A small, preliminary study, a talkative researcher, media hype, plus underlying cultural stereotypes and fears. Sound familiar? Retro Report via Kottke.
David Letterman, 10 TFA newbies, and Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher." via TQATE's Quick Hits. Gotta give TFA credit for snagging yet another chunk of free media.
Two of my favorite education writers right now write a lot about education but you may not know their names because they don't usually have bylines. Karin Klein of the LA Times (right) and Kate Grossman (@kategrossman1) of the Chicago Sun-Times (left) are editorial page writers whose work often comes out in the form of unsigned editorial page positions.
What do I like so much about their work? They take nuanced, sometimes unexpected positions on the issues. There's not much extremism in their views (and they don't spend much time addressing extreme elements and positions that get so much coverage elsewhere). They write in plain English for a general audience that may or may not care about education in a day to day way. They're not trying to grab attention.
This is the smart middle ground that is so hard to find online these days -- even in traditional news coverage of education events. It's reasonable, reasoned writing that neither conveys nor quotes extreme views, focuses on immediate events rather than speculation, and is basically pragmatic. The focus is simple: What's the current situation, best as we know it, what are the viable options, and realistic outcomes?
In the past, there would be more of this kind of education writing in the news section and wire services also. (Used to be that AP education coverage was so frequent and so "down the middle" that it was sometimes hard to read. But it served as a useful reality check when political opponents and pundits were saying the sky was falling or that they'd discovered the next big thing.)
But the AP education team has been turned over and decimated for the past few years. Reuters' education coverage has been fascinating to follow but has seemed hyperbolic rather than steady since the arrival of Stephanie Simon. The Washington Post's coverage skews local rather than national. The Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits still does great work but is clearly under pressure to attract attention as much as to provide steady, reliable coverage. PBS's John Merrow seems more and more of a commentator than a moderating voice of late.
I don't always agree with Klein or Grossman. And being in the middle isn't glamorous or appealing when the next-door blogger can put out ten posts and generate scads of attention during the time it takes to write a careful editorial. But I, for one, am very glad they're out there right now. That steady, thoughtful voice, without any obvious self-interest or desire to advance a particular cause or outcome, is refreshing. Maybe there are others?
But recently I've learned that the GreatSchools profiles are incredibly popular among parents, that there's a new Facebook app that allows parents to find friends and friends-of-friends who are discussing certain schools and neighborhoods, and that there are blog posts like this one (When the melting pot boils over) that address core school reform issues like diversity and gentrification.
"Many middle-class parents enter public schools with a dogged determination to improve them. They want to do good, while also doing right by their children. Yet when such efforts — however well-meaning — carry the taint of entitlement, it doesn’t take much for the ordinary elementary school to become an ideological battleground waged around bake sales and play structures."
It doesn't hurt that I've written about the challenges and opportunities of diverse schools and live in a neighborhood going through massive gentrification right now, or that I met executive editor Carol Lloyd at #EWA13 last week. Image via GreatSchools.
Watch Maine School Engages Kids With Problem-Solving Challenges on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour."Teachers have swapped traditional curriculum for an unusually comprehensive science curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving, with a little help from some robots."
Chicago Students Worried 'About Their Own Death' (CBS Sunday Morning via DNA Info)
The recent discussion about David Brooks' column on "engaged" vs. "detached" writers reminded me that, little more than two years ago, I posted this respectful but critical entry about NYU education historian Diane Ravitch's views about school reform efforts, which were somethat new at the time:
Later on today, education historian Diane Ravitch is going to head out from her Brooklyn Heights home and make her way into the city to be a guest on tonight's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" for the first time since May 2003.
The Comedy Central appearance will be a tremendous victory for Ravitch, who has been pushing to get on one of the two shows in the 11 p.m. time slot for almost a year now. It will be a happy moment, too, for all of the educators and parents who have welcomed Ravitch into their arms.
For me, however, Ravitch's appearance will be another moment to reflect on the nagging unease I have with what she's saying -- and in particular the absolute certainty with which she is saying it.
Full post: Diane Ravitch's Stunning Certainty
Clearly, Ravitch is the category of the engaged writer, and I'm probably more in the detached camp. Ravitch's response to my column was to call Jossey-Bass, the folks who were then publishing my book about Locke High School, and demand to have her blurb removed from the back cover of the book.
Today begins the Education Writers Association annual conference, being held this year at Stanford University's school of education.*
Last year's version was at UPenn's school of education, and this one is apparently going to be even bigger and better-attended. Some folks are fresh off the airplane or road, but many seem to be combining the event with AERA and/or NSVF and/or GreatSchools. Follow along at #ewa13. NYT columnist Thomas Friedman will be here to speak - he's everywhere in education these days.
Already last night I had the chance to catch up with the College Board's Peter Kauffmann and to meet David Coleman, as well as to meet a journalist named David Bornstein who writes "Fixes" for the New York Times and has an interesting new solutions-oriented journalism project he's working on.
As always, it's great seeing familiar faces -- including Linda Lenz, Stephanie Banchero, Greg Toppo -- and fun to meet people I've only talked to on the phone or emailed (like Russlynn Ali and David Lomax yesterday at NSVF). Please feel free to come up and say hello (with apologies if I can't talk because I have to do some blogging).
*Funny sidebar about the Stanford education school: As a sophomore here, I walked in and asked if I could major in education and they said 'nope.' At the time (mid 1980s) many ed schools like Stanford were Masters'-only -- a situation that has long since changed. I don't know if I would have followed up if the answer had been different, or would have liked the courses very much, or followed a different path after college. As a senior I gave a bit of thought about moving to LA and teaching there under an emergency certificate -- the only option that existed. But I heard bad things from friends who'd taken the emergency route, and so I taught private school instead, and went to grad school, and etc.
This is a guest commentary from longtime journalist Richard Lee Colvin comparing the current debate over the leadership of LAUSD to a similar one that took place more than a decade ago -- in San Diego:
But, in this one, philanthropists and other moneyed interests spent big money backing reform candidates whose opponents enjoyed the strong support of the teacher union. It featured lots of partisan campaign ads, some that pushed right up to the edge of truth. The fate of the aggressive superintendent, who had made improving teacher effectiveness the centerpiece of his administration, seemed to hang in the balance.
The election I’m talking about took place in 2000 in San Diego, not Los Angeles earlier this year. But the similarities are such that an analysis of the former yields insights that may be relevant to the latter as well.
In Los Angeles, Superintendent John Deasy had deep-pocketed supporters including New York City’s billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist Eli Broad contributed nearly $4 million to support friendly candidates in the primary. (Another $600,000 has been put into a run-off for one of the seats.) The results were mixed in the primary, with one Deasy supporter winning and the incumbent union loyalist retaining his seat.
The superintendent in San Diego was Alan Bersin, who had been the U.S Attorney in San Diego before being hired in 1998 as one of the country’s first non-traditional superintendents.
I was somewhat surprised at the lack of pushback against the big This American Life episodes about school violence earlier this year, so you can imagine my interest in coming across this letter written by a disappointed Chicago high school teacher named DJ Cashmere (@cashmeredaniel) to This American Life's Ira Glass about the coverage of Harper High School in two recent shows:
"While I understand that you were interested in investigating the impact of violence on Harper, I was still stunned that education and learning were completely absent from a two-hour broadcast about a school. In the end, I believe that your coverage served to excuse many of the most harmful practices in our schools today and perpetuate some of the most harmful myths about urban education."
Read the letter and let us know if you think it's a fair critique. Did the show convey an imbalance of compassion over a critical eye? Did the show convey the belief that gangs were inevitable?
Watch Creating a New Planet for Math and Science: Super STEM on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.Creating a Whole New Planet for Math and Science via PBSNewsHour
Even before the misinformation and hacking of the last few days, there's lots of chatter in recent weeks and months about how Twitter is broken -- no longer as useful or fun as it used to be. (Here's one of several examples, via Ezra Klein The problem with Twitter.)
My experience has been pretty mixed.Sometime last week, my main Twitter feed (alexanderrusso) reached 10,000 Twitter followers -- the product of more than 17,000 tweets over the past two or three years. People used to ask about pageviews but now ask about Twitter followers. I'm happy and proud to be reaching a bunch of folks (in theory, at least).
I started out just Tweeting out blog posts - and that's still roughly half of what you see coming out from my Twitter feed. Then I started interacting on Twitter, retweeting things that seemed interesting and writing a few "original" messages out to friends and enemies. Most recently, I started sending out "Five Best Blogs" via Twitter, since there seemed no point in collecting the best posts I found until the end of the day (and I turned out to be too lazy to copy and paste them back into a blog post when Happy Hour was so close at hand). Most recently, I've been tweeting out things I find over the weekend, since I apparently don't have anything else to do.
The upside of the tool has been reaching and engaging with a broader audience who prefers short bursts of text vs. slightly longer blog posts. The downside is having folks I don't follow or don't think offer much useful information tweeting at me all day -- their messages showing up in Hootsuite as "mentions" when in reality they're just trying to get my attention and bait me into responding to them.
This used to happen in comments, of course, but seems to have gotten worse in recent years -- partly for reasons having nothing to do with Twitter (the debate has become more polarized.) Speaking of comments, twitter has also lowered comments posted directly on the blog, since readers now want and expect their responses be out in the world (viewable via Twitter, Facebook, etc.) My efforts to install social commenting have thus far been incomplete.
For whatever reasons, what happens less and less is me finding (or even looking for) good commentary or links on Twitter. There are only so many columns you can set up on Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, and only so much time to follow along and hope not to have missed something good that came through five minutes earlier. And of course there are so many more folks on Twitter, so much more blathering. I like the equalizing/democratizing effect, and the theoretical access to new ideas and perspectives, but it's become a very noisy cafeteria. Image via CCFlickr.
There's been lots of discussion online this past week about Jonathan Cohn's New Republic article on the chaotic and low-quality system we have for childcare in America, titled The Hell of American Day Care.
Though obviously the kids are younger and only 40 percent of them are involved, anyone taking a few minutes to read it will see a lot of similarities to K-12 education: huge variations in quality and cost depending on location and family income, low pay and limited screening for effectiveness, lack of data about program quality, political obstacles to expansion (conservatives, usually, though I'm sure some of today's reform critics would find things to object to in a national childcare program), a patchwork of state and local programs with very little national oversight, the slow pace of change:
"The United States has always been profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of supporting child care outside the home, for reasons that inevitably trace back to beliefs over the proper role of women and mothers. At no point has a well-organized public day care system ever been considered the social ideal."
Interestingly, the DoD has developed one of the few high quality childcare systems -- nearly all of its programs meet NAEYC standards, compared to 10 percent in the private sector. Head Start is narrowly targeted on the poor -- more on that elsewhere. A broader plan passed Congress but was vetoed by President Nixon. Image via TNR.
A couple of weeks from now will be the broadcast premier for the PBS "TED Talks Education" which is slated to include talks from familiar names (Bill Gates, Geoffrey Canada) and new ones -- to me, at least (Angela Duckworth , Ramsay Musallam, and Pearl Arrendondo, among others).
This post is mostly just an excuse to use the Washington Post's parent trigger image (a riff on the famous "Easy" button from Staples), and to link to some recent stories on LA School Report. But it's also a chance to rebut Valerie Strauss's highly selective and inaccurate post about the parent trigger, which ignores all the career Democrats who are involved with and support the trigger and bypasses the latest events in Los Angeles where the trigger is being used in interesting new ways that don't involve lawsuits or ousting school board members.
John Merrow’s recent blog post, Who Created “Michelle Rhee?", distinguishes between the flesh and blood person named Michelle Rhee and the "Michelle Rhee" phenomenon.
Merrow says that the force that Rhee symbolizes was created by herself, the mass media, some corporate reformers and, above all, “U,” or union militancy.
After citing “Michelle Rhee” as a reaction to union intransigence, Merrow describes the union as a reaction to administrative policies that infantilized teaching.
Merrow then concludes, “‘They,’ we and U created the social phenomenon that is ‘Michelle Rhee.’” It would have ruined his alliteration, but Merrow should replace the U, for unions, with T, for teachers. We Ts are the U.
Merrow criticized a 17-year-old statement by a Philaldelphia union leader who said that teachers should not be evaluated on student performance because there are too many variables that can't be parsed. I agree. I suspect that most teachers and most Americans agree.
Merrow says that those words are burned into his memory, and he repeated them in his The Influence of Teachers. A few pages later, however, he acknowledged the dangers of allowing administrators to conduct evaluations using test score growth and he copped to the charge of being inconsistent.
In this case, context is crucial. At the time, Philadelphia schools were run by David Hornbeck who was as much of an ideologue as "Michelle Rhee." This non-educator also came to the job with flavor of the month theories, as well as the belief, "You are either against the children or for them."
Merrow should rewatch his previous documentary and, with the benefit of hindsight, see if he can deny that the union leader was right.-JT (@drjohnthmpson) Image via.
Let's begin by stipulating that any comparisons between the environmental movement and the current school reform movements are ridiculous in the extreme. The environment and public education are totally different, and the issues, histories, and evolution of the movements to improve them are far-fetched, not worth your time.
Then, let's talk about Nick Lemann's latest New Yorker article, What Happened to the Environmental Movement?
Loosely built around a review of a recent book and several reports about the history of the environmental movement, the gist of Lemann's piece is that the environmental movement had its biggest successes (Earth Day, the Clean Water Act, etc.) long ago in the 1970s when it was still highly decentralized and community-specific.
Lemann describes that period as "educational, school-based, widely distributed, locally controlled, and mass-participatory."
The movement's worst failures (most notably 2010's cap and trade debacle) take place when the movement has gone mainstream, according to Lemann: "Even as the environmental movement has become an established presence in Washington, it has become less able to win legislative victories."
There's been lots of direct mail and social media outreach, too, of course -- but the enviro groups of today treat the public as a kind of background chorus rather than as real leaders, and thus lacks the "ability to generate thousands of events that people actually attend—the kind of activity that creates pressure on legislators."
There's lots more -- Theda Skocpol, the issue of federated structures and concrete individual benefits vs. broad based social goods. Image via New Yorker.
MSNBC Promo About Raising Children ‘Collectively’ Becomes News (TV Newser); Do We Underinvest in Public Schools? (Bloomberg)
From last night's PBS NewsHour.
Sarah Garland's Divided We Fail is a carefully crafted history of desegregation in Louisville, Kentucky. It is also is a warning to reformers in education (or any other social sector?) seeking to remedy the great and complicated evils of history.
Garland mourns the final defeat of desegregation, as she notes that it was toppled by dissatisfaction by both whites and blacks over the way it was implemented. She also reminds us of integration's successes, and how black student achievement increased more in the 1970s when bussing to achieve racial balance was at its peak.
Reading the twists in desegregation cases, I invariably had two responses - "Wow! I didn't know that!," and "Wow? What would I have done?"
There's a newish education site out there called Education Dive, which purports to give readers "The Education Industry in 60 Seconds."
I'm not sure what need or niche it fills, or how good a job it does -- seems sort of like a pretty version of EdSurge. Here are some recent posts:
*Jamaal Abdul-Alim, a correspondent for Diverse Issues in Higher Education (the national push to hold teacher preparation programs more accountable for student achievement);
*Lauren Smith Camera, a staff writer for CQ Roll Call (whether federal funding in the form of a competitive grant is a good investment); and,
*Annie Murphy Paul, a magazine writer and book author (why American undergraduates are not learning critical thinking skills in their college years.).
Congrats to all of them. Read more here: Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism J-School announces 2013-14 Spencer Fellows
Thus far four books (plus two more under contract and a few others in the process) have already come out from Spencer Fellows, along with a number of notable feature magazine articles, award-winning radio shows, etc.
With some notable exceptions, the Spencer Fellowship program seems to have identified important education topics for books and other long-form projects that would not otherwise have been produced (including my book about Locke High School). Check out the list here.
The results have generally been successful, by and large, in terms of producing quality journalism, though the program's only real breakout success so far is Elizabeth Green's NYT Sunday Magazine story about Doug Lemov from February 2010. Perhaps the books that she and other Spencer alumni are working on will engage the wider public and -- this is what every Spencer Fellow wants to do -- change the conversation around education.
Remember DonorsChoose? Still around. And this promo video featuring Harlem teacher named James Walter Doyle (!) is super sweet but that hasn't stopped 130,000 folks from watching it. (That's viral, right?) Or maybe it's the lilac button-down he's sporting. Via ViralVideos. He's also been featured in GQ.
So, should we care if her own children attend private schools?
Strauss' logic is that if one of her kids attends a private school that employs educational "approaches that are counter to the test-centric public-school reform agenda" that Rhee supports then she is a hypocrite.
The problem with this thinking is two-fold.
First, Rhee's position is that American public schools are awful. Her evidence for this is pretty weak, but given that she believes it it wouldn't be surprising if she decided against enrolling one of her kids in a system she thinks is in such desperate need of improvement.
Second, it's not even clear what, precisely, is offered by the private school in question that Rhee wouldn't also wish for every other child in the country.
Does Rhee oppose students reaching their "highest intellectual ability in the sciences, the humanities, and the arts"? Or teaching students "to think critically, to lead confidently, and to live honorably"?
I see no evidence that Rhee has any objections to these things in public schools.
Nor should we be scandalized if Rhee doesn't believe that the best methods for achieving these lofty educational goals for her children are the best methods for all children. Rhee's children are young people of considerable privilege; Rhee's reform efforts focus primarily (although not exclusively) on schools serving the seriously under-privileged.
The fact is that different students have different educational needs. Trying to meet those diverse needs within a heterogeneous classroom - that is, "differentiation" - is widely considered an important part of the job for skillful teachers.
So we shouldn't be horrified at the possibility that different schools serving very different populations of students look very different educationally. Frankly, I'd be concerned if they didn't.
None of which is to say that Rhee's preferred methods for urban public schools - or those used at elite private schools - are good or even well-suited to their respective target students.
Whether those methods are effective or appropriate, however, is really the fundamental issue in education reform. And that issue is illuminated not at all by poorly-informed efforts to politicize Michelle Rhee's parenting. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)
NBPC is the outfit behind the documentary, which was also funded in part by the Ford Foundation, and according to Jones was conceived of as a way to deepen the school reform conversation but not necessarily as a response or rebuttal.
Jones puts the core question the film raises this way: "How could this person [Principal Minor, pictured] who se so clearly smart in a real pratical way as well as passionate about these kids -- working at full capacity every day -- how could she be doing all this and it still sucked like this?"
I came away from the conversation much enlighted about some of the issues that had intrigued me -- especially the question of what if anything could have been done differently -- and informed about the thinking behind the scenes that were (and weren't) shown.
Former EdSectoran Susan Headdan is joining Tom Toch at the Stanford University-based Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. "She will initially focus on teacher improvement and student motivation as a member of Carnegie’s Washington, D.C. team."
Longtime journalist Nancy Zuckerbrod left AP to join StudentsFirst, left there several months ago, and has now apparently landed at KSA Plus Communications in DC.
After more than seven years with Broad Foundation, Erica Lepping is moving over to SF-based Larson Communications, which specializes in education clients. She's staying in SoCal, though.
Other folks on the move, either journalists or communications folks or otherwise? Let me know at thisweekineducation at gmail.com.
There are at least two education-related articles in the 2013 National Magazine Awards Finalists list that came out earlier today. The first is Peg Tyre's September 2012 Atantic Magazine article, The Writing Revolution, which described a (pre-Hurricane Sandy) writing program at a Staten Island high school that actually seemed to help low-income kids learn. The second is a Chicago Magazine article by David Bernstein, Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance, which describes how political candidates sometimes work with gang leaders to get themselves elected and govern.
They only share 16 percent of the same followers, according to a piece by Mike Petrilli from a little while ago. And Andy Smarick and Jeanne Allen only overlap 24 percent.
You'd think they'd have lots of followers in common.
Maybe someone's figured out why, or found another way to measure social media overlap?
Via Education Next (Tweet Thine Enemy)
Watch 180 Days : A Year Inside an American High School Episode 2 on PBS. See more from 180 Days.I'm doing my best to goet some additional information about the outcomes and the story behind the making of the show.
Watch 180 Days : A Year Inside an American High School Episode 1 on PBS. See more from 180 Days.Maybe you missed it last night. Maybe you're wondering what a Ford Foundation-funded education documentary looks like (as opposed to a Gates Foundation-funded one). Maybe you just can't get enough of this stuff, or want to catch up with the series before Part 2 airs tonight.
Is interactive media any different from old-fashioned TV time? Is the iPad any more addictive -- or informative -- than previous technology? Really, just go read the article.
Here's the audio from last week's Hechinger Report event at Columbia's Teachers College, which as you may recall included some testy/insightful? comments from the Annenberg Institute's Warren Simmons about young white women writing books about poor black and brown communities.
Liz Willen, director of the Hechinger Institute, moderated the panel (titled Reconciling Race, Community and School Reform). The other panelists were Sarah Carr, Sarah Garland, and Amy Stuart Wells. There was some lovely wine and cheese afterwards.
"Two African-American Boys Enter a Prestigious Private School and Their Families Confront the Opportunities and Frustrations Presented by the Changing Face of Success in America" (POV) Airing this Fall.
Via PBS NewsHour [this is a rebroadcast, right?]
The big news is that Stephanie Simon, formerly of the WSJ and now of Reuters, wins for National Education Coverage, along with a special citation for Betsy Hammond, Oregon Education Reporting. Hammond also gets a nod for IR in Diplomas Denied. Another double winner is Peg Tyre, who wins and shows for feature writing with her stories The Writing Revolution and Making the Grade: When Do Kids Deserve A's?. Last but not least, Mike Petrilli and all the folks at Fordham win best blog for the Gadfly, thoroughly trouncing their EdSector rivals at The Quick and the Ed. Image via EWA.
Some of the people who've seen Blackboard Wars -- the Oprah Winfrey Network reality series about the effort to fix a New Orleans high school -- are objecting to the depiction of the kids, teachers, and school.
One blog post against the show calls it “Cops” meets “Dangerous Minds,” describing the show as promoting a tired trope about urban teen violence and exploiting poor kids "for ratings and national school reform cred."
To be sure, the decision to invite cameras into John Mac was a controversial one -- not only in the school community -- where 90 percent of kids but only half the teachers signed release forms -- but also within Future Is Now Schools, the nonprofit charged with making things better there. I've written extensively about FIN founder Steve Barr and am no stranger to his strengths and weaknesses as a school reform leader.
But I have to ask, how is Blackboard Wars really all that different underneath it all from This American Life's recent depiction of life at Garfield Harper High School in Chicago, which generated widespread admiration and (so far as I know) very little backlash locally or otherwise?
Refreshingly the teens are treated as individuals, rather than superficial representatives of their race or economic status (or merely as victims of the environment they've been born into). Remember: "Red band trailer" means so volume down or headphones up if you're at work (swear words!). Here's the NYT review.
Some of the best and worst reporting and commentary since yesterday is rounded up in this post I wrote over at LA School Report ( Tea Leaves, Wishful Thinking, & Self-Justifications).
As you’ll see, the roundup items include questions about the ineffectiveness of the attacks on Zimmer, a couple of stories that wonder why the Coalition took Zimmer on in the first place, and some attempts to connect the LAUSD race to education elections in other places.
There are also an awful lot of quotes from USC’s Dan Schnur -- brother of Jon -- and an LA Times headline that comes to a much stronger conclusion about the outcome than anyone else except perhaps Diane Ravitch.
Careful scrutiny of this map and the accompanying announcement should give you a good sense of where Ed News Network aims to head next.
Celebrity endorsements are nothing new, but the LAUSD School Board race (primary day is today) may be the first time that local school board candidates are getting them. So far, challenger Kate Anderson has Eva Longoria, and incumbent Steve Zimmer has John Lithgow, and incumbent Monica Garcia has singer John Legend.
Contrary to what you may have heard (and the arguments you may have won or lost as a result) there are way more black men in college than in prison. Or at least that's what The American Prospect is telling me.