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SOTU 2013: Four Great Education Ideas Obama Won't Mention Tonight

image from www.wired.comSo far, at least, I've come up with a measly handful of things that President Obama could propose and implement without Congressional approval -- neither of which is likely to get mentioned tonight or done anytime soon.  

But they're good ideas -- take a look, White House speechwriters! -- and others have lots of ideas. They're not going to happen, either -- and hey, it's possible that something could come out of tonight's speech.  Unlikely, but possible. 

Herewith, 4 Russo recommendations (none of them really my ideas) for actions Obama could take on the education front in his speech tonight, related to high-intensity tutoring, charter school diversity, an audit of testing, and a renewed call for equitable teacher distribution (Vergara!).

Image: The Dialectic, via Wired

Continue reading "SOTU 2013: Four Great Education Ideas Obama Won't Mention Tonight" »

Update: Duncan-Starr "Liar" Beef Heats Up

Via Valerie Strauss, who notes that Duncan weighed in against Starr for NYC but doesn't mention that (a) she wrote the story (and some considered it to be journalistically problematic) and (b) that Duncan also used to tout test score increases when he was a superindent in Chicago so he's calling himself out as well as everyone else. 

Video: "Take Dead Aim On The Rich Boys" (Rushmore)


In anticipation of tomorrow night's class-based State Of The Union speech, enjoy this scene from 1998's prep school classic, Rushmore. "They can buy anything, but they can't buy backbone." via Gothamist

AM News: High-Scoring Success For All Not Cool Enough For USDE

News2Success for All Again Scores Big, And Loses, in i3 Contest Politics K12: For two years in a row, Baltimore-based school turnaround organization Success for All has earned the top score in the scale-up category of the federal Investing in Innovation contest, only to be passed over, U.S. Department of Education records confirm.

New York Wants To Give Special Education Kids Easier Tests Like 'The Old South,' Advocate Says Huffington Post: Should students with disabilities be held to the same academic standards and tests as other kids their age? That decades-old question is being revived by a debate in New York. Some advocates charge that a proposed tweak to the state's No Child Left Behind update may shortchange vulnerable students -- and, if approved, could spread to other states. 

De Blasio, a Critic of Charter Schools, May Need Them for His Pre-K Agenda NYT: Mayor de Blasio is looking for classroom space and qualified teachers to accommodate 50,000 prekindergartners. Charter schools are willing, but not allowed to provide prekindergarten.

Arizona Hopes New Charter Schools Can Lift Poor Phoenix Area NYT: A movement in Phoenix to open 25 high-performing schools in the next five years is focused on test scores in the growing Latino population

Most D.C. residents give public schools low ratings in poll Washington Post: The share of District residents who think that the city’s public schools are performing well has more than doubled since the mid-1990s, but most continue to give low ratings to the schools.

Teachers union set to demand salary hike of 17.6 percent LA School Report: The UTLA House of Representatives last night voted to demand a significant salary hike for teachers — an increase of nearly 20 percent.

In Age of School Shootings, Lockdown Drills Are the New Duck-and-Cover NYT: At the whiff of a threat, a generation growing up in the shadow of Columbine and Sandy Hook is trained to snap off the lights, lock the doors and take refuge in corners and closets.

More news below and from overnight on Twitter (@alexanderrusso)

Continue reading "AM News: High-Scoring Success For All Not Cool Enough For USDE" »

Afternoon Video: Rev. Wright Slams Obama At Teachers Union Event

As you may have read (Politico had it first that I saw) earlier this week, Chicago Teachers Union invited firebrand Reverend Jeremiah Wright to speak at an MLK-related breakfast Wednesday morning, and from what I've seen since then Wright didn't disappoint. Watch video above (via HuffPost) or click below for other news coverage.

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Thompson: Countdown to Universal NCLB Proficiency

NclbAs we begin another spring testing season, educators will further highlight the educational malpractice being imposed on our students by bubble-in accountability. This year, we will also showcase the countdown to the failure of NCLB to meet its accountability targets. 

Surprisingly, true believers in high-stakes testing aren't ignoring the law's anniversary and its target of 100% proficiency. The Democrats for Education Reform Statement Marks the Twelfth Anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act press release brags that "NCLB’s policies are now a permanent part of the education policy landscape."

DFER's Charlie Barone was an architect of NCLB and yet he proclaims the truth that reformers usually prefer to duck. He compares "current reform efforts on issues like standards, assessments, choice, teacher evaluation, and tenure" to NCLB.

If you liked NCLB, you will love DFER's, Arne Duncan's, and the Billionaires Boys Club's versions of NCLB-type testing on steroids. I'm curious, however, about the data that DFER cites to celebrate the output-driven mandates of the last twelve years. It links to data produced by "its inexorable march forward" to top-down micromanaging of our diverse nation's schools. It shows the $1000 per low-income student, per year increase in Title I, input-driven spending.  DFER remains silent about any supposed increases in student performance.  

The noneducators who gave us NCLB and the even worse policies of the Duncan administration remain preoccupied with their political fights.  Their lesson from NCLB is focused on "those pushing back," i.e. their adult nemeses. Once again, reformers show themselves oblivious to real-world outputs, the effects of their handiwork on poor students of color.-JT(@drjohnthompson)Image via. 

Morning Video: Awesome Student Introduction Of President Obama

Harlem Children's Zone student introduced President Obama at last week's Promise Zone announcement:

Remember, Promise Zones and Promise Neighborhoods are different things and that claims surrounding the original Harlem Children's Zone have been challenged and attempts to replicate it have been difficult. New York Daily News Via HuffPost and ChalkbeatNY


Morning Video: Duncan Rolls Out New School Discipline Guidelines

Watch the announcement above (or here) or click here to watch a PBS NewsHour segment on whether the announcement will have positive impacts or not.

Afternoon Video: White House Seeks Classroom Videographers

 Find out more about the White House Film Fest -- then submit your entry


The White House is looking for student filmmakers to share short films about " the power of technology in classrooms" -- the deadline is January 29.

Media: About That Front-Page Washington Post Story...

ScreenHunter_02 Jan. 07 12.01The past week or so has seen a small resurgence of questions about the Washington Post's hard-working education blogger, Valerie Strauss, whose offerings at The Answer Sheet have generally run contra the current reform movement.

First word of it that I saw came from Patrick "Eduflack" Riccards, who raised questions about the appropriateness of having Strauss write a 12/31 front-page story (given her record as a blogger) and poked holes in the reporting and writing of the piece itself (about Duncan's possible involvement in the NYC chancellor selection process). Read it here: Personal Agendas and Objective Reporting.

Strauss usually writes for online only, not in print, and isn't an education columnist in the traditional sense like the Post's Jay Mathews or the Times' former education columnists Michael Winerip, Richard Rothstein, or Sam Freedman. But her work -- or should I say the guest posts she frequently runs? -- appears under the Post banner online, and the distinctions between different categories of stories aren't always apparent online, anyway.

Andy Rotherham has some additional thoughts about the story's lack of context here.

EdWeek's PoliticsK12 blog also published this entry (How Much Sway Does Arne Duncan Have in Local Decisions, Anyway?) noting Strauss's tendency towards "sometimes" criticism of the Obama administration's education policies and its main advocate, Arne Duncan and that it's unclear if Duncan's input would have had any effect, anyway. 

I would only add that we still don't know whether the story was pitched or not, and by whom, or who advocated for it within the newsroom.  Regardless, the Washington Post editors who assigned and edited and placed the story so prominently-- not just Strauss -- who are responsible for the quality and appropriateness of the story, as well as its placement on the front page, as well as that it was a holiday week and other reporters may not have been available.  

Previous posts: Who Are Education's Biggest Trolls (Besides Me)?WashPost Blog Irks Reformy BloggerDebating Valerie Strauss. More here. Disclosure: Strauss has run one or two pieces that I've written -- and turned down one or two as well. 

Morning Video: Weingarten Vague On Testing Delays, Specific On DC Successes

Click this half-hour CSPAN video from just before the holidays above (or here if it doesn't load properly) and/or read this PoliticsK12 blog post about the appearance (AFT's Weingarten Talks Michelle Rhee, Common Core, Pitfalls in Obama's Education Strategy) which highlights Weingarten's stance on standardized testing uses and on DC's recent successes.

AM News: Universal Preschool -- Can De Blasio Do What Obama Hasn't?


De Blasio Launches Formal Campaign for Pre-K WNYC: The mayor-elect unveiled its first video at the childcare center Friends of Crown Heights. He was surrounded by children's advocates from several organizations, as well as the economist Jeffrey Sachs—who is among several luminaries lending his name to the cause. 

Formal Beginning to de Blasio’s Plan to Expand, and Pay for, Prekindergarten NYT: Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has lined up celebrities and other notables in an effort to marshal public support for a tax on high-earners to improve New York City’s prekindergarten and after-school programs.

Texas Shuttering Campuses At Six Charter Schools Texas Tribune: Identified for closure under the law are American Youthworks in Austin; Azleway Charter School in Tyler; Honors Academy in Farmers Branch; and Jamie's House Charter School, Koinonia Community Learning Academy, and the Richard Milburn Academy in Houston. Several of the schools focus on serving troubled youth or high school dropouts.

School Leaders On What Determines Student Success NPR: Host Michel Martin continues her conversation with school leaders about students' math and reading skills.

D.C. adopts new K-12 science standards Washington Post: The D.C. State Board of Education voted Wednesday to adopt new K-12 science standards meant to strengthen science education by prioritizing critical thinking and problem solving over memorization of facts.

How to Share Space and Still Get Along WNYC: This week, the Department of Education and the New York City Charter School Center, via NYC Collaborates, brought a group of principals together to talk about how to share nicely, or nicer anyway. Here are their top four lessons.

Chicago Board of Ed: Downsized headquarters, supersized contract, and military school WBEZ: Chicago’s school board approved a number of measures at the monthly board meeting Wednesday:

How young newsmakers helped shape the world in 2013 PBS NewsHour:From drone strikes and cutting edge medical research, to Hollywood talent and European immigration, youth from around the world challenged us to view their issues more compassionately and unite across ideological lines. We look back at some of the year's top young newsmakers.

AM News: USDE Withdraws SIG Report Due To Errors


U.S. Department of Education to Redo SIG Analysis Due to Contractor Error PoliticsK12: The analysis, which was released just a couple of weeks ago, excluded about half of the schools that entered the newly revamped SIG program in its first year (the 2010-11 school year) and about a third of the schools that started in the second year (the 2011-12 school year.) It's unclear if the do-over will significantly change those conclusions. 

Head Start funding partially restored in federal budget deal EdSource Today: Head Start lost about 57,000 slots for children, including more than 5,600 in California, because of cuts under federal sequestration, a program of automatically triggered, across-the-board spending cuts. These cuts have continued to ripple through Head Start operations month by month as they cycle through their federal grant processes.

Arrest Leads to Shake-Up of Alexander's Leadership Team PoliticsK12: Longtime Capitol Hill staffer and edu-nerd extraordinaire David Cleary, the GOP staff director for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has become the chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Alexander, a former U.S. secretary of education, currently serves as the top GOP lawmaker on the Senate education committee. 

Mike Huckabee's "Common Core is Dead" Line Not What He Told State Chiefs State EdWatch:The former Arkansas governor said he is dissatisfied with the implementation of the common core and how it has become "hijacked" by other interests.

Charter Leader Denies Insider's Advantage WNYC: “I’m not suggesting that I don’t know anyone at Tweed, I do,” she said, referring to the D.O.E.'s headquarters. “So if you’re saying can I pick up the phone and call folks, yes, I can. But does that mean from a policy perspective I’ve gotten any advantages? Absolutely not.”

Lots more news below.

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Quotes: "Public Investment Hasn't Withered" [Like Obama Says]

Quotes2There’s no clear trend for public spending on education as a percentage of the U.S. economy, but public investment hasn’t withered. -- FackCheck.org 

Charts: US Education Spending Not As Dire As Obama Claimed

image from cdn.factcheck.orgFactCheck.org took a look at President Obama's claim last week that education spending was withering over time and came to the conclusion that he was wrong (Obama on Education Investments). "It has increased from 4.7 percent [of GDP]in 1985 to 5.1 percent in 2010 with ups and downs along the way."

Quotes: Pay No Attention To The Money We're *Already* Spending

It’s fascinating to watch a lot of armchair quarterbacking [about Duncan’s competitive grant and waiver programs]... People never want to critique money that goes to prop up the status quo. -- TN state commissioner Kevin Huffman in Stephanie Simon's recent Politico piece

Morning Video: What Students Should Know - & How They Should Learn It

"In the past, public school standards varied state to state. With backing from the federal government, some governors and superintendents collaborated on a national "Common Core." But they define only the "what" -- what kids should know, not how they should be taught." (Defining What Public School Students Should Know) Rebroadcast from 08/2013

Quotes: Sherriff Duncan "All Out Of Bullets"?

In 2009, Arne was the new sheriff in town, with big boxes of ammunition and a shiny new gun. Now, it’s later in the movie and he’s all out of bullets and he’s trying to scare states by shaking a stick at them. - Rick Hess in Stephanie Simon's recent Politico piece

Quotes: Civil Rights Groups "Disappointed" On Teacher Equity

Quotes2The 50-state strategy [to ensure equitable distribution of effective teachers] should have been started 12 years ago. [The new waiver renewal guidance is] disappointing, and it sends a message that it's not at the top of their agenda. -- EdTrust's Kate Tromble in EdWeek (Civil Rights Groups Wary on Waiver-Renewal Guidelines

Thompson: Would Obama Consider $5B SIG Program Successful?

Arne_DuncanIn 2009, Arne Duncan must have told President Obama that his School Improvement Grant (SIG) experiment was risky. SIG would cost nearly $5 billion, as it tried to jumpstart the nation's lowest-performing 5,000 schools.  There was no time for laying a foundation for transformational change. In lieu of planning, a top-down governance would be imposed. Principals would be anointed as divine monarchs and told to produce transformational change in only three years - or else.

Collective punishment would be imposed on teachers. This would encourage other teacher-bashers to step up the blame game.  One of the Democratic Party's most loyal constituencies, teachers' unions, would be alienated and the rank-in-file demoralized. If the benefits were only incremental, would a backlash against education be encouraged? 

What would the President have decided if warned that gains on reading tests would only be 2.5 points per year? Could he not anticipate conservatives such as Education Next's Andy Smarick noting "a cost of one billion dollars for each point of improvement in reading proficiency." (emphasis in the original) Had Duncan warned the President that those low performing schools would only increase their reading scores by 1.5 points per year faster than all other schools, would the President have asked about the down sides of a gamble that produced such small benefits? 

Above all, had the President been told that student performance would decline in 1/3rd of schools, would he have asked follow-up questions? Was there something inherent in the federal micromanaging of SIG that would encourage primitive teach-to-the-test that would backfire and make conditions worse for many students?-JT(@drjohnthompson) image via.     

Quotes: Duncan Only Has Himself To Blame, Says Rotherham

Quotes2One reason the suburbs are complacent is that politicians, notable amongst them Duncan and the President, spent a lot of time telling suburban voters there that any law that said 40 percent of the nation’s schools needed improvement was obviously flawed. - Andy "Eduwonk" Rotherham on Common Core pushback

Morning Video: Duncan Does MSNBC's "Morning Joe"


Duncan explains his clumsy remarks re white suburban moms and tries to push through to the launch of his new teacher recruitment/retention effort (also in print news and on WNYC so far today).

Update: White House Defends, Duncan Regrets/Reiterates*

ScreenHunter_07 Nov. 18 22.33

Thanks to Philip Elliott's AP writeup we now know that Obama spokesperson Jay Carney (blue tie above left) defended Arne Duncan (albeit vaguely) at Monday's press briefing, in response to questions form Politico's Jon Allen (gold tie above right). See transcript below or watch video here.) Duncan issued an apology later Monday afternoon but reiterated his point that nobody looks good on Common Core assessments ("every demographic group has room for improvement").

*Updated Tuesday 8:45: Roundup of news coverage begins below the fold (click below).

Continue reading "Update: White House Defends, Duncan Regrets/Reiterates*" »

AM News: President & First Lady Push New Ed Initiatives


Obama to Unveil Competition to Overhaul High School Wall Street Journal: President Barack Obama will unveil a $100 million Youth CareerConnect competition Tuesday aimed at finding new ways to better prepare high-school students.

Michelle Obama Visits '106 & Park' To Talk Higher Education Vibe: Today, First Lady Michelle Obama brought her words of wisdom and encouragement to BET's "106 & Park." She sat down with show hosts Bow Wow and Keshia Chanté to speak about her personal and her family's stance on education.

How Court's Bus Ruling Sealed Differences In Detroit Schools NPR: It's been 40 years since the Supreme Court accepted what became a landmark case about school desegregation. The case was controversial because it involved busing students between a largely African-American city and its white suburban areas. The city was Detroit and the ruling helped cement differences between urban schools and suburban ones.

Homeless Students A Growing Problem For Schools NPR: It's parent-teacher conference time. But for many students across the country, finding a bed at night is top of mind. Host Michel Martin talks about the growing number of homeless students in the U.S., with NPR Education Correspondent Claudio Sanchez, and Larissa Dickinson, a social worker for Mobile County Public Schools in Alabama.

More news below.

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Quotes: "No More Talk About Scared White Suburban Moms"

Quotes2Stay positive and relentlessly talk about how the new standards are rigorous and will help prepare our kids for college and career. No more talk about Tea Partiers, conspiracy theories, the D.C. bubble, the blogosphere or scared white suburban moms. Defend Common Core on its merits. - Andy Smarick giving advice to Arne Duncan and other Common Core supporters in Politico's story this morning.

AM News: Duncan Remarks Anger Common Core Critics


'White moms' remark fuels Common Core clash Politico: Education Secretary Arne Duncan realized fairly quickly that he had stumbled.Two hours later, with those comments sparking outrage on social media, Duncan told POLITICO that he “didn’t say it perfectly.” But he stood by his thesis: To oppose the Common Core is to oppose progress.

Arne Duncan to State Chiefs: Prove Critics Wrong by Setting the Bar Higher EdWeek: Despite the intense tone of some of Duncan's statements, the question-and-answer session had an upbeat tone as state leaders stopped several times to applaud (literally applaud) the changes in renewal requirements.

Press Virtually Mum As Arne Duncan Blames Common Core Opposition on 'White Suburban Moms' Newsbusters: A Washington Post item by Valerie Strauss at its "Answer Sheet" blog quotes a dispatch from Libbly Nelson at the Politico, but does not link to it. I couldn't find a related original story by Nelson at her Politico archive or in a Politico search on Education Secretary Arne Duncan's name (not in quotes).

At Forums, State Education Commissioner Faces a Barrage of Complaints NYT: John B. King Jr. has become a sounding board for crowds of parents, educators and others who equate his name with all they consider to be broken in schooling today.

Money for new curriculum is out, education firms ready sales pitch KPCC:  State funds for the Common Core transition are unique in that they are largely unregulated.  Even though California passed the  Common Core standards in 2010, it has provided schools little guidance on which of the countless books and other materials out there actually meet those standards. The state typically approves teaching materials.

More news below.

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Quotes: Duncan On Lowly Teacher Prep Programs

Quotes2If teaching is - and should be - one of our most revered professions, teacher preparation programs should be among a university's most important responsibilities. Unfortunately, this is the exception, not the rule. --  USDE Secretary Arne Duncan via USA Today

Quotes: Duncan Does Dunbar

Quotes2On a gusty, rainy, recent afternoon, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sat on stage next to two students, an administrator and a teacher, at the head of a big blue auditorium that smelled faintly... - HuffPost's Joy Resmovits describing a recent Career Tech event.

Morning Video: First Lady Recounts Doubtful Teachers

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

First lady recalls teachers doubting her Princeton ambitions NBC News.  See also First Lady Takes Up a New Education Initiative NYT and First lady kicks off education advocacy efforts Washington Post.

#EdGIF of the Day: President Obama Has A Question

image from tinyurl.com
I don't remember where this is from or who made it but thanks! It's one of my favorite #edgifs out there.  What does a teacher do when the President of the United States raises his hand to ask a question?  What's the President asking? Solve the mystery or imagine a caption.

AM News: LAUSD Superintendent Might Stay - Or Not


Momentum builds for retaining Deasy as LAUSD chief LA Daily News: As civic groups mobilized in support of Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy, board member Steve Zimmer expressed optimism Monday that the embattled schools chief can be persuaded to stay on as head of the nation's second-largest district.

Los Angeles Schools Leadership Questioned WSJ: The Los Angeles Unified School District is slated to meet Tuesday to discuss whether to renew its superintendent’s contract—a decision that could change the leadership of the nation’s second-largest school system.

Zimmer: LA Unified Board Wants Deasy to Stay LA School Report: In anticipation of what’s sure to be a long and dramatic school board meeting tomorrow, LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer says he’s optimistic that the board can convince Superintendent John Deasy not to resign as head of the nation’s second largest school district.

L.A. schools improved, but Deasy fell short of ambitious goals LA Times: Supt. John Deasy, whose annual review will be conducted Tuesday, failed to meet many goals he set for himself. Even so, school board members and civic leaders cite long-term gains. 

LAUSD needs Deasy LA Times (editorial page): We don't always agree with him, but the superintendent has excelled in a difficult position.There are so many dramas and mini-disasters at the Los Angeles Unified School District, they have to take a number and line up for attention.

Texas No Child Left Behind waiver means concessions to feds Politico: Critics often tie No Child Left Behind waivers to the Common Core and equate them with operating in the pocket of the federal government. Some say Texas crushed that theory. Others say the state's recently won waiver reinforced it.

New Jersey School District Cancels Testing After Exams Are Leaked on the Internet NYT: The breach of test security in the Montclair, N.J., school district was discovered by a parent on Friday, leading to a “full legal investigation.”

Continue reading "AM News: LAUSD Superintendent Might Stay - Or Not" »

Morning Video: Obama's Brooklyn High School Visit

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

Via MSNBC: "In a speech at a specialized high school in Brooklyn President Obama talks about the importance of education and takes aim at those in congress who he says started the government shutdown."

AM News: Obama Visit Highlights Dual Enrollment, Co-Location

News2Obama's P-Tech Visit Highlights New York School Closure Fights HuffPost: P-Tech's history isn't stopping closure critics, like de Blasio and United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew, from planning Friday appearances at the school for Obama's visit.

Six-Year High School Answer for Tomorrow's Workers? WNYC: Students at the school earn a high school diploma and an associate's degree over six years. The Obama administration says efforts like P-Tech will prepare the next generation of tech workers for jobs at companies like IBM, which sponsors the school. 

Education Secretary Duncan, Gov. Quinn get nanotechnology lesson from ...
Skokie Review: Secretary Arne Duncan visited District 214's Wheeling High School for more than two hours, touring the school's cutting-edge nanotechnology laboratory with Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, R-10th, and several other local leaders.

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy may leave in coming months LA Times: Deasy declined to discuss his intentions Thursday evening, saying that he has not submitted a letter of resignation and that he would have more to say after his job evaluation Tuesday.

Study: Eighth-graders in more than half of US states better than average in ... Washington Post: Eighth-graders in more than half the U.S. states did better than average on an international test in math and science, but the top students lagged behind South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, according to a study released by the federal government Thursday.

Location matters for math and science scores AP: Massachusetts was the top performing state, but it still lagged behind some Asian countries in terms of its students’ overall score on exams and the number of high achievers. Mississippi, Alabama and the District of Columbia students scored below the international average on both exams,

Minnesota takes hands off approach to test cheating MPRN via Hechinger: School district officials must discover test security problems, such as cheating by students or teachers, and report them to the state. Districts typically ask that compromised tests be invalidated. When that occurs,  in most cases, the state’s only requirement is that district officials prove they trained teachers to properly give tests.

Continue reading "AM News: Obama Visit Highlights Dual Enrollment, Co-Location" »

Events: Obama Visiting Brooklyn High School

image from upload.wikimedia.orgSo President Obama is scheduled to visit Brooklyn's P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College) high school in Crown Heights on Friday, and already the locals are complaining.  

First there were all the helicopters flying around overhead on Wednesday.  We're trying to enjoy the leaves down here!

Then came news that beloved Prospect Park -- Brooklyn's Central Park -- would be closed for six hours Friday afternoon.  Six hours!

But it's only about six minutes by bike from my Prospect Heights lair and so I've put in for credentials and will let you know if it all works out.

Image via Wikipedia

AM News: NEA Opposes House-Passed Background Check Bill


U.S. House Approves Bipartisan Background Check Bill Politics K12: Mary Kusler, the NEA's director of government relations, wrote in a letter to lawmakers that the measure is "well intentioned" but could "run counter to existing state laws requiring background checks."

Senator Raises Questions About Protecting Student Data NYT: Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, is investigating whether federal rules governing the sharing of student data provide adequate security and privacy protections.

Local Education Hiring is Up, Even With Sequestration Cuts PoliticsK12: Local government education employment posted a monthly increase of 9,500 jobs, according to the September jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That brought the overall gain to 56,400 jobs since June.

Common Core Reading Survey Shows Slow Start To Teaching Shift HuffPost: Based on an extensive survey of a small but nationally representative sample of teachers last year, the group suggests that teachers mostly have not yet overhauled reading instruction in a way that will herald change. "In summary, these results reveal that many teachers have not yet confronted the new text complexity demands of the Common Core," the report concludes.  [ALSO: Teachers Are Supposed to Assign Harder Books, but They Aren't Doing It Yet AtlanticEDU]

Teacher Who Died Trying To End Shooting Remembered As A Hero NPR: Michael Landsberry was a 45-year-old former U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan with the Nevada Air National Guard.

Nevada School Shooting Draws Fresh Focus on Bullying, Harassment State EdWatch: A new law in Nevada requiring school districts to track and report incidents of bullying could be put to use after a school shooting on Oct. 21.

Continue reading "AM News: NEA Opposes House-Passed Background Check Bill" »

AM News: Toughen Up NCLB Waiver Renewals, Say Reform Groups


Advocacy Groups Urge Arne Duncan to Get Tough on NCLB Waivers PoliticsK12: In a letter sent to the Education Department today, these groups express deep concerns about waiver implementation, from how graduation rates are factored into state accountability systems to how subgroups of at-risk students are being helped.

School iPads to cost nearly $100 more each, revised budget shows LA Times: The L.A. Unified School District will spend $770 per iPad, a 14% increase over earlier cost estimates, the revised budget shows.

Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K NYT: A Stanford psychologist found that affluent children had learned 30 percent more words from 18 months to 2 years of age than children from low-income homes. Video: Middle schooler: Shooter was aiming 'at my chest' NBC: Sparks Middle School shooting survivor Jose Cazares describes the scene inside the school Monday when teacher Michael Landsberry got between him and the 12-year old shooter. 

Sequestration Cuts Lead To Bigger Classes, Shuttered Arts Programs In Schools HuffPost: For the current school year, the group heard back from 298 school districts in 42 states. Eighty-six percent factored sequestration cuts into budgets -- up from 36 last year -- and 144 reported they deferred building maintenance or purchases. Eight closed or consolidated schools.

West Point Women: A Natural Pattern Or A Camouflage Ceiling? NPR: Since 1980, the percentage of women at the U.S. Military Academy has stayed the same, leading some to conclude that the school has set an artificial cap on the number of female cadets that it accepts. Now, West Point has been told it must raise those numbers to meet the demand for more female leaders.

Crash Course on Speaking in Tongues, All 22 of Them NYT: A workshop in Brooklyn was held over three hours, in seven classrooms, featuring classes on nearly two dozen languages taught mostly by native speakers.

For many young D.C. parents, city schools remain a sticking point Washington Post: Public school enrollment in the District has risen nearly 18 percent over the past five years, mostly in the early grades and charter schools, as an increasing number of parents have been persuaded to give D.C. schools a try. 

Study: 15 percent of US youth out of school, work Associated Press: Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working, according to a study released Monday. That's almost 15 percent of those aged 16 to 24 who have neither desk nor job, according to The Opportunity Nation coalition, which wrote the report.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visiting Wheeling Thursday Chicago Daily Herald
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will visit with students at Wheeling High School on Thursday to discuss the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and tour the school's new nano technology laboratory, ...

Crenshaw Digital Team Brings its ‘Game’ to the White House LA School Report: The team, which is sponsored by the grassroots education nonprofit Mother of Many, raised nearly $10,000 for the trip by selling more than 50 gaming apps to Microsoft as part of the company’s “Keep the Cash” app-a-thon. One of the games, “Going Bananas for Health,” is now available on the Windows 8 App Store.

Teaching: Hechinger & Ed Writers Cover Common Core

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Here's an idea: Spend the rest of the day reading @hechinger and @edwriters massive new coverage of Common Core implementation across the states here -- then come back and let us know what you learned or liked best.

GIFS: Mesmerizing Arne Duncan White House Briefing Gestures

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Here's a GIF I made of Arne Duncan at the White House. Anything else you think would make a good education GIF? Let me know in comments or at thisweekineducation at gmail dot com. 

Media: How To Find Arne During The Shutdown? Tweet At Him.

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Education reporters are wondering how to reach EdSec Arne Duncan during the government shutdown, when theoretically nonessential government workers aren't working.  One suggestion?  Tweet at him.  It worked for the NY Daily News' Ben Chapman last week (see above). Or, you could just try reaching his communications staff. That apparently works, too.  Via @edwriters listserv and specifically the WSJ's @lisafleisher.

Morning Video: Duncan's "State Of Education" Speech


Here's the speech from earlier this week, which Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post describes as unusual. I found her observations as interesting as anything Duncan said.

Quotes: The USDE's FY2013 Furniture Spending Spree

Quotes2Of the $667,164 the department spent on office furniture during the 2013 fiscal year, more than $475,000 was spent just last week. -- via Politico 

AM News: Here Come District Race To The Top Amendments


Race to the Top District Winners Already Changing Their Plans PoliticsK12: Already, the Education Department has approved eight amendments ranging from technical to more-significant as the districts seek to fine-tune their projects. If the Race to the Top state contest is any guide, there are many more district amendment requests surely in the pipeline.

Howard County Board of Education react to Ellicott City man's arrest at Common Core forum Baltimore Sun: In Howard County, where the new curriculum was given a test run last year, the Common Core has been the reason cited for removing traditional, stand-alone reading classes in middle schools, lower scores on the Maryland School Assessments and a new teacher and principal evaluation system.

Houston reforms, often overshadowed, now in the limelight with Broad Prize Hechinger: Houston has long been a darling of education reformers with its extensive and deeply rooted charter school network and experimentation with controversial ideas like merit pay for teachers. Still, the city’s efforts to shake up its education system tend to get less notice than places like New Orleans or Washington, D.C., where reforms have led to heated and sometimes vitriolic debates about the role of teachers unions, charter schools and accountability for teachers. 

How to Fund Universal Pre-K WNYC: While there is a huge demand for full-day pre-kindergarten seats, there are plenty of half-day seats unfilled. Why? Geoff Decker, a reporter at GothamSchools, said the half-day schedule doesn't work for most working parents.

From China to Chicago, K12 Inc. markets more than virtual schools Politico: K12 doesn’t break down how many of the 4,500 students enrolled in the International Academy last year were foreign nationals (or how many attended just part-time). But the company says it has significant enrollment from China, Mexico, Brazil and Dubai, where K12 runs a tutoring center at a university complex so students can get face-to-face help, for an extra fee.

Continue reading "AM News: Here Come District Race To The Top Amendments" »

Reform: Why's Everyone So Angry About ObamaCore?

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Thanks to everyone who's been reading (& retweeting) my Slate explainer about the Common Core controversy, which got it (momentarily) onto the front page.  Read it here if you haven't already -- tell me what I left out or got wrong. 

Afternoon Video: Lousiana Gov. Slams Obama Voucher Decision

Is he talking about the USDOJ voucher position or about Common Core?  It's har d to tell (via HuffPost: Louisiana Voucher Lawsuit Opposition Aligns Minority Families With Republican Politicians)

Photos: Mayor Duncan?

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Sure, Arne Duncan has been spending a lot of time lately in the Big Apple (nobody calls it that), but now he's being confused with Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio (upper right, I think). Image via NY Mag (via GS).

Thompson: Tennessee's Rushed Implementation of "Race"

RaceToTheTopElaine Weiss, of the Broader, Bolder Approach, has written an early draft of the history of the Race to the Top.  Her Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Education Improvement recounts the “unrealistic and impossible” promises made by states to win federal grants, and how they are likely to undermine future efforts to improve schools.

Anyone who doubts Weiss’ warnings about the RttT should turn immediately to Appendix Two, a case study on Tennessee’s implementation of the grant, and how it created “a culture of fear.”    

After winning its RttT grant in March, 2110, Tennessee authorized a capacity review of its department of education which concluded that “the organization and the work wasn’t organized in a way that supported implementation.”  

Within four months, however, Tennessee leaped ahead and committed to Common Core standards. Despite anticipating a decline of as much as 50 points on average per grade and subject, state still insisted, “We believe our ultimate goal of 100% proficiency is still the right one—no matter whether the assessment is old or new.” 

The rush to reform accelerated in 2011 when Tennessee tackled the heart of the RttT, its teacher evaluation promises.  Only three months had been allocated for formulating teacher observation tools and training evaluators in their use. A four-day summer session trained over 5,000 evaluators.

Continue reading "Thompson: Tennessee's Rushed Implementation of "Race"" »

Teachers: New Evaluation Quadruples Failing Chicago Teachers

Cps_posterCCLedsimulationBehind all the drama and cussing of the last couple of years, Chicago and its teachers union have developed and now rolled out a new teacher evaluation system to replace the quickie checklist that had been used for years -- largely without complaint.

According to the latest reports, the implementation has gone OK:  

Teachers are confused and worried about being rated in part (25 percent) based on student growth.  

Principals are complaining about having to spend more time evaluating teachers than they used to.

The percentage of nontenured teachers found to be the worst has quadrupled -- to three percent.

EdWeek: Chicago Teachers See Value in New Evaluations, But Eschew Test Scores; Catalyst: New teacher evaluations get positive reviews; Chicago Tribune: No dramatic changes in CPS teacher evaluations; Chicago Sun-Times: Mixed reviews from CEO, principals, teachers

Morning Video: Duncan Returns To Colbert Report

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Society: Julie Chen, Miss America, & Michelle Rhee

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The recent discussions about TV personality Julie Chen's plastic surgery (see above, "required" by her agent, she says), combined with the racist tweets following the crowning of a nonwhite Miss America, reminds me sadly of the racism and sexism that I have seen, read, and sometimes sensed underneath criticisms of education's most prominent Asian-American woman, StudentsFirst founder Michelle Rhee.

A look back at some of the attacks on Rhee suggests that there has been a small but consistent pattern of critics describing Rhee in racist and -- even more commonly -- sexist language.  The fact that this kind of thing is happening is pretty unsettling, whether you agree with Rhee or not.  The fact that it's going un-noticed and un-challenged is even more disturbing. 

image from img.allvoices.comAt times, the racism and/or sexism comes right to the surface.  Most well known perhaps is the time last year when Rhee was called a racist epithet by Miami-Dade educator Ceresta Smith at an anti-reform meeting, as acknowledged and denounced in this Diane Ravitch blog post.

But that certainly wasn't the first time Rhee was described in racist or sexist terms by her critics. The Frustrated Teacher described her using a misogynistic (but not explicitly racist) term, and she was described in sexist terms by DC Mayor Marion Barry. Former MA AFT writer Jennifer (Edushyster) Berkshire used the same sexist slur against Rhee last year. A Daily Kos blogger suggested that Rhee was attempting to "seduce" an HBO host.

Then there are the images.  The AFT-created anti-Rhee blog Rhee First for a time had images of Rhee with her mouth taped shut and with a long Pinnochio nose.  All Voices has a cartoon of Rhee that might be considered offensive, depending on the viewer's sensibilities (see at right).

But most of the time the racism and/or sexism I sense is beneath the surface. The intense personal nature of the attacks against Rhee and her ideas is clear.  Most of Rhee's harshest critics are white, as are those journalists who write about her.  

Of course, accusations of racism are nothing new, and go both ways. Rhee has described some of the coverage of her reign in DC as racist, according to John Merrow, and addresses the media focus on her dress and appearance in a brief AOL video segment here.  She and her policies have been accused of being racist against low-income minority families. No doubt, Rhee says and does some pretty intense things.  (Her recent attack on California's teachers unions is a good example.)

School reform is not show business. I'm not suggesting Rhee needs to change her appearance to make herself more palatable to others, or that her critics are all necessarily racists.  But the same kinds of language are not generally being used publicly & without apology against reform critics (Diane Ravitch, Randi Weingarten, etc.) or even white/male reformers (Wendy Kopp, Arne Duncan, etc.).  And I think we should all think about that. 

Thompson: How "Race To The Top" Went Wrong

Broader_bolderOne of the more damaging aspects of NCLB was that it set impossible targets, contributing to panic and hurried implementation of seemingly quicker and easier policies.  Teachers were essentially deputized as the agents for overcoming the legacies of generational poverty.  NCLB thus failed and undermined more promising methods of improving schools.

Elaine Weiss, of the Broader, Bolder Approach, shows how Race to the Top committed the same mistake.  Her new report (Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Education Improvement) recounts the “unrealistic and impossible” promises made by states to win federal grants.

Weiss draws on studies by the U.S. Department of Education, the Center for American Progress, numerous journalism sources, an email survey of the experiences of district superintendents from the RTTT states, and over two dozen interviews with state and community education leaders to explain why the rush to reform now threatens early education, college readiness standards, and sustainable efforts to improve teacher quality. 

Not surprisingly, the USDOE and NCLB co-author  Charlie Barone complain about Weiss’ study.  But, if it was as biased as Barone implies, would Weiss have buried her lede?  The real meat of her report is found in the appendices.  

Continue reading "Thompson: How "Race To The Top" Went Wrong" »



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