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#TBT: A Look At This Mythical 2010 Seating Chart Shows Big Turnover In Ed Media

Take a look at this 2010 chart -- a made-up seating chart for a nonexistent USDE briefing room setup and you'll get a pretty vivid idea of how much has changed in national education coverage over the past five years (A Map To Coverage Of National Education News): 

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

So much has changed, I know! USA Today's Toppo is splitting duties on other issues (like demographics). The WSJ's Banchero is gone (to Joyce), replaced by Brody. PK12's McNeil is gone (to the College Board), replaced by Klein and Camera. The NYT's Dillon is gone (to retirement, I think), replaced by Rich. Winerip is gone (to other beats), and the column has sat empty since he left. At the Washington Post, Mathews is gone (to LA, at least), though he's still columnizing from there. AP has changed over. Colbert is gone (as we know him), replaced by... nothing so far as I can tell.  Sanchez has been joined by Kamenetz and Turner. Politico's education page didn't exist back then. Huffington Post's education page wasn't launched yet, either, I guess (come back soon, Joy!).

Media: So-Called "Experts" Not All That Expert (Say Experts)

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A new study out suggests that education 'experts' may lack expertise, in terms of academic qualifications.  The study, authored by the UofIllinois' Joel R. Malin and Christopher Lubienski, suggests that media prominence and academic qualifications aren't closely related.

However, it's no big surprise that education policy has turned away from academic expertise (and academic research, for that matter).  That's been going on for quite a while.

More importantly, the study doesn't name names, and it seems to include more individuals from the more conservative think tank experts -- AEI, Cato -- and fewer liberal or moderate ones.  For reasons I'm not quite clear on (though I'm sure others could understand), EPI is included, but not CAP or New America, or Brookings (or Fordham).  

For a list of institutional affiliations, look here. For MMFA's writeup, look here. The issue has been addressed before -- last winter in InsideHigher Ed, for example. The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Education Policy Analysis Archives. Image courtesy EPAA. 

Social Media: New Study Suggests Journalism Being Left Out Of Education Debate

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There are lots of different ways to look at the new CPRE/UPennGSE report about social media and the Common Core debate, but at least one of them is to observe just how small a role journalists and non-advocacy media outlets seem to have been playing -- even in areas where you'd think that mainstream and trade publications who share out information all day would have a big advantage:

*Just 13 of 158 high-volume "transmitters" (8 percent) are journalists. "These include print, online, and radio media, and represent both non-partisan and partisan media entities." I've asked for a list.

*Just 22 (16 percent) of 139 "transceivers" (who pass information along and have their tweets shared) are journos/media outlets. They include @educationweek, @BenSwann (who?), and @ NEAMedia (not really a journalistic outlet). This is the list where journalists are strongest, relatively speaking -- journalism's wheelhouse, really. But journalists come in third. (List requested.)

*Just 3 media outlets qualify for the list of 41 "transcenders" (the elite group in the study). They are @educationweek, @StateEdWatch (penned by Andrew Ujifusa) & @ellemoxley. The report adds @NEAMedia to the list but again that's a whole different thing.  

Of course, the study is limited to tweets directly related to Common Core, and a certain time period.Other kinds of criteria would surface larger numbers of journalists and education outlets that are high-volume, high-retweet, or high-influence.

But my sense is that the report illustrates a deeper dynamic, which is that journalists and media outlets lag far behind activists on the use of Twitter, in part because of the decline in traditional journalism but even more so because of self-imposed limitations on expressing views or attempting to shape the debate. Advocates, think tankers, and even academics have a green light that journalists don't.

Also, my sense is that journalists' experience of Twitter is mostly being tweeted at by those with complaints legitimate and others.   Twitter is the "new comment section," it's being widely noted, and we all know how most journalists feel about comments. So there may be some avoidance going on.

Image used with permission. I found the PDF version easiest for word searches but maybe there are other, better ways to navigate. #htagcommoncore @cpreresearch @upennGSE.

Thompson: Anya Kamenentz's 4 Alternatives To "Test and Punish"

Anya Kamenetz’s The Test is an awesome analysis of how “the test obsession is making public schools … into unhappy places.” But Kamenetz’s great work doesn't stop there.  In the second part of the book, she presents alternative approaches to high-stakes testing:
 
Team Robot tests conventional subjects (math, reading, writing) in unconventional ways (invisible, integrated, electronic).
 
Team Monkey tests unconventional qualities (mindset, grit) in conventional ways (multiple –choice surveys).
 
Team Butterfly, which Kamenetz would use as the basis for a new system, integrates learning with assessment and covers twenty-first-century skills without quantifying the outcomes in a way that’s familiar or easily comparable …
 
Team Unicorn, which is still emerging, relies heavily on video games. She offers an intriguing distinction between Team Unicorn and Team Robot: “the former understands the limitations of what they are doing.” (Sign me up for the more adventurous approach, whose metrics also should be the most incompatible with stakes being assessed.)

The Test concludes with four strategies for dealing with tests.

Continue reading "Thompson: Anya Kamenentz's 4 Alternatives To "Test and Punish"" »

Obama Weekly Address: Republicans Want to Gut Education Spending | Video | RealClearPolitics

ICYMI: Here's President Obama's speech on education spending  from over the weekend (via RealClear Politics). Click the link for a transcript.

Thompson: Russo's Disheartening "Eight Lessons for Funders and Grantees"

Almost every paper presented at the American Enterprise Institute’s conference, Is the ‘New’ Education Philanthropy Good for Schools?, made me somewhat more hopeful that the Gates Foundation, at least, will learn and back off from insisting that stakes be attached to standardized tests, and start down more promising policy paths. The exception is Alexander Russo’s Inside Foundations: Eight Lessons for Funders and Grantees on Education Giving

According to Russo’s astute article, the lessons of this new generation of philanthropy are:

1. Policy and advocacy are great tools—to a point.

2. New approaches complicate measurement/evaluation issues. 

3. Newly-created organizations bring focus and fidelity but can lack credibility and engagement.       

4. “Strategic” philanthropy is a powerful way to narrow priorities—unless it’s applied too rigidly.  

5. Setting clear metrics helps—until you take them too far.

6. Fail fast—but don’t overreact to bad news, either.

7. Don’t forget/underplay “the grind.”

8. Little more coordination, please (but not too much!)

In a rational world, this witty and insightful call for balance would contribute to better policy-making. In contrast to the statements made by other insiders to the other contributors, however, I fear that the several elites interviewed by Russo are concluding that, yes, we lose credibility with each of our risky policy gambles -- but we will make it up on volume.

Continue reading "Thompson: Russo's Disheartening "Eight Lessons for Funders and Grantees"" »

Media: The Washington Post's Wacky Montgomery County Coverage

Friday was Josh Starr's last day as head of the Montgomery County public schools.  He granted an interview to NPR -- but not to the Washington Post.   This forced the Post to run a bloggy writeup of the NPR interview over the weekend. You and I may not care, but in most cases a traditional news outlet like the Post would normally avoid publishing something like this on its regular news page, and would generally be loath to "follow" another news outlet with essentially duplicative coverage.

There's nothing really out of the ordinary about a district superintendent giving the cold shoulder to an outlet he or she perceives as having provided rough coverage of a tough situation.  Former DCPS head Michelle Rhee declined to give much help to the Washington Post during the last few months of her tenure, feeling that the coverage there had gone overboard with its criticism.  At a certain point, relations between beat reporters covering elected or appointed officials can get toxic even under the best of circumstances.  

But this is just the latest incident surrounding the Post's coverage of Montgomery County and Starr.  On January 27th, the paper's editorial page wrote about Starr's departure on the same day that the news came out on the education page.

That means the editorial page -- normally given to thoughtful analysis and commentary on news that's already been reported -- essentially scooped its own newsroom. I've heard estimates that there was a 12-hour gap, but I can't document such a thing.  There's no timestamp on Washington Post stories, however, the earliest comments I can find on the editorial page story come from that evening, around 8 pm and the earliest comments on the education version of the story come in a few hours later, just after midnight on the 28th. According to the Post's Bill Turque, the newsroom was only about 90 minutes behind, largely due to the newsroom's more stringent sourcing requirements.  

How does that happen, when the Post has both Donna St. George and Turque helping cover Montgomery County public schools? I have no idea.  Yes, nearly everyone seems to have been caught by surprise.  Sure, Twitter and the blogosphere beat newspapers to the punch all the time -- no fact-checking required on social media! -- but usually editorial pages don't beat their own newsrooms (or anyone else's really). They're usually not even close.  And ideally beat reporters hear and report things first, well before everyone else.  That's the whole point of beat reporting, or at least one of the main points. 

Anyway, I've asked some Post folks about the timing of the breaking news and will be happy to learn and share more about how it unfolded.  Anyone else have thoughts or insight into how the Post covered Starr, or the news of his departure, or whether any of it really matters?  Did this story in Bethesda Magazine precipitate or suggest what was to come, well in advance of the news breaking? Feel free to share information, theories, and insights here or on twitter. 

Related posts: Washington Post Doubles Down In National CoverageAbout That Front-Page Washington Post Story"Draft Sharing" Spreads At Washington Post Education TeamMichelle Rhee Vs. The Washington Post.

Update: 3 More Avenues To Great Information From Scholastic

image from blogs.scholastic.com
Good news from the folks at Scholastic Administrator (who kindly sponsor this blog) is that there are now two more blogs on the site: The first is edu@scholastic, run by Tyler Reed (@tylerbreed) with voices from all over Scholastic-land). The second blog is Down the Hall from Rod Berger (@drrodberger), who covers trends and people in the ed tech/leadership space, through videos, posts, and audio interviews. Check them out, and also take a look at the Edu Pulse for a mix of daily stories from staff and outside contributors. 

Timeline: Ten Years Helping Districts Revamp Their Spending

Erstimeline

Mostly behind the scenes, ERS (Education Resource Strategies) has spent the past 10 years helping districts understand and revamp their spending priorities (usually focused on student-based budgeting).  Click here for the interactive timeline of ERS activities. Click here to see if your district has worked with them. Tell us here on on Twitter what your experience has been(@erstrategies). Image used with permission.

Morning Video: What You Missed At Yesterday's Edu-Philanthropy Event

Here's the video from yesterday's AEI event on education philanthropy, plus a link to the draft papers being prepared for an updated version of AEI's 2005 volume, "With the Best of Intentions.": 

 

I'll write separately about the chapter I contributed, but some other conference highlights for me included meeting lots of folks face to face (including AFT's Kombiz, HEP's Caroline Chauncey), seeing people for the first time in a long while (Arnie Fege, Mike Usdan), and learning all sorts of things from fellow chapter writers and panelists (like Jim Blew's dad was a teacher union official, and that there are still only a handful of political scientists working on education issues). You can also check out the Twitter-stream at #NewEdPhil.  

Charts: Big Cities Will Get Much Less Money Under Alexander Bill, Says CAP

Screenshot 2015-02-04 14.29.26Enough with these high-minded policy debates over annual testing and teacher evaluations and vaccinations (!). Let's talk about the Senate bill's formula "portability" provisions determining which states and districts get more or less funding than under current law. According to CAP, the Alexander bill would be a big loser for large districts and high-poverty states. Click the link to get all the details. No response yet (that I know of) from the Alexander office. Image used with permission.

Magazines: Go, Team Scholastic!

Www.abmassociation.com images Neals 2014NealAwards Entries A5   COMMENT.EDU This Week in Education   Entry.pdfAs you should already  know, this site is sponsored by Scholastic Administrator, one of several education magazines published by Scholastic.  
 
What you may not be aware of, however, is that I also write a column and do newsmaker interviews for Scholastic Administrator (and sometimes am lucky enough to get to hang out in the company's lovely SoHo offices). 
 
The editorial staff  includes Wayne D'Orio, Chris Borris, and Frank Tagariello -- all of whom help make my columns and interviews look and read as well as possible.

Today's news is that Administrator and Instructor (one of the other magazines) are finalists for this year's NEAL Awards in several categories (best single issue, best subject-related package, best commentary (that's me), best theme issue, best instructional content (Instructor's Spring 2014 STEM package).

The awards are hosted by American Business Media and focus on business-to-business publications.
 
Administrator was a finalist for best commentary last year (pictured), among other categories.
 
 
 

Charts: Children On Food Stamps Doubled Since 2007, Says Census Bureau

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"The Census bureau finds about 16 million – or one in five – US children lived in families that received food stamps in 2014" Census image via The Guardian

Think Tanks: UPenn Ranks Urban Institute, RAND, Brookings, Cato, NIEPR, CEPR*

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So apparently UPenn has been ranking think tanks for a while now, and added a special category for education-focused think tanks in 2012. The latest rankings put the Urban Institute at the top and put Cato and Heritage above AEI so make of that what you will. via Think Tank Watch. 

*Corrected: It's not NIEER, it's NIEPR who came in 5th. Sorry about that!

Lunchtime Video: Testing Town Hall

In case you missed it (like I did), here's video of a 90-minute town hall on testing that  took place in Milwaukee in October at the Great City Schools' annual conference. I came across it trying to track down the details behind the overtesting numbers that are being used in the current testing/streamlining debate. Link is here.

Quotes: Why Schools Aren't Using Simple "Nudges" To Help Students Learn

Quotes2Why aren’t schools, districts and states rushing to set up these measures? Maybe because the programs have no natural constituency. They are not labor- or capital-intensive, so they don’t create lots of jobs or lucrative contracts. They don’t create a big, expensive initiative that a politician can point to in a stump speech. They just do their job, effectively and cheaply. - UMichigan economist  Susan Dynarski, in the NYT (The Power of a Simple Nudge)

Events: All The Cool (NPR) Kids Are (Were) At #NPREdSummit

Following up on something that I recall was done last year, the folks at NPR's education team are hosting a conference with lots of local public radio station folks.

Not invited? Me, neither, but you can follow along sort of via Twitter #npredsummit. Those in attendance include Anya Kamenetz (fresh off her Morning Edition appearance) @anya1anya. Mallory Falk @malloryfalk. Claudio Sanchez @CsanchezClaudio. Cory Turner  @NPRCoryTurner. Also: WNYC's Patricia Willens @pwillens . APM's Emily Hanford ‏@ehanford .  Illustrator LA Johnson  ‏@theLAJohnson (love her stuff!).

 

Morning Video: Everybody Hates Pearson - But It's Not Going Away Anytime Soon

 

Here's a three-minute video explainer to go along with the Fortune magazine story that came out yesterday. Video not loading properly (#thankstypepad)? Click here.

AM News: After Obama Push, Google Relents On Student Data Privacy Pledge

After Initially Holding Out, Google Signs Student-Data-Privacy Pledge EdWeek: Any possibility that the pledge might have slipped from the public's attention vanished last week, when President Barack Obama publicly lauded the effort and urged more companies to get on board.

State Of The Union Doesn't Mention No Child Left Behind Rewrite Efforts HuffPost: Obama mentioned few specifics about K-12 education, one of his administration's top priorities during his first term. Notably, the president mentioned not one word directly about one of his education secretary's priorities for 2015: rewriting the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act, the Bush-era school accountability law. Obama also failed to mention the words teacher and testing. See also PK12, Washington PostPBS NewsHour.

Who sat in the First Lady's State of the Union box? Vox: Malik Bryant (Chicago, IL) Thirteen-year-old Malik Bryant sent a letter to Santa over the holidays, but rather than request the usual gifts, Malik wrote: "All I ask for is for safety I just wanna be safe." The President wrote back to Malik, encouraging him and underscoring that Malik's "security is a priority for me in everything I do as president." Malik lives with his mother Keturah and his two sisters in a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. He is in seventh grade, and his favorite subject is math.

Cuomo’s Education Agenda Sets Battle Lines With Teachers’ Unions NYT: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to seek changes to teacher evaluations and charter school limits, reforms that, uncharacteristically for a Democrat, will put him in conflict with the unions. See also ChalkbeatNY, WNYC.

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

Continue reading "AM News: After Obama Push, Google Relents On Student Data Privacy Pledge" »

AM News: Pushing Lunch Until After Recess (& Offering School Dinner, Too)

With lunch after recess, fruits and veggies consumption increases by 54 percent PBS NewsHour: The study sampled seven schools containing grades 1 to 6 in a Utah school district. Three of the schools switched to putting recess before lunch, while the remaining four schools kept their original schedule of lunch before recess. In the schools that switch, the researchers observed — in addition to the 54 percent increase of fruit and vegetable consumption — a 45 percent increase in children eating at least one serving of the two. In the schools that didn’t switch, however, consumption of fruits and vegetables were observed to have decreased.

 More schools serve students dinner as demand expands AP: Thirteen states and the District of Columbia began offering students dinner as part of a pilot program expanded to all states after the 2010 passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Schools where at least half the students are low-income and qualify for free or reduced-price lunch are reimbursed for each supper by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, at a rate often significantly higher than the cost of the meal.

Majority of US public school students are in poverty Washington Post: For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation. 

AFT's Weingarten lays out new models for unions People's World: American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten today laid out a framework for a renewed American labor movement. She was joined by U.S. labor secretary Thomas Perez and others at an Albert Shanker Institute conference.

Jeb Bush is running on his Florida education record. Here's what he actually did Vox: Bush's signature reform was testing students every year and grading schools based on the results of those tests. He also pushed to expand charter schools and supported voucher programs, as well as pioneering a program to hold students back who weren't reading in third grade. Some of these ideas are still well within the mainstream of the Republican party. But others, particularly mandatory annual standardized testing, have become much less politically popular in recent years. 

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

Continue reading "AM News: Pushing Lunch Until After Recess (& Offering School Dinner, Too)" »

Charts: Masters Degrees Are *All* The Rage

image from profitofeducation.org

The overall number of education degrees has gone up roughly 40 percent over the past two decades, even though student enrollment has only gone up about half that, notes UCSB's Dick Startz at The Profit Of Education (Ed degrees). Most of the growth has come from Masters degrees. 

A couple of years ago, former contributor Paul Bruno wrote about how expensive these degrees are -- and how little they seemed to help improve student outcomes (Paying Teachers For Master's Degrees Is A Bad Idea). Way back in 2007, Kevin Carey (the of Education Sector) blogged about the cost of all these Masters degrees to the public. The link is still alive over at AIR: The $8.5 Billion Master's Degree. I wonder how much bigger that number would be now.

Image used with permission.

Lunchtime Listen: When Students Of Color Have White Teachers

Do yourself a favor and listen to this NPR/Latino USA segment from a few days ago about the problems created by the predominance of white teachers teaching kids of color. It's not just a charter school problem, that's for sure. Want more? Check out this MSNBC segment about the issue. #YoweiShaw

Magazines: NY Mag Profiles Brown, Declares Beginning Of The "Lawsuit" Era Of School Reform

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Pegged to the court hearing taking place today in Staten Island, Vanessa Grigoriadis' profile of Campbell Brown in New York magazine (The Most Controversial Woman in School Reform) starts out with the somewhat expected description of what Brown looks like but manages to hit some interesting and useful points along the way.  Read it all below. Image used with permission. Photo credit: Dina Litovsky.

Continue reading "Magazines: NY Mag Profiles Brown, Declares Beginning Of The "Lawsuit" Era Of School Reform" »

Morning Video: Real-Time Videoconference Translation

Launched last month, Skype and Microsoft have a videoconferencing program that allows real-time translation (seek English-Spanish demo above). The Times says that Google is not far behind. Anyone tried it yet in real life, or have any thoughts about what this does to, say, foreign language requirements?

Update: A Kinder, Gentler StudentsFirst In 2015?

Screen shot 2015-01-12 at 3.17.47 PMOver the weekend, newish StudentsFirst head Jim Blew sent out an email explaining the need for what he describes as "controversial, sometimes uncomfortable work" and outlining some of the his plans for the organization in 2015.

"At its core, StudentsFirst is a political and advocacy operation targeting a few states," writes Blew, who identifies himself and much of the senior staff as Democrats, with a common focus on performance systems and choice.

As has been reported previously, StudentsFirst is pulling back in some places and staying out of others and so won't be operating in big states like Texas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Louisiana.

At the national level, says Blew, "We will continue to speak the truth about our broken system and the need for policy changes, but we will also endeavor to do so with diplomacy and without malice."  He says that teachers unions and their allies spent an estimated $500M over the last two years to block reform and push their own ideas.

Related posts: Rhee Departure Leaves Movement Without Ravitch-Like FigureReviewing StudentsFirst's Union PositionsRhee Takes On Testing Opt-OutersInsult-Hurling Coming Mostly From Reform CriticsToo Much Focus On Testing, Agrees RheeNew PBS Documentary Humanizes Rhee's TenureRhee Cites DC Precedent On Collaboration. Image used with permission.

 

Thompson: Can School Reform Learn from Failure?

The November, 2014 New York Times Magazine special edition on innovation focuses on failure. As explained in its introduction, most innovations are like Esperanto. They fail.  As they say in that long-forgotten language, “Oh, Well, Gravas la penso (it’s the thought that counts).”

Some of the best parts of the issue involve the inflated hopes of 1990s Big Data and corporate-style innovations and how they failed in similar ways. From the mapping of the human genome to output-driven, market-driven school reform, innovators learned that the world is far more complicated than they had anticipated. 

Virginia Hefferman explained how 1990s Virtual Reality mediums failed to live up to their marketing hype because, real world, they felt “like brain poison.” After a reworking of these technologies, virtual reality should now live up to its promise by creating “’a deep hunger for real-life experience.’”

Kemia Malekvilibro recalled the 1990s promise of DNA sequencing, and concluded that the “golden road to pharmaceutical riches as target-based drug discovery has often proved to be more of a garden path.” Its approach to improving health outcomes relied too heavily on Big Data. It needed more old-fashioned inductive research, where scientists formulated hypotheses and tinkered with their experiments.

In both cases, pioneers faced up to facts and adjusted to reality. They looked again at the phenomenon they were studying and asked questions. Education seems to be the exception; its true believers have refused to acknowledge the failure of their beautiful first generation theories.

Continue reading "Thompson: Can School Reform Learn from Failure?" »

Money: Districts Projected To Save $2B Thanks To Lower Gas Prices

ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 12 12.19Wells Fargo's Trace Urdan projects $2 billion in savings for school districts across the country, thanks to lower gas prices and fuel costs.

"[Urdan] cited data from two counties, Fairfax, VA and Montgomery, MD, reporting that school buses use an average of 37 gallons per student per school year. Tallying that across 49.8 million public school students equates to a total usage of 1.84 million gallons of gas. Budgets that were fixed in July 2014 based on an average U.S. gas price of $3.65 per gallon will now reap the difference for a price that currently averages $2.18 per gallon. A similar bonanza will hit heating fuel budgets, which could result in a $1.65 billion windfall, the report said."

A few states -- Alaska and Texas, for example -- will suffer the lower prices fuel generates. What schools will do with the unexpected windfall isn't clear, though of course edtech folks think that gizmos and apps would be the best use of funds. Via The Journal. Report PDF here. Via @trace_urdan. Image used with permission.  

Thompson: That New Common Core GED Test Is The Worst

No education reform issue provides a better illustration of the unintended harm done to schools and students by sincere but uninformed corporate school reformers than Common Core GED testing. Top down reformers are adamant that high school high-stakes testing must reflect college readiness. And, they assumed that the GED test which allowed dropouts to graduate must also reflect those changes. 

Consequently, reformers leapt before they looked, and the nation is experiencing a 90% decrease in the number of persons passing the 2014 GED. 

As explained by the Cleveland Scene’s Daniel McGraw, in Nearly 500,000 Fewer Americans Will Pass the GED in 2014, their Common Core testing mandates “’are we going to ace out a whole group of people from getting a GED because some college administrators don't think their incoming students know enough algebra.’” 

McGraw cites Stan Jones, the president of Complete College America, who explains, "The way I see it, they have effectively gutted the GED program by these changes they have made." 

I doubt that many Common Core supporters realized that the GED accounts for 12% percent of all the high school diplomas awarded each year. They may tout the dramatic declines of the dropout rate over the last couple of decades. But, were it not for the GED, the dropout rate would have increased during that time. 

Neither did Common Core advocates seem to anticipate the havoc they would be inflicting upon other institutions seeking to enhance the employment prospects of dropouts. For instance, 2,100 Ohio prison inmates earned a GED in both 2012 and 2013. Only 97 have earned the GED in 2014. 

Stephen J. Steurer, the executive director of Correctional Education Association, concludes that this oversight “is a national tragedy that will continue to have repercussions for years." 

School reformers do not mean to inadvertently harm our most vulnerable students by setting them up for inevitable failure. But, they must listen to Robert Bivins, the program director of Education at Work at Project Learn, who explains that we are freezing a large portion of people out of the GED process. “Think of the message that sends.”-JT (@drjohnthompson)

Quotes: "Being Against Something Isn't Enough"

Quotes2I wish that the critics of testing and ‘test-based accountability’ would get together with their opponents and agree on some fair, effective and efficient ways of evaluating teachers. Just being against something isn’t enough, in my book, and teachers deserve to be fairly evaluated. - PBS NewsHour education correspondent John Merrow (What’s Ahead in 2015)

People: Forbes' 30 Under 30 Education List Goes EdTech

ScreenHunter_01 Jan. 07 13.36The 2015 version of Forbes' #30Under30 education list came out on Monday, featuring members of familiar organizations and companies including Kano, Chegg, Amplify, Aspire, TFA, College Board, & FFEPS. Folks like TFA and EdPioneers were understandably enthusiastic about the list, since it includes so many of their current and former folks. Others -- including at least one of the judges -- weren't so enthusiastic. Some reasons for concern or complaint included the lack of classroom teachers on the list, the focus on edtech, and the lack of diversity (racial and ideological, I suppose). 

Related posts: Meet Jeremiah Kittredge, Forbes' Under-30 Honoree (2012);  Who's *Not* On The Forbes 2011 Reformer List?;  Forbes Tackles School Solutions (2008).  Image used with permission of Forbes.

Morning Video: New GED Is Harder (& More Expensive)

The new test is harder, and more expensive -- but is that necessarily a bad thing? PBS NewsHour looks into the situation.  Transcript here.

Morning Audio: Despite Potential, School Finance Lawsuits Lack Sizzle

Mp_20150106_seg_06_64

If you're like me, you probably have no idea which 13 states are currently under pressure to increase education funding overall or for poor students. School finance lawsuits have a long and checkered history, and are super unsexy when it comes to policy.  But if states are where the action is, and if money (among other things) matters, then perhaps we all should be paying a little more attention to the approach. Via Marketplace.

Magazines: The Hype Cycle Created By Innovators & Journalists

image from www.newyorker.comThe New Yorker is no longer my go-to magazine or site for deep and smart writing, but one of the best magazine stories I've read recently was in a December edition of the magazine.

It wasn't focused on education but rather on graphene, a substance whose invention generated tremendous scientific, academic, and journalistic attention but whose widespread application has lagged and is only now on the horizon (The New Yorker). 

Of particular interest, the piece describes the Hype Cycle, which "begins with a Technology Trigger, climbs quickly to a Peak of Inflated Expectations, falls into the Trough of Disillusionment, and, as practical uses are found, gradually ascends to the Plateau of Productivity."

“Nobody stands to benefit from giving the bad news,” [Guha] told me. “The scientist wants to give the good news, the journalist wants to give the good news—there is no feedback control to the system.”

Tour concurs, and admits to some complicity. “People put unrealistic time lines on us,” he told me. “We scientists have a tendency to feed that—and I’m guilty of that. A few years ago, we were building molecular electronic devices. TheTimes called, and the reporter asked, ‘When could these be ready?’ I said, ‘Two years’—and it was nonsense. I just felt so excited about it.”

Much the same could be said for many education-related inventions, both technological and policy-related, right?

Related posts about hype can be found here. See also The Innovation/Disruption "Myth. Related posts about the New Yorker: New Yorker Slips Anti-Reform Straw Man Into Teacher Training Column;  12 New Yorker Education Stories Vox MissedNew Yorker Delves Into Atlanta Cheating School; ; New Yorker Digs Into Newark Reform BacklashWhat The New Yorker's Parent/Reporter Should Write About Next. Image via New Yorker Magazine.

Quotes: Rules Protecting Police Echo Rules Protecting Teachers, Says Biddle

Quotes2The protection of corrupt cops by state laws governing use of force and cultism among their colleagues is similar to how teachers accused and convicted of child abuse (along with the merely incompetent) are enabled by tenure and teacher dismissal laws as well as by the thin chalk line of silence and support from fellow instructors.

- Dropout Nation's RiShawn Biddle in RealClear Education (From Ferguson to New York City, Education Reformers Have No Right to Claim Silence)

Charts: Dismal Poll Results For Charters, Vouchers, & Ending Teacher Tenure

image from s3.amazonaws.com

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.  

Quotes: Departing NY Superintendent Reflects On Polarized Education Debate

Quotes2I have gotten to see how hard it is in the current political climate to break through the tendency to polarize issues and how difficult it sometimes can be to get at nuance and to have conversations that are informed by nuance. - John King (Capital NY John King reflects on contentious tenure)

Quotes: It Isn't Always The Best Nonprofits That Get The Big Money

Quotes2For 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?)

Maps: The More (Charter Authorizers) The Merrier?

image from www.qualitycharters.orgHere'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

Media: CJR Chides Journos For Falling For "All-Powerful TX School Board" Myth

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 InfluencePlease Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos6 Key Critiques Of Media Coverage Of EducationHow Reporters Got Sucked Into Value-Added DebacleResearcher Fails To Disclose Union Funding; Journos Fail To Ask.

 

Journalism: So Long, NYT Labor Reporter Steven Greenhouse

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?)

In Politico (Steven Greenhouse takes N.Y. Times buyout), it's noted that there's now just one other national reporter focused on labor -- at the WSJ. (What about BuzzFeed's Jacob Fischler?)

Related posts: Media: We Need More Teacher Union Coverage -- Right?;  Reporters Should Identify Union EmployeesCharts: Teachers = Teamsters?

Morning Video: Success Academy's Eva Moscowitz At AEI

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!

Update: Cosby Allegations Raise Tough Education Issues

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:

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? 

Media: Washington Post's Valerie Strauss Mangles Duncan Staff Moves

It always makes me a little bit nervous when Valerie Strauss tries to go back to straight news reporting after all those weeks and months blogging and sharing material that's pretty uniformly critical of the current school reform movement. (New America's Kevin Carey once described Strauss's much-read blog as "The premiere Web destination for doctrinaire anti-reformist rhetoric and shoddy education research.") 
Then again she and others probably feel the same way about my work.

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.

The latest example is a little story about changes within Team Duncan (Duncan’s communications chief leaving for Teach For America), which to my perhaps paranoid reading seems to be making a nefarious tragedy out of Massie Ritsch's departure for TFA.

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 StoryEducation's Huffington PostParent Trigger: An "Easy" Button For Parents & Kids.

Morning Video: Exposing State "Education" Lotteries

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.

Journalism: Hits & Misses In NPR's "Overtesting" Story

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.

Related posts: NYT Journo Tweets Out "60-80 Days" Of Testing ClarificationPlease Do A Better Job Covering Testing This Year, Journos!.

Events: Inside The Secret World Of The Spencer Journalism Fellowship

Spencers2014-2015
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.

Continue reading "Events: Inside The Secret World Of The Spencer Journalism Fellowship" »

Maps: Many States Now Provide "Early Warning" Reports For Struggling Students

image from a.scpr.org

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.

Video: While Away The Afternoon WIth Khan, Hastings, & Williams, Vanity Fair-Style

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.

Research: New Orleans Think Tank Head Quits After Flawed Study

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 alexanderrusso@gmail.com.

AM News: Ed School Teacher Prep Programs Still Way Too Easy, Says NCTQ

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).

Continue reading "AM News: Ed School Teacher Prep Programs Still Way Too Easy, Says NCTQ" »

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.