The Atlantic thinks so. Photo via Whitehouse.gov.
The Atlantic thinks so. Photo via Whitehouse.gov.
While it is fine for the adults to disagree on such issues, we should leave our families, especially our kids, out of it. - Former StudentsFirst communications chief Hari Sevugan, via email, in response to a recent Diane Ravitch blog post in which she named the private school Rhee sent one of her children to in Nashville. Full quote is below.
The Washington Post's Emma Brown, in "D.C. Parents Develop Alternatives to Chancellor's School-Closure Plan," writes that Kaya Henderson challenged parents to produce more than "heartfelt pleas" as an alternative to her plan to close 20 schools. Sure enough, parents pulled together concrete alternatives. The parents' plans include anti-truancy programs, early-childhood education, after-school tutoring and crime prevention.
I'm not surprised that parents in Washington D.C. drafted better plans than the educrats. When my district held public meetings to contribute to our school consolidation plan, they provided an essential reality check. The bottom line for many was that it was idiocy to combine middle and high schools (as opposed to the alternative, pre-k to 8th grade schools.) The district did not heed the parents' wisdom. Sure enough, after the first day in 6-12th grade schools, one twelve year-old was found hiding and curled in a fetal position and a sixth-grader told her mom, "there's not one nice person in that building."
Similarly, D.C. middle school parents also oppose the district's plan to combine a high poverty middle and high school. One mother said, “The weed smoking, the hanging out that they do, ... I just can’t see sending a sixth-grader into that kind of environment.” I wonder whether Chancellor Henderson would let parents draft plans for safe and orderly secondary schools ... -JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.
This Verizon ad showing a sick kid attending school via robot turns out not to be science fiction -- "telepresence" education is already happened in a few places including New York, Colorado, Arkansas, and Pittsburgh (16 futuristic predictions that came true in 2012)
"Why, they asked, are the students in more prosperous neighborhoods unofficially allowed to ignore the ban, as long as they aren’t caught? And why are the poor kids in the eighty-eight New York schools that have been equipped with metal detectors forced to spend five dollars a week—an expense that, for some, means going without food?" (NYROB: Why Are Poor Kids Paying for School Security?)
In December remarks that I consider more interesting than objectionable, Bill Ayers touts the value of teachers' access to parents and communities and slams TFA:
Big surprise. Pretty much everybody's figured out the importance of winning parents' support (and advocacy in general). Bill Ayers: The Left Must Utilize Its ‘Absolute Access’ to America’s Classrooms Via EAG.
TFA alum Matt Brown (@mattGLH) was kind enough to share these six amusing and possibly helpful steps to getting into TFA, for those of you who might be curious or interested (or whom have offspring who are making noises about applying) but aren't sure you want to shell out $20 for a book or $250 for one of those fancy TFA application consultants.*
Here's a fascinating essay on the Newtown shooting by Chris Ware, a New Yorker illustrator who also happens to be a Chicago parent and husband of a CPS teacher.
Ware recalls his daughter's 2nd grade field trip held the same day as the shooting, his wife's experiences with the metal detectors and armed guards at her high school, and the experience of some teachers feeling blamed or responsible for keeping kids safe as well as educating and caring for them.
"As parents and citizens, we entrust our children not only to the safety of schools but also to the nurturing and cultivated environment of schools and teachers. Education is the very foundation of civilization and cannot be undermined or undersold. That we now have to somehow consider an unchecked population of firearms as part of this equation seems absolutely ludicrous and terrifying."
Ware also reveals that the cover he illustrated for the September back to school issue was inspired by his daughter's school.
The second season of High School Confidential premiered on cable TV earlier this week, moving from Kansas City to the North Side of Chicago, IL -- Albany Park's Von Steuben High School, to be specific:
There's been some controversy over how the show portrays the school and its students, notes DNA Info. But was the concern necessary? Video trailer inside includes tattoos, boyfriends, upset parents, and a brief fight.
Go read this post from Kathleen Porter-Magee on the reading gap between affluent and lower-income students, then come back here. Her point is a straightforward one that is nevertheless often neglected in discussions about reading achievement: we cannot close reading comprehension gaps without closing background knowledge and vocabulary gaps.
Crucially, Porter-Magee acknowledges a more subtle point that education reformers too often ignore or do not realize. As she says, "we may never completely close the gap" in reading ability between richer and poorer students because the former have out-of-school lives that are much more vocabulary-rich.
I think it's worth being just a bit more explicit about this, so here goes: unless we want or expect to make schools for less-fortunate students substantially and systematically more effective than schools for more-affluent students, we should not expect achievement gaps to ever close completely.
The real lesson of the Newtown tragedy for educators, foundations, and reform groups is how clearly it highlights the importance of single-issue advocacy efforts conducted at the national level:
As many have noted, the NRA has for decades blocked gun control measures, becoming one of the most effective single issue advocacy operations in the country (along with the anti-tax folks, perhaps, and AARP).
NYC Mayor Bloomberg's "Demand A Plan" initiative, including 34 shooting victims sending videos to the Obama White House over this past weekend, has already arguably had an impact on the Administration's decision to move forward (however tentatively).
In this National Journal article, Adam Cohen discusses the possibility of a "parent lobby" that would, like the NRA or AARP or anyone else, focus on child safety and welfare issues. (The chart shows just how cheap it is to have an impact.)
And what about in education? The teachers unions and education associations are well-established. The Children's Defense Fund and NAACP used to perform some of these functions on behalf of poor children and families. Short-run efforts such as Ed in '08 and that College Board thing this summer revealed the power and challenges. While powerul at the policy level, state-level advocacy networks are limited politically when things get big and struggle with command and coordination issues among different states.
Twenty-odd years into school reform (and at least five into my blathering about the need for such a thing) there's still no national education reform advocacy group or PAC.
Bulletproof Backpack Sales Are Up, Sadly Mother Jones via Atlantic Wire
All the focus on universal preschool these past few years might lead you to believe that, well, Kindergarten was already taken care of, but I recently learned that's not the case at all.
The bare dozen green states on this January 2012 map from CDF (!?) shows how unusual it is for full-day kindergarten to be provided at no charge to all children per state statute and funding.
Over the weekend, former EdSec Bill Bennett and others suggested arming teachers. Way back in 2006, however, Stephen Colbert proclaimed that not only should teachers be armed, but also students.
Think the trigger has come and gone? Think again. Maybe you heard Claudio Sanchez's NPR segment this morning on the parent trigger law (here), talking about how powerful if untested an idea it is, and here's the map that goes along with the seven states Sanchez mentioned, courtesy of KC MO News (here):
"As of June, the National Conference of State Legislatures said about 13 other states had considered but did not approve trigger laws." Click the link to get to a clickable link. I'm starting a pool over how long into the new Congress we get before a member introduces a federal trigger proposal.
Richard Kramer, who wrote My So Called Life and thirtysomething, has a new book out called These Things Happen and it's about a high school sophomore.
According to the Salon review here, it's "the story of Wesley Bowman, a thoroughly fascinating and preternaturally — but never preciously — intelligent New York kid whose beating at the hands of gay-bashing bullies in the basement of his schmancy Manhattan prep school (the sort of place where “these things” are not supposed to “happen”) at once brings his family together and pushes them apart in unexpected ways."
Sounds good, no? Sure, you can send it to me as a holiday gift. That'd be very kind of you.
Watch Pediatricians Add Reading to Essential Health Check-Up List on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.From last night's PBS NewsHour
Indonesian boy on his way to school navigates a narrow plank bridge going over an aqueduct. via Photojournalismus
Inspired by Sabermetics, Nate Silver, and all the (Gates) talk about school surveys, these college seniors (Yale) and a few friends have developed a cheap cloud-based software platform called Panorama that can help schools conduct nearly-instant surveys of kids, parents, teachers, and community members -- without specialized paper and using pretty much any platform (including mobile). So far they're in nearly 700 school in 6 states (including CA and CT). See: Data Geeks Set Sights On School Reform
These days it's popular to attribute electoral outcomes to influential "special interests", and certainly powerful individuals and groups can affect election results. Still, "special interests" can only get you so far in explaining democratic fortunes; voters aren't just blank slates upon which the rich and powerful can project their own preferences.
So consider me skeptical that strong African American support for a pro-charter school initiative in Georgia is best explained by "out-of-state money" (Valerie Strauss) or opponents being "drowned out" by President Obama (Jim Galloway). I'm totally prepared to believe that big money and popular leaders can change the way people vote, but by all accounts the move to make charter authorization easier was favored by a large majority of African American voters.
Had the results been closer it might make sense to attribute the results to the persuadability - or gullibility - of a few marginal voters. If accounts of 2-1 support among black voters are accurate, however, there is probably more than enough informed and "authentic" support for charter schools in African American communities to deserve to be taken seriously.
The charter school movement has definitely made for some awkward political alliances (and enemies), but that makes it all the more necessary for opponents of charter schools to engage with the very real concerns charter proponents hope to address. Yes, many black leaders are justifiably worried about school resegregation, but many black parents conspicuously are not (at least to the same degree).
Following up on Alexander Russo’s American Enterprise Institute paper Left Out of No Child Left Behind,Valerie Strauss’s The Answer Sheet recently posted an extended passage from Jack Schneider’s Excellence for All.
Reading Schneider and Russo, I wonder about the patience of some of the most powerful economic and political movers and shakers on the planet. How long will they continue to invest tens of billions of dollars in a reform movement that has achieved so little?
And as for TFA itself, I question whether TFA should really ally itself more closely with reformers, given reform's weak results and TFA alumni's breadth of views and experiences? I would argue that the wonks need TFA more than TFA needs them.
Here's some educational news you can use. According to a recent study in the journal Child Development, a student who stays up late to study is probably not doing herself any favors. Instead, "if that student sacrifices sleep time to study more than usual, he or she will have more trouble understanding material taught in class and be more likely to struggle on an assignment or test the following day." (Try here for an ungated version of the article.)
The authors point out that sacrificing sleep to study is typically a bigger problem in the later grades. Another wrinkle is that students are not very good at studying in the first place. If students are giving up time spent on something academically important (e.g., sleep) and then wasting it by "studying" ineffectively, it's not surprising that their school performance suffers. How would the results be different if students were using that study time more effectively?
In any case, if you or your student are trying to decide between doing that last homework assignment and getting a full night's sleep, you should probably go with the latter. And my experience is that most teachers don't mind granting the occasional extension for a legitimate reason. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)
Thursday night I got to see the new documentary, "Prep School Negro," which raises important questions about the unintendend effects of scholarship programs, and had the chance to learn a bit about new book called Some of My Best Friends Are Black, Tanner Colby's look at integration efforts and the conversation white Americans aren't having.
After a lengthy postproduction period, this documentary about what is gained and lost when kids are pulled out of their home environments is finally being screened around the country, including tonight in Brooklyn.
This year's application process in Chicago was supposed to feature a unified application process, timeline, and unified website. That's what NYC, New Orleans, Boston, and Denver have for all or part of their systems, many of them using the same outfit to make the process work.
But that isn't happening for another year at least -- due in large part to concerns from charter schools about the district's ability to handle the system.
That leaves Chicago parents who are willing to endure the process to pore through roughly 15 different kinds of schools, and seven different applications (not including charters). It's only recently that parents can apply to some kinds of schools online rather than by mail or in person.
The process in Chicago is almost comically complicated, and the supply of high-performing schools -- district and charter -- remains woefully low. One result is that roughly two out of three white, college-educated parents send their kids to private or parochial schools.
Coverage: Chicago parents: Get your [multiple] school applications ready WBEZ, Ready, Set, Apply…. for the 2013/2014 school year! cpsobsessed, CPS opens application process for selective, magnet schools Catalyst.
My post last week on standards-based grading generated a lot of feedback that helped me see a shortcoming in what I wrote. There are really two distinct camps of standards-based-grading advocates that I shouldn't have blurred together because I'm much more sympathetic to one than I am to the other.
One camp takes the position that content mastery is really the only thing that matters when formally reporting student outcomes. On this account other factors like how hard students worked or how well they behaved in class don't matter much (if at all) to the rest of the world and should matter to teachers only insofar as they contributed to mastery of the content.
The second camp of standards-based-grading advocates takes the position that report cards should contain more, and more useful, information. On this account it might make sense to include "behavior" or "citizenship" grades or marks on a report card, but they should be distinct from marks for academic mastery.
"Our budget's been cut, school's hitting the skids, We're coming for you, and we're bringing our kids."
Click here to watch it again or read the lyrics.
It was nearly a month ago that John Thompson linked to John Merrow's piece about hyperpolarization in education reform debates, but I only just got around to reading it. It's just as well, because Merrow's points about "rants and negativity" were nicely illustrated by the recent Chicago teachers' strike.
Over the course of the CTU work stoppage I was struck by the nastiness of the online discourse. Supporters of the strike casually claimed that Rahm Emanuel & Co. were dishonest "privatizers", and CTU's critics routinely claimed to have demonstrated that Chicago's striking teachers - and Karen Lewis in particular - did not care about the district's children. And, of course, while each side was horrified and offended by the groundless personal attacks made against them, neither side seemed to appreciate the irony of their hypocrisy. Sadly, it was only a somewhat exaggerated version of the sort of polarized discourse Merrow criticized pre-strike.
And yet what strikes me every time I step away from the computer is that the discourse around education in my offline life is not nearly so polarized. I read the phrase "war on teachers" online nearly every day, but have never heard it in person from a teacher. My coworkers use standardized test results some times and complain about their limitations other times, but they rarely use terms like "mania" or "meaningless" that you commonly see online. I don't think I've ever heard a teacher either deny that poverty "matters" or use poverty as an "excuse."
In other words, while much of the education conversation in this country is overly polarized, it is not uniformly polarized and focusing on the most-polarized contexts -e.g., social media or the districts with the most adversarial labor/management relationships - can give a misleading impression of the temperature of the debate nationwide. The case for optimism may therefore be slightly stronger than John Merrow allows. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)
It's not as good as his 2010 masterpiece with Justin Timberlake (History Of Rap), which -- admit it -- you first saw here. But it's not bad, either. Now, back to work.
It was no surprise that the Daily Oklahoman had to close its comments section following this article: Boy, 10, Reports Stabbing on Oklahoma City Public School Bus. That common practice illustrates part of the difficulty in honestly discussing school violence. But the more that districts across the country try to hide the extent of crime and bullying in schools, the more that patrons believe the worse. This perpetuates the practice of "juking the stats."
The author later reports on a first step towards addressing bullying in the OKCPS. The district opened a bullying hot line. In less than a month, 155 reports were made. Since the system is new, only a third of the reports have come from the community. One report was from a social worker. Coppernall wrote that "a girl who lives in a group home was being kicked during dance class. Now, instead of the girl suffering in silence, an entire team of school officials knows about the problem." Who knows what will be learned about the extent of unreported violence once the community is aware of the hotline? Already, the district has been informed of two cases of weapons in schools and 25 other acts of violence.-JT(@drjohnthompson)Image via.
Almost missed this subtle dropoff scene from the New Yorker - thanks for sending it in.