Private school vouchers and charter school expansion don't fare nearly as well with the public as various changes to improving classroom teaching -- but not ending teacher tenure -- according to this chart from last week's Third Way report (What Americans Want from Democrats on Education). Of course, the results might have been different if the language had been "streamlining" tenure or something else less absolute. Image used with permission.
For every organization like Teach for America that catches fire and goes national, there are myriad smaller initiatives that struggle in the trenches for years, never quite breaking into the big time—and maybe missing their moments to do so. - Inside Philanthropy (After Years in the Trenches, Is This Ed Group Going to Break Out?)
Here's a map from the new NACSA @qualitycharters report on state charter authorizers showing how many authorizers each state has. The more the merrier, in general, though obviously that's not always the case since Ohio has lots and Arizona has few. Read the report here.
There are lots of myths in education and education reporting, and the Columbia Journalism Review highlights one of them in its latest post (The Texas school board isn't as powerful as you think), calling out Reuters, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Vice, and the Brownsville Herald (and praising the AP and the Houston Chronicle).
"The Texas-textbook story is not the same as it was when the board approved materials in 2002. Reporters should not be telling it as if it is."
In a lengthy post, CJR points out that the familiar narrative of an all-powerful school board setting the textbook agenda for the nation is outdated and inaccurate "As far back as 2010, professionals in the textbook industry were already telling the Texas Tribune that the story about the state school board’s influence was “an urban myth.” But it's fun and easy to retell, focusing as it does on Texas, religion, and dysfunctional education bureaucracy. So folks jump on it, whether they know better or not.
What's CJR get wrong or leave out? What other myths are still getting passed along by education reporters and media outlets? Vox's Libby Anderson recently highlighted 5 things about standardized testing that you don't always find in testing stories. I'm sure there are others out there.
Related posts: Why Journos Overstate Federal Influence; Please Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos; 6 Key Critiques Of Media Coverage Of Education; How Reporters Got Sucked Into Value-Added Debacle; Researcher Fails To Disclose Union Funding; Journos Fail To Ask.
He didn't cover teachers unions all that frequently. I didn't always admire his work when he did (and as I recall from a series of angry emails he didn't much care for my constructive criticism, either).
But I certainly appreciated that Greenhouse was out there doing what so few others do in education or mainstream journalism in general, and wish there were more folks out there doing the same.
In his exit interview with Gawker (A Q&A With Steven Greenhouse) Greenhouse includes some interesting tidbits about an uptick in labor coverage since 2010 and the potential impact of worker advocacy groups like Domestic Workers United, Make the Road in New York, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, and the Workers Defense Project in Texas. (Are any of these groups operating in the education arena?)
Live-watch Rick Hess interview Moskovitz, whose charter network now includes 9,ooo students in 32 schools across NYC. Video not working? Link is here. Let us know if she or he say something newsworthy!
Last week, NPQ discussed the issue of Cosby's board memberships (Must Nonprofits Change Their Relationship with Bill Cosby?), and I'm told that StudentsFirst has now removed the entertainer from its board.
But there's another, deeper issue, which is the reminder of our persistent collective refusal to acknowledge hard truths (or at least widespread allegations) that are uncomfortable or require a reconsideration of past beliefs:
The Cosby story makes me wonder what deep beliefs about schools we already know to be false but refuse to acknowledge? Time will tell.— alexanderrusso (@alexanderrusso) November 24, 2014
Interesting. What if we ask, "Who is already acknowledging those truths, but we refuse to acknowledge their voices?" @alexanderrusso— xian f'znger barrett (@xianb8) November 24, 2014
What of today's deeply held beliefs or school practices do we arlready know are wrong, but just can't bear to acknowledge or change? And who is speaking hard truths but is being ignored - for now?
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.
Watch John Oliver make a mockery out of 44 state lotteries, which are ostensibly supporting education but in reality don't seem to have much if any positive effects on school resources. Warning: it's long, and has bleeped swear words -- volume down, earbuds in.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here's something you don't see every day - in fact I can't think of it happening ever before (though surely it must have): The ED of the Cowen Institute at Tulane, John Ayers, has resigned after a report came out and had to be withdrawn, according to Higher Education via Politico (Education Think Tank Head Quits After Flawed Study). The study came out and was withdrawn 9 days later, and now Ayers is gone at the end of this month. It's not clear why the study was withdrawn, or whether there were issues with its review as well as its methodology, or whether Ayers left because of the report or because of its withdrawal. Know more about the report or the circumstances? Let us know in comments or ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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).
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.
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.
Rhetoric aside, and excepting a couple of spots like Chicago, the national unions and most union locals have continued to work with states, districts, and Common Core developers to familiarize teachers with the new standards being rolled out in schools around the country.
That's the main finding from my new Education Next article just online today. Behind the hyperbolic headlines, and despite the efforts of critics within the unions and from the outside, much of the work with unions nationally and locally seems to have continued - much to the frustration of social justice advocates who wanted to de-fund these efforts.
The piece includes insights from advocates like Bob Rothman, developers like Sandra Alberti (of SAP), funders like Lynn Olson (Gates), and union officials like Marla Ucelli-Kayshup (AFT) and Donna Harris-Aikens (NEA) who have been working on the standards implementation process. One of the main points that came up repeatedly was that unions haven't generally joined with Republicans to oppose the Common Core process -- Chicago, New York, and Tennessee being exceptions.
“The biggest threat to the Common Core is not that states will pull out” under union pressures, argues Rothman. “The biggest threat is states that stay in but don’t do much to implement the standards.”
You'd think from all the press attention that the Common Core assessments were all but abandoned, but if this new RealClear Education graphic is accurate that's not the case at all. Thirty-four states are stlll working with one of the two main testing consortia. Just eight states have pulled out. More could do so in the near future, but it's also possible that some of the current midterm-generated Common Core fury will abate after next week. Image used with permission. See all the graphs and interactives at Mapping the Common Core.
An apparent leak of former NYC chancellor Joel Klein's new book Lessons of Hope reignited the long-running debate over when and why Diane Ravitch turned against NYC's accountability-focused school reform efforts and gave reform critics a second thing (besides the TIME cover story) to rail against over the weekend.
I still haven't seen the book -- Newsweek'sAlexander Nazaryan tweeted about it first (as far as I am aware) -- but Klein and others have repeatedly suggested that Ravitch's turn against reform efforts like those in New York City was motivated at least partly in response to perceived poor treatment of her partner.
New book by Joel Klein strongly & damningly suggests @DianeRavitch stopped supporting reform only after he refused to hire her partner.— Alexander Nazaryan (@alexnazaryan) October 24, 2014
See the Twitter thread here.
Or, for a more traditional view of the issue, New America's Kevin Carey wrote about redacted emails in a 2011 magazine feature about Ravitch:
"Over the next two months, Klein and Ravitch exchanged a series of e-mails. Their contents were almost entirely redacted by the department when it responded to the FOIA request. But several people who worked for the department at the time, including one who saw the e-mails personally, say Ravitch aggressively lobbied Klein to hire Butz to lead the new program—and reacted with anger when he didn’t.
"Ravitch disputes this, saying she did not ask for Butz to be put in charge of the program, was not angry, and only urged Klein to call upon Butz for her deep knowledge and experience. She also told me she was glad Butz was no longer at the New York City DOE, because it had constrained her own ability to criticize the department."
Steve Brill also went after Ravitch in his 2011 book, claiming that the fees she took in for speaking to teachers should have been disclosed, among other things.
Ravitch and others claim that this is merely an attempt to smear and discredit her, that her partner's departure from NYC's DOE came well before Ravitch's "conversion?" and that it had nothing to do with personal issues.
Who cares what two folks who aren't in charge of any schools have to say about each other? Well, the education debate is all about credibility, for better or worse, so questions about Klein and Ravitch's credibility are noteworthy. There's also the ongoing tension within the reform movement about whether to attack critics or make nice with them, and the issue for both sides of whether attacks are powerful or alienating.
All that being said, I'd love to see the Klein book, and even the unredacted emails. Klein or Ravitch could provide them.
In the most recent Bloomberg EDU, Jane Williams talks to the Netflix founder (and charter skeptic) and YouTube flipped classroom trailblazer (or whatever to call him). Link not working? Go here.
CA Schools chief race may be election's tightest AP: Tuck has nearly matched Torlakson in campaign fundraising, with $1.9 million, while a Southern California businessman who often supports Republican candidates, William Bloomfield Jr., has independently picked up the tab for at least $900,000 worth of slate mailers and ads on his behalf.
Deasy's exit reflects other school battles across the U.S. LA Times: Top leaders in some of the largest districts — in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., Texas and elsewhere — have come under tremendous pressure: some lost their jobs, one faced a massive teachers strike, and lawsuits have been filed against them, among other things.
New LA schools superintendent won’t use district-paid Deasy as adviser KPCC: New L.A. Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines said his improvement plans for the school district’s most pressing problems won’t involve the man who arguably knows the district best: resigned Superintendent John Deasy. “Dr. Deasy did many things well, but I will not be using his services,” Cortines said in an interview with KPCC’s Take Two on Monday.
The Short Shelf Life Of Urban School Superintendents NPR: If you're a 12th grader right now in the Los Angeles schools, that means you probably started kindergarten back in 2001. It also means that, as of this week, you've seen four superintendents come and go.
Teacher who flew to Dallas for Common Core seminar put on leave out of Ebola fear The Answer Sheet: A Maine teacher flew to Dallas to attend an educational conference — miles away from the hospital where three cases have been diagnosed — and was told to stay away from the elementary school where she works for 21 days.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
Here's the video from CAP's event, during which you'll find out about CAP head sending her own kids to DCPS schools, plus link to the new report (Testing Overload in America’s Schools):
Basically, the report focusing on 14 districts in 7 states -- Colorado (Denver Public Schools and Jefferson Co. Schools), Florida (Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Sarasota County Schools), Georgia (Atlanta Public Schools and Cobb County School District), Illinois (Chicago Public Schools and Elmwood Community Schools), Kentucky (Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville and Bullitt County Public Schools), Ohio (Columbus City Schools and South-Western City School District), Tennessee (Shelby County Schools and Knox Co. Schools) -- finds that there's lots of testing and too much test prep -- much of it district-mandated (not state or federal) -- but holds out hope that states and districts can streamline their testing and that Common Core assessments will make for fewer, fairer tests. #CAPedu
Now, Frank Bruni praises the students, families, and educators in Colorado and elsewhere who are opposing standards that demand that schools be all on the same page when teaching a single ideologically-driven set of Standards.
Bruni writes, “When it comes to learning, shouldn’t they [schools] be dangerous?” Sounding like a teachers union building rep, Bruni asks, “Isn’t education supposed to provoke, disrupt, challenge the paradigms that young people have consciously embraced and attack the prejudices that they have unconsciously absorbed?”
I am curious about noneducators, who ordinarily support the clash of ideas, who contradict themselves by attacking tenure, due process, and the policies that are essential for protecting the free flow of ideas of public education. Do they not realize that the test, sort, reward, and punish reform movement is only viable when it is imposing tests where there is only one “right” answer? Do commentators like Bruni not understand that tenure is essential for protecting the debate and discussion in our schools?
Bruni’s ill-informed attack on teachers may help answer my question. It was based on an interview with – you guessed it – one ideologically-driven reformer. Bruni accepted the claims of Colorado Senator Mike Johnson at face value. It doesn’t seem to occur to Bruni that the efforts of Johnson et. al to destroy the rights of teachers (so that they cannot oppose his test-driven accountability schemes) also opened the door for Colorado's conservative reformers to micromanage the learning of students? Can he explain a difference between the way that rightwing censorship operates, as opposed to the way that corporate reform functions when it micromanages teachers’ instruction and students’ learning?
For all the policy chatter and debate out there about funding inequities (between charters and neighborhood schools is one favorite), you don't hear much talk about just how inequitable the funding gaps can be among the 15,000 or so school districts (or among schools within the same district -- don't even get me started). But that doesn't mean they've gone way. This USDE/CAP/Bruce Baker map shows that a typical Chicago city school gets half the funding of one in the wealthy suburbs. Yep, half. Image used by permission.
Motoko Rich's latest NYT piece isn't really focused on NCLB sanctions but rather the political standoff between Washington State officials and the Obama administration over use of test scores to help evaluate teachers.
Still, NCLB sanctions are the only real-world impact of the fact that Washington State schools are still operating under the original NCLB -- the only reason anyone cares, really -- and the exaggerations and misundertandings of that law are in many ways a precedent for the current confusions/criticisms surrounding Common Core.
So it's worth reminding everyone what NCLB did and din't require.
Specifically, the law didn't require "private" tutoring for schools not making AYP repeatedly. It required tutoring provided by someone other than the school, including nonprofits, community groups, commercial tutoring companies, and sometimes even school districts (like Chicago, which received a federal waiver to provide tutoring to non-AYP schools).*
Whether or not the tutoring was top-notch, many schools and districts lined up against it because it meant that someone else was teaching their kids (and possibly doing a better job) and that they got slightly less federal funding than in the past under their control. Some districts and students responded ungenerously, by making their own students travel to other locations for tutoring rather than making arrangements for in-school delivery.
What NCLB *did* do, among other things, was require annual reading and math tests for schools receiving federal education funding, and require districts to test all students and report out data based on subgroups, and severely limit the use of non-certified aides and out-of-field teachers who were often assigned to low-income children and paid for with federal funding. It also encouraged federal lawmakers to increase Title I funding substantially, in order to help pay for things like extra tutoring that students at schools that weren't doing right by poor kids might need.
NCLB was far from a perfect law, to be sure. The student transfer provisions were ridiculously weak, and the law allowed states to continue to set their own cut scores on annual tests, making it seem like kids were doing much better than they really were. But it -- like Common Core and the assessments -- shouldn't be so eaisly used as a convenient dumping ground for educators' and advocates' talking points.
*NCLB also didn't require districts to shutter schools, or fire teachers. Those were possible options, sure, but very little of that was done under NCLB, and even under the subsequent school turnaround initiative based on NCLB (SIG). But that's for another time.
Watch Bridget Mckinney, third-year principal of Miami's Allapattah Middle School, explain "her trepidations, as well as her support, for the common core itself." (Common Core Spurs Hope, Fear for a Miami Principal via State EdWatch).
The Marshall Tuck campaign gets a few celebrity endorsements for his CA superintendent race -- plus some hilariously awful suggestions.
The Think Tank Watch has a recent blog post (Think Tanks Doing Journalism) that highlights this trend:
"Many Washington think tanks have been hiring well-known journalists in recent years in an effort to beef up their efforts to get good writers, network with media-types, and better disseminate information and policy proposals to a wider audience. "
A recent Economist article (Think-tanks and journalism: Making the headlines) points out that it's not just opeds, papers and conferences anymore.
Indeed. we've seen bits and pieces of that from education think tanks like Education Sector, Fordham, Carnegie, Brookings, and New America all come to mind. Perhaps the best example of this is AIR taking over Education Sector (and its blog), or Bellwether helping launch RealClearEducation. ThinkProgress -- a division of CAP -- is another example (they were looking for an education reporter not too long ago).
Of course, some news outlets are blurring the line the other way, becoming more wonkish and policy-oriented and less, well, newsy. Part of this is by necessity. With their own writers and social media campaigns, think tanks need journalists less. They've already got academic credibility (of a sort), they already validate ideas for politicians and policymakers. Now they're distributing their own ideas directly.
Related posts: AIR Taking Over Education Sector; Carnegie Is The New Ed Sector; [Why] Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?, Meet Conor Williams, New America's New(ish) Education Guy; Google Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy Conferences; Expert-Less Think Tanks -- Whose Fault?
"Judy Woodruff gets debate from Kathleen Porter-Magee of the Partnership for Inner-City Education and Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho." (PBS NewsHour)
Debate aside, Core a reality in classrooms The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA). Click the link for the transcript and if the video doesn't load properly.
"There's also some good news in these new figures: while mental disabilities are on the rise, there has also been a 11 percent decline in physical disabilities among children over the past decade. Much of this is concentrated in declines among respiratory diseases, like asthma, which have fallen by nearly a quarter just in the course of 10 years." (Vox, with permission)
It was less than a month ago that Peter Cunningham, the former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education announced that his new organization, the Education Post, supposedly repudiated the playing of edu-politics and moved beyond name-calling.
Given its financial support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, and since it included reformers like Ann Whalen, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Paul Pastorek, those nice words needed to be taken with a grain of salt.
It didn’t take long, however, for the real the Education Post to come through. Ann Whalen’s The False Arguments of Carol Burris Against High Standards reveals the venom hidden just below their seemingly polite veneer.
Whalen countered a Washington Post piece by national Principal of the Year Carol Burris, Four Common Core "Flimflams." She characterized Burris’s position as “inexcusable,” as “resistance to common sense changes,” and “toxic.” Whalen’s counterargument was “when you can’t make an honest case against something, there’s always rhetoric, exaggeration or falsehood.”
For the record, Whalen didn’t even try to challenge much of the substance of Burris’s carefully-honed arguments. Burris explained that Common Core was not, in fact, internationally benchmarked or based on research. Burris explained how Common Core “insists upon the use of a particular method of math instruction.” She then explained that the prescribed method “may be helpful in increasing understanding for some students, it should be up to a teacher to use it, or not use it, as a strategy. Instructional strategies have no place in state standards.”
The arrival of foundation-funded journalism has re-ignited some of those discussions, understandably, but without alas any seeming awareness of the long (and sometimes awkward) history of previous ways of paying for journalism.
Pretty much every outlet that's taken foundation funding for education coverage -- Chalkbeat, NPR, NBC, PBS come to mind -- has had its credibility questioned. Others -- Marketplace! ProPublica!-- will surely soon hear the same complaint.
The latest concern is the Seattle Times' "Education Lab" experiment, which has for the last year or so focused on something called "Solutions Journalism" using funding from the Gates Foundation. A blogger who goes by the name Deutch29 wrote a post about the effort, claiming that the stories being produced were obviously influenced by the Gates Foundation's agenda, and that the Times wasn't being open about how much money it had received.
Comments from journalists involved with the effort (reporter Claudia Rowe among them) attempted to reassure readers that there was "zero communication" between the foundation and the newsroom and pointed out that the blog posts pointed to as evidence were just a handful out of hundreds. SJN co-founder David Bornstein (who spoke at a recent EWA conference) weighed in with a comment that the foundation's support allowed the paper to assign reporters to deeper, more investigative pieces than would otherwise have been possible.
What's left out of all the back and forth is any clear sense of whether coverage at the Times or more generally is skewed one way or another -- my seat-of-the-pants sense is that it has swung in recent years from pro-reform credulity to anti-reform credulity -- and the understanding that reform critics such as these -- who swarm journalists' Twitter feeds and complain to editors and anyone else they can find -- are themselves trying to influence the coverage of education initiatives much the same as they believe the Gates Foundation and others are trying to do indirectly.
They're just doing it directly, at much lower cost -- and at times it seems much more effectively.
The sad but unsurprising news from this recent On The Media segment (The Labor Beat) is that labor coverage has dwindled sharply in the mainstream press -- down to just a couple of fulltime labor beat reporters at major national papers (WSJ and NYT).
What's fascinating to note is that there's so little labor-focused coverage in education newsgathering operations, too -- even as there are new (especially small nonprofit) education-focused journalism operations sprouting up all over the place.
The argument for labor coverage in education is pretty straightforward. Union numbers may be dwindling sharply in the private sector and other parts of the public sector, too, but last I looked charter schools (most of them non-union) educate less than 10 percent of the students in America and union representation of district school teachers is at around 50 percent.
Labor is and will continue to be a big part of the K-12 education space for the foreseeable future, and yet other than the occasional controversy or flareup unions and laws surrounding them get surprisingly little coverage.
EdWeek's Steven Sawchuk handles the issue as best he can over at Teacher Beat, but he's also got every other teacher-related issue under the sun to cover (research, politics, etc.). EIA's Mike Antonucci is the only full-time, labor-focused person out there that I know of -- and his coverage (if not his reporting) are generally critical-minded.
Given how many teachers there are -- and how important and influential (and in some corners controversial) teachers unions are, you'd think there'd be more regular, in-depth coverage.
Or is there more ongoing coverage out there than I'm seeing?
*I should have included RiShawn Biddle's coverage of teachers unions at Dropout Nation, including updates like this one.
A somewhat more diverse version of Education Dive's recent 12 education thought leaders you should follow on Twitter might include who(m), exactly?
Off the top of my head -- without much concern for how much I agree or disagree with them (and vice versa) -- how about Chicago's Xian Barrett (@xianb8),LA's Liz Dwyer (@losangelista),NYC's Jose Vilson (@theJLV), NYCAN's Derrell Bradford (@Dyrnwyn), ProPublica's Nikole Hannah Jones (@nhannahjones), The Atlantic's Ta-Nehesi Coates (@tanehisicoates), The Lens' Jessica Williams (@williamslensnola), Dropout Nation's RiShawn Biddle (@dropoutnation), the NEA's Melinda Anderson (@mdawriter) and Education Post's Chris Stewart (@citizenstewart).
Others to add, suggest, or critique? There are two more spots to get to an even 12. Or, take issue with the whole notion of creating such a list in the first place.
*Additional names that have been suggested (on Twitter and Facebook) since the original posting include @drsteveperry, @jmsummers, and @drkamikaroyal.
Hey, everyone, so sorry if you're not done reading Goldstein, Green, Kahlenberg/Potter, or any of the other education books that have come out in recent weeks, but it's time to start getting ready for the next wave of titles coming down the pike.
First one that I know of for 2015 is Anya Kamenetz's The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing–But You Don’t Have to Be.
According to the understandably hyperbolic promo writeup (I haven't actually seen the book itself), many schools are spending up to 28 percent of their time on test prep, and the Common Core is going to require "an unprecedented level of new, more difficult, and longer mandatory tests to nearly every classroom in the nation up to five times a year", and the nation's spending $1.4 billion a year on testing.
I don't know if any of that is accurate (or if $1.4 billion is a lot) but it's certainly pretty alarming -- and I guess that's the point. Not to worry, there are things that parents and educators to do to deal with the overtesting problem. And there are celebrity profiles showing us how high tech folks like Gates and Bezos deal with overtesting in their kids' lives.
All snark aside, it'll be interesting to see what Kamenetz's book adds to the overtesting debate, which is sure to continue this year as states and districts and schools deal with Common Core assessments and parents' and teachers' concerns about testing, test prep, and use of test results. The timing couldn't be better.
Legislature Is Held in Contempt Over School Funding NYT: The State Supreme Court held the Washington State Legislature in contempt on Thursday for its lack of progress on fixing the way the state pays for public education, but it withheld punishment until after the 2015 session. See also State EdWatch, Seattle Times
Judge Approves Merger of Teacher Tenure Lawsuits in New York WNYC: But that doesn't mean things will proceed smoothly. Davids has accused Brown of "bullying" the law firm Gibson Dunn into reneging on its offer to represent her group. The firm, which represented the plaintiffs in California, denied Davids' claim. She is represented by a local lawyer. The state is expected to ask the court to dismiss the case which could drag on for years. See also ChalkbeatNY.
What have states actually done in crusade against Common Core? Christian Science Monitor: Some states are rebelling against Common Core education standards adopted by 45 states, saying it is a sign of federal overreach. But few states are actually taking concrete steps, according to a new study.
New 'Leaders and Laggards' Report From U.S. Chamber: Which States Improved? State EdWatch: Seven years after its "Leaders and Laggards" report took states to task over their K-12 policy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows what it thinks of the K-12 landscape in 2014.
LAUSD's Deasy seeks records of board members' tech-firm contacts LA Times: In a bold challenge to his bosses, L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy has filed a public records request seeking emails and other documents involving school board members and nearly two dozen companies including those at the center of the controversial iPad project.
Giving Every Kid Equal Standing In The School Lunch Line NPR: For students who don't have enough money for a hot lunch each day, visiting the cafeteria can be a source of shame. In Houston, school volunteer Kenny Thompson decided he wanted to change that.
Teacher Hurt When Gun Accidently Shatters Toilet ABC News: Utah elementary school teacher hurt after her gun accidently fires, shatters school toilet
"Colleges with similar resources admit very different numbers of low-income undergraduates. Some wealthy colleges admit many such students, but others do not." David Leonhardt on the NYT's new ranking. Image used with permission.
Check out 7 minutes of video above feturing Reno (Washoe) teachers talking about their experiences with the Common Core. Your eyes might be opened. Then go and read the sidebar story from American Radio Works about how things have played out there. Then -- almost done! -- listen to the full hourlong documentary, and several other sidebar stories (including Carol Burris and Lace To The Top). Last but not least, there's a second video from Washoe in which teachers reflect you can watch here, courtesy Torrey Palmer and Aaron Grossman.
"California and eight other dark green states have signed a contract to give the Smarter Balanced tests next spring. Nine light green states are expected to contract with the consortium. Four blue Smarter Balanced member states won't contract next year." (State awards Common Core test contract) NB: Smarter Balanced says it's going to be run by a unit within UCLA that is separate from CRESST (which is also at UCLA).
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.
Calls grow for wider inquiry into bidding on L.A. Unified iPad project LA Times: A day after Los Angeles Unified abruptly suspended the contract for its controversial iPad project, there were growing calls for a more thorough investigation into whether the bidding process for the $1-billion program was improperly handled.
The LA School iPad Scandal: What You Need To Know KPCC: The Los Angeles Unified School District has shut down a half-a-billion-dollar deal with Apple and Pearson to provide classroom technology. Here's what happened.
LIVESTREAM: First LAUSD school board meeting of the year LA School Report
Primary Round-Up: Races Across the Country Showcase Education Issues EdWeek: High-profile governor and state education chief races in Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, and Vermont highlight the common core and education funding as top campaign issues.
Despite Racial Disparity, Alumni Group Backs Test-Only Policy for Elite Schools NYT: Very few black and Hispanic students attend New York City’s eight specialized high schools, which base admissions solely on the results of a standardized test.
Teaching computer science — without touching a computer Hechinger: It may not look like it, but the children engaged in these exercises are learning computer science. In the first activity, they’ve turned themselves into a sorting network: a strategy computers use to sort random numbers into order. And in the second activity, they’re acting out the process by which computer networks route information to its intended destination.
Youth seek solutions as Chicago’s violent summer persists PBS NewsHour: Nine-year-old Antonio Smith was fatally shot at least four times in a South Side backyard just blocks away from his home, according to the Chicago Tribune. This real-time map, created by Chicago-Sun Times before the the summer began, pinpoints and identifies every shooting recorded during each weekend, the most violent period of time.
When government seems to fail, Americans habitually resort to the same solutions: more process, more transparency, more appeals to courts. -- David Frum in The Atlantic (The Transparency Trap)
"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.
LA schools cancel iPad contracts after KPCC publishes internal emails KPCC: Three days after KPCC published internal emails showing top L.A. Unified officials and executives from Pearson and Apple met and discussed bringing tablet-driven education software to the classroom, the school district announced Monday it will cancel the contract with Apple and Pearson and open its one-to-one technology project to new bids.
Rick Scott Unveils New Education Initiatives To Calm Common Core Critics Reuters: Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, unveiled two new education initiatives on Monday aimed at calming critics of "common core" national curriculum standards and countering his main Democratic rival's attacks on his record.
D.C. Extends Day At 25 Schools, Hoping That More Time Means Better Scores WAMU: Students at 25 D.C. public schools will stay in school longer every day, a move that city officials hope will help struggling students catch up with their peers.
Ferguson schools reopen, offer calm amid chaos AP: Schools in Ferguson welcomed back students from their summer breaks on Monday, providing the children with a much-needed break from the raucous street protests and police patrols that have gripped the St. Louis suburb since a white officer killed an unarmed black man more than two weeks ago.
Generation Later, Poor Are Still Rare at Elite Colleges NYT: A series of federal surveys of selective colleges found virtually no change from the 1990s to 2012 in enrollment of students who are less well off — less than 15 percent by some measures — even though there was a huge increase over that time in the number of such students going to college.
Turnitin And The Debate Over Anti-Plagiarism Software NPR: One company and its algorithms are changing the way America's schools handle classroom ethics.
Is Google's Free Software A Good Deal For Educators? NPR: Classroom enables a teacher to create a "class" at the touch of a button. She or he can upload syllabus materials, whether text, audio, or video, and send out assignments on the class news feed.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).