a vehicle for promoting voluntary integration. Civil rights attorney John Brittain said that when he realized that such efforts were left out of the RttT, it was “like a punch in the gut.”
Then, Joffe-Walt and Hannah-Jones had an opportunity to ask Arne Duncan the questions that so many of us have longed to ask.