There were very few adults around me who’d been great students and were subsequently rewarded for their studiousness. I mostly thought of school as a place one goes so as not to be eventually killed, drugged, or jailed. - The Atlantic's Ta-Nehesi Coates (Acting French)
The Washington Post has a story about Peter Cunningham's new education group (Education Post aims to take the sting out of national conversations about school reform) that hints at but doesn't quite get to the real story behind the organization.
Described as "a nonprofit group that plans to launch Tuesday with the aim of encouraging a more “respectful” and fact-based national discussion about the challenges of public education, and possible solutions," the $12 million Chicago-based organization (Cunningham, Mike Vaughn, etc.) is funded by Broad, Bloomberg, and Walton, among others.
It's an obvious (and long-needed) attempt to address the insufficiencies of the reform movement when it comes to shaping the education debate -- the reform version of Parents Across America or the Network for Public Education or Sabrina Stevens' group (though I haven't heard much from them lately).
The purely communication-oriented outfit ((RSS Feed, Twitter) is led by longtime Arne Duncan guy Cunningham and including blogger Citizen Stewart. A sampling of their blog posts (Public Education Needs a New Conversation; Speak Up, Don’t Give Up; The Right School for My Child; The Common Sense Behind Common Core
Versions of Education Post have been discussed for a while now, online and in the real world. A version of the same idea almost came to being 18 months ago, tentatively called "The Hub." Why another group? Advocacy groups get embroiled in pushing for changes, and lack time and resources to coordinate among each other or to focus on communications. They barely have time or capacity to defend themselves, much less put out a positive agenda across multiple groups.
Meantime, a small but dedicated group of reform critics and groups(many of them union-funded or - affiliated) has managed to embed themselves in the minds of reporters and generate an enormous amount of resistance to reform measures.
Via FairTest and Diane Ravitch. Is this really the first time this has ever happened?
Via Hechinger Report's Annie Murphy Paul.
I've long been fascinated by charter innovations (unionized, zoned, diverse, progressive) that blur the lines between charters and district schools and so you can imagine how excited I am to hear about A Smarter Charter (pictured), a new book from the Century Foundation's Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter, which focuses in particular on charters like City Neighbors Charter School in Baltimore and Morris Jeff Community School in New Orleans that emphasize teacher voice and/or socioeconomic integration.
The book isn't out until September 12 but you can get a taste of the book's approach by checking out some recent blog posts:
*Big Lessons on Charter School from the Smallest State (about Blackstone Valley Prep, among other things).
*Diverse Charter School Opens in Nashville (about Valor).
*Thin Contracts Can Provide a Good Balance (about Amber).
The book has received positive reviews (blurbs) from the AFT's Randi Weingarten and NEA's Dennis Van Roekel, as well as AEI's Rick Hess and NYC's Jim Merriman.
Related posts: Diverse Charters Form New National Alliance; Diverse Charters Spread Nationally (Education Next); Chicago A Charter Unionization Hotbed; Thin Contract At Locke High School. Image via TCF.
"College for America, an online degree program, has no classes, professors or credit hours. It's been cited as an innovative way to make college more affordable. But how do its students qualify for a degree?" (Via PBS NewsHour). The idea might sound crazy or not work at scale, but then again traditional colleges aren't doing any better at graduating poor minorities and are resisting government ratings showing how well they perform, so maybe it's time for some changes.
The case for cop AND teacher cams - Chicago Tribune ( Reihan Salam) ow.ly/AHgIY
Two Spencer Fellow books reviewed in same edition of the NYT -- including one written by a 3rd Spencer
Students Aren't Getting Enough Sleep—School Starts Too Early - The Atlantic ow.ly/AHff7
All this and more at @alexanderrusso.
Asking teachers to choose between Obama and the union line runs the risk that many teachers will decide the union is wrong. - Jonathan Chait in NY Magazine (The Proxy Fight for the Democratic Party Future)
- NYCAN's Derrell Bradford via Facebook on NEA Common Core position(s) -- see full quote below.
On last night's PBS NewsHour, John Tulenko took us to Mission Hill in Boston, where teacher retention is high (but test scores aren't -- at leats not so far). There are roughly 70 of these consensus-run schools nationwide.
Support For The Common Core Plummets, Especially Among Teachers HuffPost: 40 percent of teachers said they opposed the Common Core -- more than triple the 12 percent who said they were against the standards in 2013. Broken down by party lines, Republicans were much more likely to have switched their opinion than Democrats.
How much did students really gain on Common Core tests in New York? Data doesn’t say Hechinger Report: Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City schools chancellor, Carmen Farina, pointedly confirmed their commitment to Common Core when they announced the test results. “Both promised to invest more in teacher training to help implement the new standards in the classroom.
Fight on Common Core Is Dividing Louisiana NYT: The fight has generated two dueling lawsuits, a standoff between Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state superintendent of education he appointed, and a sense of chaos among educators and parents.
No Safe Place: Ferguson Postpones Start of School Year WNYC: The decision to cancel school is one Scott Spurgeon, superintendent of the Riverview Gardens School District, made on Monday. Spurgeon oversees the school district that includes the location where 18-year-old Brown was shot.
Undocumented Children Strain Miami Schools NPR: School administrators in South Florida are concerned about funding and resources for these new students, who often require extra attention. Some children have never attended school before, and others suffer from psychological trauma from the gang violence back home.
Los Angeles to Reduce Arrest Rate in Schools NYT: New policies with the aim of keeping students out of the court system will end citations for minor offenses like fighting or defacing school property.
Two Teens Arrested for Mass School Shooting Plot in Southern California AP: Two students at South Pasadena High School were arrested on suspicion of a plot that reportedly involved shooting three school staffers and then targeting as many students as possible.
How Chicago is Bringing Together Edtech Entrepreneurs and Educators EdSurge: At the second annual Collaborative last Thursday, August 14, over 650 educators from Chicago and surrounding areas and entrepreneurs from 37 startups gathered at the South Side’s Bridgeport Art Center to engage in panels, workshops and pitch sessions.
They were right to focus on the Common Core curriculum. -- NYC Mayor De Blasio on Bloomberg decisions that led to NYC test score increases (WNYC Five Things You Need to Know About NYC Scores on State Tests)
As was apparent at last week's discussion of the Vergara case between Fordham's Mike Petrilli and AEI's Mike McShane, the current generation of school reformers is generally dismissive of legal cases in search of school improvements.
Lawsuits don't work, or are at best crude measures compared to policies and statutes.Or, theyre good for quantity-related issues (like funding) but not for quality-related issues (like access to effective teaching). Check out Petrilli and McShane's responses to my Twitter query at the 30 minute mark.
They may be right. I'm no legal scholar, and it's certainly conventional wisdom that the wave of equity and adequacy cases of the 1970s and 1980s didn't result in any wholesale improvements in American education. Some would say the same about civil rights cases.
But the Vergara case, its successors, and a whole host of non-education advocacy (same-sex marriage, for example), suggest that the conventional wisdom might be worth reconsidering, or at least examining.
Historically, it seems to me that legal cases have played an important role in shaping education -- perhaps as much or more so than laws that have been passed. I don't see any big advantage of one forum over the other.
The Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits broke the news on Tuesday. The Sacramento Bee followed up with a focus on Rhee's work on behalf of her husband, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who may run for higher office in two years. Beaten badly on the news, Politico published a misleadingly negative account of Rhee's accomplishments, noting her successes only in the bottom half of its story.
However, it's not really news that Rhee and her organization made crazy demands and didn't coordinate well with others or that she didn't reach her $1 billion fundraising goal. Just recently, she listed a set of states suitable for Vergara-like lawsuits without (I'm told) consulting with Campbell Brown's organization. And no doubt, Rhee et al made a bunch of mistakes. (Focusing on ending seniority in layoffs was the biggest among them, in my opinion.)
But much of the criticism now focused on Rhee is the product of anti-reform advocates gleeful at her departure and thin-skinned reformer who didn't like being elbowed aside while Rhee was on the front pages and generally failed to support or defend her against the relentless critiques of anti-reform advocates who dominate the online discourse and influence many reporters. (For a recent example of just how dominant reform critics are online, read this US News story: Common Core Opponents Hijack Supporters' Twitter Blitz.)
From the PBS NewsHour: 50 Years On, Freedom Schools Still Teaching Most Vulnerable includes interview with founder of the program, who went on to start the Children's Defense Fund.
"Only 31 percent of respondents said they thought it is too difficult to fire public school teachers in their state. Conversely, 12 percent of respondents said it was is too easy to fire teachers, and 27 percent said the difficulty level was about right." (HuffPost). Image used with permission.
I received an enthusiastic response, especially from educators, regarding last week's TWIE post Common Core Will Double the Dropout Rate, Says Carnegie Corporation.
The piece also produced some pushback from persons who question the Carnegie Corporation projection and who assert that districts would do whatever is necessary to avoid such an increase in dropouts.
Before addressing research and testing issues, I would like to explain why so many urban educators anticipate that an unconscionable number of low-skilled students will be pushed out of school by the botched implementation of Common Core.
For over a dozen years, too many students have only been taught to parse simple, straightforward sentences and paragraphs, and to answer primitive right-wrong questions. These students need to unlearn these deplorable habits that were worsened by education malpractice encouraged by bubble-in accountability.
The transition from these simple, but counterproductive, worksheet-driven behaviors to meaningful learning is necessary. But, it won't be quick, cheap or easy. The rate by which low-skilled students unlearn the legacy of rote instruction, and master authentic learning, will first be determined by the time it takes for students to rebound from inevitable setbacks. The pace by which teachers help students master new learning skills will be determined by their success in rebuilding the confidence of students after they face defeats.
As has long been explained by the Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center, the job of counseling and remotivating students to meet much higher standards is far beyond the capacity of teachers in high-poverty schools. The supports students need require a "second shift" or teams of educators.
Just as wealthy Americans inherit opportunity, working-class men inherit adversity. -- Nick Kristof (Is a Hard Life Inherited?)
Chicago releases improved test score results -- too bad they're not on the annual state tests - District299 ow.ly/A6wsS
30 Ed Applications of Google Glass include teacher eval, teacher's view, ow.ly/A7ftu
What happens when Democratic education advocates on opposite sides of many policy issues attend the same campaign training events? Things get awkward. That's apparently what happend at a recent New Organizing Institute event when members of the AFT and Parent Revolution both showed up and -- I'm speculating here -- didn't much want to be put at the same table brainstorming ideas together.
The NOI is a relatively new outfit, and its work was written up earlier this week in the Post (Inside the Democratic party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry):
"With the real midterms fast approaching, Democrats areager to put more people in the field who've been trained in the latest campaigning techniques... Boot campers have gone on to some of the most prominent left-leaning organizations in the country — such as AFL-CIO, Greenpeace and Planned Parenthood, not to mention the White House and political firms like Blue State Digital."
It makes sense that both groups would be there, given how hard everyone's trying to figure out/get better at campaign and mobilization work these past couple of years in particular. I've heard that similar things have happened at the Marshall Ganz boot camp, too.
"Campbell Brown, founder of the Partnership for Educational Justice, and Keoni Wright, a NY Parent who is a plaintiff in the Wright v NY lawsuit against the state, joined Inside City Hall with Errol Louis to discuss their call to change New York’s teacher tenure rules."
“Every single time I get on a plane I’m really glad that the plane is not being flown by someone who just always loved planes." - Teacher quoted in review of Elizabeth Green's new book about preparing teachers better.
‘The View' Hosts Apparently Love Teachers, Hate Tenure http://ow.ly/A1FnA
How did I miss it? The single most important study on Common Core implementation was published by the Carnegie Corporation in 2013, but its key finding has been ignored.
Carnegie’s Leah Hamilton and Anne Mackinnon, in Opportunity by Design, and the McKinsey Group estimate that the implementation of Common Core (without first establishing a level of systematic supports that would clearly be impossible) would double the nation’s dropout rate.
Even if Common Core was implemented only by top-quartile teachers – who “'move’ student performance at the rate of 1.25 grade levels per year” – the best teachers “cannot possibly meet the demand to raise student achievement to Common Core levels.”
School reformers have long misused multi-colored graphs by the McKinsey Group to argue that improved teacher quality could drive school improvement. So, it is doubly important that Carnegie commissioned McKinsey to use the reformers’ data “to test whether or not it might be possible to avoid large drops in graduation rates using human capital strategies alone.”
A year ago, Carnegie and McKinsey concluded, “The short answer is no: even coordinated, rapid, and highly effective efforts to improve high school teaching would leave millions of students achieving below the level needed for graduation and college success as defined by the Common Core.”
But still, it's almost entirely words and yelling and rallies and protests, painful and triggering to be sure but well short of property damage or physical violence that's taken place in the reproductive rights debate or even in education at times.
For a little bit of historical context , remember the murder of Marcus Foster, the superintendent of Oakland schools, in 1973.
Members of the group that called themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army shot Foster and his deputy as they left a board meeting, killing Foster outright, in response to a student ID card proposal that Foster had actually helped water down, according to Wikipedia, anyway.
I didn't know about this either, by the way. Just heard it on the radio and looked it up so I could wag my finger at everyone. Credit Oakland Wiki/CC BY 3.0
Just because - let's say a fifth-grade teacher in Louisville, like we just heard, decides Minecraft is a great way to get his kids using grids. Well, that doesn't mean that teachers everywhere else are doing the exact same thing. -- NPR's Cory Turner (Debunking Common Myths About The Common Core)
In a followup to the Campbell Brown/David Boies segment earlier this week, Randi Weingarten and Antonio Villaraigosa talk teacher tenureon MSNBC's Morning Joe. (Other cable news shows, where are you?). More about the substance -- and the political back and forth -- at TeacherBeat.
SEE ALSO: Tenure never protected teachers as much as is thought, but ending it will deteriorate teaching TCRecord: http://ow.ly/zZfnR
Ed advocates of all kinds might do well to (re-) read this New Yorker article: Six Things That Make Stories Go Viral http://ow.ly/zYVlE
Meet the left's new campaign think tank - WPost http://ow.ly/zZvJJ
Are You A “Student Voice” Kind Of Educator?... http://ow.ly/zZrOy
Some celebrities shy away from taking a position that's going to bring them so much heat as well as some measure of admiration, and others simply don't agree that tenure is an issue, but Whoopi Goldberg seems to be up for the controversy. If only she'd been somewhat funny about it.... that always helps, right?
Here's Campbell Brown and David Boies on MSNBC's Morning Joe yesterday morning, with mention of a Weingarten appearance later in the week.
Riffing off last week's Campbell Brown appearance on Colbert, TIME's Haley Edwards has an interesting article about the differences between the Comedy Central comedians Stephen Colbert and Jon Stwart (The Celebrity Death Match Over School Reform).
If there's any doubt about Colbert's leanings, you only have to go so far as the Brown booking last week (and the protests that accompanied it), the Ravitch appearances on Stewart (but not Colbert), and Stewart's grilling of Michelle Rhee. Colbert's critique of the Common Core test questions was a slam on testing and those specific questions, in my opinion (see Colbert Attacks Then Endorses Common Core).
The influence of the two comedians is well known (though hard to measure). One of them -- reform wins! -- is about to switch from basic cable to broacast TV. No word yet on whether Colbert's booker, Emily Lazar, is heading to the new show with him (The Most Important Media Insider You've Never Heard Of), or how much education-related bits we'll get to see in the future.
Previous posts: Colbert To Broadcast Move Probably Bad News For Education (2014); Colbert / Stewart Divide On School Reform (2011); Fear-Mongering Educators Dominate Colbert/Stewart Rally (2010).
This is a terrible idea. Legislators have no academic competence to write academic standards. This is a sure way to politicize American education. Politicians should do their work and let educators do their work. Educators are the experts on what students should know and be able to do. - Diane Ravitch (What’s Worse than Common Core? Legislators Writing State Standards)
There was a big KIPP Schools Summit a few days ago, and Whitney Tilson has kindly gathered a bunch of videos from the event (his own plus official ones). Start with the First Lady's taped greeting, and then head on to the rest below. This one is pretty inspiring.
Out-of-state group touting charter schools expands to Boston Boston Globe: Families for Excellent Schools , a nonprofit that has been mobilizing parents in New York City to push for more charter schools is expanding to Boston, a potential boost for local charter school supporters seeking to rebound after a crushing defeat last month.
Celebrated Trial Lawyer to Head Group Challenging Teacher Tenure NYT: Mr. Boies, the son of two public schoolteachers, is a lifelong liberal who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore and prosecuted Microsoft in the Clinton Administration’s antitrust suit. In aligning himself with a cause that is bitterly opposed by teachers’ unions, he is emblematic of an increasingly fractured relationship between the Democrats and the teachers’ unions.
Amid Criticism, States Gear Up For Common Core NPR: Delaware Gov. Jack Markell co-chaired the Common Core State Standards Initiative. He speaks with NPR's Scott Simon about the set of standards, and responds to its critics.
Legislatures taking state education into their own hands Washington Post: The backlash against the Common Core has prompted lawmakers in at least 12 states to get more involved in setting their own K-12 academic standards, injecting politics into a process usually conducted in obscurity by bureaucrats.
Debunking Common Myths About The Common Core NPR: Many people don't realize it's a set of standards, not a curriculum. NPR's Eric Westervelt talks with education reporter Cory Turner about other misconceptions about the Common Core standards.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
Vox points out big but little-known hole in union spending figures ow.ly/zR1Ob
2014's top lobbying spenders so far - Washington Postow.ly/zQmeg Labor unions/teachers *not* among them
Why poor kids fail to show up for college - and lie to college counselors about it - Jay Mathews ow.ly/zQmBG
Knowledge Isn’t Power - NYT ow.ly/zPUAI Krugman on politicians and the public ignoring expertise
Unions are important financial powerhouses in elections, but much of their spending is done in such a way that it doesn't show up on FEC reports — it involves getting out the vote or internal communication with their members rather than paid TV ads. - Vox
The best education-related article in the New Yorker of the past few weeks might not be Rachel Aviv's piece about the "burn-it-down-to-save-it" actions taken by some Atlanta teachers pressured to produce better results but rather Louis Menand's story about how women's rights and civil rights advocates came together uneasily.
DFER California is re-launching operations for 2014 and beyond, kicked off with a few events and announcements (see press release below).
As a big part of that effort, DFER has hired Steve Barr to be the state chapter head. Former state legislator Gloria Romer was the previous head.
Barr founded Green Dot Schools and more recently headed FIN Schools, which I'm told has been winding down its operations in recent months.
Previous posts: Pro-Charter Dem PAC Expands To CA ; Strange Times In California ; Green Dot & Steve Barr Finalize Their "Divorce" ; Barr Nonprofit Re-Focuses On Teacher Advocacy 
Ultimately, the union backlash is likely to be channeled into the 2016 Democratic primary. Of the various sources of liberal dismay that may be brought to bear upon Hillary Clinton — Warren-esque concern with inequality, unease with the Clinton’s hawkish record — the most focused and organized may well be the cause of the unions.
-- Jonathan Chait NY Magazine (Teachers Unions Turn Against Democrats)
Chart: Top Liberal Campaign Spenders 2012 - via Voxow.ly/zKHsh includes Bloomberg, Soros, Fred Eychaner, etc.
Remembering Gene Maeroff - Education Next : Education Next ow.ly/zL69g (features audio interview)
Ultimately [in DC], we signed a contract with the union that addressed a lot of these issues, and the American Federation of Teachers signed off on it. So we have a precedent to be able to do this. (In D.C.) we are now retaining the most highly effective teachers at much higher rates.
- Michelle Rhee in NPR (Teacher Tenure Challenges)
New York Educators Fight Back on Attacks to Tenure NYT: The United Federation of Teachers sent out a memo defending tenure laws after two parents groups in New York filed lawsuits to challenge it.
Union Claims Weak Teachers Are Shown the Door WNYC: With its cherished tenure system under scrutiny, the New York City teachers union claimed on Tuesday that hundreds of teachers leave the city schools every year for failing to meet professional standards or as a result of disciplinary actions, even though very few of them are actually fired.
Q&A: Michelle Rhee On Teacher Tenure Challenges NPR: Her group played a supporting role in both the California and New York challenges and is now considering action in several other states.
Bobby Jindal Is Being Sued By His Own School Board Over The Common Core HuffPost: On Tuesday, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted 6-4 to join the lawsuit against Jindal, known as Navis Hill, et al., v. Louisiana State.
Can special education students keep up with the Common Core? The Hechinger Report: On a morning in late May, the pace was slow and deliberate as seven students formed a semicircle around their teacher to work on a lesson about finding the main idea in a story.
Can after-school programs help shrink the ‘opportunity gap’ for low-income students? PBS NewsHour: Middle School 223 in the Bronx, NY, is one of about 1,000 public schools in the U.S. offering low-income students a host of fun and educational classes after the final bell rings. But despite their best intentions, after-school programs may be overlooking the “elephant in the room”.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
I was slow to follow the link to Why Do Americans Stink at Math?, in the New York Times Magazine, and I did not see it as a "must read" until I realized it was written by the Chalkbeat's Elizabeth Green.
I’m bad at math and I don’t see Americans’ problems with math as that big of a deal. I’m much more concerned with the challenge of improving reading comprehension in the 21st century.
As I understand it, math is a precise language, combined with logic. Few teachers are prepared to holistically teach this language or explain to students what the purpose and meaning of the subject is. Besides, contemporary American culture is not at its best in terms of valuing non-English languages, much less translating words and concepts into numbers and symbols.
Green grabbed me when citing John Allen Paulos’s diagnosis of innumeracy— “the mathematical equivalent of not being able to read.” She then reports that on the NAEP, “three-quarters of fourth graders could not translate a simple word problem about a girl who sold 15 cups of lemonade on Saturday and twice as many on Sunday into the expression ‘15 + (2×15).’”
You don’t need to be a genius... You have to know how to manage a discussion. You have to know which problems are the ones most likely to get the lessons across. You have to understand how students make mistakes — how they think — so you can respond to that.
-- Author Elizabeth Green in Joe Nocera NYT column about improving teacher preparation
I think then we make a great mistake by caricaturing the opponents of the standards as crazies or people who don't tell the truth... We will lose, and we'll lose things of great importance, if we dismiss this as an extremist position. - David Coleman in BloombergEDU interview via Politico
If someone knocks on your door and says, ‘I’m Mark, I’m from the state Democratic Party,’ you take the literature and shut the door. “If you say, ‘Hi, I’m Karen, I’m a third-grade teacher at Hillsmere Elementary and I’m here to tell you what’s at stake for public education,’ that gets a very different reaction from the voter. - Karen White, political director for the National Education Association in today's Politico story (