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.
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.
Let 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.
My 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).
I 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.
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.
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.
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:
Now 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.
Way 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.
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.
I'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.
Most big cities -- NYC, Chicago, DC, Philadelphia -- have one if not several specialized places to go for education news and commentary, but not Los Angeles. Well, at least not until now.
Just in time for the first week of school (they started on Tuesday), there's a new site, LA School Report, that's just come online today (officially) and might be worth checking out if you are an LA education person or are interested in what's going on out there. Follow on twitter at @laschoolreport. Like the Facebook page here.
There's the usual morning news roundup -- KCET, SCPR, LA Times, LA Daily -- plus original reporting from Hillel Aron, a LA-based freelancer who's written lots for the LA Weekly among other publications. Recent posts include interviews with Steve Barr and AJ Duffy, a look at whether the parent triggger is coming to LAUSD anytime soon, and some board election and state referendum updates.
Former journalist and LA Fund for Education board member Jamie Alter Lynton is the founder and publisher. I'm helping out as editor from my Brooklyn lair.
A little more than a year since the publication of my book about the conversion and attempted turnaround at Locke High School, I remain proud of the work -- and heartened about the good news that continues to come out of the school and Barr's new endeavors -- but also clear about some mistakes I made:
1 -- The book title should have been shortened, or at least reversed -- Saints, Saviors, and Stray Dogs. The stray dogs represented the poverty and neglect experienced by the school over the years, and did indeed wander onto campus now and then, but the book wasn't really about poverty and neglect (and the title choice was confusing and troubling to some of the school community).
2 - The book should have included at least a chapter or two more about Steve Barr, founder of Green Dot and mastermind behind the Locke conversion. I was overly determined not to focus on him. But limiting his presence in the book to three chapters was a substantive mistake (considering his role at Locke and nationally), a narrative one (given readers' need to have a main character), and a commercial mistake, too (given Barr's prominence). That blue inset image of the kid graduating should have been him.
3 -- It was already clear by the time I wrapped up my reporting that Locke was a lot better than it had been in the past, and the book should have made a stronger, clearer argument that broken schools like Locke can be substantially improved (if not miraculously fixed) rather than attempting to be a neutral or uncertain description of events. Ironic that I, a blogger who trades in commentary and understands readers' needs to be challenged by strong views, held back from making a strong and clear argument in the book.
Kind (and well-deserved) paise for contributing writer Paul Bruno from Robert Pondiscio: "I'm really enjoying Paul Bruno's contributions to Alexander Russo's This Week in Education blog (and not just because he quotes me in this post). He offers a fair and experienced teacher voice without waving the bloody shirt at non-teachers. And he's a pretty good writer." Bruno, along with veteran high school teacher John Thompson, has brought a lot of interesting perspectives and ideas to this blog. Dancing Baby image unrelated. Thanks, Pondiscio.
Haven't heard much about Josh Densen or Bricolage Academy? That's about to change. But you're not alone if the name is still unfamiliar. The school has received a smattering of coverage in local media outlets and reformy blog posts (here, here, here), has been referenced in some of the recent reports about diverse charter schools (Alliance, Century Foundation), and is going to be the subject of coming stories from the Hechinger Report and the Times Picayune's Sarah Carr (in Next American City). It's a fascinating project and I look forward to learning more. Knowing the way these things usually work, interest will grow steadily over the next year, reach its high point the day the school opens, and drop off precipitously once it becomes a reality. Image via
Here are some links to magazines and sites I don't check during the week, in Twitter form (#thisweekined), plus whatever else I come across along the way or missed during the week. Good stuff, worth the click:
Come across something I've missed? Put it in comments or tweet it out using #thisweekined and it will show up above. Links and retweets aren't necessarily endorsements, you ungrateful wretches, just an effort to give you a range of interesting news and opinion with which to challenge your knee-jerk view of the world.
My favorite response to the piece so far has been Craig Jerald's observation that he proposed something like the empty chairs on the Mall that was done last week by the College Board's "Don't Forget Ed" campaign (" This reminded me of a stunt I pitched while I was with ED in 08 but couldn't get permission to do.") Seems like that was par for the course. He's at @breakthecurve.
Andy Rotherham admonished that the lack of education debate this time around doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the absence of a campaign to promote education issues. ("Someone needs explanation of correlation & causation.")
Education researcher Kevin Kosar said he'd liked the way the piece showed that "Big money does not equal policy efficacy." (@kevinkosar)
Mike Klonsky called me the "new favorite of AEI. Extreme right-wing group with racist history." @mikeklonsky)
Thanks for the feedback, critical and otherwise. Keep it coming here or on Twitter. (Haven't read it yet? It's 18 pages here.)
Lots of people have asked when the next installment is going to appear, and I'm happy to say that there are at least a couple more in the works -- one about some important and generally misunderstood dynamics that took shape during the NCLB debate and continue to the present, and the other about some new variations on reform that reform refugees and others are trying around the country.
On January 15, 2012, veteran education researcher Craig Jerald was feeling a little frustrated by the lack of discussion about education in the Republican primary debates. So he logged into his Twitter account to vent to his four hundred–plus followers:
“Presidential debate moderators have mostly ignored education. Anyone miss ED in ’08 now???”
ED in ’08 (Education in 2008) was an effort to make education a big part of the 2008 presidential campaign—to make the candidates take education seriously and talk about it during debates and on the campaign stump. Four years later, most others remembered it as a costly failure, if they remembered it at all. It didn’t take long for longtime thinktanker Andy (“Eduwonk”) Rotherham to respond to Jerald’s tweet:
“OK, but what’s a good price per question? Those were expensive.”
The largest single-issue advocacy campaign in the history of education reform, ED in '08 was shuttered after just sixteen months and written off by outside observers and the funders themselves. Rotherham was referring to the mere twenty education-related questions that moderators had asked the candidates in 2007 and 2008.
Heading into the 2012 campaign season, no one gave any serious thought to repeating the experiment. And yet, education advocacy organizations very much like ED in ’08 have proliferated in the years following the 2008 elections, as has philanthropic support for political advocacy. The Obama administration’s education priorities have resembled those pushed by ED in ’08 in several key regards. And, as Jerald noted, the 2012 campaign has been thus far devoid of much substantive discussion about education reform.
“At the time, it seemed irrelevant. Though in retrospect it may have set the groundwork. Little did we know.”
That's the opening to my new report on ED in '08, just out from AEI (here).
TakePart's new "Top 10 Education Experts to Follow on Twitter" includes @DianeRavitch (#1 with 31,000+ followers) as "honest, has an open mind and knows her stuff," @Larryferlazzo (#5 with 17,000 followers) as ""particularly good, and little old me @alexanderrusso (#8 with 6,600 followers).
There's also Michelle Rhee, Melinda Gates, Debbie Meier, Arne Duncan, Stephen Sawchuk, Randi Weingarten, and a few others.
Anyone else who should have beeen on the list? Anyone on there who shouldn't have been? Strange to be talking about this on a blog, but I know that not everyone lives on Twitter (yet).
Friday was the last day of morning news roundups from Will Treece, the recent Swarthmore grad (pictured, right) who's done excellent work with AM News since January and for the Philadelphia Notebook, among other places. He's off to be an NYU writing fellow in Abu Dhabi
Good news for me is that rising Swarthmore education and political sciences major Victoria Pang (pictured, left) is taking over in Treece's place. Pang spent last summer interning at Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law, where she did some writing about education policy.
Thanks, Will, and welcome aboard, Victoria. Got an idea about how you or someone you know could help make this blog bigger and better? Email me at email@example.com
The NYT's new national education reporter Motoko Rich speaks quickly but clearly, has a friendly, curious demeanor – straightforward but not rude or gruff. She’s been at the journalism game long enough to have done with the affectations many journalists take on. And her excitement about the new beat seems sincere, which is great for all of us who watch or participate in K-12 education. One example: At the end of our brief phone interview she asked me didn't I want to know her favorite teachers -- and proceeded to name four.
That being said, she’s obviously not a softie and has some high ambitions for what she’s going to do with her new beat. She’s already getting tons of pitches but doesn’t want to give too much guidance because good story ideas come from the strangest places. The NYT announcement email (also below) notes that she's known internally for being relentless in getting straight answers from sources. She’s on the lookout for great teacher and classroom voices (aren’t we all).
Like any reporter new to the beat, she's everyone's new best friend -- until she writes about you. Or at least, that's the hope. Crossed fingers for lots of fair but incredibly skeptical front-page education stories from the Times in the weeks and months ahead.
"Our professional responsibility to our employees is developmental in nature and is not about putting a label on who they are at one moment in time."
-- Kaya Henderson on VAM, Rocketship, cheating, and being superintendent in the new Scholastic Administrator
There haven't been any breakout commencement speeches this spring so far that I know of, but here's Ira Glass's speech at Goucher from over the weekend (his grandmother went there), which isn't bad if not quite viral:
Slate and Longform have combined forces to create a roundup of best speeches of all time (what's a commencement speech if not a long essay?). My favorite speech in recent memory is Jonathan Franzen's speech at Kenyon last year, which prompted me to write Education Will Break Your Heart.
A friend asked me the other day who were the "thought leaders" in education reform and once I got done making fun of the term I realized I didn't have a good answer. I can think of lots of hyperactive advocates and commentators, a handful of zealots and visionaries, and no end to slow-talking academics. But I wasn't sure I could think of anyone with that mix of close familiarity with the field who retains a quality of dispassionate observation -- someone who would say what he or she thought even if it didn't advance or discredit a favorite program or approach. A straight shooter, smart and able to think and speak on multiple levels (programs, policy, politics). Can you? Some possible candidates -- I'm really not sure -- might be Rick Hess, or Matt DiCarlo, or _____________? Maybe they're out there and I'm missing them, or maybe there are people who are more balanced and thoughtful than I realize. My ears might need adjustment. Please, no self-nominations.
This is just to say thanks to the 6,000 folks who have signed up for my Twitter feed, which includes blog posts from here as well as Five Best Blogs (#5bb), Weekend Reading (#thisweekined), and random exchanges and scuffles like this one between me and TeacherKen about merits of the Joanne Barkan's piece on edu-advocacy and my "sexist" response.
I know that nobody wants to have another source to check, and that blogs and emails are difficult enough to track, but I have to say that there's stuff going on on Twitter that can be interesting (and is much faster-moving than most blogs). For example, I broke the Richard Colvin EdSector departure story on Twitter yesterday and only posted a blog entry about it today.
In a previous era, someone like Andrew J. Blumenfeld, 20, would have finished his college education and applied to Teach for America.
Instead, the Princeton junior ran for and won a seat on his local school board back home in Southern California. He campaigned on a pro-reform platform and called on the district to provide better AP courses for students pursuing rigorous studies.
Board members like Blumenfeld could become increasingly common in the next wave of school reform efforts, which are focusing much more on leadership and advocacy than on classroom- or school-level changes.
Blumenfeld is cofounder of a group called Students for Education Reform, which has 71 chapters and a national office in New York City.
Clearly, there are lots of Blumenfelds out there.
Read the interview here: An Interview with Andrew J. Blumenfeld
Scholastic Administrator has this image accompanying my latest screed against public rating for teachers but you might like the image even if you don't like what I have to say.
It's been a long time since Locke High School has been in the news (see this June 2011 LA Times piece) but it still seems relevant to me. Before the parent trigger, there was the teacher trigger that was used to wrest Locke away from LAUSD and UTLA. Before SIG, there was NCLB restructuring that allowed Green Dot to restaff the school. Before newTLA and the Gates charter-district collaboration initiative, there was AMU, the union of charter teachers (the topic of a WSJ opinion piece just this week). And before Michelle Rhee and Jonah Edelman and Ben Austin, there was Steve Barr (who's opening a new school in New Orleans next year.)
In any case, I had an hour to walk around the campus a couple of weeks ago before heading to the airport but that was enough time to get a quick sense of things and I thought some of you might be interested.
I'm just as sick of new "must-have" programs as you are and doing my best to avoid them as long as possible, but still I'm playing around with Pinterest, the somewhat new image-sharing site that has been getting a lot of attention.
My first pinboard is "Hot For Education 2012," a version of my Hot For Ed Tumblr, which includes images and videos that I don't have time to blog about (or are too silly -- yes, there's such a thing).
It's no great shakes, so far -- sort of like Tumblr and Twitter. Nothing that will change your life or make you a better parent, teacher, or blogger. But there's a lot of energy at Pinterest, and that's nice. And it's awfully easy to use.
Take a look if you're curious. Are there good people or pinboards to follow that I should know about? Let me know if you want an invitation to join the site.
Here's a version of the rant that I've been giving since the end of the summer, via Scholastic Administrator (which sponsors this site):
"Sometime over this past summer, the school reform "bubble" popped--seemingly unable to withstand the combined weight of unrealistic claims, weak results, poor policy choices, and resistance from career educators, along with the inertia of a $600 billion a year K-12 school system.
"What happens next could be a new, more balanced effort to improve public education-or a return to trench warfare and the status quo."
Of course, some of you don't think there ever was a school reform bubble. Others think that reform popped earlier than I do -- or hasn't popped yet. Last but not least, there are more than a few of you who think it was a bubble that needed popping.
It's Digital Learning Day, and here's a video of Eric Sheninger discussing how he uses Twitter to create a personal PLC:
Scholastic Administrator sponsors this site and puts out a print and online magazine full of stories you should read.