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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

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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.

GROWING UP IN WEST BALTIMORE

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."

PAST WRITINGS ON EDUCATION

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. 

POSITIVE REVIEWS 

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' REACTIONS

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:

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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:
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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:

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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

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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

Ednextkout2015

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.

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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.