About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Charts: Hey, At Least Schools Fare Better Than Police In Perceived Fairness To Blacks

RACIALGAPCHARTOn the left is the percentage of whites who think blacks are treated less fairly (in schools, it's 15 percent).  On the right is the percentage of blacks (51 percent). From Charles Blow's NYT column this weekend.

Politics: Your Favorite Liberal Lawmaker Supports Universal Vouchers*

image from www.newyorker.comMaybe you knew this already but liberal darling US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) supports private school vouchers -- for everyone.*

US News had the story in 2012 (Elizabeth Warren's Quiet Support for Public School Vouchers), and it comes up again in the latest New Yorker as part of a review of her new book (Reading Elizabeth Warren).

Warren doesn't just support vouchers in special circumstances, like special education placements or DCPS.  She wants to give them to everyone, everwhere.  

As quoted in the New Yorker piece, Warren has written that 

“An all-voucher system would be a shock to the educational system, but the shakeout might be just what the system needs.”

According to Warren, those "public" schools in expensive enclaves aren't really all that public as their defenders like to make them sound: 

"Schools in middle-class neighborhoods may be labeled 'public,' but parents have paid for tuition by purchasing a $175,000 home within a carefully selected school district."

Interestingly, Warren's argument is at least partly based on the high housing costs associated with the current zip code-based system of allocating scarce quality schooling.  High housing costs, plus burdens on working Americans (mothers in particular) have been a scourge for decades, according to Warren.  Breaking the link between housing and school quality would relieve pressure on families that have moved to expensive places just for the schools.  

Warren's ideas have been debated on Diane Ravitch's site in recent days --  they're New Yorker readers too, it seems :-) -- though not surprisingly the idea is being met with shock and disappointment. And the New Yorker writer, Jill Lepore, calls Warren's proposal reckless.

Previous posts: Please Stop Talking About Banning Private SchoolThe Liberal Case Against Private Education; Failure, Voice, & ExitHow Vouchers Are Like Same-Sex Marriage

*Correctification: Though she uses the term "voucher," which is commonly used to denote programs that include private and parochial schools, Warren is primarily focused on eliminating the link between neighborhoods and public school assignment.  The 2012 US News article cited above calls Warren's proposal "public school vouchers." The original 2007 proposal excerpted by AFT Kombiz uses the same language (though it doesn't specificaly exclude private schools as I read it). "The public-versus-private competition misses the central point," writes Warren. "The problem is not vouchers; the problem is parental choice."

Charts: Juking The Stats In Chicago (Again)

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 12.20.05 PMChicago Magazine's latest story about the precipitous drop in homicide stats during 2013 is alarming for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the realization that it's pretty easy to juke crime statistics without generating much attention (and if it's easy to reclassify murders as natural deaths then you can only imagine what's going on or at least possible when it comes to school stats).  

The other reason, of course, is that the effort to reduce crime in Chicago came in large part from student deaths like Hadiya Pendleton, and there are some students involved in The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates, including a Harold Washington College student named Michelle Manalansan.

Read the story and let us know what you think.  Then go back and read the related story:  Even the Data Have a Bias. Cross-posted from D299.

#EdGif Of The Day: How Do You Fix A School System Whose Middle Class Is Disappearing?


Some cities like DC and Chicago and NYC are way more appealing than they used to be and gentrifying like mad despite the Great Recession, but that doesn't mean the middle class is coming back. Here's a GIF showing the disappearance of the middle class (in grey) since 1970 in Chicago, which has resulted in a highly segregated, extremely unequal city (and a public school system that is overwhelmingly poor and minority). Read some coverage here and here. The spreading green shape represents the affluent.

Quotes: Reform Critic Disdains "Unhealthy Vilification" Of Reform

Quotes2When we're competing, we're not collaborating. That's what I find most disturbing. We're fighting battles in court when we should be working together to figure out what works for our children. - Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University in the WSJ via Pondiscio.

Afternoon Video: Detroit Career Tech School Teaches Flying

"Devote three minutes to watching this, and see if it doesn't affect your view of the innovation and commitment underway in places or systems usually written off as struggling or troubled," writes The Atlantic's James Fallows about Davis Aerospace (A High School That Teaches Students to Fly).

Thompson: LA School Report Misstates On Vergara Lawsuit

DemocracyLA School Report's Michael Janofsky, in Analysis: Vergara Approaching Time for Tru Judgment, fundamentally misstates the issues in Vergara v. California, which seeks to overturn the state's tenure, seniority, and due process laws.

Janofsky claims that the question is, "Are the laws, as they exist, the best and only way for the state to provide California school children access to a quality education, as the state Constitution provides?"

No! Even the best of laws are the flawed results of the imperfect sausage-making that is self-government. In our constitutional democracy, Janofsky, the corporate reformers, and the economists who testified for the plaintiffs have a right to believe whatever they want about the best ways to help poor children of color. The issue is whether they proved their case, supporting their opinion that duly enacted laws, passed with the intent of helping teachers, but not hurting students, should be stricken. 

If those laws are stricken, who will determine the best and only way to provide a quality education?  

Janofsky also claims that the plaintiffs' arguments are more "systemic," while the defendants' are more "granular."  Perhaps he means that the plaintiffs' experts are economists viewing schools from 30,000 feet, but unaware of education research or facts on the ground. He is correct, however, about their tactic of "using the experiences of nine students as a motif" for showing that California needs better legislation for firing teachers. "The fact that one child’s education could be compromised," writes Janofsky, repeating the plaintiff's public relations spin, "means all children are at risk."

Yeah, that's an interesting motif and a nice soundbite, but it is completely divorced from reality.

I'd say that the demand for a system where no terminations could be mishandled  and no students could be assigned an ineffective teacher is a pretty granular goal, and it is downright utopian to boot. Where did we get this idea that because voters haven't cured all our social ills, the elites should determine the laws of the land? Why believe that the corporate funders of Vergara would not, once again, take inequities and make them worse?-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via

Morning Video: Kaya Henderson Talks DC School Progress On MSNBC

Morning Video: De Blasio Says NYC System "Broken In So Many Ways"

"We need to be able to say, that despite the good efforts of so many, the school system is still broken in so many ways," admitted de Blasio according to a Gothamist roundup of coverage (De Blasio Doesn't Totally Hate Charter Schools, Okay?) "Our brothers and sisters in the charter movement point to this reality. And I acknowledge that many people of good will in that movement are trying to shake the foundation. And we will work with them in good faith. But we need to work on solutions for the whole."

Charts: Vouchers Coming Back (Should You Be Alarmed?)

image from images.politico.comFourteen states already spend about $1 billion to send kids to private schools, reports Politico's Stephanie Simon.

As presented, this is an alarming notion (they're teaching Creationism!) that should be of concern to all.

However, some caution may be appropriate, too.

A billion dollars is a tiny amount, given then $500B-plus annual spending on education.

The number/percentage is much higher in higher ed, where we already have a mixed (public-private) system.

Some parochial schools do a better job than local district schools).

Most private and parochial schools aren't teaching Creationism.  

AM News: NYC Mayor Changes Rhetoric On Charters

News2From de Blasio, Gentler Words About Charter Schools WNYC:  Mayor Bill de Blasio, in an effort to mend fences on charter schools, emphasized common ground and a desire to “shake the foundations” of the school system. See also ChalkbeatNY

Ready, set ... California schools finally start new computer test this week KPCC: For the next 10 weeks, California students will embark on that dreaded annual rite of passage: the standardized test. But this year, they won't need their number 2 pencils. Test will be given on computer for the first time this year - and school districts and the test provider have been scrambling to get ready.

‘Union Power’ wins big but most UTLA members didn’t vote LA School Report: The progressive group — which plans to call for a strike if a new teacher contract can’t be negotiated soon — won outright in races for NEA Affiliate vice president, AFT Affiliate vice president, Elementary VP, Secondary VP, Treasurer, and Secretary. The race for President will be decided in a run-off pitting Union Power leader, Alex Caputo-Pearl, against incumbent Warren Fletcher.

All staff to be dismissed at three low-performing CPS schools WBEZ: Under the turnaround model, new staff are also CTU teachers. But the union blasted turnarounds as a strategy to get rid of veteran African American teachers, whom Sharkey says kids need as role models. Nearly all students in the three schools targeted for turnaround are poor and black.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: NYC Mayor Changes Rhetoric On Charters" »

Charts: Public Schools' Discipline & Teacher Quality Problems

image from images.politico.comYou might have been told that charter schools were the only kinds of schools that struggled to provide a equitable, quality education to everyone, but this new discipline and teacher quality data suggests that the problem is much more widespread. Via Politico

Morning Video: Rahm Emanuel Grilled On School Offerings

Rahm Emanuel Says D.C. Is Denying Oxygen To Chuck Todd's BrainRahm Emanuel Jabs Chuck Todd

Quotes: What Really Works In Education (You're Doing It Wrong)

Quotes2It’s not just more money. Or more choice. Or more tests. Or more organizational innovation. None of those options has succeeded because none has focused on improving instruction in high-poverty schools and developing a successful approach for students to master critical skills. - WSJ's David Wessel (Two Economists on School Reform)

Media: Scripps Honors This American Life's "Harper High" Series

Harper"This American Life receives $10,000 and the Jack R. Howard Award for In-Depth Radio Coverage for Harper High School," notes KyForward.com.

"The series by Ben Calhoun, Ira Glass, Alex Kotlowitz, Linda Lutton, Robyn Semien and Julie Snyder documented daily life in one of America’s most dangerous schools.

"Their work garnered the attention of President and Mrs. Barack Obama and prompted creation of an anti-youth-violence initiative for Chicago schools."

Baltimore: A New School Where "The Wire" Was Filmed

20140313HENDERSON-slide-PLMW-superJumboThere's an amazing-looking new $43M school that's been built and opened in a blighted neighborhood in Baltimore, part of a massive urban renewal project funded in part by Johns Hopkins University and the Casey Foundation (and in partnership with Morgan State), according to the NYT (Reading, Writing and Renewal). It's a contract school, not a charter, but there's been displacement of previous residents in the area and controversy over the admissions lottery priority system. Image courtesy NYT. Other stories here, here, and here.

Quotes: Despite Victories, Reform Critics Still Lack Viable Agenda

Quotes2They haven’t yet made the case for a different view of the needed changes in American public education... They need a message that goes beyond critiquing reformers and defending the miserable status quo. - New America's Conor Williams in The Daily Beast (The Charter School Trap)

AM News: LA Charters Soar, Indiana Bowing Out

Study: Los Angeles charter schools outperform traditional district schools KPCC: According to the study, charter school students receive the equivalent of about 50 more days of learning in reading and 79 days of math than students in traditional public schools. The report also showed impressive results for Hispanic charter school students, especially students living in poverty. See also LASR

In Debate on Charter Schools, Hybrids Offer an Answer NYT: If the mayor’s messaging were more robust, determined and aggressive, he might draw attention to hybrid schools, which strive to offer poor children something like the experience of a private education within the context of the traditional public system, using union teachers.

Sec. of Education Arne Duncan Explains What Dissatisfied States Can Do About Common Core The Blaze: “They absolutely have the right to do this,” Duncan told TheBlaze. “This is a state-led effort; it always has been, always will be. And whatever Indiana decides, we want to work with them to make sure that students have a chance to be successful.”

Common Core practice test delayed [by a weekEdSource: Just days before students in California and 21 other states were set to begin field-testing the new student assessment aligned with Common Core State Standards, the group developing the exam announced it’s being pushed back a week to ensure all systems are go.

Obama to promote education agenda at Miami school Palm Beach Post: As part of an effort to broaden access to education, Obama was announcing that, starting in the fall, the Education Department will begin working with states to identify students who have not completed the form. 

Undercover TV Reports on School Security Raise Ethical Questions NYT: School shootings have prompted efforts by news organizations in recent months to assess the effectiveness of safety measures, but some of these reports have gone disturbingly wrong.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Continue reading "AM News: LA Charters Soar, Indiana Bowing Out" »

Quotes: The Key Is To Go On Strike For Kids, Not Teachers

Quotes2When you’re going on strike, and instead of not making widgets anymore you’re leaving kids without an education, the only way for that not to be seen as a public temper tantrum is to make those kinds of actions not just about yourself, but about the kids, about the broader community.   - Chicago author Micah Uetricht interviewed in The Awl (How Can Unions Win?)

Morning Video: Have Charters Hurt Schools (Or Were They Hurting Already?)


Segment from Democracy Now! includes de Blasio railing against pro-charter ads and features guests Steve Barr (Future Is Now) and Brian Jones (former UFT social justice caucus) talking about whether charters are to blame for hurting public schools or whether there were profound problems before charters ever came along (and continue unaddressed to this day). Click here if embed doesn't work or to read transcript.

Quotes: New SAT Over Current ACT

Quotes2If the new version of the SAT was available now, I would definitely be taking this over the ACT... It's just like everything I've been learning in school, where we are analyzing documents and seeing how we came to that answer. The idea of condensed math makes it much easier to narrow down what you want to study. - Chicago high schooler quoted in WSJ story(College Board Shakes Up SAT)

Morning Video: Charter Advocates, Opponents Discuss NYC Conflict

MSNBC segment from over the weekend including New York University’s Pedro Noguera, parent Regina Dowdell, founder of Green Dot Schools Steve Barr, and Working Families Party’s Dan Cantor to "discuss the fight over three nixed charter schools and the public education debate in New York City."

AM News: NYC Might Require Charters To Accept Mid-Year Transfers

What you need to know about ‘backfill’ Chalkbeat: Backfilling seats that open up can pose steep challenges for schools. Students who enter the school midyear or at one of a school’s higher grade levels can have trouble adjusting to a new school and be academically behind. Midyear entries especially are more likely to have unstable home lives, leading to them leaving the school—meaning that one “backfilled” seat might actually be filled by two or three students over the course of a year.

 The Curious Rejection of One S.C. District's Testing-Waiver Request PoliticsK12: In a March 10 rejection letter, however, Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary for K-12, explained that the No Child Left Behind Act requires that all students within a state be held to the same standards and tested on the same tests. She said this is essential given the move to new college- and career-ready standards.

At West Side Chicago school, kids go without teachers WBEZ: Take the Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy on the city’s West Side, where students have spent much of this year without key teachers. Their core courses in English and science have been taught mostly by substitutes this year—sometimes a different substitute every day—meaning no homework, and often no classwork.  One student said students are passed automatically since there are no teachers.

D.C. Moves To Extend School Day At Low-Performing Schools WAMU: Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson want students and 40 of the city's lowest-performing schools to stay in school a little longer every day.

Status Quo at Elite New York Schools: Few Blacks and Hispanics NYT: The stagnant racial demographics at the city’s nine specialized high schools led Mayor Bill de Blasio to call again for increasing their diversity.

Video: 'No Kid Goes Hungry' Plan Goes Viral NBC News: More than 700 people, from as far way as Taiwan, have donated almost $20,000 to a Michigan 3rd grader's plan to pay off delinquent lunch accounts. WILX's Amanda Malkowski reports. 

Video: Parents Rally Behind Extreme Bullying Victim NBC News: A group of Ohio parents rally behind a 14-year-old developmentally challenged student after a gym teacher and some students are charged with bullying him. WKYC's Lynna Lai reports. 

Obesity Linked To Lower Grades Among Teen Girls NPR: The reason for the link isn't clear, but researchers say obesity's effect on self-image and self-esteem might be partly to blame.

Flobots classroom project takes off in Denver AP: The Flobots, a Denver hip-hop band that gained fame with the hit single "Handlebars," are known for social activism and supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement. Drew Elder, a senior vice president of the investment firm Janus, is more familiar with the cello than with Chuck D....

Afternoon Video: First, Kill All The [Elected] School Boards, Says Netflix Founder


Here's Reed Hastings speaking to CCSA Charter Conference 2014 last week, via Politico, during which he rails against the the vagaries of local elected school boards and urges aggressive charter expansion. (He's not the first to make this argument.  Matt Miller's 2008 Atlantic piece, First, Kill All the School Boards, is another notable example.) Don't agree with Hastings? Show your commitment by canceling your Netflix subscription immediately, even if you have episodes of House of Cards still to watch. 


Morning Video: Mayor De Blasio On The HotSeat


Here's the MSNBC segment that everyone's talking about  (see links in morning roundup) in which we see a mayor caught between several competing players: charter supporters like Eva Moskowitz and Governor Cuomo, charter critics like the UFT, and elected officials even further to his left like Public Advocate Tish James (who's suing against some of the de Blasio-approved co-locations). I'm almost starting to feel sorry for the guy.

Bruno: Vergara Plaintiffs Shouldn't Put Individual Teachers On Trial

4322493690_e0bab53950_mThe plaintiffs in Vergara vs. California believe that the state's tenure and seniority protections for teachers are so detrimental to student well-being that they should be considered unconstitutional.

I'm skeptical the evidence on that count is sufficiently abundant and clear to justify judicial intervention, but one can at least imagine what a data-driven argument from the plaintiffs might look like. Rigorous statistical analyses of student outcomes would likely be appropriate, for example, and at times the plaintiffs have attempted to provide them.

What has been more puzzling and disheartening, however, is the apparent need for the plaintiffs to demonstrate that they were personally wronged by the laws in question by impugning the competence of protected teachers.

Last week - and for the second time so far during the trial - a teacher took the stand to defend herself against complaints made by a student plaintiff.

In other words, the Vergara trial entails teachers being forced to defend their competence and professionalism in court because a few students were unhappy with them.

What, precisely, is this sort of public humiliation supposed to accomplish?

Continue reading "Bruno: Vergara Plaintiffs Shouldn't Put Individual Teachers On Trial" »

Quotes: Anti-Test Teachers "Keep Pushing, And Pushing, And Pushing"

Quotes2They keep pushing and pushing and pushing, and using the children against their parents, and that's not professional at all. -- Chicago elementary school parent Luz Zavala on being pressured to join CTU-led testing opt-out campaign (via Chicago Tonight

Morning Video: High Intensity Tutoring (Plus Mentoring) Shows Impact

Tutoring plus mentoring (in Chicago the program is called Becoming A Man) can have profound results, according to recent research.  Via Chicago Public Television.

Quotes: Anderson No-Shows At Raucous Newark Board Meetings

Quotes2The 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)


Chicago: The Story Behind The Rahm-Karen Lewis Food Fight

image from educationnext.org
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.

People: Breaking Ground with Kavitha Cardoza

ScreenHunter_05 Feb. 25 16.46I 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. 

AM News: Newark Supe. Wants To Waive Seniority Protections


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).

Continue reading "AM News: Newark Supe. Wants To Waive Seniority Protections" »

Books: New Book Chronicles Chicago Union Successes

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 20 09.47The 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.

Chart: Big Variations In Teacher Evaluations (Denver- NYC)

Screen shot 2014-02-19 at 3.57.07 PMNew 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).

Thompson: Pro-Reform Pundit Embraces Education Reality

YglesiasSlate'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.

Continue reading "Thompson: Pro-Reform Pundit Embraces Education Reality" »

Charts: Doubling AP Participation Without Big Performance Losses

image from educationbythenumbers.orgFrom 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)

Quotes: Using Children "Like Human Shields" In Chicago

ScreenHunter_02 Feb. 20 10.14Many politicians clutch at the concept of “the children,” but Rahm grabs them like human shields.

- Neil Steinberg's Esquire Magazine profile of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Click here for more favorite sentences from the piece.

TV: Breaking Bad's Pro-Charter School Board Member

image from c.o0bc.comSorry, all of you charter critics who love "Breaking Bad." Your enjoyment of the show -- like your use of Apple devices and Amazon Prime -- is more complicated than you might like it to be.

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).  

AM News: The Return Of Magnet Schools


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.

Continue reading "AM News: The Return Of Magnet Schools" »

People: When Reformers Switch Sides (& Vice Versa)

Screen shot 2014-02-12 at 10.50.35 PMThere have been a handful of high-profile public defections from the ranks of reformers over the years.

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.

Morning Video: Exclusionary Attendance Zones & District Boundaries


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.

Charts: Teacher Attendance Improves Under New Eval. System

image from main.abqjournal.netdna-cdn.comAbsences 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.

Morning Video: AFT Touts Philly, New Mexico Successes

"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."

Quotes: In Education, It's *Liberals* Who Oppose Choice

Quotes2Moderate liberals and conservatives want to expand and empower the public schools that admit everybody by random lottery. The lefties want to preserve geographic-based restrictions. - New York magazine article (Public Education’s Weird Ideological Divide)

Video: Getting In Trouble At School Used To Mean After-School Detention

"Kids Today Have It Hard" The Advancement Project via Upworthy (ugh).

Thompson: Weingarten Gets The Right Balance In Oklahoma City

Randi_Weingarten_2008_croppedAfter 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.

Continue reading "Thompson: Weingarten Gets The Right Balance In Oklahoma City" »

TVal: NEA Denies Flip-Flop On Teacher Evaluation

image from 3.bp.blogspot.comConsistency 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.

Morning Video: DC Mayor Touts Early Childhood (With Duncan Assist)


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).

Bruno: "Ineffective" LA Teacher Awarded Tenure & "Teacher Of Year Award"

2327243497_b0b6baede9_nI don't have much to say about the Vergara v State of California trial, in which students and reformers are suing to end various seniority and tenure protections for teachers.

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)

Audio: Revisiting Classic 2003 Book, "Random Families"

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).



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.