About this blog Subscribe to this blog

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

Charter1_0
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.

Quotes: Rhee, Klein, & Ravitch Are *All* Wrong, Says Mehta

Quotes2Rhee and Klein are right... that the culture of bureaucratic districts tends to produce a compliance mentality that we need to escape. But they are too comfortable with simplistic external assessments and too focused on developing increasingly intricate test-based teacher evaluation systems. Conversely, Ravitch is right about the corrosive effects of testing but is not honest enough about the failings of the current and past systems and the real changes that would be needed to generate improvement at scale.

-- Excerpt from new Jal Mehta book via Salon.

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).

Advertisement

Advertisement

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.