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Watch: For One Miami Principal. Common Core Spurs Hope & Fear

 

Watch Bridget Mckinney, third-year principal of Miami's Allapattah Middle School, explain "her trepidations, as well as her support, for the common core itself." (Common Core Spurs Hope, Fear for a Miami Principal via State EdWatch).

 

5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: Sure, Why Not Compare Schools To Yellow Cabs?

The inevitable comparison between Uber and school choice - James Courtovich in the WSJ http://ow.ly/C6T4y 

Putting The Trust Back In Education ow.ly/C7S14 @ConorPWilliams riffs off of @ulrichboser's new book

Instead Of Staring At Screens, These Kids Stared At Faces : NPR ow.ly/C7OJ9 @NPRCoryTurner

End the charter school wars - NY Daily News ow.ly/C7APr@RickKahlenberg @HalleyTCF

Wave of undocumented students challenges schools, costs extra $2K per kid | PBS NewsHour Extra ow.ly/C7oOb

Investigations into teacher misconduct can often take more than a year  http://ow.ly/C6ZhC  @lizbowie

Nearly 5 years in, NYC is "nowhere close to delivering" on Race to the Top promises, writes Steve Brill ow.ly/C82tI

Confessions Of A Six-Figure Father: Why I'd Never Send My Kids To Private School ow.ly/C7oxf

Thompson: Once Again, Mass Insight Explains What It Takes to Turnaround Schools

Logo_eduWhen I first read Mass Insight's The Turnaround Challenge, I was thrilled by its holistic explanation of what it takes to turnaround the most challenging schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the document was his Bible, but then he violated most of its principles when establishing School Improvement Grants, dooming his SIG to failure.

In 2007, Mass Insight showed that instruction-driven, curriculum-driven policies could not transform the schools with the greatest challenges, and that the mass dismissal of teachers was a bad idea. It emphasized the "Readiness Triangle," drawing upon the best social science to explain how and why a proper foundation must be laid for school improvement. Now, Mass Insight explains why today's accountability regimes are undermining school improvement.

Let's hope that reformers listen to Mass Insight's  Changing the Metrics of Turnaround to Encourage Early Learning Strategies, by Elliot Regenstein, Rio Romero-Jurado, Justin Cohen, and Alison Segal. It criticizes accountability metrics that  “have not set the right goals for educators.” For instance, the normative SIG approach undermines capacity-building because “current metrics effectively eliminate the viability of early learning as a potential long-term improvement strategy.”

Mass Insight notes that Arne Duncan often says he wants to be"tight on goals, loose on means," but his prescriptive school turnaround policies "have largely been just the opposite." Even better, this reform organization does something that is very rare in reform circles; it draws upon the Consortium on Chicago School Research, evidence-based systems developed for early education, and science-based accountability systems in England and the Netherlands. As it says in a previous study, Rethinking State Accountability and Support, Mass Insight is proposing "the reverse" of the Duncan value-added accountability regime.  

Mass Insight proposes "metrics that address professional practice, including the quality of instruction and leadership." That is a scholarly way of stating the common sense principle that educators, like everyone else, should be evaluated on what we actually do - not some not-ready-for-prime-time statistical proxy for what we do. Once we move beyond the misuse of data for accountability, hopefully Mass Insight's latest research, along with an objective reading of The Turnaround Challenge, will inform a new science-based, holistic, and humane era of school improvement. -JT(drjohnthompson) Image via.

Journalism: Think Tanks Bypassing Media & Doing Their Own Version Of Journalism

In case you hadn't noticed, more and more think tanks are behaving in journalism-like ways: hiring journalists to write pleasant, engaging pieces as well as blogging and tweeting directly to policymakers and the public. [They also seem less focused on hiring only PhDs, or on doing their own original academic research, but that's another thing.]

The Think Tank Watch has a recent blog post (Think Tanks Doing Journalism) that highlights this trend:

"Many Washington think tanks have been hiring well-known journalists in recent years in an effort to beef up their efforts to get good writers, network with media-types, and better disseminate information and policy proposals to a wider audience. "

A recent Economist article (Think-tanks and journalism: Making the headlines) points out that it's not just opeds, papers and conferences anymore. 

Indeed.  we've seen bits and pieces of that from education think tanks like Education Sector, Fordham, Carnegie, Brookings, and New America all come to mind. Perhaps the best example of this is AIR taking over Education Sector (and its blog), or Bellwether helping launch RealClearEducation. ThinkProgress -- a division of CAP -- is another example (they were looking for an education reporter not too long ago).

Of course, some news outlets are blurring the line the other way, becoming more wonkish and policy-oriented and less, well, newsy.  Part of this is by necessity.  With their own writers and social media campaigns, think tanks need journalists less.  They've already got academic credibility (of a sort), they already validate ideas for politicians and policymakers. Now they're distributing their own ideas directly.

Related posts: AIR Taking Over Education SectorCarnegie Is The New Ed Sector[Why] Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?Meet Conor Williams, New America's New(ish) Education GuyGoogle Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy ConferencesExpert-Less Think Tanks -- Whose Fault?

Magazines: Where Are The Pro-Reform Versions Of The Nation, Mother Jones, Etc?

image from www.thenation.com

The new issue of The Nation (Saving Public Schools) includes a feature package of education stories that may pique your interest whatever your position or views. Some highlights include: 

The Tough Lessons of the 1968 Teacher Strikes (Goldstein)

What It Takes to Unite Teachers Unions and Communities of Color (Fine and Fabricant) 

Why Don’t We Have Real Data on Charter Schools? (Noguera)

5 Books to Build a Movement for Education Justice (Shibata)

Our Public Education System Needs Transformation, Not ‘Reform’

It's interesting to note that, despite all the firepower that reform advocates have behind them, they rely almost entirely on occasional efforts in traditional mainstream journalistic outlets like Slate, The New Republic, NYT Sunday Magazine and the daily papers but lack moderate or centrist versions of the liberal-leaning outlets like Mother Jones, Jacobin, The Nation, The Washington Monthly, City Paper (DC), and The American Prospect to pump out sympathetic stories like these "on the regular."

This advantage in access to a slew of magazines -- combined with the social media influence advantage that reform critics have over reform advocates and the liberal leanings of many journalists, somewhat offset by the influence of journalism grants from funders like Gates and Broad -- makes for an interesting interplay of efforts. 

Related posts: Who Influences Education Coverage Better -- Reform Critics Or Funders?Think Tanker Tells Reporters To Stop Scapegoating TFA3 Newish Places To Get Public Radio Stories (Plus NPR Controversy)

Image via The Nation.

Morning Video: FL Mandates Extra 60 Mins. Reading Time For 300 Low-Performing Schools

 

"The state of Florida recently mandated the 300 lowest-performing elementary schools add an extra hour of reading instruction each day, the first in the country to do so. But while supporters are convinced the extra time will improve kids' reading, not everyone is convinced it's the right solution." PBS NewsHour

Afternoon Video: Urban League Pushes For "Equitable Implementation" Of Common Core

As originally noted in Politico's Morning Education, the national Urban League is apparently backing the "equitable implementation" of the Common Core and thus putting at least a bit of pressure on critics to consider the issue from a minority parent perspective.  I mean, check out the fierce expressionon the little girl's face:

Anyone seen a racial or SES breakdown of Common Core support among the public or parents? What other efforts has the Urban League been involved in, and to what effect (if any)?

Charts: Pay No Attention To High Teacher Turnover In "Those" Parts Of District

Teacher Resignations in the Miami-Dade Public Schools (by voting district)

Source: National Council on Teacher Quality, "Unequal Access, Unequal Results," 2014 Click to enlarge

"In 2004-05, close to half of all public school teacher turnover happened in just one quarter of all public schools."  (Education Next: Teacher Retention Varies [Wildly] Within Districts)

Quotes: "Students Before Teachers." Says Harvard Law Prof

Quotes2Progressives should be part of the solution. We can't succumb to simplistic defenses of the distorted teacher protection schemes. We must confront the demonstrable effects of these laws. The future of public education and of the teaching profession can be brighter only when we place students' rights first and foremost on our list of priorities.-- Laurence H. Tribe in USA Today (Students before teachers)

Morning Audio: TFA Interviews MA Blogger Jennifer Berkshire (aka EduShyster)

There's lots of disagreement between TFA's Aaron French and EduShyster's Jennifer Berkshire, who used to work for the state union, but we're promised "no yelling." Here's a link in case it doesn't load for you.

AM News: Just 5 Percent Of High-Poverty NYC Schools Have 50 Percent Pass Rates

Charter schools help poor kids hit 50% pass rate, says report by pro-charter group NY Daily News: A survey by Families for Excellent Schools found that only 46 of 925 high-poverty city schools surveyed reached 50% pass rates — and half of those were charter schools.

Attorney General Holder to Step Down, Promoted Changes in School Discipline EdWeek: In the education world, he is perhaps best known for his efforts to address disproportionately high discipline rates for students from certain racial and ethnic groups. Alongside U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Holder also encouraged schools to step back from zero-tolerance policies that the two said could sometimes lead to heavy-handed punishments for minor rule violations.

Winners of Federal Teacher-Prep Grants Include Many Familiar Names Teacher Beat: Two-thirds of grantees have been funded in the past, but the results of their efforts aren't clear.

With Climbing Graduation Rates Come Renewed Doubts Texas Tribune: In a decade, Texas has gone from an example of the nation’s dropout crisis to the second-highest graduation rate in the country. But that climb has not been matched by success in measures of college and career readiness.

D.C. Says It Now Knows Why Forty Percent Of Students Don't Graduate WAMU: Forty percent of ninth graders in D.C. public schools don't graduate on time, and now city officials say they have identified some of the characteristics and challenges faced by those students. See also Washington Post

The Challenges of a Youth Complicated by Poverty WNYC: Daniel Cardinali is president of Communities in Schools, a federated network of nonprofits that are locally controlled, locally financed, and aim to bring case workers and resources to at-risk students and communities that need it most. And he argues that to help students like Jairo, education policy makers need to change some of their assumptions about how school works.

School board takes on cleanliness controversy WBEZ: The parent who read the comment, Jennie Biggs, has three children at Sheridan Elementary in Bridgeport and is also part of a parent group called Raise Your Hand. That group released the results of an informal survey they did over the last week, which got 162 responses across 60 schools.

Reform: Another Call For A Nationwide Audit Of District Testing Practices

A couple of weeks ago PBS NewsHour education correspondent John Merrow rightly pointed out that the moratorium on high-stakes use of testing to judge teachers was a start of sorts at addressing the overtesting that seems to have creeped into some American schools -- but still lacked a plan for any future action (So There’s A Moratorium. Now What?).

"This very limited moratorium means that scores on the new Common Core standardized tests won’t be used to evaluate teachers in many places.  That’s what some might call a necessary but hardly sufficient action This moratorium doesn’t mean that a truce has been called between the warring sides in the battle over teacher job protection and evaluation. That war is ongoing, sadly. And this moratorium doesn’t mean that school districts are now going to examine the role or amount of standardized bubble testing."

Towards further examination of overtesting -- the numbers and definitions out there so far are thin and uneven -- Merrow proposes a quick fill-in-the-blank questionnaire for superintendents around the country and suggests the National State Teachers of the Year to popularize the effort:  

Screen shot 2014-09-25 at 10.54.07 AM

Yes, it's another test :-)  But something like this is probably going to have to happen, eventually. We need more information about what's going on out there -- and it's not students who will have to take this one. 

Last winter, I urged EdSec Duncan to get out in front of this and do some sort of audit (Unsolicited Suggestions).  A former Hill insider clued me in that the Senate ESEA proposal included something along those lines (National Audit Of Testing Proposed By Senate). Still no word on whether the USDE would endorse or even implement such a thing.   

Charts: Big Rise In Mass Shootings -- Many Of Them At Schools

image from cdn.theatlantic.comThe FBI's new report on the rise in mass shootings in recent years show the disturbing reality that many of them -- just under 25 percent -- take place at schools.  Over all, there were 39 such shootings in education settings, second only to places of business like malls and offices. Story via The Wire.  Image via the FBI.

Media: Think Tanker Tells Reporters To Stop Scapegoating TFA

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comThere's lots to love in Conor Williams' Daily Beast story (Stop Scapegoating Teach for America), at least some of which I feel like I and others have written several times in the past -- though perhaps with less stylishness.  

In essence, Williams is taking on TFA's critics for exaggerating the case against TFA and ignoring larger issues surrounding teacher preparation, diversity, and professionalism. More importantly, he's also taking on the reporters who keep citing these

In particular, Williams cites stories penned by NPR's Anya Kamenetz and former New America Foundation colleague Dana Goldstein in Vox, noting that TFA's diversity has long eclipsed that of the overall teaching corps nationally and that is has been evolving internally for several years now.  (He ignores last year's Politico story, which is just a well.)

"Both [stories] present alt cert in general—and TFA in particular—as a problem, as a project that urgently needs fixing. Read them, and you’re called to consider whether alt cert programs are worth having, and to wonder whether they can be saved."

This level of concern and urgency is senseless given the small size of the teacher corps TFA has in classrooms at any single time. "TFA is neither a lever for dramatically improving or ruining U.S. public education," notes Williams. "Dramatic reforms to TFA’s teacher training aren’t going to substantially shift the trajectory of American public education."

Over all, the debatre over TFA is a sideshow, notes Williams, distracting our attention from the reality that little-trained TFA recruits come near to doing as well as fully-trained traditional candidates.

Related posts:Teach for America Not Directly Displacing Veterans In ChicagoKey Takeaways From The NJ TFA Media Panel12 Problems With Politico's TFA Story (+1 With TFA)Goldstein Puts TFA Under The Microscope. Vox image used with permission.

Reform: It All Began 25 Years Ago In Charlottesville -- Right?

Image001
Conventional wisdom has it that the current reform movement started in 1983 with the release of the Nation At Risk report, but EdWeek makes a pretty good case with this piece (Historic Summit Fueled Push for K-12 Standards - Education Week) that a better starting point would be 25 years ago (1989) in Charlottesville, Va.

Penned by Alyson Klein, the EdWeek piece reaches back to some of the folks involved in the 1989 summit and some of those who're working on national standards today. In a few cases - Achieve's Mike Cohen, for example -- they are still working at it.

My old boss, Jeff Bingaman, was a committed member of the National Education Goals Panel, which was one of the entities that came out of the standards movement of that time, and was a strong advocate for the voluntary national assessment that President Clinton proposed funding in his second administration in order to provide cross-state comparisons beyond NAEP and give the national standards that were being developed some extra emphasis in schools and districts.

Check it out.  It seems so long ago, it's almost a dream.  But it wasn't that long ago -- and many of the same issues are part of Common Core and whatever happens next. Image used with permission. Image used with permission from the Bush Presidential Library.

Quotes: Orfield: "We Still Don't Have A Lot Of Data"

Quotes2We have more data than we used to have before the accountability revolution, but we still don’t have a lot of data.

- UCLA's Gary Orfield in FiveThirtyEight (The Most Important Award In Public Education Struggles To Find Winners)

Morning Video: Watch Baton Rouge Teachers Implement Common Core

Debate aside, Core a reality in classrooms The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA). Click the link for the transcript and if the video doesn't load properly.

Charts: Child Disability Rates Rising Fastest Among Wealthier Families

image from cdn2.vox-cdn.com

"There's also some good news in these new figures: while mental disabilities are on the rise, there has also been a 11 percent decline in physical disabilities among children over the past decade. Much of this is concentrated in declines among respiratory diseases, like asthma, which have fallen by nearly a quarter just in the course of 10 years." (Vox, with permission)

Quotes: How Testing Has Made Schools 'Significantly’ Better

Quotes2We’ve begun, I think, to pay more attention now to interim assessments and formative assessments (which help teachers adjust in the middle of a school year to target student needs). We’re beginning to have just enough information where we can string some things together. - Oregon Deputy State Superintendent Rob Saxton (How a decade of testing made education ‘significantly’ better Washington Post).

#EdGif Of The Day: Watch College Become Commonplace (Except South)

College education

From Vox: "Just over 40 years ago, only around 1 in 10 US adults had a four-year college education. Today, that rate has nearly tripled. This gif shows the geography of that explosion." Source: Reddit user metricmapsore. "Broadly speaking, the South remains the place where degrees are the least common. Meanwhile, cities — and particularly the northeastern Amtrak corridor — are where college graduates have concentrated." Used with permission.

Afternoon Audio: Recovering 50,000 Dropouts Is Chicago's Latest Effort

From old-school drive-arounds looking for stray kids to targeted online programs, Chicago's trying to recover 17-21 year olds who could graduate high school. Nothing showing? Here's the link (and also the transcript).

Media: Boston Magazine Botches Rankings, Profiles Firebrand Union Chief

image from cdn1.bostonmagazine.comIn what's at least the 2nd journalistic goof-up that I know of during the annual back-to-school media deluge of rankings and other kinds of education coverage, Boston Magazine messed up its private school rankings badly and the Globe tells us all about it (Boston Magazine retracts school rankings).  

Basically, the magazine ranked private schools using incorrect SAT score averages, using partial data since many schools didn't provide SAT results, thus pushing some schools up higher than they deserved and pushing others down.

This isn't a reason not to rank schools, though.  It's just a motivation to rank them responsibly.  Sloppy, inexplicable efforts like this just make everyone look bad.  Apparently something similarly bad happened the last time the magazine ranked schools in 2009.

All is not lost, however.  The public school list is up, and doesn't seem to have the problems with the private list. The issue also has a profile of union head Barbara Madeloni that you might want to read, and a piece about healthy school lunches that you will probably feel like you've already read. There's also an XKCD alternative list of schools that you might find amusing.

Image courtesy Boston Magazine

Related posts: FiveThirty-Eight StumblesActually, Ranking High Schools Can Be Enormously Useful.

Thompson: Value-Added True Believers Should Listen to Principals

Sadly, a new Gates-funded study, "Principal Use of Teacher Effectiveness Measures for Talent Management Decisions," provides an ideal metaphor for what is wrong with value-added evaluations, in particular, and corporate school reform, in general.

I do not question the quality of work of its authors - Ellen Goldring, Christine M. Neumerski, Mollie Rubin, Marisa Cannata, Timothy Drake, Jason A. Grissom and Patrick Schuermann, or its findings.

The problem is that the report seems to assume that principals who do not agree with the Gates Foundation are incorrect and need retraining; it doesn't consider the possibility that value-added models aren't appropriate for teacher evaluations. 

Goldring et. al found that 84% of the principals they interviewed believed teacher-observation data to be valid "to a large extent" for assessing teacher quality, but only 56% viewed student achievement or growth data to be equally valid. The study acknowledged that value added is perceived to have “many shortcomings.” Principals have doubts whether the data will hold up to official grievance processes. Principals also perceive that teachers have little trust in teacher effectiveness data.

Education Week’s Denisa Superville reports that value added expert Douglas Harris echoes the findings, “the results confirmed feedback he had received from other educators about the challenges in using teacher-evaluation systems.”

Rather than ask whether principals know something about the real world use of statistical models that Gates doesn’t understand, Goldring et. al recommend that systems “clarify their expectations for how principals should use data and what data sources should be used for specific human-resources decisions.” In other words, they apparently believe that more training in value-added estimates will convince educators that the theorists have been correct all along.

Continue reading "Thompson: Value-Added True Believers Should Listen to Principals" »

Teachers: Poor Leadership, Inflammatory Coverage Diminish Public Perceptions

Veteran Chicago Public Schools teacher and blogger Ray Salazar -- who recently explained why he chose a charter school for one of his children -- now has an interesting take on yesterday's PDK/Gallup poll results on his blog (Three reasons people don’t trust teachers).  

Public trust in teachers is down (along with support for test-based teacher evaluation), notes Salazar. But teachers aren't in charge of how they're perceived, or many of the factors that shape public opinion.

Who or what is?

Ineffective and incoherent leadership at the district level -- including union leadership -- is factor #1, according to Salazar. "Honestly, as I stood on the picket line in 2012, I struggled to articulate why we were striking for the first time in 27 years," remembers Salazar. (Another strike is possible soon.)

Factor #2 is "inflammatory" coverage of the schools, fueled by "mostly white activists, many of whom haven’t taught in our schools," who are quoted as authorities in the media and teachers -- especially minority teachers -- are ignored. Salazar blames the media for focusing on relatively minor flaws in the system -- a front page story about teacher certification -- rather than reporting large-scale successes like teachers helping students win millions in scholarships.

Last but not least, district mandates are overwhelming classroom teachers with requirements. "Today, a typical Chicago high school teacher has 150 students and must enter 300-450 grades a week (2-3 per student) on a highly public and scrutinized gradebook system. Our teacher evaluation, while no longer a checklist that mentions bulletin boards, is a time-absorbing exercise that will not help a teacher improve if the administrator lacks instructional expertise.

Morning Video: PBS NewsHour Builds A Better Teacher*

Trust in teachers is down, and support for better (more rigorous, clinical) teacher prep is up. PBS NewsHour goes into it with Dana Goldstein Elizabeth Green. First broadcast last night. Online extra here.

5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: Shifting Public Opinion On Teachers, Teaching

Americans Want Teachers to Take a Bar Exam - The Atlantic ow.ly/Bz3Dd  @EmilyRichmond @EWAEmily

Tom Kane doubles down on combining #commoncore & teacher evaluation in @EducationNext ow.ly/BzlaA

Common Core and the Era of Good Behavior - How long will it last? @smarick @rhess99 @MichaelPetrilli ow.ly/BzmJv

Time for Reformers, Educators to Work Together - @Eduflack http://ow.ly/ByFjZ  @edu_post

Vox raises possibility reformers let Rahm face Lewis/AFT alone bit.ly/1shNabk Repeat of Fenty/Gray? @dropoutnation @mikeantonnuci

Pension reform isn't the same as pension theft, @ChadAldeman reminds @DanaGoldstein Education Next ow.ly/BzkX7

Books: I Trust That You Will Find This Useful

Screen shot 2014-09-16 at 1.14.43 PMUlrich Boser's new book, The Leap, is about the science of trust and includes some education-related policy implications you might want to check out.

In the policymakers' guide that comes along with the book, Boser addresses some of the things that can be done to empower individuals through education, including:

• Support schools that lengthen the school day.
• Reform school funding so that it’s both more equitable and effective, and have school dollars follow children instead of programs.
• Make college more affordable through Pell Grants.• Allow college students to gain credit for learn-
ing outside the classroom.
 
There's also good reading on trust and public policy in Robert Putnam's writings such as here.
 
Most directly comparable of all is the work that Tony Bryk and others have done at the University of Chicago showing that trust among adults and kids is an important condition for effective learning. 
 
Boser is a longtime fellow/contributor at CAP and has another book after this one already in the works.
 

Thompson: How Chicago Increased Graduation Rates

The single most successful reform in any of my old schools was the establishment of Freshmen Academies. We had very little money to invest in school improvements, but our high schools got the biggest bang for the buck from a "High Touch," team effort to get 9th graders on track.

Our successes were consistent with the findings of the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) which show, “Graduation is mostly determined in the ninth grade year.” 

The CCSR’s Tim Knowles, in Chicago Isn't Waiting for Superman,  reports that, for the second year in a row, Chicago’s graduation rate jumped 4%. It is now a record-high 69.4%. 

Chicago focused “on what research told school leaders would matter most," keeping freshmen on track to graduate" by improving their attendance and tailoring interventions to particular students’ needs. Knowles explains, “The new focus compelled greater problem-solving and collaboration among teachers and administrators committed to ensuring every single student was on-track for graduation.” 

He says that it “might sound small or obvious,” but “the focus on freshman on-track represented a major psychological and cultural shift for school leaders.” 

Policy people tend to lack an understanding of “promoting power,” and putting teens on "positive trajectories." Repeated failure does no good for anyone, but success breeds success.  

The focus on test scores has distracted adults from what really matters, helping students progress.  It might (or might not) be good when the average student correctly answers a couple more bubble-in test questions, but what do those numbers really mean? When educators and students work together, and kids make it over the finish line, however, we know something meaningful was accomplished. –JT(drjohnthompson) 

Books: Get Ready For 2015's "The Test"

The test book 2015Hey, everyone, so sorry if you're not done reading Goldstein, Green, Kahlenberg/Potter, or any of the other education books that have come out in recent weeks, but it's time to start getting ready for the next wave of titles coming down the pike.

First one that I know of for 2015 is Anya Kamenetz's The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing–But You Don’t Have to Be.

According to the understandably hyperbolic promo writeup (I haven't actually seen the book itself), many schools are spending up to 28 percent of their time on test prep, and the Common Core is going to require "an unprecedented level of new, more difficult, and longer mandatory tests to nearly every classroom in the nation up to five times a year", and the nation's spending $1.4 billion a year on testing.

I don't know if any of that is accurate (or if $1.4 billion is a lot) but it's certainly pretty alarming -- and I guess that's the point. Not to worry, there are things that parents and educators to do to deal with the overtesting problem.  And there are celebrity profiles showing us how high tech folks like Gates and Bezos deal with overtesting in their kids' lives.

All snark aside, it'll be interesting to see what Kamenetz's book adds to the overtesting debate, which is sure to continue this year as states and districts and schools deal with Common Core assessments and parents' and teachers' concerns about testing, test prep, and use of test results. The timing couldn't be better.

Media: Actually, Ranking High Schools Can Be Enormously Useful

#edjourn  Screen shot 2014-09-11 at 4.31.15 PMIt's not hard to relate to Libby Nelson'spoint of view in a recent Vox piece (Ranking high schools tells you which schools are rich or selective ), in which she notes that the rankings from places like the Daily Beast  mostly function to tell us what we already know -- that wealthier, whiter communities generate higher-performing high schools and that news outlets put out the lists to generate web traffic rather than to shed light on any particular phenomenon.

"The public schools that top these lists are mostly selective magnet schools that get to pick which students they educate. If they're not, they're much likely to enroll fewer poor students than public schools as a whole." That -- plus the reality that few families move for high school like they do for college -- explain why ranking high schools like this "makes no sense at all."

But the high school rankings phenomenon isn't as recent as Nelson seems to imagine, isn't quite as empty of substance or usefulness as it might seem, and isn't all that different than stories that Nelson and her colleagues at Vox (and here) sometimes also run.

Continue reading "Media: Actually, Ranking High Schools Can Be Enormously Useful" »

Throwback Thursday: September 11 Will Always Be Connected To Education

 

Here are some #TBT blog posts from previous years on this date that seem sort of interesting, both related to 9/11 and otherwise:

The Pet Goat, The 7 Minutes, The Kids Grown Up: In Farenheit 9/11, Michael Moore showed us the video of the event during which the Commander In Chief seemed stunned and uncertain as the Twin Towers were being attacked. (2011) 

Non-Educators Answer "What Is The Common Core?": Non-Educators Answer "What Is The Common Core?" 10 It's a diet.  A set of exercises.  A scientific term. A guide to behavior. (2013)

StoryCorps Teachers Starts Today: Today is the launch date for the StoryCorps National Teachers Initiative I told you about a few weeks ago (2011).

Or, look around for others that might be interesting here.

Thompson: TNTP (Once Again) Proves that It's Anti-Teacher & Anti-Union

TNTP has done teachers a great service in publishing “Rebalancing Tenure Rights.” 

I’m serious. Liberal non-educators who support anti-tenure lawsuits seem to assume that the strickened laws would inevitably be replaced by something better. Vergara supporters have been mum on what would replace today’s imperfect but necessary laws, protecting the rights of teachers. 

TNTP now makes it clear, however, that if Vergara and similar suits are upheld on appeal, it will push an agenda that is fundamentally anti-teacher and anti-union. It would strip teachers of their right to challenge their accusers’ judgment. In doing so, they would make it impossible for the teacher’s side of the story to be entered into evidence in a dismissal case, and call the survival of collective bargaining into question.

Of course, TNTP spins its position, claiming that it is only "good faith" judgments that should be all-powerful. In theory, an administrative judge, in an one-day hearing, could reject bad faith and false judgments of administrators. But, if teachers aren't allowed to cross examine those judgments, how could the judge make such a determination? And, why would teachers join unions that could not challenge claims against their members?

Non-educators who haven’t seriously studied education history may not understand why teachers should have the democratic rights - enjoyed by all other Americans – to use the political process to gain protections that are more than those of the weakest civil service protections. But, there are huge problems with their claims.

Continue reading "Thompson: TNTP (Once Again) Proves that It's Anti-Teacher & Anti-Union" »

Media: FiveThirty-Eight Stumbles Out Of The Gate

#Edjourn Newish data-based journalism site FiveThirtyEight is rumored to be looking for someone to head its education coverage, and indeed posted a story last week about US kids spending lots of time in class (which I happily shared out). So far, so good, right?ScreenHunter_10 Sep. 05 16.16

Well, part of the story confused TIMSS test scores with classroom instructional time. We've all made mistakes, but ... Oops! At least they had the class to remove the data and issue this correction. And crossed fingers that the outlet joins other newish mainstream outlets like Vox, BuzzFeed, Storyline, and The Upshot in publishing education pieces that I can share with you. 

Charts: NYT Ranks Top Colleges For Economic Diversity

ScreenHunter_01 Sep. 09 13.07

"Colleges with similar resources admit very different numbers of low-income undergraduates. Some wealthy colleges admit many such students, but others do not." David Leonhardt on the NYT's new ranking. Image used with permission.

5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: So That FL District Reversed Itself On Testing Opt-Out

FL district rescinds testing opt-out vote WBBH News http://ow.ly/BiI4n

Former EdTrust/Obama/Kennedy/Pell guy @M_Dannenberg1 is joining Ed Reform Now, "think tank to DFER and others."

RT @hechingerreport: If there is a testing craze, @BarthRichard says his three NYC public school kids are getting tested more in soccer...

Key Players in the Future of Education - OZY http://ow.ly/Bi3pL  feat. Ruslyn Ali, John White, Roland Fryer, Mike Johnston, Poland.

Statement from Chancellor Henderson Regarding Washington Post Column http://ow.ly/3qqcDG 

Richard Kahlenberg of Century Foundation: “It’s not hard to be pro-union on this panel.” He’s with Michelle Rhee and Mitch Daniels. #nytsft via @scholasticadms

A Rare Virus Plagues Back-to-School Season - Atlantic Mobile http://ow.ly/3qqskJ 

 

Teaching: Vergara Decision Spotlights Administrator Practices As Much As Teachers

image from www.scholastic.comThe gist of my latest Scholastic Administrator column is that the Vergara decision in California -- and the slew of lawsuits that may follow -- put as much if not more pressure on school and district administrators as on teachers.

"The key task for educators is to decide whether to hunker down and keep doing what they’re already doing—a time-tested approach to change that is sometimes the wisest course—or take a hard look at what’s really possible under current law, start talking to counterparts about improving things in their districts in the short term and perhaps avoid the necessity of a wave of Vergara-like lawsuits in the first place."

But really, the star of the column is the graphic, right? A red apple with one of those small stickers on it (tenure) with an old-school wooden pencil crashing through the whole thing at high speed. 

AM News: NYT Ranks Top Colleges That Actually Enroll Low-Income Students

Top Colleges That Enroll Rich, Middle Class and Poor NYT: A new index measures which colleges [Grinnell, Wesleyan, etc.] have the most economically diverse student bodies — and charge the least to lower-income students.

Education secretary touts teacher diversity during Atlanta visit Atlanta Journal Constitution: During a visit Monday to Spelman College, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the country needs to increase the diversity of its teacher workforce to match the diversity of schoolchildren. 

Karen Lewis loans $40K to her own mayoral bid Chicago Sun-Times: Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis put $40,000 of her own money toward a mayoral exploration effort in hopes of signaling to donors that she should be taken seriously. 

Karen Lewis puts $40000 of own money into mayoral bid Chicago Tribune: For weeks, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has said she is seriously considering a run against Mayor Rahm Emanuel. On Monday Lewis offered what she said is proof: $40,000 of her own money.

Universal preschool spending draws wide support in national poll KPCC: The telephone survey of 1,013 adults nationwide showed, not surprisingly, that Democrats love the idea of universal preschool, with 87 percent in support. But over half of the Republicans polled also agreed that public money should be used for preschool.  

Pa. Gov. Corbett Urges Review as Part of Effort to 'Roll Back' Common Core State EdWatch: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett releases a somewhat ambiguous statement about the future of the Common Core State Standards in the Keystone State.

Custodial contract causing problems at start of school year WBEZ: Belanger is just one of more than 230 principals recently surveyed by the Administrators Alliance for Proven Policy and Legislation in Education, or AAPPLE, a member-driven arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. The results reveal problems across Chicago Public Schools—dirty classrooms, damaged materials, theft and an overall lack of communication.

New Reduced Pricing For Amplify's All-In-One Tablet EdSurge: This week Amplify announced a price dip for it’s all-in-one tablet, which made headlines last year after some of its chargers melted.

More news and commentary throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.

Thompson: How To Stop Getting in the Way of Learning

CyberEven when I supported Common Core as a step toward improving instruction, critical thinking, and teaching for mastery, I suspected that it was a part of a failure of imagination. 

Forget the idiocy of seeking high-stakes tests to force teachers and students into the 21st century. Given the explosion of knowledge, why worry over a list of the facts and concepts that secondary schools should teach?

Why not help teachers teach with the greatest curriculum on earth – the web sites of PBS, NPR, our incredible newspapers and magazines, and our awesome national museums and parks?

Every Sunday, listening to NPR, I’m reminded of the tragic opportunity costs of the contemporary school reform movement. This week, American Radio Works reported on the great potential of Common Core to counter the drill and kill prompted by testing, as well as the primitive worksheet-driven pedagogy that preceded it. Ironically, the child of a teacher featured in the report complained that the introduction of Common Core into his high-performing school means that packets of worksheets are driving out engaging instruction in his favorite subject, science.

Reformers assume that high-stakes tests are essential to making teachers and students do their jobs, so they downplay the damage done by their test, sort, and punish mentality.

Then, NPR’s TED Talk Radio Hour (rerun) reminded us of what I would think that everyone - even reformers during their childhood - once knew.  Sugata Mitra started the discussion with the reminder that education is not about “making” learning happen, but by “letting learning happen.”

Continue reading "Thompson: How To Stop Getting in the Way of Learning" »

Morning Audio: ICYMI Common Core Documentary

 

Here's the full audio for the widely-admired embedded American RadioWorks documentary about teachers working with Common Core that came out last week. Or download or read it it here.

Charts: US Kids Spend 943 Hours In Class A Year - More Than All But 3 Other Nations*

image from espnfivethirtyeight.files.wordpress.com

Via Five Thirty Eight (American Kids Will Spend An Average Of 943 Hours In Elementary School This Year). Image used with permission. *Charts and text now corrected. New OECD figures coming out Tuesday.

Charts: Traditional Teachers Much, Much Whiter Than TFA

image from cdn2.vox-cdn.comAmerican school children are getting more and more diverse, as is TFA's small but growing band of merry teachers. But traditional classroom teaching remains super white. Image via Vox, used with permission.  Click here for the feature article about TFA's evolution.

Morning Video: Teachers Describe Common Core Transformation

 

Check out 7 minutes of video above feturing Reno (Washoe) teachers talking about their experiences with the Common Core. Your eyes might be opened.  Then go and read the sidebar story from American Radio Works about how things have played out there. Then -- almost done! -- listen to the full hourlong documentary, and several other sidebar stories (including Carol Burris and Lace To The Top). Last but not least, there's a second video from Washoe in which teachers reflect you can watch here, courtesy Torrey Palmer and Aaron Grossman.

AM News: Too Much Education News, All Published In One Short Week!

NEA Ad Buy Slams Republican in N.C. Senate Race on K-12 Spending PK12: The National Education Association launched a seven-figure TV ad buy Friday in North Carolina, slamming GOP Senate hopeful Thom Tillis for education spending cuts that occurred under his watch as state House Speaker. See also.

New Jersey Parents And Students Boycott First Day Of School HuffPost: A group of parents and students in Newark, New Jersey, boycotted the first day of school on Thursday to protest a new system that reorganized the state-run district this year. See also NJ Spotlight

Suspensions and expulsions down in D.C. charter schools Washington Post: The expulsion rate for D.C. public charter schools in the past school year was about half of what it was two years before, and the rate of out-of-school suspensions decreased by about 20 percent in one year, according to a report released Thursday.

Former MPS board member Chris Stewart to blog for Education Post Minn Post: Chris Stewart has left his position as executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF) to become director of outreach and external affairs for a new national education reform communications effort.

Teach for America has faced criticism for years. Now it’s listening — and changing Vox: From the outside, Teach for America looked defensive, but internally, it was engaged in profound self-exploration and self-critique. 

The Battle for New York Schools NYT: The fight between two liberal crusaders with profoundly divergent ideas about how to aid and educate the disempowered.

The Myth Of The Superstar Superintendent? NPR: Superintendents make almost no difference when it comes to student success, according to a new report.

American Kids Will Spend An Average Of 943 Hours In Elementary School This Year Five Thirty-Eight: Only in Chile, Israel and Australia do elementary school students spend longer in class each year than their U.S. counterparts.

America's Schools Could Be More Efficient If Teachers Were Paid Less: Report HuffPost: GEMS Education Solutions, an education consulting firm, released its "Efficiency Index" and an accompanying report on Thursday, ranking the return on investment for 30 different nations' education budgets. The index "treats the educational system as if it were a company which attempts to obtain an output," according to the report.

More news below and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.

Continue reading "AM News: Too Much Education News, All Published In One Short Week!" »

Maps: 18 of 22 Smarter Balanced States Expected To Sign Contracts This Year

  image from edsource.org"California and eight other dark green states have signed a contract to give the Smarter Balanced tests next spring. Nine light green states are expected to contract with the consortium. Four blue Smarter Balanced member states won't contract next year." (State awards Common Core test contract) NB: Smarter Balanced says it's going to be run by a unit within UCLA that is separate from CRESST (which is also at UCLA).

 

Quotes: From Pariah To Guru

Quotes2It’s hard to feel like a guru... I’ve been a pariah for so long.

- E.D. Hirsch, profiled by Peg Tyre in Politico (along with David Coleman)

NB Diane Ravitch was also profiled.

Books: If Teacher-Bashing Is Real, The Ford Foundation Started It

image from www.newyorker.comColumbia J-School professor Sam Freedman's New Yorker review of Up The Down Staircase (The Book That Got Teaching Right) makes at least one claim with which I disagree strongly -- that teacher-bashing "has become a major strain, even the dominant strain, of what passes for “education reform."

This may be the conventional wisdom among liberal Democrats and all too many education journalists, and there may be some teacher haters among the reform community but the vast majority of those that I have met and whose work I have followed are not so inclined.  It's essentially an idea that's been popularized by anti-reform advocates and teachers unions.

However, Freedman complicates matteers in some interesting ways when he (a) highlights some of the book's sections that deride teachers who found the career "an excuse or a refuge" and (b) goes on to describe how teacher-bashing has a long, illustrious career and its proponents (intentional and otherwise) include liberal philanthropy like that of the Ford Foundation, who allied themselves with low-income communities in a "pincer movement" that focused on white middle class teachers (most of them women).

It's an intersting notion -- one that's surely embedded in Dana Goldstein's history of conflicts surrounding teaching if only I'd gotten that far --that progressives and liberals are partly to blame for over-focusing on teachers and are thus making claims against reformers that could well be made against them.  (Certainly, teachers unions and low-income parents haven't always gotten along or had the same ideas about what schools needed most.)

But I still don't really buy the teacher-bashing argument is at the heart of Freedman's review and that's so prevalent out there among liberal critics. Yes, there are some strains of class criticism in there (elites criticizing middle-class teachers.) But if uou want to see real teacher-bashing, take a look at what Republicans and Tea Party candidates want to do with public education.  The rest, in my opinion, boils down to exaggerated claims (re layoffs in particular) and disrespect promulgated for political advantage, media complacency (too good to check!), and the occasional self-inflicted wound by reformers (Rhee's broomstick magazine cover, for example).

Morning Video: Teaching Teachers Reading

 

From PBS NewsHour:"When Liz Woody’s son Mason was in third grade, he struggled to read basic words. After Woody moved Mason to a specialized school, she set out to transform techniques to reach struggling readers."

Quotes: Reno Teachers Love The Core, Worry About The Tests

Quotes2For many teachers in Washoe County, Common Core has been liberating. They are free from the way textbooks, and tests, had come to define education... But new tests are coming. -- American Radio Works (Teachers embrace the Common Core)

Thompson: Two Cheers for Mike Petrilli's Reform Rethinking

Wow! I agree with Mike Petrilli on two big issues in one week! The revocation of Oklahoma’s NCLB Waiver, based on our repeal of Common Core, is a “terrible decision.”

I mostly agree with Petrilli’s thoughtful address to the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. In an effort to understand the anti-reform backlash, he asks where his movement went wrong.

Most schools aren’t failing; the bigger problem is mediocrity. Most “failing” schools have teachers who are probably as good as those in higher-performing schools. 

I taught in “dropout factories, the dangerous schools …,” and my colleagues were far better teachers than those of my childhood. In the 1990s, our Curriculum Department and professional development were awesome.

But, Petrilli gets the second part of his diagnosis backwards. My schools responded to “wave after wave of reform.”  Those half-baked reforms made them worse.

I share Petrilli’s doubt that districts can replicate the few successful high-performing charter schools. He might also be right; in ten or twenty years, high-poverty systems may be dominated by charter schools.

But, that would be the double nightmare scenario - bad for more kids in "No Excuses" charters and worse for students left behind in even more awful concentrations of poverty and trauma. High-performing charters have contributed to a “neo-Plessyism” which is bad for all constituencies.

Continue reading "Thompson: Two Cheers for Mike Petrilli's Reform Rethinking" »

Advocacy: New Reform Group To Counter Relentless Criticism

image from educationpost.orgThe Washington Post has a story about Peter Cunningham's new education group (Education Post aims to take the sting out of national conversations about school reform) that hints at but doesn't quite get to the real story behind the organization.

Described as "a nonprofit group that plans to launch Tuesday with the aim of encouraging a more “respectful” and fact-based national discussion about the challenges of public education, and possible solutions," the $12 million Chicago-based organization (Cunningham, Mike Vaughn, etc.) is funded by Broad, Bloomberg, and Walton, among others.  

It's an obvious (and long-needed) attempt to address the insufficiencies of the reform movement when it comes to shaping the education debate -- the reform version of Parents Across America or the Network for Public Education or Sabrina Stevens' group (though I haven't heard much from them lately).

The purely communication-oriented outfit ((RSS FeedTwitter) is led by longtime Arne Duncan guy Cunningham and including blogger Citizen Stewart. A sampling of their blog posts (Public Education Needs a New ConversationSpeak Up, Don’t Give UpThe Right School for My ChildThe Common Sense Behind Common Core 

Versions of Education Post have been discussed for a while now, online and in the real world.  A version of the same idea almost came to being 18 months ago, tentatively called "The Hub." Why another group? Advocacy groups get embroiled in pushing for changes, and lack time and resources to coordinate among each other or to focus on communications. They barely have time or capacity to defend themselves, much less put out a positive agenda across multiple groups.  

Meantime, a small but dedicated group of reform critics and groups(many of them union-funded or - affiliated) has managed to embed themselves in the minds of reporters and generate an enormous amount of resistance to reform measures. 

Related posts: Reform Opponents Are Winning Online (For Now)Rapid Response in Connecticut.

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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.