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Media: Who Influences Education Coverage Better -- Reform Critics Or Funders?

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comProfessional journalism has always been paid for -- by subscriptions, retail purchases, and advertisers -- and journalists have always had to defend their integrity both internally and to the public.  

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.

Image CC.

Media: We Need More Teacher Union Coverage -- Right?*

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.

Media: This More Diverse List Of "Top Education Tweeters" Needs More Names*

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. 

Thanks for the suggestion, Heather Harding (@heatherHJ)!  Education Dive's original list includes a mix of men and women but only two POC that I know of (LDH and Michelle R.).

*Additional names that have been suggested (on Twitter and Facebook) since the original posting include @drsteveperry, @jmsummers, and @drkamikaroyal.   

Books: Get Ready For 2015's "The Test"

The test book 2015Hey, 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.

AM News: Top Court Tells Wash. State To Get Cracking On School Funding

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

Charts: NYT Ranks Top Colleges For Economic Diversity

ScreenHunter_01 Sep. 09 13.07

"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.

Livestream: NYT "Schools For Tomorrow" Conference

Link to agenda and previous segments here@NYTConf#NYTsft

Morning Video: Teachers Describe Common Core Transformation

 

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.

Maps: 18 of 22 Smarter Balanced States Expected To Sign Contracts This Year

  image from edsource.org"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).

 

Advocacy: New Reform Group To Counter Relentless Criticism

image from educationpost.orgThe 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 FeedTwitter) is led by longtime Arne Duncan guy Cunningham and including blogger Citizen Stewart. A sampling of their blog posts (Public Education Needs a New ConversationSpeak Up, Don’t Give UpThe Right School for My ChildThe 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. 

Related posts: Reform Opponents Are Winning Online (For Now)Rapid Response in Connecticut.

AM News: New Year, New iPad Plan For LAUSD

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.

Quotes: No, Transparency *Won't* Fix Things All By Itself

Quotes2When 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)

Morning Video: College Dispenses With Courses -- Should K12 Schools Follow?

 

"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.

AM News: LAUSD Declares IPad Contract "Do-Over"

 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).

Continue reading "AM News: LAUSD Declares IPad Contract "Do-Over"" »

Philanthropy: Case Studies Of 100 Grant-Funded Efforts (1900-2000)

Doing some research on foundation-funded education efforts (and still looking for an apples-to-apples comparison to the Ford era to the Gates era) this interesting collection of cases was recommended to me by Stanford's Rob Reich (Casebook for The Foundation: A Great American Secret).  

It's 100 case studies focused on specific grant-funded efforts from 1900 to 2000. Some of the most interesting recent ones include: Charter Schools Funding: Walton Family Foundation, 1991Youth Development Program: Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, 1999Talented Students in the Arts Initiative: The Surdna Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, 2000A Model for the New Inner-City School: KIPP Academies: Pisces Foundation, 2000. But there are lots of others.  

Anyone seen case studies of more recent grant-funded efforts (say, since 2005)? As you know, I think it can be fascinating to look back and examine efforts like these, however they turned out. These cases aren't comprehensive -- some are quite short -- but the approach is appealing.  It also reminds us that the Gates era is just the most recent one, and that previous efforts have struggled with impact and in some cases been wrong-headed, too.

Media: 3 Newish Places To Get Public Radio Stories (Plus NPR Controversy)

Finding great public radio content online is getting easier and easier, thanks to there being more of it available in more places.  

This recent Poynter article touts a new streaming (think Pandora) service (NPR One app potential is huge) out of the national NPR shop plus six big local stations.  I've tried it a little and it's OK but not my favorite (yet).

There's also the WNYC "Discover" app, which lets you pick some categories of story that you like (both local to New York City and national) and download them before you get on the subway or into your bunker as the case may be.  There's more and more WiFi on subway platforms, but still not much by way of service in between stations.  The key is remembering to download the material ahead of time (and finding it once you have).

However, I'm still a big fan of the basic NPR News app, in large part because it lets me livesream whatever station I want to listen to, and also allows me to listen via program -- catching up on All Things Considered, for example -- after hours or even the next day.  For any given program, just hit "Add All To Playlist" and - boom! -- it's all there.)

I'm not sure if that's technically considered a podcast or not -- some of these distinctions are lost on me -- but I know that I like being able to go back and hear the most recent version of a show I missed if I was out, or busy, or napping, or whatever.  That they're mobile is great, but I must admit that a lot of the time I'm listening to them sitting at my desk or in front of a laptop.

Last but not least, since my policy is that no post should lack at least a smidgen of controversy, check out Peter Cook's critique of NPR's recent New Orleans charter schools piece, which contained not only a big error that had to be corrected on air but also a few other wiggly aspects.   Early on, NPR's education team was sometimes accused of being pro-reform because it's funded by some pro-reform foundations.  In Cook's piece, he raises the question whether it (or its newsroom) lean the other way.

Think Tank Watch: [Why] Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?

As you might have noticed on Twitter, I've been enjoying a blog called Think Tank Watch that covers the industry -- trends, dynamics, comings and goings.  

It's not specifically focused on education -- and that's part of what makes it so useful.

Here's a recent post reviewing a new book (Why Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?) examing the rise of the think tanks.  Some of the main points include: 

  • Washington tanks tanks are not primary generators of original research; that function lies with universities.
  • Think tanks are known for their ability to scour the world for attractive ideas, to legitimate them, and to promote them through electronic communications.
  • Think tanks, over the past two decades, have emerged as a complement to, and in some cases a substitute for, lobbyists, due to the ability of think tanks to exploit the rapidly growing information search and propagation capacities of electronic communications.

I've got a whole category about education think tanks, which have supplemented/replaced universities in some regards thanks to their capacity to deliver new ideas quickly and say things more definitively than academics.  That's why we have think tanker Kevin Carey writing in the Times about higher ed rather than Professor So-And-So.  

Previous posts:  Power Couples: The Wonk & The Journo*Reform Debate Often Detached From Schools & ParentsSmarick Rails Against Anti-Democratic Attitudes & ElitesIt's A Small, Small World [For Power Couples]Andy Smarick Is The New Mike Petrilli?Meet Conor Williams, New America's New(ish) Education GuyBig Changes At DC Think Tank [Job Opening!]"Wait A Minute" [On Common Core].

Disclosure: I've written and done research for some foundations, nonprofits, and think tanks.

Quotes: "Don't Call [Common Core Opponents] 'Crazies'," Says Developer

I think then we make a great mistake by caricaturing the opponents of the standards as crazies or people who don't tell the truth... We will lose, and we'll lose things of great importance, if we dismiss this as an extremist position. - David Coleman in BloombergEDU interview via Politico

Magazines: 5 Ways The SF Protests Can Help You Understand Education

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comNow that you're done reading this week's New Yorker story about cheating in Atlanta, time to circle back and read last week's piece (California Screaming) about the conflicts in San Francisco over class, culture, and education.  

Why, you ask?  I'll tell you"

1- The opening protest highlights the impact of gentrification and other inequities on a career educator:

Benito Santiago, a sixty-three-year-old special-education teacher, is being evicted from the apartment he’s lived in since 1977.

2- The piece describes a conflict between two groups who are remarkably similar in their ideals and goals -- but not their methods.  They're mirror versions of each other, only one is younger and richer and more entrepreneurial than collective than the other:

What’s going on in San Francisco has been called a “culture war,” and yet the values each side espouses can sound strikingly similar. 

Sound familiar?

Three more to go -- the best ones! -- click the link and see.

Continue reading "Magazines: 5 Ways The SF Protests Can Help You Understand Education" »

Morning Video: So What's It Like To Take The OECD Test for Schools?

Following up on the fascinating topic of the OECD Test for Schools, the PBS NewsHour just recently aired a new segment about the test's spread, how it differs from most annual assessments (and even the Common Core assessments), and some of the reactions of the kids who've been taking it. Transcript here. You can also read all about the test's development and impacts in my recent Harvard Education Letter article. Don't forget that Frontline's segment on resegregation airs tonight.

Articles: Adult Ed's Secret Buzzwords & Lingo

ScreenHunter_01 Jul. 14 10.07So you think that edtech (and school reform in general) are full of buzzwords and hot new trends? Well, that may be true. But edtech’s got nothing on adult education, which freely adopts jargon and innovation from the K-12 and postsecondary worlds and then adds its own particular set of terms and approaches.

Some of the developments – flipped, blended, gamified, mobile learning – are familiar trends generally mirroring those taking place in other sectors. Others trends and concepts – contextualization, “braided” funding, and “bridge” programs – are more specific to the needs of low-skill adults and adult education programs who serve them.

That's the opening from my latest EdSurge article, which came out a couple of days ago (So You Think You Can Educate Adults?). The first article is here. Image via EdSurge.

AM News: LAUSD Adds Laptops To Its Tablet Deployment

News2

LAUSD board agrees on testing alternative laptops LA Times: With minimal discussion, Los Angeles school officials this week authorized contracts for the purchase of six different laptop computers to determine which device and curriculum works best for high school students.

Common Core test anxiety Politico: Attempts to apply standards in different states spark a testing revolt across the country.

Teachers, postal workers weigh Staples boycott USA Today: Postal workers picket in front of a Staples store April 24, in Concord, N.H. Postal workers around the country protested in front of Staples stores, objecting to the U.S. Postal Service's pilot program to open counters in stores.

In New Orleans, a case study in how school, health care decentralization affect neediest children Hechinger:  In recent years, New Orleans has become a case study in how children and families are affected by rapid decentralization of public education and mental health systems.

Do Teachers Really Hate Common Core? From the Floor of ISTE 2014 EdSurge: Teachers can live with--or work through--the standards. But the biggest worry? It’s not the standards that are the problem--educators are feeling stifled by the testing.

Summer school enrollment falls sharply after city reduces role of state tests ChalkBeat: In his first six months in office, Mayor Bill de Blasio has had a nearly singular focus on providing needy students with expanded education services. But thousands fewer struggling students will be attending summer school this year after city officials changed the way students qualify for the program.

Emerging Themes at NEA: 'Toxic Testing' and Union Threats TeacherBeat: The board of directors will propose a New Business Item calling for a campaign against "toxic testing."

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

Continue reading "AM News: LAUSD Adds Laptops To Its Tablet Deployment" »

Maps: Where The Charters Are

ScreenHunter_09 Jul. 01 21.32Here's a map from Marketplace, which also ran a segment on the state of charter schools featuring quotes from Nina Rees, Dennis Van Roekel, and Jack Schneider. Click the link to get the interactive version.

Quotes: EdTech Hubris Undermines School Improvement

Quotes2Either this is a co-operative project, funded by experience, evidence and expertise, as well as the mutual passion for integrity, education and innovation (and yes, venture capital). Or it’s a series of expensive and limiting failures where working-stiff educators have to pick up the pieces.(A Distemperate Response to Silicon Valley’s ‘Edtech Revolution’

Quotes: Smarick Rails Against Anti-Democratic Attitudes & Elites

Quotes2In too many other cases, our field has succumbed to the derision of politics, giving the impression that technocracy is preferable to democracy... I worry that too often education reform is falling on the wrong side of the democratic-technocratic divide. -- Andy Smarick (Has America Lost Democracy to Technocracc?)

Bruno: The Trade-offs of Tenure (Possibly Good & Bad Outcomes)

430890004_98639b3bb7_nSince the Vergara decision was handed down in California reactions have been predictably partisan and extreme. Reformers are ecstatic over what they believe if a "huge win" and their critics are equally confident that the decision was "anti-teacher" and "exactly backwards".

It's not really surprising that the reactions would shake out this way. Education debates are often highly-polarized, and there are political reasons for activists to exaggerate the stakes.

In reality, the most reasonable position to take about the consequences of Vergara is agnosticism. Even if the decision survives appeal it will be many years before schools feel its effects, and then it is likely that the overall impact will be quite modest.

This case may still spend years winding its way through the legal system, and its ultimate fate in the judiciary is not at all obvious. If the ruling eventually remains intact, the California legislature could potentially satisfy its requirements without making major changes to the statutes in question.

More than that,  it's not clear why we should be confident that changing the rules governing teacher tenure or seniority privileges will have major, easily-predictable consequences.

On the contrary, the effects of those rules are complex and often cut in opposite directions. Below the fold, I'll consider the trade-offs involved in tenure reform specifically and try to show why it's hard to know whether the benefits will outweigh the costs.

Continue reading "Bruno: The Trade-offs of Tenure (Possibly Good & Bad Outcomes)" »

Morning Video: Why's College So Expensive? ("Ivory Tower")

Here's the PBS NewsHour segment from last night about the new Participant documentary about college costs and outcomes.

Magazines: The Innovation/Disruption "Myth" (New Yorker Vs. Slate)

image from www.newyorker.comThe big think piece of the week so far has to be Jill Lepore's New Yorker cover story attempting to debunk (or at least contextualize) the current fancy for things labeled "innovative" and/or "disruptive."

Basically, Lepore is saying that "innovation" is today's version of the word progress, that the Clay Christensen book that has promoted much of the furor is based on some shaky anecdotes, that innovator/disruptor types tend to rely on circular logic (innovations that fail weren't disruptive enough), and that disruptors' insights aren't much good at predicting future successes and may be particularly inappropriate to public efforts (and journalism). 

In several places, the piece notes that schools and other public endeavors have been touched by the innovation craze: 

"If your city’s public-school district has adopted an Innovation Agenda, which has disrupted the education of every kid in the city, you live in the shadow of “The Innovator’s Dilemma.”

And also: "Christensen has co-written books urging disruptive innovation in higher education (“The Innovative University”), public schools (“Disrupting Class”), and health care (“The Innovator’s Prescription”). 

There's also a funny description of the MOOC panic of 2012-2013.

Over at Slate, Will Oremus thinks that the case against innovation/disruption is being overstated and that the New Yorker writer just wants folks to stop trying to disrupt her industry.

There are lots of angles related to education here.  Are things as bad as we're being told by reformers -- bad enough to warrant attempts at "blowing up" the current system? What happens to the legacy system when inno-disruption efforts fail to make much improvement (MOOCs), or (as in charters) succeed only partially?

 

Update: Low-Skill Parents Need Better Educating, Too

Skylab learningThere are an estimated 36 million low-skill adults in the US - not counting undocumented immigrants or incarcerated adults.  

Only about 5 percent of them are getting anything by way of help with their numeracy, literacy, or English language skills.  

Sometimes it's nothing more than a weekly course taught by a volunteeer in the library. 

No surprise, then, that adult ed waiting lists are long, and persistence/retention is low. 

Rather than thinking about them as a separate population, howver, think about them as your students' parents -- the folks your kids go home to each day, who could help out with schoolwork or not, depending.

That's not the only connection, however.

Read about recent efforts to reboot adult education nationally and locally in my first article for EdSurge (New Urgency Around Adult Education) and you'll see lots that mirrors what's going on in K-12 education -- from the trends (flipped, mobile, gamified, etc.) to the struggle to maintain funding to the widely varying results.

 

Previous posts:  The Story Behind 2010's "Waiting For 'Superman'"Common Core: A Peek Inside A "Field Test" Help Desk. Image via Skylab Learning.

 

People: It's A Small, Small World [For Power Couples]

HiresCatherine Brown has been named to head the education policy team at the Democratic think tank Center on American Progress.  

At CAP, Brown will report to Carmel Martin, who held the job until she was promoted to head of domestic policy.  

Martin's previous job was as head of policy and planning at the USDE.  

That's the job Brown's husband Robert Gordon has been named to take.

To recap: Brown replaces Martin. Brown's husband replaces Martin. 

Plus: Does this mean Clinton's looking left for education advice in 2016?

Previous posts: Policy Wonk Named OMB Education PADFlashback To 2005 (How Much Has Changed?)On The Move: Miller Staffer Heads ...NYT Covers Wedding of NYC DOE & DFER Couple Power Couples: Emily & David Sirota.

Quotes: Teachers Deserve Reasonable Protections - But Not Ironclad Ones

Quotes2Teachers deserve reasonable due process rights and job protections. But the unions can either work to change the anachronistic policies cited by the court or they will have change thrust upon them. - NYT Editorial Page (A New Battle for Equal Education)

Media: Carrie (Caroline?) Porter Is Writing Education Stories For The WSJ

Caroline porter WSJ 2014

Chicago-based WSJ reporter Caroline Porter (pictured) has been writing a bunch of national education stories in the time since Stephanie Banchero abdicated the throne left for the Joyce Foundation. Some recent examples: 

Campus Crime Has Dropped, Report Finds

Illinois Governor Signs Pension Bill for Chicago

Admission Testing Undergoes Revamp

Oklahoma Dumps Common Core Standards

Child Stabbing Raises Alarm About Web and Youths

Study: About 1 in 6 Teachers Out 18 Days or More

No word yet on whether she's temporary, permanent, or getting a summer tryout for the job, which is traditionally operated out of the Chicago office. According to her WSJ bio, Porter graduated from Northwestern University and has a master’s degree from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. Follow her on Twitter: @carolineporter.

Charts: Ghana Wins World Cup Of Education [Spending]

ScreenHunter_01 Jun. 13 10.39The World Cup has just started but Ghana -- one of the teams the US will face to start things out -- has already won the World Cup of Education Spending as a percentage of GDP. The US doesn't even make it out of the first round. Via WSJ.  

Charts: Finance Lawsuits Continue To Play A Big Role Behind The Scenes

image from www.edcentral.orgHere's another chart dug out by EdCentral you might want to see, showing that equity lawsuits may have flatlined the last 20 years but adequacy cases have been on the rise and have played an important role in shaping public education even as other approaches (like deseg and accountability and choice) have won the lion's share of public attention.

Bruno: The Evidence-Free Debate Over Teacher Preparation

5129607997_660a65a1fc_nIt's natural enough to assume that a professional who has received more job training will be more effective than one who has received less.

So when critics of alternative teacher certification casually assert that it would be "bizarre" to expect a "a five-week long TFA training camp" to be as effective as a year of traditional teacher training (as Anthony Cody does) or that traditional certification is required to make sure teachers are "fully prepared" (as Nancy Flanagan does), readers could be forgiven for assuming supporting evidence exists, even if the authors don't present any of it.

In reality, however, there is a considerable body of research on the effectiveness of alternatively-certified teachers, and taken as a whole it suggests that such teachers compare favorably to their traditionally-certified peers.

Indeed, just in the last few months at least two more studies on the subject have come out. One found that alternatively-certified teachers were about as effective - and in some cases more effective - than traditionally-certified teachers in North Carolina.

Another found that some of the most effective teachers studied (in Florida) were produced by alternative certification programs requiring the least pre-service coursework.

One could reasonably argue that any or all of these studies are limited in various ways. Most tend to focus on boosts to students' math or reading test scores, for example, and that may be an excessively narrow view of teacher effectiveness.

But that is not the debate that we are having. In fact, if you were to read mostly critics of alternative certification, you may not know that this research exists at all.

The result is a largely evidence-free debate about teacher preparation, with proponents of traditional certification relying almost exclusively on the intuitive appeal of their position rather than attempting to demonstrate its truth.

It is entirely possible that traditional teacher certification has virtues that are not captured by the existing research literature on teacher effectiveness.

Those virtues, however, should be demonstrated rather than assumed. That's unlikely to happen as long as one side refuses to acknowledge that the research matters - or even exists. - PB (@MrPABruno)(image source)

Thompson: Latest OK Testing Mess Generates Widespread Complaints

TestsOklahoma adopted the entire test-driven reform agenda promoted by Jeb Bush and Arne Duncan. It failed educationally, but it is producing a seemingly miraculous political outcome, pulling together all types of stakeholders in a grassroots backlash against corporate reform.

The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger, in Schools Across Oklahoma Say Writing Test Results Deeply Flawed, describes something even more unpredictable. School systems are fighting back.

Eger reports that district officials are discovering “abnormally high rates of students receiving the exact same scores.” They are questioning whether the error-prone CTB/McGraw-Hill properly scored the tests. How is it that the testing company responsible for two breakdowns in online testing in the last two years also determines that over 81% of the 755 students at Jenks Middle School earned the same score in all five elements of its scoring rubric?

Last year, educators in Moore schools demonstrated their personal courage in the face of a massive tornado. Now, a Moore administrator says that “more than half of his district’s fifth-graders and an even higher percentage of its eighth-graders received the same score in every subcategory.” When teachers who were trained in the scoring rubric reviewed their students’ essays, “they determined that the proper scores were ‘nothing close to the scores that were assigned by CTB’s people.’”

The immediate question is whether these “widespread [test score] reductions” for “plagiarism” were penalizing students simply for following instructions to cite directly from reading passages, or whether students were not bringing enough of their personal opinions to the essay tests.

But, that raises a larger question about the transition to Common Core which is supposedly under way. A fundamental principle of Common Core is that “people don't give a shit” about students’ personal perspectives and that test answers must be rooted in the text. In their rush to impose Common Core, “Common Core-type” tests, and other high-stakes assessments, reformers have issued numerous mixed messages. Now, they want to punish students because their contradictory policies have sown widespread confusion.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.

AM News: NEA Hopes Organizing Will Ease Membership Losses

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NEA Aims to Revive Organizing as Membership Drops EdWeek: It has launched a Center for Organizing to provide tools and training, has put millions of dollars behind local affiliates' plans, and is pushing regional support staff to lead the charge

Big Brother: Meet the Parents Politico: A months-long review by POLITICO of student privacy issues, including dozens of interviews, found the parent privacy lobby gaining momentum — and catching big-data advocates off guard.

Ed. Dept. May Lack Tools to Evaluate Promise Neighborhoods, GAO Says PK12: The GAO report, released Wednesday, explains that the department requires grant winners to collect extensive data on things like individuals they serve, services they provide, and related outcomes, as well as report annually on multiple indicators. However, the department told GAO's investigators that it needs to conduct a systematic examination of the reliability and validity of the data to determine whether it will be able to use the data for an evaluation.

Six more charter schools approved to open in New York City in 2015 Chalkbeat: The schools received the sign-off on Wednesday from the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, one of two bodies that can authorize charter schools in New York state. They are chartered to open in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, and will serve more than 2,600 students when they reach full capacity.

Is Autonomy for All Schools the Next Wave of Reform for Boston? District Dossier: A new report argues for Boston education leaders to extend charter-like autonomy over hiring, budgeting, and curriculum to all of the city's 128 schools.

Wilson High principal comes out as gay at school’s Pride Day Washington Post: Wilson High School Principal Pete Cahall came out to his students as gay at a school-wide Pride Day event Tuesday, shaking as he said that he had “hid in the shadows for the last 50 years” but was inspired by his students to declare his sexual orientation openly.

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

Continue reading "AM News: NEA Hopes Organizing Will Ease Membership Losses" »

Common Core: A Peek Inside A "Field Test" Help Desk

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 11.44.11 AMWhat's it like working at one of the four Common Core field test help desks that have been set up around the nation to handle calls about the tough new assesments?  Check out my latest piece and find out -- then come back here and let us know what you think.

Thompson: Michelle Obama, Meanwitchs and Stinkburgers

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I love Michelle Obama as much as I remain loyal to her husband, despite his awful test and punish education policy. When the First Lady is attacked, I am angered almost as much as when the Obama administration assaults public education.

The issues underlying both Michelle Obama's Let's Move healthy schools campaign, and President Obama's corporate school reform are equally complicated.

Time Magazine's Jay Newton-Small, in Michelle Obama Bites Back at Critics of Her Healthy School Lunch Standards, reports that a million fewer students ate school lunches in the first year of the program. The bigger problem is anecdotes and twitter photo campaigns featuring students who want their junk food back.

In light of the House Republicans' assault on anti-obesity efforts, Burkhard Bilger's 2006 New Yorker article, The Lunch Room Rebellion, should now be reread. As the First Lady explains, the "stakes couldn't be higher" in the battle to improve children's health, so the fight is worth it. But, given the difficulty Bilger described in providing nutritious meals in the affluent Berkeley, California schools, we must prepare for a long, frustrating struggle.  

Bilger told how a "haute cuisine chef," Ann Cooper, got schooled when she brought nutritious meals that were a hit in a progressive private school to a public system. Cooper's biggest problem was that children's food tastes (not unlike some of their learning habits) are established before they enter school. But, a seemingly absurd combination of political and institutional dynamics created unforeseen complications, even in a system where only 40% of students were eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Continue reading "Thompson: Michelle Obama, Meanwitchs and Stinkburgers" »

Quotes: Test Score Teacher Evals Don't Stand Up To Scrutiny

Quotes2Using test scores to evaluate teachers seems like a great idea on the face of it, but it does not stand up to scrutiny... relatively few teachers will have any test data at all and that there aren’t enough students in most classes to yield reliable growth estimates. - Former Chicago schools testing director Carole Perlman (Using test scores to evaluate teachers creates problems)

Charts: Which 13 States Still Looking For A Test Provider?

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There are lots of Common Core maps and charts out there these days, but RealClear Education's Emmeline Z. has one that's particularly useful because it breaks down "what each state is planning in the coming years for its Common Core-aligned assessments for grades 3-8 and high school" -- and in particular which testing comany (Pearson, AIR, or someone else) they're going with ((Mapping Common Core in the States). Click on the link for lots of interactive goodies -- maps, charts, and circles.

Thompson: Why Cory Booker Should Have Respected Newark's Families and Teachers

BookerDale Russakoff’s New Yorker article, Schooled, recounts the failure of the “One Newark” plan to transform Newark schools. One of the key contributions of Russakoff’s excellent narrative is her portrait of the personalized nature of the edu-philanthropy process. As one wealthy donor said, “Investors bet on people, not on business plans, because they know successful people will find a way to be successful.”

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million in seed money after being blown away by then-mayor Cory Booker. Zuckerberg explained, “This is the guy I want to invest in. This is a person who can create change.”

Booker created a confidential draft plan to “make Newark the charter school capital of the nation.” Because it would be driven by philanthropic donors, no openness would be required.  “Real change requires casualties,” Booker argued, and stealth was required to defeat “the pre-existing order,” which will “fight loudly and viciously.”

Had they bothered to study social science research, cognitive science, and education history, hopefully the edu-philanthropists would have realized that Booker’s approach to “One Newark” could be great for his political ambitions but it was doomed as method of improving schools.

The corporate reformers’ lack of curiosity in an evidence-driven plan for improvement is doubly frustrating because, as David Kirp documented, a successful experiment in systemic improvement was conducted in the nearby Union City schools.

Continue reading "Thompson: Why Cory Booker Should Have Respected Newark's Families and Teachers" »

Quotes: Reform Still Hasn't Done Much (For Better Or Worse)

Quotes2Despite all the sturm und drang of education reform debates, despite all the noise and nonsense, the trajectory of American public education hasn’t changed a whole lot. Even the biggest, most comprehensive reforms have mostly ended up as tinkering around the edges. - New America's Connor Williams (Taking Education Reform From Launch to Stable Orbit)

Maps: Advantaged Kids Not Doing So Well In Most States, Either

ScreenHunter_06 May. 13 14.00

We're not supposed to trust data just because it's presented in soothing map form, but according to EdNext "U.S. schools seem to do as badly teaching those from better-educated families as they do teaching those from less well educated families. " U.S. Students from Educated Families Lag in International Tests. Click for the interactive version (and be sure to moust over to the arrow for better-educated families).

Quotes: When Vendors Calls Themselves "Partners"

Quotes2If you’re going to come sell us a product, don’t call yourself a partner. You’re not, you’re a vendor. If you want to partner with us, that means you have to listen to us and we have something that’s going to change you, and you have something that’s going to change us. -- Chris Lehmann, founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, at this year's SXSW (via EdSurge)

Philanthropy: $44 Billion/Year That Would Otherwise Fund Public Projects

Fist-of-Money-1Speaking of philanthropy, check out this new article in Businessweek if you want to be amazed and perhaps appalled at how little is known about some of the wealthy individuals who decide to create foundations and give their money away rather than pay it in taxes and let the government decide what's most important (Three Mysterious Philanthropists Fund Fourth-Largest U.S. Charity).

It's not so much that the grantmaking decisions are horrible -- some include education-related efforts, like LA's 9 Dots, which is always good to me.  

It's that there's a lot of money involved -- an estimated $44 billion per year -- and that the transparency isn't always as good as it should be.

 

Morning Video: MSNBC Focuses On Conservative Opposition To Common Core

Below, watch Chris Hayes try so very hard to explain the Common Core controversy and the entire history of education reform, focusing almost entirely on Conservative opposition (interesting!). The segment features a late-night clip I hadn't seen where Louis C.K. joking tells David Letterman that low-performing schools are going to be "burned to the ground"):

 

In a second segment there's some vaguely pro-con commentary from AFT head Randi Weingarten (she's ostensibly pro) and advocate Sabrina Stevens (who briefly worked for the AFT and made a controversial appearance on the show not too long ago - also with Weingarten).

Media: Critical Roundup Of MSNBC's "Mixed" Reporting On Education

Conspirator-FlickrHere's an interesting roundup of coverage and perspectives from various MSNBC shows that you might find interesting even if you don't agree with any or all of the interpretations and perspectives (OpEdNews).

Basically, the writer is taking MSNBC producers and hosts to task for not covering education thoroughly enough -- and critically, too.  It's quite comprehensive (and super paranoid in some elements). Parent company Comcast is a member of ALEC and plans to profit off of Common Core. 

The underlying question surrounding the lack of coverage is valid, even if the specifics are not.  I'd love to see a more straightforward and dispassionate analysis like this one.  

Previous posts: MSNBC Covers Suspended Preschoolers Study (Sort Of)Ravitch On MSNBCWhat's Wrong With Chris Hayes?Schools Conduct Newly-Required "Active Shooter" DrillsMeet Sabrina Stevens, AFT's Secret New "Education Advocate". Image via Flickr.

Charts: Education & Training Helps Create All Those Self-Made Billionaires

image from static2.businessinsider.com

The US creates so many billionaires for lots of resasons, reports Business Insider, the larest factors being access to capital (think Silicon Valley) and an entrepreneurship culture (How The US Produces Self-Made Billionaires). But our education and training is also a leading feature, which is interesting to note.

Thompson: Merit Badges for Teachers? You've Gotta Be Joking

Skinner_box_scheme_01Perhaps the key purpose of schools is teaching children to become "inner directed" persons, who can control their own behavior. Its hard to think of a single more destructive aspect of data-driven reform than its seemingly unintended consequence of turning children into "other directed" persons, trained to just respond to carrots and sticks.

Perhaps this is not a disgraceful byproduct of testing, but an embrace of a humiliating value system for both adults and children.  

The Tennessean’s Joey Garrison, in Merit Badge Idea for Nashville Teachers, Students Draws Ire, describes an incredible new way of supposedly bestowing respect on teachers – issuing merit badges.

He reports on the opportunity being granted to “earn ‘virtual badges’ — tokens, of sorts — for taking on additional professional development or demonstrating other accomplishments.” Garrison writes that the badge system might even be expanded and tied to compensation.

This is not an April Fools joke. The badges would be digital icons or logos on the district's computer system. But, they may also offer a physical badge, like those issued by the Boy Scouts.

Nashville’s chief academic officer, who pushes the idea, said that the district will solicit teacher input before developing its final proposal. They might tie the badges to pay in the 2015-16 budget.

There is talk of expanding this disrespectful idea to students, further teaching them to salivate before virtual treats. The kids could cash in virtual badges at online stores. The logic behind teaching students to devalue learning is, as usual, Orwellian, "We want kids to own their learning and own their experience, and this is a way to do it."-JY(@drjohnthompson) Image via.

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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.