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Bruno: CCSS Supporters Beat A Hasty Retreat

200px-White_flag_waving.svgOnce upon a time, supporters of the Common Core argued passionately that the new math and English standards would, by virtue of their clarity and rigor, substantially improve education in the United States.

In recent weeks, however, supporters - in many cases the very same people - have changed their tone after finding themselves on the defensive about bumps in the road to CCSS implementation.

These days supporters seem to dedicate most of their time to assuring us that the CCSS are not to blame for "fuzzy" math curriculua or "whole language" or questionable history assignments. We are even told that it's just as well if states opt out of the Common Core altogether because they're unlikely to gain much from implementation anyway.

Arguably, all of these defenses of the Common Core are fair. They are also sorely disappointing for at least two reasons.

First, the argument that "standards are not a curriculum" - and therefore cannot be blamed for weak curricula - is essentially a dodge. The point of standards is precisely to motivate and improve curricula, so if bad curricula survive - or even thrive - under the CCSS, so much the worse for the standards.

Second, if the expensive, disruptive Common Core standards are merely "not to blame" for our educational problems, what, precisely, is the point of them?

We are currently in the midst of what may be the most important phase in CCSS implementation: assessment design and field testing. It is the assessments - even as much as the standards themselves - that will drive teachers' day-to-day work and help to realize (or not) whatever promise the standards hold.

So now is a particularly unfortunate time for Common Core supporters to raise the white flag in the battles that - not so long ago - they thought they were winning. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Quotes: Duncan Responds To Criticism Of Data Privacy Guidance

Quotes2We created a new Chief Privacy Officer. We've put out guidance recently, and where it needs to be strengthened going forward -- and not just us, but everybody, states, districts, schools, myself as a parent trying to figure it out everyday with my kids. This is not one that you're going to issue some guidance and that's the Bill of Rights for the next 100 years. -- Arne Duncan (Arne Duncan Responds to Criticism Over Student Data Privacy EdWeek)

Politics: Your Favorite Liberal Lawmaker Supports Universal Vouchers*

image from www.newyorker.comMaybe you knew this already but liberal darling US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) supports private school vouchers -- for everyone.*

US News had the story in 2012 (Elizabeth Warren's Quiet Support for Public School Vouchers), and it comes up again in the latest New Yorker as part of a review of her new book (Reading Elizabeth Warren).

Warren doesn't just support vouchers in special circumstances, like special education placements or DCPS.  She wants to give them to everyone, everwhere.  

As quoted in the New Yorker piece, Warren has written that 

“An all-voucher system would be a shock to the educational system, but the shakeout might be just what the system needs.”

According to Warren, those "public" schools in expensive enclaves aren't really all that public as their defenders like to make them sound: 

"Schools in middle-class neighborhoods may be labeled 'public,' but parents have paid for tuition by purchasing a $175,000 home within a carefully selected school district."

Interestingly, Warren's argument is at least partly based on the high housing costs associated with the current zip code-based system of allocating scarce quality schooling.  High housing costs, plus burdens on working Americans (mothers in particular) have been a scourge for decades, according to Warren.  Breaking the link between housing and school quality would relieve pressure on families that have moved to expensive places just for the schools.  

Warren's ideas have been debated on Diane Ravitch's site in recent days --  they're New Yorker readers too, it seems :-) -- though not surprisingly the idea is being met with shock and disappointment. And the New Yorker writer, Jill Lepore, calls Warren's proposal reckless.

Previous posts: Please Stop Talking About Banning Private SchoolThe Liberal Case Against Private Education; Failure, Voice, & ExitHow Vouchers Are Like Same-Sex Marriage

*Correctification: Though she uses the term "voucher," which is commonly used to denote programs that include private and parochial schools, Warren is primarily focused on eliminating the link between neighborhoods and public school assignment.  The 2012 US News article cited above calls Warren's proposal "public school vouchers." The original 2007 proposal excerpted by AFT Kombiz uses the same language (though it doesn't specificaly exclude private schools as I read it). "The public-versus-private competition misses the central point," writes Warren. "The problem is not vouchers; the problem is parental choice."

Media: Five Reasons NYT's Homeless "Dasani" Story Didn't Win Pulitzer

1. The omission of Dasani’s last name. 

2. The length. 

3. The observer effect. 

4. The relentless focus on narrative. 

5. The risk of the “single story.” 

This is from a Columbia Journalism Review roundup of insiders' rationales. Read the details: Why was 'Dasani' shut out of the Pulitzers?.

AM News: College Board Reveals Sample Questions From New SAT*

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College Board Provides A glimpse Of New SAT NYT: Sample questions for the new version of the college-entrance test were released on Wednesday. The College Board announced last month the test will include real-world applications and more analysis. See also WPost, HuffPost, Vox, LA Times.

[*Why is this such a big story other than it's a very slow week?]

Suspensions and expulsions: A close look at nine districts Seattle Times: Last year, the nonprofit Washington Appleseed had a difficult time finding out exactly how many students are suspended or expelled each year in Washington state.

Options likely to remain open, but DCPS will not manage it WPost: The District’s Options Public Charter School appears likely to continue operating at least through the end of the 2014-15 school year, but the city’s school system will not take over its management as previously hoped, D.C. government lawyers said in court Tuesday.

Louisiana Officials Squabble Over Fate of PARCC Tests State EdWatch: As in South Carolina, Louisiana is experiencing a dispute between state officials over whether PARCC tests should be given to students.

How One Michigan City Is Sending Kids To College Tuition-Free NPR: In 2005, a group of anonymous donors in Kalamazoo launched a bold program. It pays for graduates of the city's public schools to attend any of Michigan's public universities or community colleges.

Classes Resume A Week After Mass Stabbing At Franklin Regional High School AP via HP: Students planned to gather in prayer and in support of one another on the football field of a Pittsburgh-area high school where classes were scheduled to resume Wednesday, a week after a mass stabbing.

News and commentary throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.

 

Afternoon Video: "Hunger Games," Chicago Style

Getting into one of Chicago's selective high schools isn't easy -- but that doesn't stop thousands of kids and their parents from trying.  This new reality series from WTTW Chicago Public Television follows 5 middle schoolers through the process.  You can binge watch three of nine episodes here.

Site News: I Hate My New "Hot For Education" Tumblr Theme

Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 11.15.34 AM

I started a Tumblr a few years ago to post more images, videos, quotes, and other ephemera related to education that isn't serious enough for here.  

I love it but don't worry, nobody else reads it, either.

In honor of one of my most popular posts of all time, a now-defunct annual "beautiful people" roundup, it's called "Hot...For Education." 

Recent posts include SF SPED teacher Jeffrey Katz evicted over Airbnb useAlways proofread your hatemail to English teachersThe Survival SelfieBlackmailed by Your Teacher?Word Cloud of The Catcher in the Rye.)

 In any case, I recently changed the theme (look) so that you can see two posts at a time instead of having to scroll down so far to get to each new post. What do you think?   Too much white space, right?  

Let me know -- what's a better Tumblr theme to try out? -- or just follow/send me ideas for posts at @hotfored or subscribe here.  

Numbers: Visualizing State, Local, & Federal Education Spending

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 2.13.50 PMFederal spending on K-12 education comes in at just under $60B, compared to local funding that's a whopping $464B, according to a blowup of the federal budget created by Visualizing.org (2013 Federal Budget).  Click the link to explore the methodology used and see the full chart in all its glory. 

Politics: Google Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy Conferences

Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 11.16.21 AMI know a lot of educators love to hate Microsoft and the Gates Foundation and love Apple and Google.  

However, there's a wild article in the Washington Post about how Google has gone "all in" with its lobbying efforts -- including funding think tanks and policy shops that cover education isssues.

So maybe there's room for a little more scrutiny and skepticism across the board?

Google's current lobbying and policy development effort "includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects." There are fellows, 100 lobbyists, 140 funded nonprofits,  university-sponsored events, and $900K in campaign donations in 2012 alone (second only to Microsoft among edtech companies). 

As you can see from the chart at left (via WP), Google funded Brookings, Aspen, Heritage, New America, AEI, and PPI in 2010 (pictured) along with lots of other legal and edtech outfits The company added more funding for outside groups during the following four years such as the CAP Action Fund, People for the American Way, and ALEC.  

How much of Google's efforts are directly focused on education isn't immediately clear. But even if there aren't any direct edpolicy grants going out from Google there's enough overlap between tech and education these days to warrant some attention from folks interested in K12 education issues.

Previous posts: Jobs Vs. Gates - Who's Done More For Education?Google & Microsoft Duking It Out Over SchoolsGoogle Glass TeachingGoogle Launches Play For EducationThe Missing Steve Jobs / Apple Philanthropy.

Thompson: How Seniority Reform Backfired In Minneapolis

LayoffsI have long held the counter-intuitive opinion that mending, not ending, seniority could have been the most doable and beneficial first step in school improvement. I must emphasize that the direct benefits of reforming the imperfect but pretty good seniority system would have been modest. Had we worked collaboratively to make incremental gains in that process, however, we could have built the trust necessary to tackle tougher issues. 

Instead, reformers made the uninformed snap judgment that “LIFO,” or the rule of “last in, first out,” must be ended. They didn’t even bother to ask why seniority serves as the teacher’s First Amendment. It is the best single protection that teachers will be able to express their professional judgments, thus protecting students from reckless educational experiments. 

The Star Tribune’s Steve Brandt, in Poorest Minneapolis Schools Still Have the Greenest Teachers, explains how ending the “iron grip” of seniority backfired. (Hat tip to Sarah Lahm and Edushyster.) Brandt reports that a “Star Tribune analysis of teacher experience data by school found that, if anything, the experience gap between high- and low-poverty schools has widened” since so-called LIFO was ended. Six years ago, under the seniority system, the gap between average teaching experience at the highest- and lowest-seniority schools analyzed was 14 years, but it is now 15 years. The pattern is still, "poverty up, experience down."

Brandt describes inexperienced principals of high-poverty schools being stuck with even more inexperienced teachers. For instance, a second year principal finds herself with seventeen of her 31 of her teachers being probationary.

Continue reading "Thompson: How Seniority Reform Backfired In Minneapolis" »

Charts: Teachers' Incomes Exceed Childhood Income [Slightly]*

image from d1435t697bgi2o.cloudfront.netTeachers generally come from families near the 60th percentile making $60,000 a year, and end up in a somewhat higher percentile making somewhat more, according to this chart from Planet Money.  But other occupations (like artists) generally come from higher income strata and make less than their parents. Pacific Standard: The Not-So-Surprising Way Your Parents’ Income Predicts Yours) [*Corrected percentiles not dollar amounts]

AM News: Denver Schools Recruiting Deferred Action Teachers

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District hires immigrant teachers under new policy EdWeek: Lizarraga is one of two teachers who qualified under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, and started work in Denver this school year. Boasberg said more will be hired this coming year.

D.C. Official Says School Boundary Proposals Will Change WAMU: Three proposals for redrawing school boundaries in D.C. will likely be changed before being approved, says D.C.'s deputy mayor for education. See also Washington Post

Amplify Education Tries To Build An Identity Outside Of News Corp's Shadow BuzzFeed: Klein pitches Amplify as a trendy ed-tech firm, setting up shop for the company in the hipster Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn. And he repeatedly refers to Amplify as a "startup," pausing to point out a ping-pong table in the office where two employees are in the midst of a game. 

S.C. Chief Declares State Will Leave Smarter Balanced After All State EdWatch: Jacqueline King of Smarter Balanced told me that it's up to each state to decide who has the authority to pull out of the testing consortium. Remember, the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee has final say over which assessment the state uses in this case. 

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

Continue reading "AM News: Denver Schools Recruiting Deferred Action Teachers" »

Afternoon Video: EdTech Frenzy But Business Models Unclear

Bloomberg video from last week about the potential and pitfalls of selling edtech to schools. Via RCE. "Bloomberg’s Ari Levy looks into who’s backing education tech startups. He speaks with Cory Johnson on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West.” (Source: Bloomberg)"

Weekend Reading: Best Education Articles You Probably Missed

Here's a bunch of stories from magazines and blogs that I tweeted out over the weekend while you were having a real life (or whatever it is you do during the weekend):

COMMON CORE

Nearly half of strong Dems believe Common Core will help, & nearly 2/3 of moderate Dems [49 pct/64pct] http://ht.ly/vIxHJ 

Parents Aren't as Afraid of #CommonCore as Conservatives Are - The Wire http://ht.ly/vIxwR  @aritbenie

Roughly 2.5M students have already taken Common Core field tests, reports Vox @libbyanelson http://ht.ly/vIB7c  @CCSSO

Fix, don’t remove, Common Core | http://www.ajc.com  http://ht.ly/vITfh 

Opting out of standardized tests? Wrong Answer — Medium http://ht.ly/vIzQy  ICYMI @MichelleRhee @StudentsFirst

Colbert flunks Common Core test -- @Morning_Edu notes errors including faux CC testing item http://ht.ly/vIxWP 

FUNDAMENTALS

Liberal think tank notes ineq distribution of experienced/effective teachers (does not blame charters/TFA) http://ht.ly/vKbw3 

Segregation Now: 60 Years After Brown v. Board - ProPublica http://ht.ly/vIBDf  Premiers Thursday 4/17

TEACHERS

Sour Patch Teachers: "An Admonishment for Veteran Educators" — @raetaulbee Medium http://ht.ly/vIzSF 

Why Teachers Need To [Get Better At] Political Action — Medium http://ht.ly/vIzZf  @BluffCityEd

Can NYSUT "move their union away from politics as usual?" Andrew Elrod Jacobin http://ht.ly/vKd37 

Pay-for-performance, merit pay, bonuses and worker productivity: Research roundup Harvard Shorenstein Center http://ht.ly/vIzyQ 

                                                                                                                        Lots more below -- it was a good weekend.

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Best Education Articles You Probably Missed" »

Research: Minority Students Get Less Experienced/Less Effective Teachers

image from i.huffpost.com In Louisiana,“a student in a school in the highest-poverty quartile is almost three times as likely to be taught by a teacher rated ineffective as a student in a school in the lowest-poverty quartile.” In MA, students in high-poverty schools are three times as likely to be taught by a teacher rated "unsatisfactory" than students in low-poverty schools, the report notes. (CAP via HuffPost: Minority Students Don't Only Get Less Experienced Teachers, They Also Get Less Effective Ones).

Bruno: Actually, Statisticians Are Cautiously Optimistic About VAM

11442225495_9d9cc1cbc4_nIt's always nice when experts come together to help to articulate and clarify whatever scientific consensus exists around an issue, so I was glad to see the American Statistical Association put out a report last week on the promise and peril of value-added modeling of educational effectiveness.

Interestingly, however, if you were to hear about this report only from the staunchest, most ideological opponents of VAM, you would think it says something else entirely. Valerie Strauss, for instance, claims the report "slammed" the use of VAM to evaluate teachers and Diane Ravitch seems to think it is a "damning indictment" of such policies.

The report itself is not nearly so hyperbolic.

For a useful summary check out Stephen Sawchuk, but the report itself is a mere seven accessible pages so I encourage you read it yourself.

The bottom line for the ASA is that they are optimistic about the use of "statistical methodology" to improve and evaluate educational interventions, but current value-added models have many limitations that make them difficult to interpret and apply, especially when evaluating individual teachers.

Continue reading "Bruno: Actually, Statisticians Are Cautiously Optimistic About VAM" »

Morning Video: Oklahoma Backpedals On Common Core

 

Via the PBS NewsHour's Friday show: "Last month, Indiana became the first state to drop the Common Core standards it had already adopted... This month, Oklahoma became the latest state to take a big step toward repealing the Common Core education standards."

Am News: Common Core Implementation, Field Testing, & Oklahoma

News2D.C. Students Read More, Deeper With Common Core WAMU: Kelly Rabin, a social studies teacher at Browne Education Campus, says she really pushes her students to do more in class. 

How Common Core education standards are changing the way LAUSD schools test children LA Daily News: “You are not being tested,” the narrator explained. “The questions themselves are being tested.”

Facing bipartisan backlash, Oklahoma reconsiders Common Core education standards PBS NewsHour: Oklahoma is the latest state to move toward repealing the Common Core national education standards. Once a source of bipartisan support, the standards now face criticism from the left and right. 

Boston Finds That Quality Preschool Is Worth The Effort NPR: Teaching coach Marina Boni is watching Doyle's classroom closely. After the lesson, she commends Doyle for trying to tie the new wire project to the old, but she says photographs of the older, forgotten project might've made the connection a bit more concrete.

Investigators find no evidence of pre-crash fire in deadly Orland bus collision LA Daily News: Investigators have found no evidence the FedEx freight truck involved in a deadly crash with a bus full of Los Angeles-area high school kids in rural Orland was on fire before impact, despite a witness report it may have been in flames prior to the fiery collision, the agency said Saturday. See also LA Times

Outgoing HHS Secretary Oversaw Tougher Rules for Head Start Grant Renewals PK12: Sebelius, who joined the administration in 2009, also served as a tag-team partner with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in promoting a proposal from the White House to boost state-run preschool programs with $75 billion over 10 years from the federal government. They both visited child-care centers and made other joint appearances to talk up the proposal.

L.A. teachers union president ready to step aside for challenger LA Times: Los Angeles teachers' union president Warren Fletcher said he will no longer actively campaign for reelection, clearing the path for challenger Alex Caputo-Pearl to become the next leader of United Teachers Los Angeles. In the first round of voting in March, Caputo-Pearl received 48% of the votes and Fletcher 21%. The runoff election takes place this month with ballots set to be counted April 29.

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

Continue reading "Am News: Common Core Implementation, Field Testing, & Oklahoma" »

Books: The Deseg Case That Wasn't Brown [It Was Yellow]

image from www.journalism.columbia.eduBrown v. Board of Education wasn't the first school desegregation case, and the case didn't involve African-American children, according to a book being written by a Adrienne Berard (pictured).  

Titled "When Yellow Was Brown," the book "chronicles an important and undeservedly obscure school desegregation case that preceded Brown v. Board of Education -- and that involved several Chinese immigrant children as its plaintiffs," according to a note from Sam Freedman at Columbia about news that the author has won a Lukas award for a book-in-progress.  

"Berard tells the story “in a deeply affecting narrative that is both epic and intimate, through meticulous, original research and truthful real life portraits. She sheds new light on issues that continue to torment and resonate in our public and private lives,” according to the press release announcing the award. 

See full press release below.

Continue reading "Books: The Deseg Case That Wasn't Brown [It Was Yellow]" »

Charts: Juking The Stats In Chicago (Again)

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 12.20.05 PMChicago Magazine's latest story about the precipitous drop in homicide stats during 2013 is alarming for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the realization that it's pretty easy to juke crime statistics without generating much attention (and if it's easy to reclassify murders as natural deaths then you can only imagine what's going on or at least possible when it comes to school stats).  

The other reason, of course, is that the effort to reduce crime in Chicago came in large part from student deaths like Hadiya Pendleton, and there are some students involved in The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates, including a Harold Washington College student named Michelle Manalansan.

Read the story and let us know what you think.  Then go back and read the related story:  Even the Data Have a Bias. Cross-posted from D299.

Media: Colbert To Broadcast Move Probably Bad News For Education

ColbertThere's been lots of reaction to the news that Colbert is going to leave Comedy Central and replace Letterman on broadcast television, but what does it mean for attention to education on TV? 

For years now, Colbert has been riffing off of education issues, bringing education-related guests on the show, and generally making us all feel like we're involved in something interesting and important. Just this week, he did a fun bit on the Common Core.

A search of "Colbert" on this site generates 571 hits. Memorable interviews include Roland Fryer, Arne Duncan, Davis Guggenheim, and Wendy Kopp.

No one knows for sure, but the most likely impact of Colbert's move to broadcast TV -- and out of character -- is a lot less of that. Book authors are already bemoaning the dearth of interviews that they will likely face with Colbert's move. 

There will be much less time for wonky bits, and lots more celebrities and network shows that have to be promoted -- though, arguably, any references to education will be amplified by the comparatively large audience that Late Night gets.

Previous posts about Colbert here.

 

Morning Video: PBS NewsHour Visits P-Tech High

 

From last night's broadcast: "Why six years of high school might pay off in the workforce Hari Sreenivasan tells the story of Pathways in Technology Early College High School"

AM News: Now, Anyone Can Try Out Common Core Field Tests

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Students are test-driving new Common Core exams. You can too Hechinger Report: You can try out sample tests that the test makers released to the public online and see for yourself if they boost your critical thinking skills. Here is a link to practice tests from PARCC, and from Smarter Balanced. Both groups also released individual sample problems previously.

A Plea to Move Forward From NY's Education Chief WNYC: "I hope that all of us — administrators, educators, parents and unions — can lay down our swords, soften the rhetoric, put aside the politics, and come together for the sake of our children," he said. See also ChalkbeatNY.

Arne Duncan urges New Yorkers to stick with Cuomo on teacher evals ChalkbeatNY: "I challenge you to support your governor as he challenges the status quo and tries to raise standards, raise expectations, and evaluate and support your teachers and principals,” Duncan said near the end of a brief speech at the National Action Network conference in New York City Wednesday night.

George W. Bush Defends No Child Left Behind AP: Former President George W. Bush has closed a three-day civil rights summit in Texas by saying education is the key for opportunity for poor and minority children and that he fears what he calls the 'soft bigotry' of low expectations is returning 50 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

Tennessee Considers Parent Trigger Legislation Budget & Tax News: For several years, Tennessee parents and bipartisan legislators have worked to pass a Parent Trigger law to let families require reforms within.

9 killed when FedEx truck strikes bus carrying LA-areastudents Los Angeles Times:  LAUSD officials said students from Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown and ... Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. ... that all of our students recover,” L.A. Unified school board member Monica Garcia said.

CPS 'accounting adjustment' will increase funding to schools slightly; watchdog warns it's 'financially irresponsible' WBEZ Chicago: Despite looming pension payments, and as the district still reels from budget cuts and layoffs, Chicago Public Schools says it has found a way to slightly increase the amount schools get for each student next year.

Afternoon Video: Return to Montefiore Alternative School

Last week's premier episode of the VICE-produced documentary series "Last Chance High" was so rough it was hard to watch -- so be warned.  Here's this week's show.

Throwback Thursday (#TBT): My First Job

001 (22)
Throwback Thursday is a Facebook tradition in which people share pictures of themselves from the past -- usually as kids, teens, or young adults.  But nobody really wants to see that stuff from colleagues and counterparts, so I've come up with an adapted version that's a little bit more suitable for a work setting:  Throwback Thursday: First Job.

In Throwback Thursday: My First Job, people share images of themselves at their first job -- teacher, counselor, whatever.  In my case, my first two important jobs were (a) 7th and 10th grade English teacher at what is now Harvard-Westlake School in LA and (b) legislative aide (education, labor, immigration, health, women's issues) for newly-elected US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

A school yearbook picture of me doing the first job (circa 1989) is above.  An equally hard-to-believe-I-ever-looked-that-young picture of me working for Feinstein (circa 1995) is below the fold.  Take a look, enjoy them both, and then it's your turn. I don't want to find them on my own, but if I have to I will.

Continue reading "Throwback Thursday (#TBT): My First Job" »

Thompson: NYC Can Happen Here

ConformHow did we get here from there? How can an American democracy produce such a disgusting educational culture? How did schools in New York City sink so low?

OK,  it is sick enough that Eva Moskowitz's Success Academies fire students up to “SLAM the Exam” by rewarding them with basketballs and Converse sneakers for test-prep instruction. But, some people have always conformed to anything to get ahead.

As Chalkbeat New York's Patrick Walls reports, in With State Exams Underway Schools Turn from Test Prep to Test Pep, Chancellor Carmen Farina urged principals not to go overboard on test preparation. She said:

The best preparation for the test is a rich, thoughtful, engaging curriculum that awakens curiosity in students, inspires them to ask questions, helps them explore complex problems, and encourages them to imagine possibilities. We understand that the best classrooms are lively places where students are immersed in conversation, debating ideas, and developing perspectives and viewpoints.

Walls reports that some principals have heeded Farina's call and use humor or, even, yoga to reduce anxiety. But, "other schools prefer to psych students up rather than cool them down," and "some schools have spent weeks administering practice exams and reviewing test-taking strategies."

Though ostensibly liberated from a culture test prep, why do these principals continue with the most disgraceful legacies of “teaching to the test?” Why do they continue to indoctrinate children as if they are pets into a system of rewards and punishment?

Continue reading "Thompson: NYC Can Happen Here" »

Update: Spencer Fellowships Go To Lutton, Resmovits, & Kalita (Who?)

Christian gozales flickrAfter a bit of a delay to determine whether any of the awardees wanted to pursue alternative options, the newest Spencer Education Journalism Fellowships have been awarded to two familiar names -- Chicago Public Radio's Linda Lutton and HuffPost's Joy Resmovits -- and one unfamiliar one - S. Mitra Kalita (of Quartz & the WSJ).

What are they going to write about?  "Lutton plans to use her Spencer year creating a one-hour radio documentary examining the intersection of poverty and education through the lens of a high-poverty Chicago elementary school...Kalita will spend her Spencer Fellowship year reporting a book on school choice through the lens of one New York City neighborhood....  [Resmovits] will use the Spencer Fellowship to assess the state of education for American students with disabilities."

Read the full press announcement below. Image via Flickr.

Continue reading "Update: Spencer Fellowships Go To Lutton, Resmovits, & Kalita (Who?)" »

Morning Video: First Lady's Alma Mater Featured In New Documentary

 

This trailer describes both the history of the school itself and the stunning inadequacy of supply of seats given the talent and the demand.  Via CPS Obsessed.

AM News: Stressed Teachers; "So Long" From Sacramento

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American Teachers Feel Really Stressed, And It's Probably Affecting Students HuffPost: Gallup’s State Of America’s Schools Report, released Wednesday, says nearly 70 percent of K – 12 teachers surveyed in a 2012 poll do not feel engaged in their work. The study said they are likely to spread their negative attitudes to co-workers and devote minimal discretionary effort to their jobs. See also Hechinger Report.

Sacramento Bails on NCLB Flexibility PK12: In a memo to staff today, interim Superintendent Sara Noguchi said, "It has become clear that [the district's] participation in the waiver from No Child Left Behind has impeded progress towards working more collaboratively to move our schools and classrooms forward." She referred to the waiver as a distraction. See also EdSource Today.

Testing help center 'inundated' with teacher calls KPCC LA: Last week, the help desk received an average of 637 calls each day from teachers asking for help with the new test, she said. Most were for basic problems setting up the tests.

'Value Added' Data Need Careful Analysis, Consideration, Statisticians' Group Says TeacherBeat: The American Statistical Association offers its take on the ever-controversial use of value-added methods in teacher evaluation.

Science teacher's suspension spurs petition drive LA Times: A popular Los Angeles high school science teacher has been suspended after students turned in projects that appeared dangerous to administrators, spurring a campaign calling for his return to the classroom. Cortines School's Greg Schiller was removed by L.A. Unified after two students' projects were deemed to resemble weapons.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Stressed Teachers; "So Long" From Sacramento" »

Afternoon Video: Stephen Colbert Attacks Then Endorses Common Core

At first, Colbert is outraged at the idea of common standards and anything being promoted by the Obama administration, but then he begins to change his mind. TeachingNow Via @benjaminriley.

#EdGif Of The Day: How Do You Fix A School System Whose Middle Class Is Disappearing?

IncSegGIF

Some cities like DC and Chicago and NYC are way more appealing than they used to be and gentrifying like mad despite the Great Recession, but that doesn't mean the middle class is coming back. Here's a GIF showing the disappearance of the middle class (in grey) since 1970 in Chicago, which has resulted in a highly segregated, extremely unequal city (and a public school system that is overwhelmingly poor and minority). Read some coverage here and here. The spreading green shape represents the affluent.

Evaluation: A Revolt Against The "Randomistas"?

Flickr Meghan Carnavalet In These TimesAre you an unapologetic "randomista" -- an advocate of randomized controlled trials as a way to mesure the impact of social interventions -- or do you dare to consider some of the drawbacks behind what's commonly called the "gold standard" for evaluations in edreform circles? This recent Slate article by Joshua Keating might help you decide: Randomized controlled trials: Do they work for economic development?.

RCTs are increasingly popular with the public and policymakers -- with TED Talks and New Yorker profiles -- but also expensive and difficult to implement, strip away key contextual information, and lack generalizability. They're also over-adored by politicians and journalists. "Media and policymakers tend to overstate the conclusions of randomized controlled trials," according to Keating.

The piece focuses on evaluation of international development but also contains an interesting story about randomized trials in education improvement efforts in education. Specifically, it tells the story of an attempt to figure out whether more textbooks or other interventions worked best in improving education outcomes. It turned out they didn't.  Better teaching strategies and health care did. Other examples cited in the piece include one that found school uniforms helped prevent teen pregnancy more than sex ed. Very Malcolm Gladwell.

I don't personally believe that research can prove things in social sciences, in part because of evaluation limitations (and time delays, etc.) but also because of the tendence of people to disbelieve research findings that don't comport with their beliefs.  If something's proven but the proof isn't accepted widely, then -- for a time at least -- the issue remains unsettled in the public debate.  That's why my research category on this site is titled (Who Cares What) Research says.  I feel a bit anti-intellectual in writing that, but I only mean to be pragmatic.

Image via Flickr.

 

Morning Video: White House Pushes Tech Solutions

 

Here's a clip from Politico's edtech event yesterday, featuring Kumar Garg from the OSTP. Full video here. Story link here.

 

AM News: LA Settles $60M Seniority Layoffs Lawsuit

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L.A. Unified settles lawsuit over layoffs LA Times: Los Angeles school district officials announced a lawsuit settlement Tuesday that will provide $60 million in pay increases, services and staff at about three dozen schools, many hit hard by teacher layoffs. But the pact fails to deal with whether instructors should continue to be dismissed based on seniority. See also EdSource TodayLA Daily News.

Charter-School Fight Flares Up in Illinois WSJ: Hundreds of protesters filled the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol on Tuesday denouncing nearly a dozen bills that would curb the growth of charter schools—the latest scuffle over expansion of the independently run public schools. See also WBEZ Chicago.

In Testimony, Arne Duncan Continues to Distance Himself From Common Core PK12: "I'm just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they're common or not is secondary," he told members of the House appropriations subcommittee that works on health, education, and other related issues.

Coalition launches to support New York’s Common Core rollout ChalkbeatNY: In a press release, the group said its goal is to combat “special interests’ attempt to delay the introduction of a new set of standards created and adopted by New York State teachers, parents, principals and state leaders in 2011.” 

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

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Afternoon Video: Teacher Criticized, Then Defended For Classroom Takedown

 

An LAUSD teacher was initially criticized but is now being defended for his classroom takedown of a student, caught on cellphone camera last week. via LA Times.

Thompson: How Common Core Is Being Defeated In Oklahoma

The Common_Core_Standards_Pushback_0ab1cNPR report Common Core Turns Business Leaders Against Oklahoma GOP, by Claudio Sanchez, must be understood within the context of business conservatives and Christian Conservatives having turned the state into a bastion of Republicanism.

Just a few months ago, it was inconceivable that Oklahoma would repudiate Common Core, but now the Republican Governor and Republican State Superintendent, Chief for Change Janet Baressi, are getting clobbered by what Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman calls the “unfunded nightmare” that is Common Core.

Sanchez stresses the anger and political fear felt by conservative business Republicans in reaction to the grassroots assault on Common Core. He quotes Chamber of Commerce leader Mike Neal who derides the conservative Restore Oklahoma Public Education and others as “fringe groups.”

Neal rejects as fear-mongering the claims that Common Core is a federal scheme, that “private groups will mine and profit from test results,” and that it will undermine local control. But, isn’t there more truth in those statements than Neal’s claim that it won’t take local control away "at all?”

Neal’s opponent is Jenni White, a former teacher, a published epidemiologist, and a Christian with two adopted children from Zambia, as well as her biological children. In my conversations with Ms. White and other conservative opponents of Common Core at the State Capitol, I did not hide my support for President Obama (while opposing his education policy).  I would never judge Ms. White as a fringe element and I don’t believe she judged me either.

Continue reading "Thompson: How Common Core Is Being Defeated In Oklahoma" »

Quotes: Reform Critic Disdains "Unhealthy Vilification" Of Reform

Quotes2When we're competing, we're not collaborating. That's what I find most disturbing. We're fighting battles in court when we should be working together to figure out what works for our children. - Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University in the WSJ via Pondiscio.

Teachers: Union Membership - The "Other" Kind Of Opting Out

Nun_teacher Michael 1952 flickrIt's not just parents who can try to opt out of aspects of the education system that they don't approve of.  Teachers can do it, too.  

Specifically, they can opt out of being a member of the teacher's union, depending on the state.  And if more than 5 percent of teachers opt out of being part of the union, there are NCLB sanctions (no, just kidding).

Usually, teachers who decline to join the union still have to pay dues, but some of them apparently aren't down with that, either.

As noted in Politico recently, "Several California teachers have brought a separate case aimed at overturning a requirement that they pay the union partial dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining, even if they choose not to become union members.

"The plaintiffs, represented by the Center for Individual Rights, say the union often takes political stances they disagree with while negotiating a contract. They argue that it violates their First Amendment rights to force them to support those positions with their dues. The case is pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals."

As with parents opting out of standardized testing, the numbers of teachers opting out of unions or attempting to avoid having to pay dues are hard to pin down and likely very small.

Image via Flickr.

Morning Video: Obama Announces Grants For Real-World School Experiences

 

From the NYT. Story here.

AM News: Teachers Compromise In CA -- Seek More Clout In NY

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New bill to streamline teacher dismissal process may succeed where others failed KPCC LA: The bill proposes that one administrative law judge hear egregious misconduct cases,  instead of a three-person panel.  It also calls for litigants to have no access to the Superior Court for suspension appeals.

New Head of StateTeachers Union Seeks Greater Political Clout WNYC: Magee told delegates over the weekend that she would be more vocal than her predecessor: “It is time for NYSUT to exert itself as a powerful political force once again."

Obama Announces Grants to Schools to Integrate Work Experiences NYT: President Obama traveled to a high school in the Washington suburbs on Monday to announce the winners of $107 million in grants intended to update curriculums to better integrate work experiences and real-world learning opportunities. See also KPCC LA, ChalkbeatNY.

Duncan urges top students to teach at GW panel Washington Post: The event Monday was part of a recruitment program — TEACH — that is planned to extend to 21 college campuses to encourage high-achieving students to pursue professions in education. TEACH pairs the Education Department with national education organizations, teacher associations and corporations such as Microsoft and State Farm in working to recruit future educators.

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

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Afternoon Video: New Series Looks Inside Alternative High School

 

Be warned, this new documentary series from VICE about a "last chance" alternative school in Chicago is VERY rough to watch, even if you've watched a bunch of these. 

Charts: How About "New Jersey Is The New Finland"?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comOver at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum suggests that we might be better off comparing our schools to New Jersey or even Massachusetts (Is it Time to Replace the Cult of Finland With the Cult of New Jersey?) and considers some tough cultural questions about why observers point to Finland instead of Shanghai (no, it's not about the sample).

Quotes: Rhee Takes On Testing "Opt-Outers"

Quotes2Tests serve many purposes: They chart progress. They identify strengths and weaknesses. They help professionals reach competency in their careers. All these measures are critical to improving public schools. -- Michelle Rhee in the Washington Post.

Morning Video: "All Ivy League" Kid Makes Letterman Appearance

"Top Ten Ways To Make Your College Application Stand Out" as presented by Kwasi Enin, who has been accepted into all 8 Ivy League schools.

AM News: CA Teacher Dismissal Deal; NY Ousts Union Head

News2Deal announced on teacher dismissal bill that governor would support EdSource Today:  Most of the big changes in Assembly Bill 215 would apply only to charges of egregious misconduct – acts that would include sexual abuse, child abuse and some drug crimes. 

State teachers union president defeated with UFT support Chalkbeat: The state teachers union got a new president and issued a long-threatened attack on the State Education Department during a dramatic meeting in New York City this weekend. It was the first time in the union’s 42-year history that a sitting president was ousted.

NY teachers unions spent $4.8M on lobbying in 2013 NY Post via Chalkbeat: The city’s United Federation of Teachers spent $2.6 million and the New York State United Teachers spent $2.2 million to push their agenda in Albany and at City Hall. Key issues last year included the Common Core curriculum and teacher evaluations. In all, clients spent a rec­ord $191 million to lobby, up from $180 million in 2012.

Why Education Startups Rarely Go Public BuzzFeed: Take, for instance, the ed-tech startup Chalkable. Founded by Michael Levy and Zoly Honig, Chalkable’s aim was to displace Blackboard. Honig told BuzzFeed that he and Levy felt Blackboard’s system was weak and that they could do a better job with the technology. They designed what is essentially an app store for learning tools, allowing teachers to easily search and integrate top programs.

Common Core Turns Business Leaders Against Oklahoma GOP NPR: Mike Neal gets annoyed when he talks about politicians in his state. Just three years ago, when the Common Core State Standards for education were implemented, no one had a problem with them, says Neal, president of the Tulsa, Okla., Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

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

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Afternoon Video: Detroit Career Tech School Teaches Flying

"Devote three minutes to watching this, and see if it doesn't affect your view of the innovation and commitment underway in places or systems usually written off as struggling or troubled," writes The Atlantic's James Fallows about Davis Aerospace (A High School That Teaches Students to Fly).

Reform: Andy Smarick Is The New Mike Petrilli?

In case you missed it, image from www.edexcellence.netFordham's Pamela Tatz published a BuzzFeed "Which Reformer Are You?" quiz the other day. The tagline:  "Saving the education system, one irrelevant question at a time."

These quizzes are wildly popular on Facebook, etc. -- and self-effacing humor (something reformers don't always convey) goes a long way.  Figures that Fordham would get in on it -- they're smart (and love attention).

If you haven't taken it already you should give it a try. (Doesn't really mean you're a reformer if you do.) Nearly 700 folks have already done so and shared the results on Twitter or Facebook.  But be forewarned: you'll probably end up being Andy Smarick.  The other options were Rick Hess, Michelle Rhee, David Coleman, Arne Duncan, or Diane Ravitch (which took some unusual answering). "A lot of folks did seem to get Andy Smarick," said Tatz via email.

Here's the Fordham page about the quiz. And click below to see the snarky writeups for each of the profiles (Smarick, Hess, Rhee, Coleman, Duncan, and Ravitch), which sound like they were written by .... Petrilli.

Continue reading "Reform: Andy Smarick Is The New Mike Petrilli?" »

Thompson: Bill Moyers Interviews Diane Ravitch

MoyersWhat do you get when you combine Bill Moyers and Diane Ravitch? WISDOM!

Both are among the all-time greats of their professions. During the Iraq War, I sometimes tried to duck Moyers' reports because he spoke more truth than I wanted to handle.  Similarly, as Ravitch assembles her case that test-driven accountability had morphed into "corporate reform," I'm often afraid of her message. But, Ravitch and Moyers do their homework before speaking the truths that I sometimes don't want to confront.   

Moyers began his PBS Public Schools for Sale by reviewing the $3-1/2 million dollar campaign against populist Mayor Bill de Blasio. He cited the New York Times' report that de Blasio was "even dialing up billionaires to ask for a truce." Moyers' said that what is at stake is the future of public education.

Ravitch warned that within a decade public education could be dead in cities like Detroit, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Kansas City, and Indianapolis. I've long worried about the same thing happening in my Oklahoma City. As choice in a time of cutthroat competition grows, it is easy to see how traditional public schools in those cities could become nothing more than "dumping grounds for the children that charters don't want."  Those are hard words, but can anyone on any side of our reform wars deny that the danger Ravitch describes is very real? 

Ravitch then articulated the single best principle for helping poor children of color, "Aim for equity and you get excellence."

Continue reading "Thompson: Bill Moyers Interviews Diane Ravitch" »

Quotes: A Parent Complains About Low-Level Busy Work

Quotes2Dear my child's teacher: Don't you dare download a "study guide packet" filled with low-level comprehension questions from a failing school district and hand it to my kid as busy work because you aren't well planned (or worse, because you don't know what's important for 5th grade readers to be working on). It's not OK for my kid or any kid. - Cleveland parent (via Facebook)

EdTech: Startups On Track To Raise $2B Despite Challenges

HiresWhat's super-hard to pull off but really attractive to venture capitalists? Edtech, apparently. 

Creating and sustaining a successful startup is not nearly as easy as it may look, as described recently in EdWeek, focusing on Edthena & Autism Expressed. 

And yet, edtech startups raised over $500M in just the first quarter of 20014, according to TechCrunch, which mentions AltSchool, Schoology,as well as TeachersPayTeachers.

Image courtesy TechChrunch.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.