Unions are important financial powerhouses in elections, but much of their spending is done in such a way that it doesn't show up on FEC reports — it involves getting out the vote or internal communication with their members rather than paid TV ads. - Vox
Jal Mehta, in the Education Week blog Learning Deeply, discusses five inconvenient truths held by both reformers and education traditionalists. I'm not sure why he only mentions five minor blind spots held by reformers.
Perhaps Mehta is being diplomatic or maybe his excellent Allure of Order did such a great job of chronicling the failures of accountability-driven reformers that he didn’t see the need to repeat its diagnoses of their shortcomings.
Frankly, I think Mehta has chosen a rhetorical path halfway between reformers and their opponents, and he believes he can do the greatest good by sticking to it. Metha is not playing politics; but he seeks consensus.
I respect that.
My five inconvenient truths ignored by reformers would be, first, high stakes testing and, second, increased segregation are inherently destructive, so reformers need a very strong reason for imposing either.
Third, education is an act of love and trusting relationships are the key but, fourth, the reformers’ politics of destruction and the demonization of teachers and unions undermine those relationships.
Fifth, reformers should have accepted the burden of proving that their policies would do more good than harm.
Mehta’s critique of traditionalists, however, is profound. Hardly a day passes when I don’t wrestle with his “Inconvenient Truth 1: Longstanding institutions are not good at doing things other than what they were initially designed to do.” Mehta’s insight applies to all social institutions, not just education.
The best education-related article in the New Yorker of the past few weeks might not be Rachel Aviv's piece about the "burn-it-down-to-save-it" actions taken by some Atlanta teachers pressured to produce better results but rather Louis Menand's story about how women's rights and civil rights advocates came together uneasily.
Chart: Top Liberal Campaign Spenders 2012 - via Voxow.ly/zKHsh includes Bloomberg, Soros, Fred Eychaner, etc.
Remembering Gene Maeroff - Education Next : Education Next ow.ly/zL69g (features audio interview)
"At Middle School 223 in the Bronx, the fun starts at the end of the regular day. All sixth graders are offered extracurricular activities like African drumming, latin dance and chess, plus personalized help in reading and math." (Why longer school days can be more fun for students)
I was slow to follow the link to Why Do Americans Stink at Math?, in the New York Times Magazine, and I did not see it as a "must read" until I realized it was written by the Chalkbeat's Elizabeth Green.
I’m bad at math and I don’t see Americans’ problems with math as that big of a deal. I’m much more concerned with the challenge of improving reading comprehension in the 21st century.
As I understand it, math is a precise language, combined with logic. Few teachers are prepared to holistically teach this language or explain to students what the purpose and meaning of the subject is. Besides, contemporary American culture is not at its best in terms of valuing non-English languages, much less translating words and concepts into numbers and symbols.
Green grabbed me when citing John Allen Paulos’s diagnosis of innumeracy— “the mathematical equivalent of not being able to read.” She then reports that on the NAEP, “three-quarters of fourth graders could not translate a simple word problem about a girl who sold 15 cups of lemonade on Saturday and twice as many on Sunday into the expression ‘15 + (2×15).’”
You don’t need to be a genius... You have to know how to manage a discussion. You have to know which problems are the ones most likely to get the lessons across. You have to understand how students make mistakes — how they think — so you can respond to that.
-- Author Elizabeth Green in Joe Nocera NYT column about improving teacher preparation
I think then we make a great mistake by caricaturing the opponents of the standards as crazies or people who don't tell the truth... We will lose, and we'll lose things of great importance, if we dismiss this as an extremist position. - David Coleman in BloombergEDU interview via Politico
Ed tech promoters need to understand how most of us learn | The Hechinger Report ow.ly/zxWbN
From ECS: "42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have charter school laws. Important, evolving elements of these state laws include: Statewide authorizing bodies (33 states); Standards for authorizers (quality school authorizing) (15 states and D.C.); Requirements that authorizing bodies report annually on their portfolios of schools (15 states and D.C.); Explicit performance thresholds below which charters must be revoked or non-renewed (11 states and D.C.); Explicit attention to one type of charter: the Internet, or cyber charter (24 states define or permit; 20 outline elements of oversight)."
Charter Schools Database via EdWeek.
Image Flickr CC via
"The average teacher in South Dakota with a bachelor's degree and 10 years of experience earns $33,600 per year — less than the average South Dakotan auto-repair worker," writes Vox's Libby Nelson, working off a CAP report (After 10 years at work, teachers in some states make less than $40,000) that should provide more context (re cost of living, salaries for other bachelors'-level jobs, etc.), IMHO.
From last night's PBS NewsHour: "In Houston, Texas, the superintendent of one school district [Spring Branch] has invited competing charter schools to set up shop alongside a regular middle school. Special correspondent John Merrow reports on their evolving partnership." (Transcript here.)
"Only 13 percent of American children meet an international definition of disadvantage, lower than in many other countries. [And yet] in a survey of 29 countries, more principals in the United States reported having at least 30 percent of students come from socioeconomically disadvantaged homes than in any other country." (NYT Principals in U.S. Are More Likely to Consider Their Students Poor).
Principals in U.S. Are More Likely to Consider Their Students Poor NYT: American principals are much more likely to describe their students as disadvantaged than principals in many other countries — including some countries that are significantly poorer than the United States.
Florida counts down to new Common Core standards, exams Hechinger: Although the teachers at Monroe Middle School are optimistic, many teachers and school leaders think the switch to Common Core is the biggest change in education now, and it’s taken a lot of work.
Waiverless Washington State's Request for New NCLB Flexibility Denied PK12: Washington state can't seem to catch a break these days when it comes to No Child Left Behind Act waivers.
No go: Feds deny state request to reinstate part of WA No Child waiver Seattle Times: The U.S. Department of Education has denied Washington state's request to reinstate one piece of the state's former No Child Left Behind waiver.
New political action committee forms in L.A. school board race LA Times: A new political action committee has formed to influence the outcome of Los Angeles school board races, filling a gap created when a group of civic leaders, which includes former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, decided to sit out next month's key upcoming election.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
Among several news outlets awarded a Knight Foundation "prototype" grant is the Viginian-Pilot:
Pilot for School by The Virginian-Pilot (Project lead: Shawn Day):
Building a targeted digital system that will allow Virginia teachers to search newspaper content and use it to complement class curricula; content will align with Virginia’s Standards of Learning and help students apply academic concepts to what’s happening in their community.
When Storytelling Meets Civic Action (via PBS)
Does it make sense for newspapers to try and guide teachers and parents on Common Core materials, or is there a danger it's going to be misleading or overkill?
Australian teacher Harry Webb (not his real name) has four big objections to performance pay.
I'm more sympathetic to differentiated compensation than many teachers, but I very much understand his first three concerns.
Measuring teacher effectiveness is definitely hard, for example, even if we're making progress on that front. And subjective assessment of teachers remains a huge problem, especially given the "faddish nature of school improvement".
Harry's fourth objection to performance pay, though, is a very common one that I do not understand: that it will "reduce incentives to collaborate" due to "competition for a limited pot of bonuses."
Read on for more (below).
Following up on the fascinating topic of the OECD Test for Schools, the PBS NewsHour just recently aired a new segment about the test's spread, how it differs from most annual assessments (and even the Common Core assessments), and some of the reactions of the kids who've been taking it. Transcript here. You can also read all about the test's development and impacts in my recent Harvard Education Letter article. Don't forget that Frontline's segment on resegregation airs tonight.
I'm not sure there's anything entirely new or shocking in it, but The New Yorker goes deep with its latest education story (A Struggling School Made a Shocking Choice), by contributor Rachel Aviv.
"Struggling to meet data-driven district targets, as well as progress measurements outlined in No Child Left Behind, administrators and teachers at Parks first began systematically fixing students’ incorrect answers on standardized tests in 2006.
"The resulting scores significantly raised the school’s percentage of eighth graders who met the state’s standards.
"The success created an ongoing cycle that fostered continuous cheating—by 2008, the practices had become what Christopher Waller, the school’s former principal, calls a “well-oiled machine.”
The same pressures and incentives still exist, reports Aviv.
Could it happen again soon? The story seems to suggest it's likely.
Previous New Yorker stories by Aviv here.
So you think that edtech (and school reform in general) are full of buzzwords and hot new trends? Well, that may be true. But edtech’s got nothing on adult education, which freely adopts jargon and innovation from the K-12 and postsecondary worlds and then adds its own particular set of terms and approaches.
Some of the developments – flipped, blended, gamified, mobile learning – are familiar trends generally mirroring those taking place in other sectors. Others trends and concepts – contextualization, “braided” funding, and “bridge” programs – are more specific to the needs of low-skill adults and adult education programs who serve them.
"Called digital language processors, they have been given to some 55 toddlers whose families are on public assistance through a city program called Providence Talks." (Coaching parents on toddler talk to address word gap)
Check out the trailer for next week's Frontline (Separate and Unequal), which takes us to "one of several breakaway efforts" around the nation.
In case you missed it during last week's shortened workweek. Click here if the video doesn't load properly.
Earlier today, Politico reported that StudentsFirst has raised a whopping $62 million in campaign contributions in the past two years. However, EdWeek reports that national and state teachers unions spent a combined $191 million in 2012 alone (see chart alone). However imperfect, the comparison serves as a useful reminder that reform money, however new and on the rise it may be currently, remains substantially less than teacher union money.
Correction: The initial headline said StudentsFirst spent "462M" since I neglected to hit the shift button at the right moment.
Check out this mildly hypnotic GIF from Vox showing the percentage of the population with a Bachelor's degree or more by decade. Variations among states have grown, and the GI Bill generation didn't change ranges as much as the Boomers did.
LAUSD board agrees on testing alternative laptops LA Times: With minimal discussion, Los Angeles school officials this week authorized contracts for the purchase of six different laptop computers to determine which device and curriculum works best for high school students.
Common Core test anxiety Politico: Attempts to apply standards in different states spark a testing revolt across the country.
Teachers, postal workers weigh Staples boycott USA Today: Postal workers picket in front of a Staples store April 24, in Concord, N.H. Postal workers around the country protested in front of Staples stores, objecting to the U.S. Postal Service's pilot program to open counters in stores.
In New Orleans, a case study in how school, health care decentralization affect neediest children Hechinger: In recent years, New Orleans has become a case study in how children and families are affected by rapid decentralization of public education and mental health systems.
Do Teachers Really Hate Common Core? From the Floor of ISTE 2014 EdSurge: Teachers can live with--or work through--the standards. But the biggest worry? It’s not the standards that are the problem--educators are feeling stifled by the testing.
Summer school enrollment falls sharply after city reduces role of state tests ChalkBeat: In his first six months in office, Mayor Bill de Blasio has had a nearly singular focus on providing needy students with expanded education services. But thousands fewer struggling students will be attending summer school this year after city officials changed the way students qualify for the program.
Emerging Themes at NEA: 'Toxic Testing' and Union Threats TeacherBeat: The board of directors will propose a New Business Item calling for a campaign against "toxic testing."
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
The old meme was that replacing the 5 to 10% of teachers who are "grossly ineffective" could drive school improvement. That figure was mostly borrowed from the corporate tactic known as stacking where the low-performing employees were routinely sacked.
I agree that bad teachers are disproportionately found in high-challenge schools and that they should be dismissed. I rarely see evidence that union contracts play a significant role in protecting them.
Unions defend the collective bargaining agreement, not the individual who is charged. The CBA protects our right to teach.
Unions don't supervise principals who have more pressing priorities than evaluating teachers.
Neither have I heard a scenario for recruiting enough qualified replacements to staff inner city schools so that management can tackle the not-so-difficult job of firing bad teachers.
The public relations campaign known as Vergara v California is claiming to be something other than a blood-in-the-eye corporate assault on public education. So, the new meme is that even David Berliner, an expert witness for the defense, estimates that 1 to 3% of teachers should be dismissed.
Its not hard to identify the the bottom 1, 3, or 5%. But reformers would undermine the effectiveness of the vast majority of teachers by using value-added evaluations to get rid of the few grossly ineffective ones. They would force teachers to teach to the test in order to cover their rear ends. They would try to make teaching a more attractive job by undermining the soul of our wonderful profession!?!?
Vergara has accidently redefined the teacher quality issue as removing the bottom 1 to 3%, and preventing the handful of outrageous cases where it costs hundreds of thousands dollars to fire a teacher. That is an unintended step toward common sense. Real world, absurd foulups happen. That's life. And usually the few extreme cases are unfunny comedies of errors where all sides miscalculate. It is the very few complicated and mishandled teacher termination cases, like the very few medical and legal cases that spin out of control, that run up unconscionable bills.
I wish reformers would accept the fact that firing a bad teacher isn't that hard, but principals tend to be so overburdened that the dismissal of the bottom 1 to 3% rarely makes their to-do list. And, given the deplorable conditions in so many high-poverty schools, recruiting replacements for even the worst teachers in those schools would be a challenge.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.
Here's a map from Marketplace, which also ran a segment on the state of charter schools featuring quotes from Nina Rees, Dennis Van Roekel, and Jack Schneider. Click the link to get the interactive version.
Common Core Will Improve Education Most District Chiefs Say - Education Week http://ow.ly/yF4pl
Aspen Ideas Festival panel with David Coleman scheduled for this afternoon / live video feed, FYI http://ow.ly/yF2iJ
How to Trick Your Kids Into Reading All Summer Long - - The Atlantic http://ow.ly/yEZuh
Either this is a co-operative project, funded by experience, evidence and expertise, as well as the mutual passion for integrity, education and innovation (and yes, venture capital). Or it’s a series of expensive and limiting failures where working-stiff educators have to pick up the pieces. - (A Distemperate Response to Silicon Valley’s ‘Edtech Revolution’)
Here's something I've been thinking might happen for a while now -- a new national network of diverse charter schools has been announced.
Included among the founding members are several of the schools I profiled in Education Next a couple of years ago (Brooklyn Prospect, Bricolage (NOLA), Community Roots, DSST (Denver), and yes, Success Academy.
See the full press release below, and tune into (attend) the panel on diverse charters at 4pm local time in Las Vegas.
Previous posts: Diverse Charters Spread Nationally (Education Next); Diverse NOLA Charter Opens; Diverse Charters Balance Learning & Accountability; and Change Could Help Promote Charter Diversity.
Here's a new video from the Aspen Ideas Festival in which it is discussed whether tenure reforms and students' rights can be reconciled -- and if so, how. Feat. Weingarten, Deasy, and hosted by Ray Suarez. Read blog post about here.
Here's a new PBS NewsHour segment on learning games. Find out more here.
Fordham's @brickm writes about possible edu implications of Supreme Court decision coming Monday http://t.co/NrEqqzXVMR
Most Americans Think Racial Discrimination Doesn't Matter Much Anymore | Mother Jones http://ht.ly/ywVFS
Tweets and links throughout the day (and some evenings, too) via @alexanderrusso.
This chart from Vox's Libby Nelson shows that recent Pew survey results reveal there isn't really as much debate within the Republican party over Common Core standards as we may have imagined. Support among Democratic groups including "solid liberals" appears relatively strong and uniform, which may also be another surprise for some.
In too many other cases, our field has succumbed to the derision of politics, giving the impression that technocracy is preferable to democracy... I worry that too often education reform is falling on the wrong side of the democratic-technocratic divide. -- Andy Smarick (Has America Lost Democracy to Technocracc?)
ICYMI: Here's the video that went along with last week's NYT story (Common Core, in 9-Year-Old Eyes).
Converting Catholic Schools to Charters Draws Scrutiny - Education Week ht.ly/yrSac
Vergara supporters "cleverly positioned themselves as part of a campaign for civil rights," notes Ravitch blog post ht.ly/ys5uv
Former Village Voice writer Wayne Barrett describes de Blasio/UFT as "an unholy alliance" - NY Daily News ht.ly/yr9oo
Ban reading tests (replace them with subject specific exams), says @robertpondiscio because: background knowledge
This latest estimate includes "all violent deaths that occurred on school grounds, or during travel to or from school or a school-sponsored event." (More details at Vox)
In response to yesterday's NYT oped from Rick Kahlenberg touting the Chicago model of income-based diversity enhancement, longtime Chicago special education advocate Rod Estvan wrote the following rebuttal suggesting that Chicago's results from the Kahlenberg plan haven't been all that good:
"Unfortunately Dr. Kahlenberg does not discuss the fact that Payton’s admission system which is in part based on census tracts is being advantaged by the middle class and even wealthier families who live in enclaves within overall poorer community census tracts. In 2013, only 31.4% of Payton students were from low income families regardless of race whereas back in 2002 the school had about 37% low income students when there was no social economic admissions process but only a race based process."
See the full response below the fold.
Since the Vergara decision was handed down in California reactions have been predictably partisan and extreme. Reformers are ecstatic over what they believe if a "huge win" and their critics are equally confident that the decision was "anti-teacher" and "exactly backwards".
It's not really surprising that the reactions would shake out this way. Education debates are often highly-polarized, and there are political reasons for activists to exaggerate the stakes.
In reality, the most reasonable position to take about the consequences of Vergara is agnosticism. Even if the decision survives appeal it will be many years before schools feel its effects, and then it is likely that the overall impact will be quite modest.
This case may still spend years winding its way through the legal system, and its ultimate fate in the judiciary is not at all obvious. If the ruling eventually remains intact, the California legislature could potentially satisfy its requirements without making major changes to the statutes in question.
More than that, it's not clear why we should be confident that changing the rules governing teacher tenure or seniority privileges will have major, easily-predictable consequences.
On the contrary, the effects of those rules are complex and often cut in opposite directions. Below the fold, I'll consider the trade-offs involved in tenure reform specifically and try to show why it's hard to know whether the benefits will outweigh the costs.
Because there's always more to learn, I'm headed off to Chicago to attend the Covering Common Core journalists' training session being hosted by Poynter, EWA, and Northwestern over the next couple of days.
What's your favorite Common Core story so far?
What's a Common Core story you haven't seen, or a bit of knowledge that hasn't been surfaced yet?
Mine include Cory Turner's "taking the Common Core" approach, and my own peek inside the field test help desk, but I'm sure there are other better options.
Alexander Russo's How Waiting for Superman (almost) Changed the World explains how Davis Guggenheim's film created a zeitgeist.
But, did it produce "measurable impact?"
Participant, the film's production company, sought to "ignite social changes." Participant was founded by eBay billionaire Jeff Skoll, and it specializes in "star-laden, carefully crafted, politically colored fims."
Whether Participant knew it or not, in its attempt to claim success, it borrowed from a common school reform meme. Test-driven reformers often claim that increases in student performances in the 1990s were the result of the NCLB Act of 2001. Similarly, Participant claims credit for closing New York City's so-called "Rubber Room," and the Washington D.C. teachers' contract. Both took place before the movie came out.
Michelle Rhee also credits Waiting for Superman for persuading top donors to contribute to StudentsFirst. But, she also claims that her organization is good, not destructive, for public schools.
An objective study, funded by the Ford Foundation, determined that the general public gave good reviews to the film, awarding four out of five stars. Education professionals gave it two stars, concluding that its "depiction of teachers and unions was simplistic."
Russo's account of the making of Guggenheim's film and of its effects is balanced. If he has a bias, it is towards skepticism, even cynicism. Russo indicates that do-gooders must anticipate that their efforts will be "misunderstood or mischaracterized." When that happened, the filmmaker's team responded with "genuine or feigned" surprise.
The Hamilton Project (@hamiltonproj via Brookings) is having a big event today and tomorrow -- check it out -- but you may be pleased or disconcerted to note that their proposed efforts at #AddressingPoverty. -- 14 new policy proposals -- don't really involve K-12 education.
Early childhood education? Sure.
After-school and summer learning? But of course.
A smattering of education types -- NYU's Amy Schwartz, Harvard's Bridget Terry Long. OK.
Whether this means that poverty isn't really an issue that K-12 can be expected to help address, or that the current mess of K-12 (for poor kids, at least) is more daunting than poverty, I'll leave the interpretation up to you.
Personally, I feel a little left out.
Previous posts: Reduced Poverty Or Teacher Quality? "Both," Says Rhee; Who Told Us The Education Fights Poverty, Anyway? (Bruno); What Next For Poverty/Inequality 2014?; More Poverty In Suburbs Than In Cities; Poverty Hurts US Students More Than In Other Nations; Let's Not Talk About 43M Poor People; Poverty Increases Cut Both Ways In Reform Debate.