The impulse to want a neighborhood school for your children is understandable... [But advocates for neighborhood schools] are part of the problem not part of the solution. -- Warren Simmons, executive director of The Annenberg Institute for School Reform (The Uncomfortable Reality of Community Schools).
I'm not sure there's anything entirely new or shocking in it, but The New Yorker goes deep with its latest education story (A Struggling School Made a Shocking Choice), by contributor Rachel Aviv.
"Struggling to meet data-driven district targets, as well as progress measurements outlined in No Child Left Behind, administrators and teachers at Parks first began systematically fixing students’ incorrect answers on standardized tests in 2006.
"The resulting scores significantly raised the school’s percentage of eighth graders who met the state’s standards.
"The success created an ongoing cycle that fostered continuous cheating—by 2008, the practices had become what Christopher Waller, the school’s former principal, calls a “well-oiled machine.”
The same pressures and incentives still exist, reports Aviv.
Could it happen again soon? The story seems to suggest it's likely.
Previous New Yorker stories by Aviv here.
I love Michelle Obama as much as I remain loyal to her husband, despite his awful test and punish education policy. When the First Lady is attacked, I am angered almost as much as when the Obama administration assaults public education.
The issues underlying both Michelle Obama's Let's Move healthy schools campaign, and President Obama's corporate school reform are equally complicated.
Time Magazine's Jay Newton-Small, in Michelle Obama Bites Back at Critics of Her Healthy School Lunch Standards, reports that a million fewer students ate school lunches in the first year of the program. The bigger problem is anecdotes and twitter photo campaigns featuring students who want their junk food back.
In light of the House Republicans' assault on anti-obesity efforts, Burkhard Bilger's 2006 New Yorker article, The Lunch Room Rebellion, should now be reread. As the First Lady explains, the "stakes couldn't be higher" in the battle to improve children's health, so the fight is worth it. But, given the difficulty Bilger described in providing nutritious meals in the affluent Berkeley, California schools, we must prepare for a long, frustrating struggle.
Bilger told how a "haute cuisine chef," Ann Cooper, got schooled when she brought nutritious meals that were a hit in a progressive private school to a public system. Cooper's biggest problem was that children's food tastes (not unlike some of their learning habits) are established before they enter school. But, a seemingly absurd combination of political and institutional dynamics created unforeseen complications, even in a system where only 40% of students were eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Zuckerberg, Wife Gift $120M to CA Schools AP: The first $5 million will go to school districts in San Francisco, Ravenswood and Redwood City and will focus on principal training, classroom technology and helping students transition from the 8th to the 9th grade. The couple and their foundation, called Startup: Education, determined the issues of most urgent need based on discussions with school administrators and local leaders.
At a Glance: Biggest Tech Donors in 2013 AP: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician, topped the list of the most generous American philanthropists in 2013 with a donation of 18 million shares of Facebook stock that are now worth more than $1 billion. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, it was the largest charitable gift on the public record in 2013. On Friday, they announced a $120 million gift to the San Francisco Bay Area public school system.
Common Core School Standards Face a New Wave of Opposition NYT: The governors of Oklahoma and South Carolina are considering signing bills to replace the Common Core standards with locally written versions, and Missouri is considering a related measure.
California's CORE Districts Faltering On Key Tenets of Waiver, Ed. Dept. Says District Dossier: Education Department officials flagged problem areas for the seven districts participating in the No Child Left Behind Act waiver, including delays and changes to strategies aimed at the lowest-achieving schools.
ACLU Sues California For 'Equal Learning Time' WNYC: The lawsuit names students including Briana Lamb as members of the class. In the fall of 2012, when Lamb showed up for her junior year at Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles, she says her schedule was full of holes.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
Despite all the sturm und drang of education reform debates, despite all the noise and nonsense, the trajectory of American public education hasn’t changed a whole lot. Even the biggest, most comprehensive reforms have mostly ended up as tinkering around the edges. - New America's Connor Williams (Taking Education Reform From Launch to Stable Orbit)
"In 2010, Zuckerberg pledged a hundred-million-dollar challenge grant to help Booker, then the mayor of Newark, and Christie overhaul the school district, one of the most troubled in the country.
"Four years later, “improbably, a [school] district with a billion dollars in revenue and two hundred million dollars in philanthropy was going broke,” and Newark is at war over its schools."
Closing quote:" Shavar Jeffries believes that the Newark backlash could have been avoided. Too often, he said, “education reform . . . comes across as colonial to people who’ve been here for decades. It’s very missionary, imposed, done to people rather than in coöperation with people.” Some reformers have told him that unions and machine politicians will always dominate turnout in school-board elections and thus control the public schools. He disagrees: “This is a democracy. A majority of people support these ideas. You have to build coalitions and educate and advocate.” As he put it to me at the outset of the reform initiative, “This remains the United States. At some time, you have to persuade people.”
Check it out and let us know if it's interesting, fair, etc.
Last week's premier episode of the VICE-produced documentary series "Last Chance High" was so rough it was hard to watch -- so be warned. Here's this week's show.
A 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."
As if the protesting teachers and parents and the new CNN documentary weren't enough, here comes my look at Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel's tumultous first three years at the helm of the city and its beleagured schools system.
The piece (which was originally titled "Reforming Rahm") makes note of just how incremental change had come during the Daley era -- especially the last few years during which a new contract was signed with the union and leadership turnover was the theme -- and what kind of a massive budget and pension deficit Emanuel inherited.
But it also makes clear how Emanuel's rush to take action on things like a longer school day have often backfired, and how he inadvertently helped make a star out of rookie Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis and alienated reform-inclined educators and parents like Seth Lavin as well as "enclave" parents and traditional educators.
Colorful personality conflicts aside, the piece notes that there are still several wortwhile things going on in Chicago, including a move to school-based budgeting, streamlining of testing requirements, a teacher evaluation system to replace the checklist of yore, and a difficult but long-necessary downsizing in response to demographic shifts.
Read the piece -- maybe also Neil Steinberg's recent Esquire profile, too -- and tell me what you think.
The folks at Jacobin (and Kickstarter supporters) have helped put out a new book called Class Action that will be of great interest to many who've followed the Chicago Public Schools saga over the past two or three years.
"Our project with the Chicago Teachers Union’s CORE Caucus and other allies ran long — the final supplement is 118 pages, more than the 50 we had budgeted for. But it was so fantastically designed by Remeike Forbes, and the photography by Katrina Ohstrom and written contributions by CTU President Karen Lewis, economist Dean Baker, Jacobin editors Megan Erickson and Shawn Gude, Joanne Barkan, Lois Weiner, and many others were so strong, we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut it down more or reduce our planned run.
"The booklet will be distributed to educators and school support staff in Chicago, New York, Portland, Newark, Washington DC, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in March to help support rank-and-file activity."
It's been an interesting week in Chicago, what with Neil Steinberg's "pull no punches" profile of Mayor Rahm and Tribune columnist Eric Zorn's turnabout call for CTU head Karen Lewis to run for mayor (rather than resign).
Take a look and let us know what you think of the book -- a quick scan reveals that it's beautifully designed and photo illustrated. Might be a good read whether you're inclined to sympathize or criticize.
The most influential and well-educated people either have their kids in private schools, or they have their kids in an enclave inside the high school that are called honors courses... and so, if we go to a school and say, let’s change things here, they say, no way, you’re going to mess our little enclave up. - Bill Gates quote (from several years ago) about the challenges of changing schools (Education Week).
Not really excited by any of the day's education news? Take a peek at stories and features that came in over the weekend, when I can't seem to stop looking for good items to share with you:
Coming soon: The Nation review of Ravitch book by Joseph Featherstone http://ht.ly/tbxFh
Friday's Story Corps was about a bullied kid who killed himself and his dad's efforts to raise awareness since then http://ht.ly/tbvQp
The influence of union membership on political participation and social capital - Harvard Shorenstein Center http://ht.ly/tbyLO
BASIS charter network is opening up a school in Brooklyn -- as a for-profit private school [like Avenues] http://ht.ly/tbuR6
Pete Seeger got blacklisted for his beliefs http://ht.ly/tbyAE Has anyone in education - Ravitch at Columbia, for example?
Confessions of a TSA Agent - Politico http://ht.ly/tbxrN If only a school security guard would do the same, right?
Someone redo Buzzefeed's viral "What Type Of Parent Are You" post http://ht.ly/tbuWH for teachers, please?
There was also some fun back and forth on Friday about which SuperBowl district was more reformy than the other -- Denver with all its unified enrollment programs or Seattle with its new charters. Check all that out via #schoolperbowl14 (perhaps the worst hashtag ever).
NPR’s Sarah Cwiek, in The Middle Class Took Off 100 Years Ago ... Thanks to Henry Ford?, noted the centennial of Henry Ford’s policy of paying his workers $5 a day.
The policy of paying a living wage sparked a positive feedback loop which helped create middle class prosperity. Ford was not being charitable. He wanted a stable workforce.
Education research confirms the value of stable teaching forces. This is especially true of high-poverty schools where students face extreme instability in their neighborhoods.
Even so, some school reformers claim to believe that “churn” or high levels of turnover is a virtue.
Two recent studies have added to the evidence that high-dollar efforts to turnaround challenging schools have disappointed because they do not recognize the value of stability.
And a recent post from Andy Rotherham notes that class issues play a role in how reformers view stability differently than others.
There's always good reading that comes in over the weekend (or that I miss during the week), but I know that some of you have lives and/or don't take your jobs seriously enough to check the Internet 24/7, so here are some of the best things you might want to check out or at least know about:
Will A Computer Decide Whether You Get Your Next [Teaching] Job? : Planet Money : NPR http://ht.ly/sXDrS
Against the Rage Machine http://ht.ly/sXxCi Why so many of us are outraged so often, and feel the need to say so via n+1
From Jay Mathews: Students won’t learn? Go visit their parents: D.C. is trying to see if visiting parents at h... http://tinyurl.com/krcektz
A week later, I'm still not much national coverage of unlawful teacher dismissal lawsuit in NOLA. Also, no one's biting on my prediction that if the new Ezra Klein / Matt Yglesias endeavor has an education component, Dana Goldstein is most likely to head it.
“Taking a test on material can have a greater positive effect on future retention of that material than spending an equivalent amount of time restudying the material.” Remarkably, this remains true “even when performance on the test is far from perfect and no feedback is given on missed information.” (Students Should Be Tested More, Not Less The Atlantic)
As we begin another spring testing season, educators will further highlight the educational malpractice being imposed on our students by bubble-in accountability. This year, we will also showcase the countdown to the failure of NCLB to meet its accountability targets.
Surprisingly, true believers in high-stakes testing aren't ignoring the law's anniversary and its target of 100% proficiency. The Democrats for Education Reform Statement Marks the Twelfth Anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act press release brags that "NCLB’s policies are now a permanent part of the education policy landscape."
DFER's Charlie Barone was an architect of NCLB and yet he proclaims the truth that reformers usually prefer to duck. He compares "current reform efforts on issues like standards, assessments, choice, teacher evaluation, and tenure" to NCLB.
If you liked NCLB, you will love DFER's, Arne Duncan's, and the Billionaires Boys Club's versions of NCLB-type testing on steroids. I'm curious, however, about the data that DFER cites to celebrate the output-driven mandates of the last twelve years. It links to data produced by "its inexorable march forward" to top-down micromanaging of our diverse nation's schools. It shows the $1000 per low-income student, per year increase in Title I, input-driven spending. DFER remains silent about any supposed increases in student performance.
The noneducators who gave us NCLB and the even worse policies of the Duncan administration remain preoccupied with their political fights. Their lesson from NCLB is focused on "those pushing back," i.e. their adult nemeses. Once again, reformers show themselves oblivious to real-world outputs, the effects of their handiwork on poor students of color.-JT(@drjohnthompson)Image via.
The documentary feature film IF YOU BUILD IT opened in NYC on Friday. Made with Kickstarter funding behind the folks who created Wordplay and IOUSA, it depicts the efforts of two teachers to reinvigorate a rural school in North Carolina -- and themselves. Read more here: Public Interest Design. via David Wald.
Harlem Children's Zone student introduced President Obama at last week's Promise Zone announcement:
Remember, Promise Zones and Promise Neighborhoods are different things and that claims surrounding the original Harlem Children's Zone have been challenged and attempts to replicate it have been difficult. New York Daily News Via HuffPost and ChalkbeatNY.
States Struggle To Overhaul Schools After No Child Left Behind HuffPost: The department on Monday released results from audits of the way six states -- New York, Delaware, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi and Connecticut -- are replacing No Child Left Behind. ALSO: Waiver States Struggle With Priority Schools, English-Learners, Ed. Dept. Finds PoliticsK12:
Cuomo, de Blasio, and Universal Pre-K WNYC: Liz Benjamin, host of Capital Tonight, blogger , fiscusses the showdown between Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio over Universal Pre-K. ALSO: Gov. Cuomo Denies He Will Propose Statewide Universal Preschool Plan On Wednesday HuffPost.
New Schools Chancellor Gets a Homecoming Queen's Welcome WNYC: spoke for less than 10 minutes in what felt like a homecoming, and steered clear of Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposals to charge rent to charter schools and to put a moratorium on co-locating schools in the same buildings.
The Common Core Is Tough on Kids Who Are Still Learning English Hechinger Report: The work is challenging. But the deeper they get into it, the more school leaders are becoming convinced that the methods encouraged by the Common Core will help all their students get better at math as well English. [headline/conclusion mismatch?]
Test Scandal in Atlanta Brings More Guilty Pleas NYT: The focus is shifting to the former schools superintendent, who is being portrayed as the mastermind of a scheme that led to charges against 35 educators accused of manipulating test scores. ALSO: 6 educators plead guilty in test cheating scandal AP.
L.A. Unified should appoint a successor to LaMotte LA Times (editorial): Delaying until an election to pick a replacement for Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died last year, risks shortchanging students at a vulnerable time.
Bowser noncommittal on Kaya Henderson Washington Post: Bowser, one of four D.C. Council members challenging incumbent Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) in April’s Democratic primary, faced that question twice on Friday during [a radio show].
Slow Broadband Internet Speeds Vex Nation's Schools Wall Street Journal:Students in Dory Fravel's fourth-grade Iowa classroom got knocked offline while taking mandatory state achievement exams. Vermont teacher Marcia Blanco whiled away the night while the school's slow-as-syrup Internet connection downloaded software.
More news below.
Edmodo's Nic Borg is one of several education-related folks in Forbes' 30 Under 30 compiled by @CarolineLHoward. Plus SFER, Jeremiah, folks from NYCDOE, Khan Academy, and more. In this video-turned-gif, Borg is talking about how successful startups are sometimes the product of lucky timing and have to innovate to figure out how to succeed in the long run. Indeed, I'm wondering how many of the 2007 version of this feature are still around, if there even was such a thing.
After Radical Change, R.I. School Shows Signs Of Improvement NPR: In 2010, Central Falls made headlines for firing every high school teacher. The firings were part of a federal program promising big changes at the nation's worst schools. Four years later, there are signs the program is helping, but there are also questions about whether the improvement will last.
Chicago reverses course, cancels school on Monday AP: Chicago Public School officials say they're cancelling classes ahead of Monday's bitter cold temperatures, after first saying they would be open....
L.A. Unified finally hiring teachers again LA Times: After an extended period of layoffs and hiring freezes, the Los Angeles Unified School District has resumed bringing on new teachers, while also being more selective about their quality than in the past.
Report gives local Teach for America educators high marks in math Baltimore Sun: Study finds that teachers in the alternative certification program are as effective at teaching math as their peers
GED Gets A Makeover To Keep Pace With Changing Workforce NPR: The GED test is getting an overhaul. The exam has historically served adults who have fallen through the cracks of the educational system. NPR's Rachel Martin talks with Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, about the impact of the new GED exams.
NYC Schools Chancellor Pick Carmen Fariña Leaves More Questions Than Answers HuffPost: Farina only has two days between her appointment and the first day of her job. The quick turnaround means advocates and experts throughout the country are left to wonder whether -- and how soon -- the mayor and his new schools chief will be able to deliver on their progressive promises when tasked with the management of the city's largest agency.
The Online Education Revolution Drifts Off Course WNYC: One year ago, many were pointing to the growth of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, as the most important trend in higher education. Many saw the rapid expansion of MOOCs as a higher education revolution that would help address two long-vexing problems: access for underserved students and cost.
School Experiment That Burned Boy Was Focus of Federal Warning NYT: A video produced by a safety agency warned of the dangers of a chemistry experiment that went awry at a Manhattan school this week.
Quick update on Steve Barr's Future Is Now nonprofit, given his scheduled appearance in New York City next week at the AFT/Atlantic event:
U.S. Department of Education to Redo SIG Analysis Due to Contractor Error PoliticsK12: The analysis, which was released just a couple of weeks ago, excluded about half of the schools that entered the newly revamped SIG program in its first year (the 2010-11 school year) and about a third of the schools that started in the second year (the 2011-12 school year.) It's unclear if the do-over will significantly change those conclusions.
Head Start funding partially restored in federal budget deal EdSource Today: Head Start lost about 57,000 slots for children, including more than 5,600 in California, because of cuts under federal sequestration, a program of automatically triggered, across-the-board spending cuts. These cuts have continued to ripple through Head Start operations month by month as they cycle through their federal grant processes.
Arrest Leads to Shake-Up of Alexander's Leadership Team PoliticsK12: Longtime Capitol Hill staffer and edu-nerd extraordinaire David Cleary, the GOP staff director for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has become the chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Alexander, a former U.S. secretary of education, currently serves as the top GOP lawmaker on the Senate education committee.
Mike Huckabee's "Common Core is Dead" Line Not What He Told State Chiefs State EdWatch:The former Arkansas governor said he is dissatisfied with the implementation of the common core and how it has become "hijacked" by other interests.
Charter Leader Denies Insider's Advantage WNYC: “I’m not suggesting that I don’t know anyone at Tweed, I do,” she said, referring to the D.O.E.'s headquarters. “So if you’re saying can I pick up the phone and call folks, yes, I can. But does that mean from a policy perspective I’ve gotten any advantages? Absolutely not.”
Lots more news below.
Teachers unions face moment of truth Politico: Support for labor unions in general has fallen steadily, dipping below 50 percent for the first time in 2012 before rebounding slightly this year, Gallup polls find.
AFT Makes $1 Million Ad Buy Against Testing, 'Privatization' Politics K12: The National Education Association is also involved but its spending is smaller, Politico reports. That might be because membership losses at the NEA have cut back the amount it can spend on messaging and communications, as I've reported.
AFT, Partners Push National Day of Action to Oppose 'Privatization' of Schooling TeacherBeat: The national union has reportedly spent more than $1 million on advertising buys to promote the campaign.
Fletcher Facing 8 in Bid for LA Teacher Union Presidency LA School Report: The size of the field, which includes one current UTLA officer, Secondary Vice President Greg Solkovits, and one who also ran for president in 2011, Leonard Segal, suggests an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with Fletcher’s policies, leadership style or both.
Lots more state and local news below.
So as you may have seen, MSNBC's Chris Hayes did a segment on PISA13 last night.
One of the guest panelists was Sabrina Stevens, along with AFT head Randi Weingarten and NJ reformer Derrell Bradford.
Predictably, Hayes and Weingarten focused on the effects of poverty on student achievement and the flaws of the current reform movement.
Onscreen and in the intro by Hayes, Bradford was ID'd by his organization's name and his work with Gov. Chris Christie and the state charter board. He mostly played amicable defense -- he's a quasi-regular on the show.
Stevens was ID'd merely as an education activist (see screenshot). She got a word in here and there, and nervously chewed the inside of her mouth the rest of the time.
What nobody said -- not host Chris Hayes, or Weingarten, or Stevens herself, was that she was until recently an AFT communications staffer, and had worked for the Denver teachers union before coming to the AFT. So basically there were two AFT folks on the panel (plus a pro-labor host).
That's fine, I guess - it's not my show. But viewers also weren't told -- by Hayes or anyone else -- that Stevens recently left AFT to launch a new progressive ed advocacy organization that's describing itself as "a marketing department for progressive education - a campaign that never stops."
"A new evaluation system finds 13.5 percent of teachers are exemplary and 79.5 percent are proficient. But 5.8 percent of teachers need improvement and 1.2 percent are unsatisfactory." (Click here - video isn't loading right). Via @annenberginst
#edgifs Earlier this week in class, President Obama raised his hand to ask a question about TEACH, the new Davis Guggenheim documentary about four dynamic teachers. Just out of my White House briefing session, I've now been cleared to share with you some of the key information I was able to glean (plus a ton of gifs).
Of course, it is disgraceful that we have barely resorted to direct actions ranging from work stoppages to boycotts or civil disobedience.
I still can’t say where I should have drawn the line, much less determine at what point my fellow teachers should have fought back.
Above all, we must listen to students like California teacher/blogger Chris Thinnes' son, who decided to opt out of testing -- and then reconsidered.
The Houston Chronicle's Erika Mellon, in Funder Puts Hold on $3 Million Donation to HISD, reports that the Houston Endowment notified the Houston school system that its last contribution to its expensive "Apollo 20" project has been put on hold.
The endowment seeks a meeting with the district and Harvard University researcher Roland Fryer in regard to Fryer's delay in providing an evaluation of the controversial experiment's outcomes.
Fryer issued a heated reply which, in effect, said, Scientist at Work: Do Not Disturb. The MacArthur Foundation "Genius" said that the most important thing for him, professionally, is his academic reputation. Fryer said he doesn't yet have the data required for "real Science."
If the data is not good enough for an academic publication, he sniffed, then its not good enough to show a funder. "Perhaps my standards are too high," Fryer wrote, "but I am not going to lower them for HISD."
He agreed with the suggestion that a third party might evaluate Apollo 20, "if you can find a firm or an academic willing to use the current data and put their name behind that, perhaps the right thing to do is to hire them and insist they turn around a report quickly for you."
The Houston experiment with the mass removal of teachers and extending a "No Excuses" pedagogy to traditional public schools has not gone well. Apollo 20's first year gains - modest as they were - were based on the scores of students who were tested in the spring of 2011. Second year results seemed to be even more disappointing, but Fryer did not publish a formal report on them.
Fryer protests too much. Social scientists usually are transparent in reporting the size and demographics of their original sample, as well as openly reporting the size of the sample that persisted through the full experiment. After all, it was the results of final test takers that the only formal evaluation was based on.
6 California cities get No Child Left Behind delay SF Gate: In San Francisco, the waiver will free up at least $700,000 that had to be spent on tutors or letters to parents about their "failing" school, said Superintendent Richard Carranza.
CA Waiver Award Includes ‘Unique’ Oversight Panel* LA School Report: The 14-member oversight body will provide an “unbiased external compliance review” of each district’s progress after a series of self- and peer-evaluations.
Eight California Districts Get No Child Left Behind Waivers Wall Street Journal: The Obama administration said Tuesday it will allow eight California school districts, including Los Angeles, to sidestep key provisions ...
California districts get special 'No Child' waiver Politico: Several prominent Republicans oppose the idea of district waivers, including Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, who chairs the House education committee. The CORE districts have committed to track progress of and hold themselves accountable for much smaller subgroups, with as few as 20 students per campus.
Image via Flickr
Until systems like Washington D.C. produce gains on the reliable NAEP assessments for students other than those at the top, one would think that it’s annual boasts about increased learning would draw yawns.
John Merrow, in A Story about Michelle Rhee that No One Will Print, reaches the common-sense conclusion that D.C.’s latest improvements are largely due to gentrification.
NPR's Rachel Martin, in Superintendent's Effort To Do Right By His Kids nailed the essence of LA Superintendent John Deasy's zealotry, as well as the hubris that has distorted accountability-driven "reform."
Deasy says that one of the things that keeps him up at night is worrying how quickly is he can make good on the promise he made to the youth in Los Angeles. He acknowledges that his rush to transform the schools imposes stress on teachers. He doesn't understand why everyone would not "get over" that stress.
Deasy warns that educators across the nation will soon be following his driven approach because, "LA is America," and "we are coming to a hometown near you."
Deasy closes his affirmation of stress-induced sleeplessness as a force for helping children with the claim, "the economic viability of LA in California is intrinsically linked to the ability for this country to move forward. And that is going to depend on whether I can live up to the promise of getting every single student college and career ready."
However, Deasy is clueless about what is takes to overcome the educational legacies of poverty. The problem is intense concentrations of poverty and trauma, and the stress that they impose. Inner city schools need more stress like we need another gang war.
Deasy ignores the first rule of school improvement that, "the feces stress rolls downhill." He and other high-profile accountability hawks are oblivious to the fact that their rush to "reform" dumps extreme stress on adults, and that poison inevitably pollutes children's schools. - JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.
You have no idea.
It might work -- but it probably won't.
And in the long run, it -- that class, or program, or app, or reform -- might work out better if you fail miserably in the short run.
These are some of the many thought-provoking ideas in Malcolm Gladwell's recent New Yorker article about economist Albert Hirschman (The Power of Failure).
The piece tells about how Hirschman became fascinated by large-scale mishaps that worked out really well in the end -- entirely unexpectedly.
Longtime readers of this site know that I'm fascinated and horrified by failure (my own and others').
The idea that failure can turn into success is lovely -- as is the idea that many failures stem from the belief that the task "looks easier and more manageable than it will turn out to be."
Sound familiar, reformers current and old-school?
But that's not all. The Gladwell article ends with a discussion of Hirschman's views on private school vouchers, about which he differed starkly with Milton Friedman.
Treat yourself to this recent Chicago Tribune story about the four years since Fenger High School student Derrion Albert was killed, which includes a massive turnaround effort (featuring counselors) and the school's biggest graduating class in recent memory.
Obviously, there are still lots of problems -- the SIG "cliff" being an obvious example -- and Chicago isn't doing so well these days over all, but all the more reason to take a moment to enjoy some measure of success.
(Image courtesy Chicago Tribune)
Now, Neufeld's "Perseverance in a Newark School Despite Mid-Year Teacher Turnover," reports that half of Quitman's core middle school teachers have left -- including some of Glover's most promising, handpicked teachers.
The last straw for some teachers was the January decision to demand more work of teachers for an additional hourly wage comparable to a fast food job. But, middle school teachers had already been worn down by the continued tolerance of chronic misbehavior.
NBPC is the outfit behind the documentary, which was also funded in part by the Ford Foundation, and according to Jones was conceived of as a way to deepen the school reform conversation but not necessarily as a response or rebuttal.
Jones puts the core question the film raises this way: "How could this person [Principal Minor, pictured] who se so clearly smart in a real pratical way as well as passionate about these kids -- working at full capacity every day -- how could she be doing all this and it still sucked like this?"
I came away from the conversation much enlighted about some of the issues that had intrigued me -- especially the question of what if anything could have been done differently -- and informed about the thinking behind the scenes that were (and weren't) shown.
Viewers had been warned, but the tragic conclusion of PBS's 180 Days was more excruciating than anticipated. The first two hours balanced the sorrows that students had endured with their concrete displays of grief and coping. Delaunte was covered in tattoos in a way that could terrify outsiders. They are tributes to his deceased mother, Viola. His "FOE" tat is not a gang symbol; it means "Family over Everything." Raven shows us her private shrine for deceased loved ones, as well as symbols of triumph.
Similarly, the educators at D.C. Met alternative school prepared conscientiously for the best practices of demonstrating abstract concepts in concrete and understandable ways. Sports and the music program (which was destined to be cut) played essential roles.
Early in part two, the educators' efforts to keep Rufus in school died when his mother transferred him. It was the only scene that I could not watch, forcing me to twice leave the room. The goodbyes were interminable because everyone knew what the future would be for the kid with that captivating personality. Rufus was in a daze, a doomed student walking, not noticing a classmate he bumped into. As Rufus exited his last loving sanctuary, he looked to be preparing for his cruel fate.
D.C. Met did the opposite when trying to avoid its predestined outcome. In panic, a helter-skelter approach to test prep was thrown together. Hands-on instruction became a parody of itself as the rush to remediate morphed into the syndrome known as "lost in activity." Students were forced to drink from a firehose with only a desperate hope that enough disembodied facts would stick in their brains until testing concluded.
Last week I complained that the Network for Public Education seemed to be defining itself mostly in negative terms.
I'd therefore be remiss if I didn't note that the NPE has since begun articulating an affirmative agenda.
In a note in the group's most recent newsletter, leader Diane Ravitch says that while you probably already "know what we oppose", the NPE also intends to advocate for a variety of education policies.
Some of those policy positions are a bit vague, like "professionalism for teachers" and "democratic control" of schools. And others are still essentially slightly-repackaged opposition statements.
Some of that is inevitable, especially early in a group's development, and as I said before there's nothing wrong with an advocacy organization dedicating itself substantially to opposing policies it considers ill-conceived.
Watch 180 Days : A Year Inside an American High School Episode 2 on PBS. See more from 180 Days.I'm doing my best to goet some additional information about the outcomes and the story behind the making of the show.
There's lots that's familiar about this year's Yale Education Leadership Conference, including the location (New Haven), the visit to Amistad (Thursday morning), and some of the panel topics and panelists.
But there are also some new/newish elements -- a panel on the parent trigger, a segment on building diverse coalitions, and how other non-education sectors have changed. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras or Louisiana State Superintendent John White are doing the Friday morning keynote. See full agenda panel lineups here. @YaleELC and use #ELC2013
The feature article in the newest issue of One Day (the Teach for America alumni magazine) struck a chord for me.
It tells the story of George Washington Carver High School in New Orleans--a historically black high school and anchor of the black community in NOLA's Ninth Ward. The school was reopened after Katrina, but it has been restructured and currently houses 2 charter operators.
The article shows reformers who bear little resemblance to Michelle Rhee in their style and approach to politics, and includes voices of community members who fought the charters in Carver.
The article still advances some bold claims about academic progress in NOLA and details Teach for America's substantial presence. But once you get past those few paragraphs, it's not typical "One Day" material, and it's an interesting read.
Some of the people who've seen Blackboard Wars -- the Oprah Winfrey Network reality series about the effort to fix a New Orleans high school -- are objecting to the depiction of the kids, teachers, and school.
One blog post against the show calls it “Cops” meets “Dangerous Minds,” describing the show as promoting a tired trope about urban teen violence and exploiting poor kids "for ratings and national school reform cred."
To be sure, the decision to invite cameras into John Mac was a controversial one -- not only in the school community -- where 90 percent of kids but only half the teachers signed release forms -- but also within Future Is Now Schools, the nonprofit charged with making things better there. I've written extensively about FIN founder Steve Barr and am no stranger to his strengths and weaknesses as a school reform leader.
But I have to ask, how is Blackboard Wars really all that different underneath it all from This American Life's recent depiction of life at Garfield Harper High School in Chicago, which generated widespread admiration and (so far as I know) very little backlash locally or otherwise?
So I had the chance to watch the first two episodes of "Blackboard Wars," the new Oprah Winfrey Network reality series that premiers tomorrow night (a month earlier than originally scheduled), and I have to say that I liked it. Not because it's necessarily accurate, or even particularly new or original (Locke High School, anyone?) but because it's a good reminder of the day to day struggles, the retail work, of making a broken school better. This is messy, one-kid-at-a-time work done by teachers, counselors, and administrators, and so many of the real setbacks and successes have nothing to do with learning geometry or American history.
Here's a look at some of the best stuff that came through over the weekend -- or from weekly magazines and other sites I don't check during the week:
AP: School turnarounds prompt community backlash ow.ly/hnvI0 LA Superintendent Deasy calls failing schools "immoral"
Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Early Education (Audio) ow.ly/hmOQ8
Dear Bill Gates: You Are Cooler Than Steve Jobs - Esquire ow.ly/hndLv
Holding Education Hostage by Diane Ravitch | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books ow.ly/hmQm8
From Jay Mathews: Why much-praised KIPP D.C. expels kids: Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, founders of the KIPP ch... bit.ly/TvHb6P
Land's End Founder's Attempt to Save a Chicago Neighborhood | Chicago Magazine via The Billfold ow.ly/hnTsu
Venture Capital's Massive, Terrible Idea [Udacity] For The Future Of College | The Awl ow.ly/hnTnB
Rocketship’s cofounder departing for online learning startup | EdSource Today ow.ly/hovUs
Now this is is extra sad: Fifteen year old Hadiya Pendleton went to the Inauguration in DC, came back to her South Side high school in Chicago, and was shot in the back and killed last night (Sun times, DNAI, Daily Mail).
The murder didn't take place during school, or on school grounds. There is little or no direct connection to education. But this -- gun violence and street gangs -- is a big part of what's going on in some parts of Chicago -- the South and West Sides, mostly -- and it's a big part of the reason that the Board of Education's Utilization Commission recommended that no general high schools be closed in Chicago even if they were half-empty. (Remember that the brutal videotaped death of a Fenger High School student several years ago in Chicago was caused, some say, by a school closing that required students to travel outside their home neighborhood.)
Chronic poverty, discrimination, unemployment, and inadequate housing are all important to understand and address. But violence is the out of school factor that trumps all the others. In places like New York City where it has been addressed (legally or otherwise), school reform efforts have some hope of progress. In places like Chicago, where violence has been shoved aside and ignored (thanks, Mayor Daley and the current one), efforts to improve schools really struggle.