Tutoring plus mentoring (in Chicago the program is called Becoming A Man) can have profound results, according to recent research. Via Chicago Public Television.
The dysfunction displayed within this forum sets a bad example for our children, and it’s no longer a place where meaningful interaction and dialogue occurs between NPS and the public. -- Letter from office of appointed Newark superintendent to elected local school board via NJ Spotlight (Anderson Says She’ll No Longer Attend School Board Meetings)
As if the protesting teachers and parents and the new CNN documentary weren't enough, here comes my look at Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel's tumultous first three years at the helm of the city and its beleagured schools system.
The piece (which was originally titled "Reforming Rahm") makes note of just how incremental change had come during the Daley era -- especially the last few years during which a new contract was signed with the union and leadership turnover was the theme -- and what kind of a massive budget and pension deficit Emanuel inherited.
But it also makes clear how Emanuel's rush to take action on things like a longer school day have often backfired, and how he inadvertently helped make a star out of rookie Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis and alienated reform-inclined educators and parents like Seth Lavin as well as "enclave" parents and traditional educators.
Colorful personality conflicts aside, the piece notes that there are still several wortwhile things going on in Chicago, including a move to school-based budgeting, streamlining of testing requirements, a teacher evaluation system to replace the checklist of yore, and a difficult but long-necessary downsizing in response to demographic shifts.
Read the piece -- maybe also Neil Steinberg's recent Esquire profile, too -- and tell me what you think.
I had that chance to meet WAMU's education reporter Kavitha Cardoza the other day and wanted to make sure everyone had seen her most recent long-form piece on adult education, dubbed Breaking Ground.
As you probably already know, Cardoza (@kavithacardoza) covers the DC metro area.
She's also appeared on NPR and at The Atlantic (The GED Test Is About to Get Much Harder, and Much More Expensive).
Any other favorite Cardoza pieces? Let the rest of us us know.
Newark Schools Chief Wants Teacher Performance Included in Layoff Criteria WNYC: In an unprecedented move, Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson has asked Christie administration to waive seniority rules that dictate how planned teacher layoffs in the state-run district are to be conducted.
UFT wants city to reconsider Teaching Fellows program ChalkbeatNY: While 18 percent of education school graduates called their training “poor” or “fair,” that figure was nearly 50 percent for Teaching Fellows. The Department of Education pays TNTP, a nonprofit group that also lobbies on teacher quality issues including in favor of evaluations that consider student test scores, to operate the Teaching Fellows program.
Kaya Henderson deserves support from D.C.’s elected leaders Washington Post (oped): This week the D.C. Council’s education committee plans to conduct a performance review of Chancellor Kaya Henderson. District residents might want to follow Henderson’s appearance before the council.
Maryland Schools Using Conflict Resolution To Curb Bullying, Suspensions WAMU: As part of an effort to keep Maryland students in the classroom and out of the juvenile justice system, schools are implementing conflict resolution strategies which are already showing results.
D.C. official faces questions about D.C. TAG audit WP: D.C. Council members on Monday quizzed State Superintendent of Education Jesús Aguirre about an unreleased auditshowing that city officials cannot account for nearly $10 million in federal taxpayer dollars meant for a tuition assistance program that helps D.C. students pay for college.
More news below (and throughout the day via @alexanderrusso).
The folks at Jacobin (and Kickstarter supporters) have helped put out a new book called Class Action that will be of great interest to many who've followed the Chicago Public Schools saga over the past two or three years.
"Our project with the Chicago Teachers Union’s CORE Caucus and other allies ran long — the final supplement is 118 pages, more than the 50 we had budgeted for. But it was so fantastically designed by Remeike Forbes, and the photography by Katrina Ohstrom and written contributions by CTU President Karen Lewis, economist Dean Baker, Jacobin editors Megan Erickson and Shawn Gude, Joanne Barkan, Lois Weiner, and many others were so strong, we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut it down more or reduce our planned run.
"The booklet will be distributed to educators and school support staff in Chicago, New York, Portland, Newark, Washington DC, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in March to help support rank-and-file activity."
It's been an interesting week in Chicago, what with Neil Steinberg's "pull no punches" profile of Mayor Rahm and Tribune columnist Eric Zorn's turnabout call for CTU head Karen Lewis to run for mayor (rather than resign).
Take a look and let us know what you think of the book -- a quick scan reveals that it's beautifully designed and photo illustrated. Might be a good read whether you're inclined to sympathize or criticize.
New Yorkers are supposed to be tough, but this chart makes it seem like they've got it easier than Denver when it comes to being evaluated. Observation counts 30 pct in Denver, and 60 pct in New York. Student performance counts 30 percent in Denver, 20 percent in NY. Both give 20 pct for local assessments. (Scholastic Administrator pp 52 - 53).
Slate's Matthew Yglesias supports education reform and yet his Education Reform, Not "Populism" Divides Democrats speaks the wisdom that must be heeded.*
Yglesias observes that the party is not that terribly conflicted over the arcane economic issue of whether "leverage ratio" should be 10 or 8%. But, "if you want to look at a really significant ideological divide among Democrats, you should look at education." Reformers made their case and Congress didn't buy it.
So, it is time to drop the theory that test-driven teacher evaluations can advance a progressive agenda and move on.
I hope Yglesias will listen to educators' explanation of why market-driven reform failed, so that he can advance conversations about the best ways for not making the same types of mistakes in other sectors of the economy. I also would like to hear from the reformers who Yglesias mentions, especially Sen. Cory Booker and President Obama, and understand why they embraced school reform. Did they do so because corporate reformers gave them an offer they couldn't refuse, or did we teachers make mistakes that encouraged them to attack our profession so stridently?
Politicos may find this wierd, but the teacher in me keeps coming back to the question of whether we share the blame for the teacher-bashing known as "reform." Back in the 1990s, were we too slow to address the concerns of Chicago and Newark community organizers? Or, were we just in the wrong place at the wrong time and were bulldozed by the Billionaires' Boys Club?
After the break is the case that I would like to make to Ygleisas.
From the Hechinger Report: "It’s quite remarkable that the rate of attaining at 3 or higher went down by only 6 percentage points even though participation more than doubled." (More students don’t always mean lower test scores)
On the right, that's real-life charter school parent and Albuquerque school board member Steven Michael Quezada, who plays DEA agent Steven Gomez on "Breaking Bad."
Yep. It's true. According to his official Albuquerque Public Schools bio, the longtime actor was on the board for the Public Academy for the Performing Arts charter school (where his children attend school).
He's going to appear at an upcoming charter school conference (here).
Magnet Schools Find a Renewed Embrace in Cities NYT: In Miami and many other cities, public schools that admit students districtwide and focus on themes like art, law or technology are gaining popularity after largely falling off the radar.
Maryland students avoid ‘double-testing’ WP: About 25,000 elementary and middle school students in Maryland public schools, who will take the new Common Core exams for a test-drive next month, have been excused by federal officials from also having to take the Maryland School Assessment.
N.C. Becomes First Race to Top State to Win Teacher-Evaluation Delay PK12: North Carolina (and other Race to the Top states) made certain promises to win their big Race to the Top grants. And in its Feb. 12 approval letter, department officials note this one-year extension will, in fact, delay the teacher-evaluation part of the state's sweeping $400 million plan. Three other states have been approved for this one-year teacher-evaluation delay: Mississippi, Nevada, and Kentucky.
Spoiler alert: Ed-related tidbits in Season 2 of House of Cards via PK12
Common Core Curriculum Now Has Critics on the Left NYT: The newest chorus of complaints about the common learning standards is coming from one of their earliest champions: New York State.
States Want Kids To Learn A Lot — Maybe Too Much NPR: When state legislators impose mandates on schools, educators get nervous. Sometimes, lawmakers want kids to learn legitimate skills; other times, they try to micromanage lessons down to the historical event.
More news below and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.
Some of the flip-flops are bizarrly complete and public -- Ravitch, for example.
Others are partial and more subtle -- Camika Royal, say, or Chicago's Seth Lavin.
To the second category add Philadelphia's Helen Gym, the parent activist who's profiled in a recent edition of Philly Magazine (The Agitator).
Gym battles the Mayor, and the school district. She might run for Mayor on an education agenda.
But she also helped found a charter school (Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures School), is married to one of its board members, and sent her children there.
I don't know anything more about Gym than what I read, but I have to say I like the nuance that's suggested. There are all too few people who admit to having doubts or concerns about whatever views they're espousing -- online, especially -- and even fewer who will admit to compromises or complications in their own lives and decisions.
What about reform critics turned supporters? There aren't any vivid examples that come to mind, but it could be said that many if not most of those past the age of 40 who supports reform positions now (regarding charters, accountability, teacher evaluation) probably started out (ie, grew up) wanting to be for the traditional education system.
A recent case of school district gerrymandering gets coverage from MSNBC and reminds us that district boundaries and neighborhood attendance zones used in most parts of the country have profound exclusionary effects for poor, minority children. Sorry about the John Legend.
Absences are down 15 percentage points (in red) among teachers in Albuquerque Public Schools under a new evaluation system that counts attendance (10 percent). Via Annenberg Institute.
"This is the story of how two AFT affiliates fought back against privatization, severe education cuts and over-testing to promote an education agenda that treats teachers as professionals and serves all children."
After watching AFT President Randi Weingarten wow an audience of religious and labor leaders in Oklahoma City, I’m convinced that the union has reached the proper balance between resistance and collaboration.
She presented The Principles that Unite Us, a plan for communities and labor to unite for educational and social justice. It is also a counter-attack against corporate reform.
Weingarten started by recognizing the insight of the pastor’s opening prayer. This week, our 91% low-income district again closed schools due to the cold. Too many children would have been waiting for school busses without coats, gloves, and hats.
Randi and the AFT embrace the old-fashioned idea that educators must model democratic practices. The effort to improve the lives of poor children of color must be “rooted in communities.”
Weingarten took her stand at the Fairview Baptist Church, which is led by some of Oklahoma’s most dedicated civil rights leaders. That postage stamp of urban America illustrates the bitter conflicts that continue to divide us. A few blocks to the southeast was Ralph Ellison’s old neighborhood, where The Invisible Man was inspired. The “No Trespass Zone” where Governor “Alfalfa Bill” Murray placed a machine gun to enforce “Jim Crow” segregation was a few hundred yards away.
School patrons are justifiable angry about the past and present. That is why, a few blocks to the north, the California-based Parent Revolution found an audience. Its organizer urged parents to “go to war” against the school district. If their “parent trigger” goes into effect, it is not clear that the Oklahoma City Public School System will survive.
Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds -- everyone knows that -- but folks in and out of the reform movement have been noting apparent inconsistencies in AFT and NEA position on similar-seeming proposals and statutes.
This time it's Chicago reform critic Mike Klonsky who has questions. One of them is directed at NEA head Dennis Van Roekel, whose union supported teacher evaluation law in Illinois that among other things gives student achievement a role but opposes the "nearly identical" law now in Colorado [SB191].
Wait just a second, says Alice O'Brien, NEA Office of General Counsel. The Colorado lawsuit that NEA is supporting is a challenge to the "discharge without cause" provisions of SB191, not the evaluation provisions.
According to the NEA, there's nothing like that in SB 7. "The IL law was not modeled on SB 191, does not include the type of discharge without cause provisions challenged in the CO lawsuit, and includes collectively bargained evaluation plans, which IEA strongly supports."
Image via Klonsky.
DC's City Paper notes that EdSec Duncan makes a cameo appearance -- in Mayor Vincent Gray's latest education video, and that his predecessor worked hard to get an endorsement from Duncan (but never apparently got one).
I'm personally skeptical that these teacher protections are so bad for kids that they justify judicial intervention, but I'm no lawyer and am often surprised by what judges and juries decide.
Something that caught my eye, however, was the fact that one of the teachers the plaintiffs have identified as too "ineffective" to be given seniority protections has nevertheless received a "Teacher of the Year" award in Los Angeles County.
(I can't actually find any confirmation online that she won a county-wide competition - as opposed to being the nominee from her much-smaller district - but you can see related video of Christine McLaughlin here.)
This is obviously an awkward juxtaposition of teacher quality evaluations that the defense intends to exploit, but it's also illustrative of a real problem for the profession in general: namely, that we don't really have a meaningful, useful definition of "good teaching".
You can argue that this is a result of seniority protections that protect and reward teachers exclusively on the basis of superficial characteristics like experience and degrees. Or you can argue that seniority and due process rights are essential precisely because other judgments of teacher quality are likely to be too arbitrary.
In either case, teachers like me are left working in a profession where an Employee of the Year can also be considered so "grossly ineffective" as to justify a major civil rights lawsuit. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)
This interview with the author of Random Families was on NYC public radio last week. It's a good listen, hether or not you've read the book (which I -- you -- should definitely do).
In Chicago, the push is on to get funding to expand the program even as the research is being continued. The Mayor has pledged a small amount. For the pilot, the combo program cost about $4,400 per kids per year including both the tutoring and the social skills program (Becoming A Man). At scale, the tutoring would probably cost just $2,500 or so -- and wouldn't have to continue year after year for each participant.
Ironically, if IL gets a NCLB waiver it could either reduce funding available for tutoring (via SES) or in theory create a new avenue for CPS to fund the program at scale. So far, at least, the feisty teachers union hasn't come out against the program, which would be in its nature to do (since the Mayor has endorsed it). CPS still has a $65 million SES program (no waiver) but the Match program isn't eligible.
Meanwhile, there's a related effort called MS ExTRA going on NYC, via TASC funded by Robin Hood and the DOE and Ford. In NYC, it's small-group vs. Chicago's 1:1, it's 20 middle school literacy not 9th grade algebra at 12 high schools, and it's Harvard's EdLab not UChicago's Crime Lab.
NPR’s Sarah Cwiek, in The Middle Class Took Off 100 Years Ago ... Thanks to Henry Ford?, noted the centennial of Henry Ford’s policy of paying his workers $5 a day.
The policy of paying a living wage sparked a positive feedback loop which helped create middle class prosperity. Ford was not being charitable. He wanted a stable workforce.
Education research confirms the value of stable teaching forces. This is especially true of high-poverty schools where students face extreme instability in their neighborhoods.
Even so, some school reformers claim to believe that “churn” or high levels of turnover is a virtue.
Two recent studies have added to the evidence that high-dollar efforts to turnaround challenging schools have disappointed because they do not recognize the value of stability.
And a recent post from Andy Rotherham notes that class issues play a role in how reformers view stability differently than others.
Here's AFT president Randi Weingarten speaking at last night's Newark schools meeting (provided by AFT). After Weingarten left, speakers hurled insults at Newark superintendent Cami Anderson (NJ Spotlight).
In the aftermath, there's been some debate on Twitter about whether Weingarten and others approve of this kind of attack, are in any way responsible for policing comments others make, and why there weren't (m)any pro-reform parents and community members in the packed meeting.
News from Chiberia today is that school is closed yet again (4th day this year) because of the cold -- and CPS buildings can't stay open for safety or working parents' convenience because of the labor agreement.
It wasn't local reporters who figured this out and started asking questions, however, but rather local elected officials:
"Several aldermen, pointing to the burden placed on parents, called for a change in policy that would leave school doors open for kids to use the gym or participate in art projects," noted the Sun Times (CPS plan to close schools Tuesday bothers aldermen).
What does the union have to say?
"We're sensitive to the needs of parents who don’t have a lot of child-care options," said CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin in a DNA Info article. "However, when our students are in front of our members, they receive instructional services."
Last week, you may have seen or heard about Al Jazeera America's segment on the intensive math tutoring pilot that's being studied in Chicago. You may have read more about it in today's New York Times. Here's the video, just posted. Watch part 2 here.
Via Valerie Strauss, who notes that Duncan weighed in against Starr for NYC but doesn't mention that (a) she wrote the story (and some considered it to be journalistically problematic) and (b) that Duncan also used to tout test score increases when he was a superindent in Chicago so he's calling himself out as well as everyone else.
There's always good reading that comes in over the weekend (or that I miss during the week), but I know that some of you have lives and/or don't take your jobs seriously enough to check the Internet 24/7, so here are some of the best things you might want to check out or at least know about:
Will A Computer Decide Whether You Get Your Next [Teaching] Job? : Planet Money : NPR http://ht.ly/sXDrS
Against the Rage Machine http://ht.ly/sXxCi Why so many of us are outraged so often, and feel the need to say so via n+1
From Jay Mathews: Students won’t learn? Go visit their parents: D.C. is trying to see if visiting parents at h... http://tinyurl.com/krcektz
A week later, I'm still not much national coverage of unlawful teacher dismissal lawsuit in NOLA. Also, no one's biting on my prediction that if the new Ezra Klein / Matt Yglesias endeavor has an education component, Dana Goldstein is most likely to head it.
Bill Nye explains changes in extreme poverty, and makes the case that "intractable" social problems can be ameliorated. Crossed fingers. Via @knowmore. Or catch Eyes On The Prize on YouTube.
Philadelphia Principals Fired Over Cheating NYT: Three principals were fired last week after an investigation into test cheating that has implicated about 140 teachers and administrators, a spokesman for the Philadelphia school district said.
Cheating Probe Roils Philadelphia School System WSJ: Nearly 140 teachers and administrators in Philadelphia public schools have been implicated in one of the nation's largest cheating scandals.
Chicago Public Schools approves seven new charter schools WBEZ: Despite protests and less than a year after closing 50 traditional public schools due to declining enrollment, Chicago’s Board of Education voted Wednesday afternoon to approve seven new charter schools.
Obama's State of the Union Speeches and Education: A Scorecard PK12: President Barack Obama will give his State of the Union speech next week, on Jan. 28. So that means a week from now, we'll all be mulling over the education portion. Is Obama usually able to get what he wants from Congress? Short answer: Not so much. For the longer answer, check out these past State of the Union speeches.
School Was Open, But No One Went WNYC: The city's daily attendance data show that only 47 percent of students attended school Wednesday, the lowest attendance rate by far this school year. The year's previous low was 73 percent on Jan. 7. Typically, citywide attendance in January hovers around 90 percent.
Some Parents Bemoan Icy Treks as de Blasio Stands by Choice to Keep Schools Open NYT: Across New York City on Wednesday, schools grappled with anemic attendance and complaints that Mayor Bill de Blasio had erred by holding class on a day of subzero winds and frozen streets.
More news below (and throughout the day via @alexanderrusso).
Micah Uetricht's forthcoming book, Strike for America, is coming out in March, promoted as "Inside reporting from the most important domestic labor struggle in decades."
"Written by Micah Uetricht, a progressive journalist [Jacobin, In These Times] and former labor organizer who was on the scene for the entire strike, Strike for America is a blow-by-blow account of how CORE, a rank-and-file caucus of the CTU, lead this movement, elected Karen Lewis as the union’s president, and launched a successful strike against neoliberal reform. Working closely with parents and community members, CORE developed an agenda that went beyond the usual compensation negotiations in order to establish a broad coalition opposed to the market-driven education policies backed by the previous union leadership."
I haven't seen or read it yet, but I'm guessing some of you have and perhaps are even included in the book. Cross-posted from D299.
Last night's kickoff episode of Getting Schooled, the new Al Jazeera America series, aired last night.
In it, correspondent Soledad O'Brien focused on the inequities between different school systems in the same states and areas and what happens to parents who fake their addresses to obtain a better education for their children.
The issue is familiar -- and so embedded in the American school system that few bother to talk about it any more -- but the segment includes some footage and data you may not have seen before: private investigators in high-tech Homeland-style surveillance vans, a list of states where you can go to jail for faking an address (not just paying the district back), an update from Kelley Williams-Bolar who was jailed in Ohio for faking an address (then pardoned after a public uproar in her defense), and a Pennsylvania couple (pictured above) who was arrested and is being taken to court for $10,000 worth of "stolen" education next week.
In addition to giving us a somewhat broader, updated look at inter-district inequities and state "theft of services" laws, the show also ups the ante rhetorically, comparing districts' efforts to weed out kids to a domestic Border Patrol, which is pretty intense. "Do not treat me like an illegal alien because I live in Philadelphia," says one of the parents who was arrested. The segment also broadens the issue out somewhat by including a mixed-race immigrant couple rather than focusing solely on Williams-Bolar, who is an African-American single parent.
The @AmericaTonight series continues tonight and the rest of the week, with segments on homeschool, algebra tutoring, flipping STEM classes, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Image via AJAM
MLK talks about school integration in a speech he delivered on April 18, 1959, at the Youth March for Integrated Schools. The remarks appear about halfway through a documentary called Integration Report. "The film serves as an excellent account of where the country has been, and an important reminder of the inequalities and injustices that continue to block King’s dream." (MLK Speaks The Atlantic)
A Look at Ideas for Using State Budget Surpluses AP: Governors and lawmakers are putting forth a variety of proposals for the extra money, including cutting taxes, increasing spending and fortifying savings accounts. [CA, MI, MN, MO, NY]
The Budget Deal's Teacher-Quality Programs: Winners and Losers Teacher Beat: Find out how the federal teacher programs fared in the recently completed budget deal.
US Education Secretary Arne Duncan to visit Hartford The Republic: He is scheduled to visit University High School of Science and Engineering for a town hall meeting on improving access to a college education.
More Than 130 Philly Educators Implicated in Cheating, Officials Say NBC News: After more than two years of investigations by both the state and the School District, 138 Philadelphia educators have been implicated in test score cheating.
Court ruling in New Orleans could have big consequences for the city’s schools Hechinger Report: Last week’s Louisiana appeals court ruling that the New Orleans school board improperly dismissed thousands of teachers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina vindicated the fired educators and their supporters. The Hechinger Report’s Sarah Carr talked about the implications of the ruling last Friday with NPR’s Melissa Block on All Things Considered. You can listen to the conversation, or read a transcript, here.
Bill & Melinda Gates: Myths Blocking Progress for the Poor WNYC: Since launching their eponymous foundation in 2000, Bill and Melinda Gates have granted nearly $30 billion to organizations and individuals working to eradicate poverty across the world.
More news below and throughout the day via Twitter (@alexanderrusso)
Profile of Indianapolis charter school opened by a local Goodwill via PBS NewsHour
As you may have read (Politico had it first that I saw) earlier this week, Chicago Teachers Union invited firebrand Reverend Jeremiah Wright to speak at an MLK-related breakfast Wednesday morning, and from what I've seen since then Wright didn't disappoint. Watch video above (via HuffPost) or click below for other news coverage.
I could go on and on but there are two basic reasons to read Columbia University journalism professor Lynnell Hancock's new piece in the Columbia Journalism review about a book that chronicled the Boston integration debacle called Common Ground.
First and foremost, if you're involved in education now but weren't around then you (or haven't studied the period) you need to know what the people who came before you tried and failed to do -- and how intense and personal it all became.
We're not there yet, where Boston got to -- and probably won't get anywhere near -- but it's important to understand what happens when you try and change peoples' lives even if you're trying to do it for all the right reasons, and why some of the changes being proposed are so small, relatively speaking.
Second, but no less important, if you're writing about education (or reading lots of what other people write) you would probably do well to remind yourself about what it takes to examine education issues fairly and dispassionately, with nuance and complexity and prepared to have your mind changed. There's far too little of that going on right now, and it's pretty sad to see.
Haven't clicked over yet? Uncommon ground (CJR). Image via CJR.
Special ed vacancies are down in Chicago -- from over 300 to over 200 -- but the shortages are still pretty severe there and in most districts nationwide, according to this segment from Chicago Public Television's newsmagazine, Chicago Tonight.
Elizabeth Green's contribution to a recent Nieman Lab roundup of journalism trends focused on the rise of single-subject sites and -- no surprise -- focused on the ongoing story of what's now called Chalkbeat USA (not really, but that's what I like to call it).
In the piece, Green predicts that more nonprofit journalists will focus on narrow ("nerdy") issues in the future -- and that the the focus will be on subject matter expertise rather than "personality, point of view, or even a particularly distinctive voice."
Ouch! I'm not sure I agree entirely about thatlast part. Media outlets need to write stories that people want to read, and there's a reason that newspapers have included opinion and analysis as well as news coverage and features. (Many have editorial pages, too, which as I've written in the past can be invaluable in helping readers understand complex or controversial issues.)
In an ideal world, according to me, excellent news coverage and thought-provoking commentary would be combined in one place. Reader comments and predictably self-interested opinion pieces don't count, IMHO, though others would argue that point.)
In any case, it sounds like Green et al are doing *realy* well -- congrats to them -- and their expansion/network (which now includes Colorado, Tennessee, Indiana) is exciting and impressive.
Image via Flickr.
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein & Co. recently gave out their Third annual Wonky awards, including think tank of the year (Kaiser), pundi (Bob Laszewski), graph of the year (the deficit shrinking), FAIL of the year, regulation of the year, etc.
There wasn't anything education-related that I saw, but the academics of the year (Saez and Piketty) have brought lots of attention to an education-related issue that reform critics especially like to bring up all the time these days: income inequality.
Last year made inequality big:
"Obama devoted a whole speech to the topic. Bill de Blasio was elected mayor of New York on a promise to fight it. The think tank closest to the administration launched a whole spin-off dedicated to studying it."
What if anything will reformers figure out to say in the face of all this newfound attention to inquality (and poverty and income mobility)?
They traditionally shy away from these issues, though many of them got into education because they thought that education could help address them -- was indeed the best method of doing so. But obviously education can't be the only method of addressing income inequality, and especially so during and after a massive recession.
Reformers may have to reconnect with why they got into education in the first place -- and even support some non-education measures like minimum wage and immigration reform -- if they don't want to be left out of the inequality party of 2014.
Flickr via KenFager
In case you missed it, two of the items listed in The Atlantic Cities' "Best Thing My City Did This Year" roundup are related to education:
First -- and perhaps most controversial -- New Orleans's Public Schools Came Into Their Own:
"The trends in results are generally positive and returning to an apparently failed system seems hard to justify at this point. While my colleagues and I are still studying how, and how well, this radical new system works, the best thing the city did in 2013 was let this 'temporary' reform play out a little longer. Sometimes the best thing a city can do is nothing at all."
The second might also be controversial: Providence Tried to Change How Poor Parents Talk to Their Kids:
"The program will not only measure vocabulary, but also provide coaching and tools to help parents close the 'word gap' that exists for children in low income homes. Not only will this be amazing for the kids, it shows Providence can compete and win in elite-level competitions."
Check it out. Image via C.A. Muller (Flickr)
When Chicago Public Television's nightly news show tried to get folks to come in and talk about charter schools for a segment last night, there weren't any folks from the charter community who were willing to show up.
That's strange. Usually it's not hard to round up people who want to be on TV. Perhaps it was just the cold weather.
Or perhaps it was the fact that charters are particularly controversial in Chicago right now, despite being just 12 percent of kids in Chicago (#9 for choice in the nation according to the recent Brookings report) and having what some consider a very tight application process.
The most obvious reason for the controversy surrounding charters in Chicago is the spectacular flameout of one of its biggest advocates -- and beneficiaries -- Juan Rangel. The latest issue of Chicago Magazine chronicles his story, which makes for excruciating or exciting reading depending on your point of view on charters (The Rise and Fall of Juan Rangel).
It's worth noting that this is a Chicago corruption / nepotism story as much as charter school story. Sorry to say, these kinds of stories are still fairly commonplace. And most of the misdeeds took place during the Daley era, though Mayor Emanuel obviously didn't do anything to clean things up upon his arrival. (That's why there's been no press conference from the Mayor in which he apologizes and says that this kind of thing is unacceptable.)
But there are also some issues raised in the piece for charter supporters in Chicago and nationally and for CPS as it moves forward, including the eye-popping lack of oversight over the UNO charter network by CPS (which authorizes and monitors charters internally) that continued well into the Emanuel administration and the incredible news that nepotism bans that cover the district don't cover charter networks. Crossed fingers someone will step up and propose some steps to prevent any more UNO situations from happening in the future.
The past week or so has seen a small resurgence of questions about the Washington Post's hard-working education blogger, Valerie Strauss, whose offerings at The Answer Sheet have generally run contra the current reform movement.
First word of it that I saw came from Patrick "Eduflack" Riccards, who raised questions about the appropriateness of having Strauss write a 12/31 front-page story (given her record as a blogger) and poked holes in the reporting and writing of the piece itself (about Duncan's possible involvement in the NYC chancellor selection process). Read it here: Personal Agendas and Objective Reporting.
Strauss usually writes for online only, not in print, and isn't an education columnist in the traditional sense like the Post's Jay Mathews or the Times' former education columnists Michael Winerip, Richard Rothstein, or Sam Freedman. But her work -- or should I say the guest posts she frequently runs? -- appears under the Post banner online, and the distinctions between different categories of stories aren't always apparent online, anyway.
Andy Rotherham has some additional thoughts about the story's lack of context here.
EdWeek's PoliticsK12 blog also published this entry (How Much Sway Does Arne Duncan Have in Local Decisions, Anyway?) noting Strauss's tendency towards "sometimes" criticism of the Obama administration's education policies and its main advocate, Arne Duncan and that it's unclear if Duncan's input would have had any effect, anyway.
I would only add that we still don't know whether the story was pitched or not, and by whom, or who advocated for it within the newsroom. Regardless, the Washington Post editors who assigned and edited and placed the story so prominently-- not just Strauss -- who are responsible for the quality and appropriateness of the story, as well as its placement on the front page, as well as that it was a holiday week and other reporters may not have been available.
Previous posts: Who Are Education's Biggest Trolls (Besides Me)?; WashPost Blog Irks Reformy Blogger; Debating Valerie Strauss. More here. Disclosure: Strauss has run one or two pieces that I've written -- and turned down one or two as well.
Click this half-hour CSPAN video from just before the holidays above (or here if it doesn't load properly) and/or read this PoliticsK12 blog post about the appearance (AFT's Weingarten Talks Michelle Rhee, Common Core, Pitfalls in Obama's Education Strategy) which highlights Weingarten's stance on standardized testing uses and on DC's recent successes.