Earlier this year, the Post ran a front-page story by Strauss about allegations that Arne Duncan was trying to influence the choice of NYC chancellor under Mayor de Blasio. I and others had some questions about the reporting, editing, and decision to assign the story to Strauss.
Duncan is "losing" Ritsch after two years at the top communications spot within USDE. Duncan had the gall to praise TFA founder Wendy Kopp for highlighting the aspects of great teaching but ignored former NEA head Van Roekel. Duncan's first press secretary now works for Joel Klein at Amplify.
For some measure of balance, Strauss notes that Cunningham's accomplishments include getting Duncan on the Rolling Stone Agents of Change list. (She's wrong - getting Duncan on Colbert was Cunningham's biggest coup, or perhaps it was keeping Duncan away from the media after he jumped into the gay marriage debate ahead of the White House.) She also added Ritsch's "so, long" email after first publishing the post.
At TFA, Ritsch will be replacing Aimée Eubanks Davis as head of TFA’s Public Affairs and Engagement team. She's moving over to head Beyond Z, a new student leadership and 21st century skill building initiative she launched last year.
Related posts: Debating Valerie Strauss (& Education); Who Are Education's Biggest Trolls (Besides Me)?; About That Front-Page Washington Post Story; Education's Huffington Post; Parent Trigger: An "Easy" Button For Parents & Kids.
MediaMatters notes that educators make up just one in ten of the guests on cable news segments related to education, which Valerie Strauss regards as a big problem.
MSNBC does the best percentage-wise in terms of booking educators as guests -- but not by that much. CNN does the worst. Fox -- this may surprise you -- comes in the middle.
What jumps out at me even more than this issue is that there are so few education segments, over all.
Granted, Morning Joe is not included -- a favorite for Randi Weingarten and Campbell Brown alike. And NBC News still does a fair amount of education coverage, along with PBS NewsHour.
But still. Looking at evening news shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, there were just 185 total guests in 10 months. CNN booked the fewest - by far. Fox and MSNBC came in much higher, quantity-wise.
Take a look at the full MM story here. Image used courtesy MediaMatters.
Watching Newark superintendent Cami Anderson's interview with AEI's Rick Hess from last week, a few things are clear:
First and foremost is that Anderson's initiatives may be much more nuanced and less top-down than critics have claimed (and the media has repeated). For example, she says that there have been no school closings as part of her plan, and that several revisions and changes were made in response to community input. Is that accurate? Someone needs to check. By which I mean the WSJ, NJ Spotlight, Hechinger, ChalkbeatNY, or NYT.
Second, and just as important for someone to figure out, is whether her claims that there's a small but "well-funded" effort to block her efforts are accruate or not. The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton chronicled the protest against her, (a busload of Newark parents) but doesn't tell us who was behind the effort, if anyone. Did they decide to go among themselves? Who paid for the bus? Dropout Nation's RiShawn Biddle notes that CWA, "which has been an ally if AFT's NJ affiliate, has funded NJ Communities United to tune of $251K."
Related posts: Last Night's Raucous Newark Schools Meeting; Newark Officials Discuss School Improvement, Local Control; New Yorker Digs Into Newark Reform Backlash; Union Chief Hopes Chicago Follows Newark.
Sure, there's a charter school plotline in" Parenthood," and school is in the background (so far) of "Black-Ish." "How To Get Away With Murder" is set at a law school. But "New Girl" remains the most school-focused show out there, and still sometimes the most amusing.
This week's episode of New Girl features Jess's attempts to avoid interacting with her crush, a teacher at the school where she's an assistant principal. It also involves touchy-feely professional development, and male bonding gone awry.
Related posts: "New Girl" Jess Confronts The Cool Mean Teachers; "New Girl" Gets Pink Slipped [Teacherpocalypse 2012]; "New Girl" Deals With Bullying 5th Grader; TV's "New Girl" Teacher Is She One Of You?.
Check out my latest Scholastic column here if you want to read about how media coverage of the 2014 midterms shifted sharply during the first few days after the results were known -- and how upon examination nobody's claims of victory seemed as strong as was being claimed.
One issue that didn't make it into the piece was just how flat-footed the teachers unions seemed initially in their responses to the reformers' claims of victory, as in the AFT canceling a press conference without considering how that would look (or whether there was an opportunity to counter the reform narrative before it got rolling).
Another key angle is that the media covering the midterms and some of those commenting on them initially seemed to take the reformers' claims of victory at face value rather than taking a more skeptical view of the claims or a harder look at the results.
Report cites high suspension rates for charter schools - Metro - The Boston Globe http://ow.ly/ExnFd
Report Offers 'Lessons Learned' From Teacher-Residency Programs - Teacher Beat - Education Week http://ow.ly/EyaDV
I loved A Path Appears, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It deals with global issues and a variety of philanthropic and grassroots paths to tackling poverty, ignorance, and violence. I doubt that readers are very interested in my non-expert opinions on international issues, so I will limit this post to musing about Kristof’s and WuDunn’s approach to American educational challenges.
Chapter Ten, “Coaching Troubled Teens,” starts with a quote by Immanuel Kant, “Act so you treat humanity … always as an end and never as a means.”
The chapter begins with a visit to Tulsa where 8th graders were engaged in a curriculum focused on avoiding teenage pregnancy developed by Michael Carrera. This program, ranked as “top-tiered” in effectiveness costs $2,300 per student and it would be a bargain even if it didn’t get students started with a savings account, financial literacy, and medical care.
Kristof and WuDunn then breeze through a paragraph that includes the ridiculous – but oft repeated - soundbite that if African American students had teachers from the top 25% in “effectiveness” for four years, that the achievement gap would be closed. Those of us obsessed with education issues can anticipate what was cited in the footnotes, the economic theory of Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff that has been repeatedly misrepresented as research relevant to real world policy.
Educators, like me, are likely to get flustered and complain about the methodological flaws of Chetty et. al, and protest about the way they have allowed their regression studies to be used as intellectually dishonest props in a legal and political assault on teachers.
Perhaps Kristof and WuDunn take the wiser approach. They move on, writing “We must also rethink the role of schools in low-income communities.” The rest of the chapter argues for full-service community schools. Kristof and WuDunn may not have mentioned the way that the “teacher quality” focus of the corporate reform movement has undermined the science-based policies they advocate, but they make the case which teachers, education scholars, and unions have tried to make for overcoming the legacies of poverty.
Earlier this month, Milwaukee-based investigative reporter Meghan Dwyer was onstage receiving a Regional Emmy for a school bullying segment “Scared at School" when things went a bit awry. It's not the worst thing in the world, this gaffe, but it illustrates a larger issue: that sometimes reporters work so hard for so long on stories and experience such frustration and sympathy for their sources that they cross over into advocacy and then, quite understandably, their feelings occasionally slip out (or into their work). That's apparently why some newsrooms used to rotate reporters from one beat to the next, to prevent journalists from becoming hostage to a beat or taking sides in an ongoing dispute between stakeholders.
East Coast types might think that how things are playing out in New York is how they're playing out nationally, but these new poll results from California (USC via EdSource) show widespread (though declining) unfamiliarity among the public about the Common Core and a wide range of views on the standards. To see the poll data itself, click here, find the link, download a copy and find the charts you want on page 2. Images used with permission. Anyone seen state by state polling data comparing views from one place to another?
Unions must recreate themselves to be relevant not only to the leaders who thrive on internal and external political drama, but to the average member who is a school secretary in Washington, first grade teacher in Minnesota, or higher education faculty in Florida. Relevancy means focusing first and foremost on the learning lives of students and the professional lives of educators. - Former NEA bigwig Bill Raabe in EIA (Former High-Ranking NEA Staffer Speaks Out)
So-called "overtesting" is probably the easiest story on the education beat to do right now, and I'm no saint I did one too last winter for the Atlantic's education page. But there aren't any real numbers out there and so it's very easy to fall into using eye-catching anecdotes that may or may not be representative and also to fall prey to the presumption that overtesting is a thing when we really don't know that is.
That's I think what happened to this new NPR education story (Testing: How Much Is Too Much?), which while far from the worst of the overtesting stories I've seen lately would have done better to focus less on critics of testing (Brockett and Jasper) and extreme examples and more on the reality that we don't know as much as we'd like about the prevalence of testing in schools over all and that there are folks out there (including civil rights groups) who think that testing is essential for school accountability and are worried about losing annual tests or going back to a previous era when the public didn't really know how students were doing.
All that being said, there aren't any obviously sketchy or misleading numbers in the NPR piece like last week's NYT story included, and are some great bits, too: There are some vivid #edgifs showing a kid who has to take lots of end of year exams that are fun to look at (I've tweeted and Tumblred them but can't show them here without permission). I'm really glad that NPR used and linked to the Chiefs/Great Cities survey of large districts, and the CAP study of 14 districts. I didn't know that the White House had put out a statement on the issue.
Last but not least, the NPR story addresses the notion that tests have gotten added without any attempt to remove their predecessors in a fun, stylish way: " The CCSSO survey describes testing requirements that have seemingly multiplied on their own without human intervention, like hangers piling up in a closet." The layering on of testing regimens without regard to burden or legacy testing will, I am guessing, turn out to be at the root of much of what some parents and teachers and testing critics are clamoring about.
Here's an interesting look at who funds edtech pointing out that traditional funders don't all approach the sector the same way -- and that there are some challenges as a result. Take a look and let us know what you think.
Thanks to Vox for pulling up these before (green) and after (yellow) bar graphs showing how Kentucky and New York kids did on Common Core-aligned assessments, which gives us a rough idea of how kids in other states will do this spring. Click here to read more about the projected dropoffs in 2015. Image courtesy Vox.
Saturday was the occasion of the annual Spencer Journalism Fellowship reunion, during which the new fellows (pictured) are officially introduced to the alumni and given their secret instructions. This year's fellows (Linda, Mitra, and Joy) are focusing on poverty, resegregation of schools, and special education respectively. Read below for some notes and tidbits from the event, as well as encouragement to apply for the fellowship this winter and make us all proud with the project you produce.
What's the Turnover for State Education Chiefs in Recent Years? State EdWatch: In the past 33 months, 29 states have replaced their state K-12 chiefs at least once, or are officially scheduled to replace their state K-12 chiefs due to last week's elections or for other reasons.
Montgomery schools chief cites both successes and urgency in closing gaps Washington Post: Montgomery County must redouble its efforts to close the achievement gap between students of different racial and socioeconomic groups, while preparing all students for success in a 21st century world, the school system’s leader said this week in his yearly “State of the Schools” address.
Smarter Balanced tests are still a work in progress EdSource Today: The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium provided a sneak peek for their final computer-adaptive tests in early October, tests to be administered to roughly 25 percent of the country’s grade 3-8 and 11 students in spring 2015 to measure, initially, status and, eventually, growth in achievement on the new Common Core academic standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics.
Privacy Concerns for ClassDojo and Other Tracking Apps for Schoolchildren NYT: Many teachers say the ClassDojo app helps them automate the task of recording classroom conduct, but some critics say such apps are being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for data privacy and fairness.
Common Core Reading: Difficult, Dahl, Repeat NPR: Backers of the Common Core say it's important for kids to tackle complex texts. Critics argue that reading shouldn't be a struggle for kids. We'll visit one classroom that borrows from both sides.
Info on 8,000 Seattle Schools students improperly released Seattle Times: Seattle Public Schools is asking for federal help to figure out how a law firm working for the district released the personal information about students receiving special-education services.
Child Homelessness on the Rise in US ABC News: New report details rise of child homelessness in US, says more affordable housing needed.
More news below and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.
5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: More Research Showing Disparate Impacts Of Teacher Hiring/Transfer Practices
New Harvard/Kane study shows how teacher hiring/transfer practices in LAUSD puts black minority kids at a disadvantage - http://ow.ly/Eiwos
Organizers behind students protesting against TFA deny that they are acting as surrogates for union funders http://ow.ly/EitSQ
Kevin Huffman Leaving Post as Tennessee K-12 Chief State EdWatch: Huffman was appointed state education commissioner in 2011, and has overseen major changes in Tennessee education policy, many of them tied to the common core. See also ChalkbeatTN.
In DC to talk education, Newark schools chief faces protest over reforms Washington Post: Cami Anderson, who runs the largest school district in New Jersey, came to Washington on Thursday to give a quiet talk about education at a think tank. But the staid event quickly turned dramatic when a busload of angry residents followed Anderson from Newark in a display of the slugfest politics that have infused debate over public education across the country.
Common Core Reading: The Struggle Over Struggle NPR: This idea, that kids really need to grapple with complex reading material, says a lot about the soul of the Common Core. And it's controversial, raising fears among some parents and educators that kids, in the process, are being asked to struggle too much.
A Botched Study Raises Bigger Questions NPR: The report attempted to use an approach called value-added modeling. And value-added is currently the golden fleece for anyone questing after what's really working in education. Value-added models promise to provide a detailed, nuanced picture of school performance — to screen out the background noise and zero in on the impact of individual schools and even individual classrooms. But value-added modeling, it turns out, is really, really hard.
Decades of Neglect Show Starkly as Indian Schools Cry Out for Repairs NYT: Officials are working to improve congressionally funded schools in 23 states on reservations with decaying facilities where students struggle to meet academic standards and teacher turnover is high. See also AP.
Young and inexperienced, a new principal tries to turn around a New Orleans charter school Hechinger Report: “We know effective teachers are crucial to moving our students forward,” says Hardy, pausing for a few seconds before she enters a second-grade classroom. “We have good teachers. My challenge is this: How do I, as a school leader, grow their effectiveness and grow it more quickly?”
More news below and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.
Here's a map of states with early warning systems, described in this Marketplace story as the result of a "steady stream of student data, like GPA, attendance, demerits, and test scores" that allow administrators to "peer into the future and spot the 7th and 8th graders most at risk of dropping out of high school in the future." (Using data to predict students headed for trouble). Image used with permission.
Remember up-and-coming young reporter George [@georgejoseph94] Joseph wrote that big piece in The Nation about TFA a week or so ago?Yeah, you remember.
We already know that he didn't bother reporting that the group behind the anti-TFA campus protests, ASUS, is union-funded. And -- thanks to New America's Conor Williams -- we also know that his main concern that TFA was tipped off about a FOIA request turns out to be standard operating procedure for federal grantees.
But now there's more -- not a lot more, but still. I'm procrastinating here and this is helping. Joseph's bio blurb at The Nation says he's a Columbia undergrad and who he's written for. All good there. But his bio at In These Times is a little different, noting that he organizes with a student activist group called Student Worker Solidarity (that's their logo - nice!).
Why wasn't that disclosed in his TFA story, and why is The Nation taking stories from people with what seems like obvious conflicts of interest. Identifying as a member of a student activist group is something that I, at least, want to know when I'm reading a story about student activism -- and something that the editors at The Nation should have considered before taking or assigning the story and in its bio blurb of the writer.
Here's a half-hour talk with Sal Khan, Reed Hastings, and Jane Williams - plus a link to the Annie Liebovitz Vanity Fair portrait of Khan and a profile by EdSec Arne Duncan.
Teacher Training Is A Ridiculously Easy Way To Ace College, Report Says Huffington Post: At 58 percent of 509 schools, "teacher preparation programs are much more likely to confer high grades than are other majors on the same campus," the report says. While an average of 30 percent of all students graduated "cum laude," 44 percent of teacher preparation students received the honor. The report calls the results "a wake-up call for higher education."
What Obama’s Inequity Nudge Means for San Diego Schools Voices of SD: The new union president, Lindsay Burningham, made clear when we talked with her in August that she didn’t see much need to change the evaluation process, putting any room for error on the administrator carrying out each review.
Fight Is On for Common Core Contracts WSJ: As states race to implement the Common Core academic standards, companies are fighting for a slice of the accompanying testing market, expected to be worth billions of dollars in coming years.
Seeking Big K-12 Plans From Governors for 2015? Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber Delivers State EdWatch: Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, has presented a wide-ranging package of education initiatives that include a focus on early education, reading, and English-language learners.
Portland Schools Urged To Scrap Transfers To Boost Racial Diversity Huffington Post: These allow students to switch to schools in different neighborhoods, but they must enter a lottery if spots are limited. There is also a separate lottery system for students hoping to transfer to selective "magnet" schools which offer advanced curriculums.
Goodbye, Snow Days: Students Study From Home ABC: Goodbye, snow days: Students across the nation increasingly hit the books from home.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
3 reasons Common Core is especially controversial in New York - Vox http://ow.ly/E7lXk
EdWeek bill tracker shows 2 Common Core rollback proposals have made it into law (so far) http://ow.ly/E7yIU They're MO & NC
Head of Tulane-affiliated think tank (& former Chicago charter guru) John Ayers quits after release of flawed study http://ow.ly/E7EWc
Salman Khan is changing the way kids learn - Portrait by Annie Leibovitz http://vnty.fr/11e1mfV
All this and more at @alexanderrusso.
Education Post, everybody's favorite new education nonprofit, recently debuted its Red Pen Page, where it rebuts ridiculous claims made by advocates and fact-checks horrible stories reported by journalists.
In the first few entries, which debuted last week, EP takes on Change the Stakes in NY and the Poughkeepsie Journal for various perceived errors and unsubstantiated claims.
It's an interesting and potentially useful strategy that mirrors a lot of the writing I've done here in recent weeks and months.
There are lots of claims being made by advocates (on both sides) and mistakes being made by journalists (of all kinds). And the format -- red pen marks in faux handwriting in the right margin (look where the green arrow leads you) is visually appealing.
However, the approach still relies on people to find the posts on EP's site (rather than sending them out via email or clogging up everybody's Twitter feed), and I'm not sure whether EP has enough reach or credibility (yet?) to make folks stand up and pay attention to what they say.
Here's an MSNBC segment from a couple of weeks ago that you (like me) may have missed at the time, in which the TIME editor Nancy Gibbs explains the story -- including the notable use of the courts to bypass a broken legislative process - and reflects on the response to the story:
Gibbs rejects the notion that the story is anti-teacher -- a frequent claim made against reformers and journalists who write about reform -- but fumbles a bit I thought when she's asked why there weren't more apples on the cover, or a question mark along with the headline. For this and more of a view from the conservative side of things, check out the Media Matters roundup (What Conservative Media Miss In Coverage Of Controversial Time Teacher Story). Meantime: pageviews!
Here's a pro-charter segment on Success Academy via ReasonTV. Can't bear the thought? Watch the NEA president talk about the union's hopes for teachers and tireless commitment to kids following last week's drubbing of teachers unions Democrats. Play them backwards or mash them up into a single video if you dare.
5 Best Blogs & Tweets [Of Today]: StudentsFirst Claims 86 Pct Win Rate For Bipartisan Mix Of Candidates
Outside Money, Mixed Results in Austin school board race - The Austin Chronicle http://ow.ly/DVA17
Cunningham's take on midterms2014 includes praise & concern for reformers http://ow.ly/DZbOk
New Jersey Gets No Child Left Behind Waiver Extension - Politics K-12 - Education Week http://ow.ly/DZcPN
High School Graduation Rates at an All-Time High - The Atlantic http://ow.ly/DZbFt
NYT editorial board slams de Blasio school improvement plan for being weak, slow, complicated http://ow.ly/DYbKx
All this and more at @alexanderrusso.
The Washington Post's latest big piece on the influence of philanthropic funding focuses on think tanks. Titled Who funds the new Brookings?, the piece suggests that the new funding has likey had an impact on think tanks' research agendas if not their conclusions.
Corporate donations, more than large foundation grants, are newer and especially concerning. But foundations also have played a role:
"Foundations began to place more restrictions on their grants, part of a challenging new trend facing Brookings and other academic institutions in which donors increasingly specify their expectations as part of what they call 'impact philanthropy.'"
Among those funding Brookings are the Walton Family Foundation, who have given "millions of dollars to support Brookings’s education policy center — whose scholars regularly adopt market-oriented stances on key issues."
That being said, not everything that comes out of Brookings is pro-reform, notes the piece. Tom Loveless critiques the Common Core, which Gates and others support. But that doesn't satisfy folks like AFT president Randi Weingarten, who's quoted questioning the credibility of the institution and lamenting the dropoff in invitations to Brookings events.
The Post's previous effort on the philanthropy front was a look at the Gates Foundation's involvement behind the scenes on behalf of the Common Core that I found overheated (What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common Core) because I am of the view that funders can't really get the public or policymakers to do things that they don't already want to do (The Myth Of The All-Powerful Billionaires).
Not mentioned in this piece is the 2012 kerfluffle when Brookings and Diane Ravitch parted ways (she was a nonresident senior fellow), or a 2009-2010 attempt to determine the quality of education journalism that struck me as superficial and retro and a bit of of Brookings' areas of expertise.
Related posts: Brookings "Fires" Ravitch For Being "Inactive"; Brookings Responds Re Ravitch, Romney; Olde Timey Panel, Olde Timey Report; Second Brookings Education Report As Bad As First One; Google Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy Conferences.
Torlakson talks Democratic divisions, teacher tenure, Inglewood Unified KPCC: “I think this election was more about getting someone who could continue the momentum forward, doing some exciting and historic changes to education in California,” he said. “I believe the voters wanted someone with experience and I have that.”
Opinions differ on impact of Tuck’s campaign EdSource Today: In the hours since Marshall Tuck’s daunting but failed effort to unseat incumbent State strong Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, education and political observers have reached different conclusions about the election and its significance.
See also Politico's Morning Edu.
School Choice a Top Priority for Republican Leaders in House, Senate PK12: Be on the lookout for charter school or school voucher proposals to pop up early during the 114th Congress, as school choice legislation was named a top priority by the assumed Republican leaders in the House and in the Senate, which will flip to GOP control in January.
Arne Duncan on Minnesota's achievement gap Minnesota Public Radio News: Pre-school teacher Jody Bohrer and her students in Bloomington, Minn. gave U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan a poster during a classroom visit on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. At Duncan's left is Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.
Average Urban School Superintendent Tenure Decreases, Survey Shows District Dossier: Significant turnover in the top job for big-city districts reversed what had been an uptick in length of service for urban superintendents, according to a new survey by the Council of the Great City Schools.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
It’s hard to believe a huge outpouring to defeat Obama – arguably the most powerful force ever to push for “education reform” – is somehow a resounding call for more education reform.
- Jeff Bryant (The Coalition For An Education Agenda Just Isn’t There, Yet)
*Originally headlined "Democratic" but that's not right -- thanks for catching the error.
Anyone seeking to understand the failure of Joel Klein to improve New York City schools should carefully read Alexander Nazaryan's latest article in Newsweek, Joel Klein's Book on American Schools Tries to Find a Way Forward. Even though the Newsweek reporter’s review of Klein’s new book, Lessons of Hope, obviously aspires to hagiography, read between the lines and he inadvertently captures the essence of the tragedy of school reform.
Nazaryan notes that a Google search may not find “a single kind word about Joel I. Klein.” His revisionist review tries to explain why Klein should not be dismissed as “a tone-deaf autocrat, too comfortable in the parlors of the Upper East Side, not comfortable enough in the school auditoria of East New York and the South Bronx, where jeers often announced his arrival.”
To borrow from Nazaryan’s rhetoric, Klein was a reformer who didn’t successfully “reform much,” but he sure spent a lot of money. In 2003, for instance, the city’s average NAEP 8th grade reading score was 252. In 2009, it was 252. According to Nazaryan’s former employer, The Daily News, Klein took over a system that spent below $11,000 per student. By 2010-2011, that number rose by about 75% to $19,000. Who knows how much additional foundation money was lavished on schools that Klein used as gladiators to defeat neighborhood schools in the race to the test score top? Moreover, during most of Klein's years, NYC schools benefited from an incredible economic boom.
Nazaryan makes it seem like Klein had no other option than risk-taking and unleashing the full “brunt of his reforms” on teachers and students. Klein was opposed by UFT President Randi Weingarten, who was supposedly the “pedagogical version of Bull Connor.” Showing that he is oblivious to social science research, cognitive science and education history, as well as the position of Weingarten’s union, Nazaryan indicates that Klein had no choice but to turn students into lab rats because he had to shred “the noxious these-kids-can’t-learn belief deep at the heart of all union recalcitrance.” While doing so, Nazaryan seems to indicate that his knowledge of school improvement comes from the notorious, fact-challenged “The Lottery” and “Waiting for Superman.”
Like Klein, Nazaryan was a newbie when he helped establish a new small high school. His only preparation was a “harrowing year of teaching middle school English.” After four years, mostly at a “mini-Princeton” selective school, Nazaryan turned to journalism as “a path out, or up, or whatever” from public schools.
Here's the promo card for the spring 2015 version of the annual Yale event, which is notable mostly for the headline: "Back To Why: Education At Its Core," and its subhead, which is about the need to "refocus on the purpose and outcomes of education reform." Interesting, right? Or am I making too much of it?
Steve Brill, the cigar-chomping, Tab-drinking journalism enterpreneur who sometimes writes about education issues, is starting a new longform investigative journalism endeavor that isn't necessarily focused on education issues but could imaginably be a place for school stories to find a home.
The effort, detailed in Capital New York and other places (Steven Brill-Jill Abramson startup comes into focus), is a partership with former NYT exec Jill Abramson that will generate one big story a month, published via subscription model, and will be part of an existing site or publication (not named).
Via email, Brill told me that the site isn't education-focused by any means, and they aren't taking pitches yet so hold your horses, but I can't imagine that the right kind of pitch wouldn't find interested eyes given Brill's track record writing about teachers, unions, politics, and schools. The only real danger is that Brill himself will want to write the education stories rather than assigning them out.
Like many others, I've had a love-hate relationship with Brill, generally loving the attention he brings to the issue and his sharp eye -- he also thanked me in his book about school reform for all the insights this blog provided, which I appreciated -- but lamenting his Ravitchian self-certainty, his pro-reform credulity, and his somewhat limited grasp of education research.
Related posts: Time's Up For "Race ...; Steve Brill's School Reform Sustainability Problem; Brill's Big Sloppy Wet Kiss ...; Brill (Over)Praises Duncan; Brill's Last Stand; 12 New Yorker Ed Articles Vox Missed/Got Wrong.
Torlakson wins superintendent race EdSource Today: Tom Torlakson has won a second term as state superintendent of public instruction. The 65-year-old incumbent defeated Marshall Tuck 52.2 percent to 47.8 percent with 98 percent of precincts reporting.
See also: Torlakson declares victory over Tuck for California schools chief SacBee; Tom Torlakson takes early lead in race to be California's school superintendent AP; Incumbent Torlakson takes the lead in race for state schools chief LA Times.
NB AFT has cancelled its s scheduled press call this AM.
NEA’s and AFT’s Awful Election Day Dropout Nation: In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker won a second term over Mary Burke ... In Michigan, Rick Snyder beat the NEA- and AFT-backed Mark Schauer by a four-point margin. Then there is Rhode Island, where State Treasurer Gina Raimondo won a first term as governor in spite of opposition from the NEA earlier this year... And let’s not forget Bruce Rauner, the private-equity fund boss who defeated incumbent Illinois Gov.
Fiorettio snub prompts growing outrage in CTU Substance News: Even those union members who might have considered a honest plea on behalf of the Garcia campaign [endorsed by Karen Lewis] were angered by the way in which the night was handled.
Rocketship wins green light for its first charter school in D.C. WashPost: The D.C. Public Charter School Board gave full approval Monday night for Rocketship Education, a California-based charter operator, to open its first school in the District in 2016.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
California’s biggest race will surprise you: It’s for state school superintendent WashPost: Perhaps the most important — and definitely the most expensive — election in California on Tuesday is the down-ballot battle for state school superintendent. The $30 million race has generated three times as much spending as the contest for governor, with money pouring in from across the country.
AFT's Political Blitz to the Midterm-Election Finish Line PK12: The blitz began last week, with several ads paid for by AFT's Solidarity Fund, one of its political financing arms. It will continue through Tuesday, when Weingarten is slated to be on hand in Philadelphia, where Democratic gubernatorial challenger Tom Wolfe is expected to trounce Republican incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett.
De Blasio Unveils New Plans for Troubled Schools in New York NYT: Mayor Bill de Blasio said his tactics of offering more help to failing schools, and providing social services to students and families there, differed sharply from his predecessor’s. See also WNYC, WNYC, ChalkbeatNY.
Marysville students return amid grief, outpouring of support Seattle Times: Hundreds of parents, relatives, alumni and other community members turned out to support students at Marysville-Pilchuck High on the first day of school since the shooting 10 days ago. Also offering support were visitors representing other U.S. communities that have endured school shootings.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
"The state legislatures [are] much more up for grabs (as are many governorships), and they have real power. [They] have more influence than Congress over K-12 and higher education, criminal justice, housing, and transportation, among many other issues." (John Oliver takes on state legislators, the most important politicians you're ignoring - Vox)
This [digging in] strategy might work in the short run. But in the long run [the unions are] dooming the schools they claim to care about to mediocrity and abandonment by the middle class, and putting the union they profess to love on a path to irrelevance.
-- Whitmire and Rotherham (The Teachers Unions First Lost The Media; Have They Now Lost Everyone Else, Too?)
In case you happened to miss it, The Nation came out with a big 5,000-word story about TFA this week -- it's second piece about the alternative certification program now in its 25th year.
This one, written by a Columbia University undergraduate who's obviously done a lot of work researching his story, focuses on TFA's efforts to deal with critical reporting about its work (This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach for America), describing the research and responses from TFA as "obsessive" and part of a cover up fueled with $3.5 million a year in advertising and promotion -- and tip-offs from the USDE when its work is being FOIAd.
There are a few facts and figures that you may not have seen before, but most of the article is a laborious rehash of familiar complaints about the weakness of the TFA model, the money and talent it's attracted, and the uncertainties of the efforts it and its alumni have undertaken in places like DC, New Orlans, and Newark. Yep, thanks, we've got it.
My first complaint about the piece was that it noted on-campus resistance to TFA recruiting without disclosing that one of the groups organizing students is a pro-union AFT-funded organization, ASUS. Just a few weeks ago, In These Times corrected its story about the Harvard controversy noting that ASUS received AFT funding. Writer George Joseph dismissed the AFT funding as obvious and unnecessary, since ASUS's views are already so widely known:
Seriously? Funding sources and connections are such a big issue in education when it comes to reform funders and advocates, but somehow journalists think that reporting who's behind the effort isn't an issue when its parents, teachers, or the unions.
My second complaint about the piece was that it's framed as an attempt to scare readers about TFA's communications acumen -- they'll slash your tires, or something like that -- when the reality is that they like many other reform groups have struggled to respond effectively (much less prevent) critical-minded stories in The Nation/Hechinger*, In These Times, NPR, Vox, etc.
It's not that TFA is so amazing at PR, but the opposite. The memo that is the focus of the latest article -- so much for TFA's ability to keep a secret! -- indicates a remarkably wonky, slow, and conflict-aversive approach to dealing with critics, advocates, and the teachers unions.
My real criticism, however, is that both TFA and its reform-minded allies continue to allow this kind of thing happen again and again without any really vigorous or coordinated response.
Publish a story raising concerns about teacher tenure, as TIME recently did, and the response is strong, immediate, and action-oriented -- 100,000 signatures on a petition, a press event, and a Twitterstorm of criticism against the cover, the story, and the reporter who wrote it.
Slam a reform organization or its leaders -- repeatedly, and somewhat unfairly -- and the response is slow, timid, defensive -- and likely to be limited to the individual or organization most directly affected, and in the case of TFA limited to blog posts and letters to the editor.
If reformers had a real media response strategy -- no, Education Post doesn't count (yet) -- they'd critique The Nation's story for its flawed reporting. They'd stand up for each other, not just defending their efforts but raising questions about those who are criticizing them. They'd overcome their student government president egos, truly minor policy differences, and deep underestimation of social media and its effect on media coverage.
Sure, most folks don't care for the bickering and it's only a small group of folks who are paying attention. But that small group includes include journalists and thought leaders, funders, and staff, and I just don't think it's working very well for reformers to let their leaders/lead organizations get slammed repeatedly and let claims against them go unanswered. Coordinated action is why the political parties hang together despite policy differences, and unions and union members hang together despite differences.
Related posts: Think Tanker Tells Reporters To Stop Scapegoating TFA; Funding Disclosure Should Apply To Reform Critics, Too; 12 Problems With Politico's TFA Story (+1 With TFA); Reporters Should Identify Union Employees.
*That's right. The usually play-it-straight Hechinger Report ran the first Nation story about TFA and executive editor Sarah Garland wrote about the second story (The two sides of TFA), claiming that it revealed just how much TFA didn't like the story, defending the piece that was published as factually correct, and noting that Hechinger Report regularly publishes pieces focuses on problems as well as successes in education. [NB there are at least a couple of journalistic questions about the Nation/Hechinger piece]
**UPDATED: New America's Conor Williams notes some of the same ridiculousness in The Nation's storyline, and adds that USDE notifying a grantee of a FOIA request is standard protocol rather than part of TFA's inside influence -- both an example of flaws in The Nation's journalism and useful points of criticism against the piece that reform advocates might highlight in a loosely coordinated but not lockstep (ie, morning memo) kind of way.
Like many of my friends, I have often worried that my American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is too moderate. But, I have participated in a variety of civil rights, children’s rights, Pro-Choice, and environmentalism coalitions. While I didn’t always agree with my local and national AFT office holders, I’ve never known more astute or more honorable leaders. I feel the same about the NEA.
That is why I was reassured when reading Teachers Unions to Spend More than Ever, by Education Week’s Lauren Camera. She explains how unions are investing $60 million dollars to roll back the GOP onslaught of 2010 that has damaged schools and communities.
We must remind all stakeholders that it is unions, not corporate powers, who have proven themselves as the real champions for social justice. If the billionaires defeat unions, who will stand for fair wages, health care, and equal rights?
I’m no longer a union member, so I’m out of the loop, but the strategy makes sense on several levels. Teachers need to beat back Vergara and its spawn. We should praise education beat reporters for their depth of knowledge and objectivity, while raising the consciousness of mainstream journalists and commentators are too willing to uncritically accept the corporate reform spin.
If Vergara was about real evidence-based policy, we would have won that fight months ago. However, teachers cannot allow reformers to paint our unions as protecting adult interests over families. We can't let them sell the slander that its about unions protecting bad teachers. We must defeat individual Vergara supporters like John Deasy and Marshall Turk, as we join Randi Weingarten in calling for collaborative efforts to improve schools.
As Jeff Bryant writes, it is entirely possible that education will save the Democrats this year. We also need to help elect a Democrat as president in 2016, while making it clear that we won’t accept another four to eight years of Arne Duncan-style, anti-teacher policies. Democrats must understand that if they place the Billionaires Boys Club over teachers and students, we will fight them with the same intensity as we are resisting the bubble-in accountability hawks.
In Union there is Strength. We must avoid divisiveness in both our shortterm and longterm battles for education and justice. – JT(@drjohnthompson)
Here's Bloomberg EDU's new interview with superintendent Bill Hite.
There's lots to learn from Mike Antonucci's new Education Next piece on the rise and (projected) fall of teacher union membership and influence in America -- Antonucci manages to be both critical and sympathetic-seeming at the same time -- but this chart is a good place to start. Used with permission.
"Even if their current difficulties continue, the NEA and the AFT will never disappear. But their days of dominating the education environment are on the wane. In the future, we will look upon them as we now do the Teamsters, as remnants of an earlier age."
Some of the same issues and dynamics can be found in Stephanie Simon's latest piece on union advocacy and influence in the 2014 midterms. Whether the trends are good for American schoolkids, or bad, or a mixed bag, I'll leave for another day or others to say -- but I wrote a book about a neighborhood charter school with a "thin" union contract if that gives you a clue.
Watch TIME's Haley Sweetland Edwards discuss her controversial cover story on C-SPAN. Click here if the video doesn't display properly. Or, take a look at Mike Antonucci's new article on teachers unions (Teachers Unions and the War Within). Still surfing the outrage Antonucci describes in his piece, the AFT is delivering a 90,000-signature petition demanding an apology from TIME for the cover image this afternoon in NYC and the new NEA president is embarking on a six-state get out the vote tour.
The sea of cash in the Minneapolis school-board race just became a tsunami MinnPost: Along with six-figure spending by state and local unions, the eye-popping donations bring the total amount of cash going to influence the race to easily twice what many candidates for state office spend on competitive races.
Large Suburban Districts Call for More Testing Flexibility District Dossier: The Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium is made up of 16 school districts across the country. Earlier this year, the group also called for reduced emphasis on testing. See also PK12
SAT Cheating Inquiry Delays Scores for South Korea and China NYT: The Educational Testing Service said it had reliable information that tests had been compromised for thousands of South Korean and Chinese students applying to American colleges and universities. See also TIME.
Taylor Swift to Donate 'Welcome to New York' Proceeds to NYC Public Schools AP: The singer announced on "The View" today that she's donating the proceeds from the sale of her single, "Welcome to New York," to New York City Public Schools. See also ChalkbeatNY
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
TIME reports allegations of mass cheating on SAT http://ow.ly/DxjNF Students demand apology [no, not really]
Boston failing thousands of students, says reform group - CommonWealth Magazine http://ow.ly/DwXKm - FFES lands in Boston
Pro-Common Core group "High Achievement New York" says repeal would cost NY $280M http://ow.ly/DwSdh
This Is What Happens When You Criticize TFA | The Nation http://ow.ly/DwWtM
Cuomo calls public school system a ‘monopoly’ he wants to bust http://ow.ly/DwhRm [But NYSUT still won't officially oppose him]
With $100M pledge, Apple hops on board Obama program to wire up schools - Chicago Tribune http://ow.ly/Dw2LQ