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Update: Panorama Unveils Teacher Survey (To Help Evaluate Principals)

Wide-deskThe idea that quick, candid surveys can be useful in schools and classrooms isn't new at this point. They've been popularized since a few years ago when it was reported that students' views of teachers correlated with teachers' abilities to improve student achievement.

But now one of the outfits that works on these kinds of things is taking it a step further -- or deepening the approach, you might say -- by developing quick and dirty survey instruments for administrators to ask teachers.

The new Panorama Teacher Survey is mean to help administrators understand what teachers are thinking and how they're doing. They can be used diagnostically, or for schools where teachers help evaluate principals. They're faster and cheaper than a big Gallup kind of poll.  Their competition is the New Teacher Center's TELL Survey.  

"We're piloting with a number of schools right now and over 50 schools have already started using the free teacher survey platform since we launched," says Panorama's Jack McDermott. Meantime, the Student Survey has been "accessed by over 4,000 educators worldwide" and has been "district-wide in several of the largest districts in country and has been approved by several states for use in evaluation measures."

Related posts: Yeah, But What's Your Panorama™ Score? (2012), State of the Art: Grading Teachers, With [Survey] Data From Class (NYT 2014)

Morning Video: "Best Kept Secret" (Top-Rated on Netflix)

Topping Vox's list of The 19 best-reviewed movies on Netflix right now is "Best Kept Secret."  "The [2013] film tracks Janet Mino, a Newark public school special education teacher whose class of teen boys on the autism spectrum is about to graduate into a world loath to give them a chance." Check out the trailer above. Or watch a parent talk about becoming a Common Core activist (via NBC News).

AM News: Shorter, Combined PARCC Tests For Next Year

Board shortens Common Core-aligned tests known as PARCC Washington Post: The Common Core-aligned tests that made their debut in 11 states and the District this spring will be approximately 90 minutes shorter next year, a change that comes after parents, teachers and school administrators expressed frustration with the amount of time devoted to the new exams. See also AP (States move to reduce time spent on Common Core-based exam), EdWeek (PARCC Shortens Its Common-Core Test)

Kids Cheer, Officials Jeer As Computer Glitches Delay Testing In Virginia WAMU: School officials from across Virginia are scrambling to catch up after three days of computer problems that delayed standardized testing. See also Washington Post: Va. testing interrupted three times because of issues with Pearson system.

Republican Focus Group Shows Jeb Bush's Support for Common Core No Big Deal PK12: The focus group was asked if they thought the common core was important, and if they were bothered by Bush's position regarding the standards.

Poorest Students Often Miss Out on Gifted Classes Education Week: But with more than half of public school students now coming from low-income families and deepening concentrations of poverty in many communities, standard screening and pullout programs may not be enough to find and support the most vulnerable talented students. In response, more educators and researchers who work with gifted students are calling for another look at who is considered gifted and how schools can locate and support those students. See also HuffPost: African-Americans Who Attended Desegregated Schools Have Better Language Skills Years Later 

Ouch! Hedge funders stung by Obama, Clinton barbs CNBC: The American Federation of Teachers' president, Randi Weingarten, cited the kindergarten comparison in speeches this month, for example, and a group called the Hedge Clippers have targeted New York-area billionaires like Paul Singer, Bill Ackman and ...

Education Gaps Pose Looming Crisis for U.S. Economy National Journal: The fastest-growing segment of the workforce is also the least educated. That's a problem as employers struggle to fill high-skill jobs.

CPS Confirms Data Breach Impacting 4,000 Students NBC Chicago: The names and personal information of thousands of Chicago Public Schools students was inadvertently provided to five potential vendors earlier this year, district officials confirmed Tuesday.  

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

Continue reading "AM News: Shorter, Combined PARCC Tests For Next Year" »

Educators & Advocates Need Authentic Conversations About Race, Too

Some Fieldston parents and NY Magazine readers may be concerned about the progressive private school's racial awareness program described in this week's magazine (Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade?), but not everyone's quite so bothered by the effort.  

As described in the magazine feature by Lisa Miller, the school asked elementary school kids to identify themselves by race and then separated them -- temporarily -- as part of a program to deepen the students' understanding of racism and differences. "It would foster interracial empathy by encouraging children to recognize differences without disrespect while teaching kids strategies, and the language, for navigating racial conflict."

The program is mandatory, and operates during the school day, and start with kids as young as eight. "In 45-minute sessions, children would talk about what it was like to be a member of that race; they would discuss what they had in common with each other and how they were different, how other people perceived them, rightly or wrongly, based on appearance. Disinhibited by the company of racially different peers, the children would, the school hoped, feel free to raise questions and make observations that in mixed company might be considered impolite."

Designed by Fieldston's Mariama Richards, the "affinity-group" program was meant to foster authentic conversation but it felt to some parents like a step backwards -- like segregation, like overkill. It wasn't a comfortable discussion in ethics class."This same parent who sends her children to Lower because she values diversity tends not to dwell on the fact that she has few close friends of color; that her neighborhood is almost entirely white; that her nanny or housecleaner or doorman has brown skin."

Racial and demographic diversity has long been a goal for progressive private schools, but mixing kids together is just a start. Efforts like these have been popping up in different places around the country.  (My progressive private alma mater, Chicago's Francis Parker, just hired a director of diversity who seems like she's going to push the envelope for ostensibly liberal parents.) Fort Greene's Community Roots, a diverse progressive charter school, asked mixed groups of parents to engage in group activities outside of school in order to promote understanding and deepen classroom diversity.

See also this CNN segment featuring concerned parents:

 
ctn pkg carroll race experiments classrooms_00005030
 
"One of New York City's most elite and progressive elementary schools is conducting an experiment on race by separating students. CNN's Jason Carroll reports."

The reaction so far to the article has been generally supportive of the effort at Fieldston:

Education writer Dana Goldstein, now at The Marshall Project, noted on Twitter that the piece "perfectly captures moment in which young(ish) progressive educators confront parents who hold old notions of "colorblindness." Once unusual, racial awareness programs (the invisible white backpack, etc.) are more commonly part of college than they used to be. "My demographic wouldn't be shocked if our kids were separated by race and asked to discuss it in "safe space," noted Goldstein. "We've been there."

Over at Vox, Jenée Desmond-Harris's post (Why a New York City school's idea to (temporarily) separate kids by race is smart) lists the many advantages of the Fieldston program, especially teaching the lessons that "ignoring race and racism doesn't make these things go away, and that white people have a racial identity, too."

Not everyone is a big fan of the approach being taken, however.  Responding to the earlier NYT piece written by Kyle Spencer, New America's Connor Williams wrote a post titled The Limits of Talking About Privilege to Teenagers

NYT editor Amy Virshup thought that the NY Magazine story might not offer much that readers hadn't already learned. "But @KyleYSpencer story on same topic ran in Feb., w/pix of real kids, not models. What's new?"

The issue of overkill -- not so much on the issue but perhaps the controversy at this particular school -- is also the focus of a recent blog post I wrote over at The Grade:  Another Story About Fieldston’s Controversial Racial Awareness Program.  

One thing I'd add is that it's not just kids who need more and better racial awareness programs but also educators and advocates.  Teachers -- predominantly white and middle class -- need space and time to talk about and understand not only their students' backgrounds but also their own.  And advocates -- reformers and critics alike, also predominantly white and college-educated -- would do well with more of the same.

Making sure that conference panels and speakers and attendees are more diverse is one step, as is engaging more diverse groups of stakeholders (not just mobilizing them). Panels about racial awareness or race-focused issues are good, too.  But what about taking it one step further and doing a version of what Fieldston is doing and let adults engaged in education talk together in affinity groups and have some authentic conversations, too?  I could see PIE, or TFA, or maybe the Shanker Institute or Century Foundation doing something like this. Or maybe it's already happening and I just haven't heard about it.

Thompson: Stand for Children Reports that Testing is Oklahoma Teachers' Top Concern

Oklahoma's underfunded schools had plenty of problems before funding was cut 23%, the most of any state. This year we'll face more cuts and Oklahoma teachers, already ranked 49th nationally in salaries, will probably face another year without a raise.  It is no surprise that the state has a shortage of 1000 teachers, and 40% of new teachers leave the profession or Oklahoma within five years.

Neither should it be a surprise that the Tulsa World's Nora Habib, in Report Says Oklahoma Teachers' Greatest Concern Is Testing, reports that Oklahoma teachers are frustrated  by "overcrowded classrooms, changing reforms, decreased classroom autonomy and a lack of representation in policy discussions."

But, guess what Stand for Children learned in a "Listening Tour" and from focus groups with 81 teachers from across the state? Stand learned that "testing was the issue of greatest concern for teachers." Teachers also believe "reforms written from a 'one size fits all' approach ... ultimately doom any practical implementation."

The section on the concern that gained the most attention began with representative teachers' statements such as, "So much time has been consumed with testing, over testing, to the point kids have lost all motivation for the test that really matters.” It closes with the protest, “The whole focus is on testing and not learning... there’s no passion for learning.”

Stand's most watched conclusion involved the TLE evaluation system (which was adopted in an effort to win a Race to the Top federal grant.) Teachers recognize the problems with all practical policy solutions for evaluating teachers. Stand concludes that the benefits of peer evaluations seemed to outweigh their concerns because they "instigated more interaction and collaboration among teachers." 

The report also concludes, “Teachers believe tying teacher evaluations to student test scores should be delayed until student assessments can be aligned to newly written standards that would better reflect a teacher’s role in student growth.”

Continue reading "Thompson: Stand for Children Reports that Testing is Oklahoma Teachers' Top Concern" »

Live Event: Don't Miss Today's NY Ideas Panels On Race & "Invisible Children"

 

Maybe like me you missed this morning's #NYIdeas half hour chat with Eva Moskowitz and Amanda Ripley (was it any good?). Maybe (like me) you didn't make it to last night's invite-only roundtable dinner at the High Line Hotel including guests like Partnership for Education Justice's Campbell Brown, TC's Susan Fuhrman, Walton's Bruno Manno, Harvard's Martin West.

But all is not lost.  There are other education-related segments to come during today's event hosted by AtlanticLIVE and the Aspen Institute. And, assuming the video embed code works right, you can watch it all above (or click the link if not).

For example, there's Ta-Nehesi Coates and Michele Norris talking about race at 1:55 and a segment on "Seeing New York’s Invisible Children" at 2:40 featuring Andrea Elliott, Author and Investigative Reporter, The New York Times Faith Hester, Humanities Teacher, and Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts.

The Atlantic is big into live events these days, including next month's Education Summit in DC June 15.  It is going to feature folks like Peg Tyre, Author of The Good School, and Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools, 

This year's event is being sponsored in part by the Walton Family Foundation, and has also been sponsored by the AFT and others.  Over at The Grade, I wrote about the challenges for media outlets doing events that are sponsored by advocates on one side or the other: When Media Organizations Take Outside Funding for Events - But Not News Coverage. The Atlantic Magazine doesn't receive outside funding for its education coverage, far as I've been able to determine, and Inside Philanthropy's David Callahan notes that it would be cumbersome and perhaps unnecessary for the magazine to disclose event funding with its non-funded education writing. 

Meantime, I'm told that the Ripley/Moskowitz segment is going to be posted within 24 hours, so look for it tomorrow AM.

People: EdTech Startup Exec Feared Injured In Philly Amtrak Crash

There are lots of education types who travel up and down the Boston-DC corridor on Amtrak, and Rachel Jacobs of AppreNet is being reported as missing after the Philadelphia Amtrak crash last night. She's described as a 39 year old Swarthmore grad & mother of a young child. You can follow updates via Twitter here.

Update: Shutting Down "District 299: The Unofficial Scoop On Chicago Public Schools"

As some of you may have already noticed, I shut down District 299, my Chicago-focused education blog, as of the end of April. 

I created the blog way back in the day (2005) when when I realized that Chicago educators didn't care much about national news and national educators didn't care much about Chicago. At the time, I was running a weekly email newsletter rounding up local and national news.

I thought -- and still think -- that Chicago's education scene is fascinating and important. You can see the first two years of the blog here. However, that was long ago. I've been away from Chicago for almost nine years now -- that's superintendents Huberman, Brizard, and Byrd-Bennett -- and have a bunch of new projects going on (including my newest launch over at the Washington Monthly, The Grade). 

District 299 has been hosted over the years by Chicago's Catalyst Magazine and by the Chicago Tribune's "Chicago Now" hive of local blogs.Thanks to them for sponsoring the blog so that I could keep it full of news and gossip, and specifically to Linda Lenz at Catalyst and Bill Adee and Jimmy Greenfield at the Chicago Tribune. According to Jimmy, there are 6,800 blog posts on the Tribune version of the site. 

And of course thanks to all of you who read the site, commented, and even shared tidbits with me along the way. For a long time, District 299 was a particularly satisfying experience for me because the relationship between me and the readers (longtime CPS veterans and insiders, many of them) was so close. 

Thanks, everyone! I'll be mothballing the site and shutting down the @district299 twitter feed in the next few weeks. What a great time.

Social Media: Let's Be Nuzzel Friends!

Screenshot 2015-05-08 11.07.17You've heard me praise the social media aggregation site Nuzzel before.  

Now I'm going to actively try and recruit you to join me and many others you know over there, so we can see each other's aggregated social media feeds.  

Sounds fun, right?

What Nuzzel does, essentially, is let you know when a certain number -- 10-, 2o -- of your social media friends has tweeted about something.  

It's like a personalized list of what's trending, which saves a ton of time scrolling through individual updates and watching twitter. 

Now, what Nuzzel Friends does is allows you to see your friends' trending stories, too.  

So if you're wondering what's big in Larry Ferlazzo's world right now, you click on his Nuzzel feed and it's all there. Or CoopMike, or Gordon Wright (who introduced me to the app a few months ago).

The reason that's helpful is that it makes sure that you're not just reading the 5 items that one or another swarm of Twitter friends is talking about.  "Regular" Nuzzel can get pretty predictable unless you're super-careful to create a broad and diverse Twitter follow list. 

As you can see from this screengrab, there are already lots of folks you probably already know using Nuzzel. Just a few weeks ago, it was just a few.  What are you waiting for? Get on board, and then let me know how you like it.

Related posts: With Tailored Alerts, Nuzzel Lets You Know What's Hot On Social Media.

Morning Video: Colbert "Flash Funds" A South Carolina District's DonorsChoose Requests

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

Watch Stephen Colbert announce that he and a few friends are going to "flash fund" a South Carolina school system's DonorsChoose request. He also angles for a monument at his old elementary school. "Enjoy the learning, South Carolina!" Via NBC News. Click here if the video doesn't load properly.

Morning Video: Three White Guys (Including Gates & Buffett) Talk Education (Again)

 

From CNBC Monday, here's seven minutes from Gates, Buffett, and Charlie Munger talking about education. 

Books: The Rise of AVID ("America's Largest College Readiness Program")

image from media.wiley.comIn case you'd missed it (as I had), longtime Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews' latest book is out.

As you probably know, Mathews wrote the book that became Stand And Deliver, and also wrote Work Hard, Be Nice, a book about the KIPP network of charter schools. He writes the Post's Class Struggle blog.

Published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley, the book (Question Everything: The Rise of AVID as America's Largest College Readiness Program) focuses on a program that everyone's probably heard about but doesn't know very well.

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. In his new book, Mathews describes how AVID "levels the playing field, helping underserved students come out ahead."

Even more notable, the book describes how AVID has grown in 30 years into an organization serving 400,000 middle- and high-school students in 47 states and 16 countries.

I can't think of another program that's so widespread but so little in the news (though last year's Teach of the Year was AVID).

Mathews admits that he's not an impartial observer here. "It is a very pro-AVID book, but I point out some flaws. Its tutoring programs are its best feature, the key to the whole system, but they are hard to get up to full speed right away and I saw some ragged ones."

Related posts:  Obama Introduces (AVID) Teacher Of Year (2014); Teaching Students Guided Note-Taking (Bruno 2012).

Events: NewSchools 2015 Summit Live Twitter Feed

Seems like a slow day, so maybe you'd be best off spending the rest of it watching #NSVFSummit updates scroll by. It's mostly folks chronicling the event, rather than reacting pro or con, and it may or may not be NSVF's best summit ever. But it's good to know what folks are doing and saying, whether you agree or not. Let me know if something unusual happens!

Update: New Blog Takes "A Closer Look At Education News"

Screenshot 2015-05-06 14.55.02
I am excited to announce the launch of my latest blog, The Grade, over at the Washington Monthly. 

No actual grades will be given -- though praise and criticism will be offered quite regularly.  Think of it as NPR's "On The Media" for education news, or as a public editor or ombudsman for national K-12 news coverage. 

The focus, as you will quickly see, is creating an ongoing discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the education news coverage that informs the public and policymakers about what's going on in schools.

There's a ton of education news being pumped out every day, but what's particularly good (or bad) about the coverage that's being provided -- and what if anything can be done to make it even better?

My main publishing partner is the Washington Monthly, which has a long-standing interest in education and quality journalism. They're the folks that put out the alternative guide  to colleges, among other things. I'll also be publishing some columns in the Columbia Journalism Review.

My starting funders for this new venture are the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union in the country, and Education Post, an education nonprofit funded by folks like Eli Broad, Mike Bloomberg, and the Walton Family Foundation.  

Most days it might not seem like these two would agree on much, but they have stepped up to support this effort out of a desire for smart, accurate education coverage (and agreed to give me room to write and say what seems most important to me).

Curious about what it's going to look like? Here and elsewhere, I've been trying my hand at some of the kinds of posts that you'll see at The Grade in the coming days and weeks, including Common Problems with Common Core Reporting (in the Columbia Journalism Review) and How The Atlantic's CUNY Story Went (So) Wrong (in Medium). 

You can also check out all the past Media Watch posts here

If you like this kind of stuff, that's what you're going to find lots of over there.

Click the link to check out the first couple of posts.  Subscribe to all future posts on the site with Feedly or some other RSS reader using  this link. And, in the days and weeks ahead, don't forget to send me stories you think are great or problematic.

Not to worry, I'll still be blogging here every day and sharing out links on Twitter, too. 

Events: What's New At NewSchools 2015?

image from www.nsvfsummit.com
I may or may not make it to the annual NewsSchools Venture Fund summit this year, but thought you might like to know about the annual confab held most frequently in San Francisco.  

This year's headliner is "author, researcher and TED Talks sensation Brené Brown." Other highlights include an appearance from Gates'  Sara Allan who will unveil "a new, interactive platform designed to better connect ed tech entrepreneurs with the needs of teachers and students," and an interview with newish NewSchools CEO Stacey Childress.

Of particular interest to me is a panel on diverse/progressive charters being led by Kriste Dragon, Citizens of the World Charter Schools, and parents from Citizens and Bricolage and RI's Mayoral Academy. and Renita Thukral, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Information about Summit, including the comprehensive schedule, can be found at www.nsvfsummit.com.  Follow @nsvf and #nsvfsummit on Twitter for event updates.This year's event is being held May 6. Unusual for education conferences, it's an invite-only event. 

Related posts:  They're Beaming NSVF Summit 2014 To Boston This YearGoogle Glasses Live from NSVF Summit 2013Thoughts On NSVF 2012Rahm Emanuel And Arlene Laurene Powell Jobs At NSVF'12Reformy 2011 Summit Returns To Silicon ValleyFashion Hits & Misses At The 2010 NSVF SummitAnother Spring, Another Summit (2009)NSFV: Live Tweets From Pasadena '09Microblogging The 2008 NSVF Summit. Image via NSVF webpage. 

Magazines: How Can I Help You (Finish College)?

A crash course in reviving the American dream. https://t.co/GS4Adxpu8T

— Amanda Ripley (@amandaripley) April 22, 2015

The most interesting thing about reluctant education writer Amanda Ripley's latest piece (The Upwardly Mobile Barista) isn't that it's a big cover story in the new Atlantic magazine or that she -- or Starbucks or ASU -- have discovered the secret to getting millions of American workers through college at higher rates than the current dismal numbers -- but rather that the article shows just how difficult it's been and how many adjustments have been made since the program to give baristas and other workers encouragement to finish their degrees.

Though she give time and space to the program's aspirations and advocates (and perhaps a smidgen too much implicit enthusiasm for the effort for my cranky taste), Ripley details the repeated challenges and setbacks that the program has encountered (and the student/workers have experienced) along the way. The piece is critical of traditional colleges and universities who don't get enrolled students through to graduation, sure, but it doesn't shy away from how hard it has been so far to bring Starbucks' customer-oriented service mentality to even a small number of students. 

Ripley wrote The Smartest Kids In The World and is along with Richard Whitmire an Emerson Fellow. Read her bio here. The Starbucks article will probably also remind you of Ann Hulbert's piece (also in the Atlantic) about efforts to focus and support college students' degree completion, titled A Community College Tries The "No Excuses" Approach.

Related posts: Both Sides Have "Lost Their Minds" On Annual Testing (Says Ripley); Six Years In, Is the Spencer Fellowship (Still) Worth It?How Some Countries Change Their OutcomesRipley "Less Certain" Of PISA Towards End Of Book.

Journalism: Chalkbeat Co-Founder Moving On

News is getting out that Chalkbeat co-founder Alan Gottlieb (pictured via Google Plus) is leaving the network of four local education news sites he helped start with Elizabeth Green.

Alan G photo

After eight years during which Gottlieb built EdNews Colorado, then merged it with GothamSchools and created the Education News Network which then became Chalkbeat, the Colorado-based Gottlieb is going to write, consult, and do other things.

"I’d like to do more writing (maybe another book or two some day, possibly/probably unrelated to education), editing and just helping people think through good communications strategies. And, truth be told, I’d like to spend less time traveling."

Gottlieb is a Peace Corps alumnus, a 15-year newspaper journalist before EdNews Colorado began, and has written two books, according to his official bio

There's been a surge of nonprofit education news coverage in recent years, and not everybody's convinced that it's making a difference or going to last. But Gottlieb says he's not worried about what happens next for Chalkbeat. It's over a year since he shifted over from the editorial side and became editor at large. "The leadership of the organization is so solid that I have every confidence Chalkbeat will survive and thrive without me." Rebecca Ross has been COO since early last year.  Green is now CEO.

"She’s indefatigable, she has a strong vision, and she turns out to be a fundraising prodigy," says Gottlieb. He says that the outlet is making "big strides" on earned revenue increases, and funder relations remain strong.

One of the most notable things about EdNews Colorado was that it attracted veteran journalists and was funded both by pro-reform groups and teachers unions. 

Related posts: NPR Expands Education Coverage;  Local NPR Stations Beefing Up Education CoverageBut Are All The New Ed-Focused Outlets Really *Helping*?Why Catalyst & The Notebook Aren't Joining ENN (2012); Chalkbeat, USA!;  Education News Network Expands To IndianaTwo Local Ed News Sites Join Forces;  Where EdNews Network Is Heading.

Disclosure: I did a couple of freelance pieces for Gottlieb back when he was at the Piton Foundation, and have called on him for advice and feedback on various stories and endeavors over the years. 

Update: What *Really* Happened At #EWA15 This Year? (According To Me)

I'll let the good folks at EWA tell you the official version of this week's goings-ons, and try to focus on the things that you won't find out about elsewhere.  

No, not the mundane stuff like my surreal Friday afternoon visit to Noble Street's new Speer campus on the Near West Side, how strangely intimidating I find EWA staffers though they're mostly very friendly, or my unexpected Monday night bunkmate (it's not as bad as it sounds).

I mean the good stuff.  You know -- newsroom changes, comings and goings, subtle trends and dynamics going on behind the scenes that folks might not have said out loud or tweeted but were (it seemed to me) going on.

Take a look, and then let me know what I missed or got wrong.  Send your tips (anonymous and otherwise) to me at alexanderrusso@gmail.com

Continue reading "Update: What *Really* Happened At #EWA15 This Year? (According To Me)" »

People: Journo Who Broke Chicago SUPES Story Two Years Ago Changing Jobs

Catalyst Chicago deputy editor Sarah Karp, widely credited with having broken the $20 million SUPES story that has now led to an FBI Investigation and the stepping down of the head of the Chicago school system, is leaving to join the Better Government Association of Chicago. 

For a time, it seemed like nobody would ever follow up on Karp's 2013 SUPES scoop.  Local NPR station WBEZ had her on to talk about the story, and local ABC 7's Sarah Schulte did a segment.  However, neither the Sun-Times or Tribune followed up in any meaningful way -- until now.

That's nothing new. Super-competitive news outlets sometimes refuse to "follow" other outlets. Other times, they re-report each others' stories and pretend their competitors' versions don't exist (which is understandable but super-annoying). Of course, sometimes it's not a conscious decision, they just have other stories to work on, more urgent-seeming matters, and don't have time or staff to cover everything they'd like.

In any case, Catalyst is looking for a new reporter to replace Karp, and publisher and founder Linda Lenz noted graciously "We're pleased that she will take all the knowledge she gained at Catalyst to a new audience. The city, in effect, will get an additional ed reporter."  Reporter Melissa Sanchez remains.

Meantime, Catalyst is also celebrating a 25th anniversary and figuring out where and what to do next.  (So is Philly's Notebook, another long-running district-based news outlet focused on education. Here's an overview of anniversary activities and events surrounding Catalyst's 25th.

While it may seem like a strange move, the BGA has staffed up with reporters in recent years and covered education along the way. After a decade at Catalyst, Karp starts at the BGA next month. She's going to cover K-12 education as well as higher ed and state government. Read more about Karp and the story she broke nearly 2 years ago here.  

Disclosure: I used to do some freelancing for Catalyst, and they lent me a free desk for a time, and kindly hosted the launch of a book on Chicago school reform I edited that came out in 2004.

Events: Highlights (& Lowlights) From #EWA15 Day One

It was an action-packed first day of #EWA15, with a firehose of journalists' frantic tweets and an appearance of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to help fuel the scandal surrounding Chicago superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett. 

OVERTWEETING? The tweeting was a bit much, you'll know if you tried to follow along online, especially once folks not at the event started barging into the hashtag (as is their right). If the conference continues to get bigger, and social media continues to proliferate, then we'll probably have to create sub-hashtags to go along with the single event hashtag.  Or maybe folks will self-organize and focus their tweeting on certain issues or topics.  I wonder how other, bigger events handle a glut of livetweets.  I guess it's a good problem to have.

A LOCAL SCANDAL NOT YET NATIONAL: Speaking of Rauner, the fast-moving Chicago story provides an exciting backdrop to the conference surroundings, though most of the journalists in attendance don't know or care much about it (and financial misdeeds aren't really news in Chicago). Maybe the story will go national, but I'm not sure. 

STORIES YOU NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE: The evening's awards ceremonies highlighted a slew of education stories that you (and I) may not have been aware of when they were first published.   What's amazing to realize is that some of the best education stories of the year -- at least according to EWA and those who submitted their pieces -- aren't all big sexy splashy pieces that get passed around widely but are smaller, more focused pieces or series whose impact builds over time.

THE "EVERYTHING" BEAT: It was also great to hear EWA president (and ChalkbeatIN honcho) Scott Elliot describe education as the "everything" beat. "Your audience as an ed journalist: Everyone who has a kid, cares about kids, and/or pays taxes. So, everyone!" I couldn't agree more. 

A PULITZER FOR A FORMER EDUCATION REPORTER: The day ended with news that a local news team in Southern California had won a Pulitzer Prize for its education-related coverage -- but that the education reporter who had kicked things off had left the newsroom for a better-paying public relations job.  If that isn't a great illustration of education journalism in 2015, I don't know what is.

Events: Torrent Of Tweets From #EWA15 In Chicago

The torrent of social media updates from #EWA15 is pretty overwhelming. Any of it any good? I've yet to find out. But I'm asking. 

Correction: NPR Blogger Corrects New Orleans Tweet (But Stands By Story)

I don't know all the details but here's a tweet from NPR's Anya Kamenetz correcting a previous message about suspensions. There was a bunch of Tweeting to/at NPR last week about their NOLA story. If you know the inside scoop, email me at alexanderrusso@gmail.com

Books: First Look At Dale Rusakoff's Forthcoming "The Prize"

9780547840055_lresHere'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 BacklashWhat They're Saying About That New Yorker ArticleNew Yorker Reporter Talks NewarkFact-Checking Cami AndersonWhite Reporters & Students Of Color.

Pop Culture: Meet "Primary School Problems," One Of The UK's Most Viral Twitter Feeds

The account is one of several run by a group of young entrepreneurs in the UK whose company, Social Chain, regularly takes over social media, according to this BuzzFeed article. Other popular accounts are Exam Problems. The company has been accused of stealing others' content and -- more problematically -- functioning as an advertiser without sufficient disclosure.  

Why should you care? Because your Twitter feed isn't just accidentally filling up with updates about things. Whether advertisers or advocates, the Twitterverse if increasingly filled with folks paid to influence your opinion or make you think things are bigger or smaller than they may be in real life. 

Related posts: New Study Suggests Journalism Being Left Out Of Education Debate12 Observations About EdNext's "Top Twitter Feeds"How Twitter Has Helped & Hurt.

Media: Are We In Some Sort Of Golden Age Of Education Journalism?

 

If there's any doubt that we're going through an interesting and abundant time in education journalism, yesterday's return from Passover/Easter weekend might have put it to rest:

First, there was the NYT's in-depth look at Success Academies (At Success Academy Charter Schools, Polarizing Methods and Superior Results), by Kate Taylor. See above for Ashley Mitchel's favorite part (the side-eye). 

Then there was Peg Tyre's equally long look into the current state of blended learning, published in a new outlet called Bright. (See also Matt Candler's response, if you're interested in how one of the story sources felt about the final result.)

Last but not least, there was another NYT piece about anti-cheating systems being used in conjunction with online testing (Online Test-Takers Feel Anti-Cheating Software’s Uneasy Glare). The Natasha Singer piece tells us about facial recognition software program called Proctortrack.

It's not so much that more is always better, or that longer pieces are better than shorter ones (some editing-down would help many pieces I see these days). I and others have issues with all of the above pieces, and may come back to one or more of them later this week. 

But there's a lot to choose from out there -- new writers, new outlets, new topics (or at least new angles on familiar ones) -- and that's generally a good thing.

Philanthropy: Big Chunk Of DonorsChoose Goes To Schools Below 65 Percent Poverty

DonorsChoose is a well-known and generally well-regarded nonprofit that allows individuals to direct contributions to specific classroom projects.  But does the 15 year-old operation lessen or even exacerbate resource inequalities among different schools within districts or among different areas? How targeted are the projects that get funding?

The question comes up with recent stories from NPR about the endeavor. As you'll notice, different versions of the story had different headlines: Fundraising Site For Teachers Illuminates Classroom Disparities (WAMU).  Teachers fundraising site helps level classroom disparities (NPR).

According to DonorChoose, the highest poverty schools definitely comprise the majority of projects posted and funded on the site. Last year, for example, over 80,000 highest-poverty school projects were posted, compared to just under 4,000 low-poverty school postings, and the success rate for high-poverty school proposals is highest than any other category at 72 percent.  
 
But the next two categories down - high- and moderate-poverty schools -- together posted roughly 61,000 projects, and their success rate was just slightly lower at 69 percent.
 
And DonorsChoose's categories are worth noting, as well: highest-poverty is anything over 65 percent, 40-64% is high poverty, moderate poverty is 10-39%, and low poverty as <10%.
 
So it seems like a substantial chunk of Donors Choose projects and funding are going to schools with poverty rates below 65 percent.
 

People: Next Year's Spencer Fellows Are Romo, Mosle, & Richards

Just in time for Passover and Easter, the three new Spencers for 2015-2016 have been announced.  They are LA-based Vanessa Romo, former New Yorker and NYT Magazine writer Sara Mosle, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Erin Richards.

Currently a Newark teacher and occasional contributor to the NYT etc., Mosle's proposed topic is the past, present and future of the national standards movement. (Her long-awaited book about a school explosion in Texas is forthcoming.)

On staff at the Milwaukee Journal, Richards is going to focus on voucher schools, which makes a lot of sense given Milwaukee's long checkered history with them and their recent resurgence of sorts.

A veteran of LA's local NPR affiliate KPCC and the LA School Report, Romo is going to focus on Standard English Learners (kids whose first language is English but who don't speak or read academic English used in classrooms).

Read the official bios/announcement here. Richards, Romo, and Mosle will replace this year's Spencers: Linda Lutton, Mitra Kalita, and Joy Resmovits, and while they may be sad about their imminent return to the real world the rest of us will be very glad to have them -- and their regular reporting -- back. 

In other Spencer-related news, Greg Toppo's book about game-based learning -- The Game Believes In You -- is coming out later this month. Check it out - fascinating stuff.

Related posts: Six Years In, Is the Spencer Fellowship (Still) Worth It? (2015);  Spencer Fellowships 2014-2015 Go To Lutton, Resmovits, & Kalita (Who?) (2014); New Spencer Fellows, New Research Topics (2013).

Magazines: What To Make Of Education Next?*

Alexander Russo   Education Next   Education NextAlexander Russo   Education Next   Education Next ArchiveLast week's EdWeek's review of Education Next (Policy Views, With an Edge) is a good opportunity to talk about what the 14 year-old magazine does -- and doesn't -- get right, and where it fits in the ever-changing education media landscape.

More and more education-focused outlets are coming online these days, from BRIGHT to the Boston Learning Lab. Each outlet has its strengths and weaknesses. RealClear Education does 2 great roundups a day but doesn't have much original content. The Hechinger Report doesn't have strong commentary to go along with its strong reported pieces. You get the idea.

Education Next's strengths seem to be smart well-chosen articles about policy and politics, and a general willingness to address topics that are controversial and don't necessarily support pro-reform positions. (*I should know, having written several of these over the years -- see at left.)

I'm also a big fan of "Behind the Headline," a blog feature that attempts to contextualize the day's big education story or debate, and of Petrilli et al's interest in tracking (and manipulating) the media (see Related Posts below).

Its weaknesses might be its offerings getting lost among all the other posts and reports and pieces being put out by Fordham (and Harvard, and Hoover) and coming out only quarterly. It could also be stronger and more distinctive on social media, I think. There's a blog and Twitter but they're relatively low-profile compared to Petrilli et al -- despite having 81,000 followers (jealous!).

In a perfect world, Education Next would produce broadly appealing feature stories (like the Atlantic's education page), be perhaps a bit more journalistic and less wonky, more distinct from Fordham and all it's offerings, and maybe take more chances. But it's still a strong magazine and a worthwhile part of the education media landscape. 

Related posts: Best 5 Of Education Next's Top 20 Stories Of The Year (2103); 12 Observations About EdNext's "Top Twitter Feeds" (2014); Petrilli's Surprise Apology (2105);  But Are All The New Ed-Focused Outlets Really *Helping*?.

Journalism: Hard To Pick A Fight With "Bright" (But Someone Will Anyway)

Screenshot 2015-03-31 15.31.03

There's a pretty new education site launched today, called Bright, the creation of the folks at Medium (a newish platform created by some Twitter alumni) plus the Gates Foundation and the New Venture Fund.  
 
It's being edited by Sarika Bansal, who has also worked on the Gates-funded Solutions Journalism network.
 
In her Welcome to the Bright Side explainer, she writes "Our stories will be vibrant — both literally and figuratively... We love creative storytelling. And we hate jargon."
 
 
EdWeek's Mark Walsh compares 'Bright' to Education Post and sounds pretty skeptical about it's ability to change the conversation.  
 
I'd compare it to Edutopia, the Lucas Foundation-funded effort that's been out there for a while, or maybe Good or TakePart. Or maybe even EdWeek's Teacher magazine? 

Morning Video: New Daily Show Host Slams Oprah's African School

The new Daily Show host Trevor Noah mocks Oprah's scandal-ridden African school. "You're getting a beating! Everybody's getting one!" There may be other, better examples, but this one will help you make it to lunchtime.

Events: 6 Ways To Diversify That Conference Or Panel (ie, "Pass The Mic")*

This year's education conferences seem like they're doing better and better modeling diversity and finding new & authentic voices to talk about education, but there's still lots of room for additional improvement.

So here are some ideas to help -- or maybe you've got better ones to suggest?

6 -- If you're organizing a conference or panel, make sure you include a variety of perspectives and backgrounds when you're picking speakers, even if it means reaching out to new connections or recruiting new participants. #Wetried is not enough.

5 -- If you're invited to participate in a panel, tell the organizer it's important to you that the panel includes a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds, and be so bold as to suggest some folks who might fit the bill if the organizers seem unfamiliar.

4 -- If you're invited to open or close a conference, or function as a keynote speaker, tell the organizers how important diverse panels and perspectives are to you.

3 -- If you somehow find yourself on a panel that's all white (or even all white and male), don't just lament the situation. Give up your time to someone in the audience who has a valuable perspective not otherwise represented on the stage, or do something really bold and give up your spot. 

2 -- If you're someone who's used to being asked to speak on panels or give talks, consider giving up your spot to give someone else a chance and -- just as important -- come to the event anyway, sit in the the audience like a normal person, and you might learn something.  

1 -- If you're attending a conference or panel in the audience and you happen to notice that the panel is, say, all white (or that the conversation is being dominated by men) say something.  (Be nice about it -- the organizers are  probably very tired and doing their best -- but still say something.)

Bottom line: Talking about diversity is great but insufficient at this point.  Programs aimed at diversifying the pipeline of teacher and leaders are great but way in the future in terms of their impact.  

Finding and elevating new and diverse voices to speak at conferences and sit on panels could make a small but concrete difference to the success of the movement. And those of us who've been privileged enough to sit on panels and speak at conferences should take the lead in helping make these shifts, rather than resisting them or even appearing to undercut them.

*For those of you not following along on Twitter, the question of diversifying panels and the responsibilities of conference organizers and convening organizations came up in a series of tweets this morning. The PIE Network's Suzanne Tacheny Kabach and I talked more about it this afternoon and that conversation was the inspiration for some of the above. 

Events: Live-Tweeting From Yale

I'm at @yaleELC #backtowhy today, mostly on Twitter (Snapchatting an event is not so easy or fun as it sounds). You can check out all the updates here, or on Facebook (Alexander Russo), or directly on Twitter (@alexanderrusso). You won't miss a thing, plus you can see the fun things people Tweet at me all day. 

AM News: Meet Laurene Powell Jobs, Education Kingmaker?

Laurene Powell Jobs linked to Jeb and Hillary Business Insider:  Business Insider obtained Powell-Jobs' resignation letter from a source. In the letter, which was personally addressed to Bush and began "Dear Jeb," Powell-Jobs attributed her decision to leave the foundation's board of directors dto time commitments.

How do schools respond to competition? Not as you might expect. Washington Post: The school-choice movement is built on the philosophy that competition forces schools to improve.But new research on New Orleans — arguably the nation’s most competitive school market — suggests that school leaders are less likely to work on improving academics than to use other tactics in their efforts to attract students.

Evaluation stalemate, looming changes fuel teacher frustration ChalkbeatNY: The future of teacher evaluations in New York state appears more unclear than ever. With six days left to craft an on-time state budget, lawmakers have only just begun to seriously negotiate how to overhaul the state’s nascent teacher-grading system.

Technology is the focus of first-time Smarter Balanced implementation Concord Monitor: Schools are used to administering standardizedtests, but the tests corresponding to theCommon Core State Standards are a new experience for both... 

Bill would let parents initiate school reform process Tennessean: Currently, the state does not identify schools in the bottom 10 percent but does identify schools in the bottom 5 percent based on academic achievement. Most of the schools in the bottom 5 percent, known as priority schools, are in Davidson County and Shelby County.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Meet Laurene Powell Jobs, Education Kingmaker? " »

Journo-Politics: 2 Things About That "Hillary Being Squeezed" Piece

Ann O'LearyFirst things first: The most notable thing about Tuesday's much-tweeted NYT story about Hillary Clinton and education (Hillary Clinton Caught Between Teachers and Wealthy Donors) might be that Team Hillary put Ann O'Leary out in front to represent the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate.

"Both the teachers’ union and the reformers will really feel like they have her ear in a way they haven’t,” said Ann O’Leary in the NYT piece. "She believes we need to have some kind of ways that we can measure student progress,” Ms. O’Leary said.

But she said Mrs. Clinton was “also sympathetic that the test regime has become very burdensome in driving the education system in ways that many people think is problematic.”

Longtime readers of this site already know about her (see related posts, below).  And longtime Hillary-watchers know her, too.  She's on Politico's top Hillary Clinton influentials.  Need to know more? Check out her official Next Generation bio

After the article came out, O'Leary (@Ann_OLeary) tweeted " It's true: I do believe ed community will be pleased @HillaryClinton's someone who listens to all good education ideas."

OK, sure.

As for the piece itself, well, it's obviously a good media "get" for DFER and the like to have the NYT talking about reformy pressures that are (supposedly) being put on the presumptive Democratic candidate. The "leaked" memo worked again!

But there's an undertone of fear and uncertainty just below the surface, and let's be clear: reformers like the unions don't really have anywhere else to go.  They can threaten to stay home or focus on other races but they're pretty much all Democrats and don't really have any interest in having a conservative Republican win the White House. Team Hillary wants their money, sure, and will listen to them, sure.

However, I can't imagine folks as smart and experienced as Team Clinton are feeling any real pressure to do something "crazy" (like coming out hard for the Common Core or even annual testing) anytime soon.  (Coming out in favor of vaccinations was already a bit of a surprise.) So if anything, the Clinton folks might not like the public display that DFER et al are trying to put on here, and Team DFER could get some cold shoulder. For a little while. Nobody can hate nice-guy Joe Williams for long.

Related posts:  A Clinton Ed Staffer On The High Court? (2010), Power Couples In Education, The Update (2007), More Agency Review Team Names (2008), West Coast Reboot For DFER & Steve BarrWinners & Losers of 2008  (According To Me).Image via Twitter.

Preview: New Faces At This Week's Yale Education Conference

Screenshot 2015-03-24 13.18.53This year's Yale SOM Education Leadership Conference could be particularly interesting, given where were are in the education debate. It looks like there are going to be some new faces and names -- Kalimah Priforce, anyone? The theme ("Back to Why") and official goal (to refocus on "the purpose and outcomes of education reform") are full of intrigue to people like me who follow these things too closely.  We all know that the fight for the hearts and minds of smart young do-gooder types (and entrepreneurs, etc.) is pretty heated, as is the rhetorical battle over who's more "social justice." WebsiteFacebook.For past events, look at the list here. Previous blog posts from me about the event here.

Update: Mixed (Predictable) Reactions To My CJR Common Core Reporting Piece

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com
Thanks to everyone who passed along my recent CJR piece on the challenges of reporting the Common Core testing rollout this spring. Much appreciated! The story was a top read for CJR all week.

By and large, those of you who are pro-Common Core liked the piece, and those of you who are critical thought it was less likable. Pretty predictable. (Your positions are reversed when I'm criticizing Rhee or Kopp or Cunningham, though.)

Far as I know, nobody was willing to admit publicly any major change of mind on the tests or the coverage -- such is rigidly orthodox world of education debate these days (and also of course the limits of my writing). 

Most of you who work as education reporters didn't say anything one way or the other -- at least not publicly. (A few of you were kind enough to write privately that it was a useful piece, or that it was helping you to rethink your coverage tendencies, which I appreciated tremendously.)

Alas, the only journalists I could find to talk about the issue on the record were John Merrow (one of its subjects) and Linda Perlstein (a former Washington Post reporter and EWA's founding Public Editor). I hope that won't always be the case, as I think constructive conversation about media coverage is a positive and healthy thing and shows confidence in the work.

Turned by back CJR from commenting on their site, Merrow finally posted his own response on his blog this afternoon (Reporting About Reporting).  He makes some good points, as you'll see, but he also makes some weaker ones, according to me at least, and unfortunately resorts to (gentle) criticisms of character.

Read on for more about Merrow, a handful of less predictable responses, some errors and omissions on my part, and a few sentences that were left on the cutting room floor.

Continue reading "Update: Mixed (Predictable) Reactions To My CJR Common Core Reporting Piece" »

Foundations: Six Years In, Is the Spencer Fellowship (Still) Worth It?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comNot counting this year's class (pictured), the Spencer Education Fellowship at Columbia University's Journalism School is now six years old. 

Wow, time has flown. I was in the first class (2008-2009). The seventh class (2015-2016) will be notified as soon as later today and announced in a few weeks. Here are the people making the decisions this year.

At the time the Spencer Foundation was considering what to do, I thought that a small, expensive program like the Columbia model was a bad idea.

The folks I talked to as part of some research I did on journalism education all told me that small, ongoing, community-focused training was better and more effective than flashy fellowships, and more likely to benefit those who really needed them, and I believed them.  

It's possible that they were right.  Some of the biggest books on education -- Amanda Ripley's book, for example, or Steven Brill's -- weren't a product of the Spencer Fellowship.  Several of the folks that have gotten Spencers aren't really focused on education journalism, per se.  A few of them already had book deals and might not have needed the fellowship in order to get their work done.  Given the current conversation about white privilege, it's important to note that we are many of us awfully white.

Then again, a bunch of the books and projects that have come out of the Spencer Fellowship have been helpful contributions to the field (as far as I can tell) and wouldn't otherwise have happened.  Some examples that come to mind include books and other projects by Goldstein, Green, and Solomon. Ideologically, the products of the Spencer Fellowship have been pretty mixed -- reflecting the advisory board that makes the final decisions.

The newest offshoot of the Spencer project is a reporting program through Columbia and Slate featuring work from Matt Collette and Alexandra Neason that seems like it's been pretty useful. And I'm pretty excited about whatever this year's class -- Lutton and Resmovits especially -- are going to do next, and S. Mitra Kalita's forthcoming endeavors at the LA Times. Toppos' education book is coming out any minute now. 

Related posts: Columbia J-School Doubles Down On Education Reporting Goldstein Taking Her Talents To The Marshall Project. Image used with permission.

People: Sun-Times Journo Wins University of Chicago Fellowship

Longtime readers already know that the Chicago Sun-Times' Kate Grossman is one of my favorite editorial page writers.  She (along with the LA Times' Karin Klein) report their own pieces and sometimes scoop or differ from their own beat reporters, which I think is healthy.  

Well the latest news is that Grossman and a few others (including Davis Guggenheim) have won a new fellowship at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, and will be teaching a course among other things.  Read all about it here: Sun-Times deputy editor Kate Grossman wins U. of C. fellowship. "Starting March 30, Grossman will spend 10 weeks on campus examining education issues and the debate over how best to improve schools."

Related posts: Two Great Education Writers You May Not Know AboutWhere's Ravitch's Research? Sun Times Edit Board Questions Narrow RttT Focus On Data Systems.

Speaking of fellowships, I'm told that today is the day that the Spencer Fellowships are being decided for 2015-2016.  Good luck to everyone who made it to the finals!

Philanthropy: Leave No Privilege Behind (DonorsChoose Meets AirBnB?)

WellDeserved is a a new app that allows folks to offer surplus privileges -- free food at work, extra dental appointments, a soon-to-expire SoulCycle coupon -- to fellow citizens who might want to purchase them.

Their motto: "Privilege goes unused every single day.Why would we waste any of it?"  

Great idea, no?

But they need people to post more education-related privileges that are going unused, and maybe you can help them out.

For starters, there are all the extra laptops, tablets, and smart phones laying around many homes -- not to speak of all that unused broadband access and data.  But that's not all. A student who doesn't need all of the Kumon hours his parents signed him up for could offer them to a fellow classmate.  A private school family living in a desirable neighborhood could offer its spots at the local elementary school. I'm sure you can think of other examples.

Charles Best better watch out.

Update: Unfortunate Stalemate For Feds & Diverse Charters*

This week's announcement that Success Academy charters won't give an absolute priority to ELL kids in its charter lotteries because of opposition seems like an unfortunate turn of events (see ChalkbeatNY's Success Academy drops lottery preference for English learners).  

Charter schools located in mixed neighborhoods are often flooded by wealthier, whiter parents, and lose their diversity despite all efforts.  The USDE will allow weighted lotteries, but not guaranteed admission. USDE has opposed letting diverse charters weight their lotteries in such a strong way for fear of the precedent that would tempt other schools to set priorities (for white kids, for kids whose parents have yachts, etc.)

There are situations where charters have been set up to avoid integration, or located or run in ways that are disadvantageous to poor and minority kids.  But this is not one of them.

What could be done?  

Lots of things, it seems. Congress could change the federal definition of a charter school to allow this kind of weighting. The USDE could revise its guidance (though risking Congressional displeasure). Or Success could shift its proposal from an absolute 14 percent priority for ELL kids, going with an unweighted lottery for the first year or two and then shifting. The unitary enrollment system would be diluted, creating different systems for different schools, but more ELL kids would be served.

I'll let you know if and when Success or the USDE respond with more about their thinking, or why these solutions couldn't work.*

*UPDATED: From USDE's Dorie Turner Nolt: “The U.S. Department of Education is firmly committed to increasing high-quality educational opportunities for disadvantaged students, including English learners, in charter schools, as in all public schools. The Department has worked with Success Academies to find ways for it to provide additional weight for English learners within the boundaries of the law and program guidance, and remains committed to that effort. We have worked with other grantees that submitted proposals to use weighted lotteries for educationally disadvantaged students—including other charter management organizations operating in New York—and have approved several such proposals. Such approaches complement broader efforts by charter schools to recruit, serve and retain educationally disadvantaged students.”

Your turn, Success. 

Related posts: "Smarter" Charters Are Diverse, Teacher-Led;  Diverse Charters Form New National Alliance;  Diverse Charters Spread Nationally (Education Next); Diverse Charters Balance Learning & Accountability.

Quotes: Both Sides Have "Lost Their Minds" On Annual Testing

Quotes2On one side, you have a group of reformers who say that getting rid of federal mandates for annual testing would be apocalyptic, and that’s crazy.... On the other side, you have people who think that getting rid of it would lead to utopia. I think both sides have lost their minds on this. -- Author and Emerson Fellow Amanda Ripley in the Washington Post (Some parents across the country are revolting against standardized testing)

TV: What To Make Of All The School-Related Developments On Popular Shows

There may be too few educators on cable TV (and too few education-related segments, too), but has there ever been a time when schools were as much a central part of so many TV shows?

*On Fresh Off The Boat, the hip-hop loving son of immigrant parents has to make new friends at a Florida school where there has apparently a student who isn't white, black, or Hispanic.

*The New Girl is now an assistant superintendent and her boyfriend/employee teacher works at the same school (or still did, last I looked).

*Girls' most appealingly deplorable character, Hannah, substitutes at a private school after crashing and burning at her Iowa MFA program.

*In episode 6 of Tina Fey's new show, The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, the protagonist encounters a burned-out GED teacher who wants to be reported so he can get assigned to the rubber room. (There was a rubber room on Silicon Valley, too.)

*The female half of a bored married couple starts getting involved with an LA charter school startup in Eagle Rock that might also be good for her kids. (Repeat of Parenthood, sort of.)

Plus also: High Maintenance (seriously), Blackish (yep), Empire (just kidding), The Good Wife (I wish).

These aren't just silly pop culture coincidences, I'd argue -- or at least not only that.  They're a representation of what the larger public thinks or knows about education, or is at least what the public is curious about.  Clearly, charter schools and the rubber room are fascinating to writers, and the notion of smart young people trying out teaching isn't as foreign or obscure as it once may have been.

Related posts: Oh, No! Girls' Lena Dunham Is Going To TeachNeighborhood Segregation The Central Issue In New HBO Show;  Apparently Not Everyone's Cut Out To Be A Teaching FellowSilicon Valley's Rubber Room Includes A Rooftop GrillLouis C.K. Takes Us Back To 8th Grade Science.

 

Afternoon Panel: Evaluating Advocacy In 3 States (LA, TN, and NC)



Figuring out whether advocacy efforts "work" -- or what that even means -- is one of education advocates' biggest challenges.  Executing an effective advocacy effort is another. With that in mind, you might want to check out today's panel on advocacy evaluation at Brookings, and read the report (Measuring and understanding education advocacy) that's being discussed, which focuses on Louisiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina. 

Thompson: "A Place for Us"?

After NPR's Wade Goodwyn’s moving report, One Night Only, about two dozen homeless singers performing at the Dallas City Performance Hall, I wiped tears from my eyes and made a resolution. This wonderful event must be celebrated, but I vowed to not use it as ammunition in our edu-political civil war.

The orchestra began to play "Somewhere" from Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story," and the homeless singers were "still a bit wobbly" as they joined in. After all, only about five of them were regular members of the chorus.  Choral director Jonathan Palant had worked with 57 different choir singers over the last three months.

Then, Goodwyn reported, "Suddenly, a world-famous opera singer appears on the stage, seemingly out of nowhere. Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade walks into the middle of the Dallas Street Choir and puts her arms around two of the singers."

Together, they sing, There's a place for us. Somewhere a place for us. Peace and quiet and open air wait for us somewhere.

Goodwyn noticed "a lot of surreptitious wiping of eyes.” As a hundred other trained voices joined in, the homeless singers grew far more confident and melodious. "It was an evening they said they'd remember the rest of their lives."

But, Goodwyn's final words were nearly as striking in their pessimism, "For a night, two dozen of Dallas's homeless were lifted from the city's cold streets and sidewalks to bask in the warm glow of spotlights. For the usual hostility and indifference to their fate, they were traded love, respect and goodwill - one performance only."

Then, I read Anthony Cody’s Living in Dialogue post on the Gates Foundation’s new effort to address complex and interrelated housing problems.

Continue reading "Thompson: "A Place for Us"?" »

Advocacy: 50CAN Does Reformy Things (Somewhat) Differently

2015 Policy Goals   50CANAs 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 (HotSeat Interview: 50CAN Creator Marc Porter Magee50CAN Action Fund Focuses On RI & MNWinn Leaving 50CAN To Head New TFA InitiativeWhere The Shiny New Advocacy Groups Are* [were].

 

 

Journalism: Let's Focus On What Actually Happens -- Not What *Might* Happen*

As Politico recently noted, statehouse efforts to turn the Common Core and its assessments back seem to have peaked since last year. The number of states with repeal efforts repeated this year is down from 22 to 19.  "So far, they’ve fared poorly," notes Stephanie Simon.

But you wouldn't necessarily know this from reading national education news stories, which tend to focus on the handful of rollbacks that have taken back and the slew of proposed rollbacks that have been proposed, or passed out of committee, or made it out of a legislative chamber.  In other words, proposals that *might* happen, but haven't yet become reality -- and probably won't, given the way these things usually pan out. 

I have yet to see an AP, Washington Post*, New York Times, or NPR story about this -- or for that matter anything along these lines from Huffington Post, Reuters, Hechinger, etc. (Please let me know if I've missed anything relevant.*) The issue might have been discussed at yesterday's #EWAcore media training in Denver but the focus there seemed to be on the substance of the standards and tests rather than the national trends and coverage thereof. 

None of this is to say that repeal and slowdown efforts are gone: NSCL says that there are roughly 450 CCSS-related proposals in the works this session. "Total number of bills that would halt implementation of Common Core State Standards: 39 bills (in 19 states) Total number of bills that would halt use of Common Core State Standards-related assessments, i.e., PARCC or Smarter Balanced: 36 bills (in 17 states)."

But if this year is like last year, these new efforts will fare just as badly as last year's.  And if this year is like last year, most newspaper and news site readers will hear mostly about the proposals and what they would do, rather than the actual track record of these proposals and their actual chances of enactment.  

Proposals are great, people -- easy to sell to editors and full of hope or fear for those involved -- but enactment (or at least a realistic chance at passage)  is what counts.  We do readers and ourselves a disservice when we lose track of the larger storyline, creating an impression (in this case, of widespread rollbacks) that doesn't match reality.

NCSL's CCSS tracker is here. There's a spreadsheet showing what's been proposed and whether it's moved here.

*UPDATE: Earlier this week, the Washington Post's GovBeat page (never heard of it!) had a story about failed Common Core repeal efforts.

Events: Journalists Discuss Common Core (Coverage?) In Denver (Plus Map)

Here's a map of Common Core states, by assessment, from EdWeek, that I got off the #EWACore event hashtag. (All it needs is testing start/end dates for each state, right?) Agenda is here. Crossed fingers there's some (gentle?) discussion of how well/poorly media are doing covering the situation.

Related posts: Missing Context In AP's Common Core Testing StoryPlease Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, JournosCan Education Coverage Find Its Balance, Please? 

 

AM News: Tennessee Common Core Review Could Cost $4 Million

Tennessee's Common Core review comes with uncommon costs Times Free Press: A bill requiring Tennessee's State Board of Education to drop Common Core education standards and develop new requirements has a math problem: It's projected to cost $4.14 million over a three-year period.

State not joining revolt against Common Core learning model Seattle Times: Despite backlash in other states over new learning standards known as the Common Core, little serious opposition has surfaced in Washington.

Is your child’s personal data safe at school? PBS NewsHour: In Miami, a man was arrested with students’ names, social security numbers and birthdays — more than enough personal information to steal their identities. Parents in D.C. learned that information on student enrollment in special education services — including names and passwords for online mailboxes — has for years been easily accessible to anyone online, due to a security breach.

YouTube launches kids app Marketplace: YouTube launches a kids app on Monday. It comes with a filter for content, kid friendly design, and a parental timer for how long kids can play. It’s just one of several new media platforms targeting kids.

L.A. Unified says it can't afford 'computer for all' plan LA Times: Los Angeles Unified schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said Friday that the district cannot afford to provide a computer to every student, signaling a major reversal of his predecessor's ill-fated $1.3-billion effort to distribute iPads to all students, teachers and school administrators.

When a Wildlife Rehab Center Regulates Charter Schools ProPublica: Nestled in the woods of central Minnesota, near a large lake, is a nature sanctuary called the Audubon Center of the North Woods. It’s also Minnesota’s largest regulator of charter schools, overseeing 32 of them. As a group, the schools overseen by the center fall below the state average on test scores.

Cuomo Plan Diminishes Principals' Authority on Evaluations WNYC: New York City principals challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo on his plan to increase the role of outside evaluators in reviewing teacher performance.

Report Recommends Elected School Board for Chicago District Dossier: A new report from the Collaborative for Justice and Equity in Education recommends an elected school board for the city that would prioritize "equitable educational opportunities and outcomes" in its decisionmaking.

At New York Private Schools, Challenging White Privilege From the Inside NYT: In a new type of diversity initiative at elite institutions, students explore privilege and power and are encouraged to think about social justice in a personal way.

A safety net for dropouts catches others WBEZ: Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in Humboldt Park is one of the district’s 20 new alternative schools opened in the last two years. It’s a joint venture between the NBA-star-turned-businessman, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and EdisonLearning, a for-profit education company. Students come for half the day and do most of their work online. Many can finish a full credit in a matter of weeks.

Expelled in preschool Hechinger Report: An after-school program run by Chicago Youth Centers has seen significant improvement in children’s behaviors since staff began working with Lauren Wiley, an early childhood mental health consultant. 

Chicago's Mayor Emanuel spends heavily to avoid run-off  Reuters: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hoping his warm hug with President Barack Obama in the last days of his re-election campaign will help him avoid a run-off in the race to lead the financially troubled, third largest city in the country.

Movies: Follow Up To Documentary Criticizing School Reform

Here's the Kickstarter promo for the followup to "Race To Nowhere," via The Daily Riff.

Thompson: Russo's Disheartening "Eight Lessons for Funders and Grantees"

Almost every paper presented at the American Enterprise Institute’s conference, Is the ‘New’ Education Philanthropy Good for Schools?, made me somewhat more hopeful that the Gates Foundation, at least, will learn and back off from insisting that stakes be attached to standardized tests, and start down more promising policy paths. The exception is Alexander Russo’s Inside Foundations: Eight Lessons for Funders and Grantees on Education Giving

According to Russo’s astute article, the lessons of this new generation of philanthropy are:

1. Policy and advocacy are great tools—to a point.

2. New approaches complicate measurement/evaluation issues. 

3. Newly-created organizations bring focus and fidelity but can lack credibility and engagement.       

4. “Strategic” philanthropy is a powerful way to narrow priorities—unless it’s applied too rigidly.  

5. Setting clear metrics helps—until you take them too far.

6. Fail fast—but don’t overreact to bad news, either.

7. Don’t forget/underplay “the grind.”

8. Little more coordination, please (but not too much!)

In a rational world, this witty and insightful call for balance would contribute to better policy-making. In contrast to the statements made by other insiders to the other contributors, however, I fear that the several elites interviewed by Russo are concluding that, yes, we lose credibility with each of our risky policy gambles -- but we will make it up on volume.

Continue reading "Thompson: Russo's Disheartening "Eight Lessons for Funders and Grantees"" »

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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.