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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?" »

Advocacy: More Ways To Measure Advocacy's Impact

Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 3.53.40 PMToday's as good a day as any to share with you the draft report I heard about a couple of weeks back when last discussing the issue of how to assess reform advocacy efforts.

As you may recall, the question keeps coming up if and how funders are going to assess the impact of their advocacy efforts, whether they be grants to nonprofits or direct contributions to campaigns or PACs:

"Teachers unions (AFT, NEA) and nonprofits on the other side (Broader/Bolder Alliance, Shanker Institute, and the new Ravitch thing) are actively engaged in advocacy as well, and have to figure out if their spending is making a difference, too."  (What About The Impact?)

As with teachers and schools, poor evaluations can lead to poor understanding, however.  It's not so easy to get it right.  Michigan State professor and TWIE contributor Sarah Reckhow took a stern look at several recent recommendations for advocacy evaluation (A Misleading Approach to Assessing Advocacy)

This newest report, called a Media Measurement Framework, is funded by Gates and Knight and produced by the SF-based LFA Group: Learning for Action, who tells us that the Knight Foundation is in the process of creating an online, interactive version of this framework. This static version will become a collection of online resources. 

No word yet on whether the framework is any good or if any advocacy grantees are using it yet.  That's where you come in.

Previous posts: A Misleading Approach to Assessing Advocacy [Reckhow]; So How'd The Advocacy Groups Do?Gates Shifts Strategy & Schools Get Smaller Share [Reckhow]; EdWeek's Balanced View Of Reform Advocacy

EdSchools: Will 2013 Be Teacher Prep's Big Year?

From the latest Scholastic Administrator Magazine (by me):


For all those reasons, it’s very good and somewhat surprising news that there are now a handful of broad-based efforts and initiatives focused on teacher preparation in 2013 that might actually stand a chance of improving the quality and effectiveness of teachers...

There are predictable disagreements about how hard to make any new preservice exam—and whether to encourage or even require specific elements, or to rely entirely on outcomes such as longevity, evaluation, and effectiveness.

And the question remains: Will the higher education community—as well as state policymakers and the powerful national associations—block or water down the current momentum as they have in the past?

But for the first time in a long time there is activity—and with it, at least, the possibility of substantial progress.

Read all about it here. Agree or disagree?

Bruno: Raising Achievement Doesn't Close Gaps (Petrilli)

3434689203_afe971eab4I'm glad to see Michael Petrilli doing a guest stint over at Bridging Differences and I'm especially glad he dedicates some of his first column inches to defending the importance of knowledge in schools, even for very young children.

Unfortunately, he also commits an all-too-common error, conflating increasing absolute levels of academic achievement with closing achievement gaps between subgroups of students.

It is probably true, as Petrilli says, that it is important to expose even very young students to a broad, knowledge-rich curriculum. Knowledge deficits, including vocabulary deficits, play a major role in suppressing the achievement of many of the least fortunate students.

It is also quite possibly the case that schools serving the least-privileged students are especially likely to lower their standards for students (e.g., by using hand-wavy explanations about what is "developmentally appropriate") or otherwise cut subjects like science and history out of the curriculum.

So far so good. Read on to see where I think Petrilli goes wrong.

Continue reading "Bruno: Raising Achievement Doesn't Close Gaps (Petrilli)" »

Bruno: Is There A "Conservative Case" for the CCSS?

2899995132_cefbbb468cThe road for the Common Core initiative has been especially rough recently, with both conservative and progressive opposition growing louder and political and logistical setbacks becoming more noticeable.

This is understandably worrying to CCSS supporters, including Chester Finn who argues that "conservatives ought to applaud" the Common Core initiative.

I'm not by any measure a conservative - so my perception may be skewed - but it's hard for me to see much in Finn's argument that conservatives per se should find compelling.

Central to his argument is the point that the CCSS are better than most existing state standards, and so most states would be better off adopting them.

What, exactly, is conservative about that line of thinking? Isn't the conservative position that variation between the states is a virtue (either in itself or because it allows for greater flexibility and innovation)?

Similarly, while Finn tries to reassure conservatives that CCSS adoption is "totally voluntary", he also admits in the very same breath that federal pressure "complicated" the decision-making process for states.

Continue reading "Bruno: Is There A "Conservative Case" for the CCSS?" »

Thompson: Diane Ravitch Is an Engaged and Bilingual Writer

DavidBrooksI agree and disagree with Alexander’s take on David Brook’s New York Times’ Op Ed, Engaged, or Detached? Brooks argues that today we mostly have engaged writers who are less concerned about persuasion than mobilizing people who already agree with them. Engaged writers can be repetitive as they seek immediate political influence.  A detached writer, however, is more like a teacher. He or she prods people to think.

Also, detached writers have more realistic goals. Detached writers generally understand that they are not going to succeed in telling people what to think. It is enough to prod people to think about “underlying concepts, underlying reality and the underlying frame of debate.” A detached writer understands that politics is a “bipolar struggle for turf.”

I agree with Brooks and, presumably, Russo, in drawing that distinction, although I would offer a more nuanced view. If a detached writer is like a teacher, what is a detached teacher like?   

I disagree with Russo that Diane Ravitch should be defined as an engaged writer under Brook’s definition.  Fundamentally, she is bilingual. Ravitch has long demonstrated fluency in the language of scholarship. Her research is presented in vivid prose. It is as solid as that of any detached writer. It is her ability to cut through the jargon and articulate a mass message that "reformers" can't stand.

Continue reading "Thompson: Diane Ravitch Is an Engaged and Bilingual Writer" »

Charts: Americans Over-Represented Among Top Students

image from cdn.theatlantic.com
"In two out of three subjects, Americans are over-represented among the best students." (You'll Be Shocked by How Many of the World's Top Students Are American) via The Atlantic

Events: Google Glasses Live from NSVF Summit 2013

Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 11.14.43 AMSpotted at #NSVFsummit 2013, that's Vivienne Ming @neuraltheory wearing Google Glasses (she took a picture of me using voice commands in much less time than it took me to take one of her).

Pretty soon, I'm guessing, a teacher or student will wear these into class and everyone will freak out.  (Meantime, I'm very excited about the TeachLive simulator they have downstairs, sort of a flight simulator for teachers.)

I'll leave most of the livetweeting to others, weighing in with the occasional tidbit.  

Funny to think that at my first or second of these, in New Orleans shortly after the Hurricane, I had to beg and plead for WiFi access that's now barely a consideration. 

So far I've run into lots of old friends and acquaintances, including several folks doing exciting new things (change is good!).  Please come up and say hello, and apologies if I have to blog or tweet something.

You can follow the event via #nsvfsummit, or watch the video here.

Events: Livestreaming the NewSchools Venture Summit

There's lots that's familiar about this year's NewSchools Venture Summit taking place tomorrow in Burlingame, California -- but at least one major change: livestreaming!


Watch live streaming video from newschools at livestream.com

That's right-- this somewhat expensive,  invitation-only event is going to be putting some of its main speakers and panels out onto the Internet where everybody can see them. Now if NewSchools would only dig up and send me the videotape of the heated 2008 exchanges between Randi Weingarten and Michelle Rhee, I'd be content.

Previous posts: New And Notable At NewSchools 2012Microblogging The NSVF Summit;  Fashion Hits & Misses At The NSVF SummitEdupreneurs Invade DCMy NewSchools Venture Fund Summit List

Parent Trigger: An "Easy" Button For Parents & Kids


This post is mostly just an excuse to use the Washington Post's parent trigger image (a riff on the famous "Easy" button from Staples), and to link to some recent stories on LA School Report.  But it's also a chance to rebut Valerie Strauss's highly selective and inaccurate post about the parent trigger, which ignores all the career Democrats who are involved with and support the trigger and bypasses the latest events in Los Angeles where the trigger is being used in interesting new ways that don't involve lawsuits or ousting school board members. 

Continue reading "Parent Trigger: An "Easy" Button For Parents & Kids" »

Morning Video: Finland Uber Alles

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

This 2010 video of Finnish education minister Pasi Sahlberg comes courtesy of Chicago's Mike Klonsky.

Movements: Lessons From Earth Day 1970

image from www.newyorker.comLet's begin by stipulating that any comparisons between the environmental movement and the current school reform movements are ridiculous in the extreme. The environment and public education are totally different, and the issues, histories, and evolution of the movements to improve them are far-fetched, not worth your time. 

Then, let's talk about Nick Lemann's latest New Yorker article, What Happened to the Environmental Movement? 

Loosely built around a review of a recent book and several reports about the history of the environmental movement, the gist of Lemann's piece is that the environmental movement had its biggest successes (Earth Day, the Clean Water Act, etc.) long ago in the 1970s when it was still highly decentralized and community-specific.  

Lemann describes that period as "educational, school-based, widely distributed, locally controlled, and mass-participatory."

The movement's worst failures (most notably 2010's cap and trade debacle) take place when the movement has gone mainstream, according to Lemann:  "Even as the environmental movement has become an established presence in Washington, it has become less able to win legislative victories."

There's been lots of direct mail and social media outreach, too, of course -- but the enviro groups of today treat the public as a kind of background chorus rather than as real leaders, and thus lacks the "ability to generate thousands of events that people actually attend—the kind of activity that creates pressure on legislators."  

There's lots more -- Theda Skocpol, the issue of federated structures and concrete individual benefits vs. broad based social goods. Image via New Yorker. 

Thompson: Fordham's Petrilli Goes Awry On Atlanta

PetrilliI have long believed that Fordham's Mike Petrilli has a balanced view of school reform. 

Petrilli, like Diane Ravitch, argued that NCLB-type testing should be used for Consumers Report-style transparency, not for high-stakes accountability. In The Diverse Schools Dilemma, he recognized that affluent parents oppose the way that testing drives the joy of teaching and learning from the classroom.  And, he criticized Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for his imposition of "formula-driven" teacher evaluation using test scores.

After Joel Klein did in New York City what Petrilli now proposes, Petrilli said, "fantastic veteran teachers — the very people that Klein wanted the rest of the system to emulate — were just as frustrated and beaten down by the changes as everyone else.” In "Alfie Kohn's Message: Half-Crazy, Half-True," he wrote, "even the most hawkish reformer must blush at depictions of the endless test prep and shamefully narrowed curriculum that is present at too many inner city schools."  I had once hoped that Petrilli opposed Kohn's idealism but that, being a realist, he would distance himself from the "reform" movement's teacher-bashing ideologues.  

But Petrilli's "The Right Response to the Atlanta Cheating Scandal," in the New York Daily News, now embraces the worst possible use of testing. He wants to allow principals to consider test score results when evaluating teachers, but without even the central office providing checks or balances.

I had hoped he would be concerned about abusive testing regimes that have failed to improve schools for poor children of color. In the past, half of Petrilli's positions  seemed to realistic, while the other half seemed to be going through the motions of supporting the crazy wing of the "reform" movement. I am disappointed that he seems to still reject most of the worst aspects of standardized testing except when it is used against teachers.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.

People: Meet New Haven's "Phosphorescent" Dave Low

One of the stars of last week's Yale School of Management education summit was New Haven teacher and union VP Dave Low.  And I'm not just talking about the shirt.  

image from www.newhavenindependent.org
Read all about what Low had to say here: Union VP: Let Teachers Lead. Image courtesy Melissa Bailey/New Haven Independent.

People: Headden, Lepping, Zuckerbrod

On the move:  

Former EdSectoran Susan Headdan is joining Tom Toch at the Stanford University-based Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. "She will initially focus on teacher improvement and student motivation as a member of Carnegie’s Washington, D.C. team."

Longtime journalist Nancy Zuckerbrod left AP to join StudentsFirst, left there several months ago, and has now apparently landed at KSA Plus Communications in DC.

After more than seven years with Broad Foundation, Erica Lepping is moving over to SF-based Larson Communications, which specializes in education clients.  She's staying in SoCal, though.

Other folks on the move, either journalists or communications folks or otherwise?  Let me know at thisweekineducation at gmail.com.  

Bruno: You Can't Fix Teacher Eval Without Fixing Teacher Supply

5096020716_8bfe30d3c1_mOver the past few years education reformers have been pushing officials to adopt new teacher evaluation standards to help remove the least effective teachers from the classroom. As the NYT's  Jenny Anderson's recent report illustrates, however, reformers continue to misunderstand the nature of our teacher quality problems.

As Anderson explains, even states with the strictest new standards continue to rate virtually all of their teachers - often more than 97% - "effective" or better.

One reformer complains that "It would be an unusual profession that at least 5 percent are not deemed ineffective", but that is probably the wrong way to think about teacher evaluation.

 It is unlikely that there is a "correct" fraction of teachers - or workers in any profession - who should be identified as "ineffective".

Rather, whether a teacher should be dismissed depends on the likelihood that replacing him will improve educational outcomes at a school. Those odds, in turn, depend on the built-in costs of employee turnover and the prospects for finding a worthwhile replacement.

Continue reading "Bruno: You Can't Fix Teacher Eval Without Fixing Teacher Supply" »

Charts: Even Cody and Klonsky Don't Overlap Much

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 4.44.19 PMIt's not much of a surprise that Michelle Rhee and Diane Ravitch followers don't overlap much, but Klonsky and Cody?  

They only share 16 percent of the same followers, according to a piece by Mike Petrilli from a little while ago.  And Andy Smarick and Jeanne Allen only overlap 24 percent.

You'd think they'd have lots of followers in common. 

Maybe someone's figured out why, or found another way to measure social media overlap?

Via Education Next (Tweet Thine Enemy)

Morning Video: Rhee Talks At Brookings


Check out the video of Rhee and others at Brookings yesterday, talking charters, quality teachers, and the role of districts.

Bruno: The NPE's Positive Agenda

3454586331_2e2ef4f62bLast week I complained that the Network for Public Education seemed to be defining itself mostly in negative terms.

I'd therefore be remiss if I didn't note that the NPE has since begun articulating an affirmative agenda.

In a note in the group's most recent newsletter, leader Diane Ravitch says that while you probably already "know what we oppose", the NPE also intends to advocate for a variety of education policies.

Some of those policy positions are a bit vague, like "professionalism for teachers" and "democratic control" of schools. And others are still essentially slightly-repackaged opposition statements.

Some of that is inevitable, especially early in a group's development, and as I said before there's nothing wrong with an advocacy organization dedicating itself substantially to opposing policies it considers ill-conceived.

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

Events: Next Week's Yale Summit

There's lots that's familiar about this year's Yale Education Leadership Conference, including the location (New Haven), the visit to Amistad (Thursday morning), and some of the panel topics and panelists.

image from cdn.e2ma.net
But there are also some new/newish elements -- a panel on the parent trigger, a segment on building diverse coalitions, and how other non-education sectors have changed. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras or Louisiana State Superintendent John White are doing the Friday morning keynote. See full agenda panel lineups here.    @YaleELC and use #ELC2013

Quotes: Danner Defends Rocketship Changes

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comOnly in public education, would continuous evolution be seen as a negative.   -- Rocketship founder John Danner, via Quora

Bruno: What's The Point Of The Network For Public Education?

2610473739_e1ac8f978bWhen Diane Ravitch announced the formation of her Network for Public Education last week, I was fleetingly optimistic that the group could serve as a useful alternative to existing well-meaning-but-frequently-misguided reform organizations.

Some days later this appears unlikely to be the case.

The existing crop of school reform advocacy groups have policy positions that are often dubious on the merits, but they manage to effectively set the agenda in part by having positive platform at all.

The NPE doesn't seem to stand for anything.

It is fairly clear what the NPE opposes because they list many of those policies specifically under their "mission": high-stakes testing, school closings, and private contracting.

What the NPE supports is much less clear. Their mission statement says only that they prefer "evidence-based reforms," a claim so vague as to be meaningless. (Would StudentsFirst say anything less?)

It looks very much like the NPE is an organization dedicated entirely to opposing other organizations. Fighting ill-conceived reform proposals may be worthwhile, but unless you are also offering an alternative set of reforms you are merely postponing their inevitable implementation.

If the folks at the NPE want to win policy battles they need to figure out how they'd like to see education improved so that reform organizations don't continue to fill up that idea vacuum with proposals of their own. That would also give supporters something to get excited about fighting for.

As the moment, unfortunately, the NPE seems only to be validating the (unfair?) stereotype that reform critics don't have any ideas for improving public education. And that state of affairs isn't good for anybody. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Bruno: What Economists Think About Universal Pre-K

Last week's IGM survey of economists was - excitingly! - about education.

Specifically, respondents were asked whether expanded pre-K programs would have "a much lower social return" than the best existing programs currently generate.


I'd have guessed that economists would answer that question with a resounding and disheartening "yes", but the actual results were somewhat mixed with only 1/3 of economists answering in the affirmative. (This increased to a bit over half when survey results were weighted by confidence.)

The biggest takeaway seems to be that mainstream economists as a group know and/or care relatively little about education. (In this regard they are perhaps not that different from the general public.)

Consider, for example, that 29% of respondents reported being "uncertain."  Another 18% didn't answer the question at all. Also notable: though the IGM survey sometimes asks a second, related question, in this case it didn't bother even though an obvious follow-up was available.

After all, what we want to know is not necessarily whether universal pre-K access would result in diminishing returns, but whether such an investment would generate positive returns.

On that question economists apparently remain unsure or indifferent. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Pictures: Colorado Reformer Pushing Gun Control

image from extras.mnginteractive.com

At the risk of fanning the flames of hype and/or fear already surrounding him, I wanted to point out Colorado state lawmaker Mike Johnston is a pretty good example of someone closely associated with school reform (ie SB 191) who doesn't just focus on school reform.

He's been strong on immigration reform for quite a while -- I'm talking about much more than making a speech or issueing a position statement, though that's a start -- and now he's  apparently pushing hard on gun control legislation, too. (image via The Denver Post).

It's on these so-called "side" issues -- the DREAM Act, gun control, postsecondary access, and more resources for schools -- that reformers stand a much better chance of finding partners from within education and among parents that they need, at least some of the time.  

Previous posts: Introducing Mike JohnstonA Softer, Gentler Version Of ReformBest Education Speech Ever?Notes From Yale SOM 2011Few TFA Alums Running For Higher Office.

Thompson: Small Town Scandal with Big Implications

PoorOklahoma is in a mess created by its new A-F School Report Card. 

Since its grading system is based on Jeb Bush's and Florida's report card, its flaws are of national importance. 

The more interesting story, however, is the suspension of the Ryal School System's superintendent -- which grew out of the report card controversy.

The Daily Oklahoman joined the chorus of laypersons and scholars criticizing the A-F Report Card. It also showed that schools' grades were almost completely the result of their demographics.  For instance, schools earning an "A" had an average low income rate of 33%, while schools earning a "D'" had an average rate of 85%. The paper cited the Ryal district as a rare exception.  Although 100% of Ryal's students are low income, and although 40% of them were on special education IEPs, it earned a "B."

Now, Superintendent Scott Thrower has been suspended, and the Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has called on him to resign.  The patrons are upset about the newspaper article praising the district's efforts to overcome generational poverty.   The public is angry over Thrower's description of alcoholism, meth labs, and families without electricity or shoes. “The vast majority of our kids live in houses with electricity," it was argued, "They do have shoes." 

It has been nearly five decades since Daniel Patrick Moynihan was condemned for using the phrase, a "culture of poverty."  Education is about the only part of our society that has not moved on. In lieu of undertaking honest conversations about what it would really take to overcome the legacies of generational poverty and trauma, education wonks still dismiss reality-based school policies as "excuses," "low expectations," and "blaming the victim." 

As Paul Tough explained in How Children Succeed, the contemporary school reform movement grew out of a "liberal posttraumatic shock" due to losing the War on Poverty.  We will continue to fail to improve poor schools, however, until we are capable of discussing the reality of extreme poverty.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.


Morning Video: This Week At TED


Here's that Sugata Mitra video about the School in the Cloud that you might have heard about at TED this week.  And also a post about it from The Atlantic (Do Kids Really Need Teachers?). Buy or sell?  

Morning Video: Schleicher!


Don't believe a word this man is saying. He's obviously not from America. You can tell by his name (Andreas Schleicher), his accent, and his bright snug, colored shirt. And, he's talking about differences among nations in terms of education achievement, which, you know, is almost never a good thing to talk about.  People get mad.  (via Amanda Ripley).

Bruno: The Soft Bigotry Of High Expectations (For Reform)

6717604035_6895962e6b_nI usually appreciate Kevin Drum's skepticism when it comes to education reform, but I don't understand his pessimism about the infamous Chetty/Friedman/Rockoff study.

Chetty et al, you'll recall, found that using value-added measures to identify weaker teachers and replace them with better teachers could increase students' long-term earnings by about 1%.

There are lots of reasons to doubt that we really could reap that 1% gain by broadly implementing VAM-based hiring and firing. What's puzzling to me, though, is Drum's disappointment with the "shockingly low" 1% figure, which he seems to think is hardly worth bothering about.

But why is 1% too small of a gain to care about? That 1% figure is for one teacher in one year of school, but if we're considering an education reform like this we're presumably imagining implementing it in multiple grades so that each student would benefit from it over multiple years.

I doubt I'm the only person who would be excited if my 13 years in the K-12 system had been able - cumulatively and hypothetically - to increase my future earnings by an additional 10% or more.  And I'd need some pretty good reasons to deny those gains to other people.

While education policy skepticism can be healthy we shouldn't get carried away with unreasonably high expectations for proposed reforms. Education pundits are typically privileged adults, so benefits that we might dismiss as insignificant may seem quite valuable to many students (or their future selves) -- especially on a cumulative basis.

So if we demand that a proposed reform meet pundits' arbitrarily high expectations to be deemed worth implementing, we may unjustifiably write off potentially worthwhile projects and policies. The fact that an education reform is "not good enough" to excite and entertain adults who are done with the K-college system doesn't necessarily mean it's not good enough to benefit lots of kids who have yet to finish their educations. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

Reckhow: Philanthropy Critique Can Obscure Key Differences

image from farm4.static.flickr.comSince Diane Ravitch popularized the phrase “Billionaire Boys’ Club,” the chorus of skepticism and outright disapproval of education philanthropy has been growing.  

Much of the criticism is aimed at coordination and shared agenda priorities among major education philanthropists and federal officials on issues such as Common Core and school choice.

Liberals and conservatives have converged on some of these issues, creating strange bedfellows, such as Michelle Malkin and Susan Ohanian.

Skepticism of education philanthropy is also emerging from unexpected sources. Recent commentary on education philanthropy in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (arguably a more “philanthropy friendly” venue) by Stanley N. Katz concludes with the following:

“I find the brazenness, arrogance, and disregard for public decision making of current philanthropic attempts to influence federal policy just as dangerous to democracy as the critics of the original foundations contended so vociferously 100 years ago.”

And yet...

Continue reading "Reckhow: Philanthropy Critique Can Obscure Key Differences" »

Thompson: The Line Separating Reformers from "Reformers"

A light went on while reading Alexander Russo's Charter Advocates Denounce Reuters Reporting. It illuminates the fundamental difference between school reform and "reform."

The dividing line is not evidence-based disagreements over charters, competition, collective bargaining or teachers' due process.  The issue is how do "reformers" deal with inconvenient truths. 

image from farm6.staticflickr.comStephanie Simon's Class Struggle - How Charter Schools Get Students They Want explains that "charters and traditional public schools are locked in fierce competition - for students, for funding and for their very survival, with outcomes often hinging on student test scores." Simon then punches holes in the hype of "reformers" who claim that this is a "fair fight" and that charters get better results with the same types of students. 

Conservative reformers like Mike Petrilli and Frederick Hess acknowledge that charter students come from more motivated families.  Hess says that charters' supposedly open access policies make for popular talking points, but "there's just one problem: It's not true."  He adds, "There's a level of institutional hypocrisy here which is actually unhealthy."

The real issue is not the fate of individual charters. A bigger problem is that the proliferation of charters has become a drain on traditional public schools. As Simon explains, even some staunch fans of charters agree that "the charter sector as a whole may be skimming the most motivated, disciplined students and leaving the hardest-to-reach behind."

Continue reading "Thompson: The Line Separating Reformers from "Reformers"" »

Quotes: "Unproductive Extremes.... As Hostile To Reform As Ever"

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comAt times, the reform movement is given to its own unproductive extremes... Meanwhile, the close allies of United Teachers Los Angeles are as hostile to reform as ever. -- LA Times editorial page (Friday)


UPK: Wonkbook Rounds Up Obama's "Holy Smokes!" Preschool Proposal

Want to know everything about the preschool proposal -- including whether any of it stands a chance of being implemented and doing any good?  Today's Wonkbook has a great roundup of stories about the numbers, the reactions ("Holy smokes!" from James Heckman), the evolution of views over time.  My favorite writeup so far, however, is this Forbes article (via Jezebel) about the non-altruistic arguments for universal preschool:  the needs of single mothers and working couples, as well as the economic benefits.

Thompson: Two Charter School Soundbites That Should Be Retired

ChartersIf we are serious about deescalating this destructive conflict over school “reform,” we must stop hurling two unsubstantiated charges:

The soundbite that high-performing charter schools are serving “the same students” as high-poverty neighborhood schools should be retired. We who teach in the toughest schools that serve all students who walk into the door also deserve an apology for that slander, but I’m ready to move on without it. 

Similarly, the equally serious charge against charter schools – that they intentionally “push out” difficult students in order to raise test scores - is wrong.  Such an attack on the integrity of charter school educators is just as serious as the idea that we in neighborhood schools could have the same success as the top charters if we had their “high expectations.”

Continue reading "Thompson: Two Charter School Soundbites That Should Be Retired" »

Charts: Wall Street Journal's Education Index

The WSJ has a new (to me) Education Index that is, unfortunately, only about NYC really, and whose metrics I have not examined one bit: 

ScreenHunter_03 Feb. 11 12.54
Wouldn't it be fun (amusing) if there were some sort of thing like this for the rest of the country? I mean, until someone events a Trending / education list.  I bet Education Sector, Fordham, or one of the other organizations we used to call think tanks are already on it. Image via WSJ.

Afternoon Video: Rhee, Henderson, & Others Pass Time Until SOTU

Starting today at 1:00, current and former heads of DC public schools, as well as RI chief Deborah Gist and others are scheduled to be at the AEI #cagebusting event, which will "look at the rules, regulations, statutes, and contracts that inhibit their ability to improve schools and systems."  The livestream link is here in case the embed isn't working.


Thompson: Jeff Henig & "The New Coaching Project"

FootballJeffrey Henig’s Education Week Commentary, Reading the Future of Education Policy, explains the centralizing shifts in schooling from local control to federal and state government and towards for-profit and nonprofit organizations. He astutely describes "the end of exceptionalism," where American education, for better or for worse, is handled like other major domestic policies.

Unfortunately, Henig neglects the two most important factors that have shaped educational exceptionalism and he thus ignores the lost opportunity which could have tempered the top down micromanaging of recent years.

Continue reading "Thompson: Jeff Henig & "The New Coaching Project"" »

Reformers: Make Bold Mistakes, Admit Them, Move On

The best thing I read about the Netflix series House of Cards over the past few days was actually a long feature in GQ about Netflix founder Reed Hastings, who is not only deeply interested in education reform (as well as quite critical of its accomplishments so far) but also a great model of someone who's not afraid to make mistakes, admit them, and move on.  
image from farm1.staticflickr.com
For Netflix, the most recent (and public) example of this kind of process was Hasting's incredibly unwise decision to divide the DVD and streaming video parts of the Netflix operation, which everyone hated and was quickly undone. Sure, the fiasco took some of the gild off the Netflix lily, but the public approach to its mistake allowed Netflix to recover before too much damage was done and -- this is key -- retain the majority of its credibility.
This kind of speedy response to mistakes  is something that we see all too rarely in education reform these days, with the possible exceptions of KIPP (on college graduation rates) and the Gates Foundation (on small schools and EDIN08, for example).  Most of the time we have the Harlem Children's Zones and TFAs and and Rocketships, which are all presented as having been near perfect from the start, needing only a few small adjustments or re-launches.  
Then -- only after months of questions and defensiveness -- when it comes out that the model has been changed quite substantially, or that some of the initial claims were overblown, skepticism and suspicion sets in even among those inclined to believe.  Claims of success and linear progress may work for funders don't work as well for everyone else, and increasingly reform programs are operating in a world in which the public is watching closely.   Denying mistakes, and spending months hiding or defending them, doesn't seem like a winning strategy in the long run. 

Quotes: Jobs, Money, Power, Prestige Prevent Civil Discussion

Quotes2There is a lot at stake [in the education reform debate]: jobs, money, prestige, the future of our country, and power... As long as we are talking about education, we are talking about the things that really matter. And that will never be a very civil discussion. -- Illinois Citizens for Better Schools



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