Or, listen to this WAMU segment on Kaya Henderson's five-year tenure as head of DC Public Schools.
Or, check out this WHYY Philadelphia story about a magnet school dropping its admissions criteria as part of a school consolidation plan.
L.A. Unified explores possibility of becoming an all-charter district LA Times: On Tuesday, a board committee reviewed a report that outlines the process for becoming an entirely charter school district. Board members said the goal was primarily to identify how the district could benefit from the same flexibility currently provided to charters. See also LA Daily News.
Massachusetts Board Approves Hybrid PARCC, State Test State EdWatch: By an 8-3 vote, the state school board approved creation of a new English and mathematics test to be administered by all of the state's schools by 2017. See also WNYC, Boston Learning Lab.
Schools postpone D.C. field trips amid increased concerns about terrorism Washington Post: Schools in S.C., Conn., and Md. scrapped field trips to the nation’s capital after online threat of attack.
New York State Accuses Utica School District of Bias Against Refugees NYT: Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a lawsuit that the city diverted immigrants over 16 and unsteady in English into alternative programs in which they could not earn diplomas.
Calls mount to remove metal detectors from NYC schools AP: A student has not been shot in a New York City school in 13 years, a heartening statistic in an era of commonplace school massacres. But there is a growing cry to rid the city's schools of metal detectors, the very tool some observers credit with keeping them safe....
Mark Zuckerberg on Philanthropy: Move Slow and Build Things AP: Last year, Zuckerberg and Chan announced they would give $120 million to public and charter schools closer to home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Instead of attempting to overhaul an entire school district, they are doling the money out to smaller programs that provide teacher training, classroom technology and attempts to develop more personalized instruction for individual students.
St. Paul becomes latest district to study doing away with school buses MinnPost: This year, St. Paul Public Schools launched a pilot program to study how feasible it may be to send their high school students to and from school via city bus. And if the program proves successful, St. Paul may soon be joining Minneapolis in doing away with most yellow buses for their public high schools. The district estimates the cost of providing the passes to be about the same as operating yellow buses.
Will Seattle schools start later? Vote gets national spotlight Seattle Times: Seattle Public Schools could become one of the largest districts in the country to push back start times for teens, thanks to parents, sleep scientists and a school board willing to make it a priority.
Nonprofit is formed to advance charter-school plan in Los Angeles area LA Times: Great Public Schools Now will be run by two executives from ExED, a local company that specializes in helping charter schools manage their business operations. Eli Broad or a designee, however, is expected to occupy one seat on an 11-member board of trustees.
Here's a recent video from Chicago Public Television about efforts to keep effective principals on the job. Click the link for additional charts and information.
Just the description of the picture might make you think a bit more about it than you did when you first saw it online:
"Beneath the jacket is a fleece-lined hoodie, also black, and in his hand the boy holds a black plastic bag, stretched by the weight of what might be groceries. The sidewalk behind him is cracked and dotted with litter. Dull-brown public-housing towers—as much a part of the quintessential visual New York as the bodega bag—form a jagged horizon."
The critique of HONY -- and TED Talks, and The Moth -- might make you bristle:
"A story has lately become a glossier, less thrilling thing: a burst of pathos, a revelation without a veil to pull away. “Storytelling,” in this parlance, is best employed in the service of illuminating business principles, or selling tickets to non-profit galas, or winning contests."
The New Yorker piece urges us to do the impossible and forget the story, focusing back on the image:
"Forget, for a moment, the factual details that we have gathered in the course of knowing-but-not-really-knowing him... Consider, instead, the ease of the boy’s sneakers against the sidewalk; his shy, smirking confidence; the preternatural calm with which he occupies the space within the frame. Viewed like this—as, yes, irrefutably real, but also as a readable image—he is reminiscent of Gordon Parks’s squinting Harlem newsboy. Both convey something almost spiritual: something about the delicate string that hangs between youth and resilience, about the miraculous talent of children, however voiceless, to stand unswallowed by the city."
Whether you agree or disagree with the point -- and the rest of the essay's reflection on images in politics and society -- it's helpful I think to remember that stories and images can overtake us if we let them, and that sometimes we need to step back from the narrative we're constructing and look at the individual parts.
D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson celebrates 5 years at helm Washington Post: Most urban superintendents leave after three years; many credit stability at the top for D.C.’s improvement. See also Washington Post.
Ahead of Departure, Arne Duncan Reflects on Signature Education Programs US News: On Thursday, speaking at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, Duncan plans to reflect on his work thus far in conjunction with the department's release of two comprehensive assessments of its most significant programs, the Race to the Top competition and the School Improvement Grant.
New SIG Data Serves Up Same Old Conclusion: Mixed Results PK12: The latest Education Department report on the federal School Improvement Grant program paints an uneven picture of SIG's impact, just as Congress is about to decide its fate. See also Washington Post.
What the Ed. Dept.'s New Race to the Top Report Reveals, and What It Avoids PK12: The Education Department says all states in the competitive-grant program made progress toward their goals, but makes little mention of areas where they stumbled or backtracked.
How N.J. school distirct is making enrollment much easier NJ.com: Replacing a "patchwork" system of 17 different applications, the Camden City School District on Tuesday rolled out a better way of getting kids into school.
Montgomery County Schools Recognize Muslim Holiday of Eid Slate: Some districts in New Jersey have closed for Muslim holidays for years, while others, like Jersey City, recently voted against closing for Eid this year. And this spring, the New York City Department of Education, the largest school district in the country, where an estimated 10 percent of students are Muslim, announced that schools would close for Eid al-Adha.
Common Core testing showdown in Massachusetts Hechinger Report: The Massachusetts Board of Education is deciding whether to use a multi-state test, the Partnership for Assessing College and Career Readiness, known as PARCC, or to stick with its own test.
Research Group Latest to Caution Use of 'Value Added' for Teachers TeacherBeat: The American Educational Research Association lists eight principles that it says must be considered before using VAM to judge teachers or teaching programs.
Want To Make A School Better? Get Kids To Show Up NPR: Students who miss 15 or 20 days of school a year may never catch up. The Department of Education is looking for prevention ideas, and one Baltimore school could provide some.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
Here's a list of the top 200 local education foundations in the US, which is somewhat ironically led by Pinellas County (where there's been some pretty dramatic resegregation of schools lately). I can't vouch for the data, the methodology, or anything else. MSU's Sarah Reckhow notes on Twitter that it's not a lot of money that they're talking about in the larger scheme of things. The report is put out annual by Dewey and Associates. Thanks to Mesa's Joe O'Reilly for passing this along.
For decades, Hillary Clinton has been a strong supporter of both public charter schools and an unflinching advocate for traditional public schools, their teachers and their students,... [She] wants to be sure that public charter schools, like traditional public schools, serve all students and do not discriminate against students with disabilities or behavioral challenges.
-- Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson in Washington Post (Hillary Clinton wades into the internal Democratic battle over public schools)
White Americans are increasingly aware of the realities with which black and brown Americans live; black and brown Americans are increasingly aware of the granular details of events beyond their own communities... What we haven’t seen yet is change.
— Emily L. Hauser (Why outrage over police brutality isn’t enough)
This Slate article describes how Highland Park keeps itself separate from the surrounding Dallas schools. Plus map from EdBuild.
Obama: Schools 'Really Don’t Have An Excuse' To Keep Native American Mascots HuffPost: With Adidas' recent announcement that the company will help schools transition away from Native American mascots, "schools now really don’t have an excuse" for keeping them, President Barack Obama said Thursday at the 2015 White House Tribal Nations Conference.
De Blasio: City must respect families’ investments amid school diversity debates Chalkbeat: “You have to also respect families who have made a decision to live in a certain area oftentimes because of a specific school,” de Blasio said when a reporter asked what is stopping the city from creating new zones to promote school integration. Those families, he said, have “made massive life decisions and investments because of which school their kid would go to.”
Zuckerberg Talks Success, Lessons Learned in Newark Schools AP: "It's very important to understand the desires of a community, to listen and learn from families, teachers, elected officials and other experts," he wrote. "We now better understand why it can take years to build the support to durably cement the changes needed to provide every student with a high quality education."
Chicago lead way on charter school unions Catalyst: Nationally, the movement to organize charter school teachers is just now gaining momentum. For example, the United Teachers of Los Angeles is working to organize teachers in that city's largest charter network, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools.
How to build a better teacher: Groups push a 9-point plan called TeachStrong Washington Post: A coalition of 40 education groups — including some strange bedfellows — is starting a national campaign aimed at “modernizing and elevating” the teaching profession.
A Hedge Fund Sales Pitch Casts a Spell on Public Pensions New York Times: “The report was really intended to give information to pension trustees so they could ask the tough questions and fulfill their fiduciary duties to the funds and their participants,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers' union.
What kids saw on a Common Core test NPR: Amid all the political controversy over the Common Core and whether students should even take these exams, this gives us a chance to look objectively at the tests themselves. In this post, we picked a handful of those questions that jumped out at us (and likely would have jumped out at you, too). We ran them by a few experts who played no official role in developing them.
More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).
"I worry about the folks who link every challenge public school districts face to "privatization." It's such an easy way to avoid issues." - Deray McKesson
I worry about the folks who link every challenge public school districts face to "privatization." It's such an easy way to avoid issues.— deray mckesson (@deray) November 5, 2015
“As an educator I fell short of my commitment to all children and families at my school and for that I am deeply sorry,” said Success Academy Fort Greene principal Candido Brown, speaking through tears. (via Chalkbeat: Success Academy principal gives emotional apology for list of ‘Got-to-Go’ students)
Over at EdWeek, there's a recent post about how well big city school districts seemed to do, compared to state scores and national trends.
But others aren't so sure:
Over at the Hechinger Report, Jilly Barshay notes that rising numbers of high-scoring white students masked big declines in math [#thanksgentrification].
At Dropout Nation, RiShawn Biddle notes that district exclusion rates for SPED and ELL kids are all over place and could affect scores, as well.
In Denver suburb, a school board race morphs into $1 million ‘proxy war’ Washington Post: In Jefferson County, teachers unions and Koch brothers battle for votes and the future of public schools. See also ChalkbeatNY.
Success Academy Founder Calls ‘Got to Go’ List an Anomaly NYT: Ms. Moskowitz, who spoke on Friday at a news conference, said that the list existed for only three days before Mr. Brown was admonished and that he changed course. Nonetheless, nine of the students on the list eventually left the school. See also Chalkbeat, NY1, Politico New York.
Judge Issues Restraining Order on L.A. Charter Chain in Unionization Fight Teacher Beat: A judge has granted a temporary restraining order against the 27-school Alliance College-Ready Publia S. Moskowitz, in response to a New York Times article about the list, said the charter school network did not have a practice of pushing out difficult students.
Charters grapple with admission policies, question how public they should be Washington Post: Some schools restrict admission to early grades, fueling a national debate about fairness and access to quality schools.
Big Education Groups to Congress: Finish ESEA Reauthorization PK12: Teachers, school administrators, principals and state officials have launched a digital ad campaign asking lawmakers to finish work to reauthorize the ESEA.
New York City School Suspensions Fell 17% in 2014-15, Officials Say NYT: Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced new and expanded initiatives to change how students are disciplined, following a national shift in techniques. See also WNYC.
Many Children Under 5 Are Left to Their Mobile Devices, Survey Finds NYT: Experts said a small, self-reported survey added to evidence that the unsupervised use of mobile screens is deeply woven into childhood experiences by age 4.
In a disadvantaged district, a parable of contemporary American schooling Washington Post: A community is closing its one high school to give kids a better education — at another troubled school. Will it work?
Recent Alabama teacher of the year resigns over certification issues NPR: Less than two years after being named Alabama's Teacher of the Year, Ann Marie Corgill resigned her post this week, citing her frustration with bureaucracy. After Corgill was moved from teaching second grade to fifth, she was told she wasn't qualified to teach fifth-graders. See also Valerie Strauss.
Texas case mulls if home-school kids have to learn something AP: Laura McIntyre began educating her nine children more than a decade ago inside a vacant office at an El Paso motorcycle dealership she ran with her husband and other relatives....
Students Protest Firing Of Spring Valley High School Officer HuffPost: Students at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, left their classes on Friday to protest the firing of Ben Fields, a former resource officer at the school.
The Changing Role Of Police In American Classrooms NPR: Susan Ferriss has reported extensively on this issue for the Center for Public Integrity, and she is with us now. Welcome, thanks for joining us.
Deterioration of public school arts programs has been particularly jarring in L.A. LA Times: Normandie Avenue Elementary Principal Gustavo Ortiz worries that he can't provide arts classes for most of the 900 students at his South Los Angeles school. Not a single art or music class was offered until this year at Curtiss Middle School in Carson.
"No school district grew more in 4th grade math in the past four years than DCPS!"
Then again, scandal-plagued Chicago Public Schools came in second on the same measure, and even LAUSD came in with some improvements. Did these districts make less movement towards Common Core in some way that advantaged them on NAEP 2015? Do they have participation/exclusion policies that are different from other cities?
On Upper West Side, Fariña says school integration can’t be forced on parents Chalkbeat: Fariña displayed little sympathy for parents seeking to keep hold of their 199 seats at all costs, saying that overcrowding will only be solved through “hard decisions,” not “fairy dust.” But she also declined to get behind alternative zoning proposals floated by parents, which they say would alleviate overcrowding while also doing more to integrate both schools. See also DNA Info: NYC Schools Boss Touts Pen Pal System as Substitute for Racial Integration [seriously]
How a Legal Footnote Stymied Efforts to Desegregate New York City Schools WNYC: Because of a confluence of trends any New Yorker would recognize — overcrowding, rapid development, the choice of whiter, wealthier families to raise their children in the city — parents and school leaders have become increasingly concerned about segregation.
At a Success Academy Charter School, Singling Out Pupils Who Have ‘Got to Go’ NYT: Sixteen children at the Brooklyn school appeared on a list with that title; nine later left. Current and former employees say the network puts pressure on some parents to withdraw.
Moskowitz to face tough questions after reports of schools pushing out kids Chalkbeat: By the afternoon, the union-allied Alliance for Quality Education had started a social media campaign highlighting aspects of the story, including pictures of Moskowitz with facts from the story and #GotToGo. Two people from AQE attended the Success event on Thursday, one carrying a large poster showing the Times story.
Obama Backs Transgender Teen In School Restroom Dispute HuffPost: The administration's position in Grimm's case represents its clearest statement to date on a modern civil rights issue that has roiled some communities as more children identify as transgender at younger ages.
Pennsylvania Schools Short On Funds As Budget Stalemate Continues NPR: The governor and legislators can't agree how to fix the deficit or how much money schools should get. Meanwhile, districts are taking out loans and racking up interest costs to keep the lights on.
CAP Report: Congress Shouldn't Forget 'Subgroup' Students in ESEA Renewal PK12: Some of the biggest achievement gaps are found in schools that are performing well otherwise, a CAP analysis finds.
For At-Risk Kids, Mentors Provide Far More Than Just Homework Help NPR: At Baltimore's Renaissance Academy High School, mentors help students cope with the trauma in their daily lives. The principal says the aim is not just to keep boys in school, but to keep them alive.
2 LAUSD students awarded $3 million each in Telfair molestation case LA Daily News: A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for less than a day before reaching its verdict. The district previously admitted liability for the actions of ex-Telfair Avenue Elementary School third-grade teacher Paul Chapel III.
Most applicants for school-choice program are from wealthy neighborhoods Las Vegas Review Journal: Overall, half of the nearly 3,100 applications submitted as of Oct. 28 list an address in a ZIP Code among the top 40 percent of median households in Nevada. That's in contrast to just 10.7 percent of applications from households with median incomes in the bottom 40 percent.
Most Illinois high schools leave grads unprepared for college Chicago Tribune: •At 482 of 666 Illinois high schools with ACT scores, more than half of graduates were unable to score at least 21, the national average. That score is one method the state uses to determine if students are ready for college classes.
Now that results from tests aligned to these standards are showing just how many students are not on track for college, the public backlash against the tests seems to have given Obama and Duncan a case of cold feet... That’s deeply regrettable.
- Michael Bloomberg via Washington Post (Bloomberg: Obama and Duncan are making a wrong turn over testing)
"Results of the Trial Urban District Assessment, also released today, show D.C. as a standout performer, with fourth graders making significant gains in math and reading.... Baltimore and Maryland saw some of the biggest drops in scores, “but as counterintuitive as it seems, those are actually good news,” Duncan argued. “Why? Because some of those drops reflect the state including many more special-needs students.” (Morning Education) Image via NAGB. Used with permission.
Parents don’t really care about enrollment projections... What they care about is whether their child’s going to be safe and happy.
- InsideSchools' Clara Hemphill in the NYT (Manhattan Rezoning Fight Involves a School Called ‘Persistently Dangerous’)
I think for a long time in our society we have used those set of challenges as an excuse not to do anything... I think often we overcompensate now by [now saying] none of those things matter, that teaching is teaching.
-- Deputy Mayor Richard Buery in Chalkbeat (Do schools need to tackle poverty or boost teaching? In that debate, Buery calls for truce)
Charter School Teachers Make Bid For Support Politico NY: Families for Excellent Schools held its second rally in as many weeks in Manhattan's Foley Square, but this time, the rally was attended by more than 1,000 charter school teachers, rather than many thousands of charter school students and parents. See also Chalkbeat New York, BuzzFeed.
Meet the teacher lobby behind Hillary Clinton that's not the teachers union Los Angeles Times: Naveed Amalfard and Luke Villalobos want to influence education policy, and they want Hillary Clinton to hear from more than just unions or reformers. They were in Los Angeles on Wednesday to jump-start efforts around a political action committee, a group that can raise money on behalf of candidates.
Charters’ clout grows as top performer to disadvantaged EdSource: Half of the top-performing schools serving low-income students in California are charters, according to a new analysis of scores from this year’s Common Core-aligned assessments.
Judge Rules Against Bobby Jindal's Common Core Suit AP: A federal judge has issued a final judgment rejecting Gov. Bobby Jindal's federal lawsuit against the Common Core education standards, clearing the way for him to take his case to an appeals court.
Mobility is generally low but varies widely among different cities, according to Raj Chetty's research. That's one reason that candidate Hillary Clinton and others are interested in his ideas for encouraging low-income families to move to better neighborhoods (with, one assumes, better-performing schools). See more in WSJ: Proposals on Inequality Draw Interest on Both Sides of the Political Aisle.
If you haven’t checked out the new book Despite The Best Intentions by Amanda Lewis, you really should do so – at least, based on a fascinating phone call I had with her earlier this week.
As you may recall, there's a long interview from WGN Chicago here: How does racial inequality thrive in good schools?. There's also mention of the book in this EdWeek piece How Does an Equity Audit Work?.
It’s not so much that the general topic of the book is so new or different. We all know about implicit racial bias at this point, and there are several much-discussed efforts underway to reduce suspensions and other practices that give some kids a much tougher time in school than they may already have.
But Lewis and her co-author bring some additional attention to the problematic role that white, privileged parents (and others) sometimes bring to making changes in schools that would help make them fairer or work better for other students.
“People don’t talk about this as much, how much white parents play a role in maintaining things as they are,” says Lewis.
They understandably behave towards the school in ways that benefit them and their kids, even if they originally started out with the goal of providing a diverse, equitable experience for their children. Perhaps they want that on one hand, “but on the other hand -- even more than that -- they wanted their kids to have an advantaged experience.” As a result, they’re “worried about any changes that could affect their children’s protected experience of being in what is essentially a school within a school.”
Like others involved in making schools the way they are, these parents aren’t explicitly or consciously behaving in ways that exhibit racial bias or malice. And they’re not the sole culprit here – teachers, administrators, district policies all play a role -- and of course the larger society. But their function in protecting or preserving advantages for their children are highlighted in ways that I don’t often see discussed.
What’s clear to Lewis and others is that Black and Latino kids aren't breaking the rules more often, “they're just getting punished more often.” They also may not be getting as much time as other kids to try and answer a question, or the same reaction from a teacher when they get a “B” on a test, or the same exceptions or accommodations as other kids if they fall short or break a rule.
These observations remind me of several similar remarks made over the years by folks as diverse as Bill and Melinda Gates and Dale Russakoff. The Gates funders have talked about the pushback their grantees have gotten from parents within schools, especially privileged enclaves. In her book about Newark, Russakoff noted that reformers who expected help from parents sometimes found that the parents best positioned were focused on finding or maintaining advantages in terms of teacher assignment and other things for their own children, not the school as a whole. (In this case, the parents were African-American, but the dynamic seems to be roughly parallel.)
“There’s this perception that having a desegregated space is going to benefit all kids,” says Lewis. But that’s not what often happens in practice. Paraphrasing an educator she worked with, Lewis says “The white kids always have to be understood and the black kids have to be disciplined.” And the exemptions and accommodations for the white kids mean that there’s little pressure to change an overly strict or unworkable rule. Just as white, college-educated parents disadvantage neighborhood schools by finding other options, white college-educated parents undercut diverse schools by seeking special treatment.
So far, at least, Lewis says that the school has responded positively to being portrayed in the book, and that at a recent talk at the Minority Student Achievement Network several superintendents said they thought Riverview sounded like it might be one of theirs. (I can imagine that the folks at the Consortium of Large Countywide and Suburban Districts would be interested in this, research, too.)
What can be done? Lewis and her co-author are working on a book trying to pull examples of changes that schools are trying that seem to have gotten some traction. For example, making sure to hire teachers who believe in a growth mindset, tracking informal disciplinary referrals that aren’t captured in official data, creating “earned” honors programs rather than standalone programs.
“There has to be some entity who's looking out for the larger common good,” says Lewis. “Our general societal commitment to the common good is not where it should be.” And it seems like parents’ commitment to the good of other children might not be there, either, she says.
“Parents aren't going to be the force for equity in our schools.”
"Those different paths are clear if we compare charts that track what happened to schools ranked in the bottom 5% of their state over three years in three cities: Memphis, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C. via CPRE (More Than One Path Out of the Bottom)
There's nothing particularly nuanced or persuasive about this @choicemediaTV video that's been going around this week, but at least it's (trying to be) funny. I'm a big fan of attempts to use humor to make a point -- a strategy that's woefully underused in education (but also very hard to pull off).
Of course the reality is that there are lots of K-12 choices being exercised by more privileged families beyond whatever neighborhood school they happen to be assigned to -- and lots of evidence that higher-performing schools (magnets, themed schools, test-in schools, etc.) don't serve low-income minority students proportionately. More choice may not be the answer, but the current system isn't defensible, either. (See, for example, The Onion's recent headline: 5-Year-Old At Underfunded Kindergarten Enjoying Last Few Weeks Before Achievement Gap Kicks In).
"In more than half of the 50 cities surveyed, less than 15 percent of high school students took the SAT or ACT. Less than 10 percent of high school students took advanced math classes in more than half of the cities as well." In US News (Report: Stagnant City Schools Are Failing Minorities).
*NB the data for Minneapolis were apparently off, and have since been corrected: "The Seattle-based education policy group now reports about 12 percent of Minneapolis students in both district and public charter schools took the ACT or SAT in 2011–2012, three times the originally reported rate. CRPE placed the blame on errors in data schools reported to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights."
The middle class doesn’t want charter schools—they don’t need them. The demand is in the city.
- UC Berkeley's Bruce Fuller in The Atlantic on the lack of suburban charters (Why There’s Little Demand for Charter Schools in the Suburbs)
"Juan Salgado, who heads an organization called Instituto del Progreso Latino, was one of 24 recipients selected... http://t.co/VM6gGNXcw6— The Vine Events (@TheVineEvents) October 2, 2015
Little noticed in the annual flurry of attention given to MacArthur genius grant recipients -- including by me -- was that the Chicago nonprofit head who won is deeply involved in immigrant education and heads an organization that started a charter school a few years ago.
A day or so after the fact, the Charter Alliance made note of the event -- perhaps the first person involved with charter schools to win the award:
"In 2010, Mr. Salgado founded, Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy,a charter school located on the Instituto del Progreso Latino campus in Chicago for grades 9-12. The academy prepares students for success in competitive colleges and universities while simultaneously providing job readiness certifications in entry-level positions with higher wages at the healthcare sector."
Truth be told, there wasn't much interesting in the grants from the people I follow on Twitter this year, even though some awardees are super strong on race and inequality issues. The NYT's Amy Virshup noted that one of the 2015 awardees -- also involved in education indirectly -- named Alex Truesdell had been profiled in the paper the year before.
If and when someone solidly from the reform camp or its critics win the award, all hell will break loose. But most of the folks who seem to win these things aren't ideological combatants but rather maker/creators who work from the middle.
Related posts: Roland Fryer Wins MacArthur "Genius" Award (2011); Deborah Bial: An Education "Genius" (2007); Educator Wins MacArthur "Genius (2010); Will An Educator Win A 2012 MacArthur Grant?; The Genius Behind Teach For America (2007).
"According to the Bellwether report, 56 percent of charter-school students live in cities, versus just 29 percent of all U.S. children. (The remaining charter-school students are about evenly split between rural areas and the suburbs.) Relatedly, nearly two-thirds of the charter-school population is nonwhite, compared to about half of its regular public-school counterpart... Just a small percentage of Colorado’s charter-school population is identified as low-income, versus a solid majority of the students attending charters in D.C." Laura McKenna in The Atlantic (Why There’s Little Demand for Charter Schools in the Suburbs)
From the Hechinger Report's Sarah Butrymowicz, who's been diving into graduation data from around the country: "I would love to find a major city school district graduating more students than its suburban counterparts because of academic excellence. For now the only city I can find outperforming its suburbs is El Paso, Texas, and there it’s because the suburbs are performing poorly."
There are lots of reasons not to read the latest Atlantic Magazine cover story, penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates: It's not about education. It's super-depressing. It's long.
But there are some really good reasons to read it, anyway: It's at least partly about education. You'll learn some things you didn't know, probably.
First and foremost, Coates reminds us that so many of the people who end up incarcerated have been failed not only by society but also by schools:
"They just passed him on and passed him on."
It -- along with The Case For Reparations and Coates' recent book, Between The World...., might well be the most-read and -remembered pieces of nonfiction writing of the last couple of years.
While we're waiting for the event to be discussed on WNYC's Brian Lehrer later this morning, let me tell you what a strange, interesting time it was to my eyes in Newark yesterday evening at the WNYC-hosted panel to discuss the past and future of the Newark schools.
As has already been reported, the news out of the event was that while there's no clear timeline for returning the district to local control -- and no clear legal mechanism for doing so -- Cerf says that there will be no attempt to increase the percentage of kids being served by charter schools, either.
That's probably reassuring to charter critics and those who are focused on the district schools that still serve two thirds of the Newark kids but tremendously disappointing to charter advocates who point to Newark charters' academic success and long waiting lists of parents. It may also have come as something of a surprise. At least one charter insider in the audience thought that Cerf was going to charterize the district.
Beyond that news, there were all sorts of moments and dynamics that felt "off" to me (though they may not have had the same effect on other audience members).
First and foremost, there was the visual of Newark mayor Ras Baraka sitting next to grey-haired Chris Cerf, the appointed head of Newark schools. How and why Chris Christie chose an awkward preppy white guy to replace Cami Anderson is unclear to me and can't have been welcome news to Baraka and his supporters. Contrast the move with what happened in DC, where Kaya Henderson succeeded Michelle Rhee.
Part of the tension is structural. The two men are both deeply concerned about Newark schools, but neither is wholly in charge of Newark's mixed school system. The state oversees the school district, but the district doesn't really oversee the charter schools -- an ongoing governance problem raised several times in Russakoff's book. And of course, Cerf is pro-charter, an outsider, and all the rest.
Unsettling matters further, Baraka and Cerf couldn't seem to decide last night whether they were going rehash and continue past battles that were the subject of Dale Russakoff's book, The Prize, or focus on trying to create the impression of a unified front looking to the future and working together. They did a bit of both, but seemed like they were veering back towards old beefs as the night went on (and the audience's preference became clear).
Throughout, both men seemed to be resorting to sound bites and talking points rather than candor and honest reflection, though Baraka came off as a much better speaker in this context (and certainly had more of the audience members behind him). His mandate and responsibilities are much more focused. Cerf had the awkward task of defending the past, apologizing for it (including throwing some shade at Booker and Christie), and reassuring the public about future changes. (Cerf: "I suspect there were more than a few cases when now-Sen. Booker and Gov Christie overstated their case.")
By and large, Russakoff was woefully under-used during the 90-minute session, limited to a few initial observations and then left to the sidelines. It would have been especially interesting if Floyd had asked her to confirm or raise questions with the claims that Baraka and Cerf were making (several of which seemed possibly misleading or incomplete to me) or if she had just jumped in and said, "hey, wait a minute -- that's not right." But neither of those things happened.
Wearing a cropped white jacket and fun glasses, Floyd was an enthusiastic and engaged moderator but seemed to struggle to keep panelist's answers short (especially Cerf) and to deal with audience members who wanted to ask more than one questions or refute panelist's answers to their questions. Though she's spent a fair amount of time in Newark on this topic in the past few weeks, she also lacked the background information to question Baraka and Cerf's claims herself. (She also apparently had a panelist bow out at the last minute, and was unable to convince the head of the teacher's union to appear at the event though he did sit down for an interview earlier this year.)
She called Cerf out when he tried to glide past some of the past failures, but that was about it. Baraka admitted "of course there's bloating in the district" but that was about it. His answer to why more resources don't get into schools was incomprehensible (to me, at least). His sound bites were awesome, though. ("We can't fight inequality by creating more inequality," for example.)
So neither the moderate nor the journalist panelist was able or willing to do any live fact-checking against the claims being made onstage.
For me personally, it was fascinating to see some of the folks I'd been reading about and listening to in person up on stage, and to see a slew of familiar folks. My Spencer classmate Nancy Solomon was there -- she's currently heading the New Jersey bureau for WNYC. (I also got to meet Sarah Gonzalez, the NJ-based reporter who sometimes covers education for the station.) Former WSJ education reporter Barbara Martinez was in the audience. Jennifer (Edushyster) Berkshire was somewhere in the audience, too.
The juxtaposed pictures of two schools during drop-off time accompanied last week's New York Times story about a proposed zoning change that would send students from one school to the other.
Politico New York's Eliza Shapiro posted this video from Families For Excellent Schools and wrote about it last week (New charter ad hits de Blasio on race). Then came the followup story in which some folks denounced the ad as being overly divisive (Critics call new charter school ad 'racist').
While it makes some uneasy, descriptions and accusations related to race and racism are all over the place in the past few years, including recent comments from Derrell Bradford, Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, #educolor, and the This American Life series related to school integration. Just last week, white affluent Brooklyn parents were being accused of racism in response to a proposed school zoning stage (and affluent white parents in Chicago were being praised for their open-mindedness). Over the weekend, Elizabeth Warren gave a speech related to #BlackLivesMatter.
On the substance of the matter, the NYT editorial page recently suggested that the DOE needed to move further, faster on failing schools. ProPublic recently slammed the universal preschool program for not adding enough low-income (minority) students. But he's also launched a big new initiative related to economic equality.
The notion that people interested in making schools work better for kids should get involved in voter registration/equity issues will probably make some (on the reform side, mostly) howl and tear their hair out of their heads (except perhaps those Democracy Prep folks).
But social justice activists and organized labor have long been involved in these kinds of things (most notably in Chicago, where the CTU registered voters along with running candidates against City Hall).
There's a sliver of reform-side history on voter registration in the form of Steve Barr (and others?) being involved with Rock The Vote, which was a musician-focused effort to encourage people to register whose heyday was in the 1990's on MTV.
This forthcoming study on responses to poor AYP ratings suggests increases in voter turnout 5-8 percent (varying by income) -- almost as much effect as door knocking.
Plus which: schools are often used as polling places, so it's right there in front of your faces.
Parent engagement & mobilization is now recognized as a key aspect of efforts to make schools work better. Why not throw some voter registration/advocacy in the mix while you're at it?
Related posts: Harvard Students Fail 1964 Louisiana Voting Literacy Test; Children's Academic Success Vs. Minority Voting Rights; Computerized Voting To Change A Contract; Turning Students Into Voters.
"Since the 1960s, enrollment at Catholic schools in the United States has fallen by more than 50 percent. Today, only about two million students attend Catholic school, and that’s due to a variety of reasons, including falling birth rates among Catholics, the rise of charter schools in urban areas, and more Catholics moving to the suburbs. But the one Pope Francis will visit and some others like it have found ways to keep their doors open."
From the PBS NewsHour: Struggling Catholic schools seek ways to set themselves apart.
Still want more? Try #popeschools
But as some longtimers may recall, bottom-up (locally-driven, community-led) school reform funded by nonprofit sources has been tried before, most notably in the form of Walter Annenberg's $500M Challenge.
Take a minute to check out the case studies of Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City that were written and published way back in 2000. (The Chicago chapter is one that I wrote. Carol Innerst and Ray Domanico wrote the others.)
Some of the folks who are pushing for bottom-up reforms now were actually part of these efforts, and should know better (or at least know that it's no guarantee of success of any kind).
While we're on the topic, the NYT's Kate Zernike is scheduled to interview Dale Russakoff about Newark tonight at 5.
Like so many reformers in Newark and elsewhere, Cory Booker was a true believer in "disruptive innovation" to produce "transformative" change. Dale Russakoff, in The Prize, explains that Newark reformers, funded by Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million grant, were slow in developing a plan for creating a "hybrid" district through school closures and expanding the charter sector. Booker had said that the biggest challenge would be "breaking this iceberg of immovable, decades-long failing schools." After this is done, "They'll melt into many different school models. They're going to flower, just like the cherry blossoms in Branch Park."
Booker didn't seem to have read about the [then] decade-long history of Chicago school closures started by Arne Duncan. And, he seemed to have forgotten about the murder of Derrion Albert as he walked home from his turnaround school, Fenger H.S. Or, perhaps he believed that Newark gang-bangers would be so inspired by One Newark that they would transform gang turf into cherry orchards for all.
In 1998, when I had my first experience with a school closure and reopening, Oklahoma City had some schools as violent and low-performing as those of Newark and Chicago. My John Marshall wasn't one of them. It was somewhere between 2/3rds and 3/4ths low-income, very similar to the neighboring Northeast H.S., which was turned into a magnet school. Marshall had the best faculty that I had ever seen, and Northeast was known for producing state and local teachers of the year and teacher-leaders. After the crack and gang violence peaked in the early 1990s, and after the "jobless recovery" finally started to put some patrons back to work, both schools had been seeing incremental gains.
Then came the 1998-1999 "Year from Hell," as our long-suffering principal dubbed it. Combining students from the two neighborhoods who could not be admitted to selective schools was not the sole cause of our collapse. Neither am I aware of a connection between the change in school boundaries and the deaths that year of five Marshall students and recent alumni. But, the meltdown of our school showed the risks involved with tampering with the delicate ecosystems of schooling. It was a major step in our blood-drenched path to becoming the lowest-performing secondary school in the state.
Even before our first funeral, during my daily, dazed walk to the gym for lunchtime basketball with the students, I kept asking if this was a nightmare, and whether what I was experiencing was real.
I could move to Oak Park and pay $25,000. I don’t want to do that. We could also go to British school or Latin school and I’d have to pay another $25,000. I don’t want to do that. So if you look at the numbers, it makes sense to make this work.
- Chicago parent on WBEZ Chicago (Possible merger of contrasting schools one step closer)
In a recent interview in The Seventy Four, former mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries described how woefully insufficient the communications and engagement effort was behind the Newark school reform effort: “There was absolutely not an infrastructure to communicate to parents... voters [and] the community.”
Love or loathe the Newark reform effort, you have to admit that it's pretty notable that well-funded reformers who'd seen what happened to Michelle Rhee in DC and had to know the importance of informing and rallying community members to their cause didn't seem to do so (or did so ineffectively). Across the river, Families For Excellent Schools launched in 2011. There was nothing like that in Newark.
In Dale Russakoff's book about Newark, the communications effort outsourced to consultant Bradley Tusk and others is described as a half-completed boondoggle:
Mysteriously Tusk's role in Newark -- and his effectiveness -- isn't mentioned in this recent Forbes profile (What Uber And Mike Bloomberg Have In Common).
I've invited Tusk and other consultants who worked on the Newark project to tell me more about their work, what if anything the Russakoff book gets wrong, and what readers need to know about the folks working on the opposite side of the issue (who don't get nearly as much attention as Tusk et al in the Russakoff book).
So far, few if any takers. But the lines are still open.
Note To Self (WNYC) Half the teachers in America use one app (Class Dojo) to track kids