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Reform: Insult-Hurling Coming Mostly From Reform Critics

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

Thompson: Did Reform Make Teacher Churn Worse in Indianapolis?

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

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

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

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

Media: Maggie Severns Fills Out Politico Education Team

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

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

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

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

As usual: Congrats, condolences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes: Charter Advocates Overstate/Mislead In Chicago

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thompson: Politico Nails a Fundamental Flaw with TFA

Occupy_London_Tent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Video: CAP 10th Anniversary Policy Conference

 

Live via MSNBC. Lineup here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image via Library of Congress (via The Atlantic)

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

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

Morning Video: Best TED Talk Ever?

 

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

People: Gates Foundation Names [Unknown] New Advocacy Head

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

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

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

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

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

Afternoon Video: Vancouver Launches 1:1 Tablet Effort

Read all about it here via Charles Barone.

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

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


Thompson: Goldhaber On The Future Of Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think Tanks: AIR Taking Over Education Sector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen shot 2013-09-05 at 1.31.20 PM

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

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

Reform: Millennials Hate Politics (But Alternatives Remain Unproven)

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy Atlantic Magazine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charts: Urban Black Isolation Increases As Segregation Decreases

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

Thompson: "Reformers" & Misuse of NAEP Data

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

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

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

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

Quotes: Badly Funded, By Definition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thompson: Roland Fryer's "No Excuses" Excuses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning Video: Hayes & Merrow Discuss Bennett

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

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

AM News: TFA Gets $20M Walton Expansion Grant

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

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)

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.com

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):

Xerox-star

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


Parent-trigger1

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. 

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