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Update: "Let's Hire Everyone Back," Says LA School Board

Bus-LAUSDWhile 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.

Politics: Booker Hires Education-Hardened Campaign Manager

image from www.50p1.comPolitico 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 SpokespersonCampaign Consultants Win — Either WayA Good – But Not Great – Campaign

People: Behind The Scenes Players In Los Angeles

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 4.15.48 PMEducation 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.

Monica Ratliff: The Most Powerful Woman in LA?

Ratliff deasy LA Weekly 060613A new feature in the LA Weekly claims LAUSD Board member-elect Monica Ratliff “may be the most powerful woman in Los Angeles” (given the loss of mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel and the dearth of female elected officials on the City Council) and compares LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy to former police chief William Bratton.

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 TrainingWhat Next for the Coalition for School Reform?Endorsements, Garcetti — and Race.

Commencement: Education Will Break Your Heart

image from dribbble.s3.amazonaws.comSpeaking 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]

Advocacy: Fundraising Is Not Enough -- But What *Is*?

image from laschoolreport.comOver 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.

My Vicious Attack: Sad Educators vs. Poor Parents

image from laschoolreport.com

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

Media: LA School Report Snags Local Press Nominations

image from laschoolreport.comThe 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.

Quotes: Unwarranted Comparison to Civil Rights Era

Quotes2Not since the battles over school desegregation has the debate about public education been so intense and polarized, observers say. - EdWeek's Michele McNeil in her otherwise admirable overview of the polarized education debate

People: Diane Ravitch, The "Engaged" Writer

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.

Events: Livestreaming the NewSchools Venture Summit

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!


Watch live streaming video from newschools at livestream.com

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.

Previous posts: New And Notable At NewSchools 2012Microblogging The NSVF Summit;  Fashion Hits & Misses At The NSVF SummitEdupreneurs Invade DCMy NewSchools Venture Fund Summit List

Campaign 2013: Undaunted Bloomberg Gives More to LA Board Race

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.”

The Coalition, whose chief fundraiser is LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, recently got checks for $250,000 from Eli Broad, and $100,000 from Michelle Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst.

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

Blogging: How Twitter Has Helped & Hurt

image from farm4.staticflickr.comEven 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.

Scholastic: Best High School Writing 2013

image from www.slate.com
"The sunflower on my desk finally died. Each tiny stoma flared and inhaled one last time—inhaled the whole apartment: the heady scent of tired books, the spicy lunch meat Mom was unwrapping for dinner, and Dad’s hair a-burning as he worked at his computer. Then the flower shuddered, exhaled a puff of golden pollen all over my keyboard and phone, and was dead. Brrring. Brrring. My gold-smeared paper towel stops midswipe. Hello? I’ve never heard your voice over the phone before. I’m almost afraid to switch ears, afraid that in that tiny fraction of a second you’ll say, Oops, wrong number, and I’ll be left alone with the dial tone. The phone is slippery with pollen and I almost drop it. My hands are streaked with gold where your voice has touched them. Now even the tips of my fingers look happy." 
Read the full entry and others: Scholastic Writing Award winner Isabella Giovannini via Slate 

Afternoon Video: Deasy Lays Out Accomplishments & Challenges


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. 

Weekend Reading: Stuff You Missed (Or Wish You Had)


 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:

 The Atlanta Teacher Aptitude Test (ATAT) - NYTimes.comow.ly/jPZnv

"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.

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Stuff You Missed (Or Wish You Had)" »

Update: Hybrid Trigger Options In Los Angeles

LasrlogoFolks in Los Angeles are trying to develop some more nuanced, interesting parent trigger options for low-performing schools, LA School Report and others are reporting this week: 

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. 

Chicago: Closing 50 Schools

Closing signAfter an interminable and complicated process, Chicago Public Schools is announcing 50 schools to be closed for underutilization today -- roughly 10 percent of the system.

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.

Media: RSS Will Make You Smarter/Faster/Stronger

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comShould you care that something called Google Reader is shutting down later this summer?  No, probably not.  

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).

Continue reading "Media: RSS Will Make You Smarter/Faster/Stronger" »

Funders: You Don't Know Broad

image from www.scholastic.comCheck 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.

Update: Stalemate In LA -- For Now

ScreenHunter_01 Mar. 06 10.07How 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.

Campaign 2013:: Two-Week Countdown In Los Angeles

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

TV: What's New, What's Familiar In "Blackboard Wars"

ScreenHunter_02 Feb. 15 10.37

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. 

Continue reading "TV: What's New, What's Familiar In "Blackboard Wars"" »

LAUSD Update: Outside Money, Side-Switching Candidates, & More

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:

image from farm7.staticflickr.com

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.

Read all about it here. Follow @laschoolreport.  Add it to your RSS feed here. Image via CCFlckr.

Events: "Education Mayors" Headline West Coast Summit

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.

High School: "The Giant Box Of Strangers"

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).

Screen shot 2012-12-17 at 7.29.31 PM

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.”  

The article is also a pretty good overview of why school -- high school especially -- is so important, and so fraught, for adults as well as adolescents.  In every tale of success or faillure we encounter, parents, teachers, taxpayers are all re-experiencing our own teen years.  We remember more from those years, and always will.  our deepest and most vivid experiences of success, shame and agression, among other things, come from this period.
People always ask me why I think education is so interesting, and I think they mean classrooms and pedagogy.  But obviously school is much much more than that -- parents, teachers, and public officials, policy considerations, social issues, religion and ideology -- both in the present and from the past.

Charts: "Teach 100" Ranks This Blog ... #90

ScreenHunter_02 Jan. 20 16.23
... and then, way down the list.... 

ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 20 16.22
Check it all out here

Update: Parent Trigger May Play Differently In LAUSD

image from laschoolreport.comLast 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.

Update: New Year's Blogging Resolutions

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?]

image from money.usnews.com

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?

Happy Holidays -- See You In 2013!

image from laschoolreport.com

Media: Close Race Between Goldstein, Toppo, & Rich

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

ScreenHunter_09 Dec. 10 20.26

Over on page 2, Inside Higher Ed's Doug Lederman is gaining steadily on me, as is the Washington Post's Nick Anderson: 
ScreenHunter_10 Dec. 10 20.30
 *British journalists and TV personalities don't count. 

Thompson: What's So Hard About Diverse Charters, Really?

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.

Capitol Hill: Jeff Bingaman, Education Senator

image from d1k4es7bw1lvxt.cloudfront.netAfter 30 years on the Hill, New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman is leaving DC.  Last night on the 9th floor of the Hart Senate Office Building there was a reception celebrating all his accomplishments.

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.

Update: Why Catalyst & The Notebook Aren't Joining ENN

image from www.infovark.comHere are some more details on the merger of GothamSchools and EdNewsColorado into the Education News Network, and the non-participation of Chicago's Catalyst and Philly's Notebook.  

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.  

Continue reading "Update: Why Catalyst & The Notebook Aren't Joining ENN" »

Quotes: The Middle Class Obstacle To School Reform

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comMiddle-class communities don’t want to be told that the options they have are not good enough. There’s an unwillingness to accept the fact that their schools are just not excellent. -- Success Academy's Jenny Sedlis

Quotes: "Is This When Things Start To Really Change?"

Is this when things start to really change? When upper-middle-class charter parents start bragging to their friends? - Brooklyn mother of three on the spread of mixed-income charter schools

Update: Goings-On At Green Dot

ScreenHunter_07 Nov. 26 22.37So there was a handful of Green Dot-related news that came out yesterday, including (a) word from USDE that its Race to the Top application had made it to the final 61 after the initial round of reviews, (b) news from Green Dot founder Steve Barr that Green Dot NYC (or whatever it's officially called now) received a "fat" A grade from the NYC DOE (phat?), and (c) word via a Green Dot press release and LA Daily News story that Barr had resigned from the Green Dot board on which he's remained all these years since he and Green Dot split.  (LA Daily News, KPCC).

I'm not really sure of the significance, if any, to the resignation, given that Barr has moved on to a new venture, Future Is Now, which is focused on NOLA.  The Green Dot NYC school has been transferred over to FIN.  Perhaps there was some sort of flare-up, though Barr says that he just has too many other monthly board obligations. Perhaps the press release was an indication of the remaining ill will Green Dot CEO Marco Petruzzi feels towards Barr, though Petruzzi says it was just SOP.  Perhaps I'm just making a mountain out of a molehill.

Previous posts:  Green Dot & Steve Barr Finalize Their "Divorce"The Book I *Should* Have WrittenBack To Locke HighUnsolved Mysteries Of Locke High & Green Dot

Quotes: What's Next For Charter Schools Movement?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comWhat is the [charter] movement going to do for the 98 percent of American kids who aren’t going to our schools? What’s next? -- DSST's Bill Kurtz

Quotes: Charters More Principled, Says Progressive Educator

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comI think that this [charter] model is the only model that can be principled and serve the needs of kids. You have to have the autonomy. -- Progressive educator Tony Monfiletto 

Reform: "Always Be Closing"

Screen shot 2012-11-12 at 12.53.54 PMLet this be a warning: My title for a recent blog post about the coming wave of school closures in Chicago was Always Be Closing.  The entry discussed the Pew report on districts' closing efforts, and suggested some ways Chicago might avoid at least some of the problems and politics that have plagued closing efforts in Chicago and elsewhere.  But it was the title of the blog post that got the most attention.  I'd written it as a reference to the famous Alec Baldwin monologue in the movie version of Glengarry Glen Ross, but some readers took offense.  It took me a few minutes to figure out what the issue was, but then I realized that if you didn't know the movie (and didn't know me) you might think I was making fun of the way some people talk.  Of course, this happens all the time -- misunderstandings, missed cultural references, assumptions, etc.  I'm sure you've got better examples.  

Quotes: Diverse Charters Balance Learning & Accountability

Quotes2Usually in the places that are all about accountability it doesn’t feel like there is a ton of learning going on as the primary outcome. In schools where it’s all about learning, discovery, and projects and teamwork, there seems to me to be an absence of or a reluctance to have any kind of accountability. - Josh Densen on diverse charter schools


Classrooms: Here Comes "Universal Design"

Principles_udMy latest article from the Harvard Education Letter, Bringing UDL into the Mainstream, is now up online (subscription required).

It describes how an approach called UDL (universal design for learning) has been spreading from individual classrooms, to schools, to districts, and now even to states (or at least a few of them) -- despite the lack of clear effectiveness research and the confusion between it and other popular reforms such as differentiated instruction and buying iPads.

Thanks to everybody who helped me get up to speed on this fascinating issue.  Any experiences or insights into UDL that you want to add, please do so in comments or on Twitter.

My Spring 2012 Harvard Ed Letter article (no subscription required) looked at the impact of NCLB waivers on special education programs and students (With the Rise of “Super Subgroups,” Concerns for Disabled Students Mount).

Update: The Narrow Absolutism Of Diane Ravitch

580751_10151853261200110_1866890809_nI was surprised to see that Diane Ravitch commented on my recent paper about TFA, HQT, and the use of political power - but then I realized that she hadn't actually read it, or if so only for narrow ideological purposes.  (She did the same with my book about Locke High School, for what it's worth -- boiling the story down into a single "turnarounds don't work" sound bite.)

In her very brief post, Ravitch describes my TFA paper as a piece about "how TFA has managed to have unusual influence inside the Beltway," but that's actually not what the piece is about.  Exactly the opposite, really.The piece is about how TFA for a long time lacked any real Capitol Hill chops, and still exercises its power mostly in the narrow pursuit of programmatic interests (appropriations, authorizations related to TFA). 

I pointed this out in the comments on her site last night, and the comment has been removed.  What's it like, I wonder, for Ravitch followers when she does things like this?  They must cringe a little bit, then justify it as only what reformers have done to Ravitch.  Some might argue that I've done her wrong as well for my heartfelt but skeptical post about her evangelical change of heart.   

Weekend Reading: Three Don't-Miss Things To Read

ScreenHunter_40 Oct. 22 14.26
Three of the dozen or so stories I pointed folks to over the weekend:

We've already seen some pushback against the Tough book from the right, and here's some from the left: Paul Tough Is Way Off-Base. And Stop Saying “Grit”. « Katie Osgood @ the chalk face ow.ly/e6JZb

The Chicago Reader takes a look at a charter school teachers' firing:  Fighting for the right to fire bad teachers—and good ones too - Chicago Reader ow.ly/e6IgA

Ed tech enthusiasts were hoping that access to kids would be eased, but apparently that's not going to happen just yet:  F.T.C. Moves to Tighten Online Privacy Protections for Children -http://ow.ly/e4TRf  

Looking for things to read over the weekend?  Follow me on Twitter -- I post articles and commentary you might not otherwise see, from magazines and blogs outside the usual education list.

Media: Are You The West Coast Version Of Joy Resmovits?

image from laschoolreport.comLaunched last month, LA School Report is an independent education news and commentary site focused on the Los Angeles public schools that has been taking the LA education scene  by storm.

In just the lat few weeks, we've tracked campaign funding and broken news about possible school board candidates. We've helped readers understand the issues and dynamics behind the use of student achievement in teacher evaluations. Our material has been picked up by the Huffington Post and others.

Now we're looking for a writer/reporter/blogger/researcher to join the team and help us make the site even better. It's a paid, half-time position. Hours are flexible, however, candidates must be based in LA, have reliable transportation, and be proficient at blogging, Twitter, and Facebook. Most importantly, we're looking for someone who is deeply interested in education policy and politics, self-motivated, and able to work quickly and accurately. There's a lot of ground to cover, and we need someone who's going to help us crush this beat.  Yes, we need a West Coast Joy Resmovits.

Think you've got the goods?  Send a resume and links to writing samples to alexander at laschoolreport.com.  Know some folks who might be good for the job -- grad school buddies, former colleagues, etc?  Pass it along.

Update From LA: Pupil Progress, Prop 32, & Board Elections

While all eyes are understandably on Chicago -- and on Election Day -- there are some fascinating and important things going on out West that all involve teachers, teachers unions, and student achievement:

image from www.acaliforniahotel.comNow that a proposal to limit the use of student achievement in teacher evalautions fell through in Sacramento at the end of the summer, LAUSD and UTLA are back meeting to try and drum up a solution that will satisfy the requirements of the law and the judge in the case of Doe v. Deasy. See Concerns About Teacher Talks.

There's a ballot measure called Prop 32 that would change (limit) the way unions get funding for political campaigns statewide.  Pretty much every Democrat in the state opposes it, except DFER's Gloria Romero.  The Koch brothers recently gave $4 million to the pro Prop 32 campaign. See Teachers Beef Up Prop 32 Opposition.

Three LAUSD board members spots are up for grabs this coming spring, including a pro-reform member named Monica Garcia who's already gathered $100,000 for the campaign, a swing vote member named Steve Zimmer who is a former TFA classroom teacher who is currently pursuing greater oversight over charter renewals, and a third member Nury Martinez who's leaving to run for City Council.   See Candidacy Countdown.


People: Change Of Schools Radicalized Chicago Union Leader

image from www.chicagonow.comWay back more than six years ago, just a few months before I moved to Brooklyn, I happened to be on a WTTW Chicago Tonight segment. Eddie Aruzza hosted.   We were talking about St. Elizabeth in Bronzeville.  It was part of that year's Chicago Matters series, Valuing Education.  .  (See the official lineup here.)

The other guests were Jack Roeser from the Family Taxpayers Network and Karen Lewis. Of course Lewis wasn't yet Karen F-ing Lewis back then, just a North Side science teacher filling in for Marilyn Stewart on the panel.  I forget whether she was at Sullivan or Lane - Lane, probably. (I haven't found any pictures but her student ratings are still online here.)

The segment wasn't anything particularly memorable -- or at least so I thought at the time.

Continue reading "People: Change Of Schools Radicalized Chicago Union Leader" »

Site News: Fall / Winter Contributors Wanted

Fascinated by all things education and looking for a place to learn new things and show off your smarts this fall or winter?  Give a thought to becoming a contributor here, where you'll be joining an all-star roster of current and former contributors who have made the site one of the most interesting, widley-read, and reflective education blogs out there (or at least so my mom tells me).


You don't have to be a trained journalist who's got lots of time to make calls, ferret out details, and go to events, and write up original stories (though it's great if you do).  Some people are really good at finding great stuff and gathering it together or comparing it (think Atlantic Wire or Huffington Post).  Others have smart, unexpected things to say about the topics everyone's already talking about (teachers Paul Bruno and John Thompson are great examples here).  There are lots of ways you can contribute -- daily or weekly, on a particular education topic ("beat") or on a variety of issues.  There are also three different blog sites to choose from -- This Week In Education (national issues), District 299 (Chicago and thereabouts), and Hot For Education (pop culture and other Tumblr/Pinterest fun). There's also an LA schools called LA School Report that I might be able to set you up with.

Grad students, recent grads, recovering educators/reformers all welcome. All that's required is interest, some demonstrated knowledge on the education or journalism fronts, and the ability to follow through on whatever you sign up for.  You can email me at thisweekineducation at gmail dot com.

Quotes: "It's Like Beyond Disappointing. It's Disgusting"

Quotes2Is it disappointing that we can’t pass a bill that if you rape a child you can’t fired really quickly? Yeah, it’s like beyond disappointing. It’s disgusting, actually. -- LAUSD superintendent John Deasy on legislators' inaction

Update: Obama, Poverty, & The Harlem Children's Zone

Tumblr_m8yphtzCIJ1qf4hl5o1_250I'm away until Thursday -- feel free to post news links and comments for your fellow readers in my absence -- but will leave you with a couple of things to read and lots of opportunities to comment. First and foremost, you should check out Paul Tough's NYT Sunday Magazine look at Roseland and at young Barack Obama's notion that he could do more to alleviate poverty as a politician than as a community organizer  -- which at least so far hasn't happened. Also not to be missed -- and directly related -- is a recent Atlantic Cities blog post about why the Harlem Children's Zone, Geoff Canada's much-vaunted effort to provide wraparound services (including education), hasn't been replicated.  Tough wrote about the Harlem Children's Zone in several magazine articles and his 2008 book, Whatever It Takes. One way to read Tough's new piece is as a disappointed followup to all the hullabaloo surrounding the HCZ in 2008 and 2009.  Tough went on tour encouraging communities to try and replicate the HCA.  The Obama administration -- and the school reform community -- invited Canada to all its conferences but supported expansion of the initiative only minimally.  



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.