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Bruno: Who Told Us The Education Fights Poverty, Anyway?

Screen shot 2014-04-21 at 2.51.06 PMWhen charged with "ignoring poverty", many education reformers will respond that in fact improving education is the best way to fight poverty. 

Arne Duncan once went so far as to say that "the only way to end poverty is through education."

Is that correct?

I'm skeptical. As Matt Bruenig has pointed out, educational outcomes have been improving for decades in the United States, and yet poverty rates haven't really budged.

And what about internationally? Certainly, many developed countries have much lower poverty rates than the United States. Is that a result of superior educational performance?

One preliminary way to look at the evidence would be to see if countries with better academic performance also have lower poverty rates.

Out of curiosity I decided to take a first crack at that using results from the 2012 PISA, which tested 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science.

Click below to see what I found. 

Continue reading "Bruno: Who Told Us The Education Fights Poverty, Anyway?" »

Quotes: Pay No Attention To The "Velvet Ropes" Surrounding Neighborhood Schools

Quotes2Between formally selective admissions policies and economically restrictive enrollment zones, many schools are effectively off-limits, particularly to our low-income families — surrounded, as it were, by invisible velvet ropes. -- NYC charter schools advocate James Merriman (in the NYDN), following up as it were on Elizabeth Warren's very similar point regarding neighborhood schools.

Media: Bullying, A Federal Civil Rights Complaint, & A Wealthy District's Response

ScreenHunter_03 Apr. 17 23.08You might have missed this series of stories from Palo Alto Weekly about student bullying, a district's flawed response -- I certainly did -- but the Society of Professional Journalists gave the Northern California outlet one of its top awards for small media outlets.

Read more about the stories given the award here, or how the stories came about here. Interesting to note that the reporters unearthed a federal Office of Civil Rights case about halfway through the process, and in the end the complaint was made public (by the child's parents).

"The Weekly coverage included two cover story packages researched and written by Lobdell,"Out of the Shadows," (June 14, 2013) about bullying, and "Power to Hurt," (Aug. 16, 2013) on the use of social media by teens, and numerous news stories by Kenrick and Lobdell on the school district's handling of bullying complaints, federal investigations and the development of bullying policies."

The full list of SJP awardees is here -- I didn't see any other education-related stories but I might have missed some.

Maps: School Fundraising Vs. Federal Poverty Funding In San Diego

image from voiceofsandiego.org"Foundation money and Title I money balance each other out.  The schools in the middle... are being left behind." (Voice of San Diego: School Foundations vs. Title I Funds)

Morning Video: They've Re-Segregated In Tuscaloosa

"The district, once the model of racial integration, has moved back in time, such that "nearly one in three black students attend a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened." (Plus a long feature story in The Atlantic Magazine with ProPublica)

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: 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.

 

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.

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.

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)

Quotes: There Will Be Glitches

Quotes2Will there be glitches? Absolutely, in fact one reason for administering a field test is to figure out where the bugs are, so we have time to work them out before the actual tests next year. -- CCSSO's Chris Minnich in HuffPost (A Big Step Toward a Worthy Goal)

Bruno: The Homework Dilemma From A Teacher's Point of View

image from paulbruno1.typepad.comWe seem to have arrived at another peak in the HAC [Homework Angst Cycle], with much hand-wringing about whether kids these days are over-burdened or under-challenged by homework.

The progress of the HAC seems to be more-or-less unrelated to actual changes in quantities of homework assigned. And analyses of homework burdens often seem limited by an over-reliance on the perspectives of students and parents.

Students and parents are, of course, affected by homework. The individuals most immediately responsible for assigning homework, however, are teachers. 

And from a teacher's point of view, the "homework dilemma" is relatively straightforward and is rooted mostly in two decisions we are required to make: how much homework to assign and the extent to which it should impact students' grades.

To help illustrate the teacher's dilemma, I put together a simple chart and explain it below.

Continue reading "Bruno: The Homework Dilemma From A Teacher's Point of View" »

Charts: Outside Fundraising Undercuts School Equity In SF (& Elsewhere)

image from edsource.org

Reform critics like to highlight outside fundraising as a charter-only issue, but  this chart and article from EdSource Today shows that private fundraising is a major equity issue among district schools in SF (and by all accounts in other cities as well). 
 

People: Young Joins GreatSchools [Plus Unsolicited Advice]

image from m.c.lnkd.licdn.comMeet Caprice Young, though you probably knew her already. She's a former LAUSD school board member who helped right the ship at LA's troubled ICEF charter network then went to work for the Arnold Foundation. She also worked as a Deputy Mayor and for a distance learning company along the way, and was a Coro Fellow.

Young left the Arnold Foundation fulltime last year and did some consulting but then decided to join GreatSchools as a senior advisor because she things the site is fascinating and as yet under-used. You might not hear a lot about GreatSchools, but it's got impressive pageviews, according to Quantcast -- 5-6 million pageviews a month (much higher than Kahn Academy and other big-name sites, according to Young).

Now 15 years old, GreatSchools keeps adding features and collaborations like this week's Detroit rollout in partnership with Excellent Schools Detroit.  Not too long ago, the site began producing its own stories (Diversity: "When The Melting Pot Boils Over"). They've partnered with real estate site Zillow and are fending off competitors like Niche and Education.com that do similar things just not as well, says Young.  Next up after Detroit is an effort to deepen the school profiles using social media and qualitative data, and a spinoff dubbed GreatKids that is intended to help parents understand what it looks like when their children can do, say, 2nd grade math. 

What would be really cool -- in the category of unsolicited suggestions -- would be if GreatSchools partnered with big-city districts who are doing universal/streamlined application and admissions processes, so that parents could see ratings, user reviews, and apply all in one place. Yeah, sort of like HealthCare.gov, I guess.  Would make NSA spying on parents easier. Loaner tablets for parents who don't have computers? 

Previous posts: Was Bloomberg Article Fair To Bullis Charter?Is GreatSchools Helping, Or Hurting? A Yelp (Or Facebook) For Schools?New NYT-WNYC Site [SchoolBook] To Cover New York City

Quotes: "A Chance Of Repercussions" [But, Really, Not Much Of One]

Quotes2Anytime you break a law, there is a chance of repercussions. -- Illinois State Board of Education spokesperson Matt Vanover, playing it coy about the possible loss of funding due to parents opting out of state tests (in Catalyst)

 

 

Charts: Vouchers Coming Back (Should You Be Alarmed?)

image from images.politico.comFourteen states already spend about $1 billion to send kids to private schools, reports Politico's Stephanie Simon.

As presented, this is an alarming notion (they're teaching Creationism!) that should be of concern to all.

However, some caution may be appropriate, too.

A billion dollars is a tiny amount, given then $500B-plus annual spending on education.

The number/percentage is much higher in higher ed, where we already have a mixed (public-private) system.

Some parochial schools do a better job than local district schools).

Most private and parochial schools aren't teaching Creationism.  

Afternoon Video: A New Kind Of Playground Encourages Risk-Taking

 

Here's the trailer from a new documentary about kids and risks that accompanies Hannah Rosin's new Atlantic Magazine article about The Overprotected Kid.

Charts: Elementary Students Doing More Homework Than Before

image from www.washingtonpost.com" The shift in homework burden for elementary students is a significant one, and one that parents of primary school-aged children are likely to feel keenly." (New study: Elementary students are doing more homework than they used to Washington Post) 

Afternoon Video: Brookings Debunks "Too Much Homework" Fad

 

"The average American student does not face an extraordinary homework burden, the assignment load has not increased meaningfully over the past 20 years, and parents are generally satisfied with the amount and quality of schoolwork assigned to their children," says Brookings. [Of course, your individual experience (or something you read somewhere) probably suggests otherwise.  I'd go with that.]

AM News: Homework Burden Not As Heavy As You Think, Says Report

News2

Students Probably Do Less Homework Than You Think, Study Says HufPost: Homework loads have actually been stable over the last 30 years, despite front-page reports of overworked kids and a century-old "war on homework," according to the report, one of three released Tuesday by Brookings' Brown Center on Education Policy. See also HUSA Today.

What Happens If a State Loses its NCLB Waiver? PK12: The challenge for the Education Department may be ensuring that Washington state doesn't get off easy—while not disrupting the strong work the state is already doing in intervening in its lowest-performing schools, a weak area of NCLB implementation for many other waiver states.

Duncan Talks High Stakes Tests, ESEA Renewal, and Common Core Politics PK12: In a morning speech during the second day of the event, Duncan urged state officials to be patient and to "overcommunicate" with the public during the transition to the new standards and new tests, particularly during the field-testing of common-core assessments taking place this spring. At the same time, he cautioned that some pushback on policies had little to do with education, but "everything to do with politics," and that not all critics could be won over.

Florida Picks Common-Core Test From AIR, Not PARCC State EdWatch: Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart has selected the American Institutes for Research to develop a new common-core aligned exam for the state's assessment.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Homework Burden Not As Heavy As You Think, Says Report" »

Bruno: The Mistaken Logic of "Other Peoples' Children"

11702251703_cd2a666b14_nIt has become popular among critics to argue that many education reformers are pushing for changes they would never subject their own children to because they do not really care whether "other peoples' children" receive quality educational opportunities.

You can see the "other peoples' children" argument being made here, here, or here. It even has at least one Twitter hashtag.

The underlying logic of that argument has always puzzled me because it seems plausible that different kids have different educational needs and that the children of prominent reformers are likely to be systematically different than other children, particularly the least-privileged children who tend to be the focus of reform efforts.

So I'm not sure why we're supposed to recoil in horror at the thought that education should be differentiated, even if we can reasonably disagree about precisely what that differentiation should look like.

Even more puzzling is the fact that the "other peoples' children" argument only makes sense if you assume that "other people" don't want the proposed education reforms for their own children.

That assumption is often wrong as an empirical matter of fact. As Bonnie Eslinger reports this week, for instance, KIPP and Rocketship charter schools are often very popular among "other people" despite (or because of) the fact that they embody many reformy ideas.

Does their popularity among actual parents mean that those schools and ideas are necessarily effective or optimal as matters of public policy? Of course not. (Although there is some evidence to that effect.)

It is a useful reminder, however, that dismissing ideas on the basis of the essentially ad-hominem "other peoples' children" argument is probably not wise. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Afternoon Video: "New" Ideas From TIME Include Return To Single-Sex Ed

 

The folks on MSNBC's Morning Joe talk single-sex education and other "new" ideas for 2014 from TIME.

Quotes: New SAT Over Current ACT

Quotes2If the new version of the SAT was available now, I would definitely be taking this over the ACT... It's just like everything I've been learning in school, where we are analyzing documents and seeing how we came to that answer. The idea of condensed math makes it much easier to narrow down what you want to study. - Chicago high schooler quoted in WSJ story(College Board Shakes Up SAT)

Testing: Boulder Parent Confronts Broader Purposes Of Testing

Dear-parentsBoulder parent Lisa McElroy tells the story in Slate about how freaked out administrators were when she told them she wanted to opt out of standardized testing -- but ends up wondering just what, exactly, she had accomplished or could hope to accomplish, and about the impact of opting out on schools and teachers.

One issue is the potential impact on the school or district if parents like her opt out: "Do I stand on my principles, both personal and political? Or do I put the interests of the very important people and institutions that educate my children above those of my kids?"

But the other, more fundamental issue is that the parent opt out numbers are still very small, and seem to trend towards white, college-educated parents rather than the poor minority parents whose children have traditionally endured inadequate education offerings in the absence of outside accountability. 

Individual parents may not want to have their children tested, and to some extent should probably be accommodated, but their individual decisions -- like with immunizations -- could have unintended and unanticipated impacts on schools and other children that aren't limited to immediate financial impacts.

 

Politics: Paul Ryan Probably Stole Heartbreaking School Lunch Anecdote

SmbookAt last week's CPAC convention -- a conservative Republican beauty contest at which all the big contenders for the party nominee appeared -- Paul Ryan told a story about a kid who wanted a brown bag lunch instead of a federally subsidized school lunch because the home-made lunches showed someone who cared.

Except Ryan or his staff might have cribbed the anecdote from Invisible Threads, a book about a long-running relationship between a white woman and a black boy (now grown up).  

Via The Atlantic Wire: Paul Ryan's Heartwrenching Tale of a Hungry Kid Also Appears in a Heartwrenching Book.

See also Medialite, Washington Post, etc.

Update 2: Details About CA, NE, WI Testing Opt-Out Provisions

Flickr roeyahramHere's some additional information, via ECS, detailing state opt out provision language for one state we already discussed -- California -- plus two others not previously mentioned -- Nebraska, and Wisconsin:

California: Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent's or guardian's written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted. (West's Ann.Cal.Educ.Code § 60615)  

Also, Cal. Admin. Code tit. 5, § 852

(a) Each year the LEA shall notify parents or guardians of their pupil's participation in the CAASPP assessment system in accordance with Education Code section 60604.

(b) The notification to parents or guardians, as defined in subdivision (a), shall include a notice of the provisions outlined in Education Code section 60615.

(c) A parent or guardian may annually submit to the school a written request to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of any test provided pursuant to Education Code section 60640 for the school year. If a parent or guardian submits an exemption request after testing has begun, any test(s) completed before the request is submitted will be scored and the results reported to the parent or guardian and included in the pupil's records. An LEA and its employees may discuss the CAASPP assessment system with parents and may inform parents of the availability of exemptions under Education Code section 60615. The LEA and its employees shall not solicit or encourage any written exemption request on behalf of any child or group of children. 

Nebraska: On or before July 1, 1995, each public school district in the state shall develop and adopt a policy stating how the district will seek to involve parents in the schools and what parents' rights shall be relating to access to the schools, testing information, and curriculum matters. (Neb.Rev.St. § 79-531)  local policies must include Under what circumstances parents may ask that their children be excused from testing, classroom instruction, and other school experiences the parents may find objectionable (Neb.Rev.St. § 79-532)

Wisconsin: Upon the request of a pupil's parent or guardian, a school board, charter school, or governing body of a private school participating in school vouchers program shall excuse the pupil from taking an examination administered under sub. (1m). (W.S.A. 118.30)

Thanks again to ECS, NCSL, Fairtest, and United Opt Out. Image via Flickr. See previous post here.

Update: Most States Lack Opt-Out Policies - But Parents Find A Way

Alarm-silence FLATTOP341 flickrAt the risk of making a mountain out of a molehill, here's what I've been able to dig up since yesterday on the topic of parents' rights to opt children out of standardized testing, which I'd thought was pretty well-established (like field trips and sex ed) but is apparently not at all.

Officially, at least, states are required to test everyone who's at school on testing days (for civil rights reasons) and most states don't formally allow parents to opt out. That seems to be the basis upon which Illinois state officials have been telling Chicago parents that they can't just sign a form.

However, parents in most places seem to have figured out other ways -- religious exemptions and/or keeping kids out of school -- to avoid having their children tested if that is their wish.  

Districts and administrators sometimes urge parents to reconsider or even in a handful of cases suggest scary effects if parents opt out, but they're bluffing. "We have yet to see a public school attempt to stop opt out when parents push back," notes United Opt Out's Peggy Robertson. "The school district always back down." Testing opponents sometimes try and pressure parents to join them, too (see previous post).

See below for very helpful details from Fairtest, NCSL, United Opt Out, and ECS.  Tell CCSSO and USDOE to get over their Mardi Gras hangovers and email me back. 

Continue reading "Update: Most States Lack Opt-Out Policies - But Parents Find A Way" »

Quotes: Anti-Test Teachers "Keep Pushing, And Pushing, And Pushing"

Quotes2They keep pushing and pushing and pushing, and using the children against their parents, and that's not professional at all. -- Chicago elementary school parent Luz Zavala on being pressured to join CTU-led testing opt-out campaign (via Chicago Tonight

Update: Parents Can't Opt Children Out Of Tests (In Illinois, At Least)

Dear-parentsParents are considered something close to the ultimate authority in most school situations, and can opt their children out of all sorts of things including sex ed, recess, and immunizations.  They can take their kids out of school (within limits). 

It hasn't always been the case, but in many states, they can now opt their children out of public education entirely, and homeschool.

But apparently the parental prerogative is not universal when it comes to standardized testing in Illinois, where the latest wrinkle in the opt out efforts of a relative handful of Chicago parents is the determination that they can't just sign a note or fill out a form.  

Read on for more details -- and some questions.

Continue reading "Update: Parents Can't Opt Children Out Of Tests (In Illinois, At Least)" »

Quotes: "It Would Look Like A National System"

Quotes2Rather than having 14,000 school boards across America, it would get governors involved, big city mayors involved, and it would have a longer school day and a longer school year... It would look like a national system. - Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad describing his ideal education infrastructure (Eli Broad appoints head of philanthropic education efforts SCPR)

Media: Please Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos!

Journalism1-395x420How should reporters write about testing protests and parents opting out this year?

Carefully, in a word.Contextually.  Skeptically.  With much greater balance and insight.

Better than they did last year!

The testing protest/opt out coverage has already begun, and there's nothing wrong with that.  It's testing season, after all, and we knew this was coming.

Teachers at a couple of schools in Chicago say they're not going to administer the state's lame duck assessment, and somewhere around 500 parents say they're going to pull their kids from the tests.

What last year's coverage often lacked, however, was care and context.  Test proliferation claims thrown out by testing critics weren't verified (often it seemed as if no attempts at verification had been made).   Claims that weren't in dispute -- say the number of parents who opted out -- often weren't presented in context (ie, as a percentage of parents in the school or district). The emphasis was on confrontation and consequences that were often overblown and/or speculative -- most of which didn't actually happen and were never likely to.  

Parents and teachers who support testing are rarely found and presented to readers, resulting in grossly imbalanced coverage (especially since the vast majority of parents and teachers aren't actively involved in testing advocacy).

Let's not do that again. Or at least let's stop before it becomes a habit. Two recent stories from Chicago illustrate the challenges.

Continue reading "Media: Please Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos!" »

Quotes: Common Core Uproar Obscures Broader Concerns

Quotes2It’s hard to tell where the uproar over Common Core ends and the more general uproar over education in the United States begins. -- Jessica Leahy in the NYT Parenting Blog

Afternoon Audio: Community Organizing & School Reform

I figure since I missed this 2011 WNYC segment featuring Mark ("Match On Dry Grass") Warren and Desiree Pilgrim Hunter (BCCC), maybe you did, too. I found it and lots of other videotape, etc. from the 2012 conference. Were you there? Did you already know about all these efforts? Have they been successful and effective, locally and/or nationally, since then?

Morning Video: "12 Years A Slave" Going To High School

"The distribution will be funded by TV host Montel Williams in partnership with New Regency, Penguin Books and Fox Searchlight Pictures. Williams was also largely responsible for the incorporation of the Civil War film "Glory" into school curriculum." ('12 Years A Slave' To Be Incorporated In High School Curriculum)

Update: Testing Opt-Out Effort Falls Flat In Chicago

3109294361_11b4fa1747_oYou'd think that Chicago would be a prime place for a parent opt-out protect against standardized testing, given the amount of success that the teachers union has had convincing the media and parents that what teachers want and what parents want are the same thing.

But that didn't seem to be the case when the opt out press conference held on Monday revealed that only about 500 kids would be exempted from standardized testing that begins next week:

Hundreds of CPS students refuse to take annual test: parents’ group Sun Times; Parent groups push ISAT boycott in CPS CLTV; Parent groups push ISAT boycott in CPS Tribune

Testing requirements vary somewhat across Chicago because the district allows regions and schools to make some of their own decisions regarding assessments.  A recent report from TeachPlus found that Chicago has one of the lower testing burdens on paper and in teachers' experiences in the classroom. The union and several other groups pushed to recruit parents for the effort for several weeks ahead of the event.

 

 

Parenting: What Happens When Mom Takes The SAT

image from www.newyorker.comBe sure to check out Big Score, Elizabeth Kolbert's New Yorker article about what happens when Mom takes the SAT.

It's based in part on Debbie Stier's book The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT, in which the 46 year old mom decides "to devote herself full time to the test, with the goal of achieving the maximum possible score of 2400."

TLDR?  Here's the last graf: "Whatever is at the center of the SAT—call it aptitude or assessment or assiduousness or ambition—the exam at this point represents an accident. It was conceived for one purpose, adapted for another, and somewhere along the line it acquired a hold on American life that nobody ever intended. It’s not just high-school seniors who are in its thrall; colleges are, too. How do you know how good a school is? Well, by the SAT scores of the students it accepts... As befits an exam named for itself, the SAT measures those skills—and really only those skills—necessary for the SATs." 

I've asked the College Board if they feel there's anything wrong or missing in the piece - will let you know if I get any interesting response.  

Quotes: "Enclave" Parents Vs. Other Parents

Spy-vs-Spy-without-bombs-775529[1]The most influential and well-educated people either have their kids in private schools, or they have their kids in an enclave inside the high school that are called honors courses... and so, if we go to a school and say, let’s change things here, they say, no way, you’re going to mess our little enclave up. - Bill Gates quote (from several years ago) about the challenges of changing schools (Education Week).

Books: A Dystopian Education Thriller!

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 19 12.57"It’s the near future and education has become big business," according to the promo copy for @Charles_Swift's dystopian education thriller, The Newman Resident.

"Dr. Newman is at the leading edge of creating the perfect educational environment for children, and all he requires is a hefty tuition—and your child at the age of six months."

Could be good -- could be way over the top.  What do you think?  Anyone plopped down the $2.99 it costs to download and read the thing, or know who Charles Swift is?

People: Soledad O'Brien's Ed School Teaching Gig

image from isites.harvard.eduThe longtime news host  left CNN last spring and is now producing education-related segments on Al Jazeera America and also teaching a class at the Harvard ed school (Boston Globe). The HGSE course is called "Advancing the Public Understanding of Education” (co-taught with Joe Blatt). She's taught on Dream School (Los Angeles Times), in which celebrities taught kids (sort of). She's also a mother of four and a regular guest on HBO and will be moderating the National Geographic Bee (replacing Alex Trebek). Image via HGSE.

Thompson: Shouldn't We Have Choice in Testing?

SatPerhaps a new form of educational choice will drive the next era of school improvement. One would think that advocates for school choice would be consistent and support the rights of parents and students to choose whether to be subjected to standardized tests - or not. 

We should seriously contemplate William Hiss's Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions. Hiss studied 123,000 students at 33 institutions over eight years and he found there was virtually no difference in college grades and graduation rates between students who submitted SATs and ACTs or not.  He also explains, "Human intelligence is so multifaceted, so complex, so varied, that no standardized testing system can be expected to capture it."

NPR's Eric Westervelt, in College Applicants Sweat the SATs: Perhaps They Shouldn't, reports that "Some are calling this study a potential game-changer that may prompt schools to evaluate whether there is value in requiring standardized tests." Of course, he is reporting on colleges, not the bubble-in tests that are used to hold schools, teachers, and students accountable, and there is a difference between the two types of assessments. The difference is that the ACT and SAT tests are more reliable and defensible, and the younger the test taker, the greater the potential damage of the test.

So, if parents and students should be allowed to opt out of college admissions tests, shouldn't that choice be extended to all students? Of course, a study of college outcomes, alone, is not definitive proof that public school testing has failed. It just adds to the evidence that the data-driven reform movement was a historical dead end. Once we offer students headed to college the choice of whether they want to endure more of the testing rat race, the next logical step is to ask parents whether they want high-stakes testing dumped on their children. It leads to a common sense approach to school improvement; Let students and adults opt in or opt out of standardized testing.  And, if they give a test and nobody comes ..., reformers should honor that choice.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.    

Quotes: Pre-Eminent Astrophysicist Still Angry At Local Elementary School

ScreenHunter_04 Feb. 18 11.49

I am where I am not because of what happened in school but in spite of it, and that is probably not what you want me to say.  Call me back, and I will address your teachers and give them a piece of my mind. -- Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on why he declined a speaking invitation from his former elementary school (P.S. 81) in a recent New Yorker profile.

TV: Breaking Bad's Pro-Charter School Board Member

image from c.o0bc.comSorry, all of you charter critics who love "Breaking Bad." Your enjoyment of the show -- like your use of Apple devices and Amazon Prime -- is more complicated than you might like it to be.

On the right, that's real-life charter school parent and Albuquerque school board member Steven Michael Quezada, who plays DEA agent Steven Gomez on "Breaking Bad."

Yep.  It's true. According to his official Albuquerque Public Schools bio, the longtime actor was on the board for the Public Academy for the Performing Arts charter school (where his children attend school).

He's going to appear at an upcoming charter school conference (here).  

Morning Video: Schools Conduct Newly-Required "Active Shooter" Drills

Watch the segment from a Missouri school's drill above, read the NBC.com article here, or watch MSNBC host Chris Hayes and reporter @Nona Willis Aronowitz discuss it here

People: When Reformers Switch Sides (& Vice Versa)

Screen shot 2014-02-12 at 10.50.35 PMThere have been a handful of high-profile public defections from the ranks of reformers over the years.

Some of the flip-flops are bizarrly complete and public -- Ravitch, for example.  

Others are partial and more subtle -- Camika Royal, say, or Chicago's Seth Lavin.

To the second category add Philadelphia's Helen Gym, the parent activist who's profiled in a recent edition of Philly Magazine (The Agitator).

Gym battles the Mayor, and the school district. She might run for Mayor on an education agenda.

But she also helped found a charter school (Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures School), is married to one of its board members, and sent her children there.

I don't know anything more about Gym than what I read, but I have to say I like the nuance that's suggested. There are all too few people who admit to having doubts or concerns about whatever views they're espousing -- online, especially -- and even fewer who will admit to compromises or complications in their own lives and decisions.  

What about reform critics turned supporters?  There aren't any vivid examples that come to mind, but it could be said that many if not most of those past the age of 40 who supports reform positions now (regarding charters, accountability, teacher evaluation) probably started out (ie, grew up) wanting to be for the traditional education system.

Charts: Common Core Cocktail Party Cheat Sheet

image from www.greatschools.orgWhat's hot and what's not in the Common Core, via GreatSchools.

Quotes: In Education, It's *Liberals* Who Oppose Choice

Quotes2Moderate liberals and conservatives want to expand and empower the public schools that admit everybody by random lottery. The lefties want to preserve geographic-based restrictions. - New York magazine article (Public Education’s Weird Ideological Divide)

Maps: 8 States Where Faking A School Address Can Get Parents Jail Time

8 places that can jail you for stealing education
From Al Jazeera America:  "The severity of states’ laws varies greatly, as do the punishments for families that are caught." States listed are OK, MO, IL, MI, OH, NY, PA, DC.

Charts: Test/Test Prep Time Lowest In Chicago, Highest In Cleveland

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"In Chicago, for instance, students will spend 38.8 hours on state and districts tests by 8th grade, while in Denver that total will top 159 hours. At the 3rd grade level, differences in testing time could amount to as much as three instructional days: each year in Chicago, children spent five hours on tests, while in Cleveland they spent 25 hours." (EdWeek: Study: Districts Vary Widely in the Amount of Time They Spend on Testing)

Morning Video: MSNBC Interviews Pro-Choice House Democrat

 

MSNBC's Craig Melvin interview's Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and talks about parental choice for good schools (charters, magnets) and positive pressures created by choice - but stops short of endorsing vouchers or saying that choice itself is the top priority in education. 6:49 via EducationNation

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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.