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Gentrification: All Eyes On Bed-Stuy

Proving yet again that pretty much all stories are education stories, there are at least two school-related elements to the fascinating New York magazine gentrification cover story Meet the Residents of MacDonough Street (in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy).
There is a charter school at one end of the block (Excellence Boys Uncommon Charter School) and a district school on the other (PS/MS 262 El Hajj Malik El Shabazz School.
One of the renters who's profiled says she moved to the neighborhood to be closer to the charter school her son attends. 
Another part of the story features Brooke Vermillion and husband Ben Chapman (education reporter at the NY Daily News) - both above.
No word yet on where they're planning to send their child when it gets to school age. 

Books: The Battle for Room 314 (Forthcoming)

51aqvyi-7tLLooking for a new education book to look forward to? You might consider Ed Boland's forthcoming The Battle for Room 314: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School.

"In a fit of idealism, Ed Boland left a twenty-year career as a non-profit executive to teach in a tough New York City public high school. But his hopes quickly collided headlong with the appalling reality of his students' lives and a hobbled education system unable to help them: Jay runs a drug ring for his incarcerated brother; Nee-cole is homeschooled on the subway by her brilliant homeless mother; and Byron's Ivy League dream is dashed because he is undocumented.

"In the end, Boland isn't hoisted on his students' shoulders and no one passes AP anything. This is no urban fairy tale of at-risk kids saved by a Hollywood hero, but a searing indictment of reform-minded schools that claim to be progressive but still fail their students.Told with compassion, humor, and a keen eye, Boland's story will resonate deeply with anyone who cares about the future of education."

The book's slated to come out in February.

I've met Boland and his candor and fearlessness talking about the experience are pretty eye-opening.  

It'll be interesting to see how the book has turned out.

Other than Dale Russakoff's Newark book and Greg Toppo's education learning book, it seems like it's been a relatively slow year for much-discussed education books. Or perhaps we've just gotten greedy, or can't tolerate anything but the most simplistic kinds of narratives.

Good thing that there are some intriguing-sounding books in the works, and more that I'm sure I'm not yet aware of.

Related posts: Cohen Joins Huffman ...The Rise of AVIDAn Anthropological Look At School FundraisingWhen [White] Parents Are An Obstacle To Making Schools More Equitable.

Update: Other Places To Find Great Education Stuff


There's way too much interesting stuff to put it all in one place -- especially pictures and videos and off-beat human interest stories related to education.

That's why I created a side project called Hot For Education.  

If you like videos, GIFs, and all the rest, you should definitely check it out.

There's no Facebook page (yet), but you can follow it, or get it via RSS (Feedly, Digg), or track it via Twitter (@hotfored). 

Morning Video: Michael Moore Invades Finland

"Moore, indeed, has fun in France, where even at a school on the low end of the socioeconomic pole, students enjoy healthy, restaurant quality-meals, with not a soda or snack vending machine to be found." (New Michael Moore Film Looks to Europe for Education Policy Ideas) Or, watch a pro-charter ad from Washington State (via Morning EDU).

Cartoons: Parent Teacher's-Parents Conference

“Your son is teaching third grade at a second-grade level.”

Morning Video: Remembering CA Student Killed In Paris

NBC News: Friends, Relatives Recall Student Killed in Paris

Update: Re-Imaging The Stories Behind "Humans Of New York"

Last week's New Yorker had a thought-provoking article about how we produce and consume media including media about kids and schools. Titled Humans of New York and the Cavalier Consumption of Others, the article focuses on the well-known photo from HONY (now a book as well as a website, etc.) of a boy named Vidal, who attends Mott Hall Bridges Academy, in Brownsville, run by Nadia Lopez, and whose appearance on Facebook led to a White House visit, a crowdfunding campaign. 

Just the description of the picture might make you think a bit more about it than you did when you first saw it online:

"Beneath the jacket is a fleece-lined hoodie, also black, and in his hand the boy holds a black plastic bag, stretched by the weight of what might be groceries. The sidewalk behind him is cracked and dotted with litter. Dull-brown public-housing towers—as much a part of the quintessential visual New York as the bodega bag—form a jagged horizon."

The critique of HONY -- and TED Talks, and The Moth -- might make you bristle:

"A story has lately become a glossier, less thrilling thing: a burst of pathos, a revelation without a veil to pull away. “Storytelling,” in this parlance, is best employed in the service of illuminating business principles, or selling tickets to non-profit galas, or winning contests."

The New Yorker piece urges us to do the impossible and forget the story, focusing back on the image:

"Forget, for a moment, the factual details that we have gathered in the course of knowing-but-not-really-knowing him... Consider, instead, the ease of the boy’s sneakers against the sidewalk; his shy, smirking confidence; the preternatural calm with which he occupies the space within the frame. Viewed like this—as, yes, irrefutably real, but also as a readable image—he is reminiscent of Gordon Parks’s squinting Harlem newsboy. Both convey something almost spiritual: something about the delicate string that hangs between youth and resilience, about the miraculous talent of children, however voiceless, to stand unswallowed by the city."

Whether you agree or disagree with the point -- and the rest of the essay's reflection on images in politics and society -- it's helpful I think to remember that stories and images can overtake us if we let them, and that sometimes we need to step back from the narrative we're constructing and look at the individual parts. 

Related posts: "Humans Of New York" Comes To The White HouseUnemployed Photographer & Bronx Middle School"Humans Of New York" Principal Was Thinking Of Quitting.

People: Students, Fans Rally Behind Emotional Math Teacher

Maybe you missed it (as I did), but a 42-year-old eighth grade math teacher from Queens (aka #WillFromQueens) made news last month when he cried during a sports radio call-in show and -- after being mocked initially -- was celebrated by his students and sports fans.

Quotes: Outrage ≠ Change

Quotes2White Americans are increasingly aware of the realities with which black and brown Americans live; black and brown Americans are increasingly aware of the granular details of events beyond their own communities... What we haven’t seen yet is change.

—  Emily L. Hauser (Why outrage over police brutality isn’t enough)

Morning Video: Kids Debate Whether Hillary Clinton Could Be President

Watch kids talk about whether a woman could be President -- and then meet Hillary Clinton.

Or (it's Friday!), watch this amazing video of two "jetmen" flying alongside a massive jetliner:

Morning Video: "I Thought I Knew How To Listen To People"

Watch this UC Memphis panel on #BlackLivesMatter and education, featuring among others  Brittany Packnett. (Skip to 14:00 to hear her "I thought I knew how to listen people... I thought that I was not being paternalistic in my practice...")

Morning Video: Charter Principal Apologizes For Targeting Disruptive Kids

“As an educator I fell short of my commitment to all children and families at my school and for that I am deeply sorry,” said Success Academy Fort Greene principal Candido Brown, speaking through tears. (via Chalkbeat: Success Academy principal gives emotional apology for list of ‘Got-to-Go’ students)

#EDgif Of The Day: Holding On Until Thanksgiving

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From Pixar's Inside Out. More #EDgifs here.

#EduWeen15: It's On!

After a slow start, #eduween15 is off and running. Check out some recent entries, and feel free to toss in your own:

Morning Video: School Police Officers Under The Spotlight

PBS: What's the role of a school resource officer? In my school, I'm part of the fabric.

AP: Experts Discuss How to Handle Defiant High School Students

Hechinger Report: Filmed classroom arrest of South Carolina schoolgirl spotlights police brutality, prison pipeline

#TBT: Top 5 #EDgifs Of All Time (On This Blog)

I've been sharing/making ed-related GIFs for a little while now --including one new one earlier this week. So for #TBT I thought I'd collect and rank the best (some of which you may have missed. Some are serious, many are silly. A few are both.  For example:
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Below are other other "best" examples, followed by a roundup of all the ones I could find (that still work):

Continue reading "#TBT: Top 5 #EDgifs Of All Time (On This Blog)" »

Morning Video: On CNN, Classmate Describes Columbia HS Takedown

"One of the students who recorded the now-infamous video of a South Carolina officer confronting and grabbing another student was arrested and charged with disturbing schools, and she spoke out on CNN tonight about what she witnessed and that particular officer’s reputation." Medialite ("Classmate of SC Student Speaks Out: Officer Has ‘Dangerous’ Reputation).

Or, watch Fox News: Mark Fuhrman Defends The Actions Of School Officer via Media Matters.

Morning Video: Inside A School Lockdown Drill

We've heard and read a lot about these drills, including the powerful post in the Washington Post earlier this week Rehearsing for death, but this is the first time I know of that we've seen one of these drills on video -- a short segment from a forthcoming film called Lockdown. Via The Atlantic.

Morning Video: Astronomy Night At The White House


"While not everybody was thrilled at the public invitation via Twitter, the President made good on his promise, hosting Mohamed and 300 other students for the White House’s second “Astronomy Night” on Monday. (Mediaite). See Twitter for images of the POTUS and the Texas student. 

Morning Video: Standing Desks - For Students

Kids Are Now Using Standing Desks

Some classrooms are now using standing desks to keep kids active

Posted by NowThis on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Proving yet again that there's no trend or fad too ridiculous to import into education, standing desks are a thing for some classrooms and schools. This just emerges as some of the research about sitting has come under question. Oh, well. Give them laptops and standing desks and maybe a drone and they'll turn out fine. It's clear. It only costs $6,000 per classroom.

Morning Video: Let's Hear It For Humor (& Choice, Maybe)

There's nothing particularly nuanced or persuasive about this @choicemediaTV video that's been going around this week, but at least it's (trying to be) funny. I'm a big fan of attempts to use humor to make a point -- a strategy that's woefully underused in education (but also very hard to pull off).

Of course the reality is that there are lots of K-12 choices being exercised by more privileged families beyond whatever neighborhood school they happen to be assigned to -- and lots of evidence that higher-performing schools (magnets, themed schools, test-in schools, etc.) don't serve low-income minority students proportionately. More choice may not be the answer, but the current system isn't defensible, either.  (See, for example, The Onion's recent headline: 5-Year-Old At Underfunded Kindergarten Enjoying Last Few Weeks Before Achievement Gap Kicks In).

Related posts: Foul-Mouthed "School Bully" PSA SatireStudent Pretends To Be ELL All SemesterThis Is What Might Happen If You Cut ClassThe Glengarry Glen Ross Magazine Subscription Drive

Morning Video: First Lady Drops The Mic (Plus "He Named Me Malala" Premiere)

Here's a roundup of the First Lady's Apollo Theater appearance earlier this week talking about #62milliongirls, via The Root: ‘There Is No Boy Cute Enough or Interesting Enough to Stop You From Getting Your Education’. See more at HuffPost.

Or, check out the LA Times' coverage of West Coast premier of Davis Guggenheim's latest documentary, and read more about it here.

7,000 high school girls attend West Coast premiere of 'He Named Me Malala'

High school girls from across L.A. County attended the West Coast premiere of director Davis Guggenheim’s ‘He Named Me Malala.’




Charts: Asians Projected To Replace Hispanics As Top Immigrants

Asians -- not Hispanics -- will emerge as the largest immigrant group in the future, according to this Pew chart via Travis Pillow. Meantime: The white population is growing in many U.S. cities for the first time in years (Washington Post).

Magazines: Why You Should Read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Atlantic Magazine Cover Story

There are lots of reasons not to read the latest Atlantic Magazine cover story, penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates: It's not about education. It's super-depressing. It's long. 

But there are some really good reasons to read it, anyway: It's at least partly about education. You'll learn some things you didn't know, probably.

First and foremost, Coates reminds us that so many of the people who end up incarcerated have been failed not only by society but also by schools:

"They just passed him on and passed him on." 

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 "I don’t know, it just didn’t look like a person of his age should be writing like that.”
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You'll also learned that the prison industry is now $80 billion a year, that it employs large numbers of mostly white workers to incarcerate large numbers of mostly black or brown prisoners, and that one of the people who predicted this period -- former US Senator Patrick Moynihan -- believed even way back then that service programs like Head Start wouldn't be enough to balance out the decades of mistreatment inflicted on black families. 

It -- along with The Case For Reparations and Coates' recent book, Between The World...., might well be the most-read and -remembered pieces of nonfiction writing of the last couple of years. 

Continue reading "Magazines: Why You Should Read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Atlantic Magazine Cover Story" »

Morning Video: Pro-Charter Ad Slams NYC's De Blasio Gets Criticized As Racist

Politico New York's Eliza Shapiro posted this video from Families For Excellent Schools and wrote about it last week (New charter ad hits de Blasio on race). Then came the followup story in which some folks denounced the ad as being overly divisive (Critics call new charter school ad 'racist'). 

While it makes some uneasy, descriptions and accusations related to race and racism are all over the place in the past few years, including recent comments from Derrell Bradford, Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, #educolor, and the This American Life series related to school integration. Just last week, white affluent Brooklyn parents were being accused of racism in response to a proposed school zoning stage (and affluent white parents in Chicago were being praised for their open-mindedness).  Over the weekend, Elizabeth Warren gave a speech related to #BlackLivesMatter.

On the substance of the matter, the NYT editorial page recently suggested that the DOE needed to move further, faster on failing schools. ProPublic recently slammed the universal preschool program for not adding enough low-income (minority) students. But he's also launched a big new initiative related to economic equality.

Related posts: Ta-Nehesi Coates' New Book On Race (& Schooling)Your Individual Racism Isn't Really The ProblemWorst Schools = The "New" Plantation.

Parents: Didn't Take Long For Common Core Homework Debate To Flare Up Again

This Dad Wrote A Check To His Kid's School Using Common Core Math
, says BuzzFeed about an image going around social media this week. But The Dad Who Wrote a Check Using “Common Core” Math Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About, says blogger Hemant Mehta at Patheos. The parent has since recanted - sort of. 

Viral: Fall Is the Worst Season (Not Just Because Of Decorative Gourds)

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 3.49.32 PM"It all starts with the back-to-school feeling, a sensation beloved by freaks...."

via Jezebel (Fall Is the Worst Season)

Morning Video: Integration Lessons From SF For Chicago & Brooklyn Parents


This SF Chronicle video -- part of a larger package of stories Twitter buddy Tania de Sa Campos (@taniadsc) reminded me of last night -- is a great reminder of the hope and the many many challenges to mixing kids in schools in ways that their parents likely don't live or mix in real life.

There's also a helpful "Behind The Headlines" roundup from Education Next about school integration and diversification efforts (including diverse charter schools) you might want to check out. 

The contrasting narratives taking shape in Chicago and Brooklyn are fascinating to watch, and such a welcome relief from all the other education issues that tend to get talked about all the time. I'm really hoping that things work out reasonably well in both situations, and that the NYC and Chicago media do a steady, careful job sharing out the developments as they take place. Crossed fingers. 


Morning Video: Tupac On School "Just To Keep You Busy"

"What they tend to is teach you reading, writing, and arithmetic, then teach you reading, writing, and arithmetic again, then again, then again, just make it harder and harder, just to keep you busy. And that’s where I think they messed up." (via Bellwether Education Partners)

Update: Whatever Happened To Roland Fryer (& Cash Incentives For School)?

News that Harvard economist Roland Fryer has been named to MA State Board of Ed (h/t Rotherham) is a great opportunity to play this memorable interview he did with Stephen Colbert, talking about the achievement gap and kids and parents' responses to financial incentives. 

In the interview, Fryer puts a bill on the table as an incentive for Colbert to ask good questions.

Of course, the idea of financial incentives has lost much of whatever luster it held, based on both squeamishness about the idea and disappointing results.


More interest and attention these days seems to be going towards low-tech reminder and engagement efforts using cell phones to communicate with parents. See examples here, here, and here.

But the cash payment idea hasn't gone away, domestically and elsewhere. The PBS NewsHour recently ran a segment about a cash payment program operating in Brazil. Other less direct ways of helping low-income parents help improve their kids' education chances include raising the minimum wage and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. 

Related posts: Roland Fryer Wins MacArthur "Genius" AwardFryer To Colbert: "You're Black Now, Aren't You?"The Rise And Fall Of Cash For Grades How Parental Fears Might Shade Views Of Roland Fryer

Update: Closed Philly School Converted Into Hipster Gastropub Generates Controversy

White hipsters sipping drinks on the roof of a closed (and beloved) Philly high school -- what could look more wrong? I posted about this on HotForEd last week when I came across a post in The Awl (The Hottest Bar in Philly Is on Top of a Shuttered Public School), and couldn't stop reading. There were think pieces, protest flyers. Then, yesterday, alumni of the school (Bok) showed up at the restaurant wearing alumni gear.

Follow #lebokfin for lots more. Follow @hotfored or subscribe to the Tumblr here.

Quotes: NYC Mayor Touts Benefits Of Rigorous Common Core Pre-K

Quotes2The difference between a child who has had full day pre-K with the Common Core curriculum and one who hasn’t, that child in the first instance has such a leg up and a love of learning they go into the rest of their education with.

- NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio in the Washington Post's Answer Sheet  (The surprising things New York’s mayor said about Common Core and 4-year-olds)

Morning Video: Back To School (According To John Oliver)

From Sunday night: "John Oliver gives students a crash course in everything they will learn — or not learn — in school this year." (Already seen it? Read a bunch of responses/hot takes from Slate, Jezebel, etc. here.)  #bts15 Or, watch a PBS NewsHour segment on the factors contributing to lower SAT scores.


Quotes: Your Ideas About College Are Antiquated

Quotes2The world of college education is different now than it was a generation ago, when many of the people driving policy decisions on education went to college, and the theoretical ideas about why college should pay off do not comport well with the reality.

-- John Cassidy in the New Yorker (What's the real value of higher education?)



TBT: Back To School Feelings (Parents vs. Kids) #BTS12


via Reddit/BuzzFeed (Best "back-to-school" photo I've seen yet!)

School Life: Satirical Look At Resource Inequality Among Schools/Districts

image from i.onionstatic.com

“Pretty soon, kids my age who live in wealthier districts will start testing better than me in every subject, so I might as well try to make the most of this parity while I have it,” said Williams. (via The Onion 5-Year-Old At Underfunded Kindergarten Enjoying Last Few Weeks Before Achievement Gap Kicks In)

Morning Video: Education, Housing, Integration -- Really?

 "Supporters of desegregation won the Yonkers battle—but the high cost of victory lost them the war," writes former NYT writer Lisa Belkin, whose book about a Yonkers NY housing fight is the subject of a new David Simon HBO miniseries, Show Me A Hero that's been written up by EdWeek's Mark Walsh. "Few in this country had the will to risk another divisive, ugly municipal bruising anytime soon."

This isn't the first time Simon has addressed school-related issues. The Wire included a whole season focused on a group of middle school boys. (No surprise given his writing partner's career as both a cop and a geography teacher). More recently (by which I mean 2010-211), the NOLA-based Treme series included a few biting references to post-Katrina school reform. (Remember "Four years at Radcliff is all you know..."?)

Meantime, someone should go to Yonkers and follow up on how the integration plan and kids are doing, right?

Related posts: New HBO Series Takes On Charters & Choice [2010]; From Cop To Writer To Geography TeacherDoes TFA Displace Veterans -- & Do TFAer Really Stay?.

Quotes: "If You Care About Kids, I Am With You."

Quotes2I don’t care if you are in Teach For America, were in Teach for America, like or don’t like Teach for America.  I don’t care if you’re a pin-covered-lanyard-wearing unionista or if you delete every union email on sight.  I don’t care if you teach in a charter or did or will teach in a charter, or if you send your kids to private school or public school. I don’t care if you’re traditionally licensed or alternatively licensed or unlicensed, and I don’t care if you are a normal person or someone who teaches Kindergarten. If you care about kids I am with you

- Tom Rademacher (No Enemies - Mr Rad's Neighborhood)

Morning Videos: Back To School Apps, "Every Teacher, Ever," & Les Miz

Back to school apps from the NYT (I was really hoping for a classroom hoverboard). Or more humorous "Every Teacher Ever" via HuffPost. Or teachers flashmob One More Day from Les Mis via Washington Post. You should really be following HotForEd on Tumblr, BTW. All the cool videos are there. 

Morning Video: Suprise! Discrimination Against LGBTQ Workers Still Legal

HBO's John Oliver picked up where others left off, pointing out how unprotected workers (ie, teachers, principals, parents, administrators) are against discrimination based on sexual preference in 31 states.

Quotes: David Simon On Whites & Integration

Quotes2White people, by and large, are not very good at sharing physical space or power or many other kinds of social dynamics with significant numbers of people of color. It’s been documented time and time again.

- David Simon in ProPublica (Show Me a Hero)

Walcott & Bradford: Folks Who Resemble Each Other & Are Both In Education

11892058_10153387018910218_8606453158210258242_n (1)Folks that look somewhat alike (usually a civilian and a celebrity) aren't that hard to find or think up.

Folks who look alike and are both in education, that's fun.

For example, that's NY-CAN's Derrell Bradford on the left and Dennis Walcott on the right. 

Some other #edudopplegangers out there? Joel Klein and Louisiana schools consultant Bill Attea, according to Peter Cook. Conor Williams and Glee teacher Matthew Morrison, according to Williams' colleagues.

Not sure who your lookalike might be? Just ask! We might have some ideas.

Extra points if the pair come from opposite sides of the education spectrum. 

Or, if you don't care about whether it's in education or not, there's a doppleganger-finding app/website out there now.

Used with permission. #Edu-Dopplegangers15

Related posts: Education Dopplegangers (2010)

Morning Video: Summer Sitcom Features (Another) Reluctant Teacher

The August show, featuring Craig Robinson (from The Office) features wacky characters but maybe not the most uplifting of themes. Check out the promo above. Or if you want a more optimistic version of the same kind of story -- now streaming on Netflix, etc. -- watch the promo for "Teacher of The Year." Trailer and review are both here

Maps: Few States Protect LGBTQ Students

Lgbtq education protections

"Only 13 states have laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in K-12 schools, while Wisconsin protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. So in a great majority of states, LGBTQ students have no explicit legal protections."

Books: New Franzen Novel Features Loan-Burdened Protagonist

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Good news, all of you concerned with crushing student loan debt (your own or the issue): According to this review in The Atlantic, Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Purity, features a main character who's faced with large loans and no obvious way to pay them off:

"Her mother broke off contact with her family before Pip was born, and Pip hasn’t been able to persuade her to reveal the truth about her past or the identity of Pip’s father. She’s burdened with $130,000 in student loans, lives in a squatter house in Oakland, and works for a company that fleeces energy consumers with misleading environmental rhetoric. Like her Dickensian original, she has the idea that if she were to discover her own backstory, something wonderful might happen—maybe even the zeroing-out of those student loans."

Author Franzen isn't particularly interested in education, but he and his work have come up several times here over the years. His 2010 book, Freedom, raised some issues related to Education, Parenting. There was the amazing speech he delivered at Kenyon in 2011 (Of Songbirds And Public Education) -- which prompted me to write perhaps the most sincere and least prickly thing I've ever published (Education Will Break Your Heart).

Movies: School-Based Comedy Raises Issues Spanning Charter-District Divide

There is much to like about the low-budget mockumentary called "Teacher of The Year (TOTY)" now available for streaming on Netflix and other VOD services. 

First and foremost, TOTY isn't really about education politics or specific approaches to improving schools. This is nothing like Waiting For Superman, Standardized, Bad Teacher, Won't Back Down, Race to Nowhere, and all the others you may have seen or heard about recently. 

Yes, it's set at a charter school, at which there is -- atypically - both union representation of the teachers and some form of tenure that allows veterans to speak their minds. But the charter status of the school and the union representation are mostly plot vehicles, not central aspects of the story. There's no Common Core, or standardized testing. Heaven. 

The plot centers around two main dramas. First is the decision that the aforementioned Teacher of the Year must make about what to do with his future. Like some real-life state teachers of the year (see here and here), he is frustrated with his work environment and is being tempted to do something else that's much more lucrative and perhaps less stressful. The second plot element is an accusation leveled against one of the other teachers by a student, which could result in the teacher being fired despite his long-standing reputation for being committed to the school and to his students.

But mostly @TOTYmovie is a comedy -- a conglomeration of all the schools you've ever been in before, full of eccentric characters and a mix of high and low humor. There's the handsomely bland  vest-wearing protagonist, Mitch Carter, who breaks up fights, shares his lunch with a hungry student and helps him understand what Shakespeare is all about. There's the perfectly awful Principal Ronald Douche, played by Keegan Michael Key (of Key & Peele), who wants to be superintendent but might not listen to his teachers enough. There's a robotics teacher who thinks that HE should have been Teacher of the Year (and might be right). There are two deliciously horrible guidance counselors (played by the comic Sklar brothers). The assistant principal is a hapless disciplinarian handing out detention slips to bemused students. 

The comparisons to TV comedies The Office or Parks & Recreation are understandable. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer called it a "sweet, gonzo comedy.")

The filmmakers -- Lainie Strouse (the producer) and writer/director Jason Strouse (who's also the principal of an orthodox Jewish school in LA) -- say that their goal was to make something like Spinal Tap or Best In Show -- set in a high school. Another comparison that they like is Ferris Bueller's Day Off (from the point of view of teachers).  Excited about the film's success at 18 festivals over the past year and now online on Netflix and Amazon, the gist of what they had to say during a phone interview last week is that they wanted to make a film about the what it's like teaching in a real school, to tell the story in a silly but realistic way, and to focus on the teachers' perspective rather than the kids'. 

They won't say what school the film was shot at, though part of the deal was giving students jobs as PAs and walk-ons. They told me shooting was done in just 11 days spread out over six months -- and that much of the film was captured in the last few days. The shooting schedule was so fragmented that some of the actors didn't even know that they were in the same film together. 

As for their concerns about education, the filmmakers' only "issues" are that teachers don't make much as other college graduates and sometimes leave for more lucrative careers, and that school and district bureaucracies are a cumbersome bother. The rules and norms of schools breed frustration and tamp down innovation, they feel -- which is why so many people they know used to be teachers but aren't any more (and why highly-qualified non-teachers can't easily become second-career teachers).

Maybe that's the real appeal of TOTY, which is that it's neither glorifying nor tearing teachers down, and raising issues that span charter and district environments alike rather than divide them. 

Related posts: New Documentary Avoids Simplistic Hero/Villain Approach"TeacherCenter" Isn't Even Key & Peele's Best Education Segment#MiddletownFilm Chronicles "Midpoint" Students, Blended Learning.

Don't Let Citizen Stewart Win #StraightOutta ("Where You From?")

EdPost's Chris Stewart leads the way with this contribution to the viral marketing campaign for the "Straight Out of Compton" biopic that comes out Friday.

Sure, he's got that sharp Twitter avatar -- maybe he even planned it.

But that doesn't mean he's going to win.

To join in, all you have to do is upload a picture and tell us "where you from?" 

It could be something about your school (Straightoutta Central High. #Straightoutta District 732) , or your hometown, or where you work now. Mine's a long-ago picture of the nine Russo brothers #straightoutta Chicago. 

Or have some fun at someone else's expense (#straightoutta Brooklyn Heights, Lab School come to mind). 

Then tag me @alexanderrusso and I'll pass it along.

People: Linda Darling-Hammond's Son Makes "American Ninja" Finals

Yep, that's Sean Darling-Hammond, son of Stanford education professor (and Clinton EdSec short lister) Linda, who, according to his proud mom, made it through the competition last night and is on to the final round. He's a lawyer, not an educator, but according to his bio and twitter handle and the motto on his competition shirt he has been involved in several do-gooder activities along the way. h/t Andy Smarick.

Maps: Too Many States Have Early School Start Times

image from big.assets.huffingtonpost.com

States in red (like LA, MS, AL) have the earlier start times, while states in paler colors (like Alaska, Iowa, ND) start later. Via Huffington Post. Click here for the full story.

Thompson: To Improve Poor Schools, Ban Disney Movies

The key anecdote in Nick Chiles's Full Court Press for Mississippi Third Graders in Summer School Has Disappointing Results, also provides a great metaphor for why test-driven, accountability-driven reform continues to fail. Chiles, writing for the Hechinger Report, describes the Mississippi 3rd grade retention law, and how one school tried to use a four-week summer school remediation program to get struggling students back on track.

Frankie Blackmon, the director of federal programs, was conducting a site visit on the eve of the High Stakes Test that would determine whether remediated students could be promoted to the 4th grade. While checking whether students were being properly primed for the big test, she saw children watching a Disney movie. Blackmon “stopped cold,” and asked, “what’s going on here?”

The value of an end-of-the-session fun day should have been obvious, but it also turned out that the school had a good explanation. The video was embedded in their lesson plan. More importantly, it makes sense to relieve the anxiety of students as they approached such a test. Even so, “Blackmon [later] explained, her brow furrowed, ‘But this was the last day. We don’t have any time to waste. Every minute should be instructional in some way. There’s not going to be a movie shown on the test.’”

And that illustrates a key problem with test-driven reform. Its advocates were in too much of a hurry to study the complexity of interconnected education problems, to understand why their band aids, such as summer school remediation are inherently inadequate, and to think through comprehensive solutions.

As one teacher added, “Nothing is impossible, but being realistic about it, it’s almost at the point where there’s no help for them in just four weeks.” Improving the reading skills of 3rd graders is extremely important, but the teacher said, “They didn’t get it in kindergarten, in first, second or third grade. You can’t give to them in four weeks what they haven’t gotten in four years.”

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