About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Gentrification: All Eyes On Bed-Stuy

Proving yet again that pretty much all stories are education stories, there are at least two school-related elements to the fascinating New York magazine gentrification cover story Meet the Residents of MacDonough Street (in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy).
There is a charter school at one end of the block (Excellence Boys Uncommon Charter School) and a district school on the other (PS/MS 262 El Hajj Malik El Shabazz School.
One of the renters who's profiled says she moved to the neighborhood to be closer to the charter school her son attends. 
Another part of the story features Brooke Vermillion and husband Ben Chapman (education reporter at the NY Daily News) - both above.
No word yet on where they're planning to send their child when it gets to school age. 

#EDgif Of The Day: A Baltimore High School Full Of Immigrant/Refugee Students

Here's the intriguing 45-second trailer that let readers know about the Baltimore Sun series on immigrant and refugee high school students at Patterson High School. To hear the video with sound, go here.

Books: The Battle for Room 314 (Forthcoming)

51aqvyi-7tLLooking for a new education book to look forward to? You might consider Ed Boland's forthcoming The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School.

"In a fit of idealism, Ed Boland left a twenty-year career as a non-profit executive to teach in a tough New York City public high school. But his hopes quickly collided headlong with the appalling reality of his students' lives and a hobbled education system unable to help them: Jay runs a drug ring for his incarcerated brother; Nee-cole is homeschooled on the subway by her brilliant homeless mother; and Byron's Ivy League dream is dashed because he is undocumented.

"In the end, Boland isn't hoisted on his students' shoulders and no one passes AP anything. This is no urban fairy tale of at-risk kids saved by a Hollywood hero, but a searing indictment of reform-minded schools that claim to be progressive but still fail their students.Told with compassion, humor, and a keen eye, Boland's story will resonate deeply with anyone who cares about the future of education."

The book's slated to come out in February.

I've met Boland and his candor and fearlessness talking about the experience are pretty eye-opening.  

It'll be interesting to see how the book has turned out.

Other than Dale Russakoff's Newark book and Greg Toppo's education learning book, it seems like it's been a relatively slow year for much-discussed education books. Or perhaps we've just gotten greedy, or can't tolerate anything but the most simplistic kinds of narratives.

Good thing that there are some intriguing-sounding books in the works, and more that I'm sure I'm not yet aware of.

Related posts: Cohen Joins Huffman ...The Rise of AVIDAn Anthropological Look At School FundraisingWhen [White] Parents Are An Obstacle To Making Schools More Equitable.

#EDgif Of The Day: Internet So Slow They Can't Even Take Attendance Online

"Today, school secretary Lisa Sutherland (above) is given 15 names to enter. Each click of her mouse is followed by an excruciating delay. The system times out. Sutherland grits her teeth and starts over. Nearly half an hour after it begins, a process that should take seconds is finally complete." (EdWeek: The Slowest Internet in Mississippi)

Update: Other Places To Find Great Education Stuff


There's way too much interesting stuff to put it all in one place -- especially pictures and videos and off-beat human interest stories related to education.

That's why I created a side project called Hot For Education.  

If you like videos, GIFs, and all the rest, you should definitely check it out.

There's no Facebook page (yet), but you can follow it, or get it via RSS (Feedly, Digg), or track it via Twitter (@hotfored). 

Morning Video: Special Ed Teacher Compliments Every Kid, Every Day


Children learn to love or hate at an early age.I think it's time we actively work towards teaching love and acceptance.

Posted by Special Books by Special Kids on Sunday, November 15, 2015

Some people like this -- it makes others cringe.  Which are you? via HuffPost: Special Ed Teacher Compliments Every Single Student Each Day. Or, watch the EWA Livestream at #EWAelection


Year In Review: 7 Best Blog Posts Of 2015?

Enhanced-32477-1432058058-15 (1)I had the chance to look back over my blog posts the other day and came up with these 7 that struck me as notable or interesting:

Educators & Advocates Need Authentic Conversations About Race, Too.
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.

Reflections On Last Night's Newark Panel.
First and foremost, there was the visual of Newark mayor Ras Baraka sitting next to grey-haired Chris Cerf, the appointed head of Newark schools. How and why Chris Christie chose an awkward preppy white guy to replace Cami Anderson is unclear to me and can't have been welcome news to Baraka and his supporters. Contrast the move with what happened in DC, where Kaya Henderson succeeded Michelle Rhee.

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

Is Reform Really Stalemated -- And Is Early Childhood Really That Easy?.
Let's all take a look at both those things before packing up and pivoting (or thinking that others are going to). I am sad to report that I'm not so sure that the stalemate or the consensus are as clear as Kristof and others might wish them to be.

2 Things About The NYT's "Hillary Being Squeezed" Piece.
I can't imagine folks as smart and experienced as Team Clinton are feeling any real pressure to do something "crazy" (like coming out hard for the Common Core or even annual testing) anytime soon.  (Coming out in favor of vaccinations was already a bit of a surprise.) So if anything, the Clinton folks might not like the public display that DFER et al are trying to put on here, and Team DFER could get some cold shoulder. For a little while. Nobody can hate nice-guy Joe Williams for long.

New Voices Challenging Reform Critics' "Belief Gap" On Social Media.
For the last few years, claims of success by reform supporters -- a high-poverty school where students are learning at high levels, say -- have regularly been met with detailed takedowns from the likes of Diane Ravitch or Gary Rubinstein, followed by a swarm of followups from reform critics and allies. But over the weekend things took a somewhat different turn (at least on Sunday, when I last checked in), and it was the mostly white, mostly male reform critics like Rubinstein and Cody who were on the hotseat for expressing a "belief gap" from a handful of Chris Stewart kicked things off (and storified the exchange below).

The Hype Cycle Created By Innovators & Journalists.
Of particular interest, the piece describes the Hype Cycle, which "begins with a Technology Trigger, climbs quickly to a Peak of Inflated Expectations, falls into the Trough of Disillusionment, and, as practical uses are found, gradually ascends to the Plateau of Productivity."

Morning Video: Michael Moore Invades Finland

"Moore, indeed, has fun in France, where even at a school on the low end of the socioeconomic pole, students enjoy healthy, restaurant quality-meals, with not a soda or snack vending machine to be found." (New Michael Moore Film Looks to Europe for Education Policy Ideas) Or, watch a pro-charter ad from Washington State (via Morning EDU).

Update: Re-Imaging The Stories Behind "Humans Of New York"

Last week's New Yorker had a thought-provoking article about how we produce and consume media including media about kids and schools. Titled Humans of New York and the Cavalier Consumption of Others, the article focuses on the well-known photo from HONY (now a book as well as a website, etc.) of a boy named Vidal, who attends Mott Hall Bridges Academy, in Brownsville, run by Nadia Lopez, and whose appearance on Facebook led to a White House visit, a crowdfunding campaign. 

Just the description of the picture might make you think a bit more about it than you did when you first saw it online:

"Beneath the jacket is a fleece-lined hoodie, also black, and in his hand the boy holds a black plastic bag, stretched by the weight of what might be groceries. The sidewalk behind him is cracked and dotted with litter. Dull-brown public-housing towers—as much a part of the quintessential visual New York as the bodega bag—form a jagged horizon."

The critique of HONY -- and TED Talks, and The Moth -- might make you bristle:

"A story has lately become a glossier, less thrilling thing: a burst of pathos, a revelation without a veil to pull away. “Storytelling,” in this parlance, is best employed in the service of illuminating business principles, or selling tickets to non-profit galas, or winning contests."

The New Yorker piece urges us to do the impossible and forget the story, focusing back on the image:

"Forget, for a moment, the factual details that we have gathered in the course of knowing-but-not-really-knowing him... Consider, instead, the ease of the boy’s sneakers against the sidewalk; his shy, smirking confidence; the preternatural calm with which he occupies the space within the frame. Viewed like this—as, yes, irrefutably real, but also as a readable image—he is reminiscent of Gordon Parks’s squinting Harlem newsboy. Both convey something almost spiritual: something about the delicate string that hangs between youth and resilience, about the miraculous talent of children, however voiceless, to stand unswallowed by the city."

Whether you agree or disagree with the point -- and the rest of the essay's reflection on images in politics and society -- it's helpful I think to remember that stories and images can overtake us if we let them, and that sometimes we need to step back from the narrative we're constructing and look at the individual parts. 

Related posts: "Humans Of New York" Comes To The White HouseUnemployed Photographer & Bronx Middle School"Humans Of New York" Principal Was Thinking Of Quitting.

Morning Video: Another Disturbing School Police Video

Link from Florida TV station is here

Or, watch a Washington Post story (and video) about the high school science experiment that seems to lead to a number of classroom injuries.

Magazines: RIP, Grantland

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 10.05.37 PMOstensibly a sports-themed site, Grantland.com was actually full of culture writing. And some of the best writing about education explores its cultural aspects.

For example: The Teacher (Maya Angelou) and the Students (Dave Chapelle, Common)A Teacher Abuses His Power Over a Drummer in ‘Whiplash’What ‘Dangerous Minds’ and Other Movies Get Right and Wrong About Teachers.

That last one, by Shea Serrano, is particularly about pop culture and K-12 education.

Alas, the ESPN-funded version of the site is no more (though many of its writers have followed Bill Simmons to HBO).

There were occasional references to the site here: Neighborhood Segregation The Central Issue In New HBO Show"Breaking Bad" Will Solve All Our STEM ProblemsHomey The Substitute Teacher.

And a few more on Twitter.


#EduWeen15: It's On!

After a slow start, #eduween15 is off and running. Check out some recent entries, and feel free to toss in your own:

Morning Video: School Police Officers Under The Spotlight

PBS: What's the role of a school resource officer? In my school, I'm part of the fabric.

AP: Experts Discuss How to Handle Defiant High School Students

Hechinger Report: Filmed classroom arrest of South Carolina schoolgirl spotlights police brutality, prison pipeline

Afternoon Video: PBS Interviews Dale Russakoff

On Friday night, the PBS NewsHour ran this interview with Dale Russakoff about her Newark school reform book. Transcript here.

Quotes: Nobody's Talking About Latino Segregation (But Maybe They Should)

Quotes2There is a dearth of research on how segregation impacts Latino students specifically, although there is plentiful data on how racial isolation impacts African-Americans. As efforts to address African-American segregation have faltered, public discourse on growing Latino segregation remains elusive.

- HuffPost's Rebecca Klein (The Big Education Problem That No One Is Talking About

Events: Education Writers Study Teacher Prep In Chicago

Another day, another EWA seminar. This one titled (Ready for Day 1? Covering the Education of Teachers) includes appearances from Dan GoldhaberRoss BrennemanSteve Drummond, Shaina Cavazos, Susan AsiyanbiUlrich Boser, Alexandria Neason, Stephanie Banchero, and Louise Kiernan.

Catch up on yesterday's proceedings by looking back at the hashtag #EWApoverty.

Morning Video: Inside A School Lockdown Drill

We've heard and read a lot about these drills, including the powerful post in the Washington Post earlier this week Rehearsing for death, but this is the first time I know of that we've seen one of these drills on video -- a short segment from a forthcoming film called Lockdown. Via The Atlantic.

Events: Education Writers Study Poverty In Chicago

Today's #EWApoverty workshop in Chicago is taking place at Northwestern and being sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

See livetweets above. See the agenda here or click below.

Continue reading "Events: Education Writers Study Poverty In Chicago" »

Events: Grantmakers In Education (SF), Plus EWA x2 (Chicago)

2012-05-08-buddhaThis week's big education conference that I know of is Grantmakers For Education, which is meeting in SF and has a speaking appearance from Arne Duncan. The Twitter handle is @Edfunders, the hashtag is . EdSource's John Fensterwald is slated to do an interview with Duncan/King.

But it's not the only one.

Later this week, EWA is hosting two Chicago-based seminar/conferences for education reporters, one on covering poverty (Covering Poverty’s Influence on Education). Highlights from the agenda include an appearance from Alex Kotlowitz.

The second EWA event is called Ready for Day 1? Covering the Education of Teachers, which is being hosted by Northwestern University and "will examine the teacher pipeline, with a focus on how states can build a better route that attracts the best candidates, the extent to which states are — or aren't — taking adequate steps to ensure high quality preparation programs, and look more broadly at best practices to make sure new teachers are ready for Day One in the classroom." 

You can see the updated online agenda for highlights including a session with Dan Goldhaber and some advice from NPR's Steve Drummond about covering teacher shortages.

Any other events going on that we should know about? Anyone see or write a great summary of the Great Cities event last week? 

Books: Cohen Joins Huffman, Others Writing Edu-Book

Former Mass Insight head Justin Cohen is writing a book "about the broken U.S. education system" and was recently named a fellow at the Carey Institute (which supports nonfiction writers).

According to the writeup, Cohen "aims to reinvigorate the debate about reform, and change the old arguments that perpetuate the brokenness."

If he achieves this end, it would be greatly welcomed. However, he's not alone in making the effort. Others working on books that might sound similar ideas include Kevin Huffman and journalist Sara Mosle.

Cohen was a 2008 Obama campaign adviser and DC schools advisor. He's on Twitter at @juscohen and his blog is Justin C. Cohen. He also co-hosts The Beard Brothers Dope Show, "a muscular and witty podcast covering the public education wars" that I must admit has made me laugh a couple of times though I have only listened to a few minutes.

Cohen has been mentioned before on this blog, including this quote: "The big problem here is that somehow we have arrived at a point wherein placing value on student achievement results ismutually exclusive to respecting the voting rights of African-American communities... That is a fight that neither side can win, nor should want to fight."

"Cohen’s work focuses on the intersection of race, class, social justice and education in a country that is once again wrestling with the original sins of racism and white supremacy," notes the Carey Institute writeup.

Related posts: The Rise of AVIDHow Racial Inequality Gets Baked Into SchoolsNotes From Yale SOM 2011"Smarter" Charters Are Diverse, Teacher-Led.

Morning Video: Social Justice Activist Talks TFA, Plus Merrow & Chicago

Above, watch TFA alum Deray McKesson being interviewed by TFA alum Kelly Amis about how his work as a teacher connects with his work as a #BlackLivesMatter activist.

Or, here's that PBS NewsHour interview with longtime education reporter John Merrow, including highlights from his past reporting such as when he followed a bunch of new teachers through the year and when he filmed Michelle Rhee firing someone.

Or, click here to listen to a Marketplace audio segment on how freshmen academies are helping Chicago kids graduate -- with higher ACT scores.

Update: Here Comes NPR Education's New Series, "Ideas"

In case you hadn't seen it already, NPR's education team has launched a new themed series, dubbed Ideas.

Its motto: "There's nothing new under the sun in education. Except when there is. We'll explore how innovation happens, who drives it and what works."

So far, Ideas item include "An EdTech Buzzword Bingo Card, Higher Ed's Moneyball?, and (my favorite so far) The Mind-Reading Robo Tutor In The Sky.

The previous series, 50 Great Teachers, was apparently a big hit.

Check it out. Tell me what you think -- or what you hope they do or don't cover (drones! hoverboards!).

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

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

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

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

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




Pictures: Drop-Off Time At Two Adjacent Schools

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Well, not so fast there.

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

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

Still reading? Here's the 13 things.

Morning Listen: Contrasting Chicago Schools Might Attempt Merger

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

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

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

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

Roundup: Education Audio Is Everywhere

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

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

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

Morning Video: Time For School


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

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

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

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

Morning Listen: Outward Bound Goes To School

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

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

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

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

Pictures: First Days Of School (Through The Decades)

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

Thompson: A Modest Proposal for Improving Principal Quality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes: Newark Book "Critical Of All The Players"

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

Roundup: Best & Worst Reviews Of Newark Book Out Today

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Books: A Week Until "The Prize"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books: New Franzen Novel Features Loan-Burdened Protagonist

Lead_960 (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Video: Why Schools Like Ferguson Resegregated So Completely

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

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

Screenshot 2015-08-10 22.55.36
There are lots of exciting angles to the news that Editorial Projects in Education (the nonprofit outfit that runs EdWeek) is acquiring Learning Matters (which is John Merrow's long-running nonprofit education media organization), but the most immediate and fun aspect that I can think of about the deal is speculation over who will replace Merrow as one of the on-air correspondents (who introduces segments, asks questions, nods in response to answers, etc.).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charts: How Many Education Questions Were GOP Candidates Asked?

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

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

The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,The Daily Show on Facebook,Daily Show Video Archive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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

Movies: New Montclair Documentary Avoids Simplistic Hero/Villain Approach

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

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

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

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


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



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.