The 1955 Buick Special convertible I'll be driving -- originally my grandmother's -- isn't painted yellow (or in nearly as nice shape as this example) but it's still a lot of fun to drive.
See you Monday!
The 1955 Buick Special convertible I'll be driving -- originally my grandmother's -- isn't painted yellow (or in nearly as nice shape as this example) but it's still a lot of fun to drive.
See you Monday!
As I wrote last week, the testing critic and teacher advocate revealed last week during a publicity interview for Elysium that after agonizing over the decision he was sending his kids to a progressive private school.
The reactions thus far have been fairly predictable (see roundup below).
For me, the issue isn't so much that Damon chose a private school for his kids, but rather that (a) he espoused an outdated and narrow view of the Los Angeles education scene and (b) that reform critics make such a big deal about their opponents' private school choices and backgrounds and then can't deal when they're called out for having enjoyed or exercised some of the same choices.
There are scads of interesting public school options in LA, including among them many progressive options (see where Damon is probably sending his kids below).
And if it matters where Michelle Rhee sent her children or where Jonah Edelman went to school then it matters where Damon (or Ravitch, or Haimsen) sent theirs.
The main thing that jumps out at me looking at this year's Fordham Foundation Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy is what a great equalizer the social media service seems to be, lumping together individuals (Diane Ravitch, Mike Klonsky, Anthony Cody) with massive institutions, appointed officials and classroom (or former classroom) teachers -- and also the absence of mainstream media outlets/journalists.
Either because they were exluded or didn't make the cut, there's nobody from the New York Times this year, USA Today, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal (or Politico). Of course, these mainstream media folks crush everyone else when it comes to overall influence and readership, given the size and prominence of their outlets. And of course they're limited by their roles in terms of what they can do and say in between reporting stories.
Among journalist types, HuffPost's Joy Resmovits is way ahead of me in Klout but lags behind in followers (not sure why that is). The PoliticsK12 team is a smidgen ahead of me on Klout but way ahead in followers (makes more sense, right?). Note that TWIE contributors John Thompson and Paul Bruno among others deserve credit for helping attract followers and boosting "my" Klout number.
Author Mike Petrilli points out the rough balance between individuals and institutions, as well that the list has changed little in recent years, reveals little racial diversity and is dominated by men, and contains only a few newcomers (@carrischneider, @getting_smarter both new to me). NCTQ zoomed into the top echelon, with other newcomcers like John Bailey.
But not to worry - lots of stuff to talk about on Twitter and Facebook, or you can always email me at thisweekineducation at gmail dot com.
Have a safe and fun weekend -- see you Monday.
Image from a 1906 map of my Brooklyn neighborhood.
Curious about where some new names and faces, or wondering what some familiar folks are up to?
Check out this collection of mini-profiles from blog sponsor Scholastic Administrator, featuring
Miami-Dade’s Alberto Carvalho
Tennessee principal Eric Jones
Dayton Superintendent Lori Ward
Arkansas superintendent Matt McClure, and
Texas CIO John Alawneh
Read the whole thing here: The Fantastic Five
The folks at EdWeek have asked longtime writer Mark Walsh to launch a new pop culture / media blog starting later this month, including both mainstream references to education reform (movies, songs, etc.) and media industry developments (new sites, comings and goings, etc.).
I happen to know this because Walsh was kind enough to call and let me know, ask for some blogging advice (don't do it!), and interview me about my untimely departure from LA School Report.
I'll be eager and curious to see what Walsh comes up with that's new or different. The site will join an already crowded field, including this site, Hot For Education, and all the other outlets that post or link to pop culture and media news. Few of them (besides occasionally me) do much original reporting, so that might be the main value here.
There's no final name for the blog yet -- any suggestions? -- and it doesn't sound like it's going to be a daily blog but rather two or three times a week. It will include some original reporting, however, so that's good. Walsh pens the School Law blog for EdWeek and has recently been contributing to the Supreme Court blogcalled SCOTUSBLOG. Image CCFlickr Torley
Paul Kendrick has been named to this year's edition of The Hill's 50 Most Beautiful. The single 29 year-old is from West Hartford and previously worked for Geoff Canada's Harlem Children's Zone.
Check and see who's on the old lists, if they're still in education, and whether they're still hot (for education, at least).
Here's a copy of an email that I sent earlier this morning to a handful of LA educators, advocates, and journalists I've been working with for the past 18 months:
Friends and colleagues:
As you may already know, my stint building and running LA School Report ended earlier this month, just short of the site's first anniversary.
In December 2011, longtime Democratic political activist Jamie Alter Lynton called me wanting help getting a new local education site started.
She had the energy and resources to help get something up and running. I had the know-how to make it happen.
Lynton initially wanted the site to be advocacy-based, providing readers with enough information to get them to do something (sign a petition, call a politician, appear at an event, donate to a campaign); however I was able to convince her that an independent news site covering all sides fairly would be more effective in the long run (and was necessary to attract quality writers).
When it came time to launch the site last summer, Lynton asked me to take the reins.
(v.) (1) To deliberately post derogatory or inflammatory comments to a community forum, chat room, newsgroup and/or a blog in order to bait other users into responding.
These days, as this Salon article points out (Everything is “trolling” now), bloggers and writers who tend towards inflammatory blog posts and articles are considered trolls, too.
It's a compliment, of sorts.
To some extent, the term's expanded use reflects the reality that publishers and respondents share many of the same goals these days -- to win your attention and response.
It's also a result of the flattening effect of social media -- publishers, writers, and respondants are all operating in the same spaces now (ie, Twitter, Facebook).
I'm as guilty of trolling as anyone else. A reader of my Chicago site wrote in not too long ago that I "trolled like a boss," which was meant as an insult but felt like a compliment.
So, who are education's biggest trolls? Read on for the list, tell me who I'm missing and I'll add them in an update. Yes, I'm trolling you with this post.
As reported yesterday in LA School Report, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and others are in Washington today, making a final push to persuade the Obama Education Department to approve its revised application for a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the 2002 federal education law.
Superintendent Deasy has said that a NCLB waiver would free up as much as $80 million in federal funding for other purposes.
Thus far, at least, neither Board members nor the local teachers union have been critical of the district’s pursuit of the NCLB waiver.
Publicly, at least, Obama’s education team has been signaling its support for the application, and the California Department of education is nominally supportive of the effort, too.
But there’s an unusually high level of conflict on education issues right now between Sacramento and Washington. Conflicts between Washington and Sacramento — combined with objections from state and local teachers unions to certain requirements for waivers, and practical concerns – could have some effects, direct or indirect, on whether LAUSD and eight other districts win approval from Washington to change some of the current NCLB requirements – or the final form of the waiver that is approved.
Read the full piece at LA School Report: Politics Could Affect LAUSD Waiver Approval
My interview with Aaron French (@AaronMoFoFrench) on TFA's The Blank Show (@BlankShowRadio) has now been published.
For all of you who operate inside the TFA firewall, you can find it here. The rest of you are out of luck, for now at least.
The Blank Show is TFA's relatively new (and so far in-house only) interview podcast with newsmakers, wonks, and folks like me who might be of interest to TFA's 1,500 staffers.
It started last year, brought to life through the efforts of TFA's internal communications team (@TFAInternal). There's a video version, too. Read all about it here, and see some unlocked videos here.
Occasionally, internal becomes external, as in last year's"Sh*t TFAers Say" video.
How'd this all happen, you ask? Internal communications guru Justin Fong introduced himself to me at this year's Yale SOM Education Summit, and through him I met TFA's EVP for Communications, Aimee Eubanks Davis, and then the show's host, Aaron.
Columba J-School professor Sam Freedman (who advised me during my Spencer Fellowship) has a new book coming out next month, Breaking the Line, about black college football and much, much more, says Kirkus Reviews:
"Freedman memorably revisits an era when, due to still-widespread segregation, black colleges were at their athletic apogee.
"Tigers’ coach Eddie Robinson and A&M’s Jake Gaither had already sent scores of players to the NFL, but, notwithstanding their distinguished tenures, campus militants harshly criticized both for their public silence on civil rights.
". . . As he takes us through the season for both teams and recreates their bowl matchup, Freedman mixes in revealing information about the cultures of the schools, their rivalries with other black colleges, sensitive portraits of the coaches and players, and an evocative description of a racial and political climate that Robinson and Gaither, each working quietly, did so much to alter.
Much more than just a sports book."
Read more about it here.
News broke earlier this week -- just a few days before the scheduled installment of new board members in LA -- that one of its current members was being investigated for harassment. The board member in question, Dr. Richard Vladovic, had been accused of harassment and the district had hired an outside firm to investigate, according to LA Daily News reporter Barbara Jones, who broke the story. Vladovic's also been a top contender to replace longtime reform champion Monica Garcia as board President. But now all that's up in the air, as we report in LA School Report: Harassment Allegations Could Hurt Vladovic’s Chances. While news of the accusations and investigation have been known to board members since earlier this month, the fact that the events became public so soon before the Board president elections strikes some observers as fishy.
For me, the most chilling part of the story (besides that Vladovic is known to some as "Dr. Death") is that his colleagues were told about the accusations and investigation at the beginning of the most recent board meeting, while Vladovic waited in the board meeting room. Here's what LA Schools Report contributor Hillel Aron tweeted at the time: "Dr. Vladovic now just sitting alone in the horseshoe. Wonder if everyone else is somewhere talking about him?"
According to the email I had received: "The Future Project is on a mission to transform America's high schools into the most inspired places on earth. Magical places that ignite passion, not apathy. That empower students to define success on their own terms, not ours. That leave behind innovators, not conformists. That inspire happiness, not only success."
As you can see from the above group picture, the room was full of social entrepreneurs, digital marketing gurus, media folks, nonprofit types, students -- and me. The kids especially -- high school students from Green and Democracy Prep -- and the folks who work in the schools with them -- were particularly fun to talk to and hear from. Once in a while, it's good to get out and interact with real people, I guess.
While laid-off teachers and ardent reform critics may be all aglow over LAUSD school board member Steve Zimmer's "Pacino-esque speech on behalf a proposed teacher hiring/ class size reduction proposal last week, perhaps it's not quite yet time to declare success.
Quick recap: last Tuesday, the LAUSD board debated and ultimately passed a resolution calling for a return to 2007 staffing levels -- despite the fact that LAUSD has a budget deficit and has lost enrollment in the years since then.
According to folks like Diane Ravitch, the proposal is brilliant and its most impassioned defender -- Zimmer -- is to be greatly admired for his lengthy remarks on its behalf. (According to one observer, Zimmer's performance was Pacino-esque.)
Alas, not everyone would agree with such a kind view of the proposal, including the LA Times editorial page, which noted that the proposal Zimmer was advocating "made no sense," and LA Superintendent John Deasy, who mocked the teacher rehiring proposal as a “directive to hire every human being on the West Coast."
Perhaps Deasy was a bit too candid, considering that the board was already shooting itself in the foot on this one (and he's already facing a board that isn't going to be as amenable to his ideas as it was during his first two years). Ever-impatient, Deasy has pulled rhetorical and procedural gambits like this before. Sometimes, they work, sometimes not.
But the facts remain: across the board re-staffing, which is what Zimmer et al have proposed, would bring back scads of positions and staff that the schools don't want or need any more; the district doesn't need (and can't afford) to hire all the laid-off teachers back.
Cross-posted from LA School Report.
Politico reports that Senate hopeful Cory Booker has hired Obama campaign veteran Addisu Demissie (pictured) as his campaign manager and lists many of Demissie's campaign experiences -- but not his recent stints as a consultant and then spokesperson for LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Coalition for School Reform.
Demissie's Sacramento-based firm 50+1 was hired to field work during the LAUSD school board election primaries, in which the Coalition outspent the union-endorsed candidates but only won one of three races outright.
For the runoff, Demissie was brought on as spokesperson for the Coalition, whose candidate (a former Villaraigosa aide) lost to a 5th grade classroom teacher.
For more about Demissie, see LA School Report: Reformers Try to Match Union "Ground Game"; Reform Coalition Hires New Spokesperson; Campaign Consultants Win — Either Way; A Good – But Not Great – Campaign
Education is full of behind-the-scenes players whose influence is much greater than their notoriety. Two such examples in Los Angeles are David Tokofsky, a former teacher and school board member who has the ear of pretty much everyone in town but keeps his fingerprints off of nearly everything, and Joan Sullivan, a former NYC principal and nonprofit head who's just now finishing up a three-year stint as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's education deputy. Check out profiles of each in LA School Report: Behind the Scenes with David Tokofsky, and Villaraigosa Deputy Transitions to New Challenges.
Written by LA School Report contributor HIllel Aron, the piece notes that Coalition for School Reform campaign veterans charged with defeating Ratliff in last month’s runoff may have been limited by “wildly naive” Coalition donors who didn’t want to attack Ratliff. They also believed erroneous poll projections putting Sanchez safely in the lead and ignored Ratliff’s controversial positions on teacher dismissal.
Of particular note are some juicy quotes from former Mayor Richard Riordan, who’s quoted saying the Coalition picked a political hack as its candidate (in large part because of SEIU opposition to another candidate, Iris Zuniga), “had the wrong people running our campaign” (a reference to losing campaign consultants SCN’s Ace Smith and Sean Clegg), and failed to focus on making losing candidate Antonio Sanchez more likable.
Image via LA Weekly. Cross-posted from LA School Report. Read more about it here. Previous posts: Board Member-Elect Highlights Vocational Training; What Next for the Coalition for School Reform?; Endorsements, Garcetti — and Race.
Speaking of commencement speeches, here's the closest I've ever come to giving one -- a 2011 Huffington Post piece riffing off of Jonathan Franzen's amazing speech at Kenyon that spring. I'd nearly forgotten about it until Sara Mosle read and reminded me.
It's called Education Will Break Your Heart, and it's my attempt to reflect on the challenges of working on education issues, which can be such a daunting and heartbreaking endeavor (yes, even for someone who spends most of his time behind a laptop).
In case it isn't clear, I find education issues pretty much endlessly fascinating -- even as efforts to make it better confuse and vex me.
True, I spend most of my time annoyed at what I see going on around me (the efforts to fix things, the coverage of those efforts, the political and cultural reactions). And yes, the problems education faces may not be solved or even improved in any dramatic way anytime soon. (Seriously, you know that, right?)
But occasionally enough I'm inspired or even just interested in something new or different, and there's always more to learn (especially about drones). And occasionally I feel like I've captured something, helped explain it, or even just introduced it in a useful way.
[Image courtesy Ryan Mulligan]
Over at LA School Report, Hillel Aron has written a pretty fascinating look at the reform community's current predicament -- and how well it matches up to pretty much the same position they were in back in 2003.
Then as now, reform allies led by a sitting Mayor and with a lot of cash on hand lost two out of three school board races because they were out-organized, over-confident, and (my take) unwilling to villify their opponents as much as their opponents were willing to villify them.
What should they do next, with the cash on hand, the lame duck Mayor, and another four seats up for grabs in 2 years? It's not entirely clear but they've got some ideas.
Needless to say, there are some useful lessons for those of you not in LA, whether you be pro- or anti-reform (or just part of the frustrated middle).
Read all about it: What Next for the Coalition for School Reform? Look around, there's also some interesting coverage of the little-understood factors behind Monica Ratliff's surprise school board win, including racial polarization and Latino voter participation rates.
The latest LA Times piece on the parent trigger process at Weigand Elementaryfocuses its attention on the principal being pushed out (and the teachers who may go with her) rather than on the dismal results under her leadership and the frustrated low-income parents who petitioned for her removal.
The debate over the merits of the Weigand petition have gone national, in the form of dueling blog posts between two education pundits, Brooklyn-based NYU historian Diane Ravitch and Washington, DC-based Rick Hess.
A former Bush administration education official who has since switched views on school reform, Ravitch wrote two blog posts deploring the outcome of the process this past weekend. In response, right-leaning American Enterprise Institute education guru Hess wrote that — while he’s long been a Ravitch admirer and has questions about the trigger method of revamping schools — Ravitch was all wrong to call Parent Revolution “revolting” and Parent Revolution’s Ben Austin as “loathsome.”
As to the parents’ desire for speedy change at Weigand, Hess notes that, “despite [Principal] Cobian’s apparent popularity with the current staff, she has not been able to make a difference during nearly a half-decade as principal.”
Given how they’re being treated in the Times and by Ravitch (and by the teachers who appear to be more loyal to the principal than to the kids), the Weigand parents may be well be wishing that they’d opted for restaffing (Option A), or a charter conversion (Option C), instead of merely demanding a principal who could be responsive and effective for their children (Option B).
Meantime, UTLA is hosting a meeting this weekend to help prepare union representatives at other LAUSD schools where parents are similarly (or even more) frustrated than those at Weigand.
Image via StudentsFirst. Cross-posted from LA School Report. Response from The Chalk Face: Alexander Russo’s vicious attack on Weigand Teachers
The LA Press Club has named LA School Report as a finalist in two categories (group blog, online-only website) for this year’s Southern California Journalism Awards.
That’s pretty exciting news for a media outlet that launched just last August. Thanks to all the informal advisors and betters who helped us figure how to get this far.
Meantime, we're looking for a reporter and a news editor, if you or someone you know live in LA, have some great clips, and love education politics as much as you should.
Send to alexander at laschoolreport.com with editor or reporter in the subject line.
Read all about it here.
The recent discussion about David Brooks' column on "engaged" vs. "detached" writers reminded me that, little more than two years ago, I posted this respectful but critical entry about NYU education historian Diane Ravitch's views about school reform efforts, which were somethat new at the time:
Later on today, education historian Diane Ravitch is going to head out from her Brooklyn Heights home and make her way into the city to be a guest on tonight's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" for the first time since May 2003.
The Comedy Central appearance will be a tremendous victory for Ravitch, who has been pushing to get on one of the two shows in the 11 p.m. time slot for almost a year now. It will be a happy moment, too, for all of the educators and parents who have welcomed Ravitch into their arms.
For me, however, Ravitch's appearance will be another moment to reflect on the nagging unease I have with what she's saying -- and in particular the absolute certainty with which she is saying it.
Full post: Diane Ravitch's Stunning Certainty
Clearly, Ravitch is the category of the engaged writer, and I'm probably more in the detached camp. Ravitch's response to my column was to call Jossey-Bass, the folks who were then publishing my book about Locke High School, and demand to have her blurb removed from the back cover of the book.
There's lots that's familiar about this year's NewSchools Venture Summit taking place tomorrow in Burlingame, California -- but at least one major change: livestreaming!
That's right-- this somewhat expensive, invitation-only event is going to be putting some of its main speakers and panels out onto the Internet where everybody can see them. Now if NewSchools would only dig up and send me the videotape of the heated 2008 exchanges between Randi Weingarten and Michelle Rhee, I'd be content.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given another$350,000 to the Coalition for School Reform, an independent expenditure (IE) group in Los Angeles supporting Antonio Sanchez for School Board in the East Valley District 6 LAUSD School Board race that will be decided May 21.
“For years, the funding in these sorts of races was only on one side with the union,” said Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna (pictured on the left). Mayor Bloomberg is “committed to providing a counterbalance.”
During the primary, Bloomberg gave $1 million to the Coalition, which supported three candidates: Monica Garcia, Kate Anderson and Sanchez. According to the LA Times, this was the largest campaign contribution in School Board history.
Anderson lost narrowly to incumbent Steve Zimmer; some blamed a backlash to big out-of-state donations from non-Democrats such as Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch.
When asked if Bloomberg had any second thoughts about giving to the Coalition after the primary results, LaVorgna replied simply: “No.”
So far, the Coalition has spent roughly $130,000 in support of Sanchez in the May 21 general election. SEIU local 99 and the Los Angeles Federation of Labor are also running IEs for Sanchez. His opponent, teacher Monica Ratliff, currently enjoys no IE support.
Cross-posted from LA School Report. Image via LinkedIn
Even before the misinformation and hacking of the last few days, there's lots of chatter in recent weeks and months about how Twitter is broken -- no longer as useful or fun as it used to be. (Here's one of several examples, via Ezra Klein The problem with Twitter.)
My experience has been pretty mixed.Sometime last week, my main Twitter feed (alexanderrusso) reached 10,000 Twitter followers -- the product of more than 17,000 tweets over the past two or three years. People used to ask about pageviews but now ask about Twitter followers. I'm happy and proud to be reaching a bunch of folks (in theory, at least).
I started out just Tweeting out blog posts - and that's still roughly half of what you see coming out from my Twitter feed. Then I started interacting on Twitter, retweeting things that seemed interesting and writing a few "original" messages out to friends and enemies. Most recently, I started sending out "Five Best Blogs" via Twitter, since there seemed no point in collecting the best posts I found until the end of the day (and I turned out to be too lazy to copy and paste them back into a blog post when Happy Hour was so close at hand). Most recently, I've been tweeting out things I find over the weekend, since I apparently don't have anything else to do.
The upside of the tool has been reaching and engaging with a broader audience who prefers short bursts of text vs. slightly longer blog posts. The downside is having folks I don't follow or don't think offer much useful information tweeting at me all day -- their messages showing up in Hootsuite as "mentions" when in reality they're just trying to get my attention and bait me into responding to them.
This used to happen in comments, of course, but seems to have gotten worse in recent years -- partly for reasons having nothing to do with Twitter (the debate has become more polarized.) Speaking of comments, twitter has also lowered comments posted directly on the blog, since readers now want and expect their responses be out in the world (viewable via Twitter, Facebook, etc.) My efforts to install social commenting have thus far been incomplete.
For whatever reasons, what happens less and less is me finding (or even looking for) good commentary or links on Twitter. There are only so many columns you can set up on Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, and only so much time to follow along and hope not to have missed something good that came through five minutes earlier. And of course there are so many more folks on Twitter, so much more blathering. I like the equalizing/democratizing effect, and the theoretical access to new ideas and perspectives, but it's become a very noisy cafeteria. Image via CCFlickr.
Over the weekend, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy spoke at a TEDx school reform event, outlining the highs and lows of his nearly three-year stint as head of the nation's second-largest school system. Cross-posted from LA School Report. Remarks begin at 54:00.
Lots of magazine, website, and twitter action from over the weekend, including topics such as cheating, hypocrisy, technology, bullying, angry progressives, and miscellaneous. Some favorites:
"It would be hypocritical rail against private schools and then choose private schools." @AcmpCA_Teachers Agreed.
The hybrid educational model works via Tyler Cowenow.ly/jOkLv Even across subgroups (first gen, low-income, etc.)
With new report, America Achieves tries to refocus attention on middle-class students and schoolsow.ly/jOlCA
Check them all out below.
At 24th Street Elementary, a parent group has recommended a hybrid program for next year, including district control of the early grades and a locally-known charter for the upper grades.
A second trigger petition being filed this week at Weigand Elementary calls for changes to the structure and operation of the school but does not call for the removal of teachers, staff, or leadership, or for a charter conversion.
One of several things that remain unknown about these softer, more nuanced trigger variations is whether they'll result in substantial academic improvements at the schools. It's also unclear whether they will be blocked or opposed by UTLA, the local teachers union.
LA School Report: LA Parents Opting for Varied “Trigger” Options; LA Times: Proposal for Parent-Trigger Overhaul at L.A. School Well-Received. Image via LASR.
Proponents say it has to be done, due to enrollment declines and demographic shifts within the city. Critics say it doesnt, and that Mayor Emanuel is off skiing.
Follow live updates about #CPSClosings from the various news outlets on Twitter.
#CPS is another hashtag to try, though you'll also get Persepolis and other topics that way.
But it's still a good occasion to learn a tiny bit about the underlying magic behind Google Reader -- called RSS -- and consider whether you're getting as much of the Internet as easily as you could be.
A surprising number of folks -- including those who write online regularly -- don't know about RSS and are working harder than they need to (and failing to provide readers with as much quality content as they could).
Check out this new Scholastic Administrator profile of philanthropist Eli Broad (Impatient Philanthropist) in which you will learn that Broad says he doesn't want to privatize public education and read some of the ways that Broad's approach differs from the Gates Foundation on several key issues (the parent trigger, Michelle Rhee, and TFA, among other things).
Hate philanthropist reformers on sight? It won't make any difference to you. Curious about how they differ and what makes them tick? You might be interested.
Other articles worth clicking from Administrator (which sponsors this blog) include The Homeschool Twist: Districts experiment with partial homeschooling for gifted students. Kentucky: The First Domino? Early Common Core results show a steep drop. Is your state next? Interview With Terry Grier: A plainspoken leader takes Houston ISD in innovative directions—and holds all parties accountable, Sell Your Schools: Figuring out your schools’ return on investment can be a big selling point when it comes to board and public buy-in.
How anticlimactic. In a showdown that's fast approaching 2007's $7 million campaign spending record, the teachers union and reform groups each succeeded in protecting one of their key supporters on the LAUSD School Board last night -- but failed to score any decisive victory against the other side.
Board member Steve Zimmer -- one of the main targets of the Coalition for School Reform -- led from the start despite being outspent at every step. The outside attacks on his performance on the Board didn't stick. His challenger was a competent candidate who failed to distinguish herself sufficiently from the reasonable-sounding if indecisive Zimmer (who was endorsed by Mayor Villaraigosa the last time around).
Board President Monica Garcia -- the main target of the teachers union -- jumped out to an early lead over her four challengers despite a scathing LA Times endorsement, and kept it throughout the long process as more votes came in. The union's strategy of endorsing three of her four challengers was intended to force a runoff but may have backfired by failing to give Garcia opponents a champion to back.
There were nasty mailers and misleading TV and radio ads, to be sure, but the candidates didn't fight during public appearances, and the issues over which they disagree -- charter expansion, making student achievement 30 percent of teacher evaluations -- appear somewhat mild on the surface compared to disagreements in other places (or in LA at other times). Conventional wisdom has been that Superintendent John Deasy's job is on the line, though a recent LA School Report story suggests the real question may be how well Deasy can tolerate having one or two Board members who agree with him most -- but not all -- of the time.
There will be a runoff for the third open seat in May. The union endorsed but didn't fund both of the candidates who made the runoff, but one of the two also won a surprise endorsement (and tons of cash) from the Coalition so it seems likely that the union will focus on supporting his opponent.
Coverage: Incumbent L.A. Unified School Board members poised to keep seats KPCC, In L.A. school board race, 2 backers of Deasy take early leads LAT, Two reform candidates leading in Los Angeles school board race Reuters.
Two weeks to go before primary election day, and the teachers union and the reform coalition in LA have already spent $2.2M on flyers, mailers, and TV ads -- and already raised more than double that.
AFT head Ranid Weingarten slammed NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg for putting $1M into the race -- but state and AFT are considering contribuing to the UTLA campaign fund themselves.
The LA Times editorial page endorsed two out of three reform candidates -- but in such harsh terms that the pull quotes will be worth more to their opposition than the endorsements themselves.
Celebrity endorsements are all the rage -- Eva Longoria is backing one reform challenger (and might be dating LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa).
Superintendent John Deasy issued a teacher evaluation guidance on Friday telling principals to make student achievement 30 percent of the teacher evaluation -- a reasonable figure given what's being done in other states and districts -- but the district neglected to tell the teachers union ahead of time, and the underlying union-district agreement lacked any specific percentage.
Last but not least, it's not all campaign battles and conflict in LA. The school board recently approved 12 new "pilot" schools -- an in-district alternative to autonomous charters and parent triggers. It's union's least favorite of the three autonomy models that have been negotiated, but appears to be popular among teachers.
All this and more at LA School Report.
So I had the chance to watch the first two episodes of "Blackboard Wars," the new Oprah Winfrey Network reality series that premiers tomorrow night (a month earlier than originally scheduled), and I have to say that I liked it. Not because it's necessarily accurate, or even particularly new or original (Locke High School, anyone?) but because it's a good reminder of the day to day struggles, the retail work, of making a broken school better. This is messy, one-kid-at-a-time work done by teachers, counselors, and administrators, and so many of the real setbacks and successes have nothing to do with learning geometry or American history.
The LAUSD school board race hasn't gotten really nasty (yet) and it may not be the most expensive local school board race in the nation (yet), but things are getting really interesting with less than three weeks until the school board election date:
New Yorkers like Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein have contributed to an independent expenditure committee organized by LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. (So has Jamie Lynton, the publisher of LA School Report, the education site I edit).
Just like the Presidential campaign, the outside groups have more funding and flexibility than the campaigns. UTLA has asked for help from its state and national chapters, though so far no funding has been announced.
DFER California head Gloria Romero is urging support for the reform-minded school board president. StudentsFirst and DFER national haven't responded yet about whether they're going to endorse or fund candidates, as they did a bit of in 2012.
Meantime, Diane Ravitch has endorsed one of the candidates -- an incumbent named Steve Zimmer who ran last time as a reform candidate but went over to the other side (or realized that being in the middle isn't fun) and is now being endorsed and funded by UTLA, the local teachers union. AFT head Randi Weingarten flew out to LA to do an appearance with him last Friday.
Oh, and the parent trigger. The mayor, superintendent, and even the fractious school board all support it -- voting unanimously in favor of the revamp of 24th Street Elementary School on Tuesday.
Just over a month from now -- and just a week before a key election day -- United Way Los Angeles is hosting its Education Summit 2013, which will feature three "education mayors" (Emanuel, Villaraigosa, and Booker) as well as many of those who want to replace Villaraigosa and become the next Mayor of LA.
United Way LA has been active on education issues and is hosting candidate forums for the three LAUSD board member spots that are also up for grabs on March 5. The first one is tomorrow night, featuring incumbent (and TFA alum) Steve Zimmer, who's been endorsed by the teachers union, and parent / advocate challenger Kate Anderson, who's been endorsed by the pro-charter, pro-accountability Coalition for School Reform.
There are lots of reasons to read Jennifer Senior's new New York Magazine article Why You Never Truly Leave High School (or at least save it for the weekend).
The main reason to read it is to grasp Senior's descriptions of the importance -- and fundamentally flawed nature of -- high school and its impact on students' future lives. High school isn't just important in our individual memories and culturally (they're making Heathers into a musical). How adolescents experience those key years not only determines how much they enjoy high school but also influences how they do as young adults and afterwards.
“If you’re interested in making sure kids learn a lot in school, yes, intervening in early childhood is the time to do it,” says Laurence Steinberg, a developmental psychologist at Temple University and perhaps the country’s foremost researcher on adolescence. “But if you’re interested in how people become who they are, so much is going on in the adolescent years.”
“It’s not adolescence that’s the problem,” according to one researcher cited in the story. “It’s the giant box of strangers.”
Last week, LA School Report broke the news that the parent trigger was coming to LAUSD, the third trigger effort in the state since 2010 and the first to involve the nation's second-largest school district.
Today's news is that, at a fairly elaborate media event this morning, the parents of 24th Street Elementary are, along with Parent Revolution, presenting their petition and (according to Parent Revolution) more than 300 signatures to Superintendent Deasy.
It's worth noting that the response in LA may differ slightly or substantially from previous school superintendents. A former Gates Foundation officer, Deasy is pro-choice and not particularly charter-phobic. As this LASR post describes, LAUSD has had its own Board-approved trigger mechanism since 2009 -- and three Board members up for election in March. And, while some Board members and teacher union leaders may object vociferously, LA's Democratic Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, is a strong trigger supporter. Other labor groups like SEIU may see the trigger as a benefit for their working-class members.
Previous post: 7 States With Trigger Laws - Federal Proposal To Come.
As the new year ramps up, I thought I'd share some half-baked blogging and writing resolutions with you in the hopes that you'd (a) tell me what I missed or got wrong and (b) remind me when I forget what I resolved:
1 - Quality content: In the current era where every think tank, news outlet, nonprofit, and classroom teacher has his or her own blog and Twitter feed and YouTube channel the real issue is selecting (and writing) high-quality content that provides useful information and is intellectually honest rather than predictible, self-serving, and unchanging. Less is more. This may be the hardest one for me.
2 - Longer, more thoughtful pieces: Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest and Facebook are all great -- I have and do them all -- but there's really no replacement for longer essays and reported stories that can convey nuance, detail, and flesh out an idea or issue -- and no reason given the rise of longform blog sites and tablet readers not to share (and write) more of these in 2013. [Wouldn't you know it, this is my shortest resolution?]
3 - Fresh new voices and perspectives: I don't know about you but I feel like I already know what most folks out there are going to say, and have become pretty sick of hearing them say it. As I did last year with the addition of Paul Bruno I'm going to try and ferret out new, fresh voices that take on a different view, share a different perspective, or at least give us a break from the circular firing squad of familiar voices.
4 - Constructive criticism: It's all too easy to find flaws in what others are doing or saying, and to come up with pretty-sounding alternatives. But the folks being criticized usually aren't malicious idiots. They're doing what they're doing for reasons -- logistical and political limitations, usually -- that critics like me all too often ignore. I'm going to try and do more about viable alternatives in 2013, and call out those on all sides who rely too much on critiquing the other side instead of coming up with workable (not wishful) alternatives.
5 - Building out my blogging empire: It's been a ton of fun blogging about national issues, Chicago, and (most recently) Los Angeles, as well as posting silly stuff on Hot For education. They all sort of work together. And, despite the glut of blogs out there, I think there's still room for another hyper-niche blog of some kind. I'm just not sure what the topic should be. A few years ago I scared and amused folks with the idea of a blog focused entirely on the world of education philanthropy that I wanted to call "Bill Gates' Magic Spray Can." More recently, I've thought about a blog focused on middle-class parents, gentrification, and diversity -- one of several "what next?" issues that I and others have been writing about over the past year or so. Dibs.
That's it for now. What have I missed or gotten wrong? What would you suggest that I do more or differently in 2013 (and do you want to help and/or fund the effort)? Which resolution have I already broken?
Some people like to come up with complicated algorithms to measure journalists' social media influence, like Klout. Me, I like my numbers raw, as in Twitter followers. And luckily Muckrack ranks folks that way (Education journalists on Twitter). As you can see, with nearly 11,200 followers, USA Today's Greg Toppo is catching up to freelancer Dana Goldstein's 11,600 followers. But the NYT's Motoko Rich has 11,100 and could fly by her two colleague/competitors anytime now
Alexander's Education Next article, Diverse Charter Schools, begins with President Obama visiting the Capital City Public Charter School in Washington D.C. and declaring it an "example of how all our schools should be."
I agree. Everyone should attend schools that are as wonderful as thousands of neighborhood schools in prosperous communities. All schools should offer advanced and struggling students the opportunity to learn deeply, to be creative, and to solve problems, rather than focusing on remediation.
I cannot understand, however, why it is such a challenge to run those charter schools serving kids who are only 42% low income, with only 20% on IEPs. Neither can I understand why these relatively affluent charters deserve kudos for doing what magnet schools have always done. But Russo offers a clue. It is “strategically important to the reform movement” to create charters that elite parents would brag about. Also, one progressive reformer claims “this [charter] model is the only model that can be principled and serve the needs of kids.”
Wow! Does that mean there is no principled way to serve my kids whose poverty and special education rates are more than twice as high as those in a diverse charter?-JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.
For a bunch of his time in the Senate, Bingaman was on the Senate education committee, balancing out the more ahem, outspoken Democratic members from the Northeast. And, for a few years during the late 1990s, I was fortunate enough to have been his education LA.
Some of Bingaman's other education LAs, Fellows, and LCs include: Carmel Martin. Peter Zamora. Michael Yudin. Rena Subotnik. Chris Harrington. David Schindel. Sanjay Kane.
Basically it boils down to new vs. old, it being complicated to pull off a four-way merger, and differences among the sites in terms of how they operate including particularly the longstanding commitment of the older publications (Catalyst and The Notebook) to print publication vs. online-only.
Read below for what EdNews, Catalyst, and The Notebook have to say. No response from GothamSchools. Also, I should have noted in the original post that I've talked with many of these same outlets over the years about collaborating and joining forces in various ways, and was at one point sponsored by Catalyst for my Chicago schools blog.
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.