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Charts: Record Numbers Of High School Grads Skipping College

image from espnfivethirtyeight.files.wordpress.com

"Just under 66 percent of the class of 2013 was enrolled in college last fall, the lowest share of new graduates since 2006 and the third decline in the past four years, according to data released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics," observes Five Thirty Eight (More High School Grads Decide College Isn’t Worth It).

Nonprofits: InBloom Joins Long List Of Failed Efforts

InBloom isn't the first foundation-funded nonprofit to fall flat or get swallowed up in larger social issues, it won't be the last, and its demise probably doesn't mean what you think it means.

Failstemp ccommon flickr

There are several recent reformy examples of failure or premature suspension of operations including the Gates small schools initiative, Yolie Flores' teacher advocacy organization (Communities 4 Teaching Excellence), Reading First, the Education Sector (now being revived at AIR), and EDIN'08.

But there have also been numerous failures of various types and descriptions from those who would generally be considered reform critics, including the mid-1990s Annenberg Challenge, the barely-alive Broader Bolder Alliance, and Parents Across America (remember them)? Other nominees from Twitter I'm not familiar with include Strategic Management of Human Capital and the Council for Basic Education. The whole reform movement is built on the failures of the era that preceded it (feat. Head Start, desegregation, etc.). 

You get the idea.  This is hard work, saving the world, and a certain amount of failure is to be expected. 

Even more important to remember is that short-term setbacks often lead to breakthroughs rather than collapses.  What lessons will reformers and reform critics learn from inBloom's demise?  What opportunities will arise from its implosion? Whomever learns inBloom's lessons fastest and puts them to good use stands the best chance of future success.

Previous posts: Key Members Depart "Parents Across America"The Successful Failure Of ED In '08Gates-Funded Group Hands Baton To SharptonMalcolm Gladwell On Failure, Voice, & ExitWaivers, Failures, And Redefining AYP. Image via Flickr.

Media: ProPublica Hires Another Reporter To Cover Education

With apologies for having missed this when it came out earlier this year, news from ProPublica is that they've hired a veteran AJC reporter Heather Vogell to cover education (ProPublica Hires Reporters).

image from www.propublica.org

From the announcement: "Vogell will join ProPublica from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she has been a reporter since 2005. Her work there on test cheating in the public school system resulted in the indictments of the superintendent and 34 others. A series she co-authored, “Cheating Our Children,” examined suspicious test scores in public schools across the nation, becoming a 2013 finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. Before the Journal-Constitution, she worked at The Charlotte Observer, The Chicago Tribune, and The Day, in New London, Conn."

The nonprofit site hasn't been particularly strong on education coverage, though it's got a big section on segregation and just published a long story about re-segregation last week. There's also a section for college loans, if that's your kind of thing. The section on for-profit schools hasn't been updated since 2011. The Opportunity Gap tool was big for a while last year but I haven't heard much about it since.

I haven't seen any stories from Vogell yet on the ProPublica site, so perhaps she's en route from Atlanta.  You can find her at @hvogell but she doesn't seem to be particularly active there. Vogell joins Marian (@mariancw) Wang, who was hired earlier this year.  

Previous posts:  Not Enough Education Goodies On ProPublicaProPublica's Education ReporterObama Staffers' Disclosure Forms Online. Image courtesy ProPublica.

Bruno: Who Told Us The Education Fights Poverty, Anyway?

Screen shot 2014-04-21 at 2.51.06 PMWhen charged with "ignoring poverty", many education reformers will respond that in fact improving education is the best way to fight poverty. 

Arne Duncan once went so far as to say that "the only way to end poverty is through education."

Is that correct?

I'm skeptical. As Matt Bruenig has pointed out, educational outcomes have been improving for decades in the United States, and yet poverty rates haven't really budged.

And what about internationally? Certainly, many developed countries have much lower poverty rates than the United States. Is that a result of superior educational performance?

One preliminary way to look at the evidence would be to see if countries with better academic performance also have lower poverty rates.

Out of curiosity I decided to take a first crack at that using results from the 2012 PISA, which tested 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science.

Click below to see what I found. 

Continue reading "Bruno: Who Told Us The Education Fights Poverty, Anyway?" »

AM News: Data Storage Nonprofit InBloom Closing Down


InBloom Student Data Repository to Close NYT: The student data warehousing venture that became a lightning rod for some parents’ data privacy and security concerns, announced it would close. See also WNYC: Sun Sets on Controversial Student Data Project inBloom. [EdWeek broke the story, far as I know.]

Vision, Reality Collide in Common-Core Tests EdWeek: A glass-half-full reading focuses on the exams' technological advances and embrace of performance-based assessment. On the flip side, a confluence of political, technical, and financial constraints have led to some scaling back of the ambitious plans the consortia first laid out.

U.S. News Releases 2014 Best High Schools Rankings HuffPost/ US News: Some familiar names joined Dallas-based School for the Talented and Gifted and the two BASIS schools in the top 10 this year, including the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology in Georgia and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia. Both schools retained their third and fourth place rankings, respectively, while Pine View School in Florida also held onto its No. 6 position.

Teachers are losing their jobs, but Teach for America’s expanding Hechinger Report: Of the first 13 Seattle recruits whose two-year commitment is now over, Maldonado and 10 others remain in their classrooms. While he thinks TFA should have done a better job before bringing his cohort to the city, Maldonado says he still believes strongly in the organization and worked at its summer institute in New York City last year.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Talks To ABC News’ David Muir ABC News: "How did I go to a commuter college that cost $50 a semester? Because a lot of other people put a little something in that kept the costs low at a public school so I had a chance and a lotta kids like me had a chance to get an education, and go out, and do something with it."

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

Continue reading "AM News: Data Storage Nonprofit InBloom Closing Down" »

Quotes: K12 Education Fended Off Venture Capital Until 2011?

Quotes2No self-respecting venture capitalist would touch the K-12 education segment from 2000 to 2010-2011. -- QSV Advisors' managing partner (and CPS Board of Ed member) Deborah Quazzo in EdWeek

Media: NPR Ed Team Adds Staff (Still Needs Spiffy Name)*

Jobs-signAs you may already have heard via Twitter, the latest news on the NPR education team expansion front is that they've hired Anya Kamenetz to be one of two education bloggers for the new, expanded education page.  

Starting next month, the Brooklyn-based freelancer (Fast Company, Forbes, Hechinger, and many other outlets) will be joining on-air correspondents Eric Westervelt (in SF) and Claudio Sanchez (DC) plus editorial staffers Matt Thompson, Steve Drummond, and Cory Turner (in DC) for a team that will eventually number about 10 people in all (including production staff).  

No word yet on what they're going to name the new site (my bad idea is that they should call it "Planet Education") or who the other blogger is going to be, though rumors have it that the competition has been intense. (I put my name in for the job but they were too smart to fall for that.) 

So far, it seems like the new team is doing well. Contributor Paul Bruno and I had some issues with one of their SAT stories (Media Getting SAT Story Wrong (& Who Funded It, Anyway?). But they seemed to be first to have a reporter take a Common Core field test (sort of like the mom who did SAT prep in The Atlantic), and they've got a great model in Planet Money for smart, fun coverage of a complex topic.

Ironically, education hiring and coverage are expanding all over the place -- Marketplace, Vox, Politico, FiveThirtyEight, NPR, RealClear Education, etc. -- just as the education debate has stalemated/stalled out.  Hopefully, there will be enough real-world change going on for all these new and/or expanded outlets to tell interesting and useful stories. Hopefully there will be enough sharp reporters to give readers the real stories not just the ones handed to them.

Image via Flickr. Previous posts: NPR Expands Education CoverageLocal NPR Stations Beefing Up Education CoverageWhere Does That Public Radio Coverage Come From, Anyway?. And also:  Colbert Move Probably Bad News For EducationMarch Madness Pits 16 Sites Against Each Other.

*Correction:  Kamenetz says she's never written for Forbes.  My apologies.

Quotes: Duncan Responds To Criticism Of Data Privacy Guidance

Quotes2We created a new Chief Privacy Officer. We've put out guidance recently, and where it needs to be strengthened going forward -- and not just us, but everybody, states, districts, schools, myself as a parent trying to figure it out everyday with my kids. This is not one that you're going to issue some guidance and that's the Bill of Rights for the next 100 years. -- Arne Duncan (Arne Duncan Responds to Criticism Over Student Data Privacy EdWeek)

Afternoon Video: EdTech Frenzy But Business Models Unclear

Bloomberg video from last week about the potential and pitfalls of selling edtech to schools. Via RCE. "Bloomberg’s Ari Levy looks into who’s backing education tech startups. He speaks with Cory Johnson on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West.” (Source: Bloomberg)"

Afternoon Video: Stephen Colbert Attacks Then Endorses Common Core

At first, Colbert is outraged at the idea of common standards and anything being promoted by the Obama administration, but then he begins to change his mind. TeachingNow Via @benjaminriley.

#EdGif Of The Day: How Do You Fix A School System Whose Middle Class Is Disappearing?


Some cities like DC and Chicago and NYC are way more appealing than they used to be and gentrifying like mad despite the Great Recession, but that doesn't mean the middle class is coming back. Here's a GIF showing the disappearance of the middle class (in grey) since 1970 in Chicago, which has resulted in a highly segregated, extremely unequal city (and a public school system that is overwhelmingly poor and minority). Read some coverage here and here. The spreading green shape represents the affluent.

Morning Video: White House Pushes Tech Solutions


Here's a clip from Politico's edtech event yesterday, featuring Kumar Garg from the OSTP. Full video here. Story link here.


Quotes: Reform Critic Disdains "Unhealthy Vilification" Of Reform

Quotes2When we're competing, we're not collaborating. That's what I find most disturbing. We're fighting battles in court when we should be working together to figure out what works for our children. - Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University in the WSJ via Pondiscio.

Teachers: Union Membership - The "Other" Kind Of Opting Out

Nun_teacher Michael 1952 flickrIt's not just parents who can try to opt out of aspects of the education system that they don't approve of.  Teachers can do it, too.  

Specifically, they can opt out of being a member of the teacher's union, depending on the state.  And if more than 5 percent of teachers opt out of being part of the union, there are NCLB sanctions (no, just kidding).

Usually, teachers who decline to join the union still have to pay dues, but some of them apparently aren't down with that, either.

As noted in Politico recently, "Several California teachers have brought a separate case aimed at overturning a requirement that they pay the union partial dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining, even if they choose not to become union members.

"The plaintiffs, represented by the Center for Individual Rights, say the union often takes political stances they disagree with while negotiating a contract. They argue that it violates their First Amendment rights to force them to support those positions with their dues. The case is pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals."

As with parents opting out of standardized testing, the numbers of teachers opting out of unions or attempting to avoid having to pay dues are hard to pin down and likely very small.

Image via Flickr.

EdTech: Startups On Track To Raise $2B Despite Challenges

HiresWhat's super-hard to pull off but really attractive to venture capitalists? Edtech, apparently. 

Creating and sustaining a successful startup is not nearly as easy as it may look, as described recently in EdWeek, focusing on Edthena & Autism Expressed. 

And yet, edtech startups raised over $500M in just the first quarter of 20014, according to TechCrunch, which mentions AltSchool, Schoology,as well as TeachersPayTeachers.

Image courtesy TechChrunch.

Events: Yale Education Summit Features Fuller & Duncan-Andrade

ScreenHunter_01 Mar. 25 16.50Another week, another conference. Next up for me is the Yale SOM Education Leadership Conference held in New Haven today and tomorrow.

Notable panelists include Matt Candler, Founder and CEO, 4.0 Schools, Jim Balfanz, President, City Year, Jonathan Gyurko, Co-Founder, Leeds Global Partners, Dave Low, Vice President - High Schools & School Reform, New Haven Federation of Teachers, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President & CEO, Community Coalition (LA), Ken Wong, Professor of Education, Brown University, Patrick Larkin, Assistant Superintendent, Burlington Public Schools (MA). Keynote speakers at the 8th version of this event are Dr. Howard Fuller and Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade.

There will also be an edtech lab (3D printers for everyone!?) and a bunch of event sponsors, and a lot of recruitment and hiring going on behind the scenes.  As always, feel free to come up and say hi if you see me there. Or follow along on Twitter (@YaleELC).

Previous posts: Live From The Yale SOM Education Conference (2009); Yale Conference Takeaways (2010); Notes From Yale SOM 2011;  Big Shift In Focus For Yale Education Event (2012), Tweets From Yale 2013How Organizers See The Parent Trigger.


People: Young Joins GreatSchools [Plus Unsolicited Advice]

image from m.c.lnkd.licdn.comMeet Caprice Young, though you probably knew her already. She's a former LAUSD school board member who helped right the ship at LA's troubled ICEF charter network then went to work for the Arnold Foundation. She also worked as a Deputy Mayor and for a distance learning company along the way, and was a Coro Fellow.

Young left the Arnold Foundation fulltime last year and did some consulting but then decided to join GreatSchools as a senior advisor because she things the site is fascinating and as yet under-used. You might not hear a lot about GreatSchools, but it's got impressive pageviews, according to Quantcast -- 5-6 million pageviews a month (much higher than Kahn Academy and other big-name sites, according to Young).

Now 15 years old, GreatSchools keeps adding features and collaborations like this week's Detroit rollout in partnership with Excellent Schools Detroit.  Not too long ago, the site began producing its own stories (Diversity: "When The Melting Pot Boils Over"). They've partnered with real estate site Zillow and are fending off competitors like Niche and Education.com that do similar things just not as well, says Young.  Next up after Detroit is an effort to deepen the school profiles using social media and qualitative data, and a spinoff dubbed GreatKids that is intended to help parents understand what it looks like when their children can do, say, 2nd grade math. 

What would be really cool -- in the category of unsolicited suggestions -- would be if GreatSchools partnered with big-city districts who are doing universal/streamlined application and admissions processes, so that parents could see ratings, user reviews, and apply all in one place. Yeah, sort of like HealthCare.gov, I guess.  Would make NSA spying on parents easier. Loaner tablets for parents who don't have computers? 

Previous posts: Was Bloomberg Article Fair To Bullis Charter?Is GreatSchools Helping, Or Hurting? A Yelp (Or Facebook) For Schools?New NYT-WNYC Site [SchoolBook] To Cover New York City

Afternoon Video: Can Home Visits & Portable Gadgets Help Close The Word Gap?

This video from Motoko Rich's NYT home visits story today shows a cloud-based device that tracks word use at home.

People: Meet Conor Williams, New America's New(ish) Education Guy

image from newamerica.netI had the chance to meet New America's Conor Williams the other day, during a reporting trip he took to Brooklyn.  (For the record, the Tea Lounge on Union Street is still there and doesn't smell as bad as it used to.)

He's got the tweed jacket professor thing down, though he's only been at New America for about a year and came to them pretty much straight from grad school.  

Since then, he's been writing up a storm: You probably saw his recent post at The Atlantic (What Applying to Charter Schools Showed Me About Inequality“). Or maybe it was this one from the Daily Beast (The Charter School Trap).  He also writes for the Talking Points Memo (Why Doesn’t English Language Learning Have The Same Cachet As Pre-K?).

But his writing goes back well before his current stint at New America.  You may remember him being mentioned here in the past, going all the way back to 2011: "One of the most frustrating things about the current education reform wars is the cults that form around dominant personalities." (Twilight for Education Policy's Idols). Or: "Want to hear that you hate teachers? Claim that those that do their jobs poorly should be dismissed... Want to hear that you don't care about students? Claim that poverty might be a factor worth considering for educators working with low-income students." (Ending the Education War).

More recently, on reform critics: "They need a message that goes beyond critiquing reformers and defending the miserable status quo." (The Charter School Trap)

Increasingly, his writing mixes policy, journalism, and personal narrative (Why Men Shouldn’t Wait to Have Kids). But he can go deep when the need arises; he's got a Phd in political science (take that, all you MPPs!). He's a dad, and he has some classroom experience, too. (He's a TFA alum, but you wouldn't necessarily know it from his writing.) Image courtesy New America.  Tweet him at @ConorPWilliams. Personal blog here.

Quotes: Lay Off Those Local Assessments, Says NY State Superintendent

Quotes2It is our hope that as you, your principals and teachers get more comfortable with the new state assessments, you will reduce local standardized testing or test prep programs and dedicate as much learning time as possible to providing a well-rounded curriculum that meets our highest expectations of a great education. -- John King (King urges districts to pull back on local testing ChalkbeatNY)

Movies: 'Ivory Tower' Documentary To Get June Release

Hollywood_1575288cA much-discussed documentary about higher education costs and quality is getting a full theatrical release this June, according to various Hollywood outlets ('Ivory Tower' Lands). Paramount and Samuel Goldywn are distributing theatrically and online, and Participant (TEACH, Waiting For Superman) is doing the social action campaign."Directed by Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times), Ivory Tower questions the value of higher education among spiraling tuition fees and student debt."

Morning Video: Google & Microsoft Duking It Out Over Schools


This scene from CNN's Chicagoland documentary series showing Google's Eric Schmidt visiting a Chicago school with Mayor Rahm Emanuel illustrates the battle over the education marketplace that includes more and more "free" versions of software. This is not OK with union president Karen Lewis (or some privacy advocates concerned about data mining). Or watch a new interview with Bill Gates on education reform.

Afternoon Audio: NPR Coverage Calms Common Core Freakout

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 2.43.57 PMI can't get the embed to work but I encourage you to listen to this Q and A with NPR education correspondents from yesterday for a steady, balanced overview of what's really going on with the Common Core.


See more NPR Common Core stories here and here.

I hate to say it, but all that scary/sliced bread stuff you're seeing on Facebook and Twitter (and in a lot of mainstream media coverage) isn't giving you as good a sense of reality as you might think.

Too often, what you're probably seeing is really fear-mongering, advocacy, political maneuvering, and journalistic attention-seeking.  

Remember, the Internet magnifies everything and makes everyone seem much more confrontational than in real life. 


Quotes: What Really Works In Education (You're Doing It Wrong)

Quotes2It’s not just more money. Or more choice. Or more tests. Or more organizational innovation. None of those options has succeeded because none has focused on improving instruction in high-poverty schools and developing a successful approach for students to master critical skills. - WSJ's David Wessel (Two Economists on School Reform)

Afternoon Video: Brookings Debunks "Too Much Homework" Fad


"The average American student does not face an extraordinary homework burden, the assignment load has not increased meaningfully over the past 20 years, and parents are generally satisfied with the amount and quality of schoolwork assigned to their children," says Brookings. [Of course, your individual experience (or something you read somewhere) probably suggests otherwise.  I'd go with that.]

Bruno: Why Should A Test "Level The Playing Field," Anyway?

10873567586_8167603a81_nWhen the College Board announced that it would be making changes to the SAT, it justified many of those changes in terms of "levelling the playing field" for historically lower-scoring populations of students. 

But why would that be a goal for a test that is explicitly aimed at assessing college readiness?

Don't misunderstand me: I think you can make a very strong case that the existing "playing field" for students is not very level.

All children acquire and accumulate advantages and disadvantages through accidents of birth, upbringing, education, and environment, and the distribution of outcomes at adulthood is by no means equitable or fair.

The SAT, however, is explicitly aimed at measuring some of those outcomes: namely, "what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge". It seems unreasonable - and, to my mind, nonsensical - to demand that the SAT also rectify those inequities.

Arguably, some of the College Board's proposed changes may promote fairness at the margin. Expanded fee waivers may increase access somewhat, and freely-available test preparation materials may do a bit of good, but the effects are unlikely to be large.

But, again, to what extent could the SAT "level the playing field" in the first place? By the end of high school some students are academically better-prepared than others. That is arguably an inequity, but it is an inequity the SAT doesn't cause so much as it measures.

Indeed, to the extent that it illuminates substantial inequities, the SAT also reveals itself to be administered far too late in the game to meaningfully affect the outcome for most students. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Testing: Jimmy Fallon's One-Question SAT Test

1926772_10152338344592502_1505030887_n"The College Board says it's revamping the SAT to focus more on what students will need in college.  In fact, the SAT is now just one question: "How much money do your parents have?" via Robert Pondiscio and others on Facebook.

Events: Watch Out New Jersey -- Here I Come!


I'll be at the Teach For America-New Jersey 20th Anniversary Summit a week from Saturday, appearing on a panel with other folks including Camika Royal and moderated by Derrell Bradford. It's going to be a good one, but there are several others -- on entrepreneurship, organizing, minority educators -- that seem interesting.  Check it out.  Come up and say hi if you're going to be there. 

Thompson: Two Cheers NY Daily News' Account of Charter Wars

DeblasioTwo cheers for Parents and Children Get Caught Between Charter School Feud with Teachers Union and Pro-Charter Forces by the New York Daily News’ Ben Chapman and Greg Smith.

Newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio seeks to cut back on charter schools while their backers have turned NYC into the frontlines of the national battle for increased school choice. Chapman and Smith concluded that both sides are similarly funded, and I have no reason to challenge their findings. Presumably, both sides have an equal opportunity to fund comparable public relations campaigns promoting their dueling visions of school improvement.  

However, I would challenge the concluding quote, “the people most affected by all this — moms, dads and children — sometimes feel left out of the equation.”

The people who are most affected in New York and across the nation, are unaware of this conflict. It is the children who are not welcome in charters who have most skin in the game. Elite backers of choice, such as Eva Moskowitz, are not about to retain kids who make it more difficult to post test score increases.

For instance, Diane Ravitch and Evi Blaustein, in Fact-Checking Eva's Claims on National Television, explain that Success Academies enroll as few as1/2 as many English Language Learners as neighboring schools. The students in Success Academies have "an economic need index (a measure of students in temporary housing and/or who receive public assistance) that is 35 percent lower than nearby public schools." Suspension rates at Success Academies are up to 300% as large as neighboring schools.

The Daily News should pay less attention about the charter advocates' spin about serving children and more attention to what the parents of those more difficult-to-educate students think about their choice.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via

Quotes: New SAT Over Current ACT

Quotes2If the new version of the SAT was available now, I would definitely be taking this over the ACT... It's just like everything I've been learning in school, where we are analyzing documents and seeing how we came to that answer. The idea of condensed math makes it much easier to narrow down what you want to study. - Chicago high schooler quoted in WSJ story(College Board Shakes Up SAT)

AM News: NYC Might Require Charters To Accept Mid-Year Transfers

What you need to know about ‘backfill’ Chalkbeat: Backfilling seats that open up can pose steep challenges for schools. Students who enter the school midyear or at one of a school’s higher grade levels can have trouble adjusting to a new school and be academically behind. Midyear entries especially are more likely to have unstable home lives, leading to them leaving the school—meaning that one “backfilled” seat might actually be filled by two or three students over the course of a year.

 The Curious Rejection of One S.C. District's Testing-Waiver Request PoliticsK12: In a March 10 rejection letter, however, Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary for K-12, explained that the No Child Left Behind Act requires that all students within a state be held to the same standards and tested on the same tests. She said this is essential given the move to new college- and career-ready standards.

At West Side Chicago school, kids go without teachers WBEZ: Take the Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy on the city’s West Side, where students have spent much of this year without key teachers. Their core courses in English and science have been taught mostly by substitutes this year—sometimes a different substitute every day—meaning no homework, and often no classwork.  One student said students are passed automatically since there are no teachers.

D.C. Moves To Extend School Day At Low-Performing Schools WAMU: Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson want students and 40 of the city's lowest-performing schools to stay in school a little longer every day.

Status Quo at Elite New York Schools: Few Blacks and Hispanics NYT: The stagnant racial demographics at the city’s nine specialized high schools led Mayor Bill de Blasio to call again for increasing their diversity.

Video: 'No Kid Goes Hungry' Plan Goes Viral NBC News: More than 700 people, from as far way as Taiwan, have donated almost $20,000 to a Michigan 3rd grader's plan to pay off delinquent lunch accounts. WILX's Amanda Malkowski reports. 

Video: Parents Rally Behind Extreme Bullying Victim NBC News: A group of Ohio parents rally behind a 14-year-old developmentally challenged student after a gym teacher and some students are charged with bullying him. WKYC's Lynna Lai reports. 

Obesity Linked To Lower Grades Among Teen Girls NPR: The reason for the link isn't clear, but researchers say obesity's effect on self-image and self-esteem might be partly to blame.

Flobots classroom project takes off in Denver AP: The Flobots, a Denver hip-hop band that gained fame with the hit single "Handlebars," are known for social activism and supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement. Drew Elder, a senior vice president of the investment firm Janus, is more familiar with the cello than with Chuck D....

Thompson: An Even Sadder Tale of D.C. Common Core Testing

ChairsThe Washington Post’s Emma Brown, in D.C. Mulls Common Core Test Switch, explains that four years ago the D.C. schools opted for the PARCC Common Core Test rather than the Smarter Balanced assessment. Back then, little was known about the ways that the assessments would differ. Now, a powerful case can be made that the district should switch to the Smarter Balanced test.

If Common Core tests are necessary, I'd say, in an urban district the case for Smarter Balanced is overwhelming. Arguments against the transition to the more appropriate tests are worrisome.

Brown links to the blogger Ken Archer at Greater Greater Education, who has access to the minutes of a meeting of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The OSSE administers the district’s tests and it is open to a change away from PARCC. Archer reports that the "OSSE discussed their intentions to engage in a series of stakeholder discussions with regards to the choice of common core next generation assessments.”

But, Chancellor Kaya Henderson has a disturbing reason for opposing the seemingly better test. Henderson opposes a transition because “teachers unions would see it as an opening to attack the Common Core and testing in general.”

The best reason for switching to the Smarter Balanced test is that it is a computer-adaptive assessment. Adaptive testing is one of the promising technologies that were undermined by No Child Left Behind. Adaptive assessments adjust the questions asked based on the test-takers’ ability to handle tougher or easier questions. They could be essential in helping 8th graders with 4th grade skills so they don't give up and drop out of school when standards are abruptly raised.

Continue reading "Thompson: An Even Sadder Tale of D.C. Common Core Testing" »

Afternoon Video: The Woman Behind That Math Textbook


Here's the trailer for "Take Away One," about the story of educator and author Mary Baratta-Lorton, whose revolutionary ideas about hands-on learning "transformed nearly every classroom in America" and whose murder remains a mystery. Screening in NYC next week. More about it here.

EdTech: Five Smart Ways to Do 1:1 Tablet Deployments

Tablets_mg_0418edit_261My latest piece -- about ways districts can make smart decisions before giving everyone tablets -- is out from the Harvard Education Letter. 

Basically, the advice I got from places like Roslyn, Mooresville, McAllen, and Burlington (MA) boiled down to getting very clear about why you're doing this and what you expect to be different in classrooms because of the devices, holding off (or at least piloting) before making big purchases, and making sure to have enough bandwidth and WiFi access to let all those devices work at roughly the same time.

Click here if you feel like checking it out.

Morning Video: New SAT Addresses Inequality, Market Share

Here's John Merrow on the PBS NewsHour talking about the new SAT, in case you just can't get enough.

AM News: 1600 Different SAT Stories


College Board Previews Revisions To SAT NPR: The upcoming changes that were announced on Wednesday by the College Board will affect more than a million college-bound, high school students. It's the second major revision in nine years. See also WP, HuffPost, LA Times, PBS, KPCC, ChalkbeatNY, NBC News, Politico, NYT, WSJ, AP

Wendy Davis On Education: 'We Texans Have A Different Way Of Doing Things' HuffPost: "I've laid out a detailed platform … I've been talking about it already to a great extent," Davis told reporters. "Greg Abbott in contrast to that is still defending indefensible cuts to our public school system. With his words he says that education is a priority, but with his actions he shows that it's not." Abbott's campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

Socialization technique helps in academic achievement, trial study finds WP: In a randomized, controlled trial that examined the technique known as Responsive Classroom, researchers found that children in classrooms where the technique was fully used scored significantly higher in math and reading tests than students in classrooms where it wasn’t applied.

Six Years of High School? An Educational Experiment in Chicago WNYC: At Sarah E. Goode, students attend high school for six years, graduating with a high school diploma and an associate's degree. The school is funded and in partnership with IBM, which means students also get hands on technical and business training, and the chance to land a job at IBM upon graduation. Twenty-six more such schools will open in three states by this fall.

Saucedo teachers spend Day 1 of ISAT teaching; concerns raised about intimidation WBEZ: Teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy declared victory Tuesday, saying their protest of the state’s Illinois Standards Achievement Test is working. The teachers said they spent the first day of ISAT testing doing what they set out to—teaching.

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

Continue reading "AM News: 1600 Different SAT Stories " »

Quotes: "It Would Look Like A National System"

Quotes2Rather than having 14,000 school boards across America, it would get governors involved, big city mayors involved, and it would have a longer school day and a longer school year... It would look like a national system. - Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad describing his ideal education infrastructure (Eli Broad appoints head of philanthropic education efforts SCPR)

Pop Culture: Pretty Soon, Kanye West Is Going To Have A Charter, Too

image from www.washingtonpost.comThe Washington Post magazine notes that a small but growing number of celebrities start, support, and even send their kids to charter schools these days:

"The Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy started in Las Vegas in 2001. Oprah Winfrey spent $40 million to open her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in 2007, and has donated millions to other charters domestically. Former NBA star (and ESPN commentator) Jalen Rose founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit in 2011. Prime Prep Academy, co-founded by former NFL star (and current NFL Network analyst) Deion “Prime Time” Sanders, opened campuses in Dallas and Fort Worth in 2012. Pop star John Legend is vice chairman of the board for the Harlem Village Academies, and Hugh Jackman and Katie Couric are board members. Sandra Bullock (born in Arlington, living in New Orleans) was awarded the People’s Choice Favorite Humanitarian Award in 2013 for her contributions to the Warren Easton Charter High School in the Crescent City."

I think there a few more, including the charters celebrities support or send their kids to in LA (it's fairly common there), and of course the actor who portrays Mike Gomez in Breaking Bad. Magic Johnson?

Of course, as the article points out, the results are mixed (Pitbull’s school: star promotes a radical idea for at-risk kids). Via EdWeek's Mark Walsh.

Charts: Your SAT Scores Are Back In Vogue Among Employers

image from si.wsj.net

Employers are asking for SAT scores -- and job applicants are putting them on resumes and LinkedIn profiles, according to this WSJ story. Meantime, the College Board says that it will be announcing changes to the SAT next week. 

#EdGif Of The Day: 18 Things That Are Easier Than Paying Off Student Loans

18 Things That Are Easier Than Paying Off Student Loans

#4 Winning the Triple Crown: "It is literally easier to TURN INTO A HORSE, and then win the elusive Triple Crown than it is to pay off your student loans." (BuzzFeed: 18 Things That Are Easier Than Paying Off Student Loans)

Update: Coleman To Unveil SAT Changes Next Week

TestsThe folks at the College Board say that the SAT is in the middle of being redesigned, as announced last year, and that President David Coleman is going to lay out the organization’s plans to "move beyond delivering assessments to delivering opportunity for students so they will be better prepared to succeed in college"  -- including changes to the SAT exam. 

Depending on what that actually means, this is relavant not only for those of us reading the New Yorker's new story about the test's current status (or pondering last week's NACAC study purporting to show that .... well, something).   It's also relevant for those of us wondering just what the College Board has been up to in recent months during which it has gone on a bit of a hiring binge.  

Predictions? Wishes?  Share them with the rest of us, one and all.  Perhaps we'll know more next week. 

Parenting: What Happens When Mom Takes The SAT

image from www.newyorker.comBe sure to check out Big Score, Elizabeth Kolbert's New Yorker article about what happens when Mom takes the SAT.

It's based in part on Debbie Stier's book The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT, in which the 46 year old mom decides "to devote herself full time to the test, with the goal of achieving the maximum possible score of 2400."

TLDR?  Here's the last graf: "Whatever is at the center of the SAT—call it aptitude or assessment or assiduousness or ambition—the exam at this point represents an accident. It was conceived for one purpose, adapted for another, and somewhere along the line it acquired a hold on American life that nobody ever intended. It’s not just high-school seniors who are in its thrall; colleges are, too. How do you know how good a school is? Well, by the SAT scores of the students it accepts... As befits an exam named for itself, the SAT measures those skills—and really only those skills—necessary for the SATs." 

I've asked the College Board if they feel there's anything wrong or missing in the piece - will let you know if I get any interesting response.  

Thompson: Pro-Reform Pundit Embraces Education Reality

YglesiasSlate's Matthew Yglesias supports education reform and yet his Education Reform, Not "Populism" Divides Democrats speaks the wisdom that must be heeded.*

Yglesias observes that the party is not that terribly conflicted over the arcane economic issue of whether "leverage ratio" should be 10 or 8%. But, "if you want to look at a really significant ideological divide among Democrats, you should look at education." Reformers made their case and Congress didn't buy it.

So, it is time to drop the theory that test-driven teacher evaluations can advance a progressive agenda and move on.

I hope Yglesias will listen to educators' explanation of why market-driven reform failed, so that he can advance conversations about the best ways for not making the same types of mistakes in other sectors of the economy. I also would like to hear from the reformers who Yglesias mentions, especially Sen. Cory Booker and President Obama, and understand why they embraced school reform. Did they do so because corporate reformers gave them an offer they couldn't refuse, or did we teachers make mistakes that encouraged them to attack our profession so stridently? 

Politicos may find this wierd, but the teacher in me keeps coming back to the question of whether we share the blame for the teacher-bashing known as "reform." Back in the 1990s, were we too slow to address the concerns of Chicago and Newark community organizers? Or, were we just in the wrong place at the wrong time and were bulldozed by the Billionaires' Boys Club? 

After the break is the case that I would like to make to Ygleisas.

Continue reading "Thompson: Pro-Reform Pundit Embraces Education Reality" »

Books: A Dystopian Education Thriller!

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 19 12.57"It’s the near future and education has become big business," according to the promo copy for @Charles_Swift's dystopian education thriller, The Newman Resident.

"Dr. Newman is at the leading edge of creating the perfect educational environment for children, and all he requires is a hefty tuition—and your child at the age of six months."

Could be good -- could be way over the top.  What do you think?  Anyone plopped down the $2.99 it costs to download and read the thing, or know who Charles Swift is?

Media: Why's Politico So Stingy With Crediting Others?

Here's just the latest (and perhaps smallest) example of the pattern over at Politico's education desk of not crediting other outlets/writers (me, in this case, but I'm not the only one) -- even when it's super obvious and easy:

That's Politico's Libby Nelson giving a shout out to a newly-hired education reporter yesterday morning, right about the time that many others were doing the same thing.  The most likely reason: I had just posted the news about Holly's hire a few minutes beforehand (thanks to a tip from BuzzFeed). 

News outlets are notoriously bad at crediting others for material from others, though they risk losing credibility with readers know where stories first appeared. I've experienced and had related to me several instances where Politico's education team made it appear that they were breaking news that they'd obviously gotten elsewhere and re-reported. (I've also pitched blog posts and story ideas to them, and of course they link out to other outlets when they're not also working on the story for themselves.)

Even the notorious Valerie Strauss over at the Washington Post will link out to the outlet or person she got a story from (especially if she's reminded of the error), or add a credit. Politico's response to my reminder? Some angry emails from an editor and notification that Nelson was (re?)following me on Twitter. 

Media: Meet BuzzFeed's New Business-Focused Education Reporter

image from m.c.lnkd.licdn.comAs you may recall, BuzzFeed is among the many new and existing outlets with a recent and growing interest in education. And, having first announced the job a few weeks ago, the site has now picked a new person to take it on.  She's Molly Hensley-Clancy (pictured). Her Twitter is @Molly_HC. You're welcome.

From the press release: "Prior to joining BuzzFeed, Molly worked as a research assistant at Reuters. Molly has covered business news for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and residential and commercial real estate business for the Wall Street Journal. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Molly worked as a teaching assistant in several city public schools and is deeply interested in educational inequality and access in education. Molly graduated from Yale University and currently lives in Park Slope."

"Molly is an ambitious, aggressive, talented young journalist who is equally comfortable covering a board of education meeting or an earnings report," says BuzzFeed Business Editor Peter Lauria in an emailed statement.  "How money affects education is what this beat is all about, and Molly's ability to be understand and put into context how the two are intertwined is a perfect match.

Known for viral lists and gifs (see for example Which Of Buzzfeed's 23 "Favorite Teacher" Moments Is Best?, or 33 Signs You're A New Teacher), BuzzFeed also produces its own traditional journalism.

For the new education spot, editor Lauria says "We are going to be looking at how big corporations like News Corp and Amazon and Apple are newly altering the environment for education, how entrenched players like Pearson are fighting back, and how upstarts like Chegg are trying to carve out a niche. We see an avenue to cover that from a business perspective that is currently lacking from a lot of mainstream education coverage, and Molly will be at the forefront of bringing this type of news to a large consumer audience."

Previous posts: BuzzFeed Hiring "Business Of Education" ReporterUnion Blog Post Fails To Meet BuzzFeed Standards

Bruno: The Case Against Tenure Seems Weak

6085534723_e383e3cf43One of the upshots of the #Vergara trial is that it seems to be pushing commentators to more starkly articulate their views on education reform.

It's often too easy to talk about, say, teacher tenure protections in terms of generalities and platitudes, but when those ideas are on trial people seem to feel additional pressure to be a bit more specific.

So, for example, last week Dan Weisberg took to the TNTP blog to argue that the Vergara plaintiffs are obviously correct to challenge California's tenure rules because those rules force "administrators to grant or deny permanent employment to teachers after just 18 months in the classroom".

In Weisberg's view, this is a problem because a year-and-a-half is "well before school leaders have time to meaningfully assess a teacher’s influence on student learning". If he thinks the argument warrants further elaboration, he doesn't provide it.

With the argument laid out so clearly it's possible to evaluate it.  

Below the fold, I'll explain why at least two of Weisberg's assumptions seem questionable.

Continue reading "Bruno: The Case Against Tenure Seems Weak" »

Thompson: Why Haven't Reformers Rejected High-Stakes Tests (Yet)?

Tests Against my better judgment, being a team player, I originally supported my union and the majority of teachers who endorsed NCLB. Watching the recent TeachPlus presentation, The Student and the Stopwatch, and listening to the Education Next discussion on the time devoted to testing, I wondered how many participants are doing the same thing.

Leading the discussion with Dave Driscoll, Andrew Rotherham, and TeachPlus’s Celine Coggins, Mike Petrilli kept probing, asking whether high-stakes testing was to blame for excessive test prep. I hope they are just being team players as they all seemed close to acknowledging that high stakes testing had failed. 

None, however, said aloud the logical conclusion that they seemed to be approaching.

Driscoll and Rotherham described the benefits of Massachusetts’ standards based reforms and the “sea change” produced by President Clinton’s reforms of 1994.  Both nailed the key reason for those successes, and both came close to articulating the reason why NCLB failed, and why a Common Core/high stakes testing train wreck is coming.    

Rotherham even coined the best Common Core metaphor that I’ve heard.  Hoping it will solve the problems created by NCLB is like a couple having a baby to save their marriage.
To fully appreciate the wisdom of Rotherham’s punch line, we have to back up and think through his and Driscoll’s diagnosis of education’s real problems.

Continue reading "Thompson: Why Haven't Reformers Rejected High-Stakes Tests (Yet)?" »

People: When Reformers Switch Sides (& Vice Versa)

Screen shot 2014-02-12 at 10.50.35 PMThere have been a handful of high-profile public defections from the ranks of reformers over the years.

Some of the flip-flops are bizarrly complete and public -- Ravitch, for example.  

Others are partial and more subtle -- Camika Royal, say, or Chicago's Seth Lavin.

To the second category add Philadelphia's Helen Gym, the parent activist who's profiled in a recent edition of Philly Magazine (The Agitator).

Gym battles the Mayor, and the school district. She might run for Mayor on an education agenda.

But she also helped found a charter school (Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures School), is married to one of its board members, and sent her children there.

I don't know anything more about Gym than what I read, but I have to say I like the nuance that's suggested. There are all too few people who admit to having doubts or concerns about whatever views they're espousing -- online, especially -- and even fewer who will admit to compromises or complications in their own lives and decisions.  

What about reform critics turned supporters?  There aren't any vivid examples that come to mind, but it could be said that many if not most of those past the age of 40 who supports reform positions now (regarding charters, accountability, teacher evaluation) probably started out (ie, grew up) wanting to be for the traditional education system.

Thompson: Parents Should Opt Out - And Teachers Should Help

TestI plead guilty to not being militant enough in resisting NCLB-type testing.  Had teachers put up a real fight, including "sick-outs" on testing day, they could not have fired us all, and our students would not have had to endure more than a decade of bubble-in malpractice. 

The Tulsa World's Kim Archer, in Parents Opting Kids Out of State Testing Could Put Schools in a Bind, points to a way for teachers to atone for our timidity. The state of Oklahoma has joined Chicago, New York City (under Mike Bloomberg), and others in attempting to intimidate parents into dropping their protests against high-stakes testing. Archer explains the reason, "If test participation dips below 90 percent, the district receives an automatic F, according to the A-F school grade law."

School systems often make herculean efforts to test 95% of students, which is the required minimum for each test. If only one or two students per class were to boycott bubble-in testing, the entire system would collapse. They can't give every school an "F," can they?

Of course, we would have to be strategic and we would have to put student welfare first. We could not expect many parents to opt their 3rd graders out of tests required to pass to 4th grade. Neither could we ask high school students to boycott End of Instruction tests, until they passed the minimum number required to graduate.  Except in the inner city, most students pass the prerequisite four tests by their junior year. If they boycott the rest, the A-F Report Card scheme would crater.

Teachers, of course, need to be more than fans, cheering on students and parents who opt out. I would start a legal defense fund to challenge high-stakes testing abuses. Whenever a student is denied a high school diploma due to failing Common Core or "Common Core-type" graduation exams, for instance, if he has not had an appropriate amount of Common Core or Common Core-type instruction, we should litigate for that student.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.       



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.