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Best Blogs: Lots Of Familiar Names -- Plus One Totally New One

MagooshBelated thanks to the folks at Magoosh for including me in their 5 Education Blogs We Love:

"Russo does an excellent job of scouring education news all over the world-wide web and bringing it together in one place. We like it because it’s packed with information and updated constantly. No stale news on this site."

I like hearing that!
 
Others on the list include familiar names like Jay Mathews, Valerie Strauss, & Mind Shift, and one I'd never heard of before, The Perfect Score Project.
 
What I'm really looking for right now, however, is a 5 Instagram Accounts For Education.

#TBT: A Bold Experiment To Fix Our Schools [Vouchers, 1999]

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Check out this 1999 Matt Miller story about vouchers: A Bold Experiment to Fix City Schools. The idea may be dead in name, but another version called ESAs just got approved in Nevada and is allowed in four other states.

Morning Video: Oh, No! A Blue-Haired Teacher Does "Whole-Brained" Teaching

Here's the latest from the PBS NewsHour on "whole-brain" teaching. It involves a teacher in a blue wig (both in front of the students and later doing an interview). Those of us who remember brain-based learning may be cautious about this. Link here just in case (or for the transcript). Let the video keep running and you'll also see a segment about a Seattle high school trying to go "all IB" like some Chicago schools have attempted. 

Morning Video: Jonathan Kozol Reads From His 50 Year-Old Book

Jonathan Kozol was a 20-something substitute teacher when he dared read a Langston Hughes poem to his poor Boston students -- and got fired for it. Watch the short video above and then go read the story about it here via NPR. Note that Kozol himself is heard, not seen onscreen. 

Magazines: A New Policy Solutions Site To Consider

Screenshot 2015-06-25 13.52.15
There's a cool-seeming and newish "policy innovation" blog over at The Washington Monthly called Republic 3.0 that you might want to check out (or pitch).  

While not education-focused, it's got some education content:

Education reform's final chapter.
Reason triumphs over Common Core opponents.
 
And it promises "innovative, practical and progressive ideas to reimagine government, politics and society for the better.... You’ll find no partisan name-calling or cheap shots."

There's also lots of education news and commentary at The Grade, my media watch blog, and College Guide, the Washington Monthly's long-running series.

 

Thompson: A Different Take On The NYT's Common Core Coverage

I'm not about to reverse myself again and support Common Core, but my reaction to Kate Taylor's English Class in Common Core Era: "Tom Sawyer" and Court Opinions is somewhat different than that of many educators who I highly respect.

The NYT's Taylor wrote, "In the Common Core era, English class looks a little different." She described lessons where ninth graders study excerpts from “The Odyssey" along with sections of the G.I. Bill of Rights, and 10th graders read Catcher in the Rye along with articles on bipolar disorder and the adolescent brain.

Those lessons remind me of my old history classes where, for instance, we had multimedia lessons on Ralph Ellison and Oklahoma City's "Deep Deuce," and students learned how they inspired his classic novel The Invisible Man. The district used to encourage teachers to devise those sorts of multidisciplinary lessons in the name of "horizontal alignment." 

Then came NCLB, "vertical alignment," and paced instruction that often killed engaging and in-depth classwork, as teach-to-the-test was mandated. Common Core supposedly began as a way to turn the clock back to the days before bubble-in testing dummied school down. When stakes were attached to Common Core tests, however, much or most of the potential value of new standards was lost.

That being said, I agree with Diane Ravitch that "every English teacher should be free to decide what to teach. If he or she loves teaching literature, that’s her choice. If she loves teaching documents, essays, biographies, and other nonfiction, that’s her choice."

The slower approach of persuading and coaching teachers would have been much better. The impatience of Common Core advocates created the environment where test-driven accountability was used to force compliance. I suspect this is the prime cause of unintended negative effects, such as the one Taylor reported, where a fifth-grader had to do "painstakingly close reading of sections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" to the point where after only nine days of school the child "got into the car after school and started to sob."

Too many reformers want it both ways. They mandate aligned and paced, skin-deep instruction to high stakes tests. But, they supposedly do so as a stepping stone to a system where schools select their own materials and teachers are freed to teach for multidisciplinary mastery - as long as the do so within the constraints of high stakes Common Core testing. After imposing these mutually exclusive dictates, reformers ask why educators don't trust their promises to, some day over the rainbow, stop their micromanaging and allow innovation back into schools. -JT (@drjohnthompson) 

TBT: In 2009, Jeb Bush Proposed Unbundling College Tuition

 

Here's a fun #TBT item from The Atlantic's Derek Thompson in 2009 titled 10 Crazy Ideas for Fixing Our Education System. Most of them haven't happened (yet), but versions of several of them are still being discussed:

1_123125_2187228_2187577_2187578_fixiteducation.jpg.CROP.original-original

1) Eliminate summer vacation.

2) Extend the School Day. 

3) Expand Bilingual Education. 

4) Raise Compulsory Education Age

5) Kill the SAT. 

6) End tenure. 

7) Pay for Your Major. 

8) Smart Loans to Make College Affordable. 

9) Smart Certificates to Make College Non-Essential.

10) Rank Everything

Yep it was Jeb Bush who reportedly proposed #7 making college tuition related to course of study. 

Want more? Here's another To Do list from that era, via Slate, which predicts the push to streamline testing.

Morning Video: Campbell Brown's EdNews Site Launch Video

The Seventy Four, Campbell Brown's much-anticipated new education site, went live last night with a tweet and the above somewhat Shining-like video, and will start pumping out original commentary and content in a couple of weeks. Contributors to @The74 will include New America's Conor Williams and AJC's Cynthia Tucker. Funders include Walton & Bloomberg. Read all about it in the WSJ or the intro email below.

Continue reading "Morning Video: Campbell Brown's EdNews Site Launch Video" »

Afternoon Reading: Charters, Unionization, & The Annenberg Standards

Charter1_0
Kudos to Rachel M. Cohen [@rmc031] for her American Prospect piece about charter school unionization (When Charters Go Union), which is a timely update on a small but important issue no matter which side of the reform/critic divide you happen to occupy.

As Cohen lays them out, the challenges to both unions and charter advocates are pretty clear:

Traditional unions are grappling with how they can both organize charter teachers and still work politically to curb charter expansion. Charter school backers and funders are trying to figure out how to hold an anti-union line, while continuing to market charters as vehicles for social justice. 

The piece also helpfully explains the teachers unions' recent turn towards a dual strategy of critiquing low-performing charters (especially for-profit ones) via the Annenberg Standards while also embarking on a series of organizing efforts:

Beginning in 2007 and 2008, the AFT set up a national charter-organizing division, and today has organizers in seven cities: L.A., Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, and Philadelphia. 

Like me, you have heard a bit about the Annenberg Standards for charter schools but not really known what they are or how they were being advanced. You may be surprised to learn that NACSA -- the association of authorizers comes out as more critical of them than NAPCS, the association of charter operators.  (Usually it's the other way around when it comes to quality and accountability issues.)  

And Cohen addresses the awkwardness for some teachers thinking about being represented by an organization that has previously seemed to deride their work and impact. She quotes on LA charter school teacher opposed to unionization:

How could I support a union that for the last ten years spent a good portion of their time attacking our right to exist?... They’ve spent the last ten years both supporting anti-charter school board members and fighting in Sacramento against what we do.

This tension remains or even grows with the unions' interest in promoting new legislation that would limit charter expansion.  And Cohen addresses that too. 

There's even a nice mention for Green Dot's unionized network of charters and the evolution of the relationship between UTLA and AMU -- gotta love that (especially if you wrote a book about Locke High School).

That's not to say that there aren't issues with the piece, however:

For starters, the evidence for the impact of unionization on student achievement (what little there is) is pushed to the bottom of the story when ideally it would have been touched on at the top (at least, right?). Readers should know early on that unionization or its absence doesn't seem to make a dramatic difference when it comes to student outcomes. 

Depth-wise, there aren't very many voices from principals and administrators who've worked with unionized charter teachers -- really just one at the end -- or really from teachers who've been at unionized charters for a long while. So we hear from lots of charter teachers talking about organizing (generally in positive terms) but get very little sense of what it's like working with unionized staff over the long haul.

It's perhaps a minor complaint but there's little or nothing until the very end of the piece about the difficulties that organizers have encountered in New York City when it comes to unionized charters (and no mention at all of the a well-publicized situation in which teachers at KIPP AMP voted to join the union then changed their minds). I'd be interested to learn more about organizing efforts that haven't panned out, and why.

Last but not least, Cohen resorts to speculation when it comes to describing the non-academic benefits of unionization, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining effective teachers.  If unionization doesn't dramatically affect student achievement one way or the other, does it at least attract more qualified teachers or increase retention? It's not clear.  Cohen speculates that it does but I could imagine it working both ways.

Still, it's a fascinating and helpful piece, over all, and I recommend it highly. 

Back & Forth: Reformy Researcher's Mind Boggled By Thompson, NOLA, Me

USC's Morgan Polikoff has a blog post you might want to read, in which he takes on contributor John Thompson's recent critique of the New Orleans school reform model and a recent Washington Monthly article about the last 10 years there.

In large part, Polikoff takes issue with various claims and observations made by Thompson about, for example CREDO as a pro-charter organization: 

Unless by “pro-charter” he means “uses advanced statistical methods and concludes that charters marginally outperform traditional public schools in recent reports but not in earlier reports,” this characterization of CREDO is absurd.

On Thompson's claim that there is no evidence to support claims of progress:

You might argue with those statistics–that they’re based on creaming, or that the poorest of the poor have been driven out of NOLA, or some other critique (though my read of the evidence on this is pretty clear). But they’re not no evidence. They’re actually quite a bit of evidence.... Perhaps it wouldn’t work elsewhere, but it’s not nothing.

On the idea of "withholding judgement" pending further evidence:

If the facts come back that charters are outperforming traditional public schools in New Orleans, you can bet your bottom dollar there won’t be a followup post about how the reforms were right all along.

Last but not least, Polikoff takes aim at the perceived disconnect between Thompson, whose writing according to Polikoff betrays "an agenda that will not change with any amount of research evidence," and my writing here and at The Grade.

Thompson: Washington Monthly Spins NOLA School Reform Impact

The safest summary of evidence on the effectiveness of New Orleans school reforms is Politico's Caitlin Emma.  Emma's The New Orleans Model: Praised but Unproven explains that "mayors and governors from Nevada to Tennessee have sought to replicate the New Orleans model by converting struggling public schools into privately run charters and giving principals unprecedented autonomy to run their own staffs, budgets and curricula — as long as they deliver better test scores." But, she adds, "behind all the enthusiasm is an unsettling truth: There’s no proof it works."

Emma further notes that there have been "similarly mixed signals in other places where the New Orleans model has been tried." As we wait for better evidence, a newcomer to education, such as the Washington Monthly's David Osborne, could have contributed to the discussion on the lessons of New Orleans, but he would have had to have written an article that was far different than his How New Orleans Made Charters Work.

Osborne starts with the dubious claim by the pro-charter CREDO that charters receive less per student funding, but he did not mention the additional $3,500 per student funding provided for post-Katrina schools. He cites the objective researcher, Douglas Harris, who says that NOLA undertook “the most radical overhaul of any type in any school district in at least a century.” 

But, Osborne cites no evidence by Harris or anyone else that the New Orleans radicalism can work in a sustainable manner or that it could be scaled up. Instead, he devotes almost all of his article to praising true believers in unproven theories on school improvement.

Had Osborne dug deeper into Harris's research, he would have seen that the scholar's first report on NOLA strikes at the heart of reformers' claims that high-performing charters serve the same students as lower-performing neighborhood schools.  Neither does Osborne ask whether the test score evidence he cites is meaningful or not. But, Osborne's greatest failing was ducking an opportunity to consider his daughter's experience as a lens for evaluating policy issues. 

Osborne's daughter was a Teach for America teacher at a charter that faced closure if it did not raise scores dramatically. The school "pulled out all the stops on remediation and test prep. Its scores soared, the state raised its grade from an F to a C, and BESE renewed its charter. But the school continued to struggle with student discipline, and the next year it fell back to a D."

Continue reading "Thompson: Washington Monthly Spins NOLA School Reform Impact " »

Live Event: Atlantic Media Education Summit Right Now In DC

Atlantic_LIVE #AtlanticEdu Click here if the video doesn't load (and to see the agenda, etc.)

HotSeat: The "Real" RiShawn Biddle Is Too Hot To Handle

Rishawn biddle 2015
Let's spend a little time with RiShawn Biddle, the self-identified education "editorialist" who's one of the most provocative, controversial, and perhaps hardest-working people in education media.

According to his About page, making change "isn't purely academic for me. These are kids, young boys and men, who look just like me. Many of them are growing up in neighborhoods that look like the one I grew up in..."

I know him from his 2011 work unearthing an AFT attack memo against the parent trigger, and from his 2014 work revealing that some of the groups protesting against TFA on college campuses were AFT-supported. He's one of very few folks out there tracking union issues in education, albeit from a very critical point of view.

But he's not just all about bashing the union. Earlier this year, he was one of very few who predicted (correctly) that the House attempt to revamp NCLB would end up getting pulled.  And he's bashed reform folks for several things including inattention to diversity, weak efforts on social justice, and more. 

Admired by some, he's reviled by others -- including some reformers who agree with him on substance but who find him abrasive, overly aggressive, or simple too independent-minded for their liking. Among other things, he calls for "a revolution, not an evolution, in American public education."

Asked about him, Chris Stewart (aka @citizenstewart) wrote, "I think his faith is an important driver in his understanding of the world. And, his time as a journalist and some of the fall-out with the black community in Indianapolis adds complexity to his story." 

On the HotSeat, Biddle tells us how he gets it all done (and pays the rent), dishes on who his favorite writers are (I'm not one of them), complains (justifiably) about how he's treated by trade and mainstream reporters (you know who you are), tells us what he thinks of like-minded reformers (be afraid), and predicts what's (not) going to happen in the rest of 2015. (Spoiler alert: No, he doesn't feel the need to answer your question about what happened at the Indy Star.)

Continue reading "HotSeat: The "Real" RiShawn Biddle Is Too Hot To Handle" »

Quotes: Clinton On Testing

Quotes2Are tests important? Yes. Do we need accountability? Yes. But we’ve gotten off track in what we test and what we test for that we sacrifice so much else in the curriculum, in the school day and school year.

-- Hillary Clinton (Washington Post via HuffPost Hillary Clinton Sounds Off On Education Issues)

Morning Video: Some Districts "Code" Kids to Supress Dropout Numbers

"In just nine states and the District of Columbia, students must complete required classes to be considered “college-ready” and to earn a diploma. Twenty-three states allow students to opt in, or out, of a more rigorous path to graduation. That leaves 18 states with requirements below what experts say students need for their next step in life." via PBS NewsHour.

Or, watch this local news coverage of the First Lady's speech to the graduating class of students that would have included Hadiya Pendleton. Click here.

Update: Top Ed Tweeters 2015 Are Arrogant White Reform Critics

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Mike Petrilli's latest foray into Twitter analytics attempts to determine not just rankings (via Klout) but also tone and emotion:

"What does Twitter say about the tone of the education policy debate?... It appears that many of the leading tweeters in education policy are “arrogant/distant,” meaning we are “well read” and “use big words.” Good for us!"

On Twitter, EdWeek's Stephen Sawchuck notes that the list still doesn't include number of followers, and as a result doesn't include any EdWeek reporters.  (Petrilli claims that followers can be bought. Knowledge Alliance notes that some folks use lists rather than following individuals.  I've noted in the past that advocates are leaving journalists behind on social media. )

I don't give much credence to the emotional analysis. My only other thought would be to note - as I have several times before -- that reform critics tend to do better on Twitter than reform advocates.  

Xian Barrett, Anthony Cody, Jose Vilson, Mark Naison, and Sabrina Stevens all join Diane Ravitch and Randi Weingarten near the top of the list. Reform advocates are limited to Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Andy Smarick, and Tom Vander Ark. 

The list is also super-white, it should be said -- especially the top reform-friendly members. Chris Stewart, Rishawn Biddle, and Gwen Samuels among others are on the rise but still not at the top.

Related posts: This More Diverse List Of "Top Education Tweeters" Needs More Names*New Study Suggests Journalism Being Left Out Of Education Debate.

Quotes: Foundation Transparency Reforms Not Nearly Enough

Quotes2Compared to earlier times, I know the sector is doing a better job of assessing itself.... [But] none of these efforts go nearly far enough. The sector largely remains a black box, and answers to some of the most basic questions about philanthropy are still elusive.

-- Inside Philanthropy's David Callahan (Still in the Dark)

Update: Celebrating the First Month of "The Grade" (Plus Free Daily Email)

Screenshot 2015-06-05 10.16.44In case you hadn't heard, a new site focusing on K-12 education reporting called The Grade launched just about a month ago over at The Washington Monthly, and I wanted to encourage you to take a look at it, follow along, and send me ideas if and when the urge strikes.

There's now a daily email (see below) you can sign up for here. Follow it on twitter feed @grade_point (don't ask), or an RSS feed if you use Feedly or Digg Reader.

Basically, it's an attempt to keep tabs on what's going on in education journalism -- trends, new outlets, people on the move, and the best and worst of education coverage -- and a place to peel back the curtain and help explain what goes on behind the scenes in the development of news stories that the public read every day.

Dubbed "A Closer Look at Education News," The Grade is like an education version of NPR's "On The Media," except it's online and hosted by the Washington Monthly and only cares about K-12 education reporting.

The past few weeks have included a look at the charter school backfill issue, some entirely unsolicited story suggestions for topics and angles that might warrant extra attention, a critique of the Miami layoff numbers used in a recent NYT story (and of limited solutions mentioned in an Atlantic piece about teacher retention), and a celebration of the Hechinger Report's first five years.

Other posts describe how "solutions" journalism could help balance education coverage, but it's super hard to pull off well, and about how writing about innovations is sexy and fun but rarely pays off. Trade publications are missing in-house education editorials and columnists, in my opinion (and probably no one else's). Reporters should write more about their own personal education experiences and disclose their own school choices for their children, and ask harder questions during interviews (Amanda).

I thought it was great that some KPCC and ProPublica reporters dug up an education angle to the Sony Wikileaks email hack, but too bad they didn't nail it down. Some additional digging on the recent Achieve report on state test scores might have been helpful, too.

I've looked for more examples of high-poverty districts with high opt-out numbers, and written about NPR's recent decision to ban on-air book plugs for fellow staffers.

Anyway, you get the idea.  Check it out online here. There's now a daily email (see below) you can sign up for here, or via an RSS feed if you use Feedly or Digg Reader. Follow it on twitter feed @grade_point (don't ask).

Continue reading "Update: Celebrating the First Month of "The Grade" (Plus Free Daily Email)" »

Morning Video: "Paper Tigers" Documents Traumatized Teens

This new documentary (from Robert Redford's son) follows six traumatized kids in Walla Walla, WA who attend an alternative high school. Watch above. Via Seattle Times. "The behavior isn't the kid. The behavior is a symptom of what's going on in their life."

Charts: In One Year, 41 Chicago Schools Raised $7.6M In Private Donations

image from catalystchicago.wpengine.netdna-cdn.comThere's a perception in some quarters that public schools within each school district are by and large equal in terms of how they're funded, and it's mostly charter schools that rake in the outside donations. 

Well, this new piece from Catalyst Chicago (The price of fundraising) pretty much explodes that idea:

"For a select but growing group of schools in Chicago’s wealthier communities, parent fundraising has risen to new heights." 

Last year, 8 schools raised more than $300,000 each. "Thirty brought in more than $100,000 and eight raised more than $200,000." One raised more than $600,000. 

 

Thompson: The Truth None of Us Wants to Face

I still teach GED part-time, so I have not become completely absorbed into the edu-political world that is so divorced from the reality of inner city schools. I seek a balance, addressing the school improvement proposals that are politically viable, while remaining connected with the reasons why practitioners and parents are so dismissive of reform agendas. 

I can't deny that I've been acculturated into much of the "status quo" mentality illustrated by my first principals' mantra, "Pick your battles." The battles that we inner city teachers want policy people to launch are simply not winnable. 

However, Jay Mathews, in How Do We Help Our Least Motivated, Most Disruptive Students?, tackles the issue that I know I shouldn't  touch. 

Twenty years after I was repeatedly warned that assessing disciplinary consequences in a credible manner is an issue that school systems won't dare address, and as the agenda has shifted to reducing suspensions, why should I try to answer Mathews' question? Against my better judgment, I'll respond to his columns and readers. (After I read the book he cites, I'll see whether I dare to get closer to the 3rd rail of edu-politics by discussing it.)

Mathews wrote a three-part series on Caleb Stewart Rossiter's Ain't Nobody Be Learnin' Nothin'.  His first column on Rossiter's indictment of grade inflation "inspired a flood of comments and e-mails saying such malpractice was happening nearly everywhere in the country." But Mathews, like so many teachers turned advocates can only ask, "What do we do about it?" He then turned to Rossiter’s solution to low academic and behavioral standards which doesn’t seem practical to Mathews (or me) but which "represents the toughness I sense many Americans think is overdue."

Mathews begins his third column with his obligatory praise of KIPP, even though he probably realizes that its methods can't be scaled up and are thus irrelevant to systemic improvement. He concedes "that a significant number of low-performing students are likely not to enroll in schools like KIPP — or will drop out — because they don’t like the emphasis on good behavior and hard work."

Mathews agrees with Rossiter that neighborhood schools should teach good behavior and they should not keep returning disruptive students to their original classes, "where they distract students trying to learn." I would add that disruptive students also want to learn and, above all, they want to learn how to control their behavior. I would also argue that troubled students should never be described as "miscreants" or "slow learners" which is Mathews' characterization of Rossiter's views.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Truth None of Us Wants to Face" »

Live Events: Dignity In (DC) Schools (#DSCinDC)

There's pretty much always something interesting going on in DC these days. Earlier this week it was Success Academy's Eva Moskowitz coming to DC talking about her charter model. Today's it's a Dignity In Schools event where students and others talk about pushouts, school-to-prison, and ways to alleviate the problem. The Twitter handle is @DignityinSchool, and the hashtag is #DSCinDC. I haven't seen any media coverage (yet), and there's no video (yet), but there's lots out there on social media already so you might want to check it out.

Morning Video: What They Mean When They Talk "Common Core"

 

Watch this local TV newscast about the Common Core debate in Ohio, and then check out Andy Rotherham's RealClear Education piece about what folks -- politicians, teachers unions, parents, etc. -- really mean when they're talking about Common Core. It's not usually the standards. Sometimes it's not even the tests. 

Quotes: Author Toppo Touts "Hard Fun"

Quotes2That's an actual idea game designers use. It's not fun because it's easy; it's fun because it's hard. Any gamer asked to pick their favorite game of all time, they'd say there was a grind involved to get there. It took a lot of work, it took practice and persistence. But within that I always had a sense of where I was coming from and where I was going. I think that is the key here.

-- Greg Toppo on NPR (Exploding Myths About Learning Through Gaming)

Morning Videos: Texas Truancy Trap

 

How Texas punishes truant teens (from Al Jazeera) three part series.

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

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

-- Excerpt from new Jal Mehta book via Salon.

Morning Video: Evanston High School Reduces AP Barriers To Increase Minority Participation

 

This PBSNewsHour segment shows how Evanston Township High School has been trying to recruit minority students into honors and AP courses in part by diminishing the focus on 8th grade test scores. As a result, black and Latino enrollment and test taking are both way up. Watch above or click the link to read the transcript.  Other video options: Why the Dutch start sex ed in kindergarten (PBS), ‘Glen’s Village’ (Philly Notebook).

Quotes: Teachers Respond To Chiefs/Scholastic Survey

Quotes2Is it possible to speak honestly about barriers to student achievement and ignore all school factors when doing so? No, it isn’t. 

-- State teachers of the year Jessica Waters, Lee-Ann Stephens, and Tom Rademacher in the Washington Post (What happens in school matters)

Morning Video: Spring Testing Season Recap From PBS

Watch John Merrow and Motoko Rich discuss this past spring's Common Core testing season above, or read the transcript here. Merrow notes that Jersey City -- not a white suburban district -- had enough opt outs that it failed to reach 95 percent, which if confirmed would be the first such district I've heard about. Or maybe Albuquerque NM also?

Maps: School Security Guards Are Generally Poorly Trained & Supervised

 

image from www.revealnews.orgThere are more security guards than law enforcement officers, reports Reveal (the Center for Investigative Reporting), and many school districts use the guards as a low-cost alternative to sworn law enforcement officers.  Yet the guards are often poorly trained and supervised, and only 12 states require reports when they use their weapons.  It's harder in many states to become a manicurist than to get a guard card and authority to carry a weapon and work in  a school.

Morning Video: "Best Kept Secret" (Top-Rated on Netflix)

Topping Vox's list of The 19 best-reviewed movies on Netflix right now is "Best Kept Secret."  "The [2013] film tracks Janet Mino, a Newark public school special education teacher whose class of teen boys on the autism spectrum is about to graduate into a world loath to give them a chance." Check out the trailer above. Or watch a parent talk about becoming a Common Core activist (via NBC News).

Educators & Advocates Need Authentic Conversations About Race, Too

Some Fieldston parents and NY Magazine readers may be concerned about the progressive private school's racial awareness program described in this week's magazine (Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade?), but not everyone's quite so bothered by the effort.  

As described in the magazine feature by Lisa Miller, the school asked elementary school kids to identify themselves by race and then separated them -- temporarily -- as part of a program to deepen the students' understanding of racism and differences. "It would foster interracial empathy by encouraging children to recognize differences without disrespect while teaching kids strategies, and the language, for navigating racial conflict."

The program is mandatory, and operates during the school day, and start with kids as young as eight. "In 45-minute sessions, children would talk about what it was like to be a member of that race; they would discuss what they had in common with each other and how they were different, how other people perceived them, rightly or wrongly, based on appearance. Disinhibited by the company of racially different peers, the children would, the school hoped, feel free to raise questions and make observations that in mixed company might be considered impolite."

Designed by Fieldston's Mariama Richards, the "affinity-group" program was meant to foster authentic conversation but it felt to some parents like a step backwards -- like segregation, like overkill. It wasn't a comfortable discussion in ethics class."This same parent who sends her children to Lower because she values diversity tends not to dwell on the fact that she has few close friends of color; that her neighborhood is almost entirely white; that her nanny or housecleaner or doorman has brown skin."

Racial and demographic diversity has long been a goal for progressive private schools, but mixing kids together is just a start. Efforts like these have been popping up in different places around the country.  (My progressive private alma mater, Chicago's Francis Parker, just hired a director of diversity who seems like she's going to push the envelope for ostensibly liberal parents.) Fort Greene's Community Roots, a diverse progressive charter school, asked mixed groups of parents to engage in group activities outside of school in order to promote understanding and deepen classroom diversity.

See also this CNN segment featuring concerned parents:

 
ctn pkg carroll race experiments classrooms_00005030
 
"One of New York City's most elite and progressive elementary schools is conducting an experiment on race by separating students. CNN's Jason Carroll reports."

The reaction so far to the article has been generally supportive of the effort at Fieldston:

Education writer Dana Goldstein, now at The Marshall Project, noted on Twitter that the piece "perfectly captures moment in which young(ish) progressive educators confront parents who hold old notions of "colorblindness." Once unusual, racial awareness programs (the invisible white backpack, etc.) are more commonly part of college than they used to be. "My demographic wouldn't be shocked if our kids were separated by race and asked to discuss it in "safe space," noted Goldstein. "We've been there."

Over at Vox, Jenée Desmond-Harris's post (Why a New York City school's idea to (temporarily) separate kids by race is smart) lists the many advantages of the Fieldston program, especially teaching the lessons that "ignoring race and racism doesn't make these things go away, and that white people have a racial identity, too."

Not everyone is a big fan of the approach being taken, however.  Responding to the earlier NYT piece written by Kyle Spencer, New America's Connor Williams wrote a post titled The Limits of Talking About Privilege to Teenagers

NYT editor Amy Virshup thought that the NY Magazine story might not offer much that readers hadn't already learned. "But @KyleYSpencer story on same topic ran in Feb., w/pix of real kids, not models. What's new?"

The issue of overkill -- not so much on the issue but perhaps the controversy at this particular school -- is also the focus of a recent blog post I wrote over at The Grade:  Another Story About Fieldston’s Controversial Racial Awareness Program.  

One thing I'd add is that it's not just kids who need more and better racial awareness programs but also educators and advocates.  Teachers -- predominantly white and middle class -- need space and time to talk about and understand not only their students' backgrounds but also their own.  And advocates -- reformers and critics alike, also predominantly white and college-educated -- would do well with more of the same.

Making sure that conference panels and speakers and attendees are more diverse is one step, as is engaging more diverse groups of stakeholders (not just mobilizing them). Panels about racial awareness or race-focused issues are good, too.  But what about taking it one step further and doing a version of what Fieldston is doing and let adults engaged in education talk together in affinity groups and have some authentic conversations, too?  I could see PIE, or TFA, or maybe the Shanker Institute or Century Foundation doing something like this. Or maybe it's already happening and I just haven't heard about it.

Live Event: Don't Miss Today's NY Ideas Panels On Race & "Invisible Children"

 

Maybe like me you missed this morning's #NYIdeas half hour chat with Eva Moskowitz and Amanda Ripley (was it any good?). Maybe (like me) you didn't make it to last night's invite-only roundtable dinner at the High Line Hotel including guests like Partnership for Education Justice's Campbell Brown, TC's Susan Fuhrman, Walton's Bruno Manno, Harvard's Martin West.

But all is not lost.  There are other education-related segments to come during today's event hosted by AtlanticLIVE and the Aspen Institute. And, assuming the video embed code works right, you can watch it all above (or click the link if not).

For example, there's Ta-Nehesi Coates and Michele Norris talking about race at 1:55 and a segment on "Seeing New York’s Invisible Children" at 2:40 featuring Andrea Elliott, Author and Investigative Reporter, The New York Times Faith Hester, Humanities Teacher, and Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts.

The Atlantic is big into live events these days, including next month's Education Summit in DC June 15.  It is going to feature folks like Peg Tyre, Author of The Good School, and Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools, 

This year's event is being sponsored in part by the Walton Family Foundation, and has also been sponsored by the AFT and others.  Over at The Grade, I wrote about the challenges for media outlets doing events that are sponsored by advocates on one side or the other: When Media Organizations Take Outside Funding for Events - But Not News Coverage. The Atlantic Magazine doesn't receive outside funding for its education coverage, far as I've been able to determine, and Inside Philanthropy's David Callahan notes that it would be cumbersome and perhaps unnecessary for the magazine to disclose event funding with its non-funded education writing. 

Meantime, I'm told that the Ripley/Moskowitz segment is going to be posted within 24 hours, so look for it tomorrow AM.

Maps: Just 11 States Have Little Or No Student Poverty/Teacher Qualification Gap

image from big.assets.huffingtonpost.comThis Huffington Post map shows states [in red and orange and yellow] where schools with higher student poverty students have lower rates of teacher certification -- despite all the loopholes in NCLB and state licensure arrangements. I count only 11 states [in blue] where there's little or no difference. Used with permission.

Morning Video: Baltimore School Of The Arts

From PBS NewsHour: "At the Baltimore School for the Arts, students are admitted solely on their artistic potential; notable alumni of the pre-professional high school includes Jada Pinkett Smith and designer Christian Siriano." Click here if video doesn't render properly.

Thompson: Why That John Oliver Testing Segment Hit a Nerve

My wife kept pestering me to watch John Oliver's 18-minute, hilarious indictment of standardized testing on HBO, but I had a long "to-do" list. Skimming the replies by Alexander Russo, Peter Cunningham and others, I thought they were challenging the substance of Oliver's routine. The Education Post, as usual, countered with some out-of-context numbers, disingenuously pretending that low-stakes test score increases in 1999 were attributable to the NCLB Act of 2001. Then, Cunningham concluded with the standard attack on "self-serving union leaders, and the complacent middle class." 

When I finally found time to watch the video, it became clear that Oliver had done his homework but that that wasn't what drove reformers up a wall. I had previously joked that reformers should have to watch videos of students reduced to tears and explaining how the testing mania had cost them a chance for a meaningful education. Oliver showed videos of the "human consequences" of test, sort, and punish. And, its not pretty. 

The real reason why Oliver hit a nerve, I believe, is that his opening videos were so sickening. Russo, the curmudgeon, sees school testing pep rally videos as "like something you might see on America's Funniest Home Videos." But, to many or most parents and educators, I bet they are viewed as documentation of the repugnant practices that "reform" has inflicted on children. 

Oliver hit a nerve by displaying the repulsive unintended consequences of high stakes testing. Under-the-gun (and I believe otherwise decent and caring educators) are shown mis-educating children, training them to be easily manipulated, outer-directed persons.  He shows children being indoctrinated into compliance. He shows children being socialized into a herd mentality. 

Its hard to say which is more awful - the way that stressed out children vomit on their test booklets or schools trying to root inner-directedness out of children. On the other hand, even reformers should celebrate the way that students and families are fighting back, demanding schools that respect children as individuals. Even opponents of the Opt Out movement should respect the way it embodies the creative insubordination that public schools should nourish.  

Before watching Oliver's indictment of high stakes testing, I assumed that it had merely provoked the standard corporate reform spin machine to spit out its off-the-shelf, pro-testing message. But, I believe this anti-Oliver campaign is more personal than that. How can reformers hear a child tearfully say that she feels like she has been punched in the stomach without accepting blame - or finding others to blame?

Continue reading "Thompson: Why That John Oliver Testing Segment Hit a Nerve" »

Update: Two More Education-Related Folks In Amtrak Crash (Unharmed)

There were at least three education-related people on Amtrak 188 earlier this week, including one of the victims, edtech startup CEO Rachel Jacobs, and occasional education reporter Seyward Darby. USA Today and other outlets profiled Jacobs. Darby was interviewed by the NYT about the experience of being in the crash. Andrew Brenner, who's identified as an education PR guy on his Twitter feed, was also on that train and was interviewed on MSNBC's Now With Alex.  Anyone else? Let us know. I'm at @alexanderrusso.

Quotes: Class Segregation Replacing Racial Segregation

Quotes2I mean, there’s some communities where I don’t know -- not only do I not know poor people, I don’t even know people who have trouble paying the bills at the end of the month. I just don’t know those people.  

-- President Obama at recent event via Vox (Liberals are reducing one of the most fascinating speeches of Obama’s career to a Fox News joke)

Morning Video: Home Visits Help Bring Dropouts Back Into School

Watch Lawrence, MA's re-engagment coordinator connect with youth who've dropped out at school, which, according to EdWeek has let to a dramatic lowering of dropout rates and a strong increase in graduation figures. What's not clear from the piece is how widespread the practice is, how well it works in other places, and what kinds of alternative/recovery programs are being offered to returning students. In some places, it's been reported that the quality is quite bad. 

Social Media: Let's Be Nuzzel Friends!

Screenshot 2015-05-08 11.07.17You've heard me praise the social media aggregation site Nuzzel before.  

Now I'm going to actively try and recruit you to join me and many others you know over there, so we can see each other's aggregated social media feeds.  

Sounds fun, right?

What Nuzzel does, essentially, is let you know when a certain number -- 10-, 2o -- of your social media friends has tweeted about something.  

It's like a personalized list of what's trending, which saves a ton of time scrolling through individual updates and watching twitter. 

Now, what Nuzzel Friends does is allows you to see your friends' trending stories, too.  

So if you're wondering what's big in Larry Ferlazzo's world right now, you click on his Nuzzel feed and it's all there. Or CoopMike, or Gordon Wright (who introduced me to the app a few months ago).

The reason that's helpful is that it makes sure that you're not just reading the 5 items that one or another swarm of Twitter friends is talking about.  "Regular" Nuzzel can get pretty predictable unless you're super-careful to create a broad and diverse Twitter follow list. 

As you can see from this screengrab, there are already lots of folks you probably already know using Nuzzel. Just a few weeks ago, it was just a few.  What are you waiting for? Get on board, and then let me know how you like it.

Related posts: With Tailored Alerts, Nuzzel Lets You Know What's Hot On Social Media.

Quotes: WashPost Editorial Page Urges More Charters For Baltimore

Quotes2Bad schools are only one element of urban dysfunction. But they are both a consequence and a cause of inequality, and improving them is essential to keeping another generation from being trapped by poverty. -- Washington Post editorial page (The schools Baltimore needs)

Books: The Rise of AVID ("America's Largest College Readiness Program")

image from media.wiley.comIn case you'd missed it (as I had), longtime Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews' latest book is out.

As you probably know, Mathews wrote the book that became Stand And Deliver, and also wrote Work Hard, Be Nice, a book about the KIPP network of charter schools. He writes the Post's Class Struggle blog.

Published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley, the book (Question Everything: The Rise of AVID as America's Largest College Readiness Program) focuses on a program that everyone's probably heard about but doesn't know very well.

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. In his new book, Mathews describes how AVID "levels the playing field, helping underserved students come out ahead."

Even more notable, the book describes how AVID has grown in 30 years into an organization serving 400,000 middle- and high-school students in 47 states and 16 countries.

I can't think of another program that's so widespread but so little in the news (though last year's Teach of the Year was AVID).

Mathews admits that he's not an impartial observer here. "It is a very pro-AVID book, but I point out some flaws. Its tutoring programs are its best feature, the key to the whole system, but they are hard to get up to full speed right away and I saw some ragged ones."

Related posts:  Obama Introduces (AVID) Teacher Of Year (2014); Teaching Students Guided Note-Taking (Bruno 2012).

Update: New Blog Takes "A Closer Look At Education News"

Screenshot 2015-05-06 14.55.02
I am excited to announce the launch of my latest blog, The Grade, over at the Washington Monthly. 

No actual grades will be given -- though praise and criticism will be offered quite regularly.  Think of it as NPR's "On The Media" for education news, or as a public editor or ombudsman for national K-12 news coverage. 

The focus, as you will quickly see, is creating an ongoing discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the education news coverage that informs the public and policymakers about what's going on in schools.

There's a ton of education news being pumped out every day, but what's particularly good (or bad) about the coverage that's being provided -- and what if anything can be done to make it even better?

My main publishing partner is the Washington Monthly, which has a long-standing interest in education and quality journalism. They're the folks that put out the alternative guide  to colleges, among other things. I'll also be publishing some columns in the Columbia Journalism Review.

My starting funders for this new venture are the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union in the country, and Education Post, an education nonprofit funded by folks like Eli Broad, Mike Bloomberg, and the Walton Family Foundation.  

Most days it might not seem like these two would agree on much, but they have stepped up to support this effort out of a desire for smart, accurate education coverage (and agreed to give me room to write and say what seems most important to me).

Curious about what it's going to look like? Here and elsewhere, I've been trying my hand at some of the kinds of posts that you'll see at The Grade in the coming days and weeks, including Common Problems with Common Core Reporting (in the Columbia Journalism Review) and How The Atlantic's CUNY Story Went (So) Wrong (in Medium). 

You can also check out all the past Media Watch posts here

If you like this kind of stuff, that's what you're going to find lots of over there.

Click the link to check out the first couple of posts.  Subscribe to all future posts on the site with Feedly or some other RSS reader using  this link. And, in the days and weeks ahead, don't forget to send me stories you think are great or problematic.

Not to worry, I'll still be blogging here every day and sharing out links on Twitter, too. 

Comedy: HBO's John Oliver Swings (& Misses) Against Standardized Testing

It's no easy job being smart and funny at the same time, and especially so when the topic is something as boring and controversial as standardized testing.  But last night's John Oliver segment didn't seem to succeed at either task, and came off somewhat blinkered with its focus on the concerns of (mostly) white teachers and (mostly) white parents and students. Watch for yourself and let me know what you think:

As you'll see, there are some funny bits and great snippets -- Obama bashing standardized tests in a pandering campaign speech before the NEA, a dirty remark regarding the Common Core logo, a funny quip about teachers' inspirational class posters in the new age, a bit about value-added formulas coming from livestock prediction models (is that true?), the instructions on what to do if a kid throws up on a test (is THAT true?), the comparison of Pearson to Time Warner Cable, the pop culture references (Fight Club, etc.).

There are tons of problems with standardized tests, and lots of things that could be done to improve them.
But Oliver seems to be trying way too hard and might not have the goods. Making fun of school testing pep rally videos seems like something you might see on America's Funniest Home Videos (if that's still on). The repeated focus on Florida seems problematic. The Talking Pineapple test question is old. The adult who did poorly on the test I don't care about him. The French kid with the cigarette? I have nothing to say. The girl crying because she tests poorly and can't take advanced art seems hard to believe (someone find her!). Going back to the dancing test mascot not twice but three times seems desperate (or maybe just not my cup of tea).
 
More importantly, going back to a world without standardized tests, and subgroups, and attempts to link teachers to student progress, is hard for me to imagine, and my sympathies lie much more with the kids who aren't being taught by teachers who think they can learn or school systems that don't give them the resources they deserve to succeed.  I don't think testing dramatically worsens those problems, even if it doesn't fix them.  The Common Core testing rollout has been glitchy but nothing like, say, the initial rollout of Obamacare.  And as I noted last week recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere have been a big reminder to us all that fixating for or against testing, charters, or technology increasingly seems like fiddling on the margins. 
 
None of this is to say that I hope Oliver and his crew don't continue to watch and mock things going on in education.  The Daily Show and the Colbert Report were generally great in terms of keeping an eye on hits and misses in schools and improvement efforts.  It seems unlikely that Colbert is going to be able to interview education researchers in his new gig.  So we need Oliver et al to keep the attention.  I'm just hoping that they'll be funnier and smarter about it next time around. Or maybe I just need to be in a better mood.
 

Media: Publishing On Instagram

Given how much kids and teachers like Instagram (and the coming death of Twitter), I'm wondering whether anyone out there is publishing school-related content on the image-based social media platform.  The New York Times recently described an outlet called The Shade Room (Instagram’s TMZ) that was using the platform as its main base, rather than adding accounts and sharing information intermittently. It's not as crazy as it sounds.  The Times and other outlets may soon start publishing stories directly to Facebook.  But I'm not on Instagram enough to know if anyone's on there doing anything that could be called publishing related to education or school news. 

Morning Video: Game-Based Learning Panel (Plus "Standardized")

Watch yesterday's Fordham interview with Greg Toppo about his book on game-based learning, with interviewer Robert Pondiscio. Or, click below to watch the trailer for Standardized, an anti-testing documentary that's been making the rounds.

Continue reading "Morning Video: Game-Based Learning Panel (Plus "Standardized")" »

Morning Video: Education Reporter Gets Close To Cover Baltimore #FreddyGrey Protests

Baltimore Sun education reporter Erica Green put herself in harm's way covering yesterday's protests and rioting, but in the process documented lots of what was going on. Follow @ericaLG for more of her images and impressions. Baltimore Sun reporter Liz Bowie was also posting images and updates, and EdWeek's Evie Blad was giving regular updates too. 

Or, watch AFT head Randi Weingarten tell Pearson to stop spying on kids during online testing.

Magazines: How Can I Help You (Finish College)?

A crash course in reviving the American dream. https://t.co/GS4Adxpu8T

— Amanda Ripley (@amandaripley) April 22, 2015

The most interesting thing about reluctant education writer Amanda Ripley's latest piece (The Upwardly Mobile Barista) isn't that it's a big cover story in the new Atlantic magazine or that she -- or Starbucks or ASU -- have discovered the secret to getting millions of American workers through college at higher rates than the current dismal numbers -- but rather that the article shows just how difficult it's been and how many adjustments have been made since the program to give baristas and other workers encouragement to finish their degrees.

Though she give time and space to the program's aspirations and advocates (and perhaps a smidgen too much implicit enthusiasm for the effort for my cranky taste), Ripley details the repeated challenges and setbacks that the program has encountered (and the student/workers have experienced) along the way. The piece is critical of traditional colleges and universities who don't get enrolled students through to graduation, sure, but it doesn't shy away from how hard it has been so far to bring Starbucks' customer-oriented service mentality to even a small number of students. 

Ripley wrote The Smartest Kids In The World and is along with Richard Whitmire an Emerson Fellow. Read her bio here. The Starbucks article will probably also remind you of Ann Hulbert's piece (also in the Atlantic) about efforts to focus and support college students' degree completion, titled A Community College Tries The "No Excuses" Approach.

Related posts: Both Sides Have "Lost Their Minds" On Annual Testing (Says Ripley); Six Years In, Is the Spencer Fellowship (Still) Worth It?How Some Countries Change Their OutcomesRipley "Less Certain" Of PISA Towards End Of Book.

Morning Video: Is EdTech The Solution - Or A Scam?

"Word on the street is that public school districts are being hijacked by tech-loving, teacher-hating crusaders who are plotting to spend billions on technology. Can this be true?" (School Sleuth).

Or, watch Ravitch ask Weingarten where she stands on the opt-out issue at NPE last week. More here.

Journalism: Chalkbeat Co-Founder Moving On

News is getting out that Chalkbeat co-founder Alan Gottlieb (pictured via Google Plus) is leaving the network of four local education news sites he helped start with Elizabeth Green.

Alan G photo

After eight years during which Gottlieb built EdNews Colorado, then merged it with GothamSchools and created the Education News Network which then became Chalkbeat, the Colorado-based Gottlieb is going to write, consult, and do other things.

"I’d like to do more writing (maybe another book or two some day, possibly/probably unrelated to education), editing and just helping people think through good communications strategies. And, truth be told, I’d like to spend less time traveling."

Gottlieb is a Peace Corps alumnus, a 15-year newspaper journalist before EdNews Colorado began, and has written two books, according to his official bio

There's been a surge of nonprofit education news coverage in recent years, and not everybody's convinced that it's making a difference or going to last. But Gottlieb says he's not worried about what happens next for Chalkbeat. It's over a year since he shifted over from the editorial side and became editor at large. "The leadership of the organization is so solid that I have every confidence Chalkbeat will survive and thrive without me." Rebecca Ross has been COO since early last year.  Green is now CEO.

"She’s indefatigable, she has a strong vision, and she turns out to be a fundraising prodigy," says Gottlieb. He says that the outlet is making "big strides" on earned revenue increases, and funder relations remain strong.

One of the most notable things about EdNews Colorado was that it attracted veteran journalists and was funded both by pro-reform groups and teachers unions. 

Related posts: NPR Expands Education Coverage;  Local NPR Stations Beefing Up Education CoverageBut Are All The New Ed-Focused Outlets Really *Helping*?Why Catalyst & The Notebook Aren't Joining ENN (2012); Chalkbeat, USA!;  Education News Network Expands To IndianaTwo Local Ed News Sites Join Forces;  Where EdNews Network Is Heading.

Disclosure: I did a couple of freelance pieces for Gottlieb back when he was at the Piton Foundation, and have called on him for advice and feedback on various stories and endeavors over the years. 

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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.