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Morning Video: If Friedrichs Passes, CTA "Won't Have The Money..."

"The California Teachers Empowerment Network and the Association of American Educators hosted an event in September in which we examined the Friedrichs and Bain lawsuits and their possible ramifications for teachers and the general public. The panel discussion featured lawyers and plaintiffs from both cases, and a lively audience Q&A followed. " via Larry Sand. 

Charts: Effective Advocacy Doesn't Stop With Policy Wins


So 50CAN's newly updated advocacy handbook -- think of it as open-source advocacy advice -- notes something that many have found the hard way: getting a law passed is only the beginning of the process. But there's lots more, including case studies from Minnesota, Connecticut, and Maryland and it's available in all sorts of portable formats: onlineiBookKindlePDF.


Morning Video: "TeachStrong" Campaign Launch (Plus Roundup)

As outlined yesterday, CAP and other groups have launched TeachStrong, an effort to revamp the teaching profession. See also TeacherBeat (Can a New Political Campaign to 'Modernize' Teaching Succeed?) and Washington Post (How to build a better teacher: Groups push a 9-point plan called TeachStrong).

Charts: What Teachers Get Paid (Compared To Other Professions)

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 4.58.58 PM
Here's an figure from CAP's new report on improving the teaching profession: "Smart, Skilled, and Striving." Image used with permission. 

Charters: When "Thin" Contracts Were All The Rage (2009)

There was a moment, maybe six or seven years years ago, when it seemed like charter schools with "thin" contracts were all the rage. 

They combined the autonomy and flexibility of a charter with the protections against unwarranted dismissal or arbitrary treatment from supervisors. But not all of the schools that had them performed as well as some may have hoped (just like teacher-run schools and every other type of governance option that's been proposed), and charter stalwarts and union hard-liners both hated them equally. 

I wrote about them in Harvard's Education Letter (RIP): Charters and Unions: What's the future for this unorthodox relationship?. But that was long ago. I declared them "so 2009" in 2011.

These days, pretty much only the Century Fund talks about them. Some giant percentage of the charters in Chicago are now organized, thanks in part to the efforts of a smooth-talking South African(?) union organizer who's never been seen or photographed. But not with thin contracts, as far as I understand. Much more common seem to be traditional (antagonistic) organizing/unionization efforts like the one currently going on in LA. 

Eventually, one would imagine, reform advocates and critics would get their acts together and return to an idea like this -- or a new generation of parents, funders, and politicians would get sick of the more rigid charter and union ideologies. But it's going to be a little while -- and going to take a lot of bravery. 

Related posts:Would Unions Ruin Charter Schools -- Or Vice Versa? (2009); Thin Contract At Locke High School.; The Return Of The "Thin" Contract? (2010); "Smarter" Charters Are Diverse, Teacher-Led (2014); 

#EduWeen15: It's On!

After a slow start, #eduween15 is off and running. Check out some recent entries, and feel free to toss in your own:

States: States Making NAEP Progress (Some More Than Others)

Naep-fig-3At the risk of committing mis-NAEPery, check out this chart (via Urban Institute) showing how state NAEP scores have progressed since 2003 -- adjusted and unadjusted.

As explained by Vox's Libby Nelson, "Hawaii made a dramatic leap between 2003 and 2013 that should at least in part offset concerns about its still-low adjusted scores. And Massachusetts continues to be a standout, with the best scores with or without the demographic adjustment, and one of the biggest leaps in adjusted scores between 2003 and 2013 — even though in 2003 it already had some of the best schools in the country." ("These are the states that really have the best schools in the US)

Quotes: Refomers' Ironic Disdain For Curriculum

Quotes2Education reformers are so united behind the Common Core standards, and yet 1) those very standards explicitly endorse scientifically based reading instruction, and 2) the focus on the importance of “reading complex text” appears to come at the expense of early reading instruction. 

- NCTQ's Kate Walsh via Fordham (Curriculum: The great divide among education reformers)


Quotes: Current Reform "Missing Pieces," Needs Mid-Course Corrections

Quotes2The approach to school reform starting with “A Nation at Risk” has run its course, and left us with this yawning gap that endangers America’s future, let alone that of these kids. It let officials at all levels talk tough about educational improvement, but without pursuing evidenced-based strategies and making mid-course corrections as required.

-- Chris Edley in EdSource (‘Several missing pieces to the current batch of reforms’)

Morning Video: AEI Event Discussing #Katrina10


Or, watch this PBS NewsHour segment about the end of the Seattle teachers strike (which took the media by surprise, from what I could tell).

Charts: New Report Calls For Renewed Integration Effort (Can It Happen?)


In a new report, the Century Foundation calls for new efforts to integrate district,  charter, and early childhood programs. Meantime, NYC's education chief says efforts to diversity schools there won't happen quickly, and New America's Conor Williams notes how strongly many liberal parents in DC seem to object to policy changes that affect their desires for their own children. Then again, selective schools just gave up some of their privilege in NOLA, so there's always hope. 

Think Tanks: Former TN Commissioner Kevin Huffman Writing A Book


"Kevin Huffman will write a book about the challenge of building a first-rate public school system in the face of modern political dysfunction," according to this announcement from the New America Foundation (2016 class of New America fellows). 

Huffman headed the Tennessee school system from 2011-2015, and announced his resignation last November.

Yes, he was once married to Michelle Rhee. No, he's not married to Rebeca Nieves-Huffman. 
You can find him at @k_huff1. Image via New America.

Update: Darling-Hammond Leaving Stanford To Launch New Policy Research Organization (Doesn't Seem Interested In Being Next Education Secretary)

There’s some big news coming out of California today in the form of the official launch of the new policy and research center headed by Linda Darling-Hammond.

Called the Learning Policy Institute, the new organization is Darling-Hammond’s effort to create a better kind of think tank/policy research center, one that puts student learning at the center and bridges research and policy worlds.

Its creation would also seem to put a damper on the hopes or fears of those who have written her in as a next Democratic Education Secretary.

The organization will both conduct its own policy research and partner with others’ work. Some of the policy priorities that the institute [@LPI_Learning] plans to investigate include deeper learning, educator quality, college and career, school organization and design, early childhood.

Based near Stanford, the Institute will also have an office in DC that’s going to be headed by former Alliance For Education staffer Charmaine Mercer. By the end of the year, the expectation is that a staff of 30 will have been hired, with plans to grow as large as 50. See more details from the announcement here.

Initial funders include the Sandler Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, Ford, and Hewlett, and Stuart.

Former SRI staff Patrick Shields is going to be the ED. Board members include David Lyon of the California Public Policy Institute and David Rattray of UNITE-LA. Wynn Hausser is heading the communications/outreach effort. He and Darling-Hammond first met working with Public Advocates.

Two senior fellows in residence have been announced: Jeannie Oakes, formerly of Ford, and David Kirp from Berkeley. Darling-Hammond is retiring from Stanford as part of the new launch, though she is going to teach part time.

In a blog post announcing the new endeavor, Darling-Hammond called the present time "A New Moment in Education."

There's no shortage of research shops, policy outfits, and think tanks doing all sorts of things at all different levels of quality, rigor, and independence. I'll be eager to see whether LPI can both grab policymakers' attention and promote high-quality research. It's not an easy thing to do one or the other, and no small feat to do them both at the same time.

Related posts: UPenn Ranks Think Tanks; Have Funders Overtaken Think Tanks?; Think Tank Watch: [Why] Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?; Research-Less Think Tanks Can't Compete; Linda Darling-Hammond's Ninja Warrior Son.

Morning Video: Why Schools Like Ferguson Resegregated So Completely

From last night's PBS NewsHour: "Since 1988, American schools have grown more segregated. Jeffrey Brown talks to New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones -- who recently wrote about school segregation in Ferguson, Missouri -- and Sheryll Cashin of Georgetown University Law Center."

Maps: Handful Of States Like Indiana & Missouri Where Common Core/Testing Is Hotly Debated

Sdfgdfsgdfsgdfs"The landscape hasn’t changed drastically since the winter, as most of the Common Core climate has shifted more politically than legislatively. That, however, could change we enter election season and are faced with possible new implications in an NCLB rewrite, and as states reassess testing contracts and consider new legislation." (Where the Standards Stand- RealClear Education). Click the link for the interactive version (couldn't get it to embed properly).

Quotes: A Performance Contract Version Of ESEA

Quotes2Does the education world have some kind of time-tested system–something could be brought to bear on ESEA reauthorization–for combining real accountability with real autonomy? Yes, we realized. That’s precisely what chartering is all about. - Andy Smarick (Ahead of the Heard)

Magazines: A New Policy Solutions Site To Consider

Screenshot 2015-06-25 13.52.15
There's a cool-seeming and newish "policy innovation" blog over at The Washington Monthly called Republic 3.0 that you might want to check out (or pitch).  

While not education-focused, it's got some education content:

Education reform's final chapter.
Reason triumphs over Common Core opponents.
And it promises "innovative, practical and progressive ideas to reimagine government, politics and society for the better.... You’ll find no partisan name-calling or cheap shots."

There's also lots of education news and commentary at The Grade, my media watch blog, and College Guide, the Washington Monthly's long-running series.


Table: Smaller, Lower-Scoring Districts Had Higher Opt-Out Rates In NY

image from www.brookings.eduSo Brookings' Matt Chingos took a look at the available opt-out data for New York State, and then combined it with demographic information and 2014 test score results (Who opts out of state tests?).

What he found includes both the obvious ("relatively affluent districts tend to have higher opt-out rates," and "larger districts tend to have lower opt-out rates.") and the more surprising ("districts with lower test scores have higher opt-out rates after taking socioeconomic status into account.")

Why would lower-scoring districts have higher opt out rates, controlling for demographics?

According to Chingos, it might be "district administrators encouraging opt-outs in order to cover up poor performance, districts focusing on non-tested subjects to satisfy parents who care less about standardized tests, and parents becoming more skeptical of the value of tests when their children do not score well."

However, there's not enough data to determine whether lower- or higher-scoring students tended to opt out at higher or lower rates, notes Chingos. "It could be the higher-scoring students in those districts that are doing the opting out."

Morning Video: Pondiscio's "Complicated Relationship" With Testing

"Education reform runs on data, so to speak, and data is testing and when you opt out of testing you're basically robbing the system of the data it needs to make decisions," the Fordham senior fellow explained on NewsMax earlier this week (the show host is hilarious/awful). "You show me a kid who's being pressured on testing and I'll show you a teacher who's pressuring him." However, Pondiscio also admits that he's got "a complicated relationship" with testing. 

Click the link if the video doesn't load properly. There's also a new Oyler Elementary video from PBS but I can't find it -- help me out?

Where's All The Ed-Related Conversation About #RachelDolezal?

Has someone prominent been revealed to have been "passing" as black in education? Not that I know of. But I can't believe it hasn't happened -- and even if it hasn't, race and privilege are everywhere in education. 

And so I'm sad to note that there's surprisingly little being said so far about Rachel Dolezal among the education folks I follow on Twitter and Facebook, and via Feedly.

That seems like a shame. It's an opportunity, right?  Let's not have it pass us by just because Dolezal headed a NAACP local rather than a school district.

Below are a few comments by education-related people that I've found via Twitter, just to get things started:

Nekima Levy-Pounds:

Deray McKesson:

Morgan Polikoff:

Liz Dwyer:

Laura McKenna:

Motoko Rich:

Camika Royal:

Some of the folks I'd love to hear from (more) on this issue include Karen Lewis, Cami Anderson, Michelle Rhee, @TheJLV, Linda Darling-Hammond, Chris Stewart, Ray Salazar, RiShawn Biddle, Xian Barrett, Sabrina Stevens, Deray McKesson, someone from TFA, Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Agree or disagree with you, we need more voices here. 

Related posts: Educators & Advocates Need Authentic Conversations About Race, TooRace, Reconstruction, & The Nation"Big Patterns Of Disparity By Race"Sports Are What City Schools "Do Best".

Teacher Prep: Former TC Head Launches New "Competency-Based" Ed School

There are at least a couple of cool-sounding new things about the grad school / research lab that's just been announced by the folks at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation:

They've been working the past few years to upgrade existing ed school programs around the country, but now they're showing how they think it should be done by creating their own  new grad school (dubbed the Woodrow Wilson Academy for Teaching and Learning).

In so doing they're creating what they describe as the "first fully competency based school." 

What's that mean?  According to Arthur Levine, "The WW Academy will ‘throw out the clock,’ shifting the focus of certification from ‘hours in class’ to proven competency in the skills and knowledge every teacher and education leader needs to succeed."

Why not partner with nearby Princeton University?  "MIT is doing incredible work on the science of learning, and has 125 different projects on campus already focused on the topic," Chief Communications and Strategy Officer Patrick Riccards explained via email. "So the ability of working with the entire MIT team, particularly in the development of the Ed research lab side, was a dream come true." 

Longtime readers will recall that Levine was for many years the head of Teachers College at Columbia University, wrote a series of scathing reports about teacher prep, and has in recent years been helping a number of states and universities revamp their programs (to what overall effect, I'm not sure).

Early this year, Levine put TFA on blast in the NYT

[TFA] was always going to have a half-life...It did wonderful things and attracted superb people to teaching and prepared a generation of leaders for the country... Eventually, we’re going to get to the point of trying to fix the system rather than applying a patch. 

In Education Next, Levine had this to say about the innovative Relay GSE teacher prep system:

For innovation to survive, it has to be self-sustaining. If something’s not self-sustaining, it’s not serious.

According to the WSJ (Teacher-Training Initiative Aims to Reinvigorate Profession), Levine et al plan to make this "like West Point & Bell Labs for educators."

So far they've gotten "about $10 million" from Gates, Amgen, Carnegie Corp -- and need $20 million more. 

Related posts: The Levine Method For Revamping Teacher PrepLevine Is Wrong About Teachers & Unions (Thompson); Levine Announces New Effort (2007); "Fix The System Rather Than Applying A Patch".

Thompson: Petrilli Endorses Integration & Segregation & Trusting Relationships for Some

If the purpose of school reform is improving education and not union-busting and privatization, reformers should do some soul searching after they read Robert Putnam's Our Kids. Had they known twenty years ago what Putnam documents today, would accountability-driven, competition-driven reformers have rolled the dice and sought to increase equity by holding teachers accountable for raising test scores?

Would they have believed that education failures produced by the stress of generational poverty could have been reversed by the stress of high-stakes testing? Would they have pretended that increased segregation produced by school choice could have been the cure for segregation created by economics? Had they recognized the importance of trusting social relationships, would reformers have demanded a basic skills testing regime that would inevitably degrade the learning cultures of poor schools and replace holistic instruction of poor children of color with nonstop remediation for primitive bubble-in tests?

I've long thought that conservatives like Fordham's Mike Petrilli, who now criticize value-added teacher evaluations, would be especially open to the insights of Putnam and others who help chart an escape from the constraints imposed by top-down micromanaging of classrooms. And, yes, Petrilli seeks to liberate some students from the social engineering known as "school reform." 

Petrilli's How Schools Can Solve Putnam's Paradox offers support for Putnam and advocates for socio-economic integration like Richard Kahlenberg. He writes, "If loneliness, isolation, and extremely fragile families are big parts of the poverty problem, then connecting poor children with thriving families and communities can be part of the solution." Even better, Petrilli seeks to, "Build on the social capital that does exist in poor communities."

I think Petrilli's next proposal, "Build social capital by creating new schools," is weird, but he offers a reality-based disclaimer. He admits, "But the people who run these schools are often not from the community, and that creates inevitable conflicts. It’s also something of an open question whether these brand-new schools can create true social capital beyond their four walls."

Continue reading "Thompson: Petrilli Endorses Integration & Segregation & Trusting Relationships for Some" »

Maps: Only A Few States Require 4-5 Years Before Granting Tenure

Screenshot 2015-06-05 12.21.00

As you can see from this chart and story (This Is What It Takes To Get A Teacher Fired Around The Country), only a few states (the ones with darker boxes) require four or five years of teaching before giving tenure. Image via HuffPost/NCTQ. I count 6 states that require 5 years, and 5 that require 4. There are other things like teacher preparation and supervision/PD that are more important than tenure timelines, but 3-4 years doesn't seem like enough to me. 

Thompson: Rick Hess Is Back!

Rick’s back! And Hess’s Personality Quiz: Am I a Wannabe Edu-Bureaucrat? is hilarious. Every other paragraph, I had to shout at the computer screen, “I wish I’d said that!” 

The conservative Rick Hess, who hasn’t explicitly repudiated his identification as a school reformer (or conservatism), is back blogging at Education Week after a several week hiatus. Hess unveils a 17-point quiz which can determine, “Congrats! You're an aspiring bureaucrat!” In doing so, the American Enterprise Institute scholar explains the rise of a new “cheery, ready-made mantra for your brand of ‘reform.’ It's: ‘Meet the new boss; same as the old boss . . . except this time you're going to be lucky to have a really, really smart boss. Not like all those others who have come before.’"

Hess identifies wannabe edu-bureaucrats by asking whether they “routinely describe teachers and schools as ‘good’ or ‘effective’ based on limited, simplistic, standardized metrics like reading and math scores,” seek to impose the “right way to train all new teachers” and mandate teacher evaluation models “for every school in every district in their state,” or condemn parents who opt out of standardized tests as irresponsible.

Wannabe edu-bureaucrats “get a warm feeling when talk turns to ‘P-20 alignment.’" They believe that “people who disagree with me on Common Core, ESEA, teacher evaluation, and the rest are mostly just playing politics. … [and] really wish they'd simmer down and shut up.” Aspiring bureaucrats aren’t trained to conduct or evaluate research, and they “rarely read beyond an abstract,” but they find that "good” research usually agrees with their views on reform. These wannabes “find it easiest to communicate in acronyms and buzzwords.”

Hess writes that you might be a wannabe edu-bureaucrat if “I've never been reminded of the USSR's 'five-year plans' when the U.S. Department of Ed orders waiver states to devise . . . five-year plans, with ambitious (if arbitrary) race-based performance targets.”

Continue reading "Thompson: Rick Hess Is Back!" »

Quotes: Connecticut's Magnet Schools Erode Segregation

Quotes2It's pathetic that only one little state [Connecticut] is showing any leadership [by creating 84 magnet schools]...It shouldn't be so radical to think it might be better to have more diverse schools.
- UCLA's Gary Orfield in HuffPost Edu (Connecticut Makes Rare Progress As America Moves Backwards)

Events: What's New At NewSchools 2015?

image from www.nsvfsummit.com
I may or may not make it to the annual NewsSchools Venture Fund summit this year, but thought you might like to know about the annual confab held most frequently in San Francisco.  

This year's headliner is "author, researcher and TED Talks sensation Brené Brown." Other highlights include an appearance from Gates'  Sara Allan who will unveil "a new, interactive platform designed to better connect ed tech entrepreneurs with the needs of teachers and students," and an interview with newish NewSchools CEO Stacey Childress.

Of particular interest to me is a panel on diverse/progressive charters being led by Kriste Dragon, Citizens of the World Charter Schools, and parents from Citizens and Bricolage and RI's Mayoral Academy. and Renita Thukral, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Information about Summit, including the comprehensive schedule, can be found at www.nsvfsummit.com.  Follow @nsvf and #nsvfsummit on Twitter for event updates.This year's event is being held May 6. Unusual for education conferences, it's an invite-only event. 

Related posts:  They're Beaming NSVF Summit 2014 To Boston This YearGoogle 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. Image via NSVF webpage. 

Is Reform Really Stalemated -- And Is Early Childhood Really That Easy?

Most folks have responded to this week's Nick Kristof NYT column (Beyond Education Wars) by focusing on two main things brought up on the column: the vicious in-fighting on education that's been going on for a while now and the possibility that the combatants (liberals, moderates, Republicans, and conservatives) could rally around early childhood education.

Many --including TWIE contributor John Thompson -- think Kristof is onto something. And they may well be right.  But left by the wayside is Kristof's claim that reform efforts are really stalemated (that everyone agrees as much), and to a lesser extent the very real obstacles that have kept political factions from rallying around early childhood education for several years now and may continue to do so.

Let's all take a look at both those things before packing up and pivoting (or thinking that others are going to). I am sad to report that I'm not so sure that the stalemate or the consensus are as clear as Kristof and others might wish them to be.

Continue reading "Is Reform Really Stalemated -- And Is Early Childhood Really That Easy?" »

FlashBack Friday: Education All-Star Gaynor McCown Gone Nearly 10 Years

Just in case anyone's feeling a momentary lack of urgency (or has delusions of immortality), it's worth remembering that 1990s education all-star Gaynor McCown died nearly a decade ago, at 45 -- and that she's probably not as well-remembered as she should be.

Quotes: Education Won't "Fix" Inequality (But It Sure Helps Folks Earn More)

Quotes2Even if [education]  doesn’t do much to reduce overall inequality, [the study's authors] find it does reduce inequality within the bottom half of the income distribution, by increasing the earnings of those near the 25th percentile of earnings (in 2013, those making $6,100 a year, compared with $8,720 in the simulation with higher education).  

- The Upshot NYT (Why More Education Won’t Fix Economic Inequality)

Quotes: Research-Less Think Tanks Can't Compete

Quotes2Without rigorous research, think tanks just repeat talking points, trying to be more clever in their phrasing and more persistent in their communication so they can be heard above the din of everyone else doing the same.  

- Jay Greene (The Death of the Think Tank, R.I.P.)

Events: 6 Ways To Diversify That Conference Or Panel (ie, "Pass The Mic")*

This year's education conferences seem like they're doing better and better modeling diversity and finding new & authentic voices to talk about education, but there's still lots of room for additional improvement.

So here are some ideas to help -- or maybe you've got better ones to suggest?

6 -- If you're organizing a conference or panel, make sure you include a variety of perspectives and backgrounds when you're picking speakers, even if it means reaching out to new connections or recruiting new participants. #Wetried is not enough.

5 -- If you're invited to participate in a panel, tell the organizer it's important to you that the panel includes a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds, and be so bold as to suggest some folks who might fit the bill if the organizers seem unfamiliar.

4 -- If you're invited to open or close a conference, or function as a keynote speaker, tell the organizers how important diverse panels and perspectives are to you.

3 -- If you somehow find yourself on a panel that's all white (or even all white and male), don't just lament the situation. Give up your time to someone in the audience who has a valuable perspective not otherwise represented on the stage, or do something really bold and give up your spot. 

2 -- If you're someone who's used to being asked to speak on panels or give talks, consider giving up your spot to give someone else a chance and -- just as important -- come to the event anyway, sit in the the audience like a normal person, and you might learn something.  

1 -- If you're attending a conference or panel in the audience and you happen to notice that the panel is, say, all white (or that the conversation is being dominated by men) say something.  (Be nice about it -- the organizers are  probably very tired and doing their best -- but still say something.)

Bottom line: Talking about diversity is great but insufficient at this point.  Programs aimed at diversifying the pipeline of teacher and leaders are great but way in the future in terms of their impact.  

Finding and elevating new and diverse voices to speak at conferences and sit on panels could make a small but concrete difference to the success of the movement. And those of us who've been privileged enough to sit on panels and speak at conferences should take the lead in helping make these shifts, rather than resisting them or even appearing to undercut them.

*For those of you not following along on Twitter, the question of diversifying panels and the responsibilities of conference organizers and convening organizations came up in a series of tweets this morning. The PIE Network's Suzanne Tacheny Kabach and I talked more about it this afternoon and that conversation was the inspiration for some of the above. 

Events: Live-Tweeting From Yale

I'm at @yaleELC #backtowhy today, mostly on Twitter (Snapchatting an event is not so easy or fun as it sounds). You can check out all the updates here, or on Facebook (Alexander Russo), or directly on Twitter (@alexanderrusso). You won't miss a thing, plus you can see the fun things people Tweet at me all day. 

Charts: Urban Charters Vs. District School Demographics

This chart comparing district and charter demographics (SPED, ELL, poverty) is from last week's @credoatstanford study via Joy Resmovits. Of course, there are wide variations in student demographics within traditional district school districts, and charter school enrollments are generally much smaller than the districts in which they are sited.

Preview: New Faces At This Week's Yale Education Conference

Screenshot 2015-03-24 13.18.53This year's Yale SOM Education Leadership Conference could be particularly interesting, given where were are in the education debate. It looks like there are going to be some new faces and names -- Kalimah Priforce, anyone? The theme ("Back to Why") and official goal (to refocus on "the purpose and outcomes of education reform") are full of intrigue to people like me who follow these things too closely.  We all know that the fight for the hearts and minds of smart young do-gooder types (and entrepreneurs, etc.) is pretty heated, as is the rhetorical battle over who's more "social justice." WebsiteFacebook.For past events, look at the list here. Previous blog posts from me about the event here.

Journalism: US News' Reformy New Education Opinion Page*

Knowledge Bank   US NewsAnother day, another new education page of some kind (right?)

Today's newish entrant is US News' Knowledge Bank, which (so far) includes a rogues' gallery of reformers with a particularly heavy dose of Bellwether (Mead, Rotherham), Fordham (Pondiscio), and AEI (McShane, Hess).*  

Elaine Allensworth from the Chicago Consortium is in there, as is Catherine Brown. You get the idea.  

These folks already  have in-house blogs and other outlets to get their views out there, but now they've got a regular outlet for their views plus US News' logo etc. as well.

There's the added legitimacy of the venerable magazine, plus also the potential confusion for readers who -- as with Valerie Strauss's blog page -- sometimes see the outlet listed but don't realize that it's an opinion piece (especially on Twitter). In fact, you could look at this as the reform version of the Answer Sheet.

In any case, I'm told that the page is looking for a mix of contributors and will continue to add/shift things around as things develop.  It'll be interesting to watch.

*Corrected: I got them confused - McShane & Hess are AEI, Pondiscio is Fordham. Apologies.

Quotes: Two Problems With Ed Journalism These Days, Says Charter Advocate

Quotes2First, education reporters too often do not have a firm enough grasp on the data for the issues which they are covering. Second, too much of education reporting is about raising or lowering the status of specific individuals, rather than examining the root causes of school system dysfunction.

- Neerav Kingsland (What We Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Charter School Performance)

Related posts: : Washington Post Doubles Down In National CoverageAbout That Front-Page Washington Post StoryThe Washington Post's Wacky Montgomery County CoverageSan Diego Union-Tribune Corrects Washington Post Poverty Headline.

Update: Petrilli's Surprise Apology -- & CitizenStewart's Difficult Choices

Stewart twitterChris Stewart, the blogger who (among others) successfully called out mostly white male middle aged reform critics for their "belief gap" over this past weekend, scored another victory today with a seemingly heartfelt apology from Fordham's Mike Petrilli over an Education Next cover story on single parents. 

But there are some reasons to wonder whether Stewart's successes have been as strong as it might have seemed -- or could have been.

For starters, the Petrilli apology for being goading and insensitive is nothing more than that.  There's no offer to change the cover, retraction of the issue, or change the all-white panel that's accompanying the magazine issue.  

I'm not sure there was more that Stewart et al could have hoped to get -- I wasn't even sure Petrilli would feel the need to apologize given how impervious he's been to criticism in the past and how much he generally delights in stirring things up.  So kudos for that, but still, it's just an apology (and more attention for Petrilli's event).

Somewhat more important, Stewart and others could be seen to have given up the chance to solidify what may be a larger, more fundamental point in the school reform wars by turning to fire on Petrilli and the offensive magazine cover. In so doing, he essentially let Gary Rubinstein, Anthony Cody, and other reform critics off the hook for their incessant criticism of poor minority student success (and the stunning lack of diversity among those who say they're advocating for poor minority children) - for now, at least. 

So again, it was an impressive series of Twitter offensives by Stewart and others, who are bringing up incredibly important and difficult issues for the reform community and its critics alike. I don't want any of that to stop, and was happy to have been included in the conversation and to have helped it along in some small way (probably not).

But I guess the question is whether it's more important from that point of view  to take on reform critics like Cody and Rubinstein (and Ravitch -- where was she?) or to take on reform allies like Petrilli. Perhaps the mostly white male reform community needs awareness raising as much as the mostly white reform critic community. Yeah, it probably does. Perhaps both can be done at the same time. That's probably the hope and aim. But alas, I'm not sure such a thing is possible. 

What do you think?

Related posts: New Voices Challenging Reform Critics' "Belief Gap"Reform Opponents Are Winning Online (For Now)Shame On Reform Allies Who Let Rhee Critics "Get Away With It"Who Influences Education Coverage Better -- Reform Critics Or Funders? Image via Twitter. 

Afternoon Panel: Evaluating Advocacy In 3 States (LA, TN, and NC)

Figuring out whether advocacy efforts "work" -- or what that even means -- is one of education advocates' biggest challenges.  Executing an effective advocacy effort is another. With that in mind, you might want to check out today's panel on advocacy evaluation at Brookings, and read the report (Measuring and understanding education advocacy) that's being discussed, which focuses on Louisiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina. 

Congress-Watching: 5 Lessons From Friday's Embarrassing "Surprise" ESEA Reauthorization Meltdown

The AP called it a "political embarrassment" for Republicans in charge of Congress, but it might just as well have been called an embarrassment for pundits and journalists covering the process.  

On Friday afternoon, the House scuttled debate on the reauthorization of ESEA, the federal education law currently known as No Child Left Behind. -- and it seems like nobody other than Dropout Nation's Rishawn Biddle seems to have anticipated that such a thing might happen. 

That's right. Not Politico.  Not Politics K-12.  Not AP.  Not the Washington Post. Not Petrilli, Hess, Smarick, or any of those Fordham/AEI folks, either. (Not anyone on the D. side, either, that I know of.)

Looking back, it seems obvious that this was a possibility.  The House and Senate were dealing with a tough political issue with much greater urgency. Conservative Republicans hated the Committee-passed version of the bill. This has happened before.  In 2013, a Republican ESEA reauthorization got pulled.  

And to be fair, political reporters and pundits were surprised about the DHS funding failure, too. Even Boehner said he didn't know what was going to happen on DHS. Education issues don't get on the floor that often, and annual spending amendments are a thing of the past, so things like this are a bit of a wildcard for everyone.

Still, what happened, and how could we get better advance notice in the future? Check out my 5 Lessons below - and add or correct them here or at @alexanderrusso.

Continue reading "Congress-Watching: 5 Lessons From Friday's Embarrassing "Surprise" ESEA Reauthorization Meltdown" »

Social Media: New Study Suggests Journalism Being Left Out Of Education Debate

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There are lots of different ways to look at the new CPRE/UPennGSE report about social media and the Common Core debate, but at least one of them is to observe just how small a role journalists and non-advocacy media outlets seem to have been playing -- even in areas where you'd think that mainstream and trade publications who share out information all day would have a big advantage:

*Just 13 of 158 high-volume "transmitters" (8 percent) are journalists. "These include print, online, and radio media, and represent both non-partisan and partisan media entities." I've asked for a list.

*Just 22 (16 percent) of 139 "transceivers" (who pass information along and have their tweets shared) are journos/media outlets. They include @educationweek, @BenSwann (who?), and @ NEAMedia (not really a journalistic outlet). This is the list where journalists are strongest, relatively speaking -- journalism's wheelhouse, really. But journalists come in third. (List requested.)

*Just 3 media outlets qualify for the list of 41 "transcenders" (the elite group in the study). They are @educationweek, @StateEdWatch (penned by Andrew Ujifusa) & @ellemoxley. The report adds @NEAMedia to the list but again that's a whole different thing.  

Of course, the study is limited to tweets directly related to Common Core, and a certain time period.Other kinds of criteria would surface larger numbers of journalists and education outlets that are high-volume, high-retweet, or high-influence.

But my sense is that the report illustrates a deeper dynamic, which is that journalists and media outlets lag far behind activists on the use of Twitter, in part because of the decline in traditional journalism but even more so because of self-imposed limitations on expressing views or attempting to shape the debate. Advocates, think tankers, and even academics have a green light that journalists don't.

Also, my sense is that journalists' experience of Twitter is mostly being tweeted at by those with complaints legitimate and others.   Twitter is the "new comment section," it's being widely noted, and we all know how most journalists feel about comments. So there may be some avoidance going on.

Image used with permission. I found the PDF version easiest for word searches but maybe there are other, better ways to navigate. #htagcommoncore @cpreresearch @upennGSE.

Thompson: Russo's Disheartening "Eight Lessons for Funders and Grantees"

Almost every paper presented at the American Enterprise Institute’s conference, Is the ‘New’ Education Philanthropy Good for Schools?, made me somewhat more hopeful that the Gates Foundation, at least, will learn and back off from insisting that stakes be attached to standardized tests, and start down more promising policy paths. The exception is Alexander Russo’s Inside Foundations: Eight Lessons for Funders and Grantees on Education Giving

According to Russo’s astute article, the lessons of this new generation of philanthropy are:

1. Policy and advocacy are great tools—to a point.

2. New approaches complicate measurement/evaluation issues. 

3. Newly-created organizations bring focus and fidelity but can lack credibility and engagement.       

4. “Strategic” philanthropy is a powerful way to narrow priorities—unless it’s applied too rigidly.  

5. Setting clear metrics helps—until you take them too far.

6. Fail fast—but don’t overreact to bad news, either.

7. Don’t forget/underplay “the grind.”

8. Little more coordination, please (but not too much!)

In a rational world, this witty and insightful call for balance would contribute to better policy-making. In contrast to the statements made by other insiders to the other contributors, however, I fear that the several elites interviewed by Russo are concluding that, yes, we lose credibility with each of our risky policy gambles -- but we will make it up on volume.

Continue reading "Thompson: Russo's Disheartening "Eight Lessons for Funders and Grantees"" »

Congress: The (Seeming) Demise Of The Congressional Research Service

image from wamo.s3.amazonaws.comGot a minute? Check out Kevin Kosar's Washington Monthly article (Why I Quit the Congressional Research Service) for a depressing but informative look at what's happened to CRS, the in-house think tank for Congress that used to be such a useful and timely source of information and advice that few Congressional staffers and members could imagine living without it.  

Back in the day, folks like Wayne Riddle and Kosar (@kevinkosar) were invaluable sources of information.  But of course, back in the day Congress passed legislation and spending bills, too, and working on the Hill was considered one of the best jobs you could have.

Much has happened to CRS since then, according to Kosar's telling of the story. And Riddle is a private consultant.  Two folks who seem to have picked up the work seem to be Rebecca Skinner and Kyrie E. Dragoo (great name!).

Kosar's now at a think tank, appropriately enough. Think tanks have replaced CRS in many ways.  The information's not nearly as expert or neutral but it's faster, and more easily tailored to each side's arguments, and it's public, too.  

The Andy Smaricks and Anne Hyslops and Connor Williamses of the world can opine in public in real time -- they have communications help! CRS reports are infamously not publicly available.  An effort to make them public, OpenCRS, closed up shop last year. Wikileaks posted a bunch of CRS reports, but I'm not sure how extensive the collection is (Secret Congressional reports).

Kosar and I have known each other via email for almost a decade now.  He contributed some great pieces to this site while he was still at CRS -- back when such things were still allowed.  For example: Muddled AYP FixesDo National Standards Have A Chance?; He also penned a 2005 book: Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education Standards.  Image used with permission.

Timeline: Ten Years Helping Districts Revamp Their Spending


Mostly behind the scenes, ERS (Education Resource Strategies) has spent the past 10 years helping districts understand and revamp their spending priorities (usually focused on student-based budgeting).  Click here for the interactive timeline of ERS activities. Click here to see if your district has worked with them. Tell us here on on Twitter what your experience has been(@erstrategies). Image used with permission.

Morning Video: What You Missed At Yesterday's Edu-Philanthropy Event

Here's the video from yesterday's AEI event on education philanthropy, plus a link to the draft papers being prepared for an updated version of AEI's 2005 volume, "With the Best of Intentions.": 


I'll write separately about the chapter I contributed, but some other conference highlights for me included meeting lots of folks face to face (including AFT's Kombiz, HEP's Caroline Chauncey), seeing people for the first time in a long while (Arnie Fege, Mike Usdan), and learning all sorts of things from fellow chapter writers and panelists (like Jim Blew's dad was a teacher union official, and that there are still only a handful of political scientists working on education issues). You can also check out the Twitter-stream at #NewEdPhil.  

Thompson: What Happens When Research Gets To The Schoolhouse

Jack Schneider begins his excellent From the Ivory Tower to the Schoolhouse with the observation that academic research usually has a short-lived impact on the classroom. No matter how brilliant the scholar, research findings are "like names written on a steam-covered window, they fade from view."

From the Ivory Tower to the Schoolhouse takes a "glass half-full" approach. It acknowledges that the "avalanche of disparate research" on education has usually not been intended for use by classroom educators." But, "Some of it is."

Schneider does not despair. He provides hope that, someday, we can create a "research-to-practice superhighway (rather than relying on a series of detours and back alleys)" in seeking the path toward school improvement. Probably the best we can do today is carve out a "research-to-practice pathway."

The education historian describes four successes in implementing ideas from the Ivory Tower, Benjamin  Bloom's Taxonomy, Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, William Kirkpatrick's The Project Method, and Direct Instruction.  These three progressive concepts, and the final behaviorist approach, took root in public school classrooms, even though they did so "without altering the nature of the teaching profession." In contrast to similar concepts that failed to influence schooling, these successes shared four characteristics: Perceived Significance and Philosophical Compatibility with teachers' world views, Occupational Realism and Transportability to actual classrooms.

These concepts may not have transformed instruction, but they show that teachers can, and will, change and become active agents in their professional development. Moreover, they stand as a reminder that teachers can be as willing to be challenged by new ideas as other professionals.

Continue reading "Thompson: What Happens When Research Gets To The Schoolhouse" »

Think Tanks: UPenn Ranks Urban Institute, RAND, Brookings, Cato, NIEPR, CEPR*

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So apparently UPenn has been ranking think tanks for a while now, and added a special category for education-focused think tanks in 2012. The latest rankings put the Urban Institute at the top and put Cato and Heritage above AEI so make of that what you will. via Think Tank Watch. 

*Corrected: It's not NIEER, it's NIEPR who came in 5th. Sorry about that!

Upcoming: A 360-Degree Look At The "New" Education Philanthropy

Just a few weeks from now AEI is hosting an event looking at the ‘new’ education philanthropy that I think is going to be pretty interesting -- and not just because I'm going to be there talking about a series of interviews with program officers and academics.

AEI's Hess and Teachers College's Jeff Henig have rounded up 8 new studies and analyses from across the ideological spectrum.

Some of those who have written chapters and/or will be there at the event include Stacey Childress, NewSchools Venture Fund, Jay P. Greene, University of Arkansas, Sarah Reckhow, Michigan State University, and Jeffrey W. Snyder, Michigan State University.  Joanne Barkan, Dissent Magazine,  Larry Cuban, Stanford University, Howard Fuller, Marquette University, and Michael Q. McShane, AEI, will also be there. Wrapping things up will be a panel featuring me, Jim Blew, StudentsFirst, Dana Goldstein, The Marshall Project, and Andrew P. Kelly, AEI.

The conference is part of AEI Education's revisiting of the decade-old volume looking at education grantmaking ("With The Best Of Intentions").  How much has education philanthropy changed, in terms of funded activities and/or effectiveness?

Related posts:  Many "Tissue-Paper" Reforms Unlikely To Last, Says Cuban (Thompson); It Isn't Always The Best Nonprofits That Get The Big MoneyWho Funds EdTech -- And Who Doesn'tHave Big Funders (Like Walton & Gates) Overtaken Think Tanks (Like Brookings)?No More "Give Money To Someone Really Smart" For Foundations

Thompson: Can School Reform Learn from Failure?

The November, 2014 New York Times Magazine special edition on innovation focuses on failure. As explained in its introduction, most innovations are like Esperanto. They fail.  As they say in that long-forgotten language, “Oh, Well, Gravas la penso (it’s the thought that counts).”

Some of the best parts of the issue involve the inflated hopes of 1990s Big Data and corporate-style innovations and how they failed in similar ways. From the mapping of the human genome to output-driven, market-driven school reform, innovators learned that the world is far more complicated than they had anticipated. 

Virginia Hefferman explained how 1990s Virtual Reality mediums failed to live up to their marketing hype because, real world, they felt “like brain poison.” After a reworking of these technologies, virtual reality should now live up to its promise by creating “’a deep hunger for real-life experience.’”

Kemia Malekvilibro recalled the 1990s promise of DNA sequencing, and concluded that the “golden road to pharmaceutical riches as target-based drug discovery has often proved to be more of a garden path.” Its approach to improving health outcomes relied too heavily on Big Data. It needed more old-fashioned inductive research, where scientists formulated hypotheses and tinkered with their experiments.

In both cases, pioneers faced up to facts and adjusted to reality. They looked again at the phenomenon they were studying and asked questions. Education seems to be the exception; its true believers have refused to acknowledge the failure of their beautiful first generation theories.

Continue reading "Thompson: Can School Reform Learn from Failure?" »

Journalism: No, Georgia Doesn't Really Lead The Nation In School Shootings

image from static.politifact.com.s3.amazonaws.comGiven the pace of work being produced and the complexity of the issues, it's pretty easy for mis-statements and errors of fact to creep into education stories -- and very hard to correct them once they're out in the wild.  

That's why it's helpful that Politifact covers Education statements.  

Just recently, the site took a look at the claim made that GA "leads the nation in school shootings since Sandy Hook." The claim was made by Everytown For Gun Safety and passed along by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  

The issue is how Everytown defines school shooting (very broadly).

Any other bad numbers or unverified claims out there that you think need to be addressed?  Send them to me at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.

Related posts: New York Magazine Duped By Stuyvesant HS Student Scam;NYT Journo Tweets Out 60-80 Days Of Testing ClarificationOops!? Results From The Equity Project Same As Other NYC ChartersMissing Context From ProPublica Charter School "Sweeps" Story.

Morning Video: Perhaps The Best Education Video Since Edelman 2011

Don't be put off by the outfit (slim grey suit with pink pocket square), the TED-like bells and whistles, or even the point of view (pro-reform).  This might be the best education video since Jonah Edelman's infamous 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival explainer. Or maybe it's just the best of the week, and there's not much else going on.

In this "how to make the case for education reform" video, the president of AEI tells his audience something that pretty much everyone in education advocacy has come to understand at this point, whatever side they're on:  "You better make it moral, you better fight for people, and you better do it quick."

Watch it, tell us what you think (it's very much of the mind that reform ideas are fine they just haven't been communicated effectively), and extra points for calling out names from the audience reaction shots.

*Apologies for mis-spelling Jonah's name -- it's Edelman with an "E."



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.