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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 

HotSeat: The "Real" RiShawn Biddle Is Too Hot To Handle

Rishawn biddle 2015
Let's spend a little time with RiShawn Biddle, the self-identified education "editorialist" who's one of the most provocative, controversial, and perhaps hardest-working people in education media.

According to his About page, making change "isn't purely academic for me. These are kids, young boys and men, who look just like me. Many of them are growing up in neighborhoods that look like the one I grew up in..."

I know him from his 2011 work unearthing an AFT attack memo against the parent trigger, and from his 2014 work revealing that some of the groups protesting against TFA on college campuses were AFT-supported. He's one of very few folks out there tracking union issues in education, albeit from a very critical point of view.

But he's not just all about bashing the union. Earlier this year, he was one of very few who predicted (correctly) that the House attempt to revamp NCLB would end up getting pulled.  And he's bashed reform folks for several things including inattention to diversity, weak efforts on social justice, and more. 

Admired by some, he's reviled by others -- including some reformers who agree with him on substance but who find him abrasive, overly aggressive, or simple too independent-minded for their liking. Among other things, he calls for "a revolution, not an evolution, in American public education."

Asked about him, Chris Stewart (aka @citizenstewart) wrote, "I think his faith is an important driver in his understanding of the world. And, his time as a journalist and some of the fall-out with the black community in Indianapolis adds complexity to his story." 

On the HotSeat, Biddle tells us how he gets it all done (and pays the rent), dishes on who his favorite writers are (I'm not one of them), complains (justifiably) about how he's treated by trade and mainstream reporters (you know who you are), tells us what he thinks of like-minded reformers (be afraid), and predicts what's (not) going to happen in the rest of 2015. (Spoiler alert: No, he doesn't feel the need to answer your question about what happened at the Indy Star.)

Continue reading "HotSeat: The "Real" RiShawn Biddle Is Too Hot To Handle" »

Documentaries: #MiddletownFilm Chronicles "Midpoint" Students, Blended Learning

Duy in chargeIf you're lucky enough to be following Duy Linh Tu's Facebook page, you know that he's already been through a lockdown and been put in charge of class (pictured).

It's all part of a new documentary the Columbia University multimedia guru has been working on, in partnership with Digital Promise, focused on Middletown NY schools.

The district is trying blended learning, and a "midpoint" program for kids not quite ready for 4th grade, among other things.

Want to know more? Friend him on Facebook here or follow the ‪#‎middletownfilm‬ hashtag on Instagram.

 

 

Campaign 2016: AFT Already Spending For Ads In New Hampshire

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Here's  a tidbit from PK12's Friday Reading List: "The American Federation of Teachers is launching a digital advertising buy in New Hampshire, in an effort to raise the profile of education issues in the 2016 primary. It will run on social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as in local papers, like the Concord Monitor. How much did it cost? A "substantial" amount, AFT says." 

Maps: Only A Few States Require 4-5 Years Before Granting Tenure

Screenshot 2015-06-05 12.21.00

As you can see from this chart and story (This Is What It Takes To Get A Teacher Fired Around The Country), only a few states (the ones with darker boxes) require four or five years of teaching before giving tenure. Image via HuffPost/NCTQ. I count 6 states that require 5 years, and 5 that require 4. There are other things like teacher preparation and supervision/PD that are more important than tenure timelines, but 3-4 years doesn't seem like enough to me. 

Charts: In One Year, 41 Chicago Schools Raised $7.6M In Private Donations

image from catalystchicago.wpengine.netdna-cdn.comThere's a perception in some quarters that public schools within each school district are by and large equal in terms of how they're funded, and it's mostly charter schools that rake in the outside donations. 

Well, this new piece from Catalyst Chicago (The price of fundraising) pretty much explodes that idea:

"For a select but growing group of schools in Chicago’s wealthier communities, parent fundraising has risen to new heights." 

Last year, 8 schools raised more than $300,000 each. "Thirty brought in more than $100,000 and eight raised more than $200,000." One raised more than $600,000. 

 

Thompson: The Truth None of Us Wants to Face

I still teach GED part-time, so I have not become completely absorbed into the edu-political world that is so divorced from the reality of inner city schools. I seek a balance, addressing the school improvement proposals that are politically viable, while remaining connected with the reasons why practitioners and parents are so dismissive of reform agendas. 

I can't deny that I've been acculturated into much of the "status quo" mentality illustrated by my first principals' mantra, "Pick your battles." The battles that we inner city teachers want policy people to launch are simply not winnable. 

However, Jay Mathews, in How Do We Help Our Least Motivated, Most Disruptive Students?, tackles the issue that I know I shouldn't  touch. 

Twenty years after I was repeatedly warned that assessing disciplinary consequences in a credible manner is an issue that school systems won't dare address, and as the agenda has shifted to reducing suspensions, why should I try to answer Mathews' question? Against my better judgment, I'll respond to his columns and readers. (After I read the book he cites, I'll see whether I dare to get closer to the 3rd rail of edu-politics by discussing it.)

Mathews wrote a three-part series on Caleb Stewart Rossiter's Ain't Nobody Be Learnin' Nothin'.  His first column on Rossiter's indictment of grade inflation "inspired a flood of comments and e-mails saying such malpractice was happening nearly everywhere in the country." But Mathews, like so many teachers turned advocates can only ask, "What do we do about it?" He then turned to Rossiter’s solution to low academic and behavioral standards which doesn’t seem practical to Mathews (or me) but which "represents the toughness I sense many Americans think is overdue."

Mathews begins his third column with his obligatory praise of KIPP, even though he probably realizes that its methods can't be scaled up and are thus irrelevant to systemic improvement. He concedes "that a significant number of low-performing students are likely not to enroll in schools like KIPP — or will drop out — because they don’t like the emphasis on good behavior and hard work."

Mathews agrees with Rossiter that neighborhood schools should teach good behavior and they should not keep returning disruptive students to their original classes, "where they distract students trying to learn." I would add that disruptive students also want to learn and, above all, they want to learn how to control their behavior. I would also argue that troubled students should never be described as "miscreants" or "slow learners" which is Mathews' characterization of Rossiter's views.

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Maps: Someday These Giant State Spending Variations Will Look Impossible

image from www.washingtonpost.com

Here, via Emma Brown at the Washington Post, is a map of states that spend the most (and the least) on education, in one map. Spending averages $10,700 and ranges from a measly $6,555 per pupil in Utah to a whopping $19,818 in New York. At present, there seems to be nothing that can be done (politically and legally) about these inequalities (and in-state inequalities as well), but I imagine that some time in the future people will look back on this as a WTF? relic of an ancient and backwards time, you look back on life before Glue Sticks. Image used with permission. 

People: Little Caitlyn Jenners Showing Up At School Every Day

Much is being made of Caitlyn Jenner's transition and recent Vanity Fair cover, but gender non-conforming parents and children (and teachers) are slowly but surely making their presences known.

Above is a recent example. "My son went to school for 1st time in a dress 2day," wrote Vanessa Ford. In another tweet, she noted that her child is "joyful in a way unique to when he wears dresses" and that the school and classmates have been generally supportive.

When this happy image went around on Twitter yesterday, Jenn Borgioli Binis (aka ‏@DataDiva) told us that @RaisingRainbow was 'a great resource to teachers in a chat on supporting transgendered students."

What kicked this all off (for me) this week was a personal narrative by Chicago-based education writer Maureen Kelleher about her own child's evolving gender identity and how she and her child's school are dealing with it. 

Related posts: CA May Allow Trans Kids To Pick Teams (2013); Trans at 16  (2013); What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress? (2012); Our Soon-To-Be Outdated Beliefs (About Education) (2009); Transgendered In The Classroom (2008); Bad Beef, Bad Hawaii, Cross-Dressing Kids...; 

 

Thompson: Rick Hess Is Back!

Rick’s back! And Hess’s Personality Quiz: Am I a Wannabe Edu-Bureaucrat? is hilarious. Every other paragraph, I had to shout at the computer screen, “I wish I’d said that!” 

The conservative Rick Hess, who hasn’t explicitly repudiated his identification as a school reformer (or conservatism), is back blogging at Education Week after a several week hiatus. Hess unveils a 17-point quiz which can determine, “Congrats! You're an aspiring bureaucrat!” In doing so, the American Enterprise Institute scholar explains the rise of a new “cheery, ready-made mantra for your brand of ‘reform.’ It's: ‘Meet the new boss; same as the old boss . . . except this time you're going to be lucky to have a really, really smart boss. Not like all those others who have come before.’"

Hess identifies wannabe edu-bureaucrats by asking whether they “routinely describe teachers and schools as ‘good’ or ‘effective’ based on limited, simplistic, standardized metrics like reading and math scores,” seek to impose the “right way to train all new teachers” and mandate teacher evaluation models “for every school in every district in their state,” or condemn parents who opt out of standardized tests as irresponsible.

Wannabe edu-bureaucrats “get a warm feeling when talk turns to ‘P-20 alignment.’" They believe that “people who disagree with me on Common Core, ESEA, teacher evaluation, and the rest are mostly just playing politics. … [and] really wish they'd simmer down and shut up.” Aspiring bureaucrats aren’t trained to conduct or evaluate research, and they “rarely read beyond an abstract,” but they find that "good” research usually agrees with their views on reform. These wannabes “find it easiest to communicate in acronyms and buzzwords.”

Hess writes that you might be a wannabe edu-bureaucrat if “I've never been reminded of the USSR's 'five-year plans' when the U.S. Department of Ed orders waiver states to devise . . . five-year plans, with ambitious (if arbitrary) race-based performance targets.”

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Quotes: Beware Destructive Uses of Common Core Cut Scores

Quotes2The point of setting higher standards is to help students achieve them over time, not rush to premature judgment... Let's move toward a more thoughtful approach that puts testing in its rightful place—and returns spring to a season of growth, not failure. -- AFT head Randi Weingarten in EdWeek (States Should Ditch 'Cut Scores' on New Tests)

Videos: How Schools Train Students To Expect Premature Approval

 Branford Marsalis: "My students... all they want to hear is how good they are and how talented they are. And they're not... most of them aren't really willing to work to the degree to live up to that." via Vox Warning: NSFW language at the start of the clip. 

Quotes: Portrayal of Teachers Is "Disingenuous and Outrageous"

Quotes2The Obama Administration has managed to pit the teachers against the civil rights community on this issue and to put the teachers on the defensive.... The liberal press has bought this argument hook, line and sinker... Teachers are not opposed to annual accountability testing because they are enemies of their students' civil rights.  They are opposed to annual accountability testing because it is being used to punish teachers in ways that are grossly unfair and singularly ineffective.

- Mark Tucker in EdWeek (Annual Accountability Testing: Time for the Civil Rights Community to Reconsider)

School Life: Live From Snack Time

We've seen versions of this kind of thing before, including FOUND, but still... HuffPost has a bunch of good ones. 

Report: Probationary Periods, Seniority Layoffs, & Expedited Removal

There's a new report on tenure and layoff policies from ECS that's out now (Vergara and the complexities of teacher employment policies) noting that 32 states have a probationary period of three years, 10 states "explicitly prohibit the use of seniority in layoff decisions," but another 11 states "require seniority to be the primary factor in those decisions."

According to the report, Minnesota and California are "considering bills to minimize the influence of seniority in layoff decisions."

Meanwhile, California and a few other states like Connecticut, Oklahoma, and Florida "have taken steps to expedite the dismissal process and reduce the time and expense associated with dismissal."

Meanwhile a Wisconsin lawmaker just slipped a provision into a budget bill that would appear to dramatically lower the certification requirements for core subject teachers

People: Grant Wiggins, RIP

Educator Grant Wiggins passed away at age 64, and Edutopia and others have written about his contributions to education. Here's a writeup from EdWeek. There's also lots of Twitter traffic at @grantwiggins

Morning Video: Evanston High School Reduces AP Barriers To Increase Minority Participation

 

This PBSNewsHour segment shows how Evanston Township High School has been trying to recruit minority students into honors and AP courses in part by diminishing the focus on 8th grade test scores. As a result, black and Latino enrollment and test taking are both way up. Watch above or click the link to read the transcript.  Other video options: Why the Dutch start sex ed in kindergarten (PBS), ‘Glen’s Village’ (Philly Notebook).

Quotes: Teachers Respond To Chiefs/Scholastic Survey

Quotes2Is it possible to speak honestly about barriers to student achievement and ignore all school factors when doing so? No, it isn’t. 

-- State teachers of the year Jessica Waters, Lee-Ann Stephens, and Tom Rademacher in the Washington Post (What happens in school matters)

Morning Video: Spring Testing Season Recap From PBS

Watch John Merrow and Motoko Rich discuss this past spring's Common Core testing season above, or read the transcript here. Merrow notes that Jersey City -- not a white suburban district -- had enough opt outs that it failed to reach 95 percent, which if confirmed would be the first such district I've heard about. Or maybe Albuquerque NM also?

Update: Panorama Unveils Teacher Survey (To Help Evaluate Principals)

Wide-deskThe idea that quick, candid surveys can be useful in schools and classrooms isn't new at this point. They've been popularized since a few years ago when it was reported that students' views of teachers correlated with teachers' abilities to improve student achievement.

But now one of the outfits that works on these kinds of things is taking it a step further -- or deepening the approach, you might say -- by developing quick and dirty survey instruments for administrators to ask teachers.

The new Panorama Teacher Survey is mean to help administrators understand what teachers are thinking and how they're doing. They can be used diagnostically, or for schools where teachers help evaluate principals. They're faster and cheaper than a big Gallup kind of poll.  Their competition is the New Teacher Center's TELL Survey.  

"We're piloting with a number of schools right now and over 50 schools have already started using the free teacher survey platform since we launched," says Panorama's Jack McDermott. Meantime, the Student Survey has been "accessed by over 4,000 educators worldwide" and has been "district-wide in several of the largest districts in country and has been approved by several states for use in evaluation measures."

Related posts: Yeah, But What's Your Panorama™ Score? (2012), State of the Art: Grading Teachers, With [Survey] Data From Class (NYT 2014)

Morning Video: "Best Kept Secret" (Top-Rated on Netflix)

Topping Vox's list of The 19 best-reviewed movies on Netflix right now is "Best Kept Secret."  "The [2013] film tracks Janet Mino, a Newark public school special education teacher whose class of teen boys on the autism spectrum is about to graduate into a world loath to give them a chance." Check out the trailer above. Or watch a parent talk about becoming a Common Core activist (via NBC News).

Morning Video: Can Chicago Reach Labor Deal Like LA Just Did?

Can Chicago teachers and the district come to agreement over a new contract like UTLA and LAUSD recently did? PBS affiliate WTTW interviews union president Karen Lewis. Or watch this HuffPost Live segement on desegregation efforts in Connecticut, one of the few states in the nation where there's been some improvement. 

Chart: State Teachers Of Year Prioritize Out-Of-School Factors

Screen shot 2015-05-20 at 10.24.03 AM

Two of the top three issues raised by teachers surveyed about obstacles to learning are non-school/classroom factors, according to this Scholastic chart.  The other is early learning. 

Live Event: Don't Miss Today's NY Ideas Panels On Race & "Invisible Children"

 

Maybe like me you missed this morning's #NYIdeas half hour chat with Eva Moskowitz and Amanda Ripley (was it any good?). Maybe (like me) you didn't make it to last night's invite-only roundtable dinner at the High Line Hotel including guests like Partnership for Education Justice's Campbell Brown, TC's Susan Fuhrman, Walton's Bruno Manno, Harvard's Martin West.

But all is not lost.  There are other education-related segments to come during today's event hosted by AtlanticLIVE and the Aspen Institute. And, assuming the video embed code works right, you can watch it all above (or click the link if not).

For example, there's Ta-Nehesi Coates and Michele Norris talking about race at 1:55 and a segment on "Seeing New York’s Invisible Children" at 2:40 featuring Andrea Elliott, Author and Investigative Reporter, The New York Times Faith Hester, Humanities Teacher, and Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts.

The Atlantic is big into live events these days, including next month's Education Summit in DC June 15.  It is going to feature folks like Peg Tyre, Author of The Good School, and Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools, 

This year's event is being sponsored in part by the Walton Family Foundation, and has also been sponsored by the AFT and others.  Over at The Grade, I wrote about the challenges for media outlets doing events that are sponsored by advocates on one side or the other: When Media Organizations Take Outside Funding for Events - But Not News Coverage. The Atlantic Magazine doesn't receive outside funding for its education coverage, far as I've been able to determine, and Inside Philanthropy's David Callahan notes that it would be cumbersome and perhaps unnecessary for the magazine to disclose event funding with its non-funded education writing. 

Meantime, I'm told that the Ripley/Moskowitz segment is going to be posted within 24 hours, so look for it tomorrow AM.

Morning Video: Baltimore School Of The Arts

From PBS NewsHour: "At the Baltimore School for the Arts, students are admitted solely on their artistic potential; notable alumni of the pre-professional high school includes Jada Pinkett Smith and designer Christian Siriano." Click here if video doesn't render properly.

Thompson: Why That John Oliver Testing Segment Hit a Nerve

My wife kept pestering me to watch John Oliver's 18-minute, hilarious indictment of standardized testing on HBO, but I had a long "to-do" list. Skimming the replies by Alexander Russo, Peter Cunningham and others, I thought they were challenging the substance of Oliver's routine. The Education Post, as usual, countered with some out-of-context numbers, disingenuously pretending that low-stakes test score increases in 1999 were attributable to the NCLB Act of 2001. Then, Cunningham concluded with the standard attack on "self-serving union leaders, and the complacent middle class." 

When I finally found time to watch the video, it became clear that Oliver had done his homework but that that wasn't what drove reformers up a wall. I had previously joked that reformers should have to watch videos of students reduced to tears and explaining how the testing mania had cost them a chance for a meaningful education. Oliver showed videos of the "human consequences" of test, sort, and punish. And, its not pretty. 

The real reason why Oliver hit a nerve, I believe, is that his opening videos were so sickening. Russo, the curmudgeon, sees school testing pep rally videos as "like something you might see on America's Funniest Home Videos." But, to many or most parents and educators, I bet they are viewed as documentation of the repugnant practices that "reform" has inflicted on children. 

Oliver hit a nerve by displaying the repulsive unintended consequences of high stakes testing. Under-the-gun (and I believe otherwise decent and caring educators) are shown mis-educating children, training them to be easily manipulated, outer-directed persons.  He shows children being indoctrinated into compliance. He shows children being socialized into a herd mentality. 

Its hard to say which is more awful - the way that stressed out children vomit on their test booklets or schools trying to root inner-directedness out of children. On the other hand, even reformers should celebrate the way that students and families are fighting back, demanding schools that respect children as individuals. Even opponents of the Opt Out movement should respect the way it embodies the creative insubordination that public schools should nourish.  

Before watching Oliver's indictment of high stakes testing, I assumed that it had merely provoked the standard corporate reform spin machine to spit out its off-the-shelf, pro-testing message. But, I believe this anti-Oliver campaign is more personal than that. How can reformers hear a child tearfully say that she feels like she has been punched in the stomach without accepting blame - or finding others to blame?

Continue reading "Thompson: Why That John Oliver Testing Segment Hit a Nerve" »

Charts: Half The Teacher Who "Leave" Are Just Changing Schools

munguia-feature-teachers-2

Check out FiveThirtyEight's latest education post (Are There Too Few Teachers, Or Too Few Good Ones?), which reiterates the latest data showing that not only are the percentages of teachers leaving (in red) much lower than previously thought but that many of them (in blue) are just changing schools. Image used with permission.

Quotes: What Elizabeth Originally Wanted To Be When She Grew Up

Quotes2All I ever wanted to do was be a teacher. It must have been miserable to be one of my dolls, because I used to line them up and teach school. -- MA Senator Elizabeth Warren in the New Yorker (Elizabeth Warren’s Virtual Candidacy)

AM News: Little Common Core Pushback In KY (& CA, & ....)

In an Early Adopter, Common Core Faces Little Pushback WSJ: Kentucky is in its fourth year of testing linked to Common Core State Standards, at a time when most other states are counting the tests for the first time. While students here were slow to show improvement, scores on standardized tests have begun to pick up. Pushback from teachers unions, which has been fierce in a number of states, has been minimal here.

Anti-Common-Core Bills Diversify as Democrats' Skepticism Grows, Report Says State EdWatch: "To move from vague proclamations of support to full implementation requires highly specific decisions to be made about who to target, how much money to invest, and which stakeholders to engage," the researchers wrote in their Brookings Institution paper.

Enrollment in state pre-K inches up but disparities remain AP: Enrollment in state pre-kindergarten programs inched up slightly last year, but there's been little change in the overall percentage of children participating in the programs, according to a national study on early education released Monday....

Amid gridlock in D.C., influence industry expands rapidly in the states GovBlog: Lobbyists aren’t having much luck on a gridlocked Capitol Hill — so more and more, they’re opening their wallets in state capitols around the country. Not keeping pace with the surge, say watchdog groups: the disclosure laws that are supposed to keep the influence industry in check.

ACT to expand computer-based testing  PBS NewsHour: The ACT announced Friday that computer-based testing will be available next year in the 18 states and additional districts that require students, typically juniors, to take the ACT during the school day. About 1 million students could be affected.

This Movie Theater PSA Is Inspiring Kids To Become Teachers HuffPost:  A public service announcement encouraging young people to become teachers has been playing in hundreds of movie theaters around the country in recognition of national teacher appreciation week May 4 to May 9.

More news below (and throughout at @alexanderrusso).

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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.