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Thompson: Once Again, Mass Insight Explains What It Takes to Turnaround Schools

Logo_eduWhen I first read Mass Insight's The Turnaround Challenge, I was thrilled by its holistic explanation of what it takes to turnaround the most challenging schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the document was his Bible, but then he violated most of its principles when establishing School Improvement Grants, dooming his SIG to failure.

In 2007, Mass Insight showed that instruction-driven, curriculum-driven policies could not transform the schools with the greatest challenges, and that the mass dismissal of teachers was a bad idea. It emphasized the "Readiness Triangle," drawing upon the best social science to explain how and why a proper foundation must be laid for school improvement. Now, Mass Insight explains why today's accountability regimes are undermining school improvement.

Let's hope that reformers listen to Mass Insight's  Changing the Metrics of Turnaround to Encourage Early Learning Strategies, by Elliot Regenstein, Rio Romero-Jurado, Justin Cohen, and Alison Segal. It criticizes accountability metrics that  “have not set the right goals for educators.” For instance, the normative SIG approach undermines capacity-building because “current metrics effectively eliminate the viability of early learning as a potential long-term improvement strategy.”

Mass Insight notes that Arne Duncan often says he wants to be"tight on goals, loose on means," but his prescriptive school turnaround policies "have largely been just the opposite." Even better, this reform organization does something that is very rare in reform circles; it draws upon the Consortium on Chicago School Research, evidence-based systems developed for early education, and science-based accountability systems in England and the Netherlands. As it says in a previous study, Rethinking State Accountability and Support, Mass Insight is proposing "the reverse" of the Duncan value-added accountability regime.  

Mass Insight proposes "metrics that address professional practice, including the quality of instruction and leadership." That is a scholarly way of stating the common sense principle that educators, like everyone else, should be evaluated on what we actually do - not some not-ready-for-prime-time statistical proxy for what we do. Once we move beyond the misuse of data for accountability, hopefully Mass Insight's latest research, along with an objective reading of The Turnaround Challenge, will inform a new science-based, holistic, and humane era of school improvement. -JT(drjohnthompson) Image via.

Journalism: Think Tanks Bypassing Media & Doing Their Own Version Of Journalism

In case you hadn't noticed, more and more think tanks are behaving in journalism-like ways: hiring journalists to write pleasant, engaging pieces as well as blogging and tweeting directly to policymakers and the public. [They also seem less focused on hiring only PhDs, or on doing their own original academic research, but that's another thing.]

The Think Tank Watch has a recent blog post (Think Tanks Doing Journalism) that highlights this trend:

"Many Washington think tanks have been hiring well-known journalists in recent years in an effort to beef up their efforts to get good writers, network with media-types, and better disseminate information and policy proposals to a wider audience. "

A recent Economist article (Think-tanks and journalism: Making the headlines) points out that it's not just opeds, papers and conferences anymore. 

Indeed.  we've seen bits and pieces of that from education think tanks like Education Sector, Fordham, Carnegie, Brookings, and New America all come to mind. Perhaps the best example of this is AIR taking over Education Sector (and its blog), or Bellwether helping launch RealClearEducation. ThinkProgress -- a division of CAP -- is another example (they were looking for an education reporter not too long ago).

Of course, some news outlets are blurring the line the other way, becoming more wonkish and policy-oriented and less, well, newsy.  Part of this is by necessity.  With their own writers and social media campaigns, think tanks need journalists less.  They've already got academic credibility (of a sort), they already validate ideas for politicians and policymakers. Now they're distributing their own ideas directly.

Related posts: AIR Taking Over Education SectorCarnegie Is The New Ed Sector[Why] Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?Meet Conor Williams, New America's New(ish) Education GuyGoogle Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy ConferencesExpert-Less Think Tanks -- Whose Fault?

Quotes: "Students Before Teachers." Says Harvard Law Prof

Quotes2Progressives should be part of the solution. We can't succumb to simplistic defenses of the distorted teacher protection schemes. We must confront the demonstrable effects of these laws. The future of public education and of the teaching profession can be brighter only when we place students' rights first and foremost on our list of priorities.-- Laurence H. Tribe in USA Today (Students before teachers)

Thompson: Has "Education Post" Already Changed Its "Kinder, Gentler" Tune?

BurrisIt was less than a month ago that Peter Cunningham, the former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education announced that his new organization, the Education Post, supposedly repudiated the playing of edu-politics and moved beyond name-calling.

Given its financial support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, and since it included reformers like Ann Whalen, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Paul Pastorek, those nice words needed to be taken with a grain of salt.

It didn’t take long, however, for the real the Education Post to come through. Ann Whalen’s The False Arguments of Carol Burris Against High Standards reveals the venom hidden just below their seemingly polite veneer.

Whalen countered a Washington Post piece by national Principal of the Year Carol Burris, Four Common Core "Flimflams." She characterized Burris’s position as “inexcusable,” as “resistance to common sense changes,” and “toxic.” Whalen’s counterargument was “when you can’t make an honest case against something, there’s always rhetoric, exaggeration or falsehood.”

For the record, Whalen didn’t even try to challenge much of the substance of Burris’s carefully-honed arguments. Burris explained that Common Core was not, in fact, internationally benchmarked or based on research.  Burris explained how Common Core “insists upon the use of a particular method of math instruction.” She then explained  that the prescribed  method “may be helpful in increasing understanding for some students, it should be up to a teacher to use it, or not use it, as a strategy. Instructional strategies have no place in state standards.”

Continue reading "Thompson: Has "Education Post" Already Changed Its "Kinder, Gentler" Tune?" »

Quotes: What Happens When You Write About Reform Efforts

Quotes2I get accused of hating teachers, teachers unions, and (a few times) white people. I get told that I’m a secret agent for Pearson, Bill Gates, the United Nations, and sometimes even the Muslim Brotherhood (really. No—REALLY). This isn’t occasional. It happens every time.

- New America's Conor Williams on the overwhelming and often vitriolic reactions he gets when writing anything remotely positive about reform strategies

Quotes: Reform Critic's Anti-Democratic, Ad Hominem Attacks (Might Be Working)

Quotes2Non-teachers don’t count (unless they’re Diane Ravitch). Parents’ voices are only permitted so long as they avoid direct challenges to failing schools. - New America's Conor Williams (Campbell Brown Is Getting The Same Treatment Michelle Rhee Got)

 

Books: I Trust That You Will Find This Useful

Screen shot 2014-09-16 at 1.14.43 PMUlrich Boser's new book, The Leap, is about the science of trust and includes some education-related policy implications you might want to check out.

In the policymakers' guide that comes along with the book, Boser addresses some of the things that can be done to empower individuals through education, including:

• Support schools that lengthen the school day.
• Reform school funding so that it’s both more equitable and effective, and have school dollars follow children instead of programs.
• Make college more affordable through Pell Grants.• Allow college students to gain credit for learn-
ing outside the classroom.
 
There's also good reading on trust and public policy in Robert Putnam's writings such as here.
 
Most directly comparable of all is the work that Tony Bryk and others have done at the University of Chicago showing that trust among adults and kids is an important condition for effective learning. 
 
Boser is a longtime fellow/contributor at CAP and has another book after this one already in the works.
 

Events: We All Missed #TheTeacherWars Confab In NYC Last Night

image from t.co

#edjourn Last Night at New America's SoHo offices there was a lively-sounding filled-to-capacity three hour discussion with Jose Vilson, Dana Goldstein, and Motoko Rich (pictured, courtesy Melinda Anderson).

I wasn't there and haven't heard about any audio or video to share -- there's apparently a podcast in the works for some time in the near future.

In the meantime there are lots of tweets you can catch up on via #theteacherwars, #NANYC, @newamericaNYC and @danagoldstein, @TheJLV, and @motokorich.

Or, if you were there or following along in real time, tell us what we missed or what jumped out at you.

Thanks again to @MDAwriter Melinda Anderson for the picture.

Morning Video: Tavis Smiley Interviews LAUSD Chief John Deasy

 

Or click below and watch Smiley interview Diane Ravitch.

Continue reading "Morning Video: Tavis Smiley Interviews LAUSD Chief John Deasy" »

Quotes: Shame On Reform Allies Who Let Rhee Critics "Get Away With It"

Quotes2Her critics deserve shame for being so quick to paint her as the wicked witch. And the rest of us earned some shame for letting them get away with it a lot of the time. - TNTP's David Keeling (The High Price of Leadership)

Books: If Teacher-Bashing Is Real, The Ford Foundation Started It

image from www.newyorker.comColumbia J-School professor Sam Freedman's New Yorker review of Up The Down Staircase (The Book That Got Teaching Right) makes at least one claim with which I disagree strongly -- that teacher-bashing "has become a major strain, even the dominant strain, of what passes for “education reform."

This may be the conventional wisdom among liberal Democrats and all too many education journalists, and there may be some teacher haters among the reform community but the vast majority of those that I have met and whose work I have followed are not so inclined.  It's essentially an idea that's been popularized by anti-reform advocates and teachers unions.

However, Freedman complicates matteers in some interesting ways when he (a) highlights some of the book's sections that deride teachers who found the career "an excuse or a refuge" and (b) goes on to describe how teacher-bashing has a long, illustrious career and its proponents (intentional and otherwise) include liberal philanthropy like that of the Ford Foundation, who allied themselves with low-income communities in a "pincer movement" that focused on white middle class teachers (most of them women).

It's an intersting notion -- one that's surely embedded in Dana Goldstein's history of conflicts surrounding teaching if only I'd gotten that far --that progressives and liberals are partly to blame for over-focusing on teachers and are thus making claims against reformers that could well be made against them.  (Certainly, teachers unions and low-income parents haven't always gotten along or had the same ideas about what schools needed most.)

But I still don't really buy the teacher-bashing argument is at the heart of Freedman's review and that's so prevalent out there among liberal critics. Yes, there are some strains of class criticism in there (elites criticizing middle-class teachers.) But if uou want to see real teacher-bashing, take a look at what Republicans and Tea Party candidates want to do with public education.  The rest, in my opinion, boils down to exaggerated claims (re layoffs in particular) and disrespect promulgated for political advantage, media complacency (too good to check!), and the occasional self-inflicted wound by reformers (Rhee's broomstick magazine cover, for example).

Thompson: Two Cheers for Mike Petrilli's Reform Rethinking

Wow! I agree with Mike Petrilli on two big issues in one week! The revocation of Oklahoma’s NCLB Waiver, based on our repeal of Common Core, is a “terrible decision.”

I mostly agree with Petrilli’s thoughtful address to the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. In an effort to understand the anti-reform backlash, he asks where his movement went wrong.

Most schools aren’t failing; the bigger problem is mediocrity. Most “failing” schools have teachers who are probably as good as those in higher-performing schools. 

I taught in “dropout factories, the dangerous schools …,” and my colleagues were far better teachers than those of my childhood. In the 1990s, our Curriculum Department and professional development were awesome.

But, Petrilli gets the second part of his diagnosis backwards. My schools responded to “wave after wave of reform.”  Those half-baked reforms made them worse.

I share Petrilli’s doubt that districts can replicate the few successful high-performing charter schools. He might also be right; in ten or twenty years, high-poverty systems may be dominated by charter schools.

But, that would be the double nightmare scenario - bad for more kids in "No Excuses" charters and worse for students left behind in even more awful concentrations of poverty and trauma. High-performing charters have contributed to a “neo-Plessyism” which is bad for all constituencies.

Continue reading "Thompson: Two Cheers for Mike Petrilli's Reform Rethinking" »

Advocacy: New Reform Group To Counter Relentless Criticism

image from educationpost.orgThe Washington Post has a story about Peter Cunningham's new education group (Education Post aims to take the sting out of national conversations about school reform) that hints at but doesn't quite get to the real story behind the organization.

Described as "a nonprofit group that plans to launch Tuesday with the aim of encouraging a more “respectful” and fact-based national discussion about the challenges of public education, and possible solutions," the $12 million Chicago-based organization (Cunningham, Mike Vaughn, etc.) is funded by Broad, Bloomberg, and Walton, among others.  

It's an obvious (and long-needed) attempt to address the insufficiencies of the reform movement when it comes to shaping the education debate -- the reform version of Parents Across America or the Network for Public Education or Sabrina Stevens' group (though I haven't heard much from them lately).

The purely communication-oriented outfit ((RSS FeedTwitter) is led by longtime Arne Duncan guy Cunningham and including blogger Citizen Stewart. A sampling of their blog posts (Public Education Needs a New ConversationSpeak Up, Don’t Give UpThe Right School for My ChildThe Common Sense Behind Common Core 

Versions of Education Post have been discussed for a while now, online and in the real world.  A version of the same idea almost came to being 18 months ago, tentatively called "The Hub." Why another group? Advocacy groups get embroiled in pushing for changes, and lack time and resources to coordinate among each other or to focus on communications. They barely have time or capacity to defend themselves, much less put out a positive agenda across multiple groups.  

Meantime, a small but dedicated group of reform critics and groups(many of them union-funded or - affiliated) has managed to embed themselves in the minds of reporters and generate an enormous amount of resistance to reform measures. 

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

Influencers: 12 Observations About EdNext's "Top Twitter Feeds"

For me, the hands-down top new Twitter feed in education in 2014 is @thnkscommoncore, but I may be alone in that.

The much more official and deeply-considered Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy 2014 are quite another thing, according to the folks at Education Next who put out the annual update.

This year's version includes three lists -- top overall, top individual, and top organization.  There's lots of overlap, and no doubt some of the accounts (Arne Duncan and USDE) are being run by the same social media manager.

On a related note, should individual accounts for folks like Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee that are presumably run by more than one person be included in the list of "people"?

As in the past, the list focuses on Klout scores rather than numbers of followers.  It's not clickable, or re-sortable (by followers, say).  I've asked for a Twitter list so that you can subscribe to all these folks with a single click, and crossed fingers it might happen (yay!).

As Petrilli notes, here are a couple of newcomers in the form of the Badass Teachers Association and founder Mark Naison, which should yet again have reform advocates reconsidering their disinterest in becoming involved in social media.  (Newcomer Campbell Brown is on the list, but I don't think anyone's expecting her or her organization to carry the reform message on Twitter and Facebook single-handedly.)

CAP and New America also made it -- apparently their first time.

Other observations, profound and otherwise are below the fold.  A few folks made it on the list with high Klout scores but very few followers, about which I have mixed feelings.  Some venerable education policy types aren't on this year's list, lots of mainstream media journalists and journalistic outlets aren't included either (for lack of policy or lack of activity, it's not clear).

Continue reading "Influencers: 12 Observations About EdNext's "Top Twitter Feeds" " »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power Couples: The Wonk & The Journo*

Screen shot 2014-07-16 at 3.03.43 PM
She (Robin Chait) is an education wonk at ostensibly left-leaning CAP, and he (Jonathan) is a writer at sharp-elbowed New York magazine. They both write about a education a lot these days.  Image via Facebook.

*Correction: She's no longer at CAP and is now at a charter school network (via LinkedIn)

Previous posts: Two New(ish) Power Couples For 2014It's A Small, Small World [For Power Couples]Jane & Brian WilliamsNYC DOE & DFER Couple WedsEmily & David SirotaHuffman Vs. Huffman.

I need more non-reform couples, obviously.  Nominations?

Quotes: Reform Debate Often Detached From Schools & Parents

Quotes2The policy debate has become so polarized that it often seems detached from the very people it is aimed at helping. - Joan Vennochi in The Boston Globe via Annenberg Institute

Update: Diverse Charters Form New National Alliance

ScreenHunter_08 Jul. 01 11.38

 

 

 

 

Here's something I've been thinking might happen for a while now -- a new national network of diverse charter schools has been announced.

Included among the founding members are several of the schools I profiled in Education Next a couple of years ago (Brooklyn Prospect, Bricolage (NOLA), Community Roots, DSST (Denver), and yes, Success Academy.

See the full press release below, and tune into (attend) the panel on diverse charters at 4pm local time in Las Vegas.

Previous posts: Diverse Charters Spread Nationally (Education Next); Diverse NOLA Charter OpensDiverse Charters Balance Learning & Accountability; and Change Could Help Promote Charter Diversity.

Continue reading "Update: Diverse Charters Form New National Alliance" »

Afternoon Video: Reconciling Due Process & Students' Rights At Aspen 2014

 

Here's a new video from the Aspen Ideas Festival in which it is discussed whether tenure reforms and students' rights can be reconciled -- and if so, how. Feat. Weingarten, Deasy, and hosted by Ray Suarez. Read blog post about here.

Quotes: Smarick Rails Against Anti-Democratic Attitudes & Elites

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

Rebuttal: Don't Use Chicago As A Deseg Model

Ecastro flickr office of the principalIn response to yesterday's NYT oped from Rick Kahlenberg touting the Chicago model of income-based diversity enhancement, longtime Chicago special education advocate Rod Estvan wrote the following rebuttal suggesting that Chicago's results from the Kahlenberg plan haven't been all that good: 

"Unfortunately Dr. Kahlenberg does not discuss the fact that Payton’s admission system which is in part based on census tracts is being advantaged by the middle class and even wealthier families who live in enclaves within overall poorer community census tracts. In 2013, only 31.4% of Payton students were from low income families regardless of race whereas back in 2002 the school had about 37% low income students when there was no social economic admissions process but only a race based process."

See the full response below the fold.

Continue reading "Rebuttal: Don't Use Chicago As A Deseg Model" »

Morning Video: DC Chancellor Kaya Henderson

Screen shot 2014-06-20 at 9.18.04 AM

Chancellor Kaya faces questions from Andy Rotherham and Emmeline Zhao (who's clearly not wearing a seatbelt, FWIW).

Events: Fixing Poverty Without Fixing K-12 Education?

120914_$BOX_PovertyEX.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeThe Hamilton Project (@hamiltonproj via Brookings) is having a big event today and tomorrow -- check it out -- but you may be pleased or disconcerted to note that their proposed efforts at #AddressingPoverty.  --  14 new policy proposals -- don't really involve K-12 education.

Early childhood education? Sure.  

After-school and summer learning? But of course.

A smattering of education types -- NYU's Amy Schwartz, Harvard's Bridget Terry Long. OK.

Whether this means that poverty isn't really an issue that K-12 can be expected to help address, or that the current mess of K-12 (for poor kids, at least) is more daunting than poverty, I'll leave the interpretation up to you.

Personally, I feel a little left out.

Previous posts: Reduced Poverty Or Teacher Quality? "Both," Says RheeWho Told Us The Education Fights Poverty, Anyway? (Bruno); What Next For Poverty/Inequality 2014?More Poverty In Suburbs Than In Cities;  Poverty Hurts US Students More Than In Other Nations Let's Not Talk About 43M Poor PeoplePoverty Increases Cut Both Ways In Reform Debate.

 

#WorldCupED: The Long-Forgotten AFT-Rotherham Head Butt Of 2006

image from photos1.blogger.com

#tbt

Only the old-timers will recognize either the French soccer player head-butting his Italian opponent in the 2006 World Cup or the relationship to the AFT and Education Sector that I was trying to establish in this blog post from July 2006 (before you were probably born).

The caption was this:  "Unable to restrain himself against the steady stream of insults and elbows, Zidane AFT John turns and viciouslyhead-butts Materazzi the Ed Sector. Was it justified? Public opinion is sharply divided."

Truth be told, I remember the image but don't remember the circumstances. AFT John is long gone, as is the AFT blog that used to be so much fun/frustration (there's not even a cached copy of it that I can find).  

Rotherham is still around, but long gone from Education Sector and public spats with the AFT that have or haven't served him well. 

Previous posts: Winners & Losers 2008 (According To Me)The Successful Failure Of ED In '08Duncan Only Has Himself To Blame, Says Rotherham.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes: Teachers Deserve Reasonable Protections - But Not Ironclad Ones

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

Charts: The *Real* Reason Some Educators Are So Grouchy?

image from espnfivethirtyeight.files.wordpress.comBasically, schools were protected by the Stimulus (including Race to the Top) during the early years of the Great Recession, but since then state and local funding hasn't (yet) rebounded and federal funding has fallen. Class sizes haven't taken a giant hit but -- see here for lots more charts -- it still isn't pretty. Changes in Per Student Funding 07-12 Via Vox (anyone seen Libby Nelson recently, BTW?)

Quotes: Calling Out The Rigid Ideologues Among Us

Quotes2Are we really interested in tapping everyone's full potential in our schools and work places, or do we just like our story better? - NPR's Michel Martin (Do You Want The Truth, Or Do You Just Like Your Story Better?)

Thompson: The Gates Foundation's "Other" Big Overreach

GatesIn How Bill Gates Pulled Off the Swift Common Core Revolution, The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton explains that two men met with Bill Gates in 2008 and asked for his support of rigorous national standards.

After a brief discussion within the Gates Foundation, a full court press in favor of Common Core was launched. This was done in spite the social science research questioning whether better standards were likely to improve schools. 

The foundation funded “almost every consequential education group,” as Diane Ravitch aptly put it, in their efforts to promote the standards.  The standard step of conducting pilot studies before such a major innovation was skipped. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used the Race to the Top grant process as leverage to advance Common Core. Within two years, Gates’s preferred policy was adopted by almost every state in the nation.

Where have we seen this story before?

Steve Brill’s Class Warfare explains that Gates met with two men in 2007. They pushed their pet theory about value-added teacher evaluations.

Continue reading "Thompson: The Gates Foundation's "Other" Big Overreach" »

Advocacy: 5 New Orgs Bring PIE To 49 Members

Puzzle_pieces1025 The PIE Network is adding 5 new members to its group of reform-oriented advocacy groups, I'm told, bringing them up to 49 education advocacy organizations working in 31 state capitols and Washington D.C.

The newbies include Children's Education Alliance of Missouri  BEST NC, StudentsFirstNYNevada Succeeds, and JerseyCAN.

Previous posts: PIE Annual Summit (Boston September 19-20)Quotes: Talk About "Love" (Not "Rights")Reform Celebration In SeattleState Advocacy Groups Talk Policy - Not Tactics.

 

 

Quotes: "This Hole Was Not Dug Overnight"

Quotes2We've had terrible superintendents we allowed to stay on for several years. We've had poor management and nepotism. This hole was not dug overnight. -- Barbara Coscarello, a member of the district's advisory board (For Camden students, give charter schools a shot) via RP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thompson: The "Third Way" Promotes Evidence-Free Way to Improve Teaching

Stop-NeoliberalismThe Third Way promotes moderate efforts to promote “principled compromise.” It is “built around policy teams that create high-impact written products.” Two previous posts (here and here) described solid Third Way studies based on social science. But, both of those studies remained agnostic about education reform policies. 

A third paper, Tamara Hiler’s and Lanae Erickson Hatalsky’s Teaching: The Next Generation, is two papers in one. The first half summarizes the findings of a poll of 400 high-performing college students. The data is interesting and potentially useful. The second half is an infomercial for the TNTP and other teacher-bashers. It distorts that evidence and uses the poll as a prop to promote corporate reform.

I have concerns about the language that the Third Way used in introducing the other two studies but neither began with a statement such as “Only 35% (of top-performing college students) described teachers as ‘smart,’" and “Education was seen as the top profession that ‘average’ people choose.”

In fact, the survey found that 200 students see people who are nice, caring, patient, and smart as almost as likely to choose teaching as nursing. Smart people are as likely to choose teaching as as philosophy, and more likely to choose teaching over English, art, and communication. Educators may be more “mediocre” than political scientists, but more socially conscious.

Above all, Hiler and Hatalsky assume that the key to education is the intellect - “the Head,” not “the Heart.” They prejudge the potential benefits of teachers who are ambitious, competitive, and rootless, as opposed to being caring and grounded in the community.

Yes, from 3/4ths to 9/10ths of students said that reputation and opportunities for advancement are important. But, greater percentages said that stability and the opportunity to help others are important.

Continue reading "Thompson: The "Third Way" Promotes Evidence-Free Way to Improve Teaching" »

Thompson: A "Third Way" Analysis of Closing the Achievement Gap

NewgradThe Third Way describes itself a representing the “vital center.” It is a moderate effort to break think tanks out of policy “silos” and it is “built around policy teams that create high-impact written products.” 

The new think tank’s David Autor and Melanie Wasserman, in Wayward Sons, draw upon social science to make a valuable contribution to understanding the achievement gap.

 I was saddened by the way that the study was introduced in the Third Way Web site, however. It “make(s) the case that the decline in male achievement is almost exclusively reserved for males born into single-parent households; while females in single-parent households do OK, boys seem to suffer.”

I’m hoping that this way of articulating the problem does not foreshadow more of the neoliberal blame game where single mothers and/or fathers are guilty but economic elites are always innocent. That blunt introduction contrasts with the subtleties of Wayward Sons. While the Third Way emphasizes a single issue, social family structure, Autor and Wasserman describe a complex "vicous cycle." 

Autor and Wasserman cite “a growing body of evidence … [which] indicates that the absence of stable fathers from children’s lives has particularly significant adverse consequences for boys’ psychosocial development and educational achievement.”

Continue reading "Thompson: A "Third Way" Analysis of Closing the Achievement Gap" »

Magazines: New Yorker Digs Into Newark Reform Backlash

ScreenHunter_02 May. 12 10.02Just in time for tomorrow's voting, the latest New Yorker has a Dale Russakoff piece on reform efforts in Newark:   "Schooled: Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg Had a Plan to Reform Newark’s Schools. They Got an Education."

"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. 

Thompson: "Third Way" Study Shows Real Way to College Readiness

Thirdway

The Third Way describes itself as representing the “vital center.” It is a moderate effort to break think tanks out of policy “silos” and it is “built around policy teams that create high-impact written products.”

While I respect an effort to articulate “principled compromise,” I hope that education isn’t treated as a pawn, to be sacrificed when appealing to corporate powers’ supposedly better angels. [I also hope that its founder Jon Cowan doesn’t share the anti-teacher positions of his former boss, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.]

I became more optimistic after reading the Third Way’s The Secret of College Completion.  Cowan and Elaine C. Kamarck introduce the study by Thomas DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann. They explain that 8th grade grades are strong predictors of college completion because they are indicators of behavioral patterns which are learned early in life. These patterns tend to persist into high school and college.

In other words, factors beyond the control of teachers make it unlikely that reforms focusing on “value-added” in the secondary school classroom will work.

Continue reading "Thompson: "Third Way" Study Shows Real Way to College Readiness" »

Charts: Would A More Linear Career Path Make Teaching More Appealing?

Via Third Way: "In order to professionalize teaching, we should require a linear and standardized path into the profession that enforces a high bar for entry and ensures that those who teach future generations are prepared on day one ." Really? OK. 

Events: They're Beaming NSVF Summit 2014 To Boston This Year

image from www.newschools.org

The NSVF Summit in San Francisco is next week, and if you're not invited tough luck.  

But you can observe and participate virtually.  The public agenda is here. Lots of pre-reading here. Blog here. Twitter and hashtag (@NSVF  #NSVFSummit), too.  

And apparently they're going to be livestreaming at least parts of it as well (like they did last year). 

Some of the headliners include John King, New York State Commissioner of Education, and Joanne Weiss, former Chief of Staff, US Department of Education, and Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton. Other highlights include speakers like Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, a TEACH video booth, 20 NSVFseed grantees.

The big new wrinkle this year is that they're trying out a satellite event sort of like TEDx.  The New England SummitX invite is here

Previous summits (see below) have included tense words between Michelle Rhee and Randi Weingarten, proposed COPPA changes from Mark Zuckerberg, and spacey interview questions and robotic sound bite responses from Laurene Powell Jobs and Rahm Emanuel. Reed Hastings famously declared that charters weren't cutting it, and Rocketship said it would open schools in DC if Kaya Henderson would give them space. Waiting for Superman was screened in Spring 2010. Sometimes, people wear fun outfits. 

Previous posts:  Google Glasses Live from NSVF Summit 2013Thoughts On NSVF 2012Rahm Emanuel And Arlene Laurene Powell Jobs At NSVF'12Reformy 2011 Summit Returns To Silicon ValleyFashion Hits & Misses At The 2010 NSVF SummitAnother Spring, Another Summit (2009)NSFV: Live Tweets From Pasadena '09Microblogging The 2008 NSVF Summit.

Nonprofits: InBloom Joins Long List Of Failed Efforts

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

Failstemp ccommon flickr

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes: K12 Education Fended Off Venture Capital Until 2011?

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

Reform: Andy Smarick Is The New Mike Petrilli?

In case you missed it, image from www.edexcellence.netFordham's Pamela Tatz published a BuzzFeed "Which Reformer Are You?" quiz the other day. The tagline:  "Saving the education system, one irrelevant question at a time."

These quizzes are wildly popular on Facebook, etc. -- and self-effacing humor (something reformers don't always convey) goes a long way.  Figures that Fordham would get in on it -- they're smart (and love attention).

If you haven't taken it already you should give it a try. (Doesn't really mean you're a reformer if you do.) Nearly 700 folks have already done so and shared the results on Twitter or Facebook.  But be forewarned: you'll probably end up being Andy Smarick.  The other options were Rick Hess, Michelle Rhee, David Coleman, Arne Duncan, or Diane Ravitch (which took some unusual answering). "A lot of folks did seem to get Andy Smarick," said Tatz via email.

Here's the Fordham page about the quiz. And click below to see the snarky writeups for each of the profiles (Smarick, Hess, Rhee, Coleman, Duncan, and Ravitch), which sound like they were written by .... Petrilli.

Continue reading "Reform: Andy Smarick Is The New Mike Petrilli?" »

Events: Yale Education Summit Features Fuller & Duncan-Andrade

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

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

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

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

 

Media: Education Journalists In Fellowship Limbo Until May?

image from www.journalism.columbia.eduThe Spencer education journalism advisory board met on Monday to pick the next year's three fellows but the applicants --I know who got in but am holding off on saying for some reason-- are most of them still in the dark about whether they got the nod or not and the Columbia journalism school can't announce winners for another few weeks.  

Why the delay?  Two of the three top picks for the Spencer also applied for other prestigious journalism fellowships (Nieman, Knight, etc.), whose notification timelines could stretch as late as May. 

These fellowships -- as well as the New America program -- all serve slightly different purposes. I'm partial to the Spencer for many reasons, including that it is focused on education journalism in particular and also encourages the stream of long-form education writing that's come out in recent years.

If either of the two top picks gets into one of these other programs and decides to decline the Spencer, then one of the alternates would get a spot.  (That's what happened the first year, when I got a spot after Stephanie Banchero went off to Palo Alto for the year.  I think that it's happened at least a couple of times since then.)

A month of waiting seems wasteful and nerve-wracking.  Wouldn't it be nice if Michigan, Stanford, and Columbia could coordinate so that this doesn't happen?  I mean, if charter and district schools can coordinate application deadlines and forms in some places -- and colleges can agree on some sort of window for letting students know -- then so should a handful of journalism fellowship programs.

Meantime, congrats to the folks who got picked for next year, and no hard feelings if you decide to go to Ann Arbor or Palo Alto instead of Manhattan. Someone else will happily take your place. 

Previous posts: What's Next For The Spencer Fellowship?New Spencer Fellows, New Research TopicsSpencer Fellow Gets Big Book DealNew America Fellow Writing Book On "Future Of Testing".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People: Big Changes At DC Think Tank [Job Opening!]

Flickr albastrica mititicaLongtime education guru Cynthia Brown -- I first met her when she was at the state chiefs (CCSSO) -- is now listed as a Senior Fellow at the Center on American Progress.  She's cutting back on her work time, she says via email.  Meantime, former Kennedy and Duncan staffer Carmel Martin is VP for policy, overseeing education and other policy areas. Which means that CAP needs a new Vice President, Education Policy. Could be an interesting gig, considering CAP's prominence and presumed role in supporting the Clinton Democratic campaign for President in 2016.  Or, alternately, could be a tough spot given Martin's connections on the Hill and in the White House.  Image via Flickr.

Morning Video: "Big Patterns Of Disparity By Race"

Here's PBS NewsHour's coverage of the big Office of Civil Rights report (first in 15 years, apparently) that came out on Friday, plus an online explainer. The segment features USDE's Catherine Lhamon and doesn't mention differences in patterns by type of school.

Media: What WNYC's Charter School Advocacy Story Gets Wrong

image from c5.nrostatic.comThe news of the day is that the DOE has appreantly reversed itself on one of its much-discussed charter co-location decisions -- Success Academy's students aren't "on their own" after all, according to the NY Post (Flip-flop Farina now wants to help charter students).

If you want, read a little more about the shellacking that reformers have been giving this week over at NRO (School Reformers Fight Back against de Blasio). This kind of robust public response has been missing in the past from polite reformers who've seemed to be scared of their own shadows (or naive about how things get done in the real world).

Still, I still want to take a minute to address WNYC's piece earlier this week about the debate going on between charter advocates and critics, because, well, I like to complain about other peoples' work and this kind of thing keeps happening and really annoys and troubles me.

The WNYC story has several great elements, but misses badly when it comes to balance and context -- and misses out on at least one obvious connection between FFES and Eva Moscowitz's charter network.

Read below for the details.

Continue reading "Media: What WNYC's Charter School Advocacy Story Gets Wrong" »

Thompson: Pro-Reform Pundit Embraces Education Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.