"In the wake of the shootings at Columbine, a small town celebrates a charismatic judge who is hell-bent on keeping kids in line...until one parent dares to question the motives behind his brand of justice."
"In the wake of the shootings at Columbine, a small town celebrates a charismatic judge who is hell-bent on keeping kids in line...until one parent dares to question the motives behind his brand of justice."
Are Kids Sports Pricing Themselves Out of the Market? (Pacific Standard)
The average American school has about the same bandwidth as the average American home, even though obviously there are 200 times as many people at school as there are at home. -- President Barack Obama in a recent speech
It’s fascinating to watch a lot of armchair quarterbacking [about Duncan’s competitive grant and waiver programs]... People never want to critique money that goes to prop up the status quo. -- TN state commissioner Kevin Huffman in Stephanie Simon's recent Politico piece
Last night on 60 Minutes, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced drone delivery in the not too distant future, which set the Internet on fire (so to speak) and reminded me to remind you that drones are coming to schools, too (or at least I think they will and am fasci-horrified by the possibilities).
Other tidbits from the 60M segment? Bezos knows that he's just as likely to be disrupted as previous industries were, and is fighting hard not to let happen to him what happened to Blockbuster, etc. Also: Cloud computing is Amazon's fastest-growing revenue source. Like Google, they're not really making money off what you think they're making money off of.
The Beastie Boys aren't happy about it (or maybe they're being gamed), but you'll probably like this viral video to promote Goldieblocks and girls' interest in making things.
Last week, MOOC founder Sebastian Thrun told Fast Company that, well, things weren't working out as well as he'd hoped three years ago. Today at the Atlantic Eduction page Owen Youngman describes how 56,000 students turned into 1,200 course passers.
In fact, my experience suggests that Duncan may be understating the problem.
I'd go so far as to say that even schools of education themselves sometimes fail to prioritize teacher preparation.
At least this was the case with my own credentialing program.
The Learning Accelerator via the Hechinger Report
The TNTP’s Amanda Kocon, in Ending the Teacher Hostage Crisis, is right about one thing, “for decades, the teaching profession has relied on a work now, pay later system.” Teachers have been paid artificially low salaries based on a promise of end-of-career payouts from a pension plan. Yes, this system has held teachers hostage.
Kocon cites the Detroit bankruptcy where pensioners may be paid as little as 16 cents on the dollar. But, it is not just teachers but all of Detroit’s public retirees who must wait in line after investment bankers. And they're arguing in court that the city did not bargain in good faith.
Kocon makes the evidence-free claim that “six-figure teacher salaries are within our reach.” She then says that we should care of veteran teachers by “doing our best” to make good on the promises that were made to them.
Does that mean the TNTP will be joining the legal fight for justice for teachers and other workers who worked in good faith for decades hoping that the big boys would keep their promises? Or, is it cheering the corporate powers and participating in a craven divide and conquer campaign that will undermine the futures of all workers and all generations? -JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.
Roxanna Elden's bestselling book, See Me After Class, is out in a second edition and so this seems like a good time to interview her about all that's happened since she first appeared here in 2010 when the book came out (and what goodies and advice has been added):
Best (or worst) experience doing publicity or giving talks for the book?
RE: The best experience has been teachers who say the book pulled them back from the edge of quitting. The worst was getting stuck on a plane next to someone who had watched "Waiting for Superman" and wanted to lecture me about what teachers are doing wrong during the whole flight. (I had the window seat.)
What do you know now that you wish you'd known in 2009?
RE: The dial of change vs. stability in education needs to be monitored carefully. Change can be good, but chaos and upheaval are bad.
What's the biggest change between now and then for teachers?
RE: Today’s new teachers are starting their careers in a highly charged political climate that in some cases pits newer teachers against more experienced would-be mentors. On top of this, rookies’ every move is being monitored for “effectiveness” data, which creates pressure not only to become successful teachers but to be successful from day one.
If all of the states where political debate over the Common Core is most intense were to drop out of the consortia, costs would increase by no more than $2 or $3 [per kid]. - Brookings' Matt Chingos in Standardized Testing and the Common Core Standards
Oklahoma educators are tensely awaiting the long-delayed A-F School Report Card touted by Chief for Change member State Superintendent Janet Baressi. The mistake-plagued report card has been repeatedly pulled back from public release as errors were adjusted and readjusted.
As the report card release was further delayed and tempers flared, Oklahoma School Report Card: Hiding "Poor" Achievement, by researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University concluded that the report card's formula "has very little meaning and certainly cannot be used legitimately to inform high-stakes decisions."
The Tulsa World's Kim Archer, in Gov. Fallin Counters Critics of A-F System of Grading Schools, reports that the Republican governor has joined the fray, threatening school district leaders that "continuing public criticism of the state's A-F school grading system may affect whether common education gets additional funding next fiscal year."
Gov. Fallin made this threat after presiding over the nation's largest education budget cuts. At a time when Oklahoma schools are burdened by other transformative reforms that the Obama administration and the rightwing have demanded, the state's funding for schools declined by 23%.
Fallin does not believe the university researchers' estimate that in-school factors explain only 20 to 30% of educational outcomes. She does not seem to understand that the role of out-of-school factors has been documented by an immense body of social science, and their study was reviewed by the Distinguished Professor Emeritus Robert Linn of the University of Colorado.
The governor's spokesman summed up Fallin's beliefs, "In other words, if students were performing extremely well, it wouldn't really matter if they had a class size of one, or a class size of 50 or 100 they're performing well. We're concerned about the outcomes, not the inputs."
Neither educators or reformers should dismiss Oklahoma's mess as an aberration. Fallin is the Chair of the National Governors Association. Monday she announced plans to set a "new minimum" where underfunded public schools would prepare all students for a two-year or four-year college degree or a workforce certificate.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.
This is a guest post from Paola Sztajn and Michael Maher [@mj_maher], who work at the NC State College of Education:
Every day when we come to work, we have the privilege of interacting with amazing young people. Many of them were among the top students in their high schools. Their average score on the SAT was above 1100 and they had an average weighted GPA of 4.4. Further, they have college GPAs above 3.0 and many graduate magna cum laude (GPA above 3.5). These young individuals perform a large amount of service work in the community and they engage in international activities to learn more about the world around them. We are sure many of you would like to work with such outstanding people and learn about the amazing things they are doing. And, you are wondering who they are…
If we tell you that we work at North Carolina State University, you would wonder in what technical field we teach. But actually, we work in the College of Education. And the wonderful people we are talking about, all intend to be teachers. In fact, they are all future Elementary Teachers who will serve schools across the nation. Let us say this again: these amazing, smart, and hard working students all want to be Elementary Teachers. NC State is a selective university and these high achieving college students, who have the option of choosing from a variety of majors, choose to become Elementary Teachers.
The current public discourse often paints teachers as ineffective, sub-professionals, who likely had no other choice than to teach. These substandard professionals, the current discourse goes on, need more and more accountability through testing, performance regulations, and report cards to make sure they are performing their craft in an “effective” manner. After all, those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach—or so the current discourse is trying to prove. This image of a less than qualified student who goes on to become a low performing professional does not match the reality we experience everyday.
The current attack on public school teachers is now taking the next step and attacking Colleges of Education. Or, as a recent (October 20th) Op-Ed in the New York Times put it: “those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach teaching.”
I should not have to start with a disclaimer about my position on TFA (I'm undecided about it), but in these polarized times, I must. TFA teachers are teachers.
I don't judge colleagues. It is not their fault that high-profile TFA alumni who entered the classroom when they were in elementary school launched a war on teachers. Excoriating today's TFAers because Kevin Huffman and Michelle Rhee turned corporate would be like castigating a colleague because he supports the Tea Party.
However, Politico’s Stephanie Simon, in Teach for America Rises as Political Powerhouse, nails the problem with TFA's new effort for “embedding select alumni in congressional offices and in high-ranking jobs in major school districts,” in which a charter school and voucher supporter pays the $500,000 a year price tag for providing seven TFA alumni fellows for congressmen. Ethics experts call the effort “highly unusual – though not illegal,” according to Simon.
Too many reformers in general -- and high-profile TFA alumni in particular -- have have taken advantage of the lack of knowledge of many policymakers about the distant world of the inner city, and promoted quick and simplistic panaceas for complex problems.
In Simon's article, Elisa Villanueva Beard, co-CEO of Teach for America, seems to be sincerely oblivious about the dangers of quietly embedding alumni as staffers. She says “We don’t have a choice.” If TFA isn't aggressive “in 20 years, we’ll just wake up and find… we have made only incremental progress.”
And, that get's us back to the destructive essence of the contemporary reform movement. Corporate powers have immense knowledge about ways of secretly manipulating the levers of power to enrich themselves. We know how to use political trickery to increase the billionaires' share of our economic pie. Here, it seems, corporate reformers are using some of the same tactics and knowledge to manipulate government rather than improve learning. There is no reason to believe that transformationally better schools can be created this way.
That doesn't mean TFA teacher and alumni should be excluded. They should participate in the open exchange of ideas that school improvement needs. They should do so with honesty and modesty, and not with their high-profile alumni's assumption that their brief excursion into schools has given them all of the answers.
Meantime, TFA leaders should reveal the whole story to TFA teachers (and the rest of us?) and then have a heart-to-heart conversation about the paths to power that the organization should pursue, and those tactics that it should not consider. -JT(drjohnthompson) Image via.
"Finally we have the computing power to grade homework at the same blinding speed that it was plagiarized from Wikipedia." Via The Answer Sheet
I got a lot of feedback on my post arguing that we should do away with bonuses for teachers with master's degrees and use the money for across-the-board raises.
Much of the response was supportive, but many people also objected to some or all of my argument.
Those objections tended to fall into three categories: that I am underestimating the value of MAs, that across-the-board raises are not a good use of money, or that the real problem isn't teacher pay per se but schools of education.
They're serious objections, and they made me think about some of the issues in new ways, but I don't think they are enough to avoid the bottom line I put forward in my original piece.
Read on to see the objections (and why I'm not totally convinced by them).
For a time, CPS claimed to be "the largest centralized deployment of iPads in the United States." However, it started with a pilot program -- just 750 devices a 23 schools in the first year (2010-2011), then 3,500 the second year as 13 original schools plus 35 new schools were added. The model is designed to be 1:1 but it's not a take-home system like LAUSD.
Now there are 55,000 at schools throughout the district. Here is some background from CPS. They lost edtech guru John Connelly along the way, and are about to lose John Mellios, too. But it's an interesting contrast to the LAUSD experience, among others.
LAUSD looking to delay iPad distribution LA Daily News: Facing questions about security and other issues, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy has proposed a one-year extension in equipping all 600,000 of the district's students with iPads, pushing completion of the program to December 2015.
Common Core Standards Shake Up Publishing Biz WNYC: New York State has become the epicenter of a major transformation in the $7 billion textbook industry that threatens the preeminence of publishing behemoths like Pearson.
Is Pitbull 'Mr. Education'? Rapper Opens Charter School In Miami NPR: Pitbull is just one of a growing number of celebrities who've lent their names and opened their wallets to the charter school movement. His Sports Leadership And Management Academy opened in Miami this fall.
In Controversy and Success, Tutoring Company Dominates Texas Tribune: Among the companies that began operating in the state after the program launched, few offer a better window into the obstacles to the federal program’s success than the company that served Sifuentes’ children, Austin-based Tutors with Computers.
Former Star reporter to head new education website IBJ: Education News Network is raising funds for Chalkbeat Indiana, and already has lassoed a two-year grant totaling $115,000 from the Indianapolis-based higher education advocacy group Lumina Foundation. Lumina said ENN also is looking at establishing other education sites for Boston; Memphis, Tenn.; and Austin, Texas.
News came out (on Twitter, naturally) a few days ago that Scott Elliott was going to head the Indiana outpost of the Education News Network, which is currently comprised of @ednews (Colorado) and @gothamschools (NYC) and headed by Alan Gottlieb and Elizabeth Green (pictured at a recent journalism event). The Network is also launching a Tennessee site based in Memphis.
Like the existing sites, Chalkbeat Indiana is going to be "non-profit, philanthropy-funded, non-ideological." Each location gets four full-time journalists, plus support from the network. According to EdSurge, funders include Walton, Arabella Advisors, and SeaChange Capital Partners. A quick Google search turns up a Lumina grant as well.
Below is a quick email interview with Elliott, in case you're curious about how he got involved and what the new site is going to look like. [He and I blogged together back in the day -- when blogging was new -- and is currently helping guide EWA. I once freelanced a project for Gottlieb when he was with the Piton Foundation and have proposed various writing projects to him and Green over the years.]
There are lots of niche nonprofit news outlets these days covering education, including EdSource Today (covering California), the Hechinger Report, and StateImpact.org -- along with traditional nonprofit efforts such as local public radio outlets and bigger operations like ProPublica. If your interests are broader, you can read about the small but growing field of nonprofit journalism: What’s Next for Nonprofit Journalism? (Pew); Two Years and $750,000 Covering One Story (Atlantic).
For charter schools operating in buildings owned by school districts only about a third are paying some sort of facility costs nationally, says NAPCS. (Forty-two percent pay nothing.) Here's the breakdown:
This is from NAPCS, a breakout of data from its survey of charter schools nationally. It's a followup to the argument in NYC over the Bloomberg administration's no-rent charter school co-location policy.
Yesterday, NAPCS told me that only about 25 percent of charters nationally are located in district buildings, though obviously that varies widely from district to district (based in part on facility payments and real estate costs, I'm guessing). The WSJ has reported that around 120 of aroudn 180 NYC charters are in district buildings.
Charter critics argue that they shouldn't be co-located, or at least should have to pay rent, and have persuaded the Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio to take that position. However, it doesn't appear to be common or even widespread that districts charge charters for facilities, based on the NAPCS survey.
Teen sleep: Montgomery to study proposal to shift high school starting time Washington Post: The plan, offered last week by Superintendent Joshua P. Starr, would delay the start of the high school day by nearly an hour, in keeping with growing research about the later sleep cycles of teenagers and the health and safety hazards of getting too little rest.
Big promises with iPads, but where's the research? KPCC: A recent study by Rachel Cole, James J. Kemple and Micha D. Segeritz out of New York University looked at a digital math program used by sixth graders in New York City. It found students who used the program didn’t learn any more than those who didn’t use it.
Boston School-Bus Drivers Return to Work Amid Uncertainty NYT: A day after they left thousands of Boston schoolchildren stranded, drivers were back, but schools warned parents to be ready with contingency plans in case of another walkout.
Pa. private school gets $100 million donation AP: A college prep academy in southern Pennsylvania received a $100 million gift on Thursday, one of the largest donations ever made to an independent school in the U.S....
Read all about it here via Charles Barone.
These could be isolated examples, or early glitches, or signs of bigger problems. Any other implementations going well (or poorly)? They're definitely using tablets in Chicago but I haven't heard any big problems (or praise) besides a recent theft. Image via Amplify.
Some of the things I learned about the Amplify tablet yesterday in a brief demonstration at Amplify's "other" offices in Manhattan (where everyone has a cold they're all working so hard):
2 -- There is a curriculum but it's open to other content and software (not a closed system like iTunes or the Kindle).
3 -- No, you don't have to use Amplify's learning games to use the tablet. No games, no problem. (You don't even have to use Amplify's curriculum. Use Pearson, Edmodo, your own PDFs -- whatever you want.)
4 -- While there's tons that can be done with the tablet, the instant lockout feature "Eyes On Teacher" is apparently one of the most popular features of the tablet, since it gives teachers a way to refocus kids. (Teachers can also block specific applications, and see what kids are doing.)
5 -- No, you can't erase the user profile information to get to unauthorized sites like the kids in LA did with their iPads. You can't fake the internet address, or "root" (jailbreak) the unit -- so far, at least.
6 -- No, you can't get it in another color besides bright orange (though the rubber looks removable).
If you weren't paying attention (like me) you might not have noticed that NSVF has relatively recently set up a Seed Fund focused on "early-stage, pre-Series A education technology companies often overlooked by, or too early for, the traditional investing community," co-headed by Jennifer Carolan and Wayee Chu.
I'm told @nsvfSEED was launched in January 2012 and has an office in Silicon Valley where all the startup action is and most of its 20 or so investments ($100,000-300,000) have been in for-profit outfits like Ellevate, ClassDojo, EdSurge, and GoalBook rather than nonprofits that the NSVF "mother ship" has invested in previously.
Of course, NSVF has other active funds, focused on regions (Newark, DC, and Boston) and on teacher preparation (aka Learning To Teach).
What makes the Seed Fund different is that it sounds like it's actually operating like a "real" venture fund (to the extent I understand what that is) -- focused largely on for-profit companies at an early enough stage that they really need the help, without any real expectation that they'll all succeed. In this sense, the Seed Fund seems new and different from much of what NSVF has ended up supporting in the past -- and closer to what it was originally intended to do (as far as I understand that).
In the long run, we should never bet against technology. In the short run, it is equally safe to wager that the hurried introduction of digital tools by school systems will continue to undermine their effectiveness.
Anya Kamenetz's The Inside Story on LA Schools iPad Rollout: "a colossal disaster" provides the first draft of the latest chapter of the history of educational technology repeating itself. She reports that LA only tried a small pilot project last spring before rushing ahead with a billion dollar investment in iPads. Even that brief experiment resulted in the loss of 71 tablets. Only the teachers who passed out the iPads got training. They got 40 minutes of instruction on managing the devices.
A logistical problem was discovered when students checked the devices out at the end of the day so they could use them at home. The process of rechecking them in each morning was too time-consuming. Also, checking iPads out at the beginning of class created a problem, “If kids didn’t want to do the work, they would come late purposely and not get an iPad. So in some classes, half the kids had them and half the kids didn’t, they were just sitting with their heads on the desk.”
True believers in technology don't like to think about these issues. Theorists like LA Superintendent John Deasy believe that technology will relieve schools of the most difficult job in education - creating learning cultures that allow for teaching and learning for mastery. They have it backwards.
Students must first understand that they are supposed to behave differently in class than at home or other places. Before technology can live up to its prodigious promise, students must be taught how to be 21st century students who will use, not abuse their electronic devices. It makes no sense to ignore the fact that some children are too young to bring $700 tablets home. Others still need to be taught how to control technologies and not be controlled by them and there is no shortcuts for that process.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.
First, reform supporter Whitney Tilson (right) "shorted" K12, Inc. Then CER founder Jeanne Allen (left) defended it. Then Tilson responded. And so forth. Who's got the better data? Who's more conflicted, financially? See the latest back and forth below, in case you didn't already see it on Whitney's email blasts or CER's emails. With any luck, the argument will continue right up to the big october 9 CER gala celebration and awards event (aka "The Reformies"). Either way, it's a great way for Tilson to push the stock down (and make money doing so) and Allen to protect an ally and funder and to publicize CER's anniversary.
Previous posts: K12 Inc. A Bad Deal For Schools -- And Investors?
Reformers in NYC are generally freaking out about the possibility that a new de Blasio administration will change the friendly landscape they've been working in for the past 12 years, by charging rent, ending or limiting co-location, or otherwise making things less easy-breezy. What happens to the Office of New Schools? Who will be left to push for charter schools inside the DOE?
The latest example of this anxiety is Lisa Fleisher's WSJ article about colocation fears among charter supporters (Charter School Blues), which focuses on the idea of making charters pay rent for DOE space. Two thirds of charters are in DOE space, according to the article -- roughly 120 of the 150 total. A 2010 estimate suggests that not having to pay rent makes up $2700 per kid in spending charters avoid (20 percent of per-pupil costs).
Putting charters into district spaces can be controversial and uncomfortable for everyone involved, and in theory charging charters rent would push some of them out of the building or slow the pace of their expansion (though I'm not sure that it makes sense to charge charters if you're not charging everyone else). But then again, making any two organizations or divisions share the same space can create tensions over allocations and use.
What gets left out of the charter/colocation discussion is that the Bloomberg administration has created a slew of new district schools during the past decade or so, almost entirely co-located within empty or underutilized DOE buildings. This year, for example, the DOE opened 78 new schools -- 26 of which are charters. Last year, it was 54 opened (of which 24 were charters). I can't get the DOE to respond but I'm told via Twitter that the grand total for new schools under the entire reign of Bloomberg is 656 -- 150 new charters (66 percent co-located) vs. 506 new district schools (100 percent co-located, presumably).
The vast majority of the time there's no big hullabaloo over the assignment process -- same as with charters -- even though the new schools often have their own practices, schedules, and cultures -- same as with charters. The new school process is not all that different for district schools than charters. There's a need (overcrowding, under-enrollment, failing school), a search for qualified school leaders, and a vetting process. Roughly 300 candidates started the process, which is now apparently down to 60 finalists.
Charter critics can continue to criticize all they want -- with reason, in some cases -- but those of us watching or writing about the debate should know that there are as many if not more new small district schools being created than charters, that co-location is not usually a big problem, and that it's a challenge for district schools as well. Stories about co-location (or leasing charges) should provide context and comparisons to other similar kinds of endeavors and practices.
Here's Bill Gates talking last week about what's known and not yet known about the foundation's education reform efforts. Does he sound less certain than he did a couple of years ago? That's what Valerie Strauss at The Answer Sheet thinks (Bill Gates: ‘It would be great if our education stuff worked but…’).
So Angela Duckworth is one of this year's Macarthur "genius" grant winners -- she's the UPENN researcher behind much of the research into grit and self-restraint. (Speaking of which, I took the grit test online and got a score of 1.5 -- making me one of the least gritty people in the universe.)
Past Macarthur winners with education connections include the Deborah Bial (founder of Posse), Roland Fryer (whose cash for grades program seems to be working better, now), and Amir Abo-Shaeeer (who?). I've also written about if and when Wendy Kopp will win one.
I'm sure there are folks who think Diane Ravitch should be recognized. Any others, whether you agree with them or not? Common Core honcho David Coleman, I could imagine him getting one.
Previous posts: Deborah Bial: An Education "Genius"; Educator Wins MacArthur "Genius ...; Roland Fryer Wins MacArthur "Genius" Award; Will An Educator Win A 2012 MacArthur Grant?; The Genius Behind Teach For America.
Anyone who's been reading the AJC series on testing mistakes and their consequences should probably also be familiar with Todd Farley's hilarious/depressing book Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry, which is now available online:
"Todd Farley's behind the scenes account of his years in the standardized testing industry is provocative, instructive, and often hilarious...."
To see whether testing practices and safeguards have gotten any better or worse since NCLB began, you should also check out Jacques Steinberg's big NYT series on testing from more than a decade ago (The Test Industry's Failures; When a Test Fails the Schools; Right Answer, Wrong Score ).
Previous posts: Test Scoring: The Elephant In The Room; A Scathing, Humorous Look Inside The Testing Industry; Dan Rather Examines Test Scoring ...; "The Truth About Testing" At Columbia J-School; Testing Companies "Streamline" Scoring, Oversight.
Image via Flickr
Voiceover: “Most students keep the Trapper Keeper in their locker. Then, they just change Trappers from class to class. With no large notebooks to carry around, they travel light and easy. After school, they take the Trapper Keeper home with all the Trappers inside.” (The History of the Trapper Keeper | Mental Floss)
The American Enterprise Institute's conference, Teacher Quality 2.0: Will Today's Reforms Hold Back Tomorrow's Schools? showed that the times, they are a-changing. And it's about time. If "reformers" don't admit that they are stalled in the wrong lane of history, our schools will be hurt badly.
The AEI's Rick Hess kicked off the discussion by asking whether the goal of Reform 1.0 is the evaluation of "whether you are a good classroom teacher in a conventional environment?"
Hess then summarized the ways that this "Teacher Quality 1.0" mentality could undermine online instruction, team teaching, and other ways of reorganizing schools. Hess then questioned the codification of this one-size-fits-all approach to teacher evaluation into law.
Teaching should be a team effort, and that applies to schools that serve intense concentrations of poverty and trauma, as much as it applies to the innovative schools that Hess wants. Isn't that the real harm of Reform 1.0? It had the temerity to ram through laws that constrain all types of cooperative learning across our huge and diverse democracy.
Although we disagree on most things, can advocates of the flipped classroom and of full-service community schools join together to reverse laws mandating value-added evaluations?-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.
So it's been a few days now since the Atlantic education page launched, and while others may have been paying closer attention (tell me!) I feel like I'm beginning to get the sense of what it's going to be all about (at least for now).
So far, at least, it's basically shaping up to be an all-education version of the site's National page, which has has long carried education reporting from EWA's Emily Richmond (What Makes a Great Teacher: Training? Experience? Intelligence? Grit?) and Hechinger. For a long list of posts I've written about or with Atlantic.com material in the past, click here.
Former NBA basketball player Magic Johnson has been funding dropout recovery programs and was brought to tears by one student's introduction at a Chicago event on Wednesday. Click the link here to watch.
Over the past week or so I've come across three big articles raising questions about the efforts Amplify and others are putting into getting tablets and interactive software into US schoolchildren's hands:
Mashable's late-August piece (Inside News Corp's $540 Million Bet on American Classrooms) raised a slew of questions about the motives and feasability of Amplify's efforts.
From the headline of the story to the tag line at the end, Carlo Rotella's recent NYT Sunday Magazine piece (No Child Left Untableted) persistently casts tablets -- and Amplify -- in a consistently critical if not negative light.
But perhaps the most hair-raising of them all (from the Amplify perspective) might be Todd Tauber's look at the disappointing economic history of media companies trying to get into the education game (When Media Companies Try to Become Education Companies).
Then again, I'm a notorious reactionary/scaredycat when it comes to education technology (except when it comes to broadband access), and the coverage also helps publicize the company's efforts and gives what they're doing a sense of inevitability. So perhaps I'm just reading it all wrong.
Image via PC Magazine
Josh McGee and Marcus Winters recently released a plan to reform teacher retirement plans.
Chad Alderman helpfully summarizes its two main components:
First, have "benefits accrue smoothly" over the entirety of a teaching career, rather than suddenly at the end of a long career.
Second, shift the allocation of compensation away from retirement accounts and into salaries "to match the norm for similarly situated workers in the private sector".
This is probably solid education policy. Teachers value their defined-benefit pensions, but probably not as much as they value an equivalent - or even somewhat smaller - increase in salary.
And as a relatively new teacher who has experienced some employment uncertainty, I'd certainly prefer to accumulate benefits more steadily and reliably.
Shifting away from generous defined-benefit plans may have some negative effect on teacher retention, but that would likely be at least partially offset by the retention (and recruitment) benefits of higher take-home pay.
Still, when reformers refer to this plan as a "free lunch", that's a little myopic.
It's important to remember that "good education policy" is not the same thing as "good policy" in general or "good retirement policy" in particular.
Teacher retirement plans are famously problematic, so it's natural enough to want to reform them. But the fact is that private sector retirement plans are a bit of a mess as well, with most plans providing only limited retirement security for most people.
In other words McGee and Winters are proposing sacrificing educators' retirement security to achieve a system that is in some respects more fair and - perhaps - educationally more efficient. So there is no "free lunch" here; the trade-off is very real.
So the McGee/Winters plan may very well be good education policy. And, absent additional revenue, teachers' defined-benefit pensions should probably be made somewhat less generous if for no other reason than to help keep them sustainable.
Nevertheless, private sector retirement plans are not obviously deserving of imitation. We may find that, like democracy, relatively generous defined-benefit pensions are the worst system except for all the others. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)
AIR is the national education research outfit founded in 1946. Ed Sector is the DC think tank founded in 2005 by Andy Rotherham and Tom Toch in an attempt to meld think tank research and journalism.
After the co-founders departed around 2009, the think tank was run for a time by Richard Lee Colvin, who left Hechinger Report to take the job. John Chubb had the top job for a time, as well.
The move is being described as "joining forces" but you can read between the lines: the announcement is being made by AIR and the think tank is being overseen by an AIR honcho (Gina Burkhardt).
No word yet on what happens to Peter Cookson, the Ed Sector Managing Director.
Previous posts: Hijacking The Education Sector*; Carnegie Is The New Ed Sector; Colvin Leaves / Is Let Go From Ed Sector; When The Exec. Director Joins A Political Campaign; Rotherham Leaving Ed Sector.
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.