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Charts: Time To Rethink [Teacher] Licensing?

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"Today, more than a quarter of American workers need a license to do their job, representing a fivefold increase relative to the 1950s," according to this recent Vox article. That's no surprise to anyone in education. We take licensing for granted. This chart has it coming in 3rd, after only health care and law, at about 60 percent of workers participating. However, licensing isn't all good. According to a new White House report, licensing can lead to higher prices for services & reduced opportunity for individuals (in the form of barriers to entry into a profession and the threat of license revocations based on student loan defaults in some states). Vox recommends state-level license review agencies and -- hah! -- bipartisan work at the federal level.  

Related posts:  19 States Adopting Tougher Licensing (2010); Helping New Teachers With The First Days Of School (Bruno).

Quotes: Defiance Or ADHD? Depends What Color The Kid Is

Quotes2White kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem. Black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn.

-- David Ramey, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State, quoted in Daily Beast via Vox (How schools push black students to the criminal justice system)

Morning Video: "TeacherCenter" Isn't Even Key & Peele's Best Education Sketch

TeacherCenter, the Key & Peele parody in which teachers are the subject of a SportsCenter-style show makes the obvious point that our society treats pro athletes much better than it does classroom teachers, delightfully imagining what it'd be like if things were very, very different. But it might not even be their best work on this topic. Some other favorite school-related Key & Peele segments on school bullying, substitute teachers (1 & 2), and inspirational speakers can be found here, here, here, and here. I think substitute teacher 1 (above) is my favorite. OK, now you can go. 

Morning Video: Let's Talk About Segregated Housing & Segregated Schools

Click "play" on this recent panel featuring TCF fellows Stefanie DeLuca and Halley Potter and L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy of CUNY discussing the nexus of race, housing, and education in America. 

According to TCF's Potter, "segregation in housing and schools are intimately linked, and that we need to consider strategies that address both problems." She also notes that integrating schools doesn't really go far enough if classrooms aren't integrated, too, and choice alone isn't probably enough without equitable access to information and other supports. 

Quotes: In NYC, Reformers Oppose Mayoral Control

Quotes2When a group professing to support education reform opposes mayoral control of schools, it calls into question what exactly it stands for.

--Wiley Norvell in NYT (Groups That Back Bloomberg’s Education Agenda Enjoy Success in Albany)

Morning Video: Black Students More Likely to Receive "Stigmatizing" SPED Labels

"The data shows that black students are often times two or three times more likely than white students to be identified, especially in the most stigmatizing categories such as emotional disturbance, mental retardation or intellectual disabilities and some other categories," said Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies. "They are underrepresented in categories like autism, and perhaps other categories like speech and language." (The Complicated Problem Of Race And Special Education.)

Thompson: Chris Barbic's Resignation & the Failure of School "Reform"

In 2009 and 2010, the contemporary school reform movement became the dog that caught the bus it was chasing. The Obama administration funded the entire corporate reform agenda. The wish list of market-driven reformers, test-driven reformers, and even the most ideological anti-union, teacher-bashers, became the law (in part or in totality) in 3/4ths of the states. Due to the Race to the Top, School Improvement Grants, and other innovations, competition-driven reformers, and corporate reform think tanks were granted the contracts that they claimed would reverse the effects of poverty. 

Now, ideology-driven reformers are supposed to be announcing the increases in student performance that their gold-plated reforms promised. Instead, across the nation, outcome-driven reformers are delivering excuses about their experiments’ disappointing results. Some are completely contradicting themselves, as they announce gains in graduation rates that are attributable to more counselors and student supports. Accountability hawks conveniently forget that they previously derided those old-fashioned, input-driven programs as artifacts of the education “status quo,” and its “low expectations.”

Some defeated reformers, like Michelle Rhee and Cami Anderson, remain blunt in blaming teachers and persons who disagree with them for the failure of schools that accept every student who walks in the door to produce significant gains. Others, like Kaya Henderson and the true believers in the New Orleans portfolio model, predict that early education and wraparound services will turn the toughest schools around. In doing so, these reformers forget how they previously condemned advocates of those policies as the problem.

Perhaps the most interesting spin was issued by Chris Barbic  when he resigned as the superintendent of the Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD). Chalkbeat Tennessee’s Daarel Burnette, in Chris Barbic, Founding Superintendent of State-Run Achievement School District, to Exit, explains that “Tennessee used more than 10 percent of its $500 million windfall in federal education funds to launch the ASD. Those funds, which arrived through the Race to the Top competition to spur education policy changes, have now disappeared.” Moreover, the legislature has made a number of efforts to shift gears away from Barbic’s and the ASD’s approach to school improvement.

Continue reading "Thompson: Chris Barbic's Resignation & the Failure of School "Reform"" »

Morning Video: Teachers As Free Agents, Paid Based On Test Scores

Here's a Key & Peele sendup of SportsCenter in which teachers are highly-paid free agents who are wooed from one school to another based on salaries partly based on test scores. Includes a horrifyingly realistic in-video ad promoting BMWs for teachers.  Via Toppo

Morning Videos: Teacher Heroes, White People, Bluetooth Teacher Coaching

Gov. Jindal praises heroic teachers - via Washington Post. Or, here's a new MTV documentary called "White People" by (undocumented) documentary filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas in which young folks talk about what it's like being white. Read about it here in NY Mag:

 

Are folks doing this with white educators, I hope? Please fill me in. 

Or, watch KIPP's Dave Levin talk about the now-controversial program in which teachers are given instructions/ideas via earbud to help improve classroom teaching:

Via Washington Post / Valerie Strauss

AM News: Teachers Probably Saved Lives In Louisiana Shooting

After Lafayette theater shooting, union chief praises teachers NOLA.com: About 20 minutes into The Grand 16's showing of the film "Trainwreck" on Thursday night (July 24), gunman John Russell Houser stood up and began firing into the crowd, wounding Martin, Meaux and seven others and killing two more, authorities said. But one teacher jumped up to cover the other, and managed to pull the fire alarm to alert emergency responders, Weingarten said.See also Atlantic/EWAWashington PostPhilly.com.

Some Common Core tests are getting shorter. What are they losing? Hechinger Report: After a rough spring testing season, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two state consortia tapped by the federal government to develop tests tied to the Common Core educational standards, is making big changes to its tests, which were administered to over five million students across 11 states and the District of Columbia this year.

Missouri Law Can’t Block Scholarships for Undocumented Immigrant Students Kansas City-Star:  In a memo sent Thursday to college presidents, chancellors and directors, Missouri Department of Higher Education Commissioner David Russell said language in the title or preamble of a recently passed higher education appropriations bill “has no legal authority to withhold scholarship awards from otherwise eligible students.” 

Carnegie Mellon project revives failed inBloom dream to store and analyze student data Hechinger Report: LearnSphere, a new $5 million federally-funded project at Carnegie Mellon University, aims to become “the biggest open repository of education data” in the world, according to the project leader, Ken Koedinger.

Why a Fight in Massachusetts Over Kindergarten Funding Is Getting Ugly Slate: While Massachusetts has a long way to go, access to early childhood education is indeed slowly expanding in many nearby areas. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push for universal pre-kindergarten continues with the announcement that preschool teachers at community-based early childhood centers, including day cares—who generally earn less than teachers

New GAO Report: Teacher Prep Programs Lack Performance Data PK12: Seven states ignored the federal higher education law's requirement to identify "at risk" and "low performing" teacher programs, some of them blatantly.

City Invalidates Test Scores of Third Graders at Harlem School NYT: The Education Department invalidated the results of the state exam taken by third graders amid allegations of testing improprieties by the principal of the Teachers College Community School. See also WNYC, NY Post.

What Do We Value More: Young Kids Or Fast Food? NPR: New York state recently announced an increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers, to $15 an hour. It's the fruit of a three-year labor campaign. But there's another group of workers out there that hasn't had a real wage increase in decades. Right now, at preschool programs around the country, teachers are tapping infinite reserves of patience to keep the peace among children at various stages of development and need. They're also providing meals, wiping noses and delivering a curriculum in math and reading that will get the kids ready for school. And there are hugs. Lots of hugs.

Quotes: Does State Trooper Encinia Remind You Of Anyone?

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"Replace Sandra Bland with a twelve-year-old girl. Replace the lit cigarette with chewing gum. Replace the car with a desk. Replace the state trooper with a teacher."
 

- The Synapse (White Educators: Do You Recognize State Trooper Encinia?)

AM News: NEA Ponders Timing, Selection Of Clinton -- Or Sanders

Who Will the NEA Endorse for President, Clinton or Sanders -- & When? TeacherBeat: Hillary Clinton, obviously, is the odds-on favorite for NEA pick. But consider this: At the NEA meeting this summer, by far the loudest delegate cheer went to Bernie Sanders, when the names of the three Democratic candidates interviewed by NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia were announced. And officially, the NEA has been utterly silent about its endorsement plans. In a way, though, the "who" question is the wrong one to ask. The right question is whether the union can even get a primary endorsement together at all while it still matters.

In New White House Bid, Clinton Embraces Race as a Top Issue AP: At multiple stops in South Carolina, Clinton on Thursday bemoaned "mass incarceration," an uneven economy, increasingly segregated public schools and poisoned relations between law enforcement and the black community.

Judges Revive Claim that AT&T Overcharged Schools for Internet Service ProPublica: The little-noticed June 23 ruling concluded that the complaint by Todd Heath was properly filed under the U.S. False Claims Act – a decision that could lead to the disclosure of AT&T’s internal records about the federal program known as E-Rate. AT&T said then, and reaffirmed in a recent email to ProPublica, that it complies with the requirement that it charge such customers what is known as the “lowest corresponding price.”

Pool for Unassigned Teachers Swells in Newark Wall Street Journal: The pool swelled recently due to the cyclical flux between school years; many teachers are expected to find jobs in the fall. Many teachers, however, are there because they balked at longer hours in schools slated for overhauls. Under a union-district agreement, teachers joined the pool if they didn’t agree to a stipend, typically $3,000, for working about an hour more daily, several Saturdays and two weeks in the summer. A union spokesman said some who kept to contract hours and left at 3:05 p.m. were derided by other staffers as “Three-oh-fivers.”

Seven States Get NCLB Waiver Renewals, Including Opt-Out Friendly Oregon PK12: Alaska, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, and Utah can keep their flexibility from mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, no matter what happens with a pending rewrite of the law.

Pearson’s Fallon Seen Turning to Education Deals After FT Sale Bloomberg Business: Pearson Plc’s sale of the Financial Times newspaper to Japanese publisher Nikkei Inc. clears the way for the U.K. company to pursue acquisitions in educational publishing.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: NEA Ponders Timing, Selection Of Clinton -- Or Sanders" »

Books: Hey, Leave Those Low-Scoring High Schools Alone!

 
It tells the story of Mission High, which has apparently enjoyed great success despite challenging circumstances -- including the possibility of being closed thanks (indirectly) to federal education law focused narrowly on test scores rather than other metrics:


"Based on four years of reporting with unprecedented access, the unforgettable, intimate stories in these pages throw open the doors to America’s most talked about—and arguably least understood—public school classrooms where the largely invisible voices of our smart, resilient students and their committed educators can offer a clear and hopeful blueprint for what it takes to help all students succeed."

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven't read the book yet, but longtime readers may recall that I critiqued the Mother Jones article Rizga wrote and the accompanying KQED feature that ran in 2012.
 
At that time, I wrote a post titled Everything You Read In That Mother Jones Article Is Wrong that praised Rizga for her writing but not for her fairness in terms of characterizing federal efforts to encourage districts to revamp schools that didn't appear to be doing well by students. I also suggested that Mission High might be something of an outlier, in terms of the apparent mismatch between test scores and other measures.
 
For the new book, there are blurbs from Dave Eggers, Jeff Chang, Dana Goldstein, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and LynNell Hancock. The book officially launches August 15.

Morning Video: New Teachers, Job Prospects, Minority Retention

Here's last night's PBS NewsHour segment on teacher supply and demand, which describes how 200,000 newly-minted teacher education graduates might fare in the job marketplace. (The piece quotes the 40 percent/5 year departure statistic we've long seen for new teachers, though I thought that new research suggested that number might not be as high as we've been told.)

"If and when they do get hired, chances are at least 40 percent of them will leave teaching in the first five years. "

According to Ingersoll, the profession has become even more female-dominated, and minority teachers have doubled but have higher quit rates (largely due to the kinds of schools and districts into which they are hired).

Charts: How Much Did That Free Excellent Neighborhood School Cost You?

Screen shot 2015-07-21 at 3.10.01 PM

This Matt Yglesias article and accompanying chart are going around today. In the piece, the Vox honcho makes the case -- too simplistically, according to some like Chalkbeat's Maura Walz -- that the housings costs of homes near high-performing public schools (top right quadrant) make them inaccessible to many middle- and low-income families, and that there are strong disincentives to letting more people live in those areas or dis-connecting school assignment and housing. Chart by Ginger Moored via Vox.

Quotes: Unions, Conservatives Making Belated Alliance Over Local Control

Quotes2The unions and the Republicans have spent so many years thinking of each other as enemies that they have been slow to recognize their alliance, and some of them have flinched uncomfortably from it. But the logic of the alliance has made itself increasingly evident. 

- NY Mag's Jonathtan Chait (The Principle That United GOP, Teachers Unions)

Morning Video: Packnett & Mckesson Win TFA Social Justice Activism Award

Here's the promo video for Brittany Packnett and Deray McKesson, two TFA alumni who have been extremely involved in social justice activism since last year's Ferguson protests. They received TFA's Peter Jennings award for their leadership at a TFA event last week. Video provided by TFA. They were also on WNYC and NPR's On The Media last week.

All of a sudden, the reform movement doesn't seem so left behind on social justice issues as it did a year or two ago (though it still has a long way to go).

Related posts: McKesson Invited To Clinton Campaign EventConservatives Critique/Elevate AFT Alum/Activist.

Numbers: Uptick In Violent Deaths & Threatened Teacher Reports At School

"According to new federal crime statistics, there were 32 violent deaths at elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. from July 2010 to June 2011 – the smallest number in almost two decades," notes SI&A Cabinet report (Crime stats show troubling trend at nation’s schools). "But the following year ending in June 2012 – the most recent year for which data is available – a total of 45 deaths were recorded."

The report also notes that "the percentage of teachers who said they had been threatened with attack – or actually attacked – by a student  has been slowly increasing since 2003 when less than 4 percent reported being physically attacked and about 6 percent reported being threatened."

I'm sure we'll see other numbers and interpretations of this information over the next few days.

 

Movies: New Montclair Documentary Avoids Simplistic Hero/Villain Approach

Got away
If and when you get the chance, be sure to check out a new documentary, "The One That Got Away," which explores the challenges facing low-income families, schools that serve them, and social services systems -- in a more balanced and thoughtful way than many other films of this kind.
 
There's no trailer yet, not even a website or social media, but the flyer for the documentary, screened earlier this year at the Montclair Film Fest (where it's based) and last night at Scholastic in Manhattan (thanks, Tyler!), promises a pretty dramatic story: "Once president of his middle school; now behind bars. The One That Got Away tells the true story of Tourrie Moses, a once-highly promising New Jersey student from a troubled background who is now in prison for murder, and a profoundly devoted team of teachers who tried to help him thrive." 
 
And indeed the film tells an intense, vivid tale. The interviews with Tourrie's mother, who's struggled with heroin addiction, and his strict but loving father, who says he spent roughly 20 years in and out of prison, are particularly challenging to watch. 

But the most interesting and helpful aspect to the film is how it describes a situation in which there are no black-and-white heroes or villains, and no bright or artificial line between parents, school, and social services agencies tasked with supporting families and children in tough circumstances.  

 
It's not the school, or the teacher, or the kid, or society. It's all of them. 
 
As depicted in the film, the educators at Glenfield Middle School are incredibly concerned and dedicated but are using an ad hoc warning system of supports and interventions. Ditto for the high school educators who try and fail to get Moses through a delicate transition from middle school despite his social services case having been formally closed. The parents are both flawed but by no means unloving or entirely absent. Tourrie (known to his family as Ray Ray) is intensely charismatic and eager to learn but unable to hold onto his connections to his teachers and his father over the reliable if limited lure of the streets.
 
In capturing these overlapping roles and dynamics, the film raises both structural societal issues (racism, inequality) and issues of personal and individual effort. But neither society nor the individual is given responsibility for the outcome in this film. It's shared. 
 
(And, blessedly, there's nothing in the film about Common Core, standardized testing, teacher evaluation, charter schools, the Gates Foundation, or any of the other obsessions of the current era. )
 
There are some issues I had with the documentary, including some heavy-handed interviewing (especially in a scene about drug addiction), and a front porch group interview with former classmates that's not as useful or enlightening as intended.
 
And, while the educators and social services agency staffers who are interviewed express deep regret and renewed vigilance against a repeat of systemic failures, it's not entirely clear to me that they've given up their ad hoc approach (based on personal relationships) and replaced it with a more reliable warning and intervention system. 
 
This film will raise awareness of the problems facing schools serving kids like Tourrie but I'm not as confident as I'd like to be that a similar tragedy couldn't be happening again right now.
 

Quotes: Endorsements (& Campaign Speeches) May Not Matter

Quotes2In 2008, Clinton and Barack Obama both kept their positions on education reform as vague as possible throughout, to the point where neither the reformers or their opponents had any idea which camp would prevail until Obama named his Education Secretary.

- NY Mag's Jonathan Chait (Will Hillary Clinton Continue Education Reform?)

Morning Video: AT AFT Conference, Goldstein Compares Reform Efforts To "Moral Panic"

 

Not everyone will go so far as writer Dana Goldstein does here, comparing the current school reform era to a "moral panic," in a talk given at the AFT's TEACH15, but it's still a useful and interesting talk from earlier this week. You can also watch segments featuring Jose Vilson, Wes Moore, David Kirp, and WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza.

Quotes: AFT Head Pledges To Reconnect With Members

Quotes2Ultimately, what we've learned is you have to have a real, ongoing re-commitment with your members... You have to walk the walk. You have to engage with them... The change here is to have an enduring relationship.

- AFT head Randi Weingarten in HuffPost (Teachers' Union Girds For Supreme Court Setback, Pledges To Grow Membership)

Campaign 2016: Not So Fast (Or Far) On The Reform Rollback Bandwagon

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The divide within the Democratic party is endlessly fascinating and especially notable this week during which we see civil rights groups and teachers unions divide over the rewrite of NCLB.

In National Journal (Senate Democrats Scramble to Avoid a Split on Education Bill),Fawn Johnson notes that unions and civil-rights groups "may end up on opposite sides." If things end up that way, it could "severely weaken [Democratic members'] bargaining leverage in a conference committee with the House." Reading the NEA quotes in the piece, it would seem that the teachers union is feeling pretty strong right now.

Meanwhile, the Democratic divide looks to affect the Presidential campaign as well.  Last month in TNR (Hillary Clinton's Education Policy), Conor Williams notes what many others have said before: "there’s evidence that a Clinton Administration would mean a substantial departure from [Obama administration] reforms." Candidate Clinton has sought to straddle these differences, but as Williams notes there is more money and more momentum behind the reform critics and their backers. 
 
However, it's worth remembering that for a time in 2008 some progressives thought that Obama was their man thanks in large part to his much-touted but ultimately meaningless support for Chicago's local school councils. (A bit of history that's often forgotten but I happened to write about.) It's hard to imagine candidate Clinton or her team locking into education policy positions unless it absolutely has to -- or necessarily keeping promises made once the election is passed.
 
All this to say: Notwithstanding the outcome of the ESEA rewrite effort and the liberal surge of 2014-205 and all the rest, reform critics and teachers unions are in a mixed situation right now -- newly resurgent and powerful within education circles but somewhat embattled in the larger political world. They are too smart to say it publicly, but they don't have unfettered leverage over Democratic candidates and elected officials despite the current zeitgeist in EducationLand.  

Morning Video: Ta-Nehisi Coates' New Book, Plus Emanuel In Aspen

In this Atlantic video short, Ta-Nehisi Coates reads a short passage from his new book, Between the World and Me. Read an extended excerpt, "A Letter to My Son," here.

Or, watch Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and UofC's Tim Knowles talk education at the Aspen Ideas Festival (in which he claims no great admiration for school reform).

Update: Despite Progress, Many LGBT Educators Still Feel "Stuck In A Time Capsule"

As you may recall, Screenshot 2015-07-08 13.54.29I got a lot of resistance last week when I posted about how behind the times schools and K-12 education organizations seemed to be to me on the LGBT front (On Equality, Education Has A Long Way To Go).

No, not Rick Hess-level pushback, but a lot of silent, awkward, and WTF vibes.

It's not hard to understand why. Many educators and education activists consider themselves progressive, and were elated about the Supreme Court gay marriage decision.

Talking about the plight of LGBT kids in schools was one thing - but why was I asking where all the LGBT education leaders/role models were to be found? 

In particular, my asking around about education leaders who were already serving as LGBT role models was responded to as if I was threatening to out people (which I would never do) or as if I was bringing up something that was a non-issue (like race?).

One PR professional responded to my question whether there were any senior staffers serving as LGBT role models with a straight-out "Why?" EdWeek's Evie Blad noted that listing LGBT edleaders seemed to her "a little problematic... Better way might be acknowledging that data dsn't exist." 

Fair enough. I get the concern.  But since then, I've gotten a lot of support for raising the issue -- and learned a ton about educators who are also LGBT. 

First off, it seems clear that LGBT educators are still struggling with how to come out to their colleagues and students without endangering themselves professionally. Look at some recent headlines: Oregon's Teacher of the Year spoke openly about being gay — and then he was firedJamestown NY appoints WNY’s first gay school superintendentThe Plight of Being a Gay TeacherI’m a Gay, African-American [Male] Teacher, and Proud of ItHow this LGBTQ teacher turned his deepest shame into his strongest assetAn LGBT Educator Who’s Not Too Proud to Keep Fighting. If there are more/better accounts of what it's like to be an LGBT educator, please let me know.

The Broad Center's Becca Bracy Knight tweeted that "almost all LGBT district superintendents who I've met feel they cannot be open about who they are - it's a real problem."

According to that first article, a big part of the problem is that we all apparently think that LGBT people are protected at work but -- surprise! -- they're not. That's why there are so few LGBT teachers, principals, administrators, and leaders who are out to their students and colleagues.

Or, as one recent writer put it, "in my 18 years in education, I have witnessed many of our LGBT teachers hide deep in the closet.... You would think we were stuck in a time capsule."

And not everyone is as out as you may think they are. Though it's hard to believe, a week ago Friday marked the first time Diane Ravitch publicly announced she was gay, according to Jewish Week. A handful of education folks whose LGBT status might seem to be public knowledge (widely assumed within the education community) declined to be identified as such when I reached out to them or their organizations.
 
That doesn't mean everyone's still closeted. My growing but small list of openly LGBT educator/education role models includes AFT's Randi Weingarten, former Chicago head Ron Huberman, NYU's Diane Ravitch, Portland's Carole Smith, US Rep. Mark Takano, NEA head Lily Eskelsen García's son. Please let me know more/others who would like to be listed. Do any readers of this blog identify as LGBT?

The USDE might be leading the way on the LGBT front, not only putting up its lovely #LoveWins avatar (first brought to my attention via PoliticsK-12 in Arne Duncan Celebrates Supreme Court Ruling) but also with its host of senior officials who are proudly serving as LGBT role models: Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, who is married and has children with his husband (and grandchildren),  Senior Adviser Steven Hicks is married. Senior Adviser Ruthanne Buck is in a long-term relationship and has two children with her partner. Other out senior officials at ED include Deputy Under Secretary Jeff Appel and Assistant Secretary for Management Andrew Jackson, who are both in long-term relationships.

I, too, yearn for a world in which someone's orientation/self-identification isn't an issue that requires talking about. But until we get there the more folks who are out and public about it -- and the more we talk about it -- the better. Silence = the status quo. There's obviously a long way to go. I'm excited about getting there. 

Education folks to tweet with about LGBT education issues: @EvieBlad @GLSENResearch @jesslif @GLSEN @JennBinis @DrDebTemkin @KJennings @twrightmu.

People: TFA's Behind-The-Scenes Hostage Rescue Effort

Tfakipp foley
Even if you already knew that slain journalist Jim Foley had been a TFA alum you might have been surprised to read about TFA (and KIPP) involvement behind the scenes in the efforts to secure his release in this week's New Yorker story The Families Who Negotiated with ISIS. Among those mentioned are Wendy Kopp, Amy Rosen (Newark KIPP), and April Goble (Chicago KIPP), who is identified as Foley's former girlfriend:

"Bradley kept adding people to the team, paying their travel expenses, and often a salary as well. He installed two young researchers in cubicles in the Watergate office. He recruited a former Syrian diplomat, now known as Noor Azar, who had gone into exile after the revolution. Meanwhile, April Goble, Foley’s ex-girlfriend, worked with eleven volunteers from Teach for America, looking for inroads into the Syrian regime."

There may have been hints of this effort on social media, such as this 2013 tweet I sent out (but had forgotten): "Friends of kidnapped freelance photographer James Foley TFA '96 are organizing to secure his release from Syria." The link goes to the Free Jame Foley FB page. 

The confusing and alienating behavior of the US government in support of the hostage families and their friends has been a big topic in the news recently, and the Obama administration recently announced changes in its policies that would give families more information and free them from threats of prosecution for arranging for their loved ones' release (including through payment of ransoms).

Related posts: NYT's annual memorial "The Lives They Lived" includes profile of TFA alum James Foley

Thompson: Remembering The Full Horror of "Death at an Early Age"

Screenshot 2015-07-07 11.33.30
Thanks to Alexander and NPR's Claudio Sanchez for reminding us of the 50th anniversary of the firing of Jonathan Kozol for "curriculum deviation."

Everyone should (re)read this book. 

Rather than immediately using it to discuss the ways that education and racism has and has not changed in the last half century, we should first focus on the horror of Death at an Early Age.

Kozol was a substitute teacher in a class of 8th grade girls who were designated as "problem students" because they either had "very low intelligence" or were "emotionally disturbed."  In a 133-word sentence, Kozol recalls his reading of Langston Hughes's "The Landlord."

No transistor radios reappeared or were turned on during that next hour and, although some children interrupted me a lot to quiz me about Langston Hughes, where he was born, whether he was rich, whether he was married, and about poetry, and about writers, and writing in general, and a number of other things that struck their fancy, and although it was not a calm or orderly or, above all, disciplined class by traditional definition and there were probably very few minutes in which you would be able to hear a pin drop or hear my reading uninterrupted by the voices of one or another of the girls, at least I did have their attention and they seemed, if anything, to care only too much about the content of that Negro poet's book.

In subsequent years, most of the students forgot the poet's name, but they remembered the names of his poems and "They remember he was Negro."

Kozol was fired, his students' parents protested, and the career of a masterful education writer began. The details of the dismissal, however, are also noteworthy.

Continue reading "Thompson: Remembering The Full Horror of "Death at an Early Age"" »

Charts: Teaching Candidates Come From Less Wealthy Families

Who studies education

This chart from a recent Atlantic story about rich kids studying English seems to be a good reminder that those students who enter teaching as undergraduates tend to come from families with less income than those who study, say, English. I'm not sure if this has changed much in the last 10 years. Anyone know more?

Thompson: We Need a Marshall Plan for Schools and Prisons

I grew up in the post-World War II era known as "Pax Americana." We all knew that our ambitious New Deal/Fair Deal era policies, ranging from G.I. Bill to the rebuilding of Europe with the help of the Marshall Plan, were not perfect. But, we knew in our bones that tomorrow would be better than today. Government and social science would both play a role in the campaigns to expand the promise of America to all.

The Marshall Project's Eli Hager, in What Prisons Can Learn from Schools, pulls two incredibly complicated social problems together in a concise and masterful synthesis. Hager's insights are deserving of a detailed analysis. This post will merely take a first step towards an explanation of why Democrats and liberals, especially, must heed his wisdom.

School and prison reform are both deeply rooted in the Reaganism and the lowered horizons of the 1980s. The defeat of the "guns and butter" approach to the Vietnam War demonstrated the limits of our power. The Energy Crisis of 1973, along with a decade and a half of falling or stagnant wages, was somehow blamed on liberalism. The U.S. entered the emerging global marketplace without the confidence that had marked our previous decades, meaning that we were more preoccupied with surviving competition than building community. 

Americans lowered our horizons. As Hager explains, we were loath to tackle the legacies to the "overwhelming unfairnesses of history."  So, we broke off schools and prisons into separate "silos," and sought less expensive solutions for their challenges. We rejected the social science approach to tackling complex and interconnected social problems that were rooted in poverty. Our quest for cheaper and easier solutions would soon coincide with the rise of Big Data as a substitute for peer reviewed research in service to a Great Society.

Continue reading "Thompson: We Need a Marshall Plan for Schools and Prisons" »

Gay Marriage: On Equality, Education Has A Long Way To Go*

So you rainbowed your Facebook profile. Good for you. Now let's think a minute about where things actually stand in the education world when it comes to equal treatment of people who identify as LBGT:

ED gov rainbow (1)

1 -- Gay and trans principals and teachers still get beat up or mistreated in other ways in schools, as of course do too many students. A NC teacher recently resigned after reading a fairy tale about gay princes to his class of third graders. A Georgia superintendent came out as gay and had his computer and phone confiscated for possible "misuse" (using Grindr).

2 -- There are few district superintendents who are openly gay, and none to my knowledge who are openly partnered or married. Mayor Daley's final 2009 appointee at head of Chicago schools, Ron Haberman, was revealed to be gay only after his appointment had been finalized. As of 2009, I could find only one other openly gay superintendent (Portland's Carole Smith). Are there many more since then? 

3 -- AFT head Randi Weingarten is one of very few national education leaders (union heads, think tankers, advocates, pundits, researchers) who is out, though there are a few up-and-coming thinkers and doers who seem to be out. Ditto for education reporters, funders, etc.

*UPDATE: A few folks wrote in to remind me to add Diane Ravitch, NEA President Lily Eskelin's son, Nev. state superintendent Dale Erquiaga, a Jamestown NY superintendent, and Rep. Mark Takano.

This is just to say that education has a long way to go before it's as progressive and open as it might hope to be, and that the situation on the ground -- in schools, board meetings, at conferences, etc. -- still seems remarkably outdated and straight given all the progress that's being made in the courts and to some extent in media coverage. 

Related posts: Asteroids, Gay Dinosaurs, Extinction!; Gay Superintendent -- But No Gay High School (2009); Gay-Bashing Arkansas School Board Member Apologizes, Resigns (2010); Learning From The Gay Rights Movement (2012);  More Lessons From The 2012 Gay Equality Campaign (2013), Image via USDE.

Morning Video: Up Close With NYC's Chancellor Farina

 

She's not quite the national figure that Joel Klein was -- for better and worse -- but NYC's mayoral appointee Carmen Farina has just wrapped up the school year and was doing the rounds touting recent accomplishments and addressing top NYC issues.

Or, check out this MSNBC clip in which Melissa Harris-Perry expresses unease with President Obama's handling of a trans heckler, or Rachel Maddow warning that the SCOTUS gay marriage ruling doesn't mean as much as you may think it does. Both via Medialite.

Quotes: AFT Pushes Progressive Issues (Where Are Reform Leaders?)

There are many other vendors and partners who provide the same services as Change.org, and that are also aligned with our values and goals. In this case, that allows us to keep our business with firms that aren’t working to undermine our members and the communities they serve. - Randi Weingarten in Think Progress (What’s Changing At Change.org?)

Morning Video: Fox News Sunday Features Common Core's Laura Slover

PARCC's Laura Slover on Fox News Sunday. Click the link if the video doesn't display properly. Via Diane Ravitch.

Thompson: What Does New Orleans Test Score Growth Really Mean?

Let’s recall the excitement in 2007 when Bruce Fuller, Katheryn Gesicki, Erin Kang, and Joseph Wright published Is the No Child Left Behind Act Working?  Fuller et. al showed that NAEP test score growth had largely declined after NCLB took effect, but states reported huge gains on their standardized tests. Oklahoma, for instance, posted a 48 point gap between its 4th grade reading NCLB scores and its NAEP results. After NCLB, the state’s 4th grade reading scores increased 2.3% per year while its NAEP results dropped by .3 per year.

Fuller’s blockbuster was a definitive indictment of the reliability of state NCLB test scores; it even got the test-loving Education Trust to question whether bubble-in accountability was working. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before testing received a unanimous verdict as guilty of being a hopelessly misleading metric. I thought the idea that state test score growth, during an age of test-driven accountability, could stand alone as evidence of increased learning would soon be discredited. 

While I must emphasize how much I admire the work of Douglas Harris, I’m dismayed by one passage in his report on the New Orleans model of reform, The Urban Education of the Future?. I’ve got no problem with Harris et. al reporting that New Orleans increased student performance, as measured by Louisiana’s embarrassingly primitive state tests, by .2 to .45 std. It is a scholar’s responsibility to report such data. However, why would Harris speak as if he assumes that those numbers mean anything? They might mean something or they might not, but certainly they don’t provide evidence that New Orleans portfolio model has increased student performance more than early education would have. 

Even when they are valid, test scores measure a narrow band of skills and knowledge.  They rarely or never reveal what information was retained by a student, or what went into one of a student’s ears and out the other. Neither are NCLB-type test scores likely to say much about whether any alleged learning was meaningful. So, I have been searching for a metaphor to illustrate why test scores, alone, during a time of test-driven accountability, can’t be used to argue that a pedagogy that focuses on raising objective outputs is more effective than early education or any other approach to holistic learning. 

NFL running backs share a lot of athletic skills with their counterparts in rugby. So, what would we say about a quantitative analysis estimating that football halfbacks are .2 to .45 std more effective in racking up the metrics (yardage, scoring etc.) on NFL fields than Australian rugby runners would be in competing in the American game under our rules and referees? Wouldn’t the response be, Well Duh!?

Continue reading "Thompson: What Does New Orleans Test Score Growth Really Mean?" »

Quotes: Anderson Laments Inadequate Response To Misinformation

Quotes2We were constantly having to repair and undo and clarify facts... It is incredible to me how misinformation gets spread so effectively. Our response to combat that could have been better. We underestimated that.

- Cami Anderson in the NYT (Schools Chief in Newark Says Debate Lost Its Focus)

Quotes: Ravitch Explains Her 2012 Vote For Obama Over Romney

Quotes2I don’t regret voting for him on 2012. He made great choices for the Supreme Court. On education, however, his administration is hardly different from that of any Republican, including Romney... Their only difference was vouchers, yet even here both Obama and Duncan have done nothing and said nothing to stop the proliferation of vouchers. - Ravitch on Obama administration from earlier this month (Stop Defaming Teachers!)

Morning Video: Howard Fuller Reflects On #NOLAed

"Some attendees were opponents who questioned the reforms. But far louder was the self-questioning by the very people who championed the changes." (Success at what cost? New Orleans education reformers discuss the revolution via Times Picayune).  Click the link if the video doesn't load. 

Or watch and read all about Icahn Charter in NYC -- second to Success Academy but rarely in the press. Reason via ChalkbeatNY.

Afternoon Reading: Charters, Unionization, & The Annenberg Standards

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Kudos to Rachel M. Cohen [@rmc031] for her American Prospect piece about charter school unionization (When Charters Go Union), which is a timely update on a small but important issue no matter which side of the reform/critic divide you happen to occupy.

As Cohen lays them out, the challenges to both unions and charter advocates are pretty clear:

Traditional unions are grappling with how they can both organize charter teachers and still work politically to curb charter expansion. Charter school backers and funders are trying to figure out how to hold an anti-union line, while continuing to market charters as vehicles for social justice. 

The piece also helpfully explains the teachers unions' recent turn towards a dual strategy of critiquing low-performing charters (especially for-profit ones) via the Annenberg Standards while also embarking on a series of organizing efforts:

Beginning in 2007 and 2008, the AFT set up a national charter-organizing division, and today has organizers in seven cities: L.A., Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, and Philadelphia. 

Like me, you have heard a bit about the Annenberg Standards for charter schools but not really known what they are or how they were being advanced. You may be surprised to learn that NACSA -- the association of authorizers comes out as more critical of them than NAPCS, the association of charter operators.  (Usually it's the other way around when it comes to quality and accountability issues.)  

And Cohen addresses the awkwardness for some teachers thinking about being represented by an organization that has previously seemed to deride their work and impact. She quotes on LA charter school teacher opposed to unionization:

How could I support a union that for the last ten years spent a good portion of their time attacking our right to exist?... They’ve spent the last ten years both supporting anti-charter school board members and fighting in Sacramento against what we do.

This tension remains or even grows with the unions' interest in promoting new legislation that would limit charter expansion.  And Cohen addresses that too. 

There's even a nice mention for Green Dot's unionized network of charters and the evolution of the relationship between UTLA and AMU -- gotta love that (especially if you wrote a book about Locke High School).

That's not to say that there aren't issues with the piece, however:

For starters, the evidence for the impact of unionization on student achievement (what little there is) is pushed to the bottom of the story when ideally it would have been touched on at the top (at least, right?). Readers should know early on that unionization or its absence doesn't seem to make a dramatic difference when it comes to student outcomes. 

Depth-wise, there aren't very many voices from principals and administrators who've worked with unionized charter teachers -- really just one at the end -- or really from teachers who've been at unionized charters for a long while. So we hear from lots of charter teachers talking about organizing (generally in positive terms) but get very little sense of what it's like working with unionized staff over the long haul.

It's perhaps a minor complaint but there's little or nothing until the very end of the piece about the difficulties that organizers have encountered in New York City when it comes to unionized charters (and no mention at all of the a well-publicized situation in which teachers at KIPP AMP voted to join the union then changed their minds). I'd be interested to learn more about organizing efforts that haven't panned out, and why.

Last but not least, Cohen resorts to speculation when it comes to describing the non-academic benefits of unionization, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining effective teachers.  If unionization doesn't dramatically affect student achievement one way or the other, does it at least attract more qualified teachers or increase retention? It's not clear.  Cohen speculates that it does but I could imagine it working both ways.

Still, it's a fascinating and helpful piece, over all, and I recommend it highly. 

Table: Smaller, Lower-Scoring Districts Had Higher Opt-Out Rates In NY

image from www.brookings.eduSo Brookings' Matt Chingos took a look at the available opt-out data for New York State, and then combined it with demographic information and 2014 test score results (Who opts out of state tests?).

What he found includes both the obvious ("relatively affluent districts tend to have higher opt-out rates," and "larger districts tend to have lower opt-out rates.") and the more surprising ("districts with lower test scores have higher opt-out rates after taking socioeconomic status into account.")

Why would lower-scoring districts have higher opt out rates, controlling for demographics?

According to Chingos, it might be "district administrators encouraging opt-outs in order to cover up poor performance, districts focusing on non-tested subjects to satisfy parents who care less about standardized tests, and parents becoming more skeptical of the value of tests when their children do not score well."

However, there's not enough data to determine whether lower- or higher-scoring students tended to opt out at higher or lower rates, notes Chingos. "It could be the higher-scoring students in those districts that are doing the opting out."

Quotes: And Now, A Word From President Clinton's Education Secretary

Quotes2We’re kind of in a testing era in the United States... If you have a problem, throw a test at it.

- Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond in the NY Times (Tougher Teacher Licensing Exams and a Question of Racial Discrimination)

Update: Deray McKesson Invited To Clinton Campaign Event

Last week's post about Deray McKesson ended with a question: "Which public official or candidate for office will try and get in a photo with him next? 

Sure enough, the Clinton campaign invited the TFA alum/social activist to her event over the weekend: 

McKesson supporters -- and perhaps TFA-hating Clinton allies, too -- might be reassured that the speech didn't wow him:

"I heard a lot of things. And nothing directly about black folk. Coded language won't cut it."

Related posts: Conservatives Critique/Elevate AFT Alum/Activist.

Campaign 2016: Like Obama, Clinton Writes Excuse Notes

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"If you have to miss school, make sure you have a note." Hillary Clinton Facebook page via Jenn Bluestein.

This will soon get old, but not yet. There were some Obama examples of the "candidate excuse note" way back in 2008, longtime readers will recall -- and to be sure examples before that we don't know about because there was no Twitter. 

Related posts: Excuse Note From Obama Doesn't Convince School Officials (2008); Obama Writes Excuse Note -- Again (2008); Another Obama School Excuse Note (2102).

Where's All The Ed-Related Conversation About #RachelDolezal?

Has someone prominent been revealed to have been "passing" as black in education? Not that I know of. But I can't believe it hasn't happened -- and even if it hasn't, race and privilege are everywhere in education. 

And so I'm sad to note that there's surprisingly little being said so far about Rachel Dolezal among the education folks I follow on Twitter and Facebook, and via Feedly.

That seems like a shame. It's an opportunity, right?  Let's not have it pass us by just because Dolezal headed a NAACP local rather than a school district.

Below are a few comments by education-related people that I've found via Twitter, just to get things started:

Nekima Levy-Pounds:

Deray McKesson:

Morgan Polikoff:

Liz Dwyer:

Laura McKenna:

Motoko Rich:

Camika Royal:

Some of the folks I'd love to hear from (more) on this issue include Karen Lewis, Cami Anderson, Michelle Rhee, @TheJLV, Linda Darling-Hammond, Chris Stewart, Ray Salazar, RiShawn Biddle, Xian Barrett, Sabrina Stevens, Deray McKesson, someone from TFA, Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Agree or disagree with you, we need more voices here. 

Related posts: Educators & Advocates Need Authentic Conversations About Race, TooRace, Reconstruction, & The Nation"Big Patterns Of Disparity By Race"Sports Are What City Schools "Do Best".

Teacher Prep: Former TC Head Launches New "Competency-Based" Ed School

There are at least a couple of cool-sounding new things about the grad school / research lab that's just been announced by the folks at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation:

They've been working the past few years to upgrade existing ed school programs around the country, but now they're showing how they think it should be done by creating their own  new grad school (dubbed the Woodrow Wilson Academy for Teaching and Learning).

In so doing they're creating what they describe as the "first fully competency based school." 

What's that mean?  According to Arthur Levine, "The WW Academy will ‘throw out the clock,’ shifting the focus of certification from ‘hours in class’ to proven competency in the skills and knowledge every teacher and education leader needs to succeed."

Why not partner with nearby Princeton University?  "MIT is doing incredible work on the science of learning, and has 125 different projects on campus already focused on the topic," Chief Communications and Strategy Officer Patrick Riccards explained via email. "So the ability of working with the entire MIT team, particularly in the development of the Ed research lab side, was a dream come true." 

Longtime readers will recall that Levine was for many years the head of Teachers College at Columbia University, wrote a series of scathing reports about teacher prep, and has in recent years been helping a number of states and universities revamp their programs (to what overall effect, I'm not sure).

Early this year, Levine put TFA on blast in the NYT

[TFA] was always going to have a half-life...It did wonderful things and attracted superb people to teaching and prepared a generation of leaders for the country... Eventually, we’re going to get to the point of trying to fix the system rather than applying a patch. 

In Education Next, Levine had this to say about the innovative Relay GSE teacher prep system:

For innovation to survive, it has to be self-sustaining. If something’s not self-sustaining, it’s not serious.

According to the WSJ (Teacher-Training Initiative Aims to Reinvigorate Profession), Levine et al plan to make this "like West Point & Bell Labs for educators."

So far they've gotten "about $10 million" from Gates, Amgen, Carnegie Corp -- and need $20 million more. 

Related posts: The Levine Method For Revamping Teacher PrepLevine Is Wrong About Teachers & Unions (Thompson); Levine Announces New Effort (2007); "Fix The System Rather Than Applying A Patch".

Quotes: Clinton Echoes Union Rhetoric On Economic Equality

Quotes2While many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you see the top 25 hedge fund managers making more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined.  And, often paying a lower tax rate.

- Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in her weekend campaign kickoff speech, via the Washington Post

Quotes: NYC Teachers Now Favor Modified Mayoral Control

Quotes2The thing is, in New York, everyone thinks it's mayoral control or nothing. That's not the case. Every city that has mayoral control has different versions of it but the idea of mayoral control, yes, we do not want to go back to the school boards and the Board of Education.

-- UFT head Mike Mulgren in Capital New York  (Teachers' union leaders talk of changes to mayoral control) Has BdB responded yet? Doesn't this help Cuomo?

Morning Video: Karen Lewis Addresses FairTest Event (Plus Bonus Pasi Sahlberg)

 

Here's Chicago's Karen Lewis talking about testing and other issues, via Diane Ravitch. Let's pair it with a Pasi Sahlberg essay on fallacies in reform-minded teacher improvement efforts, via Valerie Strauss.

AM News: NY Teachers Call For Modified Mayoral Control

Teachers' union leaders talk of changes to mayoral control Capital NY:  The U.F.T., Mulgrew said, wants the mayor to have less control over the Panel for Educational Policy (P.E.P.), the governing body of the Department of Education. See also NYDN.

Cuomo Seeks to Link Bills on Rent Regulation and Private School Tax Credits NYT: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he was trying to play mediator by getting Assembly to approve the tax credits and the Senate to continue rent regulations.

CPS acknowledges errors, takes steps to count dropouts correctly WBEZ Chicago: “CPS is committed to ensuring the accuracy of our data, and we are taking four additional concrete steps to further guarantee the integrity of our data,” Interim CEO Jesse Ruiz said in an email sent late Wednesday.

Arkansas Board Rejects Switch From PARCC to ACT, Defying Gov. Hutchinson State EdWatch: The Arkansas Times reported that the board's 7-1 vote not to switch to the ACT Aspire test for 2015-16 school year was a "surprising rebuke" of Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Student teaching key to teacher retention, report says EdSource Today: The report, “A Million New Teachers are Coming: Will they be Ready to Teach?” found that 82 percent of teachers who were trained by  UTRU, which partners with both San Francisco Unified and Aspire, the charter school organization that has 36 schools in California, were still teaching after five years on the job. In contrast... only 28 percent of TFA's teachers remain in the profession after five years.

Police Allegedly Enrolled Kids in School Illegally Washington Post: The District is suing two D.C. police officers for more than $224,000 in back tuition and penalties for allegedly enrolling their three children in D.C. public schools while they lived outside the District.

Texas Teacher Fired After Disturbingly Racist Post In Response To Pool Party Incident HuffPost: A teacher has been "relieved of her teaching duties" after posting a racist Facebook rant in response to recent events at a McKinney, Texas, pool party.

Federal Money for [Higher] Education Surpasses States’ Contributions NYT: Much of the growth of federal higher-education spending has been increases in veterans’ education benefits and Pell grants.

City Offers Summer 'Bootcamp' for Aspiring CTE Teachers WNYC: New York is among five communities receiving funds from the American Federation of Teachers to work with local business leaders on career and technical education opportunities. See also ChalkbeatNY.

Colorado schools to track marijuana offenses by students AP: Colorado schools will begin compiling data on students who get busted for using or distributing marijuana, an effort aimed at gauging the effects of the drug's legalization in the state....

Renovation Reveals 98 Year-Old Treasure NBC News: When it came time to renovate an Oklahoma City high school, no one had any idea what would be found behind the walls; the original blackboards complete with lesson plans and drawings intact, 98 years later. 

Pre-K Year Two; Public Pools; Biking and Breathing WNYC: Seventy thousand rising pre-kindergartners received their acceptance letters for year two of New York City's universal pre-k program. Deputy Mayor Richard Buery answers parents' questions about registration and other educational matters.

Transgender student files lawsuit against schools over bathrooms Washington Post: A 16-year-old transgender student has filed a federal lawsuit against a Virginia school board, calling its policy on school restrooms discriminatory.

'D' grade may get LAUSD students out of high school, but not into 4-year college KPCC LA: Ten years ago, the district established a requirement for students to pass college preparation courses that would make them eligible to enter University of California and California State University campuses. Starting with the Class of 2017, students would be required to pass the courses with a "C" grade to get them college ready.

Embattled Dallas Schools Chief Defies Board, Fires Principals District Dossier: Superintendent Mike Miles' own job security has been a hot topic of late after several school board members tried, but failed, to fire him in April.

Thompson: The Perils -- And Potential -- Of "Right-Click" Credit Programs

image from apps.npr.orgNational Public Radio committed fourteen reporters to an investigative series, The Truth about America's Graduation Rate, which identifies three major ways that school systems try to improve their graduation rates.

NPR finds that some districts did it in the proper way, by "stepping in early to keep kids on track." 

Too many improved graduation rates by "lowering the bar by offering alternate and easier routes when students falter," or "gaming the system by moving likely dropouts off the books, transferring or misclassifying them."

NPR's excellent series should push us to ask some tougher questions, such as what is the harm of "juking the stats" in order to graduate more students? Credit recovery is the alternative route that might have the most potential for helping students graduate, but when abused, it has great potential for harm.

In the early years of NCLB, my students shunned credit recovery as "exercising your right-click finger." But, as credit recovery expanded, the practice literally became dangerous. In many inner city high schools, most of the chronic disorder and violence is prompted by students who attend irregularly and/ or who come to school but don't go to class.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Perils -- And Potential -- Of "Right-Click" Credit Programs" »

Morning Video: Conservatives Critique/Elevate AFT Alum/Activist Deray McKesson

Conservative media are going pretty hard at TFA alumnus Deray McKesson (top left) these days, including both a Fox News segment (Sean Hannity and guest accuse activist Deray McKesson of being a ‘race pimp’) and a Michelle Malkin rant in the NY Post (The militant takeover of the ‘Teach for America’ corps).

On Fox News, Hannity and conservative radio host Kevin Jackson questioned McKesson's role in publicizing protests and tried to undercut his legitimacy by portraying him as a professional protester. (McKesson asks if the questions he's getting would be asked of someone who's not a person of color.) If the video above doesn't load properly, you can watch it at RawStory. Salon and Medialite also posted it.

In the NY Post, Malkin takes a somewhat different approach. She's no less critical of McKesson, but her focus is on his connection to TFA: "TFA’s most infamous public faces don’t even pretend to be interested in students’ academic achievement. It’s all about race, tweets and marching on the streets."

Former talk show host Montel Williams also tried to take McKesson on, pointing out that he was no MLK. Read all about what happened next on that here.

Conservative media doing what it does isn't anything new. But TFA has been the subject of a series of critiques from the left, and so this critique from the right must be a welcome change.  Or as education writer Amanda Ripley tweeted, "Best publicity I've seen for TeachForAmerica in a while....Priceless"

It's also a chance for TFA and other reform groups to see the power (and peril) of pushing hard on social justice issues.  

As I and others have noted several times in the past, reform advocates have generally been slow and tentative in embracing social justice issues, and over-reliant on outside elite voices rather than people of color with some connection to the communities being discussed.

It's also a challenge for reform critics to have someone so closely identified with TFA take the lead in a national discussion about race, class, and inequality. 

Which public official or candidate for office will try and get in a photo with him next? 

Related posts: Stories I’d Like To See: The Rise & Evolution of DeRay McKesson 

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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.