Apparently there's a vague but threatening epidemic of younger kids cheating. As always, I blame NCLB. From the WSJ: Why More Young Kids Cheat at School
But recently I've learned that the GreatSchools profiles are incredibly popular among parents, that there's a new Facebook app that allows parents to find friends and friends-of-friends who are discussing certain schools and neighborhoods, and that there are blog posts like this one (When the melting pot boils over) that address core school reform issues like diversity and gentrification.
"Many middle-class parents enter public schools with a dogged determination to improve them. They want to do good, while also doing right by their children. Yet when such efforts — however well-meaning — carry the taint of entitlement, it doesn’t take much for the ordinary elementary school to become an ideological battleground waged around bake sales and play structures."
It doesn't hurt that I've written about the challenges and opportunities of diverse schools and live in a neighborhood going through massive gentrification right now, or that I met executive editor Carol Lloyd at #EWA13 last week. Image via GreatSchools.
Weeks later and I'm still thinking about this NYT Magazine article about the surprising integration of schools in leafy Greenwich, Connecticut. But not in a good way.
One of the key things that the wonks and idealists who favor socioeconomically integrated schools consistely leave out in their discussions of the benefits and policy tools available is the simple, consistent, but extremely powerful factor of resistance from middle- and upper-class families who are already in place at schools they like.
It seems to me that it's much easier -- though still quite difficult -- to persuade parents with other options to consider a new school (with a new program or in a gentrifying neighborhood) for their children than it is to persuade them to tolerate the arrival of growing numbers of low-income, minority kids in a school their children already attend.
Given that the number of gentrifying neighborhoods is quite limited, and their "gentrifying" status is temporary, the real challenge for pro-diversity advocates and policymakers is to figure out how to persuade kids, teachers, and parents at medium-to-good schools that the arrival of a new set of kids -- and the reduced spaces for siblings and friends -- is somehow worth it, even if it's of no direct or immediate benefit to them.
Of course, this was one of the main issues that integrationists of a previous era had to deal with, and was perhaps one of the main stumbling blocks to previous efforts. What I don't know is whether anyone in the current era has figured out an approach or workaround for this underlying issue.
Image via Wikemedia Commons
According to unnamed sources and an IG report that no one's seen, presumptive Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner moved into the city from the suburbs and then"clouted" his daughter into one of Chicago's most selective high schools -- and former Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan helped.
This according to a new story from Crain's Chicago Business reporter Greg Hinz (read it here), which picks up on a long-running problem in Chicago under Mayor Daley and an issue that's simmered for years.
Duncan says he doesn't recall being asked to intervene, and I'm told that his former communications deputy, Peter Cunningham, says the same.
After Duncan left, the admissions system for selective schools in Chicago was amended to prevent (or at least limit) the system that had allowed principals to bypass normal procedures for a small percentage of students.
Image via CCFlickr
A Science Star Already, Tinkering With the Idea of Growing Up NYT via GothamSchools (she was at the White House earlier this week)
There's been lots of discussion online this past week about Jonathan Cohn's New Republic article on the chaotic and low-quality system we have for childcare in America, titled The Hell of American Day Care.
Though obviously the kids are younger and only 40 percent of them are involved, anyone taking a few minutes to read it will see a lot of similarities to K-12 education: huge variations in quality and cost depending on location and family income, low pay and limited screening for effectiveness, lack of data about program quality, political obstacles to expansion (conservatives, usually, though I'm sure some of today's reform critics would find things to object to in a national childcare program), a patchwork of state and local programs with very little national oversight, the slow pace of change:
"The United States has always been profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of supporting child care outside the home, for reasons that inevitably trace back to beliefs over the proper role of women and mothers. At no point has a well-organized public day care system ever been considered the social ideal."
Interestingly, the DoD has developed one of the few high quality childcare systems -- nearly all of its programs meet NAEYC standards, compared to 10 percent in the private sector. Head Start is narrowly targeted on the poor -- more on that elsewhere. A broader plan passed Congress but was vetoed by President Nixon. Image via TNR.
There were lots of interesting tidbits thrown out during the Yale School of Management education summit session on mobilization, and no shortage of quips from panelists including Jeremiah Kittredge and Derrell Bradford, Kristen Wiegand, and Derwin Sisnett (moderated by Suzanne Tacheny Kubach).
Some of the topics that were touched on included the power of storytelling, the difference between mobilizing a community and engaging or organizing it for the long run, the struggle to mesh what advocates want and what low-income communities can and should do. You should really skip the rest of this post and just start listening at the 5 minute mark where the session begins (WS600022).
But the conversation at the end about the parent trigger was to me fascinating, revealing differences among organizers in terms of how they view the trigger, even as they admire its power and pull.
"The best hook anybody has found is parent trigger," said Kittredge -- even as he listed its flaws. "There's no better piece of persuasion to get people to come back out than the concept of parent trigger."
Shepard Fairey (famous for his Obama "hope" poster) is doing an LA education arts initiative calling on students to submit ideas as a starting point for the visuals he's going to create:
Be warned, however. The LA Times story (Shepard Fairey taps LAUSD students for ideas) notes that Fairy attended public schools but sends his own children to private ones.
You don't have to have a kid in private school to support more choices for families, and you don't need to be a public school parent to know that kids getting the shaft in a terrible district school should matter to you. - Derrell Bradford
The decision will be based on a vote of the 369 parents who signed the original parent trigger petition, according to the LA Weekly.
Whichever of the four possible school governance models the parents choose, it will be a historic moment because of the lack of a court fight, notes the Hechinger Report.
But the parent trigger -- a controversial state law that gives parents the right to initiate dramatic changes at a low-performing school -- is already being used or considered by parents at at least two other LAUSD schools.
Read all about it at LA School Report here.
Atlantic Wire: The New 'Great Gatsby' Trailer Is Your 9th-Grade English Class with Pop Music. There's also a good Studio 360 segment on the novel's longevity you can listen to here.
It's hard for me not to think education when the topic of same-sex marriage comes up. I mean, Secretary Duncan practically made President Obama revise his position on the issue, and thereby won the 2012 campaign (right?). What more do you need?
It's a connection I've been making on and off since last year: More Lessons From The 2012 Gay Equality Campaign; Learning From The Gay Rights ...; How Vouchers Are Like Same-Sex Marriage; In Defense Of Arne ("Same-Sex") Duncan; Duncan Gets Ambushed
However, the connections only go so far, according to Fordham's Mike Petrilli, who in this new post (What can education reformers learn from the gay rights movement?) says it's understandable that folks like me (are there others?) want to make the connection but that school reform is more comparable to health care reform than a social/rights issue that doesn't cost money or have as many immediate programmatic concerns. (I'm paraphrasing.)
Petrilli's right that the same-sex/school reform comparison is a stretch -- that is sort of the point -- and education and health care are more readily conceived and compared in relation to each other. However, I'm not sure that this is always or necessarily the case.
If and when the current programmatic, policy-focused attempts to improve public education have run their course for good or ill, I can imagine a return to a more rights-focused approach to school reform, centered around parental rights or the right to equal treatment.
School integration was to my simplistic understanding fueled by a focus on student rights. The private school voucher issue is already discussed in terms of rights and equity. Law enforcement actions against parents seeking better education for their children brings up some of the same issues.
Related posts: Same-Sex Marriage Cases Hold Implications for Schools EdWeek
So, should we care if her own children attend private schools?
Strauss' logic is that if one of her kids attends a private school that employs educational "approaches that are counter to the test-centric public-school reform agenda" that Rhee supports then she is a hypocrite.
The problem with this thinking is two-fold.
First, Rhee's position is that American public schools are awful. Her evidence for this is pretty weak, but given that she believes it it wouldn't be surprising if she decided against enrolling one of her kids in a system she thinks is in such desperate need of improvement.
Second, it's not even clear what, precisely, is offered by the private school in question that Rhee wouldn't also wish for every other child in the country.
Does Rhee oppose students reaching their "highest intellectual ability in the sciences, the humanities, and the arts"? Or teaching students "to think critically, to lead confidently, and to live honorably"?
I see no evidence that Rhee has any objections to these things in public schools.
Nor should we be scandalized if Rhee doesn't believe that the best methods for achieving these lofty educational goals for her children are the best methods for all children. Rhee's children are young people of considerable privilege; Rhee's reform efforts focus primarily (although not exclusively) on schools serving the seriously under-privileged.
The fact is that different students have different educational needs. Trying to meet those diverse needs within a heterogeneous classroom - that is, "differentiation" - is widely considered an important part of the job for skillful teachers.
So we shouldn't be horrified at the possibility that different schools serving very different populations of students look very different educationally. Frankly, I'd be concerned if they didn't.
None of which is to say that Rhee's preferred methods for urban public schools - or those used at elite private schools - are good or even well-suited to their respective target students.
Whether those methods are effective or appropriate, however, is really the fundamental issue in education reform. And that issue is illuminated not at all by poorly-informed efforts to politicize Michelle Rhee's parenting. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)
The most challenging students (and families) are those who expect success to be automatic, a birthright, something they should achieve just by showing up. - How Middle School Failures Lead to Medical School Success (The Atlantic)
Is interactive media any different from old-fashioned TV time? Is the iPad any more addictive -- or informative -- than previous technology? Really, just go read the article.
"Two African-American Boys Enter a Prestigious Private School and Their Families Confront the Opportunities and Frustrations Presented by the Changing Face of Success in America" (POV) Airing this Fall.
Life at Westeros Valley High is pretty brutal. Tweeted this a few days ago but forgot to post it. You don't really have to know the show to enjoy the video. Via ONTD
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That seems to be the main message behind the creation of a new education advocacy group that is hoping to push its agenda to parents, the public -- and elected officials.
The Network for Public Education (NfPE?) -- not to be confused with the recently shuttered Public Education Network -- is being created to do what StudentsFirst, DFER, Stand, and 50CAN have been trying to do (organizing as a 501c4 rather than a traditional nonprofit, endorsing candidates, and maybe even creating a PAC).
Only it's an anti-reform kind of group, and for now at least it will rely on social media rather than big funders. And it's going to be run by Diane Ravitch (plus Anthony Cody, Leonie Haimsen, and the other usual suspects).
According to EdWeek (Diane Ravitch Launches New Education Advocacy Counterforce), Ravitch will be the main spokesperson for the group, and hopes that it serves as some sort of umbrella organization for the other groups -- Save Our Schools (the annual march and yellow icons in peoples' Twitter avatars), Parents Across America, and Broader Bolder.
I wonder how the other anti-reform groups feel about this new entrant, and about relying ever more heavily on Ravitch. Mixed feelings, I would imagine. I wonder how they'll coordinate and cooperate -- an issue the reform advocacy groups have struggled with. I wonder what it does to reform critics' purity of message to be doing some of the things that they've long criticized.
But the sturdy band of reform critics are already very good at social media, and have broken into mainstream media coverage of education as well (a mind meld with some beat reporters if there ever was one). If a sympathetic funder -- Ford, for example, or one of the unions -- they'd have some resources to expand (if also some credibility and hypocrisy issues to deal with).
Serious education policy types and DPC staffers might hate to consider it, but First Lady Michelle Obama's child obesity prevention efforts might end up having more beneficial impact on kids' lives than Race to the Top, NCLB waivers, and the Common Core. Here she is doing a bit with Jimmy Fallon last week.
I am being bullied by Emily Bazelon to show this video of her interview with Steven Colbert:
Interesting thing about Bazelon's book is that she is simultaneously reminding us that bullying isn't as new or growing a problem as it may seem (media hype! fear of technology!) but at the same time she's, well, talking about bullying.
So I had the chance to watch the first two episodes of "Blackboard Wars," the new Oprah Winfrey Network reality series that premiers tomorrow night (a month earlier than originally scheduled), and I have to say that I liked it. Not because it's necessarily accurate, or even particularly new or original (Locke High School, anyone?) but because it's a good reminder of the day to day struggles, the retail work, of making a broken school better. This is messy, one-kid-at-a-time work done by teachers, counselors, and administrators, and so many of the real setbacks and successes have nothing to do with learning geometry or American history.
Want to know everything about the preschool proposal -- including whether any of it stands a chance of being implemented and doing any good? Today's Wonkbook has a great roundup of stories about the numbers, the reactions ("Holy smokes!" from James Heckman), the evolution of views over time. My favorite writeup so far, however, is this Forbes article (via Jezebel) about the non-altruistic arguments for universal preschool: the needs of single mothers and working couples, as well as the economic benefits.
Colorado high school basketball player pulls off amazing pass. Via Jezebel, via Buzzfeed
What does it mean -- what does it feel like -- to go to school every day not knowing if you or friends will make it through the day? Since the end of the summer, WBEZ reporter Linda Lutton, author Alex Kotlowitz, and Ben Calhoun have been embedded at Harper High School, whose students and recent alumni included 29 shot or killed last year. Starting this Friday, This American Life is running a two-part show about the school and the surrounding community, and from what I've heard already it's pretty amazing.
So far as I've listened to the press preview, the story's not much about the classroom but rather about what goes on in the halls, in the counselors' offices, and on the way to and from school. The administrators try and keep tabs on what's going on among students, in order to prevent or limit confrontations. The students describe a bewildering mix of ever-shifting min-gangs that little resemble the old days of Bloods and Crips with top-down control and formal initiation rituals (if those days were ever portrayed accurately).
Harper High School, Part One airs this Friday and covers the start of school and the tumultuous events of the fall. The following week, Harper High School, Part Two describes the easy access to handguns and the students' ideas of what can be done to make things better. Press release is here. Summer 2012 WBEZ story by Lutton is here. Image via TAL.
Called Getting a chance, the new Catalyst story summary is simple -- and is applicable to many other places besides Chicago:
"Smart students from poor neighborhoods are less likely to test into gifted and classical elementary schools. Later, they are more likely to become disengaged and eventually drop out. A special initiative is giving some students a last-minute shot at elite programs."
Read it. Save it for the weekend. Come back to it. Ask your education friends what they're doing to fix the problem. Berate them if they don'thave an answer.
Think about what it would take to reduce these inequities: Better outreach, ending or limiting sibling preferences, better options to choose among, and -- first on my list -- universal choice (one application for all charter, magnet, and selective schools) and assigned matching systems to make sure every parent knows all the options and bring order to the chaotic and often unfair acceptance-hoarding that goes on when some parents apply everywhere and only release their spots at the last minute.
Chicago's Seth Lavin taught for a few years, worked a non-education job for a little while, and built a fun weekly education blog called Chicago School Wonks before he returned to the classroom at the start of the 2012-2013 school year.
Along the way Lavin learned a lot about school reform, including its weaknesses and disappointments, and it was fascinating if disheartening to witness his evolution. (See previous posts: Citizen Journalist Extraordinaire Seth Lavin, Lost In Chicago)
The latest news is that Lavin has been pulled back into the school reform process -- this time on the receiving end -- through his wife, Kate, also a teacher, and the potential closing of their neighborhood school in fast-gentrifying Logan Square. Called Brentano, it's a place Kate and Seth plan on sending their child. She's already on the local school council, as a community representative. But Brentano curently on a list of roughly 100 possible schools to be closed for low performance and/or under-utlization. The school is better than it looks, and less empty than it might have seemed in the 2010 Census which is being used. Etc.
This is just one incident, and my purpose is not to lambaste Lavin or anyone else but rather to highlight the reality that it feels different when you're on the "being reformed" side (to the extent that school consolidation can be considered reform) than it does when you're the one doing the reforming to others, and that as the current reform movement has grown and evolved it seems like there are more folks like Seth and Kate who've been through a cycle and ended up in a somewhat different place than where they started.
Click below for news coverage of the Brentano pushback against the possible closing. You can find Lavin on Twitter @sethlavin. Image via CCFlickr
*Correction: The original version of this post had Lavin's wife Kate teaching at the school, and omitted that she is on the LSC.
We know closings can destabilize [communities]. But it doesn’t mean every one will be a civil rights violation.
-- USDE's Civil Rights guy Seth Galanter
Watch Teachers Embrace 'Deep Learning,' Teaching Practical Skills on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.This is a NewsHour segement from last night's NewsHour featuring Deeper Learning.
The following is adapted from Divided We Fail: The Story of an African-American Community that Ended the Era of School Desegregation (Beacon Press) by Sarah Garland:
On June 28, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling that officially ended the era of school desegregation that followed Brown v. Board of Education. Five of the nine Justices declared that race alone could no longer be used to assign students to a school, undermining the biggest civil rights cases of the previous century. Under the new interpretation of the law, school districts that had labored for half a century to integrate under plans once forced on them by the courts were told those plans were now unconstitutional.
Two cases led to the decision, one out of Seattle and another out of Louisville, Kentucky, the most racially integrated school system in America. The Louisville case had a long history. Ten years earlier, parents had gone to court to fight desegregation in order to save one school, Central High.
At some point, these coming-out videos will become passe (and indeed, this one may mark that point), but for now/just in case: here's a New Jersey high school student coming out to his classmates. Towleroad via Buzzfeed.
#inaug2013 Oh, no! Here's a GIF of 11 year-old Sasha Obama yawning just as the President was talking about education reform and other collective activities ("No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future... Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.") Via the Atlantic Wire (The Truth About Sasha Obama's Yawn) At least she could have covered her mouth, right?
The Atlantic thinks so. Photo via Whitehouse.gov.