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Reform: High-Contrast Responses To TIME & The Nation Stories**

image from www.thenation.com**See update at bottom.

In case you happened to miss it, The Nation came out with a big 5,000-word story about TFA this week -- it's second piece about the alternative certification program now in its 25th year.  

This one, written by a Columbia University undergraduate who's obviously done a lot of work researching his story, focuses on TFA's efforts to deal with critical reporting about its work (This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach for America), describing the research and responses from TFA as "obsessive" and part of a cover up fueled with $3.5 million a year in advertising and promotion -- and tip-offs from the USDE when its work is being FOIAd.

There are a few facts and figures that you may not have seen before, but most of the article is a laborious rehash of familiar complaints about the weakness of the TFA model, the money and talent it's attracted, and the uncertainties of the efforts it and its alumni have undertaken in places like DC, New Orlans, and Newark. Yep, thanks, we've got it.  

My first complaint about the piece was that it noted on-campus resistance to TFA recruiting without disclosing that one of the groups organizing students is a pro-union AFT-funded organization, ASUS.  Just a few weeks ago, In These Times corrected its story about the Harvard controversy noting that ASUS received AFT funding. Writer George Joseph dismissed the AFT funding as obvious and unnecessary, since ASUS's views are already so widely known:

Seriously?  Funding sources and connections are such a big issue in education when it comes to reform funders and advocates, but somehow journalists think that reporting who's behind the effort isn't an issue when its parents, teachers, or the unions.

My second complaint about the piece was that it's framed as an attempt to scare readers about TFA's communications acumen -- they'll slash your tires, or something like that -- when the reality is that they like many other reform groups have struggled to respond effectively (much less prevent) critical-minded stories in The Nation/Hechinger*, In These Times, NPR, Vox, etc.  

It's not that TFA is so amazing at PR, but the opposite.  The memo that is the focus of the latest article -- so much for TFA's ability to keep a secret! -- indicates a remarkably wonky, slow, and conflict-aversive approach to dealing with critics, advocates, and the teachers unions.  

My real criticism, however, is that both TFA and its reform-minded allies continue to allow this kind of thing happen again and again without any really vigorous or coordinated response.  

Publish a story raising concerns about teacher tenure, as TIME recently did, and the response is strong, immediate, and action-oriented -- 100,000 signatures on a petition, a press event, and a Twitterstorm of criticism against the cover, the story, and the reporter who wrote it.

Slam a reform organization or its leaders -- repeatedly, and somewhat unfairly -- and the response is slow, timid, defensive -- and likely to be limited to the individual or organization most directly affected, and in the case of TFA limited to blog posts and letters to the editor.  

If reformers had a real media response strategy -- no, Education Post doesn't count (yet) -- they'd critique The Nation's story for its flawed reporting. They'd stand up for each other, not just defending their efforts but raising questions about those who are criticizing them. They'd overcome their student government president egos, truly minor policy differences, and deep underestimation of social media and its effect on media coverage.

Sure, most folks don't care for the bickering and it's only a small group of folks who are paying attention. But that small group includes include journalists and thought leaders, funders, and staff, and I just don't think it's working very well for reformers to let their leaders/lead organizations get slammed repeatedly and let claims against them go unanswered. Coordinated action is why the political parties hang together despite policy differences, and unions and union members hang together despite differences.  

Related posts: Think Tanker Tells Reporters To Stop Scapegoating TFA Funding Disclosure Should Apply To Reform Critics, Too12 Problems With Politico's TFA Story (+1 With TFA)Reporters Should Identify Union Employees.

*That's right. The usually play-it-straight Hechinger Report ran the first Nation story about TFA and executive editor Sarah Garland wrote about the second story (The two sides of TFA), claiming that it revealed just how much TFA didn't like the story, defending the piece that was published as factually correct, and noting that Hechinger Report regularly publishes pieces focuses on problems as well as successes in education. [NB there are at least a couple of journalistic questions about the Nation/Hechinger piece]

**UPDATED: New America's Conor Williams notes some of the same ridiculousness in The Nation's storyline, and adds that USDE notifying a grantee of a FOIA request is standard protocol rather than part of TFA's inside influence -- both an example of flaws in The Nation's journalism and useful points of criticism against the piece that reform advocates might highlight in a loosely coordinated but not lockstep (ie, morning memo) kind of way.

Morning Listen: What's *Really* Going On In Philadelphia?

Here's Bloomberg EDU's new interview with superintendent Bill Hite.

Morning Video: TIME Story, Necessary Outrage, & NEA Gets Out The Vote

 

Watch TIME's Haley Sweetland Edwards discuss her controversial cover story on C-SPAN. Click here if the video doesn't display properly. Or, take a look at Mike Antonucci's new article on teachers unions (Teachers Unions and the War Within). Still surfing the outrage Antonucci describes in his piece, the AFT is delivering a 90,000-signature petition demanding an apology from TIME for the cover image this afternoon in NYC and the new NEA president is embarking on a six-state get out the vote tour.

Books: Let's See The Unredacted Klein-Ravitch Emails

image from 645e533e2058e72657e9-f9758a43fb7c33cc8adda0fd36101899.r45.cf2.rackcdn.comAn apparent leak of former NYC chancellor Joel Klein's new book Lessons of Hope reignited the long-running debate over when and why Diane Ravitch turned against NYC's accountability-focused school reform efforts and gave reform critics a second thing (besides the TIME cover story) to rail against over the weekend.

I still haven't seen the book -- Newsweek'sAlexander Nazaryan tweeted about it first (as far as I am aware) -- but Klein and others have repeatedly suggested that Ravitch's turn against reform efforts like those in New York City was motivated at least partly in response to perceived poor treatment of her partner.

See the Twitter thread here.

Or, for a more traditional view of the issue, New America's Kevin Carey wrote about redacted emails in a 2011 magazine feature about Ravitch:

"Over the next two months, Klein and Ravitch exchanged a series of e-mails. Their contents were almost entirely redacted by the department when it responded to the FOIA request. But several people who worked for the department at the time, including one who saw the e-mails personally, say Ravitch aggressively lobbied Klein to hire Butz to lead the new program—and reacted with anger when he didn’t.

"Ravitch disputes this, saying she did not ask for Butz to be put in charge of the program, was not angry, and only urged Klein to call upon Butz for her deep knowledge and experience. She also told me she was glad Butz was no longer at the New York City DOE, because it had constrained her own ability to criticize the department." 

Steve Brill also went after Ravitch in his 2011 book, claiming that the fees she took in for speaking to teachers should have been disclosed, among other things.

Ravitch and others claim that this is merely an attempt to smear and discredit her, that her partner's departure from NYC's DOE came well before Ravitch's "conversion?" and that it had nothing to do with personal issues.

Who cares what two folks who aren't in charge of any schools have to say about each other? Well, the education debate is all about credibility, for better or worse, so questions about Klein and Ravitch's credibility are noteworthy.  There's also the ongoing tension within the reform movement about whether to attack critics or make nice with them, and the issue for both sides of whether attacks are powerful or alienating.

All that being said, I'd love to see the Klein book, and even the unredacted emails.  Klein or Ravitch could provide them.

Related posts:  Smearing Ravitch Could Blow Up In Reformers' FacesInsult-Hurling Coming Mostly From Reform Critics; Diane Ravitch's Reform Vilification Industry

Media: TIME Cover/Story Generates Angry (Symbolic) Union Response

Screen shot 2014-10-24 at 10.09.28 AM
It lacks some of the visceral feel of the 2008 Michelle Rhee holding a broom in her hands cover (left).  Perhaps Campbell Brown was unavailable to wield the hammer.  But the new TIME Magazine cover (right, and story) is proving controversial enough to have activated the national teachers unions and others who see (and benefit from) the "war on teachers" narrative.  Rally the base!  Scare the members! Scare off anyone else who might be thinking about writing about teacher tenure and school reform. Why not?

Continue reading "Media: TIME Cover/Story Generates Angry (Symbolic) Union Response" »

Magazines: Teacher Tenure Lawsuits Expose Growing Reform Rift

Teacher.Cover[3][1][1]

The newly-resurgent TIME magazine has a lengthy, delightfully wonky cover story about teacher tenure written by former Columbia J-School classmate Haley Sweetland Edwards that you might want to check out (The War on Teacher Tenure).

Some of the new story (subscription only, alas) will be extremely familiar to education insiders like you, but there are some key additional details and aspects worth noting.

For example, Edwards reminds us that the Vergara decision (being appealed) is "the first time first time, in California or anywhere else, that a court had linked the quality of a teacher, as measured by student test scores, to a pupil’s right to an education."

She also reminds us that the current crop of billionaires interested in fixing education is not the first (think Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford).

The parts that may be new to you include background details about how David Welch got involved in the issue four years ago after consulting constitutional scholar Kathleen Sullivan.  Then came the hiring of the PR firm now called Rally, which launched StudentsMatter.  Recruiting and vetting plaintiffs -- no easy feat, I'm told -- came next.

Edwards also notes that some DC-based education reformers aren't entirely behind the Vergara approach, citing concerns from right-leaning wonks like Petrilli and McShane that you may recall from a few weeks ago (they don't like lawsuits and are hoping for a post-Rhee time of cooperation rather than ever-increasing conflict with the teachers unions).  

There aren't any left-leaning think tankers quoted in the piece, but my sense is that reform folks are sick of being beaten up, don't want to have to take more heat for another hard-charging evangelist (ie, Campbell Brown), and are worried about 2016.  

Edwards' previous forays into education writing include a piece about the Colbert/Stewart divide (Pro-Reform Colbert Leapfrogs Reform Critic Stewart) and something about unions' evolving positions on Common Core (Teachers Union Pulls Full-Throated Support for Common Core).

 

Media: Meet Al Jazeera's Part-Time Education Reporter, E. Tammy Kim

image from america.aljazeera.comDon't miss out on education reporting from Al Jazeera America's E. Tammy Kim (pictured), who's been putting out pieces from an outlet that many haven't yet noted: For example: A high-poverty public school tries charter-type reforms.   She also writes about labor/poverty, arts/culture and East Asia. 
 
"Previously, she was a lawyer for low-wage workers in New York City, as well as a unionist and adjunct professor. Educated at Yale and NYU School of Law, Tammy was raised by working-class Korean immigrants in Tacoma, Washington. Her journalism has been supported by the Ms. Foundation for Women, The Nation Institute and the Asian American Writers' Workshop." (@etammykim)

Journalism: But Are All The New Ed-Focused Outlets Really *Helping*?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comFordham's Mike ("Kojak") Petrilli has a new piece online this morning (Online education coverage is on the rise) over at Education Next (which I sometimes write for), taking a look at the "new breed" of education journalism out there over the past year or so.

What's new, or missing, or wrong in the Petrilli piece?

Clearly someone with access to Politico Pro, Petrilli notes that in addition to Morning Education the outlet "pumps out loads of ministories, and at least a handful of meaty ones, almost every day."

Anyone else seen these pieces, and if they're so influential why aren't they getting passed around?

Petrilli describes Chalkbeat as "a geographically based Education Week," which I'm sure will irk both EdWeek and Chalkbeat for different reasons.

The big surprise for me here is the presence of The Daily Caller, which Petrilli says gets tons of pageviews but I never see passed around. Anyone else read it?

What about RealClear Education, where there is a smattering of original writing in addition to great morning and afternoon roundups, or NPR Education, where Drummond et al have been crushing us with so many education stories we can't keep up? 

What else can I add? 

Check out a few more tidbits and some bottom-line observations below the fold.

Continue reading "Journalism: But Are All The New Ed-Focused Outlets Really *Helping*?" »

Journalism: Researcher Fails To Disclose Union Funding; Journos Fail To Ask

Granted, it was a busy week in Chicago news, what with the Columbus Day holiday and the unexpected sickness befalling CTU head Karen Lewis, but I see this happening with disturbing frequency lately:

A Chicago-focused charter school study from a couple of days ago was apparently funded in large part by the Chicago Teachers Union -- something that wasn't disclosed in the report and wasn't picked up on by any of the media outlets who passed on its results until now.  

The situation was picked up by Crain's Chicago reporter Greg Hinz in this post (Chicago teachers union paid part of cost of charter-school study), which noted:

Mr. Orfield conceded in a later interview with WTTW that the Chicago Teachers Union, a vehement foe of charters, picked up part of the tab. "It was funded by the teachers union," Mr. Orfield said. "And the Ford Foundation and Kresge Foundation and others."...

In a subsequent phone call, Mr. Orfield said the CTU had paid "about half" of the total bill. However, he added, the methodology he used for the Chicago study was "exactly the same" as in prior studies of charters in New Orleans and the Twin Cities."

Hinz himself didn't get around to checking it out in his initial story either (Chicago charter schools lag conventional public schools: Orfield report). The two dailies covered the study (Study: Charter schools have worsened school segregation | Chicago Sun-Times, and Study: Chicago charter schools lag traditional ones - Chicago Tribune -- but didn't address funding sources. Only WTTW, Chicago Public Television, got to the issue.

So what, you ask? The funding source doesn't necessarily undermine the results (though INCS and others have raised questions about the data and methodology), and Chicago's charters did somewhat better using Orfield's methodology than charters in New Orleans and Minneapolis.  

But still... this is pretty basic stuff. Given all the scrutiny given to funding sources and disclosure in the media and by reform critics in particular, disclosure from the researcher (Myron Orfield) -- and some journalistic checking about the funding source -- would have made a lot of sense. I don't know who to be more upset with -- the journalists or the researcher.   

Morning Video: Why Think Tankers Hate The Vergara Strategy

This video recently uploaded by AFT is mostly just a broadside against Campbell Brown but it also reveals something I've written about before -- that think tankers (Brookings, Fordham) don't seem to like the Vergara-style approach to school reform:

 Why not? Some of the concerns are substantive, but that's only a part of it.  Think tankers and others are feeling burned by the pushback against reforms of the recent era (the so-called "war on teachers"), they're not as nearly familiar with legal strategies (as opposed to policies, programs, and politics), and they probably think they're smarter than Campbell Brown, who's leading the charge.

Quotes: Build Capacity & Let Schools "Improve Themselves"

Quotes2Let's just figure out how to build capacity in individual schools. ..That's the only thing that I think is scaleable, is talking about how to improve the capacity that schools have to improve themselves.

-- Holy Cross assistant professor Jack Schneider in US public schools are better than they've ever been (Vox). 

 

Journalism: AP Reporter Moves To LA, Returns To Education Beat

Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 12.44.04 PMAfter a two-year exile covering foreign affairs and international crises, Christine Armario (pictured) is slated to return to the education beat -- from LA -- starting next month.

As you may recall, AP tried a "team" approach to covering education for a time (roughly 2010-2012). Armario and others were responsible for digging out all those waiver letters in 2012, as you may recall (How AP Got Hold Of All Those Waiver Letters).  In recent times, AP has had Kimberly Helfing covering education nationally.

There's lots of education journalism going on already in LA, between KPCC, the LA Times, and others (LA School Report and the NYT's Jenny Medina occasionally).  But it's the second-largest school district in the nation and warrants much more attention than it usually gets.  

Related posts: Associated Press Names New Education Editor (2011); Another Twist And Turn For The AP Education Team (2012); Replacing The NYT's National Education Writer (2012); Meet AP Education Reporter Josh Lederman. Image courtesy AP.

Morning Video: Update On Zuckerberg's $100M Newark Grant

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Here's that NBC News segment about Newark I tweeted out yesterday, checking in on what the Zuckerberg gift has and hasn't done (Nightly News: Tracking Zuckerberg’s schools gift).  The gist of the story seemed to be that the changes have been small and slow-moving but potentially transformative. Click the link if the video doesn't display properly.

Journalism: Funding Disclosure Should Apply To Reform Critics, Too

Kudos to In These Times for updating its Harvard/TFA story (Student Activists Demand Harvard Sever Ties with Teach for America) to note that the group behind the effort received nearly $60,000 in AFT funding, as well as other labor backing.

The same can't be said for news outlets covering student protests against the Philadelphia school board for recent contract actions, in which union funding for student groups (albeit in small amounts) has gone unmentioned. The two main student groups, Philadelphia Student Union and United Youth for Change, received $80,000 from the AFT, according to Droput Nation's RiShawn Biddle (The AFT’s $2 Million Spree in Philly).

While education journalists and reform critics have increasingly noted when groups and individuals receive funding from reform-oriented foundations and individuals, the same can't be said about coverage of reform critics' efforts and ideas.  

But the correction/addition from In These Times -- a progressive outlet! -- points out that it can and should be done by mainstream outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, AP, Huffington Post, and others. It's not that hard to do: Ask where the group gets its funding from, or ask Biddle or Mike Antonucci, or look around online.

Related posts: Reporters Should Identify Union EmployeesWho Influences Education Coverage Better -- Reform Critics Or Funders?Vergara Is Distracting You From NEA's Political StrengthMeet Sabrina Stevens, AFT's Secret New "Education Advocate"

John Thompson: Restoring the "Clash of Ideas" in Public Schools

How is it possible that the New York Times food columnist turned education commentator who wrote The Trouble with Tenure could turn around and write nearly the opposite: The Wilds of Education?

Now, Frank Bruni praises the students, families, and educators in Colorado and elsewhere who are opposing standards that demand that schools be all on the same page when teaching a single ideologically-driven set of Standards.

Bruni writes, “When it comes to learning, shouldn’t they [schools] be dangerous?” Sounding like a teachers union building rep, Bruni asks, “Isn’t education supposed to provoke, disrupt, challenge the paradigms that young people have consciously embraced and attack the prejudices that they have unconsciously absorbed?”

I am curious about noneducators, who ordinarily support the clash of ideas, who contradict themselves by attacking tenure, due process, and the policies that are essential for protecting the free flow of ideas of public education. Do they not realize that the test, sort, reward, and punish reform movement is only viable when it is imposing tests where there is only one “right” answer? Do commentators like Bruni not understand that tenure is essential for protecting the debate and discussion in our schools?

Bruni’s ill-informed attack on teachers may help answer my question. It was based on an interview with – you guessed it – one ideologically-driven reformer. Bruni accepted the claims of Colorado Senator Mike Johnson at face value. It doesn’t seem to occur to Bruni that the efforts of Johnson et. al to destroy the rights of teachers (so that they cannot oppose his test-driven accountability schemes) also opened the door for Colorado's conservative reformers to micromanage the learning of students? Can he explain a difference between the way that rightwing censorship operates, as opposed to the way that corporate reform functions when it micromanages teachers’ instruction and students’ learning?

Continue reading "John Thompson: Restoring the "Clash of Ideas" in Public Schools" »

Media: NYC Public Radio Revamps Education Site

On Monday, WNYC's SchoolBook education site relaunched with new media partners and a new expanded focus on school data.  

As you may remember, WNYC and the New York Times launched SchoolBook together a few years ago, but even before things really got rolling the Times folded up shop when some of the key players over there moved on to other work or left the paper.  The reporting came from WNYC, and the original data setup came from the NYT side -- but there was no original NYT reporting dedicated to SchoolBook.

You can read a bit about the launch effort here at the Nieman Journalism Lab, the gist of which is that the new site will include content from other sites (WNBC and the New York Daily News, among others) and expanded/improved data on individual schools and language offerings (Spanish, Mandarin).  There won't apparently be any expansion in the newsgathering operation at WNYC, however -- which was the site main original addition (or at least the one I valued most).

You can read the official press release below the fold. Or check out some coverage of the launch:  SchoolBook Service Walks Parents Through Admissions Process (WNBC), Revamped Website to Offer News on New York City Public Schools (NYT). The Times calls the nonprofit/commercial partnership unusual (even though the original partnership was the same hybrid offering).

We'll learn more about the new site on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show this morning. Someone who pays closer attention will be able to compare the offerings to other sites that cover NYC schools (like ChalkbeatNY and InsideSchools).

Related posts: WNYC's SchoolBook Adds Features For New YearHow SchoolBook Aims To Get More Folks InvolvedSchoolBook To Rely On Crowdsourcing, Require Facebook IDNYT Editor Leaving SchoolBook In Good HandsNew York Times' Diminished Role On Education Site.

Continue reading "Media: NYC Public Radio Revamps Education Site" »

5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: SchoolBook Relaunches NYC Media Collaborative

Schoolbook relaunches today with new media partners - Nieman via Current http://ow.ly/Cl0sB  @bethfertig @pwillens @ceodonovan

See also:  Ki Sung taking over editing @mindshiftKQED from Tina Bargesghian http://ow.ly/Cj3aA 

Educators increasingly optimistic on the Common Core, despite general public uncertainty. http://ow.ly/CkZtU  @ewaemily @AtlanticEDU

No Constructive Solutions for Educational Change Offered in The Nation - Education Post http://ow.ly/Cl48q 

Why can't the grown-ups get it right on education? - LA Times http://ow.ly/Ckfdu 

"Marshall Tuck Will Destroy Public Education in California" via @dianeravitch http://ow.ly/Clgnh

Quotes: Misunderstanding Accountability (The Fog Of Rhetoric)

Quotes2I get the desire for a clean break from NCLB’s bad reputation and the ever-changing, ever-more-complicated NCLB waivers... But before we rush to adopt a “new accountability,” let’s first make sure we understand the policies we have. -- Anne Hyslop (What NYT No Child Left Behind Story Missed)

Journalism: NYT Gets It Wrong On NCLB Tutoring Requirement

Motoko Rich's latest NYT piece isn't really focused on NCLB sanctions but rather the political standoff between Washington State officials and the Obama administration over use of test scores to help evaluate teachers.

Still, NCLB sanctions are the only real-world impact of the fact that Washington State schools are still operating under the original NCLB -- the only reason anyone cares, really -- and the exaggerations and misundertandings of that law are in many ways a precedent for the current confusions/criticisms surrounding Common Core.

So it's worth reminding everyone what NCLB did and din't require.  

Specifically, the law didn't require "private" tutoring for schools not making AYP repeatedly.  It required tutoring provided by someone other than the school, including nonprofits, community groups, commercial tutoring companies, and sometimes even school districts (like Chicago, which received a federal waiver to provide tutoring to non-AYP schools).*

Whether or not the tutoring was top-notch, many schools and districts lined up against it because it meant that someone else was teaching their kids (and possibly doing a better job) and that they got slightly less federal funding than in the past under their control. Some districts and students responded ungenerously, by making their own students travel to other locations for tutoring rather than making arrangements for in-school delivery. 

What NCLB *did* do, among other things, was require annual reading and math tests for schools receiving federal education funding, and require districts to test all students and report out data based on subgroups, and severely limit the use of non-certified aides and out-of-field teachers who were often assigned to low-income children and paid for with federal funding. It also encouraged federal lawmakers to increase Title I funding substantially, in order to help pay for things like extra tutoring that students at schools that weren't doing right by poor kids might need.

NCLB was far from a perfect law, to be sure. The student transfer provisions were ridiculously weak, and the law allowed states to continue to set their own cut scores on annual tests, making it seem like kids were doing much better than they really were.  But it -- like Common Core and the assessments -- shouldn't be so eaisly used as a convenient dumping ground for educators' and advocates' talking points.

*NCLB also didn't require districts to shutter schools, or fire teachers.  Those were possible options, sure, but very little of that was done under NCLB, and even under the subsequent school turnaround initiative based on NCLB (SIG). But that's for another time.

5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: KY's Third-Year Common Core Scores Are In!

Mixed results from KY's 3rd year Common Core test results - @AndrewUjifusa http://ow.ly/CfXp7  @ccsso @minnichc @AchieveInc

Due process gives bad teachers -not poor kids- the benefit of the doubt in NYC, says new @AEIeducation report http://ow.ly/CfKMi 

Writers @amandaripley & @elizwgreen discuss overlaps between their books, vitriol directed at them by readers http://ow.ly/CfNLn 

Missed Opportunities at Congressional Black Caucus conference http://ow.ly/CfWED  @citizenstewart

A high-poverty public school tries charter-type reforms | Al Jazeera America http://ow.ly/CfW8in  @etammykim @solutionsjournalism

Vouchers on the horizon for IL, wonders @catalystchicago? http://ow.ly/CfVaQ 

“The Feds just keep pushing the one button they have—which is accountability. ” —@amandaripley http://ow.ly/CfO02 

Inaugural @NetworkPublicEd event 10/11 replaces NBC's now-defunct @educationnation conference, says @dianeravitch http://ow.ly/CfN3a 

ICYMI: The Roots' @questlove tweeted in support of yesterday's Families / @jeremiahkitt event. via @edu_post

Watch: For One Miami Principal. Common Core Spurs Hope & Fear

 

Watch Bridget Mckinney, third-year principal of Miami's Allapattah Middle School, explain "her trepidations, as well as her support, for the common core itself." (Common Core Spurs Hope, Fear for a Miami Principal via State EdWatch).

 

Journalism: Think Tanks Bypassing Media & Doing Their Own Version Of Journalism

In case you hadn't noticed, more and more think tanks are behaving in journalism-like ways: hiring journalists to write pleasant, engaging pieces as well as blogging and tweeting directly to policymakers and the public. [They also seem less focused on hiring only PhDs, or on doing their own original academic research, but that's another thing.]

The Think Tank Watch has a recent blog post (Think Tanks Doing Journalism) that highlights this trend:

"Many Washington think tanks have been hiring well-known journalists in recent years in an effort to beef up their efforts to get good writers, network with media-types, and better disseminate information and policy proposals to a wider audience. "

A recent Economist article (Think-tanks and journalism: Making the headlines) points out that it's not just opeds, papers and conferences anymore. 

Indeed.  we've seen bits and pieces of that from education think tanks like Education Sector, Fordham, Carnegie, Brookings, and New America all come to mind. Perhaps the best example of this is AIR taking over Education Sector (and its blog), or Bellwether helping launch RealClearEducation. ThinkProgress -- a division of CAP -- is another example (they were looking for an education reporter not too long ago).

Of course, some news outlets are blurring the line the other way, becoming more wonkish and policy-oriented and less, well, newsy.  Part of this is by necessity.  With their own writers and social media campaigns, think tanks need journalists less.  They've already got academic credibility (of a sort), they already validate ideas for politicians and policymakers. Now they're distributing their own ideas directly.

Related posts: AIR Taking Over Education SectorCarnegie Is The New Ed Sector[Why] Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?Meet Conor Williams, New America's New(ish) Education GuyGoogle Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy ConferencesExpert-Less Think Tanks -- Whose Fault?

Quotes: Progressive Dems Could Win With Education, Says Pollster

Quotes2The top testing turnout message overall emphasizes education, specifically Republicans' efforts to cut programs for students while giving tax cuts to the wealthy. - Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, quoted in TruthOut.

Magazines: Where Are The Pro-Reform Versions Of The Nation, Mother Jones, Etc?

image from www.thenation.com

The new issue of The Nation (Saving Public Schools) includes a feature package of education stories that may pique your interest whatever your position or views. Some highlights include: 

The Tough Lessons of the 1968 Teacher Strikes (Goldstein)

What It Takes to Unite Teachers Unions and Communities of Color (Fine and Fabricant) 

Why Don’t We Have Real Data on Charter Schools? (Noguera)

5 Books to Build a Movement for Education Justice (Shibata)

Our Public Education System Needs Transformation, Not ‘Reform’

It's interesting to note that, despite all the firepower that reform advocates have behind them, they rely almost entirely on occasional efforts in traditional mainstream journalistic outlets like Slate, The New Republic, NYT Sunday Magazine and the daily papers but lack moderate or centrist versions of the liberal-leaning outlets like Mother Jones, Jacobin, The Nation, The Washington Monthly, City Paper (DC), and The American Prospect to pump out sympathetic stories like these "on the regular."

This advantage in access to a slew of magazines -- combined with the social media influence advantage that reform critics have over reform advocates and the liberal leanings of many journalists, somewhat offset by the influence of journalism grants from funders like Gates and Broad -- makes for an interesting interplay of efforts. 

Related posts: Who Influences Education Coverage Better -- Reform Critics Or Funders?Think Tanker Tells Reporters To Stop Scapegoating TFA3 Newish Places To Get Public Radio Stories (Plus NPR Controversy)

Image via The Nation.

Media: Think Tanker Tells Reporters To Stop Scapegoating TFA

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comThere's lots to love in Conor Williams' Daily Beast story (Stop Scapegoating Teach for America), at least some of which I feel like I and others have written several times in the past -- though perhaps with less stylishness.  

In essence, Williams is taking on TFA's critics for exaggerating the case against TFA and ignoring larger issues surrounding teacher preparation, diversity, and professionalism. More importantly, he's also taking on the reporters who keep citing these

In particular, Williams cites stories penned by NPR's Anya Kamenetz and former New America Foundation colleague Dana Goldstein in Vox, noting that TFA's diversity has long eclipsed that of the overall teaching corps nationally and that is has been evolving internally for several years now.  (He ignores last year's Politico story, which is just a well.)

"Both [stories] present alt cert in general—and TFA in particular—as a problem, as a project that urgently needs fixing. Read them, and you’re called to consider whether alt cert programs are worth having, and to wonder whether they can be saved."

This level of concern and urgency is senseless given the small size of the teacher corps TFA has in classrooms at any single time. "TFA is neither a lever for dramatically improving or ruining U.S. public education," notes Williams. "Dramatic reforms to TFA’s teacher training aren’t going to substantially shift the trajectory of American public education."

Over all, the debatre over TFA is a sideshow, notes Williams, distracting our attention from the reality that little-trained TFA recruits come near to doing as well as fully-trained traditional candidates.

Related posts:Teach for America Not Directly Displacing Veterans In ChicagoKey Takeaways From The NJ TFA Media Panel12 Problems With Politico's TFA Story (+1 With TFA)Goldstein Puts TFA Under The Microscope. Vox image used with permission.

Charts: Child Disability Rates Rising Fastest Among Wealthier Families

image from cdn2.vox-cdn.com

"There's also some good news in these new figures: while mental disabilities are on the rise, there has also been a 11 percent decline in physical disabilities among children over the past decade. Much of this is concentrated in declines among respiratory diseases, like asthma, which have fallen by nearly a quarter just in the course of 10 years." (Vox, with permission)

Morning Video: Katie Couric Explains Common Core, Duncan Reacts To Jindal

Watch Couric explain Common Core standards and then watch Arne Duncan take questions from Yahoo! News about the politics of it all (esp. Bobby Jindal).

Lunchtime Video: Stewart Rips Into Corporal Punishment Proposals*

"Last February, Jon Stewart on the The Daily Show ripped a state legislator in Kansas, Rep. Gail Finney, who was pushing legislation to allow teachers and parents to whack kids hard enough to bruise." (19 states still allow corporal punishment in school) via the Washington Post.

*Yeah, that's Jon Stewart, not Stephen Colbert as I originally had it in the headline.

Media: Boston Magazine Botches Rankings, Profiles Firebrand Union Chief

image from cdn1.bostonmagazine.comIn what's at least the 2nd journalistic goof-up that I know of during the annual back-to-school media deluge of rankings and other kinds of education coverage, Boston Magazine messed up its private school rankings badly and the Globe tells us all about it (Boston Magazine retracts school rankings).  

Basically, the magazine ranked private schools using incorrect SAT score averages, using partial data since many schools didn't provide SAT results, thus pushing some schools up higher than they deserved and pushing others down.

This isn't a reason not to rank schools, though.  It's just a motivation to rank them responsibly.  Sloppy, inexplicable efforts like this just make everyone look bad.  Apparently something similarly bad happened the last time the magazine ranked schools in 2009.

All is not lost, however.  The public school list is up, and doesn't seem to have the problems with the private list. The issue also has a profile of union head Barbara Madeloni that you might want to read, and a piece about healthy school lunches that you will probably feel like you've already read. There's also an XKCD alternative list of schools that you might find amusing.

Image courtesy Boston Magazine

Related posts: FiveThirty-Eight StumblesActually, Ranking High Schools Can Be Enormously Useful.

Morning Video: Debating -- And Voting On -- The Common Core

NPR and Town Square recently held a debate on Common Core during which -- according to EdWeek's Mark Walsh -- opponents made the better arguments but proponents won the audience vote. Click here if the video doesn't load properly: Embrace The Common Core.

Media: Who Influences Education Coverage Better -- Reform Critics Or Funders?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comProfessional journalism has always been paid for -- by subscriptions, retail purchases, and advertisers -- and journalists have always had to defend their integrity both internally and to the public.  

The arrival of foundation-funded journalism has re-ignited some of those discussions, understandably, but without alas any seeming awareness of the long (and sometimes awkward) history of previous ways of paying for journalism.  

Pretty much every outlet that's taken foundation funding for education coverage -- Chalkbeat, NPR, NBC, PBS come to mind -- has had its credibility questioned.  Others -- Marketplace! ProPublica!-- will surely soon hear the same complaint.

The latest concern is the Seattle Times' "Education Lab" experiment, which has for the last year or so focused on something called "Solutions Journalism" using funding from the Gates Foundation. A blogger who goes by the name Deutch29 wrote a post about the effort, claiming that the stories being produced were obviously influenced by the Gates Foundation's agenda, and that the Times wasn't being open about how much money it had received.

Comments from journalists involved with the effort (reporter Claudia Rowe among them) attempted to reassure readers that there was "zero communication" between the foundation and the newsroom and pointed out that the blog posts pointed to as evidence were just a handful out of hundreds. SJN co-founder David Bornstein (who spoke at a recent EWA conference) weighed in with a comment that the foundation's support allowed the paper to assign reporters to deeper, more investigative pieces than would otherwise have been possible.

What's left out of all the back and forth is any clear sense of whether coverage at the Times or more generally is skewed one way or another -- my seat-of-the-pants sense is that it has swung in recent years from pro-reform credulity to anti-reform credulity -- and the understanding that reform critics such as these -- who swarm journalists' Twitter feeds and complain to editors and anyone else they can find -- are themselves trying to influence the coverage of education initiatives much the same as they believe the Gates Foundation and others are trying to do indirectly.  

They're just doing it directly, at much lower cost -- and at times it seems much more effectively.

Image CC.

Newsmakers: A New TFA For A New Era?

Screen shot 2014-09-17 at 1.26.47 PM
The latest issue of Scholastic Administrator includes my interview with TFA co-CEOs Matt Kramer and Elisa Villanueva-Beard. There's no breaking news but it's interesting to hear how they divvy up the work and how much harder the job seems to have been than they could have imagined a year ago. 

Related posts: 12 Problems With Politico's TFA Story (+1 With TFA)Howard Dean Touts TFATraditional Teachers Much, Much Whiter Than TFATFA Under The Microscope;  Key Takeaways From The NJ TFA Media PanelSo Long -- I'm Quitting Blogging & Joining TFA

 

Afternoon Video: Preview Of Tonight's PBS NewsHour Teacher Preparation Segment

Here's a preview of the PBS NewsHour segment on Elizabeth Green's teacher preparation book; the full version is slated to air tonight.

Books: I Trust That You Will Find This Useful

Screen shot 2014-09-16 at 1.14.43 PMUlrich Boser's new book, The Leap, is about the science of trust and includes some education-related policy implications you might want to check out.

In the policymakers' guide that comes along with the book, Boser addresses some of the things that can be done to empower individuals through education, including:

• Support schools that lengthen the school day.
• Reform school funding so that it’s both more equitable and effective, and have school dollars follow children instead of programs.
• Make college more affordable through Pell Grants.• Allow college students to gain credit for learn-
ing outside the classroom.
 
There's also good reading on trust and public policy in Robert Putnam's writings such as here.
 
Most directly comparable of all is the work that Tony Bryk and others have done at the University of Chicago showing that trust among adults and kids is an important condition for effective learning. 
 
Boser is a longtime fellow/contributor at CAP and has another book after this one already in the works.
 

Media: We Need More Teacher Union Coverage -- Right?*

The sad but unsurprising news from this recent On The Media segment (The Labor Beat) is that labor coverage has dwindled sharply in the mainstream press -- down to just a couple of fulltime labor beat reporters at major national papers (WSJ and NYT).  

What's fascinating to note is that there's so little labor-focused coverage in education newsgathering operations, too -- even as there are new (especially small nonprofit) education-focused journalism operations sprouting up all over the place.

The argument for labor coverage in education is pretty straightforward.  Union numbers may be dwindling sharply in the private sector and other parts of the public sector, too, but last I looked charter schools (most of them non-union) educate less than 10 percent of the students in America and union representation of district school teachers is at around 50 percent.

Labor is and will continue to be a big part of the K-12 education space for the foreseeable future, and yet other than the occasional controversy or flareup unions and laws surrounding them get surprisingly little coverage.

EdWeek's Steven Sawchuk handles the issue as best he can over at Teacher Beat, but he's also got every other teacher-related issue under the sun to cover (research, politics, etc.).  EIA's Mike Antonucci is the only full-time, labor-focused person out there that I know of -- and his coverage (if not his reporting) are generally critical-minded.

Given how many teachers there are -- and how important and influential (and in some corners controversial) teachers unions are, you'd think there'd be more regular, in-depth coverage.  

Or is there more ongoing coverage out there than I'm seeing?

*I should have included RiShawn Biddle's coverage of teachers unions at Dropout Nation, including updates like this one.

Media: This More Diverse List Of "Top Education Tweeters" Needs More Names*

A somewhat more diverse version of Education Dive's recent 12 education thought leaders you should follow on Twitter might include who(m), exactly? 

Off the top of my head -- without much concern for how much I agree or disagree with them (and vice versa) -- how about Chicago's Xian Barrett (@xianb8),LA's Liz Dwyer (@losangelista),NYC's Jose Vilson (@theJLV), NYCAN's Derrell Bradford (@Dyrnwyn), ProPublica's Nikole Hannah Jones  (@nhannahjones), The Atlantic's Ta-Nehesi Coates (@tanehisicoates), The Lens' Jessica Williams (@williamslensnola), Dropout Nation's RiShawn Biddle (@dropoutnation), the NEA's Melinda Anderson (@mdawriter) and Education Post's Chris Stewart (@citizenstewart).

Others to add, suggest, or critique?  There are two more spots to get to an even 12.  Or, take issue with the whole notion of creating such a list in the first place. 

Thanks for the suggestion, Heather Harding (@heatherHJ)!  Education Dive's original list includes a mix of men and women but only two POC that I know of (LDH and Michelle R.).

*Additional names that have been suggested (on Twitter and Facebook) since the original posting include @drsteveperry, @jmsummers, and @drkamikaroyal.   

Morning Audio: Special Ed, Suburban Students, Private Schools

image from www.thisamericanlife.orgWhat happens when orthodox Jews move into a suburban New York neighborhood with high property taxes and don't send their kids to private yeshivas -- or vote down school budgets-- as long as the district doesn't monitor the private schools and gives as much money as possible (up to $27,000 per kid)?

The deal doesn't last forever.  

The result is a situation that's "Like nothing you have seen in any school district anywhere," according to Ira Glass. NSFW (curse words).

Politics, budgets, religion, regulation -- it's all in there. Image via This American Life.

 

 

Books: Get Ready For 2015's "The Test"

The test book 2015Hey, everyone, so sorry if you're not done reading Goldstein, Green, Kahlenberg/Potter, or any of the other education books that have come out in recent weeks, but it's time to start getting ready for the next wave of titles coming down the pike.

First one that I know of for 2015 is Anya Kamenetz's The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing–But You Don’t Have to Be.

According to the understandably hyperbolic promo writeup (I haven't actually seen the book itself), many schools are spending up to 28 percent of their time on test prep, and the Common Core is going to require "an unprecedented level of new, more difficult, and longer mandatory tests to nearly every classroom in the nation up to five times a year", and the nation's spending $1.4 billion a year on testing.

I don't know if any of that is accurate (or if $1.4 billion is a lot) but it's certainly pretty alarming -- and I guess that's the point. Not to worry, there are things that parents and educators to do to deal with the overtesting problem.  And there are celebrity profiles showing us how high tech folks like Gates and Bezos deal with overtesting in their kids' lives.

All snark aside, it'll be interesting to see what Kamenetz's book adds to the overtesting debate, which is sure to continue this year as states and districts and schools deal with Common Core assessments and parents' and teachers' concerns about testing, test prep, and use of test results. The timing couldn't be better.

Follow Friday [#FF]: Top Education Tweeters, According To Education Dive

image from d1bb041l1ipbcm.cloudfront.netI'm still not quite sure what Education Dive is all about -- one of several different industry "dives" that the company puts out -- but still I'm happy to be included in its list of best education Twitter feeds to follow (along with several other noteworthies) and appreciate in particular the kind writeup:

"A former educator, and a staffer under California Sen. Diane Feinstein, Russo has his thumb on education trends. He is constantly updating his feed with interesting ed reads, and as the founder of Scholastic's This Week In Education, he is never short of content. Something to appreciate about Russo's feed is he never seems to push one agenda, but rather curates an interesting selection of must-reads."

Thanks for including me, Allie Gross (@Allie_Elisabeth). Image courtesy @EducationDive.

 

 

Events: We All Missed #TheTeacherWars Confab In NYC Last Night

image from t.co

#edjourn Last Night at New America's SoHo offices there was a lively-sounding filled-to-capacity three hour discussion with Jose Vilson, Dana Goldstein, and Motoko Rich (pictured, courtesy Melinda Anderson).

I wasn't there and haven't heard about any audio or video to share -- there's apparently a podcast in the works for some time in the near future.

In the meantime there are lots of tweets you can catch up on via #theteacherwars, #NANYC, @newamericaNYC and @danagoldstein, @TheJLV, and @motokorich.

Or, if you were there or following along in real time, tell us what we missed or what jumped out at you.

Thanks again to @MDAwriter Melinda Anderson for the picture.

Media: Actually, Ranking High Schools Can Be Enormously Useful

#edjourn  Screen shot 2014-09-11 at 4.31.15 PMIt's not hard to relate to Libby Nelson'spoint of view in a recent Vox piece (Ranking high schools tells you which schools are rich or selective ), in which she notes that the rankings from places like the Daily Beast  mostly function to tell us what we already know -- that wealthier, whiter communities generate higher-performing high schools and that news outlets put out the lists to generate web traffic rather than to shed light on any particular phenomenon.

"The public schools that top these lists are mostly selective magnet schools that get to pick which students they educate. If they're not, they're much likely to enroll fewer poor students than public schools as a whole." That -- plus the reality that few families move for high school like they do for college -- explain why ranking high schools like this "makes no sense at all."

But the high school rankings phenomenon isn't as recent as Nelson seems to imagine, isn't quite as empty of substance or usefulness as it might seem, and isn't all that different than stories that Nelson and her colleagues at Vox (and here) sometimes also run.

Continue reading "Media: Actually, Ranking High Schools Can Be Enormously Useful" »

Throwback Thursday: September 11 Will Always Be Connected To Education

 

Here are some #TBT blog posts from previous years on this date that seem sort of interesting, both related to 9/11 and otherwise:

The Pet Goat, The 7 Minutes, The Kids Grown Up: In Farenheit 9/11, Michael Moore showed us the video of the event during which the Commander In Chief seemed stunned and uncertain as the Twin Towers were being attacked. (2011) 

Non-Educators Answer "What Is The Common Core?": Non-Educators Answer "What Is The Common Core?" 10 It's a diet.  A set of exercises.  A scientific term. A guide to behavior. (2013)

StoryCorps Teachers Starts Today: Today is the launch date for the StoryCorps National Teachers Initiative I told you about a few weeks ago (2011).

Or, look around for others that might be interesting here.

Media: FiveThirty-Eight Stumbles Out Of The Gate

#Edjourn Newish data-based journalism site FiveThirtyEight is rumored to be looking for someone to head its education coverage, and indeed posted a story last week about US kids spending lots of time in class (which I happily shared out). So far, so good, right?ScreenHunter_10 Sep. 05 16.16

Well, part of the story confused TIMSS test scores with classroom instructional time. We've all made mistakes, but ... Oops! At least they had the class to remove the data and issue this correction. And crossed fingers that the outlet joins other newish mainstream outlets like Vox, BuzzFeed, Storyline, and The Upshot in publishing education pieces that I can share with you. 

5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: Even When #CCSS Critics Win, They Lose

CCSS critics out-debated advocates -- but [spoiler alert/trigger warning!] audience voted for CC anyway - EdWeek ow.ly/BlsUN

Common Core Advocates' Top 3 Mistakes - @yep-DC @BrainofMatter ow.ly/BkLHr Mistake #1: Ignoring materials and training.

Just 5 of 43 states with #CCSS are considering repeal of some kind, reports @ecs ow.ly/BkPt5 Though many have #renamed

Revamping tenure doesn't poll well in MO, reports @TeacherBeat ow.ly/BlMoO Then again, the state's already revamped tval.

Is It Time to Cash in on Charter Schools? I Don’t Think So - NJ Spotlight http://ow.ly/Bk3bU 

Newsweek: The Manhattan School That's Helping Immigrant Students Succeed ow.ly/Bl6dp

About 70 percent of America's elementary schools still rely on slow Internet connections. ow.ly/BkDTS

Video: Rhee, Kahlenberg, & Daniels Debate Common Core, Integration, & New iPhone Design

 Watch this panel featuring Michelle Rhee, Mitch Daniels, and Richard D. Kahlenberg from yesterday's NYT Schools For Tomorrow.  It's titled "Getting To College-Ready" and the Twitter hashtag was #NYTsft

Charts: NYT Ranks Top Colleges For Economic Diversity

ScreenHunter_01 Sep. 09 13.07

"Colleges with similar resources admit very different numbers of low-income undergraduates. Some wealthy colleges admit many such students, but others do not." David Leonhardt on the NYT's new ranking. Image used with permission.

Livestream: NYT "Schools For Tomorrow" Conference

Link to agenda and previous segments here@NYTConf#NYTsft

AM News: NYT Ranks Top Colleges That Actually Enroll Low-Income Students

Top Colleges That Enroll Rich, Middle Class and Poor NYT: A new index measures which colleges [Grinnell, Wesleyan, etc.] have the most economically diverse student bodies — and charge the least to lower-income students.

Education secretary touts teacher diversity during Atlanta visit Atlanta Journal Constitution: During a visit Monday to Spelman College, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the country needs to increase the diversity of its teacher workforce to match the diversity of schoolchildren. 

Karen Lewis loans $40K to her own mayoral bid Chicago Sun-Times: Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis put $40,000 of her own money toward a mayoral exploration effort in hopes of signaling to donors that she should be taken seriously. 

Karen Lewis puts $40000 of own money into mayoral bid Chicago Tribune: For weeks, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has said she is seriously considering a run against Mayor Rahm Emanuel. On Monday Lewis offered what she said is proof: $40,000 of her own money.

Universal preschool spending draws wide support in national poll KPCC: The telephone survey of 1,013 adults nationwide showed, not surprisingly, that Democrats love the idea of universal preschool, with 87 percent in support. But over half of the Republicans polled also agreed that public money should be used for preschool.  

Pa. Gov. Corbett Urges Review as Part of Effort to 'Roll Back' Common Core State EdWatch: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett releases a somewhat ambiguous statement about the future of the Common Core State Standards in the Keystone State.

Custodial contract causing problems at start of school year WBEZ: Belanger is just one of more than 230 principals recently surveyed by the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education, or AAPPLE, a member-driven arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. The results reveal problems across Chicago Public Schools—dirty classrooms, damaged materials, theft and an overall lack of communication.

New Reduced Pricing For Amplify's All-In-One Tablet EdSurge: This week Amplify announced a price dip for it’s all-in-one tablet, which made headlines last year after some of its chargers melted.

More news and commentary throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.

Morning Audio: ICYMI Common Core Documentary

 

Here's the full audio for the widely-admired embedded American RadioWorks documentary about teachers working with Common Core that came out last week. Or download or read it it here.

Morning Video: Teachers Describe Common Core Transformation

 

Check out 7 minutes of video above feturing Reno (Washoe) teachers talking about their experiences with the Common Core. Your eyes might be opened.  Then go and read the sidebar story from American Radio Works about how things have played out there. Then -- almost done! -- listen to the full hourlong documentary, and several other sidebar stories (including Carol Burris and Lace To The Top). Last but not least, there's a second video from Washoe in which teachers reflect you can watch here, courtesy Torrey Palmer and Aaron Grossman.

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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.