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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 

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)" »

Maps: States Where Lots Of Students With Undocumented Parents Attend School

image from www.pewhispanic.org

No surprise that President Obama is going to announce his big deportation relief plan at a Las Vegas high school, given that a whopping 18 percent of kids in Nevada schools have at least one parent without documentation.  That's according to a Pew study that HuffPost's Rebecca Klein wrote about yesterday. Read all about it here. Image used with permission.

Morning Video: Here's Yesterday's Edweek/Pearson Midterm Re-Examination

Skip to the 22 minute mark to watch the video from yesterday's much-tweeted Edweek/Pearson event, After the Storm: What the 2014 Election Results Mean for K-12 Policy, featuring the likes of Brandon Busteed, Executive Director, Gallup Education, the PK12 team, Lamar Alexander's COS David Cleary and HELP staff director Jamie Fasteau among many others.  Watch it above, or look back at the Twitterstream #EdElect2014.

Quotes: Old Playbook Not Working Anymore, Says Defeated CA Candidate

The old Quotes2playbook of...'Things are fine in our schools, we just need more money' — that’s not going to work for long... People want to be inspired, motivated and excited.

-- Marshall Tuck on his close loss for California state superintendent of education (Politico)

Quotes: How Can Democrats' Midterm Defeat = Reform Victory?*

Quotes2It’s hard to believe a huge outpouring to defeat Obama – arguably the most powerful force ever to push for “education reform” – is somehow a resounding call for more education reform.

- Jeff Bryant (The Coalition For An Education Agenda Just Isn’t There, Yet)

*Originally headlined "Democratic" but that's not right -- thanks for catching the error.

Morning Video: Midterm's Big Winner? $6.5 Billion In Spending

From The Daily Show. Money wins! Warning NSFW language from Jason "Money" Jones. 

AM News: Democrats -- Not Unions -- Lost In Midterms, Say Teachers Unions

Teachers Unions Say Midterm Losses Don't Reflect On Them HuffPost: Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told The Huffington Post that she sees the election results differently -- and does not understand how Democratic reformers could possibly claim they were a success. “It’s hard for me to understand … what the business types and the testing types of this education debate think they won here.” 

Teachers unions defend their ground by getting Torlakson reelected LA Times: In races where education was the main issue, such as the Torlakson-Tuck contest, union-backed candidates and measures fared better, Weingarten said. Voters, she said, still side with teachers on issues such as the need to lower classes sizes, limit standardized testing and provide more funding for schools.

Torlakson victory ensures continuity in reforms EdSource Today: One immediate consequence of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s rebuff of challenger Marshall Tuck is to ensure the continuance of the cohesion in state education policy that has been forged since Gov. Jerry Brown returned to Sacramento four years ago.

Unions' Sliver Of Hope In Devastating Midterm Elections BuzzFeed: The success of progressive initiatives in typically red states is being treated by labor as a signal that what they are doing is working, even if those votes didn’t carry over into the governor and senate races.

Teachers unions spent $60 million for the midterms but still lost many elections Washington Post: The nation's major teachers unions suffered losses across the country Tuesday, despite pouring about $60 million into federal, state and local races in the midterm elections. 

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

Continue reading "AM News: Democrats -- Not Unions -- Lost In Midterms, Say Teachers Unions" »

Quotes: How Unions "Lost" The Media (Or At Least A Few Editorial Pages)

Quotes2This [digging in] strategy might work in the short run. But in the long run [the unions are] dooming the schools they claim to care about to mediocrity and abandonment by the middle class, and putting the union they profess to love on a path to irrelevance.

-- Whitmire and Rotherham (The Teachers Unions First Lost The Media; Have They Now Lost Everyone Else, Too?)

Charts: EdWeek Pyramid Of Spending Shows How Much More Unions Spend Than Reform Advocates

You might be forgiven for thinking that reform advocates (DFER, et al) outspend everyone else when it comes to campaign contributions, but this year as in other years that's generally not the case. Both sides are spending more this year than they did in 2012, but this EdWeek story/chart (image used with permission) shows the situation for 2014:

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 23 11.02
To be sure, the unions are supporting a broad set of candidates on a broader set of issues -- and trying to help the Democrats keep the Senate -- but the conventional media narrative of massive unopposed reform largesse isn't accurate. Still not enough?  See also Teachers' Unions, Others Put Cash on Line in Senate RacesEducation-Focused Campaign Spending Crosses Party Lines.

Magazines: Teacher Tenure Lawsuits Expose Growing Reform Rift

Teacher.Cover[3][1][1]

The newly-resurgent TIME magazine has a lengthy, delightfully wonky cover story about teacher tenure written by former Columbia J-School classmate Haley Sweetland Edwards that you might want to check out (The War on Teacher Tenure).

Some of the new story (subscription only, alas) will be extremely familiar to education insiders like you, but there are some key additional details and aspects worth noting.

For example, Edwards reminds us that the Vergara decision (being appealed) is "the first time first time, in California or anywhere else, that a court had linked the quality of a teacher, as measured by student test scores, to a pupil’s right to an education."

She also reminds us that the current crop of billionaires interested in fixing education is not the first (think Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford).

The parts that may be new to you include background details about how David Welch got involved in the issue four years ago after consulting constitutional scholar Kathleen Sullivan.  Then came the hiring of the PR firm now called Rally, which launched StudentsMatter.  Recruiting and vetting plaintiffs -- no easy feat, I'm told -- came next.

Edwards also notes that some DC-based education reformers aren't entirely behind the Vergara approach, citing concerns from right-leaning wonks like Petrilli and McShane that you may recall from a few weeks ago (they don't like lawsuits and are hoping for a post-Rhee time of cooperation rather than ever-increasing conflict with the teachers unions).  

There aren't any left-leaning think tankers quoted in the piece, but my sense is that reform folks are sick of being beaten up, don't want to have to take more heat for another hard-charging evangelist (ie, Campbell Brown), and are worried about 2016.  

Edwards' previous forays into education writing include a piece about the Colbert/Stewart divide (Pro-Reform Colbert Leapfrogs Reform Critic Stewart) and something about unions' evolving positions on Common Core (Teachers Union Pulls Full-Throated Support for Common Core).

 

Journalism: But Are All The New Ed-Focused Outlets Really *Helping*?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comFordham's Mike ("Kojak") Petrilli has a new piece online this morning (Online education coverage is on the rise) over at Education Next (which I sometimes write for), taking a look at the "new breed" of education journalism out there over the past year or so.

What's new, or missing, or wrong in the Petrilli piece?

Clearly someone with access to Politico Pro, Petrilli notes that in addition to Morning Education the outlet "pumps out loads of ministories, and at least a handful of meaty ones, almost every day."

Anyone else seen these pieces, and if they're so influential why aren't they getting passed around?

Petrilli describes Chalkbeat as "a geographically based Education Week," which I'm sure will irk both EdWeek and Chalkbeat for different reasons.

The big surprise for me here is the presence of The Daily Caller, which Petrilli says gets tons of pageviews but I never see passed around. Anyone else read it?

What about RealClear Education, where there is a smattering of original writing in addition to great morning and afternoon roundups, or NPR Education, where Drummond et al have been crushing us with so many education stories we can't keep up? 

What else can I add? 

Check out a few more tidbits and some bottom-line observations below the fold.

Continue reading "Journalism: But Are All The New Ed-Focused Outlets Really *Helping*?" »

Morning Video: Update On Zuckerberg's $100M Newark Grant

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

Here's that NBC News segment about Newark I tweeted out yesterday, checking in on what the Zuckerberg gift has and hasn't done (Nightly News: Tracking Zuckerberg’s schools gift).  The gist of the story seemed to be that the changes have been small and slow-moving but potentially transformative. Click the link if the video doesn't display properly.

Events: Reform Advocates Meet In Chicago

From deep inside a Chicago hotel, the day after StudentsFirst announced Jim Blew as Michelle Rhee's replacement and at roughly the same time as CTU is announcing that Karen Lewis has a serious illness and her duties are being taken over by her deputy:

Related posts: 5 New Orgs Bring PIE To 49 MembersTalk About "Love" (Not "Rights")PIE Annual Summit (2013)State Advocacy Groups Talk Policy - Not Tactics (2012); Reform Celebration In Seattle (2011).

Quotes: Blame/Credit Chicago Mayor For Mobilizing Teachers, Says Weingarten

Quotes2Rahm was in some ways the best organizer that the Chicago Teachers Union had. He created the conditions by which the union had no other choice. - AFT head Randi Weingarten (Are Chicago — and Rahm Emanuel — Ready for Karen Lewis?)

AM News: De Blasio Forced To Accommodate NYC Charter Expansion

Mayor Agrees to Accommodate 4 Larger or New Charter Schools NYT: Under a new state law, New York City must offer free space in public buildings or or help with the cost of renting private space.

Palm Beach school leaders won't opt out of high-stakes testing Sun Sentinel: The Lee County board initially supported the anti-test stance, even though state officials said it's against the law and would affect funding, student grades, graduation and eligibility for athletics. The Lee board reversed itself earlier this month.

One Newark, Many Changes WNYC: Newark schools superintendent Cami Anderson talks about why drastic changes are required, despite protests and opposition from the mayor.

In-seat attendance up in D.C. schools Washington Post: DCPS in recent years has shifted away from measuring “average-daily attendance” which counts students with excused absences as attending on any given day, according to Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, a national organization that has worked with DCPS. The new “in-seat attendance” measure only counts students who are actually there, which is a more meaningful number, she said.

Playgrounds For All Children: Here's How To Find One NPR: For kids with disabilities, a simple activity like going down a slide can be a challenge. An NPR crowdsourcing project maps inclusive playgrounds — fun and safe for all — across the country.

This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain On Music. NPR: A new study suggests that learning to play a musical instrument helps improve the brain's ability to process language. That means music lessons could give kids from low-income communities a big boost.

Duncan Looks to Tennessee's Turnaround School District as Model for Country PK12: On the last stop of his back-to-school bus tour through three Southern states, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used a panel discussion Wednesday to tackle the education crisis present in so many economically devastated communities across the country. 

D.C. Teacher To Apologize For Asking Students To Compare Bush To Hitler WAMU: As part of a discussion on the book "War and Peace," a sixth-grade teacher asked their students to compare and contrast President George W. Bush and German dictator Adolf Hitler.

Chicago Mayoral Race: Lewis, Fioretti Turn Up the Heat NBC Chicago:Two of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's most vocal critics are inching closer to making a decision on whether to challenge him at the ballot box this February.

UTLA tells LAUSD: 'The money is there' for 17.6 percent teacher pay raise LA Daily News: United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl on Tuesday told the Los Angeles Unified School board that it can clearly afford to give teachers a raise.

First Lady Michelle Obama Consoles Child Who Fainted ABC News:   The first lady called for paramedics and said, “If anyone is starting to feel tired standing up, bend your knees! And eat your breakfast, and lunch!”

Quotes: Shame On Reform Allies Who Let Rhee Critics "Get Away With It"

Quotes2Her critics deserve shame for being so quick to paint her as the wicked witch. And the rest of us earned some shame for letting them get away with it a lot of the time. - TNTP's David Keeling (The High Price of Leadership)

Numbers: 27 State New Ed Reform Groups In 5 Years

Over the past five years, national K-12 advocacy organizations created 27 state affiliates, according to a May 2014 report  quoted in EdWeek (Leadership, Political Winds Buffet Education Advocacy Groups).  

That's up from 8 such groups created in the decade 1997-2007. 

You can read the report here.

I've asked them for updated figures, since some of the affiliates have closed up shop and others have opened since then.

Quotes: Union's Confounding Positions On Common Core Assessments

Quotes2It's like saying you're for interstellar travel but against warp drive.

- NYCAN's Derrell Bradford via Facebook on NEA Common Core position(s) -- see full quote below.

Continue reading "Quotes: Union's Confounding Positions On Common Core Assessments" »

Quotes: NYC Mayor De Blasio Praises Predecessor For Common Core Focus

Quotes2They were right to focus on the Common Core curriculum. -- NYC Mayor De Blasio on Bloomberg decisions that led to NYC test score increases (WNYC Five Things You Need to Know About NYC Scores on State Tests)

Roundup: Rhee Departure Leaves Movement Without Ravitch-Like Figure

The Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits broke the news on Tuesday.  The Sacramento Bee followed up with a focus on Rhee's work on behalf of her husband, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who may run for higher office in two years.  Beaten badly on the news, Politico published a misleadingly negative account of Rhee's accomplishments, noting her successes only in the bottom half of its story.

However, it's not really news that Rhee and her organization made crazy demands and didn't coordinate well with others or that she didn't reach her $1 billion fundraising goal.  Just recently, she listed a set of states suitable for Vergara-like lawsuits without (I'm told) consulting with Campbell Brown's organization. And no doubt, Rhee et al made a bunch of mistakes. (Focusing on ending seniority in layoffs was the biggest among them, in my opinion.)

But much of the criticism now focused on Rhee is the product of anti-reform advocates gleeful at her departure and thin-skinned reformer who didn't like being elbowed aside while Rhee was on the front pages and generally failed to support or defend her against the relentless critiques of anti-reform advocates who dominate the online discourse and influence many reporters.  (For a recent example of just how dominant reform critics are online, read this US News story: Common Core Opponents Hijack Supporters' Twitter Blitz.) 

Continue reading "Roundup: Rhee Departure Leaves Movement Without Ravitch-Like Figure" »

Campaigns: Parent Revolution & The AFT Walk Into The Same Organizing Event

What happens when Democratic education advocates on opposite sides of many policy issues attend the same campaign training events?  Things get awkward.  That's apparently what happend at a recent New Organizing Institute event when members of the AFT and Parent Revolution both showed up and -- I'm speculating here -- didn't much want to be put at the same table brainstorming ideas together. 

The NOI is a relatively new outfit, and its work was written up earlier this week in the Post (Inside the Democratic party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry): 

"With the real midterms fast approaching, Democrats areager to put more people in the field who've been trained in the latest campaigning techniques... Boot campers have gone on to some of the most prominent left-leaning organizations in the country — such as AFL-CIO, Greenpeace and Planned Parenthood, not to mention the White House and political firms like Blue State Digital."

It makes sense that both groups would be there, given how hard everyone's trying to figure out/get better at campaign and mobilization work these past couple of years in particular.  I've heard that similar things have happened at the Marshall Ganz boot camp, too. 

Related posts:  NYC Parent Organizing Group Expands To BostonCommunity Organizing & School Reform;  The Left's Getting Itself Organized, Too.

 

 

 

Campaigns: Those Union Spending Numbers Are Only Half The Story

Quotes2Unions are important financial powerhouses in elections, but much of their spending is done in such a way that it doesn't show up on FEC reports — it involves getting out the vote or internal communication with their members rather than paid TV ads.  Vox

Quotes: That Campaign Field Worker Might Well Be A Teacher

Quotes2If someone knocks on your door and says, ‘I’m Mark, I’m from the state Democratic Party,’ you take the literature and shut the door. “If you say, ‘Hi, I’m Karen, I’m a third-grade teacher at Hillsmere Elementary and I’m here to tell you what’s at stake for public education,’ that gets a very different reaction from the voter. - Karen White, political director for the National Education Association in today's Politico story (Unions put teachers on streets — for votes)

Media: Politico Brings Up The Rear On StudentsFirst Reboot Story

Money_1The Minnesota Star Tribune posted the story last week that SF was pulling out of the state (StudentsFirst pulls up stakes), and reported that the group was getting out of FLA, too.

EdWeek added to the story (StudentsFirst Powers Down Five State Affiliates) by listing the 5 states that were being shuttered (Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Maine, and Minnesota), explaining the the reasons for closing up shop differ by state, and noting that Travis Pillow at RedefinED got to the FLA part of story first.

Politico led with the story in its morning roundup today (Rhee’s group retrenches) but provided little by way of new information and (old habits die hard) failed to credit EdWeek or the Minnesota Star Tribune or anyone else for unearthing the news.

Sure, it's embarrassing having other folks break a story that probably should be yours.  But it only makes it worse when they pretend you dug it up themselves or assume their readers don't know/don't care where the story idea came from. Plus, it makes their hard-working counterparts really hate them.

Previous posts: StudentsFirst 14-State 2012 Candidate SpendingStudentsFirst 2012 Spending On Local Board RacesNEA & State Political Spending 5X Higher Than StudentsFirstWhy's Politico So Stingy With Crediting Others?

 

Politics: Teachers Unions Spent $191M To StudentFirst's $62M*

Screen shot 2014-07-03 at 1.33.41 PM
Earlier today, Politico reported that StudentsFirst has raised a whopping $62 million in campaign contributions in the past two years. However, EdWeek reports that national and state teachers unions spent a combined $191 million in 2012 alone (see chart alone). However imperfect, the comparison serves as a useful reminder that reform money, however new and on the rise it may be currently, remains substantially less than teacher union money. 

Correction: The initial headline said StudentsFirst spent "462M" since I neglected to hit the shift button at the right moment. 

Campaign 2016: Vergara Is Distracting You From NEA's Political Strength

image from www.educationnews.orgFormer New Yotk Times Magazine reporter Matt Bai has a fascinating and highly controversial (5,000-comment) story you might want to read about how the ultra-liberal Democracy Alliance ended up naming NEA executive director John Stocks (pictured) as board chairman (Rich Democrats go from challenging the status quo to embracing it).

"So you're a liberal member of the 1 percent, and you've decided to wrest control of the Democratic agenda from change-averse insiders. You want to free the capital from the grip of powerful interest groups...Where do you turn for leadership and innovation? To the teachers union, of course!"

Originally conceived as a venture fund for progressive think tanks and thinkers (CAP, MMA), the liberal group has funneled $500 million + to liberal groups over the past decade, according to Bai. But it didn't stay innovative very long, in terms of its backers and who got funding. Silicon Valley and Wall Street funders faded away.  Think tanks like the New Democrat Network and Third Way were cut off.

Now Stocks is at the helm, a move that "tells you something about the direction of Democratic politics right now," according to Bai, because of Stocks' role as the power behind the throne at the NEA (top of Bai's list of "political powerhouses that have been intransigent and blindly doctrinaire in the face of change").

Continue reading "Campaign 2016: Vergara Is Distracting You From NEA's Political Strength" »

Charts: The *Real* Reason Some Educators Are So Grouchy?

image from espnfivethirtyeight.files.wordpress.comBasically, schools were protected by the Stimulus (including Race to the Top) during the early years of the Great Recession, but since then state and local funding hasn't (yet) rebounded and federal funding has fallen. Class sizes haven't taken a giant hit but -- see here for lots more charts -- it still isn't pretty. Changes in Per Student Funding 07-12 Via Vox (anyone seen Libby Nelson recently, BTW?)

Update: The Story Behind 2010's "Waiting For 'Superman'"

Superman-shieldSome tidbits from my latest oeuvre (How 'Waiting for Superman' (almost) changed the world), which is out today:
 
- the hit-and-miss history of "message" movies (and why they're still so irresistable);
 
- Guggenheim's ill-fated (half-assed?) efforts to include a LAUSD magnet lottery in the movie;
 
- the "two-story" format that helped (or hindered) the movie's message (plus Guggenheim as narrator);
 
- conflicting accounts over whether the film-makers knew ahead of time that they were making such a pro-charter, anti-union film;
 
- the film-makers' refusal to reveal the whereabouts of the kids they profiled (though some updates are known); and 
 
- new efforts to quantify the impact of movie-based advocacy (and ongoing efforts to measure Superman's impact).
 
Participant's latest education-themed documentary, "Ivory Tower," premiers on Friday.

Media: What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common Core (Plus Reactions Roundup)

 Yau Hoong Tang FlickrThere's a long piece about the Common Core in the Washington Post you should probably read -- but be forewarned that the view of events and the causal chain that's cobbled together in the piece isn't entirely accurate or fairly contextualized (and differs from other accounts of what happened and why).

Basically, the Post's piece makes the claim that Bill Gates was behind the Common Core's rapid spread over the past few years. Indeed, the headline claims that Gates "pulled off" the Common Core, like it was a heist or a grift. 

"The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments to make systemic and costly changes." Both left and right -- Diane Ravitch and NRO's Stanley Kurtz  -- are already calling for Congressional hearings.

Gates' support is clear, and no doubt played a role.  There are some fascinating tidbits about that process in the piece.  But let's be clear: the idea for common national standards and tests goes back a long long way before Gates (and David Coleman), the spread of the Common Core in recent years wasn't merely a function of Gates' enthusiasm and largess, and the myth of the all-powerful billionaire is just that. 

Continue reading "Media: What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common Core (Plus Reactions Roundup)" »

Quotes: Union Resources & Organizing Will Dominate 2016 Campaign

Quotes2"The DFER PAC donated $43,000 to parties, committees, and federal candidates in the 2008 cycle and $17,500 in 2012. And reform-friendly Students First gave just $10,000 in 2012—to a single congressional candidate. The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers combined to give over $5.5 million in 2008 and nearly $20 million in 2012." - Conor Williams in TNR (Hillary Clinton's Education Policy: Other Implications for 2016)

Media: Recollections, Controversy, & Advice From Departing PK-12 Blogger

Politics K-12 founder Michele McNeil announced earlier this week that she was leaving for a College Board policy position, but she agreed to sit down and answer some hard questions for us before she walked out the door.  

When it first appeared in 2007, I considered the site -- then called Campaign K-12 -- as a straight-laced newcomer, a bland version of what I and others were already doing.  In fact, I'd been hosted by EdWeek for a year or so before moving to Scholastic.  But over the years I've come to enjoy and appreciate the site's prolific and detailed coverage, occasional snark, and generous credit-sharing.

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

In any case, check out McNeil's answers below to find out where the idea for the site came from, what it's biggest and most controversial items have been, what McNeil wished she'd known from the start (good advice!), and what advice she'd give those of us still blogging.

Continue reading "Media: Recollections, Controversy, & Advice From Departing PK-12 Blogger" »

Update: More Questions About Warren's Pro-Choice Views

LowerBGIt's no big surprise to find out that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) doesn't actually support private school vouchers, an issue that came up last week in a blog post I wrote.

Here's an MTA voter education form stating that “Warren opposes private school voucher proposals and similar proposals that take money away from public schools.” and a MassTeacher update indicating that "This was confirmed with the candidate and her campaign back during the nomination process.” 

Both of these are courtesy Senator Warren's press office, which also notes that the proposal comes from Warren's 2003 book not her new memoir.  

But that still leaves the underlying (and quite revolutionary in some circles) notion of universal public school choice.  Does Warren's support include choice for schools within local districts, or inter-district transfers (as proposed, however weakly, in the NCLB law that Ted Kennedy and George Miller co-sponsored)?  

Vox's Libby Nelson wrote that "Warren's views aren't entirely out of step with the education reform wing of the Democratic party." But of course, Warren isn't generally considered a reformer. 

Politics: Your Favorite Liberal Lawmaker Supports Universal Vouchers*

image from www.newyorker.comMaybe you knew this already but liberal darling US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) supports private school vouchers -- for everyone.*

US News had the story in 2012 (Elizabeth Warren's Quiet Support for Public School Vouchers), and it comes up again in the latest New Yorker as part of a review of her new book (Reading Elizabeth Warren).

Warren doesn't just support vouchers in special circumstances, like special education placements or DCPS.  She wants to give them to everyone, everwhere.  

As quoted in the New Yorker piece, Warren has written that 

“An all-voucher system would be a shock to the educational system, but the shakeout might be just what the system needs.”

According to Warren, those "public" schools in expensive enclaves aren't really all that public as their defenders like to make them sound: 

"Schools in middle-class neighborhoods may be labeled 'public,' but parents have paid for tuition by purchasing a $175,000 home within a carefully selected school district."

Interestingly, Warren's argument is at least partly based on the high housing costs associated with the current zip code-based system of allocating scarce quality schooling.  High housing costs, plus burdens on working Americans (mothers in particular) have been a scourge for decades, according to Warren.  Breaking the link between housing and school quality would relieve pressure on families that have moved to expensive places just for the schools.  

Warren's ideas have been debated on Diane Ravitch's site in recent days --  they're New Yorker readers too, it seems :-) -- though not surprisingly the idea is being met with shock and disappointment. And the New Yorker writer, Jill Lepore, calls Warren's proposal reckless.

Previous posts: Please Stop Talking About Banning Private SchoolThe Liberal Case Against Private Education; Failure, Voice, & ExitHow Vouchers Are Like Same-Sex Marriage

*Correctification: Though she uses the term "voucher," which is commonly used to denote programs that include private and parochial schools, Warren is primarily focused on eliminating the link between neighborhoods and public school assignment.  The 2012 US News article cited above calls Warren's proposal "public school vouchers." The original 2007 proposal excerpted by AFT Kombiz uses the same language (though it doesn't specificaly exclude private schools as I read it). "The public-versus-private competition misses the central point," writes Warren. "The problem is not vouchers; the problem is parental choice."

Politics: Google Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy Conferences

Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 11.16.21 AMI know a lot of educators love to hate Microsoft and the Gates Foundation and love Apple and Google.  

However, there's a wild article in the Washington Post about how Google has gone "all in" with its lobbying efforts -- including funding think tanks and policy shops that cover education isssues.

So maybe there's room for a little more scrutiny and skepticism across the board?

Google's current lobbying and policy development effort "includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects." There are fellows, 100 lobbyists, 140 funded nonprofits,  university-sponsored events, and $900K in campaign donations in 2012 alone (second only to Microsoft among edtech companies). 

As you can see from the chart at left (via WP), Google funded Brookings, Aspen, Heritage, New America, AEI, and PPI in 2010 (pictured) along with lots of other legal and edtech outfits The company added more funding for outside groups during the following four years such as the CAP Action Fund, People for the American Way, and ALEC.  

How much of Google's efforts are directly focused on education isn't immediately clear. But even if there aren't any direct edpolicy grants going out from Google there's enough overlap between tech and education these days to warrant some attention from folks interested in K12 education issues.

Previous posts: Jobs Vs. Gates - Who's Done More For Education?Google & Microsoft Duking It Out Over SchoolsGoogle Glass TeachingGoogle Launches Play For EducationThe Missing Steve Jobs / Apple Philanthropy.

Politics: Reformers' Spending Represents "Broadening" Of Political Advocacy

Endlisnis via FlickrIn case you missed it (or wondered where I was getting those maps), here's last week's Slate/Center for Public Integrity article about the rise of school reform campaign funding efforts -- and how they compare to long-running union and public employee spending.

The arrival of groups like StudentsFirst may be new and troubling to some -- especially those who've had the campaign and politics field all to themselves in the past -- but it's not necessarily something bad for schools or kids.

"In the old days, it was all the service-provider organizations—so all the unions—or the consumers,” the article quotes Brown University professor Kenneth Wong as saying. "We are seeing the broadening in terms of the type of actors who get involved in campaign issues in education.”

And nobody should be too worried about the unions being outspent, according to the article: "The NEA’s outside spending in 2012 state races was at least $6.4 million, more than double the amount spent by StudentsFirst in the states examined by the Center for Public Integrity."  [NEA spending was actually $15.7M in 2012 if you count state and local affiliates, according to the CPI.]

Maps: Nationial NEA Money Doled Out Across The Nation

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 1.10.11 PMHere's another Center on Public Integrity map you might like, showing that top spending groups like the NEA dominate outside spending and plop their contributions all across the nation (in NEA's case, CA, AZ, NM, WI, MI, ME, etc.) This is not state and local money, but rather money doled out from Washington. Click the link to get the interactive version, which allows you to hover over a state and see more dteails (Puppet states: where the money went)

Maps: NEA & State Political Spending 5X Higher Than StudentsFirst

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 11.32.33 AM

"StudentsFirst is a rising power in state political spending, but it didn’t come close to matching the National Education Association’s influence in 2012," notes Center for Public Integrity.  "That year, the National Education Association and its local and state affiliates accounted for roughly $15.7 million in independent spending, nearly five times what relative newcomer StudentsFirst spent." (Where education titans spent)

Quotes: Unions Have Lobbyists, Law Firms, & PACs Too

Quotes2The teachers union has its own squad of in-house lobbyists, along with an outside firm, Strook, Strook & Lavin... [and] its own political action committee, UFT Cope, which in the last two years spent $1,721,960. -- NY Daily News reporter Ben Chapman (Parents and children get caught between charter school feud) h/t EW

Numbers: Unions Have Spent $1.7 Billion On State Politics

101103_PRESS_numbersQTNAccording to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, unions have spent a combined $1.7 billion on state politics since 2000. - David Sirota in PandoDaily.

Quotes: Democrats Divided On Teachers Unions

Quotes2The de Blasio wing of the party sees teachers unions as important institutions standing up for the average guy; the reform wing sees them as just another special interest. - Rotherham and Whitmire in USA Today (De Blasio's school fight)

Books: New Book Chronicles Chicago Union Successes

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 20 09.47The folks at Jacobin (and Kickstarter supporters) have helped put out a new book called Class Action that will be of great interest to many who've followed the Chicago Public Schools saga over the past two or three years.

"Our project with the Chicago Teachers Union’s CORE Caucus and other allies ran long — the final supplement is 118 pages, more than the 50 we had budgeted for. But it was so fantastically designed by Remeike Forbes, and the photography by Katrina Ohstrom and written contributions by CTU President Karen Lewis, economist Dean Baker, Jacobin editors Megan Erickson and Shawn Gude, Joanne Barkan, Lois Weiner, and many others were so strong, we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut it down more or reduce our planned run.

"The booklet will be distributed to educators and school support staff in Chicago, New York, Portland, Newark, Washington DC, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in March to help support rank-and-file activity."

It's been an interesting week in Chicago, what with Neil Steinberg's "pull no punches" profile of Mayor Rahm and Tribune columnist Eric Zorn's turnabout call for CTU head Karen Lewis to run for mayor (rather than resign). 

Take a look and let us know what you think of the book -- a quick scan reveals that it's beautifully designed and photo illustrated.  Might be a good read whether you're inclined to sympathize or criticize.

Quotes: Democratic Divide On Education Hurts Reformers

Quotes2The next Democratic president [may] stop pushing for tougher teacher evaluations and more charter schools and blah blah and will instead push in the other direction. -- Slate's Matt Yglesias (Divided Democrats).

 

Update: National Audit Of Testing Proposed By Senate

Screenshot.16Curious about just how much testing is going on in schools, and frustrated with the anecdotal reports and hyperbolic accounts?  

So was the Senate HELP Commmittee, way back in 2011-2012.

That's right. There was language in the bipartisan Harkin ESEA bill calling for the creation of a national commission that would have, among other things, been charged with "determining the frequency, length, and scheduling of such tests and assessments, and measuring, in hours and days, the student and teacher time spent on testing."

The Senate language was proposed by Senators Alexander and Bennet.  

Indeed, Bennet introduced standalone legislation last year. Colorado has been working on auditing and coordinating tests for several years, according to this 2011 Durango Herald opinion piece. Alexander is listed as a co-sponsor.

Since then, the noise surrounding test proliferation and/or test uses has risen exponentially -- warranted or not, we don't really know.  Chicago and DC have already initiated testing audit/streamlining procedures. 

The TeachPlus report that came out the other day indicated that there were large variations around the country, and that official and classroom views of the testing burden are very different.  However, the report was limited to a small set of districts. [See here for some updated information on why its Chicago numbers were initially wrong.]

I proposed something along the same lines in my latest Scholastic Administrator column: "Secretary Duncan has at least one thing he could do with his remaining time in office that could be both effective at preserving his initiatives and popular with educators and parents. He could begin to address concerns over test proliferation...  Serving as a watchdog against overtesting, he would also effectively be protecting the Common Core assessments during a very vulnerable time."

Hardcore testing opponents would not be appeased, of course -- look no further than the reactions to the New York State attempts to compromise on Common Core implementation for evidence of that. But, depending on the results such an audit provided, everyone else might be reassured and glad to know how different states and districts compare.

No word back yet about whether the USDE had taken a position on the language or not -- or what they think of the idea now.   

Maps: 17 States Forced To Adopt Common Core But Rejected ObamaCare

image from blogs.edweek.org

Much has been made of the fact that states were "forced" to adopt Common Core for financial and other reasons, but if that was the case then why would 17 of them have adopted Common Core but not the Medicaid expansion offered under the Affordable Care Act? EdWeek's Andrew Ujifusa delves into the apparent paradox.

Charts: Check Out The NEA's $5.6M Super PAC Contribution (2013)

The nation's largest teachers union comes in 4th on this CPI listing of top Super PAC donors, with $5.6 million in contributions, right after the DGA, Mike Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer:

image from 31.media.tumblr.comThink about this next time you hear or read someone like Diane Ravitch talking about corporate involvement in education -- or -- even more important! -- are about to say or write something about school reform involvement in electoral politics.  via I Love Charts.

TV Shows: Thinking "West Wing" In A "House Of Cards" World

Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 1.03.12 PMThere are lots of lessons reformers might glean from the NYT Sunday Magazine preview of season two of House of Cards -- greatest among them the dangers of imagining they're working in a "West Wing" world where good ideas, research results, and smarts prevail when the reality is much more "House Of Cards" (in which idealism and book smarts matter less than street savvy and knowing how to work the media).

Of particular note, the article focuses on the young(ish) show-runner, who worked on the Howard Dean campaign and watched as it responded to the press frenzy surrounding the "Dean Scream" by taking the higher ground rather than responding vigorously -- and in the end let Dean's opponents (and the media) define him and derail his campaign.

Sound familiar? 

To be sure, both shows are exaggerated, fictionalized versions of reality.  But there are real-world historical lessons to be gleaned from the show and article.  

For reform opponents, the dangers illustrated by the show are the ever-present possibility of public revulsion and political excommunication that would likely follow revelation of cut-throat tactics no matter how worthwhile or well-intended the aims.   

 Previous posts:  House Of Cards Revisits 2000's ESEA Authorization EdWeek's Take On "House Of Cards"

Quotes: How To Pull The Levers Of Power

Quotes2Organizing is about more than having a good idea. It's about knowing how to pull the levers of power: by having strength in numbers at a board meeting, by having a clear, consistent "ask," and by being prepared to respond to any and all objections. – Paraphrase of LEE's Joy Silvern in EdWeek (Teach For America Spinoff Helps Alumni Gain Influence)

Charts: So Much For All Those "I'm Quitting" Testimonials

You'd think from the way it sounds online these days that teaching is the worst profession ever and that teachers were leaving in droves, but this new chart from CAP suggests that's not the case:


image from www.americanprogress.orgSure, an awful economy gets some of the credit for folks staying in the classroom even if they'd rather be doing something else.  But reform critics and gullible and/or sympathetic reporters might have contributed to the apparently false impression of droves of departures more than has happened in reality. Teachers surveyed by CAP don't indicate any widespread or massive unhappiness with their treatment or with Obama era reform efforts. 

Weekend Reading: Best Education Articles You Probably Missed

Some fascinating reads from over the long MLK weekend, including a bunch of stuff about politics, advocacy, and over-reaching, a smattering of pieces about parenting and teaching, and the usual edtech trends and troubles:

Flickr albastrica mititicaHow Organized Minorities Defeat Disorganized Majorities - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society http://ht.ly/sLTTt 

Extreme voices: Interest groups and the misrepresentation of issue publics - Harvard Shorenstein Center http://ht.ly/sKTyF 

Manufacturing Dissent: What happens when “community activists” falsely claim they have community support http://ht.ly/sMqr0  @petercook

Teachers Unions and Democracy | Jacobin http://ht.ly/sKNMt  Lois Weiner on internal pressures @rweingarten faces leading @AFTunion

What If These TED Talks Were Horribly, Unspeakably Wrong? The Awl http://ht.ly/sIq3h  [incl Gladwell, Mitra]

Why Adolescence Is More Brutal for Parents Than Teenagers -- New York Magazine http://ht.ly/sIpm0 

More items below and via @alexanderrusso

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Best Education Articles You Probably Missed" »

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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.