As some of you may have already noticed, I shut down District 299, my Chicago-focused education blog, as of the end of April.
I created the blog way back in the day (2005) when when I realized that Chicago educators didn't care much about national news and national educators didn't care much about Chicago. At the time, I was running a weekly email newsletter rounding up local and national news.
I thought -- and still think -- that Chicago's education scene is fascinating and important. You can see the first two years of the blog here. However, that was long ago. I've been away from Chicago for almost nine years now -- that's superintendents Huberman, Brizard, and Byrd-Bennett -- and have a bunch of new projects going on (including my newest launch over at the Washington Monthly, The Grade).
District 299 has been hosted over the years by Chicago's Catalyst Magazine and by the Chicago Tribune's "Chicago Now" hive of local blogs.Thanks to them for sponsoring the blog so that I could keep it full of news and gossip, and specifically to Linda Lenz at Catalyst and Bill Adee and Jimmy Greenfield at the Chicago Tribune. According to Jimmy, there are 6,800 blog posts on the Tribune version of the site.
And of course thanks to all of you who read the site, commented, and even shared tidbits with me along the way. For a long time, District 299 was a particularly satisfying experience for me because the relationship between me and the readers (longtime CPS veterans and insiders, many of them) was so close.
Thanks, everyone! I'll be mothballing the site and shutting down the @district299 twitter feed in the next few weeks. What a great time.
I am excited to announce the launch of my latest blog, The Grade, over at the Washington Monthly.
No actual grades will be given -- though praise and criticism will be offered quite regularly. Think of it as NPR's "On The Media" for education news, or as a public editor or ombudsman for national K-12 news coverage.
The focus, as you will quickly see, is creating an ongoing discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the education news coverage that informs the public and policymakers about what's going on in schools.
There's a ton of education news being pumped out every day, but what's particularly good (or bad) about the coverage that's being provided -- and what if anything can be done to make it even better?
My main publishing partner is the Washington Monthly, which has a long-standing interest in education and quality journalism. They're the folks that put out the alternative guide to colleges, among other things. I'll also be publishing some columns in the Columbia Journalism Review.
My starting funders for this new venture are the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union in the country, and Education Post, an education nonprofit funded by folks like Eli Broad, Mike Bloomberg, and the Walton Family Foundation.
Most days it might not seem like these two would agree on much, but they have stepped up to support this effort out of a desire for smart, accurate education coverage (and agreed to give me room to write and say what seems most important to me).
Curious about what it's going to look like? Here and elsewhere, I've been trying my hand at some of the kinds of posts that you'll see at The Grade in the coming days and weeks, including Common Problems with Common Core Reporting (in the Columbia Journalism Review) and How The Atlantic's CUNY Story Went (So) Wrong (in Medium).
You can also check out all the past Media Watch posts here.
If you like this kind of stuff, that's what you're going to find lots of over there.
Click the link to check out the first couple of posts. Subscribe to all future posts on the site with Feedly or some other RSS reader using this link. And, in the days and weeks ahead, don't forget to send me stories you think are great or problematic.
Not to worry, I'll still be blogging here every day and sharing out links on Twitter, too.
The number of schools offering AP has nearly doubled since the mid-1990s when my old boss Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and others were touting it as a great way to raise expectations and accelerate learning for low-income and minority kids. Here's a chart showing the growth via a story that ran on APM Marketplace yesterday. For other stories in the series: How one high school is closing the AP gap; Spending $100 million to break down AP class barriers.
The courses and tests are obviously no silver bullet, and it's unclear to me what happens to AP in the Common Core era. But they are a good reminder that more kids than we think can learn to challenging levels, and that school systems often don't serve kids equally without being nudged or forced to do so. Image used with permission.
Related posts: Advanced Placement offerings vary widely in D.C. high schools (Washington Post)
I'll let the good folks at EWA tell you the official version of this week's goings-ons, and try to focus on the things that you won't find out about elsewhere.
No, not the mundane stuff like my surreal Friday afternoon visit to Noble Street's new Speer campus on the Near West Side, how strangely intimidating I find EWA staffers though they're mostly very friendly, or my unexpected Monday night bunkmate (it's not as bad as it sounds).
I mean the good stuff. You know -- newsroom changes, comings and goings, subtle trends and dynamics going on behind the scenes that folks might not have said out loud or tweeted but were (it seemed to me) going on.
Take a look, and then let me know what I missed or got wrong. Send your tips (anonymous and otherwise) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Feds eye CPS records on education group backed by state's, city's elites Chicago Tribune: Launched in 2000, the group was first led by then-Chicago Tribune Publisher Scott Smith. Rauner joined the board the next year and later was its chairman before becoming an emeritus member of the board, along with future U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, a former member of the Chicago school board; and current school board President David Vitale.
Murky past of company boss in CPS probe Chicago Sun-Times: Now, Solomon, who wasn't charged with any crime, again finds himself under a harsh spotlight, his business empire at the center of a federal probe.
State board of education member resigns over superintendent hire Tribune: James Baumann, a key member of the Illinois State Board of Education, formally resigned this week, citing concerns about the unusual way the new state school superintendent was chosen.
Chicago schools chief requests temporary leave amid probe WBEZ: Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett requested a leave of absence Friday amid a federal investigation over a $20.5 million no-bid contract the district awarded to a training academy where she once worked as a consultant, according to her attorney.
Chicago Schools Chief Takes Leave AP: Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, will take a paid leave of absence amid a federal investigation into a $20.5 million no-bid contract the district awarded.
Common Core: Test refusal pushed by middle class families LoHud: Districts with a high test participation rate fell into one of two categories — they are either home to a large number of adults with advanced degrees and high household income, or where more than half the students are categorized by the state as "economically disadvantaged."
Anti-Test 'Opt Out' Movement Makes A Wave In New York State NPR: Activists say that about 175,000 students refused to take federally mandated tests last week.
LAUSD, teachers reach tentative agreement KPCC LA: The agreement covering over 31,000 members calls for a 10 percent raise over two years and an re-opener in 2016-2017. The pay raises would be phased in: 4 percent retroactive to July 1 and 2 percent retroactive to Jan. 1 and then 2 percent increases on July 1 of this year and again on Jan. 1, 2016.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
Last week's EdWeek's review of Education Next (Policy Views, With an Edge) is a good opportunity to talk about what the 14 year-old magazine does -- and doesn't -- get right, and where it fits in the ever-changing education media landscape.
More and more education-focused outlets are coming online these days, from BRIGHT to the Boston Learning Lab. Each outlet has its strengths and weaknesses. RealClear Education does 2 great roundups a day but doesn't have much original content. The Hechinger Report doesn't have strong commentary to go along with its strong reported pieces. You get the idea.
Education Next's strengths seem to be smart well-chosen articles about policy and politics, and a general willingness to address topics that are controversial and don't necessarily support pro-reform positions. (*I should know, having written several of these over the years -- see at left.)
I'm also a big fan of "Behind the Headline," a blog feature that attempts to contextualize the day's big education story or debate, and of Petrilli et al's interest in tracking (and manipulating) the media (see Related Posts below).
Its weaknesses might be its offerings getting lost among all the other posts and reports and pieces being put out by Fordham (and Harvard, and Hoover) and coming out only quarterly. It could also be stronger and more distinctive on social media, I think. There's a blog and Twitter but they're relatively low-profile compared to Petrilli et al -- despite having 81,000 followers (jealous!).
In a perfect world, Education Next would produce broadly appealing feature stories (like the Atlantic's education page), be perhaps a bit more journalistic and less wonky, more distinct from Fordham and all it's offerings, and maybe take more chances. But it's still a strong magazine and a worthwhile part of the education media landscape.
Related posts: Best 5 Of Education Next's Top 20 Stories Of The Year (2103); 12 Observations About EdNext's "Top Twitter Feeds" (2014); Petrilli's Surprise Apology (2105); But Are All The New Ed-Focused Outlets Really *Helping*?.
Simon came to Politico via Reuters and the WSJ. The news of her departure was greeted with a certain amount of sadness from some (and probably a bit of muted cheering from others):
Politico's education team has been in flux pretty much from the start. Nirvi Shah was the founding section editor but quickly moved up to Deputy ME. Mary Beth Marklein came in from USA Today to edit the page but has since left (and may not yet have been replaced). Libby Nelson left to join Vox.
According to Simon, "The Politico ed team remains intact & will be expanding. So keep reading!" Caitlin, Allie, and Maggie are still there, far as I know.
Anyway, there's a job opening at Politico if anyone is looking. And there's also a job posting at ChalkbeatNY. (In the case of Chalkbeat, I'm not sure if someone left or if they're expanding the staff.) And then there's that mystery job posting for editors and reporters posted on Mediabistro among other places that all of you keep sending me (please stop!).
Related posts: Who Covered Yesterday's House NCLB Markup Best? (February 2015); Politico Launching "Pro" Education Site Monday (July 2013); Maggie Severns Fills Out Politico Education Team (November 2013); 12 Problems With Politico's TFA Story (+1 With TFA) (October 2013); Politico Takes More Hits, Promotes Education Editor (February 2014): Reuters' Simon Wins National Education Coverage Award.
"Looking back on a frenetic first year, Fariña talks about recentralizing control under regional superintendents, addressing parents’ concerns about overtesting, encouraging more sharing of ideas among teachers and schools, and avoiding ed-tech mishaps like Los Angeles Unified School District’s iPad debacle." From the latest issue of Scholastic Administrator magazine (Interview with Carmen Fariña). Also: Congrats to everyone at Administrator for winning Best Single Issue in this year's Neal Awards.
I'm at @yaleELC #backtowhy today, mostly on Twitter (Snapchatting an event is not so easy or fun as it sounds). You can check out all the updates here, or on Facebook (Alexander Russo), or directly on Twitter (@alexanderrusso). You won't miss a thing, plus you can see the fun things people Tweet at me all day. Tweets about "@alexanderrusso"
I won't be the first person to try this. Earlier this week, BuzzFeed's Molly Hensley-Clark interviewed a teen using Snapchat. And lots of different news outlets are trying their hands at the mobile video approach, according to the Online News Association (Can Vine and Snapchat be reporting tools?). The Nieman Journalism Lab rounds up several efforts (How 6 news orgs are thinking about Snapchat) many of them focused on experimenting with live coverage. Huffington Post, Fusion, Mashable, NPR, Philly.com, and The Verge are all Snapchatting. The Knight Lab has another roundup (How news organizations are using SnapChat to report and distribute news) focused on NowThisNews, the Washington Post, NPR, and Mashable. In fact, Snapchat and Vine are no longer the new kids on the mobile video block, now that Meerkat and Periscope have launched. (These new versions offer live-streaming options.)
There's a ton of great education journalism out there these days, with more and more of it coming online all the time. But sometimes editors and reporters get stuck covering the same things the same ways and they need some new stories or new ways to come at old stories. And that's where "Stories I'd Like To See" comes in. Take a look at the latest batch, steal them if you want, tell me if they've already been done, or suggest your own if you think there's something that needs covering and isn't being covered:
1- UNDER ATTACK! At least a couple of school districts have been hacked/ attacked during this spring's Common Core testing rolllout -- in one case with a $500 bitcoin ransom demand. Are the attacks coming from Common Core critics (joke!) or random Russians (no offense)? Are districts anywhere near prepared for DNS attacks and ransom demands that could interrupt both testing and instructional time?
2 - WHY NOT WORKPLACE-BASED SCHOOL ASSIGNMENT? Should parents be allowed to enroll their children in schools near work, not just schools near home? That's one of the issues raised by the case of the daughter of a live-in nanny in affluent Orinda, California, who was temporarily dis-enrolled from her mother's employer's neighborhood school. Parents with choices find schools close or convenient to work, using charters, magnets, and private options. Why not everyone else?
3 - CHEATING WITH SOCIAL MEDIA: While most of the attention has focused on whether testing companies and districts are "spying" on kids by monitoring social media for kids sharing test items, another question is whether (how) kids are using social media to cheat on tests (Common Core or otherwise). With its disappearing images, SnapChat sounds like a perfect cheating tool. But then there's plain old Twitter, texting, and private Facebook groups. The days of copying the test at Kinko's (what!?) and sharing it among friends are long gone.
4 -UBER GOES TO SCHOOL: Parents are using Uber and other services to ferry their kids around town, reports the Washington Post. What are schools to do when some kids are jumping into strangers' cars to go home or to dance practice? Should schools consider Uber as an alternative to expensive bus services and voucher arrangements? Special tip: Uber's spokesperson used to work for LEE.
Related posts: Three Education Stories I'd Like To See (February)
Social media is great, and we all know how to set up streams on Hootsuite or Tweetdeck and use hashtags and check for updates constantly and all the rest, but it's still been hard to figure out where the conversation is going without spending all day watching Twitter, right?
Until now, that is. A newish program called Nuzzel (tag line: "News from your friends") watches social media for you and lets you know when a bunch of your "friends" are going crazy over something.
That's what's happening this afternoon, with the publication of Maggie Haberman's story on DFER, Hillary Clinton and the teachers unions.
When a story like this one gets big, you get an alert and then you can click down and see who (among your friends) got the ball rolling and how it unfolded. In this case, it was @maggieNYT who quad-tweeted her story out at noon, followed by Bloomberg's Jennifer Epstein, Gotham Gazette's Ben Max, and Politico's Caitlin Emma.
Or at least, that's how it appears on my Nuzzel - perhaps you have more or better friends than I do.
But wait, there's more! Nuzzel lets you get a daily email, plus individual alerts at a threshold level of activity you can determine. You can synchronize Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts. You can even subscribe to custom feeds, (aka Twitter lists, whose usefulness has always been limited to vanity), and get alerts that way.
Basically, Nuzzel is a way to tame Twitter. It basically tells you what's trending within the group of folks you already know and love (or at least follow) that's not reliant on hashtags, saved streams, or Twitter's lame Trending lists.
It may not yet be a full replacement for Feedly (or for having your own social media manager pinging you in the Bahamas when something comes up), but it's a big step forward.
And, it's a big argument for following or friending folks who don't agree with you already because it makes the echo chamber pretty obvious. Don't follow your opponents or others and you won't know what they're excited or upset about.
Big thanks to JGW for tipping me off about it.Click below for some screenshots if it's still not making sense.
Thanks to everyone who passed along my recent CJR piece on the challenges of reporting the Common Core testing rollout this spring. Much appreciated! The story was a top read for CJR all week.
By and large, those of you who are pro-Common Core liked the piece, and those of you who are critical thought it was less likable. Pretty predictable. (Your positions are reversed when I'm criticizing Rhee or Kopp or Cunningham, though.)
Far as I know, nobody was willing to admit publicly any major change of mind on the tests or the coverage -- such is rigidly orthodox world of education debate these days (and also of course the limits of my writing).
Most of you who work as education reporters didn't say anything one way or the other -- at least not publicly. (A few of you were kind enough to write privately that it was a useful piece, or that it was helping you to rethink your coverage tendencies, which I appreciated tremendously.)
Alas, the only journalists I could find to talk about the issue on the record were John Merrow (one of its subjects) and Linda Perlstein (a former Washington Post reporter and EWA's founding Public Editor). I hope that won't always be the case, as I think constructive conversation about media coverage is a positive and healthy thing and shows confidence in the work.
Turned by back CJR from commenting on their site, Merrow finally posted his own response on his blog this afternoon (Reporting About Reporting). He makes some good points, as you'll see, but he also makes some weaker ones, according to me at least, and unfortunately resorts to (gentle) criticisms of character.
Read on for more about Merrow, a handful of less predictable responses, some errors and omissions on my part, and a few sentences that were left on the cutting room floor.
Here's something new from me via the Columbia Journalism Review, focusing on the challenges of reporting the Common Core testing rollout this spring:
As you'll see from my review of coverage from PBS, the NYT, WSJ, AP, and the Washington Post, it's no easy task for journalists to describe the varied experiences different schools, districts, and states are having -- or to find hard numbers or nuanced viewpoints.
But in my view the national coverage has somehow ended up upside-down, focusing on the relatively few hotspots and problem areas (and passing along one-sided speculation) without giving readers a clear sense of the vast majority of instances where the process of implementing the new tests seems to be going well.
Related posts: Missing Context In AP's Common Core Testing Story, Let's Focus On What Actually Happens -- Not What *Might* Happen, Please Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos!, Inside The Common Core Assessment “Field Test”. Image via CJR.
You might be interested to note that Hillary Clinton isn't the only one to have a bit of an email scandal on her hands - though education's versions aren't nearly as prominent as those the presumptive Democratic nominee faces currently (and are, frankly, not as recent as I'd like):
This Washington Post article (Group Opposed to Vouchers Cites Shortcomings) includes an embarrassing email from then-Bush Administration appointee Nina Rees about then-Senator Arlen Specter ("while I hate the guy, we need to be nice to him I'm told."
This AP/ USA Today story (Bush reading program beset by favoritism, mismanagement) included embarrassing emails from Reading First director Chris Doherty (also under Bush) expressing disdain for "whole language" developers: "They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the (expletive deleted) out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags."
Then there's the alleged scandal between an education reporter and Miami's Carvalho, summarized in the Miami New Times (Carvalho's Liaison): "The emails document discussions the pair had about her coverage of Miami-Dade Public Schools, as well as some sexually explicit banter."
I'm sure there are others -- I can think of at least one more off the top of my head -- but I'd love to hear more from you, dear reader.
No, the USDE notifying TFA that it was the subject of a FOIA request doesn't count. Not for ideological reasons, but just because it isn't really all that scandalous.
It's hard to find a more useful, far-ranging, and long-running blog than the one California teacher Larry Ferlazzo has been running the last eight years. And so its easy for me to wish him a hearty Eighth Anniversary (just a few weeks late!).
What makes Larry's work so notable is that he shares and collects so prodigiously, and his work isn't anywhere near as narcissistic as most of us online tend to be. Some example blog posts include: New Resources On Race & Racism. Or let Larry tell you: What Have Been My Most Popular Posts? His personal favorites are here, As you will see, Ferlazzo's work spans classrooms and courthouses.
Take a look at this 2010 chart -- a made-up seating chart for a nonexistent USDE briefing room setup and you'll get a pretty vivid idea of how much has changed in national education coverage over the past five years (A Map To Coverage Of National Education News):
So much has changed, I know! USA Today's Toppo is splitting duties on other issues (like demographics). The WSJ's Banchero is gone (to Joyce), replaced by Brody. PK12's McNeil is gone (to the College Board), replaced by Klein and Camera. The NYT's Dillon is gone (to retirement, I think), replaced by Rich. Winerip is gone (to other beats), and the column has sat empty since he left. At the Washington Post, Mathews is gone (to LA, at least), though he's still columnizing from there. AP has changed over. Colbert is gone (as we know him), replaced by... nothing so far as I can tell. Sanchez has been joined by Kamenetz and Turner. Politico's education page didn't exist back then. Huffington Post's education page wasn't launched yet, either, I guess (come back soon, Joy!).
There are lots of different ways to look at the new CPRE/UPennGSE report about social media and the Common Core debate, but at least one of them is to observe just how small a role journalists and non-advocacy media outlets seem to have been playing -- even in areas where you'd think that mainstream and trade publications who share out information all day would have a big advantage:
*Just 13 of 158 high-volume "transmitters" (8 percent) are journalists. "These include print, online, and radio media, and represent both non-partisan and partisan media entities." I've asked for a list.
*Just 22 (16 percent) of 139 "transceivers" (who pass information along and have their tweets shared) are journos/media outlets. They include @educationweek, @BenSwann (who?), and @ NEAMedia (not really a journalistic outlet). This is the list where journalists are strongest, relatively speaking -- journalism's wheelhouse, really. But journalists come in third. (List requested.)
*Just 3 media outlets qualify for the list of 41 "transcenders" (the elite group in the study). They are @educationweek, @StateEdWatch (penned by Andrew Ujifusa) & @ellemoxley. The report adds @NEAMedia to the list but again that's a whole different thing.
Of course, the study is limited to tweets directly related to Common Core, and a certain time period.Other kinds of criteria would surface larger numbers of journalists and education outlets that are high-volume, high-retweet, or high-influence.
But my sense is that the report illustrates a deeper dynamic, which is that journalists and media outlets lag far behind activists on the use of Twitter, in part because of the decline in traditional journalism but even more so because of self-imposed limitations on expressing views or attempting to shape the debate. Advocates, think tankers, and even academics have a green light that journalists don't.
Also, my sense is that journalists' experience of Twitter is mostly being tweeted at by those with complaints legitimate and others. Twitter is the "new comment section," it's being widely noted, and we all know how most journalists feel about comments. So there may be some avoidance going on.
Image used with permission. I found the PDF version easiest for word searches but maybe there are other, better ways to navigate. #htagcommoncore @cpreresearch @upennGSE.
"A test season riff on the WWII poster "Keep Calm And Carry On" via @mikeklonsky. Is this for real, or even new? I have no idea but would love to know. There's an ACT logo and they're getting back to me about whether it's official or not. If this was done by ACT rather than bootlegged it would be all the better. Other versions of the same idea are here." (2012: "Keep Calm And Continue Testing")
Monday's AP story about the coming wave of states and districts administering the Common Core assessments this spring (Ohio Debuts New Digital Standardized Test This Week) has been making the rounds, as AP stories do.
Written in conjunction with the kickoff of Common Core testing this week, the piece includes some useful baseline information, including that by the end of this year 12 million students in 29 states plus DC will have taken the new tests, most of them using computers (75 percent for PARCC and 80-90 percent for SBAC).
But that doesn't mean the story is accurate or fair in terms of how it's shaped -- at least, not according to me.
There's nothing factually incorrect, far as I can tell (though the writers seem to have missed that Chicago officials are reconsidering their initial decision not to administer the assessment citywide).
The main issue I have with the story is that it focuses so much on what's not working, or might not work, or has been controversial in some places -- and leaves out much of what's seeming to go well and so much of what we know about the Common Core testing process from last year's field testing.
By the time you get to the end of the article you might well anticipate that things were about to go very, very badly for this spring's assessments.
But that's not really the case, far as I can tell -- and the AP reporters and editors who worked on the story should have know as much.
Big thanks to Hanover Research for including me (and several others) in its list of folks to follow in K-12 education. You might find some names and sites you don't already know on this list. And always remember to tweet your story more than once. Guy Kawasaki and others swear by it, and it's sort of fun.
Almost every paper presented at the American Enterprise Institute’s conference, Is the ‘New’ Education Philanthropy Good for Schools?, made me somewhat more hopeful that the Gates Foundation, at least, will learn and back off from insisting that stakes be attached to standardized tests, and start down more promising policy paths. The exception is Alexander Russo’s Inside Foundations: Eight Lessons for Funders and Grantees on Education Giving.
According to Russo’s astute article, the lessons of this new generation of philanthropy are:
1. Policy and advocacy are great tools—to a point.
2. New approaches complicate measurement/evaluation issues.
3. Newly-created organizations bring focus and fidelity but can lack credibility and engagement.
4. “Strategic” philanthropy is a powerful way to narrow priorities—unless it’s applied too rigidly.
5. Setting clear metrics helps—until you take them too far.
6. Fail fast—but don’t overreact to bad news, either.
7. Don’t forget/underplay “the grind.”
8. Little more coordination, please (but not too much!)
In a rational world, this witty and insightful call for balance would contribute to better policy-making. In contrast to the statements made by other insiders to the other contributors, however, I fear that the several elites interviewed by Russo are concluding that, yes, we lose credibility with each of our risky policy gambles -- but we will make it up on volume.
What better way to celebrate President's Day than a Presidential demonstration of the #selfiestick (devices that have already been banned at several museums and soccer stadiums but not yet at any schools that I know of)? See more Obama gifs here - they're all part of a video he did for Buzzfeed on behalf of the Obamacare signup. See you tomorrow!
Good news from the folks at Scholastic Administrator (who kindly sponsor this blog) is that there are now two more blogs on the site: The first is edu@scholastic, run by Tyler Reed (@tylerbreed) with voices from all over Scholastic-land). The second blog is Down the Hall from Rod Berger (@drrodberger), who covers trends and people in the ed tech/leadership space, through videos, posts, and audio interviews. Check them out, and also take a look at the Edu Pulse for a mix of daily stories from staff and outside contributors.
Here's a #TBT picture from a January 2007 New America event in DC. Can you name these current and former educationistas without cheating (by looking here)? I know that two of them are still in the game, but I'm not sure about the others.
Got any TBT education pictures or blog posts you think folks would enjoy seeing? Send them to me at @alexanderrusso or AlexanderRusso@gmail.com.
THE LAWSUIT ERA: Vergara and a few other high-profile education lawsuits -- combined with the legal strategy employed by gay rights advocates -- makes me think that we're overdue for a return to court-focused advocacy efforts. What are some of the most influential court cases of the past (besides Brown, of course), what are some of the most interesting cases currently being debated, and -- most fascinating -- what cases might be filed or floated in the coming years that could change the shape of education as we know it?
HOUSE OF COMMITTEE CARDS: For a few minutes, at least, all eyes are going to be on the House and Senate education committees. But it's been a minute since anyone paid much attention. Who are the main players on the Committee and leadership staffs, and what are the behind the scenes relationships between advocates, lawmakers, and staff, that may influence the end result? Any think tankers with a hotline into the anteroom? Plus: Who's dating whom? Who's the best-dressed? Who's paid most?
NEWS STORIES DON'T INVENT THEMSELVES: There was a time earlier this winter when it seemed clear that someone was feeding the "dump annual testing" story to the media, creating a mini-firestorm of interest and speculation that according to some observers was designed to distract us all from harder, more important elements of the ESEA reauthorization process. But where'd that story come from, and in what other ways are advocates and policy wonks able to put their fingerprints on stories or even create trending topics? You know it's happening -- they're not paying all those comms folks and strategists for nothing -- but you probably don't know how much. Yet.
Image CC via Flickr.
In case you hadn't figured it out by now, I've been at AEI all day today talking about the "new" education philanthropy. That's me in the middle, flanked by Goldstein, Kelly, Blew, and Hess. #newedphil is the hashtag. Video and draft papers to come.
One of the nice things about having been writing about education so long is that I now get to participate in #TBT (Throwback Thursday), through which the Internet celebrates (or laments) the past. This week's entry is a 2006 blog post about Anya Kamenetz, now NPR's lead education blogger and author of the exquisitely well-timed new book, The Test.Titled Another Great(?) Education Writer I've Never Heard Of, the post dates back to Blogspot days (before EdWeek, before Scholastic).
Today's news is that Administrator and Instructor (one of the other magazines) are finalists for this year's NEAL Awards in several categories (best single issue, best subject-related package, best commentary (that's me), best theme issue, best instructional content (Instructor's Spring 2014 STEM package).
It might be worth noting in passing the announcement last week that Andrew Sullivan, one of the first bloggers to come to prominence in the then-new field, has announced he's retiring from the pursuit.
Not so much because we don't already know that blogging as it was originally conceived of is dead - that's been true since roughly 2009, when social media came along. I remember telling folks at an EWA event around that time that starting a blog was generally a bad idea. See related posts below.
The real reason to take note of Sullivan's decision is that he pioneered or elevated some key aspects of the online world we occupy now, including several that I wish there more of: intellectual honesty (admitting to error, changing of mind), linking out to others' work or giving credit for someone else's having found something interesting (which many folks are still reluctant to do), and the mixing of serious and silly. He was also white, male, and a product of traditional journalism.
Leave it to EIA's Mike Antonucci to give us a good education-related bit of commentary (Dead Blogs), in which he reminds us all that blogging is just a delivery system not some sort of magic unicorn that's come and gone:
"I don’t want to sound like Andy Rooney – especially since some of you don’t remember him – but “blogging” is just a name for a technological improvement to what people have done for centuries."
Might be time to get on Twitter, Mike, but otherwise you've got it right.
Roundup of commentary on the Sullivan announcement: CJR: 7 ways Andrew Sullivan changed blogging; Mashable: Requiem for blogging; Washington Post: No, blogging isn’t dead; BuzzFeed: My Life In The Blogosphere; Daily Beast: Andrew’s Burnt Out? Blogs Are, Too.
Here's the beginning of my writeup of the events leading to and following the online publication of TheAtlantic.com's CUNY story, published in its entirety over at Medium:
Both online and in print, The Atlantic has become known for running extremely strong education-focused features. One such example is Nikole Hannah-Jones’ look at school resegregation, which is a 2015 ASME finalist.
That’s why it was so startling to watch last week as the reporters and editors who had produced a long piece on the City University of New York (CUNY) made not one but two rounds of major corrections to the story published at TheAtlantic.com.
How did it happen? It’s not entirely clear yet.
But the events raise familiar concerns about the adequacy of fact-checking procedures, best practices for indicating changes and corrections to readers, and the perception of influence of outside funders in today’s media environment.
It’s also just the latest in a worrisome series of errors, omissions, and other kinds of flubs for education-related news stories in the past year or so.
As you'll see, The Atlantic, CUNY, and The Nation's Investigative Fund all talked to me about what did -- and didn't -- happen. The reporters and editors -- LynNell Hancock, Meredith Kolodor, and Jennie Rothenberg Gritz -- have thus far declined. I can't get a response from the main character, Kenneth Rosario, to ask him about his side of things, though by now I hope he knows I'd love to talk.
We propose that state laws be amended so that local boards have only two powers: to approve an annual slate of schools to operate in their locality, and to employ a CEO... Individual schools, not the local board, would employ teachers, rent or buy facilities and technology, and decide how to deliver instruction. - Paul Hill in Crosscut (Want to fix the school board? Change the job, not the people)
Related posts: "First, Kill All The School Boards"; First, Kill All The [Elected] School Boards; First, Kill All The Policy Wonks; Pointy Headed Pundits Can't Make Local Control Go Away; $100 Billion (A Year) To Get Rid Of School Boards.
Just a few weeks from now AEI is hosting an event looking at the ‘new’ education philanthropy that I think is going to be pretty interesting -- and not just because I'm going to be there talking about a series of interviews with program officers and academics.
AEI's Hess and Teachers College's Jeff Henig have rounded up 8 new studies and analyses from across the ideological spectrum.
Some of those who have written chapters and/or will be there at the event include Stacey Childress, NewSchools Venture Fund, Jay P. Greene, University of Arkansas, Sarah Reckhow, Michigan State University, and Jeffrey W. Snyder, Michigan State University. Joanne Barkan, Dissent Magazine, Larry Cuban, Stanford University, Howard Fuller, Marquette University, and Michael Q. McShane, AEI, will also be there. Wrapping things up will be a panel featuring me, Jim Blew, StudentsFirst, Dana Goldstein, The Marshall Project, and Andrew P. Kelly, AEI.
The conference is part of AEI Education's revisiting of the decade-old volume looking at education grantmaking ("With The Best Of Intentions"). How much has education philanthropy changed, in terms of funded activities and/or effectiveness?
Related posts: Many "Tissue-Paper" Reforms Unlikely To Last, Says Cuban (Thompson); It Isn't Always The Best Nonprofits That Get The Big Money; Who Funds EdTech -- And Who Doesn't; Have Big Funders (Like Walton & Gates) Overtaken Think Tanks (Like Brookings)?; No More "Give Money To Someone Really Smart" For Foundations.
Greetings from Boston. I'll be sharing education news and views intermittently over the next three days, then shutting down for the rest of the week. You can read it all right here, or on Facebook (Alexander Russo), or directly on Twitter (@alexanderrusso). Tweets about "@alexanderrusso"
Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, gets the email, and follows Twitter.
I'm going to be traveling again this first week of December, so you can wait until I'm back on Monday or check out the competition (Politico, RealClear, etc.) for a few days (which will tide you over but leave you with a nagging feeling of not being entirely satisfied).
I'll be back at it again on December 8th. I won't really be on email all the time but I can be reached at email@example.com if there's a problem that needs immediate attention. Image of Senn high school in Chicago, where my dad went, circa 1957.
Thanks! / Alexander
That's me, feeling grateful at a Javits Center event earlier this year. So many people have been helpful and supportive of my career over the long haul, but there have been a few pivotal moments where people seemed like they changed the course of things:
(6) Senate staff veteran Ellen Marshall mentioned at the end of a book club meeting whose ground rules included "no work talk" that she was leaving her job as Feinstein's education LA to follow Tim Wirth to the State Department and that maybe I should apply for her job;
(5) Journalist David Segal told a joke at a dinner party that made me laugh so hard I choked on a slice of pizza I was stuffing down my throat but then he gave me the Heimlich and I owe him much more than the occasional thank-you for doing that;
(4) Longtime Hill guru Trudy Vincent hired me as Bingaman's education LA even though I was coming off a disastrous stint working for the NYC DOE and came in applying for a health care job (and she already had an education LA on staff);
(3) Former US News health reporter Stacey Schultz bought me the book "Bird By Bird" and told me I didn't have to spend 20 years on the Hill and could indeed write for a living if I wanted to, and so I did;
(2) Former Scholastic Administrator editor Kevin Hogan brought my blog over from EdWeek to Scholastic (though EdWeek's Jeanne Marcarelli McCann took a big chance and Scholastic's Dana Truby and Wayne D'Orio have been great as well); and,
(1) Former Spencer Foundation program officer (VP?) Paul Goren helped create the Columbia Education Journalism Fellowship through which (thanks also to Stephanie Banchero's timely decision to spend a year at Stanford) I was able to write a book about the rescue of Locke High School.
Thanks to you (and many others)! If anyone feels like sharing their pivotal career moments/thanks, I'd love to hear them.
I'm taking an early trip up to Boston to see my family, and hope that you are wrapping things up and heading out soon or already on your way to wherever you're going (including staying home). Have a great next few days. Thanks as always for reading and following and rebutting when necessary. Much appreciated.
Check out my latest Scholastic column here if you want to read about how media coverage of the 2014 midterms shifted sharply during the first few days after the results were known -- and how upon examination nobody's claims of victory seemed as strong as was being claimed.
One issue that didn't make it into the piece was just how flat-footed the teachers unions seemed initially in their responses to the reformers' claims of victory, as in the AFT canceling a press conference without considering how that would look (or whether there was an opportunity to counter the reform narrative before it got rolling).
Another key angle is that the media covering the midterms and some of those commenting on them initially seemed to take the reformers' claims of victory at face value rather than taking a more skeptical view of the claims or a harder look at the results.
Projected Results from Spring Common-Core Tests - Education Week http://ow.ly/Eq0OQ
Why public-sector unions lost big in Illinois - The Washington Post http://ow.ly/EqnYS
Common Core critic Carol Burris debates supporter Jayne Ellsperman on the latest Bloomberg EDU Podcast http://ow.ly/EoRgp [Who won?]
The Problem With "Serial" And The Model Minority Myth - BuzzFeed http://ow.ly/EqhAl Spoiler Alert!
Starting tomorrow! All the day's most interesting education news & commentary, delivered each afternoon M-F via email http://eepurl.com/8Gwiv
Chicago may not be ready for reform, but is Chicago media ready for "reform" reform? http://t.co/YkADWDciIX— Eric Zorn (@EricZorn) November 11, 2014
Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn raises the nagging issue of journalists using the word "reform" in their work, noting that it's unfair and misleading (in education and other contexts).
It's not a new concern. Some newsrooms have already decided against it. Via Twitter, EdWeek's Sawchuk tells us that reporters there are banned from using it.
And it's not just those who aren't reformers who might be ready for a change. Some reformers -- notably John Deasy -- came to hate the highly charged term, since it lumped him in with others he thought were more extreme or had other agendas.
I'm open to using another term, and have toyed with alternatives to reform/reform critic in the past. But 2010's "reformy" never took off like I hoped it would, and 2013's "reformsters" was also a dud.
So what to call them, and what to call them who oppose them?
Rhetoric aside, and excepting a couple of spots like Chicago, the national unions and most union locals have continued to work with states, districts, and Common Core developers to familiarize teachers with the new standards being rolled out in schools around the country.
That's the main finding from my new Education Next article just online today. Behind the hyperbolic headlines, and despite the efforts of critics within the unions and from the outside, much of the work with unions nationally and locally seems to have continued - much to the frustration of social justice advocates who wanted to de-fund these efforts.
The piece includes insights from advocates like Bob Rothman, developers like Sandra Alberti (of SAP), funders like Lynn Olson (Gates), and union officials like Marla Ucelli-Kayshup (AFT) and Donna Harris-Aikens (NEA) who have been working on the standards implementation process. One of the main points that came up repeatedly was that unions haven't generally joined with Republicans to oppose the Common Core process -- Chicago, New York, and Tennessee being exceptions.
“The biggest threat to the Common Core is not that states will pull out” under union pressures, argues Rothman. “The biggest threat is states that stay in but don’t do much to implement the standards.”
Fordham's Mike ("Kojak") Petrilli has a new piece online this morning (Online education coverage is on the rise) over at Education Next (which I sometimes write for), taking a look at the "new breed" of education journalism out there over the past year or so.
What's new, or missing, or wrong in the Petrilli piece?
Clearly someone with access to Politico Pro, Petrilli notes that in addition to Morning Education the outlet "pumps out loads of ministories, and at least a handful of meaty ones, almost every day."
Anyone else seen these pieces, and if they're so influential why aren't they getting passed around?
Petrilli describes Chalkbeat as "a geographically based Education Week," which I'm sure will irk both EdWeek and Chalkbeat for different reasons.
The big surprise for me here is the presence of The Daily Caller, which Petrilli says gets tons of pageviews but I never see passed around. Anyone else read it?
What about RealClear Education, where there is a smattering of original writing in addition to great morning and afternoon roundups, or NPR Education, where Drummond et al have been crushing us with so many education stories we can't keep up?
What else can I add?
Check out a few more tidbits and some bottom-line observations below the fold.