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Update: Cosby Allegations Raise Tough Education Issues

Last week, NPQ discussed the issue of Cosby's board memberships (Must Nonprofits Change Their Relationship with Bill Cosby?), and I'm told that StudentsFirst has now removed the entertainer from its board.

But there's another, deeper issue, which is the reminder of our persistent collective refusal to acknowledge hard truths (or at least widespread allegations) that are uncomfortable or require a reconsideration of past beliefs:

What of today's deeply held beliefs or school practices do we arlready know are wrong, but just can't bear to acknowledge or change? And who is speaking hard truths but is being ignored - for now? 

Thompson: Joel Klein's Heedless Rush to Impose Transformative Change

Screen shot 2014-11-24 at 11.47.57 AMThere is an old saying that tough judicial cases make bad law. Applying the legal maxim to education, challenging school districts like New York City, because of its size, might or might not resort to extraordinary measures. If leaders of those systems, rightly or wrongly, take extreme (not to mention extremely expensive) measures, they should not necessarily be seen as precedents or best practices to be scaled up nationwide. 

Even though I would be afraid of allowing Joel Klein to offer guidance for my 90% low-income school system, which spends around $8000 per student per year, it might or might not be valuable to go deeper into Klein’s Lessons of Hope for insights from his years at the helm of NYC’s schools. By the way, Klein had as much new money to spend, per student, as our district spends in total. So, the next step might be a discussion of whether Klein’s approach was cost effective.

The prime issue, however, is whether it makes sense to eschew incrementalism and only aim for radical or “transformative” change.

Joel Klein does not claim he was the most mild-mannered of federal prosecutors, but he is most explicit in describing his time in the White House as preparation for his job as Chancellor of the NYC schools. During the Clinton administration, he experienced “a constant mix of strategy, hardball negotiation, and insider backbiting.” Clearly, he assumed that this take-no-prisoners mentality was necessary in order to produce rapid and disruptive change.

The cornerstone of the Klein approach to school improvement was his assumption that he must ramrod “transformational change.”  When he first met UFT President Randi Weingarten, Klein asked for her view of the appropriate pace of change. “Sustainable and incremental change,” was Weingarten’s reply. Klein didn’t seem to ask himself whether he should learn more on that subject from this far more experienced person. He responded, “No, no, it must be radical reform.”

The part of Lessons of Hope that has generated the most buzz are Klein’s lengthy quotations of emails with Diane Ravitch and his speculation that the personal dispute caused her to shift gears and oppose school reform in New York and elsewhere.  Even if those pages were to be read in a purely political manner, it seems questionable that a newcomer like Klein would not enthusiastically welcome the “smart and experienced” Mary Butz into his principal leadership team. As was often the case in these pivotal decisions, Klein sided with his inner circle because Butz’s approach “didn’t emphasize the type of transformational leadership that we thought was necessary.” (emphasis mine)

Continue reading "Thompson: Joel Klein's Heedless Rush to Impose Transformative Change" »

Media: Washington Post's Valerie Strauss Mangles Duncan Staff Moves

It always makes me a little bit nervous when Valerie Strauss tries to go back to straight news reporting after all those weeks and months blogging and sharing material that's pretty uniformly critical of the current school reform movement. (New America's Kevin Carey once described Strauss's much-read blog as "The premiere Web destination for doctrinaire anti-reformist rhetoric and shoddy education research.") 
Then again she and others probably feel the same way about my work.

Earlier this year, the Post ran a front-page story by Strauss about allegations that Arne Duncan was trying to influence the choice of NYC chancellor under Mayor de Blasio.  I and others had some questions about the reporting, editing, and decision to assign the story to Strauss.

The latest example is a little story about changes within Team Duncan (Duncan’s communications chief leaving for Teach For America), which to my perhaps paranoid reading seems to be making a nefarious tragedy out of Massie Ritsch's departure for TFA.

Duncan is "losing" Ritsch after two years at the top communications spot within USDE. Duncan had the gall to praise TFA founder Wendy Kopp for highlighting the aspects of great teaching but ignored former NEA head Van Roekel. Duncan's first press secretary now works for Joel Klein at Amplify.

For some measure of balance, Strauss notes that Cunningham's accomplishments include getting Duncan on the Rolling Stone Agents of Change list. (She's wrong - getting Duncan on Colbert was Cunningham's biggest coup, or perhaps it was keeping Duncan away from the media after he jumped into the gay marriage debate ahead of the White House.) She also added Ritsch's "so, long" email after first publishing the post.

At TFA, Ritsch will be replacing Aimée Eubanks Davis as head of TFA’s Public Affairs and Engagement team. She's moving over to head Beyond Z, a new student leadership and 21st century skill building initiative she launched last year.

Related posts: Debating Valerie Strauss (& Education)Who Are Education's Biggest Trolls (Besides Me)?About That Front-Page Washington Post StoryEducation's Huffington PostParent Trigger: An "Easy" Button For Parents & Kids.

TV: Too Few Educators On Cable News -- And Too Few Education Segments, Too

image from cloudfront.mediamatters.orgMediaMatters notes that educators make up just one in ten of the guests on cable news segments related to education, which Valerie Strauss regards as a big problem.  

MSNBC does the best percentage-wise in terms of booking educators as guests -- but not by that much. CNN does the worst.  Fox -- this may surprise you -- comes in the middle.

What jumps out at me even more than this issue is that there are so few education segments, over all.

Granted, Morning Joe is not included -- a favorite for Randi Weingarten and Campbell Brown alike. And NBC News still does a fair amount of education coverage, along with PBS NewsHour.

But still. Looking at evening news shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, there were just 185 total guests in 10 months.  CNN booked the fewest - by far.  Fox and MSNBC came in much higher, quantity-wise.

Take a look at the full MM story here. Image used courtesy MediaMatters.

Related posts: Critical Roundup Of MSNBC's "Mixed" ReportingWhat's Wrong With Chris Hayes?New Cable Channel [Pivot] To Feature Do-Gooder ContentRhee & Weingarten Together On Morning News Show.

 

5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: 30 States Scheduled To Use Common Core Assessments This Spring

30 states using Common Core assessments this spring, says @ecscommreport ow.ly/ECmFc

Accomplishments & post-game analysis from @MarshallTuck re CA Supe Race ow.ly/EChbn

Third Way: Creating a Consistent & Rigorous Licensure Process ow.ly/ECjYM @ThirdWayEDU 

Opt out advocates want to use COPPA to oppose testing - National Public Ed Network ow.ly/ECiVc 

Jeb Bush's Delicate Dance with Common Core - Bloomberg Politics ow.ly/ECm3h@MichaelCBender

Do we know who organized & paid for busload of Newark protesters to travel to DC? ow.ly/ECnWy  We don't - yet. 

All this and more at @alexanderrusso

 

Update: Fact-Checking Cami Anderson (X2)

Watching Newark superintendent Cami Anderson's interview with AEI's Rick Hess from last week, a few things are clear:

First and foremost is that Anderson's initiatives may be much more nuanced and less top-down than critics have claimed (and the media has repeated).  For example, she says that there have been no school closings as part of her plan, and that several revisions and changes were made in response to community input.  Is that accurate?  Someone needs to check.  By which I mean the WSJ, NJ Spotlight, Hechinger, ChalkbeatNY, or NYT.

Second, and just as important for someone to figure out, is whether her claims that there's a small but "well-funded" effort to block her efforts are accruate or not.  The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton chronicled the protest against her, (a busload of Newark parents) but doesn't tell us who was behind the effort, if anyone. Did they decide to go among themselves? Who paid for the bus? Dropout Nation's RiShawn Biddle notes that CWA, "which has been an ally if AFT's NJ affiliate, has funded NJ Communities United to tune of $251K."

Related posts: Last Night's Raucous Newark Schools MeetingNewark Officials Discuss School Improvement, Local ControlNew Yorker Digs Into Newark Reform BacklashUnion Chief Hopes Chicago Follows Newark.

#EdGif Of The Day: How To Avoid Your Elementary School Co-Worker Crush

image from 38.media.tumblr.com

Sure, there's a charter school plotline in" Parenthood," and school is in the background (so far) of "Black-Ish." "How To Get Away With Murder" is set at a law school. But "New Girl" remains the most school-focused show out there, and still sometimes the most amusing.

This week's episode of New Girl features Jess's attempts to avoid interacting with her crush, a teacher at the school where she's an assistant principal.  It also involves touchy-feely professional development, and male bonding gone awry.

Recap of the episode (including spoilers) here. I found this gif here. For more #newgirl gifs go here. It's on Fox on Tuesday nights.

Related posts: "New Girl" Jess Confronts The Cool Mean Teachers"New Girl" Gets Pink Slipped [Teacherpocalypse 2012]"New Girl" Deals With Bullying 5th Grader TV's "New Girl" Teacher Is She One Of You?

Journalism: Media Narrative Shifted Dramatically During Post-Midterm Period

image from blogs.scholastic.com
Check out my latest Scholastic column here if you want to read about how media coverage of the 2014 midterms shifted sharply during the first few days after the results were known -- and how upon examination nobody's claims of victory seemed as strong as was being claimed. 

One issue that didn't make it into the piece was just how flat-footed the teachers unions seemed initially in their responses to the reformers' claims of victory, as in the AFT canceling a press conference without considering how that would look (or whether there was an opportunity to counter the reform narrative before it got rolling).

Another key angle is that the media covering the midterms and some of those commenting on them initially seemed to take the reformers' claims of victory at face value rather than taking a more skeptical view of the claims or a harder look at the results. 

Thompson: A Teacher's Review of Kristof and WuDunn's A Path Appears

ScreenHunter_01 Nov. 19 13.20I loved A Path Appears, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It deals with global issues and a variety of philanthropic and grassroots paths to tackling poverty, ignorance, and violence. I doubt that readers are very interested in my non-expert opinions on international issues, so I will limit this post to musing about Kristof’s and WuDunn’s approach to American educational challenges.

Chapter Ten, “Coaching Troubled Teens,” starts with a quote by Immanuel Kant, “Act so you treat humanity … always as an end and never as a means.”

The chapter begins with a visit to Tulsa where 8th graders were engaged in a curriculum focused on avoiding teenage pregnancy developed by Michael Carrera. This program, ranked as “top-tiered” in effectiveness costs $2,300 per student and it would be a bargain even if it didn’t get students started with a savings account, financial literacy, and medical care.

Kristof and WuDunn then breeze through a paragraph that includes the ridiculous – but oft repeated - soundbite that if African American students had teachers from the top 25% in “effectiveness” for four years, that the achievement gap would be closed. Those of us obsessed with education issues can anticipate what was cited in the footnotes, the economic theory of Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff that has been repeatedly misrepresented as research relevant to real world policy.

Educators, like me, are likely to get flustered and complain about the methodological flaws of Chetty et. al, and protest about the way they have allowed their regression studies to be used as intellectually dishonest props in a legal and political assault on teachers.

Perhaps Kristof and WuDunn take the wiser approach. They move on, writing “We must also rethink the role of schools in low-income communities.” The rest of the chapter argues for full-service community schools. Kristof and WuDunn may not have mentioned the way that the “teacher quality” focus of the corporate reform movement has undermined the science-based policies they advocate, but they make the case which teachers, education scholars, and unions have tried to make for overcoming the legacies of poverty.

Continue reading "Thompson: A Teacher's Review of Kristof and WuDunn's A Path Appears" »

Watch: "Schools Suck," Says Reporter (Voicing The Feelings Of Many Journalists)

Earlier this month, Milwaukee-based investigative reporter Meghan Dwyer was onstage receiving a Regional Emmy for a school bullying segment “Scared at School" when things went a bit awry. It's not the worst thing in the world, this gaffe, but it illustrates a larger issue: that sometimes reporters work so hard for so long on stories and experience such frustration and sympathy for their sources that they cross over into advocacy and then, quite understandably, their feelings occasionally slip out (or into their work).  That's apparently why some newsrooms used to rotate reporters from one beat to the next, to prevent journalists from becoming hostage to a beat or taking sides in an ongoing dispute between stakeholders. 

Journalism: Hits & Misses In NPR's "Overtesting" Story

So-called "overtesting" is probably the easiest story on the education beat to do right now, and I'm no saint I did one too last winter for the Atlantic's education page. But there aren't any real numbers out there and so it's very easy to fall into using eye-catching anecdotes that may or may not be representative and also to fall prey to the presumption that overtesting is a thing when we really don't know that is.

That's I think what happened to this new NPR education story (Testing: How Much Is Too Much?), which while far from the worst of the overtesting stories I've seen lately would have done better to focus less on critics of testing (Brockett and Jasper) and extreme examples and more on the reality that we don't know as much as we'd like about the prevalence of testing in schools over all and that there are folks out there (including civil rights groups) who think that testing is essential for school accountability and are worried about losing annual tests or going back to a previous era when the public didn't really know how students were doing. 

All that being said, there aren't any obviously sketchy or misleading numbers in the NPR piece like last week's NYT story included, and are some great bits, too: There are some vivid #edgifs showing a kid who has to take lots of end of year exams that are fun to look at (I've tweeted and Tumblred them but can't show them here without permission). I'm really glad that NPR used and linked to the Chiefs/Great Cities survey of large districts, and the CAP study of 14 districts. I didn't know that the White House had put out a statement on the issue. 

Last but not least, the NPR story addresses the notion that tests have gotten added without any attempt to remove their predecessors in a fun, stylish way: " The CCSSO survey describes testing requirements that have seemingly multiplied on their own without human intervention, like hangers piling up in a closet." The layering on of testing regimens without regard to burden or legacy testing will, I am guessing, turn out to be at the root of much of what some parents and teachers and testing critics are clamoring about.

Related posts: NYT Journo Tweets Out "60-80 Days" Of Testing ClarificationPlease Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos!.

AM News: Get Ready For Low Common Core Test Scores This Spring

Under half of students projected to test well EdSource Today: Projections released Monday predict that fewer than half of students in California and other states will score at grade level on tests next spring on the Common Core standards.

Poll: Voters know little about Common Core EdSource Today: More than half of California voters said they knew nothing or very little about the state’s new Common Core standards for English language arts and math, according to a newly released report by the Policy Analysis for California Education/USC Rossier School of Education.

Teachers union sees ‘surprising common ground’ with Lamar Alexander Tennessean: But while Eskelsen García supports a rewrite of No Child Left Behind that would do away with that waiver approach, NEA has long drawn a hard line against school vouchers and charter schools — two areas that Alexander has promoted legislatively.

Phila. schools see 40 applications for new charters Philadelphia Inquirer: After the Philadelphia School District announced that it would accept applications for new charter schools for the first time in seven years, it received 40, the district said Monday.

Walton Family Foundation Funds Parent-Engagement Efforts in New Orleans EdWeek: A $1.2 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation will help the Urban League of Greater New Orleans' increase its parent outreach efforts.

FCC Chair Wants Fee Hike to Expand Internet Access ABC: FCC chair proposes small hike in phone fees to expand Internet coverage to low-income areas.

Number of international students on U.S. campuses at an all-time high PBS NewsHour: More than 886,000 students came from foreign countries to study at U.S. colleges and universities during the 2013-14 school year, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Get Ready For Low Common Core Test Scores This Spring" »

Events: Inside The Secret World Of The Spencer Journalism Fellowship

Spencers2014-2015
Saturday was the occasion of the annual Spencer Journalism Fellowship reunion, during which the new fellows (pictured) are officially introduced to the alumni and given their secret instructions.  This year's fellows (Linda, Mitra, and Joy) are focusing on poverty, resegregation of schools, and special education respectively.  Read below for some notes and tidbits from the event, as well as encouragement to apply for the fellowship this winter and make us all proud with the project you produce.

Continue reading "Events: Inside The Secret World Of The Spencer Journalism Fellowship" »

Books: The 2014 Teaching Book You Probably Haven't Heard Of

image from www.nybooks.comThe latest issue of the New York Review includes a roundup review of three education boooks, including two you probably already know (Goldstein and Green's) and one you may not have heard of.  
 
It's Garret Keizer's "Getting Schooled," and it's a year-in-the-life kind of book rather than a history or an overview like the other two.  
Read the book?  Tell us what you thought.  Think it's useful to understanding today's teacher prep and support quandries?  We want to know.
 
Read the group review here (full text requires subscription): Why Is American Teaching So Bad?

Read a review of Keizer's book: 'Getting Schooled' by Garret Keizer.

Or click below for a Harper's excerpt from the book which seems to have appeared way back in 2011.

 

Continue reading "Books: The 2014 Teaching Book You Probably Haven't Heard Of" »

Journalism: Looking Back At The First Year Of The Seattle Times' EdLab

It's been a year now since the Seattle Times and the Solutions Journalism Network launched EdLab, a Gates-funded effort to focus less on conflict and failure and delve deeper into what's working in public schools.  

And according to this SJN blog post (Moving the needle) things seem to have been going pretty well. Quantity-wise, the Times has produced "more than a dozen major features, accompanied by video documentaries, guest opinion pieces, Q&As, and hundreds of shorter articles and blog posts – all informed by the solutions lens."

And, according to an online surveys of readers,"People have noticed. They do seem to care. For many, solutions coverage does seem to be changing the perceptions of problems in schools and how they might be addressed." Just as important, they seem to be able to tell the difference between a solutions story and normal newspaper coverage.

There's no mention in the post about the controversy -- real or ginned-up -- earlier this year about the Times accepting Gates funding (Who Influences Education Coverage Better -- Reform Critics Or Funders?), or the concern about student data sharing that came up between the EdLab and Seattle Public Radio last winter (8 Cool Things I Learned At #EWAEarlyEd). Indeed, there are times when the Times is covering the Gates Foundation (Rush-hour protest by teachers to target the Gates Foundation).

What happens next? I have no idea.  But the LearningLab in MA has recently popped up on my radar screen, so maybe I'll write about them next. 

Journalism: Replacing "Reformers" & "Reform Critics" With What?

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn raises the nagging issue of journalists using the word "reform" in their work, noting that it's unfair and misleading (in education and other contexts).  

It's not a new concern.  Some newsrooms have already decided against it.  Via Twitter, EdWeek's Sawchuk tells us that reporters there are banned from using it.  

And it's not just those who aren't reformers who might be ready for a change. Some reformers -- notably John Deasy -- came to hate the highly charged term, since it lumped him in with others he thought were more extreme or had other agendas.

I'm open to using another term, and have toyed with alternatives to reform/reform critic in the past.  But 2010's "reformy" never took off like I hoped it would, and 2013's "reformsters" was also a dud.  

So what to call them, and what to call them who oppose them?

 

 

Magazines: More Disclosure Problems For "The Nation"

image from www.wikicu.com

Remember up-and-coming young reporter George [@georgejoseph94] Joseph wrote that big piece in The Nation about TFA a week or so ago?Yeah, you remember.

We already know that he didn't bother reporting that the group behind the anti-TFA campus protests, ASUS, is union-funded.  And -- thanks to New America's Conor Williams -- we also know that his main concern that TFA was tipped off about a FOIA request turns out to be standard operating procedure for federal grantees.  

But now there's more -- not a lot more, but still. I'm procrastinating here and this is helping.  Joseph's bio blurb at The Nation says he's a Columbia undergrad and who he's written for.  All good there.  But his bio at In These Times is a little different, noting that he organizes with a student activist group called Student Worker Solidarity (that's their logo - nice!).

Why wasn't that disclosed in his TFA story, and why is The Nation taking stories from people with what seems like obvious conflicts of interest. Identifying as a member of a student activist group is something that I, at least, want to know when I'm reading a story about student activism -- and something that the editors at The Nation should have considered before taking or assigning the story and in its bio blurb of the writer. 

Video: While Away The Afternoon WIth Khan, Hastings, & Williams, Vanity Fair-Style

Here's a half-hour talk with Sal Khan, Reed Hastings, and Jane Williams - plus a link to the Annie Liebovitz Vanity Fair portrait of Khan and a profile by EdSec Arne Duncan.

Update: NYT Journo Tweets Out 60-80 Days Of Testing Clarification

Kudos to NYT Miami bureau chief Lizette Alvarez, who tweeted out last night that the eye-popping 60-80 days per year figure she cited for testing days in Florida in her Monday story wasn't an "every kid, all day situation."

It's not quite a formal correction, but to be fair you could read the original line different ways.  Here's the post that generated at least some of the questions about the original NYT story:  Are There *Really* 60-80 Days "Dedicated" To Testing In FLA?

Thanks also to everyone at FairTest, the FLDOE, EWA, and ExcelinED for helping try and dig out the facts behind the figure, which turned out to be the total number of days during which testing could be conducted -- the "window" of time rather than the actual number of days kids spend testing. Obiously, we still need a simple, comprable way to talk about testing burdens from district to district and school to school.  Where's the NCEE when you need them?

Related posts: Please Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos!.

 

 

5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: Common Core Politics Not As Complicated As You May Think

This @cpre look at the midterms/CommonCore overlap seems notably clear, no? http://ow.ly/E8hDo 

3 reasons Common Core is especially controversial in New York - Vox http://ow.ly/E7lXk 

EdWeek bill tracker shows 2 Common Core rollback proposals have made it into law (so far) http://ow.ly/E7yIU  They're MO & NC

Obama's Fragile Education Legacy http://ow.ly/E7tMf  by @conorpwilliams

New report from Urban Teacher Residency United features Aspire & Denver Teacher Residency http://ow.ly/E8vjK  @utrunited

Head of Tulane-affiliated think tank (& former Chicago charter guru) John Ayers quits after release of flawed study http://ow.ly/E7EWc 

Salman Khan is changing the way kids learn - Portrait by Annie Leibovitz http://vnty.fr/11e1mfV 

All this and more at @alexanderrusso.

Reform: Education Post Marks Up Your Work At "Red Pen Page"

Red Pen Archives   Education PostEducation Post, everybody's favorite new education nonprofit, recently debuted its Red Pen Page, where it rebuts ridiculous claims made by advocates and fact-checks horrible stories reported by journalists.  

In the first few entries, which debuted last week, EP takes on Change the Stakes in NY and the Poughkeepsie Journal for various perceived errors and unsubstantiated claims.

 It's an interesting and potentially useful strategy that mirrors a lot of the writing I've done here in recent weeks and months.  

There are lots of claims being made by advocates (on both sides) and mistakes being made by journalists (of all kinds). And the format -- red pen marks in faux handwriting in the right margin (look where the green arrow leads you) is visually appealing.

However, the approach still relies on people to find the posts on EP's site (rather than sending them out via email or clogging up everybody's Twitter feed), and I'm not sure whether EP has enough reach or credibility (yet?) to make folks stand up and pay attention to what they say.

Related posts: New Reform Group To Counter Relentless Criticism;  Reform Opponents Are Winning Online (For Now)Rapid Response in Connecticut.

 

Video: TIME Editor Defends Controversial Vergara Story & Cover

Here's an MSNBC segment from a couple of weeks ago that you (like me) may have missed at the time, in which the TIME editor Nancy Gibbs explains the story -- including the notable use of the courts to bypass a broken legislative process - and reflects on the response to the story:

 

Gibbs rejects the notion that the story is anti-teacher -- a frequent claim made against reformers and journalists who write about reform -- but fumbles a bit I thought when she's asked why there weren't more apples on the cover, or a question mark along with the headline. For this and more of a view from the conservative side of things, check out the Media Matters roundup (What Conservative Media Miss In Coverage Of Controversial Time Teacher Story). Meantime: pageviews!

Media: Oops!? Results From The Equity Project Same As Other NYC Charters

Part-time media critic Neerav "Relingquishment" Kingsland notes that several media outlets that covered the recent results showing strong outcomes for The Equity Project failed to realize that the school "Gets Same Results as Most Other Charter Schools in NYC."  It wasn't a liberal or conservative bias, however -- the WSJ, Vox, NPR, Shanker Blog, and National Review all missed it, according to Kingsland.  This suggests that journalists and bloggers need to be careful about the context into which they report their results, and also that NYC charters are somewhat higher performing that charters nationally.  

Quotes: Presumption Of Misery In Writing About The Poor

Quotes2There often is a tone in writing about the poor. There is a presumption that people of a certain class are mired in misery.

--  Writer Sarah Smarsh (‘Poor Teeth’ Writer on Class and Journalism) via Longform

 

Magazines: The Long Afterlife Of School-Age Torment

image from www.newyorker.comCheck out this week's New Yorker story (Whipping Boy), recounting the 44-year long hunt for the author's schoolboy tormenter:

"I was ten and he was twelve when for a few indelible months we roomed together in a British-style boarding school perched on an alpine meadow high above Geneva.”

His name—Cesar Augusto—“his size, his command of the school’s pseudo-military regulations, the accuracy he demonstrated when strafing enemies with ink from his Montblanc fountain pen, enabled him to transform our dorm into a theatre of baroque humiliation.”

Image used with permission.

Photo credit James Pomerantz

Media: Are There *Really* 60-80 Days "Dedicated" To Testing In FLA?

This sentence in a new NYT story about states' responses to concerns about overtesting makes it sound (to me, at least) that Florida schools are testing all kids, all day during almost one out of three days per year: 

In Florida, which tests students more frequently than most other states, many schools this year will dedicate on average 60 to 80 days out of the 180-day school year to standardized testing. In a few districts, tests were scheduled to be given every day to at least some students.  

There's no doubt that testing concerns are on the rise, and testing and test prep practices have gotten out of control in some places where new tests have been added but none have been removed, but still I worry about exaggerations and misunderstandings about the actual amount of testing that's going on.

I'm asking around to see if anyone can verify the number or explain how it was calculated.  Meantime, check out the NYT story States Listen as Parents Give Rampant Testing an F and let us know what you think.
 

Philanthropy: Have Big Funders (Like Walton & Gates) Overtaken Think Tanks (Like Brookings)?

Flickr gates robreich https-::www.flickr.com:photos:gatesfoundation:6172147665:The Washington Post's latest big piece on the influence of philanthropic funding focuses on think tanks.  Titled Who funds the new Brookings?, the piece suggests that the new funding has likey had an impact on think tanks' research agendas if not their conclusions.

Corporate donations, more than large foundation grants, are newer and especially concerning. But foundations also have played a role:

"Foundations began to place more restrictions on their grants, part of a challenging new trend facing Brookings and other academic institutions in which donors increasingly specify their expectations as part of what they call 'impact philanthropy.'"

Among those funding Brookings are the Walton Family Foundation, who have given "millions of dollars to support Brookings’s education policy center — whose scholars regularly adopt market-oriented stances­ on key issues."

That being said, not everything that comes out of Brookings is pro-reform, notes the piece. Tom Loveless critiques the Common Core, which Gates and others support. But that doesn't satisfy folks like AFT president Randi Weingarten, who's quoted questioning the credibility of the institution and lamenting the dropoff in invitations to Brookings events.

The Post's previous effort on the philanthropy front was a look at the Gates Foundation's involvement behind the scenes on behalf of the Common Core that I found overheated (What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common Core) because I am of the view that funders can't really get the public or policymakers to do things that they don't already want to do (The Myth Of The All-Powerful Billionaires).

Not mentioned in this piece is the 2012 kerfluffle when Brookings and Diane Ravitch parted ways (she was a nonresident senior fellow), or a 2009-2010 attempt to determine the quality of education journalism that struck me as superficial and retro and a bit of of Brookings' areas of expertise.

Related posts: Brookings "Fires" Ravitch For Being "Inactive"Brookings Responds Re Ravitch, RomneyOlde Timey Panel, Olde Timey ReportSecond Brookings Education Report As Bad As First OneGoogle Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy Conferences.

 

Thompson: Klein Book Exposes Klein's Flaws & Failures In NYC

Anyone seeking to understand the failure of Joel Klein to improve New York City schools should carefully read Alexander Nazaryan's latest article in Newsweek, Joel Klein's Book on American Schools Tries to Find a Way Forward. Even though the Newsweek reporter’s review of Klein’s new book, Lessons of Hope, obviously aspires to hagiography, read between the lines and he inadvertently captures the essence of the tragedy of school reform.

Nazaryan notes that a Google search may not find “a single kind word about Joel I. Klein.” His revisionist review tries to explain why Klein should not be dismissed as “a tone-deaf autocrat, too comfortable in the parlors of the Upper East Side, not comfortable enough in the school auditoria of East New York and the South Bronx, where jeers often announced his arrival.”

To borrow from Nazaryan’s rhetoric, Klein was a reformer who didn’t successfully “reform much,” but he sure spent a lot of money. In 2003, for instance, the city’s average NAEP 8th grade reading score was 252. In 2009, it was 252. According to Nazaryan’s former employer, The Daily News, Klein took over a system that spent below $11,000 per student. By 2010-2011, that number rose by about 75% to $19,000. Who knows how much additional foundation money was lavished on schools that Klein used as gladiators to defeat neighborhood schools in the race to the test score top?  Moreover, during most of Klein's years, NYC schools benefited from an incredible economic boom. 

Nazaryan makes it seem like Klein had no other option than risk-taking and unleashing the full “brunt of his reforms” on teachers and students. Klein was opposed by UFT President Randi Weingarten, who was supposedly the “pedagogical version of Bull Connor.” Showing that he is oblivious to social science research, cognitive science and education history, as well as the position of Weingarten’s union, Nazaryan indicates that Klein had no choice but to turn students into lab rats because he had to shred “the noxious these-kids-can’t-learn belief deep at the heart of all union recalcitrance.” While doing so, Nazaryan seems to indicate that his knowledge of school improvement comes from the notorious, fact-challenged “The Lottery” and “Waiting for Superman.”

Like Klein, Nazaryan was a newbie when he helped establish a new small high school.  His only preparation was a “harrowing year of teaching middle school English.” After four years, mostly at a “mini-Princeton” selective school, Nazaryan turned to journalism as “a path out, or up, or whatever” from public schools.

Continue reading "Thompson: Klein Book Exposes Klein's Flaws & Failures In NYC " »

Journalism: Sometimes Education Writer Steven Brill Launching A New Endeavor

Steve Brill, the cigar-chomping, Tab-drinking journalism enterpreneur who sometimes writes about education issues, is starting a new longform investigative journalism endeavor that isn't necessarily focused on education issues but could imaginably be a place for school stories to find a home.  

The effort, detailed in Capital New York and other places (Steven Brill-Jill Abramson startup comes into focus), is a partership with former NYT exec Jill Abramson that will generate one big story a month, published via subscription model, and will be part of an existing site or publication (not named).

Via email, Brill told me that the site isn't education-focused by any means, and they aren't taking pitches yet so hold your horses, but I can't imagine that the right kind of pitch wouldn't find interested eyes given Brill's track record writing about teachers, unions, politics, and schools.  The only real danger is that Brill himself will want to write the education stories rather than assigning them out.

Like many others, I've had a love-hate relationship with Brill, generally loving the attention he brings to the issue and his sharp eye -- he also thanked me in his book about school reform for all the insights this blog provided, which I appreciated -- but lamenting his Ravitchian self-certainty, his pro-reform credulity, and his somewhat limited grasp of education research.

Related posts: Time's Up For "Race ...Steve Brill's School Reform Sustainability ProblemBrill's Big Sloppy Wet Kiss ...Brill (Over)Praises DuncanBrill's Last Stand12 New Yorker Ed Articles Vox Missed/Got Wrong.

 

 

 

Quotes: New Yorker Slips Anti-Reform Straw Man Into Teacher Training Column

Quotes2Some educational reformers in the United States insist that we don’t need to worry about training: firing all the bad teachers would be enough.

- James Surowiecki (Getting Better at Getting Better)

Maps: Poor Minneapolis Neighborhoods Get Least Effective Teachers

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The largest concentration of underperforming teachers in Minneapolis tend to be in high poverty neighborhoods - and the district claims not to have known the extent of the problem, reports the Star-Tribune (Teacher performance in Minneapolis). Read more about it here. Read about the responses in the MinnPost (Unpacking the Strib's teacher-eval story). Image used with permission.

Quotes: Cincinnati Record Suggests Conversion To "Community Schools" May Not Be Enough In NYC

Quotes2What has gone largely unsaid is that many of Cincinnati’s community schools are still in dire academic straits, according to an analysis by The New York Times, despite millions of dollars in investment and years of reform efforts. - Javier Hernandez in a 2013 NYT article Pondiscio posted on Facebook in response to De Blasio school turnaround announcement.

Monday Video: Pay Less Attention To The Senate Or Governors - Statehouse Elections Matter More

"The state legislatures [are] much more up for grabs (as are many governorships), and they have real power. [They] have more influence than Congress over K-12 and higher education, criminal justice, housing, and transportation, among many other issues." (John Oliver takes on state legislators, the most important politicians you're ignoring - Vox)

Quotes: How Unions "Lost" The Media (Or At Least A Few Editorial Pages)

Quotes2This [digging in] strategy might work in the short run. But in the long run [the unions are] dooming the schools they claim to care about to mediocrity and abandonment by the middle class, and putting the union they profess to love on a path to irrelevance.

-- Whitmire and Rotherham (The Teachers Unions First Lost The Media; Have They Now Lost Everyone Else, Too?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

See the Twitter thread here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magazines: Teacher Tenure Lawsuits Expose Growing Reform Rift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else can I add? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Video: Why Think Tankers Hate The Vergara Strategy

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

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

Quotes: Build Capacity & Let Schools "Improve Themselves"

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journalism: Funding Disclosure Should Apply To Reform Critics, Too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media: NYC Public Radio Revamps Education Site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.