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Foundations: The 2015 MacArthur "Genius" Everybody Overlooked

Little noticed in the annual flurry of attention given to MacArthur genius grant recipients -- including by me -- was that the Chicago nonprofit head who won is deeply involved in immigrant education and heads an organization that started a charter school a few years ago.

A day or so after the fact, the Charter Alliance made note of the event -- perhaps the first person involved with charter schools to win the award:

"In 2010, Mr. Salgado founded, Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy,a charter school located on the Instituto del Progreso Latino campus in Chicago for grades 9-12. The academy prepares students for success in competitive colleges and universities while simultaneously providing job readiness certifications in entry-level positions with higher wages at the healthcare sector."

Truth be told, there wasn't much interesting in the grants from the people I follow on Twitter this year, even though some awardees are super strong on race and inequality issues. The NYT's Amy Virshup noted that one of the 2015 awardees -- also involved in education indirectly -- named Alex Truesdell had been profiled in the paper the year before. 

If and when someone solidly from the reform camp or its critics win the award, all hell will break loose.  But most of the folks who seem to win these things aren't ideological combatants but rather maker/creators who work from the middle. 

Related posts: Roland Fryer Wins MacArthur "Genius" Award (2011);   Deborah Bial: An Education "Genius" (2007); Educator Wins MacArthur "Genius (2010); Will An Educator Win A 2012 MacArthur Grant?The Genius Behind Teach For America (2007).

Charts: How Charters Ended Up Being Predominantly Urban

"According to the Bellwether report, 56 percent of charter-school students live in cities, versus just 29 percent of all U.S. children. (The remaining charter-school students are about evenly split between rural areas and the suburbs.) Relatedly, nearly two-thirds of the charter-school population is nonwhite, compared to about half of its regular public-school counterpart... Just a small percentage of Colorado’s charter-school population is identified as low-income, versus a solid majority of the students attending charters in D.C." Laura McKenna in The Atlantic (Why There’s Little Demand for Charter Schools in the Suburbs)

Books: An Anthropological Look At School Fundraising

image from www.tinyspark.orgI don't know much of anything about this, but a new book called A Good Investment? is coming out and it's written up at Tiny Spark (When a School Markets Students as Charity Cases):

"Amy Brown’s forthcoming book examines how a NYC public high school managed its image to donors and critiques big philanthropy’s role in public education. A Good Investment? Philanthropy and the Marketing of Race in an Urban Public School is based on her two years at the pseudonymous “College Prep Academy.”

According to LinkedIn, Brown is a "Critical Writing Fellow at University of Pennsylvania Critical Writing Program."

Events: Reflections On Last Night's Newark Panel

While we're waiting for the event to be discussed on WNYC's Brian Lehrer later this morning, let me tell you what a strange, interesting time it was to my eyes in Newark yesterday evening at the WNYC-hosted panel to discuss the past and future of the Newark schools.

As has already been reported, the news out of the event was that while there's no clear timeline for returning the district to local control -- and no clear legal mechanism for doing so -- Cerf says that there will be no attempt to increase the percentage of kids being served by charter schools, either.

That's probably reassuring to charter critics and those who are focused on the district schools that still serve two thirds of the Newark kids but tremendously disappointing to charter advocates who point to Newark charters' academic success and long waiting lists of parents.  It may also have come as something of a surprise. At least one charter insider in the audience thought that Cerf was going to charterize the district. 

Beyond that news, there were all sorts of moments and dynamics that felt "off" to me (though they may not have had the same effect on other audience members).

First and foremost, there was the visual of Newark mayor Ras Baraka sitting next to grey-haired Chris Cerf, the appointed head of Newark schools. How and why Chris Christie chose an awkward preppy white guy to replace Cami Anderson is unclear to me and can't have been welcome news to Baraka and his supporters. Contrast the move with what happened in DC, where Kaya Henderson succeeded Michelle Rhee.

Part of the tension is structural. The two men are both deeply concerned about Newark schools, but neither is wholly in charge of Newark's mixed school system. The state oversees the school district, but the district doesn't really oversee the charter schools -- an ongoing governance problem raised several times in Russakoff's book. And of course, Cerf is pro-charter, an outsider, and all the rest. 

Unsettling matters further, Baraka and Cerf couldn't seem to decide last night whether they were going rehash and continue past battles that were the subject of Dale Russakoff's book, The Prize, or focus on trying to create the impression of a unified front looking to the future and working together.  They did a bit of both, but seemed like they were veering back towards old beefs as the night went on (and the audience's preference became clear).

Throughout, both men seemed to be resorting to sound bites and talking points rather than candor and honest reflection, though Baraka came off as a much better speaker in this context (and certainly had more of the audience members behind him). His mandate and responsibilities are much more focused. Cerf had the awkward task of defending the past, apologizing for it (including throwing some shade at Booker and Christie), and reassuring the public about future changes. (Cerf: "I suspect there were more than a few cases when now-Sen. Booker and Gov Christie overstated their case.")

By and large, Russakoff was woefully under-used during the 90-minute session, limited to a few initial observations and then left to the sidelines. It would have been especially interesting if Floyd had asked her to confirm or raise questions with the claims that Baraka and Cerf were making (several of which seemed possibly misleading or incomplete to me) or if she had just jumped in and said, "hey, wait a minute -- that's not right." But neither of those things happened. 

Wearing a cropped white jacket and fun glasses, Floyd was an enthusiastic and engaged moderator but seemed to struggle to keep panelist's answers short (especially Cerf) and to deal with audience members who wanted to ask more than one questions or refute panelist's answers to their questions.  Though she's spent a fair amount of time in Newark on this topic in the past few weeks, she also lacked the background information to question Baraka and Cerf's claims herself. (She also apparently had a panelist bow out at the last minute, and was unable to convince the head of the teacher's union to appear at the event though he did sit down for an interview earlier this year.)

She called Cerf out when he tried to glide past some of the past failures, but that was about it. Baraka admitted "of course there's bloating in the district" but that was about it. His answer to why more resources don't get into schools was incomprehensible (to me, at least). His sound bites were awesome, though. ("We can't fight inequality by creating more inequality," for example.)

So neither the moderate nor the journalist panelist was able or willing to do any live fact-checking against the claims being made onstage.

For me personally, it was fascinating to see some of the folks I'd been reading about and listening to in person up on stage, and to see a slew of familiar folks. My Spencer classmate Nancy Solomon was there -- she's currently heading the New Jersey bureau for WNYC. (I also got to meet Sarah Gonzalez, the NJ-based reporter who sometimes covers education for the station.) Former WSJ education reporter Barbara Martinez was in the audience.  Jennifer (Edushyster) Berkshire was somewhere in the audience, too.  

Morning Video: African Education Entrepreneur Wins "Genius" Grant


"Patrick Awuah is an educator and entrepreneur building a new model for higher education in Ghana. Read more here.

Related posts: Roland Fryer Wins MacArthur "Genius" Award (2011);   Deborah Bial: An Education "Genius" (2007); Educator Wins MacArthur "Genius (2010); Will An Educator Win A 2012 MacArthur Grant?The Genius Behind Teach For America (2007).

Morning Video: Pro-Charter Ad Slams NYC's De Blasio Gets Criticized As Racist

Politico New York's Eliza Shapiro posted this video from Families For Excellent Schools and wrote about it last week (New charter ad hits de Blasio on race). Then came the followup story in which some folks denounced the ad as being overly divisive (Critics call new charter school ad 'racist'). 

While it makes some uneasy, descriptions and accusations related to race and racism are all over the place in the past few years, including recent comments from Derrell Bradford, Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, #educolor, and the This American Life series related to school integration. Just last week, white affluent Brooklyn parents were being accused of racism in response to a proposed school zoning stage (and affluent white parents in Chicago were being praised for their open-mindedness).  Over the weekend, Elizabeth Warren gave a speech related to #BlackLivesMatter.

On the substance of the matter, the NYT editorial page recently suggested that the DOE needed to move further, faster on failing schools. ProPublic recently slammed the universal preschool program for not adding enough low-income (minority) students. But he's also launched a big new initiative related to economic equality.

Related posts: Ta-Nehesi Coates' New Book On Race (& Schooling)Your Individual Racism Isn't Really The ProblemWorst Schools = The "New" Plantation.

Charts: Should Education Advocates Work On Voting Issues? (Yes.)

The notion that people interested in making schools work better for kids should get involved in voter registration/equity issues will probably make some (on the reform side, mostly) howl and tear their hair out of their heads (except perhaps those Democracy Prep folks).

But social justice activists and organized labor have long been involved in these kinds of things (most notably in Chicago, where the CTU registered voters along with running candidates against City Hall).

There's a sliver of reform-side history on voter registration in the form of Steve Barr (and others?) being involved with Rock The Vote, which was a musician-focused effort to encourage people to register whose heyday was in the 1990's on MTV.

This forthcoming study on responses to poor AYP ratings suggests increases in voter turnout 5-8 percent (varying by income) -- almost as much effect as door knocking.

Plus which: schools are often used as polling places, so it's right there in front of your faces.

Parent engagement & mobilization is now recognized as a key aspect of efforts to make schools work better. Why not throw some voter registration/advocacy in the mix while you're at it?

Related posts: Harvard Students Fail 1964 Louisiana Voting Literacy Test Children's Academic Success Vs. Minority Voting RightsComputerized Voting To Change A ContractTurning Students Into Voters.

#TBT: Remembering The Annenberg Challenge (aka "Bottom-Up" Reform)

There's lots of talk these days about "bottom-up" efforts to fix struggling schools and districts, largely tied to what happened in Newark over the past five years.

But as some longtimers may recall, bottom-up (locally-driven, community-led) school reform funded by nonprofit sources has been tried before, most notably in the form of Walter Annenberg's $500M Challenge.

Take a minute to check out the case studies of Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City that were written and published way back in 2000. (The Chicago chapter is one that I wrote. Carol Innerst and Ray Domanico wrote the others.)

Some of the folks who are pushing for bottom-up reforms now were actually part of these efforts, and should know better (or at least know that it's no guarantee of success of any kind). 

While we're on the topic, the NYT's Kate Zernike is scheduled to interview Dale Russakoff about Newark tonight at 5.

Reform: Why Was Community Engagement In Newark *So* Bad?

In a recent interview in The Seventy Four, former mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries described how woefully insufficient the communications and engagement effort was behind the Newark school reform effort: “There was absolutely not an infrastructure to communicate to parents... voters [and] the community.” 


Love or loathe the Newark reform effort, you have to admit that it's pretty notable that well-funded reformers who'd seen what happened to Michelle Rhee in DC and had to know the importance of informing and rallying community members to their cause didn't seem to do so (or did so ineffectively). Across the river, Families For Excellent Schools launched in 2011. There was nothing like that in Newark. 

In Dale Russakoff's book about Newark, the communications effort outsourced to consultant Bradley Tusk and others is described as a half-completed boondoggle:


Mysteriously Tusk's role in Newark -- and his effectiveness -- isn't mentioned in this recent Forbes profile (What Uber And Mike Bloomberg Have In Common).


I've invited Tusk and other consultants who worked on the Newark project to tell me more about their work, what if anything the Russakoff book gets wrong, and what readers need to know about the folks working on the opposite side of the issue (who don't get nearly as much attention as Tusk et al in the Russakoff book).

So far, few if any takers. But the lines are still open.  

Related posts: Meet Bradley Tusk, Reform StrategistWhy Organized Opposition Gets Less Attention.

AM News: Jobs Announces New $50M HS Redesign Project

Laurene Powell Jobs Commits $50 Million to Create New High Schools NYT: With an advertising campaign that looks as if it came from Apple’s marketing department, the initiative [XQ: The Super School Project] is meant to create high schools with new approaches to education. Over the next several months, the teams will submit plans that could include efforts like altering school schedules, curriculums and technologies. By fall next year, Ms. Powell Jobs said, a team of judges will pick five to 10 of the best ideas to finance.

Common Core test scores show achievement gap, even in high-performing schools KPCC: At Wonderland Avenue Elementary, this week's test score release prompted celebration: 94 percent of the 330 students who took the test met or exceeded the grade-level standards in English language arts and 82 percent did so in math.  The school’s Latino students, about 4 percent of the student population, scored lower on the standardized tests when compared to white and Asian children.

School Canceled for 4th Day as Seattle Teachers Strike AP: Seattle Public Schools is canceling classes for a fourth day Monday as a strike by teachers enters its second week. The strike, over issues that include pay raises and teacher evaluations, has delayed the start of the school year for about 53,000 students. The sides resumed negotiations Saturday and continued to talk Sunday. Seattle Times.

Obama Seeks to Make Applying for Federal Financial Aid Easier PK12: The president is unveiling changes aiming to give students information about how much aid they qualify for earlier and encourage more low-income students to go after federal grants and loans. See also Reuters, PBS NewsHour.

Gaps in Earnings Stand Out in Release of College Data NYT: At some expensive colleges, the salaries of students 10 years after enrollment are bleak, and there is an earnings gender gap at every top university. See also NPRBuzzFeedAP.

School choice complicates Promise Neighborhood’s efforts to help kids Washington Post: Less than a third of the 1,600 students who live there attend neighborhood schools; the rest are enrolled in 184 others, scattered across a city that has embraced school choice more than almost any other.

Charter School Head Says Newark Schools Are Better Since Facebook Gift WNYC: "Your odds have doubled of being in a good school if you're an African American kid in Newark," said Ryan Hill, director of Kipp New Jersey, which operates five charter schools in the city. 

Authorities identify special needs student found dead on bus AP: Authorities have identified a special needs student who was found dead on a school bus as a special needs student who regularly rode the bus to his home in Whittier....

Another clue that school's in session: the traffic WBEZ Chicago: For many in the Chicago region, the start of a new school year marks the beginning of another season: nine months of traffic headaches. People block the alley, park illegally. People park in places that block the buses. 

Matthew Levey's Charter School Quest NYT: Late last month, on a warm, luminous morning, Matthew Levey, a 48-year-old former McKinsey consultant, stood on Willoughby Street in Downtown Brooklyn and shook hands with his new charges: 65 kindergartners, a sea of neon sneakers, starched dresses and cotton golf shirts. It was the first day — ever — for the International Charter School of New York. And Mr. Levey, who had spent the last 36 months planning, developing and hiring for his new elementary school, was in high spirits. 

Quotes: Expanding Choice Not The Same As Fixing A District

Quotes2I thought that with [hundreds of millions] of dollars...that they knew how to reform a district, and how to help urban schools, not just charter schools... I thought they really knew how to take...the whole district and make all of those schools perform better for kids, and they really didn't know how to do that.

- Author Dale Russakoff about the reform effort in Newark, via WNYC (The Deal That Brought Mark Zuckerberg's $100 Million Gift to Newark's Schools)


Quotes: Communities Try To Balance Choice/Charters Against Jobs/Stability

Quotes2People are often of two minds. They're putting their kids in charters but that means the district schools need to right-size by cutting jobs, and that affects their cousin. Everyone in Newark is affected by both trends.

- Dale Russakoff in Newark Star-Ledger (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book on Newark School Reform)


Think Tanks: Former TN Commissioner Kevin Huffman Writing A Book


"Kevin Huffman will write a book about the challenge of building a first-rate public school system in the face of modern political dysfunction," according to this announcement from the New America Foundation (2016 class of New America fellows). 

Huffman headed the Tennessee school system from 2011-2015, and announced his resignation last November.

Yes, he was once married to Michelle Rhee. No, he's not married to Rebeca Nieves-Huffman. 
You can find him at @k_huff1. Image via New America.

Quotes: Newark Book "Critical Of All The Players"

Quotes2I see it as critical of all the players in education, so I don't think reform movement is singled out. There's a real divide in the debate over education, one side versus the other. And the children are caught in the middle. 
- Author Dale Russakoff rebutting NYT review by Alex Kotlowitz (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book on Newark School Reform)

Roundup: Best & Worst Reviews Of Newark Book Out Today

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comPerhaps the best two pieces I’ve come across are from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran including an opinion piece on where things stand that notes district progress along with charter school improvements and reformers' misguided focus on the parts of the story Russakoff leaves out (Newark students are better off, despite the political noise) and also a Q & A with Russakoff in which the author rebuts a deeply flawed NYT review, proposes a forensic audit of Newark's $23,000-per student spending, but calls the Zuckerberg-funded reform efforts a “wash” over all (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book). These are both well worth reading, for what Moran writes and for Russakoff's responses.

There have also been four big mainstream reviews of the book: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex Kotlowitz;  NYT (Jonathan Knee). Of these earlier reviews, I found the second NYT review (by Knee) to be the most interesting, taking a business-oriented view of what happened that's no less critical of the process and the outcomes than anyone else. 


Roundup: Best & Worst Reviews Of Newark Book Coming Out Today

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comPerhaps the best two pieces I’ve come across are from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran including an opinion piece on where things stand that notes district progress along with charter school improvements and reformers' misguided focus on the parts of the story Russakoff leaves out (Newark students are better off, despite the political noise) and also a Q & A with Russakoff in which the author rebuts a deeply flawed NYT review, proposes a forensic audit of Newark's $23,000-per student spending, but calls the Zuckerberg-funded reform efforts a “wash” over all (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book). 

These are both well worth reading, for what Moran writes and for Russakoff's responses.

There have also been four big mainstream reviews of the book: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex Kotlowitz;  NYT (Jonathan Knee). 

Of these earlier reviews, I found the second NYT review (by Knee) to be the most interesting, taking a business-oriented view of what happened that's no less critical of the process and the outcomes than anyone else. 

Last but not least, here's NYT columnist Joe Nocera's piece on the book (Zuckerberg’s Expensive Lesson), which notes among other things that "almost half" of the Zuckerberg effort went to Newark teachers in the form of back pay, salaries for teachers who weren't assigned to a classroom, and bonuses. "Apparently, Zuckerberg has learned his lesson. What will it take for the rest of us to learn?" 

Just this morning, WNYC's Sarah Gonzales gave us an update on how some of the characters in the book are doing (How Booker, Christie Spent the $100 Million Facebook Donation), including a breakout of spending (most of which went to teachers and principals, not consultants).


Update: Darling-Hammond Leaving Stanford To Launch New Policy Research Organization (Doesn't Seem Interested In Being Next Education Secretary)

There’s some big news coming out of California today in the form of the official launch of the new policy and research center headed by Linda Darling-Hammond.

Called the Learning Policy Institute, the new organization is Darling-Hammond’s effort to create a better kind of think tank/policy research center, one that puts student learning at the center and bridges research and policy worlds.

Its creation would also seem to put a damper on the hopes or fears of those who have written her in as a next Democratic Education Secretary.

The organization will both conduct its own policy research and partner with others’ work. Some of the policy priorities that the institute [@LPI_Learning] plans to investigate include deeper learning, educator quality, college and career, school organization and design, early childhood.

Based near Stanford, the Institute will also have an office in DC that’s going to be headed by former Alliance For Education staffer Charmaine Mercer. By the end of the year, the expectation is that a staff of 30 will have been hired, with plans to grow as large as 50. See more details from the announcement here.

Initial funders include the Sandler Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, Ford, and Hewlett, and Stuart.

Former SRI staff Patrick Shields is going to be the ED. Board members include David Lyon of the California Public Policy Institute and David Rattray of UNITE-LA. Wynn Hausser is heading the communications/outreach effort. He and Darling-Hammond first met working with Public Advocates.

Two senior fellows in residence have been announced: Jeannie Oakes, formerly of Ford, and David Kirp from Berkeley. Darling-Hammond is retiring from Stanford as part of the new launch, though she is going to teach part time.

In a blog post announcing the new endeavor, Darling-Hammond called the present time "A New Moment in Education."

There's no shortage of research shops, policy outfits, and think tanks doing all sorts of things at all different levels of quality, rigor, and independence. I'll be eager to see whether LPI can both grab policymakers' attention and promote high-quality research. It's not an easy thing to do one or the other, and no small feat to do them both at the same time.

Related posts: UPenn Ranks Think Tanks; Have Funders Overtaken Think Tanks?; Think Tank Watch: [Why] Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?; Research-Less Think Tanks Can't Compete; Linda Darling-Hammond's Ninja Warrior Son.

Morning Video: Education, Housing, Integration -- Really?

 "Supporters of desegregation won the Yonkers battle—but the high cost of victory lost them the war," writes former NYT writer Lisa Belkin, whose book about a Yonkers NY housing fight is the subject of a new David Simon HBO miniseries, Show Me A Hero that's been written up by EdWeek's Mark Walsh. "Few in this country had the will to risk another divisive, ugly municipal bruising anytime soon."

This isn't the first time Simon has addressed school-related issues. The Wire included a whole season focused on a group of middle school boys. (No surprise given his writing partner's career as both a cop and a geography teacher). More recently (by which I mean 2010-211), the NOLA-based Treme series included a few biting references to post-Katrina school reform. (Remember "Four years at Radcliff is all you know..."?)

Meantime, someone should go to Yonkers and follow up on how the integration plan and kids are doing, right?

Related posts: New HBO Series Takes On Charters & Choice [2010]; From Cop To Writer To Geography TeacherDoes TFA Displace Veterans -- & Do TFAer Really Stay?.

Quotes: Blame Pinellas County On Local Control?

Quotes2There are real perils to prioritizing local control over ensuring that all schools and districts are actually educating all children. Look no further than Pinellas County, Florida, where a recent story detailed the systematic neglect and denial of opportunity to poor students of color by the local board of education.

-- Former StudentsFirst VP Eric Lerum in Education Post (The Odd Couples of Education)

Morning Video: The Fight To Reboot A Chicago High School

Curious about the controversy over the closing of Dyett HS in Chicago (and the hunger strike against its demise)? Not sure just how controversial it can be to phase out even a low-performing, declining-enrolllment school? Watch the above WTTW Chicago Public Television segment (transcript here).
Or, check out a new podcast audio segment from Us & Them about the Math Wars of the 1970s.

Morning Video: Katrina Anniversary Gets Three-Part Education Documentary

Check out this segment from The Seventy Four, featuring New Orleans kids' escape from Katrina and eventual return. Click here for 2 other segments. Are there any other attempts to tell the story on video?

Charts: As Of 2010, DC Got More Foundation Funding Than Anyone Else (Per Pupil)

Eee"The [$31M] total represented an extra $705 per student — far more than any other school district in the country," notes this Washington Post story (D.C. schools attracted record amounts of philanthropy). Other districts with substantial private funding include(d) Nwark, Oakland, Seattle, & Boston. Image used with permission. Latest figures included are for 2010, and are presented on a per-pupil basis. 

Thompson: Greg Toppo Sees the Game's Future and It Works

image from images.macmillan.comI've always been confused by the seemingly absurd dichotomy. Brilliant computer geeks and digital geniuses create such potentially liberating technologies. But, they also became a driving force in corporate school reform and its efforts to turn schools back to the early 20th century.

Gosh, as Greg Toppo explains in The Game Believes in You, computer games were pioneered by a small group of mostly unconnected, visionaries, In the earliest days of the 1960s computer breakthroughs, some inventors were even influenced by LSD. So, why did such creative people commit to turning schools into a sped up Model T assembly line?

It would be too much to ask of Toppo, or any other single writer, to definitively answer this question but his excellent book helps us understand why so many architects of 21st century technological miracles helped impose test, sort, reward, and punish, bubble-in malpractice on our schools.

Toppo chose to study computer gaming after his still dynamic young daughter became disenchanted with reading, and after he tired of reporting on school reform wars.  The fundamental problem predates corporate school reform; for instance, 1/3rd of high school graduates never go on to read another book for the rest of their lives. And, as teacher and reading expert Kelly Gallagher says, the problem is both under- and over-teaching of reading. But, full-blown "readicide" has been made far worse by the test prep which was caused by output-driven, competition-driven reform. 

Toppo writes:

At exactly the same time that schools have taken the questionable path of implementing more high-stakes standardized tests keyed to the abilities of some imaginary bell-curved students, games have gone the opposite route, embedding sophisticated assessment into gameplay ... becoming complex learning tools that promise to deflate the tired 'teach to the test' narrative that weighs down so many great teachers and schools. 

The Game Believes in You does a great job explaining the cognitive science behind computer games (and in doing so he may foreshadow an explanation why corporate school reformers became so obsessed with competition that they helped impose nonstop worksheet-driven, basic skills instruction on so many schools.)

Continue reading "Thompson: Greg Toppo Sees the Game's Future and It Works" »

Quotes: How "Common Core" Got Poisoned

Quotes2The term ‘Common Core’ is so darned poisonous, I don’t even know what it means.

- Jeb Bush quoted in this Washington Post editorial (The right and left poison Common Core with inflammatory rhetoric)


Media: EdWeek Acquires Nonprofit Supplying PBS NewsHour Segments - Who Will Replace Merrow On Air?

Screenshot 2015-08-10 22.55.36
There are lots of exciting angles to the news that Editorial Projects in Education (the nonprofit outfit that runs EdWeek) is acquiring Learning Matters (which is John Merrow's long-running nonprofit education media organization), but the most immediate and fun aspect that I can think of about the deal is speculation over who will replace Merrow as one of the on-air correspondents (who introduces segments, asks questions, nods in response to answers, etc.).

As you may have noticed, Learning Matters -- whose segments often appear on the PBS NewsHour -- has had two correspondents sharing duties over the past few years: Merrow and John ("JT") Tulenko. According to EdWeek, Tulenko will stay on as a correspondent and will like the rest of the Learning Matters team remain in New York City. The second, as-yet-unnamed correspondent will work out of Washington DC (well, Bethesda), which is where EdWeek is located. That's where the fun part comes.

Neither Kathleen Kennedy Manzo nor Virginia "Ginny" Edwards would tell me who the new correspondent might be -- I don't think they quite know themselves -- but here are some guesses at who might be in the running:

It's possible that they'll pick someone already on the EdWeek payroll, especially given that some of the current staffers have broadcast experience and obviously know education fairly well. Ben Herold did some radio when he was in Philadelphia. Arianna Prothero came out of public radio in Miami. It's also possible that there's someone at the NewsHour who's interested enough to move over to EdWeek (since nobody calls it EPE). 

My guess is that they'll look for someone who knows education at least a bit, has some broadcast experience (radio or TV), who's already in DC. That could include someone from the NPR national team, or -- my guess -- WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza (whom I've met socially as well as heard on air). Maybe they'll try and lure WNYC's Yasmeen Kahn down to try out for the job. There's a great young public TV correspondent from Chicago's WTTW, Brandis Friedman, who might be interested and ready or might like where she is. Former KPCC LA education reporter Vanessa Romo just accepted a Spencer Fellowship but that only lasts until May, really, so maybe she's a candidate, too?

Let me know if you have any other, better ideas -- or if my ideas are all wrong.

Other tidbits that I can tell you with greater certainty include that Edwards says she has raised $4.5 million to support the new operation over the next three years, led by a commitment from the Wallace Foundation, and that EdWeek is building a new studio in the Bethesda office to do more video for online and broadcast.  

There's no money changing hands between EdWeek and Merrow, and just one board member from Learning Matters is coming over to EdWeek, which is apparently why it's an acquisition rather than a sale or merger.

Edwards also tells me that there's an MOU with the NewsHour spelling out the collaboration between the two organizations, which have for many years operated on little more than a handshake between Merrow and his counterparts at the NewsHour. Learning Matters without the NewsHour isn't nearly as appealing as the two of them together, so that makes sense to nail that down as part of the deal. 

The idea of merging the two organizations has been around for years, according to Edwards, but talks started in earnest last Spring when Merrow told insiders (including me) that he was going to retire soon but hoped to find a way for Learning Matters to continue. Edwards had been on Merrow's board for a time. Learning Matters has been a content partner to EdWeek. "There is only one organization with the expertise, talent, and reputation to continue this work, and that’s EdWeek," says Merrow in a press release.

EdWeek has experimented with video content over the years, and won an award from EWA for a feature focused on Native American education, but has never done all that much with it -- and has never had access to a broadcast outlet like the NewsHour.  

The NewsHour has experimented with online coverage of education in between broadcast segments, and has an education page but no dedicated staffer covering the beat to my knowledge. For what seems like forever, the vast majority of its field segments (those including coverage of schools and live events outside the studio) have been provided by Learning Matters. 

Given all the other options that the NewsHour could have explored -- including handling education internally or farming it out to any number of other production companies who would have jumped at the chance -- and the challenges of the last few years in journalism over all, EdWeek can be forgiven the swagger in its release:  

"At a time when many news organizations have struggled to sustain their audiences and even their businesses, the nonprofit Education Week is a success story," brags EdWeek. "The legacy news operation has not only survived the media disruption, but leveraged it, catalyzing its authoritative coverage with even more engaging and diversified forms of journalism."

I've put out calls to Merrow and to the NewsHour and will let you know what if any additional information I get back from them.

Related posts: Last Night’s PBS NewsHour May Have (Wildly) Overstated the Dropout Rate for New TeachersSome High-Poverty Districts Exceed Federal Opt-Out Limit.

Quotes: Worst Schools = The "New" Plantation

Quotes2There is no hokum that Diane Ravitch can write that will absolve her of her destructive support of this new slave trade... No monograph Karen Magee or S.O.S. soccer moms in Westchester’s leafy burbs can offer that trumps their doublespeak about educational opportunity for all…while they hoard it for themselves. -- NY-CAN's Derrell Bradford from a speech delivered yesterday at CCNY.

Note that this is far from the first time that slavery has come up in the education debate, most recently in a WNYC series this summer. See related posts on the topic: Slavery, The Holocaust, & NCLB (2008), What It's Like Being A 12 Year-Old (2015)

Related posts: No One Can Handle Derrell BradfordHow Organizers See The Parent TriggerNotes From Yale SOM 2011Key Takeaways From The NJ TFA Media PanelThe "Disqualification Morass"

Morning Video: Noguera, Hagopian, Cunningham Debate Education

On Sunday, Al Jazeera America's Third Rail show featured these three talking about education. See one segment above. See others here (scroll down for various segments).

School Shootings: How Sandy Hook Marked End of The Gun Control Debate

 "In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over." -- Daily Telegraph commentator Dan Hodges via Wonkblog

Movies: New Montclair Documentary Avoids Simplistic Hero/Villain Approach

Got away
If and when you get the chance, be sure to check out a new documentary, "The One That Got Away," which explores the challenges facing low-income families, schools that serve them, and social services systems -- in a more balanced and thoughtful way than many other films of this kind.
There's no trailer yet, not even a website or social media, but the flyer for the documentary, screened earlier this year at the Montclair Film Fest (where it's based) and last night at Scholastic in Manhattan (thanks, Tyler!), promises a pretty dramatic story: "Once president of his middle school; now behind bars. The One That Got Away tells the true story of Tourrie Moses, a once-highly promising New Jersey student from a troubled background who is now in prison for murder, and a profoundly devoted team of teachers who tried to help him thrive." 
And indeed the film tells an intense, vivid tale. The interviews with Tourrie's mother, who's struggled with heroin addiction, and his strict but loving father, who says he spent roughly 20 years in and out of prison, are particularly challenging to watch. 

But the most interesting and helpful aspect to the film is how it describes a situation in which there are no black-and-white heroes or villains, and no bright or artificial line between parents, school, and social services agencies tasked with supporting families and children in tough circumstances.  

It's not the school, or the teacher, or the kid, or society. It's all of them. 
As depicted in the film, the educators at Glenfield Middle School are incredibly concerned and dedicated but are using an ad hoc warning system of supports and interventions. Ditto for the high school educators who try and fail to get Moses through a delicate transition from middle school despite his social services case having been formally closed. The parents are both flawed but by no means unloving or entirely absent. Tourrie (known to his family as Ray Ray) is intensely charismatic and eager to learn but unable to hold onto his connections to his teachers and his father over the reliable if limited lure of the streets.
In capturing these overlapping roles and dynamics, the film raises both structural societal issues (racism, inequality) and issues of personal and individual effort. But neither society nor the individual is given responsibility for the outcome in this film. It's shared. 
(And, blessedly, there's nothing in the film about Common Core, standardized testing, teacher evaluation, charter schools, the Gates Foundation, or any of the other obsessions of the current era. )
There are some issues I had with the documentary, including some heavy-handed interviewing (especially in a scene about drug addiction), and a front porch group interview with former classmates that's not as useful or enlightening as intended.
And, while the educators and social services agency staffers who are interviewed express deep regret and renewed vigilance against a repeat of systemic failures, it's not entirely clear to me that they've given up their ad hoc approach (based on personal relationships) and replaced it with a more reliable warning and intervention system. 
This film will raise awareness of the problems facing schools serving kids like Tourrie but I'm not as confident as I'd like to be that a similar tragedy couldn't be happening again right now.

Morning Video: Ta-Nehisi Coates' New Book, Plus Emanuel In Aspen

In this Atlantic video short, Ta-Nehisi Coates reads a short passage from his new book, Between the World and Me. Read an extended excerpt, "A Letter to My Son," here.

Or, watch Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and UofC's Tim Knowles talk education at the Aspen Ideas Festival (in which he claims no great admiration for school reform).

People: TFA's Behind-The-Scenes Hostage Rescue Effort

Tfakipp foley
Even if you already knew that slain journalist Jim Foley had been a TFA alum you might have been surprised to read about TFA (and KIPP) involvement behind the scenes in the efforts to secure his release in this week's New Yorker story The Families Who Negotiated with ISIS. Among those mentioned are Wendy Kopp, Amy Rosen (Newark KIPP), and April Goble (Chicago KIPP), who is identified as Foley's former girlfriend:

"Bradley kept adding people to the team, paying their travel expenses, and often a salary as well. He installed two young researchers in cubicles in the Watergate office. He recruited a former Syrian diplomat, now known as Noor Azar, who had gone into exile after the revolution. Meanwhile, April Goble, Foley’s ex-girlfriend, worked with eleven volunteers from Teach for America, looking for inroads into the Syrian regime."

There may have been hints of this effort on social media, such as this 2013 tweet I sent out (but had forgotten): "Friends of kidnapped freelance photographer James Foley TFA '96 are organizing to secure his release from Syria." The link goes to the Free Jame Foley FB page. 

The confusing and alienating behavior of the US government in support of the hostage families and their friends has been a big topic in the news recently, and the Obama administration recently announced changes in its policies that would give families more information and free them from threats of prosecution for arranging for their loved ones' release (including through payment of ransoms).

Related posts: NYT's annual memorial "The Lives They Lived" includes profile of TFA alum James Foley

Ideas: Turning Schools & Prisons Into a "Production Function"

Screenshot 2015-06-26 14.12.53
"The [schools/prison] problem is a “production function” that needs to be made more efficient, such that it can begin producing smart kids and rehabilitated ex-prisoners on the back end — no matter who comes in the front." -- Eli Hager in The Marshall Project (What Prisons Can Learn From Schools)


Quotes: AFT Pushes Progressive Issues (Where Are Reform Leaders?)

There are many other vendors and partners who provide the same services as Change.org, and that are also aligned with our values and goals. In this case, that allows us to keep our business with firms that aren’t working to undermine our members and the communities they serve. - Randi Weingarten in Think Progress (What’s Changing At Change.org?)

Morning Video: Fox News Sunday Features Common Core's Laura Slover

PARCC's Laura Slover on Fox News Sunday. Click the link if the video doesn't display properly. Via Diane Ravitch.

Thompson: What Does New Orleans Test Score Growth Really Mean?

Let’s recall the excitement in 2007 when Bruce Fuller, Katheryn Gesicki, Erin Kang, and Joseph Wright published Is the No Child Left Behind Act Working?  Fuller et. al showed that NAEP test score growth had largely declined after NCLB took effect, but states reported huge gains on their standardized tests. Oklahoma, for instance, posted a 48 point gap between its 4th grade reading NCLB scores and its NAEP results. After NCLB, the state’s 4th grade reading scores increased 2.3% per year while its NAEP results dropped by .3 per year.

Fuller’s blockbuster was a definitive indictment of the reliability of state NCLB test scores; it even got the test-loving Education Trust to question whether bubble-in accountability was working. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before testing received a unanimous verdict as guilty of being a hopelessly misleading metric. I thought the idea that state test score growth, during an age of test-driven accountability, could stand alone as evidence of increased learning would soon be discredited. 

While I must emphasize how much I admire the work of Douglas Harris, I’m dismayed by one passage in his report on the New Orleans model of reform, The Urban Education of the Future?. I’ve got no problem with Harris et. al reporting that New Orleans increased student performance, as measured by Louisiana’s embarrassingly primitive state tests, by .2 to .45 std. It is a scholar’s responsibility to report such data. However, why would Harris speak as if he assumes that those numbers mean anything? They might mean something or they might not, but certainly they don’t provide evidence that New Orleans portfolio model has increased student performance more than early education would have. 

Even when they are valid, test scores measure a narrow band of skills and knowledge.  They rarely or never reveal what information was retained by a student, or what went into one of a student’s ears and out the other. Neither are NCLB-type test scores likely to say much about whether any alleged learning was meaningful. So, I have been searching for a metaphor to illustrate why test scores, alone, during a time of test-driven accountability, can’t be used to argue that a pedagogy that focuses on raising objective outputs is more effective than early education or any other approach to holistic learning. 

NFL running backs share a lot of athletic skills with their counterparts in rugby. So, what would we say about a quantitative analysis estimating that football halfbacks are .2 to .45 std more effective in racking up the metrics (yardage, scoring etc.) on NFL fields than Australian rugby runners would be in competing in the American game under our rules and referees? Wouldn’t the response be, Well Duh!?

Continue reading "Thompson: What Does New Orleans Test Score Growth Really Mean?" »

Quotes: Anderson Laments Inadequate Response To Misinformation

Quotes2We 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)

Morning Video: Campbell Brown's EdNews Site Launch Video

The Seventy Four, Campbell Brown's much-anticipated new education site, went live last night with a tweet and the above somewhat Shining-like video, and will start pumping out original commentary and content in a couple of weeks. Contributors to @The74 will include New America's Conor Williams and AJC's Cynthia Tucker. Funders include Walton & Bloomberg. Read all about it in the WSJ or the intro email below.

Continue reading "Morning Video: Campbell Brown's EdNews Site Launch Video" »

Afternoon Reading: Charters, Unionization, & The Annenberg Standards

Kudos to Rachel M. Cohen [@rmc031] for her American Prospect piece about charter school unionization (When Charters Go Union), which is a timely update on a small but important issue no matter which side of the reform/critic divide you happen to occupy.

As Cohen lays them out, the challenges to both unions and charter advocates are pretty clear:

Traditional unions are grappling with how they can both organize charter teachers and still work politically to curb charter expansion. Charter school backers and funders are trying to figure out how to hold an anti-union line, while continuing to market charters as vehicles for social justice. 

The piece also helpfully explains the teachers unions' recent turn towards a dual strategy of critiquing low-performing charters (especially for-profit ones) via the Annenberg Standards while also embarking on a series of organizing efforts:

Beginning in 2007 and 2008, the AFT set up a national charter-organizing division, and today has organizers in seven cities: L.A., Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, and Philadelphia. 

Like me, you have heard a bit about the Annenberg Standards for charter schools but not really known what they are or how they were being advanced. You may be surprised to learn that NACSA -- the association of authorizers comes out as more critical of them than NAPCS, the association of charter operators.  (Usually it's the other way around when it comes to quality and accountability issues.)  

And Cohen addresses the awkwardness for some teachers thinking about being represented by an organization that has previously seemed to deride their work and impact. She quotes on LA charter school teacher opposed to unionization:

How could I support a union that for the last ten years spent a good portion of their time attacking our right to exist?... They’ve spent the last ten years both supporting anti-charter school board members and fighting in Sacramento against what we do.

This tension remains or even grows with the unions' interest in promoting new legislation that would limit charter expansion.  And Cohen addresses that too. 

There's even a nice mention for Green Dot's unionized network of charters and the evolution of the relationship between UTLA and AMU -- gotta love that (especially if you wrote a book about Locke High School).

That's not to say that there aren't issues with the piece, however:

For starters, the evidence for the impact of unionization on student achievement (what little there is) is pushed to the bottom of the story when ideally it would have been touched on at the top (at least, right?). Readers should know early on that unionization or its absence doesn't seem to make a dramatic difference when it comes to student outcomes. 

Depth-wise, there aren't very many voices from principals and administrators who've worked with unionized charter teachers -- really just one at the end -- or really from teachers who've been at unionized charters for a long while. So we hear from lots of charter teachers talking about organizing (generally in positive terms) but get very little sense of what it's like working with unionized staff over the long haul.

It's perhaps a minor complaint but there's little or nothing until the very end of the piece about the difficulties that organizers have encountered in New York City when it comes to unionized charters (and no mention at all of the a well-publicized situation in which teachers at KIPP AMP voted to join the union then changed their minds). I'd be interested to learn more about organizing efforts that haven't panned out, and why.

Last but not least, Cohen resorts to speculation when it comes to describing the non-academic benefits of unionization, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining effective teachers.  If unionization doesn't dramatically affect student achievement one way or the other, does it at least attract more qualified teachers or increase retention? It's not clear.  Cohen speculates that it does but I could imagine it working both ways.

Still, it's a fascinating and helpful piece, over all, and I recommend it highly. 

Teacher Prep: Former TC Head Launches New "Competency-Based" Ed School

There are at least a couple of cool-sounding new things about the grad school / research lab that's just been announced by the folks at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation:

They've been working the past few years to upgrade existing ed school programs around the country, but now they're showing how they think it should be done by creating their own  new grad school (dubbed the Woodrow Wilson Academy for Teaching and Learning).

In so doing they're creating what they describe as the "first fully competency based school." 

What's that mean?  According to Arthur Levine, "The WW Academy will ‘throw out the clock,’ shifting the focus of certification from ‘hours in class’ to proven competency in the skills and knowledge every teacher and education leader needs to succeed."

Why not partner with nearby Princeton University?  "MIT is doing incredible work on the science of learning, and has 125 different projects on campus already focused on the topic," Chief Communications and Strategy Officer Patrick Riccards explained via email. "So the ability of working with the entire MIT team, particularly in the development of the Ed research lab side, was a dream come true." 

Longtime readers will recall that Levine was for many years the head of Teachers College at Columbia University, wrote a series of scathing reports about teacher prep, and has in recent years been helping a number of states and universities revamp their programs (to what overall effect, I'm not sure).

Early this year, Levine put TFA on blast in the NYT

[TFA] was always going to have a half-life...It did wonderful things and attracted superb people to teaching and prepared a generation of leaders for the country... Eventually, we’re going to get to the point of trying to fix the system rather than applying a patch. 

In Education Next, Levine had this to say about the innovative Relay GSE teacher prep system:

For innovation to survive, it has to be self-sustaining. If something’s not self-sustaining, it’s not serious.

According to the WSJ (Teacher-Training Initiative Aims to Reinvigorate Profession), Levine et al plan to make this "like West Point & Bell Labs for educators."

So far they've gotten "about $10 million" from Gates, Amgen, Carnegie Corp -- and need $20 million more. 

Related posts: The Levine Method For Revamping Teacher PrepLevine Is Wrong About Teachers & Unions (Thompson); Levine Announces New Effort (2007); "Fix The System Rather Than Applying A Patch".

Will Common Core Results Generate A New Wave Of Lawsuits?

In case you hadn’t noticed, most of today’s education debate takes place inside a very small, seemingly unchangeable stone box. But there are a few examples of advocates thinking big, going at fundamental problems that aren't just workarounds to the current situation:

In 2008, Matt Miller proposed ending local control of schools in an Atlantic Magazine article (First, Kill All the School Boards). He admitted that reducing the over-emphasis on local control “goes against every cultural tradition we have, save the one that matters most: our capacity to renew ourselves to meet new challenges.”

In 2012, former NYC chancellor Joel Klein (and Michelle Rhee, and Warren Buffett) half-jokingly floated the idea of “banning” private schools and assigning children to schools randomly (rather than by neighborhood or test score). I was annoyed at this spread of this "thought experiment" at the time and it still seems legally and politically unworkable but it expands the mind, suggesting other, possibly more achievable changes. It's apparently been discussed in other countries.

In the past few years, folks like Nikole Hannah-Jones (formerly of ProPublica, now headed to the New York Times) or Ta-Nehesi Coates of The Atlantic have reminded us of things like resegregation of schools in the South and the policy decisions that created the American ghetto

The most recent example I've come across is the notion of undoing the 1973 Rodriguez case that has seemed to have blocked progress on school funding issues for over 40 years now. Recently, civil rights leader Wade Henderson described the law as “a triumph of states’ rights over human rights.” Educator and activist Sam Chaltain wrote not too long ago that Rodriguez was arguably as important as the 1954 Brown decision may be and called for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing “an equal opportunity to learn.” 

Perhaps the most exciting (and terrifying) idea I've heard of in recent months is someone suing states based on their failure to achieve reasonable student proficiency percentages under the new Common Core assessments.  "All of a sudden the standards and test results [could] become something that state courts can refer to as a reasonable representation of states' Constitutional requirements," notes to school funding expert Bruce Baker (who's not particularly optimistic about this happening or working out well).

The point is simple: There are elements to the current education system that can seem so permanent, so intractable as to make them seem not work talking about. But that's a shame -- and a bit of an embarrassment.  What's the biggest, scariest, most fascinating education idea you've heard or thought of lately?

NB: This is a version of a post that was first published over at The Grade.  

Live Event: Atlantic Media Education Summit Right Now In DC

Atlantic_LIVE #AtlanticEdu Click here if the video doesn't load (and to see the agenda, etc.)

Thompson: High Stakes Testing Is *Not* a Civil Right

The Education Trust's Katie Haycock, in Calling the Nation's Civil Rights Leaders Ignorant on Testing: Really? inadvertently illustrated the key issues involved in Common Core and Opt Out controversies. First, she blasted Marc Tucker for challenging her prime soundbite - that testing is a civil rights issue. Second, Haycock's venom shows how preoccupied she and many other reformers are with settling scores with teachers and policy people who resist their test, sort, reward, and punish approach.

Tucker's sin, in Annual Accountability Testing: Time for the Civil Rights Community to Reconsider, was calling on civil rights communities to reconsider the idea that annual testing is necessary to advance equity. He noted the critiques of testing by an array of highly respected education experts. Tucker also reminded civil rights leaders that the growth in student performance slowed after No Child Left Behind.  

Haycock responded by condemning Tucker's "arrogance" and accusing him of "subterfuge." Neither did she miss an opportunity to blast teachers unions that supposedly "dupe parents into sabotaging the best tests we have ever had just because those tests also are used in the evaluation of some teachers."

The essence of Haycock's tirade is:

What is so especially galling, though, is that Tucker’s attack is simply subterfuge for the real point he is trying to make, which is not about the accountability that the civil rights leaders have been working so hard to sustain. He doesn’t approve of the use of tests in teacher evaluation.

But, then she accidently points to a solution.

Continue reading "Thompson: High Stakes Testing Is *Not* a Civil Right" »

Charts: A Surge In Restarted Schools Shows Promise, Says MSDF

image from www.msdf.org
The folks at the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation are big into Restarted Schools, citing states like Louisiana, Tennessee, and Michigan, Georgia and Nevada, and (soon?) in Pennsylvania that have created Achievement School District laws, as well as NJ, MA, and IN where there are direct state takeovers. Charter management organizations, long hesitant to get involved with restarts (also known as turnarounds) are finally getting into the game thanks to strong signals from authorizers.

"We see more and more charter school authorizers in cities with large charter market shares (like Washington, DC, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, New Orleans) are starting to encourage high performing charter school operators to take over and restart low performing charter campuses."

According to MSDF, most of the new schools in NOLA since 2009 have been restarts.

Morning Video: Conservatives Critique/Elevate AFT Alum/Activist Deray McKesson

Conservative media are going pretty hard at TFA alumnus Deray McKesson (top left) these days, including both a Fox News segment (Sean Hannity and guest accuse activist Deray McKesson of being a ‘race pimp’) and a Michelle Malkin rant in the NY Post (The militant takeover of the ‘Teach for America’ corps).

On Fox News, Hannity and conservative radio host Kevin Jackson questioned McKesson's role in publicizing protests and tried to undercut his legitimacy by portraying him as a professional protester. (McKesson asks if the questions he's getting would be asked of someone who's not a person of color.) If the video above doesn't load properly, you can watch it at RawStory. Salon and Medialite also posted it.

In the NY Post, Malkin takes a somewhat different approach. She's no less critical of McKesson, but her focus is on his connection to TFA: "TFA’s most infamous public faces don’t even pretend to be interested in students’ academic achievement. It’s all about race, tweets and marching on the streets."

Former talk show host Montel Williams also tried to take McKesson on, pointing out that he was no MLK. Read all about what happened next on that here.

Conservative media doing what it does isn't anything new. But TFA has been the subject of a series of critiques from the left, and so this critique from the right must be a welcome change.  Or as education writer Amanda Ripley tweeted, "Best publicity I've seen for TeachForAmerica in a while....Priceless"

It's also a chance for TFA and other reform groups to see the power (and peril) of pushing hard on social justice issues.  

As I and others have noted several times in the past, reform advocates have generally been slow and tentative in embracing social justice issues, and over-reliant on outside elite voices rather than people of color with some connection to the communities being discussed.

It's also a challenge for reform critics to have someone so closely identified with TFA take the lead in a national discussion about race, class, and inequality. 

Which public official or candidate for office will try and get in a photo with him next? 

Related posts: Stories I’d Like To See: The Rise & Evolution of DeRay McKesson 

Documentaries: #MiddletownFilm Chronicles "Midpoint" Students, Blended Learning

Duy in chargeIf you're lucky enough to be following Duy Linh Tu's Facebook page, you know that he's already been through a lockdown and been put in charge of class (pictured).

It's all part of a new documentary the Columbia University multimedia guru has been working on, in partnership with Digital Promise, focused on Middletown NY schools.

The district is trying blended learning, and a "midpoint" program for kids not quite ready for 4th grade, among other things.

Want to know more? Friend him on Facebook here or follow the ‪#‎middletownfilm‬ hashtag on Instagram.



Quotes: Time To Reconsider 1973 Rodriguez School Funding Case

Quotes2[The 1973 Supreme Court decision San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez was] a triumph of states’ rights over human rights 

- Wade Henderson in the Washington Post (Inequitable school funding called ‘one of the sleeper civil rights issues of our time’)

Quotes: Foundation Transparency Reforms Not Nearly Enough

Quotes2Compared to earlier times, I know the sector is doing a better job of assessing itself.... [But] none of these efforts go nearly far enough. The sector largely remains a black box, and answers to some of the most basic questions about philanthropy are still elusive.

-- Inside Philanthropy's David Callahan (Still in the Dark)

Update: Celebrating the First Month of "The Grade" (Plus Free Daily Email)

Screenshot 2015-06-05 10.16.44In case you hadn't heard, a new site focusing on K-12 education reporting called The Grade launched just about a month ago over at The Washington Monthly, and I wanted to encourage you to take a look at it, follow along, and send me ideas if and when the urge strikes.

There's now a daily email (see below) you can sign up for here. Follow it on twitter feed @grade_point (don't ask), or an RSS feed if you use Feedly or Digg Reader.

Basically, it's an attempt to keep tabs on what's going on in education journalism -- trends, new outlets, people on the move, and the best and worst of education coverage -- and a place to peel back the curtain and help explain what goes on behind the scenes in the development of news stories that the public read every day.

Dubbed "A Closer Look at Education News," The Grade is like an education version of NPR's "On The Media," except it's online and hosted by the Washington Monthly and only cares about K-12 education reporting.

The past few weeks have included a look at the charter school backfill issue, some entirely unsolicited story suggestions for topics and angles that might warrant extra attention, a critique of the Miami layoff numbers used in a recent NYT story (and of limited solutions mentioned in an Atlantic piece about teacher retention), and a celebration of the Hechinger Report's first five years.

Other posts describe how "solutions" journalism could help balance education coverage, but it's super hard to pull off well, and about how writing about innovations is sexy and fun but rarely pays off. Trade publications are missing in-house education editorials and columnists, in my opinion (and probably no one else's). Reporters should write more about their own personal education experiences and disclose their own school choices for their children, and ask harder questions during interviews (Amanda).

I thought it was great that some KPCC and ProPublica reporters dug up an education angle to the Sony Wikileaks email hack, but too bad they didn't nail it down. Some additional digging on the recent Achieve report on state test scores might have been helpful, too.

I've looked for more examples of high-poverty districts with high opt-out numbers, and written about NPR's recent decision to ban on-air book plugs for fellow staffers.

Anyway, you get the idea.  Check it out online here. There's now a daily email (see below) you can sign up for here, or via an RSS feed if you use Feedly or Digg Reader. Follow it on twitter feed @grade_point (don't ask).

Continue reading "Update: Celebrating the First Month of "The Grade" (Plus Free Daily Email)" »

Morning Video: "Paper Tigers" Documents Traumatized Teens

This new documentary (from Robert Redford's son) follows six traumatized kids in Walla Walla, WA who attend an alternative high school. Watch above. Via Seattle Times. "The behavior isn't the kid. The behavior is a symptom of what's going on in their life."

Live Events: Dignity In (DC) Schools (#DSCinDC)

There's pretty much always something interesting going on in DC these days. Earlier this week it was Success Academy's Eva Moskowitz coming to DC talking about her charter model. Today's it's a Dignity In Schools event where students and others talk about pushouts, school-to-prison, and ways to alleviate the problem. The Twitter handle is @DignityinSchool, and the hashtag is #DSCinDC. I haven't seen any media coverage (yet), and there's no video (yet), but there's lots out there on social media already so you might want to check it out.



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.