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Update: Barr Nonprofit Re-Focuses On Teacher Advocacy


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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:
 
The organization has rebooted in the past few months -- new name (Future Is Now vs. the old Future Is Now Schools name adopted when Barr had to stop using Green Dot America) -- new staff -- three of them based in Chicago -- and a new focus on teacher advocacy than charter school development and operations.  Plus twitter @teacheraction.
 
According to FIN's communications director Gordon Wright: "We're organizing teachers with the goal of empowering them to take actions that will improve their schools and unions. Acknowledging the wisdom and professionalism of teachers has always been a hallmark of Steve's approach, and this new effort also taps into his deep roots as an organizer."
 
This makes sense in a lot of ways. Barr has always been more an organizer and mobilizer than a school operator (read my book for more about this), he's always been squarely in the middle between reformers and reform critics, and he's got more experience and track record working with districts and unions (in LA, NY, and NOLA) than some of the other groups. (Funding comes from Ford, Moriah, Gates, and high-value individuals, I'm told.)
 
Of course, there's no shortage of groups trying to help teachers gain voice and advocate effectively (in addition to the voice and advocacy that comes from the unions), so that's going to be a challenge. FIN claims it's going to help teachers better/differently than everyone else.
 
The website tells stories about teachers organizing their own contracts at the school level in NYC, starting their own schools in LA, and pushing for online union voting (for UTLA). 

AM News: USDE Withdraws SIG Report Due To Errors

News2

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.

Continue reading "AM News: USDE Withdraws SIG Report Due To Errors" »

AM News: Unions Launch Big PR Campaign Today

News2Teachers 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.

Continue reading "AM News: Unions Launch Big PR Campaign Today" »

People: Meet Sabrina Stevens, AFT's Secret New "Education Advocate"

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 4.25.43 PMSo 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."

Wait, what?

Continue reading "People: Meet Sabrina Stevens, AFT's Secret New "Education Advocate" " »

Morning Video: Union Complains Over Evaluations Showing 7 Pct Failure

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"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

Movies: 13 Things You (Prolly) Don't Know About "TEACH"

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#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).

Continue reading "Movies: 13 Things You (Prolly) Don't Know About "TEACH"" »

Thompson: The Moral Complexities of Opting Out

NsaI have long had conflicted feelings regarding teachers’ timidity in resisting test-driven “reform.”

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.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Moral Complexities of Opting Out " »

Thompson: Roland Fryer's "No Excuses" Excuses

FryerThe 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.

Continue reading "Thompson: Roland Fryer's "No Excuses" Excuses" »

NCLB: Roundup Of CA District Waiver Coverage

Flickr Meghan Carnavalet In These TimesThe $100M money angle shouldn't be ignored here, nor the 20-student subgroup size nor the 14-member council.  What happened to Clovis?

Arne Duncan gives No Child Left Behind waivers to California districts Washington Post:  The Obama administration will grant waivers to eight California school districts to free them from the requirements of No Child Left Behind, a precedent-setting move that  creates a direct relationship between the federal government and local school systems.

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. 

U.S. Department of Education Grants California Districts' CORE Waiver PoliticsK12: For districts, the most important flexibility this waiver brings is financial. A waiver will free up about $100 million in federal funds a year among the districts—money that's now locked up in providing interventions such as tutoring and school choice in schools that do not meet annual academic targets.

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

Thompson: Gentrification Caused DC Test Score Increase, Says Merrow

KayaBy now, when any struggling school system continues to issue claims of dramatic gains in student performance, one would assume that those claims would be ignored. 

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.

Continue reading "Thompson: Gentrification Caused DC Test Score Increase, Says Merrow" »

Morning Video: New Book On DC's Historic Dunbar High School

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Former MTV News reporter Alison Stewart (also CBS, NPR, PBS) has written a book about her parents' high school, Dunbar.

Thompson: Reform Stress Has Negative Effects On Kids & Educators

StressSymptomsNPR'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. 

Views: Malcolm Gladwell On Failure, Voice, & Exit

image from upload.wikimedia.orgWill it work, that thing you're putting so much time and hope and energy into?  

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.  

Continue reading "Views: Malcolm Gladwell On Failure, Voice, & Exit" »

Update: Fenger Fights Back

76390232Treat 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)

Thompson: Turnaround School Ignores Misbehavior All Over Again

Media bias bias colin dunn flickrSara Neufeld's first Hechinger Report article on Newark's Quitman Street Renew School, "A Newark School Prepares - Again - to Reinvent Itself," began with Principal Erskine Glover's belief that weeding out subpar instruction is the single most important factor in school improvement.

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.

Continue reading "Thompson: Turnaround School Ignores Misbehavior All Over Again" »

Documentaries: Could Principal Minor Have Done More?

image from wamu.orgBelow are some interesting things I learned chatting Monday afternoon with Jacquie Jones, ED of the National Black Programming Consortium, about last week's "180 Days."  

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. 

Continue reading "Documentaries: Could Principal Minor Have Done More?" »

Thompson: The Tragic Endings of "180 Days" (Plus DCPS Response)

RUFUSViewers 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.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Tragic Endings of "180 Days" (Plus DCPS Response)" »

Bruno: The NPE's Positive Agenda

3454586331_2e2ef4f62bLast 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.

I also happen to like most of what I see in the NPE's "positive agenda," so I'm hoping they flesh it out and advocate for it vigorously. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Morning Video: "180 Days, Part 2"

Didn't watch Part 1? You can see it below, or skip it and go straight to the second half of the year.

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.

Events: Next Week's Yale Summit

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.

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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

Reckhow: "You Can't Bring Reform To A Community"

ScreenHunter_02 Mar. 20 16.55The 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.

Continue reading "Reckhow: "You Can't Bring Reform To A Community"" »

Video: A Year At "DC Met" High School

Watch Preview on PBS. See more from 180 Days.

Here's another documentary about a school, this one coming out from PBS next week: 180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School

 

Media: "This American Life" Vs. Oprah Winfrey

DonttalkSome 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?  

Continue reading "Media: "This American Life" Vs. Oprah Winfrey" »

Morning Video: Vallas Turnaround Talk

"At the 2012 CraigMichaels K12 Summit, highly recognized school Superintendent Paul Vallas shared his insights in effectively turning around some of the most disadvantaged school districts in the US and abroad."

Afternoon Audio: What Happens When Harper's SIG Ends?

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If you haven't checked it out, you can listen to Part Two here. Or, you can read the transcript here. Or you can donate to the school here. It's not all about street gangs and violence this time -- it's also about SIG Turnaround funding, and Cheerios, and chocolate milk. 

TV: What's New, What's Familiar In "Blackboard Wars"

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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. 

Continue reading "TV: What's New, What's Familiar In "Blackboard Wars"" »

Weekend Reading: Turnarunds & Tirades

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"

Michelle Rhee Gets an Education - NYTimes.comow.ly/hmOHa

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

Do Unions Have a Shot in the 21st Century? -NYTimes.com ow.ly/hmOJt

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

Violence: Killings In Chicago Undercut Reform Efforts

Now this is image from farm3.staticflickr.comis 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.  

Quotes: "The Objective Here Is Not To Have More Charters"

Quotes2The objective here is not to have more charters; the objective is to have great schools. -- Green Dot CEO Marco Petruzzi, appearing on a Southern California public radio show about the parent trigger.

Update: First Lady's Alma Mater On School Closing List

image from www.cps.eduThey're not closing high schools (because gangs are in charge) and even half-empty schools might be allowed to live another day in Chicago, but Michelle Obama's elementary school alma mater is on the Chicago Sun-Times' unofficial list of 193 schools that might get closed in order to help downsize Chicago's school system and help it deal with a $1 billion deficit.  According to her Wikipedia page, the First Lady went to Bryn Mawr Elementary School (later renamed Bouchet Academy.)  The school has been trying to turn around since at least 2008. Image courtesy of CPS.

Chicago: Roughly A Third Of Turnarounds Remain Low-Performing

Screen shot 2013-01-17 at 12.24.14 PMThe industrious folks at Chicago Public Radio have gathered together data on 12 years of school closings and turnarounds.

Not only that, they also mapped the changes, and determined that roughly a third of the buildings closed and/or turned around remain at the lowest level of performance (Tier 3).

It's well worth a look, whether you're a fan or critic of school turarnound efforts.

Others will disagree, but the 32 percent failure rate doesn't seem objectionable, given the enormity of the issues faced at 100 percent of the schools deemed bad enough to be closed or turned around.

 

Update: Parent Trigger May Play Differently In LAUSD

image from laschoolreport.comLast week, LA School Report broke the news that the parent trigger was coming to LAUSD, the third trigger effort in the state since 2010 and the first to involve the nation's second-largest school district.  

Today's news is that, at a fairly elaborate media event this morning, the parents of 24th Street Elementary are, along with Parent Revolution, presenting their petition and (according to Parent Revolution) more than 300 signatures to Superintendent Deasy.

It's worth noting that the response in LA may differ slightly or substantially from previous school superintendents.  A former Gates Foundation officer, Deasy is pro-choice and not particularly charter-phobic.  As this LASR post describes, LAUSD has had its own Board-approved trigger mechanism since 2009 -- and three Board members up for election in March.  And, while some Board members and teacher union leaders may object vociferously, LA's Democratic Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, is a strong trigger supporter. Other labor groups like SEIU may see the trigger as a benefit for their working-class members.

Previous post:  7 States With Trigger Laws - Federal Proposal To Come.

Quotes: Board Member Decries Defense Of "Broken" School

Quotes2I want to know why anybody would want their child to go to a broken school? -- LAUSD board member Marguerite Lamotte, explaining her vote in favor of reconstituting Crenshaw High School (via KPCC)

Preview: TV Series Trailer Heats Up Charter Meeting

Screen shot 2013-01-17 at 11.19.28 AMTuesday night in New Orleans, there were at least a few people upset at the charter board meeting for John Macdonogh high school, which is going through a controversial turnaround.  The school has both a board and an advisory committee to represent community interests.  Control over the charter was given to Future Is Now Schools, Steve Barr's current charter network.  The meeting was eventually cut short.You can read all about it at The Lens.

One key aspect of the event was the first public showing of a trailer for the forthcoming OWN reality series, "Blackboard Wars."   As is fairly standard, the three-minute video (which I've seen) begins with dramatic footage (a 2003 incident in which suspects brought an AK47 into the school and began shooting), as well as scenes of fistfights and security takedowns. the implementation of school uniforms and tuck-in requirements.  There are dramatic graphics  ("One of the most dangerous schools in America... Nobody believes he can do it... An Angry Community.") There's even a Survivor-style wail in the background (all that's missing is a bone-rattling dubstep drop). Also depicted: overwhelmed teachers, a strong-willed new principal, angry community members -- and glimmers of improvement.  

Previous post: Oprah Network Features NOLA Turnaround Story

Thompson: Carmel Martin As "Candide"

MerrygoroundDuring the Fordham Institute’s recent panel discussion, Turnaround Merry-Go-Round: Is the Music Stopping?, the Department of Education’s Carmel Martin reminded me of Voltaire’s Candide.

Like Candide, Martin bravely endured a devastating critique by Fordham’s Andy Smarick of the Duncan administration’s School Improvement Grant outcomes. She countered that it is wrong to compare decades of failed turnarounds with today’s turnarounds.  Her evidence was that Secretary Duncan meets with a lot of state leaders, and those talks make him optimistic.

Martin gamely responded to critiques of NCLB-type accountability schemes, citing the political pressures that produced such flawed metrics. Finally, Martin faced the question of unintended results of data-driven accountability.  In order to boost graduation rates, systems resorted to credit recovery gimmicks and, in order to raise test scores, they adopted assessments with easier questions. So, has that not undermined the transition to more challenging instruction required by Common Core? 

Martin replied, “Again, it’s an area where I’m going to take the optimistic view instead of the pessimistic.”-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.           

TV: Oprah Network Features NOLA Turnaround Story

Coming in March, Oprah Winfrey's OWN network is going to start airing Blackboard Wars, the six-part story of the attempt to turn around NOLA's McDonogh High School. 

image from 1.bp.blogspot.comFrom the announcement:  "The Discovery Studios-produced docu-series centers on the dramatic transformation of New Orleans’ John McDonogh High School, one of the most dangerous and under-performing high schools in the country, where more than half of its students fail to graduate. The show, which will premiere in March, will go behind the scenes with education maverick Steve Barr and no-nonsense principal Dr. Marvin Thompson as they embark on an unpredictable mission to reinvent and revive the struggling school."

From another writeup:  "Blackboard Wars" examines the dramatic transformation of John McDonogh High School in New Orleans, which had a 54% dropout rate before the changes were put in place. “Education maverick” Steve Barr and “no-nonsense principal” Marvin Thompson have increased the attendance rate to around 80%, and they hope that in a few years, the graduation rate will skyrocket to 90%. The students at this school "feel disenfranchised," according to Thompson, who believes that treating each child differently creates a greater chance of success. The population also includes 19-, 20-, and 21-year-old sophomores, so the teachers have their work cut out for them." (San Jose TV

Apparently it was originally called Treme High

Thompson: A Win-Win Approach to School Turnarounds

The vast majority of school turnarounds use the drastic methods encouraged by the Duncan Administration's School Improvement Grant experiment. 

Teachplus

The Hechinger Ed's "Giving Teachers More Power Helps in Turnaround of Boston Schools" links to ASCD's evidence why those punitive methods are unlikely to work.  For instance, Massachusetts turnarounds that used more generic professional development and teacher support, and struggled to create a safe school environments, produced few gains.

But, Hechinger reports that Boston, in collaboration with Teach Plus, recruited proven teachers to lead the turnaround of six schools.  Boston model provided intensive teacher professional development over the summer, and health and wellness services for students. By the second year, these schools were producing double digit gains in math and reading.  The Boston method thus follows the original turnaround vision of "the Readiness Triangle," In contrast to more typical turnarounds, it does not skip "Readiness to Teach" and "Readiness to Learn." 

 The Boston/Teach Plus model could thus rescue SIG from its tendency to take teacher-bashing shortcuts, as it helps descalate our educational civil war.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Morning Video: Fordham Panel On Turnarounds

Carmel Ninety-minute video of Monday's panel featuring Carmel Martin, Checker Finn, Andy Smarick, Jean-Claude Brizard (here)

Thompson: A SIG Success Story is Audited

DouglassOrdinarily, Oklahoma City’s Douglass High School would be proclaimed as a School Improvement Grant (SIG) success story: 

In 2012, it posted double-digit increases in four subjects, single-digit gains in four, and declines in only three tests.  After replacing 75% of its faculty, investing heavily in after-school tutoring and intersession remediation, and implementing its SIG "academic intervention plan," the high school earned a “C” on Oklahoma’s tough new report card.  It earned “A’s” for overall student growth, its graduation rate, advanced coursework, and “overall school improvement.”  

Douglass, however, is being investigated for awarding credits to students who have not earned them.  Now, the Daily Oklahoman's Carrie Coppernoll, in Douglass Transcript Finds Spur Call for Wider Auditing, reports that less than 20% of Douglass’ seniors are on track to graduate. To ameliorate the harm to its seniors, Douglass has no short-term option but to double-down on the full array of “credit recovery” shortcuts that got the school in the mess by “passing students on.” The lastest twist, ironically, grows out the Oklahoma Gazette's Freedom of Information request.  Jerry Bohnen, in "A Tale of Email," confirms that the former principal changed grades.  The district explains that those grade-changes would not have been appropriate under its policies, but they may have been consistent with SIG standards.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.    

 

Update: Goings-On At Green Dot

ScreenHunter_07 Nov. 26 22.37So there was a handful of Green Dot-related news that came out yesterday, including (a) word from USDE that its Race to the Top application had made it to the final 61 after the initial round of reviews, (b) news from Green Dot founder Steve Barr that Green Dot NYC (or whatever it's officially called now) received a "fat" A grade from the NYC DOE (phat?), and (c) word via a Green Dot press release and LA Daily News story that Barr had resigned from the Green Dot board on which he's remained all these years since he and Green Dot split.  (LA Daily News, KPCC).

I'm not really sure of the significance, if any, to the resignation, given that Barr has moved on to a new venture, Future Is Now, which is focused on NOLA.  The Green Dot NYC school has been transferred over to FIN.  Perhaps there was some sort of flare-up, though Barr says that he just has too many other monthly board obligations. Perhaps the press release was an indication of the remaining ill will Green Dot CEO Marco Petruzzi feels towards Barr, though Petruzzi says it was just SOP.  Perhaps I'm just making a mountain out of a molehill.

Previous posts:  Green Dot & Steve Barr Finalize Their "Divorce"The Book I *Should* Have WrittenBack To Locke HighUnsolved Mysteries Of Locke High & Green Dot

Morning Video: "Frontline" Explores Child Poverty

Watch Poor Kids on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Last night on Frontline, PBS explored the spread of child poverty.

SIG: A Disappointing But Completely Predictable Reaction From Smarick

image from www.scribbleoneverything.comResearcher Bryan Hassel has written a bracing (for policy wonks) response to yesterday's "SIG-failed-I-told-you-so" post from former New Jersey state education official Andy Smarick (The disappointing but completely predictable results from SIG).

In his rebuttal, Hassel questions Smarick's contention that SIG has failed and shreds Smarick's notion that starting new schools is a viable way to go:  

"There’s no evidence that new school creation is demonstrably better as an overall strategy than turnarounds... To replace the 5,000 worst schools, we’d need 10,000 high-quality new schools b/c they tend to be smaller."

Read the full post below.  

Continue reading "SIG: A Disappointing But Completely Predictable Reaction From Smarick" »

Five Best Blogs: School Reform's Inner-City Problem

Images3 (1)Arthur Levine: The Suburban Education Gap - WSJ.com ow.ly/fjDfX via @Wonkbook 

Joel Klein: We Need a Bar Exam for Educators ow.ly/1Pzhur 

How online ed is going to do to the music industry what Napster did to music Clay Shirky ow.ly/fkrJh 

Cato Unbound » Blog Archive » Why Online Education Works ow.ly/fkrI3 

New twist on cyberbullying: Anonymous vigilantes defend depressed teen, expose tormentors via Jezebel ow.ly/fjBPQ @emilybazelon

Tech Groups Offer Lame-Duck Wish Lists -NJournal ow.ly/fkrFo There's an ed reform version of this out there, somewhere

Book about poverty wins National Book Award CJRow.ly/fjBra 

Bruno: Why Do African-American Voters Support Charter Schools?

3075157040_6b6ac4af3e_mThese days it's popular to attribute electoral outcomes to influential "special interests", and certainly powerful individuals and groups can affect election results. Still, "special interests" can only get you so far in explaining democratic fortunes; voters aren't just blank slates upon which the rich and powerful can project their own preferences.

So consider me skeptical that strong African American support for a pro-charter school initiative in Georgia is best explained by "out-of-state money" (Valerie Strauss) or opponents being "drowned out" by President Obama (Jim Galloway). I'm totally prepared to believe that big money and popular leaders can change the way people vote, but by all accounts the move to make charter authorization easier was favored by a large majority of African American voters. 

Had the results been closer it might make sense to attribute the results to the persuadability - or gullibility - of a few marginal voters. If accounts of 2-1 support among black voters are accurate, however, there is probably more than enough informed and "authentic" support for charter schools in African American communities to deserve to be taken seriously.

The charter school movement has definitely made for some awkward political alliances (and enemies), but that makes it all the more necessary for opponents of charter schools to engage with the very real concerns charter proponents hope to address. Yes, many black leaders are justifiably worried about school resegregation, but many black parents conspicuously are not (at least to the same degree).  

What are black parents worried about? I'm not really sure and neither, apparently, are many charter school opponents. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Thompson: The Scandal At Douglass High School (& Beyond)

The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr famously asked how it is possible to be “a moral man in an immoral society.”  Oklahoma City is enduring a scandal that encapsulates the paradoxes of being a moral educator in our education system.  When using the word, “system,” I do not mean the OKCPS.  I mean our national system of data-driven “reform.” 

ScreenHunter_05 Nov. 04 09.01A respected principal, Dr. Brian Staples, was removed from his post at a SIG Transformation School, Douglass High School, and he was referred to the district attorney for irregularities in grade and attendance data. I have always found Staples to be an honorable man.   I also have experienced the normative, non-stop pressure to inflate accountability numbers. So, I doubt he was doing much (or anything) different than what he was previously praised for

In my experience, the individuals who pressured us to play games with statistics have always believed that they were morally correct and they have done so while implementing “research-based” best practices peddled by consultants and politicians.  And, while attendance soared to unbelievable levels under Staples, all of our district’s 90% low income, 90% minority high schools claimed identical miracles

I have remained silent on the controversy, but then I saw this video by drama teacher, Tinasha LaRaye’ Williams in support of Staples.  She and I are on opposite sides of the reform wars, but we agree that Staples was brought down while implementing the methods that he was taught at “countless” hours of professional development training and policy workshops.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Scandal At Douglass High School (& Beyond)" »

Bruno: Let's Improve the Supply of Good Schools

71575328_808dddd4e7I've already argued that our teacher quality problems are probably not caused by inadequate demand for excellent teachers, but is there inadequate demand for high quality schools?  

Bill Jackson thinks so and argues that if given better information and different incentives, parents will demand - and therefore obtain - better schools for their kids.

Maybe, maybe not.

Continue reading "Bruno: Let's Improve the Supply of Good Schools" »

Foundations: What To Think About C4TE's Collapse?

Screen shot 2012-10-22 at 12.50.26 PMReform critics reacted gleefully last week to the news that Communities for Teaching Excellence, the Gates-funded advocacy effort in support of its teacher quality initiative, was being de-funded (LAT, LA Daily News), a reaction that was  predictable but sort of sad and short-sighted.  

Why so?  First and foremost, the outcome explodes notion that reform foundations like Gates are all-powerful, which is obviously untrue but is a myth that seems convenient to repeat. Can't be all-powerful and occasionally ineffective at the same time. It's also a reflection of the reality that advocacy groups have proliferated as much as C4TE has failed.  So if reform critics want to call the creation of tons of advocacy groups a success, then fine go ahead.  

Last but not least, trashing the efforts of folks like Yolie Flores, the former LAUSD board member (pictured) who took on the task and has dedicated her career to making schools better for poor kids, seems inappropriate coming from mostly white liberals sitting in front of computers or giving speeches.  You can read more about Flores in the LA Weekly and Scholastic Administrator (who sponsors this site), and a blog post of mine about her disagreement with LAUSD and Deasy over the changes to PSC ( John Deasy's Mystifying Labor Deal).

One last thing: a couple of people have written me suggesting that the downfall of this latest effort was comparable to the failure of EDIN'08, a comparison I get but would quibble with.  Yes, advocacy is a dicey business and folks bigger and better funded than Gates have spent scads of money in other arenas and walked away without much to show for it. The highs and lows are higher in advocacy than they are in policy and program worlds.  But I don't believe that EDIN'08 was such a big failure as conventional wisdom would have it.  And, an important difference to me is that EDIN'08 was organized around a national campaign, the presidential elections, whereas the Gates teacher quality advocacy effort was focused on the individual Gates districts without any substantial national component. 

Morning Video: Tampa Student Spotlights School Violence

Eighth-grader De'Qonton Davis and his classmates set out to investigate how violence affect students' ability to learn. From the PBS NewsHour last week - to tide you over until I can get a full embed copy of the Duncan speech.

Thompson: The Story Behind Sharpstown High (& "Apollo 20")

PBS Frontline's Dropout Nation reported that Houston Superintendent Terry Grier had just been on the job for a few monthswhen he heard that four of the district's high schools were failing.  He heard about Roland Fryer’s ideas on school improvement and got in touch with him. Frontline reported that, "After a long phone conversation, Grier gathered a team and headed to Boston to hammer out a plan." It did not report on any effort by Grier to look into evidence for Fryer's hypothesis. 

FRONTLINE-DropoutNation-640

Eventually, Grier gambled $61 million on his "Apollo 20" reforms. The first year he spent $6 million replacing 310  teachers and the principals of nine schools.  The school featured by PBS, Sharpstown, was not one of the worst of the Apollo 20 high schools, but 39 of the school's 78 teachers were replaced.  Based on Frontline and other coverage, however, it appears that the school benefitted from some of the best of the administrative hires. None of my complaints with Grier's quick-triggered judgment should be taken as a criticism of Sharpstowns' dedicated educators.

Grier still maintains his facile claim about the toughest schools - that we "know what to do with them."  But, his administrators at Sharpstown openly acknowledged their inability to overcome the worst legacies of trauma and generational poverty.  While Grier's spin was consistent with the cherry-picking of Roland Fryer in featuring the experiment's successes, the school administrators' candor was consistent with the data buried in the tables of Fryer's evaluation of Apollo 20. And, as PBS reported, the second year academic results were even more modest.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Story Behind Sharpstown High (& "Apollo 20")" »

Thompson: The Promise of "Clustering" in Scaling Up Reform

MassinsightMass Insight's In The Zone offered a thoughtful response to “Common and Uncommon Ground,” a guest post at Rick Hess Straight Up by Neerav Kingsland and me. It also previewed its new report on the potential of “clustering” in order to scale up school improvement.  Mass Insight argues for:

A “Smart District” of the future, focusing on changing systems and structures so as to give schools more power to focus on the classroom level. Districts would create clusters of high schools and their feeder schools, bringing in Lead Partners to cover administrative and operational support for these clusters, and allowing central office to monitor performance, set standards, and serve as the go-between for federal and state agencies.

Clustering, I believe, is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for systemic reform.  Until we hold clusters of school accountable, charters will remain free to focus on relatively easier-to-educate low income students and dump the most traumatized children on neighborhood schools.  Clustering, alone, will not force reformers to heed the research of the Consortium for Chicago School Research and Paul Tough which explains the additional challenge of improving schools with the most intense concentrations of extreme poverty. But, it could slow the “creaming” of more motivated students that has damaged neighborhood schools.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Promise of "Clustering" in Scaling Up Reform" »

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.