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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

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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" »

Video: TIME Editor Defends Controversial Vergara Story & Cover

Here's an MSNBC segment from a couple of weeks ago that you (like me) may have missed at the time, in which the TIME editor Nancy Gibbs explains the story -- including the notable use of the courts to bypass a broken legislative process - and reflects on the response to the story:

 

Gibbs rejects the notion that the story is anti-teacher -- a frequent claim made against reformers and journalists who write about reform -- but fumbles a bit I thought when she's asked why there weren't more apples on the cover, or a question mark along with the headline. For this and more of a view from the conservative side of things, check out the Media Matters roundup (What Conservative Media Miss In Coverage Of Controversial Time Teacher Story). Meantime: pageviews!

Afternoon Video: How Moskowitz "Outmuscled" The Teachers Union

Here's a pro-charter segment on Success Academy via ReasonTV.  Can't bear the thought?  Watch the NEA president talk about the union's hopes for teachers and tireless commitment to kids following last week's drubbing of teachers unions Democrats. Play them backwards or mash them up into a single video if you dare.

Journalism: Sometimes Education Writer Steven Brill Launching A New Endeavor

Steve Brill, the cigar-chomping, Tab-drinking journalism enterpreneur who sometimes writes about education issues, is starting a new longform investigative journalism endeavor that isn't necessarily focused on education issues but could imaginably be a place for school stories to find a home.  

The effort, detailed in Capital New York and other places (Steven Brill-Jill Abramson startup comes into focus), is a partership with former NYT exec Jill Abramson that will generate one big story a month, published via subscription model, and will be part of an existing site or publication (not named).

Via email, Brill told me that the site isn't education-focused by any means, and they aren't taking pitches yet so hold your horses, but I can't imagine that the right kind of pitch wouldn't find interested eyes given Brill's track record writing about teachers, unions, politics, and schools.  The only real danger is that Brill himself will want to write the education stories rather than assigning them out.

Like many others, I've had a love-hate relationship with Brill, generally loving the attention he brings to the issue and his sharp eye -- he also thanked me in his book about school reform for all the insights this blog provided, which I appreciated -- but lamenting his Ravitchian self-certainty, his pro-reform credulity, and his somewhat limited grasp of education research.

Related posts: Time's Up For "Race ...Steve Brill's School Reform Sustainability ProblemBrill's Big Sloppy Wet Kiss ...Brill (Over)Praises DuncanBrill's Last Stand12 New Yorker Ed Articles Vox Missed/Got Wrong.

 

 

 

Common Core: Union Support For Implementation Continues Behind The Scenes

ScreenHunter_02 Oct. 29 10.57Rhetoric aside, and excepting a couple of spots like Chicago, the national unions and most union locals have continued to work with states, districts, and Common Core developers to familiarize teachers with the new standards being rolled out in schools around the country.  

That's the main finding from my new Education Next article just online today.  Behind the hyperbolic headlines, and despite the efforts of critics within the unions and from the outside, much of the work with unions nationally and locally seems to have continued - much to the frustration of social justice advocates who wanted to de-fund these efforts.  

The piece includes insights from advocates like Bob Rothman, developers like Sandra Alberti (of SAP), funders like Lynn Olson (Gates), and union officials like Marla Ucelli-Kayshup (AFT) and Donna Harris-Aikens (NEA) who have been working on the standards implementation process. One of the main points that came up repeatedly was that unions haven't generally joined with Republicans to oppose the Common Core process -- Chicago, New York, and Tennessee being exceptions. 

“The biggest threat to the Common Core is not that states will pull out” under union pressures, argues Rothman. “The biggest threat is states that stay in but don’t do much to implement the standards.”

Previous articles & appearances in Education Next: Diverse Charter SchoolsMayoral Control in the Windy CityPolitical Educator (Paul Vallas)Ed Next Book Club

Charts: Guess What? 34 States Are Still Doing Smarter Balanced Or PARCC

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 28 10.48You'd think from all the press attention that the Common Core assessments were all but abandoned, but if this new RealClear Education graphic is accurate that's not the case at all.  Thirty-four states are stlll working with one of the two main testing consortia. Just eight states have pulled out. More could do so in the near future, but it's also possible that some of the current midterm-generated Common Core fury will abate after next week. Image used with permission. See all the graphs and interactives at Mapping the Common Core

Books: Let's See The Unredacted Klein-Ravitch Emails

image from 645e533e2058e72657e9-f9758a43fb7c33cc8adda0fd36101899.r45.cf2.rackcdn.comAn apparent leak of former NYC chancellor Joel Klein's new book Lessons of Hope reignited the long-running debate over when and why Diane Ravitch turned against NYC's accountability-focused school reform efforts and gave reform critics a second thing (besides the TIME cover story) to rail against over the weekend.

I still haven't seen the book -- Newsweek'sAlexander Nazaryan tweeted about it first (as far as I am aware) -- but Klein and others have repeatedly suggested that Ravitch's turn against reform efforts like those in New York City was motivated at least partly in response to perceived poor treatment of her partner.

See the Twitter thread here.

Or, for a more traditional view of the issue, New America's Kevin Carey wrote about redacted emails in a 2011 magazine feature about Ravitch:

"Over the next two months, Klein and Ravitch exchanged a series of e-mails. Their contents were almost entirely redacted by the department when it responded to the FOIA request. But several people who worked for the department at the time, including one who saw the e-mails personally, say Ravitch aggressively lobbied Klein to hire Butz to lead the new program—and reacted with anger when he didn’t.

"Ravitch disputes this, saying she did not ask for Butz to be put in charge of the program, was not angry, and only urged Klein to call upon Butz for her deep knowledge and experience. She also told me she was glad Butz was no longer at the New York City DOE, because it had constrained her own ability to criticize the department." 

Steve Brill also went after Ravitch in his 2011 book, claiming that the fees she took in for speaking to teachers should have been disclosed, among other things.

Ravitch and others claim that this is merely an attempt to smear and discredit her, that her partner's departure from NYC's DOE came well before Ravitch's "conversion?" and that it had nothing to do with personal issues.

Who cares what two folks who aren't in charge of any schools have to say about each other? Well, the education debate is all about credibility, for better or worse, so questions about Klein and Ravitch's credibility are noteworthy.  There's also the ongoing tension within the reform movement about whether to attack critics or make nice with them, and the issue for both sides of whether attacks are powerful or alienating.

All that being said, I'd love to see the Klein book, and even the unredacted emails.  Klein or Ravitch could provide them.

Related posts:  Smearing Ravitch Could Blow Up In Reformers' FacesInsult-Hurling Coming Mostly From Reform Critics; Diane Ravitch's Reform Vilification Industry

Quotes: Greedy Reformers

Quotes2A firm that’s just in it for the money is as reprehensible as a teacher union that’s in it just to look after its members’ pay, pensions, and job security. - Fordham's Checker Finn (The State of Education Reform)

Morning Listen: Reed (Netflix) Hastings & Sal Khan Discuss Nonprofit Online Learning

In the most recent Bloomberg EDU, Jane Williams talks to the Netflix founder (and charter skeptic) and YouTube flipped classroom trailblazer (or whatever to call him). Link not working? Go here.

AM News: All Eyes On California (Deasy/Cortines, Tuck/Torlackson, San Diego)

CA Schools chief race may be election's tightest AP: Tuck has nearly matched Torlakson in campaign fundraising, with $1.9 million, while a Southern California businessman who often supports Republican candidates, William Bloomfield Jr., has independently picked up the tab for at least $900,000 worth of slate mailers and ads on his behalf.

Deasy's exit reflects other school battles across the U.S. LA Times: Top leaders in some of the largest districts — in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., Texas and elsewhere — have come under tremendous pressure: some lost their jobs, one faced a massive teachers strike, and lawsuits have been filed against them, among other things.

New LA schools superintendent won’t use district-paid Deasy as adviser KPCC:  New L.A. Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines said his improvement plans for the school district’s most pressing problems won’t involve the man who arguably knows the district best: resigned Superintendent John Deasy. “Dr. Deasy did many things well, but I will not be using his services,” Cortines said in an interview with KPCC’s Take Two on Monday.

The Short Shelf Life Of Urban School Superintendents NPR: If you're a 12th grader right now in the Los Angeles schools, that means you probably started kindergarten back in 2001. It also means that, as of this week, you've seen four superintendents come and go.

Teacher who flew to Dallas for Common Core seminar put on leave out of Ebola fear The Answer Sheet: A Maine teacher flew to Dallas to attend an educational conference — miles away from the hospital where three cases have been diagnosed — and was told to stay away from the elementary school where she works for 21 days.

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

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Morning Video: New Report Highlights District-Based Testing/Test Prep Practices

Here's the video from CAP's event, during which you'll find out about CAP head sending her own kids to DCPS schools, plus link to the new report (Testing Overload in America’s Schools):

Basically, the report focusing on 14 districts in 7 states -- Colorado (Denver Public Schools and Jefferson Co. Schools),  Florida (Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Sarasota County Schools), Georgia (Atlanta Public Schools and Cobb County School District), Illinois (Chicago Public Schools and Elmwood Community Schools), Kentucky (Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville and Bullitt County Public Schools), Ohio (Columbus City Schools and South-Western City School District), Tennessee (Shelby County Schools and Knox Co. Schools) -- finds that there's lots of testing and too much test prep -- much of it district-mandated (not state or federal) -- but holds out hope that states and districts can streamline their testing and that Common Core assessments will make for fewer, fairer tests. #CAPedu

 

John Thompson: Restoring the "Clash of Ideas" in Public Schools

How is it possible that the New York Times food columnist turned education commentator who wrote The Trouble with Tenure could turn around and write nearly the opposite: The Wilds of Education?

Now, Frank Bruni praises the students, families, and educators in Colorado and elsewhere who are opposing standards that demand that schools be all on the same page when teaching a single ideologically-driven set of Standards.

Bruni writes, “When it comes to learning, shouldn’t they [schools] be dangerous?” Sounding like a teachers union building rep, Bruni asks, “Isn’t education supposed to provoke, disrupt, challenge the paradigms that young people have consciously embraced and attack the prejudices that they have unconsciously absorbed?”

I am curious about noneducators, who ordinarily support the clash of ideas, who contradict themselves by attacking tenure, due process, and the policies that are essential for protecting the free flow of ideas of public education. Do they not realize that the test, sort, reward, and punish reform movement is only viable when it is imposing tests where there is only one “right” answer? Do commentators like Bruni not understand that tenure is essential for protecting the debate and discussion in our schools?

Bruni’s ill-informed attack on teachers may help answer my question. It was based on an interview with – you guessed it – one ideologically-driven reformer. Bruni accepted the claims of Colorado Senator Mike Johnson at face value. It doesn’t seem to occur to Bruni that the efforts of Johnson et. al to destroy the rights of teachers (so that they cannot oppose his test-driven accountability schemes) also opened the door for Colorado's conservative reformers to micromanage the learning of students? Can he explain a difference between the way that rightwing censorship operates, as opposed to the way that corporate reform functions when it micromanages teachers’ instruction and students’ learning?

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Charts: Pay No Attention To The Giant Funding Gaps Among Districts

A typical Chicago city school gets half the funding of one in the wealthy suburbs For all the policy chatter and debate out there about funding inequities (between charters and neighborhood schools is one favorite), you don't hear much talk about just how inequitable the funding gaps can be among the 15,000 or so school districts (or among schools within the same district -- don't even get me started). But that doesn't mean they've gone way. This USDE/CAP/Bruce Baker map shows that a typical Chicago city school gets half the funding of one in the wealthy suburbs. Yep, half.  Image used by permission.

Journalism: NYT Gets It Wrong On NCLB Tutoring Requirement

Motoko Rich's latest NYT piece isn't really focused on NCLB sanctions but rather the political standoff between Washington State officials and the Obama administration over use of test scores to help evaluate teachers.

Still, NCLB sanctions are the only real-world impact of the fact that Washington State schools are still operating under the original NCLB -- the only reason anyone cares, really -- and the exaggerations and misundertandings of that law are in many ways a precedent for the current confusions/criticisms surrounding Common Core.

So it's worth reminding everyone what NCLB did and din't require.  

Specifically, the law didn't require "private" tutoring for schools not making AYP repeatedly.  It required tutoring provided by someone other than the school, including nonprofits, community groups, commercial tutoring companies, and sometimes even school districts (like Chicago, which received a federal waiver to provide tutoring to non-AYP schools).*

Whether or not the tutoring was top-notch, many schools and districts lined up against it because it meant that someone else was teaching their kids (and possibly doing a better job) and that they got slightly less federal funding than in the past under their control. Some districts and students responded ungenerously, by making their own students travel to other locations for tutoring rather than making arrangements for in-school delivery. 

What NCLB *did* do, among other things, was require annual reading and math tests for schools receiving federal education funding, and require districts to test all students and report out data based on subgroups, and severely limit the use of non-certified aides and out-of-field teachers who were often assigned to low-income children and paid for with federal funding. It also encouraged federal lawmakers to increase Title I funding substantially, in order to help pay for things like extra tutoring that students at schools that weren't doing right by poor kids might need.

NCLB was far from a perfect law, to be sure. The student transfer provisions were ridiculously weak, and the law allowed states to continue to set their own cut scores on annual tests, making it seem like kids were doing much better than they really were.  But it -- like Common Core and the assessments -- shouldn't be so eaisly used as a convenient dumping ground for educators' and advocates' talking points.

*NCLB also didn't require districts to shutter schools, or fire teachers.  Those were possible options, sure, but very little of that was done under NCLB, and even under the subsequent school turnaround initiative based on NCLB (SIG). But that's for another time.

Watch: For One Miami Principal. Common Core Spurs Hope & Fear

 

Watch Bridget Mckinney, third-year principal of Miami's Allapattah Middle School, explain "her trepidations, as well as her support, for the common core itself." (Common Core Spurs Hope, Fear for a Miami Principal via State EdWatch).

 

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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.