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Update: The Story Behind 2010's "Waiting For 'Superman'"

Superman-shieldSome tidbits from my latest oeuvre (How 'Waiting for Superman' (almost) changed the world), which is out today:
 
- the hit-and-miss history of "message" movies (and why they're still so irresistable);
 
- Guggenheim's ill-fated (half-assed?) efforts to include a LAUSD magnet lottery in the movie;
 
- the "two-story" format that helped (or hindered) the movie's message (plus Guggenheim as narrator);
 
- conflicting accounts over whether the film-makers knew ahead of time that they were making such a pro-charter, anti-union film;
 
- the film-makers' refusal to reveal the whereabouts of the kids they profiled (though some updates are known); and 
 
- new efforts to quantify the impact of movie-based advocacy (and ongoing efforts to measure Superman's impact).
 
Participant's latest education-themed documentary, "Ivory Tower," premiers on Friday.

Five Best Blogs: #Vergara Decision Triggers #CommonCoreDelay

The Vergara decision came down -- largely in favor of the student plaintiffs -- but then the Gates Foundation came out with a statement in support of a Common Core delay (in terms of high-stakes implications), seeming to catch everyone by surprise:

Did @gatesed @drvickip et al not realize that #Vergara was coming down today, or not care, or not believe that they could wait?

"A blanket delay is not appropriate for all states," says @CCSSO's @minnichc in response to @gatesed call for #commoncoredelay.

Still no word from @ArneDuncan on #commoncoredelay statement from @gatesed, pro or con, or what would be required to implement.

#Vergara judge: "“The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience." via @StephanieSimon_ http://ht.ly/xQNWK 

College presidents express support for Common Core - Newsday http://ht.ly/xQJqY

How much Bill Gates’s disappointing small-schools effort really cost - @valeriestrauss http://ht.ly/xQlwu 

A Black Father's Search for a Diverse Preschool - Education Week http://ht.ly/xF2s5 

@AP: BREAKING: Police: Shooter used rifle in fatal attack at Oregon high school; teacher injured.

Coming Soon: What Did "Superman" Accomplish, Anyway?

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Why did the film come out the particular way it did?

What effects, direct and indirect, did the film have on funding, events, and public perception? (How do you measure a "social impact" film, anyway?)

Where are the 5 kids profiled in the film now -- whatever happened to them?

These are some of the topics my long-awaited, much-anticipated re-examination of 2010's controversial documentary, Waiting for Superman, will attempt to address when it's published -- perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

Long curious about whether the film was as big a success (or failure) as commonly presented, I pitched the idea of a look back at the Gates-funded Davis Guggenheim documentary to AEI and they kindly commissioned the piece (without any clear sense of what I'd end up having to say). I've written two other case studies published by AEI -- the first about the 2008 campaign to make education a big issue in the Presidential campaign, and the second about TFA's near-death experience being disqualified under NCLB.

Previous posts: Varied Responses To "The Successful Failure Of ED In '08"Teach For America & The Alternative Certification Loophole.

Thompson: The Gates Foundation's "Other" Big Overreach

GatesIn How Bill Gates Pulled Off the Swift Common Core Revolution, The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton explains that two men met with Bill Gates in 2008 and asked for his support of rigorous national standards.

After a brief discussion within the Gates Foundation, a full court press in favor of Common Core was launched. This was done in spite the social science research questioning whether better standards were likely to improve schools. 

The foundation funded “almost every consequential education group,” as Diane Ravitch aptly put it, in their efforts to promote the standards.  The standard step of conducting pilot studies before such a major innovation was skipped. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used the Race to the Top grant process as leverage to advance Common Core. Within two years, Gates’s preferred policy was adopted by almost every state in the nation.

Where have we seen this story before?

Steve Brill’s Class Warfare explains that Gates met with two men in 2007. They pushed their pet theory about value-added teacher evaluations.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Gates Foundation's "Other" Big Overreach" »

Media: What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common Core (Plus Reactions Roundup)

 Yau Hoong Tang FlickrThere's a long piece about the Common Core in the Washington Post you should probably read -- but be forewarned that the view of events and the causal chain that's cobbled together in the piece isn't entirely accurate or fairly contextualized (and differs from other accounts of what happened and why).

Basically, the Post's piece makes the claim that Bill Gates was behind the Common Core's rapid spread over the past few years. Indeed, the headline claims that Gates "pulled off" the Common Core, like it was a heist or a grift. 

"The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments to make systemic and costly changes." Both left and right -- Diane Ravitch and NRO's Stanley Kurtz  -- are already calling for Congressional hearings.

Gates' support is clear, and no doubt played a role.  There are some fascinating tidbits about that process in the piece.  But let's be clear: the idea for common national standards and tests goes back a long long way before Gates (and David Coleman), the spread of the Common Core in recent years wasn't merely a function of Gates' enthusiasm and largess, and the myth of the all-powerful billionaire is just that. 

Continue reading "Media: What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common Core (Plus Reactions Roundup)" »

Quotes: Union Resources & Organizing Will Dominate 2016 Campaign

Quotes2"The DFER PAC donated $43,000 to parties, committees, and federal candidates in the 2008 cycle and $17,500 in 2012. And reform-friendly Students First gave just $10,000 in 2012—to a single congressional candidate. The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers combined to give over $5.5 million in 2008 and nearly $20 million in 2012." - Conor Williams in TNR (Hillary Clinton's Education Policy: Other Implications for 2016)

Morning Video: Zuckerbergs Roll Out $120M Bay Area Grant

News came out on Friday that Zuckerberg and Chan were going to give another big gift to education -- this time to the Bay Area.  Will it be any different -- or more effective -- than the Newark gift?

Advocacy: 5 New Orgs Bring PIE To 49 Members

Puzzle_pieces1025 The PIE Network is adding 5 new members to its group of reform-oriented advocacy groups, I'm told, bringing them up to 49 education advocacy organizations working in 31 state capitols and Washington D.C.

The newbies include Children's Education Alliance of Missouri  BEST NC, StudentsFirstNYNevada Succeeds, and JerseyCAN.

Previous posts: PIE Annual Summit (Boston September 19-20)Quotes: Talk About "Love" (Not "Rights")Reform Celebration In SeattleState Advocacy Groups Talk Policy - Not Tactics.

 

 

Media: CQ Roll Call Reporter Joining EdWeek's Politics K-12 Team

image from spencerfellows.orgNews is out that CQ Roll Call reporter (and current Spencer Education Journalism Fellow) Lauren Smith Camera is going to join Alyson Klein at @PoliticsK12, EdWeek's blog covering the USDE and Congress.  

No longer will Camera's work be hidden behind CQ's paywall.  She'll be out front, doing daily battle with all the new upstarts that have appeared in basically the same space (RealClear, Politico, etc.).

Camera will be replacing Michele McNeil, the blog's co-founder, who left recently to join the College Board.

Camera's Spencer year has been spent looking into whether federal funding in the form of competitive grants is a good investment (compared to dedicated funding streams).

Previous posts: New Spencer Fellows, New Research TopicsRecollections, Controversy, & Advice From Departing PK-12 BloggerDo Journalists Make Good Program Officers?Two Journos Win Nieman Fellowships, Another Heads To College Board. Image via SpencerFellows.org

AM News: Zuckerberg Donates $120M To SF Bay Area Schools

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Zuckerberg, Wife Gift $120M to CA Schools AP: The first $5 million will go to school districts in San Francisco, Ravenswood and Redwood City and will focus on principal training, classroom technology and helping students transition from the 8th to the 9th grade. The couple and their foundation, called Startup: Education, determined the issues of most urgent need based on discussions with school administrators and local leaders.

At a Glance: Biggest Tech Donors in 2013 AP: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician, topped the list of the most generous American philanthropists in 2013 with a donation of 18 million shares of Facebook stock that are now worth more than $1 billion. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, it was the largest charitable gift on the public record in 2013. On Friday, they announced a $120 million gift to the San Francisco Bay Area public school system.

Common Core School Standards Face a New Wave of Opposition NYT: The governors of Oklahoma and South Carolina are considering signing bills to replace the Common Core standards with locally written versions, and Missouri is considering a related measure.

California's CORE Districts Faltering On Key Tenets of Waiver, Ed. Dept. Says District Dossier: Education Department officials flagged problem areas for the seven districts participating in the No Child Left Behind Act waiver, including delays and changes to strategies aimed at the lowest-achieving schools.

ACLU Sues California For 'Equal Learning Time' WNYC: The lawsuit names students including Briana Lamb as members of the class. In the fall of 2012, when Lamb showed up for her junior year at Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles, she says her schedule was full of holes. 

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

Continue reading "AM News: Zuckerberg Donates $120M To SF Bay Area Schools" »

Books: In The Future, All Student Data Will Be Shared, Everywhere

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Worried about data privacy and social media?  Then don't read Dave Eggers' ‘The Circle, in which a post-Facebook company decides that sharing is not just optional and that knowing where kids are and what they're up to at all times is a good thing.

Eggers couldn't have known when he was writing the book that 2013-2014 would be such a big year for student data privacy (and the larger issue of surveillance), but then again Gary Shtyngart made some pretty good guesses about the near future in his dystopian novel, Super Sad True Love Story. Nearly everything but Staten Island becoming cool has come true. 

But I digress. It's not a great book - pretty obvious stuff -- and it's not really focused on education, writ small.  But there are obvious education implications and a bit of direct address, and that's all it takes, apparently. 

Previous posts about novels, dystopias, etc: (Where Are) The Best Novels About Education?A Dystopian Education Thriller!;A Perfect Test, A Secret List... A Murder; A TFA Refugee's Interesting-Sounding NovelThe Rise Of The "Cell Phone Novel"How NCLB Is Like A Russian Novel;

Thompson: Marc Prensky, Digital Wisdom, & Zuckerberg's Newark Folly

ZuckerbergI never want to bet against our digital future, and I’m predisposed to agree with most of Marc Prensky’s hopefulness, as proclaimed in Brain Gain. But, Prensky seems too dismissive of the reports by teachers and others about the shortterm damage being caused by our rapid adoption of digital technology.

I don’t think that we have gotten to the point where all of the reports about unintended negative effects of this technology could be due to a mass hallucination, perhaps recorded in some secret space in the Cloud.

So, while I will enjoy and gain energy from the predictions of futurologists, I’ll stick to my knitting and just pontificate on the field I know – inner city schools.

I got a kick out of Prensky’s overly rational anticipation of a key issue related to Mark Zuckerberg’s donation of $100 million to Newark schools. He wrote that “potentially, it is a very good thing … if it is used in a digitally wise way.” Prensky thus seemed to anticipate that Zuckerberg would contribute in ways that he was qualified to contribute. He also hoped that Zuckerberg would “imagine and plan for at least a year (and maybe more) before any technology gets ordered.”

In other words, Prensky didn’t seem to consider the possibility that someone as smart as Zuckerberg would jump into a field he knew nothing about, and finance a transformational reform of it, without even looking into the basic evidence about what works in school improvement. Zuckerberg, the technology expert, illogically invested in a mayor, Cory Booker, who made a virtually evidence-free bet on incentives and disincentives that had a long history of failure!?!?  

What would have happened, however, if Zuckerberg had stuck to his knitting and invested his money in something he knew about?

Continue reading "Thompson: Marc Prensky, Digital Wisdom, & Zuckerberg's Newark Folly" »

Media: Marketplace Ed Tech Site Debuts Today

ScreenHunter_02 May. 28 11.55Another week, another education site launches.  

You already knew this one was coming -- and that Adriene Hill was going to be the lead reporter along with editory Betsy Streisand.  

But you probably didn't know that the effort was going to be dubbed Learning Curve.

"The most ambitious and expansive education project in Marketplace’s 25-year history, LearningCurve will engage a national audience in an ongoing conversation on multiple platforms. Coverage will include on air segments across the Marketplace portfolio of public radio programs, a dedicated website, infographics and interactive quizzes, videos, dedicated Twitter and Tumblr accounts and, starting later in June, a regular podcast hosted by Adriene Hill and Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson."

Read the full press release below. Crossed fingers.

Continue reading "Media: Marketplace Ed Tech Site Debuts Today" »

Morning Video: TFA Founder: There Are No Silver Bullets (Incl. TFA)

This is from SXSW earlier this spring -- what do you think? The other option was Phil Collins singing "In The Air Tonight" at his sons' middle school talent show.

Quotes: "This Hole Was Not Dug Overnight"

Quotes2We've had terrible superintendents we allowed to stay on for several years. We've had poor management and nepotism. This hole was not dug overnight. -- Barbara Coscarello, a member of the district's advisory board (For Camden students, give charter schools a shot) via RP

Afternoon Audio: New Yorker Reporter Talks Newark

Check out this podcast in which Dale Russakoff talks about her Newark story, and also be sure to read her post about the mayoral election that just happenedL Ras Baraka's Newark Victory

 
In her post about the election, Russakoff notes that Jeffries was rising quickly in the polls, thanks to reform money (no figure is given for union money behind Baraka - has anyone seen how much they spent?) and notes that the mayor-elect's position on charters has recently evolved. NB: I think she was also on WBUR's On Point earlier today. 

Charts: The (Partial) Re-Segregation Of American Schools Over Time

image from i.huffpost.com"At the very least, things are not as bad as they were before the court ruled to desegregate U.S. schools," notes HuffPost entry on UCLA study released today. Over all, at least.  Segregation in the NE is higher than it was in 1968, and the segregation rates are up across the board since 1989 for all regions. 

Media: Reporters Should Identify Union Employees, Says Anonymous Blog

NJ_18598An anonymous Montclair New Jersey blog  called "Montclair Schools Watch" noted earlier this week that Maia Davis, apparently one of the most prominent critics of the district and its implementation of the Common Core, has been quoted repeatedly in local media (like the Bergen Record) and started a group critical of reform efforts there without being identified as a UFT communications staffer.  

"It’s probably not a coincidence that one of their most aggressive spokespeople is really a professional spokesperson, employed by the massive teachers union across the river that has been one of the most aggressive in fighting reform efforts."

That's pretty much all I know.  Someone with the same name as Davis IDs herself as such on Twitter (@maia_davis). On Twitter, WSJ reporter Lisa Fleisher says that neither she nor her successor Leslie Brodie quoted Davis in their pieces but that Davis' views shouldn't necessarily be discounted if a reporter says where she works: "Hopefully people strongly believe in their work, so it doesn't hurt to acknowledge that in a story."

Should reporters ask (and pass along) what parent advocates do for their day jobs?  Should advocates identify themselves by where they work or what kind of work they do if it's relevant? My inclination is to say "yes."  The issue has come up in the past, for example in Chicago where parents and teachers were quoted without any indication of their affiliations. Reporters often reach out to the closest, most convenient, and most vocal stakeholders for quotes (rather than the most typical ones), and fail to ID them as such.

Of course, the blog making this point doesn't have any names attached to it, so the point is somewhat undercut. Whether it's "reformy astro turf" (as described by a critic on Twitter) or balanced and responsible, we don't know. And, the person who sent me the item comes from the reform side of the aisle, so there's that, too.

 

Roundup: What They're Saying About That New Yorker Article

Here's a roundup of coverage I've seen so far of Dale Russakoff's New Yorker article about reform efforts in Newark:

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NJ Spotlight (In Newark, New Yorker Magazine Grabs Attention of Educators, Politicos) credits the story for creating a lot of election-week buzz -- especially about the claim that most of the $100M Zuckerberg gift is gone or committed -- and reminds us that Russakoff is working on a book about Newark.

Over at Salon (Mark Zuckerberg’s Newark schools cash drop) there are four lessons from the "epic" article about "charter schools, political ambition, race and poverty. ... It’s a story about a problem without an easy solution." Indeed.

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates (When School Reform And Democracy Meet) has what might be the most robust reader comment thread going (77 entries and counting) and hones in on Russakoff's theme that reformers operate in an anti-democratic way (about which I have many thoughts) even though he (Coates) is "unconvinced" that teachers should be tenured and shares Booker's thoughts about seniority.

Last but not least, don't miss the photo essay that accompanies Russakoff's article (Picture Me Tomorrow: The Faces of a Newark School), taken at a renewal school (Carver) where the principal is being removed.

Any other notable takes on the piece?  Let us know.  I'm trying to get an interview with Dale (a woman, by the way -- seems to be a lot of confusion about this), and trying to gather my own thoughts as well. 

Quotes: Reform Still Hasn't Done Much (For Better Or Worse)

Quotes2Despite all the sturm und drang of education reform debates, despite all the noise and nonsense, the trajectory of American public education hasn’t changed a whole lot. Even the biggest, most comprehensive reforms have mostly ended up as tinkering around the edges. - New America's Connor Williams (Taking Education Reform From Launch to Stable Orbit)

Morning Video: Reformers & Disadvantaged Communities

"In the debate over the CCSS, as in other efforts to even the odds for underserved students, education reformers have not won the hearts and minds of the families and communities they seek to serve," is the stark summary from the NSVF 2014 summit video presented below:

It's an issue for progressive educators, too, as you may recall from last month's The Unbearable Whiteness of the American Left (The Nation).

Magazines: New Yorker Digs Into Newark Reform Backlash

ScreenHunter_02 May. 12 10.02Just in time for tomorrow's voting, the latest New Yorker has a Dale Russakoff piece on reform efforts in Newark:   "Schooled: Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg Had a Plan to Reform Newark’s Schools. They Got an Education."

"In 2010, Zuckerberg pledged a hundred-million-dollar challenge grant to help Booker, then the mayor of Newark, and Christie overhaul the school district, one of the most troubled in the country.

"Four years later, “improbably, a [school] district with a billion dollars in revenue and two hundred million dollars in philanthropy was going broke,” and Newark is at war over its schools."

Closing quote:" Shavar Jeffries believes that the Newark backlash could have been avoided. Too often, he said, “education reform . . . comes across as colonial to people who’ve been here for decades. It’s very missionary, imposed, done to people rather than in coöperation with people.” Some reformers have told him that unions and machine politicians will always dominate turnout in school-board elections and thus control the public schools. He disagrees: “This is a democracy. A majority of people support these ideas. You have to build coalitions and educate and advocate.” As he put it to me at the outset of the reform initiative, “This remains the United States. At some time, you have to persuade people.” 

Check it out and let us know if it's interesting, fair, etc. 

Philanthropy: $44 Billion/Year That Would Otherwise Fund Public Projects

Fist-of-Money-1Speaking of philanthropy, check out this new article in Businessweek if you want to be amazed and perhaps appalled at how little is known about some of the wealthy individuals who decide to create foundations and give their money away rather than pay it in taxes and let the government decide what's most important (Three Mysterious Philanthropists Fund Fourth-Largest U.S. Charity).

It's not so much that the grantmaking decisions are horrible -- some include education-related efforts, like LA's 9 Dots, which is always good to me.  

It's that there's a lot of money involved -- an estimated $44 billion per year -- and that the transparency isn't always as good as it should be.

 

Philanthropy: Do Journalists Make Good Program Officers?

BancheroThis piece from Inside Philanthropy asks and tries to answer the very good question: Why the Joyce Foundation Chose a Wall Street Journal Reporter to Lead Its Education Program.  

At Joyce, Banchero will be Senior Program Officer and report directly to Joyce President Ellen Alberding. She'll be using her reporters' skills to dig into programs and make decisions about who gets funded or re-funded.  

This is in contrast to other ed journalists who have gone to work in writing or communications capacities for the USDE (Hoff, Turner), or a nonprofit (Chenoweth, Aarons, Sipchen) or a communications firm (Zuckerbrod, etc.).  

Banchero isn't the only reporter to have a grantmaking or programmatic role.  EdWeek's Lynn Olsen at Gates is deeply involved in programmatic decisions, and just the other week Michele McNeil announced she was going to work for the College Board -- in a policy position. Three makes a trend, right? 

Of course, being a good reporter doesn't mean you'll be a good program officer.  Journalists are typically quick studies and great at boiling things down but not too many have studied education policy or know much about evaluation or philanthropy, or know when it's their turn to buy the next round, or how to manage larger long-term projects or how to suck up to board members.

Previous posts here, here, and here.

Research: New App Tries To Evaluate Impact Of Ed-Themed Movies

IS_Wireframes_06A_cs4_all_issues
Advocacy campaigns can be extremely powerful -- but even the best-designed efforts can also be sadly ineffective, or at least appear to be so.  Measuring their impact is hair-pullingly difficult.

That's why one of the most interesting outfits I learned when re-examing the impact of the 2010 film Waiting For Superman -- in-depth report coming soon from AEI! -- is the NYC-based Harmony Institute.  

The outfit did a preliminary investigation of the impact of WFS that was funded by the Ford Foundation (but never released in full), and is now demo-ing a product called ImpactSpace, which is a web application for "visualizing the social impact of documentary films." The app now includes 250 films across 24 social issues (including education). Check it out -- and let us know what you think.

Previous posts: A Misleading Approach to Assessing Advocacy [Reckhow]; More Ways To Measure AdvocacyAdvocacy Costs Lots, But What About Its Impact?Impact Of Advocacy Funding On Services.

Afternoon Video: Diversifying Education Leadership (& Everything Else)

Here's a segment from last week's #NSVFSummit in which Jim Shelton addresses the need to diversify education leadership -- a topic that warrants attention from all sides of the education debate. (Increasing the Diversity of Education Leadership).

Testing: Should US Schools Sign Up For New International Assessment?

Flickr CC University of SaskatchewanNext month, roughly 300 US schools are going to find out how well their sophomores match up to similar students in other countries (and what they really think about the schooling they're receiving). For some of the schools, it will be the second time.

Whether the school-level assessment that provides the scores -- a PISA-based measure called the OECD Test For Schools -- will help schools improve instruction or merely help them market themselves is the subject of my latest Harvard Education Letter piece. 

You can find it online here

 Some folks -- Andreas Schleicher, for example -- think it's a great new tool.  Others - Pasi Sahlberg -- like the PISA and the OECD Test but worry about schools misusing the results to create rankings rather than revamping their offerings. The handful of schools that participated in the 2012 pilot and talked to me about their scores and responses were a mixed bag.

International testing is coming, one way or the other. And I'm not just talking about IB programs.  The Common Core has a lot of overlap with PISA. Three states already get a state-level PISA (as do roughly 100 states and regions in other countries that particpate in PISA). I wouldn't be surprised if more states and districts sign up for the next administrations of PISA and the OECD Test.

Thanks to everyone who helped me with the story -- and not to worry I hope to be writing again about this in the near future so all those conversations and email exchanges won't go to waste. For me, it's fascinating to find out how hungry some educators are for international test results and frustrating if understandable that so many schools participated but haven't revealed their results.

More immediately, there's a ton of information about the experiences and results from Fairfax County (where 10 schools participated in 2012 and 25 participated this year) here. There's also a slideshow from the OECD here.Image via Flickr.

Media: Recollections, Controversy, & Advice From Departing PK-12 Blogger

Politics K-12 founder Michele McNeil announced earlier this week that she was leaving for a College Board policy position, but she agreed to sit down and answer some hard questions for us before she walked out the door.  

When it first appeared in 2007, I considered the site -- then called Campaign K-12 -- as a straight-laced newcomer, a bland version of what I and others were already doing.  In fact, I'd been hosted by EdWeek for a year or so before moving to Scholastic.  But over the years I've come to enjoy and appreciate the site's prolific and detailed coverage, occasional snark, and generous credit-sharing.

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

In any case, check out McNeil's answers below to find out where the idea for the site came from, what it's biggest and most controversial items have been, what McNeil wished she'd known from the start (good advice!), and what advice she'd give those of us still blogging.

Continue reading "Media: Recollections, Controversy, & Advice From Departing PK-12 Blogger" »

Thompson: Mixed Feelings Regarding Gates' Edu-Philanthropy

ConsistencyF. Scott Fitzgerald said that we must “hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

I joined conservative Rick Hess in reaching out to the Gates Foundation, urging them to research the ways that poverty undermines their “teacher quality” approach to school reform. The Gates Foundation’s Steve Cantrell responded; we had a 90 minute telephone conversation. Hess, in Aftermath: My Note to the Gates Foundation published both of our reflections on the exchange.

I challenged the Gates position that its focus on teachers alone in the classroom can improve high-poverty schools. Of course, their approach can be beneficial. The policy issue, however, is how will they be used, constructively and destructively. How, I asked, can teachers not oppose reforms that can be beneficial before concrete checks and balances for the inevitable misuses are nailed down?

To his credit, Cantrell responded, “John mentioned the need to put safeguards in place before teaching effectiveness measures are used for consequences. I couldn't agree more.” Cantrell didn't indicate that the foundation will take action to help teachers gain such protections from laws that have already be been passed. But, I am hopeful that the dialogue will continue.

I was unnerved, however, when I then read Anthony Cody’s What Will It Take to Educate the Gates Foundation?. Cody explained why the value added evaluations pushed by Gates are a disaster. He recounted the futility and the dangers of the edu-philanthropists’ embrace of charter schools, and how “Common Core and the high stakes accountability system in which it is embedded is on its way to the graveyard of grand ideas.”

What if Anthony is right and I'm wrong in reaching out?

Continue reading "Thompson: Mixed Feelings Regarding Gates' Edu-Philanthropy" »

Media: Two Journos Win Nieman Fellowships, Another Heads To College Board

There are two education journalists among those announced for the 2015 Nieman Fellows at Harvard

"Melissa Bailey, managing editor of the New Haven Independent, a pioneering, not-for-profit online community news organization in New Haven, Conn., will study how online degrees are redefining higher education, with a particular interest in competency-based programs and the impact on the nation’s class divide. 

"Denise-Marie Ordway, a senior reporter focusing on higher education at the Orlando Sentinel, will study performance-based funding models for state universities to understand their effect on instructional quality, tuition rates and degree completion and how these models affect universities with large minority enrollments, including historically black institutions."

Politics K-12 co-founder Michele McNeil announced that she was heading over to the College Board, leaving Alyson Klein to continue the blog solo (for now, at least):

"Starting in mid-May, I'll be the director of assessment and accountability policy at the College Board. It's an exciting opportunity to work for an organization that's having a big impact at a time when the future of accountability and testing is very much in flux. Still, it's going to be tough to leave Politics K-12 behind. I started this blog more than six years ago as "Campaign K-12", and with Alyson Klein, have built it into a platform that brings EdWeek readers a great mix of breaking news, analysis, watchdog coverage, and the occasionaltelevision review." 

Events: Live Updates From #NSVFSummit 2014

Pincus is out. Schorr is gone. Google is reversing itself. But nothing stops the annual NSVF Summit:

You can also check out the livestream here.

Media: WSJ's Banchero To Head Joyce Foundation Education Division

BancheroNews came out Monday morning that veteran education reporter Stephanie Banchero, the paper's lead national writer, was leaving her job to join the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation as a senior program officer.

The Chicago-based Banchero wrote a long, gripping series about the NCLB transfer option for the Chicago Tribune.  She also won a Knight Journalism Fellowship in 2008-2009 (which allowed me to become a Spencer Fellow), and helped the national Education Writers Association upgrade and expand its operations.

In departing the paper, Banchero joins Stephanie Simon, who left after four years at the Journal to join Politico. The Journal's New York City metro area reporter, Lisa Fleisher, left the beat earlier this year (for a spot in London) and was replaced by Leslie Brody.

In joining an education foundation as a policy person (rather than going into communications), Banchero follows the path that a few other journalists have followed.  For example, former EdWeek editor Lynne Olson has become a powerful part of the Gates Foundation's grantmaking option.

Previous posts: Banchero Becomes WSJ ReporterBiggest Education Stories Of The NCLB EraBiggest Education Stories ...How'd They Do Covering ...

See Banchero's full goodbye email to the EWA list posted below, and the official Joyce announcement.

Continue reading "Media: WSJ's Banchero To Head Joyce Foundation Education Division" »

Events: They're Beaming NSVF Summit 2014 To Boston This Year

image from www.newschools.org

The NSVF Summit in San Francisco is next week, and if you're not invited tough luck.  

But you can observe and participate virtually.  The public agenda is here. Lots of pre-reading here. Blog here. Twitter and hashtag (@NSVF  #NSVFSummit), too.  

And apparently they're going to be livestreaming at least parts of it as well (like they did last year). 

Some of the headliners include John King, New York State Commissioner of Education, and Joanne Weiss, former Chief of Staff, US Department of Education, and Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton. Other highlights include speakers like Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, a TEACH video booth, 20 NSVFseed grantees.

The big new wrinkle this year is that they're trying out a satellite event sort of like TEDx.  The New England SummitX invite is here

Previous summits (see below) have included tense words between Michelle Rhee and Randi Weingarten, proposed COPPA changes from Mark Zuckerberg, and spacey interview questions and robotic sound bite responses from Laurene Powell Jobs and Rahm Emanuel. Reed Hastings famously declared that charters weren't cutting it, and Rocketship said it would open schools in DC if Kaya Henderson would give them space. Waiting for Superman was screened in Spring 2010. Sometimes, people wear fun outfits. 

Previous posts:  Google Glasses Live from NSVF Summit 2013Thoughts On NSVF 2012Rahm Emanuel And Arlene Laurene Powell Jobs At NSVF'12Reformy 2011 Summit Returns To Silicon ValleyFashion Hits & Misses At The 2010 NSVF SummitAnother Spring, Another Summit (2009)NSFV: Live Tweets From Pasadena '09Microblogging The 2008 NSVF Summit.

Nonprofits: InBloom Joins Long List Of Failed Efforts

InBloom isn't the first foundation-funded nonprofit to fall flat or get swallowed up in larger social issues, it won't be the last, and its demise probably doesn't mean what you think it means.

Failstemp ccommon flickr

There are several recent reformy examples of failure or premature suspension of operations including the Gates small schools initiative, Yolie Flores' teacher advocacy organization (Communities 4 Teaching Excellence), Reading First, the Education Sector (now being revived at AIR), and EDIN'08.

But there have also been numerous failures of various types and descriptions from those who would generally be considered reform critics, including the mid-1990s Annenberg Challenge, the barely-alive Broader Bolder Alliance, and Parents Across America (remember them)? Other nominees from Twitter I'm not familiar with include Strategic Management of Human Capital and the Council for Basic Education. The whole reform movement is built on the failures of the era that preceded it (feat. Head Start, desegregation, etc.). 

You get the idea.  This is hard work, saving the world, and a certain amount of failure is to be expected. 

Even more important to remember is that short-term setbacks often lead to breakthroughs rather than collapses.  What lessons will reformers and reform critics learn from inBloom's demise?  What opportunities will arise from its implosion? Whomever learns inBloom's lessons fastest and puts them to good use stands the best chance of future success.

Previous posts: Key Members Depart "Parents Across America"The Successful Failure Of ED In '08Gates-Funded Group Hands Baton To SharptonMalcolm Gladwell On Failure, Voice, & ExitWaivers, Failures, And Redefining AYP. Image via Flickr.

Charts: Impacts Of Different College Promise Programs

image from www.washingtonpost.com"Across 22 programs, including Kalamazoo's, LeGower and Walsh find an increase in total public school enrollment of about 4 percent in the years immediately after the announcement," according to this WashPost story (What happens when public-school students are promised a college education).  "Not surprisingly, programs offering scholarships to all students regardless of merit, and to the widest range of colleges and universities, saw the biggest gains in enrollment, of about 8 percent.

Media: ProPublica Hires Another Reporter To Cover Education

With apologies for having missed this when it came out earlier this year, news from ProPublica is that they've hired a veteran AJC reporter Heather Vogell to cover education (ProPublica Hires Reporters).

image from www.propublica.org

From the announcement: "Vogell will join ProPublica from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she has been a reporter since 2005. Her work there on test cheating in the public school system resulted in the indictments of the superintendent and 34 others. A series she co-authored, “Cheating Our Children,” examined suspicious test scores in public schools across the nation, becoming a 2013 finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. Before the Journal-Constitution, she worked at The Charlotte Observer, The Chicago Tribune, and The Day, in New London, Conn."

The nonprofit site hasn't been particularly strong on education coverage, though it's got a big section on segregation and just published a long story about re-segregation last week. There's also a section for college loans, if that's your kind of thing. The section on for-profit schools hasn't been updated since 2011. The Opportunity Gap tool was big for a while last year but I haven't heard much about it since.

I haven't seen any stories from Vogell yet on the ProPublica site, so perhaps she's en route from Atlanta.  You can find her at @hvogell but she doesn't seem to be particularly active there. Vogell joins Marian (@mariancw) Wang, who was hired earlier this year.  

Previous posts:  Not Enough Education Goodies On ProPublicaProPublica's Education ReporterObama Staffers' Disclosure Forms Online. Image courtesy ProPublica.

AM News: Data Storage Nonprofit InBloom Closing Down

News2

InBloom Student Data Repository to Close NYT: The student data warehousing venture that became a lightning rod for some parents’ data privacy and security concerns, announced it would close. See also WNYC: Sun Sets on Controversial Student Data Project inBloom. [EdWeek broke the story, far as I know.]

Vision, Reality Collide in Common-Core Tests EdWeek: A glass-half-full reading focuses on the exams' technological advances and embrace of performance-based assessment. On the flip side, a confluence of political, technical, and financial constraints have led to some scaling back of the ambitious plans the consortia first laid out.

U.S. News Releases 2014 Best High Schools Rankings HuffPost/ US News: Some familiar names joined Dallas-based School for the Talented and Gifted and the two BASIS schools in the top 10 this year, including the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology in Georgia and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia. Both schools retained their third and fourth place rankings, respectively, while Pine View School in Florida also held onto its No. 6 position.

Teachers are losing their jobs, but Teach for America’s expanding Hechinger Report: Of the first 13 Seattle recruits whose two-year commitment is now over, Maldonado and 10 others remain in their classrooms. While he thinks TFA should have done a better job before bringing his cohort to the city, Maldonado says he still believes strongly in the organization and worked at its summer institute in New York City last year.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Talks To ABC News’ David Muir ABC News: "How did I go to a commuter college that cost $50 a semester? Because a lot of other people put a little something in that kept the costs low at a public school so I had a chance and a lotta kids like me had a chance to get an education, and go out, and do something with it."

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

Continue reading "AM News: Data Storage Nonprofit InBloom Closing Down" »

Morning Video: The "Dropout Hunter" Of St. Louis

PBS NewsHour: Lessons from a successful ‘dropout recruiter’ [Charlie Bean of St. Louis Public Schools]

Media: Bullying, A Federal Civil Rights Complaint, & A Wealthy District's Response

ScreenHunter_03 Apr. 17 23.08You might have missed this series of stories from Palo Alto Weekly about student bullying, a district's flawed response -- I certainly did -- but the Society of Professional Journalists gave the Northern California outlet one of its top awards for small media outlets.

Read more about the stories given the award here, or how the stories came about here. Interesting to note that the reporters unearthed a federal Office of Civil Rights case about halfway through the process, and in the end the complaint was made public (by the child's parents).

"The Weekly coverage included two cover story packages researched and written by Lobdell,"Out of the Shadows," (June 14, 2013) about bullying, and "Power to Hurt," (Aug. 16, 2013) on the use of social media by teens, and numerous news stories by Kenrick and Lobdell on the school district's handling of bullying complaints, federal investigations and the development of bullying policies."

The full list of SJP awardees is here -- I didn't see any other education-related stories but I might have missed some.

Media: "Marketplace" Adds Education Reporter*

 Yau Hoong Tang FlickrNot to be outdone by NPR or anyone else, American Public Media's "Marketplace" show is also staffing up on education coverage, and has just announced that Adriene Hill (@adrienehill) will be its new education reporter along with editor Betsy Streisand and Amy Scott (@amyreports).

I first met Hill in Chicago, where she was one of the stars at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio who helped produce their morning newsmagazine show.  She's spent the last four years or so in LA at Marketplace, doing great work by all accounts, and it's exciting that she'll be adding to Marketplace's education coverage.

The position is funded in part by the Kresge Foundation.*

Previous posts: Covering The Ed Beat For "Marketplace"; Where Does That Public Radio Coverage Come From, Anyway?NPR Expands Education Coverage (A Goodly Amount)*;  Local NPR Stations Beefing Up Education CoverageNPR Ed Team Adds Staff (Still Needs Spiffy Name)* Image via Flickr.

*While I still don't have any official confirmation, I've been told that the position is also being funded by the Gates Foundation.

Morning Video: They've Re-Segregated In Tuscaloosa

"The district, once the model of racial integration, has moved back in time, such that "nearly one in three black students attend a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened." (Plus a long feature story in The Atlantic Magazine with ProPublica)

Media: NPR Ed Team Adds Staff (Still Needs Spiffy Name)*

Jobs-signAs you may already have heard via Twitter, the latest news on the NPR education team expansion front is that they've hired Anya Kamenetz to be one of two education bloggers for the new, expanded education page.  

Starting next month, the Brooklyn-based freelancer (Fast Company, Forbes, Hechinger, and many other outlets) will be joining on-air correspondents Eric Westervelt (in SF) and Claudio Sanchez (DC) plus editorial staffers Matt Thompson, Steve Drummond, and Cory Turner (in DC) for a team that will eventually number about 10 people in all (including production staff).  

No word yet on what they're going to name the new site (my bad idea is that they should call it "Planet Education") or who the other blogger is going to be, though rumors have it that the competition has been intense. (I put my name in for the job but they were too smart to fall for that.) 

So far, it seems like the new team is doing well. Contributor Paul Bruno and I had some issues with one of their SAT stories (Media Getting SAT Story Wrong (& Who Funded It, Anyway?). But they seemed to be first to have a reporter take a Common Core field test (sort of like the mom who did SAT prep in The Atlantic), and they've got a great model in Planet Money for smart, fun coverage of a complex topic.

Ironically, education hiring and coverage are expanding all over the place -- Marketplace, Vox, Politico, FiveThirtyEight, NPR, RealClear Education, etc. -- just as the education debate has stalemated/stalled out.  Hopefully, there will be enough real-world change going on for all these new and/or expanded outlets to tell interesting and useful stories. Hopefully there will be enough sharp reporters to give readers the real stories not just the ones handed to them.

Image via Flickr. Previous posts: NPR Expands Education CoverageLocal NPR Stations Beefing Up Education CoverageWhere Does That Public Radio Coverage Come From, Anyway?. And also:  Colbert Move Probably Bad News For EducationMarch Madness Pits 16 Sites Against Each Other.

*Correction:  Kamenetz says she's never written for Forbes.  My apologies.

Politics: Google Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy Conferences

Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 11.16.21 AMI know a lot of educators love to hate Microsoft and the Gates Foundation and love Apple and Google.  

However, there's a wild article in the Washington Post about how Google has gone "all in" with its lobbying efforts -- including funding think tanks and policy shops that cover education isssues.

So maybe there's room for a little more scrutiny and skepticism across the board?

Google's current lobbying and policy development effort "includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects." There are fellows, 100 lobbyists, 140 funded nonprofits,  university-sponsored events, and $900K in campaign donations in 2012 alone (second only to Microsoft among edtech companies). 

As you can see from the chart at left (via WP), Google funded Brookings, Aspen, Heritage, New America, AEI, and PPI in 2010 (pictured) along with lots of other legal and edtech outfits The company added more funding for outside groups during the following four years such as the CAP Action Fund, People for the American Way, and ALEC.  

How much of Google's efforts are directly focused on education isn't immediately clear. But even if there aren't any direct edpolicy grants going out from Google there's enough overlap between tech and education these days to warrant some attention from folks interested in K12 education issues.

Previous posts: Jobs Vs. Gates - Who's Done More For Education?Google & Microsoft Duking It Out Over SchoolsGoogle Glass TeachingGoogle Launches Play For EducationThe Missing Steve Jobs / Apple Philanthropy.

Bruno: Actually, Statisticians Are Cautiously Optimistic About VAM

11442225495_9d9cc1cbc4_nIt's always nice when experts come together to help to articulate and clarify whatever scientific consensus exists around an issue, so I was glad to see the American Statistical Association put out a report last week on the promise and peril of value-added modeling of educational effectiveness.

Interestingly, however, if you were to hear about this report only from the staunchest, most ideological opponents of VAM, you would think it says something else entirely. Valerie Strauss, for instance, claims the report "slammed" the use of VAM to evaluate teachers and Diane Ravitch seems to think it is a "damning indictment" of such policies.

The report itself is not nearly so hyperbolic.

For a useful summary check out Stephen Sawchuk, but the report itself is a mere seven accessible pages so I encourage you read it yourself.

The bottom line for the ASA is that they are optimistic about the use of "statistical methodology" to improve and evaluate educational interventions, but current value-added models have many limitations that make them difficult to interpret and apply, especially when evaluating individual teachers.

Continue reading "Bruno: Actually, Statisticians Are Cautiously Optimistic About VAM" »

Morning Video: Oklahoma Backpedals On Common Core

 

Via the PBS NewsHour's Friday show: "Last month, Indiana became the first state to drop the Common Core standards it had already adopted... This month, Oklahoma became the latest state to take a big step toward repealing the Common Core education standards."

Books: The Deseg Case That Wasn't Brown [It Was Yellow]

image from www.journalism.columbia.eduBrown v. Board of Education wasn't the first school desegregation case, and the case didn't involve African-American children, according to a book being written by a Adrienne Berard (pictured).  

Titled "When Yellow Was Brown," the book "chronicles an important and undeservedly obscure school desegregation case that preceded Brown v. Board of Education -- and that involved several Chinese immigrant children as its plaintiffs," according to a note from Sam Freedman at Columbia about news that the author has won a Lukas award for a book-in-progress.  

"Berard tells the story “in a deeply affecting narrative that is both epic and intimate, through meticulous, original research and truthful real life portraits. She sheds new light on issues that continue to torment and resonate in our public and private lives,” according to the press release announcing the award. 

See full press release below.

Continue reading "Books: The Deseg Case That Wasn't Brown [It Was Yellow]" »

Afternoon Video: Return to Montefiore Alternative School

Last week's premier episode of the VICE-produced documentary series "Last Chance High" was so rough it was hard to watch -- so be warned.  Here's this week's show.

Update: Spencer Fellowships Go To Lutton, Resmovits, & Kalita (Who?)

Christian gozales flickrAfter a bit of a delay to determine whether any of the awardees wanted to pursue alternative options, the newest Spencer Education Journalism Fellowships have been awarded to two familiar names -- Chicago Public Radio's Linda Lutton and HuffPost's Joy Resmovits -- and one unfamiliar one - S. Mitra Kalita (of Quartz & the WSJ).

What are they going to write about?  "Lutton plans to use her Spencer year creating a one-hour radio documentary examining the intersection of poverty and education through the lens of a high-poverty Chicago elementary school...Kalita will spend her Spencer Fellowship year reporting a book on school choice through the lens of one New York City neighborhood....  [Resmovits] will use the Spencer Fellowship to assess the state of education for American students with disabilities."

Read the full press announcement below. Image via Flickr.

Continue reading "Update: Spencer Fellowships Go To Lutton, Resmovits, & Kalita (Who?)" »

Morning Video: First Lady's Alma Mater Featured In New Documentary

 

This trailer describes both the history of the school itself and the stunning inadequacy of supply of seats given the talent and the demand.  Via CPS Obsessed.

Evaluation: A Revolt Against The "Randomistas"?

Flickr Meghan Carnavalet In These TimesAre you an unapologetic "randomista" -- an advocate of randomized controlled trials as a way to mesure the impact of social interventions -- or do you dare to consider some of the drawbacks behind what's commonly called the "gold standard" for evaluations in edreform circles? This recent Slate article by Joshua Keating might help you decide: Randomized controlled trials: Do they work for economic development?.

RCTs are increasingly popular with the public and policymakers -- with TED Talks and New Yorker profiles -- but also expensive and difficult to implement, strip away key contextual information, and lack generalizability. They're also over-adored by politicians and journalists. "Media and policymakers tend to overstate the conclusions of randomized controlled trials," according to Keating.

The piece focuses on evaluation of international development but also contains an interesting story about randomized trials in education improvement efforts in education. Specifically, it tells the story of an attempt to figure out whether more textbooks or other interventions worked best in improving education outcomes. It turned out they didn't.  Better teaching strategies and health care did. Other examples cited in the piece include one that found school uniforms helped prevent teen pregnancy more than sex ed. Very Malcolm Gladwell.

I don't personally believe that research can prove things in social sciences, in part because of evaluation limitations (and time delays, etc.) but also because of the tendence of people to disbelieve research findings that don't comport with their beliefs.  If something's proven but the proof isn't accepted widely, then -- for a time at least -- the issue remains unsettled in the public debate.  That's why my research category on this site is titled (Who Cares What) Research says.  I feel a bit anti-intellectual in writing that, but I only mean to be pragmatic.

Image via Flickr.

 

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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.