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Bruno: Standardized Tests *Do* Measure Some Important Cognitive Abilities

Failstemp ccommon flickrOne of the more interesting bits of news that you may have missed over the holidays was the announcement of findings from researchers at MIT indicating that even when schools effectively boost students' scores on standardized tests, they don't seem to do much to improve students' "fluid intelligence" -- those cognitive abilities, like working memory capacity, that can be helpfully applied across contexts.

This research seemed to strike a chord with critics of standardized testing, who leapt on the opportunity to emphasize the limits of such exams.

Unfortunately, in their eagerness to strike a blow against tests some commentators have badly over-interpreted - or plainly misinterpreted - the results.

Continue reading "Bruno: Standardized Tests *Do* Measure Some Important Cognitive Abilities" »

Bruno: Reformers Think (Wrongly) That They Are Engaged On Inequality

2943004410_e274474576_nI'd like to very briefly second Alexander's recommendation to reformers that "obviously education can't be the only method of addressing income inequality" and that they should "reconnect" to the issue.

My sense, however, is that education reformers have if anything moved in the opposite direction as of late.

Perhaps sensitive to charges that they were ignoring issues like inequality, reformers seem to be increasingly taking the position that education really is the best (or only) way to address inequality.

Consider this recent piece by Josh Kraushaar in The Atlantic arguing that various reformy education policies have "proven to be a time-tested path to economic mobility". Despite the fact that it confusingly conflates inequality with economic mobility and doesn't actually provide any evidence that the reforms are "proven" to address either, the article got approving links on Twitter from StudentsFirst, among others.

It's easy to see why this is an attractive shift for reformers, since it simultaneously increases the importance of the education reforms they were already pushing and undermines the argument that they're too indifferent to inequality.

Maybe this is just something I've started noticing recently and doesn't represent a real shift. But I do feel as if reformers have been increasingly willing to tell me that education reform is the best - or only meaningful - way to address a host of problems from inequality to economic mobility to poverty.

Either way, I'm not politically savvy enough to know whether that rhetorical position will let reformers have it both ways: retaining a laser-like focus on education while also attending "the inequality party of 2014", as Alexander puts it.

But it does seem to be the strategy that reformers are most inclined to adopt. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Ideas: [When] Will Reformers Join The Inequality Party?

Kenfagerdotcom-flickrThe Washington Post's Ezra Klein & Co. recently gave out their Third annual Wonky awards, including think tank of the year (Kaiser), pundi (Bob Laszewski), graph of the year (the deficit shrinking), FAIL of the year, regulation of the year, etc.

There wasn't anything education-related that I saw, but the academics of the year (Saez and Piketty) have brought lots of attention to an education-related issue that reform critics especially like to bring up all the time these days: income inequality.

Last year made inequality big:

"Obama devoted a whole speech to the topic. Bill de Blasio was elected mayor of New York on a promise to fight it. The think tank closest to the administration launched a whole spin-off dedicated to studying it."

What if anything will reformers figure out to say in the face of all this newfound attention to inquality (and poverty and income mobility)?  

They traditionally shy away from these issues, though many of them got into education because they thought that education could help address them -- was indeed the best method of doing so.  But obviously education can't be the only method of addressing income inequality, and especially so during and after a massive recession.

Reformers may have to reconnect with why they got into education in the first place -- and even support some non-education measures like minimum wage and immigration reform -- if they don't want to be left out of the inequality party of 2014.

Flickr via KenFager

People: Two New(ish) Power Couples For 2014

Two new(ish) power couples to start the new year and help you get through what I'm told is the most depressing weeek of the year even without the cold, etc:

ScreenHunter_03 Jan. 08 13.55

First is EdWeek's Virginia "Ginny" Edwards and former Hechinger and EdSector honcho Richard Lee Colvin (top right), who announced their new status on Facebook not too long ago.

image from nyoobserver.files.wordpress.com

Second is Dana Goldstein and Andrei Scheinkman, who's not an education writer but we'll give him a break this time.

As you can see to the right, Goldstein and her fiance made The New York Observer’s 2014 Media Power Couples List (after having made it as power bachelors and bachelorettes three years ago).

Congrats and best wishes to all the happy couples (let me know if there are others).

For all the singletons out there, I'll close with a helpful reminder that the grass is always greener and that there are plenty of coupled-up folks who envy your freedom.

For more on  this topic: 7 Actual Differences Between Being Single and Being in a Relationship.

Quotes: "Wait A Minute" [On Common Core]

Quotes2Suddenly, you're both piloting the assessments before anybody knows what they are and attaching consequences, and you're seeing huge pushback from some teachers who are saying, wait a minute. This is not at all what we thought we were signing up for. - AEI's Rick Hess on NPR last week.

Afternoon Video: Can Venture Philanthropy Replace Direct Donations?


See another MSNBC segment about philanthropy vs. public programs here.

Roundups: Best 5 Of Education Next's Top 20 Stories Of The Year

Flickr-sashalaEducation Next -- which I occasionally write for -- is sometimes predictable in its topics and the conclusions its articles come to.

But it just as often addresses topics that have been ignored and is unafraid to print conclusions that don't point clearly in one driection or the other.  

Would that other outlets and organizations were as open-minded, even occasionally.  (Actually, there are a couple of others, but not many.)

As the year winds up, the magazine has put out its "top 20" of the year but I thought I'd give you the five best to check out.  Taking Back Teaching (Colvin),  The Softer Side of ‘No Excuses’ (Boyd, Rose, and Maranto), Still Teaching for America (Kronholz), Gains in Teacher Quality (Goldhaber and Walch), and Toddlers and Tablets (Hernanez). Or take a look at the whole list: The Top 20 Education Next Articles of 2013

Image via Flickr.

Morning Chart: Ed Schools Miss "Big Five" Classroom Issues

image from cdn.theatlantic.com"The [NCTQ] report identifies "The Big Five" of classroom management: Make rules; establish structure and routines; praise students for positive behavior; address bad behavior; and maintain student behavior." (Teachers Aren't Trained to Praise Their Students The Atlantic).

Quotes: Sherriff Duncan "All Out Of Bullets"?

In 2009, Arne was the new sheriff in town, with big boxes of ammunition and a shiny new gun. Now, it’s later in the movie and he’s all out of bullets and he’s trying to scare states by shaking a stick at them. - Rick Hess in Stephanie Simon's recent Politico piece

Morning Video: Expert-Less Think Tanks -- Whose Fault?

Here's MSNBC's Chris Hayes doing a segment about a so-called think that's mostly funded by restaurants (and opposed to raising the minimum wage) and lacks any economists on staff:


But is it the think tank's job to hire and/or commission independent degreed experts in the field and let them say what they find, or is it the media's job to make sure that readers/viewers know who funds the think tanks?

It's a question that comes up occasionally in education, and not always when the think tank leans Republican. For example, there are two think tanks with the initials EPI -- one leans right, the other (which hosts Broader Bolder) leans left, and the funding/affiliation are rarely mentioned in the press.

There are also university academics who receive not insubstantial funding from think tanks, foundations, and advocacy organizations and who don't always reveal the sources of this funding when they appear as experts (on Capitol Hill, for example).

NB: I have written reports and articles for various think tanks, including those that lean left and right.  

Charts: 40 States Require Objective Measures (How Much Differs)


Economist (based on NCTQ data).

Reform: Insult-Hurling Coming Mostly From Reform Critics

image from images.politico.comPolitico education editor Nirvi Shah has taken to Twitter this morning to defend Stephanie Simon's latest article against my unwarranted and unfair criticism -- as she should. 
The article in question reports that name-calling has become the norm in the education debate and suggests that leaders of both sides have engaged in this practice evenly. "Each side caricatures the other: Reformers are greedy privateers and corporate tools. Union leaders are selfish defenders of an indefensible status quo."
In reality, however -- and indeed in the examples cited in Simon's article - it's leaders who oppose reform who have more frequently made specific attacks on the character, sex, and ethnicity of individual reform leaders much more commonly.  
Arne Duncan, Wendy Kopp, and Michelle Rhee aren't calling their counterparts names. Diane Ravitch, Randi Weingarten, and Chicago's Karen Lewis do so with some regularity -- and are given space to justify their behavior in the Politico piece. (Ravitch -- get well soon! -- calls it necessary polarization.)
To its credit, the Politico article cites several examples of Ravitch resorting to personal attacks, and notes that her apologies have sometimes been quite slim.   Some readers won't care as much as I do whether the attacks are made against individuals, or groups, or policies -- or whether it matters whether one side is doing it more than the other. The differences between Arne Duncan and RiShawn Biddle won't matter to others, either.
I've critiqued several recent pieces by Simon -- and presumably edited by Shah. It's got to be quite annoying. So far, we've avoided calling each other any nasty names.
Previous posts: Julie Chen, Miss America, & Michelle Rhee12 Problems With Politico's TFA StoryWhy's Politico Making Ravitch Case Against Reform?). 

Thompson: Did Reform Make Teacher Churn Worse in Indianapolis?

SeniorityIn IPS Loses When Teachers Face Constant Moves, Chalkbeat Indiana's Scott Elliott decribes the "churn" of teachers in Indianapolis and how involuntary transfers are driving young talent out of the system.

He does not mention a common sense, though counter-intuitive, solution: Bringing back seniority.  

Seniority is the teacher's First Amendment. Without it, the honest flow of information in systems dries up.  Once teachers' ability to voice their professional judgments are undermined, the lack of an exchange of information is bound to produce more administrative foul-ups.  

Continue reading "Thompson: Did Reform Make Teacher Churn Worse in Indianapolis?" »

Media: Maggie Severns Fills Out Politico Education Team

Screen shot 2013-11-01 at 1.47.33 PMThe unstoppable, ubiquotous, and ever-present Politico education team now includes former New America analyst and Mother Jones writer Maggie (@MaggieSeverns) Severns.

As you may recall, the initial Politico education team rollout was announced with one spot left open.  

Some of her recent education-related pieces at Mother Jones include: ADHD Diagnoses Increased More Than 50 Percent in a DecadeWhatever Happened to the $100 Million Mark Zuckerberg Gave to Newark Schools?Universal Preschool? Not So Fast.

Some of her Slate stories include: Reconsidering the Marshmallow Test: Willpower Isn't Just Nature, It's Nurture, and Study Offers Possible Explanation for the Huge Gender Gap in Science and Math.

As usual: Congrats, condolences.

Thompson: SAT Scores Are Great, But Teaching Is An Act of Love

SatDan Goldhaber's and Joe Walch's Gains in Teacher Quality, in Education Next, reports the good news that incoming teachers' SAT scores are on the rise. Recruiting better educated teacher candidates is an input-driven approach that is smarter than the dubious output-driven accountability of the last two decades.

I hope we don't go overboard, however, in overrating the importance of "book smarts" in teaching. I was a critical thinking coach, who confounded some adults by playing basketball with the students.  My questioning strategies anticipated Common Core and they guided teenagers with elementary school skills towards mastery of college preparatory standards.

But, education is not an affair of "the Head," but of "the Heart." The real reason why I was an effective teacher was that I didn't have biological offspring, so the students became my children.

I worked hard to become one of my school's co-MVPs. Then, we hired James Booth as a parent liaison and he was universally acclaimed as our Most Valuable Person.  Mr. Booth was retired military and a basketball referee. Despite his lack of background in academics, Booth was a mentor who did far more good for far more students than any teacher, counselor, or principal.

James Booth was not an exception.  Many schools' MVPs are coaches, cafeteria ladies, bus drivers, or security guards. Children learn from adults who love them. But, don't worry. Students don't discriminate against smart teachers; inner city kids, especially, appreciate it when highly educated adults show them the respect of treating them like their affluent peers. So this new generation of teachers will do fine as long as they keep their priorities straight.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.     

Quotes: Charter Advocates Overstate/Mislead In Chicago

Quotes2If I wanted to be like the charter activists, I'd write, "Charter schools account for all ten of the ten worst-performing selective-enrollment high schools in the city." -- Ben Joravsky in the Chicago Reader (Mayor Rahm has successfully pitted charters against public schools)

Afternoon Video: Common Core Meets "Hot For Education" '05

Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 10.20.49 AM

There was an amusing exchange at about the 40 minute mark of the Hess / Knowles / Duncan Common Core confab yesterday in Chicago (pictured above left).

Coming onstage to join Knowles and Duncan, Hess expressed feigned unease at appearing with Knowles, who was named one of education's hottest advocates in 2005 (pictured above right).

Knowles' response? "You can see what happens in eight or ten years, right?"  

For the record, Hess was also suggested for Hot For Ed '05, but blogger Joanne Jacobs rejected the idea: "I've seen Rick Hess, and he's no Tim Knowles."

Click here for some local coverage or watch the video below.  I promised you a video, after all.

Continue reading "Afternoon Video: Common Core Meets "Hot For Education" '05" »

Thompson: Politico Nails a Fundamental Flaw with TFA


I should not have to start with a disclaimer about my position on TFA (I'm undecided about it), but in these polarized times, I must.  TFA teachers are teachers.  

I don't judge colleagues. It is not their fault that high-profile TFA alumni who entered the classroom when they were in elementary school launched a war on teachers.  Excoriating today's TFAers because Kevin Huffman and Michelle Rhee turned corporate would be like castigating a colleague because he supports the Tea Party.

However, Politico’s Stephanie Simon, in Teach for America Rises as Political Powerhouse, nails the problem with TFA's new effort for “embedding select alumni in congressional offices and in high-ranking jobs in major school districts,” in which a charter school and voucher supporter pays the $500,000 a year price tag for providing seven TFA alumni fellows for congressmen. Ethics experts call the effort “highly unusual – though not illegal,” according to Simon. 

Too many reformers in general -- and high-profile TFA alumni in particular -- have have taken advantage of the lack of knowledge of many policymakers about the distant world of the inner city, and promoted quick and simplistic panaceas for complex problems.

In Simon's article, Elisa Villanueva Beard, co-CEO of Teach for America, seems to be sincerely oblivious about the dangers of quietly embedding alumni as staffers. She says “We don’t have a choice.” If TFA isn't aggressive “in 20 years, we’ll just wake up and find… we have made only incremental progress.”

And, that get's us back to the destructive essence of the contemporary reform movement. Corporate powers have immense knowledge about ways of secretly manipulating the levers of power to enrich themselves.  We know how to use political trickery to increase the billionaires' share of our economic pie.  Here, it seems, corporate reformers are using some of the same tactics and knowledge to manipulate government rather than improve learning. There is no reason to believe that transformationally better schools can be created this way.

That doesn't mean TFA teacher and alumni should be excluded. They should participate in the open exchange of ideas that school improvement needs.  They should do so with honesty and modesty, and not with their high-profile alumni's assumption that their brief excursion into schools has given them all of the answers.   

Meantime, TFA leaders should reveal the whole story to TFA teachers (and the rest of us?) and then have a heart-to-heart conversation about the paths to power that the organization should pursue, and those tactics that it should not consider. -JT(drjohnthompson) Image via. 

Morning Video: CAP 10th Anniversary Policy Conference


Live via MSNBC. Lineup here.

Update: It'll Take More Than White Parents To Save Urban Schools

Lahey_schoolboys_postAll those DC, Philadelphia, and Chicago families considering staying in the city and sending their kids to neighborhood schools (or progressive charters) probably won't make a real dent, according to this recent Atlantic piece from last week (It Won't Work).

Why not?  These changes might be good for the families being recruited into desirable schools on a small scale but "cannot substitute for reforms that address the root causes of concentrated poverty, budget shortfalls, and failing schools."

The piece focuses in on Philly's "Center City Schools Initiative," which raised enrollment at three desirable schools but displaced low-income minority families and reduced nonwhite enrollment -- and didn't have much impact on the rest of the system's enrollment, peformance or budget.  

Author Maia Bloombfield Cucchiara recommends breaking down urban-metro barriers (as in Wake County), refocusing on fiscal equity, and -- hey, why not? -- attempting to overturn the 1974 Supreme Court decision that blocks urban-suburban cooperation. She doesn't have much advice about how to make these things happen, but I'm guessing there will likely be a return to some of the methods of the past in future years (as current approaches becom eless fashionable), and it's good to be reminded that "the vastly different fates of urban and suburban schools... are not inevitable."

Previous posts: Philadelphia Advocates Seek 1 Citywide School ApplicationWhat About Schools Gentrification Passes By?Cartoon: The Secret Gentrification Plan"When The Melting Pot Boils Over"Middle-Income Schools Left BehindNobody Wins Until (White) Parents Trust Schools.

Image via Library of Congress (via The Atlantic)

Quotes: What *Really* Divides Us From Higher-Performing Nations

Quotes2Every country that bests us in the education rankings either has a constitutional guarantee to education, or does not have a constitution but has ensured the right through an independent statute.  - The Atlantic's Stephen Lurie (Why Doesn't the Constitution Guarantee the Right to Education?)

Morning Video: Best TED Talk Ever?


Pretty soon, namedropping your TED Talk might not be so impressive as it once was. Via Uproxx. Also very good is Reggie Watts' nonsense TED Talk, and the kids from Gunn High School does their own TEDx.

People: Gates Foundation Names [Unknown] New Advocacy Head

image from m.c.lnkd.licdn.comPolicy and advocacy have become bigger parts of many foundations' grantmaking in the past five years or so, and so it's probably worth noting that the Gates Foundation announced a new head of policy and advocacy on Friday, replacing Stefanie Sanford (who is now at the College Board).  

The new hire is Gavin Payne (pictured right via LinkedIn), who's been active on California education and policy issues for several years now, and recently has been helping state ed agencies get better.  See his bio in the announcement email below, or LinkedIn here. Frankly I don't know much about him. Thanks to everyone who sent me the announcement. 

As you can see in the previous posts, advocacy and policy work are high-risk, high return kinds of activities, compared to old school programs and services.  Ditto for more traditional/progressive advocacy efforts. Some of the Gates advocacy grants have failed; others it's probably too early to tell or mixed results. 

Previous posts: Longtime Gates Staffer Heads To College BoardGates Shifts Strategy & Schools Get Smaller Share [Reckhow]Gates Teacher Advocacy Effort To Be ShutteredHandy-Dandy Gates Foundation Advocacy Crib Sheet

Continue reading "People: Gates Foundation Names [Unknown] New Advocacy Head" »

Afternoon Video: Vancouver Launches 1:1 Tablet Effort

Read all about it here via Charles Barone.

Quotes: "Ordinary People" Who Think Reform Is "Destroying Education"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comMy readers are not leftists. They are teachers, parents, students, administrators, and ordinary people who don’t like to see their local public schools closed down or taken over by a private charter corporation like KIPP... They are destroying childhood. They are destroying creativity. They are destroying love of learning. - Diane Ravitch's contradictory-seeming explanation of her and her followers' views

Thompson: Goldhaber On The Future Of Research

AEI_logoDan Goldhaber’s Teacher Quality Research Over the Next Decade, presented at The American Enterprise Institute on “Teacher Quality 2.0,” is a hopeful sign that research by non-educators may become more reality-based.

Goldhaber makes a plausible argument that value-added models work at the elementary level, at least in comparison with other ways of evaluating teachers. But, he cites evidence that value-added might not work quite so well at the high school level.

So, Goldhaber asks if less emphasis would have been placed on the value-added of individual teachers if research had focused on high schools rather than elementary schools.

I certainly hope that the answer would be “Of course!”

In his constructive paper on the next era of research to improve instruction, Goldhaber starts by asking how teachers will respond to value-added and, later, to technology and various reorganizations of the schooling process.  He asks all the right questions about the unpredictable ways - constructive and destructive - that teachers’ practice could be altered.

But, instead of asking whether educators will make good choices, we should ask how administrators will respond to these changes.

Continue reading "Thompson: Goldhaber On The Future Of Research" »

Thompson: AEI's Hess Nails What's Wrong With "Reform 1.0"

Rick_hessThe American Enterprise Institute's conference, Teacher Quality 2.0: Will Today's Reforms Hold Back Tomorrow's Schools? showed that the times, they are a-changing. And it's about time.  If "reformers" don't admit that they are stalled in the wrong lane of history, our schools will be hurt badly.  

The AEI's Rick Hess kicked off the discussion by asking whether the goal of Reform 1.0 is the evaluation of "whether you are a good classroom teacher in a conventional environment?" 

Hess then summarized the ways that this "Teacher Quality 1.0" mentality could undermine online instruction, team teaching, and other ways of reorganizing schools. Hess then questioned the codification of this one-size-fits-all approach to teacher evaluation into law.

Teaching should be a team effort, and that applies to schools that serve intense concentrations of poverty and trauma, as much as it applies to the innovative schools that Hess wants.  Isn't that the real harm of Reform 1.0? It had the temerity to ram through laws that constrain all types of cooperative learning across our huge and diverse democracy.   

Although we disagree on most things, can advocates of the flipped classroom and of full-service community schools join together to reverse laws mandating value-added evaluations?-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via

Think Tanks: AIR Taking Over Education Sector

Bargraph_ccAfter months of speculation and free-floating anxiety, it's being announced later today that Education Sector is becoming part of AIR.

AIR is the national education research outfit founded in 1946.  Ed Sector is the DC think tank founded in 2005 by Andy Rotherham and Tom Toch in an attempt to meld think tank research and journalism.

After the co-founders departed around 2009, the think tank was run for a time by Richard Lee Colvin, who left Hechinger Report to take the job. John Chubb had the top job for a time, as well.

The move is being described as "joining forces" but you can read between the lines: the announcement is being made by AIR and the think tank is being overseen by an AIR honcho (Gina Burkhardt).

No word yet on what happens to Peter Cookson, the Ed Sector Managing Director.

Previous posts: Hijacking The Education Sector*Carnegie Is The New Ed SectorColvin Leaves / Is Let Go From Ed SectorWhen The Exec. Director Joins A Political CampaignRotherham Leaving Ed Sector.

Events: PIE Annual Summit (Boston September 19-20)

Going to the PIE Policy Summit in Boston later this month?  Me, too -- finally.  Not invited?  Too bad, it's invite-only and I had to bother them for months to get invited. Not already registered?  Tough luck.  It's sold out. 

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Then again, the event is off the record so it's not like I can tweet out whatever juicy tidbits I find without specific approval.  All the more reason to come up and say hello if you're there.  I'm hoping to learn a lot.

Previous posts about PIE:  Talk About "Love" (Not "Rights")State Advocacy Groups Talk Policy - Not Tactics Reform Celebration In SeattleHow Organizers See The Parent TriggerEducate Texas

Reform: Millennials Hate Politics (But Alternatives Remain Unproven)

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 12.14.34 PMAmusing and easy as it is to bemoan Millennial self-entitlement and hyper-aggressiveness, complaining about the youngs can get old and is probably not very helpful, anyway if only because there are 95 million of them - 20 million more than Baby Boomers.

So it's a good thing to find Ron Fournier's new Atlantic Magazine article on how Millennials perceive politics and public service -- and how they might blow things up through other means.  Or at least, how they want to.

Titled The Outsiders: How Can Millennials Change Washington If They Hate It?, the article notes that Millennials dislike public service and traditional political gridlock but are committed to volunteering.  They're deeply suspicious of government programs -- and of Democrats as well as Republicans -- and unlikely to think of political action as a solution after what happened in Barack Obama's first term.

These trends create obvious challenges for education advocates of all types. Reform advocates are trying like mad to groom leaders for public service and elected office.  Reform critics are increasingly relying on political protest to make their case.

It's possible that Millennials will change their minds over time, finding as they may that social entrepreneurship and disurptive technologies are appealing but insufficiently robust to create transformational changes.    Indeed, there aren't any examples in the article of Millennials using technology or social media to accomplish things that would normally be done through public service, other than ShoutAbout.org, which I've never heard of before.

Image courtesy Atlantic Magazine.

Thompson: Who Are "They" Asks PBS's John Merrow?

StopAt the end of his two-part PBS report on Common Core last week, John Merrow asks the $64,000 question: who are "they?"

Merrow starts by showing the type of classroom interactions that most teachers aspire to, as a Common Core teacher interacts with students in multimedia, multidisciplinary ways to encourage critical thinking, problem solving, good listening skills, speaking skills, and collaboration.  So, there must be "reformers" who watch the segment and ask the question about educators who oppose Common Core - why are "they" resisting us?  

But, Merrow and Barbara Kapinus, of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium agree that they have not been able to devise tests that assess everything that was intended.  Unless "they" - policy makers - stop mistrusting teachers, the tests are likely to be misused.  Since "they" intend to use Common Core for accountability, teachers are likely to be too scared to teach its standards properly.  They will revert to teach-to-the-test basic skills instruction.

The interview with Kapinus raises an intriguing question question as to whether there is no single "they" who support the idea that we need a test worth teaching to.  Did "they" - Education Secretary  Arne Duncan and the governors  - not understand what they - the testing experts - know about the problems inherent in adding stakes to tests. 

Did the experts not know what "they" - the accountability hawks - do not know about standards, teaching, and assessments? If "they" - the big boys who impose one "reform" on teachers after another - understood schools, teaching and learning, would they have have understood the inherent contradiction between higher standards and a test worth teaching with?-JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

Charts: Urban Black Isolation Increases As Segregation Decreases

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While segregation is decreasing in most big cities (see above) racial isolation of blacks and the number of majority-black neighborhoods are actually on the rise and the social and economic costs are enormous, according to this post in The Atlantic:  The Real Cost of Segregation

Thompson: "Reformers" & Misuse of NAEP Data

RheeAs much as I respect Education Week’s Steve Sawchuk, his recent blog post article When Bad Things Happen to Good NAEP Data was a disappointment. He recounted examples of “misnaepery” or the misuse of NAEP data. 

In doing so, Sawchuk demonstrated a false equivalency between egregious violations of scholarship by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee’s Students First, and realtors trying to hype the schools in their area with the careful research of Elaine Weiss and Don Long, in their Market-Oriented Education Reforms’ Rhetoric Trumps Reality

And, Sawchuk also tossed in the obligatory quote by Diane Ravitch in a way that implied that her scholarship was similarly questionable.

Continue reading "Thompson: "Reformers" & Misuse of NAEP Data" »

Quotes: Badly Funded, By Definition

Quotes2The United States is one of only three rich countries that spends less on disadvantaged students than on other students -- largely because education funding for elementary and secondary schools in the United States is tied to local property taxes. By definition, poor neighborhoods end up with badly funded schools. - Fareed Zakaria (Social immobility erodes American dream)

People: School Reform & The "Opt-Out Revolution"

ScreenHunter_02 Aug. 14 10.21Career development and work-life balance have become big issues as the first wave of the school reform crowd leaves its 30s and 40s and begins getting married and having kids (or not) and also addressing the needs of aging parents.

So it's no surprise that one of the main examples used in the recent New York Times Sunday Magazine story about what happeend to career women who opted out in the early 2000s focuses on a school reformer named Carrie Chimerine Irvin.

She left the workforce for a time, then returned recently and now helps run something called Charter Board Partners in DC.  (She and I also worked together briefly at Policy Studies Associates before I moved to the Hill.)

I'm sure there are other examples of career women in education reform who have taken time away from fulltime work for family reasons.  Not everyone wants to (or can) plow through like TFA founder Wendy Kopp, who remained head of the organization despite having four children.   

Thompson: Roland Fryer's "No Excuses" Excuses

FryerThe Houston Chronicle's Erika Mellon, in Funder Puts Hold on $3 Million Donation to HISD, reports that the Houston Endowment notified the Houston school system that its last contribution to its expensive "Apollo 20" project has been put on hold. 

The endowment seeks a meeting with the district and Harvard University researcher Roland Fryer in regard to Fryer's delay in providing an evaluation of the controversial experiment's outcomes.

Fryer issued a heated reply which, in effect, said, Scientist at Work: Do Not Disturb. The MacArthur Foundation "Genius" said that the most important thing for him, professionally, is his academic reputation. Fryer said he doesn't yet have the data required for "real Science." 

If the data is not good enough for an academic publication, he sniffed, then its not good enough to show a funder. "Perhaps my standards are too high," Fryer wrote, "but I am not going to lower them for HISD."

He agreed with the suggestion that a third party might evaluate Apollo 20, "if you can find a firm or an academic willing to use the current data and put their name behind that, perhaps the right thing to do is to hire them and insist they turn around a report quickly for you."

The Houston experiment with the mass removal of teachers and extending a "No Excuses" pedagogy to traditional public schools has not gone well.  Apollo 20's first year gains - modest as they were - were based on the scores of students who were tested in the spring of 2011. Second year results seemed to be even more disappointing, but Fryer did not publish a formal report on them.

Fryer protests too much. Social scientists usually are transparent in reporting the size and demographics of their original sample, as well as openly reporting the size of the sample that persisted through the full experiment. After all, it was the results of final test takers that the only formal evaluation was based on.

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

Morning Video: Hayes & Merrow Discuss Bennett

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

Via MSNBC: Chris Hayes talks with PBS Education Correspondent John Merrow about the fallout.

AM News: TFA Gets $20M Walton Expansion Grant

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Walton foundation pumps $20 million into Teach for America Washington Post: Teach for America will add 4,000 teachers to nine cities over the next two years — including 286 in D.C. — thanks to a $20 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation announced Wednesday.

Foundation's grant will bring 700 new teachers to L.A. LA Times: Altogether, Walton's donation will help recruit and train nearly 4,000 first- and second-year teachers in nine regions, including Denver, Milwaukee, Newark, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. Three cities — Detroit, Indianapolis and Memphis — are receiving direct support from Walton for the first time.

Teach For America gets $20 million boost from Walton Family Foundation KPCC: The money will pay for nearly 4,000 new teachers across the country over two years. The Los Angeles branch will receive about $3 million of that - enough to cover the costs for about 340 teachers in the first year.

In Missouri, Race Complicates a Transfer to Better Schools NYT: Enacting a state law allowing students from failing school districts to transfer to better ones has been complicated by class, race, geography and social perceptions.

Schools keep distance from Obamacare enrollment Politico: The lack of a national strategy is just one more sign of how hard it is for the administration and its allies to focus on health benefits, not health politics, as Obamacare enrollment nears. And the Republicans have made it clear that they don’t want the schools to go anywhere near the controversial health law.

Gov. tours shops affected by Newtown shooting AP:  Months after 20 children and six educators were fatally shot in a Newtown elementary school, some local business owners said Wednesday that a financial downturn that began with road closings and an emotional pall over the town persists....

Continue reading "AM News: TFA Gets $20M Walton Expansion Grant " »

Thompson: Fall Testing Is A Great Idea (Even If It Comes From TFA)

StopJustin “Juice" Fong, who runs internal communications at Teach for America, in his blog post A Simple Idea to Reform Standardized Testing, offers the single best idea that I have heard to end the educational civil war that is undermining sincere efforts both sides for improving schools. 

I just wish I had thought of it!

Fong would move testing to the beginning of the year. 

Tests could then be used for diagnostic purposes, and teachers could collaboratively engage in an item-by-item analysis in the first month of school. That would help them plan for the rest of the year.

Test results could still be used as one way to assess the quality of schools.  September testing would cut down on test prep, and might become a tool for preventing summer learning loss.  

Fong says that the scheduling change would be a productive way to “blur the lines that directly tie teacher performance to high stakes test scores.”

Continue reading "Thompson: Fall Testing Is A Great Idea (Even If It Comes From TFA)" »

Bruno: What's The Point Of Teach For America?

2281095105_fcae401f97I liked John's post about Teach for America and the "burden of proof". Experimenting in education is fine, but when a reform group commands as many resources as - for example - TfA, it really does have some obligation to prove its worth.

What complicates things is that it's not at all clear what Teach for America is trying to prove in the first place.

You might assume that the point of TfA is to staff classrooms with high-quality teachers. This is the commonsense view, and Teach for America encourages it in a variety of ways, for example by touting any research indicating that corps members are about as effective in the classroom as other teachers.

Arguably, the fact that TfA teachers are (roughly) as effective as traditionally-certified teachers reflects poorly on traditional teacher preparation. 

That does not, however, "prove" that Teach for America is a worthwhile reform initiative.

If TfA teachers are of average effectiveness but have higher rates of turnover - which is both financially costly and bad for student achievement - then the program as a whole is not obviously an improvement over the status quo.

More to the point, Teach for America conspicuously fails to include "staffing classrooms with high-quality teachers" as part of its mission. To the extent that its stated mission focuses on teacher supply at all, it is in the context of giving future "leaders" a little bit of teaching experience before they go into something else (ideally) education-related.

But if "the point" of TfA is to incubate future education leaders and innovators, what does their burden of proof consist of?

They offer as evidence much less research on this issue, and what they do offer is much more vague. There is some evidence that corps members are substantially more optimistic about the prospects for disadvantaged students and somewhat more likely to be involved in education in one way or another.

Still, it's not clear what those impacts of TfA amount to in practice. Presumably we should care not just about whether more people are more interested in education, but also about exactly what they're doing and whether educational outcomes are in fact improving as a result.

And it also matters whether the best way to go about recruiting future leaders is to develop an entirely new, elaborate alternative-certification scheme rather than simply recruiting from the pool of existing teachers.

Not only has Teach for America failed to meet that burden of proof, they haven't even adequately specified what would count as success. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Afternoon Video: Weingarten's "Find Another Job" Speech

Quotes: "TFA Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comTFA isn’t going away anytime soon, so work *with* us to make the organization better. - TFA's Justin Fong 

Thompson: What's New in the Latest CREDO Charter School Study?

Coverstory1-1The new CREDO study, National Charter School Study, 2013, shows that charter schools perform about the same as traditional public schools. This prompts the question of why "reformers" use charters as the default in improving urban schools. 

As Diane Ravitch asks in New Charter Study Shows Improvement, Raises Questions, given all the advantages they've been granted, why are charters not doing better?

Charter advocates counter that charters are doing a relatively better job than 2009 when CREDO studied charters in 16 states. CREDO claims that its methodology of Virtual Control Record (VCR) allows the comparison of virtual demographic twins, so it is making an apples-to-apples comparison of effectiveness.  

In Charter Schools Offer Scant Edge Over Neighborhood Schools: Study, Reuters' Stephanie Simon explains that under the VCR a homeless student can be a "twin" of a child living in a household of four earning $43,000.

I would add that the same applies, for instance, in regard to special education. CREDO can't distinguish between students with learning disabilities, as opposed to serious emotional disturbance; charters do not need to accept large numbers of students who are often emotionally unable to control their behavior.

The percentage of special education students in the entire 27 state charter study was nearly 40% below the percentage of IEP students in the traditional public schools in their states.  Moreover, the percentage of special education students in new charters dropped since 2009.

How have charters done since 2009 in terms of VCRs? Performance for virtual twins in charters dropped in both reading and math. So, if we look at the part of CREDO research that they brag about the most, charters still underperform.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.  

Media: Parent Trigger Group Launches "Truth" Site

image from distilleryimage4.s3.amazonaws.comDoing what it seems like someone on the reform side of the debate has needed to do for many months now, the earnest folks at Parent Revolution have just launched a site they hope will help debunk some of the abundant reform criticism that's out there (especially surrounding the parent trigger).  

The site is called Truth in Education Reform and its stated aim is “ferreting out and debunking the conspiracy theories and provable lies… that collectively threaten to overcome sensible debate on education policy and ed reform.”

The site’s initial focus will be on attempting to debunk claims made by Diane Ravitch, who earlier this month quasi-apologized for calling Parent Revolution head Ben Austin “loathsome” and on Friday penned another critique of the parent trigger (which as of Monday afternoon had already attracted 60+ comments).

For a taste of the challenge TIER faces, check out the comments following a brief post about the new site at LA School Report.  Whether or not Parent Revolution is up to the task of doing daily battle with Ravitch, Valerie Strauss and their allies is not yet clear. My guess is that if StudentsFirst, DFER, and others aren't up to the task of making sure that reform isn't being Swift Boated -- so far, none of them has really stepped up on the "rapid response" front -- then Parent Revolution won't be able to pull this off either. 

Previous posts: Rapid Response in ConnecticutReform Opponents Are Winning Online (For Now). Image via Alex Hiam

Quotes: Ravitch's Loathsome Non-Apology

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comI apologize for calling you “loathsome,” though I do think your campaign against a hardworking, dedicated principal working in an inner-city school was indeed loathsome.

- NYU professor Diane Ravitch (in a post written to Parent Revolution's Ben Austin in which she admits she knew nothing about Weigand beyond what she read in the LA Times)

AM News: Ability Grouping Returns (Not Everyone Abandoned It)

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Grouping Students by Ability Regains Favor With Educators NYT: Separating the highest-achieving students from the lowest, a tactic once said to perpetuate inequality, is now seen by some educators as an indispensable way to cope with varying skill levels.

Gates Foundation looking to make nice with teachers Seattle Times: Though widely viewed as a critic of teachers and their unions, the world’s largest foundation has begun reaching out to them in new ways, sending the message it wants to be their friend — and their champion.

Arne Duncan To Launch 'High School Redesign' Competition Huffington Post: Now, after months of questions over what form that competition would take, U.S. Secretary of EducationArne Duncan is announcing the details. 

To Lower Dropout Rates, Finding Potential Where Support Systems Are Lacking PBS NewsHour: It's just after 9:00 a.m. when Rachel Bennett greets her third period students. Bennett is a high school Spanish teacher here at Perspectives Leadership Academy. But this is the one class she teaches each day where nobody learns Spanish.

In Middlebury, Vt., Teens Train For Careers In The 'A.R.T.'s NPR: A successful Broadway set builder took his theater skills back to New England. At the tiny Addison Repertory Theater, a part of the Hannaford Career Center, he teaches all aspects of professional theater to students.

For Homebound Students, a Robot Proxy in the Classroom NYT: A small but growing number of chronically ill students are attending school virtually with robots, which stream two-way video to connect them to the classroom.

14Year Old Graduate Is Bound for Harvard NBC: Tennessee 14 year old has already graduated college and is now set to begin work on her Master's Degree at Harvard.

Video: Testing your commitment to education msnbc: How many teachers need to stage protests before the rest of us learn that standardized tests are not the best way to ensure our kids get educated? The Nation’s John Nichols joins Joy Reid with the political answer sheet. (The Ed Show)

Detroit Finds New Uses for Old School Buildings ABC News: Detroit finds new uses for old schools buildings, including movie theater, recording studio

Update: Big Suburban District Coalition Has Yet To Make Big Splash

This isn't news except to me but perhaps you missed it too:  Roughly a dozen of the biggest suburban districts in the country have started their own "Coalition" to share ideas and make their voices heard in state and national debates over education.  

Dubbed the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium (LCASDC?), the group was announced last year -- see EdWeek piece (Big Suburban Districts Form Network of Their Own) -- and has yet to make any big splash that I know of.  Then again, I didn't know anything about it until I had the chance to interview Joshua Starr (MCPS) the other day.

Does the group take positions, issue press releases, offer quotes to the press?  That could be sort of interesting.  Someone ask them if they like/dislike the new Harkin ESEA proposal and let us know what they think.  It's operated out of AASA and handled by Education Counsel, apparently.

Bruno: American 17-Year-Olds Are Doing Better Than Ever

Naep-readingOne of the reasons I like reading Kevin Drum is that he's one of the minority of pundits who, when talking about education, usually remembers that a lot of the news about American K-12 education is good.

This also means that when he tempers his edu-optimism, I stop and think.

So when Drum observes that while math and reading test scores over the years have improved "[q]uite a bit", this is true only "through 8th grade", I became curious about how high school outcomes have changed since the 1970s.

 If you look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress' "long-term trends" in math and reading, it's true that overall scores have been basically stagnant for 17-year-olds since the NAEP was first administered in the early 70's.

Below the fold, I'll explain why overall averages can be misleading and a deeper look into the data should brighten our outlook.

Continue reading "Bruno: American 17-Year-Olds Are Doing Better Than Ever" »

Bruno: Why Reforming Teacher Preparation Is So Hard

6424741497_d08a242758I don't know if -- as Alexander suggests -- we are on the cusp of a national rethinking of teacher preparation programs.

I do, however, agree with Lisa Hansel that many programs could be improved by focusing less on issues of social justice and more on preparing new teachers to teach specific content to their students.

In my mind the problems Lisa identifies in existing standards are mostly related to excessive vagueness. After all, most programs are already subject to standards that require some sort of training in, say, organizing curricula coherently.

The real problem is that programs can fulfill that requirement in too many ways.

So, for example, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) requires that teacher training programs prepare teachers to "select or adapt instructional strategies, grouping strategies, and instructional materials to meet student learning goals and needs."

Significantly, the standards do not specify what strategies or materials should be considered best for different purposes. Arguably this is an appropriate amount of flexibility to provide an education school but it does mean that in practice many programs get away with providing very little of this instruction at all.

Continue reading "Bruno: Why Reforming Teacher Preparation Is So Hard" »

Thompson: What If Schools Only Served Kids Who Applied?

TCharter_School_of_Wilm_Mascot-1he Boston Foundation's Charters and College Readiness concludes that their city's charters produce "substantive differences" in their students' outcomes.  Boston charters do not increase the percentage of students taking the SAT or attending higher education.  But, they improve the scores of their SAT-takers, and their graduates are more likely to attend four-year universities, as opposed to community colleges.  The Foundation did not find evidence of pushing out their lower-performing students.  But, the selection process produces a more favorable "peer composition" for incoming students.

That raises the question of what our public schools would be like if they also were application-only.  If public schools did not have to take all comers, they would have never been seen as broken.  Most poor children would have gained. We could have created school cultures that attract and retain great teachers.  We would have never had these destructive "reform" wars. 

If schools only served students who entered a lottery, they would often be praised as examples of American institutions that excel.

Continue reading "Thompson: What If Schools Only Served Kids Who Applied?" »



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