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Morning Video: First Lady Drops The Mic (Plus "He Named Me Malala" Premiere)

Here's a roundup of the First Lady's Apollo Theater appearance earlier this week talking about #62milliongirls, via The Root: ‘There Is No Boy Cute Enough or Interesting Enough to Stop You From Getting Your Education’. See more at HuffPost.

Or, check out the LA Times' coverage of West Coast premier of Davis Guggenheim's latest documentary, and read more about it here.

7,000 high school girls attend West Coast premiere of 'He Named Me Malala'

High school girls from across L.A. County attended the West Coast premiere of director Davis Guggenheim’s ‘He Named Me Malala.’




Pictures: Drop-Off Time At Two Adjacent Schools

The juxtaposed pictures of two schools during drop-off time accompanied last week's New York Times story about a proposed zoning change that would send students from one school to the other.

Morning Video: Integration Lessons From SF For Chicago & Brooklyn Parents


This SF Chronicle video -- part of a larger package of stories Twitter buddy Tania de Sa Campos (@taniadsc) reminded me of last night -- is a great reminder of the hope and the many many challenges to mixing kids in schools in ways that their parents likely don't live or mix in real life.

There's also a helpful "Behind The Headlines" roundup from Education Next about school integration and diversification efforts (including diverse charter schools) you might want to check out. 

The contrasting narratives taking shape in Chicago and Brooklyn are fascinating to watch, and such a welcome relief from all the other education issues that tend to get talked about all the time. I'm really hoping that things work out reasonably well in both situations, and that the NYC and Chicago media do a steady, careful job sharing out the developments as they take place. Crossed fingers. 


Politics: Arne Duncan, Master Manipulator? Give NEA Credit, Too.

One of the things that Michael Grunwald gives Team Duncan credit for in Politico's long feature about the not-yet-lameduck Education Secretary is seeing the anti-testing momentum building earlier than many (think 2011) and figuring out how to help his boss avoid unnecessary criticism: 


“The union needed a target for its anger, and he was happy to take a bullet for the president.” 

That's raised some eyebrows, including from EIA's Mike Antonucci.

Writes the observant union watchdog: "If true – and I would expect vigorous denials if anyone bothered to inquire – I might actually have to adjust my cynicism meter into the red zone. This is manipulation of the union’s most devoted activists on a grand scale."

Well, not so fast there.

What's not mentioned about the anecdote -- which I have not confirmed independently (Dorie? Justin? Massie? Daren?) is that the NEA isn't necessarily as dumb as it might look from this move. Its challenge was to express members' frustrations with the direction with the administration was taking without hurting the chances of the Democratic President they still wanted in the White House.

This strategy has been noted several times in the past -- Jonathan Chait from New York Magazine comes to mind. So however smart Duncan's staff was getting him involved in his own roasting, the union was arguably just as smart aiming its fire at Duncan not Obama.  

Still reading? Here's the 13 things.

Morning Listen: Contrasting Chicago Schools Might Attempt Merger

As Chicago's public housing has been dismantled and gentrification has taken hold, white and college-educated parents have moved into neighborhoods with legacy neighborhood schools that are all-black and nearly all poor students. A proposal to merge one of these schools (200-student Jenner) with a nearby high-performing (and overcroweded) school (Ogden) with just 20 percent poor students raised some parental concerns. 

WBEZ's Linda Lutton attended a meeting to air parents' concerns -- and optimism -- about a possible attendance zone change that would merge the schools into a racially and economically school.  Both schools' principals are in favor. The proposal isn't endorsed by the central office, and hasn't yet been voted on by the Local School Councils that oversee the principals and budgets at each school. 

Above, listen to Lutton talk about the possibility, which she calls precedent-setting, and click the link below to read and listen to more of the parent meeting

You can also listen to the recent episode of This American Life in which school integration was proposed -- and opposed -- in Missouri last year.

Roundup: Education Audio Is Everywhere

image from wdet.org
Christine Schneider from Education Cities notes that there are a lot of mainstream education-related audio segments and podcasts that have come out recently:

Note To Self (WNYC) Half the teachers in America use one app (Class Dojo) to track kids

The Beginning Of The End - the end of self doubt - about one amazing Detroit high school teacher (pictured above).
Also from TBOTE - the end of high school (also from WDET).
Freakonomics - preventing crime for pennies on the dollar. Follows the Becoming a Man (BAM) program.
WBEZ also did one on truancy that was super interesting.
Education Cities is a nonprofit network of 32 city-based organizations in 25 cities working to dramatically increase the number of great public schools. Find them at @edcities

Morning Video: Time For School


"Hear the story of Jefferson Narciso from Rocinha, one of Rio de Janeiro's poorest and violent neighborhoods. Shy and smart, Narciso embarks on a journey to a better life through education that is plagued by the fears of others." (PBS NewsHour) Featuring a small cash transfer/school attendance program. Or, watch Chelsea Clinton speaking at her old Arkansas middle school on Friday.

Morning News: Alarming TODAY Series, Keeping Teachers Of The Year In Class

The Today show is running a back to school series focusing on alarming issues like why school buses don't have seat belts and what a high-tech school security system looks like. Click above for the school bus segment, or here for the school intruder prevention system segment

Looking for something a bit more substantive, watch this NewsWorks segment about Delaware's efforts to keep great teachers in the classroom (featuring a TOTY who's just become an AP). Interesting interview with the state teachers union head talking about her changing views on the single salary schedule. 

Morning Listen: Outward Bound Goes To School

Check out this APM documentary about Expeditionary Learning, the network of schools developed using some of the ideas from Outward Bound (A vision for a new kind of public school in America). Then go read some of the accompanying essays about schools that have taken this approach, the connections to popular current ideas like "grit," the guy behind it all.

Not your thing? Listen to this WBUR segment about Boston's effort to bring teacher diversity in line with student diversity.  

Or, check out one of these education-focused Frontline documentaries from previous years.

Whatever you do, don't watch that viral video of the high school cheerleaders paying homage to 9/11. 

Pictures: First Days Of School (Through The Decades)

Here's a fun piece from the NYT about first days of school over the decades. Another fun approach would have been to have rounded up "first day" images from around the country (though these days they're not all on the same day).

Thompson: A Modest Proposal for Improving Principal Quality

image from ecx.images-amazon.comOne of the bonuses of Kristina Rizga's excellent Mission High is that it shows what it would take to improve principal quality in high-poverty schools.  Since principal leadership is so important, systems should require school leaders to have teaching experience with students similar to those who attend the school, as well as having served as a teachers union official.

I'm kidding about the requirement that a principal must have union leadership experience; it should not be required, even though Mission High helps reveal why such a qualification should be highly valued.

Had Eric Guthertz, the principal of Mission High, not had the ability to work collaboratively with the district, Rizga would have needed a different book title. In large part because of Guthertz's leadership and savvy, the subtitle is One School, the Experts Who Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph.

As was so often the case under Arne Duncan's prescriptive School Improvement Grant (SIG) and his Race to the Top, Guthertz almost lost his job. Under the SIG,  states had to agree to using test scores for teacher evaluations, ease restrictions on charters, and choose between firing the principal, ½ the teachers, closing the school, or replacing the school with a charter.

District helped by defining him as a replacement principal. When the school faced the loss of $1 million and seven teachers because it landed one point below the targeted API metric, the district appealed the API and got them over the hump.

As was so often not the case across so many SIG schools, Guthertz did not fold and pressure his teachers to do bubble-in malpractice. Rizga writes: 

Despite these external pressures to prioritize test scores in math and English, Guthertz refuses to tell educators at Mission to "teach to the test" at the expense of giving up rich curriculum or hands-on projects, field trips, and music and art classes …

Continue reading "Thompson: A Modest Proposal for Improving Principal Quality" »

Quotes: Newark Book "Critical Of All The Players"

Quotes2I see it as critical of all the players in education, so I don't think reform movement is singled out. There's a real divide in the debate over education, one side versus the other. And the children are caught in the middle. 
- Author Dale Russakoff rebutting NYT review by Alex Kotlowitz (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book on Newark School Reform)

Roundup: Best & Worst Reviews Of Newark Book Out Today

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comPerhaps the best two pieces I’ve come across are from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran including an opinion piece on where things stand that notes district progress along with charter school improvements and reformers' misguided focus on the parts of the story Russakoff leaves out (Newark students are better off, despite the political noise) and also a Q & A with Russakoff in which the author rebuts a deeply flawed NYT review, proposes a forensic audit of Newark's $23,000-per student spending, but calls the Zuckerberg-funded reform efforts a “wash” over all (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book). These are both well worth reading, for what Moran writes and for Russakoff's responses.

There have also been four big mainstream reviews of the book: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex Kotlowitz;  NYT (Jonathan Knee). Of these earlier reviews, I found the second NYT review (by Knee) to be the most interesting, taking a business-oriented view of what happened that's no less critical of the process and the outcomes than anyone else. 


Roundup: Best & Worst Reviews Of Newark Book Coming Out Today

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comPerhaps the best two pieces I’ve come across are from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran including an opinion piece on where things stand that notes district progress along with charter school improvements and reformers' misguided focus on the parts of the story Russakoff leaves out (Newark students are better off, despite the political noise) and also a Q & A with Russakoff in which the author rebuts a deeply flawed NYT review, proposes a forensic audit of Newark's $23,000-per student spending, but calls the Zuckerberg-funded reform efforts a “wash” over all (Author Dale Russakoff discusses new book). 

These are both well worth reading, for what Moran writes and for Russakoff's responses.

There have also been four big mainstream reviews of the book: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex Kotlowitz;  NYT (Jonathan Knee). 

Of these earlier reviews, I found the second NYT review (by Knee) to be the most interesting, taking a business-oriented view of what happened that's no less critical of the process and the outcomes than anyone else. 

Last but not least, here's NYT columnist Joe Nocera's piece on the book (Zuckerberg’s Expensive Lesson), which notes among other things that "almost half" of the Zuckerberg effort went to Newark teachers in the form of back pay, salaries for teachers who weren't assigned to a classroom, and bonuses. "Apparently, Zuckerberg has learned his lesson. What will it take for the rest of us to learn?" 

Just this morning, WNYC's Sarah Gonzales gave us an update on how some of the characters in the book are doing (How Booker, Christie Spent the $100 Million Facebook Donation), including a breakout of spending (most of which went to teachers and principals, not consultants).


Morning Video: Back To School (According To John Oliver)

From Sunday night: "John Oliver gives students a crash course in everything they will learn — or not learn — in school this year." (Already seen it? Read a bunch of responses/hot takes from Slate, Jezebel, etc. here.)  #bts15 Or, watch a PBS NewsHour segment on the factors contributing to lower SAT scores.


Books: A Week Until "The Prize"

51UTBTUV8bL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)The deluge of New Orleans coverage may be peaking, but there's another deluge to come in the form of publicity surrounding Jonathan Franz..  Dale Russakoff's new book about Newark, The Prize.

To help get yourself ready (or perhaps as a form of inoculation, you might take a look at four big reviews of the book, which comes out officially in a week: Chicago Tribune (Diane Rado);  The Seventy Four (Conor Williams); NYT (Alex KotlowitzNYT2 (Jonathan Knee). Yes, that's right, there are two reviews of the book in the NYT. 

As you may recall, there was an excerpt from the book in The New Yorker last year (A Test for School Reform in Newark). Chris Cerf penned an oped response in December (Dispelling Five ‘Falsehoods’ About Newark’s School System).

I'm doing some reporting and thinking about the book, and will have something out in the next few days. If you see any other reviews, let me know. 

Morning Video: Florida Re-Segregation Story Gets PBS & NPR Treatment

"Last year 95 percent of the black children failed standardized reading and math tests, and 52 percent of teachers asked for a job transfer" in this not particularly poor district with kids who weren't particularly behind in terms of school readiness (PBS NewsHour Florida schools get failing grade due to re-segregation, investigation finds). See also NPR: Staggering Figures Behind Some Troubled Schools.

Or, if you feel like something different, check out this NBC News segment on the rise of the Chromebook and other lower-cost computing devices in schools and homes (Low-Cost Computing Promises Connectivity for All)

Books: New Franzen Novel Features Loan-Burdened Protagonist

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Good news, all of you concerned with crushing student loan debt (your own or the issue): According to this review in The Atlantic, Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Purity, features a main character who's faced with large loans and no obvious way to pay them off:

"Her mother broke off contact with her family before Pip was born, and Pip hasn’t been able to persuade her to reveal the truth about her past or the identity of Pip’s father. She’s burdened with $130,000 in student loans, lives in a squatter house in Oakland, and works for a company that fleeces energy consumers with misleading environmental rhetoric. Like her Dickensian original, she has the idea that if she were to discover her own backstory, something wonderful might happen—maybe even the zeroing-out of those student loans."

Author Franzen isn't particularly interested in education, but he and his work have come up several times here over the years. His 2010 book, Freedom, raised some issues related to Education, Parenting. There was the amazing speech he delivered at Kenyon in 2011 (Of Songbirds And Public Education) -- which prompted me to write perhaps the most sincere and least prickly thing I've ever published (Education Will Break Your Heart).

Movies: School-Based Comedy Raises Issues Spanning Charter-District Divide

There is much to like about the low-budget mockumentary called "Teacher of The Year (TOTY)" now available for streaming on Netflix and other VOD services. 

First and foremost, TOTY isn't really about education politics or specific approaches to improving schools. This is nothing like Waiting For Superman, Standardized, Bad Teacher, Won't Back Down, Race to Nowhere, and all the others you may have seen or heard about recently. 

Yes, it's set at a charter school, at which there is -- atypically - both union representation of the teachers and some form of tenure that allows veterans to speak their minds. But the charter status of the school and the union representation are mostly plot vehicles, not central aspects of the story. There's no Common Core, or standardized testing. Heaven. 

The plot centers around two main dramas. First is the decision that the aforementioned Teacher of the Year must make about what to do with his future. Like some real-life state teachers of the year (see here and here), he is frustrated with his work environment and is being tempted to do something else that's much more lucrative and perhaps less stressful. The second plot element is an accusation leveled against one of the other teachers by a student, which could result in the teacher being fired despite his long-standing reputation for being committed to the school and to his students.

But mostly @TOTYmovie is a comedy -- a conglomeration of all the schools you've ever been in before, full of eccentric characters and a mix of high and low humor. There's the handsomely bland  vest-wearing protagonist, Mitch Carter, who breaks up fights, shares his lunch with a hungry student and helps him understand what Shakespeare is all about. There's the perfectly awful Principal Ronald Douche, played by Keegan Michael Key (of Key & Peele), who wants to be superintendent but might not listen to his teachers enough. There's a robotics teacher who thinks that HE should have been Teacher of the Year (and might be right). There are two deliciously horrible guidance counselors (played by the comic Sklar brothers). The assistant principal is a hapless disciplinarian handing out detention slips to bemused students. 

The comparisons to TV comedies The Office or Parks & Recreation are understandable. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer called it a "sweet, gonzo comedy.")

The filmmakers -- Lainie Strouse (the producer) and writer/director Jason Strouse (who's also the principal of an orthodox Jewish school in LA) -- say that their goal was to make something like Spinal Tap or Best In Show -- set in a high school. Another comparison that they like is Ferris Bueller's Day Off (from the point of view of teachers).  Excited about the film's success at 18 festivals over the past year and now online on Netflix and Amazon, the gist of what they had to say during a phone interview last week is that they wanted to make a film about the what it's like teaching in a real school, to tell the story in a silly but realistic way, and to focus on the teachers' perspective rather than the kids'. 

They won't say what school the film was shot at, though part of the deal was giving students jobs as PAs and walk-ons. They told me shooting was done in just 11 days spread out over six months -- and that much of the film was captured in the last few days. The shooting schedule was so fragmented that some of the actors didn't even know that they were in the same film together. 

As for their concerns about education, the filmmakers' only "issues" are that teachers don't make much as other college graduates and sometimes leave for more lucrative careers, and that school and district bureaucracies are a cumbersome bother. The rules and norms of schools breed frustration and tamp down innovation, they feel -- which is why so many people they know used to be teachers but aren't any more (and why highly-qualified non-teachers can't easily become second-career teachers).

Maybe that's the real appeal of TOTY, which is that it's neither glorifying nor tearing teachers down, and raising issues that span charter and district environments alike rather than divide them. 

Related posts: New Documentary Avoids Simplistic Hero/Villain Approach"TeacherCenter" Isn't Even Key & Peele's Best Education Segment#MiddletownFilm Chronicles "Midpoint" Students, Blended Learning.

Morning Video: Why Schools Like Ferguson Resegregated So Completely

From last night's PBS NewsHour: "Since 1988, American schools have grown more segregated. Jeffrey Brown talks to New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones -- who recently wrote about school segregation in Ferguson, Missouri -- and Sheryll Cashin of Georgetown University Law Center."

Media: EdWeek Acquires Nonprofit Supplying PBS NewsHour Segments - Who Will Replace Merrow On Air?

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There are lots of exciting angles to the news that Editorial Projects in Education (the nonprofit outfit that runs EdWeek) is acquiring Learning Matters (which is John Merrow's long-running nonprofit education media organization), but the most immediate and fun aspect that I can think of about the deal is speculation over who will replace Merrow as one of the on-air correspondents (who introduces segments, asks questions, nods in response to answers, etc.).

As you may have noticed, Learning Matters -- whose segments often appear on the PBS NewsHour -- has had two correspondents sharing duties over the past few years: Merrow and John ("JT") Tulenko. According to EdWeek, Tulenko will stay on as a correspondent and will like the rest of the Learning Matters team remain in New York City. The second, as-yet-unnamed correspondent will work out of Washington DC (well, Bethesda), which is where EdWeek is located. That's where the fun part comes.

Neither Kathleen Kennedy Manzo nor Virginia "Ginny" Edwards would tell me who the new correspondent might be -- I don't think they quite know themselves -- but here are some guesses at who might be in the running:

It's possible that they'll pick someone already on the EdWeek payroll, especially given that some of the current staffers have broadcast experience and obviously know education fairly well. Ben Herold did some radio when he was in Philadelphia. Arianna Prothero came out of public radio in Miami. It's also possible that there's someone at the NewsHour who's interested enough to move over to EdWeek (since nobody calls it EPE). 

My guess is that they'll look for someone who knows education at least a bit, has some broadcast experience (radio or TV), who's already in DC. That could include someone from the NPR national team, or -- my guess -- WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza (whom I've met socially as well as heard on air). Maybe they'll try and lure WNYC's Yasmeen Kahn down to try out for the job. There's a great young public TV correspondent from Chicago's WTTW, Brandis Friedman, who might be interested and ready or might like where she is. Former KPCC LA education reporter Vanessa Romo just accepted a Spencer Fellowship but that only lasts until May, really, so maybe she's a candidate, too?

Let me know if you have any other, better ideas -- or if my ideas are all wrong.

Other tidbits that I can tell you with greater certainty include that Edwards says she has raised $4.5 million to support the new operation over the next three years, led by a commitment from the Wallace Foundation, and that EdWeek is building a new studio in the Bethesda office to do more video for online and broadcast.  

There's no money changing hands between EdWeek and Merrow, and just one board member from Learning Matters is coming over to EdWeek, which is apparently why it's an acquisition rather than a sale or merger.

Edwards also tells me that there's an MOU with the NewsHour spelling out the collaboration between the two organizations, which have for many years operated on little more than a handshake between Merrow and his counterparts at the NewsHour. Learning Matters without the NewsHour isn't nearly as appealing as the two of them together, so that makes sense to nail that down as part of the deal. 

The idea of merging the two organizations has been around for years, according to Edwards, but talks started in earnest last Spring when Merrow told insiders (including me) that he was going to retire soon but hoped to find a way for Learning Matters to continue. Edwards had been on Merrow's board for a time. Learning Matters has been a content partner to EdWeek. "There is only one organization with the expertise, talent, and reputation to continue this work, and that’s EdWeek," says Merrow in a press release.

EdWeek has experimented with video content over the years, and won an award from EWA for a feature focused on Native American education, but has never done all that much with it -- and has never had access to a broadcast outlet like the NewsHour.  

The NewsHour has experimented with online coverage of education in between broadcast segments, and has an education page but no dedicated staffer covering the beat to my knowledge. For what seems like forever, the vast majority of its field segments (those including coverage of schools and live events outside the studio) have been provided by Learning Matters. 

Given all the other options that the NewsHour could have explored -- including handling education internally or farming it out to any number of other production companies who would have jumped at the chance -- and the challenges of the last few years in journalism over all, EdWeek can be forgiven the swagger in its release:  

"At a time when many news organizations have struggled to sustain their audiences and even their businesses, the nonprofit Education Week is a success story," brags EdWeek. "The legacy news operation has not only survived the media disruption, but leveraged it, catalyzing its authoritative coverage with even more engaging and diversified forms of journalism."

I've put out calls to Merrow and to the NewsHour and will let you know what if any additional information I get back from them.

Related posts: Last Night’s PBS NewsHour May Have (Wildly) Overstated the Dropout Rate for New TeachersSome High-Poverty Districts Exceed Federal Opt-Out Limit.

Thompson: This American Life, School Integration, & The Ultimate School Reform Excuse

Former ProPublica writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, in School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson, recalls of the inescapable truth that educators once acknowledged, and that we now need to remember. Children who attend the most segregated schools, Hannah-Jones reminds us, “are more likely to be poor. They are more likely to go to jail. They are less likely to graduate from high school, to go to college, and to finish if they go. They are more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods as adults.” Moreover, “their children are more likely to also attend segregated schools, repeating the cycle.”

Contributing to a continuing series by ProPublica and the New York Times on segregation, Hannah-Jones reports that “over the past 15 years …. the number of so-called apartheid schools — schools whose white population is 1 percent or less — has shot up. The achievement gap, greatly narrowed during the height of school desegregation, has widened.”

The national market-driven, test-driven school reform movement has downplayed the damage done by segregation. It’s choice-driven policies have actually increased the separation of students by race and class. And, This American Life’s The Problem We All Live With, featuring Hannah-Jones, begins with a mention of the research which explains why NCLB-type reforms have failed to improve schools serving neighborhoods with a critical mass of families from generational poverty. In doing so, it properly articulates the question that must be tackled before school improvement and other policies can promote racial justice and economic equality.

Accountability-driven reformers proclaimed their movement as the civil rights campaign of the 21st century, but they haven’t found a viable path towards school improvement. Competition-driven reformers derided traditional educators, who embrace socio-economic integration, early education, and full-service community schools, for allegedly making “excuses” and shifting attention away from the supposed real issue – bad teaching. But, This American Life has it right; reformers using competition-driven policies to improve instruction within the four walls of the classroom are distracting attention from the true problem.

Continue reading "Thompson: This American Life, School Integration, & The Ultimate School Reform Excuse" »

Charts: How Many Education Questions Were GOP Candidates Asked?

According to this FiveThirtyEight chart, there were just 3 education questions asked during last night's debate -- and none on race.

TV: HBO's Oliver Shaping Up To Replace "Daily Show" On Education (Plus 5 Videos Strauss Left Off Her List)

The Daily Show
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There are LOTS of people who are going to miss Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, including educators who appreciated his poking fun at school reform efforts and folks like me who appreciated his regular attention to education issues of all kinds. (Some folks took their fandom too far; remember that Illinois teacher who was Suspended For Showing 'Daily Show' Clips In Class?)

Ready for some nostalgia? Check out HuffPost's 2012 mashup of great education-related episodes above.

Or go over to The Answer Sheet, where Valerie Strauss has a new roundup of Five of Jon Stewart’s greatest hits on teachers, school reform and stupidity

Her top picks are the segments in which Stewart noted that teachers were going to jail when Wall Streeters weren't, declaimed corporal punishment provisions in Kansas,  castigated critics of universal preschool, taking on Michelle Rhee (who?), and trying to interview our robot EdSec, Arne Duncan. 

It's a strange list. But anyway, the most useful part is her description of Stewart as "never the hard-line critic of corporate school reform that many would have liked him to be."

It's a good point. He wasn't nearly as fiery as some wanted him to be. However, he was a reliably --problematically, according to Slate -- liberal voice. Take for example a 2011 segment I described as Lavish Lifestyles Of Wisconsin Teachers.

In fact, Stewart's biggest impact on education might have come from a series of interviews with Diane Ravitch, which gave a new prominence and currency to her and her allies' ideas -- even though Stewart didn't always roll over and go along with Ravitch (as you can see from my recaps of the segments):

Ravitch's Return To "The Daily Show": Ravitch starts out talking about schools turning into testing factories.  Stewart seems to be of the mind that at least some testing is necessary and reminds Ravitch that NCLB came from somewhere/ was a response to something.  He also gently questions the notion that poverty is the cause or explanation of.  They find common ground on the problem of "blaming the avarice of teachers."  Says Stewart: "Those people [critics] have no idea."  Ravitch says that she doesn't think America is "over-run with bad teachers," about which Stewart agrees:  "There's bad everything." 

Ravitch's Pre-Halloween "Daily Show" Appearance: She ducks the "what about the unions?" question entirely (not defending them, it's worth noting) -- and Stewart lets her. She posits the notion that charter schools or choice reduce the sense of public obligation but ignores the reality that more affluent parents (including Ravitch herself) have "shopped" for better schools for their children for decades. She was holding the noisy green key-keeper in her hand to keep from blocking her face using that hand, right? 

Here's a sweet picture of the two of them together:

Still, it's important to note that Stewart wasn't just about poking holes in reform efforts, and his education segments go way back. Some notable segments from the vault:

EdSec Spellings On The Daily Show: That face she makes when asked about smiting the teachers unions is good, as is the wink she gives when offering her "I don't recall" answer. 

Elementary School Kid Refuses To Pledge: Both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report riffed off the news that an elementary school boy was refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance in school.  Just cuz I'm lazy, here's the Daily Show version (the segment starts about 90 seconds in):

Obama Pushes "Socialist" Ornaments On Kids: The Obama administration has done it again -- trying to manipulate vulnerable schoolchildren into forsaking all that is good and right about America.  Last time, it was the Obama "back to school" speech. This time, it's Christmas ornaments sent from the White House to schoolchildren.  (See also: Daily Show Mocks "School Lunch Rebellion", and Obama Girls Not Integrating Sidwell)

Stewart Suggests 50-50 Pre-K Split To De Blasio: That was Daily Show host Jon Stewart's suggestion about how to fund the proposed pre-school expansion. 

Campaign Strategists Ruin 8th Grade Elections: "The Daily Show team decided to make one middle school race a high-stakes game, by bringing in some big-time political consultants."  via TIME Campaigning, on a Smaller Scale  [Pt 2, Pt 3].

There were also countless segments in which Stewart highlighted good things going on in schools: "Brooklyn Castle" On "The Daily Show"Malala Yousafzai Left Jon Stewart Speechless. Just last month, Stewart interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates (which I somehow missed). Occasionally he got some things wrong (like spending on Baltimore schools).

Stewart's successor, Trevor Noah, seems unlikely to have much ongoing interest in education beyond the occasional joke. But there's Jon Oliver's HBO show, which already has shown itself to be as fiery or more so than Stewart ever was. ProPublica's education reporter Marian Wang just announced she's headed over there, which could mean that Oliver is loading up to do more education-related segments.

Update: "The Grade" Sifts Through The Glut Of (Uneven) Media Coverage

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So The Grade has been up and running for about three months now, causing some small amount of anguish and/or eye-rolling among education reporters, editors, and observers -- as long as (I hope) some self-reflection as well. 
Given the glut of education coverage noted in EdWeek among other places -- too much, or not quite enough, depending on whom you talk to -- I hope The Grade is useful to those of you who have real lives and want some help winnowing down what to read and figuring out which stories are strong and which aren't.
In addition to the blog page, hosted by The Washington Monthly, there's also a Twitter feed, an RSS feed (for DIGG, Feedly), and a daily email signup. See a month's worth of previous entries by clicking the email link.

Books: Hey, Leave Those Low-Scoring High Schools Alone!

It tells the story of Mission High, which has apparently enjoyed great success despite challenging circumstances -- including the possibility of being closed thanks (indirectly) to federal education law focused narrowly on test scores rather than other metrics:

"Based on four years of reporting with unprecedented access, the unforgettable, intimate stories in these pages throw open the doors to America’s most talked about—and arguably least understood—public school classrooms where the largely invisible voices of our smart, resilient students and their committed educators can offer a clear and hopeful blueprint for what it takes to help all students succeed."







I haven't read the book yet, but longtime readers may recall that I critiqued the Mother Jones article Rizga wrote and the accompanying KQED feature that ran in 2012.
At that time, I wrote a post titled Everything You Read In That Mother Jones Article Is Wrong that praised Rizga for her writing but not for her fairness in terms of characterizing federal efforts to encourage districts to revamp schools that didn't appear to be doing well by students. I also suggested that Mission High might be something of an outlier, in terms of the apparent mismatch between test scores and other measures.
For the new book, there are blurbs from Dave Eggers, Jeff Chang, Dana Goldstein, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and LynNell Hancock. The book officially launches August 15.

Movies: New Montclair Documentary Avoids Simplistic Hero/Villain Approach

Got away
If and when you get the chance, be sure to check out a new documentary, "The One That Got Away," which explores the challenges facing low-income families, schools that serve them, and social services systems -- in a more balanced and thoughtful way than many other films of this kind.
There's no trailer yet, not even a website or social media, but the flyer for the documentary, screened earlier this year at the Montclair Film Fest (where it's based) and last night at Scholastic in Manhattan (thanks, Tyler!), promises a pretty dramatic story: "Once president of his middle school; now behind bars. The One That Got Away tells the true story of Tourrie Moses, a once-highly promising New Jersey student from a troubled background who is now in prison for murder, and a profoundly devoted team of teachers who tried to help him thrive." 
And indeed the film tells an intense, vivid tale. The interviews with Tourrie's mother, who's struggled with heroin addiction, and his strict but loving father, who says he spent roughly 20 years in and out of prison, are particularly challenging to watch. 

But the most interesting and helpful aspect to the film is how it describes a situation in which there are no black-and-white heroes or villains, and no bright or artificial line between parents, school, and social services agencies tasked with supporting families and children in tough circumstances.  

It's not the school, or the teacher, or the kid, or society. It's all of them. 
As depicted in the film, the educators at Glenfield Middle School are incredibly concerned and dedicated but are using an ad hoc warning system of supports and interventions. Ditto for the high school educators who try and fail to get Moses through a delicate transition from middle school despite his social services case having been formally closed. The parents are both flawed but by no means unloving or entirely absent. Tourrie (known to his family as Ray Ray) is intensely charismatic and eager to learn but unable to hold onto his connections to his teachers and his father over the reliable if limited lure of the streets.
In capturing these overlapping roles and dynamics, the film raises both structural societal issues (racism, inequality) and issues of personal and individual effort. But neither society nor the individual is given responsibility for the outcome in this film. It's shared. 
(And, blessedly, there's nothing in the film about Common Core, standardized testing, teacher evaluation, charter schools, the Gates Foundation, or any of the other obsessions of the current era. )
There are some issues I had with the documentary, including some heavy-handed interviewing (especially in a scene about drug addiction), and a front porch group interview with former classmates that's not as useful or enlightening as intended.
And, while the educators and social services agency staffers who are interviewed express deep regret and renewed vigilance against a repeat of systemic failures, it's not entirely clear to me that they've given up their ad hoc approach (based on personal relationships) and replaced it with a more reliable warning and intervention system. 
This film will raise awareness of the problems facing schools serving kids like Tourrie but I'm not as confident as I'd like to be that a similar tragedy couldn't be happening again right now.

Morning Video: AT AFT Conference, Goldstein Compares Reform Efforts To "Moral Panic"


Not everyone will go so far as writer Dana Goldstein does here, comparing the current school reform era to a "moral panic," in a talk given at the AFT's TEACH15, but it's still a useful and interesting talk from earlier this week. You can also watch segments featuring Jose Vilson, Wes Moore, David Kirp, and WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza.

Books: Ta-Nehesi Coates' New Book On Race (& Schooling) In America

image from images.indiebound.comThere's a new book about race in America out today that's getting a lot of deserved attention. It's already at #3 on Amazon. No, it's not the Harper Lee book in which Atticus Finch is a racist. It's Ta-Nehesi Coates' Between The World And Me.

As anyone who's seen or read Coates in the past can imagine, there's lots in the book that educators, advocates, parents, and the general public might benefit from understanding -- both about school specifically but also about poverty, and class, and most of all being a black person in modern-day America.

I won't do the thinking or the writing any great justice here, but it's a good starting point and there are lots of links to Coates' writing, recent appearances on Charlie Rose and Fresh Air (where Coates sort of scolds Terry Gross) and to reviews and reflections from others. 

A few educators and advocates are writing about the book, and I'm sure more will in coming days.


Much of what Coates is writing about is about society at large -- its treatment of black Americans, its structural issues -- rather than education.

On Charlie Rose last night, Coates pushed back at the notion of personal responsibility or any individual behavior as a meaningful measure of black American's lives bounded by structural racism. (I wonder what he would have to say about the popular notions of "grit" being taught in schools these days.) 

On the show, he also talked about how reactive white people generally are to black people talking about their emotions. "I think there’s great fear of how black people talk about their anger."

But there are key parts of Coates' story that reflect on his experiences going to school.

In an extended excerpt in The Atlantic, Coates describes how careful and specific he felt he had to be as a teenager growing up in West Baltimore about going to and from school:

"When I was your age, fully one-third of my brain was concerned with whom I was walking to school with, our precise number, the manner of our walk, the number of times I smiled, whom or what I smiled at, who offered a pound and who did not—all of which is to say that I practiced the culture of the streets, a culture concerned chiefly with securing the body.

He's talked about what sounds like a relentlessly terrifying growing up experience during his school years in the past, such as on Bill Moyers in 2014: "Here I was, right outside my elementary school, [and] somebody’s pulling out a gun. And it was very clear that that was different." 

In his new book, he still sounds outraged about the disconnect between Black History Month and his real life:

"Every February my classmates and I were herded into assemblies for a ritual review of the civil-rights movement. Our teachers urged us toward the example of freedom marchers, Freedom Riders, and Freedom Summers, and it seemed that the month could not pass without a series of films dedicated to the glories of being beaten on camera. Why are they showing this to us? Why were only our heroes nonviolent?"

And he's clear that the experience of being a young black man is something that white Americans need to understand. On Monday's Fresh Air, Coates mildly scolded Terry Gross for laughing when he tells her that he got upset in middle school when a teacher yelled at him in front of his classmates. 

For him, there was no "safety net of schools, government-backed home loans, and ancestral wealth." In 2014 he wrote, "I mostly thought of school as a place one goes so as not to be eventually killed, drugged, or jailed."


He's written about education more directly in the past, including The Miseducation Of Maceo Paul Coates (2010), When School Reform And Democracy Meet (2014). 

Way back in 2010, he slammed NYC reformers (specifically Bloomberg's appointment for schools head Cathie Black: "It's long been said that the new reformers deeply underestimate the complexity of the challenge facing educators."

In 2012, he also pointed out the disconnect between handing out teachers' individual performance ratings and telling the public to be cautious - an issue that comes up in education journalism as well: "There's also something unsavory releasing admittedly flawed data, and then lecturing the public on its need to exercise caution."

He criticized the plan to revamp Newark schools for failing to convince parents -- which sounds somewhat naive to me -- but also expressed misgivings about teachers having tenure. 


So far as I've seen, the reviews have been extremely strong. The New Republic loved it. Ditto for the Washington Post, and Slate. There's a big long profile in NY Magazine. "It is hard, perhaps impossible, not to be enraptured by @tanehisicoates' righteous and loveless indignation," notes the Washington Post review.

The praise is not universal: NYT book reviewer Michiko Kakutani praises the book but calls Coates out for overgeneralizing & ignoring progress. It's also criticized in the New York Observer. BuzzFeed's Shani Hilton criticized it for focusing narrowly on black male experiences.


Educators and advocates on my Twitter feed haven't been commenting on the book very much -- yet -- though Sara Goldrick-Rab is pushing for Coates to be a new New York Times columnist (he's going to live in Paris for a year instead), and Michael Magee is excited to read the book. KIPP NJ's Andrew Martin is watching closely, as is Pearson's Shilpi Niyogi. Justin Cohen calls the book "a model for how we should talk to the next generation of American children about race

This new book seems to be one that teachers of a certain kind will be giving to students in future years, imagines this Slate reviewer:


Morning Video: Do Politicians (& The General Public) Care About Education?

Here's an eight-minute version of an Aspen Institute event hosted by The 74's Campbell Brown in which three journalists (Capehart, Dickerson, and Bruni) talk about whether the public (and political journalists?) care about education, and in what context? Take a look. I've asked for the full video and will let you know what response I get. 

Maps: Now You Can Compare Des Moines' Grad Rate To Detroit's (If You Dare)

GrrateI was hesitant to share last week's Hechinger Report map showing graduation rates from almost every school district given all the things we'd learned about grad rate reporting from the recent NPR Grads series.

A new piece from Chicago's Kate Grossman documents attendance rigging, mislabeled dropouts, and grading policy changes that are goosing the numbers in Chicago to some extent - though the overall improvement seems genuine.

But in the intervening days have been reassured somewhat that the data are good enough to compare districts in some sort of meaningful way.

Click the link, but be careful!

Update: Nuzzel Gathers Contrasting Views On Hot Twitter Topics

One of the great things about Nuzzel -- you should be using it by now -- is that it lets you see not only what the folks you follow are tweeting about, and what the folks they follow are tweeting about, but also the different ways that folks are tweeting things out:
Sirota nuzzel 2

Take for example this item from Larry Ferlazzo's feed about a David Sirota story on the reauthorization of ESEA that's going on this week:

At bottom (tweets are listed in reverse chronological order) you've got Bruce Baker RTing Sirota's original tweet: "Senate quietly passes stealth bill to let Wall St rake in federal money meant for impoverished school kids"

Towards the top, you've got Ulrich Boser's RT of Andy Rotherham: "Of all the crap Title I money gets spent on, people are now outraged that some might get spent on saving money?"

Update: Despite Progress, Many LGBT Educators Still Feel "Stuck In A Time Capsule"

As you may recall, Screenshot 2015-07-08 13.54.29I got a lot of resistance last week when I posted about how behind the times schools and K-12 education organizations seemed to be to me on the LGBT front (On Equality, Education Has A Long Way To Go).

No, not Rick Hess-level pushback, but a lot of silent, awkward, and WTF vibes.

It's not hard to understand why. Many educators and education activists consider themselves progressive, and were elated about the Supreme Court gay marriage decision.

Talking about the plight of LGBT kids in schools was one thing - but why was I asking where all the LGBT education leaders/role models were to be found? 

In particular, my asking around about education leaders who were already serving as LGBT role models was responded to as if I was threatening to out people (which I would never do) or as if I was bringing up something that was a non-issue (like race?).

One PR professional responded to my question whether there were any senior staffers serving as LGBT role models with a straight-out "Why?" EdWeek's Evie Blad noted that listing LGBT edleaders seemed to her "a little problematic... Better way might be acknowledging that data dsn't exist." 

Fair enough. I get the concern.  But since then, I've gotten a lot of support for raising the issue -- and learned a ton about educators who are also LGBT. 

First off, it seems clear that LGBT educators are still struggling with how to come out to their colleagues and students without endangering themselves professionally. Look at some recent headlines: Oregon's Teacher of the Year spoke openly about being gay — and then he was firedJamestown NY appoints WNY’s first gay school superintendentThe Plight of Being a Gay TeacherI’m a Gay, African-American [Male] Teacher, and Proud of ItHow this LGBTQ teacher turned his deepest shame into his strongest assetAn LGBT Educator Who’s Not Too Proud to Keep Fighting. If there are more/better accounts of what it's like to be an LGBT educator, please let me know.

The Broad Center's Becca Bracy Knight tweeted that "almost all LGBT district superintendents who I've met feel they cannot be open about who they are - it's a real problem."

According to that first article, a big part of the problem is that we all apparently think that LGBT people are protected at work but -- surprise! -- they're not. That's why there are so few LGBT teachers, principals, administrators, and leaders who are out to their students and colleagues.

Or, as one recent writer put it, "in my 18 years in education, I have witnessed many of our LGBT teachers hide deep in the closet.... You would think we were stuck in a time capsule."

And not everyone is as out as you may think they are. Though it's hard to believe, a week ago Friday marked the first time Diane Ravitch publicly announced she was gay, according to Jewish Week. A handful of education folks whose LGBT status might seem to be public knowledge (widely assumed within the education community) declined to be identified as such when I reached out to them or their organizations.
That doesn't mean everyone's still closeted. My growing but small list of openly LGBT educator/education role models includes AFT's Randi Weingarten, former Chicago head Ron Huberman, NYU's Diane Ravitch, Portland's Carole Smith, US Rep. Mark Takano, NEA head Lily Eskelsen García's son. Please let me know more/others who would like to be listed. Do any readers of this blog identify as LGBT?

The USDE might be leading the way on the LGBT front, not only putting up its lovely #LoveWins avatar (first brought to my attention via PoliticsK-12 in Arne Duncan Celebrates Supreme Court Ruling) but also with its host of senior officials who are proudly serving as LGBT role models: Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, who is married and has children with his husband (and grandchildren),  Senior Adviser Steven Hicks is married. Senior Adviser Ruthanne Buck is in a long-term relationship and has two children with her partner. Other out senior officials at ED include Deputy Under Secretary Jeff Appel and Assistant Secretary for Management Andrew Jackson, who are both in long-term relationships.

I, too, yearn for a world in which someone's orientation/self-identification isn't an issue that requires talking about. But until we get there the more folks who are out and public about it -- and the more we talk about it -- the better. Silence = the status quo. There's obviously a long way to go. I'm excited about getting there. 

Education folks to tweet with about LGBT education issues: @EvieBlad @GLSENResearch @jesslif @GLSEN @JennBinis @DrDebTemkin @KJennings @twrightmu.

Morning Video: Pixar's Hit Feature "Inside Out" Includes Familiar Teacher Dig


The closing scenes of Inside Out features a middle school teacher who is counting down to summer vacation.  I'm not the only one who's noticed: Pixar makes teachers the butt of the joke. But as you'll see in comments, not everyone things that it's worth taking offense. 

Or, watch this BuzzFeed video What Is Privilege?, or Rush Limbaugh ranting about Humans Of New York's depiction of a gay student and Hillary Clinton's supportive remarks.

Thompson: Remembering The Full Horror of "Death at an Early Age"

Screenshot 2015-07-07 11.33.30
Thanks to Alexander and NPR's Claudio Sanchez for reminding us of the 50th anniversary of the firing of Jonathan Kozol for "curriculum deviation."

Everyone should (re)read this book. 

Rather than immediately using it to discuss the ways that education and racism has and has not changed in the last half century, we should first focus on the horror of Death at an Early Age.

Kozol was a substitute teacher in a class of 8th grade girls who were designated as "problem students" because they either had "very low intelligence" or were "emotionally disturbed."  In a 133-word sentence, Kozol recalls his reading of Langston Hughes's "The Landlord."

No transistor radios reappeared or were turned on during that next hour and, although some children interrupted me a lot to quiz me about Langston Hughes, where he was born, whether he was rich, whether he was married, and about poetry, and about writers, and writing in general, and a number of other things that struck their fancy, and although it was not a calm or orderly or, above all, disciplined class by traditional definition and there were probably very few minutes in which you would be able to hear a pin drop or hear my reading uninterrupted by the voices of one or another of the girls, at least I did have their attention and they seemed, if anything, to care only too much about the content of that Negro poet's book.

In subsequent years, most of the students forgot the poet's name, but they remembered the names of his poems and "They remember he was Negro."

Kozol was fired, his students' parents protested, and the career of a masterful education writer began. The details of the dismissal, however, are also noteworthy.

Continue reading "Thompson: Remembering The Full Horror of "Death at an Early Age"" »

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

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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) 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

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.



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.