Private school vouchers and charter school expansion don't fare nearly as well with the public as various changes to improving classroom teaching -- but not ending teacher tenure -- according to this chart from last week's Third Way report (What Americans Want from Democrats on Education). Of course, the results might have been different if the language had been "streamlining" tenure or something else less absolute. Image used with permission.
Here's something you don't see every day - in fact I can't think of it happening ever before (though surely it must have): The ED of the Cowen Institute at Tulane, John Ayers, has resigned after a report came out and had to be withdrawn, according to Higher Education via Politico (Education Think Tank Head Quits After Flawed Study). The study came out and was withdrawn 9 days later, and now Ayers is gone at the end of this month. It's not clear why the study was withdrawn, or whether there were issues with its review as well as its methodology, or whether Ayers left because of the report or because of its withdrawal. Know more about the report or the circumstances? Let us know in comments or ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Washington Post's latest big piece on the influence of philanthropic funding focuses on think tanks. Titled Who funds the new Brookings?, the piece suggests that the new funding has likey had an impact on think tanks' research agendas if not their conclusions.
Corporate donations, more than large foundation grants, are newer and especially concerning. But foundations also have played a role:
"Foundations began to place more restrictions on their grants, part of a challenging new trend facing Brookings and other academic institutions in which donors increasingly specify their expectations as part of what they call 'impact philanthropy.'"
Among those funding Brookings are the Walton Family Foundation, who have given "millions of dollars to support Brookings’s education policy center — whose scholars regularly adopt market-oriented stances on key issues."
That being said, not everything that comes out of Brookings is pro-reform, notes the piece. Tom Loveless critiques the Common Core, which Gates and others support. But that doesn't satisfy folks like AFT president Randi Weingarten, who's quoted questioning the credibility of the institution and lamenting the dropoff in invitations to Brookings events.
The Post's previous effort on the philanthropy front was a look at the Gates Foundation's involvement behind the scenes on behalf of the Common Core that I found overheated (What The Post Gets Wrong About Gates & Common Core) because I am of the view that funders can't really get the public or policymakers to do things that they don't already want to do (The Myth Of The All-Powerful Billionaires).
Not mentioned in this piece is the 2012 kerfluffle when Brookings and Diane Ravitch parted ways (she was a nonresident senior fellow), or a 2009-2010 attempt to determine the quality of education journalism that struck me as superficial and retro and a bit of of Brookings' areas of expertise.
Related posts: Brookings "Fires" Ravitch For Being "Inactive"; Brookings Responds Re Ravitch, Romney; Olde Timey Panel, Olde Timey Report; Second Brookings Education Report As Bad As First One; Google Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy Conferences.
Media outlets and think tanks and advocacy groups all have roundups of last night's elections out -- most of them saying much the same things. But who's is the best?
Teachers Unions Take Huge Beating in IL & elsewhere, notes Politico Pro - But Common Core oppo looms in AZ, GA.
It was a really bad night for teachers unions besides CA and PA races, echoes RiShawn Biddle
Fordham's Mike Petrilli takes a somewhat historical look at the elections, comparing them to previous rounds (with a chart!).
It's a mixed bag, says Patrick Riccards aka EduFlack - but Cuomo win without teachers in NY is key.
Winning the Senate doesn't mean that much, notes Rick Hess - and Mike Johnston needs a higher office to seek, soon.
Big wins in RI, notes 50CAN's MPM
Don't forget that Sacto's strong mayor measure failed, notes SacBee via CG
Image used with permission. There are other roundups -- Whitney Tilson's email, a few insider briefings that I'm not sure are meant for public consumption. I still haven't heard who won in Minneapolis. I still haven't seen a union-side analysis (the AFT press call was cancelled). I have the sense that perhaps reformers are celebrating outcomes that didn't largely have to do with education issues (most of the union spending was to help Democrats against Republicans, right?).
In case you happened to miss it, The Nation came out with a big 5,000-word story about TFA this week -- it's second piece about the alternative certification program now in its 25th year.
This one, written by a Columbia University undergraduate who's obviously done a lot of work researching his story, focuses on TFA's efforts to deal with critical reporting about its work (This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach for America), describing the research and responses from TFA as "obsessive" and part of a cover up fueled with $3.5 million a year in advertising and promotion -- and tip-offs from the USDE when its work is being FOIAd.
There are a few facts and figures that you may not have seen before, but most of the article is a laborious rehash of familiar complaints about the weakness of the TFA model, the money and talent it's attracted, and the uncertainties of the efforts it and its alumni have undertaken in places like DC, New Orlans, and Newark. Yep, thanks, we've got it.
My first complaint about the piece was that it noted on-campus resistance to TFA recruiting without disclosing that one of the groups organizing students is a pro-union AFT-funded organization, ASUS. Just a few weeks ago, In These Times corrected its story about the Harvard controversy noting that ASUS received AFT funding. Writer George Joseph dismissed the AFT funding as obvious and unnecessary, since ASUS's views are already so widely known:
Seriously? Funding sources and connections are such a big issue in education when it comes to reform funders and advocates, but somehow journalists think that reporting who's behind the effort isn't an issue when its parents, teachers, or the unions.
My second complaint about the piece was that it's framed as an attempt to scare readers about TFA's communications acumen -- they'll slash your tires, or something like that -- when the reality is that they like many other reform groups have struggled to respond effectively (much less prevent) critical-minded stories in The Nation/Hechinger*, In These Times, NPR, Vox, etc.
It's not that TFA is so amazing at PR, but the opposite. The memo that is the focus of the latest article -- so much for TFA's ability to keep a secret! -- indicates a remarkably wonky, slow, and conflict-aversive approach to dealing with critics, advocates, and the teachers unions.
My real criticism, however, is that both TFA and its reform-minded allies continue to allow this kind of thing happen again and again without any really vigorous or coordinated response.
Publish a story raising concerns about teacher tenure, as TIME recently did, and the response is strong, immediate, and action-oriented -- 100,000 signatures on a petition, a press event, and a Twitterstorm of criticism against the cover, the story, and the reporter who wrote it.
Slam a reform organization or its leaders -- repeatedly, and somewhat unfairly -- and the response is slow, timid, defensive -- and likely to be limited to the individual or organization most directly affected, and in the case of TFA limited to blog posts and letters to the editor.
If reformers had a real media response strategy -- no, Education Post doesn't count (yet) -- they'd critique The Nation's story for its flawed reporting. They'd stand up for each other, not just defending their efforts but raising questions about those who are criticizing them. They'd overcome their student government president egos, truly minor policy differences, and deep underestimation of social media and its effect on media coverage.
Sure, most folks don't care for the bickering and it's only a small group of folks who are paying attention. But that small group includes include journalists and thought leaders, funders, and staff, and I just don't think it's working very well for reformers to let their leaders/lead organizations get slammed repeatedly and let claims against them go unanswered. Coordinated action is why the political parties hang together despite policy differences, and unions and union members hang together despite differences.
Related posts: Think Tanker Tells Reporters To Stop Scapegoating TFA; Funding Disclosure Should Apply To Reform Critics, Too; 12 Problems With Politico's TFA Story (+1 With TFA); Reporters Should Identify Union Employees.
*That's right. The usually play-it-straight Hechinger Report ran the first Nation story about TFA and executive editor Sarah Garland wrote about the second story (The two sides of TFA), claiming that it revealed just how much TFA didn't like the story, defending the piece that was published as factually correct, and noting that Hechinger Report regularly publishes pieces focuses on problems as well as successes in education. [NB there are at least a couple of journalistic questions about the Nation/Hechinger piece]
**UPDATED: New America's Conor Williams notes some of the same ridiculousness in The Nation's storyline, and adds that USDE notifying a grantee of a FOIA request is standard protocol rather than part of TFA's inside influence -- both an example of flaws in The Nation's journalism and useful points of criticism against the piece that reform advocates might highlight in a loosely coordinated but not lockstep (ie, morning memo) kind of way.
The newly-resurgent TIME magazine has a lengthy, delightfully wonky cover story about teacher tenure written by former Columbia J-School classmate Haley Sweetland Edwards that you might want to check out (The War on Teacher Tenure).
Some of the new story (subscription only, alas) will be extremely familiar to education insiders like you, but there are some key additional details and aspects worth noting.
For example, Edwards reminds us that the Vergara decision (being appealed) is "the first time first time, in California or anywhere else, that a court had linked the quality of a teacher, as measured by student test scores, to a pupil’s right to an education."
She also reminds us that the current crop of billionaires interested in fixing education is not the first (think Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford).
The parts that may be new to you include background details about how David Welch got involved in the issue four years ago after consulting constitutional scholar Kathleen Sullivan. Then came the hiring of the PR firm now called Rally, which launched StudentsMatter. Recruiting and vetting plaintiffs -- no easy feat, I'm told -- came next.
Edwards also notes that some DC-based education reformers aren't entirely behind the Vergara approach, citing concerns from right-leaning wonks like Petrilli and McShane that you may recall from a few weeks ago (they don't like lawsuits and are hoping for a post-Rhee time of cooperation rather than ever-increasing conflict with the teachers unions).
There aren't any left-leaning think tankers quoted in the piece, but my sense is that reform folks are sick of being beaten up, don't want to have to take more heat for another hard-charging evangelist (ie, Campbell Brown), and are worried about 2016.
Edwards' previous forays into education writing include a piece about the Colbert/Stewart divide (Pro-Reform Colbert Leapfrogs Reform Critic Stewart) and something about unions' evolving positions on Common Core (Teachers Union Pulls Full-Throated Support for Common Core).
A quick glance at the red bars to the left of each graph shows that the public grades schools much more harshly nationally (left) than they grade them locally (right). Maybe part of the reason is that they live in wealthier areas that increasingly subsidize their children's education though outside foundations. Via Vox. Used with permission.
Fordham's Mike ("Kojak") Petrilli has a new piece online this morning (Online education coverage is on the rise) over at Education Next (which I sometimes write for), taking a look at the "new breed" of education journalism out there over the past year or so.
What's new, or missing, or wrong in the Petrilli piece?
Clearly someone with access to Politico Pro, Petrilli notes that in addition to Morning Education the outlet "pumps out loads of ministories, and at least a handful of meaty ones, almost every day."
Anyone else seen these pieces, and if they're so influential why aren't they getting passed around?
Petrilli describes Chalkbeat as "a geographically based Education Week," which I'm sure will irk both EdWeek and Chalkbeat for different reasons.
The big surprise for me here is the presence of The Daily Caller, which Petrilli says gets tons of pageviews but I never see passed around. Anyone else read it?
What about RealClear Education, where there is a smattering of original writing in addition to great morning and afternoon roundups, or NPR Education, where Drummond et al have been crushing us with so many education stories we can't keep up?
What else can I add?
Check out a few more tidbits and some bottom-line observations below the fold.
This video recently uploaded by AFT is mostly just a broadside against Campbell Brown but it also reveals something I've written about before -- that think tankers (Brookings, Fordham) don't seem to like the Vergara-style approach to school reform:
Why not? Some of the concerns are substantive, but that's only a part of it. Think tankers and others are feeling burned by the pushback against reforms of the recent era (the so-called "war on teachers"), they're not as nearly familiar with legal strategies (as opposed to policies, programs, and politics), and they probably think they're smarter than Campbell Brown, who's leading the charge.
The power of teachers’ expectations is an issue that must be carefully studied and discussed. It is especially important that educators engage in a sober self-reflection on the expectations we hold for students, especially poor children of color.
That is why educators from all perspectives should join in condemning another simplistic paper by the Center for American Progress (CAP). After rejecting the latest example of the CAP's teacher-bashing, we should all double down on the study and discussion of teachers' expectations, and seek to improve our ability to improve education outcomes for all children, especially students who traditionally have been stigmatized.
CAP's The Power of the Pygmalion Effect ostensibly supports Common Core while implicitly blaming teachers for the achievement gap. Authors Ulrich Boser, Megan Wilhelm, and Robert Hanna proclaim that the 10th grade students who they studied who “had teachers with higher expectations were more than three times more likely to graduate from college than students who had teachers with lower expectations.”
Such a claim should require a complex research model which takes into account family, peer effects, and systemic factors that contribute to college readiness. Boser et. al, however, attribute those differential outcomes to teachers’ answer to a 2002 NAEP question about their students’ chances to succeed in higher education. Their definition of “expectations” was based on how teachers answered the question “'how far in school … [do] you expect this student to get,’ including high school, college, and beyond.” Their paper made only a cursory effort to parse the actual accuracy of those opinions.
When I first read Mass Insight's The Turnaround Challenge, I was thrilled by its holistic explanation of what it takes to turnaround the most challenging schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the document was his Bible, but then he violated most of its principles when establishing School Improvement Grants, dooming his SIG to failure.
In 2007, Mass Insight showed that instruction-driven, curriculum-driven policies could not transform the schools with the greatest challenges, and that the mass dismissal of teachers was a bad idea. It emphasized the "Readiness Triangle," drawing upon the best social science to explain how and why a proper foundation must be laid for school improvement. Now, Mass Insight and Ounce of Prevention explain why today's accountability regimes are undermining school improvement.
Let's hope that reformers listen to Mass Insight's and the Ounce of Prevention Fund's Changing the Metrics of Turnaround to Encourage Early Learning Strategies, by Elliot Regenstein, Rio Romero-Jurado, Justin Cohen, and Alison Segal. As it says in a previous study, Rethinking State Accountability and Support, Ounce proposes "the reverse" of the Arne Duncan value-added accountability regime.
The Think Tank Watch has a recent blog post (Think Tanks Doing Journalism) that highlights this trend:
"Many Washington think tanks have been hiring well-known journalists in recent years in an effort to beef up their efforts to get good writers, network with media-types, and better disseminate information and policy proposals to a wider audience. "
A recent Economist article (Think-tanks and journalism: Making the headlines) points out that it's not just opeds, papers and conferences anymore.
Indeed. we've seen bits and pieces of that from education think tanks like Education Sector, Fordham, Carnegie, Brookings, and New America all come to mind. Perhaps the best example of this is AIR taking over Education Sector (and its blog), or Bellwether helping launch RealClearEducation. ThinkProgress -- a division of CAP -- is another example (they were looking for an education reporter not too long ago).
Of course, some news outlets are blurring the line the other way, becoming more wonkish and policy-oriented and less, well, newsy. Part of this is by necessity. With their own writers and social media campaigns, think tanks need journalists less. They've already got academic credibility (of a sort), they already validate ideas for politicians and policymakers. Now they're distributing their own ideas directly.
Related posts: AIR Taking Over Education Sector; Carnegie Is The New Ed Sector; [Why] Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?, Meet Conor Williams, New America's New(ish) Education Guy; Google Now Funding Lots Of Think Tanks & Policy Conferences; Expert-Less Think Tanks -- Whose Fault?
Progressives should be part of the solution. We can't succumb to simplistic defenses of the distorted teacher protection schemes. We must confront the demonstrable effects of these laws. The future of public education and of the teaching profession can be brighter only when we place students' rights first and foremost on our list of priorities.-- Laurence H. Tribe in USA Today (Students before teachers)
It was less than a month ago that Peter Cunningham, the former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education announced that his new organization, the Education Post, supposedly repudiated the playing of edu-politics and moved beyond name-calling.
Given its financial support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, and since it included reformers like Ann Whalen, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Paul Pastorek, those nice words needed to be taken with a grain of salt.
It didn’t take long, however, for the real the Education Post to come through. Ann Whalen’s The False Arguments of Carol Burris Against High Standards reveals the venom hidden just below their seemingly polite veneer.
Whalen countered a Washington Post piece by national Principal of the Year Carol Burris, Four Common Core "Flimflams." She characterized Burris’s position as “inexcusable,” as “resistance to common sense changes,” and “toxic.” Whalen’s counterargument was “when you can’t make an honest case against something, there’s always rhetoric, exaggeration or falsehood.”
For the record, Whalen didn’t even try to challenge much of the substance of Burris’s carefully-honed arguments. Burris explained that Common Core was not, in fact, internationally benchmarked or based on research. Burris explained how Common Core “insists upon the use of a particular method of math instruction.” She then explained that the prescribed method “may be helpful in increasing understanding for some students, it should be up to a teacher to use it, or not use it, as a strategy. Instructional strategies have no place in state standards.”
I get accused of hating teachers, teachers unions, and (a few times) white people. I get told that I’m a secret agent for Pearson, Bill Gates, the United Nations, and sometimes even the Muslim Brotherhood (really. No—REALLY). This isn’t occasional. It happens every time.
- New America's Conor Williams on the overwhelming and often vitriolic reactions he gets when writing anything remotely positive about reform strategies
Non-teachers don’t count (unless they’re Diane Ravitch). Parents’ voices are only permitted so long as they avoid direct challenges to failing schools. - New America's Conor Williams (Campbell Brown Is Getting The Same Treatment Michelle Rhee Got)
Ulrich Boser's new book, The Leap, is about the science of trust and includes some education-related policy implications you might want to check out.
In the policymakers' guide that comes along with the book, Boser addresses some of the things that can be done to empower individuals through education, including:
#edjourn Last Night at New America's SoHo offices there was a lively-sounding filled-to-capacity three hour discussion with Jose Vilson, Dana Goldstein, and Motoko Rich (pictured, courtesy Melinda Anderson).
I wasn't there and haven't heard about any audio or video to share -- there's apparently a podcast in the works for some time in the near future.
In the meantime there are lots of tweets you can catch up on via #theteacherwars, #NANYC, @newamericaNYC and @danagoldstein, @TheJLV, and @motokorich.
Or, if you were there or following along in real time, tell us what we missed or what jumped out at you.
Thanks again to @MDAwriter Melinda Anderson for the picture.
Or click below and watch Smiley interview Diane Ravitch.
Her critics deserve shame for being so quick to paint her as the wicked witch. And the rest of us earned some shame for letting them get away with it a lot of the time. - TNTP's
Columbia J-School professor Sam Freedman's New Yorker review of Up The Down Staircase (The Book That Got Teaching Right) makes at least one claim with which I disagree strongly -- that teacher-bashing "has become a major strain, even the dominant strain, of what passes for “education reform."
This may be the conventional wisdom among liberal Democrats and all too many education journalists, and there may be some teacher haters among the reform community but the vast majority of those that I have met and whose work I have followed are not so inclined. It's essentially an idea that's been popularized by anti-reform advocates and teachers unions.
However, Freedman complicates matteers in some interesting ways when he (a) highlights some of the book's sections that deride teachers who found the career "an excuse or a refuge" and (b) goes on to describe how teacher-bashing has a long, illustrious career and its proponents (intentional and otherwise) include liberal philanthropy like that of the Ford Foundation, who allied themselves with low-income communities in a "pincer movement" that focused on white middle class teachers (most of them women).
It's an intersting notion -- one that's surely embedded in Dana Goldstein's history of conflicts surrounding teaching if only I'd gotten that far --that progressives and liberals are partly to blame for over-focusing on teachers and are thus making claims against reformers that could well be made against them. (Certainly, teachers unions and low-income parents haven't always gotten along or had the same ideas about what schools needed most.)
But I still don't really buy the teacher-bashing argument is at the heart of Freedman's review and that's so prevalent out there among liberal critics. Yes, there are some strains of class criticism in there (elites criticizing middle-class teachers.) But if uou want to see real teacher-bashing, take a look at what Republicans and Tea Party candidates want to do with public education. The rest, in my opinion, boils down to exaggerated claims (re layoffs in particular) and disrespect promulgated for political advantage, media complacency (too good to check!), and the occasional self-inflicted wound by reformers (Rhee's broomstick magazine cover, for example).
Wow! I agree with Mike Petrilli on two big issues in one week! The revocation of Oklahoma’s NCLB Waiver, based on our repeal of Common Core, is a “terrible decision.”
I mostly agree with Petrilli’s thoughtful address to the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. In an effort to understand the anti-reform backlash, he asks where his movement went wrong.
Most schools aren’t failing; the bigger problem is mediocrity. Most “failing” schools have teachers who are probably as good as those in higher-performing schools.
I taught in “dropout factories, the dangerous schools …,” and my colleagues were far better teachers than those of my childhood. In the 1990s, our Curriculum Department and professional development were awesome.
But, Petrilli gets the second part of his diagnosis backwards. My schools responded to “wave after wave of reform.” Those half-baked reforms made them worse.
I share Petrilli’s doubt that districts can replicate the few successful high-performing charter schools. He might also be right; in ten or twenty years, high-poverty systems may be dominated by charter schools.
But, that would be the double nightmare scenario - bad for more kids in "No Excuses" charters and worse for students left behind in even more awful concentrations of poverty and trauma. High-performing charters have contributed to a “neo-Plessyism” which is bad for all constituencies.
The Washington Post has a story about Peter Cunningham's new education group (Education Post aims to take the sting out of national conversations about school reform) that hints at but doesn't quite get to the real story behind the organization.
Described as "a nonprofit group that plans to launch Tuesday with the aim of encouraging a more “respectful” and fact-based national discussion about the challenges of public education, and possible solutions," the $12 million Chicago-based organization (Cunningham, Mike Vaughn, etc.) is funded by Broad, Bloomberg, and Walton, among others.
It's an obvious (and long-needed) attempt to address the insufficiencies of the reform movement when it comes to shaping the education debate -- the reform version of Parents Across America or the Network for Public Education or Sabrina Stevens' group (though I haven't heard much from them lately).
The purely communication-oriented outfit ((RSS Feed, Twitter) is led by longtime Arne Duncan guy Cunningham and including blogger Citizen Stewart. A sampling of their blog posts (Public Education Needs a New Conversation; Speak Up, Don’t Give Up; The Right School for My Child; The Common Sense Behind Common Core
Versions of Education Post have been discussed for a while now, online and in the real world. A version of the same idea almost came to being 18 months ago, tentatively called "The Hub." Why another group? Advocacy groups get embroiled in pushing for changes, and lack time and resources to coordinate among each other or to focus on communications. They barely have time or capacity to defend themselves, much less put out a positive agenda across multiple groups.
Meantime, a small but dedicated group of reform critics and groups(many of them union-funded or - affiliated) has managed to embed themselves in the minds of reporters and generate an enormous amount of resistance to reform measures.
For me, the hands-down top new Twitter feed in education in 2014 is @thnkscommoncore, but I may be alone in that.
The much more official and deeply-considered Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy 2014 are quite another thing, according to the folks at Education Next who put out the annual update.
This year's version includes three lists -- top overall, top individual, and top organization. There's lots of overlap, and no doubt some of the accounts (Arne Duncan and USDE) are being run by the same social media manager.
On a related note, should individual accounts for folks like Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee that are presumably run by more than one person be included in the list of "people"?
As in the past, the list focuses on Klout scores rather than numbers of followers. It's not clickable, or re-sortable (by followers, say). I've asked for a Twitter list so that you can subscribe to all these folks with a single click, and crossed fingers it might happen (yay!).
As Petrilli notes, here are a couple of newcomers in the form of the Badass Teachers Association and founder Mark Naison, which should yet again have reform advocates reconsidering their disinterest in becoming involved in social media. (Newcomer Campbell Brown is on the list, but I don't think anyone's expecting her or her organization to carry the reform message on Twitter and Facebook single-handedly.)
CAP and New America also made it -- apparently their first time.
Other observations, profound and otherwise are below the fold. A few folks made it on the list with high Klout scores but very few followers, about which I have mixed feelings. Some venerable education policy types aren't on this year's list, lots of mainstream media journalists and journalistic outlets aren't included either (for lack of policy or lack of activity, it's not clear).
As you might have noticed on Twitter, I've been enjoying a blog called Think Tank Watch that covers the industry -- trends, dynamics, comings and goings.
It's not specifically focused on education -- and that's part of what makes it so useful.
Here's a recent post reviewing a new book (Why Are Washington Think Tanks So Powerful?) examing the rise of the think tanks. Some of the main points include:
- Washington tanks tanks are not primary generators of original research; that function lies with universities.
- Think tanks are known for their ability to scour the world for attractive ideas, to legitimate them, and to promote them through electronic communications.
- Think tanks, over the past two decades, have emerged as a complement to, and in some cases a substitute for, lobbyists, due to the ability of think tanks to exploit the rapidly growing information search and propagation capacities of electronic communications.
I've got a whole category about education think tanks, which have supplemented/replaced universities in some regards thanks to their capacity to deliver new ideas quickly and say things more definitively than academics. That's why we have think tanker Kevin Carey writing in the Times about higher ed rather than Professor So-And-So.
Previous posts: Power Couples: The Wonk & The Journo*; Reform Debate Often Detached From Schools & Parents; Smarick Rails Against Anti-Democratic Attitudes & Elites; It's A Small, Small World [For Power Couples]; Andy Smarick Is The New Mike Petrilli?; Meet Conor Williams, New America's New(ish) Education Guy; Big Changes At DC Think Tank [Job Opening!]; "Wait A Minute" [On Common Core].
Disclosure: I've written and done research for some foundations, nonprofits, and think tanks.
She (Robin Chait) is an education wonk at ostensibly left-leaning CAP, and he (Jonathan) is a writer at sharp-elbowed New York magazine. They both write about a education a lot these days. Image via Facebook.
*Correction: She's no longer at CAP and is now at a charter school network (via LinkedIn)
I need more non-reform couples, obviously. Nominations?
Here's something I've been thinking might happen for a while now -- a new national network of diverse charter schools has been announced.
Included among the founding members are several of the schools I profiled in Education Next a couple of years ago (Brooklyn Prospect, Bricolage (NOLA), Community Roots, DSST (Denver), and yes, Success Academy.
See the full press release below, and tune into (attend) the panel on diverse charters at 4pm local time in Las Vegas.
Previous posts: Diverse Charters Spread Nationally (Education Next); Diverse NOLA Charter Opens; Diverse Charters Balance Learning & Accountability; and Change Could Help Promote Charter Diversity.
Here's a new video from the Aspen Ideas Festival in which it is discussed whether tenure reforms and students' rights can be reconciled -- and if so, how. Feat. Weingarten, Deasy, and hosted by Ray Suarez. Read blog post about here.
In too many other cases, our field has succumbed to the derision of politics, giving the impression that technocracy is preferable to democracy... I worry that too often education reform is falling on the wrong side of the democratic-technocratic divide. -- Andy Smarick (Has America Lost Democracy to Technocracc?)
In response to yesterday's NYT oped from Rick Kahlenberg touting the Chicago model of income-based diversity enhancement, longtime Chicago special education advocate Rod Estvan wrote the following rebuttal suggesting that Chicago's results from the Kahlenberg plan haven't been all that good:
"Unfortunately Dr. Kahlenberg does not discuss the fact that Payton’s admission system which is in part based on census tracts is being advantaged by the middle class and even wealthier families who live in enclaves within overall poorer community census tracts. In 2013, only 31.4% of Payton students were from low income families regardless of race whereas back in 2002 the school had about 37% low income students when there was no social economic admissions process but only a race based process."
See the full response below the fold.
Chancellor Kaya faces questions from Andy Rotherham and Emmeline Zhao (who's clearly not wearing a seatbelt, FWIW).
The Hamilton Project (@hamiltonproj via Brookings) is having a big event today and tomorrow -- check it out -- but you may be pleased or disconcerted to note that their proposed efforts at #AddressingPoverty. -- 14 new policy proposals -- don't really involve K-12 education.
Early childhood education? Sure.
After-school and summer learning? But of course.
A smattering of education types -- NYU's Amy Schwartz, Harvard's Bridget Terry Long. OK.
Whether this means that poverty isn't really an issue that K-12 can be expected to help address, or that the current mess of K-12 (for poor kids, at least) is more daunting than poverty, I'll leave the interpretation up to you.
Personally, I feel a little left out.
Previous posts: Reduced Poverty Or Teacher Quality? "Both," Says Rhee; Who Told Us The Education Fights Poverty, Anyway? (Bruno); What Next For Poverty/Inequality 2014?; More Poverty In Suburbs Than In Cities; Poverty Hurts US Students More Than In Other Nations; Let's Not Talk About 43M Poor People; Poverty Increases Cut Both Ways In Reform Debate.
Only the old-timers will recognize either the French soccer player head-butting his Italian opponent in the 2006 World Cup or the relationship to the AFT and Education Sector that I was trying to establish in this blog post from July 2006 (before you were probably born).
The caption was this: "Unable to restrain himself against the steady stream of insults and elbows,
Zidane AFT John turns and viciouslyhead-butts Materazzi the Ed Sector. Was it justified? Public opinion is sharply divided."
Truth be told, I remember the image but don't remember the circumstances. AFT John is long gone, as is the AFT blog that used to be so much fun/frustration (there's not even a cached copy of it that I can find).
Rotherham is still around, but long gone from Education Sector and public spats with the AFT that have or haven't served him well.
The big think piece of the week so far has to be Jill Lepore's New Yorker cover story attempting to debunk (or at least contextualize) the current fancy for things labeled "innovative" and/or "disruptive."
Basically, Lepore is saying that "innovation" is today's version of the word progress, that the Clay Christensen book that has promoted much of the furor is based on some shaky anecdotes, that innovator/disruptor types tend to rely on circular logic (innovations that fail weren't disruptive enough), and that disruptors' insights aren't much good at predicting future successes and may be particularly inappropriate to public efforts (and journalism).
In several places, the piece notes that schools and other public endeavors have been touched by the innovation craze:
"If your city’s public-school district has adopted an Innovation Agenda, which has disrupted the education of every kid in the city, you live in the shadow of “The Innovator’s Dilemma.”
And also: "Christensen has co-written books urging disruptive innovation in higher education (“The Innovative University”), public schools (“Disrupting Class”), and health care (“The Innovator’s Prescription”).
There's also a funny description of the MOOC panic of 2012-2013.
Over at Slate, Will Oremus thinks that the case against innovation/disruption is being overstated and that the New Yorker writer just wants folks to stop trying to disrupt her industry.
There are lots of angles related to education here. Are things as bad as we're being told by reformers -- bad enough to warrant attempts at "blowing up" the current system? What happens to the legacy system when inno-disruption efforts fail to make much improvement (MOOCs), or (as in charters) succeed only partially?
Catherine Brown has been named to head the education policy team at the Democratic think tank Center on American Progress.
At CAP, Brown will report to Carmel Martin, who held the job until she was promoted to head of domestic policy.
Martin's previous job was as head of policy and planning at the USDE.
That's the job Brown's husband Robert Gordon has been named to take.
To recap: Brown replaces Martin. Brown's husband replaces Martin.
Plus: Does this mean Clinton's looking left for education advice in 2016?
Previous posts: Policy Wonk Named OMB Education PAD; Flashback To 2005 (How Much Has Changed?); On The Move: Miller Staffer Heads ...; NYT Covers Wedding of NYC DOE & DFER Couple; Power Couples: Emily & David Sirota.
Teachers deserve reasonable due process rights and job protections. But the unions can either work to change the anachronistic policies cited by the court or they will have change thrust upon them. - NYT Editorial Page (A New Battle for Equal Education)
Basically, schools were protected by the Stimulus (including Race to the Top) during the early years of the Great Recession, but since then state and local funding hasn't (yet) rebounded and federal funding has fallen. Class sizes haven't taken a giant hit but -- see here for lots more charts -- it still isn't pretty. Changes in Per Student Funding 07-12 Via Vox (anyone seen Libby Nelson recently, BTW?)
Are we really interested in tapping everyone's full potential in our schools and work places, or do we just like our story better? - NPR's Michel Martin (Do You Want The Truth, Or Do You Just Like Your Story Better?)
In How Bill Gates Pulled Off the Swift Common Core Revolution, The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton explains that two men met with Bill Gates in 2008 and asked for his support of rigorous national standards.
After a brief discussion within the Gates Foundation, a full court press in favor of Common Core was launched. This was done in spite the social science research questioning whether better standards were likely to improve schools.
The foundation funded “almost every consequential education group,” as Diane Ravitch aptly put it, in their efforts to promote the standards. The standard step of conducting pilot studies before such a major innovation was skipped. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used the Race to the Top grant process as leverage to advance Common Core. Within two years, Gates’s preferred policy was adopted by almost every state in the nation.
Where have we seen this story before?
Steve Brill’s Class Warfare explains that Gates met with two men in 2007. They pushed their pet theory about value-added teacher evaluations.
The PIE Network is adding 5 new members to its group of reform-oriented advocacy groups, I'm told, bringing them up to 49 education advocacy organizations working in 31 state capitols and Washington D.C.
Dale Russakoff’s New Yorker article, Schooled, recounts the failure of the “One Newark” plan to transform Newark schools. One of the key contributions of Russakoff’s excellent narrative is her portrait of the personalized nature of the edu-philanthropy process. As one wealthy donor said, “Investors bet on people, not on business plans, because they know successful people will find a way to be successful.”
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million in seed money after being blown away by then-mayor Cory Booker. Zuckerberg explained, “This is the guy I want to invest in. This is a person who can create change.”
Booker created a confidential draft plan to “make Newark the charter school capital of the nation.” Because it would be driven by philanthropic donors, no openness would be required. “Real change requires casualties,” Booker argued, and stealth was required to defeat “the pre-existing order,” which will “fight loudly and viciously.”
Had they bothered to study social science research, cognitive science, and education history, hopefully the edu-philanthropists would have realized that Booker’s approach to “One Newark” could be great for his political ambitions but it was doomed as method of improving schools.
The corporate reformers’ lack of curiosity in an evidence-driven plan for improvement is doubly frustrating because, as David Kirp documented, a successful experiment in systemic improvement was conducted in the nearby Union City schools.
The Third Way promotes moderate efforts to promote “principled compromise.” It is “built around policy teams that create high-impact written products.” Two previous posts (here and here) described solid Third Way studies based on social science. But, both of those studies remained agnostic about education reform policies.
A third paper, Tamara Hiler’s and Lanae Erickson Hatalsky’s Teaching: The Next Generation, is two papers in one. The first half summarizes the findings of a poll of 400 high-performing college students. The data is interesting and potentially useful. The second half is an infomercial for the TNTP and other teacher-bashers. It distorts that evidence and uses the poll as a prop to promote corporate reform.
I have concerns about the language that the Third Way used in introducing the other two studies but neither began with a statement such as “Only 35% (of top-performing college students) described teachers as ‘smart,’" and “Education was seen as the top profession that ‘average’ people choose.”
In fact, the survey found that 200 students see people who are nice, caring, patient, and smart as almost as likely to choose teaching as nursing. Smart people are as likely to choose teaching as as philosophy, and more likely to choose teaching over English, art, and communication. Educators may be more “mediocre” than political scientists, but more socially conscious.
Above all, Hiler and Hatalsky assume that the key to education is the intellect - “the Head,” not “the Heart.” They prejudge the potential benefits of teachers who are ambitious, competitive, and rootless, as opposed to being caring and grounded in the community.
Yes, from 3/4ths to 9/10ths of students said that reputation and opportunities for advancement are important. But, greater percentages said that stability and the opportunity to help others are important.
The Third Way describes itself a representing the “vital center.” It is a moderate effort to break think tanks out of policy “silos” and it is “built around policy teams that create high-impact written products.”
The new think tank’s David Autor and Melanie Wasserman, in Wayward Sons, draw upon social science to make a valuable contribution to understanding the achievement gap.
I was saddened by the way that the study was introduced in the Third Way Web site, however. It “make(s) the case that the decline in male achievement is almost exclusively reserved for males born into single-parent households; while females in single-parent households do OK, boys seem to suffer.”
I’m hoping that this way of articulating the problem does not foreshadow more of the neoliberal blame game where single mothers and/or fathers are guilty but economic elites are always innocent. That blunt introduction contrasts with the subtleties of Wayward Sons. While the Third Way emphasizes a single issue, social family structure, Autor and Wasserman describe a complex "vicous cycle."
Autor and Wasserman cite “a growing body of evidence … [which] indicates that the absence of stable fathers from children’s lives has particularly significant adverse consequences for boys’ psychosocial development and educational achievement.”
"In 2010, Zuckerberg pledged a hundred-million-dollar challenge grant to help Booker, then the mayor of Newark, and Christie overhaul the school district, one of the most troubled in the country.
"Four years later, “improbably, a [school] district with a billion dollars in revenue and two hundred million dollars in philanthropy was going broke,” and Newark is at war over its schools."
Closing quote:" Shavar Jeffries believes that the Newark backlash could have been avoided. Too often, he said, “education reform . . . comes across as colonial to people who’ve been here for decades. It’s very missionary, imposed, done to people rather than in coöperation with people.” Some reformers have told him that unions and machine politicians will always dominate turnout in school-board elections and thus control the public schools. He disagrees: “This is a democracy. A majority of people support these ideas. You have to build coalitions and educate and advocate.” As he put it to me at the outset of the reform initiative, “This remains the United States. At some time, you have to persuade people.”
Check it out and let us know if it's interesting, fair, etc.
The Third Way describes itself as representing the “vital center.” It is a moderate effort to break think tanks out of policy “silos” and it is “built around policy teams that create high-impact written products.”
While I respect an effort to articulate “principled compromise,” I hope that education isn’t treated as a pawn, to be sacrificed when appealing to corporate powers’ supposedly better angels. [I also hope that its founder Jon Cowan doesn’t share the anti-teacher positions of his former boss, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.]
I became more optimistic after reading the Third Way’s The Secret of College Completion. Cowan and Elaine C. Kamarck introduce the study by Thomas DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann. They explain that 8th grade grades are strong predictors of college completion because they are indicators of behavioral patterns which are learned early in life. These patterns tend to persist into high school and college.
In other words, factors beyond the control of teachers make it unlikely that reforms focusing on “value-added” in the secondary school classroom will work.