Here's the latest in a series of occasional case studies I've been doing the past few years, this one about an education-focused PAC called Democrats For Education Reform that was an early backer of Barack Obama and had lots of early success, but has struggled in recent years as its oponents (the teachers unions, mostly) have shifted tactics and politics have gotten more polarized. It came out late last week. Read it all here.
This picture, via Whitney Tilson, encapsulates those early days.
However, a new case study out today from AEI (written by me) tells how those early successes were blunted, then turned into liabilities during the last four years: how critics began labeling DFER as part of "corporate" reform efforts, how the teachers unions turned Common Core concerns into a rallying cry, and -- most disappointingly, perhaps -- DFER generally stood by as social justice issues (immigration, integration, police violence) grew in importance.
Meantime, DFER failed to create the Emily's List-style donor base that would broaden its support and free it up from charter advocates.
With the Democratic platform amended by reform critics and the Democratic convention coming up later this month, there's no better time to look at what DFER's done, what it's become, and where it might go next.
New DFER head Shavar Jeffries says that he's going to make DFER a deep part of the Democratic Party. But there's not much sign so far that DFER has changed, and from recent events it seems like he's got his work cut out for him.
Related posts: Meet DFER Head Shavar Jeffries.
In case you haven't seen it, here's the new UFT ad touting some of the Common Core-related changes coming from NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (UFT Airs Common Core Ad). See also NY Post: UFT spends $1M thanking Cuomo for Common Core backtrack.
Or, listen to this MLK Day WBUR segment featuring Deray McKesson (Black Lives Matter And Civil Rights In Modern America).
This infographic from Vox shows that it's out with a whimper rather than a bang when it comes to focusing national attention on education, even if you combine the "schools" column with the "education" column.
Click here for a PDF version of the map, and here for an explainer. Take a look and let us know if you see anything that catches your eye.
So 50CAN's newly updated advocacy handbook -- think of it as open-source advocacy advice -- notes something that many have found the hard way: getting a law passed is only the beginning of the process. But there's lots more, including case studies from Minnesota, Connecticut, and Maryland and it's available in all sorts of portable formats: online, iBook, Kindle, PDF.
This Sacramento Bee story (What’s next for Michelle Rhee, once the national face of education activism?) tells you what you already know: that Rhee has pretty much dropped off the face of the earth when it comes to education advocacy.
What's alluded later on in the piece is just how different (and perhaps much-diminished) her organization, StudentsFirst, has been operating since she stepped down, Pope Ratzinger-like, from day to day oversight.
In contrast to the Rhee era, StudentsFirst under Jim Blew is much more low key, and focused on fewer states (10 vs. 17). The organization claims to have helped enact 40 laws including "a new charter school measure in Alabama, an enhanced charter school law in Ohio and a teacher-evaluation bill in Michigan."
Back in 2012, however, StudentsFirst was involved in a host of state and local races (see below), funding both Democratic and Republican candidates.
Three years later, I've come across little if any sign of them having been involved in any of last week's big races (Philadelphia, Kentucky, St. Paul, Denver, JeffCo, Seattle, etc.). Though I haven't confirmed it independently, I'm told that StudentsFirst wasn't directly involved in any of these races.
Jeffco school board members who pushed controversial changes ousted in recall ChalkbeatCO: After two years of political acrimony in the Colorado’s second largest school district, three conservative school board members were easily swept out of office Tuesday in a recall election that cost more than a million dollars and attracted national attention. Replacing them are three candidates backed by a constituency of well-connected parents, high-profile county Democrats and the teachers union. They will serve the rest of the recall targets’ four-year terms. See also HuffPost, Washington Post.
St. Paul school board: 4 union-backed newcomers elected TwinCities.com: The union wanted more input on the district's major initiatives, such as the mainstreaming of special-education students and a shift away from out-of-school suspensions. Several candidates in April sought the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement under the banner of Caucus for Change, a union-backed, anti-incumbent movement of mostly teachers and parents. The four who emerged ran as a unified team, promising to hold district leaders accountable for missed enrollment goals, sagging test scores and racial inequities.
Four newcomers to join Seattle School Board Seattle Times: With incumbent Marty McLaren losing to challenger Leslie Harris, four newcomers will make up the majority of the seven-member Seattle School Board.
In Texas, Elementary Schools Mete Out More Punishment to Black Students Washington Post: An analysis of discipline in elementary schools across Texas shows that black students, especially boys, are suspended and expelled at disproportionately high rates and are labeled as troublemakers as early as pre-kindergarten. The study by Texas Appleseed focuses on the second-most populous state, but it mirrors school discipline patterns nationwide. It also comes as concern grows about suspensions, which researchers have linked to greater risks of academic failure, dropping out of high school and involvement in the juvenile justice system.
Case Tests Whether New York Underfunds Schools WSJ: The governor’s lawyers have sought to dismiss the case, saying state dollars for education rose significantly in recent years. In state Supreme Court in Manhattan, JusticeManuel Mendez will hear arguments on the case Wednesday. A key question is whether the state has a constitutional obligation to abide by a 2007 funding formula, which was passed by the Legislature after years of litigation in a case brought by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.
Two Chicago schools inch closer to integration after divided vote WBEZ: Ultimately, the council does not have jurisdiction to approve a merger, but Ogden principal Michael Beyer said he wouldn’t move forward with the idea without the council’s support. Although the vote was largely symbolic, six members of the 13-member council chose to abstain.
As Transgender Students Make Gains, Schools Hesitate at Bathrooms NYT: Many schools have crafted policies that require transgender students to use private changing and showering facilities, drawing complaints of discrimination. See also NBC News.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
I had the chance to chat for a few minutes yesterday afternoon with Naveed Amalfard, one of the co-founders of America's Teachers whose efforts have been written up recently in the LA Times among other places.
Describing the effort as a "a political startup," Amalfard laughs when asked and says "No, this is not a stunt." The organization is building a list of supporters, tolerating unsolicited queries like mine, and building out as much as it can given its two main heads are both still fulltime teachers.
Funders aren't disclosed, but the organization's supporters include former DNC head Howard Dean and former Green Dot head Steve Barr. The ultimate goal is to raise $1-2 million this cycle, says Amalfard. According to this recent LA Times article, they've raised much less than that so far.
The question that everyone seems to want to know, says Amafard, is which side they're on. "I get asked this all the time. We take money from all sides." But folks aren't entirely convinced, he says. They keep asking. "I know that it's literally unbelievable for some people, but we are not a proxy for anyone."
To be sure, the organization has picked three priorities (college costs, UPK, and the DREAM Act) that sidestep hot-button education reform items. "Let's solve these three issues first," he says.
Meantime, the organization is legally prohibited from contact with the Clinton campaign it supports. He doesn't know if the campaign is even aware of its existence. He just wants his candidate to make education a central part of her agenda. A voter pledge drive is coming up later this month. Their inspirations are Democratic strategists David Plouffe and David Axelrod, according to Amalfard.
Other inspirations might be Lawrence Lessig, whose recently-shuttered presidential campaign was largely a vehicle to raise issues surrounding campaign finance, and DFER, the reform-minded Democratic organization created to use campaign contributions and other forms of political advocacy to pressure candidates. (Is there a PAC associated with the Badass Teachers, or with Diane Ravitch's NEPC, or United Opt Out? )
Meantime, anyone who wants to give to the effort should go here.
Related posts: A Teacher-Led Campaign PAC.
One of the things that Michael Grunwald gives Team Duncan credit for in Politico's long feature about the not-yet-lameduck Education Secretary is seeing the anti-testing momentum building earlier than many (think 2011) and figuring out how to help his boss avoid unnecessary criticism:
“The union needed a target for its anger, and he was happy to take a bullet for the president.”
That's raised some eyebrows, including from EIA's Mike Antonucci.
Writes the observant union watchdog: "If true – and I would expect vigorous denials if anyone bothered to inquire – I might actually have to adjust my cynicism meter into the red zone. This is manipulation of the union’s most devoted activists on a grand scale."
Well, not so fast there.
What's not mentioned about the anecdote -- which I have not confirmed independently (Dorie? Justin? Massie? Daren?) is that the NEA isn't necessarily as dumb as it might look from this move. Its challenge was to express members' frustrations with the direction with the administration was taking without hurting the chances of the Democratic President they still wanted in the White House.
This strategy has been noted several times in the past -- Jonathan Chait from New York Magazine comes to mind. So however smart Duncan's staff was getting him involved in his own roasting, the union was arguably just as smart aiming its fire at Duncan not Obama.
Still reading? Here's the 13 things.
We were constantly having to repair and undo and clarify facts... It is incredible to me how misinformation gets spread so effectively. Our response to combat that could have been better. We underestimated that.
- Cami Anderson in the NYT (Schools Chief in Newark Says Debate Lost Its Focus)
Check out this video from yesterday's Brookings event, Getting education bills to the finish line, which among other things includes former education staffers' best guesses at the chances that Congress will act on ESEA reauthorization this year. (Or if you prefer, check out the twitterstream using the hashtag #EdBills.)
My favorite moment is when Bethany Little highlights the impact of waivers on Congressional momentum in 2011. What's yours? Featuring Chingos, DeLisle, Little, Flanagan, and West.
Next time, maybe they could include a leadership staff alumnus to give the larger, more political perspective. Committee staff are great and smart, but also sometimes in their silos.
All I ever wanted to do was be a teacher. It must have been miserable to be one of my dolls, because I used to line them up and teach school. -- MA Senator Elizabeth Warren in the New Yorker (Elizabeth Warren’s Virtual Candidacy)
Here's a first look at Dale Rusakoff's forthcoming book about Newark, titled The Prize and scheduled for release in September.
"Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, and Cory Booker were ready to reform our failing schools," proclaims the book promo copy. "What they got instead was an education."
"Their plans soon ran into a constituency not so easily moved — Newark’s key education players, fiercely protective of their billion-dollar-per-annum system. It’s a prize that, for generations, has enriched seemingly everyone, except Newark’s students."
Rusakoff's writing on Newark has appeared in the New Yorker
"The Prize is a portrait of a titanic struggle over the future of education for the poorest kids, and a cautionary tale for those who care about the shape of America’s schools."
See more here.
Rusakoff is appearing at this week's EWA conference in Chicago. It's a big week for education book. Greg Toppo's book about learning games is out this week, as is Ken Robinson's book on schools and creativity.
Related posts: New Yorker Digs Into Newark Reform Backlash; What They're Saying About That New Yorker Article; New Yorker Reporter Talks Newark; Fact-Checking Cami Anderson; White Reporters & Students Of Color.
George Hall Elementary. 99% black. 98% student poverty. All proficient. You're not ready for this discussion until you believe in our kids.— Citizen Stewart (@citizenstewart) February 24, 2015
For the last few years, claims of success by reform supporters -- a high-poverty school where students are learning at high levels, say -- have regularly been met with detailed takedowns from the likes of Diane Ravitch or Gary Rubinstein, followed by a swarm of followups from reform critics and allies.
But over the weekend things took a somewhat different turn (at least on Sunday, when I last checked in), and it was the mostly white, mostly male reform critics like Rubinstein and Cody who were on the hotseat for expressing a "belief gap" from a handful of Chris Stewart kicked things off (and storified the exchange below).
A number of new voices showed up -- new to me, at least -- in addition to familiar names like Anthony Cody, John Thompson, and Gary Rubinstein. As you'll see, the issue of research into teacher bias came up several times, including studies like this and this. And
It wasn't pretty, or conclusive, or anything else. Both sides of this debate have long sufferered from too few black and brown voices and leaders, and still do. But it was somewhat different from the Twitter exchanges I've been following and writing about for the last few years.
As you may recall, 50CAN launched in 2010 at roughly the same time as StudentsFirst, but has followed an interesting and somewhat distinct path in the intervening five years compared to other national networks of reform-minded advocacy groups like StudentsFirst and Stand For Children and DFER that all seemed to sprout up around the same time.
Check out the organization's new state-by-state goals Policy Goals, which are largely state-developed rather than predetermined by the national or its funders, and you'll get a sense for what I mean. I'm also told that the organization doesn't pick states to go into anymore, but rather gives out planning grants to folks who think they might be interested in putting something together -- 80 in 28 states last year -- and go from there. Call it an advocacy incubator. They're also running a Policy 101 course (there's still time to sign up), and advocacy workshops.
Related posts: AEI Philanthropy/Advocacy Event (#NewEdPhil) HotSeat Interview: 50CAN Creator Marc Porter Magee; 50CAN Action Fund Focuses On RI & MN; Winn Leaving 50CAN To Head New TFA Initiative; Where The Shiny New Advocacy Groups Are* [were].
Here's an 11-minute Fox News segment featuring Texs Governor Greg Abbott and former EdSec Bill Bennett on the Republican divide over Common Core, the Presidential politics shaping candidates' positions, etc. Transcript here.
Pegged to the court hearing taking place today in Staten Island, Vanessa Grigoriadis' profile of Campbell Brown in New York magazine (The Most Controversial Woman in School Reform) starts out with the somewhat expected description of what Brown looks like but manages to hit some interesting and useful points along the way. Read it all below. Image used with permission. Photo credit: Dina Litovsky.
Administration Doubling Down on K-12 Priorities, Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan Declares PK12: Duncan is making it clear he doesn't think that Republicans in Congress—who could introduce draft proposals that make significant changes to federal testing mandates as early as this week—are on the right track.
Arne Duncan Wants To Drop 'No Child Left Behind' — But Keep Its Tests NPR: The secretary of education calls the law "tired," asserting that much of it ought to be scrapped. But he still wants to keep the annual exams that serve as the law's centerpiece.
Duncan lays out priorities for education law: Testing, preschool funding, teacher evals Washington Post: Education Secretary Arne Duncan spelled out his priorities for a new federal education law Monday, calling on Congress to build in funding for preschool, add $1 billion annually in federal aid for schools with the neediest students, and maintain the federal mandate that says states must test students every year in math and reading. See also: Education groups, leaders weigh in on Duncan’s speech.
White House Still Backs Annual Testing in Schools NYT: Arne Duncan outlined the administration’s priorities for a revision of No Child Left Behind, indicating that testing was important to measuring achievement.
Obama to Call for New Laws on Data Hacking, Student Privacy NPR: The Obama Administration wants to create some new regulations that would alert consumers to the potentially unavoidable dangers facing them in the era of Sony's hacks. See also Daily Caller.
NYC DOE reveals elusive data for 13 charter schools: How many students leave each year ChalkbeatNY: The limited student mobility data challenges that [Farina] argument, to a degree. The schools with the highest average mobility rates over the past four years are also the ones that are performing the worst academically.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
Over the weekend, newish StudentsFirst head Jim Blew sent out an email explaining the need for what he describes as "controversial, sometimes uncomfortable work" and outlining some of the his plans for the organization in 2015.
"At its core, StudentsFirst is a political and advocacy operation targeting a few states," writes Blew, who identifies himself and much of the senior staff as Democrats, with a common focus on performance systems and choice.
As has been reported previously, StudentsFirst is pulling back in some places and staying out of others and so won't be operating in big states like Texas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Louisiana.
At the national level, says Blew, "We will continue to speak the truth about our broken system and the need for policy changes, but we will also endeavor to do so with diplomacy and without malice." He says that teachers unions and their allies spent an estimated $500M over the last two years to block reform and push their own ideas.
Related posts: Rhee Departure Leaves Movement Without Ravitch-Like Figure; Reviewing StudentsFirst's Union Positions; Rhee Takes On Testing Opt-Outers; Insult-Hurling Coming Mostly From Reform Critics; Too Much Focus On Testing, Agrees Rhee; New PBS Documentary Humanizes Rhee's Tenure; Rhee Cites DC Precedent On Collaboration. Image used with permission.
Don't be put off by the outfit (slim grey suit with pink pocket square), the TED-like bells and whistles, or even the point of view (pro-reform). This might be the best education video since Jonah Edelman's infamous 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival explainer. Or maybe it's just the best of the week, and there's not much else going on.
In this "how to make the case for education reform" video, the president of AEI tells his audience something that pretty much everyone in education advocacy has come to understand at this point, whatever side they're on: "You better make it moral, you better fight for people, and you better do it quick."
Watch it, tell us what you think (it's very much of the mind that reform ideas are fine they just haven't been communicated effectively), and extra points for calling out names from the audience reaction shots.
*Apologies for mis-spelling Jonah's name -- it's Edelman with an "E."
The 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)
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.
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.
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."
It 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.
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.
Mary 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)
There 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)
If 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.
MediaMatters notes that educators make up just one in ten of the guests on cable news segments related to education, which Valerie Strauss regards as a big problem.
MSNBC does the best percentage-wise in terms of booking educators as guests -- but not by that much. CNN does the worst. Fox -- this may surprise you -- comes in the middle.
What jumps out at me even more than this issue is that there are so few education segments, over all.
Granted, Morning Joe is not included -- a favorite for Randi Weingarten and Campbell Brown alike. And NBC News still does a fair amount of education coverage, along with PBS NewsHour.
But still. Looking at evening news shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, there were just 185 total guests in 10 months. CNN booked the fewest - by far. Fox and MSNBC came in much higher, quantity-wise.
Take a look at the full MM story here. Image used courtesy MediaMatters.
Watching Newark superintendent Cami Anderson's interview with AEI's Rick Hess from last week, a few things are clear:
First and foremost is that Anderson's initiatives may be much more nuanced and less top-down than critics have claimed (and the media has repeated). For example, she says that there have been no school closings as part of her plan, and that several revisions and changes were made in response to community input. Is that accurate? Someone needs to check. By which I mean the WSJ, NJ Spotlight, Hechinger, ChalkbeatNY, or NYT.
Second, and just as important for someone to figure out, is whether her claims that there's a small but "well-funded" effort to block her efforts are accruate or not. The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton chronicled the protest against her, (a busload of Newark parents) but doesn't tell us who was behind the effort, if anyone. Did they decide to go among themselves? Who paid for the bus? Dropout Nation's RiShawn Biddle notes that CWA, "which has been an ally if AFT's NJ affiliate, has funded NJ Communities United to tune of $251K."
Related posts: Last Night's Raucous Newark Schools Meeting; Newark Officials Discuss School Improvement, Local Control; New Yorker Digs Into Newark Reform Backlash; Union Chief Hopes Chicago Follows Newark.
Check out my latest Scholastic column here if you want to read about how media coverage of the 2014 midterms shifted sharply during the first few days after the results were known -- and how upon examination nobody's claims of victory seemed as strong as was being claimed.
One issue that didn't make it into the piece was just how flat-footed the teachers unions seemed initially in their responses to the reformers' claims of victory, as in the AFT canceling a press conference without considering how that would look (or whether there was an opportunity to counter the reform narrative before it got rolling).
Another key angle is that the media covering the midterms and some of those commenting on them initially seemed to take the reformers' claims of victory at face value rather than taking a more skeptical view of the claims or a harder look at the results.
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.
Obama's Forthcoming Immigration Plan to Protect Millions From Deportation PK12: President Obama on Thursday will announce steps he will take to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States from deportation, a move that could have implications for millions of America's K-12 schoolchildren. See also Vox story on impact on K-12 students with undocumented parents.
No Child Left Behind, Pre-K Programs Could Be On New Congress' Agenda NPR: With Republican majorities in the House and Senate, Congress may push for change on several big education issues, including a rewrite of the law known as No Child Left Behind. But it's also clear that, even on classroom issues that seem to have bipartisan support — including Pre-K funding — Democrats and Republicans may have trouble compromising.
Passing Rate Declines by 20% as State Uses New Certification Exams for Teachers NYT: The fall in certifications resembles, in some respects, the state’s experience with the Common Core, a set of more rigorous learning standards for students that has been adopted by New York and most other states.
Wash. school district tries arming administrators to protect students from shootings PBS NewsHour: A school shooting north of Seattle last month left five students dead, reviving questions of safety and violence for students and teachers. Another school district in Washington State is answering that question in an unconventional manner: arming school administrators.
Obama Makes Pitch to Expand High-Speed Internet Access to Schools NYT: The president, in a respite from the gridlock and sniping in Washington, also signed a bill that changes the child care rules for low-income families.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
East Coast types might think that how things are playing out in New York is how they're playing out nationally, but these new poll results from California (USC via EdSource) show widespread (though declining) unfamiliarity among the public about the Common Core and a wide range of views on the standards. To see the poll data itself, click here, find the link, download a copy and find the charts you want on page 2. Images used with permission. Anyone seen state by state polling data comparing views from one place to another?
Jeb Bush, Common Core and 2016 WSJ: Races in which Common Core was raised as a campaign issue in the midterm election produced a mixed verdict. School superintendents who raised concerns about the national standards won in Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina. Arizona also elected an anti-Common Core governor, Republican Doug Ducey. On the other hand, Democratic governors criticized by their opponents for supporting Common Core, including Andrew Cuomo in New York and John Hickenlooper in Colorado, won re-election.
Department Of Education Investigating K-12 School Districts For Mishandling Sexual Assault HuffPost: As of Nov. 12, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights was investigating 24 elementary and secondary schools for potential mishandling of sexual violence incidents under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, according to numbers provided by the department to The Huffington Post [see list below]. One of these districts is under investigation for two cases, meaning that a total of 25 incidents are being investigated. Thirteen of these investigations were initiated in 2014.
Sen. Tom Harkin, Force on Education Policy, Begins Retirement Farewells PK12: Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who's set to retire after nearly four decades in Congress, gave what sounded like his closing oration late Tuesday afternoon on the Senate floor. Though I've been assured it wasn't his official swan song, it was some dress rehearsal.
Billions more in spending for school Internet connections under FCC proposal Hechinger Report: Afte If the additional funding is approved, it would bring the cap on total yearly spending on this program to about $3.9 billion.
Pearson Charitable Foundation to Close Its Doors EdWeek: The activities of the charitable foundation came under harsh scrutiny last year, when the not-for-profit organizaiton agreed to pay $7.7 million in a settlement with New York state, which accused it of improperly using assets to benefit its for-profit arm, Pearson Inc.
ClassDojo Adopts Deletion Policy for Student Data NYT: The maker of ClassDojo, a popular classroom app, said that starting in January it plans to keep students’ behavioral records for only one school year.
More news below and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.
Unions must recreate themselves to be relevant not only to the leaders who thrive on internal and external political drama, but to the average member who is a school secretary in Washington, first grade teacher in Minnesota, or higher education faculty in Florida. Relevancy means focusing first and foremost on the learning lives of students and the professional lives of educators. - Former NEA bigwig Bill Raabe in EIA (Former High-Ranking NEA Staffer Speaks Out)
So-called "overtesting" is probably the easiest story on the education beat to do right now, and I'm no saint I did one too last winter for the Atlantic's education page. But there aren't any real numbers out there and so it's very easy to fall into using eye-catching anecdotes that may or may not be representative and also to fall prey to the presumption that overtesting is a thing when we really don't know that is.
That's I think what happened to this new NPR education story (Testing: How Much Is Too Much?), which while far from the worst of the overtesting stories I've seen lately would have done better to focus less on critics of testing (Brockett and Jasper) and extreme examples and more on the reality that we don't know as much as we'd like about the prevalence of testing in schools over all and that there are folks out there (including civil rights groups) who think that testing is essential for school accountability and are worried about losing annual tests or going back to a previous era when the public didn't really know how students were doing.
All that being said, there aren't any obviously sketchy or misleading numbers in the NPR piece like last week's NYT story included, and are some great bits, too: There are some vivid #edgifs showing a kid who has to take lots of end of year exams that are fun to look at (I've tweeted and Tumblred them but can't show them here without permission). I'm really glad that NPR used and linked to the Chiefs/Great Cities survey of large districts, and the CAP study of 14 districts. I didn't know that the White House had put out a statement on the issue.
Last but not least, the NPR story addresses the notion that tests have gotten added without any attempt to remove their predecessors in a fun, stylish way: " The CCSSO survey describes testing requirements that have seemingly multiplied on their own without human intervention, like hangers piling up in a closet." The layering on of testing regimens without regard to burden or legacy testing will, I am guessing, turn out to be at the root of much of what some parents and teachers and testing critics are clamoring about.
Thanks to Vox for pulling up these before (green) and after (yellow) bar graphs showing how Kentucky and New York kids did on Common Core-aligned assessments, which gives us a rough idea of how kids in other states will do this spring. Click here to read more about the projected dropoffs in 2015. Image courtesy Vox.
Kevin Huffman Leaving Post as Tennessee K-12 Chief State EdWatch: Huffman was appointed state education commissioner in 2011, and has overseen major changes in Tennessee education policy, many of them tied to the common core. See also ChalkbeatTN.
In DC to talk education, Newark schools chief faces protest over reforms Washington Post: Cami Anderson, who runs the largest school district in New Jersey, came to Washington on Thursday to give a quiet talk about education at a think tank. But the staid event quickly turned dramatic when a busload of angry residents followed Anderson from Newark in a display of the slugfest politics that have infused debate over public education across the country.
Common Core Reading: The Struggle Over Struggle NPR: This idea, that kids really need to grapple with complex reading material, says a lot about the soul of the Common Core. And it's controversial, raising fears among some parents and educators that kids, in the process, are being asked to struggle too much.
A Botched Study Raises Bigger Questions NPR: The report attempted to use an approach called value-added modeling. And value-added is currently the golden fleece for anyone questing after what's really working in education. Value-added models promise to provide a detailed, nuanced picture of school performance — to screen out the background noise and zero in on the impact of individual schools and even individual classrooms. But value-added modeling, it turns out, is really, really hard.
Decades of Neglect Show Starkly as Indian Schools Cry Out for Repairs NYT: Officials are working to improve congressionally funded schools in 23 states on reservations with decaying facilities where students struggle to meet academic standards and teacher turnover is high. See also AP.
Young and inexperienced, a new principal tries to turn around a New Orleans charter school Hechinger Report: “We know effective teachers are crucial to moving our students forward,” says Hardy, pausing for a few seconds before she enters a second-grade classroom. “We have good teachers. My challenge is this: How do I, as a school leader, grow their effectiveness and grow it more quickly?”
More news below and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.
The opposition to the common core has been mostly fueled by President Obama and his administration attempting to take credit for and co-opt a state-led initiative.
- Jeb Bush in Education Next (Talking education policy with Florida’s former governor)
Kudos to NYT Miami bureau chief Lizette Alvarez, who tweeted out last night that the eye-popping 60-80 days per year figure she cited for testing days in Florida in her Monday story wasn't an "every kid, all day situation."
60 to 80 days figure is not an every kid, all day situation. It varies. Some kids scheduled to take some kind of test, some part of the day— Lizette Alvarez (@LizetteNYT) November 11, 2014
It's not quite a formal correction, but to be fair you could read the original line different ways. Here's the post that generated at least some of the questions about the original NYT story: Are There *Really* 60-80 Days "Dedicated" To Testing In FLA?.
Thanks also to everyone at FairTest, the FLDOE, EWA, and ExcelinED for helping try and dig out the facts behind the figure, which turned out to be the total number of days during which testing could be conducted -- the "window" of time rather than the actual number of days kids spend testing. Obiously, we still need a simple, comprable way to talk about testing burdens from district to district and school to school. Where's the NCEE when you need them?
Related posts: Please Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos!.
3 reasons Common Core is especially controversial in New York - Vox http://ow.ly/E7lXk
EdWeek bill tracker shows 2 Common Core rollback proposals have made it into law (so far) http://ow.ly/E7yIU They're MO & NC
Head of Tulane-affiliated think tank (& former Chicago charter guru) John Ayers quits after release of flawed study http://ow.ly/E7EWc
Salman Khan is changing the way kids learn - Portrait by Annie Leibovitz http://vnty.fr/11e1mfV
All this and more at @alexanderrusso.
Education Post, everybody's favorite new education nonprofit, recently debuted its Red Pen Page, where it rebuts ridiculous claims made by advocates and fact-checks horrible stories reported by journalists.
In the first few entries, which debuted last week, EP takes on Change the Stakes in NY and the Poughkeepsie Journal for various perceived errors and unsubstantiated claims.
It's an interesting and potentially useful strategy that mirrors a lot of the writing I've done here in recent weeks and months.
There are lots of claims being made by advocates (on both sides) and mistakes being made by journalists (of all kinds). And the format -- red pen marks in faux handwriting in the right margin (look where the green arrow leads you) is visually appealing.
However, the approach still relies on people to find the posts on EP's site (rather than sending them out via email or clogging up everybody's Twitter feed), and I'm not sure whether EP has enough reach or credibility (yet?) to make folks stand up and pay attention to what they say.