Here EdWeek rounds up which states have reported Common Core scores -- though some data are already outdated.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.
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.
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.
So 50CAN's newly updated advocacy handbook -- think of it as open-source advocacy advice -- notes something that many have found the hard way: getting a law passed is only the beginning of the process. But there's lots more, including case studies from Minnesota, Connecticut, and Maryland and it's available in all sorts of portable formats: online, iBook, Kindle, PDF.
And Eli Broad is the bad guy? Whatever you think of Broad strategy, he is trying to help kids who need it the most. https://t.co/fRuw0qObpq— Neerav Kingsland (@NeeravKingsland) November 12, 2015
"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.
"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.
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 piece, Huff Post, Boston 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:
Whatever 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)
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.
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).
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).
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...")
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);
I 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?)
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, NY1, Politico 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.
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.
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?
Now 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)
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."
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."
Another day, another EWA seminar. This one titled (Ready for Day 1? Covering the Education of Teachers) includes appearances from Dan Goldhaber, Ross Brenneman, Steve Drummond, Shaina Cavazos, Susan Asiyanbi, Ulrich Boser, Alexandria Neason, Stephanie Banchero, and Louise Kiernan.
Catch up on yesterday's proceedings by looking back at the hashtag #EWApoverty.
"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?)
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.
This 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 @, the hashtag is
#edfunders15. 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?
And 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?)
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.
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.
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!).
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).
"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."
The 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)
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.
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?
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:
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):
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 Core; Have Big Funders (Like Walton & Gates) Overtaken Think Tanks (Like Brookings)?; Gates Shifts Strategy & Schools Get Smaller Share (Reckhow); Gates Reverses On Risky "ALEC" Bet; Bill Gates' Warning On Test Scores; Gates "Deep Dive" Winners Finally Surface.
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.
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.
"Juan Salgado, who heads an organization called Instituto del Progreso Latino, was one of 24 recipients selected... http://t.co/VM6gGNXcw6— The Vine Events (@TheVineEvents) October 2, 2015
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).
"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)
I 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."
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.
"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).
Politico New York's Eliza Shapiro posted this video from Families For Excellent Schools and wrote about it last week (New charter ad hits de Blasio on race). Then came the followup story in which some folks denounced the ad as being overly divisive (Critics call new charter school ad 'racist').
While it makes some uneasy, descriptions and accusations related to race and racism are all over the place in the past few years, including recent comments from Derrell Bradford, Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, #educolor, and the This American Life series related to school integration. Just last week, white affluent Brooklyn parents were being accused of racism in response to a proposed school zoning stage (and affluent white parents in Chicago were being praised for their open-mindedness). Over the weekend, Elizabeth Warren gave a speech related to #BlackLivesMatter.
On the substance of the matter, the NYT editorial page recently suggested that the DOE needed to move further, faster on failing schools. ProPublic recently slammed the universal preschool program for not adding enough low-income (minority) students. But he's also launched a big new initiative related to economic equality.
The notion that people interested in making schools work better for kids should get involved in voter registration/equity issues will probably make some (on the reform side, mostly) howl and tear their hair out of their heads (except perhaps those Democracy Prep folks).
But social justice activists and organized labor have long been involved in these kinds of things (most notably in Chicago, where the CTU registered voters along with running candidates against City Hall).
There's a sliver of reform-side history on voter registration in the form of Steve Barr (and others?) being involved with Rock The Vote, which was a musician-focused effort to encourage people to register whose heyday was in the 1990's on MTV.
This forthcoming study on responses to poor AYP ratings suggests increases in voter turnout 5-8 percent (varying by income) -- almost as much effect as door knocking.
Plus which: schools are often used as polling places, so it's right there in front of your faces.
Parent engagement & mobilization is now recognized as a key aspect of efforts to make schools work better. Why not throw some voter registration/advocacy in the mix while you're at it?
Related posts: Harvard Students Fail 1964 Louisiana Voting Literacy Test; Children's Academic Success Vs. Minority Voting Rights; Computerized Voting To Change A Contract; Turning Students Into Voters.
But as some longtimers may recall, bottom-up (locally-driven, community-led) school reform funded by nonprofit sources has been tried before, most notably in the form of Walter Annenberg's $500M Challenge.
Take a minute to check out the case studies of Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City that were written and published way back in 2000. (The Chicago chapter is one that I wrote. Carol Innerst and Ray Domanico wrote the others.)
Some of the folks who are pushing for bottom-up reforms now were actually part of these efforts, and should know better (or at least know that it's no guarantee of success of any kind).
While we're on the topic, the NYT's Kate Zernike is scheduled to interview Dale Russakoff about Newark tonight at 5.
In a recent interview in The Seventy Four, former mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries described how woefully insufficient the communications and engagement effort was behind the Newark school reform effort: “There was absolutely not an infrastructure to communicate to parents... voters [and] the community.”
Love or loathe the Newark reform effort, you have to admit that it's pretty notable that well-funded reformers who'd seen what happened to Michelle Rhee in DC and had to know the importance of informing and rallying community members to their cause didn't seem to do so (or did so ineffectively). Across the river, Families For Excellent Schools launched in 2011. There was nothing like that in Newark.
In Dale Russakoff's book about Newark, the communications effort outsourced to consultant Bradley Tusk and others is described as a half-completed boondoggle:
Mysteriously Tusk's role in Newark -- and his effectiveness -- isn't mentioned in this recent Forbes profile (What Uber And Mike Bloomberg Have In Common).
I've invited Tusk and other consultants who worked on the Newark project to tell me more about their work, what if anything the Russakoff book gets wrong, and what readers need to know about the folks working on the opposite side of the issue (who don't get nearly as much attention as Tusk et al in the Russakoff book).
So far, few if any takers. But the lines are still open.
Laurene Powell Jobs Commits $50 Million to Create New High Schools NYT: With an advertising campaign that looks as if it came from Apple’s marketing department, the initiative [XQ: The Super School Project] is meant to create high schools with new approaches to education. Over the next several months, the teams will submit plans that could include efforts like altering school schedules, curriculums and technologies. By fall next year, Ms. Powell Jobs said, a team of judges will pick five to 10 of the best ideas to finance.
Common Core test scores show achievement gap, even in high-performing schools KPCC: At Wonderland Avenue Elementary, this week's test score release prompted celebration: 94 percent of the 330 students who took the test met or exceeded the grade-level standards in English language arts and 82 percent did so in math. The school’s Latino students, about 4 percent of the student population, scored lower on the standardized tests when compared to white and Asian children.
School Canceled for 4th Day as Seattle Teachers Strike AP: Seattle Public Schools is canceling classes for a fourth day Monday as a strike by teachers enters its second week. The strike, over issues that include pay raises and teacher evaluations, has delayed the start of the school year for about 53,000 students. The sides resumed negotiations Saturday and continued to talk Sunday. Seattle Times.
Obama Seeks to Make Applying for Federal Financial Aid Easier PK12: The president is unveiling changes aiming to give students information about how much aid they qualify for earlier and encourage more low-income students to go after federal grants and loans. See also Reuters, PBS NewsHour.
Gaps in Earnings Stand Out in Release of College Data NYT: At some expensive colleges, the salaries of students 10 years after enrollment are bleak, and there is an earnings gender gap at every top university. See also NPR, BuzzFeed, AP.
School choice complicates Promise Neighborhood’s efforts to help kids Washington Post: Less than a third of the 1,600 students who live there attend neighborhood schools; the rest are enrolled in 184 others, scattered across a city that has embraced school choice more than almost any other.
Charter School Head Says Newark Schools Are Better Since Facebook Gift WNYC: "Your odds have doubled of being in a good school if you're an African American kid in Newark," said Ryan Hill, director of Kipp New Jersey, which operates five charter schools in the city.
Authorities identify special needs student found dead on bus AP: Authorities have identified a special needs student who was found dead on a school bus as a special needs student who regularly rode the bus to his home in Whittier....
Another clue that school's in session: the traffic WBEZ Chicago: For many in the Chicago region, the start of a new school year marks the beginning of another season: nine months of traffic headaches. People block the alley, park illegally. People park in places that block the buses.
Matthew Levey's Charter School Quest NYT: Late last month, on a warm, luminous morning, Matthew Levey, a 48-year-old former McKinsey consultant, stood on Willoughby Street in Downtown Brooklyn and shook hands with his new charges: 65 kindergartners, a sea of neon sneakers, starched dresses and cotton golf shirts. It was the first day — ever — for the International Charter School of New York. And Mr. Levey, who had spent the last 36 months planning, developing and hiring for his new elementary school, was in high spirits.
I thought that with [hundreds of millions] of dollars...that they knew how to reform a district, and how to help urban schools, not just charter schools... I thought they really knew how to take...the whole district and make all of those schools perform better for kids, and they really didn't know how to do that.
- Author Dale Russakoff about the reform effort in Newark, via WNYC (The Deal That Brought Mark Zuckerberg's $100 Million Gift to Newark's Schools)
People are often of two minds. They're putting their kids in charters but that means the district schools need to right-size by cutting jobs, and that affects their cousin. Everyone in Newark is affected by both trends.
- Dale Russakoff in Newark Star-Ledger (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book on Newark School Reform)
"Kevin Huffman will write a book about the challenge of building a first-rate public school system in the face of modern political dysfunction," according to this announcement from the New America Foundation (2016 class of New America fellows).
Huffman headed the Tennessee school system from 2011-2015, and announced his resignation last November.
Yes, he was once married to Michelle Rhee. No, he's not married to Rebeca Nieves-Huffman.
You can find him at @k_huff1. Image via New America.
Perhaps the best two pieces I’ve come across are from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran including an opinion piece on where things stand that notes district progress along with charter school improvements and reformers' misguided focus on the parts of the story Russakoff leaves out (Newark students are better off, despite the political noise) and also a Q & A with Russakoff in which the author rebuts a deeply flawed NYT review, proposes a forensic audit of Newark's $23,000-per student spending, but calls the Zuckerberg-funded reform efforts a “wash” over all (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book). These are both well worth reading, for what Moran writes and for Russakoff's responses.
There have also been four big mainstream reviews of the book: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado); The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex Kotlowitz; NYT (Jonathan Knee). Of these earlier reviews, I found the second NYT review (by Knee) to be the most interesting, taking a business-oriented view of what happened that's no less critical of the process and the outcomes than anyone else.