About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Events: Previewing Next Week's EWA National Conference In Boston

image from www.ewa.org

The 69th Education Writers Association National Seminar is taking place starting Sunday, and all your favorite education journalists are scheduled to be there: members of the NPR education team, the NYT's Peabody-winning Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Tampa Bay Times' Pulitzer-winning Cara Fitzpatrick and Lisa Gartner, the the NYT's Kate Zernike, WSJ's Leslie Brody, etc. Plus there will be many big-name policy wonks and education leaders, such as Boston superintendent Tommy Chang, Stanford's Sean Reardon, UPenn's Angela Duckworth, the AFT's Randi Weingarten, MA's Mitch Chester, and EdSec John King.

The vast majority of the upcoming EWA annual conference in Boston starting this weekend is dedicated to helping journalists understand hot topics in education. There's an app. There's a print program. There are "lightning talks." There's a hashtag: #EWA16.

But there are also a slew of few panels and events focused on education journalism itself, including of course the annual EWA awards.  The first morning of the conference is focused on journalists describing how they reported a challenging topic, using data, adding audio, and getting access. The afternoon session includes journalists like Kristina Rizga and Dale Russakoff talking about their book-length projects. Some of the "Lightning Talks" -- 5 Mistakes Journos Make When Covering Ed Research, How to Really Talk with Boys from Diverse Backgrounds, Maximizing Digital Media for Reporting -- focus on the tools of the trade.

The only topics missing that I can see are writing for social media (Snapchat, Facebook Live) and using images and graphics.

Teachers and education reporters have lots in common, notes EWA head Caroline Hendrie in the program introduction: "In both education and journalism, interest in addressing inequality and injustice – social, economic, and institutional – is on the rise. Both educators and members of the news media face demands for greater fairness from the communities affected by their work. Concern about inculcating cultural competence in both educators and reporters is keen. How to diversify both fields’ workforces remains a stubborn problem. At the same time, the two sectors are struggling to meet ever-changing standards of quality. After all, both fields are traversing periods of transformation, as new technologies and standards of excellence continuously redefine success."

Indeed, as has been noted before, the overlap between education reporters and educators -- including lack of diversity -- raises some interesting issues.

The results of the EWA member survey will be released on Sunday. For more on #edJOC read Why Nikole Hannah-Jones Matters (To Education Journalism In Particular) or read some of the related posts at the bottom of the page. 

Another notable angle: For the first time in recent memory, the EWA award winners will be announced at this event -- after the Peabody and Pulitzer awards have already been named. For background on the finalists, read Hits, Misses, Snubs, & Mysteries.

Who funds all this? Well, the event is co-sponsored with BU's Communications and Education Schools, and the sponsor page includes the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Raikes, Wallace, Walton, Hewlett, Nellie Mae, American Federation of Teachers, Pearson, College Board, Edwin Gould, Gates, National Education Association, Secure Schools Alliance, American Institutes for Research, and Scholastic. Programming for new reporters comes from  Spencer and the W.T. Grant Foundation.

Related posts: Efforts To Recruit More Journalists Of Color (To Cover Education)Just How White Is Education Journalism — & How To Encourage More #edJOC?New Opportunities - & New Challenges - For 7 Education Journalism TeamsDelightful High School Swim Class Story Wins Murrow Journalism AwardSchool Segregation Coverage Wins 2 Pulitzers & A Peabody.

People: Catching Up With Uber-Teacher Larry Ferlazzo

image from blogs.scholastic.com
 
If you haven't already gotten to know about Larry Ferlazzo, well, I don't know what to do with you at this point. The prolific Sacramento teacher/blogger is everywhere online, and has been so for several years now. I've written about him several times in the past here. 
 
And yet I have to admit I learned some new things talking to him for Scholastic Administrator (Catching Up With Larry Ferlazzo) including that he used to be a labor organizer and that he's still playing league basketball. He's also got interesting thoughts about ELL instruction, handling a large workload, and federal education policy. Favorite Ferlazzo response: "Sometimes the only thing worse than losing a power struggle is winning one."
 

AM News: It's Social Media Friday

It's Twitter Friday -- watch what I'm seeing and thinking below, or on Twitter, or via Facebook. Have a great day: 

Events: See You At The Yale SOM Education Conference

Most Likely to Succeed Trailer from One Potato Productions on Vimeo.

Along with many others, I'm going to be at the Yale SOM Education Conference (which actually starts tonight and goes through tomorrow).

The Friday morning keynotes are going to be Thrive Chicago's Sandra Abrevaya and Northside Achievement Zone's Sondra Samuels.

The closing keynote is DFER head Shavar Jeffries.

The panel on Common Core testing (which I'm moderating) features Chicago NBCT Sherisse A. Lucas, Dr. Ilene Tracey Director of Instruction and School Improvement, New Haven Public Schools, Ken Wagner Commissioner, Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner, Dianna Wentzell Commissioner, CT State Department of Education

You can find the full event schedule here.

There are also going to be screenings of the film, Most Likely To Succeed (see trailer above), which focuses among other things on the projects and presentations that are part of the model developed at High Tech High. 

For those of you who'll be following along online, the official hashtag is #DefiningSuccess2016  and you can find more on Instagram at @yalesomelc2016.

Update: The Teach For America Reboot (Goes Beyond Corps Member Diversity)

6a00e54faaf86b883301b7c82e1c49970b-800wi

Here's my latest Scholastic Administrator column, about the Teach for America Reboot: "The controversy surrounding TFA may have been helpful, in the end. As Villanueva Beard told Politico, “'I’m grateful for when people make our shortcomings clear, because it enables us to get better.'” 

Site News: Rainy, Tweety Monday

Happy Monday. I'm working on a big project today but will be Tweeting and Facebooking here and there nonetheless:

 

April Fool's: That Time I Quit Blogging To Join TFA

Campaign 2016: Kid Reporters Dig In On SuperTuesday

Event Preview: My #TFA25 Playlist - What's Yours?

DgfsdfgdsfgfThe livestream begins Saturday morning at 9, but the conference officially starts Friday and there's sure to be a ton of Tweeting going on the next few days as #TFA25 ramps up. (Nearly 200 speakers/moderators, all in one Twitter List .)

There are 20 sessions Friday, and another 60 on Saturday -- not nearly enough for all the interest in presenting and speaking at the conference. The Frequently Asked Questions makes clear that TFA was expecting (or experiencing) more demand to present than it could handle using the format it decided.

There's no opening plenary session -- the conference version of a outmoded home page -- or even keynotes. Topics covered at the 2011 summit are being avoided. As a result, "Even very senior/VIP speakers will be sharing a session with other speakers and panelists."

Here's a bit more information about what I'm doing -- or hoping to do (depending on which sessions are full, etc.) -- along with some information about what's going to be livestreamed. Take a look and then let us know what you're going to do.

What's on your #TFA25 wishlist? Or, even better, what are you already signed up for?

Continue reading "Event Preview: My #TFA25 Playlist - What's Yours?" »

Events: 52 regions. 40,000 Alumni. TFA At 25

Watch out, world. A week from today starts TFA's 25th Anniversary Summit in DC.

According to the event organizers, Friday includes "sessions focused on leadership development" (including one about social media that I'm going to be participating in), followed by Saturday's big day of panels (including a Denver case study panel I'm moderating) and an appearance from Janelle Monáe (above). 

There are a bunch of social events, including charter networks (Democracy Prep, etc.), diverse charters (Brooklyn Prospect), and districts (Denver Public Schools).

#TFA25 seems to be the event hashtag. 

There's a big EdWeek deep dive.

There's a BuzzFeed listicle: 19 Things To Do At The TFA 25th Anniversary Summit.

There's an app.

TFA Alumni Affairs (aka @onedayallkids) have put together a "TFA25 Twitter Track" for the conference .

There's some great TFA memorabilia floating around on Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook, including this 1992 poster:

CZ5v9BWWkAAxm_A

 

If Deray McKesson isn't there, I think there might be a riot. [He's scheduled to be there on Saturday, I'm told.] 

What about LAUSD Board Chairperson Steve Zimmer, or StudentsFirst co-founder Michelle Rhee (pictured at #TFA20)? Jesse Hagopian? Alex Caputo-Pearl? [No idea]

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

The NYT's Nikole Hannah-Jones is going to be there, according to Twitter. (Not as a TFA alum but on a panel on school desegregation.)

The last big gathering of TFA folks was in February 2011, which seems like 100 years ago. People were still talking about the Arab Spring back then. Michelle Rhee was sort of the rock star of the event. Questions about the organization's role and impact were coming up (including from founder Wendy Kopp herself) but hadn't gained real traction yet. There was no #BlackLivesMatter. Teachers in Chicago hadn't gone on strike for the first time in nearly 30 years. Yet.

Related posts: Key Takeaways From The NJ TFA Media Panel7 Things I Learned From The LA Times' TFA ArticleTFA20: A Premature (Or Even Unwarranted) Celebration?Looking Ahead To #TFA25Stop Talking About Education's "Egypt Moment"Five Ideas For TFA's *Next* 20 Years.

 

Site News: Find Me On Facebook (& Tumblr, & Twitter, & via Email)

529196_359607364140446_1101399141_n
As the snowstorm Jonas approaches the East Coast and all other action seems to slow down, this seems like a good a time to remind you that there are other places where you can read/follow my posts: my Facebook page (which features blog posts and Tweets), the media-focused The Grade at the WashMonthly (), and of course my Tumblr page, Hot For Education, which includes lots about pop culture in education, human interest stories, and Tumblr-like stuff.

There's also a daily This Week In Education email you can sign up for, and a weekly email version of "Best Education Journalism Of The Week" that at this point you have to email me (at thisweekineducation@gmail.com) to get on. Please do!

No Instagram or SnapChat yet, but it could happen. Yes, that's the bar at the old Riccardo's in Chicago -- one of my dad's gang's favorite watering holes. 

Twitter Monday: You Say You Want A Revolution...

Welcome back! I'm doing some longform writing this week, but you can find what few things strike my interest (and what folks are Tweeting at me to get my attention) here or via Twitter or Facebook. I'll be back full-speed here on Monday January 4th:

Holiday Update: Off To Boston For The Holidays

Cranesbeachoct12

Thanks to all of you who read and comment on this site, and send me ideas and correct my wrong-headedness on all sorts of issues. I can't tell you how much I've learned and how much I appreciate engaging with you.

I'm off to Boston this morning to spend the holidays with my mom and sister, so there likely won't be anything new posted here for the next few days.

You can always find me on Twitter, of course (@alexanderrusso) and Facebook.

Have a safe and relaxing holiday season, and I'll see you soon!

Best Of 2015: Two Education Books Make The List

 

4-Mead-Books-2015

At least two education books have made some of the annual year-end roundups that are going around right now:

First up is Dale Russakoff's "The Prize," which gets a nice writeup in The New Yorker (The Books We Loved in 2015).

Greg Toppo's "The Game Believes In You" made the list in the Kansas City Star (Best nonfiction of 2015).

Any other examples? Let us know. 

#TBT: Carpetbaggers, Charlatans, Martyrs, & Hustlers -Which Are You?

6a00e54f8c25c988340133f2fe963f970b-800wi

Way back in August 2010, there was a bit of talk about charlatans in education.

First there was a Rudy Crew quote via Larry F. about all the attention and money going into school turnaround efforts ("Carpetbaggers And Charlatans"):

“This is like the aftermath of the Civil War, with all the carpetbaggers and charlatans." 

Then there was a diagram via Kottke with the three options (Charlatans. Martyrs. Hustlers.). 

"Charlatans talk a lot but don't do much work.  Martyrs work a lot but don't talk.  Hustlers do both."

At the time, I identified myself as "a hustler -- or maybe a charlatan.".  How about you?

Thanks to CB for reminding me of this one. 

 

Site News: It All Began Here Eight Years Ago

AsdfasdfScholastic Administr@tor Enters the Blogosphere: Executive Editor Kevin Hogan on Adding a Popular Blogger to His Team Via Publishing Executive, November 30 2008. Yep, I used to be a popular blogger :-) Thanks, Kevin Hogan, Dana Truby, and Wayne D'Orio (among others). 

Update: Other Places To Find Great Education Stuff

768

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

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

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

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

Year In Review: 7 Best Blog Posts Of 2015?

Enhanced-32477-1432058058-15 (1)I had the chance to look back over my blog posts the other day and came up with these 7 that struck me as notable or interesting:

Educators & Advocates Need Authentic Conversations About Race, Too.
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.

Reflections On Last Night's Newark Panel.
First and foremost, there was the visual of Newark mayor Ras Baraka sitting next to grey-haired Chris Cerf, the appointed head of Newark schools. How and why Chris Christie chose an awkward preppy white guy to replace Cami Anderson is unclear to me and can't have been welcome news to Baraka and his supporters. Contrast the move with what happened in DC, where Kaya Henderson succeeded Michelle Rhee.

HBO's John Oliver Swings (& Misses) Against Standardized Testing.
It's no easy job being smart and funny at the same time, and especially so when the topic is something as boring and controversial as standardized testing.  But last night's John Oliver segment didn't seem to succeed at either task, and came off somewhat blinkered with its focus on the concerns of (mostly) white teachers and (mostly) white parents and students. Watch for yourself and let me know what you think:

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

2 Things About The NYT's "Hillary Being Squeezed" Piece.
I can't imagine folks as smart and experienced as Team Clinton are feeling any real pressure to do something "crazy" (like coming out hard for the Common Core or even annual testing) anytime soon.  (Coming out in favor of vaccinations was already a bit of a surprise.) So if anything, the Clinton folks might not like the public display that DFER et al are trying to put on here, and Team DFER could get some cold shoulder. For a little while. Nobody can hate nice-guy Joe Williams for long.

New Voices Challenging Reform Critics' "Belief Gap" On Social Media.
For the last few years, claims of success by reform supporters -- a high-poverty school where students are learning at high levels, say -- have regularly been met with detailed takedowns from the likes of Diane Ravitch or Gary Rubinstein, followed by a swarm of followups from reform critics and allies. But over the weekend things took a somewhat different turn (at least on Sunday, when I last checked in), and it was the mostly white, mostly male reform critics like Rubinstein and Cody who were on the hotseat for expressing a "belief gap" from a handful of Chris Stewart kicked things off (and storified the exchange below).

The Hype Cycle Created By Innovators & Journalists.
Of particular interest, the piece describes the Hype Cycle, which "begins with a Technology Trigger, climbs quickly to a Peak of Inflated Expectations, falls into the Trough of Disillusionment, and, as practical uses are found, gradually ascends to the Plateau of Productivity."

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

I've been sharing/making ed-related GIFs for a little while now --including one new one earlier this week. So for #TBT I thought I'd collect and rank the best (some of which you may have missed. Some are serious, many are silly. A few are both.  For example:
 
Inline image 1
 
Below are other other "best" examples, followed by a roundup of all the ones I could find (that still work):

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

Events: Education Writers Study Poverty In Chicago

Today's #EWApoverty workshop in Chicago is taking place at Northwestern and being sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

See livetweets above. See the agenda here or click below.

Continue reading "Events: Education Writers Study Poverty In Chicago" »

Twitter Friday: So Long, Seattle (Making Room For POTUS)

I'm traveling back from the @GatesED conference today so I'll be posting a bit here and mostly via Twitter (which also posts to Facebook) -- some of it about the conference but not all of it. Or you can just see it all stream by below here.

Events: Live From Seattles @GatesED Forum

As you may recall, the Gates Education Forum/15th Year Anniversary begins today with an address from Bill Gates and some other speeches and announcements.

The Twitter handle to follow is @gatesED, which is also the hashtag #GatesEd. You can see an unofficial list of speakers and moderators here. I saw Ted Mitchell on the attendees list, but no John King. Let's assume he's staying put in DC given recent events.

It seems hard to believe, but I'm told that this is the first big education-focused event that the foundation has done since 2008, when it shifted gears away from its early focus on smaller high schools and other things towards teacher development and high school and college completion.

I'll be moderating a panel on "unlikely allies" tomorrow morning featuring two pairs of folks who found ways to work together rather than lapsing into finger-pointing, etc.

Thompson: @TheChalkface Is A Must-Read [Last Call For JT@TWIE!]

[Editor's note: After something like 8 years as a contributor here, John Thompson (@drjohnthompson) is taking his talents to Diane Ravitch's blog. This is his last post, officially. For an archive go here. You can read his latest post hereMany many thanks for your prolific writing, teacher-based insights, and willingness to work with those with whom you don't necessarily agree. It's been an inspiration.] 

Washington D.C. teacher/blogger Dr. Shaun Johnson has restarted @ The Chalkface, this time offering nuggets of school reality. Johnson, who left academia for the kindergarten classroom in Ward Eight, may not have the time to teach school and write the detailed and thoughtful posts that he used to publish, but he provides frequent reality checks. 

Johnson's observations are especially timely as D.C. Chancellor Kaya Henderson spins the attrition rate for her district's teachers and principals. As the Washington Post's Michael Alison Chandler reports, in Kaya Henderson Addresses Teacher and Principal Turnover in Annual Event, Henderson claims a new fellowship program "teaches leaders ... how to support, develop and retain a staff." And, "'If every year you are replacing a third of your staff, something is wrong,' she said. 'We look at that, we have conversations. . . . Or if they are not the right leader for DCPS, they move on.'”

Before non-educators lend credence to Henderson's claims about her district's leadership and the effectiveness of their top-down "teacher quality" campaign, they should follow Johnson's brief and timely observations on how they are implemented in schools. 

Not surprisingly, the first post of the school year began with a discussion of the anxiety caused by the IMPACT teacher evaluation program. It was followed by an observation about how the district's observers create a "audit culture" in public schools. Johnson explains:

Whenever we have our walk throughs, and being in a “failing” school they are frequent, the onus is always on the teacher. What are YOU doing to improve achievement? But the audit never goes the other way. Do I ever get a chance to check off a list of things I need, in return asking what YOU ALL are doing? What are you doing to get that paycheck?

Output-driven reformers would have to actually teach in a high-challenge school before they could understand the predictable, negative results of this micromanaging. Its not just in D.C., however, where "people from District offices around the country do rounds in classrooms and schools to tick boxes on a checklist. Do we have the right things hanging on our walls?"

Continue reading "Thompson: @TheChalkface Is A Must-Read [Last Call For JT@TWIE!]" »

Site News: Road Trip Tuesday

I'm heading off to Seattle to the Gates conference so I'll be posting a bit here and mostly via Twitter (which also posts to Facebook). Or you can just see it all stream by below here.

Events: See You In Seattle

Yep, the rumors are true. I'm going to this week's Gates Foundation education conference in Seattle and moderating a panel on "unlikely allies" in K-12 and postsecondary who have overcome easy antagonism and found ways to work together.

The event, called the Learning Forum, marks the Gates Foundation's 15th year in the education game, which some have found enormously beneficial and others have found seriously problematic. An estimated 250 folks are going to be there. It will include what the foundation is describing as Bill Gates "first major retrospective speech on education issues in almost eight years," as well as a Bill & Melinda interview with the PBS NewsHour's Gwen Ifill. Along with many of the usual suspects, the USDE's John King is currently scheduled to be in attendance -- wonder if he'll still be able to show up now that he's been named to succeed Duncan.

The "unlikely allies" who will be onstage with me sharing their experiences include Bill Hammond, CEO, Texas Association of Business; Richard Rhodes, President/CEO, Austin Community College; Jean Clements, President, Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association; and Mary Ellen Elia, Commissioner of Education, New York State Education Commission (formerly of Hillsborough).

According to the foundation, you can watch via live stream starting Wednesday AM. The Twitter handle to use is @GatesEd and the hashtag is #GatesEd. They're also encouraging everyone to follow a few leaders on Twitter including @AllanGolston@GPayneEDU@drvickip@dan_greenstein, & @davidbleysea.

Site News: Gone Fishing - Happy Labor Day Weekend

4589
I'm off for Labor Day weekend -- hope you are, too. If you absolutely need to reach me, try @alexanderrusso or text me at 312-286-9242. Be safe. See you next week.

Site News: Gone Fishing (In Boston) - Back Tuesday

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 12.16.21 PMNo offense, but there's nothing much I like about Boston except that my mom and sister both live there, and it's my mom's birthday on Friday.

So that's where I am, and not here sharing the day's best news and commentary with you like I usually do.

But not to worry -- all things go as planned I'll be back on Tuesday, bright and early. 

Meantime, check out RealClear Education, Politico's Morning Education roundup, or Larry Ferlazzo's blog and tweets for lots of good stuff to keep you going.

Update: Contribute To "The Grade" or "This Week..." This Fall?

Screenshot 2015-08-11 14.28.33Education nerd? Journalism geek? Come help with This Week In Education and/or The Grade this fall. 

TWIE is my long-running blog about national education trends, politics, advocacy, and funding. The Grade is my relatively new blog taking a close look at how mainstream news reports on what's going on in schools. 

Past contributors have done all sorts of things including interviewing education leaders, editing the morning news, doing field reports (from events, conferences, schools), writing thoughtful essays, and helping out with the podcast (which may yet return -- just you wait).  Several have gone on to fame and fortune. (Well, fame at least.)

All you need is some time, some interest, and a willingness to be thoughtful and reflective in what you write. Grad students, newly-minted grads, teachers or parents or freelancers with time to burn the midnight oil are all welcome. 

Send your information (including a couple things you've written) and a description of what you'd like to do to thisweekineducation@gmail.com. Don't send links, however -- put it all in the body of the email and let me scroll. Bylines, experience, and (a small amount of) pay are all available. 

Update: "The Grade" Sifts Through The Glut Of (Uneven) Media Coverage

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com
So The Grade has been up and running for about three months now, causing some small amount of anguish and/or eye-rolling among education reporters, editors, and observers -- as long as (I hope) some self-reflection as well. 
 
Given the glut of education coverage noted in EdWeek among other places -- too much, or not quite enough, depending on whom you talk to -- I hope The Grade is useful to those of you who have real lives and want some help winnowing down what to read and figuring out which stories are strong and which aren't.
 
In addition to the blog page, hosted by The Washington Monthly, there's also a Twitter feed, an RSS feed (for DIGG, Feedly), and a daily email signup. See a month's worth of previous entries by clicking the email link.

Holidays: Happy 4th of July Weekend

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

Happy Fourth of July Weekend to everyone! I'm away Friday through Monday but will be back Tuesday morning with all the great news, commentary, and analysis that you need. 

Best Blogs: Lots Of Familiar Names -- Plus One Totally New One

MagooshBelated thanks to the folks at Magoosh for including me in their 5 Education Blogs We Love:

"Russo does an excellent job of scouring education news all over the world-wide web and bringing it together in one place. We like it because it’s packed with information and updated constantly. No stale news on this site."

I like hearing that!
 
Others on the list include familiar names like Jay Mathews, Valerie Strauss, & Mind Shift, and one I'd never heard of before, The Perfect Score Project.
 
What I'm really looking for right now, however, is a 5 Instagram Accounts For Education.

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.  

Update: Celebrating the First Month of "The Grade" (Plus Free Daily Email)

Screenshot 2015-06-05 10.16.44In case you hadn't heard, a new site focusing on K-12 education reporting called The Grade launched just about a month ago over at The Washington Monthly, and I wanted to encourage you to take a look at it, follow along, and send me ideas if and when the urge strikes.

There's now a daily email (see below) you can sign up for here. Follow it on twitter feed @grade_point (don't ask), or an RSS feed if you use Feedly or Digg Reader.

Basically, it's an attempt to keep tabs on what's going on in education journalism -- trends, new outlets, people on the move, and the best and worst of education coverage -- and a place to peel back the curtain and help explain what goes on behind the scenes in the development of news stories that the public read every day.

Dubbed "A Closer Look at Education News," The Grade is like an education version of NPR's "On The Media," except it's online and hosted by the Washington Monthly and only cares about K-12 education reporting.

The past few weeks have included a look at the charter school backfill issue, some entirely unsolicited story suggestions for topics and angles that might warrant extra attention, a critique of the Miami layoff numbers used in a recent NYT story (and of limited solutions mentioned in an Atlantic piece about teacher retention), and a celebration of the Hechinger Report's first five years.

Other posts describe how "solutions" journalism could help balance education coverage, but it's super hard to pull off well, and about how writing about innovations is sexy and fun but rarely pays off. Trade publications are missing in-house education editorials and columnists, in my opinion (and probably no one else's). Reporters should write more about their own personal education experiences and disclose their own school choices for their children, and ask harder questions during interviews (Amanda).

I thought it was great that some KPCC and ProPublica reporters dug up an education angle to the Sony Wikileaks email hack, but too bad they didn't nail it down. Some additional digging on the recent Achieve report on state test scores might have been helpful, too.

I've looked for more examples of high-poverty districts with high opt-out numbers, and written about NPR's recent decision to ban on-air book plugs for fellow staffers.

Anyway, you get the idea.  Check it out online here. There's now a daily email (see below) you can sign up for here, or via an RSS feed if you use Feedly or Digg Reader. Follow it on twitter feed @grade_point (don't ask).

Continue reading "Update: Celebrating the First Month of "The Grade" (Plus Free Daily Email)" »

Twitter Friday: News & Commentary Here, On Facebook, & Via Twitter

It's Friday and I'm in Boston visiting family (took the bus, thank you very much), so I'll be updating the site lightly -- via Twitter (which also posts to Facebook).

See it all below, or on Twitter or Facebook. Have a great weekend!

Update: Shutting Down "District 299: The Unofficial Scoop On Chicago Public Schools"

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.

Update: New Blog Takes "A Closer Look At Education News"

Screenshot 2015-05-06 14.55.02
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. 

Charts: Nearly 20,000 High Schools Now Offering AP

image from www.marketplace.org

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 gapSpending $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)

Update: What *Really* Happened At #EWA15 This Year? (According To Me)

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 alexanderrusso@gmail.com

Continue reading "Update: What *Really* Happened At #EWA15 This Year? (According To Me)" »

AM News: All Eyes On Chicago

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).

Continue reading "AM News: All Eyes On Chicago" »

Magazines: What To Make Of Education Next?*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journalism: Hard To Pick A Fight With "Bright" (But Someone Will Anyway)

Screenshot 2015-03-31 15.31.03

There's a pretty new education site launched today, called Bright, the creation of the folks at Medium (a newish platform created by some Twitter alumni) plus the Gates Foundation and the New Venture Fund.  
 
It's being edited by Sarika Bansal, who has also worked on the Gates-funded Solutions Journalism network.
 
In her Welcome to the Bright Side explainer, she writes "Our stories will be vibrant — both literally and figuratively... We love creative storytelling. And we hate jargon."
 
 
EdWeek's Mark Walsh compares 'Bright' to Education Post and sounds pretty skeptical about it's ability to change the conversation.  
 
I'd compare it to Edutopia, the Lucas Foundation-funded effort that's been out there for a while, or maybe Good or TakePart. Or maybe even EdWeek's Teacher magazine? 

Journalism: Simon Leaving Politico Education Team (Plus Other Job Openings)

Screenshot 2015-03-31 10.50.36In case you didn't see it on Twitter yesterday, Politico's senior education writer Stephanie Simon (pictured via Twitter) is leaving the team and heading to a non-education gig at the Boston Globe.

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.

People: Carmen (Fariña) Confesses

image from blogs.scholastic.com

"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

Thompson: Looking Back At Russo's Critique of Common Core Coverage

Its been two weeks since Alexander Russo's Common Problems with Common Core Reporting, in the Columbia Journalism Review, criticized the education reporting of some of journalism's greatest institutions. Russo argues that Common Core coverage is "overheated," it dwells on problems that have not recurred this year, and it is not precise enough on the actual size of the Opt Out movement (as it exists at this point.) Neither does he like the precise ways that education reporters have described the resistance to Common Core testing within the context of school reform, and its bitter battles between proponents and opponents of test-driven accountability  
 
Russo is criticizing the first draft of the history of Common Core testing and the backlash against it. But, history is a "seamless web." The latest round of testing for college readiness can't be understood without remembering the years of mindless NCLB-type bubble-in accountability that narrowed the curriculum, encouraged the "juking of stats" and outright cheating, and inspired a massive revolt against top-down corporate reform. 
 
Assessments tied to Common Core standards can't be understood outside the context of high stakes testing. Neither can it be understood without recalling the ways that test scores have been the ammunition used by reformers like Newark's Cami Anderson to replace neighborhood schools with charters. No journalist or historian could describe the New Jersey Opt Out movement, for instance, while ignoring the massive political revolt against Anderson, presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie, and market-driven edu-philanthropists. 
 
Above all, this year's fight over Common Core testing has expanded the use of test scores to punish teachers to a Battle Royal where reformers attack and insult parents, and threaten to punish students who opt out. Politically speaking, there is a huge difference between scorched the earth edu-politics against teachers and unions versus high-profile punitive actions against children. 
 
A couple of weeks ago, Anthony Cody nailed the essence of Russo's argument, as it was expressed during opening of the Spring testing season. The first quarter of the competition had just begun, and Russo was already "working the refs."  
 
So, how has the contest unfolded since then?

Continue reading "Thompson: Looking Back At Russo's Critique of Common Core Coverage" »

Events: Live-Tweeting From Yale

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. 

Journalism: Using SnapChat (Or Vine, Meerkat, Periscope) To Cover Education

image from www.niemanlab.orgUnless I lose my nerve (or someone talks me out of it) I'm going to try and Snapchat (or at least Vine) tomorrow's Yale ELC event.  
 
What's that mean?  Basically, that I'm going to try and tell the story of the event through pictures and video, in real time.
 
You might think that Snapchat only goes between one person and another, and that images and videos disappear.  Well, not any more. There's a My Story function that allows unlimited views by anyone on Snapchat to view videos for 24 hours. Plus you can save everything before you send it out, and post it afterwards, a la Storify. (There are no familiar "likes" or comments, just views and people snapping back.)

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.)

The big question is whether a conference is lively and colorful enough to make video and images appealing enough.  It might be silly or boring.  I may entertain only myself.
 
Another question is whether there are enough grownups actually using the app to have enough of an audience.  Most adults I know are struggling to deal with Twitter and Facebook, and hoping Snapchat and Vine will go the way of the dodo bird.
 
In the end, these apps might be better for finding sources or information from teens and teachers.  
 
Anyway, it's good to experiment and I'll learn a ton whatever happens.  Way, way back in the day when I first signed onto Facebook and Twitter, there was nobody there, nobody taking it seriously.  But now iDitto with blogging, I guess, come to think of it.   
 
The hashtag for @YaleELC this year is #backtowhy (or just #yaleELC). You can find me on Snapchat at "thisweekined" (or maybe "alexanderrusso" -- I still haven't quite figured it out :-).

Journalism: 4 New Stories I'd Like To See

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)

Pro Tip: With Tailored Alerts, Nuzzel Lets You Know What's Hot On Social Media

image from wilab.comSocial 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.

Continue reading "Pro Tip: With Tailored Alerts, Nuzzel Lets You Know What's Hot On Social Media " »

Update: Mixed (Predictable) Reactions To My CJR Common Core Reporting Piece

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com
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.

Continue reading "Update: Mixed (Predictable) Reactions To My CJR Common Core Reporting Piece" »

Journalism: Some Common Problems With This Spring's Common Core Reporting

Here's something new from me via the Columbia Journalism Review, focusing on the challenges of reporting the Common Core testing rollout this spring:

Screenshot 2015-03-18 11.13.18

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 StoryLet's Focus On What Actually Happens -- Not What *Might* HappenPlease Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos!Inside The Common Core Assessment “Field Test”. Image via CJR.

Advertisement

Advertisement

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.