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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.”

Continue reading "Thompson: To Improve Poor Schools, Ban Disney Movies" »

TV: HBO's Oliver Shaping Up To Replace "Daily Show" On Education (Plus 5 Videos Strauss Left Off Her List)

The Daily Show
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There are LOTS of people who are going to miss Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, including educators who appreciated his poking fun at school reform efforts and folks like me who appreciated his regular attention to education issues of all kinds. (Some folks took their fandom too far; remember that Illinois teacher who was Suspended For Showing 'Daily Show' Clips In Class?)

Ready for some nostalgia? Check out HuffPost's 2012 mashup of great education-related episodes above.

Or go over to The Answer Sheet, where Valerie Strauss has a new roundup of Five of Jon Stewart’s greatest hits on teachers, school reform and stupidity

Her top picks are the segments in which Stewart noted that teachers were going to jail when Wall Streeters weren't, declaimed corporal punishment provisions in Kansas,  castigated critics of universal preschool, taking on Michelle Rhee (who?), and trying to interview our robot EdSec, Arne Duncan. 

It's a strange list. But anyway, the most useful part is her description of Stewart as "never the hard-line critic of corporate school reform that many would have liked him to be."

It's a good point. He wasn't nearly as fiery as some wanted him to be. However, he was a reliably --problematically, according to Slate -- liberal voice. Take for example a 2011 segment I described as Lavish Lifestyles Of Wisconsin Teachers.

In fact, Stewart's biggest impact on education might have come from a series of interviews with Diane Ravitch, which gave a new prominence and currency to her and her allies' ideas -- even though Stewart didn't always roll over and go along with Ravitch (as you can see from my recaps of the segments):

Ravitch's Return To "The Daily Show": Ravitch starts out talking about schools turning into testing factories.  Stewart seems to be of the mind that at least some testing is necessary and reminds Ravitch that NCLB came from somewhere/ was a response to something.  He also gently questions the notion that poverty is the cause or explanation of.  They find common ground on the problem of "blaming the avarice of teachers."  Says Stewart: "Those people [critics] have no idea."  Ravitch says that she doesn't think America is "over-run with bad teachers," about which Stewart agrees:  "There's bad everything." 

Ravitch's Pre-Halloween "Daily Show" Appearance: She ducks the "what about the unions?" question entirely (not defending them, it's worth noting) -- and Stewart lets her. She posits the notion that charter schools or choice reduce the sense of public obligation but ignores the reality that more affluent parents (including Ravitch herself) have "shopped" for better schools for their children for decades. She was holding the noisy green key-keeper in her hand to keep from blocking her face using that hand, right? 

Here's a sweet picture of the two of them together:

Still, it's important to note that Stewart wasn't just about poking holes in reform efforts, and his education segments go way back. Some notable segments from the vault:

EdSec Spellings On The Daily Show: That face she makes when asked about smiting the teachers unions is good, as is the wink she gives when offering her "I don't recall" answer. 

Elementary School Kid Refuses To Pledge: Both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report riffed off the news that an elementary school boy was refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance in school.  Just cuz I'm lazy, here's the Daily Show version (the segment starts about 90 seconds in):

Obama Pushes "Socialist" Ornaments On Kids: The Obama administration has done it again -- trying to manipulate vulnerable schoolchildren into forsaking all that is good and right about America.  Last time, it was the Obama "back to school" speech. This time, it's Christmas ornaments sent from the White House to schoolchildren.  (See also: Daily Show Mocks "School Lunch Rebellion", and Obama Girls Not Integrating Sidwell)

Stewart Suggests 50-50 Pre-K Split To De Blasio: That was Daily Show host Jon Stewart's suggestion about how to fund the proposed pre-school expansion. 

Campaign Strategists Ruin 8th Grade Elections: "The Daily Show team decided to make one middle school race a high-stakes game, by bringing in some big-time political consultants."  via TIME Campaigning, on a Smaller Scale  [Pt 2, Pt 3].

There were also countless segments in which Stewart highlighted good things going on in schools: "Brooklyn Castle" On "The Daily Show"Malala Yousafzai Left Jon Stewart Speechless. Just last month, Stewart interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates (which I somehow missed). Occasionally he got some things wrong (like spending on Baltimore schools).

Stewart's successor, Trevor Noah, seems unlikely to have much ongoing interest in education beyond the occasional joke. But there's Jon Oliver's HBO show, which already has shown itself to be as fiery or more so than Stewart ever was. ProPublica's education reporter Marian Wang just announced she's headed over there, which could mean that Oliver is loading up to do more education-related segments.

Numbers: $831 Billion #BTS15

image from www.emarketer.com
Marketing research company eMarketer estimates that US retail back-to-school season sales will reach $831.33 billion in the months of July and August this year, "up 4.6% year over year and representing 17.3% of full-year retail sales." (Students Stuff Backpacks with Tech for Back-to-School)

Quotes: Defiance Or ADHD? Depends What Color The Kid Is

Quotes2White kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem. Black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn.

-- David Ramey, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State, quoted in Daily Beast via Vox (How schools push black students to the criminal justice system)

Morning Video: "TeacherCenter" Isn't Even Key & Peele's Best Education Sketch

TeacherCenter, the Key & Peele parody in which teachers are the subject of a SportsCenter-style show makes the obvious point that our society treats pro athletes much better than it does classroom teachers, delightfully imagining what it'd be like if things were very, very different. But it might not even be their best work on this topic. Some other favorite school-related Key & Peele segments on school bullying, substitute teachers (1 & 2), and inspirational speakers can be found here, here, here, and here. I think substitute teacher 1 (above) is my favorite. OK, now you can go. 

Morning Video: Teachers As Free Agents, Paid Based On Test Scores

Here's a Key & Peele sendup of SportsCenter in which teachers are highly-paid free agents who are wooed from one school to another based on salaries partly based on test scores. Includes a horrifyingly realistic in-video ad promoting BMWs for teachers.  Via Toppo

AM News: Teachers Probably Saved Lives In Louisiana Shooting

After Lafayette theater shooting, union chief praises teachers NOLA.com: About 20 minutes into The Grand 16's showing of the film "Trainwreck" on Thursday night (July 24), gunman John Russell Houser stood up and began firing into the crowd, wounding Martin, Meaux and seven others and killing two more, authorities said. But one teacher jumped up to cover the other, and managed to pull the fire alarm to alert emergency responders, Weingarten said.See also Atlantic/EWAWashington PostPhilly.com.

Some Common Core tests are getting shorter. What are they losing? Hechinger Report: After a rough spring testing season, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two state consortia tapped by the federal government to develop tests tied to the Common Core educational standards, is making big changes to its tests, which were administered to over five million students across 11 states and the District of Columbia this year.

Missouri Law Can’t Block Scholarships for Undocumented Immigrant Students Kansas City-Star:  In a memo sent Thursday to college presidents, chancellors and directors, Missouri Department of Higher Education Commissioner David Russell said language in the title or preamble of a recently passed higher education appropriations bill “has no legal authority to withhold scholarship awards from otherwise eligible students.” 

Carnegie Mellon project revives failed inBloom dream to store and analyze student data Hechinger Report: LearnSphere, a new $5 million federally-funded project at Carnegie Mellon University, aims to become “the biggest open repository of education data” in the world, according to the project leader, Ken Koedinger.

Why a Fight in Massachusetts Over Kindergarten Funding Is Getting Ugly Slate: While Massachusetts has a long way to go, access to early childhood education is indeed slowly expanding in many nearby areas. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push for universal pre-kindergarten continues with the announcement that preschool teachers at community-based early childhood centers, including day cares—who generally earn less than teachers

New GAO Report: Teacher Prep Programs Lack Performance Data PK12: Seven states ignored the federal higher education law's requirement to identify "at risk" and "low performing" teacher programs, some of them blatantly.

City Invalidates Test Scores of Third Graders at Harlem School NYT: The Education Department invalidated the results of the state exam taken by third graders amid allegations of testing improprieties by the principal of the Teachers College Community School. See also WNYC, NY Post.

What Do We Value More: Young Kids Or Fast Food? NPR: New York state recently announced an increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers, to $15 an hour. It's the fruit of a three-year labor campaign. But there's another group of workers out there that hasn't had a real wage increase in decades. Right now, at preschool programs around the country, teachers are tapping infinite reserves of patience to keep the peace among children at various stages of development and need. They're also providing meals, wiping noses and delivering a curriculum in math and reading that will get the kids ready for school. And there are hugs. Lots of hugs.

Quotes: Does State Trooper Encinia Remind You Of Anyone?

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"Replace Sandra Bland with a twelve-year-old girl. Replace the lit cigarette with chewing gum. Replace the car with a desk. Replace the state trooper with a teacher."
 

- The Synapse (White Educators: Do You Recognize State Trooper Encinia?)

Morning Video: In South Carolina, Clinton Addresses "Black Lives Matter"

Watch the NBC News clip above, or read more about the speeches here from AP. Or, watch acclaimed rapper (and college graduate) J. Cole talk about the importance of education and his issues with it (from March on Tavis Smiley).

Safety: At Least 28 Students Seriously Injured By School Police Since 2010

image from www.motherjones.com

"Over the past five years at least 28 students have been seriously injured, and in one case shot to death, by so-called school resource officers—sworn, uniformed police assigned to provide security on K-12 campuses," reports Mother Jones' Jaeah Lee (Chokeholds, Brain Injuries, Beatings: When School Cops Go Bad)

 

Books: Ta-Nehesi Coates' New Book On Race (& Schooling) In America

image from images.indiebound.comThere's a new book about race in America out today that's getting a lot of deserved attention. It's already at #3 on Amazon. No, it's not the Harper Lee book in which Atticus Finch is a racist. It's Ta-Nehesi Coates' Between The World And Me.

As anyone who's seen or read Coates in the past can imagine, there's lots in the book that educators, advocates, parents, and the general public might benefit from understanding -- both about school specifically but also about poverty, and class, and most of all being a black person in modern-day America.

I won't do the thinking or the writing any great justice here, but it's a good starting point and there are lots of links to Coates' writing, recent appearances on Charlie Rose and Fresh Air (where Coates sort of scolds Terry Gross) and to reviews and reflections from others. 

A few educators and advocates are writing about the book, and I'm sure more will in coming days.

GROWING UP IN WEST BALTIMORE

Much of what Coates is writing about is about society at large -- its treatment of black Americans, its structural issues -- rather than education.

On Charlie Rose last night, Coates pushed back at the notion of personal responsibility or any individual behavior as a meaningful measure of black American's lives bounded by structural racism. (I wonder what he would have to say about the popular notions of "grit" being taught in schools these days.) 

On the show, he also talked about how reactive white people generally are to black people talking about their emotions. "I think there’s great fear of how black people talk about their anger."

But there are key parts of Coates' story that reflect on his experiences going to school.

In an extended excerpt in The Atlantic, Coates describes how careful and specific he felt he had to be as a teenager growing up in West Baltimore about going to and from school:

"When I was your age, fully one-third of my brain was concerned with whom I was walking to school with, our precise number, the manner of our walk, the number of times I smiled, whom or what I smiled at, who offered a pound and who did not—all of which is to say that I practiced the culture of the streets, a culture concerned chiefly with securing the body.

He's talked about what sounds like a relentlessly terrifying growing up experience during his school years in the past, such as on Bill Moyers in 2014: "Here I was, right outside my elementary school, [and] somebody’s pulling out a gun. And it was very clear that that was different." 

In his new book, he still sounds outraged about the disconnect between Black History Month and his real life:

"Every February my classmates and I were herded into assemblies for a ritual review of the civil-rights movement. Our teachers urged us toward the example of freedom marchers, Freedom Riders, and Freedom Summers, and it seemed that the month could not pass without a series of films dedicated to the glories of being beaten on camera. Why are they showing this to us? Why were only our heroes nonviolent?"

And he's clear that the experience of being a young black man is something that white Americans need to understand. On Monday's Fresh Air, Coates mildly scolded Terry Gross for laughing when he tells her that he got upset in middle school when a teacher yelled at him in front of his classmates. 

For him, there was no "safety net of schools, government-backed home loans, and ancestral wealth." In 2014 he wrote, "I mostly thought of school as a place one goes so as not to be eventually killed, drugged, or jailed."

PAST WRITINGS ON EDUCATION

He's written about education more directly in the past, including The Miseducation Of Maceo Paul Coates (2010), When School Reform And Democracy Meet (2014). 

Way back in 2010, he slammed NYC reformers (specifically Bloomberg's appointment for schools head Cathie Black: "It's long been said that the new reformers deeply underestimate the complexity of the challenge facing educators."

In 2012, he also pointed out the disconnect between handing out teachers' individual performance ratings and telling the public to be cautious - an issue that comes up in education journalism as well: "There's also something unsavory releasing admittedly flawed data, and then lecturing the public on its need to exercise caution."

He criticized the plan to revamp Newark schools for failing to convince parents -- which sounds somewhat naive to me -- but also expressed misgivings about teachers having tenure. 

POSITIVE REVIEWS 

So far as I've seen, the reviews have been extremely strong. The New Republic loved it. Ditto for the Washington Post, and Slate. There's a big long profile in NY Magazine. "It is hard, perhaps impossible, not to be enraptured by @tanehisicoates' righteous and loveless indignation," notes the Washington Post review.

The praise is not universal: NYT book reviewer Michiko Kakutani praises the book but calls Coates out for overgeneralizing & ignoring progress. It's also criticized in the New York Observer. BuzzFeed's Shani Hilton criticized it for focusing narrowly on black male experiences.

EDUCATORS' REACTIONS

Educators and advocates on my Twitter feed haven't been commenting on the book very much -- yet -- though Sara Goldrick-Rab is pushing for Coates to be a new New York Times columnist (he's going to live in Paris for a year instead), and Michael Magee is excited to read the book. KIPP NJ's Andrew Martin is watching closely, as is Pearson's Shilpi Niyogi. Justin Cohen calls the book "a model for how we should talk to the next generation of American children about race

This new book seems to be one that teachers of a certain kind will be giving to students in future years, imagines this Slate reviewer:

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Update: Nuzzel Gathers Contrasting Views On Hot Twitter Topics

One of the great things about Nuzzel -- you should be using it by now -- is that it lets you see not only what the folks you follow are tweeting about, and what the folks they follow are tweeting about, but also the different ways that folks are tweeting things out:
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Take for example this item from Larry Ferlazzo's feed about a David Sirota story on the reauthorization of ESEA that's going on this week:

At bottom (tweets are listed in reverse chronological order) you've got Bruce Baker RTing Sirota's original tweet: "Senate quietly passes stealth bill to let Wall St rake in federal money meant for impoverished school kids"

Towards the top, you've got Ulrich Boser's RT of Andy Rotherham: "Of all the crap Title I money gets spent on, people are now outraged that some might get spent on saving money?"

Update: Despite Progress, Many LGBT Educators Still Feel "Stuck In A Time Capsule"

As you may recall, Screenshot 2015-07-08 13.54.29I got a lot of resistance last week when I posted about how behind the times schools and K-12 education organizations seemed to be to me on the LGBT front (On Equality, Education Has A Long Way To Go).

No, not Rick Hess-level pushback, but a lot of silent, awkward, and WTF vibes.

It's not hard to understand why. Many educators and education activists consider themselves progressive, and were elated about the Supreme Court gay marriage decision.

Talking about the plight of LGBT kids in schools was one thing - but why was I asking where all the LGBT education leaders/role models were to be found? 

In particular, my asking around about education leaders who were already serving as LGBT role models was responded to as if I was threatening to out people (which I would never do) or as if I was bringing up something that was a non-issue (like race?).

One PR professional responded to my question whether there were any senior staffers serving as LGBT role models with a straight-out "Why?" EdWeek's Evie Blad noted that listing LGBT edleaders seemed to her "a little problematic... Better way might be acknowledging that data dsn't exist." 

Fair enough. I get the concern.  But since then, I've gotten a lot of support for raising the issue -- and learned a ton about educators who are also LGBT. 

First off, it seems clear that LGBT educators are still struggling with how to come out to their colleagues and students without endangering themselves professionally. Look at some recent headlines: Oregon's Teacher of the Year spoke openly about being gay — and then he was firedJamestown NY appoints WNY’s first gay school superintendentThe Plight of Being a Gay TeacherI’m a Gay, African-American [Male] Teacher, and Proud of ItHow this LGBTQ teacher turned his deepest shame into his strongest assetAn LGBT Educator Who’s Not Too Proud to Keep Fighting. If there are more/better accounts of what it's like to be an LGBT educator, please let me know.

The Broad Center's Becca Bracy Knight tweeted that "almost all LGBT district superintendents who I've met feel they cannot be open about who they are - it's a real problem."

According to that first article, a big part of the problem is that we all apparently think that LGBT people are protected at work but -- surprise! -- they're not. That's why there are so few LGBT teachers, principals, administrators, and leaders who are out to their students and colleagues.

Or, as one recent writer put it, "in my 18 years in education, I have witnessed many of our LGBT teachers hide deep in the closet.... You would think we were stuck in a time capsule."

And not everyone is as out as you may think they are. Though it's hard to believe, a week ago Friday marked the first time Diane Ravitch publicly announced she was gay, according to Jewish Week. A handful of education folks whose LGBT status might seem to be public knowledge (widely assumed within the education community) declined to be identified as such when I reached out to them or their organizations.
 
That doesn't mean everyone's still closeted. My growing but small list of openly LGBT educator/education role models includes AFT's Randi Weingarten, former Chicago head Ron Huberman, NYU's Diane Ravitch, Portland's Carole Smith, US Rep. Mark Takano, NEA head Lily Eskelsen García's son. Please let me know more/others who would like to be listed. Do any readers of this blog identify as LGBT?

The USDE might be leading the way on the LGBT front, not only putting up its lovely #LoveWins avatar (first brought to my attention via PoliticsK-12 in Arne Duncan Celebrates Supreme Court Ruling) but also with its host of senior officials who are proudly serving as LGBT role models: Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, who is married and has children with his husband (and grandchildren),  Senior Adviser Steven Hicks is married. Senior Adviser Ruthanne Buck is in a long-term relationship and has two children with her partner. Other out senior officials at ED include Deputy Under Secretary Jeff Appel and Assistant Secretary for Management Andrew Jackson, who are both in long-term relationships.

I, too, yearn for a world in which someone's orientation/self-identification isn't an issue that requires talking about. But until we get there the more folks who are out and public about it -- and the more we talk about it -- the better. Silence = the status quo. There's obviously a long way to go. I'm excited about getting there. 

Education folks to tweet with about LGBT education issues: @EvieBlad @GLSENResearch @jesslif @GLSEN @JennBinis @DrDebTemkin @KJennings @twrightmu.

People: TFA's Behind-The-Scenes Hostage Rescue Effort

Tfakipp foley
Even if you already knew that slain journalist Jim Foley had been a TFA alum you might have been surprised to read about TFA (and KIPP) involvement behind the scenes in the efforts to secure his release in this week's New Yorker story The Families Who Negotiated with ISIS. Among those mentioned are Wendy Kopp, Amy Rosen (Newark KIPP), and April Goble (Chicago KIPP), who is identified as Foley's former girlfriend:

"Bradley kept adding people to the team, paying their travel expenses, and often a salary as well. He installed two young researchers in cubicles in the Watergate office. He recruited a former Syrian diplomat, now known as Noor Azar, who had gone into exile after the revolution. Meanwhile, April Goble, Foley’s ex-girlfriend, worked with eleven volunteers from Teach for America, looking for inroads into the Syrian regime."

There may have been hints of this effort on social media, such as this 2013 tweet I sent out (but had forgotten): "Friends of kidnapped freelance photographer James Foley TFA '96 are organizing to secure his release from Syria." The link goes to the Free Jame Foley FB page. 

The confusing and alienating behavior of the US government in support of the hostage families and their friends has been a big topic in the news recently, and the Obama administration recently announced changes in its policies that would give families more information and free them from threats of prosecution for arranging for their loved ones' release (including through payment of ransoms).

Related posts: NYT's annual memorial "The Lives They Lived" includes profile of TFA alum James Foley

Morning Video: Pixar's Hit Feature "Inside Out" Includes Familiar Teacher Dig

 

The closing scenes of Inside Out features a middle school teacher who is counting down to summer vacation.  I'm not the only one who's noticed: Pixar makes teachers the butt of the joke. But as you'll see in comments, not everyone things that it's worth taking offense. 

Or, watch this BuzzFeed video What Is Privilege?, or Rush Limbaugh ranting about Humans Of New York's depiction of a gay student and Hillary Clinton's supportive remarks.

Quotes: What It's Like Being A 12 Year-Old Child Of Color In NYC

Quotes2We've been through so much. Slavery. And once slavery ended, segregation. And once segregation ended, we’re still going through this today. What was all the hard work for? Why do we have to go through this again? -- NYC student interviewed in WNYC's latest story Being 12: Debating Race and Police

Morning Video: Growing Up Trans

From tonight's PBS Frontline, Growing Up Trans: "It's much harder to be gender non-conforming than to be transgender," she says 11 year-old Ariel (born as Ian) about her experiences with bullying at school and her decision to go on hormone blockers.

Or, watch and listen about Swahili-speaking teens from Zanzibar who made a film about why they'll fail English (via NPR)

Gay Marriage: On Equality, Education Has A Long Way To Go*

So you rainbowed your Facebook profile. Good for you. Now let's think a minute about where things actually stand in the education world when it comes to equal treatment of people who identify as LBGT:

ED gov rainbow (1)

1 -- Gay and trans principals and teachers still get beat up or mistreated in other ways in schools, as of course do too many students. A NC teacher recently resigned after reading a fairy tale about gay princes to his class of third graders. A Georgia superintendent came out as gay and had his computer and phone confiscated for possible "misuse" (using Grindr).

2 -- There are few district superintendents who are openly gay, and none to my knowledge who are openly partnered or married. Mayor Daley's final 2009 appointee at head of Chicago schools, Ron Haberman, was revealed to be gay only after his appointment had been finalized. As of 2009, I could find only one other openly gay superintendent (Portland's Carole Smith). Are there many more since then? 

3 -- AFT head Randi Weingarten is one of very few national education leaders (union heads, think tankers, advocates, pundits, researchers) who is out, though there are a few up-and-coming thinkers and doers who seem to be out. Ditto for education reporters, funders, etc.

*UPDATE: A few folks wrote in to remind me to add Diane Ravitch, NEA President Lily Eskelin's son, Nev. state superintendent Dale Erquiaga, a Jamestown NY superintendent, and Rep. Mark Takano.

This is just to say that education has a long way to go before it's as progressive and open as it might hope to be, and that the situation on the ground -- in schools, board meetings, at conferences, etc. -- still seems remarkably outdated and straight given all the progress that's being made in the courts and to some extent in media coverage. 

Related posts: Asteroids, Gay Dinosaurs, Extinction!; Gay Superintendent -- But No Gay High School (2009); Gay-Bashing Arkansas School Board Member Apologizes, Resigns (2010); Learning From The Gay Rights Movement (2012);  More Lessons From The 2012 Gay Equality Campaign (2013), Image via USDE.

Quotes: AFT Pushes Progressive Issues (Where Are Reform Leaders?)

There are many other vendors and partners who provide the same services as Change.org, and that are also aligned with our values and goals. In this case, that allows us to keep our business with firms that aren’t working to undermine our members and the communities they serve. - Randi Weingarten in Think Progress (What’s Changing At Change.org?)

Morning Videos: Transgendered Swimmer, St. Louis Educator, Jeb Bush Update

 

Watch this Washington Post interview with a college student who was recruited by Harvard to swim on the women's swim team but has transitioned and will now swim (and live) as a man. Or watch St. Louis area educator Tiffany Anderson who will be meeting with Hillary Clinton later today to talk education (via EdWeek). Or watch CNN Politics folks talk about Jeb Bush's swipes at Clinton and de Blasio over education.

Charleston: What's The Education Community Got To Say?

While some might consider the Charleston shooting to be a non-education issue, EdSec Arne Dunca, AFT head Randi Weingarten and others in the education community have expressed condolences to the families of the Charleston shooting victims, or made points related to the shooting about racism, guns, and segregation.

Several folks pointed out something written and shared by Colorado state senator Mike Johnston, who says he drove to Shorter AME church last night, taped a letter to the door, and encourages "every other white person to do the same."

"By Sunday morning America could blanket these churches with such overwhelming expressions of love that no one could walk through the doors of an AME church without feeling a flood of love and support from white men whose names they don’t know, whose faces they cant place, but whose love they cant ignore."

I haven't seen a ton of organization-based expressions of concern or sympathy, and many organization leaders might well think that the killings have nothing to do with education.  

If there are other, better, or different expressions of feeling that come from education leaders or organizations that you'd like me to share, please tweet them at me (@alexanderrusso).

Table: Smaller, Lower-Scoring Districts Had Higher Opt-Out Rates In NY

image from www.brookings.eduSo Brookings' Matt Chingos took a look at the available opt-out data for New York State, and then combined it with demographic information and 2014 test score results (Who opts out of state tests?).

What he found includes both the obvious ("relatively affluent districts tend to have higher opt-out rates," and "larger districts tend to have lower opt-out rates.") and the more surprising ("districts with lower test scores have higher opt-out rates after taking socioeconomic status into account.")

Why would lower-scoring districts have higher opt out rates, controlling for demographics?

According to Chingos, it might be "district administrators encouraging opt-outs in order to cover up poor performance, districts focusing on non-tested subjects to satisfy parents who care less about standardized tests, and parents becoming more skeptical of the value of tests when their children do not score well."

However, there's not enough data to determine whether lower- or higher-scoring students tended to opt out at higher or lower rates, notes Chingos. "It could be the higher-scoring students in those districts that are doing the opting out."

Where's All The Ed-Related Conversation About #RachelDolezal?

Has someone prominent been revealed to have been "passing" as black in education? Not that I know of. But I can't believe it hasn't happened -- and even if it hasn't, race and privilege are everywhere in education. 

And so I'm sad to note that there's surprisingly little being said so far about Rachel Dolezal among the education folks I follow on Twitter and Facebook, and via Feedly.

That seems like a shame. It's an opportunity, right?  Let's not have it pass us by just because Dolezal headed a NAACP local rather than a school district.

Below are a few comments by education-related people that I've found via Twitter, just to get things started:

Nekima Levy-Pounds:

Deray McKesson:

Morgan Polikoff:

Liz Dwyer:

Laura McKenna:

Motoko Rich:

Camika Royal:

Some of the folks I'd love to hear from (more) on this issue include Karen Lewis, Cami Anderson, Michelle Rhee, @TheJLV, Linda Darling-Hammond, Chris Stewart, Ray Salazar, RiShawn Biddle, Xian Barrett, Sabrina Stevens, Deray McKesson, someone from TFA, Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Agree or disagree with you, we need more voices here. 

Related posts: Educators & Advocates Need Authentic Conversations About Race, TooRace, Reconstruction, & The Nation"Big Patterns Of Disparity By Race"Sports Are What City Schools "Do Best".

Morning Video: Conservatives Critique/Elevate AFT Alum/Activist Deray McKesson

Conservative media are going pretty hard at TFA alumnus Deray McKesson (top left) these days, including both a Fox News segment (Sean Hannity and guest accuse activist Deray McKesson of being a ‘race pimp’) and a Michelle Malkin rant in the NY Post (The militant takeover of the ‘Teach for America’ corps).

On Fox News, Hannity and conservative radio host Kevin Jackson questioned McKesson's role in publicizing protests and tried to undercut his legitimacy by portraying him as a professional protester. (McKesson asks if the questions he's getting would be asked of someone who's not a person of color.) If the video above doesn't load properly, you can watch it at RawStory. Salon and Medialite also posted it.

In the NY Post, Malkin takes a somewhat different approach. She's no less critical of McKesson, but her focus is on his connection to TFA: "TFA’s most infamous public faces don’t even pretend to be interested in students’ academic achievement. It’s all about race, tweets and marching on the streets."

Former talk show host Montel Williams also tried to take McKesson on, pointing out that he was no MLK. Read all about what happened next on that here.

Conservative media doing what it does isn't anything new. But TFA has been the subject of a series of critiques from the left, and so this critique from the right must be a welcome change.  Or as education writer Amanda Ripley tweeted, "Best publicity I've seen for TeachForAmerica in a while....Priceless"

It's also a chance for TFA and other reform groups to see the power (and peril) of pushing hard on social justice issues.  

As I and others have noted several times in the past, reform advocates have generally been slow and tentative in embracing social justice issues, and over-reliant on outside elite voices rather than people of color with some connection to the communities being discussed.

It's also a challenge for reform critics to have someone so closely identified with TFA take the lead in a national discussion about race, class, and inequality. 

Which public official or candidate for office will try and get in a photo with him next? 

Related posts: Stories I’d Like To See: The Rise & Evolution of DeRay McKesson 

Update: Summer's Here, "Hot For Education" Is Waiting

Hotfored1

Not following Hot For Education? You're missing out on lots of fun. On Twitter (@hotfored), on Tumblr (don't be scared), and on Feedly/Digg RSS here.  

Campaign 2016: AFT Already Spending For Ads In New Hampshire

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Here's  a tidbit from PK12's Friday Reading List: "The American Federation of Teachers is launching a digital advertising buy in New Hampshire, in an effort to raise the profile of education issues in the 2016 primary. It will run on social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as in local papers, like the Concord Monitor. How much did it cost? A "substantial" amount, AFT says." 

Update: Top Ed Tweeters 2015 Are Arrogant White Reform Critics

Ednextkout2015

Mike Petrilli's latest foray into Twitter analytics attempts to determine not just rankings (via Klout) but also tone and emotion:

"What does Twitter say about the tone of the education policy debate?... It appears that many of the leading tweeters in education policy are “arrogant/distant,” meaning we are “well read” and “use big words.” Good for us!"

On Twitter, EdWeek's Stephen Sawchuck notes that the list still doesn't include number of followers, and as a result doesn't include any EdWeek reporters.  (Petrilli claims that followers can be bought. Knowledge Alliance notes that some folks use lists rather than following individuals.  I've noted in the past that advocates are leaving journalists behind on social media. )

I don't give much credence to the emotional analysis. My only other thought would be to note - as I have several times before -- that reform critics tend to do better on Twitter than reform advocates.  

Xian Barrett, Anthony Cody, Jose Vilson, Mark Naison, and Sabrina Stevens all join Diane Ravitch and Randi Weingarten near the top of the list. Reform advocates are limited to Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Andy Smarick, and Tom Vander Ark. 

The list is also super-white, it should be said -- especially the top reform-friendly members. Chris Stewart, Rishawn Biddle, and Gwen Samuels among others are on the rise but still not at the top.

Related posts: This More Diverse List Of "Top Education Tweeters" Needs More Names*New Study Suggests Journalism Being Left Out Of Education Debate.

Morning Video: "Raising A Black Son In America"

 

Via Vox: "One of the truest, saddest TED talks ever," notes Jenee Desmond-Harris. Or or watch this ABC News segment on a NYC student's path to academic success through playing the cello. Or, watch this January PBS NewHour segment about the Marshmallow Test.

Morning Video: "Paper Tigers" Documents Traumatized Teens

This new documentary (from Robert Redford's son) follows six traumatized kids in Walla Walla, WA who attend an alternative high school. Watch above. Via Seattle Times. "The behavior isn't the kid. The behavior is a symptom of what's going on in their life."

People: Little Caitlyn Jenners Showing Up At School Every Day

Much is being made of Caitlyn Jenner's transition and recent Vanity Fair cover, but gender non-conforming parents and children (and teachers) are slowly but surely making their presences known.

Above is a recent example. "My son went to school for 1st time in a dress 2day," wrote Vanessa Ford. In another tweet, she noted that her child is "joyful in a way unique to when he wears dresses" and that the school and classmates have been generally supportive.

When this happy image went around on Twitter yesterday, Jenn Borgioli Binis (aka ‏@DataDiva) told us that @RaisingRainbow was 'a great resource to teachers in a chat on supporting transgendered students."

What kicked this all off (for me) this week was a personal narrative by Chicago-based education writer Maureen Kelleher about her own child's evolving gender identity and how she and her child's school are dealing with it. 

Related posts: CA May Allow Trans Kids To Pick Teams (2013); Trans at 16  (2013); What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress? (2012); Our Soon-To-Be Outdated Beliefs (About Education) (2009); Transgendered In The Classroom (2008); Bad Beef, Bad Hawaii, Cross-Dressing Kids...; 

 

Afternoon Video: Worst Cautionary High School Speaker Ever

"I used to be like you. Used to clown around, make fun of the principal... I did a drive by at my own daughters quinceanera! Yeah shot up everybody!" Key & Peele "Consequences (Nov. 2014)

Videos: How Schools Train Students To Expect Premature Approval

 Branford Marsalis: "My students... all they want to hear is how good they are and how talented they are. And they're not... most of them aren't really willing to work to the degree to live up to that." via Vox Warning: NSFW language at the start of the clip. 

School Life: Live From Snack Time

We've seen versions of this kind of thing before, including FOUND, but still... HuffPost has a bunch of good ones. 

Pictures: Mugshots Help Combat Racial Stereotypes

image from i.huffpost.com

This series of mugshots (via HuffPost) is intended to raise awareness about racial stereotypes, which seems all the more timely given that recent study showing teachers -- black and white -- tend to give harsher punishments to students with black-sounding names (see today's morning news roundup).

Quotes: "I Was Ferris Bueller."

Quotes2I had a great time in high school. I was Ferris Bueller.

- Rocker Alice Cooper, who performed iconic 1972 song School's Out" Forever (Deadspin via ChalkbeatNY)

 

Morning Video: "Best Kept Secret" (Top-Rated on Netflix)

Topping Vox's list of The 19 best-reviewed movies on Netflix right now is "Best Kept Secret."  "The [2013] film tracks Janet Mino, a Newark public school special education teacher whose class of teen boys on the autism spectrum is about to graduate into a world loath to give them a chance." Check out the trailer above. Or watch a parent talk about becoming a Common Core activist (via NBC News).

Educators & Advocates Need Authentic Conversations About Race, Too

Some Fieldston parents and NY Magazine readers may be concerned about the progressive private school's racial awareness program described in this week's magazine (Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade?), but not everyone's quite so bothered by the effort.  

As described in the magazine feature by Lisa Miller, the school asked elementary school kids to identify themselves by race and then separated them -- temporarily -- as part of a program to deepen the students' understanding of racism and differences. "It would foster interracial empathy by encouraging children to recognize differences without disrespect while teaching kids strategies, and the language, for navigating racial conflict."

The program is mandatory, and operates during the school day, and start with kids as young as eight. "In 45-minute sessions, children would talk about what it was like to be a member of that race; they would discuss what they had in common with each other and how they were different, how other people perceived them, rightly or wrongly, based on appearance. Disinhibited by the company of racially different peers, the children would, the school hoped, feel free to raise questions and make observations that in mixed company might be considered impolite."

Designed by Fieldston's Mariama Richards, the "affinity-group" program was meant to foster authentic conversation but it felt to some parents like a step backwards -- like segregation, like overkill. It wasn't a comfortable discussion in ethics class."This same parent who sends her children to Lower because she values diversity tends not to dwell on the fact that she has few close friends of color; that her neighborhood is almost entirely white; that her nanny or housecleaner or doorman has brown skin."

Racial and demographic diversity has long been a goal for progressive private schools, but mixing kids together is just a start. Efforts like these have been popping up in different places around the country.  (My progressive private alma mater, Chicago's Francis Parker, just hired a director of diversity who seems like she's going to push the envelope for ostensibly liberal parents.) Fort Greene's Community Roots, a diverse progressive charter school, asked mixed groups of parents to engage in group activities outside of school in order to promote understanding and deepen classroom diversity.

See also this CNN segment featuring concerned parents:

 
ctn pkg carroll race experiments classrooms_00005030
 
"One of New York City's most elite and progressive elementary schools is conducting an experiment on race by separating students. CNN's Jason Carroll reports."

The reaction so far to the article has been generally supportive of the effort at Fieldston:

Education writer Dana Goldstein, now at The Marshall Project, noted on Twitter that the piece "perfectly captures moment in which young(ish) progressive educators confront parents who hold old notions of "colorblindness." Once unusual, racial awareness programs (the invisible white backpack, etc.) are more commonly part of college than they used to be. "My demographic wouldn't be shocked if our kids were separated by race and asked to discuss it in "safe space," noted Goldstein. "We've been there."

Over at Vox, Jenée Desmond-Harris's post (Why a New York City school's idea to (temporarily) separate kids by race is smart) lists the many advantages of the Fieldston program, especially teaching the lessons that "ignoring race and racism doesn't make these things go away, and that white people have a racial identity, too."

Not everyone is a big fan of the approach being taken, however.  Responding to the earlier NYT piece written by Kyle Spencer, New America's Connor Williams wrote a post titled The Limits of Talking About Privilege to Teenagers

NYT editor Amy Virshup thought that the NY Magazine story might not offer much that readers hadn't already learned. "But @KyleYSpencer story on same topic ran in Feb., w/pix of real kids, not models. What's new?"

The issue of overkill -- not so much on the issue but perhaps the controversy at this particular school -- is also the focus of a recent blog post I wrote over at The Grade:  Another Story About Fieldston’s Controversial Racial Awareness Program.  

One thing I'd add is that it's not just kids who need more and better racial awareness programs but also educators and advocates.  Teachers -- predominantly white and middle class -- need space and time to talk about and understand not only their students' backgrounds but also their own.  And advocates -- reformers and critics alike, also predominantly white and college-educated -- would do well with more of the same.

Making sure that conference panels and speakers and attendees are more diverse is one step, as is engaging more diverse groups of stakeholders (not just mobilizing them). Panels about racial awareness or race-focused issues are good, too.  But what about taking it one step further and doing a version of what Fieldston is doing and let adults engaged in education talk together in affinity groups and have some authentic conversations, too?  I could see PIE, or TFA, or maybe the Shanker Institute or Century Foundation doing something like this. Or maybe it's already happening and I just haven't heard about it.

Morning Video: Head Start At 50 Years (Plus Alternative Options)

 

"Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson announced the creation of Head Start, the early education program designed to support the needs of low-income children and get them ready for elementary school. The NewsHour’s April Brown explores the legacy and efficacy of the iconic program." via PBS NewsHour. Or, watch this story about a girl being dragged behind a school bus (she's recovering), or Stephen Colbert's Wake Forest hilarious/insightful commencement speech.

Update: Two More Education-Related Folks In Amtrak Crash (Unharmed)

There were at least three education-related people on Amtrak 188 earlier this week, including one of the victims, edtech startup CEO Rachel Jacobs, and occasional education reporter Seyward Darby. USA Today and other outlets profiled Jacobs. Darby was interviewed by the NYT about the experience of being in the crash. Andrew Brenner, who's identified as an education PR guy on his Twitter feed, was also on that train and was interviewed on MSNBC's Now With Alex.  Anyone else? Let us know. I'm at @alexanderrusso.

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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.