About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Bruno: A Goodbye & Retrospective

I've been contributing posts to This Week in Education since January 2012, when Alexander kindly invited me to begin writing. This, however, will be my last post here.

Last week I submitted my resignation at my teaching job which, for a variety of reasons, was not a good fit for me.

I don't have firm plans for what I'm going to be doing next - possibly teaching, possibly some consulting work, probably something education-related - but investigating other opportunities was going to be easier for me if I wasn't simultaneously working full time. (And if you've got suggestions for cool jobs I should be applying for, let me know!)

While I make these transitions - including, potentially, the transition out of the classroom - I'm going to be scaling back the blogging.

To some extent this is about time constraints and focus, but it is also because it's less clear what "point of view" I will represent going forward - teacher? former teacher? consultant? interested citizen? - and I don't want to have to worry about my credibility in the eyes of readers.

I may still write at my personal site, and you can always find me on Twitter, but I will no longer be contributing here.

With that being said, now is also a good opportunity for me to reflect on the last two-and-a-half years. Below the fold, I'll reflect and offer a short retrospective.

Continue reading "Bruno: A Goodbye & Retrospective" »

Site News: On Deadline -- Taking The Day Off

Highres_136748192I'm on deadline for a couple of freelance projects today, so there will be little or no blogging from me unless I can't bear it or really need to procrastinate.  

For morning news headlines, try Real Clear Education or Politico or AISR's Morning News.

For video clips, check out the MSNBC segment that taped/aired yesterday featuring Derrell Bradford.  

For smart, independent commentary that takes everyone to task in roughly equal measure, you'll have to wait until tomorrow :-).

I might tweet out a few things -- or you may have missed some recent tweets from over the weekend (yes, it's true).  You'll find that at @alexanderrusso.

Throwback Thursday: What Was Going On Five Years Ago Today (August 7, 2009)?

Throwback Thursday #tbt is a big thing on Facebook but why should they have all the fun?  

So I took a look at what was happening five years ago in education by checking out the blog archives.  

Right about now 5 years ago, I was still posting Duncan's weekly schedule.

Thompson was still (already) raising hell (The True NEA Revealed).

There were furloughs in ATL (Furloughs alter teachers' schedules, paychecks). 

I posted the opening monologue from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

The Feds were investigating the use of clout to get well-connected Chicago kids into elite schools.

Readers still commented on posts rather than ranting on Twitter. (I was still telling people How To "Do" Twitter", and trying to fool you about undocumented TFA teachers. 

What else happened in August 2009?

There were lots of vacations taken. I was still reading ASCD's SmartBrief (is it still there?).

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

It's Friday and so I'll be updating the site -- lightly -- via Twitter (which also posts to Facebook and here). See it all below. Have a great weekend!

Magazines: 12 New Yorker Ed Articles Vox Missed/Got Wrong

Screen shot 2014-07-22 at 12.20.39 PM

Vox's Libby Nelson has a good starter list of 12 New Yorker education articles to read while the archives are free but I think she might have missed and/or gotten a few wrong. 

No problem -- that's what I'm here for.

For example, the Vox list includes forgettable profiles of Arne Duncan and Diane Ravitch (Class WarriorPublic Defenderalong with Doug McGray's excellent Steve Barr profile (The Instigator).  

It recommends Kate Boo's story about the attempt to revamp Denver's Manual Arts (Expectations) but leaves out her amazing (2006 - I'm cheating) story about early childhood interventions (Swamp Nurse).

Steve Brill's The Rubber Room was an artful rehash of reporting done by others.  Rachel Aviv's Wrong Answer is a fascinating look at how some teachers decided they had to cheat that loses out in the end with its lazy reliance on NCLB as the main reason. 

Stories mysterious left out include the New Yorker's take on executive function (Delayed Gratification = 210 SAT Points) and Jill Lepore's fascinating revelation that liberal Icon Elizabeth Warren hates neighborhood-based school assignment (Your Favorite Liberal Lawmaker Supports Universal Vouchers*). Nick Lemann's 2010 turning point piece is left out, too (The overblown crisis in American education).

All that being said, kudos to Nelson for getting things started and including some ed-related stories like this summer's Jill Lepore takedown of "innovation" (The Disruption Machine), which I blogged about last month (The Innovation/Disruption "Myth"). Lots more examples from Gawande, Gladwell, etc. to be found. The Hit Man's Tale!?

Previous TWIE posts about the New Yorker:  Learning From The Gay Rights MovementLast Week's Problematic New Yorker Parent Opt-Out StoryThe New Yorker Takes Another Look At CoachingDelayed Gratification = 210 SAT PointsLessons From Earth Day 1970If Doctors Can Do It, So Can TeachersCoaching: Even Veterans & Star Teachers Could BenefitChecklists: The Simple Solution No One Wants To Try.


Morning Video: So What's It Like To Take The OECD Test for Schools?

Following up on the fascinating topic of the OECD Test for Schools, the PBS NewsHour just recently aired a new segment about the test's spread, how it differs from most annual assessments (and even the Common Core assessments), and some of the reactions of the kids who've been taking it. Transcript here. You can also read all about the test's development and impacts in my recent Harvard Education Letter article. Don't forget that Frontline's segment on resegregation airs tonight.

Articles: Adult Ed's Secret Buzzwords & Lingo

ScreenHunter_01 Jul. 14 10.07So you think that edtech (and school reform in general) are full of buzzwords and hot new trends? Well, that may be true. But edtech’s got nothing on adult education, which freely adopts jargon and innovation from the K-12 and postsecondary worlds and then adds its own particular set of terms and approaches.

Some of the developments – flipped, blended, gamified, mobile learning – are familiar trends generally mirroring those taking place in other sectors. Others trends and concepts – contextualization, “braided” funding, and “bridge” programs – are more specific to the needs of low-skill adults and adult education programs who serve them.

That's the opening from my latest EdSurge article, which came out a couple of days ago (So You Think You Can Educate Adults?). The first article is here. Image via EdSurge.

Gone Fishing -- Back Monday

0703OPEDanderson-master675Hi, all -- I'm taking the rest of the week off but will be back on Monday.  

No, I'm not going to see the World Cup finals -- just some local travel, friends visiting, and book reading.

See you Monday.

Try not to fix education before I get back; I would be sad to miss that. 

Possible mis-application of the semicolon.

Events: Poynter Institute's "Covering Common Core" Event

Because there's always more to learn, Screen shot 2014-06-20 at 3.09.46 PMI'm headed off to Chicago to attend the Covering Common Core journalists' training session being hosted by Poynter, EWA, and Northwestern over the next couple of days.

What's your favorite Common Core story so far? 

What's a Common Core story you haven't seen, or a bit of knowledge that hasn't been surfaced yet?

Mine include Cory Turner's "taking the Common Core" approach, and my own peek inside the field test help desk, but I'm sure there are other better options.



Thompson: The Legacy of "Waiting for Superman"

WaitAlexander Russo's How Waiting for Superman (almost) Changed the World explains how Davis Guggenheim's film created a zeitgeist.

But, did it produce "measurable impact?"

Participant, the film's production company, sought to "ignite social changes." Participant was founded by eBay billionaire Jeff Skoll, and it specializes in "star-laden, carefully crafted, politically colored fims."

Whether Participant knew it or not, in its attempt to claim success, it borrowed from a common school reform meme. Test-driven reformers often claim that increases in student performances in the 1990s were the result of the NCLB Act of 2001. Similarly, Participant claims credit for closing New York City's so-called "Rubber Room," and the Washington D.C. teachers' contract. Both took place before the movie came out.

Michelle Rhee also credits Waiting for Superman for persuading top donors to contribute to StudentsFirst. But, she also claims that her organization is good, not destructive, for public schools.

An objective study, funded by the Ford Foundation, determined that the general public gave good reviews to the film, awarding four out of five stars. Education professionals gave it two stars, concluding that its "depiction of teachers and unions was simplistic."

Russo's account of the making of  Guggenheim's film and of its effects is balanced. If he has a bias, it is towards skepticism, even cynicism. Russo indicates that do-gooders must anticipate that their efforts will be "misunderstood or mischaracterized." When that happened, the filmmaker's team responded with "genuine or feigned" surprise.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Legacy of "Waiting for Superman"" »

Thompson: Lessons From "Superman"


Before he started Waiting for Superman, non-educator Davis Guggenheim read and reread the definitive but tedious Organizing Schools for Improvement, and went on to study the entire body of work of the Chicago Consortium for School Research. Guggenheim became an expert in economic regression studies so that he could parse the language in papers for and against value-added models. Starting with the work of Larry Cuban, he became an expert on education history.

I kid Guggenheim, of course.

Alexander Russo’s How Waiting For Superman (almost) Changed the World, published by American Enterprise Institute, tells the real story about a pro-union, pro-teacher award-winning filmmaker making a documentary that Jay Mathews described as “one of the most anti-union I had ever seen.”

Russo’s narrative on the making of the film that so deeply offended so many is consistent with my experience. Guggenheim had a lot compassion and he made some political inquiries, but he seemed to have the same disinterest in social science that has long been shown by outsiders seeking to reform schools. It is a testament to the disrespect bestowed on teachers by non-educators that they are consistently uncurious about academic education research. Surely the sponsors of An Inconvenient Truth would not have endorsed that film if Guggenheim was similarly uninformed about global warming.

Worse, Guggenheim and other reformers show even less interest in studying more than one side of the story before pontificating about the cure for inner city educational underperformance.

Continue reading "Thompson: Lessons From "Superman" " »

Update: Low-Skill Parents Need Better Educating, Too

Skylab learningThere are an estimated 36 million low-skill adults in the US - not counting undocumented immigrants or incarcerated adults.  

Only about 5 percent of them are getting anything by way of help with their numeracy, literacy, or English language skills.  

Sometimes it's nothing more than a weekly course taught by a volunteeer in the library. 

No surprise, then, that adult ed waiting lists are long, and persistence/retention is low. 

Rather than thinking about them as a separate population, howver, think about them as your students' parents -- the folks your kids go home to each day, who could help out with schoolwork or not, depending.

That's not the only connection, however.

Read about recent efforts to reboot adult education nationally and locally in my first article for EdSurge (New Urgency Around Adult Education) and you'll see lots that mirrors what's going on in K-12 education -- from the trends (flipped, mobile, gamified, etc.) to the struggle to maintain funding to the widely varying results.


Previous posts:  The Story Behind 2010's "Waiting For 'Superman'"Common Core: A Peek Inside A "Field Test" Help Desk. Image via Skylab Learning.


Update: The Story Behind 2010's "Waiting For 'Superman'"

Superman-shieldSome tidbits from my latest oeuvre (How 'Waiting for Superman' (almost) changed the world), which is out today:
- the hit-and-miss history of "message" movies (and why they're still so irresistable);
- Guggenheim's ill-fated (half-assed?) efforts to include a LAUSD magnet lottery in the movie;
- the "two-story" format that helped (or hindered) the movie's message (plus Guggenheim as narrator);
- conflicting accounts over whether the film-makers knew ahead of time that they were making such a pro-charter, anti-union film;
- the film-makers' refusal to reveal the whereabouts of the kids they profiled (though some updates are known); and 
- new efforts to quantify the impact of movie-based advocacy (and ongoing efforts to measure Superman's impact).
Participant's latest education-themed documentary, "Ivory Tower," premiers on Friday.

Common Core: A Peek Inside A "Field Test" Help Desk

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 11.44.11 AMWhat's it like working at one of the four Common Core field test help desks that have been set up around the nation to handle calls about the tough new assesments?  Check out my latest piece and find out -- then come back here and let us know what you think.

Twitter Friday: Memorial Day Weekend Edition

It's Memorial Day Weekend and so I'll be updating the site via Twitter to the extent that I can. Have a great weekend!

Testing: Should US Schools Sign Up For New International Assessment?

Flickr CC University of SaskatchewanNext month, roughly 300 US schools are going to find out how well their sophomores match up to similar students in other countries (and what they really think about the schooling they're receiving). For some of the schools, it will be the second time.

Whether the school-level assessment that provides the scores -- a PISA-based measure called the OECD Test For Schools -- will help schools improve instruction or merely help them market themselves is the subject of my latest Harvard Education Letter piece. 

You can find it online here

 Some folks -- Andreas Schleicher, for example -- think it's a great new tool.  Others - Pasi Sahlberg -- like the PISA and the OECD Test but worry about schools misusing the results to create rankings rather than revamping their offerings. The handful of schools that participated in the 2012 pilot and talked to me about their scores and responses were a mixed bag.

International testing is coming, one way or the other. And I'm not just talking about IB programs.  The Common Core has a lot of overlap with PISA. Three states already get a state-level PISA (as do roughly 100 states and regions in other countries that particpate in PISA). I wouldn't be surprised if more states and districts sign up for the next administrations of PISA and the OECD Test.

Thanks to everyone who helped me with the story -- and not to worry I hope to be writing again about this in the near future so all those conversations and email exchanges won't go to waste. For me, it's fascinating to find out how hungry some educators are for international test results and frustrating if understandable that so many schools participated but haven't revealed their results.

More immediately, there's a ton of information about the experiences and results from Fairfax County (where 10 schools participated in 2012 and 25 participated this year) here. There's also a slideshow from the OECD here.Image via Flickr.

Media: Twitter Guru Gives Me A Big, Totally Unexpected Shout Out

Russ laraway twitterI started getting lots of Tweets and follows on Wednesday and had no idea why until a few helpful folks told me that I'd gotten an unanticipated shout out from a Twitter social media guru during a big webinar about social media.

Dubbed the World's Largest Webinar (#WLW14), the event focused on “The Secrets Behind Social Media” and featured luminaries from Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. 

Twitter Senior SMB Russ Laraway told the audience that I (and Michelle Rhee) would be good people to build online relationships with for anyone who wanted to build a quality following on Twitter : "Identify and build relationships with thought leaders and influencers in your industry.  For example, if your target audience is educators, you could reach out to Michelle Rhee or Alexander Russo and build relationships with them."

He and I don't know each other.  Laraway and his team found me based on Twitter and Google searches and a 2012 TakePart blog post that names me one of the top education Tweeters out there.

Anyway, thanks to Schoolkeep's Ben Wagner (@benwagner23) for filling me in and Laraway for mentioning my name. Little things like this help make up for little indignities like being dumped off the Muckrack top education journalists listing because I don't write frequently enough for mainstream publications.

You can see the slideshow here, or read a liveblog post here.

Site News: I Hate My New "Hot For Education" Tumblr Theme

Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 11.15.34 AM

I started a Tumblr a few years ago to post more images, videos, quotes, and other ephemera related to education that isn't serious enough for here.  

I love it but don't worry, nobody else reads it, either.

In honor of one of my most popular posts of all time, a now-defunct annual "beautiful people" roundup, it's called "Hot...For Education." 

Recent posts include SF SPED teacher Jeffrey Katz evicted over Airbnb useAlways proofread your hatemail to English teachersThe Survival SelfieBlackmailed by Your Teacher?Word Cloud of The Catcher in the Rye.)

 In any case, I recently changed the theme (look) so that you can see two posts at a time instead of having to scroll down so far to get to each new post. What do you think?   Too much white space, right?  

Let me know -- what's a better Tumblr theme to try out? -- or just follow/send me ideas for posts at @hotfored or subscribe here.  

Throwback Thursday (#TBT): My First Job

001 (22)
Throwback Thursday is a Facebook tradition in which people share pictures of themselves from the past -- usually as kids, teens, or young adults.  But nobody really wants to see that stuff from colleagues and counterparts, so I've come up with an adapted version that's a little bit more suitable for a work setting:  Throwback Thursday: First Job.

In Throwback Thursday: My First Job, people share images of themselves at their first job -- teacher, counselor, whatever.  In my case, my first two important jobs were (a) 7th and 10th grade English teacher at what is now Harvard-Westlake School in LA and (b) legislative aide (education, labor, immigration, health, women's issues) for newly-elected US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

A school yearbook picture of me doing the first job (circa 1989) is above.  An equally hard-to-believe-I-ever-looked-that-young picture of me working for Feinstein (circa 1995) is below the fold.  Take a look, enjoy them both, and then it's your turn. I don't want to find them on my own, but if I have to I will.

Continue reading "Throwback Thursday (#TBT): My First Job" »

Update: Not Quitting Blogging, Not Doing TFA

Thanks for all the responses to my early April Fool's joke, which seemed to have been enjoyed widely.

Flickr daniel blume

Longtime readers will recognize that fake news is nothing new from me (usually tagged "Made-Up News" and presented tongue in cheek). In 2006, I claimed to have found a copy of the reorganization plan being developed for the Chicago Board of Education. In 2o1o, I had Stephen Colbert starting a for-profit chain of K-12 schools to go along with his just-announced Stephen Colbert University. I also announced the creation of a spinoff version of A&E's cable reality show, Intervention, called "Classroom Intervention." In 2011, I made up/predicted the left/right joining of forces against"Obamaschool" (including a joint appearance between Diane Ravitch and Sarah Palin that has yet to happen). I've also had Duncan contracting swine flu, and Spitzer call girl Ashley Dupre as a homeschooled TFA alum.

As always, the motivation is to amuse and provoke insight and skepticism, not to embarrass anyone.  Image via Flickr.

Events: So Long -- I'm Quitting Blogging & Joining TFA

image from 30daystox.comIt is with *extremely* mixed emotions that I'm announcing that, as of midnight tonight I'm shutting down this site, the related Facebook and Twitter pages, and also my Chicago blog and Tumblr. [Some auto-scheduled tweets from over the weekend may appear in your feed or on your Facebook page, but I officially sent my last tweet last night.]

Wow, that's hard to write. But I'm done.  You don't need me doing this every day.  I don't need to be doing this every day. It's been a long, amazing ride. I'm really proud of what I've done, and incredibly grateful to have been allowed to do it. Thanks to everyone who's helped make it happen.

What am I going to do instead of blogging?  Good question. You see, on a lark this past fall I applied to Teach For America. I told myself it was just for the book I was writing. Nobody was more surprised than I was when I actually made it through and got picked. I had to think long and hard whether or not to quit blogging and accept the spot.  But finally I said yes and so I'm going to Houston this summer and starting teaching -- here in Brooklyn, I hope -- in the fall.   Wish me luck - I'm going to need it!

Weekend Reading: Best Education Articles You Probably Missed

Because sometimes the best stuff comes in over the weekend:

How the Poor Won the New York Tax War -- New York Mag http://ht.ly/uStxQ Hint: $4M a year from @NYSUT @UFT

4 Millions Of Kid in 36 States To Test New Education Assessments http://ht.ly/uSs67  @khefling

Arne Duncan: all-powerful, un-stoppbable -- @learningmatters profiles EdSec http://ht.ly/uSzBd 

Parent trigger school gets high marks on parent survey [commissioned by @parentrev ] - San Bernardino Sun http://ht.ly/uSLvi 

Education in California: Dance of the lemons | The Economist http://ht.ly/uSsYq  #vergara @TeacherBeat

Conference of Mayors Urges E-Rate Reform -- THE Journal http://ht.ly/uSuU6 

How a radical caucus took over Chicago's teacher's union, by Jacobin's @micauetricht http://ht.ly/uSukO  @CTULocal1

What’s the ‘Sweet Spot’ of Difficulty For Learning? | MindShift http://ht.ly/uSvFN 

Which Side Is Your [Teachers'] Pension On? | Jacobin http://ht.ly/uSyTy  @arotherham @MichaelPetrilli

Obama's view of black culture isn't all that different from Paul Ryan's, says @tanehisi http://ht.ly/uSA0M 

The limits of data [journalism] via New Republic http://ht.ly/uSzy0 

Oh, no! Matt Damon caught using inaccurate (outdated) child health stats on TV PolitiFact http://ht.ly/uSxAk 

From Jay Mathews: Why most people, including me, like homework http://wapo.st/1jrUbne 



Events: Key Takeaways From The NJ TFA Media Panel

Image (1)

This past weekend's media panel at the NJ TFA summit included Camika Royal (soon to be at Loyola University in Baltimore), USC's Doug Thomas, free agent (for now) Derrell Bradford, and WSJ metro education reporter  (to be) Leslie Brody (pictured above).  

The panel included comments from me about the complicated but important process through which most education stories are assigned, written, and massaged before they're published -- and how unrealistic a picture of the education debate you can get from social media (where reform critics rule).  

There were also much more useful observations from others:  how important it is to find a workspace where you can speak your mind (Royal); teachers are unfortunately reluctant to talk to reporters about what they're seeing even when they're willing to appear in photos (Brody); Twitter is much less constructive and useful than Facebook or other venues where anonymity and unwanted intrusions can be limited (Bradford). 

Oh, and Brody [@lesliebrody] told the audience that her new email will be leslie.brody@wsj.com -- though she's not there yet. More from the summit via #njsummit, @TFA_NJ.  Picture courtesy CR.

Media: You're Missing All The Good Stuff On Tumblr

Don Harder via Flickr Creative CommonsIn case you hadn't heard, here's this awesome, somewhat lawless place on the Internet called Tumblr -- sort of halfway between a blog and Twitter.

It's over where I and others can post all sorts of images, cartoons (like this harsh NYC charter school example), videos, and GIFs that can't go here (because: copyright).  

You should check it out here, or follow it on Twitter (@hotfored), or simply friend me on Facebook and you'll see it on your timeline.  

Next up: All the good stuff on Facebook (it's true!) and Medium.

Image via Flickr.

Media: RealClearEducation Disclosure/Conflict Of Interest Statement

image from www.realcleareducation.com

In case you were curious, here's the "transparency" page for RealClear Education, in which it is explained that the editorial decisions and content that are produced by editors Andy Rotherham and Emmeline Zhao will be independent from not only funders (including the Arnold Foundation, the Hume Foundation, and the New Venture Fund --a sort of clearinghouse / intermediary for foundations) and advertisers but also clients of Bellwether Education (a "growing community of performance-driven education reform leaders, entrepreneurs, organizations, foundations and public institutions").


Social Media: Clearly, I Am Over-Tweeting [23 x a day!]

Grungy-social-media-icons-297x300Check out Tweetails and you can see how much you - or someone you know - is Tweeting.  

Apparently I send out about 23 tweets a day (including blog posts), which amounts to 29 hours a month, which makes me a Level 23 Tweet Paladin (and probably a fool).

Lots more details -- word frequency, folks I tweet to/with -- below.

Give it a try and tell me what you found?

Continue reading "Social Media: Clearly, I Am Over-Tweeting [23 x a day!]" »

Media: Update On LA School Report

image from laschoolreport.comNews got out this week that Hillel Aron was joining the LA Weekly as a full time staffer.  Though he stayed on for a time after my departure from the site at the end of last summer , the workhorse reporter (who did most of the daily writing for LA School Report during its first year of publication) had stopped writing for the education outlet earlier this winter.

So who's left? The masthead there currently includes Jamie Lynton (now listed as Executive Editor), Michael Janofsky (my replacement, as it turned out), and site manager Leigh Anne Abiouness. Vanessa Romo and Chase Neisner have appeared in recent weeks. Ellie Herman has been writing occasional commentaries.

There have been some notable improvements in the site.  Someone seems to have finally figured out how to livestream LAUSD board meetings. They've thankfully stopped capitalizing School Board (my fault, if I remember correctly). And they've added links to local news sites from around the sprawling district. 

And of course there's always lots of education news to cover in LA.  Current examples include the Vergara trial, the ever-contentious school board members, and the never-ending iPad debacle.

Chicago: The Story Behind The Rahm-Karen Lewis Food Fight

image from educationnext.org
As if the protesting teachers and parents and the new CNN documentary weren't enough, here comes my look at Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel's tumultous first three years at the helm of the city and its beleagured schools system.  

The piece (which was originally titled "Reforming Rahm") makes note of just how incremental change had come during the Daley era -- especially the last few years during which a new contract was signed with the union and leadership turnover was the theme -- and what kind of a massive budget and pension deficit Emanuel inherited. 

But it also makes clear how Emanuel's rush to take action on things like a longer school day have often backfired, and how he inadvertently helped make a star out of rookie Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis and alienated reform-inclined educators and parents like Seth Lavin as well as "enclave" parents and traditional educators.

Colorful personality conflicts aside, the piece notes that there are still several wortwhile things going on in Chicago, including a move to school-based budgeting, streamlining of testing requirements, a teacher evaluation system to replace the checklist of yore, and a difficult but long-necessary downsizing in response to demographic shifts.

Read the piece -- maybe also Neil Steinberg's recent Esquire profile, too -- and tell me what you think.

Site News: What Do You Think? Scholastic Wants To Know!

The good folks at @ScholasticAdms (who sponsor and host this site!) have rolled out a new feature called Top Five, in which they ask you to weigh in on Twitter with your thoughts about about recent news events.

Screen shot 2014-02-19 at 3.42.31 PM
Use the hashtags to tell us what you think about  Duncan's controversial involvement in the recent NYC chancellor selection process (#DODinfluence), schools revamping discipline policies to try and lessen disparities and suspensions(#zerotolerance), the impossibly young innovators who created Edmodo and are scaling up Khan Academy ((#genYleaders), the next Boston superintendent (#urbanleader), and recent science lab explosions (#sciencesafety).

AM News: Live, From New Orleans #EWAearlyed

I'm at the EWA seminar on early childhood education today and tomorrow -- great people, great lineup -- and would be tweeting more than posting even if there was WiFi available right now:

Update: It All Began Ten Years Ago

Jacob riss dana goldstein Hard to believe that I started the weekly email roundup that became "This Week In Education" in November '03, starting with AOL, then moving to GMail (remember when it was so), then Blogger/Blogspot (your eyes still hurt).  

What I'd forgotten along the way is the blog moved over to EdWeek in January '07 -- about six months after I moved to New York City and much later than I had remembered.   The Chicago blog moved over to Catalyst and ChicagoNow a little earlier. 

Way back then, blogs were still strange and new -- now they're strange and old.  Being able to comment immediately rather than write a letter to the editor was new -- now most folks simple Tweet or Facebook what they've got to say.

There was no Politics K-12 or Teacher Beat, no Huffington Post, no Answer Sheet, no GothamSchools/Chalkbeat. Rotherham didn't allow comments. Hess didn't even know what a blog was, much less have his own.

One thing hasn't changed, which is the basic aim of what I'm doing, which I summarized in the 2007 welcome message at EdWeek: "Too often, educators don't understand politics, politicians don't understand education, and education journalists don't understand -- or find ways to capture -- the interactions of these two different worlds. Everyone suffers as a result."

Jacob Riis image via Dana Goldstein's blog.

Media: EdSource Today's California-Sized Growth Spurt

image from edsource.orgWhile you might have been looking the other way, distracted by East Coast media outlets and the like. EdSource Today has quietly been emerging as one of the biggest nonprofit edmedia outlets out there.  

They describe themselves as "the leader in California education journalism." They're partnering with other nonprofit outlets like KQED and Hechinger.

Over the past year or two they've staffed up in Northern California (Fensterwald, Baron, Mongeau are the bylines you've been seeing most frequently.)  See the staf list here.

Now they're looking to expand in SoCal as well. 

Of course, there are other nonprofit education outlets covering California, like the KPCC education shop I've written about before. And a handful of commercial outlets like SI&A Cabinet Report and the LA Times that are still out there.  LA School Report has been plugging away, though seems like Hillel Aron isn't writing for them any longer.  

Click below for the job announcement. Here's their look ahead at 2014 (Top 12 education issues in the new year).


Continue reading "Media: EdSource Today's California-Sized Growth Spurt" »

Update: Schools' Ever-Expanding Uses Of TED Talks


TED Talks may or may not be the world's most intellectually rigorous form of idea-sharing for adults, as several recent blog posts and articles have suggested, but the format -- in full or just parts of it -- still has some appeal and potential benefits for teachers and students who want to try it out in schools.

image from hepg.org

This new Harvard Education Letter story I wrote explores schools' small but growing use of TED Talks. Classroom and in-school uses of TED Talks are turning into whole-school TEDx events and even (in at least one case) whole-district TED Talks

"Hosting a standalone TEDx event is no easy feat. For student organizers, the event requires the ability to organize and coordinate, to think through logistics and ideas, and to work with adults as well as other students... Organizers' duties include finding speakers and a venue that's appropriate, creating a program and TEDx event logo, deciding which TED Talks to play in between live presentations, scripting and shaping presentations, recruiting an audience, and arranging with teachers and administrators for students to attend. TEDx events are supposed to be filmed from three different angles, streamed live online, and uploaded to the Internet. (The head-mounted microphone, use of buzzwords, and dramatic pauses are optional.)"  
What do you think?  What do your schools do with TED Talks, if anything? From TED-ifying Schools Harvard Education Letter.  

Update: Happy New Year! See You Monday

2013 dubai fireworksHappy New Year!  Hope you're having a good one so far. I'm working hard on cool stuff for 2014 and will be back on Monday, January 6. See you then!

Scheduling: Happy Holidays, 2013!

image from ocalla.comI'm off to Boston for the holidays so you'll have to make do without me for a few days -- I'm sure you'll be OK.  Check EdWeek or GothamSchools or Politico's Morning Education or the Annenberg Institute for a news roundup.  I'm sure one or several of them will help you out.  Meantime, all the best, safe travels, and thanks as always for checking this site out. [Image via Superb Wallpapers]

Scholastic: What Happened To NCLB... Is Happening Again Now

image from www.scholastic.com

My latest Scholastic Administrator column is out, focusing on how the NCLB implementation and pushback history compares to the Common Core process we're going through now (Whither CCSS?).

"At the time, a number of states considered opting out. Several states (including Connecticut, Arizona, Utah, and Nebraska) and districts filed lawsuits against NCLB. So did the NEA and 11 districts scattered around the nation. Others sought accommodations, proposed legislation, or reported on the costs of complying with the new law. Three wealthy Connecticut districts opted out of the program entirely in 2003, followed by two districts near Chicago."

Back to the present: A few more states have slowed down their CCSS participation since the piece was written -- I think we're up to seven now, right? -- but the basic argument remains the same.

"If the history of NCLB is any guide, the vast majority of the current efforts to reconsider or roll back the Common Core will lose steam or result in some relatively minor accommodation well short of opting out. Whether that is a good thing or not depends on where you stand."

Update: Journalism Fellowship Applications Due Jan. 31

Spencer fellows 2010The annual Spencer Education Journalism Fellowship luncheon took place a couple of weeks ago and those alumni in attendance made up a veritable who's who of education reporting. They included Liz Bowie (Balt Sun), Greg Toppo (USA Today), Dana Goldstein (Slate, Nation), Sarah Garland (Hechinger), Trey Kay (NPR).  Those not able to make it -- Sarah Carr, Peg Tyre, Elizabeth Green, among others -- are an equally impressive lot.  (That's the 2010 crew pictured right.)

Latest Spencer news: Greg Toppo just got a book contract for his learning games book and is joining the Spencer advisory board. Dana Goldstein just turned in her completed manuscript. Sarah Garland has a very cute baby. Current Spencers Jamaal Abdul-Alim, Lauren Smith Camera, and Annie Murphy Paul were all there, too.

All this to say that the Spencer Fellowship is up again for 2014-2015 and if you think you have the stuff to make it through Evidence and Inference and Sam Freedman's book writing workshop you should apply.  Seriously.Your idea is great.  You're totally qualified.  The competition isn't too tough. (Plus which, the Nieman deadline is already passed.)


See the latest press release below. Don't forget.  

Continue reading "Update: Journalism Fellowship Applications Due Jan. 31" »

Update: Social Media Friday

Grungy-social-media-icons-297x300Today's a travel day for me, so I'll be on Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else that will have me - but alas not here.  

Check those sites for updates, or go to GothamSchools or AISR or HuffPost Education or Atlantic Education for a morning news roundup. Or Politics K12, or Politico's Morning Read.

Have a great day, and see you back here Monday!


Updates: The 9 Most Notable Education Stories Of 2013

image from cdn.theatlantic.com

Over at the Atlantic's education page, check out my top education stories of the year and let me know if you agree or disagree.  There's something for everyone.  Or, try and guess my 9 and see how many you get right. I'm going with #ed2013 but that's probably already been used or won't take off. Image via the Atlantic.

Site News: Getaway Day (Brooklyn To Boston)

ScreenHunter_02 Nov. 27 08.51
I'm heading off for the holiday (along with everyone else). I'll see you back on Monday, December 2. I'll be checking Twitter and Facebook. Happy Thanksgiving / Hannukah.

Site News: Facebook & Twitter Buttons For "This Week In Education"

Social-media-channelSocial media isn't anything new, and TWIE has been on Facebook and Twitter long before many other sites. But as a few of you have noticed, there haven't been social media buttons on the site itself -- until now.  

All that's changed now.  Look below. Look above.  All around you, Twitter and Facebook buttons so you can "like" and Tweet out individual blog posts without fuss or muss -- thanks to Wayne D'Orio and the eScholastic folks who pulled it off. 

Thanks, and enjoy! Let me know if you have any issues.

Thompson: Of *Course* There's Too Much Testing

OptAlexander Russo's Atlantic Magazine article, When Parents Yank Their Kids Out of Standardized Tests, begins with photographs of the signage that has become so ubiquitous in schools.  As the seemingly endless testing season begins, learning stops in schools full of posters stating, "Testing in Progress" and "Lab Is Closed."  

The article explains how teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School refused to give the district’s required tests and encountered the predictable pushback and quotes a Garfield teacher who anticipates “the biggest revolt against standardized testing in U.S. history” during this spring's three month long testing season. [He also cites the Brookings Institution’s Tom Loveless who recalls that parent protests against tests “pop up like wildfires” about every decade.]

I'm proud that that parents in Oklahoma are also helping to lead the backlash.  Russo cites the case of Jenks Middle School where 800 parents opted out of last spring's piloting of test questions. He quotes Deedra Barnes, who helped organize the boycott, and who is considering an opt out for the high-stakes testing in 2014.  Testing, she says, is out of balance.

So far, at least, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has decided to insult suburban moms rather than listen to them, but he's not alone. DFER's Charlie Barone “just doesn’t see the groundswell of opposition against testing that FairTest and others claim to exist.”

But how would they? What actual contact with real schools do Duncan and Barone have? Of course, there is far too much testing.  As Diane Ravitch said to comedian John Stewart, "The status quo today is test, test, test, pretest, posttest, data.” The only way to deny the anger felt by parents, teachers, and students is to hypothesize that we are all suffering from a mass hallucination. 

The magazine also links to a previous article by a teacher, Ben Orlin, When Memorization Gets in the Way of Learning.   Orlin describes the destructive rote learning and cramming encouraged  high-stakes testing.  It is a reminder that as testing forces teachers to engage in more and more educational malpractice, the backlash is bound to grow.

-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Tests: Have They *Really* Proliferated (& Will Protests Matter)?

image from cdn.theatlantic.comMy new piece is just up over at the Atlantic education page, describing the spate of recent parent opt-outs.

Clearly, opt-outs and other forms of protest are on the rise to some extent, and have already had effects in a handful of places. But anecdotal reports don't mean that everybody hates testing (and even those who protest do so for very different reasons).

Teachers' concerns re tests being used for evaluations shouldn't be confused with parents' concerns about lost classroom time, for example.  

My biggest frustration reporting the story is that while there are lots of anecdotal reports of what seems like test proliferation there's no one I could find who's tracking the number of tests that states and districts are requiring so that we can see if the trend is up and if so how widespread it is. A little help, someone?

Just as frustrating, there's no accurate count of the percentage of parents who opt-out that districts, states, or anyone else is reporting -- though The Nation reports that the New York protests last spring amounted to just 1 percent of all parents. Again, some reliable numbers would be useful.

Thanks to experts like Bob Schaeffer, Anya Kamenetz, Tom Loveless, Charlie Barone, Michael Lomax, and the folks at Achieve and USDE for talking to me about the trend dynamics, as well as parents and teachers like Jesse Hagopian, Peggy Robertson, Liz Dwyer, Chris Thiennes, Rebecca Labowitz, and Deedra Barnes for talking to me about their opt-out experiences and everyone else who helped or offered to -- as well as Eleanor Barkhan and Julia Ryan for the helpful edits. Apologies to folks I didn't get to talk to (or whose best lines got left on the cutting room floor).

Previous posts: Either you’re against the Common Core or you’ve never heard of itThe Moral Complexities of Opting Out (Thompson).

Celebrating Veterans Day

image from www.coe.fau.edu
You're on your own this Veterans Day for news and gossip about education, though comments are open and I may lose my resolve and post some links later in the day.

It also might be worthwhile to ponder the day's meaning for education.

At first glance, there's not much connection between education and veterans. But look below the surface and there connections start to emerge:

There are veterans all around schools these days -- classroom teachers, administrators, clerical and classified staff, and of course parents.

There have been various "Troops to Teachers" kinds of programs for recent and long-ago veterans -- though I've heard mixed things.

Veterans can also be found in central offices -- sometimes even leading school districts (it was very popular to hire military veterans to head school systems).

I haven't yet many veterans among the current school reform movement leaders, or among the leaders of those who are opposed to these efforts.  

Who'm I missing?

Media: Who Leaked Deasy's "Resignation" (& Why It Didn't Work)

image from farm8.staticflickr.comWait, what just happened?  First embattled LAUSD superintendent John Deasy was resigning, then he's being re-upped -- for another two years?

The two main theories behind the last few days of tumult and rumor in LA are (a) that Deasy authorized a leak to scare the board into keeping him (and it nearly got out of hand) or (b) that Deasy opponents (most likely Mike Trujillo in Richard Vladovic's office) leaked the story to try and create momentum around an early Deasy departure.

So which was it and why didn't the leak work?

Continue reading "Media: Who Leaked Deasy's "Resignation" (& Why It Didn't Work)" »

Afternoon Video: Common Core Meets "Hot For Education" '05

Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 10.20.49 AM

There was an amusing exchange at about the 40 minute mark of the Hess / Knowles / Duncan Common Core confab yesterday in Chicago (pictured above left).

Coming onstage to join Knowles and Duncan, Hess expressed feigned unease at appearing with Knowles, who was named one of education's hottest advocates in 2005 (pictured above right).

Knowles' response? "You can see what happens in eight or ten years, right?"  

For the record, Hess was also suggested for Hot For Ed '05, but blogger Joanne Jacobs rejected the idea: "I've seen Rick Hess, and he's no Tim Knowles."

Click here for some local coverage or watch the video below.  I promised you a video, after all.

Continue reading "Afternoon Video: Common Core Meets "Hot For Education" '05" »

People: Gotta Love The Socks

Love the Common Core #CCSS or hate them (or somewhere in between), you gotta love David Coleman's colorful socks in the image accompanying the digital edition of my recent interview with him in Administrator Magazine (which sponsors this site):

Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 10.09.15 AM

There are also lots of other great images from the magazine, which I'm taking the liberty of posting here just for the fun of it, along with the full image of Coleman.

Continue reading "People: Gotta Love The Socks" »

Site News: Long Weekend - Back Tuesday



I'm taking the long weekend and will be back on Tuesday.

Of course, there have been and will be a few Tweets if you are really desperate (or compulsive, as I am). 

Everyone else is working, I'm sure -- so check your other blogs, too. 

See you Tuesday AM!

Image via Scholastic Administrator.

Media: First Look At The Atlantic's Education Page [@TheAtlanticEDU]

Good news-bad newsSo it's been a few days now since the Atlantic education page launched, and while others may have been paying closer attention (tell me!) I feel like I'm beginning to get the sense of what it's going to be all about (at least for now).

Edited by Eleanor Barkhorn (veteran Atlantic.com channel editor) and staffed by Julia Ryan (@julialeighryan), you can read the introductory explanation from Barkhorn here (Introducing The Atlantic's Education Channel) and get a look at a recent post by Ryan here (How Much Homework Do American Kids Do?). 

So far, at least, it's basically shaping up to be an all-education version of the site's National page, which has has long carried education reporting from EWA's Emily Richmond (What Makes a Great Teacher: Training? Experience? Intelligence? Grit?) and Hechinger. For a long list of posts I've written about or with Atlantic.com material in the past, click here.

But that's not all.  There's also education-related commentary, which was previously verboten on the National page, such as this post from Robert Pondiscio (Poor Students Need Homework). That could be great, if it's smart and edgy stuff, or could devolve if it becomes predictable or is full of just the most self-serving kinds of viewpoints (a la Huffington Post).  Look also for personal narratives such as this one ('I Don't Want My Children to Go to College').
My favorite piece so far has been Todd Tauber's rant on education's latest latecomers (When Media Companies Try to Become Education Companies), partly because of the topic and also because of Tauber's obvious familiarity with the field and willingness to do some reporting.  Crossed fingers for more of like that, though it may be hard or expensive to find people who can do that kind of work.

Continue reading "Media: First Look At The Atlantic's Education Page [@TheAtlanticEDU]" »

Update: Diverse NOLA Charter Opens, Duncan Nixes ELL Preference

Pile-of-books-1Remember that school in the works a couple of years ago in New Orleans, where the goal was to take some of the best elements of private progressive and structured charter schools and make a diverse environment?  

Its founder, Josh Denson, spoke at the time about how frustrated he was with the dominant (90/90/90) charter school model, and yet  “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.”

Well, the school, Bricolage, opened this year.  It's goals are to "launch a new kind of school - one that advances educational equity and creates innovators who change the world."  I wrote about it in my November 2012 Education Next piece, Diverse Charter Schools

Meantime, the USDE has apparently pressured another set of folks trying to explore the diverse charter schools idea against setting up a lottery preference based on ELL status.  

As reported in GothamSchools (Facing federal funding freeze, Success to nix lottery preference), the Success network has been told to give up its ELL priority or lose charter school startup funding.  

Other diverse charters, including Brooklyn Prospect and Community Roots, might not face such pressures since they're not replicating startups, but it's still a bad signal to send to schools trying to do something interesting and potentially very powerful (ie, find a sweet spot between charters and district schools).  Brooklyn Prospect has now grown into the high school years, as originally envisioned, and also is opening an elementary school starting with kindergarten this year.

According to the GothamSchools article, other charters with preferences for single-parent kids, autistic kids, and other priorities could soon be affected.  Ironically, the USDE ruling on the lottery issue will indirectly encourage/allow charters to serve larger percentages of white/affluent families.

I'm checking around to see if other schools in NY or other states are being affected.

So far, at least, Bricolage hasn't needed a weighted lottery. The first class's demographics are roughly 45 percent free lunch, slightly lower than the application and lottery yields. 



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.