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Charts: District Schools Outperform Charters In Chicago, Notes Foundation Officer

Last week during #EWA15, MSDF's Joe Siedlecki noted that CPS elementary schools outperform charters in terms of the percentage of kids in high-rated schools, and praised Chicago charters for participating in the unified accountability system that makes such comparisons possible. 

Charts: Rich and Poor Spend Relatively More On Education Than Middle-Income Families

Screen shot 2015-04-29 at 4.08.18 PM"Higher-earning consumers spend less on housing, food and health care. (They spend more total dollars in these categories, but because of their higher incomes, such purchases are a smaller share of their expenditures.) Transportation, however, takes up a bigger share of expenditures for those in the middle, and less for the lowest-earning households... Education follows a U-shaped pattern, taking up the largest share of expenditures for those at the bottom and top of the distribution." (WSJ: How Rich and Poor Spend (and Earn) Their Money)

Quotes: How About Rebuilding Baltimore Schools For A Start?

Quotes2If we're spending  $1 trillion to rebuild Afghanistan's schools, we can't throw a little taste down Baltimore way? - Jon Stewart on The Daily Show  

Charts: Charter School Closure Rate Holds Steady At Just Under 4 Percent

ScreenHunter_05 Apr. 28 16.24

Here's a screengrab from a new NACSA infographic and report showing that charter closings remain at about 4 percent a year and that non-renewal is more common a method than outright revocation (The State of Charter Authorizing). Click the link and read the report to get a deeper sense of what's going on.  Interesting to note that roughly 20 percent of charters faced with closure appeal the decision.

Maps: Yellow & Orange Show States Where Tests WIll Matter (Somewhat) For Teachers

Screenshot 2015-04-29 08.24.24"A majority of the states that have adopted Common Core won't use results to rate teachers this year. Of the 21 states that plan to use the tests as part of teacher evaluations in the future, many have already specified that the score will count for only a percentage of the evaluation." (Hechinger Report Stakes for “high-stakes” tests are actually pretty low).

Click the link and hover over each state for specific measures. 

As for stakes for students: "Three states will use the test scores as some portion of a graduation requirement... Only three states will be using this spring’s Common Core-aligned test to regulate grade promotion."

Morning Video: Game-Based Learning Panel (Plus "Standardized")

Watch yesterday's Fordham interview with Greg Toppo about his book on game-based learning, with interviewer Robert Pondiscio. Or, click below to watch the trailer for Standardized, an anti-testing documentary that's been making the rounds.

Continue reading "Morning Video: Game-Based Learning Panel (Plus "Standardized")" »

AM News: Stakes For Spring 2015 Tests Generally Low For Students & Teachers

Stakes for “high-stakes” tests are actually pretty low Hechinger Report: Very few states will be using this spring’s scores for any student-related decisions. And the stakes for teachers are only slightly higher.

Half of juniors opt out of Common Core tests in affluent high school EdSource Today: At Palos Verdes High School, 260 of the school’s roughly 460 juniors are skipping the tests that began last week and are continuing this week, Superintendent Don Austin said. Elsewhere in the 11,600-student district, an additional 222 students are sitting out of the tests in a different high school, as well as intermediate and elementary schools.

Gates Foundation to Expand Teacher-Preparation Grantmaking TeacherBeat: " In the coming years, we foresee many opportunities for partnership in the field of teacher preparation, with many types of organizations," Gates officials Tom Stritikus and Michelle Rojas  write.  As of late 2013, the Gates Foundation had spent nearly $700 million on efforts relating to teaching, including about $38 million on teacher-preparation efforts.

How one high school is closing the AP gap Marketplace: The AP invitation letters were part of a broader effort by the school district to get more students into AP courses, especially overlooked low-income and minority students who have the skills to succeed. To start catching those kids, Goins' district brought in Equal Opportunity Schools, a non-profit that works with schools to help identify kids who are being left behind in AP and International Baccalaureate programs, and help close the so-called participation gap.

How Young Black Men Are Boxed In FiveThirtyEight: Baltimore isn’t an outlier. There are other cities with more poverty, higher unemployment and greater inequality. The racial disparities evident in Baltimore are common across the country.

After Baltimore Rioting, Obama Urges Focus on Education Programs Education Week: President Barack Obama condemned rioters who looted and set ablaze several businesses in Baltimore Monday night following the funeral for Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man who died of a spinal cord injury in police custody this month. 

Can a Harlem ‘cradle to career’ program succeed in rural Mississippi? PBS NewsHour: The program is part of the Indianola Promise Community (IPC), a federally-funded, community-based effort. Nationwide, there are dozens of so-called Promise Neighborhoods, or zones, that aim to offer a continuum of “cradle to career” services to lift low-income children out of poverty and improve outcomes for families.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Stakes For Spring 2015 Tests Generally Low For Students & Teachers" »

Events: What's New At NewSchools 2015?

image from www.nsvfsummit.com
I may or may not make it to the annual NewsSchools Venture Fund summit this year, but thought you might like to know about the annual confab held most frequently in San Francisco.  

This year's headliner is "author, researcher and TED Talks sensation Brené Brown." Other highlights include an appearance from Gates'  Sara Allan who will unveil "a new, interactive platform designed to better connect ed tech entrepreneurs with the needs of teachers and students," and an interview with newish NewSchools CEO Stacey Childress.

Of particular interest to me is a panel on diverse/progressive charters being led by Kriste Dragon, Citizens of the World Charter Schools, and parents from Citizens and Bricolage and RI's Mayoral Academy. and Renita Thukral, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Information about Summit, including the comprehensive schedule, can be found at www.nsvfsummit.com.  Follow @nsvf and #nsvfsummit on Twitter for event updates.This year's event is being held May 6. Unusual for education conferences, it's an invite-only event. 

Related posts:  They're Beaming NSVF Summit 2014 To Boston This YearGoogle Glasses Live from NSVF Summit 2013Thoughts On NSVF 2012Rahm Emanuel And Arlene Laurene Powell Jobs At NSVF'12Reformy 2011 Summit Returns To Silicon ValleyFashion Hits & Misses At The 2010 NSVF SummitAnother Spring, Another Summit (2009)NSFV: Live Tweets From Pasadena '09Microblogging The 2008 NSVF Summit. Image via NSVF webpage. 

Magazines: How Can I Help You (Finish College)?

A crash course in reviving the American dream. https://t.co/GS4Adxpu8T

— Amanda Ripley (@amandaripley) April 22, 2015

The most interesting thing about reluctant education writer Amanda Ripley's latest piece (The Upwardly Mobile Barista) isn't that it's a big cover story in the new Atlantic magazine or that she -- or Starbucks or ASU -- have discovered the secret to getting millions of American workers through college at higher rates than the current dismal numbers -- but rather that the article shows just how difficult it's been and how many adjustments have been made since the program to give baristas and other workers encouragement to finish their degrees.

Though she give time and space to the program's aspirations and advocates (and perhaps a smidgen too much implicit enthusiasm for the effort for my cranky taste), Ripley details the repeated challenges and setbacks that the program has encountered (and the student/workers have experienced) along the way. The piece is critical of traditional colleges and universities who don't get enrolled students through to graduation, sure, but it doesn't shy away from how hard it has been so far to bring Starbucks' customer-oriented service mentality to even a small number of students. 

Ripley wrote The Smartest Kids In The World and is along with Richard Whitmire an Emerson Fellow. Read her bio here. The Starbucks article will probably also remind you of Ann Hulbert's piece (also in the Atlantic) about efforts to focus and support college students' degree completion, titled A Community College Tries The "No Excuses" Approach.

Related posts: Both Sides Have "Lost Their Minds" On Annual Testing (Says Ripley); Six Years In, Is the Spencer Fellowship (Still) Worth It?How Some Countries Change Their OutcomesRipley "Less Certain" Of PISA Towards End Of Book.

Maps: 10 Districts Using "Strategic Compensation" To Attract & Retain Teachers

ScreenHunter_04 Apr. 24 15.31Here are 10 districts out of the nation's 15,000 using strategic compensation to attract and retain teachers, according to a recent CAP report via DFER/ERN.  They include two in Colorado, a couple in New England, and a couple in the Mid Atlantic region. But only two of the 10 -- DC and Denver -- have a big enough focus on promoting equitable access for disadvantaged students to quality teachers. 

Morning Video: Is EdTech The Solution - Or A Scam?

"Word on the street is that public school districts are being hijacked by tech-loving, teacher-hating crusaders who are plotting to spend billions on technology. Can this be true?" (School Sleuth).

Or, watch Ravitch ask Weingarten where she stands on the opt-out issue at NPE last week. More here.

Is Reform Really Stalemated -- And Is Early Childhood Really That Easy?

Most folks have responded to this week's Nick Kristof NYT column (Beyond Education Wars) by focusing on two main things brought up on the column: the vicious in-fighting on education that's been going on for a while now and the possibility that the combatants (liberals, moderates, Republicans, and conservatives) could rally around early childhood education.

Many --including TWIE contributor John Thompson -- think Kristof is onto something. And they may well be right.  But left by the wayside is Kristof's claim that reform efforts are really stalemated (that everyone agrees as much), and to a lesser extent the very real obstacles that have kept political factions from rallying around early childhood education for several years now and may continue to do so.

Let's all take a look at both those things before packing up and pivoting (or thinking that others are going to). I am sad to report that I'm not so sure that the stalemate or the consensus are as clear as Kristof and others might wish them to be.

Continue reading "Is Reform Really Stalemated -- And Is Early Childhood Really That Easy?" »

Thompson: Kristof Points the Way Toward Ending the Education Wars

The New York Times’ Nick Kristof, in Beyond Education Wars, does what Babe Ruth supposedly did, and more. He points to where he'll hit a home run and then delivers a grand slam. Kristof articulates the best single suggestion for improving schools, and he offers the wisest political message I’ve heard.

Although Kristof still identifies himself as a reformer, he wonders whether the reform movement has peaked. We’ve seen a dozen years of an idealistic movement where “armies of college graduates joined Teach for America. Zillionaires invested in charter schools. Liberals and conservatives, holding their noses and agreeing on nothing else, cooperated to proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time.”

But, now, the education reform “brawls have left everyone battered and bloodied, from reformers to teachers unions.” Kristof observes that “the zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. … The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity." Those expensive campaigns have left K-12 education "an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after.”

Kristof provides three reasons why we should, “Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.” He starts with the scientific evidence that “early childhood is a crucial period when the brain is most malleable, when interventions are most cost-effective for at-risk kids.” He writes:

Growing evidence suggests what does work to break the poverty cycle: Start early in life, and coach parents to stimulate their children. Randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of evidence, have shown this with programs like Nurse-Family Partnership, Reach Out and Read, and high-quality preschool. These kinds of interventions typically produce cognitive gains that last a few years and then fade — but, more important, also produce better life outcomes, such as less crime, fewer teenage pregnancies, higher high school graduation rates, and higher incomes.

Second, Kristof notes that reformers picked “the low-hanging fruit” of the K-12 world.

Continue reading "Thompson: Kristof Points the Way Toward Ending the Education Wars" »

Thompson: A White Suburban Dad Named Arne Duncan Needs Out

New York  Board of Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch says that "it’s been well over a year since I’ve had someone talk to me about instruction and curriculum. Everyone has talked to me about evaluations."

Well duh!

We are in the middle of a wonderful democratic moment as the Opt Out movement is poised to kill the high stakes testing vampire. And, even Tisch ridicules the idea that the test, sort, and punish school of reform can be saved by punishing parents who are standing up for their children. She says, “I would say to everyone who wants to punish the school districts ... Really, are you kidding me?”

But, Arne Duncan has even surpassed his previous political blunder of dismissing the concerns of "white suburban moms" whose kids might not be as brilliant as they think. He again demonstrates political sensitivity comparable to that of Southpark's Eric Cartman. As Chalkbeat's Patrick Wall reports, in As Opt Out Numbers Grow, Arne Duncan Says Feds May Have to Step In, Duncan now threatens to punish low-income schools in states which fail to hit participation rate targets.

The Education Czar demands, "Respect My Authorit-iii!"

Even better, Duncan reveals his lack of education judgment by asserting that his children aren't being injured by punitive testing mandates. After all, testing hasn't sucked all of the oxygen out of elite schools. Whether Duncan knows it or not, its under-the-gun, high-challenge schools that face the most pressure to impose drill and kill. He remains clueless about the inevitable ways that the toxicity dumped on teachers and administrators flows down onto the kids.

Duncan, the white suburban father, knows best. He, not moms and students, should decide how much of the joy of learning should be sacrificed in the name of bubble-in accountability.

Duncan's gaff is the best news since the announcement that 185,000 New York students have already opted out. He has just thrown more gasoline on the irreversible fire that is spreading through states that first adopted his extreme version of test-driven  accountability.

Continue reading "Thompson: A White Suburban Dad Named Arne Duncan Needs Out" »

Quotes: Three Reasons Early Education Could Join Education Opponents (But Probably Won't)

Quotes2K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after. So a suggestion: Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.

- NYT columnist Nick Kristof (Beyond Education Wars)

Charts: Just How Racist Are Schoolteachers? (Very - But Then Again So Are You)

image from m.motherjones.comCheck out this graphic via Mother Jones (Just How Racist Are Schoolteachers?). The point is not to shame teachers, really, but to raise awareness about unconscious bias and structural problems that are an issue in classrooms regardless of type.

Events: #NPEChicago Is The Third Big Chicago Event In A Row

image from www.networkforpubliceducation.orgIt's been quite a week already for Chicago, what with AERA and #EWA15 (and all the local news as well).  

But it's not over yet.  

Up next is #NPEChicago, the 2nd annual meeting of this group, which will include authors of "some of the most celebrated books in recent years. (including those displayed to the left.

Featured speakers include Yong Zhao, Diane Ravitch, Lily Eskelson Garcia, Randi Weingarten and Chicago’s own Karen Lewis and Jitu Brown. 

The April 25-26 event is also going to be livestreamed via School House Live.

Know more about the event, or planning to go and report your experiences from there? Let us know.

Morning Video: Did Ohio's 3rd Grade Reading Initiative Work? (Plus 2 Extras)

Watch last night's PBS NewsHour segment on the Ohio reading initiative intended to ensure that students were proficient readers before moving on to the rest of elementary school. (Big hint: holding lots of kids back is controversial and expensive.) Or, watch a segment featuring Arne Duncan's interview in Chicago on WTTW Chicago Tonight. Or, watch Jeb Bush wiggle on Common Core via Tampa Bay Times.

People: Journo Who Broke Chicago SUPES Story Two Years Ago Changing Jobs

Catalyst Chicago deputy editor Sarah Karp, widely credited with having broken the $20 million SUPES story that has now led to an FBI Investigation and the stepping down of the head of the Chicago school system, is leaving to join the Better Government Association of Chicago. 

For a time, it seemed like nobody would ever follow up on Karp's 2013 SUPES scoop.  Local NPR station WBEZ had her on to talk about the story, and local ABC 7's Sarah Schulte did a segment.  However, neither the Sun-Times or Tribune followed up in any meaningful way -- until now.

That's nothing new. Super-competitive news outlets sometimes refuse to "follow" other outlets. Other times, they re-report each others' stories and pretend their competitors' versions don't exist (which is understandable but super-annoying). Of course, sometimes it's not a conscious decision, they just have other stories to work on, more urgent-seeming matters, and don't have time or staff to cover everything they'd like.

In any case, Catalyst is looking for a new reporter to replace Karp, and publisher and founder Linda Lenz noted graciously "We're pleased that she will take all the knowledge she gained at Catalyst to a new audience. The city, in effect, will get an additional ed reporter."  Reporter Melissa Sanchez remains.

Meantime, Catalyst is also celebrating a 25th anniversary and figuring out where and what to do next.  (So is Philly's Notebook, another long-running district-based news outlet focused on education. Here's an overview of anniversary activities and events surrounding Catalyst's 25th.

While it may seem like a strange move, the BGA has staffed up with reporters in recent years and covered education along the way. After a decade at Catalyst, Karp starts at the BGA next month. She's going to cover K-12 education as well as higher ed and state government. Read more about Karp and the story she broke nearly 2 years ago here.  

Disclosure: I used to do some freelancing for Catalyst, and they lent me a free desk for a time, and kindly hosted the launch of a book on Chicago school reform I edited that came out in 2004.

Events: Highlights (& Lowlights) From #EWA15 Day One

It was an action-packed first day of #EWA15, with a firehose of journalists' frantic tweets and an appearance of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to help fuel the scandal surrounding Chicago superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett. 

OVERTWEETING? The tweeting was a bit much, you'll know if you tried to follow along online, especially once folks not at the event started barging into the hashtag (as is their right). If the conference continues to get bigger, and social media continues to proliferate, then we'll probably have to create sub-hashtags to go along with the single event hashtag.  Or maybe folks will self-organize and focus their tweeting on certain issues or topics.  I wonder how other, bigger events handle a glut of livetweets.  I guess it's a good problem to have.

A LOCAL SCANDAL NOT YET NATIONAL: Speaking of Rauner, the fast-moving Chicago story provides an exciting backdrop to the conference surroundings, though most of the journalists in attendance don't know or care much about it (and financial misdeeds aren't really news in Chicago). Maybe the story will go national, but I'm not sure. 

STORIES YOU NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE: The evening's awards ceremonies highlighted a slew of education stories that you (and I) may not have been aware of when they were first published.   What's amazing to realize is that some of the best education stories of the year -- at least according to EWA and those who submitted their pieces -- aren't all big sexy splashy pieces that get passed around widely but are smaller, more focused pieces or series whose impact builds over time.

THE "EVERYTHING" BEAT: It was also great to hear EWA president (and ChalkbeatIN honcho) Scott Elliot describe education as the "everything" beat. "Your audience as an ed journalist: Everyone who has a kid, cares about kids, and/or pays taxes. So, everyone!" I couldn't agree more. 

A PULITZER FOR A FORMER EDUCATION REPORTER: The day ended with news that a local news team in Southern California had won a Pulitzer Prize for its education-related coverage -- but that the education reporter who had kicked things off had left the newsroom for a better-paying public relations job.  If that isn't a great illustration of education journalism in 2015, I don't know what is.

Events: Torrent Of Tweets From #EWA15 In Chicago

The torrent of social media updates from #EWA15 is pretty overwhelming. Any of it any good? I've yet to find out. But I'm asking. 

Correction: NPR Blogger Corrects New Orleans Tweet (But Stands By Story)

I don't know all the details but here's a tweet from NPR's Anya Kamenetz correcting a previous message about suspensions. There was a bunch of Tweeting to/at NPR last week about their NOLA story. If you know the inside scoop, email me at alexanderrusso@gmail.com

Books: First Look At Dale Rusakoff's Forthcoming "The Prize"

9780547840055_lresHere's a first look at Dale Rusakoff's forthcoming book about Newark, titled The Prize and scheduled for release in September. 

"Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, and Cory Booker were ready to reform our failing schools," proclaims the book promo copy. "What they got instead was an education."

"Their plans soon ran into a constituency not so easily moved — Newark’s key education players, fiercely protective of their billion-dollar-per-annum system. It’s a prize that, for generations, has enriched seemingly everyone, except Newark’s students."

Rusakoff's writing on Newark has appeared in the New Yorker

"The Prize is a portrait of a titanic struggle over the future of education for the poorest kids, and a cautionary tale for those who care about the shape of America’s schools."

See more here.

Rusakoff is appearing at this week's EWA conference in Chicago. It's a big week for education book. Greg Toppo's book about learning games is out this week, as is Ken Robinson's book on schools and creativity.

Related posts: New Yorker Digs Into Newark Reform BacklashWhat They're Saying About That New Yorker ArticleNew Yorker Reporter Talks NewarkFact-Checking Cami AndersonWhite Reporters & Students Of Color.

Pop Culture: Meet "Primary School Problems," One Of The UK's Most Viral Twitter Feeds

The account is one of several run by a group of young entrepreneurs in the UK whose company, Social Chain, regularly takes over social media, according to this BuzzFeed article. Other popular accounts are Exam Problems. The company has been accused of stealing others' content and -- more problematically -- functioning as an advertiser without sufficient disclosure.  

Why should you care? Because your Twitter feed isn't just accidentally filling up with updates about things. Whether advertisers or advocates, the Twitterverse if increasingly filled with folks paid to influence your opinion or make you think things are bigger or smaller than they may be in real life. 

Related posts: New Study Suggests Journalism Being Left Out Of Education Debate12 Observations About EdNext's "Top Twitter Feeds"How Twitter Has Helped & Hurt.

Thompson: Building on Common Ground

In their joint Huffington Post contribution Is There a Third Way for ESEA?, Linda Darling-Hammond and Paul Hill acknowledge that they are "members of very different 'camps' on school reform," but "we think there is more common ground than has yet been evident in the political process." They drew upon the efforts of two "distinct groups of scholars and policy experts that met separately to rethink educational accountability."

Perhaps the most important point of agreement was Darling-Hammond's and Hill's statement:

We agreed that, because a student's learning in any one year depends on what was learned previously and on the efforts of many professionals working together, the consequences of high and low performance should attach to whole schools, rather than to individual educators.

State and federal governments can provide data and research, as well as systems of support, and can incentivize improvement. But they should not make decisions about how to evaluate individual educators or manage individual schools. 

I just wish they had taken their impeccable logic one step further and applied it to individual students; for the same reasons, a student should not be denied a high school diploma simply because he failed a college-readiness test. 

In my experience, many or most reformers understand that value-added evaluations are a big mistake, but they sometimes are reluctant to openly call for a reversal of that failed policy. Sadly, in my experience, liberal reformers are often more uneasy about separating themselves from this crumbling cornerstone of Arne Duncan's term.

So, when I followed their link to Fordham Foundation's and The Center for Reinventing Education's Designing the Next Generation of State Education Accountability Systems, was only somewhat pleasantly surprised. The CRPE cites their "emerging consensus about state accountability systems providing a light (or lighter) touch on districts and schools." It also acknowledges that the "lack of autonomy forced by consequences can also drive high-performing teachers away from the schools that need them the most."

I was more pleasantly surprised by Robin Lake's Time for Charters to Lead on Special Education.

Continue reading "Thompson: Building on Common Ground" »

Update: Mainstream Coverage Of NY Testing All Over The Place

A few weeks ago, I chided mainstream media outlets for how they covered the New Jersey testing rollout.

Are they doing any better this week, with New York?  

It's a mixed bag, with several outlets yet to show their stuff.

Some of them are doing quite well, treating the story carefully:

The WSJ's Leslie Brody reports that there are pockets of opt-outs but wide variations from one place to another (including just one kid opting out in East Harlem).

Others seem to be focused on making the opt-out numbers seem as big as possible, without bothering to verify numbers (or do much math).

The NY Daily News passes along a 300,000-student estimate of opt outs that is, far as I can tell, just a number a district superintendent pulled out of thin air. The headline for a NY Daily News piece by Rick Hess calls the opt-outs a "tsunami," which seems wildly overstated given what we know at this point. (He's much better in this US News piece about ending the reform wars.) 

Last year, as you may recall, the opt-out number turned out to be only about 70,000 statewide, and the NYC number was less than 2,000.

Lots of folks are missing from the field, so far at least, perhaps because of the lack of any hard numbers to work with:

I haven't seen a NYT story on this yet - perhaps one is in the works. A Kyle Spencer piece that came out before testing started noted that opting out was less common in most parts of the city last year and that even parents who don't agree with the tests struggle to pull kids out.

Some folks are angry about this:

 WNYC did a piece about parents being pressured one way and the other and has done several call-in segments about the pros and cons of opting out, but has yet to produce reporting on the trend.

ChalkbeatNY is aggregating others' coverage but doesn't seem to have reported out any original pieces on this yet this year so far.
 
NY governor Cuomo and NYC's Carmen Farina aren't commenting or providing real-time numbers, creating a vacuum. Governor Cuomo also ratcheted up pressure on the tests this year by calling for 50 percent of teacher evaluations to come from student test score results.
 

Reality Check: Restorative Justice Not As Easy As It May Seem

Check out this new story from Bright about the realities behind "restorative justice," the approach meant to replace zero-tolerance school discipline policies.

Quotes: Why Those Cali. Poll Numbers Looked So Bad For Tenure, Seniority

Quotes2This poll happens in a certain context, which is that over the last number of years, there’s been a well-funded, concerted effort to attack teachers’ seniority, to misrepresent it—and to scapegoat teachers for problems in the classroom.

-- Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, in the LA Times (Unions critical of poll on teachers tenure and seniority-based layoffs)

Thompson: My Contribution to Oklahoma Edu-Bloggers' Discussion of Teaching Content

The Tulsa blogger, Blue Cereal, challenged Oklahoma edu-bloggers to describe, in 1200 words or less, our personal beliefs regarding the teaching of content. Here's my contribution: 

Akili (as I will call him) borrowed every issue of my New York Review of Books.  One evening we were shocked to learn that it was past 6:00 and we had been talking for hours.  He had wanted to discuss Herbert Gutman's theory about the black family.  Akili said, "You are the coolest white man I've known.  Here we are having an intellectual discussion.  You respect my brain."

Such experiences taught me that poor students of color respond with pride and with excellence when challenged to meet high and authentic standards.

My approach was consistent with Martin Haberman's critique of The Pedagogy of Poverty. Haberman argued that good teaching for poor children was a "process of drawing out" the power inside students rather than "stuffing in" knowledge. I also saw learning stimulated by "divergent questioning strategies" and culminating in reflective conversations to help students “see major concepts, big ideas, and general principles and ... not [being] merely engaged in the pursuit of isolated facts."

Even in the 1990s, it would have been hard to teach effectively had I not experimented under the cover of "Orientation" during the first weeks of the school year. Administrators wouldn’t demand that teachers immediately rush into teaching the tested subject matter.  They understood the importance of laying a foundation for a successful class.  Teachers were encouraged to heed the wisdom of progressive scholars like Haberman and use the first week of school to get to know their students as individuals.

At the beginning of the year, we could move outside the prescribed curriculum to promote motivation and teamwork. Teachers were told to take two or three days to lay out rules, procedures, and expectations.  We could "break it down" for children, establish relationships, and steer them for success by teaching them to be students. The expectation was that this would be over and done with after a week. I preferred to stretch opportunities for dynamic classroom instruction far past the date when the administration expected us to focus on the curriculum pacing guide.

My first lesson each year initially surprised students who had heard the laughter coming out of my classroom the years before.

Continue reading "Thompson: My Contribution to Oklahoma Edu-Bloggers' Discussion of Teaching Content" »

Morning Video: Arne Duncan's Impenetrable Wall Of Talking Points

Last week, MSNBC's Chris Hayes tried valiantly to get past EdSec Duncan's talking points (Why is Common Core so controversial?) Curmudgucation tears it apart here. At least Duncan now limits his "race-to-the-bottom" claims about NCLB to 20 states.

Already seen it? Watch this Engadget blog post about a new video game, No Pineapple Left Behind. ("You're a principal lording over pineapples, making sure they do amazingly well on standardized tests because that's what begets more funding for your school...")

AM News: Testing Week Begins In New York (This Should Be Fun)

Opting Out of NY State Standardized Tests WNYC:  State standardized tests begin as of April 14th and mark the start of six days of annual exams for New York children in grades three to eight. And we take calls from parents on why they have their kids opt out from the exams.

Al Sharpton an unlikely ally in support of Common Core exams NY Post: Sharpton said a boycott could hurt urban kids and pointed out that neither he nor NAN chapter leaders in upstate cities such as Buffalo and Syracuse were consulted about the opt-out campaign.

5 percent of Portland Public Schools students opt out of Common Core tests Oregon Live: As of Wednesday, about 1,200 of the district's approximately 25,000 test-takers have submitted exemption forms.

Paul touts education issues in public, not on Hill Politico: Paul has sat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee since 2011 and is co-chairman of its subcommittee on children and families, but he seldom attends committee hearings or works on the daily grind of writing letters or authoring bills. Paul did not attend any of the five education hearings held by the committee this year, a POLITICO review has found.

NEA: No Child Left Behind rewrite doesn’t level the playing field Washington Post: The head of the country’s largest teachers union said that her organization does not support a bipartisan proposal in the Senate to replace the nation’s main federal education law because it does not go far enough to create equal educational opportunities for poor children.

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

Continue reading "AM News: Testing Week Begins In New York (This Should Be Fun)" »

Quotes: Thinking You're Part Of The 99 Percent Might Make You Part Of The Problem

Quotes2Don't consider yourself part of the 99 percent if you live near a Whole Foods. If no relative of yours serves in the military; If you’re paid by the year, not the hour; If no one you know uses meth... If any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that, actually, you may not know what’s going on, and you may be part of the problem. -- Anand Giridharadas (7 signs you are clueless about income inequality)

Morning Video: You Might Already Understand Common Core Math More Than You Think

Thanks to this handy Vox video, I think I just realized that my 1970's Montessori education taught me Common Core's infamous "number sense." (Common Core math, explained in 3 minutes).  Check it out.  Or, watch this PBS NewsHour segment about campus design balancing learning and safety (including cool overhead [drone?] footage).

Thompson: Micromanaging Other Peoples' Classrooms

Educator Jessica Waters, in “Results Matter More than Practice,” replied to my Education Post contribution,  “A Teacher Proposes a Different Framework for Accountability,” with the claim that teachers should be evaluated by student “outputs.” She made no effort to address the most likely scenario where the use of test scores for teacher evaluation prompts even more destructive teach-to-the-test rote instruction and further increases the exodus of teaching talent from schools where it is harder to raise test scores. 

In a longer piece (that I still hope the Education Post will publish), I argue that the willingness of supporters of high stakes testing to ignore a large body of social science has especially damaged poor children of color. This post will address Waters' stubborn demand that all states and schools comply with the same one-size-fits-all federal mandates for using tests to punish students and teachers.

Waters cites positive experiences with an elementary school with an eight to one student teacher ratio, and which seems to have far more resources than any schools I know. It is only 83% low-income.  Less than 10% of my district's elementary schools and none of our neighborhood secondary schools have such low numbers of poor students.

Also, Water's state of Rhode Island spends nearly $15,000 per student. She should accept the burden of proof before insisting that my state, which spends nearly $7,000 per student less than that, must divert our scarce financial and human resources from science-based pre-kindergarten investments, for instance, to high stakes testing.  

I had argued that data-driven accountability makes "the juking of the stats the #1 priority." But, "federal and state governments should encourage collaboration and experimentation in data-informed accountability. It could borrow from data-driven crime fighting to use metrics to identify 'hot spots' of schools, systems, or other areas that need additional patrols, or other forms of oversight."

Waters ignored my critique of data-driven oversight and said that her state already uses data to pinpoint areas that need further oversight. If that is the case, congratulations are in order for her state, but that reinforces my point. Waters should walk awhile in the shoes of educators who face different and, almost certainly, far greater problems before micromanaging the rest of us.

Continue reading "Thompson: Micromanaging Other Peoples' Classrooms" »

Journalism: Unsolicited Observations On Bloomberg's Amplify Takedown

News Corp.’s  1 Billion Plan to Overhaul Education Is Riddled With Failures   Bloomberg BusinessAbove: Correction appended to Bloomberg News story about Amplify.

Bloomberg News' latest story on Amplify is enough to give us all pause to reconsider the enthusiasm (hype?) surrounding edtech in general and tablets in particular -- even if it wasn't following Bright's recent article on blended learning (also skeptical) earlier this week. GSV+ASU Summit, were you listening?

For example, the Bloomberg article (by Laura Colby) reminds us that it'll be 7 more years before schools all have high-speed Internet. And, as of last year, instructional materials in print still sell more than twice as much as digital materials. 

But the Bloomberg article has some issues, both factual and rhetorical,which raise questions about the accuracy of the picture readers get of Amplify in the spring of 2015 and remind me of the seemingly prevalent trend in education journalism towards decontextualized fault-finding that's almost as annoying as the "gee, whiz!" coverage from five and ten years ago. 

I'll lay it all out below.

Continue reading "Journalism: Unsolicited Observations On Bloomberg's Amplify Takedown" »

Charts: Education Wages Not Climbing As Fast As Low- & Higher-Wage Sectors

Why Are Wages Growing Slowly Despite McDonald’s  Wal Mart Raises    Real Time Economics   WSJWages for education (and health services) workers went up just 1.9 percent over the past year, less than the national average.  Why's that? "Low-wage workers are earning more. Leisure and hospitality employees, mainly restaurant workers, saw a 3.6% hourly pay increase over the past year.... Higher-skilled workers are also doing well.... Several big employment sectors [including education] are being left out of better pay."  Via WSJ (Why Are Wages Growing Slowly Despite McDonald’s, Wal-Mart Raises?)

Events: GSV+ASU Conference Sounds Like "Shark Tank" For EdTech

Today's the last day of the three-day GSV+ASU Summit in Scottsdale Arizona, which has some of the edtech aspects of SXSWedu, some of the venture capital/innovation feel of the NSVF event, and also seems to have some EIA (Education Industry Association) elements.   It's big -- 2,500 -- but "much more focused on the deal-making/business [side] of education than other conferences," according to event organizers. (Yeah, Mark Cuban was there.)

Today's lineup includes some familiar folks, like Arthur Levine, who's there to talk about the coming transformation of higher education. Colorado state senator Mike Johnston --apparently one of New Leaders' co-founders -- was also there. Common (the rapper) was there, too.  (Did you see his performance on the Jimmy Fallon lip synch show vs. John Legend, BTW?). Miami-Dade's Alberto M. Carvalho was there.  Duncan, of course. (The USDE Office of Education Technology got on the Medium bandwagon with this post from the event). 

Michele Molnar's EdWeek writeup (Education Business Summit Explores Issue of Learning Equity) notes that reducing inequality is a big motivation for edtech hopes (perhaps attendees didn't read about education's limited impact on inequality or mobility).  Betsy Corcoran's EdSurge writeup (Reporter's Notebook: ASU GSV Summit Packs in Edtech Fans) notes that there are lots more teachers there than in the past and that only the newbies go to the panels (everyone  else is in meetings doing deals).

There's been some controversy surrounding the event, or at least GSV. One of its advisors is an Emanuel school board appointee to the school board ("Enough Is Enough": Education Investor Denounces Meddling Journalists).  GSV's Mike Moe was an education advisor to Newt Gingrich in 2011.

The media coverage includes Nichole Dobo (Hechinger), Michele Molnar (EdWeek), Donnie Dicus (Bright), and EdSurge, WashPo, NYT, Inside Higher Ed I'm told. Broadcast crews from Bloomberg and PBS are apparently there, too.Bright is Gates-funded (so is EdWeek). EdSurge is GSV-funded. 

Livestream is here. Social media: @asugsvsummit #asugsvsummit #gsv2020vision

Related posts: Test Prep & Instructional Materials $37B Of $789B K12 Spending.

Charts: Now Averaging $1,500 Per Kid, Rich-Poor Funding Gap Up 44 Pct. Since 2005

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 5.10.53 PM
"The richest 25 percent of school districts receive 15.6 percent more funds [$1,500 per student] from state and local governments per student than the poorest 25 percent of school districts, the federal Department of Education pointed out last month (March, 2015). The gap has grown 44 percent since 2001-02, when a student in a rich district had only a 10.8 percent resource advantage over a student in a poor district." (via Hechinger Report The gap between rich and poor schools grew 44 percent over a decade) Image used with permission. Click the link to see the interactive map.

Quotes: Pushback Was Nearly Unavoidable, Says Klein (But Still No Emails)

Quotes2Closing schools means looking for new jobs, while eliminating automatic placements based on seniority makes it harder to find them. Most troubling, our efforts to hold teachers accountable threatened job security and lifetime pensions. - Former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein responding to criticisms of his book and accomplishments in the NYROB (Good Faith & the Schools)

Philanthropy: Big Chunk Of DonorsChoose Goes To Schools Below 65 Percent Poverty

DonorsChoose is a well-known and generally well-regarded nonprofit that allows individuals to direct contributions to specific classroom projects.  But does the 15 year-old operation lessen or even exacerbate resource inequalities among different schools within districts or among different areas? How targeted are the projects that get funding?

The question comes up with recent stories from NPR about the endeavor. As you'll notice, different versions of the story had different headlines: Fundraising Site For Teachers Illuminates Classroom Disparities (WAMU).  Teachers fundraising site helps level classroom disparities (NPR).

According to DonorChoose, the highest poverty schools definitely comprise the majority of projects posted and funded on the site. Last year, for example, over 80,000 highest-poverty school projects were posted, compared to just under 4,000 low-poverty school postings, and the success rate for high-poverty school proposals is highest than any other category at 72 percent.  
 
But the next two categories down - high- and moderate-poverty schools -- together posted roughly 61,000 projects, and their success rate was just slightly lower at 69 percent.
 
And DonorsChoose's categories are worth noting, as well: highest-poverty is anything over 65 percent, 40-64% is high poverty, moderate poverty is 10-39%, and low poverty as <10%.
 
So it seems like a substantial chunk of Donors Choose projects and funding are going to schools with poverty rates below 65 percent.
 

People: Next Year's Spencer Fellows Are Romo, Mosle, & Richards

Just in time for Passover and Easter, the three new Spencers for 2015-2016 have been announced.  They are LA-based Vanessa Romo, former New Yorker and NYT Magazine writer Sara Mosle, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Erin Richards.

Currently a Newark teacher and occasional contributor to the NYT etc., Mosle's proposed topic is the past, present and future of the national standards movement. (Her long-awaited book about a school explosion in Texas is forthcoming.)

On staff at the Milwaukee Journal, Richards is going to focus on voucher schools, which makes a lot of sense given Milwaukee's long checkered history with them and their recent resurgence of sorts.

A veteran of LA's local NPR affiliate KPCC and the LA School Report, Romo is going to focus on Standard English Learners (kids whose first language is English but who don't speak or read academic English used in classrooms).

Read the official bios/announcement here. Richards, Romo, and Mosle will replace this year's Spencers: Linda Lutton, Mitra Kalita, and Joy Resmovits, and while they may be sad about their imminent return to the real world the rest of us will be very glad to have them -- and their regular reporting -- back. 

In other Spencer-related news, Greg Toppo's book about game-based learning -- The Game Believes In You -- is coming out later this month. Check it out - fascinating stuff.

Related posts: Six Years In, Is the Spencer Fellowship (Still) Worth It? (2015);  Spencer Fellowships 2014-2015 Go To Lutton, Resmovits, & Kalita (Who?) (2014); New Spencer Fellows, New Research Topics (2013).

Thompson: Atlanta Is Still Just the Tip of the Testing Icebergs

Once again, the convictions of the eleven surviving educators for their role in Atlanta's infamous cheating scandal provides a "teachable moment" in regard to the inherent harm of high stakes testing. The Guardian's Max Blau, in Why the Atlanta Cheating Scandal Failed to Bring National Reform, cites Fair Test's Bob Schaeffer who says, “Atlanta is the tip of the iceberg. ... Cheating is a predictable outcome of what happens when public policy puts too much pressure on test scores.”

During the NCLB era, other cheating scandals have occurred in Baltimore, Camden, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Houston, El Paso, Norfolk, Virginia and, yes, in Michelle Rhee's Washington D.C. As Schaeffer explained to the Christian Science Monitor's Stacy Teichner Khadaroo, in Atlanta Teacher Conviction: Do Standardized Tests Pressure Foster Cheating?, today's testing “creates a climate in school where you have to boost scores by hook or by crook.”

Khodaroo also cites Harvard's Daniel Koretz who explains why high stakes testing reveals just the tips of other dangerous icebergs. Koretz describes “shortcuts” that educators are encouraged to take, such as teaching to the “'power standards' – the types of items most commonly tested." He says that "states now routinely offer teachers old test items to use for test prep," even though that practice was frowned upon in the 1980s.

“'Clearly cheating is unethical, but at what point does this other stuff become unethical?'” Koretz says.

In my experience, these more subtle means of manipulating metrics are the most pervasive and thus the most destructive.

Continue reading "Thompson: Atlanta Is Still Just the Tip of the Testing Icebergs" »

Corrections: Nothing Like The Rolling Stone UVa Story Has Ever Happened In K-12 Reporting (Right)?

I can think of a handful of incidents in which mainstream news outlets got things wrong, and a couple of higher ed stories where facts and reporting were called into question. (There was the Tulane education study that was retracted not too long ago, and just last week the Times confused the Dead Sea and the Red Sea.)  

But I can't off the top of my head think of anything approaching the Rolling Stone magazine UVA rape story, which has now been retracted after a lengthy investigation by Columbia.  That's right - fully retracted.

Not everyone's happy about the blame being passed around (see Erik Wemple Publisher Jann Wenner is in complete denial), but that's another issue. Has there ever been a big K-12 education story like this that turned out to be so wildly unfounded that had to be retracted and the reporter and editors' careers were in jeopardy? I can't think of any, but I can't imagine that it hasn't happened, either.

Related posts: Fraud Or Fabrication In Ed Research Industry? 2010; Big Retraction On Bennet Story From NYT;  Charter Supporters Debate Online Behemoth K12, Inc.New Orleans Think Tank Head Quits After Flawed Study (2014)

Quotes: The Hazards Of Talking To The Press

USC's Morgan Plikoff: "Sometimes, even when they record your words, you still end up with a lousy, out-of-context quote. I need to work on making that impossible."

People: Berkeley Professor Becomes NYT Contributor, Joins Twitter

Newish NYT contributor @DavidKirp had only 85 followers as of a few minutes ago and is following just 30 folks. (I'm not one of them, are you?)

According to his NYT bio, Kirp is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools.”  He wrote a book about Union City schools, and was on the Obama policy review team in 2008. His book was listed along with Ravitch and Kahlenberg's in this list of HuffPost favorite education books of 2014

At the Times, Kirp's unofficial beat is education and inequality, and his pieces for the Times (going all the way back to 2012) include Make School a DemocracyClosing the Math Gap for BoysRage Against the Common CoreHow to Help College Students GraduateHere Comes the NeighborhoodThe Secret to Fixing Bad SchoolsMaking Schools Work.

I haven't written very much about him here or elsewhere, though I did raise a question on Twitter about one of his recent columns:

It seems like Kirp will function as the Times' unofficial education columnist, which was written for better and worse for many years by Richard Rothstein, Sam Freedman, and Michael Winerip. I didn't always agree with those columnists but I appreciated the regular (and often intellectually honest) attempts to address complicated education issues fairly and with nuance. 

Related posts: Underwhelmed By Union City Turnaround Story (Bruno); Why Cory Booker Should Have Respected Newark's Families and Teachers (Thompson); Who's Who On The Obama Policy Review Team (2008). 

Morning Video: Cheating As A Criminal Act

"An investigation had found systematic cheating in more than 40 schools. Judy Woodruff learns more from Kevin Riley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution." (How cheating on standardized tests can be a criminal act.) Or watch this video from Bright (Meet Nancy Davis, the Pirate Teacher).

Magazines: What To Make Of Education Next?*

Alexander Russo   Education Next   Education NextAlexander Russo   Education Next   Education Next ArchiveLast week's EdWeek's review of Education Next (Policy Views, With an Edge) is a good opportunity to talk about what the 14 year-old magazine does -- and doesn't -- get right, and where it fits in the ever-changing education media landscape.

More and more education-focused outlets are coming online these days, from BRIGHT to the Boston Learning Lab. Each outlet has its strengths and weaknesses. RealClear Education does 2 great roundups a day but doesn't have much original content. The Hechinger Report doesn't have strong commentary to go along with its strong reported pieces. You get the idea.

Education Next's strengths seem to be smart well-chosen articles about policy and politics, and a general willingness to address topics that are controversial and don't necessarily support pro-reform positions. (*I should know, having written several of these over the years -- see at left.)

I'm also a big fan of "Behind the Headline," a blog feature that attempts to contextualize the day's big education story or debate, and of Petrilli et al's interest in tracking (and manipulating) the media (see Related Posts below).

Its weaknesses might be its offerings getting lost among all the other posts and reports and pieces being put out by Fordham (and Harvard, and Hoover) and coming out only quarterly. It could also be stronger and more distinctive on social media, I think. There's a blog and Twitter but they're relatively low-profile compared to Petrilli et al -- despite having 81,000 followers (jealous!).

In a perfect world, Education Next would produce broadly appealing feature stories (like the Atlantic's education page), be perhaps a bit more journalistic and less wonky, more distinct from Fordham and all it's offerings, and maybe take more chances. But it's still a strong magazine and a worthwhile part of the education media landscape. 

Related posts: Best 5 Of Education Next's Top 20 Stories Of The Year (2103); 12 Observations About EdNext's "Top Twitter Feeds" (2014); Petrilli's Surprise Apology (2105);  But Are All The New Ed-Focused Outlets Really *Helping*?.

Thompson: Best Reason Ever for Anti-Teacher Legislation

Too often, it is hard to tell the difference between progressive school reformers and Scott Walker, ALEC, and the far right wing. Maggie Paynich's Teachers Should Have to Pay Union Dues Out of Pocket is based on even more misinformation than the National Rifle Association's attack on teachers' collective bargaining rights, but it is written in the same toxic spirit. 

Paynich is unaware of both contract law and the ways that police, firefighters, and others negotiate common sense arrangements for collecting dues for unions and professional organizations. She incorrectly claims that, "Every other entity on the planet has to collect monies on their own, and unions should not get the unfair advantage of ease of payment."

Paynich inexplicably writes, "I see it as taxpayer dollars going directly into the hands of unions with little or no say or control from the teachers unions are supposed to be protecting." According to her reality-free appraisal of these contracts, "This seems like the LEA is paying the union to negotiate the contract with the LEA." 

As Oklahoma conservatives attack the rights of teachers unions - but not other organizations - to engage in this type of legal contract with their employers, the OK2A pro-gun rights organization took a stand that is nearly as dubious as Paynich's in terms of education policy. It announced support for HB1749, which would halt automatic payroll deductions by state agencies for employee dues in any “public employee association or organization or professional organization that … collectively bargains on behalf of its membership.” They specifically attack the Oklahoma Education Association because "this politically leftist organization has made clear its stance against gun owners’ rights."

There may be an unintended benefit of the loose talk of reformers and gun rights union-bashers, as they make it clear that they are specifically targeting one type of union because of its political positions. It bolsters the legal case that will likely be filed by the AFT/OK, probably alleging discriminatory intent in drafting a law aimed at a single target.-JT(@drjohnthompson) 

Quotes: Education Won't "Fix" Inequality (But It Sure Helps Folks Earn More)

Quotes2Even if [education]  doesn’t do much to reduce overall inequality, [the study's authors] find it does reduce inequality within the bottom half of the income distribution, by increasing the earnings of those near the 25th percentile of earnings (in 2013, those making $6,100 a year, compared with $8,720 in the simulation with higher education).  

- The Upshot NYT (Why More Education Won’t Fix Economic Inequality)

Charts: Education Is A Dominant Job Category Especially In The Northeast

The distribution of jobs in every state  in 2 charts   The Washington Post

"As the data and chart show, the Northeast is most-dominated by the education and health services industry, which accounts for more than 20 percent of all non-farm jobs in Rhode Island (the leader, at 22 percent), Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont." (Washington Post: The distribution of jobs in every state, in 2 charts)

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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.