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Morning Video: UFT's [Well-Deserved] Million-Dollar Victory Lap Over Common Core

In case you haven't seen it, here's the new UFT ad touting some of the Common Core-related changes coming from NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (UFT Airs Common Core Ad). See also NY Post: UFT spends $1M thanking Cuomo for Common Core backtrack.

Or, listen to this MLK Day WBUR segment featuring Deray McKesson (Black Lives Matter And Civil Rights In Modern America).

Quotes: Philanthropy > Campaign Contributions

Quotes2Philanthropy is having as much influence as campaign contributions, but campaign contributions get all the attention. The imbalance is stunning to me.
 
-- Inside Philanthropy's David Calllahan in the New York Review of Books (How to Cover the One Percent)

 

AM News: Mass. Ranks First (Again), Walton Puts Up (Another) $1B For Charters

Massachusetts Education Again Ranks No. 1 Nationally Boston Learning Lab: Education Week’s annual national report, Quality Counts, gave Massachusetts the top spot because it has the nation’s top fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores, high postsecondary degree attainment and rising AP test scores.

Walton foundation puts up $1 billion to boost charters AP: A foundation run by the heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton said Thursday it will spend $1 billion over the next five years to improve public education by backing new charter schools and helping programs already up and running....

Feds quietly close long-running probe of Milwaukee voucher program Journal Sentinel: The U.S. Department of Justice has closed a long-running investigation into whether the Milwaukee private school voucher program discriminates against students with disabilities, with no apparent findings of major wrongdoing.

Emanuel appoints Guzman to Board of Ed Chicago Sun-Times: Guzman also ran CPS’ department overseeing the approval of new privately run but publicly funded charter schools from 2007 to 2009, according to the district

School Superintendents Think Parents Just Don't Understand, Gallup Poll Finds District Dossier: The survey also reveals that most superintendents believe that measuring the success of schools should include factors such as student engagement and student hope.

How To Help Kids In Poverty Adjust To The Stability Of School After Break NPR: Returning to school after a few weeks away is a tough transition for many kids, but it's even harder for children living in stressful homes.

Florida Professor Who Cast Doubt On Mass Shootings Is Fired NYT: James F. Tracy suggested that the 2012 massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary and other mass shootings were a hoax designed by the Obama administration.

Georgia Town Teaches ‘Fight Back’ as Option in Mass Shootings NYT: In Douglasville, Ga., and other cities, seminars instructing residents to stay alert, and to attack the attacker if necessary, have become increasingly common.

40 Alumni Assert Sexual Abuse at a Rhode Island Prep School NYT: The scope of the scandal at St. George’s School in Rhode Island has expanded, with reports covering three decades.

Afternoon Video: WriteLab's Ballroom Dancing Matthew Ramirez

By far the most interesting of Forbes' 2016 30 Under 30: Education list is WteiLab's Matthew Remirez, who not only thinks that 90 percent of feedback kids need to learn writing can be automated but also has time to do some ballroom dancing (and showed off some moves on camera). Thanks to the folks at Forbes for digging out this embeddable video.

Update: The Return Of "Broader, Bolder"

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Back in the day, there used to be an advocacy organization called Broader, Bolder that was a counterpoint to some of the education reform ideas being promoted by EEP, DFER, and others.

In 2008, I named it one of the year's big winners in education. Arne Duncan signed onto the agenda for the group -- and also signed onto the agenda for EEP. It was funded by Nellie Mae, Annie Casey, and Atlantic Philanthropies, among others. EPI housed the original effort and Elaine Weiss staffed it. In 2009, I suggested "broader bolder" as an umbrella phrase for critics of reform (which didn't catch on, obviously). 

Officially named the Broader, Bolder Approach, the project seemed less active for a while, replaced in part by outfits like Parents Across America, the National Public Education Network, and others. Take a look at its history in my Twitter feed to get a sense. 

But I'm told now that is making a comeback -- relaunching within the next month or two According to Josh Starr, the co-chairs will be himself, Pedro Noguera, Paul Reville, and Helen Ladd.  No word yet on the agenda specifics, staffing, and the funding sources.

Related posts: Who You Calling "Status Quo"? (2008); Broader Bolder Accountability Meeting (2009); More Ways To Measure Advocacy's Impact (2013)

Implementation: Delivering On Education, Then And Now

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 1.29.11 PMIt took me a few minutes to figure out what Conor Williams was talking about in his latest oped for The Seventy Four (Education Politics vs. Practice) but eventually I figured out that it was implementation. 

"What if we considered implementation seriously when thinking about education policy? What if we started with our big priorities, and then mapped theories of action for putting them into place? What if we insisted on only pushing policies that would powerfully improve kids’ experiences at school?"

Apparently there's a new "deliverology" book out by Sir Michael Barber. 

Longtime readers may recall that I wrote about this approach to making better policy turn into better programs a few years ago, for Harvard Education Letter.

Back then, the question was whether states could implement the new programs and policies that they'd promised to tackle in their Race to the Top applications.

Take a look here.

I had forgotten that Kati Haycock was involved in the creation of the The Delivery Institute, along with Mike Cohen. Said Haycock at the time:

“We’ve got to get out of this cycle where we think the job is done when a policy gets enacted,” says Haycock. “When you know what’s in the policymaker’s head and you see how distant that is from the heads of the people on the ground, you can’t help but feel urgency on this."

Related posts: RTTT: "Implementation & Support Unit" Needs Results.

Best Of 2015: Top #EquityReads Features Vilson, Hawkins, Anderson, & Others

Here's another good roundup of books and articles you should check out, from @NYCLeadership, which describes itself as "An independent, national nonprofit organization that prepares and supports school leaders who create equity in education and foster student success."

 The list (Top Education Equity Reads of 2015) includes many of the usual suspects (Ta-Nehisi Coates, Pedro Noguera, etc), along with a few unfamiliar (to me) or less well-known titles that look intriguing:

Race, Equity and Lessons at St. Paul’s Como Elementary is a MinnPost article by Beth Hawkins that examines the strategies used to increase racial equity in schools in St. Paul, Minnesota. It serves as an important example of an entire school using an equity lens for every decision and observation — big and small.

Lead With Love [Spring Valley High Is Your School Too] is an article by New York City teacher, writer and EduColor co-founder Jose Vilson, who challenges educators to recognize their role in protecting children and standing up against racism.

White America’s Racial Illiteracy: Why Our National Conversation is Poisoned from the Start is an article by Dr.Robin DiAngelo, the author of “What Does It Mean to Be White?” This book and article list examples of challenges that trigger racial stress for white people and why it is worth working through the discomfort these challenges present.

The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education report commissioned by AFT’s Albert Shanker Institute provides data and insights into the role educators play in reducing implicit bias. In The Shanker Blog, Burnie Bond puts the findings in perspective.

And, unlike many other such things, this list includes both 2015 and previous years -- as well as speeches, films, and other forms of media -- and has its own hashtag (#equityreads).

 

Quotes: An Economy That Rewards Teachers With "Thank-You Notes"

Quotes2My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest …. My being male and white also removed huge obstacles the majority of Americans then faced. ….I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions.

- Warren Buffett in the Washington Post (Zuckerberg, Gates, Buffett and the triumph of competitive philanthropy)

AM News: Brewing Dissent Over NCLB Revamp, Plus Zuckerberg Newark Revision

House to Vote on No Child Left Behind Rewrite AP: House members are expected to vote on a bill Wednesday, followed by a Senate vote next week.The bill would continue the requirement for annual testing of children in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. But it would end federal efforts to tie scores to teacher evaluations and to encourage schools to embrace academic standards such as Common Core.

With vote planned on No Child Left Behind replacement bill, revolt brewing on right and left Washington Post: Conservatives say the bill leaves too much power in federal hands; civil rights groups say it leaves too little.

Civil Rights, Disability, Education Groups Give Lukewarm Nod to ESEA Rewrite PK12: Thirty-six disability, civil rights, education, and other organizations—including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—offered a measured endorsement of the Every Student Succeeds Act. See also Al Jazeera.

Facebook CEO, Now a Father, Will Give Away Most of His Money AP: In the same post, Zuckerberg said he and Chan will commit 99 percent of their Facebook stock to such causes as fighting disease, improving education, harnessing clean energy, reducing poverty and promoting equal rights. They are forming a new organization, called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, to pursue those goals.

Newark Launching Community Schools With Facebook Money AP: The Foundation for Newark's Future will invest $1.2 million now and up to $12.5 million total on two initiatives unveiled Tuesday in Newark. They will include additional support to students living in poverty, including programs in school and the community.

PAC shielded $2.3 million in donations by LA charter school backers Sacramento Bee: The charter PAC was the biggest money player in these contests, spending about $2.7 million. The teachers union spent about $1.6 million, according to state and local records.

LAUSD board gets first names of superintendent candidates KPCC: The names are confidential, but a source involved in the search process tells KPCC the school board will begin “three to four days” of first round interviews with top candidates starting this Sunday.

Wyoming Schools Get Poor Report Card For Native American Absenteeism NPR: One in three Native students are what's considered "chronically absent," in this state. Educators on the Wind River Indian Reservation say that's a major factor holding back student achievement.

To Measure What Tests Can't, Some Schools Turn To Surveys NPR: Social-emotional skills? Growth mindset? Grit? To see how students are doing in important areas beyond reading and math ... there's a survey for that.

Adelanto will not renew charter for Desert Trails parent trigger school San Bernardino Sun: The problem isn’t with what’s happening academically at Desert Trails Prep, school board president Teresa Rogers said Tuesday, but with what’s happening administratively. Tarver and other officials had failed to file the necessary paperwork for multiple issues, Rogers said, putting the school and district afoul of state regulations.

Update: Network For Public Education & STAND Claim November Victories

Unnamed (14)The Network for Public Education has put out a list of electoral victories from earlier this month, including Helen Gym (Philadelphia, Suzie Abijian (South Pasadena), and several others.

The email acknowledges losses in Louisiana, blaming the defeat on lack of money. (There's no mention of labor or progressive backing of their candidates.) Click the link above for the full email. 

Meanwhile, there's an email from Stand for Children's Jonah Edelman touting recent election victories. As you can see, the focus is on Louisiana and Denver, where Stand and its allies generally prevailed.

There's no mention of races where things didn't work out so well -- I've asked for some additional information and will let you know what I get back. The full email is below. 

I'm still looking for a DFER brag sheet, and haven't seen a roundup from NEA or AFT now that I think of it. Tell them I'm looking, will you?

Related posts: States Where StudentsFirst Claims Victories - & What Comes NextWhere's Michelle Rhee (& What's StudentsFirst Up To Now)?Effective Advocacy Doesn't Stop With Policy Wins.

Continue reading "Update: Network For Public Education & STAND Claim November Victories" »

Maps: Which States Have Reported Common Core Scores

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Here EdWeek rounds up which states have reported Common Core scores -- though some data are already outdated. Read the whole story here. Image used with permission.

Maps: States Where StudentsFirst Claims Victories - & What Comes Next

3456hAs you can see from the above map, StudentsFirst may not have been involved in electoral campaigns but it's been active on the legislative and policy fronts -- quite successfully, it claims.
 
According to StudentsFirst's Tim Melton, it's been the organizations "most successful year legislatively." He tallies reform coalition victories in all of SF's states but Missouri and Pennsylvania. 

 

Click  here for a PDF version of the map, and here for an explainer. Take a look and let us know if you see anything that catches your eye. 
 
There will be a return to electoral politics in 2016, according to Melton. Nevada is a showdown state thanks to recently-passed reforms and tax increases to pay for them. There will be contested races in Michigan (where he's a former state legislator) as well.
 

Update: Re-Imaging The Stories Behind "Humans Of New York"

Last week's New Yorker had a thought-provoking article about how we produce and consume media including media about kids and schools. Titled Humans of New York and the Cavalier Consumption of Others, the article focuses on the well-known photo from HONY (now a book as well as a website, etc.) of a boy named Vidal, who attends Mott Hall Bridges Academy, in Brownsville, run by Nadia Lopez, and whose appearance on Facebook led to a White House visit, a crowdfunding campaign. 

Just the description of the picture might make you think a bit more about it than you did when you first saw it online:

"Beneath the jacket is a fleece-lined hoodie, also black, and in his hand the boy holds a black plastic bag, stretched by the weight of what might be groceries. The sidewalk behind him is cracked and dotted with litter. Dull-brown public-housing towers—as much a part of the quintessential visual New York as the bodega bag—form a jagged horizon."

The critique of HONY -- and TED Talks, and The Moth -- might make you bristle:

"A story has lately become a glossier, less thrilling thing: a burst of pathos, a revelation without a veil to pull away. “Storytelling,” in this parlance, is best employed in the service of illuminating business principles, or selling tickets to non-profit galas, or winning contests."

The New Yorker piece urges us to do the impossible and forget the story, focusing back on the image:

"Forget, for a moment, the factual details that we have gathered in the course of knowing-but-not-really-knowing him... Consider, instead, the ease of the boy’s sneakers against the sidewalk; his shy, smirking confidence; the preternatural calm with which he occupies the space within the frame. Viewed like this—as, yes, irrefutably real, but also as a readable image—he is reminiscent of Gordon Parks’s squinting Harlem newsboy. Both convey something almost spiritual: something about the delicate string that hangs between youth and resilience, about the miraculous talent of children, however voiceless, to stand unswallowed by the city."

Whether you agree or disagree with the point -- and the rest of the essay's reflection on images in politics and society -- it's helpful I think to remember that stories and images can overtake us if we let them, and that sometimes we need to step back from the narrative we're constructing and look at the individual parts. 

Related posts: "Humans Of New York" Comes To The White HouseUnemployed Photographer & Bronx Middle School"Humans Of New York" Principal Was Thinking Of Quitting.

Charts: Effective Advocacy Doesn't Stop With Policy Wins

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So 50CAN's newly updated advocacy handbook -- think of it as open-source advocacy advice -- notes something that many have found the hard way: getting a law passed is only the beginning of the process. But there's lots more, including case studies from Minnesota, Connecticut, and Maryland and it's available in all sorts of portable formats: onlineiBookKindlePDF.

 

Philanthropy: Funding Public Charters (Broad) Vs. Funding Private Schools (Geffen)

"And Eli Broad is the bad guy? Whatever you think of Broad strategy, he is trying to help kids who need it the most." Neerav Kingsland responding to news of David Geffen's $100 million donation to create a new private school at UCLA.

Morning Video: Struggling Schools Tries "Self-Organized" Learning

"A public elementary school in Harlem, New York, is adopting a radical idea that threatens the education industry as we know it, SOLEs, Self-Organized Learning Environments." From the PBS NewsHour -- includes reactions from teachers and a union rep. 

People: Ted Dintersmith = A Mashup Of Bill Gates, Ken Robinson, & Bob Compton

So there's this guy, a former venture capitalist, named Ted Dintersmith, and apparently everyone else but me (and possibly you) has heard of him already.

But not to worry -- we can catch up quick. The latest thing I've seen (by which I mean the first) is this Answer Sheet oped penned by him (A venture capitalist searches for the purpose of school) but bylined by Valerie Strauss, in which we learn that he helped bankroll the documentary “Most Likely To Succeed” and get his world view of education (trailer above).

But Dintersmith's been everywhere, media-wise, in recent weeks and months, including a previous Valerie Strauss pieceHuff PostBoston Globe (oped), NYTimes (Brooks review of the movie), a Politico mention, a Journal-Sentinel Q&A.

There's more, but you get the idea.

Get your own impression, but to me Dintersmith comes off like an unholy mashup of Bill Gates/WhitneyTilson/Sir Ken Robinson -- with maybe a bit of Bob (2 million minutes) Compton thrown in.

Truth is, I first came across his blog 3 years ago, when he was coming off a big trip with his family and spending time in NYC. Among the more memorable things he wrote at the time was his impression that of Michelle Rhee-run StudentsFirst organization, which described as "an angry dog barking up the wrong tree."

So that explains the appearances in the Answer Sheet.

To my credit (if not to the credit of my memory), I did apparently share out something about the documentary this spring:

The website for the film is here. Here's a review of the book

Quotes: Zuckerberg's Philanthropy "Not That Much Different"

Quotes2Whatever you may think of Zuckerberg’s philanthropy, in most ways it’s not that much different than that of a great many other funders who gone before him. The same can also be said of most tech leaders. A notable exception to this point is that Zuckerberg and other younger tech funders seem unlikely to create large bureaucratic organizations to give away their money.

- Inside Philanthropy's David Callahan (What Mark Zuckerberg’s Big Announcement Tells Us About the New Philanthropy)

Update: Where's Michelle Rhee (& What's StudentsFirst Up To Now)?

This Sacramento Bee story (What’s next for Michelle Rhee, once the national face of education activism?) tells you what you already know: that Rhee has pretty much dropped off the face of the earth when it comes to education advocacy.

What's alluded later on in the piece is just how different (and perhaps much-diminished) her organization, StudentsFirst, has been operating since she stepped down, Pope Ratzinger-like, from day to day oversight.

In contrast to the Rhee era, StudentsFirst under Jim Blew is much more low key, and focused on fewer states (10 vs. 17). The organization claims to have helped enact 40 laws including "a new charter school measure in Alabama, an enhanced charter school law in Ohio and a teacher-evaluation bill in Michigan."

Back in 2012, however, StudentsFirst was involved in a host of state and local races (see below), funding both Democratic and Republican candidates.

Three years later, I've come across little if any sign of them having been involved in any of last week's big races (Philadelphia, Kentucky, St. Paul, Denver, JeffCo, Seattle, etc.). Though I haven't confirmed it independently, I'm told that StudentsFirst wasn't directly involved in any of these races. 

Related posts: StudentsFirst 14-State 2012 Candidate SpendingStudentsFirst 2012 Spending On Local Board RacesNEA & State Political Spending 5X Higher Than StudentsFirst.

Morning Video: "TeachStrong" Campaign Launch (Plus Roundup)

As outlined yesterday, CAP and other groups have launched TeachStrong, an effort to revamp the teaching profession. See also TeacherBeat (Can a New Political Campaign to 'Modernize' Teaching Succeed?) and Washington Post (How to build a better teacher: Groups push a 9-point plan called TeachStrong).

AM News: Obama On Mascots, De Blasio On Real Estate, Zuckerberg On Community Responsiveness

Obama: Schools 'Really Don’t Have An Excuse' To Keep Native American Mascots HuffPost: With Adidas' recent announcement that the company will help schools transition away from Native American mascots, "schools now really don’t have an excuse" for keeping them, President Barack Obama said Thursday at the 2015 White House Tribal Nations Conference.

De Blasio: City must respect families’ investments amid school diversity debates Chalkbeat: “You have to also respect families who have made a decision to live in a certain area oftentimes because of a specific school,” de Blasio said when a reporter asked what is stopping the city from creating new zones to promote school integration. Those families, he said, have “made massive life decisions and investments because of which school their kid would go to.”

Zuckerberg Talks Success, Lessons Learned in Newark Schools AP: "It's very important to understand the desires of a community, to listen and learn from families, teachers, elected officials and other experts," he wrote. "We now better understand why it can take years to build the support to durably cement the changes needed to provide every student with a high quality education."

Chicago lead way on charter school unions Catalyst:  Nationally, the movement to organize charter school teachers is just now gaining momentum. For example, the United Teachers of Los Angeles is working to organize teachers in that city's largest charter network, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools.

How to build a better teacher: Groups push a 9-point plan called TeachStrong Washington Post: A coalition of 40 education groups — including some strange bedfellows — is starting a national campaign aimed at “modernizing and elevating” the teaching profession.

A Hedge Fund Sales Pitch Casts a Spell on Public Pensions New York Times: “The report was really intended to give information to pension trustees so they could ask the tough questions and fulfill their fiduciary duties to the funds and their participants,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers' union.

What kids saw on a Common Core test NPR: Amid all the political controversy over the Common Core and whether students should even take these exams, this gives us a chance to look objectively at the tests themselves. In this post, we picked a handful of those questions that jumped out at us (and likely would have jumped out at you, too). We ran them by a few experts who played no official role in developing them.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Obama On Mascots, De Blasio On Real Estate, Zuckerberg On Community Responsiveness" »

Morning Video: "I Thought I Knew How To Listen To People"

Watch this UC Memphis panel on #BlackLivesMatter and education, featuring among others  Brittany Packnett. (Skip to 14:00 to hear her "I thought I knew how to listen people... I thought that I was not being paternalistic in my practice...")

Charters: When "Thin" Contracts Were All The Rage (2009)

There was a moment, maybe six or seven years years ago, when it seemed like charter schools with "thin" contracts were all the rage. 

They combined the autonomy and flexibility of a charter with the protections against unwarranted dismissal or arbitrary treatment from supervisors. But not all of the schools that had them performed as well as some may have hoped (just like teacher-run schools and every other type of governance option that's been proposed), and charter stalwarts and union hard-liners both hated them equally. 

I wrote about them in Harvard's Education Letter (RIP): Charters and Unions: What's the future for this unorthodox relationship?. But that was long ago. I declared them "so 2009" in 2011.

These days, pretty much only the Century Fund talks about them. Some giant percentage of the charters in Chicago are now organized, thanks in part to the efforts of a smooth-talking South African(?) union organizer who's never been seen or photographed. But not with thin contracts, as far as I understand. Much more common seem to be traditional (antagonistic) organizing/unionization efforts like the one currently going on in LA. 

Eventually, one would imagine, reform advocates and critics would get their acts together and return to an idea like this -- or a new generation of parents, funders, and politicians would get sick of the more rigid charter and union ideologies. But it's going to be a little while -- and going to take a lot of bravery. 

Related posts:Would Unions Ruin Charter Schools -- Or Vice Versa? (2009); Thin Contract At Locke High School.; The Return Of The "Thin" Contract? (2010); "Smarter" Charters Are Diverse, Teacher-Led (2014); 

Quotes: Are Edu-Combatants Ready For Collaboration?

Quotes2I think we may be reaching an end to those pitched, and pointless, battles... It is starting to feel that in a large and significant sense, all roads are beginning to converge on the educational definition of Rome: a public education system that clearly places students at the center by making learning more personalized, relevant, and real-world-situated.

- Sam Chaltain (Are We Finally Ending the Battle of the Edu-Tribes?)

AM News: Denver Suburb Proxy Battle; Moskowitz Denounces Pushout List

In Denver suburb, a school board race morphs into $1 million ‘proxy war’ Washington Post: In Jefferson County, teachers unions and Koch brothers battle for votes and the future of public schools. See also ChalkbeatNY.

Success Academy Founder Calls ‘Got to Go’ List an Anomaly NYT: Ms. Moskowitz, who spoke on Friday at a news conference, said that the list existed for only three days before Mr. Brown was admonished and that he changed course. Nonetheless, nine of the students on the list eventually left the school. See also Chalkbeat, NY1Politico New York.

Judge Issues Restraining Order on L.A. Charter Chain in Unionization Fight Teacher Beat: A judge has granted a temporary restraining order against the 27-school Alliance College-Ready Publia S. Moskowitz, in response to a New York Times article about the list, said the charter school network did not have a practice of pushing out difficult students.

Charters grapple with admission policies, question how public they should be Washington Post: Some schools restrict admission to early grades, fueling a national debate about fairness and access to quality schools.

Big Education Groups to Congress: Finish ESEA Reauthorization PK12: Teachers, school administrators, principals and state officials have launched a digital ad campaign asking lawmakers to finish work to reauthorize the ESEA.

New York City School Suspensions Fell 17% in 2014-15, Officials Say NYT: Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced new and expanded initiatives to change how students are disciplined, following a national shift in techniques. See also WNYC.

Many Children Under 5 Are Left to Their Mobile Devices, Survey Finds NYT: Experts said a small, self-reported survey added to evidence that the unsupervised use of mobile screens is deeply woven into childhood experiences by age 4.

In a disadvantaged district, a parable of contemporary American schooling Washington Post: A community is closing its one high school to give kids a better education — at another troubled school. Will it work?

Recent Alabama teacher of the year resigns over certification issues NPR: Less than two years after being named Alabama's Teacher of the Year, Ann Marie Corgill resigned her post this week, citing her frustration with bureaucracy. After Corgill was moved from teaching second grade to fifth, she was told she wasn't qualified to teach fifth-graders. See also Valerie Strauss.

Texas case mulls if home-school kids have to learn something AP: Laura McIntyre began educating her nine children more than a decade ago inside a vacant office at an El Paso motorcycle dealership she ran with her husband and other relatives....

Students Protest Firing Of Spring Valley High School Officer HuffPost: Students at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, left their classes on Friday to protest the firing of Ben Fields, a former resource officer at the school.

The Changing Role Of Police In American Classrooms NPR: Susan Ferriss has reported extensively on this issue for the Center for Public Integrity, and she is with us now. Welcome, thanks for joining us.

Deterioration of public school arts programs has been particularly jarring in L.A. LA Times: Normandie Avenue Elementary Principal Gustavo Ortiz worries that he can't provide arts classes for most of the 900 students at his South Los Angeles school. Not a single art or music class was offered until this year at Curtiss Middle School in Carson.

Campaign 2016: A Teacher-Led Campaign PAC

More and more, it feels like it's going to take something new or different to break the current stalemate on education changes.

So it's hard not to be curious about America's Teachers, the teacher-led pro-Hillary PAC that popped up in the LA Times a few days ago. They two teachers behind the effort are TFA and union members. Take that reformers/critics.

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 According to the America's Teachers site, "Teachers aren’t supposed to start Super PAC’s. That’s exactly why we created one." The priorities are universal preschool, college affordability, and education rights from DREAMers.

According to the LA Times (Meet the teacher lobby behind Hillary Clinton that's not the teachers union), the group's goals are to make sure that Hillary Clinton hears "from more than just unions or reformers." One main strategy is to focus on "friendlier, softer issues" rather than closing schools and limiting tenure.

What form "something new" is going to take, nobody quite knows. And not all of the new approaches coming along are going to be able to survive, much less thrive. Previous attempts at a middle-ground approach -- remember "thin" contracts for charters, anyone? -- have ended up being ignored even opposed by both of the major sides (who appear at times to prefer trench warfare to progress). And as soon as new people and approaches show up -- think Deray McKesson and Black Lives Matter -- they're claimed by one side and/or vilified by the other.

But eventually something/someone new is going to come along that's so compelling to the public and policymakers that entrenched interests can't ignore or avoid it any longer. The only real question in my mind is who/what will it be?

Quotes: Bloomberg Slams Duncan/Obama Testing Rollback

Quotes2Now that results from tests aligned to these standards are showing just how many students are not on track for college, the public backlash against the tests seems to have given Obama and Duncan a case of cold feet... That’s deeply regrettable. 

- Michael Bloomberg via Washington Post (Bloomberg: Obama and Duncan are making a wrong turn over testing)

Events: Looking Ahead To #TFA25 (By Looking Back At #TFA20)

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

I'm excited to be going to  this year. Check out the website here.

But as with all things (TFA and otherwise) it will likely be a mixed bag. 

Here's what I wrote at #TFA20 (which seems like 100 years ago)

"Imagine a world in which Michelle Rhee is something of a rock star no one’s much over 45 everyone is smart and optimistic and hard working and basically competent (if not particularly wise) and thinks they’re doing a bang-up job. 

"That’s what it was like at this weekend’s TFA20 Summit, a slick celebration and expensive-seeming birthday party for Teach For America."

A Premature (Or Even Unwarranted) Celebration?

Even before I arrived at the big event, I had some unsolicited suggestions: 

"Get off the charter school pipe.  Charter placements shouldn't exceed the percentage of kids being taught at charter schools in any given district."

 
I know, I know. TFA overkill. I'm violating my own ban. 

Events: Education Writers Study Teacher Prep In Chicago

Another day, another EWA seminar. This one titled (Ready for Day 1? Covering the Education of Teachers) includes appearances from Dan GoldhaberRoss BrennemanSteve Drummond, Shaina Cavazos, Susan AsiyanbiUlrich Boser, Alexandria Neason, Stephanie Banchero, and Louise Kiernan.

Catch up on yesterday's proceedings by looking back at the hashtag #EWApoverty.

Charts: Four Years Of TNTP's ACE Assessment In 7 Cities

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"In the four years since we rolled out ACE at scale, we’ve seen about an 80 percent initial pass rate; we’ve offered extension plans to about another 10 percent, some of whom then pass in their second year. As of fall 2014, 170,000 students have been taught by teachers who passed the ACE screen in those seven cities." via TNTP (Teacher Prep…What’s Data Got to Do With It?)

AM News: Charter Teachers Rally (NY), Teacher PAC Launches (LA)

Charter School Teachers Make Bid For Support Politico NY: Families for Excellent Schools held its second rally in as many weeks in Manhattan's Foley Square, but this time, the rally was attended by more than 1,000 charter school teachers, rather than many thousands of charter school students and parents. See also Chalkbeat New York, BuzzFeed.

Meet the teacher lobby behind Hillary Clinton that's not the teachers union Los Angeles Times: Naveed Amalfard and Luke Villalobos want to influence education policy, and they want Hillary Clinton to hear from more than just unions or reformers. They were in Los Angeles on Wednesday to jump-start efforts around a political action committee, a group that can raise money on behalf of candidates. 

Charters’ clout grows as top performer to disadvantaged EdSource: Half of the top-performing schools serving low-income students in California are charters, according to a new analysis of scores from this year’s Common Core-aligned assessments.

Judge Rules Against Bobby Jindal's Common Core Suit AP: A federal judge has issued a final judgment rejecting Gov. Bobby Jindal's federal lawsuit against the Common Core education standards, clearing the way for him to take his case to an appeals court.

D.C. Adopts National Proficiency Level For Its New PARCC Tests Washington Post: The D.C. State Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesdayevening to set what board members called a rigorous proficiency score in anticipation of soon-to-be released results from the new standardized tests administered last year.
 
US to spend millions on educating Pakistani girls Los Angeles Times: The Obama administration plans to announce a new partnership with Pakistan to promote education for girls there by doubling spending on schools ...
 
San Francisco Principal Causes Controversy After Delaying Results Of Student Election AP: A student election at a mostly Hispanic San Francisco middle school turned into a debate about the democratic process when the principal delayed the results because the winners did not reflect the school's diverse student body.

Events: Grantmakers In Education (SF), Plus EWA x2 (Chicago)

2012-05-08-buddhaThis week's big education conference that I know of is Grantmakers For Education, which is meeting in SF and has a speaking appearance from Arne Duncan. The Twitter handle is @Edfunders, the hashtag is . EdSource's John Fensterwald is slated to do an interview with Duncan/King.

But it's not the only one.

Later this week, EWA is hosting two Chicago-based seminar/conferences for education reporters, one on covering poverty (Covering Poverty’s Influence on Education). Highlights from the agenda include an appearance from Alex Kotlowitz.

The second EWA event is called Ready for Day 1? Covering the Education of Teachers, which is being hosted by Northwestern University and "will examine the teacher pipeline, with a focus on how states can build a better route that attracts the best candidates, the extent to which states are — or aren't — taking adequate steps to ensure high quality preparation programs, and look more broadly at best practices to make sure new teachers are ready for Day One in the classroom." 

You can see the updated online agenda for highlights including a session with Dan Goldhaber and some advice from NPR's Steve Drummond about covering teacher shortages.

Any other events going on that we should know about? Anyone see or write a great summary of the Great Cities event last week? 

Quotes: More Of The Same From The Gates Foundation

Quotes2And so from the largest philanthropic foundation on the planet, we can expect not self-reflection but more of the same. Bill and Melinda Gates still believe that the academic playing field is made fair by three good teachers in a row and by charters schools in which six year olds robotically tell visitors what college they will attend.

- NEPC's Carol Burris in The Washington Post's Answer Sheet (What are Bill and Melinda Gates talking about?)

Books: Cohen Joins Huffman, Others Writing Edu-Book

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Former Mass Insight head Justin Cohen is writing a book "about the broken U.S. education system" and was recently named a fellow at the Carey Institute (which supports nonfiction writers).

According to the writeup, Cohen "aims to reinvigorate the debate about reform, and change the old arguments that perpetuate the brokenness."

If he achieves this end, it would be greatly welcomed. However, he's not alone in making the effort. Others working on books that might sound similar ideas include Kevin Huffman and journalist Sara Mosle.

Cohen was a 2008 Obama campaign adviser and DC schools advisor. He's on Twitter at @juscohen and his blog is Justin C. Cohen. He also co-hosts The Beard Brothers Dope Show, "a muscular and witty podcast covering the public education wars" that I must admit has made me laugh a couple of times though I have only listened to a few minutes.

Cohen has been mentioned before on this blog, including this quote: "The big problem here is that somehow we have arrived at a point wherein placing value on student achievement results ismutually exclusive to respecting the voting rights of African-American communities... That is a fight that neither side can win, nor should want to fight."

"Cohen’s work focuses on the intersection of race, class, social justice and education in a country that is once again wrestling with the original sins of racism and white supremacy," notes the Carey Institute writeup.

Related posts: The Rise of AVIDHow Racial Inequality Gets Baked Into SchoolsNotes From Yale SOM 2011"Smarter" Charters Are Diverse, Teacher-Led.

Next Week's Conferences: Grantmakers for Education (In SF)

If like me you can't go to many conferences but still really like to know when they're happening, it might be good to know that GFE's 19th Annual Conference is taking place next week in SF.

What do education grantmakers do?

"We cheer from the sidelines and influence from the inner circle. We bring people together when they are divided. We open forums for discussion and offer important opportunities—that no one else does—to take big risks, to make big gains. We are without limits in our vision of a future where outcomes for all learners improve and with them, the strength of our nation."

And what's the big deal with this conference?

"This unique gathering, like GFE’s flourishing network, is unrivaled in its size and focus. It brings together grantmakers from coast-to-coast, from organizations large and small. Together, we will seek answers to such questions as: What can we learn from trend research? Will present strategies create future inequalities? How will we exercise our power as grantmakers to empower future generations?"

I haven't posted a ton about GFE here but there are a bunch of references on Twitter here and some of the folks there were helpful with my chapter about "new" education philanthropy in education (for an AEI volume that's coming out.... sometime).

Meantime, anyone seen/written a writeup of the Council of Great Cities Conference that took place last week? I'm on a conferences binge.

Update: Here Comes NPR Education's New Series, "Ideas"

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In case you hadn't seen it already, NPR's education team has launched a new themed series, dubbed Ideas.

Its motto: "There's nothing new under the sun in education. Except when there is. We'll explore how innovation happens, who drives it and what works."

So far, Ideas item include "An EdTech Buzzword Bingo Card, Higher Ed's Moneyball?, and (my favorite so far) The Mind-Reading Robo Tutor In The Sky.

The previous series, 50 Great Teachers, was apparently a big hit.

Check it out. Tell me what you think -- or what you hope they do or don't cover (drones! hoverboards!).

Morning Video: Let's Hear It For Humor (& Choice, Maybe)

There's nothing particularly nuanced or persuasive about this @choicemediaTV video that's been going around this week, but at least it's (trying to be) funny. I'm a big fan of attempts to use humor to make a point -- a strategy that's woefully underused in education (but also very hard to pull off).

Of course the reality is that there are lots of K-12 choices being exercised by more privileged families beyond whatever neighborhood school they happen to be assigned to -- and lots of evidence that higher-performing schools (magnets, themed schools, test-in schools, etc.) don't serve low-income minority students proportionately. More choice may not be the answer, but the current system isn't defensible, either.  (See, for example, The Onion's recent headline: 5-Year-Old At Underfunded Kindergarten Enjoying Last Few Weeks Before Achievement Gap Kicks In).

Related posts: Foul-Mouthed "School Bully" PSA SatireStudent Pretends To Be ELL All SemesterThis Is What Might Happen If You Cut ClassThe Glengarry Glen Ross Magazine Subscription Drive

Charts: Vast Majority Of City Kids Not Taking SAT or ACT*

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"In more than half of the 50 cities surveyed, less than 15 percent of high school students took the SAT or ACT. Less than 10 percent of high school students took advanced math classes in more than half of the cities as well." In US News (Report: Stagnant City Schools Are Failing Minorities).

*NB the data for Minneapolis were apparently off, and have since been corrected: "The Seattle-based education policy group now reports about 12 percent of Minneapolis students in both district and public charter schools took the ACT or SAT in 2011–2012, three times the originally reported rate. CRPE placed the blame on errors in data schools reported to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights."

 

Quotes: Regrets For Common Core-Teacher Evaluation Combo From NY Regent

Quotes2The work that we did struck a nerve... So maybe what we didn’t do was deliver enough anesthetic before we struck the nerve. - Merryl Tisch in the Washington Post (The next education secretary)

Morning Video: PBS NewsHour Examines Primary School Suspensions

In his PBS NewsHour finale, John Merrow takes on NYC's Success Academy charter school network and its school discipline policies.

"At the largest charter school network in New York City, strict academic and behavior standards set the stage for learning. That doesn't exclude children as young as 5 or 6 years old, who can be given out-of-school suspensions if they don't follow the rules. Special correspondent for education John Merrow explores what that policy means for both the child and the school."

Watch it above or read the transcript here.

Twitter Friday: So Long, Seattle (Making Room For POTUS)

I'm traveling back from the @GatesED conference today so I'll be posting a bit here and mostly via Twitter (which also posts to Facebook) -- some of it about the conference but not all of it. Or you can just see it all stream by below here.

Events: Gates Foundation Stays Course In Much-Changed Environment

Even with a big Bill & Melinda appearance and a PBS NewsHour segment, what was actually going on at the conference – first big one like this since 2009, they said -- was no real match for outside events taking place in the education world: indictments against the former head of the Chicago schools, a pro-charter protest/rally in New York City, Clinton and Sanders’ refusal to appear at the Iowa education debate organized by Campbell Brown and the Des Moines Register, and apparently some sort of sneak attempt to get ESEA done at the same time as the Republicans were trying to pick a new House Speaker.

Even if it had been a quieter week in education-land, I’m not sure that the event would have attracted all that much notice:

First and foremost, Gates wasn't announcing any major change in direction (or funding levels). According to Gates, "I believe we are on the right track. For today, and for the coming years, this is our vision: Every student deserves high standards. Every student deserves an effective teacher. Every teacher deserves the tools and support to be phenomenal. And all students deserve the opportunity to learn in a way that is tailored to their needs, skills, and interests."

"Did Bill Gates just con a bunch of people into watching a speech that says the Gates Foundation is doing good work?," quipped EdWeek's Ross Brenneman.

Just as important, the Gates Foundation isn't as much the frightening behemoth as it was a decade ago, or even four years ago.

Back in 2005 or even 2010, the Gates Foundation was perceived as the big bully on the block – aggressive, immodest – or in other corners as the potential savior of public education – I suppose. It was a new funder. There was lots of money going out. Microsoft, the source of Gates' money, was somewhat frightening in its ubiquity. Then it seemed like there were all sorts of linkages between the Gates Foundation and the Obama administration.

But all that seems quaint and old timey a decade later in 2015, what with the fierce, focused efforts of other funders who have come to prominence (Walton, Broad, Bloomberg, etc.). Unlike those others, Gates isn’t pushing charter school growth for growth’s sake, and it doesn’t barely count as a funder of Teach For America. The Walton Family Foundation was conspicuously left out when Gates gave shout outs to other funders (Broad, Bloomberg, Hyde, Schusterman) who have joined the effort.

Just as important, there's also been the rise of other big tech companies like Google and Amazon (and to some extent Apple) to scare us with their email-scanning, dominate-the-world ways. No one seems really worried about Microsoft -- or the Gates Foundation -- taking over the world. The current Seattle construction boom is being fueled by Amazon, thank you very much. It was the Gates' who urged caution on linking test scores to teacher evaluations. 

That doesn’t mean that some folks don’t lump all the funders together, of course, or that there isn’t any controversy surrounding the Gates Foundation. The inBloom implosion wasn’t too long ago, and the foundation is a big big supporter of the Common Core standards that some educators and politicians find so objectionable. Leonie, Anthony, and the person in charge of the BATs Twitter account expressed their ongoing displeasure with the foundation via Twitter. (According to the BATs Twitter feed, the Gates Foundation "has broken hearts of children and teachers in this country - time to get out of public ed. policy.")

The current Gates Foundation affect is urgent but modest. There wasn’t a lot of talk about ‘disrupting’ the education system. In fact, now that I think of it, maybe there should have been more of that.  This was their main point (and sole visual):

Where is the Gates Foundation on the Learning Line?

"We're here to keeping moving up that line" - @BillGates @gatesed #GatesEd #edchat pic.twitter.com/CMlKzQ2Rcw

— michael j. crawford (@mjcraw) October 7, 2015

While there weren't any big programmatic or funding announcement, there were some notable lines delivered in the speeches and panels:

Melinda Gates made a key point about how difficult it can be to persuade parents who have figured out a good school, program, or teacher for their child to help make things better for the rest of the school or district. "That's been hard."

Allan Goolston noted that schools are segregated by programs and floors, a comment that reminded me of Bill Gates' 2008 remarks about how kids might all enter the same school doorway in the morning, their experiences in the building are very different.  

There was also a moment of acknowledgement and contrition regarding the Common Core rollout in reference to moments where "our foundation and others were perhaps naive about those [Common Core] rollouts."

Gates also acknowledged as he has in the past that helping move things forward in education has been harder than making changes in the health area:"Nobody votes to uninvent a malaria vaccine," he quipped in response to a question from Ifill. 

There's been no clear or definitive rise in test scores or other broad-based measures of student achievement: "Test scores in this country are not going up, but there are a few points of light."

I didn’t hear anyone talk about or even refer to inBloom, or whatever happened to the charter-district compact, or that teacher advocacy effort that Yolie Flores ran for a while before it closed shop.  The teachers’ strike in Seattle, the court’s finding against charter schools, and other related messes went unmentioned (at least as far as I heard).

At various times along the way it seemed unclear how much of a splash the foundation wanted to make in the outside world. There was some livestreaming and a hashtag and a press release touting the significance of the event, but if there was an agenda listed publicly it was hard to find and it was announced the second day that the livestreaming was being cut off:

For anyone following #GatesEd online, we won't have a livestream today. You can follow the #GatesEd hashtag for updates.

— Gates Education (@gatesed) October 8, 2015

There was also some upset and confusion about whether press were allowed to report on the interview with Ted Mitchell:

@LianaHeitin This session was closed press at request of speakers. Glad you got a 1:1 with Mitchell after. This tweet however is misleading.

— Jen Bluestein (@TheRealJenBlue) October 8, 2015

Heitin got a sit-down interview with Mitchell after the fact. Perhaps the White House or Education Department didn't want to fuel the sense of tight connections between the foundation and the Obama administration?

I was only at this conference by accident and at the last minute, filling in for some hapless staffer or grantee who didn’t want to talk about unlikely allies with some folks from Hillsborough (FL) and Austin (TX):

Unlikely allies take the stage w/ @alexanderrusso #gatesed pic.twitter.com/YTraHNTM38

— Suzanne Walsh (@sewsueme) October 8, 2015

I’ve moderated similar-ish panels about charter-union cooperation (at Yale) and union innovation (at AFT). I am not a Gates Foundation grantee, however the foundation did pay for my airfare and hotel costs, and some of my freelance clients over the years have most certainly been grantees.

For a roundup of media coverage (and some excellent detailed disclosure from EdWeek), head over to The Grade

Related posts: What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common CoreHave Big Funders (Like Walton & Gates) Overtaken Think Tanks (Like Brookings)?Gates Shifts Strategy & Schools Get Smaller Share (Reckhow); Gates Reverses On Risky "ALEC" BetBill Gates' Warning On Test ScoresGates "Deep Dive" Winners Finally Surface.

#TBT: Michelle Rhee Waving A Ruler In Your Face (2012)

image from www.ctcapitolreport.com

From 2012: "This picture of Rhee waving a ruler in your (teachers') face(s) was on the CT Capital Report, which I've never seen before but looks like it comes from the old broom shoot." (This Week In Education)

Events: Live From Seattles @GatesED Forum

As you may recall, the Gates Education Forum/15th Year Anniversary begins today with an address from Bill Gates and some other speeches and announcements.

The Twitter handle to follow is @gatesED, which is also the hashtag #GatesEd. You can see an unofficial list of speakers and moderators here. I saw Ted Mitchell on the attendees list, but no John King. Let's assume he's staying put in DC given recent events.

It seems hard to believe, but I'm told that this is the first big education-focused event that the foundation has done since 2008, when it shifted gears away from its early focus on smaller high schools and other things towards teacher development and high school and college completion.

I'll be moderating a panel on "unlikely allies" tomorrow morning featuring two pairs of folks who found ways to work together rather than lapsing into finger-pointing, etc.

Events: See You In Seattle

Yep, the rumors are true. I'm going to this week's Gates Foundation education conference in Seattle and moderating a panel on "unlikely allies" in K-12 and postsecondary who have overcome easy antagonism and found ways to work together.

The event, called the Learning Forum, marks the Gates Foundation's 15th year in the education game, which some have found enormously beneficial and others have found seriously problematic. An estimated 250 folks are going to be there. It will include what the foundation is describing as Bill Gates "first major retrospective speech on education issues in almost eight years," as well as a Bill & Melinda interview with the PBS NewsHour's Gwen Ifill. Along with many of the usual suspects, the USDE's John King is currently scheduled to be in attendance -- wonder if he'll still be able to show up now that he's been named to succeed Duncan.

The "unlikely allies" who will be onstage with me sharing their experiences include Bill Hammond, CEO, Texas Association of Business; Richard Rhodes, President/CEO, Austin Community College; Jean Clements, President, Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association; and Mary Ellen Elia, Commissioner of Education, New York State Education Commission (formerly of Hillsborough).

According to the foundation, you can watch via live stream starting Wednesday AM. The Twitter handle to use is @GatesEd and the hashtag is #GatesEd. They're also encouraging everyone to follow a few leaders on Twitter including @AllanGolston@GPayneEDU@drvickip@dan_greenstein, & @davidbleysea.

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).

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.